Their Three Gifts, Our Three Gifts: A homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

T50c3d55630c610d77731509e60dc63ea--christmas-nativity-scene-nativity-sceneshe Magi, the Wise men, the 3 Kings — whatever you want to call them — came with their gifts to the Lord. Isaiah said this would happen: “the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”

Tradition tells us the names of three of the magi, though there were likely more.  They came from 1500 miles away — what a journey!

Here’s what we know:

  1. Caspar, green cloak, King of Sheba, frankincense – represents WORSHIP
  2. Melchoir: gold cloak, King of Arabia, gold – represents our MATERIAL STUFF
  3. Balthazar, purple cloak, King of Egypt, myrrh – represents our BODIES (myrrh was used on dead bodies)

This year, each of us should give a gift in each of these things

  1. We must each give Jesus a WORSHIP gift…..a commitment to the daily rosary, to daily scripture reading, to a weekly holy hour
  2. We must each give Jesus a MATERIAL gift…maybe getting rid of shoes, or extra clothes, or extra books, or upping the weekly contribution $5, whatever….
  3. We must each give Jesus a BODY gift….maybe it’s doing something to take better car eof our bodies, maybe it’s using our bodies for Habitat for Humanity, maybe it’s using our bodies to hug a sibling or parent etc every day this year….

That all said, I bet the most important gift to Jesus from the three wise men was simply their presence.  These three guys were surely busy.  They were rich and powerful, probably quite handsome.  But they weren’t too rich, too smart, too busy, too powerful, too cool for Jesus.  Nope….they sacrificed quite a bit and made the journey all the way to the chlid Jesus.  Our greatest gift is our hearts, our lives…..and when we give THAT to Jesus, our heart, then we by happy consequence give to him all the frankincense (worhsip), all the gold (material stuff), all the myrrh (body) that we have…..

Why God came as a baby: A homily for Christmas

imagesThis year I’ve been reflecting on why exactly it might be that, when God came to us, he did so as a baby.  It seems illogical to our minds….wouldn’t it make more sense for the all powerful, almighty, all majestic God to come as superman, or batman, or a king, or GI Joe, etc??  But I think God came as a baby for some important reasons. I thought of three

  1. So we wouldn’t be afraid of him. We humans are often afraid of other humans. Sometimes we are afraid of each other. Sometimes we’re afraid to talk to those we don’t know, or our bosses, or those who are different from us. Middle schoolers are afraid to talk tot he boy or girl they like. But no one is afraid of a baby.  There is something innocent and calming about a baby.  God came as a baby so we wouldn’t be scared of him.  There’s a story of a farmer and his barn. There was a blizzard and a group of birds nearby were getting caught up in it. The farmer saw them and opened the door so that they could take refuge from the storm in his barn, but the birds didn’t enter…they were afraid of him, for he was a man and they were birds. Would that I could be a bird, he thought, for then I could — as one of them — tell them to trust me and follow me.  God came, not just looking like us, but as one of us, as a baby, in order that we might not be afraid but instead trust him
  2. God also came as a baby because a baby needs to be cared for. Fr Joe Moriarty tells of a school girl who was walking by an outdoor nativity set in the middle of a cold day. She took her scarf off to give it to JEsus.  HE asked her why. She said, “He must be cold.” Just as we must take care of a baby, we must take care of Christ. We do that when we take care of his body the church, and whne we take care of him inside one another. Jeuss lives in everyone. When we take acre of each other, we take care of Jeuss.
  3. God also came as a baby in order that we might love him.  Everyone loves a baby. Jesus want sthat  we love him.  If our love is not concrete, it is not real. How do you love Jesus?  Prayer? Sunday Mass? Sacraments? Scripture? It has to be all of that!  The states of the baby Jesus always have his arms extended out, embracing us. He wants nothign more than that we love him back.  Yesterday at the 4pm Mass with all the kids I had an idea given me by the Holy Spirit on the spot….I told the kids to take their hands, put them over their hearts, close their fist, and then throw their hearts to Jesus. I had his statue in front of me.  JEsus wants our hearts!  He wants that we love him!

