Homilies for 2022

November 2022

Homily for November 13, 2022, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

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

God justly judges each according to what they’ve freely chosen to do with the gift of salvation offered them.

“The end is coming!”

These words could describe today’s readings. What’s more important than the fact that the end is coming?

What is more important is what we do with the time we have until the end.

The prophet Malachi speaks the Word of the Lord and announces the day is coming when all will meet with, and receive, their just “rewards.”

The psalmist announces the Lord is coming to rule the world with justice. The Lord comes to administer true justice to all peoples. Those who have not lived a faith-filled life will be judged harshly, while the faithful will know God’s mercy and justice.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul cautions that, although it’s true the Lord Jesus is coming, that does not mean the faithful should sit around and do nothing. Rather, they should do their fair share of the work to be done before Jesus returns.

In the Gospel, Jesus predicts the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world and warns His disciples they may have to suffer, even at the hands of family and friends, in proclaiming the Good News.

It’s true that Jesus will come to judge the world with justice. Justice implies those who have lived a life apart from God will be “allowed” to live all eternity apart from God. Those who accept the Lord Jesus and His Abba-Father into their lives, reflecting on the gift of salvation they’ve received, will be blessed with a continued relationship with God as they move toward God, and they’ll be with Him forever and ever.

Reflecting on heaven and hell, I realize heaven is being in a relationship with God–being fully in God’s presence without end. I can begin that heavenly experience of God’s being with me while on earth, even while suffering and going through all sorts of hardships. I begin my destiny now through my attitude and the way I live my life in response to God’s graciousness.

On the flip side, hell is being separated from God. This isn’t God’s choice for our endless existence after death. Yet God, just judge that God is, will give people what they desired, and how they lived in this life. God will accept the choices people have made. If individuals have not accepted the graces and gifts from God, have resolutely rejected God’s Good News, and declared in words and actions that they want nothing to do with God, God grants them their decision by keeping them apart from Himself for all eternity.

Although God continues to give us chances to turn back to the Lord Jesus throughout our lives on earth, God won’t force divine love upon individuals who freely choose to be without Him. God will not drag people into the Divine Presence in heaven against their will. Hell is the living out of one’s choice to be GOD-less—forever.

The choice is ours.

We can accept what God has promised and live a life faithful to the Lord Jesus, who loves us, or we can reject all God offers and spend eternity without Him. God, the eternal and just judge, carries out the sentence that we have chosen for ourselves.

To accept what God offers means we must work at living it out in our lives. That is part of what Paul urges the Thessalonians to do. They must work at their faith. They must not be busybodies who sit around and criticize others. They must do their fair share in spreading the faith, for the Lord Jesus is coming, but may not be here immediately.

We must live our lives, realizing we’re facing the end. Our earthly existence is limited. We cannot take “it” with us. We are all going to die and meet the Lord Jesus. That will be the end of our lives on this earth as we know it.

Do our lives demonstrate we are working and living for the Lord Jesus?

Or do they show that we are only concerned about the here and now, and what we can get out of it?

We must make the choice, and our lives must and will (now and forever) reflect the choices we make. The Lord Jesus will confirm our choice when we are judged, not only at the moment of our death, but at the end of time when our choice will be evident to all.

To quote the words of Deuteronomy 30: 19: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now, choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

I’d like to end by asking you to take some time this week to reflect on the following questions:

  • What choices have I made in my life that show I’ve chosen to accept the gift of living in God’s presence?
  • What further choices must I be willing to make?
  • How can I help others make choices that reflect the desire to be part of the heavenly Reign of God?

As we approach the table of the Lord to receive the Body of Christ, let’s ask Jesus to help each of us make choices that say “Yes” to Jesus, so we may become the disciples God created each of us to be.

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

October 2022

Homily for October 23, 2022, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 Simple but profound.

From the mid-70s through the early 80s, there was a show on television called Happy Days. It was about a family who lived in the 1950s named the Cunninghams and dealt with life at that time. No doubt a simpler time when compared to today.

One of my family’s favorite episodes—and one that’s a tradition still today—is the Christmas episode. It involved the local hoodlum named Fonzie. In this episode, it’s discovered Fonzie has no family with whom to spend Christmas Eve and Day. At the insistence of the mother, Mrs. Cunningham, Fonzie stays with the family for Christmas.

The next day, as the family is sitting down for the traditional Christmas feast, Mr. Cunningham invites Fonzie to say the meal blessing. A surprised and somewhat awestruck Fonzie agrees to say the blessing. Everyone gathered at the table with their hands folded and eyes closed in expectation of what Fonzie would say.

Then, Fonzie looks to the heavens and merely says, “Hey God, thanks!”

To me, it’s one of the most unforgettable prayers of all time. Nothing elaborate or exquisite, yet still a most profound prayer.

As is the tax collector’s prayer in the Gospel today. Very simple and from the heart! It is a lesson Jesus teaches today as He continues to focus on prayer again. Last week, Our Lord dealt with the need to persevere in our prayers. Sometimes we may need to adjust our prayers from our will to God’s will for us. Nonetheless, we must continue to pray.

I’ve mentioned before the Liturgy of the Hours—the seven prayers said daily:

  • Matins or Office–done before sunrise
  • Prime/Lauds (morning prayer done after sunrise)
  • Terce (mid-morning around 9 a.m.)
  • Sext (midday around noon)
  • None (midafternoon around 3 p.m.)
  • Vespers (late afternoon/early evening, approximately 6 p.m.)
  • Compline (nighttime after sunset, before retiring for the evening)

These prayers derive from the ancient practices of our Jewish brothers and sisters—designed to pray at fixed intervals throughout our day—and basically keep God the center of our focus throughout our day. Those of the Muslim community also incorporate the Liturgy of the Hours in their faith. And of course, these were the prayers our Lord Jesus prayed.

These are examples of the perseverance of prayer. It is a discipline, which you heard mentioned in a past homily recently, that comes from the Latin word “disciplina” (teach) or “discipulus” (student), which put together means “one who studies to learn.”

Today’s Gospel teaches us how to conduct ourselves when we pray, basically to be of a contrite (i.e., penitent) heart and with humility.

It’s not boasting about our accomplishments or comparing ourselves to someone who we see as a greater sinner than ourselves. (Actually, when we think that way, we are the greater sinner.)

It is not about an elaborate or exquisite prayer without pauses or hesitations.

Rather, it’s about a simple and heartfelt prayer that expresses true emotion.

Today, we hear from the tax collector, and what has become known as the Mercy Prayer: “Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” It comes from the early fourth century Eastern Church—known as the “Jesus Prayer” or the “prayer of the heart”—and often prayed on a cord of knots similar to how we pray the Rosary. It’s a way to pray without ceasing as Jesus teaches us and like Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians (5:17) in the East.

The Western Church has added to it, teaching it as: “Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” Note: I used to say this prayer while walking my dogs in the early morning when I was in formation to become a deacon, and I even say it now, occasionally.

We can’t do it alone.

My last homily on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time dealt with the rich man and Lazarus. One point I talked about was recognizing our wealth comes from God, how we must be aware of that, and use it for God’s purposes.

Today, we’re reminded that whatever we accomplish through our talents and gifts—and even our faith—comes from God. We can’t do it alone.

Referencing Paul’s letter today: It seems Paul is boasting about his accomplishments, but Jesus defines for us the difference between Paul’s letter and the Pharisee. The difference is one’s self-righteousness and comparing and despising others. In contrast, Paul’s “boasting” is filled with humility and acknowledges God’s compassion and strength given to Paul to help him fight the good fight and to finish the race.

Our first reading from Sirach lets us know God hears the cries of the poor and oppressed and yes, justifiably through His passion for justice and concern for their deepest needs.

Frankly, those who are oppressed or dealing with tribulations in their lives are usually the most sincere and contrite. It’s then we recognize the need for God’s help and the strength to achieve our endeavors. The prayer God is drawn to recognizes His true role—to welcome and love the humble and contrite of heart, to generously dispense mercy, so we can fight the good fight and finish the race.

Just as Fonzie recognized it is God who ultimately deserves the “Thanks” and all that is needed to be said!

 

October 2, 2022, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune

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

“How long?”

The first part of our Habakkuk reading today is a lament. His people are experiencing violence and ruin, and Habakkuk wonders why God doesn’t intervene. The prophet speaks for the people of his time and ours as well. It’s a prayer individuals and communities make in dire circumstances.

Habakkuk’s society wasn’t all that much different from ours—where violence and might are glorified, and the weak are kept in their place.

Think about the faith-challenging trials you may be experiencing. What afflictions are we—you and I—having now?

This is Respect Life Sunday. Although Roe vs Wade has been overturned as federal precedent, many states still allow unique lives to be murdered before birth. Some Catholics who adamantly oppose abortion have no difficulty with capital punishment, as though lowering ourselves to the level of the killer is acceptable. Do they seek justice or vengeance? The two are not the same.

Violence and injustice are all around us. I was in California last week and was shocked by how many homeless people I saw living under bridges and lying on sidewalks.

  • Our young people go to school afraid some of their classmates might turn on them.
  • Year after year, we hear about another mass shooting.
  • How many families have been devastated by the illegal drugs overwhelming so many neighborhoods?
  • In many larger cities, turf wars are fought not with fists but automatic weapons.
  • On a larger scale, the war in Ukraine grinds on.
  • Hurricane Ian is causing massive flooding and destruction in Florida and other parts of the Southeast.
  • Refugees at our southern border have been bussed and flown to other states, some separated from their families.
  • Texas is readying to put to death two more men later this month.

Add to this the latest horrors the media delights in shoving down our throats because, they claim, that people really, really want to hear about and even see gory details.

Put it all together and the People of God join Habakkuk and cry out, “How long, O Lord, I cry out to you, ‘Violence,’ but you do not intervene.”

Destruction and violence are all before me. There is strife and clamorous discord.

How long, O Lord?

Are Our Prayers Adequate?

We may have no answers for the turmoil our community, nation, and world has been going through these days. Yet, our faith is tested, and our prayers can feel strained and inadequate. Should we just keep silent, or say the usual “accepted” prayers?

Or shall we take our lead from Habakkuk and voice a lament? Lament to God for these dreadful times, for neglect of the poor, and the needy of our country and world. We can lament the way the prophet does, make a complaint about things seemingly beyond our control but affect us and others so dreadfully.

Further, Habakkuk’s prayer has roots in our Jewish/Christian tradition. Jesus prayed a prayer of protest in the Garden when His plans and life were being abruptly ended.

Notice the prophet is not afraid to confront God and speak what (for many of us) is the unspeakable: he accuses God of not caring. It takes deep faith to shake one’s fist at God.

We’ve been taught not to speak to God this way or to just stay silent. But keeping silent because we’re afraid to utter what we are really feeling risks closing off growth in our relationship with God.

Only after Habakkuk’s lament has been voiced, does God respond.

What was God doing during this first part? God was listening.

