Sunday, August 31, 2014

Financial Priorities: Parish Bulletin--August 31st, 2014

            This week I want to present four priorities I see with respect to our parish finances.
            This desire comes from two related beliefs I have when it comes to being a pastor.  For the first, I cite St. Paul: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  I have been called in a particular way to be a good steward of all God has given to our parishes.  Part of this responsibility includes overseeing finances and day-to-day operations.  As I am not a business or finance expert, I have been and will be relying on the expertise and insight of our parish staff and finance council.  By working together my goal is to foster stewardship for the generous money and gifts you have given and use it prudently.  
            The second is the reality that this is your parish.  Obviously, I just moved into town, and there will be a day when Bishop calls me elsewhere in priestly ministry (though I hope this doesn’t happen for a long time!)  Many of you have spent your entire lives coming to St. Thomas or St. Columban.  It has been your time, talent and treasure which has built everything we have—for that I am grateful and honored to serve you. 
            Having spoken in depth with our staff and finance council, the following seem to be our highest priorities.  I share them now, not offering solutions, but to be transparent in the priorities I will be using to make practical decisions regarding our finances and budget.  In no particular order they are:
·      Paying off the loan for Aquinas Hall roof;
·      Catching up on our UCA contribution;
·      General upkeep of building and grounds;
·      Offering a more just salary for faculty and staff.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will share more about why I see these as important to address and how we can achieve our goals together.
Thank you for your continued generosity to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban.  Please pray that God may give me the wisdom and insight to be a good steward of the many gifts He—and you—have given!
            God Bless!

Suffering: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

            Jesus had some harsh words for Peter this morning: “Get behind me Satan!” 
            These words are even more striking when we remember that, just before our Gospel today came Peter’s finest hour.  Think back to last week’s Gospel.  Jesus and his disciples were in Caesarea Philippi and the Lord asked, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter’s reply: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus then declared Peter blessed, gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and said, “…I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”
            Yet a few moments later—a few verses in the Bible—Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan!”?
            Jesus specified why he was disappointed with Peter: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Peter tried to hinder Jesus’ mission, a mission that entailed suffering and death.
            St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”  Our minds must be renewed when it comes to suffering because we must be witnesses in a world which suffers so much.
            This morning I would simply like to share some thoughts about suffering.
            First, it stinks!  While it is easy to talk or preach about, when suffering actually happens, be it a physical illness or pain, loss of a loved one, or psychological cross, it is horrible.  It stinks.  Suffering itself is not good.  God does not directly cause it, though in His mysterious providence he allows it.
            A metaphor to explain this is in athletics.  We have all heard coaches or players speak about how adversity made victory all the sweeter.  Athletes train, practice and push their bodies to limit, all to achieve victory. 
            It seems to me that suffering is a product of love in a fallen world.  For instance, if we don’t love someone, we aren’t hurt when they are sick or when they die.  There are thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who will die today, yet our lives go on unconcerned.  Yet when the one who dies is a grandparent, child, spouse or friend the pain is almost unbearable.  We cannot suffer unless we have first loved.
            Suffering also puts us on our knees.  Unfortunately, such challenges are the only way many people come to prayer.  I know that when I get a cold or the flu it puts me in prayer immediately.  Yet when I am healthy and feel strong, at times I don’t even think to ask God for physical health.
            We should offer our suffering up in prayer.  Here a word is in order about what true prayer is.  Often we think of a caricature of prayer—piously kneeling in Church telling God what we think He wants to hear.  Granted, this is one form of good prayer, but not the only one.  Consider Jeremiah’s cry to the Lord: “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped…”  He follows this up by basically saying, “I never want to speak about you again!”  We may ask, “Is this in the Bible?!”
            Yes.  The prophets and Psalms are full of prayers which include tears, anger, confusion and depression.  If you are angry after a tragedy, tell God!  If your heart is broken cry out to God!  If you feel like you can’t take another step, let Him know!  He already knows what you are experiencing, and true prayer is giving God exactly that.
            God did not send his son to eliminate suffering, but to be present with us in whatever we face.  Having died an excruciating death that included physical, emotional and psychological pain, Jesus—more than anyone else—can relate to our own.  He walks with us through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  He beckons us to take up our cross and follow him.
            This week, may we suffer well, whether this includes small inconveniences or devastating tragedies.  May we fall to our knees in honest and heartfelt prayer.  And, please God, may we experience victory after suffering both now and forever in heaven.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