May we always trust Jesus, take care of him, and love him!  Merry Christmas

Mice & silence: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (C)

downloadThis year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the song Silent Night. It was written in just a few hours–both the words and the tune. A man from a little church in Austria composed it in 1818 because the church organ cords had been chewed apart the night before….by mice.  What a story!  Three thoughts about this tune and its story.

  1. We should thank God for the mice in our lives. The song Silent Night has touched athe hearts and souls of so many.  We wouldn’t have the song today had the mice not done their work. There are people in our lives that drive us crazy, they annoy us, frustrate us, disappoint us, etc.  There are situations in our lives that are mice like.  But folks, on the other side, if we’re patient through it…is something beautiful, as beautiful as the song Silent Night.
  2. The song Silent Night tells of how God came to us.  Union with God has always been a desire of the human being.  Fulton Sheen points out that there’s only two possibilities as to how this can happen: either we go up to God, or God comes down to us. Christianity, Sheen notes, is the only religion to say that God comes down to us. The other ones, they insist that we humans must do this or that, and THEN we can be with God.  Christianity claims the opposite: it’s God who takes the initiative and comes down to us.  Now we have to RESPOND to this of course, but what a relief that the burden isn’t on us!
  3. Silence.  We all need silence.  JEsus was born in the silence; he entered the scene in silence.  He still enters our lives in silence.  From 2pm today until 2pm tomorrow (Christmas Eve), all are welcome to come to St Joe for adoration.  The trees will be lit, the lights nice and dim, and Jesus will be exposed. Drop by for some silence. I’ll be hearing confessions from 2pm until 9pm today, too.

Some things we know about Jesus’ Kingship: A homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

thA few things to note on this feast of Christ the king!

  1. Jesus is a permanent king.  All the other kings of this world have fallen away. Some have been tyrants and some have been considered gods, but all fall away. Except Jesus is different.  His reign lasts forever. Davidic Covenant.
  2. Jesus is the universal king.  Jesus IS the king — and not just of the Jews, but of the entire universe. First reading–all nations, languages,peoples. Jesus came for all! That’s why we’re the CATHOLIC (universal) church
  3. Jesus is a supernatural king. He is king here, but also a king of heaven. The kingdom is ultimately not of this world… His kingdom should help to shape our kingdom here. The world shouldn’t shape the kingdom; the kingdom shapes the world.
  4. Jesus is a legitimate king. Because he’s God.  As such, he has authority over us. We are meant to obey him. Now a word about authority and obedience.  We don’t much like these words these days. It strikes us as politically incorrect to say that we must be obedient to anyone or anything. I decide what is right and wrong, thank you very much – it’s not for anyone else.  Freedom in our day is described as license …. the right to do whatever you please.  Prodigal son understood freedom that way – and he was left miserable and bankrupt.  But that is how our culture tends to think these days. No one can limit me – no restraints, no boundaries, no limits!

    But let’s analyze that way of thinking for a minute.  Because I think we do understand it in different contexts.  We know there are rules, there are certain things we really should obey.  Example: my fish tank.  The glass are the rules, the boundaries; inside the thing, the fish live happily and safely.  Without the glass walls, the water would be everywhere and they’d die.  Another example: Basketball – how could you play a game without lines on the court?  It’d be impossible.  BUT!!  There are also lines on the moral field too!  boundaries within which we are meant to live life.  We call them a lot of things – the teachings of the church, the ten commandments, the precepts of the church…the basic lines on the field, the requirements ………  BTW – let’s review those precepts!  The precepts are the minimum requirements for the moral life–
    1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.
    2.You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
    3.You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.
    4.You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
    5.You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

    But of this I am sure:  Life is infinitely better when we live as Christ invites us to live.  Jesus’ kingship is not of oppression, but freedom!  I wonder if any of my fish every think: maybe I should jump out.  But then they’d die — and that’s what happens to our souls when we jump out of God’s ways.

