Homilies for 2023

December 2023

Homily for December 31, 2023, Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary

Homilist: Deacon David LaFortune

Hello everyone. I’m so glad to see you here today and hope you enjoyed your Christmas celebrations. Now, let us begin in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

It may be the model family but certainly not the family next door.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. When I was a much younger deacon, I preached that the holy family was the model family:

The mother of the family is a wife and virgin mother whose full of grace.

The father doesn’t seem to have a problem with all that–at least not after he had a miraculous dream!

And this family has a son who is 100% God and 100% man at the same time.

Now that I’m not so young, I just smile recalling those homilies.

Christian role models are somehow supposed to be imitated. Yet, it’s impossible to replicate the Holy Family. Is that to say there’s nothing to be learned on this Feast of the Holy Family?

But how many “perfect” families have we ever known? 

Not one. Nothing is perfect.

We hear so much about dysfunctional families these days. Ours is an era when we hear so much negativity: stories of children out of control, spousal abuse, and child abuse; children calling 9-1-1 after being appropriately disciplined; destructive relationships; drug-afflicted families; and disputes ending tragically in violence.

Every family is somehow dysfunctional and concentrating on the negatives only depresses us.

Today’s feast says the Holy Family has something to say to us in the readings we just heard. Our reading from Sirach teaches us that every marriage and family requires a basic respect by each member for all the others. Respect comes from the Latin verb respicio, meaning “to look again”—not simply “look” but look a second time. Of course, a lack of respect makes any atmosphere—family or not́—unhealthy, unhappy, and ultimately destructive.

From Saint Paul in the second reading, we learn that we must cultivate all virtues characteristic of a Christian, but above all, love. Life in the Christian family is rooted in compassionate love.

Obedience is a Part of Life

The gospel teaches that no matter who we are—even Jesus—obedience must be a part of life. “Obedience,” comes from the Latin verb obaudire, meaning, “to listen carefully.” There is military obedience that calls for following legal orders without question, tending toward blind obedience. Christian obedience, on the other hand, is closer to the Latin meaning to listen attentively. [By the way, there are two credits in classical language for listening to this homily.]

Everyone, children and parents, needs to listen attentively. When we are compassionately loved and respected, we listen more carefully to each other. Love and respect become the foundation of authentic obedience, i.e., real listening.

Jesus freely chose to obediently submit himself to his parents. Jesus’ respect, love, and obedience are based on his respect, love, and obedience to his Father in heaven, which Jesus showed throughout his life.

Today, let’s look at the bright side. Let us focus on all the good things that happened on Christmas: the laughing, caring, helping, and generosity—the being there for one another. Let us concentrate on the positives as we celebrate the feast of the holy family.

As Christians, we have something especially important to offer the present family situation in America. The example and message of Jesus, and the values expressed in today’s readings:

  • Respect, “looking again.”
  • Compassionate love, and
  • Obedience by listening attentively.

All these elements are the light we bring to a world in desperate need of such light.

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe New Years! In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

November 2023

Homily for November 26, 2023, Solemnity of Christ the King

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

 Good afternoon, everyone. It’s so good to see you. I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Before I begin the homily, I just want to say thank you for all your prayers for my recovery from my stroke. It’s been a long process, but I’m slowly getting better every day!

Now, let us begin: in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Cries of the poor

If we spend any time at all studying Sacred Scripture, we know where God stands in relation to the poor. Both the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament make that abundantly clear—God’s heart is always, always turned toward the poor.

In our firs t reading, Ezekiel voices God’s frustration with the people’s appointed leaders and expresses God’s determination to take over tending the scattered, injured, and sick sheep of Israel: “I myself will pasture my sheep. I myself will give them rest.”

Ezekiel depicts God as a loving, tender shepherd whose primary concern is the care of the flock—unlike the corrupt leaders who’d placed themselves and their profits first. The sheep they were supposed to shepherd had been scattered, and now God will tend them and heal their wounds.

This past liturgical year has held a special emphasis on Matthew’s gospel. A month ago, we heard Jesus sum up our responsibility to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This, Jesus said, sums up the whole law and the prophets.

Today’s passage, Matthew emphasizes the importance of this parable in light of Jesus’ public ministry. This is the last Sunday in this liturgical year, and we have an imagined courtroom scene and a parable unique to Matthew. It’s a good closing to our liturgical year and to Jesus’ ministry as immediately after this parable, Matthew begins the Passion Narrative. With next Sunday beginning Advent of Christ’s first coming, today’s parable suggests the behavior Jesus’s disciples must engage in as we await His return in glory.

Jesus tells us that if we want to love and serve God, whom we cannot see then, then we must love and serve our neighbor whom we can see. Today, Jesus reaffirms this message that He is to be found among the poor and suffering, and He continues to suffer in them.

With this being Jesus’ final teaching, it’s as if He is delivering his Last Will and Testament.

When judgment is passed at the end of the world, Jesus tells us that verdict will be based on how we showed our love for those in need. This love isn’t just expressed in words, but also in actions. Jesus, the judge, highlights a few examples of those who should be the recipients of his disciples’ care and concern. Christians aren’t just a group who share a common belief system, liturgical practices, and religious vocabulary. We’re also called to express our belief through concrete acts, addressing the concerns of the needy.

You cannot have faith without acts.

If today we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit the sick, what will we do tomorrow and next week when they are again hungry, naked, and still sick? Our immediate response to their needs is important, but more is required of the disciples whom the Master in last week’s parable called the “good and faithful servants.”

Faithful servants don’t quit after initial attempts to help the most needy and vulnerable: They “keep on keepin’ on.” And the “clever” disciples, whom Jesus praises elsewhere in the gospel, continue to address the poor’s ongoing needs by organizing others in charitable projects.

In many parishes, especially during the Advent-Christmas season, there are all kinds of helping hands—with people donating food for food pantries, collecting coats for clothing drives, and buying presents for giving trees.

But more is needed.

If you need an example, let me share the following.

During our Thanksgiving dinner, my granddaughter, a freshman at Siena College, shared that one reason she really likes her school is because everyone is always willing to hold open a door for another. Later, my daughter shared that whenever my grandson, Brody, sees the neighbor across the street raking leaves, Brody always grabs his rake and runs over to help.

My friends, the needs of the poor, hungry, and sick are often greater than a few volunteers and ministerial staff can address. That’s why some who hear today’s parable will address the problem through community, state, and national programs. In many dioceses today, there will be donations to the American bishops’ Campaign for Human Development—a national program to address a very large need.

We celebrate the first Sunday of Advent next weekend, let’s pray that we’ll use this season to become the people whom God created us to be, and we shall draw closer to Jesus by helping those around us who are truly in need.

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

Homily for November 19, 2023, 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Vigilance and preparedness are the key to hope. There is no need of fear.

It’s been six months since the joy and exhilaration of Easter. If you’re like me, you may need a “pick me up” after this lengthy period of Ordinary Time in the liturgical year as well as just dealing with everyday life. Something to challenge us and provoke thought regarding our faith.

Today’s first reading from Proverbs provides advice from King Lemuel’s mother regarding the qualities the king should seek in his wife. Like a king, a wife should characterize strength while encompassing a virtuous life and wisdom! King Lemuel’s mother speaks of the worthy wife—bringing good not evil, skillful in her domestic duties, and does so willingly. The worthy wife reaches out to the poor and needy. As a result, her husband entrusts his heart to this wife, finding her an unfailing prize. However, it’s not these qualities that makes her more valuable than precious jewels. It’s her fear of the Lord that is praiseworthy, and it’s this reverence causing her other qualities to stand out.

Last week’s parable, as well as this week’s reading from the gospel of Matthew, is Jesus’s final discourse before his arrest and persecution. We could refer to this as his last bit of advice to his disciples. It focuses on the end times (i.e., the eschatology of the church), which the church places here, corresponding with the end of the liturgical year. Particularly, God’s final judgment will mean condemnation for the wicked and salvation for the good. Underlying these parables are vigilance, patience, and preparedness—all the while fostering hope. These virtues are encouraged although the exact time of Parousia (i.e., the second coming of Christ) and God’s final judgment are unknown.

These parables have multiple purposes, as they:

  • Exhort those suffering to stand firm in their faith,
  • Act as a warning about judgment day, or the “Day of the Lord” as it’s often referred to in scripture, and
  • Encourage righteousness in the present.

Our Gospel today presents the opportunity to seriously reflect upon the end of the world and on the Lord’s second coming as Children of Light ourselves. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians continues, dealing with the misunderstanding of the Parousia. This newly Christian community was more anxious than joyful—more fearful than hopeful. Last week, the concern was of those who’d died before the second coming of Christ and would be left behind. Their concern stemmed from their fear that they’d be left behind because they saw death as final.

As Christians, Paul assures them that all would be raised, with the dead being the first to rise. His intent was to provide comfort and instill hope. Paul continues, assuring the Thessalonians that they were no longer children of the dark, who were completely oblivious, but as new Christians, were Children of the Light, who know judgment day would come, accepting the paschal mystery of Christ.