St. Monica's intercession: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

            All of us gathered for Mass today know someone who isn’t practicing the faith.  Whether it’s a son or daughter, sibling, friend or coworker, I suspect we all pray for the gift of faith to grow in these peoples’ lives.  In fact, one of the most common intercessions during daily Mass is for such conversion in our loved ones lives.
            St. Monica is the one to seek intercession for such individuals—especially for you mothers.  She watched her child—St. Augustine—bounce from pagan religion to philosophy all the while falling to lust.  He even conceived of a child out of wedlock!
            Yet after his conversion, St. Augustine attributed his newly found faith to his mother.  Her prayers and tears paid off.
            St. Monica illustrates in person the Psalm we prayed: “Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways!  For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.”
            As we continue our worship this morning, let’s keep in mind those people we care about that need God the most.
            St. Monica, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The power of simple traditions: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

            St. Paul teaches us this morning: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.”
            Many people in our society scoff at Catholics, claiming we are too traditional.  Yet this is one of the features of our faith I love the most.
            I have seen how beautiful our traditions are in a particular setting—near death or within tragedy.  During seminary I had the opportunity to spend a summer as a hospital chaplain.  Our job was to be present to patients facing illness, injury or death itself and the opportunity often arose to pray with these men and women. 
One of the greatest gifts I received that summer was recognizing how powerful our simple traditions are.  Many tears were shed praying the Lord’s Prayer—a prayer everyone knows no matter when they came to church last.  Often enough these words helped a patient pray for the first time in years.  The same is true with the Sign of the Cross.  I have seen on several occasions a person who had lost cognitive functions make the sign of the cross or attempt to do so.
Everything we do and believe in our faith has a purpose.  The daily traditions in which we participate are working, not only consciously, but also in our subconscious.  They become so engrained that when everything else may be lost, we have a means to pray.
Let us stand fast today in the traditions we have been taught within our Catholic faith.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thanksgiving and Prayer: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, August 25th, 2014

I admit I am not the most technological savvy.  While I know what things like facebook, snap-chat, instagram and tweetering are, I choose not to use them for a host of reasons (which may appear in another bulletin article.  And yes, I know it is called twitter!).  The extent of my technological skills end at email, texting and a blog.
Yep, I have a blog.  Unlike many bloggers out there, this blog is not so much to talk about myself, but to share the Word of God.  Since a young age I have had a love of the Scriptures and began reading my Bible daily in high school.  While in seminary I was blessed with the opportunity to study God’s Word in an academic setting and I received a Master’s of Theology which focused on Scripture. 
I want to be able to share insights about the greatest story ever told along the way and this is the sole reason I started my blog.  I love to teach, and my hope is to help you in your personal devotion and understanding of the Scriptures through this online tool.  Included are my daily and weekend homilies, tools to learn how to read the Bible, brief commentaries on each book of the Bible, papers and notes from seminary, bulletins and a book I wrote entitled My Vocation Story.  
If you are at least as technological savvy as I am, check it out at <>.  If technology is not your thing, or you do not even know what a blog is, talk to the nearest teenager and tell them to give you a hand!
God Bless!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Blog: Parish Bulletin--8-24-14

