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!
- “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.
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 mountain, the 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.
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.
Homily for February 20, 2022, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.
Homily for January 9, 2022, The Baptism of the Lord
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!”