Homilies for 2024

June 2024

May 2024

Homily For May 26, 2024, The Most Holy Trinity (Cycle B)

Homilist: Father Patrick Connor

Truly, We Are Children of God

In our second reading from the New Testament, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, we read: “You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Sometimes we hear the phrase “fear of the Lord.” Some people mistakenly think this translates as “afraid of the Lord.” But fear of the Lord is not a matter of being afraid of God but giving reverence to and love to our God as well as our obedience to God’s will.

As St. Paul said, we have received a spirit of adoption. It’s in this Gift of the Spirit that we cry to God, “Abba, Father!” This is a term of endearment, a term of trust, hope, and love.

We heard in today’s responsorial psalm, Psalm 33: “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.”

Stop and think about what the words “help” and “shield” mean for you in your life, with all the challenges and problems you may be facing this day. Now, apply the words help and shield to any of your problems that you may be going back to when you leave Mass today.

It reminds me of those verses in Psalm 23, known as the Good Shepherd Psalm. Not only does it refer to green pastures and still waters—i.e., times of peace—but also acknowledges times of difficulty where it says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff that comfort me.”

The “valley of the shadow of death” describes those times and circumstances where we feel like God is absent from us; when we can’t feel the presence of the Good Shepherd by our side with his rod and staff to comfort us. Many of the saints experienced such times to the point that it was referred to as the dark night of the soul.

During this period, the soul experiences a lack of peace and closeness to the Lord—a spiritual dryness. Whereas before the saint had strong feelings of faith and peace whenever he or she would pray—during this dark night, the good feelings that came with prayer are suddenly gone. This dark night of the soul is God bringing the soul to a stronger faith and deeper union with Him. It’s not a punishment but a growing process…growing in holiness.

There are times, continuing in the words of Psalm 23, when one is going through that valley of the shadow of death. The death refers to dying to self, living for the Lord, and doing His will. Though it might create a sense of one’s own weakness, at the same time, the soul experiences a growth in holiness through a stronger trust in placing our lives in the Lord’s hands.

Not Just Words

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. In one of his talks about The Holy Trinity, Pope Francis said, “Today we can ask ourselves if our life reflects the God we believe in: do I, who profess faith in God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, truly believe that in order to live, I need others, I need to give myself to others, I need to serve others. Do I affirm this in words or with my life?”

So the doctrine of the Trinity isn’t just something we find in a textbook of the teachings of the Church but something that affects our actions. It’s not just a matter of words, but of being the hands and the heart of Jesus to others. This is how we spread our faith—not just words but actions as well where we try to show the love of Jesus for those we meet.

Our parish mission statement on the front of our bulletin, reads: We are a Catholic community of faith united in our love for Jesus Christ. We strive to maintain and carry the message of hope and salvation to others through our works of evangelization and examples of sacramental life.

The message of hope and salvation is what Jesus brought to the world. it is God’s gift to us all. One way we carry the message is by being open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to us. This Holy Spirit helps us to evangelize—not just by words, but more importantly, through our actions.

In last Sunday’s homily, Deacon Doug referred to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, which began last Monday when the Easter season ended with the feast of Pentecost. I can’t remember his exact words, but I recall it was something like Lent was a time for growing in holiness, but Ordinary Time isn’t a time for us to stop living our faith. Rather, it’s a time to get busy and be committed to showing our faith…like our parish mission statement.

It’s also part of what Jesus meant when he told the disciples before His ascension into Heaven:


“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit, teaching them to observe all that I told you. And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.”

Jesus is truly with us. The Good Shepherd is ever by our side with his rod and staff that give us courage. So, let’s take that courage with us today.

Let us be open to Jesus as we receive him in Holy Communion today.

Let us not fear going forth and being his instrument of peace, but trust he accepts us just as we are even with all our weaknesses and sins.

But he doesn’t leave us there. He calls us to get behind him just as Jesus told Peter and the disciples about His coming passion, death, and resurrection.

