Homily for February, 25, 2024, Second Sunday of Lent
Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune
The Key Word: Listen
Hello everyone! It’s so good to see you.
Let us begin in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. There’s one sentence from that Gospel I want us to focus on: “[F]rom the cloud came a voice. ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’”
The key word here is “Listen!”
During Lent, we’re reminded that we must listen to Jesus.
But how do we listen?
First, turn off all that distracts us; turn off the tv, the laptop, and the cell phones. Then, take some quiet time to read from one of the Gospels and listen to what Jesus may be saying to you.
Another way to listen to Jesus is to simply talk to Jesus. When you talk to Jesus, take time to clearly listen to what Jesus may be saying to you.
During this Lenten season, take time to really listen to Jesus. You might be surprised by what you hear!
State of the Parish
Today. I want to talk about the “State of our Parish.”
A few years ago, our parish was really struggling—especially financially. Something that became clear from the various town hall meetings: The parish leadership needed to do a much better job communicating to our parishioners, and we had to be much more transparent about what is going on in our parish.
Unfortunately, we haven’t done a decent job of being transparent or communicating to you. We acknowledge that we must do a better job!
During our most recent Finance Council meeting held on February 7th, we reviewed the first six months of our fiscal year: July-December, 2023. The good news: Our total operating revenue outperformed our operating expenses by almost $7,000. Our regular collections for the first half of this fiscal year saw an increase of $16,592 when compared to the same period last year.
My friends, thank you for your outstanding generosity! You have truly blessed our parish!
You’ve heard the good news regarding our finances. Now, the more challenging news!
These last six months of the fiscal year for our parish will be challenging. Typically, we see a decline in regular collections and other operating revenue. This is understandable, especially this year. If you’re like me, living on a fixed income, you might find it challenging to make ends meet. I know I do. Whenever my wife and I go to Wegman’s or Tops, we feel the pinch of buying groceries. The same is true when we buy gas. While we recognize the challenges, we also recognize the needs of our parish. I pray we will continue to be as generous to our parish as your means allow.
At the end of our most recent fiscal year (June 2023), every parish was required to pay toward the settlement in the Diocesan bankruptcy case. Our parish paid $110,000 from our operating revenue. Now, our plan is to gradually repay our operation funds for the funds used to pay the aforementioned settlement and anticipate it will take 3-5 years to accomplish.
One last point regarding our parish’s financial situation: For the past two years, we’ve successfully met our assigned parish goal for the CMA. I pray we’ll meet our goal for this year. Unfortunately, we’re far behind in reaching our goal. If you’ve already contributed to the CMA, thank you! If you have not, please prayerfully consider doing so soon.
Now, let’s turn our attention to some other areas of our parish life.
For example, during these past six months, did you know we have celebrated four baptisms, three weddings, and four funerals? Further, I anticipate over the next few months we’ll celebrate even more sacraments—such as first confessions, first communions, and confirmations!
More exciting news is in our Faith Formation programs at both St. Catherine’s and St. Stan’s. Before I go on, I want to acknowledge the amount of time and hard work that the adults involved in our faith formation programs and youth group put in every week. Thank you for your generosity.
At St. Stan’s, we have fourteen young people involved in the Faith Formation program.
- One young person is preparing to celebrate both First Reconciliation and First Communion.
- Another young person is preparing to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation. And when the sacrament of Holy Communion is celebrated, they will also have a May crowning!
- I also understand there are plans to have a Senior Supper for the students during Holy Week. They could use some volunteers to help! Reach out to Sherry Sandford for more information.
- The Food Pantry next to St. Stan’s helped feed many individuals/families this past Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Stan’s also just hosted a Poor Man’s Supper, which I understand was well attended.
At St, Catherine’s, we have forty young people who are participating in the Faith Formation program.
- Three young people are preparing to celebrate First Reconciliation and First Communion.
- Fourteen young people are preparing to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation: eight of these young people will receive this sacrament in May, 2024, the balance will celebrate the Spring of 2025.
