From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 31, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

I saw a newspaper article this week that reported on one of the candidates for President responding to a question about religion. The candidate was actually on more sound theological footing than the reporter was and clearly had the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, today’s second reading, in mind in making the response.

The reporter, however, gushed enthusiastically over the candidate’s response, virtually elevating the speaker to sainthood and certainly putting words and ideas into the candidates response that, as far as I could see from reading the actual response, were not in any way included. For example, the reporter marveled over the candidates understanding of Christianity and celebrated what the reporter saw as a declaration that the point of religion is social justice and loving other people.

It isn’t. And to the best I could tell, the candidate never suggested that it was. Now, social justice and the love of neighbor are both wonderful things and are certainly in themselves worthy of celebration. Further, those desiring to live as Christ instructs them should be concerned about social justice and must be concerned with the Greatest Commandment, part of which is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. However, neither one of those are uniquely Christian ideas; it is certainly possible for an atheist to be deeply concerned about matters of social justice. Many of them are. You need not come to church to love your neighbor; it is possible to do that from the comfort of your own home.

The reason we go to church — and, specifically, to the Catholic Church — is the sure and certain knowledge that we will die and then be judged, and we will either go to heaven or to hell. Further, we understand that going to heaven is a very good thing and going to hell is a very bad thing — a failure — and we are humble enough to realize that without the help that God gives us through His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we are likely to fail.

Our reason for being is to know God, to love God, to serve God, and to be with Him forever in heaven. Celebration of this happy fact of our existence makes going to Mass easy; the desire to be pleasing to God and to be made worthy of the gift of being made in His image is the reason for our religion. This is why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, because in receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament we are brough into union with Him and come closer to our eternal home where we will dwell with God forever.

Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.

The ground use to be much softer than it is today. I don’t mean in Jesus’ time. I mean in the ‘70s. I remember falling down in the 1970s and it hardly hurt at all. Today, it is much more painful and the only reason I can think of is that the ground today is much harder than it used to be. This is almost certainly an effect of global warming.

Christ tells the parable of a sower going out to sow. The seed falls on different types of ground; some make growth possible. Some make growth easy. And some make growth all but impossible.

The seed is the same; it is the ground that changes. The seed is the Word; we are the ground.

And good gardener will tell you that you have to prepare the ground and maintain it. You have to turn the soil over; you have to remove the rocks. You have to pull the weeds. You have to make the soil the best that it can be so that the seed can produce much fruit.

Why did Saint Frances become Saint Frances or Mother Theresa become Mother Theresa or Saint john Paul the Second become Saint John Paul the Second? Did they get a better Gospel than the rest of us and so they became saints? What about less famous but very holy people — do they have an advantage we don’t? Of course not. We all receive the same Gospel.

Most of those who are holy don’t become holy by accident. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Holiness comes from tending the ground and making sure the seed can grow. From pulling the weeds through our prayer life; through hauling the rocks away through confession; through making the ground fertile through frequent participation at Mass and reception of the Holy Eucharist: these are the things that make a person holy. Let us pray always for the grace and wisdom to be able gardeners of our own souls and so make the ground ready to receive the seed when the sower comes.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 24, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord is in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he proclaims a reading from the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Christ declares that this Scripture passage has been fulfilled in their hearing.

Our Lord is declaring that His ministry is the fulfillment of the hopes and expectations of God’s Chosen People. This is initially very well received by those who hear Him; however, that quickly changes.

The people demand that He do for them what He did at Capernaum; He refuses and tells them, essentially, it is not for them but for others. Their praise of Him and their amazement at His gracious words turns to fury; they want what belongs to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed without actually being poor, captive, blind, or oppressed.

We must keep careful guard on our own desires so that we, too, are not guilty of seeking to steal from the poor and the marginalized. Luke’s Gospel is, more so than the others, concerned with the plight of — and Jesus’s love of — the poor and the oppressed. Because ministry to the poor and the marginalized is important to Our Lord, it must be important to us.

It is easier to minister to those who are like us than to seek out those who are truly in need; Christ does not fall into that trap, and neither should we. I have heard it said that charity begins at home. Perhaps… but it does not end there. Christian charity must always face outward and seek to help those with the truest and deepest needs, because that is the model Christ gives us to follow.

Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Were the Pharisees really plotting murder because Christ cured a man’s crippled hand on the Sabbath? Of course not; they were looking for an excuse.

There is a lot of anger in today’s Gospel reading. The Pharisees are angry at Christ because He is a threat to them. Christ is angry with the Pharisees because of the hardness of their hearts – because their own power and position are more important to them than doing the right thing is.

Anger itself is not automatically wrong. However, it is seldom right. Christ during His ministry on earth rarely became angry; when He did, his anger was justified. The Pharisees, it seems, spent much of their time angry at Him. Their anger was never justified.