God then orders the prophet to write the vision down. The word “readily” in the phrase “so that it can be read readily” means write it so large it can be read on the run. Like a giant billboard. Why write? Is it to give it permanence? Might the vision need to be written so future generations could read it?

Are we running because evil is on our heels?

When escape or relief doesn’t come quickly, we need to trust Habakkuk’s vision of God’s faithfulness, over and over, to keep us strong in our faith whenever God doesn’t seem to care or respond. We’re called to fidelity to a God who has promised to be faithful, despite evidence to the contrary.

The Hebrew word for faith is “Emunah” from which comes our English word “Amen.” Our prayer response is the “Amen” of faith. We are called to faithfulness, and our reward won’t be riches but life. As we heard, “The just, because of their faith, shall live.”

Today’s gospel begins with a plea. What would prompt a follower of Jesus to ask for an increase of faith? Doesn’t a request like this usually flow from a person whose faith is being tested, or strained by life’s demands? Like the prophet Habakkuk, the apostles must feel their own faith stressed, for they say to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” What makes them aware of this need?

The context of this passage reveals a very particular demand put on their faith. Looking back a few verses in chapter 17, we notice Jesus has just spoken about not leading others into sin; about giving correction to a brother or sister—never an easy thing to do—and then to be constantly willing to forgive a repentant brother of sister, which is really hard to do!

No wonder the apostles feel their faith is insignificant!! Hence the request, “Increase our faith,” Aren’t we also inclined to make the same plea when we face the need for similar Christian responses to life’s challenges?

The apostles realize such consistent Christian living is impossible without faith, so they want more of it, figuring quantity is the issue.

But Jesus says, even faith the size of a mustard seed would be enough to unearth the deeply rooted mulberry tree and cast it into the sea. Jesus is using strong figurative language here, but He makes His point: It is not the quantity but the quality of faith that matters.

Faith, it seems, doesn’t have to increase—it must simply exist!

Having faith doesn’t automatically give the believer the power to perform crowd-pleasing spectacles. But faith does mean we’re in touch with God and experience God as the source of the power enabling us to live good Christian lives.

Today, we stand with the disciples in the Gospel asking Jesus to “increase our faith.” An answer comes to us through St. Paul, who tells Timothy in our second reading, “Beloved, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of faith that dwells within you.” Stir into flame that gift of faith dwelling within you.

My friends, there should never be a day or hour or situation that should cause us to abandon faith. Sure, we may wonder at times, “Am I losing my faith?”

  • Grief can really hurt. . . .
  • Fighting cancer is hard. . . .
  • Watching your child go down the rabbit hole of drug abuse is gut wrenching. . . .

Yet through it all, God is with us every step of the way; especially in those moments when we don’t feel God’s presence, He is with us. It’s helpful to gently remind ourselves Habakkuk found faith in the trials and tribulations of the Babylonian Exile. St. Paul, Timothy, and the Apostles found their faith in Jesus Christ, despite persecutions that would eventually claim their lives.

Today, our scriptures challenge us to reexamine what our faith looks like.

  • Do we place God first in our lives?
  • Do we consider others as more important than ourselves?
  • Do we respect the gift of life the way we should?
  • Do we have the faith, courage, and conviction to move whatever tree or mountain that weigh heavy on our hearts?

My friends, what obstacles do you need to move in your life? Take a moment to name them silently in your heart.

I invite you to hear St. Paul whisper in your ear again the beautiful advice he gives in the second reading: “Remember the gift of faith God has given you through Christ our Lord.”

Remember that gift of faith. Now, stir it into flame and share the faith!

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

September 2022

September 25, 2022, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

What God Sees

Today, we observe World Day of Migrants and Refugees on this last weekend in September, and our readings begin with the prophet Amos once again exhorting the wealthy about their luxurious lives and disregard for the poor.

Recall from last week, Amos spoke out against the enterprising businessmen taking advantage of the poor. These entrepreneurs didn’t even really care about the holy days or Sabbath, because these were interrupting their dishonest trading and selling—even to the point of buying the very marginalized persons and selling them for a gain.

Today, Amos’s chastisement continues against the wealthy, not so much for their riches, but their ignorance and complacency about caring for the poor. This is really a warning: God sees all. God was not oblivious to how the wealthy were conducting themselves with rich foods and lavishing their excess. Historically, they are soon going to pay for this when the northern territory will be overcome by Assyria, and they will be taken into captivity.

Likewise, St. John Chrysostom constantly exhorted the rich to care for the poor. One of his many quotes is: “If you cannot remember anything, instead of everything, I beg you, remember this without fail: to not to share our wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.”

This is as much a controversial and misunderstood quote like the Gospel last week, when Jesus tells of making friends for yourself with dishonest wealth. Rather, what Jesus was saying is that people who put worldly things above everything else are usually the most enterprising and clever when it comes to financial gain. They study the stock markets and investments, fully immersing themselves into making more money. Jesus is truly saying to use that same dedication into doing good things for God.

And taking care of the less fortunate is one of those things—probably the most important.

St. John Chrysostom is saying something along the same lines that to not take care of the less fortunate is failing to recognize where your wealth comes from, and therefore, not conducting yourselves according to the God’s teaching and depriving yourself of the commandments. If we take care of those who have not, then we truly keep God’s commandments with integrity.

“St. Thomas Aquinas says we must distinguish between ownership and use of private property. We have a right to ownership, through our hard work, through our inheritance. Fair enough. But with regard to the use of those things—how we use them, why we use them—then, says Thomas, we must always be concerned first for the common good and not our own.” (From Bishop Barron’s Gospel reflection)

The Ordo tells us, “Our shared response (to the many challenges of contemporary migration) may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate.” (Pope Francis, message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2018).

True Happiness

The parable today that Jesus teaches isn’t giving us a look into what heaven and hell are like. Rather, it’s a story to bring across a point and drive home (again) the ways of God and His will for us. This is a story of a man, Lazarus, and an anonymous rich man (no name given for the rich man, plug in your own name) who ignores and deprives the needy when the needy person is right under his feet at his doorstep. Basically, the rich man’s destiny is to suffer eternally. He had his time of comfort and luxury. Our time here is very insignificant. Eternity is very significant; it’s forever.

The point is that if you’re not willing to change your lives yourselves, then you won’t listen to anyone else. It’s ultimately up to us.

Paul gives the answer on how to conduct ourselves according to God’s ways. That is, we must pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

We must be willing to fight for the faith to lay hold of the eternal life to which we were called when we were Confirmed, in which we confessed to believe in God and one Holy and Apostolic Church.

Obey God’s will for you, trust God’s wisdom that He knows best for us, and above all else, believe in God’s unselfish love for us.

God wants us to obey His laws, so we can spend eternity with Him, because that is truly what God wants for us.

True happiness doesn’t come from the possessions we have. Look at the evidence. The rich and powerful commit suicide more often than the poor. Great saints are happier than great sinners. Even look at the missionaries around the world to find true happiness.

There are two lifestyles on two roads to travel: that of worldly things, comfort and luxury, or the world of faith, which might mean sacrifice.

As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, there is a great abyss between these lifestyles, and in the end, you can’t cross over.

Which side of the abyss do you want to be on?

September 18, 2022, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

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

When we end up being possessed by our possessions.

The Gospel passage you’ve just heard is part of a series of parables dealing with spiritual crises generated when we misuse our possessions.

Last Sunday’s Gospel was about the Prodigal Son, who demanded his share of his father’s estate and then went out and squandered it all. Next Sunday’s Gospel will be all about the rich man eating a sumptuous meal at his table while poor Lazarus sat starving at the rich man’s gate.

The lesson today involves the devious and clever wicked steward who doctors his master’s financial accounts to win friends—friends who will care for him after his impending firing.

We need some background before we unpack the meaning of today’s parable, while noting the number of instances when Jesus uses business practices of the times in His parables, so familiar to His listeners:

  • The parable of the talents, regarding the investment of monies given to servants of a rich man to make Jesus’ point.
  • The parable of the prodigal son, involving the inheritance the son would receive upon his father’s death.
  • The woman who cleaned her entire house in a desperate search for her lost coin
  • The story of the merchant who sold everything to purchase the pearl of great value
  • The parables involving fishermen, farmers, lost sheep, and others—all involving the business practices of those times.

Jesus had a different understanding of our value in God’s eyes.

Much like the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance, the steward squandered his master’s property—returning his master’s principal amount while making friends with his master’s debtors and securing his own future along the way. Both, however, took necessary steps to secure their futures, just as other characters did in Jesus’ similar parables.

Today’s parable needs to be understood against the context of Jewish law of the times: it was illegal to charge interest on monetary loans. Instead of bankers, the Jews earned interest by lending produce instead of money. In this case, the rich man was probably an absentee landlord who loaned olive oil and wheat to his debtors, expecting more of each commodity in return. It was also understood the master’s steward would earn his commission out of the differential, i.e., the amount between what was borrowed, and the amount paid back. When the steward reduced the amount owed, the steward was actually returning the commission he had originally charged the debtor, which enabled the master to receive what he was owed and enabled the steward to get on the good side of his master’s debtors.

The Pharisees’ religious viewpoint was a meticulous, spiritual bookkeeping exercise. Everyone had to pray, pay, and obey. Anyone who didn’t was considered a lawbreaker and cast out. Everything had a price, and everyone had their value in that “spiritual economy.” What must have scandalized the Pharisees in today’s parable was hearing Jesus praise the forward-thinking steward precisely for his prudence—not because the steward was a cheat, per see—but because he was a sinner who dared hope for redemption.

Again, Jesus is not commending the steward who’d been discovered and whose wickedness was obvious. After all, the steward conspired to defraud his master of the loans’ interest. Thus, Jesus didn’t concern himself with the steward’s obvious deviousness. Rather, Jesus was presenting His followers the example of the wicked steward’s zealous foresight and wishing His own followers would be as enterprising with their souls’ future.

What steps are we taking to provide for our spiritual futures?

The point Jesus is making is that we ought to be as forward-thinking and prudent in planning our spiritual futures as the worldly wise are in planning for their material futures.

Many charitable and service organizations have mission statements. Most parishes have them. Successful businesses all have business plans. People who work in them, executives and worker alike, from time to time need to examine what they’re doing in the light of those plans/statements to keep focused and not divert their efforts from those goals.

The immediate question confronting you and me is : How zealous are we in providing for our spiritual futures? Do we assume God is a sort of “Sugar Daddy in the Sky” who will take care of us no matter what we do? Is it our unspoken assumption that what we do or don’t do in this life really doesn’t matter in the long run because a loving, infinitely merciful God will provide for us, anyway? That insults God.

The world is filled with distractions, especially with all our electronic devices. At times, we get so busy that we wonder what we’re accomplishing, and where we are going. There are consequences that flow from our decisions, and consequences that flow from our non-decisions and neglect. When you stop to think about it, not to decide is itself a decision—a neglectful decision that can have dire consequences. This is particularly so in our spiritual lives.

Can you accept that you are a sinner—one who can be much like the steward in today’s parable? Can you be that sinner who dares to hope, a prodigal son who returns home, believing in his father’s love?