I admit I am not the most technological savvy.  While I know what things like facebook, snap-chat, instagram and tweetering are, I choose not to use them for a host of reasons (which may appear in another bulletin article.  And yes, I know it is called twitter!).  The extent of my technological skills end at email, texting and a blog.
Yep, I have a blog.  Unlike many bloggers out there, this blog is not so much to talk about myself, but to share the Word of God.  Since a young age I have had a love of the Scriptures and began reading my Bible daily in high school.  While in seminary I was blessed with the opportunity to study God’s Word in an academic setting and I received a Master’s of Theology which focused on Scripture. 
I want to be able to share insights about the greatest story ever told along the way and this is the sole reason I started my blog.  I love to teach, and my hope is to help you in your personal devotion and understanding of the Scriptures through this online tool.  Included are my daily and weekend homilies, tools to learn how to read the Bible, brief commentaries on each book of the Bible, papers and notes from seminary, bulletins and a book I wrote entitled My Vocation Story.  
If you are at least as technological savvy as I am, check it out at <>.  If technology is not your thing, or you do not even know what a blog is, talk to the nearest teenager and tell them to give you a hand!
God Bless!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ezekiel to Jesus to Baptism: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, August 21st, 2014

            The first reading is one of my favorites to use at a Baptism.
            The prophecy from God to Ezekiel points directly to this sacrament of the New Testament: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” 
            My professor in seminary told us a three simple lines to remember what Baptism does in a person’s soul: sin out, God in, in the Church.  All sin—original and actual—is forgiven through the waters of Baptism.  The Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul and they are also welcomed into our family of faith.
            Ezekiel points to another reality of Baptism: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”  Through this first sacrament, we are marked (or sealed) by God for all eternity.  We are given a new heart and a new spirit.  While from the physical perspective a baby or adult looks exactly the same before and after the ceremony, the spiritual reality is quite different.  By being baptized one becomes a new creation.
            Interestingly enough, Jesus’ parable has also been interpreted with reference to Baptism by the Church Fathers.  While it is an insightful passage as a whole—a man holds a feast, no one comes, those who didn’t come were destroyed and others took their place—the description of the last man is where Baptism is alluded to: “But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’”
            The Church knows of no other ordinary way to get to heaven.  Just as a baby is given a white garment, so too are we clothed with the wedding garment of heaven.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thoughts on Romans 9

One of my parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas asked about a section we heard a couple of weeks ago in the second reading at Mass.  Here is how I responded:

I appreciate the questions you posed about the reading from Mass--Romans 9, specifically 9:3: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race."  This piqued my own curiosity and here are a few thoughts I found through some research.

First, the overall sense of this passage is that Paul is mourning over his brother/sister Jews who did not believe in Jesus Christ.  

It should be noted that in Paul's time there were two basic divisions of people according to the Jewish religion: Jews and Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew).  At the same time, there was not yet a clear distinction between Jews and Christians.  Remember that Jesus himself was Jewish, as were his apostles and most of his disciples.  Paul even boasted of being a Jew with more credentials than others (cf. Philippians 3:4-6)!  The definitive split of Christianity from Judaism took around forty years and many in Paul's day could be considered Jewish-Christians.  In this section, Paul is referring to the Jews who failed to believe in Jesus Christ.

Later, in Romans 10:1-4, Paul writes, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [the non-believing Jews] is that they may be saved.  I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they [the non-believing Jews] did not submit to God’s righteousness.  For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified."

Second, the English translation as we heard it in Mass was accursed and separated.  The Greek word here is anathema (cut off, separated, rejected) which has many roots in the Old Testament.  To be anathema in the Old Testament occurred after failing to uphold God's covenants with His people.  As interpreted by the writers of the Old Testament, this resulted in material loss, defeat by enemies and other calamities.  

What Paul is saying is that he would be willing to take on such material curses if it would help his Jewish brothers and sisters grow in faith of Jesus.  He would even sacrifice everything he had experienced in his relationship with Christ for the sake of others.  This is indeed a radical, yet hypothetical scenario.  Note that he says, "could wish..." and not "I wish" above.  Paul was known for his intense love of Jesus and this spilled over into many dramatic statements or other bold claims in his writings and ministry.  In the end his motivation was always to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified.