- Also, there are nine participants in the parish youth group that meets at St. Catherine’s, which is open to any youth of any faith who are of high school age.
- Catherine’s youth group and confirmation students hosted the October 2023 “Sweet and Greet” coffee hour held after Mass, where 100 people participated.
- Catherine’s also hosted the annual Addison Area Christmas baskets and toy program serving the needs of families and individuals in the Addison area.
- Parishioners from St. Catherine’s collected 632 cans of soup. (The goal was 350!).
- This event served 175 individuals/families this year.
- The Faith Formation students from St. Catherine’s won 1st prize in the annual Knights of Columbus “Keep Christ in Christmas” poster contest.
- Three youth group members were awarded the Diocese of Rochester’s Hands of Christ award, given to this year’s high school seniors. Check out this weekend’s bulletin for more information about these events!
- Catherine’s will host the 32nd Irish Dinner in a few weeks with music provided by Pat Kane!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the monthly Exposition and Adoration Hours that Deacon Doug organizes. Deacon Doug is also responsible for training new altar servers as well as overseeing the RCIA program for our parish. We have an adult preparing for baptism and celebrating their First Communion. We have another adult preparing to be welcomed into the Church. All this will take place during this year’s Easter Vigil.
My friends, this “State of the Parish” reflection intends to communicate some of the many activities currently happening in our very vibrant parish. I certainly have not mentioned every activity taking place at our three church sites.
I’m aware of the many hours some of our parishioners put in serving on our Pastoral Council, our Finance Council, our Strategic Planning Committee, our Buildings and Grounds Committee, and our choirs and music ministers at all three churches. I’m also aware of the Rosary Society at St. Stan’s, and the parishioners who assist with the money counting at St. Catherine’s.
We’re grateful and blessed by those who volunteer their time and talent to our parish!
I’d like to end my reflection by stating that many of those currently serving on our parish councils have done so for many, many years. They’d love to have other parishioners volunteer their time and talent to the parish.
We’re also looking for someone to take responsibility for putting together our weekly parish bulletin, which would normally require about 2-4 hours/week of your time.
Please take this season of Lent to LISTEN to Jesus and discern how you might volunteer your time and talent to help serve your parish.
As I stated at the beginning of my homily, the parish leadership intends to do a much better job of being transparent and communicating with you about the state of our parish. Today, I’ve only presented a snapshot of our parish’s current financial status and didn’t go into detail. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of our current finances, please let me know.
On behalf of Fr. Pat, Deacon Doug, and the members of the Finance and Parish Council, thank you for listening!
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Homily for February 18, 2024, 1st Sunday of Lent (Year B)
Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell
God’s Plan for Salvation: The Covenants
Our first reading from Genesis deals with the covenant God makes with Noah and his sons. The theme in our reading is about covenant, which is mentioned five times. We’re very familiar with the story of Noah and the Ark and the great flood, which covers a major portion of the beginning of Genesis (chapters 6:5 – 9:29), and the first explicit covenant God makes in the Old Testament.
Genesis’s first eleven chapters deal with creation, sin, destruction, and recreation. This storyline can be said of the entire Bible and throughout history, can it not? God creates, humanity sins—which affects creation, resulting in destruction—and God either re-creates or re-establishes the relationship. We see this pattern throughout Israel’s history in the Old Testament, and this pattern comes to fruition in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ in the New Testament.
A covenant is a promise between two parties and not to be broken by either party and much like a contract, which is also entered into by two parties.
However, there’s a difference between a contract and a covenant.
Theologian Scott Hahn says this about the difference: “The singular difference is that a contract determines “what is mine” [w]hile a covenant determines “who is mine.” The covenant God makes with Noah and his family isn’t just for humanity, but with all creatures that roam the earth and were spared.