It’s a question of faith.

It’s a question of hope.

It’s a question of love.

We have a God-given destiny. God didn’t give you and me a life to be lived only until we die. God gave us a life that He wants to share with us for all eternity—an eternal life in a loving relationship between you and Him. That, it would seem, is the point of today’s parable, and why Jesus commends this foresightful steward for our attention.

As we approach the table of the Lord to receive the Body of Christ, let us pray to Jesus that we may have the grace to be prudent stewards of the gifts given to us.

Let’s prepare for our spiritual future by being the disciples that God has called us to be.

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

August 2022

August 28, 2022, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello everyone! It’s so good to see you today as we celebrate the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. So, let me begin in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Foundations of Humility

In our first reading from the Book of Sirach, we’re called to “conduct your affairs with humility … to humble yourself the more, the greater you are.” Clearly, the focus of this reading is on humility. We’re being reminded to be humble. But what does it mean to be humble, to have humility?

There are many ways to define humility, but for me, it boils down to this: We need to always remember that God is God, and we are not!

No matter how accomplished we are . . .

No matter how great we might think we are . . .

No matter what anyone else says how good we are . . .

If we remember God is God, and we are not, then we will stay humble.

Jesus is quite clear in today’s Gospel that humility is required for His disciples. How do we get humility? A great way to lay the foundation for this most important of virtues is to foster that gift of the Holy Spirit which we refer to as the Fear of the Lord—the gift of knowing the grandeur and power of God, then acting in accord with the fact that God is King of the Universe. A person exercising holy Fear of the Lord is filled with wonder and awe as he or she remembers who God is and what God does. Everyone who has been blessed by the gift of Baptism has received this gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, if we want to be humble, we might choose to do two things: (1) to ask God to stir into flame the gift of the Fear of the Lord in our lives and (2) to meditate—that is, to think about—how grand and powerful and wonderful God is. Even better, we make these prayers on our knees if we are able, because lowering ourselves to our knees is a way of saying with our bodies that God is God, and we are not.

There is more to say about humility, but this is the foundation. This is the start. Let us today, then, build our humility on the rock foundation of Fear of the Lord, remembering with awe the grandeur of God and His deep, personal love for you and for me.

Learning About our Faith—FORMED!

I’d like to shift our focus to the Gospel acclamation before today’s Gospel. The acclamation was from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11, Verse 29. The second half of that verse stated, “learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

My friends, we are being invited by Jesus to follow His example, to be meek and humble of heart in all that we do. We’re also being invited to “learn”—to learn from Jesus about who Jesus is, who God is, who the Holy Spirit is, to learn about the Church, and to learn whom we are called to be as disciples of Jesus Christ.

How do we learn about our Faith?

One way is to take time every day to read from Sacred Scripture. We can also learn about our faith by reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Hopefully, we also learn about our Faith from the homilies we hear when we attend Mass.

Today, I would like to focus on another opportunity that is available to all of us to learn more about our Faith. I want to re-introduce you to FORMED, FORMED is an on-line platform that provides wonderful content to support the religious education and faith formation for all of our parishioners. By signing up for FORMED, you’ll have easy access to all the material on FORMED’s website to support your own faith journey and that of your family members.

FORMED is specifically designed to help everyone learn about our Faith and to help us grow closer to Jesus Christ and His Church.

Now, you might remember that I originally introduced FORMED to the parish back in March, during the Lenten season. At that time, I asked everyone to sign up for FORMED. Many parishioners did sign up, but I suspect that many did not.

So, I want to give everyone an opportunity to sign up! All you need is your cell phone. To gain access to all of FORMED’s content, follow these simple steps: take out your cell phone, go to your browser search engine (I always go to Google) and enter the following information:

  • Go to FORMED.org/signup
  • Enter our parish zip code, which is 14801. (you will then see the name of our parish)
  • Click on the name of our parish.
  • Enter your name and your email.

You’ll then see the main page for FORMED open up!

Next, it’s really easy to sign up!

Once you have a FORMED account, all you need to do to get on is to visit FORMED.org. Click Sign Up, enter your email. Then click the link in your email and you will be on the FORMED on-line platform.

Some of the series that I’ve enjoyed watching include: PRESENCE: The Mystery of the Eucharist; Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained; The Search: Understanding the Meaning of Life.

You can also watch a number of series on the Holy Spirit as well as on our Blessed Mother. As one of our parishioners recently wrote about the series on the Blessed Mother: “It was FANTASTIC! It made all the connections—from the Old Testament to the Gospels to the Book of Revelation–explaining how the Church knows what it knows and believes about Mary. FORMED is such a great resource!”

If you want to grow and learn more about your Faith and about your Church, please sign up and use the FORMED online platform. It is really easy to use! Sign up today! You’ll be glad you did!!

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

Homily for August 21, 2022, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

 Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Development and legacy

The era of the Second Temple in Jewish history—from the return from the Babylonian captivity in 538 BCE to the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in 70 CE—has aptly been described as the period of ‘formative Judaism.’ Many features and institutions of Judaism as we understand it today took shape during this period. Among these developments, there can be no disputing the overwhelming historical importance of the diaspora, or dispersion in other words, and the adjustment to a division between the people in the homeland and communities elsewhere.

The history of the diaspora is usually taken to begin circa 587 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzar took the inhabitants of Jerusalem into captivity. When permitted to return by Cyrus the Persian king, many remained voluntarily in Babylonia. There, Jewish communities existed for centuries, saw periods of flowering, and produced in late antiquity the Babylonian Talmud, rabbinic learning’s most important monument.

To Those Who Have Been Given Much

With the Jews being the “promised people,” much more is expected of them, and it may go harder on them. (Lk 12:48). Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. God’s message given from Isaiah is that the Jewish people returning from the exile to Jerusalem will be sent to foreign lands to tell of God’s salvation and mercy that likewise brought the Jewish people out of exile.

The letter to the Hebrews is expressing that idea today to those that have given themselves to Christ. God expects more out of you and to deliver the best you can, so we are also subject more to being corrected or chastised to help get us back on track. Even more is expected of clergy than laypersons, but that doesn’t guarantee that clergy will enter the Kingdom of God before the layperson.

So don’t think: If I do this, I will be among the first into heaven.

Rather do it because it’s expected of us as Christians and God’s will!

There is no guarantee that giving oneself to Christ will be easy. Quite the contrary—enduring “trials” is an inevitable part of the Christian path. We heard last week from the Gospel that the truth in scripture (or God’s prophecy) may not always be what we want to hear and subsequently tough to take. Further, some of the uneasiness or discomfort is not a result from outside persecution, but from within in dealing with sensitive issues of our own faith.

We’re facing this right now in our present and losing our faithful very fast because of the cultural trending agendas pulling us away from the morality of God’s teachings.

On Perseverance

Don’t be disheartened or discouraged, but rather tighten your drooping hands, strengthen your weak knees, so you can make straight the paths for your feet and heal the lame. The pain endured now to help with self-discipline and turn into joy and righteousness later. (Hebrews 12: 12-13)

In the Gospel today, Jesus echoes these teachings, however, he is also forewarning us that this narrow gate is difficult to go through and will not remain open forever. At some point it will close! So, perseverance is needed and expected. The master that doesn’t recognize or open the door is not a metaphor for God, but rather our inability to follow God’s ways and to accept His mercy.

At some point, we may follow cultural trends because it become the easier path. We shut our eyes and close our hearts to God’s mercy and love that is still there, still seeking to rest within us, but we won’t open the door so God’s love can rest within us.

Last week, we heard Jesus tell us that He came to set a fire upon the earth and division would be a result of His presence. This is not what we expected or wanted to hear, but it is the truth.

But what is also the truth, is that the pain and discipline we encounter will surely result in the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

August 7, 2022, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

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

Are you ready?

Sometimes in life we find ourselves captivated by a particular cause or project, and we devote great enthusiasm and passion to it.

As time goes on, however, we can find our enthusiasm fades and our passion cools. Other things begin to take priority.

Like last week’s Gospel, being prepared and remaining faithful, is also the focus of this week’s Gospel passage. Storing up treasure in the sight of God is good preparation. Hoarding your possessions into ever bigger barns is not.

To stand ready is to be open to the Lord’s coming. Being dressed for action with lamps lit and ready to open the door to Him, is the antidote to focusing too much on material possessions, status, and power.

The faithful servants who are ready when the master returns are remarkably blessed by the master, who will sit them down and wait on them. A classic reversal of traditional roles.

Luke’s community, and other early Christians, were slowly growing used to the idea that the second coming of Jesus, which they had felt would happen “any day now,” seemed delayed. Problems were emerging in these communities as officials and others seemed to be “going off the rails.”

That is why we have mentions about “standing ready,” “busy at his employment,” and “being dressed for action.”

The parable about the servants is a call to remain faithful and in a state of readiness for the master’s return. The parable reminds us that we never know when our Lord Jesus will return, and we’ll never know when God calls us home.

If you’re like me, you assume God will give you a few more days to live on this earth. But that is not guaranteed! We always need to be ready.

This message was clearly brought home to me as I was preparing this homily.

On Thursday afternoon, I received a text from my brother-in-law who lives in California. The message was about his friend, Milo.

The text read:  “Milo’s son, John, and his wife Glenna just moved to Costa Rica for the very low cost of living and very low tax rate. They built a home on a hill overlooking the ocean. Monday, John was found dead on the beach. A massive heart attack!”

I pray John was ready!

Are you watchful?

The parable begs the question: How are the disciples to behave between the two comings of Jesus? Like homeowners, we need to be alert and on the lookout for the presence of Jesus.

While today’s message is about the final return of Jesus, we can also think about being alert for the moments when Jesus’s presence suddenly breaks into our lives. For example: in a sick friend, a homeless beggar on the street, a person in need, a moment of prayer or reflection. If we can just slow down during our busy lives, we might become more aware of Jesus in our lives.

When I was in my deacon formation program, one of my teachers, Deacon Bill Coffee, always started each class by asking the same question: “Where have you seen the presence of Jesus in your life today?”

His point was that the presence of Jesus is always around us, but we must have the eyes of faith to see! We need to be watchful for the moments when the presence of Jesus suddenly breaks into our lives.

Soon, during this Mass, we will have the opportunity to receive the real presence of Jesus into our bodies. When we receive the Body of Christ, we are then called to be the Body of Christ for others. When our Mass is ended, we are asked to go out and bring the Good News to our world that desperately needs to hear a message of hope and love. We need to look for the presence of Jesus in our lives and truly be the Body of Christ for others.

As believers, we want to do everything possible to build up the community, the living Body of Christ in our world, and allow the Gospel to transform our lives, which is seen in our closeness to God, and in the good deeds in which we serve others.

Today, when you receive the Presence of Jesus into your body at Holy Communion, ask Jesus to shower you with the grace and the faith to see the presence of Jesus that is always around you

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

July 2022

July 24, 2022,  17th Sunday in Ordinary Time          

Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune    

Hello everyone. It’s so good to see you here today. I hope you’ve been staying cool during these very hot days of summer!