Bad shepherds vs. the Good Shepherd: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

           God had some harsh words for the leaders of Israel—and well should He!  These words from God would be a nightmare if that is how my priesthood was assessed.  Please, God, may it never be.
            I mean, imagine if I took all of the perks of being a priest—cookies brought in by the church ladies, dinners in your homes, fishing expeditions—and did nothing for you!  If I wore my clerics around demanding you serve me at every moment, I would deserve condemnation from God.  The leaders of Israel were bad shepherds, taking their wool and milk while failing to feed, protect and lead them.
            With this prophecy of Ezekiel in mind, listen to the words of Jesus recorded in John 10: “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  Jesus is the exact opposite of the greedy leaders of the Israelites and that is why he is the good shepherd.
            With the Psalmist, let us pray today, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Camels and prayer: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

           When we read the Bible it is important to get in the mind of the sacred author.  For instance, when you heard Jesus’ words, “…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God…” you probably imagined this big animal trying to pass through the eye of a sewing needle.  That is not the comparison Jesus used.
            In the time of Christ, travel was often made by camel.  Thieves and hoodlums were a constant danger for travelers and men needed to be defend themselves and their goods.  One of the places they sought for protection was in a cave with a small opening—the eye of the needle.  They would go inside and back their camel into the opening to prevent the would-be-robber from entering.
            I would like to apply this metaphor to our prayer life.  Imagine you are the one trying to get a treasure—a desire or intercession—in the cave.  There seems to be a barrier (the camel) between you and your desire.  What should you do?  You should ask to answer (ie. present your petition to the Lord).  God may answer yes and allow you in.  He may say no and at that point it is time to find a different cave!  Finally, God may say not yet and encourage you to patience.
In prayer, “for God all things are possible.”  He always hears our prayers, though the answer may not always be the one we want.
For many years I prayed constantly to know God’s will for my life.  Would I be a priest?  Would I get married and find a career?  This desire permeated my prayer life and at times it felt impossible to know which way to go.  Praise God, through patience God made known—over several years—His will for me.
Continue to present your petitions to the Lord.  Know that He always answers our prayers and that for God, all things are possible.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jesus' call to sell everything...: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, August 18th, 2014

            I was blessed my final year of seminary to travel to Rome with my classmates over J-term.  As part of the experience we took a five day silent retreat in nearby Assisi.  This was a powerful time of prayer in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.  At the same time, you can probably already imagine how I would do being silent for five days.
            At the conclusion of our retreat I was among the chatterboxes making up for five days worth of words.  My classmates and I were sharing about some of the graces we had received, and one of them stands out today.
            One of my friends talked about how struck he was by Christ’s radical call to poverty.  He said, “Christ did not say to give of our excess, or even part of what we own…he said to give it all!”  He noted how he wanted to embrace this life of poverty.  Not five minutes passed and he chuckled saying, “But not with food or drink!”  We all had a good laugh, and he earned the name Francesco (Francis) to this day.
            Jesus told the young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”
            As a priest, it is easier and a lot more comfortable softening this dramatic invitation.  I would feel better telling you, “Jesus is telling us about detachment,” or, “The purpose of the young man’s encounter with Christ is to teach us about simplicity of life.”  Both would be true, but Jesus’ own words do not express this.
            We are called to give Christ and the poor everything!
            Without relaxing Jesus’ standards, remember that he calls each of us individually.  Some today really do sell what they have to follow Jesus.  I have in mind the many religious sisters and brothers—some of whom I have walked with; they actually give away their possessions before entering a convent or monastery.  At the same time, if you have children at home, or have a job in our community, you probably cannot sell everything.
            Here I would encourage you—don’t let the perfect be an obstacle to the good.  Don’t throw your hands up and respond to Christ, “I can’t give away everything, so I might as well do nothing!”  Are there items in your home or closet that you haven’t used in a year?  This is a good place to start.  Give those to people who would use them.  Could you go out to eat less in order to share that money so that someone else could eat?
            Take Jesus’ call seriously and give God and the poor everything.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Joy: Parish Bulletin--8-17-14