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing will ever happen to you.”  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus was not calling Peter the Devil but indicating Peter was not thinking of the ways of God but of the world. Telling Peter to get behind Jesus wasn’t some type of punishment but an invitation to follow Jesus and learn from him. Jesus says the same to us: Get behind Me– so that we can become more like Him as he changes us from…Sinner to Saint.
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Homily for May 19, 2024–Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Ordinary Time is Not Time to Rest

The final words of Jesus to his disciples before he ascended into the heavens were: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The weekdays after the Ascension up to the Saturday before Pentecost are days spent in anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit, with communities praying novenas of renewal in preparing for the Feast of Pentecost. These weekday readings dive further into the Acts of the Apostles—encouraging the disciples of the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit—to proclaim the kingdom of God; even encouraging St. Paul, while in prison, on his mission to Rome.

And it’s that very Spirit who encourages us to do the same. Through the Spirit—despite what our world endures today—we must continue our mission by proclaiming God’s kingdom.

This weekend marks the end of the Easter season and the return to Ordinary Time. But Ordinary Time isn’t a time to relax but to get to work. What did we hear on the Ascension when Jesus was taken into heaven? We heard: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

These words say you have work to do before he returns, so now get busy!

Come Holy Spirit!

Today’s Gospel from John comes from the what is known as the “Last Supper Discourses,” which covers Chapters 14-17. Here Jesus tells of the coming of an advocate sent from the Father. In Greek, the term for advocate is “paraclete,” but it has a wider range of meanings to include mediator, counselor, and comforter. Many names, perhaps, but one Spirit. Jesus speaks at length about the role the Holy Spirit will play in the lives of the disciples. Let us also listen!

In Judeo-Christian historical tradition, Pentecost celebrates two different events. For those Jewish, it’s known as Shavuot, which has a two-fold meaning. Initially, it was a thanksgiving for the first fruit harvests of spring—usually pertaining to winter crops such as winter wheat. Later, Shavuot became associated with the giving of the Law of Moses on Mount Sinai—one of the defining moments in Jewish history in their relationship with the Lord. The law was understood as a gift from God, intending to restore Israel’s prominence. This law defined and separated Israel from among all other nations.

For us Christians, Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples—the promise of the Father as Jesus referred to it. The descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the prophecy of John the Baptist and the promise of Jesus upon his Resurrection and Ascension. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples’ very nature changed. They were no longer frightened of what might happen to them but rather boldly proclaimed the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.

Further, this event marks the birth of the early Christian Church. As with the Mosaic Law, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit to the Church was God’s gift empowering the disciples to begin their mission. Today, it is meant to do the same—to empower us, the faithful—to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

The reception of the Holy Spirit does the same for us if we’re open to the Holy Spirit’s workings! The manifestation of the Holy Spirit in each person is given for some benefit. Each is given a different gift of the Spirit, but no matter the gift, it’s the same Spirit in all. If you can’t figure out what that gift is, I’ll share a secret with you: Simply pray, “Lord, use me as you see fit.”

The Conflict

All need to pray because there’s a conflict within us—the conflict of gratifying the flesh versus gratifying the Spirit. The list of the desires of the flesh in today’s reading from Galatians is in direct contrast to the workings of the Spirit. When written, this passage reflected the Hellenistic cultural norms of the day. But don’t be fooled—our modern culture is on track with these same vices. This is our very real battle today. Empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we should promote the virtues of the Spirit against such behaviors even if there are no supporting laws!

Jesus tells his disciples the Spirit will have four main functions: to witness, to guide, to announce, and to glorify. The Holy Spirit will bear witness to others about Jesus, just as disciples are called to do; the Spirit will testify to the risen Christ to others as the disciples are called to do; the Spirit will guide the disciples to the truth; the Spirit will declare to the disciples the things to come; the Spirit will glorify Christ by providing for His disciples all that the Son has.