Let us begin, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The only recorded time Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus for instruction is the scene in today’s Gospel. They asked him to teach them to pray. It was a common practice for rabbis to teach their disciples a prayer.

A Prayer for All Seasons

And Jesus provided them with an “all-purpose” prayer—one they could pray alone or together, in good times and in bad. A prayer for all seasons.

It also gives us insight into how Jesus prayed.

Rather than go through the prayer itself, I thought it might be helpful to look at some background for prayer.

First, we need to look at the one to whom we are praying. What is our personal image of the Father? How do we imagine Him? In our first reading from the Old Testament, God conjures up the image of a judge who will pass sentence on Sodom and Gomorrah. In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 25, Jesus uses the same judge image of the Father when he talks about a final judgment, when the sheep and goats are separated.

That’s the image with which many of us grew up—the scary image of God as a judge.

In today’s Gospel from gentle Luke, Jesus addresses the father as “Abba.” As we know, abba means “Dad” or “Daddy.” Jesus passes on to us this warm, familial image.

John the Evangelist proclaimed God is love. This image has grown most popular in the last several decades. God is love. God is also perfect. So, God is perfect or unconditional love, thus our God is a God of Unconditional Love.

Conflicting Images

One of my favorite spiritual writers is Fr. Greg Boyle, who often speaks of the God of comfort, whose tender love reaches out beyond the Church to the margins and marginalized of society. For Fr. Boyle, the underlying image of God is a god of compassion and comfort. Further, Fr. Boyle often suggests any image of God that doesn’t comfort us is a lie.

In his various books, Fr. Boyle writes that we cannot have a level playing field with conflicting God-images. If you want to say, “On the one hand, God is our judge; on the other, God is unconditional love,” these two images cancel out each other. A judge is, by definition, coolly impartial, and even-handed. A lover is by definition one who passionately favors the beloved. The image of God as unconditional love suggests God loves you as you are. If we try to hold both images simultaneously, we have no consistent image of God that we can relate to and get a spiritual headache trying to focus. We must choose one image as our over-arching image of God.

So, My Friends, What Is Your Image of God?

Personally, I choose unconditional love. If you’re like me, then the image of God as a judge needs to fade far into the background to fully appreciate and live by the image of God as unconditional love. With a healthy view of God, we can pray in a spiritually healthy way,

If we imagine God this way, it follows we need to imagine ourselves as sons and daughters of a God who unconditionally loves us. We become sons and daughters of God and are welcomed into God’s family through the sacrament of baptism. Sons and daughters need to have and express a dependent attitude.

After all, God is the Holy One, a friend to be approached in awe and reverence: “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come . . .” We pray “thy will”—and not “my will”—be done and for the coming of His kingdom, not my kingdom. This gives both meaning and direction to our lives.

Today, Jesus speaks these words. During His passion on the cross, he both speaks and models those words: “Father, let this cup pass . . . But not my will but yours be done. . . . Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

We cannot afford to be distracted by Jesus’ humorous example to a Jewish audience about a person wearing a friend down to get a favor. Why? We’re part of a much later Christian community. If we have some spiritual maturity, then we realize that we neither bargain with God nor feel that we must beg God. There is no “us on our hind legs” begging for a treat.

Abba wants to give us gifts to help us. He loves us. He adores us.

We need to go to Jesus’ own conclusion of his humorous example: “How much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Jesus challenges us to do as He did and ask our loving Father with trust—period.

We extend open arms toward Him in openness. Or in more difficult times, we remember the example of the trapeze artist extending her arms back, vulnerable, to her partner, the catcher. My friends, that requires complete trust! That’s what Jesus is asking of us today. To trust the God of compassion and comfort to respond to our prayers.

What about Jesus’ insistence on persistence in prayer? Why do we need to repeat our requests? Delay in receiving a positive answer gently pushes us to rethink what we pray for. On occasion, God knows some of our petitions are not what is best for us. I’m reminded of a song by Garth Brooks, and that we should sometimes be thankful for those unanswered prayers.

As for the Our Father, let’s never mindlessly rattle off this precious prayer. Let’s always to pray attentively from our hearts. The God of all comfort and compassion, who unconditionally loves us, always listens when we pray the Our Father. After all, it’s the one prayer His Son, Jesus, taught us.

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

July 10, 2022, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello everyone! It’s so good to see you here today. I hope you’ve been enjoying our wonderful summer.

Let us begin in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Seeing the Parable of the Good Samaritan Again for the First Time.

One of my former theology professors, Fr. Donald Senior, used to say a parable “always ends with a surprise, turning the hearer’s world upside down.”

I wonder how many times we’ve heard the parable for this weekend, the Parable of the Good Samaritan? Hundreds of times, I would think, depending on our age.

This may sound strange, but in one sense, maybe we’ve heard this parable too much.

The parable has become watered down—sanitized—turned into a great story about a man helping someone who was hurt. We think the man just happens to be a Samaritan. But that’s just a side story, and we miss the surprise offered by the parable—the surprise that turns our world upside down!

The Good Samaritan is so familiar that the phrase has entered our common jargon. Hospitals have been named after the Good Samaritan. There are even “Good Samaritan laws” created to protect people who help those in need. Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine what new perspective can be learned when we hear today’s parable.

I would suggest listening to today’s parable from a different point of view: The Parable of the Good Samaritan does not begin with the character of the Samaritan, but with “a certain man.” Perhaps this is the critical point Jesus wanted to make.

This certain man isn’t identified by race, religion, color, wealth, attitude, or politics. This person has no characteristic except need. From this perspective, we’re invited to see the incident from the perspective of the wounded person. How might this affect our understanding? Have you ever been injured? Have you ever felt like the wounded man, lying helpless and perhaps hopeless?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Today’s story follows a typical Socratic/Jewish rabbinical style when Jesus answers a question with a question.

The story begins with a scholar of the Law asking Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus responds by asking the scholar, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

The scholar replies, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus tells the scholar that he has answered correctly—do this, and you will live.

Who is Our Neighbor?

Then the scholar asks, “Who then, Lord, is my neighbor? Who do I need to show God’s love to?”

Jesus then shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’s response suggests the Samaritan should show God’s love to the Jew, and likewise, the Jew to the Samaritan. Even though a Samaritan would rather hate than help a Jew, and even though a Jew would rather die than accept help from a Samaritan, the radical call of the Lord is to extend God’s love to all.

After He gives the parable, Jesus asks the scholar, “Which of the three, in your opinion, was a neighbor to the robber’s victim?”

It may be important to note the scholar of the law doesn’t identify the person who stopped to help as a Samaritan, but rather says, “The man who showed mercy.” The scholar’s attitude toward outsiders, like a Samaritan, was so ingrained that he wouldn’t even utter the ethnic origin.

There was a great deal of bitterness between Jews and Samaritans, who, according to all four Gospels, rejected Jesus. As such, the story was personally challenging for Jesus to tell. Jews regarded Samaritans as heretics, religiously disreputable, not sharing their faith, and certainly didn’t see Samaritans as their neighbors. Jesus designs the parable to shock our understandings of what is right and acceptable when He characterizes the Samaritan—the ultimate outsider—as the hero. Thus, Jesus shatters categories and destroys boundaries.

The parable suggests our neighbor is anyone in need, and we must help unconditionally without barriers, exclusions, or limits. It’s a call to stop prejudice and extend compassion to all, allowing no justification for exclusion.

Above and Beyond

Love knows no bounds of race and only asks for opportunities to act.

Theologian Eric Hoffer wrote: “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor.”

The Samaritan came along, became associated with the injured man, and didn’t offer minimal help, but gave immediate help. Extraordinarily, the Samaritan ensured the injured person was taken care of until healed and healthy again. There was no constraint or law to compel the Samaritan to act with such generosity and grace.

The parable declares that the Kingdom of God’s mercy comes only to those who have no right to demand or anticipate it, and who cannot resist it when it comes. Mercy always comes from the quarter from which one does not expect it. In the Kingdom, mercy is always a surprise.

Jesus challenges us to identify not merely with the Samaritan, but with the man in the ditch. The person who is not concerned about the ethnic or religious origins of beliefs of the person helping but is grateful for the mercy and compassion shown. A righteous person risks their life and living for a nameless nobody.

We, who have received unmerited mercy and grace, are reminded by this parable of the inclusive nature of God’s love that acts through unexpected, often unusual, agents of redemption. Unlike the scholar debating with Jesus, we don’t need any more information about whom our neighbor is. We’re invited to act because we identify with the wounded person. By doing so, we discover God is not limited by humanity’s artificial divisions. Instead, underpinning all is the radical nature of grace, which sees the needy person as someone deserving care.

How might this message be articulated in our lives today?

Are we able to recognize people in need?

Can we see we, too, are people in need?

Might it change our attitudes toward engaging with those like ourselves who are in need?

If you or I were injured at the side of the road, whom might we welcome to help us?

I believe our answer to these questions is: Anybody and everybody!

I think we have much to think about this week.

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

June 2022

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ Year C

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 Today’s Gospel may not be what we are expecting as we observe Corpus Christi.

Most of us were probably expecting a scripture from one of the synoptic Gospels of the Last Supper narrative, where the Eucharist was incorporated.

What Only God Can Provide

I’ve heard this gospel reading outside of Corpus Christi Sunday, where some interpret it as Jesus facilitating the crowd’s sharing to provide the abundance of food, as well as Jesus performing an outright miracle in multiplying the bread and fish.

However, in the context of Corpus Christi, we can go deeper theologically by considering no human effort is enough to fulfill our deepest hungers, for only God can do that.

This story can be viewed as not one of hunger from lack of food, but the human heart’s hunger that only God can fulfill. This deep hunger we experience is the same as the thirst for the living water Jesus provides, saying we will no longer thirst once receiving it—a thirst and hunger fulfilling body and soul that only God can provide.

Like the Gospel writers, Paul is an evangelist, and his purpose isn’t to share memories of an admired but deceased teacher, but to proclaim a living Lord who is still intimately connected to His beloved followers.

Imagine Paul sitting amongst gentiles, speaking of Jesus and of what he did. The sacred words used by Christ himself make Him present to those gathered. Paul is not repeating a formula to be memorized, nor are our priests in the anamnesis. Rather, he and our priests are evoking the Lord who willingly gave himself to become food for us. Paul instructs us to repeat these words and this sacrament often until the Lord comes again. This is given to us as food for the journey—not just the journey after we die—but also for the journey we’re on in this earthly life, filled with all its temptations to lure us astray. We need that strength to face our fears and trials!

Examining the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

As I’ve mentioned in past homilies, perhaps those 70% of all Catholics who question the existence of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist are looking at Mass as a superficial routine, when they truly need to realize the Eucharist on a more holistic, spiritual experience. That can happen at the Eucharist and at Adoration & Benediction.

In the document, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), St John Chrysostom is quoted when he preached that when you see the Body of Christ “set before you [on the Altar], Say to yourself: Because of this Body, I am no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of this, I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, [and closeness] with Christ.”