            I pray that each of us may follow the joyful example of Pope Francis.  He has had many inspiring quotes when it comes to the necessity of joy in proclaiming Christ.  Here are two (both from his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel):
·      One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses” [literally “vinegar faced”].  Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand” (paragraph #85). 
·      “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.  I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty.  Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved” (paragraph #6).
In meeting with our faculty and staff, I have set forth one of my goals as a pastor, which I share with you now: let’s foster a spirit of joy at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban!  Let’s get excited about our beautiful Catholic faith that was given to us by Christ!
In the Catholic tradition, joy is different than mere happiness or pleasure.  Joy is much deeper and is still present even if we are not particularly happy at the surface level.  It can (and should) even be present amidst difficult suffering.  This is possible because we know that Jesus Christ has already won the battle and we are on the winning team!  True joy is neither superficial nor faked but learned and lived.  It is a virtue that must be practiced and fostered over a lifetime.  It is one of the greatest characteristics of someone who evangelizes well.
Joyless Christians are one of the biggest obstacles to fulfill our mission of bringing others to Jesus.  Who would want to join our faith if we were a bunch of crabby-pants?
At the same time, living joyful lives is attractive to others.  We should look different than our secular brothers and sisters.  People should see a light of hope in us as we go about our day and be curious as to why.
May the example of Pope Francis’ joy inspire all we do at St. Thomas parish and school and St. Columban.  I pray that anyone new to our community of faith may perceive that we are different because we are joyful people.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The New Ark of the Covenant--Daily Mass Homily: 8-15-14 (Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary)

            The holiest object in the Old Testament—by far—was the Ark of the Covenant.
            To understand how important the Ark was, it is important to know that many parts of the Old Testament were dedicated to following the history of the Ark itself.  God commanded that it be constructed in the book of Exodus out of precious wood and gold as the place where He would be present.
            The Israelites carried the Ark throughout their journeys in the wilderness.  It was housed in a tent—the Tent of Meeting—and this was where Moses spoke to God “as a man speaks to his friend.”  By mystical events—the cloud and fire—God directed the Israelites when to camp and when to journey.
            Eventually the Ark was housed in a permanent structure—the Temple of Solomon.  The sole purpose of the temple was to house this holy object.  It was placed within the holy of holies which was only entered by the high priest once a year.
            The most devastating moments in salvation history came when the Ark was lost.  It was lost for a period to the Philistines and has been lost forever before the Israelites were destroyed and deported by their enemies.  The scriptures record that Jeremiah hid the Ark in order for it to be preserved in a cave, and to this day it has never been found.
            With all this in mind, consider how an early Jewish-Christian would have responded to the first reading—they would have been at the edge of their seats!  God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.  A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was with child… 
The Ark, which had been lost, is now found!  And she has a name—Mary.  She is the New Ark of the Covenant.
The reason why the old Ark of the Covenant was the object of all Jewish religion was for what it contained.  It held three items.  The first was the rod of Aaron which caused many miracles during the plagues and escape in Egypt.  At one point it budded to prove the genuine priesthood of Aaron.  This was held to remind the Jews of the priesthood of the covenant instituted by God. 
The second item was the Ten Commandments, written by the hand of God.  This served as a reminder of the Law of God which was to keep God’s people in relationship with Him.
Finally, a jar of manna was housed.  The manna—miraculous bread from God—fed the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years.
Mary is rightly called the New Ark.  Consider what Mary contained within her—Jesus Christ.  She housed the savior of the world who fulfilled all that was old and ushered in the New.  Where the Ark of the Old Testament held Aaron’s staff, Mary held Jesus.  Jesus was the new priest—the priest—who did not offer the blood of bulls and calves, but his own blood.
Jesus announced, “I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”  Thus, within Mary’s body was to be found the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments—Jesus.
Finally, Mary was with child—the child who would feed his children with bread from heaven.  Jesus, as the bread of life, would one day offer himself as food for his children.  She was the first recipient of holy Communion—Jesus’ Body and Blood!
Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven.  At the end of her life, Mary was taken body and soul into heaven.  This was fitting.  She was without sin her whole life.  She was conceived without sin.  She was pregnant without sin.  She raised an infant, toddler and teenager without sin.  And she watched her only son die—without sin.
Grow in devotion to our Lady.  She is the Mother of the Church.  She is the Mother of you and I.  The closer we grow to Mary, the closer we will grow to her son, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