All that was commissioned to the disciples is also commissioned unto us as we, too, have received this same Spirit upon our baptism. This assures us that we’ll have divine assistance in our mission as Christians. But to accomplish this, we must live in and follow the Spirit. Then the very nature of our lives will be changed!

 

Homily For May 12, 2024, Seventh Sunday Of Easter (Cycle B)

Homilist: Father Patrick Connor

We hear in today’s first reading from the acts of the apostles about the election of a new apostle to replace that of Judas Iscariot who betrayed our lord. The name of this new apostle is Matthias. In Hebrew this name means gift of the lord or gift of God. How fitting, for this new apostle is not only gifted by God, but a reminder how all the apostles, and all those who have been baptized are now gifts of God, gifts of the lord.

You yourselves can also be named Matthias, for each of you is a gift of God, a gift of the lord. As we gather here for Mass, we recognize and believe that Jesus, whom we are soon to receive in holy communion, is a gift of God, a gift from the Father.

But not only that—each of you is also a gift of God to Jesus. Our gift is our love for Jesus—a love by which we take him with us from this church, to be his hands and heart to all we meet.

This means that in the spirit of Matthias, we are also God’s gift to all we meet…especially those who may be hurting and in need of God’s help and strength. You never know who God will send to you so that you can bring them hope and help.

In our gospel acclamation we hear, “I will not leave you orphans, says the lord. I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.”

This is taken from the 14th chapter of John’s gospel, when Jesus and the apostles are at the last supper. Jesus will be arrested in chapter 18 and his passion begins. Before that chapter, the four chapters of john are showing us Jesus at the last supper, gathered with his apostles.

Put yourself in the place of any of the apostles and listen to the words Jesus speaks. In our gospel, we hear Jesus say in his prayer to the father: now i am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely…i do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…as you sent me into the world, so i sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they may also be consecrated in truth.”

Now, substitute the word you in some of Jesus’ phrases. Now it will read: I speak this in the world so that you may share my joy completely…I do not ask that the Father takes you out of the world, but that he keeps you from the evil one…as the Father sent me into the world, so I send you into the world, and I consecrate myself for you, so that you may be consecrated in truth.

So we are all called to share the joy of Jesus completely. But to share in His joy, we must also, like him, share in His passion. Our sharing in the passion of Jesus refers to those sacrifices we make in trying to help others. We may even face rejection or hostility as we try to be the hands and heart of Jesus to others. We will never be able to embrace Jesus in the glory of heaven if we first do not embrace him in the poor and the suffering, who in his parable of the last judgement referred to them as the least of my brothers and sisters.

Perhaps you may already be involved in this type of ministry, and also sharing in suffering, and perhaps even feeling abandoned by God as there seems to be no end to your pain or sorrow. In those times, the devil, the Father of Lies, is right there to speak into our minds and hearts and souls lies about God to try to convince us that God hates sin and hates sinners. This lie goes way back even to the garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were made so scared of God by Satan that they ran and hid in the bushes from God when He called their name to go walk with him in the garden.

God knew exactly what had happened, and why they were hiding. But He wanted them to discover his love. So he asked them to tell him about it…and in the process, they discovered God hates sin but loves the sinner. God hates sin because of the harm it does to our souls, the wounds so to speak. He loves us so much he does not want to see us harmed. So he tries to help us avoid sin, but He gave us free will, so he cannot force that on us.

However, He sent his son into the world to conquer sin and death. Even though we are sinners and will also experience death, his love helps us discover his mercy and life. Even though our bodies will die, on the day when Jesus returns for the last judgement, our bodies will be raised from the grave to be united with our souls and both share in the glory of heaven forever.

So while we are here in the world, we are not of the world—our hearts and souls are called to that heavenly world in the kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile, we face times of struggle in this life. But let us find strength and hope in Jesus’ words in our gospel acclamation:

I will not leave you orphans, says the lord.