A covenant usually involves a sacrifice to seal the promise, but a sacrifice was also offered as a sin offering whenever the covenant was broken. In Bishop Barron’s book, This Is My Body: A Call to Eucharistic Revival, the bishop explains the purpose of making sacrifices was a reparation required by Jewish law to put oneself back into right relationship with God. Sacrifice was symbolic of pouring out one’s own life in devotion and thanksgiving. Bishop Barron further states, “No matter how many times the covenant was taught, renewed, reaffirmed, it was broken by stubborn Israel, a ‘stiffed-necked people’ (Ex 32:9).” If this particular Bible passage were written today, it would certainly incorporate all of humanity—not just Israel.
The reason God flooded the earth was because sin had become so rampant that it affected creation. Even the creatures of the earth and sky were destroyed. More so, it affected the relationship between humanity and God. Genesis 6:5-6 says, “When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth and his heart was grieved.”
Bishop Barron goes on to say, “And no matter how many sacrifices were offered in the Temple, Yahweh was still not properly honored, and the people still not interiorly renewed.” Regardless, today we hear God was remorseful. In His mercy, God establishes a covenant with Noah and his sons and all creatures that never again would He destroy the earth by the waters of a flood. And as proof and a constant reminder for ages to come, when the clouds cover the earth, the rainbow appears, and God himself will recall the covenant He made.
Numerous covenants will follow this first covenant with Noah—later covenants would be made with Abraham, Moses, King David, and Isaiah. But this first covenant has an interesting feature: God makes an unconditional promise not to destroy the earth with water, with no condition or terms placed upon humanity to uphold for the covenant to remain intact. Future covenants weren’t so simple, such as the covenant of circumcision with Abraham (Gn 17) or the covenant of the Law with Israel (Ex 20-24).
But this first covenant would be the simplest of terms: God would take it all upon Himself.
Repent and Believe
The greatest covenant, though, was yet to come through God’s direct intervention. It was the prophet Jeremiah who had the foresight. Again referencing Bishop Barron: “He [Jeremiah] expresses Yahweh’s own pledge that He himself would one day fulfill the covenant and forgive the sins of the people.”
Today’s gospel from Mark doesn’t present the details of the temptations that Jesus went through in the desert. However, we are made aware of Jesus’s time in the desert fasting and praying (forty days), which correlates with the Israelites’ time spent wandering in the desert (forty years). Although lacking detail of Christ’s exact trials, Mark’s critical point focuses on Jesus emerging from the desert victorious over the temptations of sin and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, announcing, “This is the time of fulfillment, the reign of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel!”
“Repent and believe in the Gospel”—perhaps those were the very words spoken when you received ashes on your foreheads on Ash Wednesday.
As we enter the Lenten season, marked with ashes, we enter our own desert to pray and fast, give alms, to recall our own sinfulness, while seeking repentance, reconciliation, and a renewal of the covenant. The “time of fulfillment” is still at hand, and Christ has made it available to us through his own death and resurrection. Our 40-day journey is our opportunity to come out on the other end of Lent renewed, victorious as Christ was in the desert.
We’re still caught in the pattern of creation, sin, destruction, and recreation, but we can thankfully recall God’s promise: “Never will I doom the earth because of man, since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living things, as I have done (Gn 8: 21).” As the waters of the flood once destroyed the sinfulness on earth but also cleansed it, now the waters of baptism established by Christ will wash away our sins to cleanse us.
For this day, God has given us something better: the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, the righteous, for us, the unrighteous, that Christ might lead each of us to God.
He’s given each of us a choice to be saved, with a tangible sign of this new covenant as our reminder: the Body and Blood of the Eucharist.
This greatest covenant of all promises us eternal life.
Thus, God did his part and ours, so repent and believe in the Gospel!
Homily for February 4, 2024, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune
Hello, everyone. I’m so glad to see you here today as we gather together to celebrate the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Now, let us begin, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Taking God at His Word
For the past two weeks, we were blessed to have Fr. Dan Condon, the Chancellor for our Diocese, break open the Word of God for us. I thought his homilies were very pastoral.
Two weeks ago, Fr. Condon suggested we should take time during the week to read The Book of Jonah or the Gospel of Mark to see how God might be speaking to our hearts. Last weekend, we heard that Jesus taught the people with authority. His authority came from his relationship with His Father. When Jesus taught, His words opened the hearts of those who heard Him. Fr. Condon reminded us that we are all called to open our hearts to God’s Word.