Although the day is unknown, there should be no fear as Children of the Day. Thus, they were to be spiritually vigilant, live according to the gospel, and prepare to meet Christ when judgment day comes, i.e., they were to live as Children of the Light, and through this light, lead others out of the darkness and into the brilliant, resurrected presence of Jesus.

Those who use their talents to serve others are blessed.

In the parable of the talents, we learn preparedness and vigilance are not some passive stance of patiently waiting for the Lord’s coming. This, Jesus’s last discourse to his disciples, provides an opportunity to meditate on our lives, deaths, and prospects for the hereafter. It begs for discernment, discipline, and decision—asking us just how we, as Christians, have lived as Children of the Day this past year? How about the past 5, 10, or even 20 years?

The gospel today speaks to me regarding how I’m preparing myself. Am I at a standstill, just plugging along, or am I investing in my faith? Am I taking advantage, as a Child of the Day, to deepen my faith or help others grow, especially in my role as clergy? What I take from this gospel is an exhortation to diligently wait and a mandate to grow in faith or face the consequences of the judgment. The common axiom of “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer” is re-stated here but applied to our spiritual growth.

There are two ways to look at this parable. The talents, mentioned here as a monetary value, can be seen as our faith, or it can be viewed as the gifts (i.e., the talents) God has given to each of us. Either way, it’s an investment.

First, how are we investing in our faith? Are we conducting ourselves appropriately in righteous living? How are we using our God-given gifts?

Monetary investment is a risk, isn’t it? Often, you must be vigilant and sometimes patient. One thing for sure is you’re not going to gain anything (or at least, very little) by being passive. I’m sure there are those whose financial investments have seen gains and losses.

However, it’s not that way with God. For if you invest with God—being vigilant, patient, and prepared in faith and stewardship—there are only gains.

What I take from Matthew’s gospel today is that it’s better to creatively risk everything for the kingdom of heaven rather than play it safe in the security of the status quo. Jesus was a risk taker, was he not? The choice belongs to us! We can either make the most of our time or do nothing and face the consequences. We needn’t be self-centered just to ensure we won’t be left behind but do good for others—the proper fear of the Lord, performing acts desired by God with love and justice.

Like the worthy wife, bringing good instead of evil, using the skills given by God and reaching out in stewardship, we’ll live as Children of the Light with God seeing us worthy in the end.

Homily for November 5, 2023, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

The courage to be Catholic

Good morning everyone. It’s so good to see you here today. I’ve missed you.

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

They really dressed up. They were something to behold!

Imagine if you were a common, everyday man or woman back in the time of Jesus. You lived in the hill country, seventy or eighty miles from Jerusalem, making the trip to that city well over a week. You’d been there once, but only when you were a baby.

After saving up and putting your home in order, you have decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Upon arrival, you were amazed by the city’s sheer size. You had never seen so many people in one place.

Then you saw the Temple, the magnificent Temple, that had just been completed. It overwhelmed you with its beauty. People would call it one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Well, you expected to be shocked by the city and the Temple.

You see strange people in strange garb. There are Roman soldiers, seemingly everywhere you look except in the Temple. There are people from foreign lands, mostly merchants, wearing the dress of their countries.

But you expected to come upon foreigners in foreign dress.

What you didn’t expect, though, were the people from your own land who dressed so differently. The Temple priests and their helpers, the Levites, all have distinctive clothes. But whose dress really shocked you were the Pharisees. They wore clothes with huge tassels to proclaim their importance. They had headbands holding phylacteries, i.e., ribbons of cloth on which were written some words from scripture. They made these phylacteries wider and wider so they could hold more scripture. The reason they had these was so they would see the Word of God every time they turned their head, therefore following the command in Proverbs 4:21: “Keep my words always before your eyes.”

All for show

According to Jesus in today’s Gospel, these Pharisees strutted their stuff to all the important banquets. They were masters of seeing and being seen. That’s all they really wanted—just putting on a show. They knew how to hold their arms up in prayer and which proper, pious platitudes they should say.

They pretended to be holy, but they weren’t holy.

They spoke about following God. They demanded others live holy lives, but they didn’t live as a people committed to God. They only dressed the part.

Jesus called them hypocrites. The word “hypocrite” came from the Greek word for “actor.” He saw some putting on a show. He saw some religious leaders wearing costumes and saying all the proper things, but carrying on immoral actions that would not emanate from a holy person’s soul.

God saw them, and God sees us.

He sees some who proclaim their Christianity, but truly not open to God in their lives.

He sees those who pretend to be kind but carrying years of hatred in their hearts.

God also sees those who are really trying to live their commitment to Him. He sees us at our best—not just when we’re at our worst. He knows how we try to do and be better. He knows how we fight against any tendency to be hypocrites ourselves.

Following Jesus is the serious work without the need of masks

Last Tuesday was Halloween, which is for kids. Still, on this weekend after Halloween—the weekend after the children said, “Boo”—we’re faced with some of the most frightening words in scripture.

Following Jesus, however, is serious work for those willing to expose their faces and lives to the world. We’re told we cannot be satisfied with the outward appearance of religion. We’re told to fight our own hypocrisy.

How can we do this?

For one thing, we cannot demand more from others than we demand of ourselves. As a deacon, I cannot demand others fulfill their worship obligations if I don’t fulfill mine. I can’t stand here and say you should pray at home every day if I’m not faithful to saying the Liturgy of the Hours, which used to be called the Divine Office.

I cannot encourage you to say the rosary if I don’t say the rosary.

I cannot ask you to tithe if I do not tithe.

I cannot demand you fight immorality if I partake in immorality.

And you cannot demand others be kind and caring if you’re mean to that daughter-in-law or son-in-law you’ve never liked.

If you’re a young adult, you cannot claim to be a Christian if you’re nasty to people.

If still in school, you cannot claim to be Christian if you join those who hurt others in class.

You cannot call others to be good Catholics if you destroy a person’s reputations with snide remarks, gossip, or even outright attacks on social media.

We must avoid playing dress up. Our lives cannot be an act.

We must also avoid masking our Christianity. We do this coverup whenever we just go along with the crowd, being more concerned with being a group member instead of a member of God’s group, His family.

And we must take responsibility for our lives rather than just join a crowd that entrusts their lives to others. We can’t follow others–be they religious or political—to such an extent that we allow them to determine our every action. We cannot allow a mob mentality to take over. We cannot be part of the hate-mongers.

We can set the course of our own lives and take responsibility for our faith.

Call no man “father,” or “rabbi,” or “teacher” really means, “Call no man ‘guru’.” If we have a guru, we don’t take responsibility for our actions. Yes, we call our priests “father” as they are the head of our parish faith family, but we don’t make priests our gurus, making them responsible for our life decisions.

Instead, we must entrust ourselves to God and God alone, with only Christ as our guide. If we find the courage to let Jesus guide us—if every aspect of our lives reflects the presence of Jesus—then we aren’t wearing masks. Only then will we be true followers of Christ.

Many people admire Catholics because of our determination to worship God and live for Him.

They see how we’re united in our faith, and how the Church is universal.

They witness the Church’s charity throughout the world, particularly in places of famine and sickness.

And they look to us to live wholesome, sincere, and genuine Christian lives.

May they someday, too, have the courage to be Catholic.

And may each of us pray for the courage not to be hypocrites!

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

Homily for November 1, 2023, All Saints Day

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 A Quick History Lesson

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, some 1,650 years after first recognized by St. Ephrem of Edessa in the Eastern feast, there known as “All Martyrs,” so named because of the great Christian persecution that lasted nearly three centuries. From ~34-320 A.D., beginning with Nero through Constantius, there were eleven Roman emperors during this period who tried to end Christianity. Some were ruthless and subjected many Christians to horrific torture. Both Nero and Diocletian seemed make it their life’s goal to eliminate as many Christians as possible.

This feast day was celebrated differently according to each Church at the time. For instance, in Syria, it was celebrated on May 13. In Antioch, however, it was celebrated the day after Pentecost. The Greek Orthodox also observed it on this day (and still do) but called it “All Saints Sunday.” The Eastern Syria Liturgy observes the feast on the Friday after Easter.

In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface accepted a pagan temple, known as the Pantheon, as a gift from Emperor Phocas. Pope Boniface had all the pagan idols removed from the Pantheon and then had 28 wagon loads of martyr’s bones brought from the catacombs to be placed within the Church and buried there. This temple was consecrated in honor of the Virgin Mary and martyrs on May 13, 609, and the Pope officially assigned that feast as the Feast of All Saints.

Later, in the eighth century in England and Ireland, a feast in honor of All the Saints was celebrated on November 1st. Pope Gregory IV gave permission to Louis the Pious, emperor of the West, to promulgate November 1st as the feast of “All Saints” for his entire kingdom. Eventually, the date spread and became accepted by the entire Church.

The feast remembers the deceased friends, relatives and ancestors who gave their lives for the faith and therefore entered heavenly glory. It also recalls those canonized who emulated Christs’ life and what He taught.