I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice!

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Homily for May 5, 2024, The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you here today as we gather to celebrate the Sixth Sunday of Easter. So, let us begin in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

God has always loved us first.

Before we go into today’s readings, let’s recall last Sunday’s message of the biological analogy of Jesus’ intimacy with us: the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus taught just as the very life of the vine flows from the vine into the branches, so does the very resurrected life of Christ flow from Him into us.

Today, Jesus speaks more personally. Today’s beautiful letter from John reveals what Jesus’ life is:

Love. “God is love.” His life/love flows from him into us.

It’s been suggested the word “love” in our culture is in serious need of a bath. It has become so overused, misused, and abused that it needs to be power washed to renew its sparkle.

This word ‘love’ appears in one form or another in this Sunday’s readings an amazing twenty times. God’s meaning of precious, unconditional faithfulness needs to be our focus for love. Our experience of human love is ideally a reproduction of God’s own love for us. Too often, though, it is a poor reflection.

Perhaps there is a short circuit in our love lives? Our preconditioned belief that we need to earn love, which has been a perception for everyone at some level:

  • Love from our teachers—earned for good grades and conduct.
  • Love from our employers—earned for success in the workplace.
  • Love from parents—earned (by some, unfortunately) for being ‘good’ boys and girls.

Because our personal experience has been based by earning love, it then becomes a stretch for us to accept that God doesn’t work that way.

Basil Hume once said it is easier to believe in God than to believe God loves us.

But the simple truth is we cannot “earn” God’s love—we’re wonderfully and blessedly “stuck” with it.

You see, God has always loved us first.

 “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

That wonderful revelation: Love is who God is, and what He does. We hear: “Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us.” That’s the heart of today’s readings. Love exists not because we love, but because we are loved. God loves us whether we recognize it, or even if we accept it . . . or not.

We hear in the Gospel: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The depth of that statement is often missed. Jesus is saying that the same, intimate relationship he experiences with his Father is also passed on to us as disciples. That reality of being unconditionally loved empowers us, as Jesus says, to “love one another as I love you.” We are part of this magnificent circle of love with the Father, Jesus, and one another.

Jesus taught this best at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his disciples and gave us example of how to be toward one another in service. Then he turned around and gave himself to us in the Eucharist, allowing us to commune with Him in word and body/blood in the communion called holy.

This is God’s plan.

We need to make God’s love an essential part of our ongoing dialogue with ourselves. We all have this constant dialogue in our heads and hearts—the places where we talk to ourselves, and our self-image talks back. It is here that the conviction of God’s love for us must prevail.

We need to bask in His love. We become empowered to respond in love both to Him and one another and by conveying the love in our hearts to others, thus completing the circle of love. This is God’s plan.

If Lent was self-examination, then Easter needs to be a life-giving, life-enabling exercise that instills in us the ever-present conviction of God’s love for us. Our challenge is to appreciate, to really accept that God loves us unconditionally —just as we are.

Today’s Gospel is the very core of Jesus’ last supper discourse. We need to keep this reality always in our ongoing dialogue with ourselves, so we may constantly listen and live lovingly.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Spirit. Amen.

April 2024

Homily for April 28, 2024, The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

The Road to Damascus is One of Conversion for All

Beginning on Friday of the Third Week of Easter, we first hear of the conversion of Saul (i.e., Saint Paul) in which he asks the high priest’s permission to go to the synagogues in Damascus to arrest and bring back any followers of “The Way”–a name used by the Christian community for itself–which included any man or woman that belonged to The Way. It then skips the readings we hear from today and goes directly to the evangelization of people throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.

Today from the Act of the Apostles, we focus on the conversion of Paul, who would become, as Bishop Barrron notes, one of the indispensable men of our faith. As the author of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke puts great significance on Saul’s conversion, so much so that Luke offers three accounts of Saul’s conversion. Here in Chapter 9:1-19, in Chapter 22: 3-16, and again in Chapter 26: 2-18. The latter two times are in defense of his actions of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Jewish authorities in Asia and Caesarea.