This weekend, our first reading from Job is very depressing. Job is very articulate as he voices one woe after another. Job’s days are full of misery, and he can’t even get nightly rest to prepare for what he must face the next day.
Have you ever felt like Job—overwhelmed by life? I know that I have!
Job doesn’t solve the problem of suffering for us. He offers no interpretation—just gives us a gloomy picture of human life and work. If he’d given us some resolution, it might help people bear their pain, knowing their suffering isn’t in vain. Instead, suffering remains a mystery.
Job’s lot is a painful, complex one, and he doesn’t think it will ever end. By laying out his misery, he seems to be hinting to God, “Do something!”
Job’s plight puts us in the minds of those suffering from physical or emotional distress, endless days and nights of misery, starvation, and fear in places like Ukraine, Gaza and so many other places throughout the world. I don’t think any of us here can truly understand the fear that these people are feeling. Losing control in our lives due to exterior or interior forces, can make us feel like Job: “a slave who longs for shade.”
However, if read the entire Book of Job, we would discover Job concludes he’ll never have the answers to all of his problems. He realizes that he must place his trust in God.
Like Job, we too must place our trust in God, especially when life becomes overwhelming.
Jesus’ actions throughout the Gospels and in today’s passage, speak clearly to us. God does not send us pain or suffering. With Job, we look for relief. It may not come in the form we want, nevertheless Jesus shows us that God is always reaching out to heal our brokenness.
The Psalm today stirs our faith to proclaim, “Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.”
Jesus lived in a world full of problems.
Many of the greatest challenges the people of Jesus’s day endured were various sicknesses. We read in the Gospels of people suffering from leprosy, paralysis, epilepsy—to name a few. We hear about the blind and the deaf. Scores of people pushed against Jesus. They wanted to be healed. Jesus knew sickness wasn’t not part of the Father’s plan. These people were suffering the result of mankind’s choosing death over life, choosing to push God aside in favor of the material world. They were innocent as individuals, but all suffered from humanity’s guilt. Jesus’ heart went out to them. He hurt for them.
And Jesus did heal many people—lepers, a man with a withered arm, cripples—and many, many more. It’s no wonder large crowds continually pressed on Jesus, pleading with Him to heal them.
Notice, though, what Jesus did before he healed someone. He prayed. He prayed to His Father. His human nature stayed in touch with his divine nature as he went off to a deserted place to pray. And His prayers were answered with such power that he could heal.
We don’t know the reasons for so many problems in the world.
We don’t know why good people suffer.
We don’t know why children die.
We do not even know the extent of suffering around us.
What we do know is that if we keep a relationship with God, we can see all difficulties for what they are: temporary. “This too will pass,” the wise say. So, we meet challenges head on, knowing God will fight with us, helping us win the battle here, so we can join him in the eternal celebration of His victory.
And so, we pray.
We welcome the spiritual into our lives. We welcome the Presence of God into our lives and witness Him strengthening our faith life. And we witness the power of prayer. Over and over, people tell me stories of how they or their loved ones survived and grew closer to God due to prayer. I have witnessed people healed through the Sacrament of the Sick. And how many people have gone to healing services and been healed? It isn’t the person who leads the service who does the healing. The healing is due to the power of God answering prayers.
Jesus heals. He heals the pain not just of the people of the past—those we hear about in the Gospels. Jesus heals the pain of the people today.
We Are Not Alone
Some receive healing immediately. Others receive healing in stages.
All who call to the Lord are healed. Some are healed physically. Some are healed emotionally, able to accept their condition in life. All receive spiritual healing as they unite their pain to the Cross of Christ.
We who carry Christ within us, carry within us the One who heals. If we believe in Him, if we trust in Him, then we refuse to join Job’s cry of despair. We recognize Christ is present when we need Him the most, healing our internal and our external turmoil.
We need to remember we are not alone. Jesus is always with us.