The liturgy seeks the intercessions of the saints who went before us, asking for their prayers to bring us love and forgiveness. It also celebrates the Triune God, who gathers these elects into the heavenly city of Jerusalem to worship Him, foreshadowing our future participation in the heavenly banquet. While we observe the lives of these saints, our real focus is on the praise and worship of God in communion with the saints.

Our Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace and the life of the people of God itself.” (CCC 957).

Regarding “communion with the saints,” CCC says: “The Church is a “communion of saints,” this expression refers first to “holy things” (sancta)—above all of these being the Eucharist—by which “the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about . . The faithful (sancti) are fed by Christ’s Holy Body and Blood (sancta) to grow in communion of the Holy Spirit (koinonia) and communicate it to the whole world.” (960-948)

Innumerable Saints

In our reading today from Revelation (a difficult chapter to interpret), John has two visions— one on Earth and the other in Heaven.

In the first, a divine angelic messenger holds a seal to be put on the foreheads of the 144,000 servants of God, protecting them from harm or death from the four angels stationed at the four corners of the Earth. That number of 144,000 isn’t a literal count. Rather, there were Twelve Tribes of Israel; so, you take 12, square it, and then multiply by 1000 to signify totality, i.e., a number too large to count!

In the second vision, John sees a vast multitude in heaven standing before the throne of the Lamb—which we understand to be Christ, the sacrificial lamb—slain for our sake yet triumphant. This marked crowd made it through the great tribulation—not of their own power, but through God and the Lamb—and singing their worship with a resounding, “Amen!”

Another dialogue identifies those marked with the seal as having their robes—symbolic of the inner soul—washed clean of their sins by the Blood of the Lamb and becoming dazzling white, signifying purification, salvation, and subsequent holiness. In baptism, we, too, were marked with that indelible mark, allowing us to be called Children of God.

God’s love for humanity makes this mark is available to us. Therefore, we’re called beloved. It further exhorts to us to keep God’s love in our conscious and persevere in a life of conversion and metanoia.

Without eyes of faith, Jesus’s identity is unknown to the rest of the world. As such, we will be persecuted. However, at the end of time, as God’s children, we’ll share in the glory and his Divine Nature.

The blueprint

To share in this glory, we must share in the life of Jesus, conducting ourselves according to Christ’s teachings.

The Beatitudes give us insight into Jesus’s thoughts, giving us a blueprint for holiness. The underlying theme to these beatitudes is the blessing of God.

Theologian Donald Senior notes, “The key to Matthew’s Gospel is that it is a call to doing things, not saying things.” Senior goes on to say Jesus’s reign is not a future event in Revelation, but a present reality. We’re called to be meek and clean of heart. We must thirst after justice and hunger for righteousness. These attitudes are what the saints whom we ask to intercede for us incorporated into their lives. Those who strive to incorporate and live the beatitudes will be assured of God’s blessings.

Think of the lives of the saints who counteracted societal norms of their day as Jesus often did. Further, Jesus’ beatitudes express action and attitude that are counter to cultural norms of society–in His day, in the days of past saints, and in our present day of future saints.

Jesus shows us a blueprint to sainthood, leading to our final resting place where we hope to join all the saints who went before.

October 2023

Homily for October 21, 2023, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

“By what authority are you doing this?”

Three weeks ago, on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, starting with Chapter 21 of Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus encounters the chief priests, the elders, and the Pharisees. It’s a contentious confrontation to say the least, and it began when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in preparation for Passover.

In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah (Chapter 9) by entering the city on an ass, emphasizing the humility of the king who was to come. By this time, the people were very familiar to Jesus, or at least stories of him were well known. The whole city shook with his arrival, and people gathered around him shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Now, with that much fanfare, one would think that would annoy the chief priests, the elders and the Pharisees.

However, it was not how Jesus entered the city that bothered the Pharisees as much as what took place after Jesus’s arrival.

The first place Jesus went to was the temple, where he drove out the moneychangers and those engaged in selling and buying in a deceitful manner. Later, Jesus would heal the blind and lame, which elicited more praise of, “Hosanna to the son of David!” from the children present.

It was this first encounter that led the chief priests and elders to approach Jesus the next day and ask, “By what authority are you doing this?”

But Jesus turns the tables on them, showing his knowledge of scripture, and poses to them the parables we heard the last three weeks, telling the chief priest, elders, and Pharisees to take a harsh look in the mirror. (Recall the parable of the two sons asked to work in the vineyard, the parable of the tenants, and finally the parable of the wedding feast, which all alluded to the chief priests, elders and pharisees.)

These confrontations led to these religious authorities’ plot of trying to trap or discredit Jesus or trick Him into self-condemnation. Either way, it would eliminate Jesus from their midst. This leads us to today’s first of four controversies in which Jesus’ adversaries question him about the Law, belief, and behavior.

Like Cyrus, Jesus’s adversaries ultimately carry out the will of God such that Jesus should be sacrificed for humankind’s salvation.

Fulfilling Prophecy: God uses the good and the bad to carry out His plans.

The ancients believed other gods ruled over exclusive territories, and Babylon, where the Jews were in exile, had its own unique god.

We learn from today’s reading from Isaiah that the God of Israel uses Cyrus, the pagan King of Persia, as an agent to liberate the Israelites from their exile and help rebuild Jerusalem. Israel proclaimed Cyrus had carried out the will of God, attesting to God’s omnipotence and universality. God even calls Cyrus “anointed,” which was a titled reserved for Davidic kings—not for foreign rulers.

Thus, God led Cyrus to his victory for God’s intentions. This revelation causes Cyrus to know Israel’s God has a universal dominion and the one true God!

Paul’s reading today gives us another dimension into the one true God. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul offers encouragement in their difficulties of accepting and practicing their newly found faith of Christianity. Paul is concerned the Christian community might be forced to turn from God in the face of persecution, so he beseeches them to live in God the Father, in the hope of the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, through baptism into Christianity, they were (as we are) immersed into a Trinitarian life and must stand fearless in the belief in the Word of God.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God, what belongs to God.

The  pharisees, elders, and chief priests tried to trick Jesus into violating the Law. But like Cyrus, God uses the chief priests to carry out His plan, which ultimately results in the sharing of the Eucharist and salvation of humanity.

In our earthly existence, we have debts to pay for our possessions, such as cars, homes, and furnishings. We’re also responsible for taxes of various kinds required for the good of the community, but we mustn’t become attached to the world’s materialism but rather the reign of God.

When asked if they, the Jewish people, should pay taxes to the Romans, Jesus asks whose image was on the coin, to which his would-be trappers answer, “Caesar’s.”

Then Jesus replies, “Then repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but pay back to God what is God’s.” Thus, Jesus teaches them (and us) what’s the most important: Live the values of the Gospel with conviction!

In some translations of this Gospel, the word “render” is used, which means to pay a debt. Of course, God isn’t interested in the material things, but Jesus is saying we are still indebted to God and belong to His kingdom, so we must render to God what is His.

Ask yourself, whose image is upon the baptized? The answer: God’s indelible mark, calling us as his own. Therefore, we belong to God and must give to God what is His: our very selves.

Daily, God give us His grace. We don’t earn that grace as a reward—it’s bestowed unconditionally. We’re also given the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving.” We are thankful for being able to share in the Body and Blood of Christ that God has provided, and He doesn’t ask for any monetary payment!

But God does ask us to render the same love to others that He gives us. We do this by offering praise, gathering in worship, and in service to one another.

Thus, render to God what is God’s—ourselves!

Isn’t it the least we can do for all God has given us?

October 8, 2023, Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

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

Do Not Worry

Before I begin, I want to say thank you for all your prayers for my various health issues over the past few months. I deeply appreciate your concern. With God’s help, my health continues to improve each day.

My friends, often we feel crushed under the weight of the anxieties in our lives and of the world—anxieties from personal struggles, family struggles, work struggles.

We might worry about a loved one who is sick.

We might worry about elderly parents.

We worry about children or other family members going down the wrong road. We might be worried they’ll harm themselves or be miserable their whole lives.

We worry about paying the bills and providing everything the family needs.

And as if we didn’t have enough to be anxious about in our own lives, we turn on the television or grab our phones and get bombarded with the bad news of the day: hostile politics, wars raging, violence in the streets, hurricanes, wildfires, and more. There is no doubt a huge segment of the population nowadays is worried, anxious, and suffering from depression.

Yet, amid the worries of our lives and the world, we come to Mass today, and God’s word gives us another way.

St. Paul is no stranger to anxiety due to difficult situations, and he notes:

Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day, I was adrift at sea. . . . In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and without food, cold and naked. And besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.

  Obviously, St. Paul wasn’t living in comfort and luxury, and he had lots to worry about. Yet the same man who experienced all this says to us today in the second reading: have no anxiety at all.

 How can he say this?

Pray Always

Well, it’s not as if he just says, “Don’t worry,” and leaves it at that. St. Paul offers us a two-part alternative.

First he says, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. In everything, make your requests known to God.” St. Paul exhorts us to turn to prayer rather than remain stuck in our mindset. Not only in good times, not only in bad times, but in everything. St. Paul urges us not to hold anything back from God in prayer. Whatever fear or whatever worry, we must pray always and pray without ceasing.