As Paul attempts to join the ranks of the disciples, they are leery of his intentions because of his past reputation. It is Barnabas, a man of social esteem in the community, who testifies to Paul’s actions in Damascus. His testimony is enough to convince the apostles this was no longer Saul of Tarsus who went about persecuting the Jews, but Paul who had truly experienced and accepted the risen Christ.

Afterward, Paul becomes the target of persecution by the Hellenists because of his boldness in speaking in the name of Christ. As Paul himself describes it, he’s merely standing trial because of his hope in the promise God made to his ancestors.

Paul traveled extensively and made at least three missionary journeys in his lifetime, with plans for more if he had lived. He traveled around the eastern end of the Roman Empire, through Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greece, and Macedonia. He went to Antioch, Troas, Derbe, Ephesus, and across Europe to Philippi. From there, journeying to Athens, Corinth, and Thessalonica.

Here, Paul warns against false prophets and attests to his own validity by proclaiming his resumé. Paul’s background is found in Phil. 3:4-7, telling all how he had observed the Jewish law, had been circumcised on the eighth day, hailed from Israel—belonging to the tribe of Benjamin as a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage. Further in observance of the law, he’d been a Pharisee and a zealous persecutor of the Christian Church. However, everything he’d once gained by his birthright and actions, he now considered a loss. Through the supreme goodness of knowing Christ Jesus, the righteousness of Paul’s heritage meant nothing, but the righteousness he’d gained through faith in Christ justified “the way” to truly please and serve God.

It’s because of Saul’s zeal that Jesus picked Paul as an instrument for His good. The events on the way to Damascus were done so Paul would be witness of the risen Christ and then convinced of Jesus’ Lordship of which Paul would boldly proclaim.

More Than Words   

Today’s letter from John speaks of the same belief in the name of Christ, boldly proclaiming it, while also following Jesus’ commandment to love one another. John also emphasizes that it’s more than word or speech but also includes deed and truth. To know if one is following this commandment is to examine our own conscience. Our hearts will know if we have hearts for God. This is something all of us fall in and out of throughout our lives. Therefore, we must constantly perform these self-examinations and seek reconciliation to strengthen ourselves through our deeds and truth.

Today’s Gospel speaks of the vine and the branches. Our belief in Christ makes us branches of the true vine that is Christ. We must remain in Christ, but (again) that takes more than just words. We must bear fruit as well and that can only come from deed and truth. We come to church because we need pruning from time to time. How we bear good fruit is by boldly proclaiming faith in Jesus as the Christ—Son of God—to others as well as loving one another.

As Paul continued in his speech to the people of Philippi from Chapter 3, picking up from verse 10, “to know him and the power of the resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it since I have been indeed taken possession of by Christ.”

Thus, it’s not enough to come here today, partake in Holy Communion, and be satisfied that we’ve done our part. Rather as you so often have heard here, it’s what we do after we leave today: “to take Christ with you out into the world, boldly proclaiming Christ by your life.”

Amen.

Homily for April 21, 2024, The Fourth Sunday of Easter           

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you as we gather to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Let us begin, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

That Sacred Dignity

I read an interesting story this week about a pop quiz given to a class of first-year nursing students. Most of those students did well on the quiz until they came to the last question that all of them left blank.

That question: What is the name of the woman you see every morning who cleans the school?

The students thought the question was a joke until they found out the professor was counting it toward their grade.

When they protested, the professor replied, “In your careers, you’ll meet many people—all of whom are important. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello’ to them every morning.”

The students never forgot the lesson or the cleaning lady’s name.