How can Jesus be truly present in what appears as bread and wine? Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, known as the “epiclesis,” where the priest, speaking in the person of Christ, calls upon the Father to send down his Holy Spirit, so both bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. These words pronounced by the priest are instituted through the power of Christ.

What Do You Believe?

Two weeks ago, we celebrated Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in the Holy Spirit—who is present among us as an advocate to help and give us wisdom on our earthly journey—then you must believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, brought by the invocation of that same Spirit.

Or else you really don’t believe in either.

This belief results from faith. (“Blessed are they who have not seen, but believe!”) The ardent believe that the Eucharist’s bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Christ, without ceasing to appear as bread and wine to our five senses, is one of the central mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Paragraph 23 in the USCCB’s “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” states, the Church’s firm belief in the Real Presence of Christ is reflected in the worship we offer to the blessed Sacrament in various ways, including: Eucharistic Exposition, Adoration and Benediction; Eucharistic Processions; and Forty Hours Devotions. In addition, the practices of reverently genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle, bowing one’s head prior to reception of Holy Communion, and fasting for one hour before receiving Holy Communion are clear manifestations of the Church’s Eucharistic faith.

Today, in cooperation with the entire United States as advocated by the USCCB, our diocese will launch the “Eucharistic Revival” that will last for the next three years. As announced and posted on our parish social media, parishioners are invited to attend the Mass and procession that follows at Corpus Christi Church in Rochester. Here in our parish, we will have Adoration and Benediction at 3 p.m. at St. Catherine’s Church in Addison with a procession to follow. I hope many will attend and profess their faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Taking That Moment

Lastly, I want to provide a living example of how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. One of the men whom I minister to at the prison and recently joined the Catholic Church asked to sign out the “Diary of St. Faustina” from my library. At Bible study, he brought this section from the diary to my attention. Since we’re celebrating Corpus Christi this weekend, I felt this was a gift from the Spirit of how and why we should revere the Body of Christ.

The following are from St. Faustina’s diary

Jesus gave St. Faustina special instructions for this hour:

 “I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour, you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.” (Diary, 1572)

How did Jesus instruct St. Faustina to pray in this hour?

“My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My mercy from every creature, but above all from you, since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery.” (Diary, 1572)

  Few of us will find ourselves near the Blessed Sacrament every day at 3 pm.

However, many of us have the opportunity to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at this time, and most can take a moment, even just a few seconds, to reflect on Our Lord’s sacrifice and His great Love and Mercy toward us.

As we embark upon these next three years, maybe we can incorporate into our lives what Christ suggested: Take time each day to reflect at the 3 o’clock hour on Christ’s great mercy.

June 12, 2022, The Most Holy Trinity

Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune

Hello everyone. It’s so good to see you here today as we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We express our belief in the Triune God every time we make the Sign of the Cross and say “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On this day we celebrate the mystery that is the Trinity: Our belief that there is one God—but three separate, divine persons in that same one God. That’s the mystery we’ll reflect on today. ‘

Struggling With the Mystery of the Trinity

My friends, so much of life is a struggle to understand.

Children struggle when they ask all those questions that children have always asked.

Teens have difficulty understanding why their parents impose rules of behavior, curfews, and limits regarding some activities.

As adults, many things still escape our understanding even though we might be educated, well-read, and very experienced.

Certainly, one of the most difficult things to understand is the human heart and soul. Why some people do things that cause such great harm to others is beyond understanding:

  • Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Lies and cover-ups in our political world
  • That some will do anything if the price is right
  • Certainly, the mass shootings that caused the death of young children and adults in Buffalo, NY, Uvalde, TX., Tulsa, OK, and so many other cities in our country

All these boggle the mind of a thinking person! It boggles me that this country fails to protect innocent human life from senseless gun violence. To me, this is truly a pro-life issue our country needs to address.

I mention this because today is Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate mystery of the totality of God that is beyond our understanding.

How there can be one God but three, separate, divine persons in that same one God? This mystery has baffled the greatest Christian minds for 20 centuries.

Yet, the mystery of the Trinity is essential because it is the mystery of whom God is. And if we don’t know who God is, then how can we ever hope to love Him or be in a relationship with Him?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that they can’t possibly understand all that he wants to convey to them. Nevertheless, he and the Father will send them the Spirit of God – the Spirit of truth – the Holy Spirit. That Spirit will make understandable so much that would, otherwise, escape them! Moreover, that Spirit would enliven their faith – that Spirit would help them accept those things which remain shrouded in mystery. In another section of John’s Gospel, we are given the clearest expression of who God is when we hear God is love.

The Who Not the How

The Feast of the Trinity is a day for reflecting on who God is, not for trying to figure out how there can be three persons in one God.

The Church’s focus today is on experience, not theology. In intellectual terms, God remains a mystery. For people of faith, God is known not by the mind, but by the heart. That’s what spirituality and mysticism are about—exploring our experience of God.

Through our public liturgy, private prayer, and contemplation, we come to experience—to ‘know’ and feel in our hearts—that God loves us, accepts us, forgives us, and constantly invites us into an ever-deeper experience of love. When we allow God’s heart to speak to ours in love, we begin to absorb more of God’s life into our own.

We are being transformed.

Our values and attitudes, our ways of looking at and being in the world start to change. We begin to see with God’s eyes and feel with God’s heart. We become passionate about the things God is passionate about: speaking truthfully; acting with justice and integrity; looking out for each other; and especially for the vulnerable, promoting peace and understanding, ending competition and discrimination, and respecting life. That makes us better people and our lives become a blessing for each other and for the world.

That is what it means to live out of God’s great gift to us, the Spirit of Jesus Christ which God has placed in our hearts. God becomes enmeshed in us, and we become stewards of God’s grace and life.

My friends, so much of life is clothed in mystery. Some things will be explained, eventually, by science and its discoveries. But the great mysteries, the mysteries of God—the Trinity of three Divine Persons in One God, the activities of each Divine Person, the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ—all will escape us, at least in this life!

Finally, someone once said, “With faith, no understanding of mystery is necessary. However, without faith, no understanding of mystery is possible!”

So, let’s pray, today, that our faith in the Trinity will never waver or falter, and may the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit always live within us!

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

May 2022

May 22, 2022, 6th Sunday of Easter

Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune

My friends, it’s so good to see you hear today as we celebrate the 6th Sunday of Easter. I hope you’re enjoying the Easter season.

Let us begin, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Gift of Peace

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” This means Jesus is offering this gift of peace right before his betrayal, passion, and death. Therefore, Jesus’s offer of “peace” to his disciples at this moment in the Gospel can feel rather incongruous to say the least.

Here is a parable I like that articulates the kind of peace Jesus is talking about.

The parable is entitled, “Painting Peace”. The author is anonymous as far as I can tell, and there are several versions of it out there.1 This one begins like this”

There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This didn’t look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, amid the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird in the nest. Despite her surroundings, she looked perfectly peaceful.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The King chose the second picture. “Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the middle of all those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I love this parable for the only reason that it points a finger at what Jesus is getting at in our Gospel reading today.

A Lot of Baggage

Let’s hear him again.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Like I said in the beginning, Jesus is offering this gift of peace only hours before he would be betrayed, and Jesus knew his disciples were going to scatter in fear.

What is this gift of peace Jesus is offering them? I think it’s the peace of that bird on a cliff, taking shelter from a hurricane. You see, the peace Jesus is offering us clearly does not come from the world. It comes from within, and it comes from Him.

I imagine many here at church this weekend wouldn’t describe their lives as particularly peaceful right now.

Whether it is the worry we have of the latest news going on in the country or over in Ukraine.

Perhaps it’s a messy bedroom or kitchen, or the unresolved conflicts at work or at home.

Maybe a disagreement before church today as you were driving here in the car, or perhaps a medical condition we or a loved one is struggling with.

Or the grief we experience with a heartbreaking loss.

The list goes on.

Sometimes, we come to church with a lot of baggage.

And Jesus offers us peace—His peace. However, Jesus does not offer his disciples worldly peace, does he? As I said, it comes from within, and it comes from Him.

And notice something very strange happened to these disciples after Jesus offered them this gift of peace.

After the Last Supper and the events on Good Friday, these disciples went from fleeing in every direction and denying even knowing Jesus, to risking their lives in the public squares proclaiming the resurrection. Something happened to these disciples for them to go from desertion to evangelization in such a short period of time. Let me focus on two things that happened that can explain such a quick change in behavior.

First, Jesus really did rise from the dead on the third day, just like he said he would. Nothing short of the fact of Jesus’s resurrection could explain the disciple’s quick turnaround in behavior. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, appeared before the disciples, and their lives were changed forever.

Secondly, Jesus gave the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which we will celebrate in a couple of weeks. The peace of the Holy Spirit is a peace that helped these disciples persevere in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. It is the peace that changed these disciples into apostles—going from desertion to evangelization—even when it meant their lives would be endangered for proclaiming the Gospel.

The kind of peace that can weather any storm.

What does this gift of peace look like for us?

 It’s the kind of peace that helps us to desire serving others rather than serving ourselves, even when we are never thanked for it.

It is the kind of peace that prefers patience and understanding over the prideful need to win every verbal argument.

It is the kind of peace that can even return violence with love and give us the grace to turn the other cheek, at home, at work, at school and in our community.

It is also the kind of peace that gives us permission to ask for forgiveness from others or from the Lord when we need it.

It is the kind of peace that gives us permission to be forgiven by others, by the Lord, and by ourselves too.

You see, it is kind of peace that can help us withstand any storm this life can throw at us, no matter how difficult life can be.

My friends, peace is a supernatural gift from the Lord. I really believe that. Peace comes from within, and it comes from Him. However, I also believe we can’t receive this gift of peace from the Lord unless we give ourselves permission to choose it. We must want it.

My friends, as we receive the Prince of Peace in the Holy Eucharist today, the invitation this weekend is to open our hearts to the gift of peace Jesus wants to give us right now, today—a peace that will help us be faithful in good times and in bad, and a peace that will help us weather any storm the world can throw at us.

A peace that will lead us to salvation through Christ our Lord.

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

May 8, 2022,   Fourth Sunday of Easter     

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello everyone! It’s so good to see you here today as we celebrate together the Fourth Sunday of Easter. I hope you’re enjoying this Easter season with its promise of spring.

Before I go on, I want to take a moment to wish all the mother’s,  grandmother’s and all the women who take care of others, a very happy Mother’s Day. May our Heavenly Father continue to bless all that you do!! So, let us begin in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

We Are the Sheep

In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.”

My friends, we are the sheep that Jesus is talking about. We are the sheep who hear the voice of Jesus.

The question is: How do we hear the voice of Jesus?

I would suggest  we hear the voice of Jesus by listening to His words, found both in Sacred Scripture and in the Traditions of the Church.

So, then we have to ask: Why do we have trouble listening to the voice of Jesus?