A Christian must have a life of prayer that goes beyond the superficial. Pope Benedict XVI once said, “Prayer is not an accessory or ‘optional,’ but a question of life or death. In fact, only those who pray, in other words, who entrust themselves to God with filial love, can enter eternal life, which is God himself.” (4 March 2007).

St. Paul adds that when we go to God with our prayers and petitions, we should do it with thanksgiving. Whether we’re coming to God in a moment of joy or suffering, we ought to do it with thanksgiving because everything comes from God or permitted by God.

If we rejoice, we do so because the Lord has blessed us.

If we suffer, we thank Him because we trust God will transform that suffering for our good. Jesus transformed the suffering of the cross. He can transform our sufferings and will indeed do so.

If we go to the Lord trusting in prayer in everything and with thanksgiving, St. Paul says, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The second part of St. Paul’s alternative to living a worrisome life is this: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

 One reason we’re often stuck in the mud is—for some reason—we like to play in the mud. We are fascinated with the bad things happening. If we were not, we wouldn’t turn on the evening news or go down endless rabbit holes on the Internet!

We’re fascinated with evil. Just look at most films that are produced—filled with evil and violence. We are so quick to share all the wicked things that go on and that other people do. We say, “Look at what he/she did,” or “Did you hear what he/she said?”

Instead of remaining in the mud, St. Paul urges us to think and talk about the good, the true, the beautiful, the pure, the lovely, the gracious. Think and talk about whatever is praiseworthy. These things should flood our minds and hearts. How much less anxious we would be if we spent just a few minutes more each day focusing on the good things happening, and most importantly, focusing on the only One Who Is Good—God himself.

As we approach the True Presence of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, we should follow St. Paul’s advice: Go to God with everything. Then, as we make our way out of this church and into the streets, strengthened by the Lord’s own Body and Blood, we can focus more on the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Then the God of peace will be with you.

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

September 2023

Homily for Sept 17, 2023,  24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

The need to forgive.

Question to the congregation: “How many of us don’t find it hard to forgive”?

Forgiveness is hard and by the no one raising their hands we all struggle with forgiveness. St. Theresa of Calcutta once said, “True forgiveness is to truly forget.”

Today’s Gospel reading continues from the 18th chapter of Matthew, which is called, “the discourse of Church order.”

Now, we might think somewhat “administratively” when we hear “order,” although this passage doesn’t truly deal with the various church offices—their relationships and associated duties.

It does, however, deal with the necessary relationships between members of the church.

Recall that last week’s reading dealt with the proper way of correcting a member who is conducting his life sinfully, giving us the efficacy (i.e., power) of prayer through the presence of Christ whenever two or more were gathered.

Today’s Gospel deals with forgiveness, giving us the parable of the unforgiving servant. It’s a teaching to the disciples that forgiveness must be given repeatedly to a sinful member who repents.

In response to Peter’s question about how often we must forgive someone who sins against us, Jesus tells his disciples they must forgive seventy-seven times. The number 7 is symbolic to the Jewish culture for completeness. It references creation as God made the heavens and the earth and all the inhabitants of the land and sea in 6 days. On the 7th day, God rested in the completeness of His creation. However, Jesus is not telling us that forgiveness is ever complete. Jesus aware of the symbolism used by Peter expands from seven to seventy-seven times. His use of seventy-seven times alludes to limitless forgiveness. It is unending and is unconditional!

The parable is an example of how the Heavenly Father will treat those who receive God’s forgiveness but don’t likewise forgive others.

It’s also an awareness of the fallibility of human nature. Peter asks the question, because as humans, we sin time and time again, and the need for forgiveness is constant. Forgiving others, according to Jesus, has no bounds.

To this point, Christ gave us two extreme examples from the Cross in the hour of His death: by forgiving the penitent thief who hung next to Him and his persecutors. It shows God’s extravagant mercy, and we need to exercise that same mercy to others in our lives.

The believer dies and rises to new life in Christ.

To be true followers of Christ, we must live in communion with Christ. To live in communion with Christ means we must emulate His teachings and examples, conforming our lives—our attitudes, relationships, and behaviors—to reflect Christ.

Paul’s letter to the Romans has a baptismal overtone. In baptism, we were baptized into Christ and no longer belong to ourselves but to Christ and have become members of His body and to live in communion with Him. That communion calls for us to live our lives accordingly, by offering unlimited earthly forgiveness to reflect Christ’s eternal love.

This teaching of forgiveness has been a prescription of God’s since the beginning. Sirach tells us this, and it should really strike a nerve with us. Think about when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and we ask for forgiveness “as we forgive those that trespass against us.” It echoes the commandment to love your neighbor. Sirach poses the question, can anyone refuse mercy to another, yet seek pardon for his own sins?

Only through human forgiveness can we receive divine forgiveness. God will only forgive those that forgive their neighbor.

More importantly, we don’t want to take enmity to the grave with us, rather we want to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.

In the end, we want God to overlook our faults as we have overlooked the faults of others!

August 2023

Homily for August 15, 2023, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

The Dogma Supporting Mary’s Assumption

The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos (i.e., “God bearer”) and Ever-Virgin Mary (as it is known as in the Greek Orthodox Church) is celebrated on August 15th each year. The Feast commemorates the repose—dormition,  and in the Greek kimisis or “falling-asleep”—of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the transition or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.

The Roman Catholic Church (i.e., the Western church) doesn’t dispute the eastern tradition, but states it’s belief in CCC 966: “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin—when the course of her earthly life was finished—was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of Lords, and conqueror of sin and death.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus).

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.

As with the dogma of her Immaculate Conception, the dogma of the Assumption isn’t explicitly stated in Scripture. This was defined dogmatically by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus,(i.e., Most Bountiful God) when he referred to many “holy writers who “ . . . employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption.” The pope further explained he wasn’t manifesting a new doctrine but rather fulfilling his divine commission to “faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the Apostles.”

The Church teaches the dogma of the Assumption was at least implicitly present in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition and therefore a legitimate sign of the “protection of the Spirit of Truth.”

  • In the Book of Revelations 12:1: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
  • Isaiah 60:13: “The glory of Lebanon will come to you,  the juniper, the fir, and the cypress together to adorn my sanctuary.”
  • Psalm 132:8: “Arise, Lord, come to your resting place, you and your majestic ark.” Also referencing Numbers 10:35 and 2 Chr 6:41-42

Mary, The New Ark of the Covenant

Today, I want to reference the Ark of the Covenant. Archeologists have and continue to search the world over to find it. Yet, according to scripture, where was the ark kept?

When possessed by Moses, the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies—the tabernacle—at the end of the day’s journey or kept inside a tent specifically made for the Ark when the Israelites resided in the desert.

When King David had care of the Ark, he pitched a tent to house it as well. Our vigil reading from 1 Chronicles was King David’s second attempt to transport the ark. The first attempt failed because he didn’t follow the cultic obligations. Per chapter 13, the Ark had to be attended to in a specific way, and the Levites, the priests among the Israelites, were the only ones who could handle the ark.

This ancient Ark of the Covenant has long been understood by Christians as a foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary. She is the new Ark of the Covenant—the place where God dwells—the holiness of God forever within her. Thus, Mary is bestowed with the same honor and reverence given the ark of the Hebrew tradition. Although Mary was human, God spared her body from decomposing because of that honor. Mary becomes the first Christian to lead the way as a sign to everyone, as stated in the CCC 966: “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”

The Promise of Following Christ

What will happen to us, those that believe in Jesus Christ? If you believe in Jesus, then you believe in the Resurrection, and we’ll follow the same path as Christ. This is what Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is speaking about today. Chapter 15 deals with the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. Paul evokes the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we just celebrated 8 days ago, in verse 15:54: When that which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then just as Jesus was transfigured, so will those who believe.

Thus, we’ll be afforded the reward of the heavenly kingdom if we live our lives according to the examples of all those men and women of faith who came before us.

Today, we also hear about two beatitudes in our Gospel. Beatitudes means “blessings,” and we’re very familiar with Luke’s Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gives us the Beatitudes of living a faith-filled life. Today in our vigil Gospel, an anonymous woman cries out, blessing the womb that carried Jesus, extoling blessings upon Mary of the gift that she willingly accepted. However, Jesus opens it up to a much broader reason for God’s blessings. All who hear the Word of God and keep it will receive God’s promises. Mary is the living example in Luke’s Gospel—the one who heard the Word and obeyed. This is why she is honored today, and the reasoning behind the dogmas of her bodily assumption into Heaven.

As the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary resides in Heaven in the presence of God with her Son. As scripture tells us, where the ark dwells, so too does God.

It’s no wonder archeologist can’t find the ark of Hebrew tradition and the Ark of the New Covenant on Earth, for they dwell in Heaven.


Homily for August 13, 2023, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

For All People Everywhere

Everyone can probably agree about the overall theme from today’s readings: God’s kingdom is for all peoples—even inclusive of “foreigners”—and not just for the chosen people of Israel.