The last words of the Gospel of Matthew are so important: “Know that I am with you always until the end of time.” He is here to protect us from the doubts and despair that plagued Job. He is here to give us the courage to walk with Him over the threshold to a new life.
Today, we’re told that when we suffer, in any manner, we must reach out to the presence of God.
We believe He is present for us; that He is with us.
We believe that He cries out with us, sharing our pain.
We must use this special presence of the Lord to come closer to the God who loves us, who was one of us, and who gave his life for us.
So, we ask our God, “When the difficulties of our human condition weigh heavily upon us, dear Lord, teach us how to pray.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Homily for January 7, 2024, The Epiphany of the Lord (Year B)
Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell.
All nations are invited to sing the Lord’s praises, for they’ve been called to hear the good news and worship the long-awaited Messiah and King.
Each year, the Church uses these powerful sets of readings for the manifestation of the Lord that we celebrate as “The Epiphany of the Lord.”
The first reading from Isaiah is prophesied during Israel’s exile in Babylon around 550 B.C. Here, the prophet offers a vision of better days ahead filled with unimaginable joy! We can only wonder how hard this would have been to comprehend since the Israelites had been exiled from their promised land of Jerusalem for almost two generations. However, Isaiah isn’t only offering hope but challenging them, too, by telling them God would restore them to glory as He had done for their ancestors.
While this encouragement is expressed mainly for the Israelites’ benefit, Christianity likewise sees hope as the prophesy states all nations shall walk by the light—a prophesy fulfilled by the birth of Christ, including everyone in God’s design for salvation. It’s true that God specifically chose the Israelites to be His promised people—a priestly and holy nation—yet there was much more to God’s plan. Israel became that beacon of light to the entire world, so through Israel, all peoples of every nation would be gathered unto Himself. Importantly, this theme is also found in the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, expressed by the resurrected Christ, when Jesus tells the disciple to go forth and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Paul writes of the mystery exposed in the letter to the Ephesians. This mystery, made known to Paul, didn’t come to him through flesh and blood (Gal 1:11-12), but through the risen Christ. This revelation is also proclaimed at the beginning of the letter to the Galatians and again at the end of Romans (Rm 16:25). That mystery not only reveals Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but also the salvation of the Gentiles, who will become coheirs—members of the same body and copartners in the promise of Christ.
The Epiphany we celebrate today isn’t solely about recognizing the infant Jesus as the Messiah, as expressed on our Gospel, but a personal epiphany that all people, because of their faith in Christ, are members of the same body. God makes himself manifest to all nations through the life, death, and Resurrection of his divine Son. This is the insight proclaimed today in the Epiphany of The Lord!
The wisemen who traveled from the East represent all nations.
It’s thought the three wisemen came from Persia (Melchior), India (Caspar), and Arabia (Balthasar). This account from Matthew, read every year for the Epiphany, continues the universal theme including all people of every nation. It’s here that Isaiah’s prophecy is finally fulfilled.
The wisemen travel a great distance from the East in search of a king. Not only does their long, difficult journey speak of something special about this particular king, but their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh offer more insights, too. Their gifts represent royal dignity (the gold), the greatness of the priesthood (the frankincense), and intermingled with human mortality, Christ’s divinity as the Messiah, the anointed one (the myrrh).
In reflecting on these readings, I thought about the conditions in our world today and how Isaiah’s words affect us. . . .
The war in Ukraine is approaching two years in February.
Palestine and Israel are now engaged in conflict.
We, too, are experiencing divisions, politically and socially, within our country. These conflicts have impacted the world as we’ve seen these divisions widen.
Despite all this, do we see only darkness caused by these thick clouds, or do we still see the radiance of the Lord shining through?
Isaiah’s words can offer encouragement and hope, but still challenge us today as well!
How do we see through the darkness of our turbulence today and look upon the radiance of God?
Where does the manifestation of our Lord occur?
The answer to these questions is found in the Eucharist. There, through the Body and Blood of Jesus, is the radiance of God’s countenance and God made known.
And in the end, we realize that we have something more precious to offer than gold, frankincense, and myrrh—our very selves!