To be a disciple of Jesus demands that we respond to everyone the same way the Good Shepherd responds to all. Every person possesses the sacred dignity of being a child of God. Likewise, every baby is the most important child ever born—a unique reflection of our God—equally deserving of the Lord’s love and care on this earth and shown through each of us.

This is why Christian charity must reach beyond our family and friends, beyond the parish family, and even beyond the family of citizens of our own country.

We must be concerned about those who are starving, suffering, or dying throughout the world. Our charity cannot be limited by anything, including only our faith community. St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example, reached out to the poor of Calcutta and throughout the world—most of whom she helped were Hindu and not Christian, as all peoples everywhere are made in the image of God.

Easier said than done . . . but still something we must do.

Truly, all of this is easy to say but difficult to do.

Sometimes, I’m worse at this than anybody. My mind often wanders with too many things to do. I often block out everything around me as I scamper from one task to another.

Perhaps you do this, too. You might be on the run and totally oblivious to a neighbor who is down in the dumps. Or you might be so caught up in your kids’ hectic schedule—bringing this one to baseball, that one to karate, dance, school meetings, etc.—that you don’t notice your children have needs far greater than all the extracurricular activities you take them to.

Following the Good Shepherd requires our never being too busy to be aware of, and respond to, those around us who need help.

The One Voice

I heard another true story that relates to the presence of the Good Shepherd in our lives.

A number of years ago, there was a terrible fire in an apartment building in New York City. A little girl was trapped on the fourth floor of the building perched on a window ledge. To make matters worse, she was blind. The firefighters couldn’t maneuver the ladder truck in such a way to reach the girl, so they set up a net and told her to jump.

But because of her blindness, she was too terrified to move.

Then her father arrived on the scene and shouted to her that he was there to catch her, and she should jump when he told her. The girl did and was so completely relaxed that she didn’t break a bone or even strain a muscle from the four-story fall.

All because she trusted the voice that she knew loved her.

It’s the busyness of our lives—noise, distractions, even calamities—that obscures what we desperately need to hear.

That is the voice of calm, the voice of reason, the voice of assurance.

And let’s not forget the voice of unconditional, unqualified love: the voice of Christ speaking to us in the quiet of our hearts, in the love of our family and friends, in the cries of those calling around us.

The Good Shepherd calls us calmly and lovingly. He tells us to take that leap of faith and trust in Him as he will never be too busy to care for us.

The Good Shepherd is the Risen Lord. He is always with us and will never leave.

Today, we ask Our Lord to allow us to slow down and hear his voice.

In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen,

March 2024

Homily for March 17, 2024, The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A—optional readings for the Scrutiny)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

We grow together.

Today, our readings are again (and for the final time) taken from Year A and pertain to those of our parish’s Elect, i.e., those candidates journeying toward full reception into the Catholic Church, along with many other Elect in our diocese, our country, and worldwide. The readings pertain to the Scrutinies, rites that follow the Rite of Election, where a candidate’s sponsor first gives testimony, to the candidate’s acceptance of the faith. After that testimony, approval is then asked from the attending congregation for their acceptance of the candidates faith journey. Upon the congregation’s approval, the bishop (or in his absence, the designated priest) then gives his consent and prays for these candidates to continue their journey through Lent until full reception at the Easter Vigil.

The Scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal, all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the heart of the Elect (RCIA study guide). Thus, the Scrutinies are a time of close self-searching, repentance, and above all, have a spiritual purpose.

It’s the same journey we’re on during this Lenten season, preparing us for the glory of Easter.

Our parish candidates are Rebecca and John Paul Reynolds. They’ve been attending St. Catherine’s in Addison and will soon become full-fledged members of Saints Isidore and Maria Torribia Parish—synonymous with full reception into the Roman Catholic Church.

During these last three weeks, the gospels have dealt with the Initiation Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. On the third week of Lent (the first week of the Scrutiny), we heard readings pertaining to water; particularly from the gospel story of the Samaritan women dealing with the “living water” (Jn 4) that represents the waters of baptism, cleansing us of original sin and sustaining life—more specifically, the hope of eternal life.