In our first reading from Isaiah, the context of this pericope deals with the end of the long exile, during which the Jewish people had been split up and exiled from Jerusalem and throughout Judah. During the time of exile the Jews lived among foreigners who inhabited these lands, as a result many adopted the Jewish faith and way of life, joining themselves with the Lord.

God makes it clear He would bring these foreigners who obeyed Jewish law to the holy mountain of Zion. Whatever offerings the Jewish people offered up to God would also be acceptable when offered by these foreigners. The last verse of this scripture passage summarizes it beautifully: “Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

A Divine Purpose

In our first reading, Isaiah spoke to the Jewish people about accepting and including foreigners who’d joined the faith. Likewise, Paul’s exhortatory reading to the Romans exemplifies God calling all to His house.

But Paul’s letter to the Romans today is complex and coupled with a bittersweet overtone.

In this passage, Paul is speaking of the Good News to the Gentiles. He explains how the Jewish people—his people—are still included in God’s plan. However, it was the Jews’ unbelief that paved the way for the Good News to preached to the Gentiles who were now accepting the Gospel outside the context of Jewish culture. Paul’s plan is to create jealousy within the Jewish community. So, he spreads the Good News throughout the Mediterranean world, hoping all of Israel would someday embrace the Gospel, with the final result commensurate to the resurrection of the dead, i.e., the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of age when all believers will receive salvation.

The bittersweet part comes from Paul anguishing over that most of his kindred had not accepted the Messiah, which causes Paul to reflect upon his transformation and conversion. Paul recalls his former life—proud of his heritage and fidelity to the Law—and sees his subsequent disobedience to that life as God’s plan for all to receive mercy. Thus, just as the Gentiles were once disobedient to God, now Paul reasons, the Jews’ unacceptance of the Good News of Jesus as Messiah had a divine purpose of bringing God’s mercy to the Gentiles. And by virtue of the mercy once shown the Gentiles, the Jews will also receive that same mercy.

 As Christians, our mission is to spread the Good News, too.

As we heard in weeks past, many of Jesus’s parables reference the sower of the seed. Today, we are the Sowers of the Good News. Per the Gospel of Mark (4:27), we won’t know for sure how the seed we plant grows. But the land will yield fruit, representing the breakthrough of God’s kingdom into the world.

We’re in the second year of the Eucharistic Revival, established by the USCCB, to bring back the reverence and true meaning of the Eucharist.

We Catholics should be bittersweet about this revival.

Yes, we believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, we are likewise saddened so many of our fellow Catholics have lost the Eucharist’s true meaning, and so willingly walked away, allowing doubt to enter their minds about the true identity of the Eucharist. Maybe—just maybe—the purpose of those who have fallen away is to establish this revival and open all hearts to revere the Eucharist once more.

Jesus epitomizes God’s Universal Plan.

The Gospel today also has its complexities.

In this passage, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus to seek healing for her daughter, very similar to the healing of the centurion’s servant in Matthew’s Gospel (8:5-13). However, when dealing with the centurion, Jesus had agreed to go to the centurion’s home and cure the servant. In his humility, the centurion expresses that he’s not worthy of Jesus, and that Jesus need only give the command, and it will be done. The centurion shows great faith in the power of The Word alone. Jesus expresses amazement at the man’s faith and grants the request.

But that’s not the case with the Canaanite woman.

Initially, Jesus rebukes her, even using a derogatory expression by comparing her to dogs. However, the woman answers back in a humble, somewhat humorous manner, saying even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the Master’s table.

As with the centurion, Jesus praises her faith and then heals her daughter.

Perhaps Jesus didn’t expect this kind of faith to come from a pagan, or perhaps He was testing her faith. But two things stand out that I believe Jesus instantly recognized, but his disciples did not.

First, the woman’s address to Jesus had a deeper meaning. She called him, “Lord, son of David,” which according to Jewish tradition was the line from which the Messiah would come. Secondly, as a Canaanite, she was a historical enemy of the Jews but approached Him, nonetheless, indicating an urgent willingness to cross cultural boundaries. Both her words and actions showed great faith. What started as a rejection culminates in her daughter’s cure and reinforcement of her faith and yet another scriptural example today showing that anyone who approaches the Lord in faith will be accepted.

Therefore, whether we receive mercy through some sort of disobedience—as in Paul’s logic—or through desperation, as in the case of the Canaanite woman when we dare cross boundaries, it may be part of God’s plan, leading to the resurrection at the end of the age when all come to believe.

July 2023

Homily for July 22, 2023, 16th Week in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 In His patience, the Lord allows both weeds and wheat to grow together.

As you may recall, I enjoy gardening.

I have many gardens around my house, and although they are a lot of work, it’s my stress relief. I like getting my hands dirty and being outside, but mostly, I enjoy seeing the positive results of growing many plants and a variety of beautiful flowers and thus enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Over the years, because of my busy work and ministry, I don’t have the time to keep my gardens immaculate. Before, I used to landscape with mulch, trim the lawn around my gardens, and of course, tried to keep out invasive or aggressive weeds that always grew each year no matter how much effort I put forth to keep my gardens weed free.

One of my gardens I call my “seasonal garden.” It’s next to the road and my driveway as you turn into my house. There’s also a flagpole where my wife gives me different flags according to the seasons or holidays that I’ll put up, too. I put in a split-rail fence and put out potted flowers, which I hung on the fence and change out for the different seasons as well.

Over the years, I’ve planted different flowers and plants that mature throughout the different seasons which benefit bees, birds, and butterflies. So, in the Spring, I have white and yellow daffodils come up, and these are accented by purple hyacinths that cover the ground. I have cone flowers and rose bushes come up as lilies, and other different plants that blossom throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

In my attempts to be diligent in keeping out the unwanted weeds, I’d try to get a head start on the weeding as soon as the flowers and plants I wanted to grow began to break through the ground. However, in my attempt to get ahead of the game, I would inadvertently pull out flowers and plants that I wanted. So, I started allowing the weeds, the flowers. and my desired plants to grow together and mature to where I could easily identify what I wanted to keep, and what I wanted to remove. I also discovered many of the mature weeds were easier to pull out because I could get a good  hold of them, or if they were difficult, I could use a garden spade to break the soil and cut the root.

In my busyness, sometimes I wasn’t always able to even pull up the mature weeds, but you want to know what I discovered? Some weeds—or what I considered weeds—actually had a magnificent flower and added to the beauty of my garden. Some that I used to pull out were wild daisies that covered the ground very nicely. I had buttercups spreading throughout and Lady bells, and I even kept some milkweed for the monarch butterflies. Now, you do have to thin them out, so they won’t choke out the main plants, but these “weeds” benefit the garden because they help keep the soil from drying out. That’s why mulch is put down as it keeps the soil moist, so the plants don’t dry out.

If you drive by my house now, you won’t see immaculate landscaped gardens, but you will see many species of flowers that I used to consider weeds.

Well, I’m seeing the good in what many see as not good, and I compare it as the righteous and the unrighteous living together, but God gives each the opportunity to seek salvation.

Our Gospel today picks up right after last week’s parable of the Sower of the Seed. Just to refresh your memories, that parable was about accepting God’s Word, and how we prepare ourselves to receive it. Jesus is the Sower, and the seed is God’s Word!

Parables help us relate to the message through real-life events. Today’s parable  is no different as it relates a real-life event of pulling out weeds, so good seed can grow. However, we don’t see as God sees, and we don’t have the patience that God has, and in our zeal to eliminate the weeds, we sometimes pull out the good. Sometimes we need to wait and see how the weed turns out.

Jesus gives us today three more parables in terms we can understand to contemplate the heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a complicated, multifaceted mystery, but. Jesus gives us something tangible to grasp onto, so we can at least try to glimpse what the Heavenly Kingdom is all about.

All three parables today illustrate the same point: the amazing contrast between small beginnings of the kingdom and its marvelous expansion! You never know what the outcome is going to be until you exercise patience and realize there is some good in everything. The mustard seed is the smallest seed but produces a large plant that we would never expect just by looking at the seed. What is yeast, but a fungus, which most of us would associate with being bad. However, yeast added to dough is good because it leavens the dough causing the bread to rise, which gives it a light, fluffy texture and pleasant taste.

May the Spirit Assist Us in Our Weakness.

Our parable ends today again with a reference to the harvest, which I spoke about on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Do you remember? Jesus spoke about the harvest is ripe. But the laborers are few, so Jesus calls for his disciples to go forth and be those laborers to harvest those who would be open to the Word of God.

Jesus call us to do the same.

Here, Jesus mentions the harvest will be the end of age when the weeds will be separated from the wheat and thrown into the fiery furnace to be burned up. Our job as laborers is to bring out the good in what we think is a bad weed. God is patient, and He will wait to see how it all turns out and, in the end, God will be the final judge.

But there’s another question we must ask, even though we may be judged righteous: Did we do our part, as laborers of the harvest, to bring about the good from the bad? God calls upon us to do our part, because He is lenient, He is forgiving and loving, and He desires repentance for everyone.

So, we must do our part.