Anger can make us do stupid things. It can make us say hurtful things to those we love… things we will quickly come to regret having said. It can make us plot the murder of our Lord and Savior; after all, every sin we commit is another blow driving the nails into His flesh and unchecked anger can drive us to commit sins in rapid succession.

Anger can also be a powerful motivator for change for the good. Anger can cause us to see a problem – to recognize an injustice – and motivate us to change it. This is not an anger that drives us to get even, but one that drives us to set things right. An anger that makes us determined that a given injustice or a given aggression will not stand and that justice must be restored.

Let us pray always for the wisdom of Christ when dealing with our own anger. Our Lord did not lash out unjustly and Our Lord does not seek gratification from the punishment of those who make Him angry. He seeks justice and the restoration of what is right; we, who desire to live according to the model Christ sets for us, can allow ourselves to seek no less. Anger for the sake of anger will become a wedge and is an offense against the Fifth Commandment, while anger controlled by reason for the sake of God’s righteousness will lead us closer to Our Lord… and this is how we learn to turn the other cheek.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 17, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

“They have no wine.”

Imagine you are putting together a birthday party for children, and you don’t have enough cupcakes to go around. Or, if you prefer, that you are organizing the company Christmas party, and you forget to order soft drinks. Those are probably not situations you’d like to find yourself in.

So, the problem at the wedding at Cana is in no way foreign to us. They have no wine. Oops.

Notice that Mary doesn’t ask questions; she doesn’t even really make a request. She just makes an observation: they have no wine.

She is concerned, and she brings her concern to Jesus.

Surely she knew that her Son could do something to alleviate her concern… to correct the problem. It would have made no sense for her to have spoken in the way she did if she was not completely confident in Christ’s ability to correct the problem.

Though this was Christ’s first public miracle, one gets the feeling that Mary at least had seen Him perform miracles before. She knew He could so it, and so she told the servers to do whatever Christ commanded them. And they did.

We should never overlook the power of Mary’s intercession for us. Is having no wine the end of the world? No. Is it a concern too small for Mary to bother with? Also, no.

Mary’s intercession is a powerful thing. It can even motivate Our Lord to do something that He might not otherwise have done. This should be a great comfort to all of us who will one day be judged by Jesus Christ, for after all if we have Mary our Mother to intercede for us we might discover that is the difference we need… the difference for us between heaven and hell.

Dcn. Richard

Homily for Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and we hear a Gospel reading from Luke describing the event. Did you know that all four Gospels attest to the Baptism of Jesus? Anything that is covered in all four Gospels must certainly be important.

Why did Christ need to be baptized? This is a question that even John the Baptist asked. After all, Christ is the Son of God; what need would He have for baptism?

Baptism forgives sin. In baptism, all sin is washed away from us. But Christ is without sin, so He had no need for it to be washed away.

In baptism, we are made an adopted son or daughter of God. Christ had no need to be an adopted son of God; He is and always has been the true Son of God.

Through baptism, we are incorporated into the Church and made a part of the body of Christ. Jesus had no need to be incorporated into His own body; He is His own Body.

As a result of baptism, we are given a share in the universal priesthood of Christ. Christ doesn’t need a share in His priesthood; He possesses that priesthood in its perfection and in its entirety.

So… why was Christ baptized?

Pope Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth teaches that baptism by John in the Jordan was a confession of sin and a statement that the one being baptized was ready to set aside an old, failed life and to receive a new life. Now, Jesus is without sin; His life is in no respect a failed one, and yet He chooses to, as His Holiness writes, blend “into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the Jordan.”

Christ’s desire for baptism confused John the Baptist, and it could easily confuse us if not for the fact that we can see Our Lord’s baptism through the lens of the cross, a luxury which was of course not available to John. In the Christian life, much that seems confusing or contradictory at first glance can be understood much more clearly when seen with Easter eyes.

Christ is beginning His journey to the Cross in baptism, in which it is not His sins that are washed away but rather the sins of all mankind that He takes on. We go into the waters of baptism and come out clean; Christ goes into the waters of baptism and takes on our dirt.

In His own baptism, Christ stepped into our place and takes on the weight of our guilt. In our baptism, we step into Christ’s place and are washed free of our guilt, coming out the adopted sons and daughters of God and a member of the Body of Christ.

I say that we become members of the Body of Christ very deliberately. When we receive communion, the minister holds up the Blessed Sacrament and says, “the Body of Christ.” We are a Eucharistic people; we are called to live Eucharistic lives. This means that we are called to live to the best of our ability a life that emulates Christ.

Christ was not simply a nice guy who did nice things and asked each of us to be nice to each other; nice is not the mark of salvation and it may well be that there are plenty of nice guys in hell. Christ laid down His life and shed His blood for us so that we can have life eternal.