Perhaps the problem rests in how we see the world. There is a concept out there called a “Biblical Worldview.” It’s the idea that there is an objective, moral truth, and that truth is revealed in the Bible. So we view the world through the lens of the Scriptures and what is written in them, believing everything written to be true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. This concept is an excellent start to how we as Catholics should look at the world.

There Must Be a Moral Standard for Truth

We should be wary of the idea that truth is whatever someone says is true for them, which is a false notion. There must be an objective standard for truth, or else everything is on the table. Truth is truth, regardless of what one person or society believes.

For example, Hitler and any German who agreed with him in his ideas about eugenics and racial superiority were wrong. Certain things are always wrong, regardless of what society teaches. By way other examples: racism is always evil; genocide is always a horror; rape will always be heinous and despicable; and murder is always ungodly. Even the invasion of Ukraine over the past few months by the Russian military is both unjust and simply wrong.

The Bible Is the Starting Place . . . But Not the End

However, relying totally on a biblical worldview isn’t taking it far enough, precisely because the Bible says in several places that the Bible itself isn’t sufficient for the teachings of the Church.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • In the Gospel of  John chapter 20:verse 30-31it  states that “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name”.
  • In 1 Corinthians chapter 11:verse 2 we hear “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you:
  • In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how Paul and Barnabas both “spoke out boldly” against the Jews who had rejected them and they turned to the Gentiles to continue to spread the Good news throughout the entire region.
  • Finally, we hear in 1 Timothy chapter 3:verse 15“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the Truth.”

My friends, these are just a few examples of where the Scriptures point outside themselves to the Church—the teaching authority and the oral tradition of the Apostles themselves.

As Catholics, we believe that authority has been handed on via the laying on of hands and ordination in a direct line from Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus laid His hands on Peter, gave him the keys of the kingdom, and breathed His Spirit upon the Apostles. They have been laying their hands on and ordaining men in a direct line for over 2,000 years.

That apostolic oral tradition is still alive and transmitted today through the Catholic Church and is the foundation of all that we believe.

  A Proper Context

With that in mind, I suggest the Bible is a liturgical book, which only makes sense when studied in the context of the liturgy.

All the books of the Bible are gathered together and believed to be divinely inspired to be used in the liturgy. On top of that, we have written down the teachings of the Church (i.e., Traditions) in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we’re not just a People of the Book. I would say the only proper way to speak of us is as a “People of the Eucharist.”

The Catechism calls the Eucharist the “source and summit of our faith.” Because of what the Apostles taught us, including St. Paul, we believe during the consecration of the Host, through the power of the Holy Spirit, at the hands of an ordained priest with a direct line of authority through the Bishop to Jesus Christ Himself, the bread literally becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our beloved Savior. This is what the Church teaches when she says that Jesus is truly, really present in the Eucharist.

Again, a biblical worldview is just not enough. We need a Sacramental Worldview. Or maybe a better phrasing: “A Eucharistic Worldview.” A worldview reminding us that Jesus Christ is God and present in a substantial way in the tabernacles of the Church throughout the world. A view that declares because He is who He said He was, when God says things, they happen!

For example:

  • “Let there be light.” (And there was!)
  • “Let the water separate from the dry land.” (And it did!)
  • “This is my Body.” (And it is!)
  • “You are my beloved child.” (And we are.)
  • “Do this is memory of me.” (And we do.)
  • “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother.” (And we do this, too.)

When we begin to see our lives in light of the great Sacrament that is the Mass, we begin to have a worldview informed by both Scripture and Tradition.

A Well-Formed Conscious

As Catholics, we’re supposed to follow our conscience, but we are also supposed to have a “well formed” conscience.

How do we form our conscience? By learning what Jesus Christ taught and continues to teach us about ethics and morality through the Church, He established. Jesus said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

That should give anyone pause who rejects the teaching authority of the Church. Jesus, Himself declared the living Church, the established authority of His disciples, speaks with His voice. When the Church speaks on morality and faith, the Holy Spirit guides that voice, giving us the only standard of morality against which to gauge ours.

There has to be some standard outside of ourselves against which to compare our actions. It is only through a Eucharistic worldview, through a Sacramental lens, with Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching arm of the Church, the Magisterium, that Jesus Himself established, that we begin to find ourselves aligning with truth itself. After all, Jesus Christ said it Himself: “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If we ever find ourselves with a conscience telling us it’s okay to do things that have been revealed to be sinful, we owe it to ourselves to study, pray, and learn why we’re probably wrong in our reasoning and understanding. If we truly listen to the voice of Jesus, then we will always be faith-filled and faithful children of God. My friends, we are the sheep who hear the voice of Jesus. We hear the voice of Jesus, by listening to His words found both in Sacred Scripture and in the Traditions of the Church. When we begin to see our lives in light of the great Sacrament that is the Eucharist, we begin to have a worldview informed by both Scripture and Tradition.

As we prepare ourselves today to approach the altar of the Lord, to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our beloved Savior, let us remember who we are about to receive. Let us truly listen to His voice!

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

March 2022

Homily for March 20, 2022, 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Note: Myra Welch would say she heard a speaker address a group of students on the power of God to bring out the best in people. She said she became filled with light and that “Touch of the Master’s Hand” was written in 30 minutes! The finished poem was sent anonymously to the editor of her local church news bulletin. She felt it was a gift from God and didn’t need her name on it.

Please read the “Touch of the Master’s Hand” here: https://allpoetry.com/The-Touch-of-the-Master’s-Hand

The Call for Reform

The background of Luke’s readings today involves the blood of the Galileans being mixed with the blood of temple sacrifices and the fall of a tower at Siloam. Both events mentioned by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel are specific to Luke. It’s important to remember the culture of the time: tragedies, afflictions, decline in social status were all because of sins committed against God.

Josephus, a Jewish historian, provides an accounting of these incidents. In keeping with Pilate’s character, the massacre of the Galileans would likely have occurred. On another occasion, many Jews were killed because they resisted giving money to Pilate from the Temple treasury for the construction of an aqueduct in Jerusalem.

When it comes to Pilate’s massacre, it seems the people were more upset with the mingling of blood with the Temple sacrifices because those killed were sinners, thus making the sacrifices impure. Further, the Galileans executed were Samaritans—considered enemies because of their noncompliance with the laws of the orthodox Jews. Therefore, it was widely believed their fate directly resulted from their sinful noncompliance with the laws.

There isn’t much known about the tower incident. Possibly a tower was being erected to guard the pool of Siloam, and it collapsed killing eighteen people. Like the massacre, the same was believed about those who died when the tower collapsed: They died because of their sins.

Interestingly, the only other mention of Siloam comes from John’s gospel, Chapter 9, involving the man born blind. Very much related to the aforementioned culture of the times, Jesus was asked if the man’s blindness was due to the sins the man committed or those of his parent’s sins. Jesus replied neither his sins nor his parents’ were the cause of his blindness, rather the blindness was for the works of God to be made manifest through Christ. Jesus would then spit on the ground to make mud, smear it over the man’s eyes, and then tell him to wash in the pool of Siloam. When the man washed the mud off, his sight was regained.

However, Jesus warns the sins of the Galileans or the eighteen killed at Siloam were not greater than others’ sins. Rather, Jesus uses these incidents as a solemn warning as a call to repentance and conversion. Part of the reform Jesus calls for is to stop judging others. Harken back to the scripture readings leading into the Lenten season, when Jesus tells us that how we measure against others will be the same standard used against ourselves. Remember to first remove the beam from our own eye before trying to remove the splinter from our brother’s. Recently, I must admit, that I needed to remind myself of this very same thing. Like the old violin, I needed some tightening of my strings and dusting off of my conscience.

Now, there is no guarantee tragedy won’t befall us. However, repentance and conversion will guarantee our salvation! Without reforming our lives, we will die both physically and, more importantly, spiritually.

God is the Vine Dresser

Which reminds of when I’m always asked about my ministry to those incarcerated: Am I doing any good or wasting my time?

My reply: There is good happening, and if I only reach one man this day or this week or month, then it’s worth the time. You see, I don’t produce the conversion but lead them in the right direction. God does the rest.

Likewise, the parable of the fig tree reminds us that God is patient and provides second chances. But we must act and not procrastinate—else we’ll find ourselves out of time.

Further, the mention of three years in the parable is significant. Relatable to the three days Jesus spent in the tomb, three years would be an acceptable time for a newly planted fig tree to grow and produce fruit. Upon not finding any fruit by that length of time, the owner of the garden would see no need to waste any more time on the tree. To him, the tree is useless. However, the vinedresser asks for another year in which he will nurture it. If after that the tree fails to bear fruit, it will be cut down.

God is that vinedresser and the hand of the master in our lives. If we’re open to that conversion, then we need to let God form us into what He wants us to become.

That’s what God did with Moses in today’s opening scripture. He took Moses from shepherding the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro, to shepherding the Israelites to lead them out of slavery. All the while, God shapes and forms Moses into the great leader, and in the process, develops a loving, spiritual relationship between Moses and Himself. Deuteronomy, Chapter 34, tells us that after Moses’ death, no prophet had arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

That is, until Jesus.

And our face-to-face opportunity comes to us each Mass—not as a burning bush unconsumed—but just as sacred in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is made available for us to share in an intimate moment with Christ by partaking in his Body and Blood, which nurtures our conversion. When we accept the physical Sacrament of Christ, we allow ourselves to experience the saving grace of God. That’s why we need to be here in church to share in the Eucharistic mystery that is both source and summit of our faith!

This is what Lent is all about as we all need tightening of our loose strings and a good dusting off.

March 13, 2022, The Second Sunday of Lent

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

 Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see all of you on this Second Sunday of Lent.

For my homily, I’ll start with a little bit of theology, then some teaching, and then I’m spend a lot of time telling you about a new online website with some really cool stuff on it that you’ re going to love to watch.

So, let’s get started!! In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Transforming Our Lives

The common theme of today’s readings is transformation. The readings invite us to work with the Holy Spirit to transform our lives. We do this during Lent by renewing our very lives to radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord all around us.

The first reading describes the transformation of Abram, a pagan patriarch, into a believer in the one God and God’s first covenant with Abram’s family as a reward for Abram’s Faith and obedience to God. This same God would later “transform” Abram’s name to Abraham. Further. the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) declares that same Faith: “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”

In the second reading, St. Paul argues it’s not observance of the Mosaic Law and circumcision that transforms people into Christians. Hence, Gentiles need not become Jews first to become Christians later. Rather, St. Paul urges us to stand firm in our Faith, and to live a life of discipleship with Jesus now, so we may share in a glorious future.

In the Transfiguration account in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Jesus to consult his Heavenly Father and learn of His plan for His Son’s suffering, death, and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of his Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering, political Messiah and strengthened them in their time of trial

 On the mountainthe Heavenly Voice identifies Jesus as by the Son of God. Thus, the Transfiguration experience is a Christophany, i.e., a revelation of Who Jesus really is. Describing Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly glory awaiting those who do God’s will by putting their trusting Faith in Him.