Our world is infiltrated with many bad weeds spread by the evil one under the guise of cultural trends which is cultivating immorality and self-absorption.

During this year of the Eucharistic Revival, we must attempt to weed out immorality and selfishness and promote the growth of morality, piety, and humility. We must remove the weeds, so the faithful who are being choked out can grow in the light of God and be nourished by the Eucharist!

June 2023

Homily for June 18, 2023, 11th Week in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 An Uneasy Feeling

I’m feeling somewhat unsettled and have been now for a few weeks. I’ve tried to put my finger on what’s causing this heavy feeling of discontent.

At first, I thought it was from work at the prison, which is in chaos right now. Staff shortages have caused many to be overworked with extra tasks or extra shifts being demanded of the officers. Morale is very poor, too. Many programs for the incarcerated were cancelled, which upsets them as well, resulting in them being locked in their cells instead of out in programs.

Perhaps it may be the many projects at home that I’ve been unable to attend because of other disruptions, and I feel behind in keeping up with things.

But as I read over the scriptures in preparation for my homily today, something occurred to me. It came with these words from the Gospel: “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.” This quote from Jesus rings so true today, probably more so now than three years ago, when we last read this particular Gospel in the Sunday scriptures.

If you think about it, three years ago we were at the beginning of COVID, which had shut everything down. There were no public Masses or public gatherings of any kind. Things were very distressed, and people were full of anxiety and fear. There was a need for God, and we were told to stay away.

That’s when I realized we’re in greater need now for God in our lives than three years ago.


Just take a hard, discerning look around. The world is in turmoil with immorality running rampant—set forth by “cultural trends.”

  • People trying to change what God has made instead of appreciating His gifts.
  • Disrespect of life through via more avenues of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide—pushing aside the elderly and the vulnerable.
  • Our government is in chaos. Elected officials are more preoccupied with their own agendas than with the people that they’re supposed to represent and putting more effort into digging up dirt on the opposing party than taking care of world issues to promote peace and unity. They can’t even agree to disagree!

Further, more and more people are turning their backs on God than three years ago, and the percentage of “nones” (i.e., people without a religious affiliation) has grown from ~25% in 2019 to 30% in 2023. Not to mention the shortage of vocations for the priesthood, deacons, religious life, and even our religious laypeople. This is but a few of the more major issues we’re facing.

A Chosen People, “A Holy Nation”

Our Gospel reading today comes after Jesus has just spent much time among the people and curing the sick of every disease and illness. His heart is filled with compassion as he looks around and sees the crowds looking for hope and reconciliation. He is moved with pity as they are like sheep without a shepherd.

That’s what we’re dealing with today! Our people are wandering away. They are the lost sheep, and Jesus is summoning us to become the laborers.

The reading from Exodus tells us God made the Israelite people a holy nation by rescuing them from slavery and oppression. They saw how God dealt with the Egyptians, and how He had rescue them.

Later, God gives the whole world his only begotten Son to reconcile all nations through the blood of Christ. St. Paul even draws our attention that this was done when we were a powerless and godless people, and that not only is it rare for someone to lay down their life for a just man, but even rarer for someone to have the courage to die for sinners.

But this very thing was done for us. . . .

And what is our response? To turn our backs on God.

However, there are a few who haven’t turned away, and I’m looking at them right now.

Jesus is summoning you now to become the laborers He needs us to go out and harvest the abundance. That is why we ready today of Him call the twelve disciples to send them out—but not initially to everyone—but only to those lost from the house of Israel. Go and collect those individuals first, and then we will have more laborers to go out after others.

This is our mission: To bring back the lost of our flock first, then with reinforcement, go out for the others. Christ did it for us, thus it’s the least we can do for God.

This past Friday, we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and on Saturday’s liturgy, we celebrated the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The USSCB asked for our country to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for everything going on in our nation.

We’ve been given many tools to help us as laborers of the faith. One of which is the Eucharistic Revival that we have now entered the second year of the three-year endeavor. The intent of the revival is focused on bringing back to the Eucharist those lost sheep who have fallen away. Revitalizing the Eucharist as the source and summit not only of our faith, but of our lives.

Another tool is Matthew Kelly’s book, Holy Moments, which one of our parish families gifted to our parish. This book helps us to discern encounters with others that could be holy moments providing the opportunities to put our faith into practice. Another book I read and would suggest is The Sign of the Cross by Bert Ghezzi. This book deepens our understanding of the Sign of the Cross that we as Catholic Christians make upon entering the Church or before praying. The author points out this sign is more powerful than we realize, and each time we make, it we acknowledge God.

These are just a couple examples where God gives tools to the faithful to help reap the harvest that Jesus calls us to do today.

God will make of us a holy nation once again, but only if we harken to His voice and keep His covenant will we be restored as His special people.

Homily for June 4, 2023, Trinity Sunday                

Deacon Dave LaFortune

It’s so good to see all of you today as we gather together to celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Let us begin in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, Who Is God . . . Exactly?

Very often, our celebrations throughout the liturgical year focus on what God has done.

At Christmas, we celebrate that God took on human flesh.

At Easter, we celebrate that Jesus was raised from the dead.

On the Solemnity of the Assumption each August, we celebrate that God brought the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, to heaven at the end of her earthly life.

All things God has done.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity—“Trinity Sunday”—we celebrate not only what God has done, but who God is.

So, who is God? God is a trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a trinity of love. In the opening pages of the Bible, there is a foreshadowing of the Trinity, when God says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). Today’s Opening Prayer for the Solemnity says God has “made known to the human race [this] wondrous mystery.”

The Trinity isn’t just a truth we attempt to study. No, the Trinity remains a mystery—one that we’ll only fully understand in the life to come. Despite its being a mystery, however, we can confidently profess our belief in the one and only God: our belief in the Father Almighty, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. All three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are worthy of adoration and glorified as three Persons, but only one God.

The venerable Fulton Sheen, the former Catholic bishop of Rochester and one-time televangelist, would say that just as the three angles of a triangle don’t make three separate triangles, there are likewise three persons in God but only one God.

Even though an eternal mystery, that does not mean we shouldn’t attempt to comprehend some aspect of the Trinity. There is still plenty we can say about the Trinity—even if words will never fully capture this mystery—and we can still speak about and celebrate who God is as a Trinity of persons.

Love Is the Center to Begin Comprehending the Trinity.

True love is always directed toward another. When two people love each other, the love isn’t just in one of them; rather, love must be between them, binding them together.

Anyone who’s been married for more than a few years knows what I’m talking about. The love shared between husband and wife is a love truly uniting them. Next Sunday, June 11th, my wife Trish and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage. The love we have for each other has truly united us on our journey and hopefully will continue to bind us together for many more years. If true love can do this on the human level, imagine what true love can do on the Divine level!

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

 We hear these words from St. John in this Sunday’s Gospel: God the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. This love isn’t only in the Father nor just in the Son; love is the mysterious bond joining the Father and Son. We call that mysterious bond of love the Holy Spirit. We can rightly say the Trinity is a relationship of love, revealed so we “might not perish, but might have eternal life.”

The Trinitarian God created us in His likeness, so you and I are created by love, in love, and for love. As we grow in appreciation of who God is, we grow in the understanding of who we are, as men and women created in the image of a God who is love. God gave us life because of His love for us, and God’s love sustains us at every moment.

Beginning in Baptism and in each of the sacraments, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” have been given to us, as St. Paul says in today’s Second Reading. Our God-given ability to love makes us distinct as humans and like God. Animals may seem to love, but they don’t love as humans do with the use of our mind and heart. We choose to love, even when it’s difficult, even when the “spark” seems to be gone, even in the midst of suffering.

Sin turns us in on ourselves. But love—God’s love, especially—orients us toward one another, toward God, toward our brother and sister, toward our neighbor.

My friends, on this Trinity Sunday, we’re reminded the Trinity is a relationship grounded in Love. We, too, are called to be people who live in relationships grounded in love. May we always give glory and praise forever to the one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Who is God? God is Love. Therefore, we commit ourselves to God and commit ourselves to love, each and every time we sign ourselves in the powerful name of the Trinity: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May 2023

Homily for May 22, 2023, the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)

 Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

     Proclaim the Good News!

The weekdays after the Ascension through the Saturday before Pentecost is a time of preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Scripture says, Jesus tells his disciples to go to Jerusalem and do not depart from there until receiving the “promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak, for in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles picks up from the first chapter of Acts that we heard on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord this past Thursday. The scene at the beginning of Acts summarizes the commission of the His disciples and focuses on three elements: the disciples are to be Jesus’ witnesses; they are to proclaim the Good News to all nations; and they will do so with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples truly made them Apostles—those sent on a mission to act with authority.”

We also know the Apostles were not the only ones gathered there, as we are told there were some women present, to include Our Blessed Mother, devoting themselves to prayer. John’s Gospel is partial to Mary, and his mention of her here has a deeper significance. Mary had already received the Holy Spirit, and being the mother of Christ, she was also present with this new community of believers as they embarked upon the birth of the Church.