Last week, our readings encompassed our blindness (Jn 9)—not just physical, but spiritual blindness due to sin. Further, we were told humanity doesn’t see as God sees. Rather, humanity only sees the outward appearance, while God pays no mind to external appearances but looks directly into the true desires of our hearts. Through baptism, we are cleansed of sin. And through our acceptance of the gospel and profession of faith, we’re brought into the light of Christ, becoming “People of the Light.”

All will be renewed.

This week, our readings encompass a new beginning beyond our earthly mortality, leading to our resurrection when our merciful, compassionate God raises us up in new life, just as he did Jesus Christ.

Our reading today deals with the Exile, soon after the destruction of the capital city of Jerusalem, along with the decimation of the Jewish people’s sacred temple. For the Jews, this utter desolation seemed as if God had abandoned them, and all hope lost. However, Ezekiel tells them of his vision of being led into the desert to a pile of sun-bleached bones. (If you’re not familiar with this story, I encourage you to read it in its entirety [Ez 37: 1-14].) There, Ezekial is told to prophesy over those bones, telling them to hear and obey the Word of God by commanding them to come to life, at which point, the bones grew flesh, and the spirit of God placed within them. This vision instills hope all will be renewed. This reading about the dry bones vision focuses on the new life God will give to the Israelites—even opening the graves of those already deceased—and giving them a new spirit so they may live. Further, God would also settle among them. Thus, Ezekiel testifies to God’s promise of restoration and hope to the Israeli people.

For many early Christians, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead fulfilled God’s promise proclaimed in Ezekiel’s vision and seen as the restoration of Israel. For today’s Christians, Christ’s resurrection is seen as God’s promise extended to the entire world. Paul’s letter to the Romans reiterates that same message: God brings life to the soul, even if the body is dead. As Christians, we have received the Spirit of Christ, and if Christ’s spirit dwells in you, then your mortal bodies will be raised just as that same Spirit raised our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection and the Life.

This is what today’s story of Lazarus foretells: If you believe and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will be raised up on the last day.

Jesus purposely delays his arrival upon hearing that Lazarus is gravely ill, saying Lazarus’s illness would not end in death, but glorify God. In last week’s gospel, Jesus proclaimed something similar. When his disciples ask about the reason for a blind man’s blindness—implying that reason was due to the man’s or perhaps his parents’ sin—Jesus replies the man’s sightlessness wasn’t the result of any transgression; instead, the work of God was to be witnessed through him.

And it would be Jesus who makes visible his Father’s work in both stories, showing God’s divine power over life and death.

By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, we’re told Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. After this time, Lazarus’s would normally have begun decomposing, as Martha’s notes there would be a stench when Jesus asks for Lazarus’s tomb to be opened.

However, Jesus tells Martha to believe and then calls out to Lazarus, who walks out on his own, fully alive. Just as the dry bones in Ezekiel’s story were restored to life with flesh and spirit, so, too, was Lazarus. But this story of the raising Lazarus is more than a story of compassion it reveals Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.

Thus, this last Scrutiny is about the resurrection—something glorious that John and Rebecca will inherit like all who have received the Sacraments. Like the Jewish people’s faith was restored with Ezekiel’s message of hope, it’s also about believing and restoring our faith as Christians:

  • Believing in the word and power of God.
  • Believing as Catholic Christians in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
  • Believing in Jesus’s profound, unbounded love for the Father and for us, such that he would sacrifice himself for our sins so we may have everlasting life.

Amen.

March 10, 2024. Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you today as we gather to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Let us begin in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Do you thirst for the living water that Jesus offers you?