A Eucharistic people is one that gives thanks to God in the model of Christ, our high priest, who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice; a Eucharistic person is one who is grateful to God in such a way that it calls him to a conversion of life and a dedication of that life to his share in the priesthood of Christ… even to the point of giving up his own life in the service of God and his fellow man.

This is no small calling. This is not something easily obtained, but is done in steps as one grows in faith and becomes closer to Christ. It is the work of a lifetime and it is a task that can only be accomplished through participation in the divine life and cooperation with the grace that we are given. It is not by our own merit that we can be a truly Eucharistic people, but only with the aid of Our Lord. Let us pray always for the grace of God and the help we need to become the people we are called to be: a Eucharistic people… a people of Christ.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the day on which we commemorate Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan.

Baptism is a sacrament and like all sacraments it was instituted by Christ. Jesus commanded His apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This baptismal formula has endured and is used today; without it, baptism is not valid. Should you ever hear someone attempting to baptize “in the name of the Creator, and the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier” or any other formula than the one commanded by Christ and taught by His holy Church, that baptism is not valid. The person is not baptized.

Baptism is the first sacrament that a person receives; as such, it is the gateway to the other sacraments. In baptism and through the power of the Holy Spirit, all of the faithful are united into one body… the Body of Christ, His holy Church. In baptism, sin is forgiven and we receive new birth through the Holy Spirit.

All sin is forgiven in Baptism; the sacrament also washes away punishment due for sin. The sanctifying grace received in baptism is a tremendous aid in the struggle against sin.

In baptism, we are reborn as adopted children of God; we become partakers in the divine nature, a fellow heir with Christ, and a member of Christ. Baptism brings us into the family of God on earth, which is the Church.

All of the faithful baptized are called to be witnesses to the beauty of the Christian faith; they have been called to participate in Christ’s missionary and apostolic work because they have been united in Christ and infused with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Once made a child of God in baptism, a person is a child of God for all eternity.

Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, January 6, 2016

There you are… in the middle of a storm. Things are looking bad. The boat is probably going to sink. You are probably going to drown. And here comes Jesus, truckin’ along… walking on the water.

Would that get your attention? Would it make you wonder what was going on… how Jesus could walk on the water in the midst of a raging storm. It’s not what you might expect to see. It’s not within the normal human experience.

After all, only a short time before, Jesus had fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish… and had twelve basketsful left over. Scripture tells us the disciples had not understood the miracle of the loaves – and I don’t mean in the way we understand it, as a prefigurement of the Eucharist – but even a basic understanding: that this was a miracle done by the Son of God.

Scripture tells us that the hardness of their hearts prevented their seeing. A hardness of heart was also attributed to those who did not accept Jesus and who plotted His death.

Our own hardness of hear can cause us to miss much that is important in the spiritual life. Hardness of heart blinds us to the movement of God; it puts the emphasis on the natural world… on the circumstances and conditions at hand… and takes the focus off of our relationship with Christ. At its extreme, it prevents us from recognizing Christ for who He is: The Son of the Living God.

Sin and pride will harden our hearts. Repentance and humility are the cure; we must recognize our dependence on God and turn to Him to ask for His mercy, for, as we heard in the first reading today, God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. Let us never cease asking the Lord to take away foolish pride and give us the heart of Christ, a heart made for love as God intends., a heart made for love as God intends.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Today’s Gospel reading could almost be comedic… if it weren’t for the tragedy involved. The magi from the east arrive and ask, in their innocence, for the newborn king of the Jews… a question that does not sit well with Herod, who was quite attached to his position of power and was not willing to give it up for any newborn king.

It is interesting to note that the Gospel also reports that “all Jerusalem [was troubled] with him.” All of Jerusalem, in this case, must surely mean the chief priests and scribes — those who held power in the capitol and in court — and those who are gathered by Herod to ascertain where Christ was born. This was not the first time in Israel’s history that the powerful among the Jews placed human authority over divine… an ordering that never works out well for them (or for anyone else).

Herod discerns through his priests and scribes from where the prophets anticipated the birth of Christ and he sends the Magi on their way, hoping to use them to locate the child.

Of course, God does not permit that to happen. The Magi’s eyes are opened to the impending danger Herod represents, and — after they deliver their gifts of gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priest and prophet), and myrrh (which anticipates Christ’s death and entombment) — they avoid Herod and return home by a different way.

Herod sought to manipulate the wise men who were seeking Our Lord, but God would not allow his deception to stand. It is wise to ask ourselves where we stand. Are we more of the wise men, diligently seeking Christ even though we don’t know where that search may take us? Or, are we more of a Herod, seeking to guaranteed our own power and authority by any means necessary?

Dcn. Richard