Turning Back

During this Lenten season, we’re called to turn away from our sinful past and turn back to God, becoming the disciples that God created us to be. This transformation is made possible when we spend more time in prayer, fasting, and being generous toward those in need. Lent also provides an opportunity for us to learn more about our Catholics Faith, especially in terms of what we believe about the seven sacraments, all of which have a role in transforming our lives.

My friends, every time we celebrate Mass, we witness another transfiguration—our source of strength as Christians. In each Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar become “transfigured” into the living Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the crucified, risen, and glorified Jesus. The Church’s technical term for this is “transubstantiation.”

Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration was meant to strengthen the apostles in their trials, each Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against temptations, and a source for our Lenten renewal.

Each time we receive one of the Sacraments, we are transformed.

For example, Baptism transforms us into the sons and daughters of God and heirs to heaven. Confirmation makes us temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors of God. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings the sinner back to the path of holiness.

We need “mountain-top experiences” in our lives

The Transfiguration of Jesus offers us a message of encouragement and hope.

In our moments of doubt, despair, or hopelessness, the thought of our transfiguration in Heaven will help us reach out to God, recalling His consoling words to Jesus: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased—listen to Him!”

Thus, we share the glory of His transfiguration and the mountain-top experience of Peter, James, and John when we spend extra time in prayer during Lent.

Fasting for one day can help the body store spiritual energy, which can help us have thoughts far higher and nobler than our usual mundane thinking. These thoughts remind us of who God has called us to be. During this season of lent, we’re invited to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ by turning away from sinful habits and attitudes, learning to become the people that God created us to be.

An Exciting New Program: FORMED

This Lenten season, we’re invited to learn more about our Catholics Faith, especially what we believe about the seven sacraments. To help us learn more about our Faith, I’m very excited to tell you that our parish has recently purchased a subscription to FORMED, a new online platform filled with over 4,000 Catholic studies, movies, audio dramas, talks, e-books and even cartoons for our children.

Best of all, this material is free to you. Now, if you’re like me, you might be hesitant about signing up for something on-line. Please, trust me: you’ll want to try out FORMED! And it’s so easy to do—especially if you have the bulletin handout.

I encourage everyone to sign up for FORMED and take advantage of this opportunity to dive into the beauty of our Faith offered by the FORMED website. If you have this weekend’s bulletin, you’ll find an insert that includes a letter from Fr. Pat clearly explaining what FORMED is all about.

This handout also shows an easy step-by-step process for registering on the FORMED platform.

Here are the instructions to gain access to FORMED’s content, following these simple steps:

  • Go to FORMED.org/signup
  • Enter our parish zip code which is 14801
  • Click on our parish name
  • Enter your name and your email address

That’s it! You’re in on FORMED main page.

During this season of Lent, I encourage you to watch two programs on the sacraments:

  • The first program, PRESENCE: The Mystery of the Eucharist, consists of three, 30-minute videos that will really help you understand what the Eucharist is all about.
  • The second program, FORGIVEN: The Transforming Power of Confession, consists of five, 30-minute videos that will really help you understand the healing, loving mystery that is the sacrament of Confession.

If you take advantage of FORMED’s content, especially the series on the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, you’ll deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ and open yourself to God’s love, grace, and mercy, leading to the transformation into the disciple God calls us to be.

I join with Fr. Pat, hoping and praying the content on FORMED will enrich, deepen, and inspire your faith.

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

Feb 2022

Homily for February 20, 2022, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Year C)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Opening thoughts: In baptism, we are called to mirror the mercy and forgiveness the Lord has won for us. As David would not harm his enemy, Saul, so we are challenged to love and pardon those who wrong us.

 Conducting Ourselves Accordingly

Today’s readings, leading up to the beginning of Lent, are cause to examine our conscience. The implications of these sermons—last week, this week and next—is that God’s rule has already occurred and occurring. Thus, in verse 20, “the reign of God is yours”, the word reign can and should be seen as a verb—i.e., the action of God, already established in the here and now—and thus, we must live accordingly.

One such question is, “Do you want to make the reign of God visible to others?

Our answer should be, “Yes.” As such, our next question might be, “But how?”

And the answer to that final question is, “By our actions.”

In today’s first reading from Samuel, David was sought by Saul, who had become envious of David and wanted to dispose of David to protect his reign as king.

While sneaking into Saul’s camp at night, David comes upon Saul asleep in his quarters and could have killed Saul to save himself. Certainly, David realized what was at stake. But recognizing Saul as God’s anointed one, David discerns that taking Saul’s life would be wrong, would not please God, and then trusts in God and his conscience for the right outcome after his act of mercy in sparing Saul’s life.

As The Bible tells us, David is “a man after God’s own heart.” (1Sm, 13:14) However, Saul failed to see that in David, and as a result, felt threatened for fear of losing what God had given him.

Between these two, David is clearly the example of discipleship and discernment that Jesus teaches and expects of us. We must recognize what God has delivered into our own hands—recognizing our roles of “discerning discipleship” by exercising compassion, forgiveness, humility, and respect for God’s dominion.

In our second reading, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians picks up from last week, in which the Corinthian community questions the resurrection of the dead. This controversy in Corinth likely resulted from the teachings that bodily existence was impossible after death. Hellenistic philosophies further believed the physical body was evil, and the resurrection meant a purely spiritual existence. Thus, only the spirit trapped inside of the body was good; once the evil body died, the spirit was released.

The Last Adam and Free Will

In effect, the Hellenistic philosophy espoused the existence of two Adams: the spiritual and the physical. The spiritual Adam was the archetype of God and the ideal, upholding how we should be. Conversely, the physical Adam fell to corruption, characterizing our humanity.

But Paul asserts God created the first Adam as a living soul—of one body and one spirit. Christ—who Paul describes as the last (not the second) Adam—is a life-giving spirit from heaven.

Through his own actions, the first Adam, the creation of humankind with its fallibilities, fell. As part of humanity, we inherited original sin through the first Adam’s disobedience. Whereas the last Adam, Christ, was infallible and contains the life-giving spirit, and through faith in Christ, we shall inherit eternal life and share fully in the Resurrection. And this inherited resurrection doesn’t come through the biological means of physical death, but through faith and Baptism.

Just as it was through free will that the first Adam chose to disobey God, the last Adam also was given free will but chose to obey God.

We’re given that same free will to make a conscientious choice to obey or disobey. While we bear the image of the earthly Adam, the image of the heavenly Adam is also present and encourages us to imitate it.

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

Once again, Jesus’ teachings create a paradoxical dilemma. Further, while Jesus calls for a discernment, it can still be quite demanding.

So, how literally should we take what Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel? To Luke, discipleship is taken very seriously, and your conduct is critical!

After all, who loves their enemies?

If someone takes from you, why would I offer them something else?

Give to all that beg from you? Then I would have nothing left.

Today’s passage creates some controversy within ourselves and those among us.

So again, is today’s liturgy to be taken literally or not?

Jesus is talking about the primary feature of Christianity, “agape” love. What is agape love? Agape is a Greek word meaning “love,” but it’s also an adjective, describing a type of love. In its simplest form, agape designates the love that God has for us and derivatively, our love for God and one another. To expound on that: It’s a self-sacrificial love that moves us to give of ourselves for one another as Christ gave of Himself for us.

The question being emphasized here, radically, is how do we merit to be called Christians?

If we do good for only those who do good to us, what merit is there?

If we love only those that love us, are we any better than the sinners who do as much?

Jesus’s message today: Be ready in our hearts to do all these “radical” deeds, if that is the most loving thing to do. The point Jesus is really trying to get through to us is this “For the measure with which you measure, will in return be measured out to you.” As such, we must prepare to give of ourselves in a radical, literal way of self-sacrifice, if that’s what love demands and truly good of our neighbor.

True Discernment Leads to True Love

Jesus is teaching us about agape love, and that we should always be ready to act upon that love at the appropriate time, even if doing so seems ridiculous to others. However, we must be discerning, as Jesus’s message today is not meant to be enacted if it will cause more harm or won’t be beneficial to others.

For example, what good is it if you continue to give to the beggar each time he begs if it depletes all you have? Then you both have nothing. We’ve all heard the adage, “Give someone a fish, and they eat for a day. But teach them to fish, and they eat for a lifetime.” Thus, it’s better for you to teach the beggar to provide for himself, while helping him get by in the meantime.

Continuing, what good is it to turn the other cheek if it provokes more harm? Rather, it’s better to counter the attack without inducing more violence or harm to others.

David’s discernment may have seemed ridiculous—sparing Saul and not taking advantage of a situation that God had placed him in,–but he knew in his heart what God truly wanted.

Paul’s message to the Corinthians, discerning that we are in the image of Christ, might have seemed radical to the Hellenists, yet we are called to conform to it.

And Jesus’ obedience to do God’s will by accepting the Cross may seem extreme in the eyes of humanity, but it was done out of a complete love that Jesus had for God, an agape love and provides an example of discipleship for all to follow!

February 13, 2022 (6th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you here today. I’m especially happy that we’re not dealing with the snowstorms like we had last weekend. So, let us begin in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What do you mean by ‘lucky’?

This weekend’s Gospel reading comes at a good time. As much as we can sometimes be tempted to complain about whatever “suffering” life throws at us, Jesus offers an interesting perspective.

Let’s listen to Luke again:

“Blessed are you who are poor . . .

Blessed are you who are now hungry . . .

Blessed are you who are now weeping . . .

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”

What are we to make of these beatitudes? At first glance, they sound insane!

Let’s begin with the first one: Blessed are you when you are poor? Who here wants to be poor? Raise your hand! Nobody likes to be poor! Blessed are we when we are poor? Come on!

Blessed are you when you are hungry? Who likes to be hungry? Raise your hand! And it gets worse!

Blessed are you when you are weeping? This sounds rather masochistic at face value. No one likes to feel depressed.

Where is Jesus going with these?

Blessed are you when you are hated and excluded and insulted . . . Wait just a minute! Nobody likes to be hated.

Where is the “good news” today in Jesus’s message?

This kind of teaching is typical of Jesus’s preaching style. He constantly turns our world upside-down with His words, shaking our world view so we can gain a new perspective.

I picked up from Bishop Barron that the best way to understand the Gospel reading today is by looking at the Greek word for “blessed” used in Luke’s Gospel—and that word is “macarius,” which can also be translated as “lucky.” This insight can help us better understand the beatitudes, and what Jesus means by them.

Let’s start with why those who are poor are lucky. What I think Jesus means by this is: You’re lucky to be unattached to material things. Like St. Augustine taught in his Confessions, there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts that has an infinite longing for God. Our hearts crave God. But instead of filling that God-shaped hole with things that are of God, we fill that gap with things that are not of God. This is not to denounce material goods, per se. Material goods—such as cars, televisions, and the latest electronics—can be just fine, so long as we don’t become addicted to them. Unfortunately, what happens to many people is that our hearts do become too attached to material goods. We buy a smart phone, and in a few months, the excitement wears off, and then we want to buy a better smartphone. Instead of investing more time in the relationships around us, we spend too much time staring into our electronics. It can be addictive, as many of us know.