The Hour Has Come

Beginning on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, our Gospel readings were from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. This is the beginning of the what is known as the Last Supper Discourse. In the beginning of Chapter 14, Jesus tells his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, but to have faith in God and have faith in Jesus also.

Today our Gospel reading is from Chapter 17, the conclusion of the Last Supper Discourse— known as the “high priestly prayer of Jesus.” Jesus begins the prayer with: “Father, the hour has come,” referencing the Paschal Mystery He is about to embark upon. This is in direct contrast to the miracle at Cana, the beginning of Jesus ministry, when He said His hour has not yet come, with the significance of that “coming hour” still a mystery.

Here, Jesus speaks as intercessor for all who have accepted the Word, directly addressing the Father for his disciples, both immediate and future. In my opinion, this prayer and the Our Father are the two most powerful prayers in the Gospels. In this prayer, Jesus addresses the Father directly in a profound intimacy between Himself and the Father—and on our behalf. Likewise, the Our Father is an intimate prayer between us and the Father. Jesus glorifies the Father in His priestly prayer, and we, too, give glory in the Our Father. God’s gift is eternal life, with us participating in that everlasting gift through the Eucharist.

Perhaps this prayer was meant to help His disciples accept their new mission. All have probably heard of the power of prayer—especially when many share that same prayer. This prayer gives us hope and strength in the mission we have accepted.

Our Commission, Too

The commission given to us won’t be easy. As witnesses, we will be subjected to suffering. But we rejoice in those sufferings because these unites us to Christ as we’re called to share in His sufferings, so as to also share in His glory.

The Apostolic task to be “my witnesses” takes on a twofold meaning: we belong to Jesus, and we will give testimony about Jesus. As witnesses, we not only give verbal testimony but also pattern our lives after Christ. Jesus’ words come not only as a command of discipleship, but also an assured promise since the command He gives us will be accomplished through that gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus doesn’t just wish for us to follow Him; rather, He now prays and asks us to be united with Him. As disciples, we must proclaim the Gospel to all nations that the Messiah has died and risen again, destroying death, and upon repentance, forgiveness is given. Further, we’re empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Mark Link, S. J., uses the analogy of a relay race in comparing the Ascension of the Lord. He says the Ascension is equivalent to passing the baton from one runner to another. As Jesus ascends, He passes the baton (i.e., the Church’s mission) to His disciples, and they in turn hand it off to the future disciples to carry on that commission. Today, we hold that baton, and it’s our responsibility to hand on the “missionary baton” to future disciples.

In closing, during these days between the Ascension and Pentecost, may we spend some time in prayer, preparing our hearts for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to carry out our apostolic commission.

May 14, 2023, Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you here as we celebrate the Sixth Sunday of Easter. Before I go any further, let me say Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and godmothers here today.

My mother was the person who first showed me that I was loved, and that I was called to love others as they are. Today we celebrate Mother’s Day and thank our moms for showing us what it means to love and be loved. The main point of my homily today is that we’re called to love one another.

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

“Go learn all you can about the author of the Fourth Gospel and then follow his example.”

Today’s Gospel focuses on Jesus’s promise to his disciples that he would ask the Father to send another Paraclete, who will be with us forever. The Holy Spirit would guide the disciples and enable them to proclaim the Truth to all whom the disciples would encounter.

This sending of the Holy Spirit is what we’ll focus on when we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost in a few weeks. Rather than talk about the promise of another Advocate, and how the Holy Spirit will impact our lives, let’s focus on the man who wrote today’s Gospel: St. John the Evangelist.

My interest in St. John the Evangelist goes back to when I entered the deacon formation program many years ago. My spiritual director back then was the Prior of Mount Savior Monastery, Fr. Martin.

One day, I shared with Fr. Martin my concerns about preaching homilies.

Fr. Martin looked at me and said, “Go learn all you can about the author of the Fourth Gospel and then follow his example.”

So, I began learning all I could about the Gospel of John, and the man who authored that beautiful Gospel.

St. John the Evangelist is a fascinating character. Tradition tells us he was the youngest of the Apostles. The brother of James and the son of Zebedee the Fisherman, John was a “Son of Thunder,” who had his mother ask the Lord if he and his brother could sit, with one on His right and the other on His left.

John was the Beloved Disciple, so close to the Lord that he rests his head on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper. John isn’t only blessed to be part of the Apostolic Band but is a member of the “inner circle” with the Lord, along with Peter and James. John was present at the crucial parts of Jesus’s earthly life—like the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus entrusted John to care for his mother—the Virgin Mother, Mary. Called to be an evangelist and divinely inspired to write, John would eventually write the fourth Gospel.

Further, John was the only Apostle who didn’t suffer martyrdom as did the other eleven. In the year 97 AD, the authorities’ attempted to stifle the last Apostle’s preaching, so John the Beloved Disciple was exiled to the island of Patmos, Greece. It’s on the isle of Patmos where John composed his Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation.

Toward the end of his life, it’s said that at every celebration of the Eucharist, the last Apostle would deliver the same homily. They say this wise man would stand, look at his congregation, and simply say, “My dear little children, let us love one another.”

Why would he do that? Why would John reiterate this rather simple statement again and again? I believe it is for one reason and one reason only: It’s easy to say but so very hard to do.

Not Called to Like but Love.

 How many times do we encounter people who claim to be “people persons”? It’s easy to love “people,” isn’t it? As a generic concept, possibly! But it’s downright hard to love individuals, especially those who annoy us, who have hurt us, or who have ideas and opinions radically different from ourselves.

Sadly, no matter what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, not everyone will like us.

But we’re not called to “like one another.”

We are called to love one another.

Our Lord Jesus says these words in the Gospel that we proclaim today:

“I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live, and you will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

 Recall the context in which the Lord says these powerful words—during the Last Supper. Before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection—when he gives us his True Body and Blood as a perpetual memorial in the Eucharist—it’s then that He doesn’t simply urge but commands His apostles to love one another.

The Eucharist we share at Holy Mass exemplifies God’s love for us. As He opens his arms wide on the Cross in a loving embrace—giving us his broken body and drenching us in his blood—we eat and drink deeply of God’s love.

When we receive Holy Communion, we’re called in our own limited, earthly way to share God’s love with everyone we encounter.

My friends, on this Mother’s Day, we thank our mothers for showing us what it means to love and be loved. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God’s love. May we always remember we’re not called to like everyone; rather, we are called to love them.

I’d like to end my homily with the words of St. John the Evangelist: “My dear little children, let us love one another.”

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

April 2023

April 30, 2023, Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

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

The Good Shepherd Calling Us—Then and Now

The Fourth Sunday of Easter can be called Good Shepherd Sunday. Today’s Gospel reading is from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. The first part of this chapter presents Jesus as The One whose voice his sheep know. The second part portrays Jesus as the shepherd who searches for his lost sheep.

Back in Jesus’ time, everyone knew about shepherds, their sheep, and how they interacted. The dynamics between the shepherd and flock were well known. Not so today. Few of us have watched shepherds tending sheep. To understand the full impact of the imagery Jesus used, we need to take note of a few points.

Back then, shepherds kept their sheep at night in sheepfolds—large circles of stones that penned in the sheep and likewise protected them from predators, such as wolves. There was a narrow opening to the sheepfold that let the sheep in and out. Every night, the shepherd would spread his bedroll across the sheepfold’s opening and sleep there. Since the only way to enter the sheepfold was by crossing over the shepherd, predators stayed away.

Additionally, there were times when sheep belonging to different shepherds would mix in with each other. But that didn’t pose a problem because the sheep recognized their shepherd’s voice and would follow only him. No need for colorful dyes on the sheep—voice recognition was enough.

The shepherds knew of verdant grazing fields, and so they’d walk ahead and lead the sheep to pastures to find good food. So long as they stayed in the flock, the sheep were safe. Sometimes, however, a sheep or two would stray and become lost. Being on their own, these lost sheep would be easy kills for wolves and other predators. When a sheep became lost, the good shepherd would leave the flock to search for the missing sheep.

In today’s Gospel, it’s important to remember Jesus is the good shepherd—and you and I are the sheep. Jesus tells us his sheep hear and follow Him because they recognize His voice.

So, my friends, do we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd, or are we so often distracted by noise–especially that produced by electronic diversions? You know what I mean: computers, cell phones, video games, etc. There’s no escaping all the noise! Outside noises bombard our lives and distract us from hearing our Lord’s voice.

The bottom line: We must distinguish “idle chatter” coming at us from the outside—misguiding us and often throwing us off center—from that true inner voice trying to keep us focused and on center.

We should ask ourselves: “Whose voice am I following?”

Some only listen to their own inner voice. Nobody, we tell ourselves, can tell me what to do, or what to believe. Others listen to the seductive whispers of the world. Still others pay little attention to any call other than their desires. We know many voices call us, and we need to be aware of those voices—where they come from, and where they’ll lead.

So, how can we discern the voice of our Good Shepherd? How does God speak to us?

The Church teaches that the Bible is the Word of God, and the Scriptures are one of the ways God communicates with us.

We need to expect God can reach us, but sadly, many people don’t.

