Homily for June 20, 2014

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, Christ once again challenges us and calls us to focus on what is important: living a life here that is worthy of the fullness of life in the life to come. Jesus teaches His disciples “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”

Earthly treasure is a temporary thing; it is passing, and what it buys is passing. Earthly treasure is gotten by work — hard work — at least, it is if you weren’t born a millionaires heir.

Treasure in heaven is stored up in the same way: through hard work and dedication to the spiritual life. Make no mistake; I am not suggesting that anyone can earn their way into heaven. We know that salvation is a gift from God. And still Christ tells us to store up treasure in heaven, and so we must.

Why? “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” The more a person’s heart is set on heaven, the more he realizes that he does not merit heaven… yet, paradoxically, the more he desires it. And so he depends more and more on God’s mercy and grace.

Thanks be to God, this is how saints are made: through the radical realization of our total dependence on Our Lord and Savior. When we set our heart on the finer things — the spiritual things — we set our heart on the true good… the eternal good. We respond with joy to the grace God gives us, and so we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Homily for June 19, 2014

pray-lord-teach-us-to-pray-e1347301783151Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

What does it mean to babble like the pagans? There are several possibilities, and of course it’s possible that the ancient pagan practice is a combination of these possibilities.

Some scholars think that babbling like the pagans means exactly that: running on at length spewing out a string of nonsense words and phrases. Others think that the babbling against which Christ warned meant reciting long lists of names of pagan gods in the hopes that if the one praying hit the right name, then that pagan god would be forced to answer his prayer.

Regardless of the actual form of the pagan prayer practice, Christ is warning us to pay attention to our prayer and to mean what we pray. He gives us the perfect prayer: the Our Father. It is short, easy to memorize, easy to pray, and covers all of the important bases. It gives praise to God and desires the coming of His Kingdom. It asks for what is important and expresses a desire to be forgiven while recognizing our own need to forgive. It expresses the desire to avoid temptations that lead to sin to be delivered from evil.

The words Christ speaks after teaching the Our Father reinforce what the prayer itself says. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Christ reinforces this. “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you,” Christ reassures. Then he follows with a warning: “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

There is no room in the Christian life for holding a grudge. Maybe there is someone in your life who it is very hard to forgive. There is such a person in my life. But just because something is hard to do does not mean it cannot be done; we must pray for God’s grace so that we can forgive as we should — so that we can forgive others as we ourselves wish to be forgiven by God.

Homily for June 18, 2014

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time


When I read today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew, I have to wonder: Did people at the time of Christ really tote around a trumpet to announce their almsgiving? I mean… Really? Or was there maybe a communal trumpet shared among those who gave alms? When a beggar asked a Pharisee for money, did that fellow turn to his friend who happened to be holding the trumpet and say, “Trumpet me. I’m about to give this guy some money.”

It sounds downright comical when you think of it that way. Can you imagine what people would think of you if you went downtown with a trumpet and a pocket full of small bills and you started playing your own fanfare every time a beggar asked for a few dollars? You’d be considered desperate… maybe even pitiable.

But clearly there is a problem that Christ saw, and He is addressing that problem in this passage. The problem is one of hypocrisy and of self-righteousness. The fact is, it’s downright unattractive to make faith into a show. Though the time of trumpet-blowing almsgivers may be past, surely we can all recall a time when someone made his or her faith into a show. That is, that person’s faith became secondary and the attention sought was the chief concern.

As long as our faith itself is the primary concern and not the attention or worldly advantage we may glean from it, we are in the relationship we should be in with God. As long as our focus is on the relationship with our God and not on the adulation of men, we are living our faith as we are called. But if we use our faith as a tool to gain the esteem of others, we quickly sacrifice right relationship with God for the attention of others. Let us pray that our relationships with God are based always on love of Our Lord and desire to live in His grace and friendship.

Homily for Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Our Lord calls us to holiness, and not to any holiness. Not a moderate holiness or a comfortable holiness. He doesn’t call us to hide in our churches and associate only with others of like mind and like religion. Christ calls us to a radical holiness. He calls us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

This radical holiness means that we see Christ in our neighbor and we see Christ in our enemy. It means that when we are offered hate we return love. When we are offered violence, we return peace. In the first reading, we encounter Ahab, who has sinned greatly — who has given himself up to doing evil —and has earned the wrath of God. Yet this sinner whom the Lord vows to destroy is forgiven because he repents and returns humbly to the Lord.

The psalmist cries out, “I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always.” The beginning of the holiness to which we are called is the realization of our own fallen nature. We are all sinners. We all carry the burden of sin. When we realize this, we can clearly see that no matter how different we may be from those we consider enemies, we have at least one thing in common: that we sin alike. We both labor under the burden of sin and we are both called to forgive one another.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” We can most easily love those who are like us; discovering that those we thought were enemies really are very much like us strips away the division and allows us to become able to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, for becoming a child of God means desiring that all other people also become children of God.

Homily for Sunday, June 15, 2014

In the exciting and dynamic world of Catholic theology, there are a number of complex ideas expressed in very useful theological terms, often in Latin. Terms like Lex orandi, lex credenda, which means “the law of prayer is the law of belief,” or we believe as we pray. This is why the wording used in the Creed and in the Mass throughout is so important: our prayer shapes our belief. If we pray wrong, we believe wrong.

Another example is the phrase laborare est orare, which means work is prayer. God did not create us to be idle, but to be active. In work, we are active and through our work we give praise to God. Therefore, we should strive to work well so that we can praise God as is fitting.

These are both good and useful terms. They exist so that we can discuss complex topics… but these are complex topics few people ever think much about. Is it true that the words a person uses to pray shape the content of that person’s belief? Yes; absolutely. Does a person have to know that? Of course not. The fact remains true whether a person recognizes it or not.