Last weekend, Fr. Pat shared that we currently have two people, John and Rebecca, who are participating in the RCIA process, being facilitated by Deacon Doug. John was never baptized, and therefore considered a catechumen. He’ll be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Rebecca was baptized in another Christian denomination, and she’s considered a candidate who will be welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Both John and Rebecca will receive their First Communion and be Confirmed at the Easter Vigil. Did I mention John and Rebecca are married to each other and have a beautiful family? We’re blessed to welcome John and Rebecca and their family into our parish family.

Last weekend, our parish community celebrated the Rite of Election and the First Scrutiny with John. The Scrutinies are rites of conversion and repentance fully intended for Catechumens, now known as the Elect, and celebrated on the middle three Sundays of Lent.

The Elect are those preparing for Baptism. During the First Scrutiny, the focus of the Gospel was on our thirst for the living water that Jesus offers. The main question for the Elect, and for each of us, is: “Do you thirst for the living water that Jesus offers you?”

Do we see the way Jesus sees?

This weekend, we celebrate the Second Scrutiny with John. The focus of today’s Gospel has to do with how we see. More specifically, do we see the way Jesus sees?

Notice how the Gospel story begins! The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice how sinners operate! Instead of having compassion for the man born blind, they want to assign blame so they can feel comfort in believing they can avoid this infirmity.

Jesus doesn’t offer them this comfort, replying, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

Thus, it’s the disciples who begin this story blind.

Jesus is asking them to see God’s glory and love shine through infirmity. People with a physical disabilities ought to be treated with the same love and respect as anyone else. Jesus makes that very clear when he restores sight to the man born blind. Indeed, after Jesus gives sight to the man born blind, we see Jesus’ gift of sight isn’t limited to the man’s eyes–the former blind man also gains spiritual sight as the story progresses.

The once-blind man begins by referring to his healer as “the man called Jesus.” His spiritual sight grows even more when he refers to Jesus as “a prophet.” At the end of the story, his spiritual sight becomes crystal clear when he confesses Jesus to be “Lord”–a title reserved only for the Deity.

Meanwhile, as the man born blind gains this spiritual sight, the religious leaders in the story become progressively more spiritually blind. They don’t take the man at his word, so they bring in the man’s parents for questioning. The religious leaders can’t get past their bias that Jesus is, in their eyes, a sinner. The drama heats up as our formerly blind hero’s spiritual sight blossoms to the point where he becomes an evangelist.

Just like the woman at the well last week, the story begins with this man alone and isolated. After an encounter with the Lord, the man becomes an evangelist. The religious leaders, refusing to see the amazing grace at work in this man’s life, shut their eyes to the miracle that has taken place, denounce the man as a sinner, and throw him out of the synagogue. Thus, by the end of the story, a reversal of faith has taken place. The blind man truly sees, and those who claim to see are truly spiritually blind.

We are all the blind man.

My friends, who are we in this story?

I’d like to suggest all of us are that man born blind. The sight given to us at birth isn’t sufficient for seeing God. We need a different sight for that—the sight that comes from faith.

All of us received a special gift of spiritual sight at Baptism. Just as Jesus sent the man born blind to the waters of Siloam, we were sent to the waters of baptism. We’re now challenged to see the world differently because of that amazing grace.

What would happen if we saw the world around us with Jesus’ eyes? Think about it!

  • Would we look at our family members differently if we saw them with Jesus’s eyes?
  • Would we look at our co-workers differently if we saw them with Jesus’s eyes?
  • Would we look differently at the unborn, struggling families, people who live on the margins, people with infirmity, people experiencing homelessness, if we saw them with Jesus’s eyes?
  • Would we see world events and our politics differently if we saw these things through Jesus’s eyes?

My friends, would you look at the person in the mirror differently if you saw yourself with Jesus’s eyes?

Can you look in the mirror with the same love and kindness Jesus has for you?

Can you accept the invitation to see yourself with a different sight like what an unnamed man saw in the waters of Siloam?

As the song goes: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see.”

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

February 2024

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.

God Heals

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.

January 2024

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!