Homilies for 2022

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!”