I point this out because there is one theological term of which I a particularly fond, but it’s an idea few people ever engage intellectually. Even though many people state it outright and make it a central part of their moral life, they often do not really think it through. It is this: the Reductio ad Hitlerum, or the reduction to Hitler. It’s the concept that leads a person when speaking of their moral life to say, “Sure. I’m not perfect…. But I’m not Hitler.”

Maybe you’ve heard this phrase said. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. In either case – whether you’ve heard it or said it or done both – it is no doubt true. Whoever said it was not perfect… but they weren’t Hitler, either. But though true, this notion is still tragically incomplete because it is an excuse. People don’t say it at their finest moment; they say it at their lowest. No one saves an infant from a burning building and responds to the praise they receive with the reductio ad Hitlerium.

The fact is, everyone should aim higher than the Hitler watermark for good versus evil. If you only aim for slightly higher than Hitler but manage to not quite make it past Stalin, you might have some very difficult questions to answer at your Judgment. I assure you: You do not want to have difficult questions to answer at your Judgment.

What about aiming, instead for the Saint Francis watermark. Or the Pope Francis watermark, if you like. Both are very high, but stating definitively which is higher is way above my pay grade; but both men have led lives worthy of imitation. Isn’t it much nicer to say, “I’m not perfect… but I’m striving to be more like Saint Francis” than to settle for the reductio ad Hitlerum?

But there is no need to take my word for it when you can take God’s word for it. After all, this is exactly what Moses was talking about when he said to God that “This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” Human nature hasn’t changed in the thousands of years from the time of Moses to our own time; we still cry out to God, asking him to pardon our wickedness and our sins.

Fortunately for us, God’s nature hasn’t changed, either. Our cries for pardon still reach the ear of a Lord who is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

Paul said to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Note that rejoice comes first. Paul doesn’t tell them to start by beating themselves up a little bit, but then look on the bright side: at least they aren’t Nero. He tells them rejoice! We should – before all else – rejoice in the Lord, for God is “praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.” Rejoice in the Lord, for blessed is His holy and glorious name.

Then Paul says to them – just as he says to us – Mend your ways. Hey – Paul – cut me some slack, buddy. I’m not perfect… but at least I’m not Hitler.

But the truth is, we all can mend our ways. You can do it; I can do it. We all need to do it; we are all in constant need of renewal and repentance; we are all in need of mending our ways. But the fact is, we don’t mend our ways simply because we are trying to aim just a little bit higher than that lowest rung on the ladder climbing from evil up to good. We want to mend our ways and we are able to mend our ways not because of our own merit, but because of the merit of God. We repent because we rejoice; we do not rejoice because we repent.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. It is for this reason that we rejoice. It is for this reason that we repent. The life to which we are called begins and ends with God.

Then Paul tells us to “agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Often, God assigns a task and offers an assurance. The task: agree with one another; live in peace. The assurance if you do so: the God of love and peace will be with you.

Unfortunately, the notion of agreeing with one another and living in peace has too often been lost in our world, our society, our culture… and in some cases, even our families. I am a happily married man. If you ask me the reason for the success of my marriage, I would tell you that it is because Katei and I agree with one another; we live in peace. We work for this actively. In short, we work for love, and as a result the God of love and peace lives with us. This is why we succeed.

Now, the skeptic or the cynic might argue that that is an easy thing to say, but a much harder thing to do: to work for love. How much love is enough? The answer for me is as much as I have today, and tomorrow, with God’s help, I intend to have a little bit more.

How much love is enough? How much love should I give? God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. That is the watermark.

That is the goal.

The goal is never I’m not perfect but at least I’m not — whomever; and that’s what it boils down to. Whomever I happen to be judging right now as worse than me. Kind of pharisaical when you think about it: God, I’m not perfect but thanks for not making me like this poor, sorry such-and-thus.

The goal is this: I want to be perfect because my Heavenly Father is perfect. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

We are saved through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Because we are saved through Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in Jesus Christ. And because we can rejoice in Jesus Christ, we can repent in Jesus Christ. We can mend our ways; we can change; we can become better than we are… better than we ever thought we could be, not because of our own merit but because of the merit of him in whom we are saved: Jesus Christ.

This is the joy of being a Christian; this is the life to which we are called. It is a life of rejoicing, and of repenting… but also of becoming more than we were through Him who saves us. We don’t have to make any excuse; we don’t have to say, “I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not —.” Instead, we can say “I’m not perfect, but I’m on the right path. I’m on the path with Jesus Christ, because I believe in the name of the only Son of God, and that belief calls me to greater and greater perfection every day. I’m not perfect, but one day I might be… not because of me, but because of Him who died so that I might live forever.”

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard: June 15, 2014

Dear Parish Family,

The years of formation have flown past, and now it is time to begin the next chapter. I look forward with great anticipation to serving as deacon at Our Lady of Lourdes and am delighted that Bishop Finn chose to assign me to my home parish.

A deacon is called to live in two worlds at the same time. I will continue to work at the job I have done for many years to make a living; I will also be involved in a very special way in the life of the parish. One of the tasks of the deacon is to be in the world, but not of the world and to bring the concerns and needs of the world before the Church in prayer, and to address those needs in service.

Today’s readings remind us that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God’s love and mercy are without end. In addressing the concerns and needs of the world — a task to which we are all called — it is important that we all strive to mirror the love of God and to remember that all people are created in the likeness and image of God. Our calling as Christians is to see Christ in the face of the stranger and to treat others as God intends… with the same love and mercy with which he treats us.


Dcn. Richard