St. Maxmillian Kolbe vs. the foolish servant: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, August 14th, 2014

            Jesus’ parable frustrated Peter and the disciples, as it should frustrate us. 
            The first servant was forgiven a large debt by his master.  At one point I researched how much money was actually forgiven and it was to the tune of millions of dollars!
            Having received a reprieve from this massive debt, the servant immediately went out to someone who owed him money—for hundreds of dollars.  He was harsh, demanding that it was paid back.  This servant did not get it—he was shown mercy, but had none for others.
            Today is the memorial of St. Maxmillian Kolbe.  He acted exactly opposite of the foolish servant.  He recognized that everything had been given to him as a gift to God—including his own life—and gave everything to serve God and neighbor in response.
            Maxmillian lived during the atrocious period of the Holocaust.  He was arrested and sent to Auschwitz.  One day a prisoner tried to escape so the Nazi’s punished everyone as an example.  They randomly selected ten prisoners who would be tortured and eventually murdered.  One of the men selected pleaded with the SS guard, saying he had a wife and children back home.  Maxmillian volunteered to take his place on the list of ten.  He ministered to the other nine individuals as they were first starved and eventually injected with a lethal injection.
            The most frustrating part of Jesus’ parable is recognizing that we are often like the foolish servant.  God has given us everything—life, mercy and love.  How quick you and I can be to judge others, gossip, hold grudges or be uncharitable.
            May we, like St. Maxmillian, recognize all that God has given us and respond in kind by being generous to God and neighbor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Combating loneliness: Daily Mass Homily--8-13-14 (Good Samaritan Society--assisted living center in International Falls)

            Well that was a violent first reading!  To be honest, I wouldn’t have chosen it for preaching in my two Masses here a month!  But as it is the Word of God there is something for us to learn.
            While we may be distracted by the slaying of men, women and children, the overall point from this reading is that God marks His people for salvation.  Each of the faithful Jews were marked with a thau—a Hebrew letter—to indicate freedom from death. 
            Did you know you have been marked—sealed—by God?  You were baptized!  You were confirmed!  You have actually been marked twice!  This seal identifies you as a child of God and can prevent you from sin and spiritual death in your soul.  And let’s be clear—we want to kill sin and evil.  We want God to vanquish it from our souls.
            Have confidence in this mark.  A common trial for elderly men and women is feeling lonely.  One of the features of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban parishes that I love most is the dedication of our parishioners and staff to reach out to those who can’t come to Church frequently.  For those visiting family and friends here today—thank you and keep up the great work!  When you feel lonely, remember that God is always with you and you are His child.
            Another point to remember to combat loneliness comes from the words of Jesus: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Jesus is present here when we gather in prayer.  That’s why I love coming to say Mass for you twice a month.  Outside of Mass I encourage you to gather together in the name of Christ.  Not only does it fight loneliness, but also builds up the kingdom of God in your midst.
            Remember you are never alone.  God is always with you.  You have fellow Catholics and Christians residing with you.  Continue gathering in His name and know of the great work you can do through prayer just where you are.