We are a society addicted to material things that ultimately do not satisfy the longings of the human heart. And so, Jesus says, “Lucky are you who are poor.” Why? You’re not addicted to material things.

Jesus also says, “Lucky are you who are hungry.” Why? Because you’re not addicted to sensual pleasure. Now, food, drink, and bodily pleasures are good for the most part. They are gifts from God. But once again, these, too, can become addictive and become an unhealthy replacement for our infinite craving for God. Look at the billions of dollars companies make selling alcohol, tobacco, pornography, marijuana, opioids—and the list goes on. Is this excess reflective of a spiritual problem in our country today? Sadly, yes—yes, it is. This is why Jesus says you are lucky to be hungry, because you’re not addicted to sensual pleasure.

Jesus also says, “Lucky are you who are weeping.” Why? You are not addicted to good feelings. Now, good feelings are wonderful and another gift from God. But these too can become addictive when the soul replaces God with the need for feeling good all the time. Life becomes a quest for good feelings instead of a quest for holiness. A commonsense piece of wisdom we learn at some point in life is this: Some of the best things we experience in this life don’t necessarily “feel good” all the time. Real love, real compassion, real self-control, real social justice, and real sacrifice are things that don’t always “feel good” in the moment. For example, a fair measure of the civil rights we enjoy today came about after much suffering in our country. Thus, blessed are you who weep, for you are living your life with integrity and strength of character, in good times and in bad, in sunshine, and yes even in snow.

Then Jesus says, “Lucky are you when you are hated.” Why? Because you’re not addicted to others’ esteem. Now, the esteem of others is a good thing—most of the time and certainly not a bad thing, in and of itself. But this too can become addictive if it changes our lives from a quest for holiness to a quest for constant praise—this hunger for praise becoming an idol that is not God. As Jesus warns, woe to you if all speak well of you. Lucky and blessed are you if you hook your desires on pleasing God, even when this is not always popular in our culture.

The Perfect Example of the Beatitudes

My friends, to summarize the beatitudes, let’s gaze for a moment at the cross.

Is Jesus poor? Yes, He is naked on the cross.

Is Jesus hungry? Yes, He hadn’t eaten since the previous evening.

Is Jesus weeping? Yes, He is in pain and dying.

Is Jesus hated? Yes, the Son of God came into the world, and the world rejected Him.

And yet, the cross is the icon of perfect love. There is no better symbol of what perfect love looks like. By His wounds, we are healed!

The truth is, Jesus’s sermon on the plain in Luke’s Gospel, together with the icon of the cross, paradoxically offer us a roadmap to joy—real joy, authentic joy—which will help us grow closer to Jesus, who alone can give us the grace to rise above whatever challenges this world can throw at us . . . even if it is a foot of snow.

January 2022

Homily for January 9, 2022, The Baptism of the Lord
(Year C)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

On Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, the glory of the Lord has been revealed.

Salvation is offered to all and the earth is renewed.

He is the light of the nations and Lord of all creation.

To him be all glory and praise

The One Prophesied

Last week we celebrated the “Epiphany of the Lord” in which Jesus was made manifest to the world through the Magi from the east. Up to this time, there was probably some uncertainty of the true identity of the Christ child. It was, after all, the shepherds who had first been alerted to this birth. And who were the shepherds, but people of a lowly stature, commoners—some not to be trusted even.

With the arrival of the Magi or kings or wise men—whichever you chose—they were of high esteem. Educated, learned men who would be respected. Even King Herod put some trust into their knowledge of astronomy. Further, they arrived bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Perhaps it even convinced Joseph and Mary of the manifestation of their child.

Today the “Baptisms of the Lord” continues the theme of the Epiphany. God is manifest in the incarnate Christ at the waters of the Jordan as he was at the manger and to the Magi.

We have a couple options for our readings today, and I chose to use the readings particular to Year C. Part of the reasoning behind my choice is that I like to offer something different to gain new insights into scripture. Mostly though, it’s through the Holy Spirit, for as I prepared for this week’s homily, I kept being drawn back to these readings of the current liturgical year.

Our first reading from the prophet, Isaiah, Chapter 40, is the beginning of the great messianic oracles known as the “Songs of the Servant.” It continues through Chapter 55 and speaks of the mysterious destiny of the Servant’s suffering and glorification being fulfilled through the passion and glorification of Christ. In other words, as Christians, we view this as Jesus being the Servant who is prophesied.

Speaking on behalf of God, Isaiah tells the people of Israel their sins are soon to be expiated and comfort will come to all. A reference is made to John the Baptist—the voice crying out to prepare the way for the Lord. The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people shall see it together. He will have the power of the Lord God, and He will tend to you as a shepherd tends to their sheep. Gathering the lambs into His arms, carrying them to His bosom, leading His ewes with care, and laying down His life for all.

Rebirth and Renewal: The Promise of Baptism

The letter of St. Paul to Titus references the baptism that brings a rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit and the appearance of God’s Grace and Glory suggest the manifestation of Christ who is celebrated in this feast today. Paul’s ministry takes place after Jesus’s Death, Resurrection and Ascension. It’s a reminder that, like Paul, we too are living in an advent time, awaiting  Christ’s second coming. It requires the same anticipation and preparation as before the birth of Christ and must be a present reality, never forgotten nor ignored, but committing ourselves to lives of sinlessness and love of God. It is through the baptism instituted by Christ that we are saved. Not because we deserve or earned it, but solely for love’s sake, because God knows the human heart regularly wanders from Him through godless ways and worldly desires.

This bath of rebirth (i.e., baptism) and renewal of the Holy Spirit justifies us through grace and offers us the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom. Through baptism, we become true children of God and now belong to Him.

The word “baptize” in Greek means “to drown,” or “to be completely submerged.” It implies death. Even though most of us received our baptism by the pouring of water over our heads, which is legitimate, the more complete symbolic way is to be submerged and then reemerge into new life cleansed of our sins. For baptism is a sort of death and resurrection—a rebirth. We die to our old self, which we received through our parents at our birth with the stain of original sin. We then exchange it for a new life and identity with God, in which He sends the Holy Spirit into our souls so we may acquire inheritance into eternal life.

As we hear today, this only happens through the baptism of Christ, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire referenced here is not a fire we think of as consuming and destroying. Rather, it is a fire similar to the fire that Moses saw: The bush was ablaze but not consumed. This is the fire we are baptized with. We are ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit that only burns away our sins, leaving us pure and refined.

The Christ Made Manifest Through The Holy Spirit

While Luke wants to ensure the distinction between John and Jesus, the main theme of the Gospel is to proclaim Jesus as the prophetic Messiah referenced in Isaiah. But what is revealed in the Gospel is the ultimate manifestation, by the ultimate source, God himself. It’s the manifestation of Jesus as the “Son of God” conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, he exercises His mission by the power of that same Spirit. John testifies there is one mightier than himself coming, and once that manifestation is made, John’s role decreases as Jesus ‘role increases.

What also is made significant in Luke’s gospel is the descent of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t come upon Jesus as He rises from the waters of the Jordan, but rather as He is in prayer. God is the presider in this act of receiving the Holy Spirit, not John, as in the initial act of baptizing Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is at prayer at each significant occasion in his ministry. Prayer is integral to the life of Jesus and that is portrayed to us as an example of how prayer should be integral in the lives of all ministers and of all believers.

It’s through prayer that we are empowered by the Spirit. Prayer strengthens and provides the stamina to endure the demanding life of the disciple. Through baptism, we become disciples and made manifest as God, who sends the Spirit upon us and announces us as His beloved sons and daughters.

Homily for January 2, 2022, Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord (Cycle C)

Homilist: Rev Patrick Connor

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,

And the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;

The lives of the poor he shall save.”

 Am I a Seeker of Jesus?

These words, from today’s Responsorial Psalm 72, point us to the great gift of God in Jesus, The Child Of Bethlehem, whom we honor this Christmas season.

This Child Of Bethlehem, who laid aside the wealth of Heaven and the glory of His Divinity to assume our humanity and embrace a life of poverty, is Himself God’s gift. Not to be measured in money, but in the gift of God’s love He brings to us—a love that shines in the deepest night as the Star Of Bethlehem, a sign of hope that guided both shepherds and Magi to where the child dwelled with Mary and Joseph.

The three Magi, who made their journey and followed the star, did not know the full identity of Him whom they sought. Yet, they knew to set aside everything and went to find Him.

In the many details of this search, it leaves me with this fundamental question:

Am I also a seeker of Jesus, and do I follow the star that guides me to His dwelling place, where I may offer Him a gift
—not of gold, frankincense and myrrh—
but a humble heart open to His Word and full of love for Him?

Our Gospel acclamation today calls us to this gift, quoting the Magi as they were speaking with Herod, “We saw His Star at its rising, and have come to Him homage.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “homage” in a few ways, one of which is “something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another.

So, here we are at Mass to celebrate this beautiful feast. There are two Masses for this feast: one for the Vigil and one for the Mass During The Day.

Let me share with you the opening prayer for both Masses.

This is for the Vigil Mass: “May the splendor of your majesty, O Lord, we pray, shed its light upon our hearts, that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home.”

 Now listen to the opening prayer for the Mass During The Day: “O God, who on this day revealed Your only begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in Your mercy that we, who know You already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory.”

Two phrases from both prayers stand out for me:

  • “That we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home” from the Vigil Mass, and
  • From the Mass During The Day: “Grant that we who know You already by faith may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

Shadows of this world and we who know you already by faith to behold the beauty of your sublime glory. Think about the shadows of your world and think about the Magi as they traveled through their own shadows over the great distances of their journey. Even in those shadows—which at times must have been fearful, hiding perhaps dangerous creatures or possibly dangerous people—they kept their eyes on the star, which for them held a promise and hope that gave them courage to keep on going.

The Magi finally arrived at the house where the Gospel says the Holy Family was staying. There, they beheld the beauty of the Christ Child, not in His Sublime Glory where His Divinity would show forth, but the beauty of Baby Jesus’ face and perhaps a smile, reveling a love. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had a smile for the Magi as well.

Becoming Like the Magi

 Now, think again about your life and those shadows you meet along life’s journey. We have experienced the shadows of the Corona and now Omicron viruses, which created anxiety and fear. And just think about the other sufferings in your life, and how easily it can turn our attention inward.

Now, imagine how those Magi turned their attention from inward to upward—to the heavens and that bright star, the Star of Bethlehem! It was their light of hope.

So, too, with you and me: There’s a bright star calling us to look upward. Not so much an actual star, but at a light that shines for us—the light of Jesus, who not only dwells in Heaven, but remains here on earth with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is that same Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the priest, changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ.

This is so we, who cannot see yet His Glory but simply ordinary bread and wine, yet in faith, we behold something greater than a star. We receive He who is the Light Of The World because of His great love for us.

Jesus is God the Father’s greatest gift to us. What is our gift to Jesus? He does not seek perfection from us. Instead, he seeks our love.

And that is worth more than any amount of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Be sure you tell Jesus you love Him,  and listen as He says, “I love you!”