  5. Jesus is also a personal king.  Which means we have to say it:  JESUS IS KING OF MY LIFE. Pilate says to Jesus today, “So you‘re the king!?” And Jesus to Pilate:  “Are you saying this on your own or have others been telling you about me?” (John 18:34)  Msgr Pope notes that we must acknowledge PERSONALLY that Jesus is MY king.  He isn’t just king of the universe out there, but he is king of my life. It isn’t enough to say that, “My mom believes he’s the king” or “my priest believes Jesus is king.”  No….Jesus looks us in the eyes and says:  Do YOU acknowledge me as king???!!   If so……your life will prove it.   When JESUS is my personal king, he king of everything!!  My calendar, my family, my checkbook, my friendships, my Friday evenings, the books I read, etc.

Viva Cristo Rey! Que Viva!

The inner snooze button: A homily for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

hand-hitting-snooze-button-GettyToday’s readings remind us that there will be an end time. A lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about these type of things–the end times.  In the Monday morning Bible study I lead every week, we’ve been focusing on the Book of Revelation and the “end times.”  We’ve dealt with topics like the rapture, the second coming, the final judgment, the tribulation, etc.  If you want to know more about all that come to the bible study.

Now while we Catholics wisely don’t get obsessed with that type of stuff as some do, we of course agree that there will certainly a time when history as we know it will end.  The world will end one day….and we hear this theme in our readings today. We also recognize as Catholics that each of us will face the end of our time on earth, and that this should, in many ways, concern us more than the end of the world.

Our readings suggest a sense of urgency in this. “But of that day or hour, no one knows….” There is a sense in which we better get our act together.  And now.

Many of us have good intentions about this. The Holy Spirit enters in, and we have an idea.  But then we hit the snooze button.

We all have an inner snooze button

  • “I should really get more involved in this ministry…..maybe tomorrow”
  • “I should really go to confession……later”
  • “I will be a good CAtholic…when I’m older.”
  • “I should volunteer more at church….but not now.”
  • “I should get married by the Church…..once things settle down.”
  • “I should do a holy hour in church….but I have the kids, God forbid I bring them in front of Jesus.”
  • “I should donate a bit more….but once I’m more secure.”
  • “I will sing in the choir again, once there is a director I like.”

God gives us so many dreams, so many ideas, so many things to do……..but we hit the snooze button.

Jesus help us.

The Last Things: A homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

images.jpgThe month of November is a chance for us to think about the last things, the fact that we don’t live on earth forever. One day we will take our last breath. We will go to one of three places.  It is good for us to remember that life here ends, and how we live here has eternal consequences.

In the end, we’re judged on love. So says St John of the Cross, and after toda’ys Gospel, I believe it.  In the end, we’re judged on love. How well did we love God?  How well did we love his body the Church?  How well did we love the people in our lives?  That’s the final exam.

If we didn’t love well, we go to hell.  Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in the bible.  If God talks of it, it must be real. Today’s biggest heresy is that everyone goes to heaven automatically, no matter well. Jesus has something else to say about it.  Jesus says hell is real.  It’s worth living a life of love to go there.

Those who do go there, they have made a decision against God, against love. We call it mortal sin. The Church wisely teaches that it takes only one mortal sin for hell.  It’s like walking off a tall building. It takes one step off the top, and boom.  Gone.

Purgatory is for those who die in venial sins and for temporal punishment associated with our life’s sins that have been forgiven in confession and/or the anointing. Purgatory is a great place. It is a place where we are made whole, where we are made perfect.  Nothing imperfect is in heaven….it makes sense that there be a place–or a state–wherein we are made perfect, made ready for the land of perfection.  I probably won’t be perfect when I die.

We know that our prayers on earth help those who are there in Purgatory.  It’s because we’re connected to them.

Church in heaven = Church Triumphant
Church in purgatory  = Church Suffering
Church on earth = Church Militant

We’re all tied together. You ask me to pray for you, we believe there is an effect that comes from that.  The saints pray for us; we ask them to all the time. In the same way, we pray for the dead.

We’ve been doing that for a long, long time, since the earliest Masses.  This belief in Pugatory has been there from the start of the Christian faith.  This is why we have Masses said for loved ones, why we light candles, why we have funeral Masses, etc.

When a loved one dies, it’s a work of mercy to pray for them.  It’s good not to assume they are in heaven, unless it’s a baby or little kid or someone who received last rites with the apostolic pardon (I’m giving a talk later this month on all these “last things”).    It’s good not to assume they’re in heaven, because if we do that, then we don’t pray for them.

Better to pray for them.  This month we remember the names on our board of remembrance and in the book of remembrance.

November is a time for us to reflect on our own mortality, the fact htat one day we’ll be judged on how well we loved.

Jesus says in our Gospel —  The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

If we are faithful to these two great commandments of love, we fulfill every other commandment by happy consequence.

A good thing to reflect daily:  Where did I love today?  Concretely.  Where did I love the people in my life? Concretely.  Love, to be real, must be CONCRETE!  Otherwise, it’s not real.

Some say, “I love Jesus.”   But never go to Mass, never frequent the sacraments, never pray, never serve, never treat others well.  They don’t love Jesus. I promise you.

Listen to this from Fr. Slavko – “The greater our love, the less we speak of sacrifice or what we ‘must do.’  And where there is no love, everything is a sacrifice and burden.”  Where there is true love, the sacrifice is so easy and natural!

In the end – we’re judged on love

Random thoughts: A homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

fallToday I resort to the “random thoughts” homily method that I learned from my old seminary rector Fr. Denis.  It is the homiletic approach I opt for when I have too many different things to talk about and don’t want to go to the hassle of weaving all the thoughts together.  I have five thoughts for us today:

  1. Our Gospel today is about blindness.  Jesus has the power to heal a blind man!  Jesus can work miracles!  Believe it, and when you get a miracle, testify!
  2. Speaking of blindness, sometimes we are blind to what others need.  Example: the five love languages, which I always talk to my marriage prep couples about. We humans typically show love in five ways: service, time, touch, gifts, and affirmation.  It’s good for us to know what the “primary love language” of our spouse and kids and so on is.  Sometimes a woman needs to hear affirmation from her husband, but her husband is blind to what she needs here.  Sometimes we can be blind to what folks in our lives really need.
  3. The blind man in our Gospel, Bartimaeus, is a good example for us.  Here is a man born blind, a man with a great suffering.  When he gets his time with Jesus, he doesn’t say:  JESUS!  WHY DID YOU MAKE ME BLIND???  WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?  Instead, he goes to Jesus, recognizing that Jesus is the source of goodness and healing and love.  We sometimes go to God with an accusing finger. WHY DO I HAVE THIS? WHY MUST I SUFFER SO?  If it’s good – it came from God.  If it isn’t, it came from the evil one. We go to Jesus knowing he has the power to fix it, and knowing the the didn’t cause it.
  4. Courage.  Today the Gospel says: “Take courage; get up. Jesus is calling you!”  I love that.  The phrase “take courage” is a good one. I imagine Jesus with a big bucket of all we need. We just need to go there and take a little courage, a little grace, a little strength. And then we can answer Jesus’ call!
  5. Priesthood Sunday. Today we celebrate Priesthood Sunday.  We must pray every day for more priests, not just in general, but from St. Joseph and St. Vincent.   Hebrews says: Priests come from among us. They come from our families, our parishes. They don’t fall out of the sky. We must do all we can to encourage vocations!  A priest can make a world of difference in someone’s life, even bring him to heaven.
  6. I’m also thinking about change.  A lot of trees are finally starting to change.  I was reflecting on this.  You know – change is not only possible, it is necessary. The tree can’t say, “I’m not going to color my leaves this year.” Change is also natural, maybe even supernatural.  It is a necessary reality.  It’s a sad thing to find someone who refuses to change. Sometimes we resign ourselves to thinking: this is just the way it is, I can’t change.  But Jesus says change! And he has organized a world that is always changing to remind us to change. We should always be looking for new ways to pray, new ways to serve God, new ways to serve the parish, new ways to put love into the world, new ways to live!  The parish should change as time goes by also. Change is inevitable, and like the leaves, even beautiful.

Well, there’s my five thoughts. Mabye one will stick