But then, how can God communicate with us if we don’t think He can?

We must remember what Jesus tells us today: The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Further, the Lord always takes the initiative to speak to us! It’s the Lord who calls us into a relationship with Him.

But this relationship only comes about if we open ourselves to listen. If we’re deaf, then our relationship with God won’t happen. We need to be open, because listening in this sense means to be willing to take time to hear and speak with our Lord.

We ought not to be deaf to what God is sharing with us.

One way we learn to listen is when we pray. Prayer is both talking and listening to God. Prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture is a wonderful way of hearing the voice of God, hearing our Good Shepherd’s voice, and thus allowing God to truly speak to us.

Prayer is essential.

Prayer places our soul at the disposal of God.

Prayer allows us to reflect, to contemplate, to see and hear the actions and whisperings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we reflect, we gain insights—see things and people as God wants us to see them.

Is that not God calling us? God speaking to us?

The Holy Spirit is quite capable of inspiring our imaginations. If we don’t accept the Holy Spirit’s power to inspire our inner thoughts, then we’re saying God cannot or will not reach us. In silent attentiveness, we can hear the gentle whisperings of the Holy Spirit deep within us.

God also speaks to us in the beauty of creation—those moments when we’re filled with awe over nature’s beauty are times when God talks to us.

Then there is the example of good people—along with their words and their attitudes. These, too, are ways in which God communes with us.

Much depends upon our disposition toward God.

Do you really believe God is angry with you? That He wants to inflict punishment and suffering on you?

Or do you believe God loves you, and wants to free you from guilt, and leads you to do better, even wonderful, things?

Your attitude controls what you hear and what you do not hear.

Is God really silent or are you deaf to His voice?

Surely, each of us has been like a wandering, lost sheep. If we’re fixated on that, and feel totally lost, then we won’t see our Good Shepherd coming after us to carry us on His shoulders back to the fold from which we have wandered.

Do you think God cares for you?

Do you think God can reach you?

If so, then you’ll understand what today’s Gospel is telling you.

But that understanding is only the beginning.

What is necessary is for you to allow God to find you, to let God tell you of His love for you, and then let Him carry you back to where you belong.

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

April 2, 2023, Homily for Palm Sunday (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Jesus is the Fulfillment

Today, we enter Holy Week, the last phase of the Lenten season. The Procession Gospel from Mathew announces the triumphal entry of the “master” into Jerusalem. Mathew uses the word kyrios—a Greek word that can also mean “lord,” a title often used for authority and divinity.  Further, Mathew is also the only Synoptic Gospel that explicitly quotes the prophet Zechariah (9:9), noting these words are now fulfilled in Jesus:

“Say to daughter Zion, behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”

 As Jesus enters the city, the people remember Zechariah’s words, and pay Jesus homage by shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Now, “hosanna” is not expressing praise—unlike a hallelujah—but more rather like a plea.

So, what’s the difference between hosanna and hallelujah?

  • Hosanna is our plea for God to save us.
  • Hallelujah expresses our praise to the Lord for the hope of salvation and exaltation.

 Hosanna is often translated as, “Please save us.”  It’s a Greek word “ὡσαννά” that most scholars believe is the transliteration of two Hebrew words- יָשַׁע- “yasha” which means “to save or deliver” and אָנּאָ – “anna” which means, “Please, I beseech.”

Other scholars contend hosanna’s Hebrew roots come from a different verb tense of “yasha” הוֹשַׁ֣ע which means “to cause or bring about salvation.” In this sense, hosanna becomes a command to bring about or cause salvation. The people who were celebrating Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem were quoting Psalm 118:25-26: “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Not Like Any Other King

To the Roman Empire, seeing the crowd’s reaction to this man hailed as king and liberator creates a highly volatile situation. Not to mention that the Pharisees and High Priests were already plotting against Jesus. This worked to their advantage.

But Jesus doesn’t come into Jerusalem as a mighty king but rather as a humble servant. As he enters Jerusalem, he does so upon beasts of burden—an ass and a colt. The ass is the adult beast of burden while the colt is its foal.

He came not upon majestic animals, such as horses ridden by soldiers or royalty.

Nor upon camels, ridden by wise men or royal entourages when traveling to distant places.

Rather, upon beasts of humility—those of the working class—the carpenter’s son.

This passage from Isaiah today is the third of four poems from the “servant songs” as these are commonly known. The servant is unnamed, but Christianity sees this as a reference to Jesus, who fulfills the prophecy.

However, many scholars also see the servant as a parallel of an ideal image, embodying what is expected from those in covenant with the Lord by embracing humility and hearing and obeying God’s word. We’re constantly reminded that we, too, must pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.

We will also be exposed to humiliation, rejection, suffering, and possibly even death in carrying out our call to discipleship.

That is why we must enter Holy Week fully and participate in the mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion. Only when we understand what and why Jesus went through what he did can we understand our Christianity. This is why I encourage you to participate in the liturgies of the Sacred Tridium. When we walk with Christ in His Passion, it sheds more light on the Easter Resurrection.

So, let us celebrate today!

Jesus has entered the Holy City to do God’s will out of love for us. As the Holy Week progresses, Jesus will embrace his Passion.

But He can’t do it alone, just as we cannot live out our lives as Christians alone.

We need Christ and God to help us, and Jesus needs God and us to be with Him.

Thus, let us walk together with Christ. 

March 2023

March 19, 2023, The Fourth Sunday of Lent  

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you here today as we gather to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent. I hope this Lenten season has helped you grow deeper in your relationship with God and each other.

So, let us begin: In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Not as Man Sees, But as God Sees

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Laetare”  or “Rejoice” Sunday, expressing the Church’s joyful anticipation of our Lord’s Resurrection. The Church’s joy is reflected in the color of the liturgical vestments that Fr. Pat and I are wearing today. Today’s liturgical color is rose, or some would say pink. I hope you like them!

Whenever I prepare a homily, I always read the scripture readings a few times to see what word or sentence jumps out at me.

In today’s first reading, the sentence that jumped out was: “Not as man sees, does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

The point: God sees into our hearts by observing how we act, because our actions reflect the condition of our hearts.

If we have hard hearts, we act selfishly, are full of pride, and treat our neighbor with disdain, because we think our neighbor is inferior or unimportant.

If we have open and loving hearts, then we will act selflessly, treat others with dignity, and recognize their self-worth. In short, we’ll treat others the way Jesus treated the people whom He encountered.

We’re challenged today to see others the way God sees them, by looking into their hearts and seeing if their actions reflect the heart of Jesus. During this Lenten season, if you have trouble seeing others the way God does, ask God to adjust your vision to see as He sees.

In today’s long Gospel about the blind man cured by Jesus, the part of the story that really jumped out was when Jesus heard that the religious leaders had thrown the blind-now-cured man out.

Jesus found and asked the formerly blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man”?

The cured man responded, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said, “You have seen him—the one speaking with you is he.”

And the man replied, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped him.

The once-blind man found Jesus, and his life changed forever. Through his encounter with Jesus, the man cured of his blindness could say, “Yes, Lord, I do believe!”

 Today, we’re asked that same question: Do you believe in the Son of Man? Do you believe in Jesus?

 If you answered yes (and I truly hope you did), then the next question is: How has your encounter with the Son of God—Jesus the Christ—changed your life?

When we say Jesus has changed our lives, we realize that we’ve been created by God—adopted as God’s chosen children—and our role is to be God’s representatives in our community and the world.

We’re called to:

  • “Stand out” by the way we show love and concern for others.
  • Promote justice and peace, setting an example of what it means to live according to God’s way.
  • Discipleship, via a disciplined life of prayer, engaging in the study of God’s Word, and participating in worship with our fellow Christians.
  • Be that voice in the crowd for the voiceless, sticking up for those who’ve been wronged.
  • Confess that Christ in our lives makes a difference.

It’s easy to miss the point of what it means to be Christian, end up “blending in,” and fail to become a powerful influence to bring about positive changes in people’s lives and our world.

Lent is a good time to take stock of how our blindness affect us, see just how blind we’ve been to Jesus and His call to discipleship, and realize how often we’ve preferred to stay blind.

Lent is also a time to renew our vision and fix our eyes on the Savior who came so we can be assured of forgiveness during those times when Jesus came to us through His word, and we were too blind to see, and too deaf to hear, Him calling us to action—when we refused to allow our encounter with Jesus to really make a difference in our lives.

In a few minutes, we’ll have the opportunity to approach the table of the Lord to receive the Body of Christ. When we do, let us take the opportunity to ask God to heal our blindness and give us the grace to become the disciples that God calls us to be.

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

March 13, 2023, Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

 Not Born Again But From Above

Last week, we heard Father Pat reference “spiritual hearing” from the line “Listen to him” in the Gospel of Matthew of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

This week, water becomes our reference point as we hear from the Gospel of John of Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan women at the well of Jacob. It doesn’t deal with just the physical aspects of water to quench our thirst and cleanse us when we’re dirty, but rather the spiritual aspects of the life-giving water that will forever quench our thirst and cleanse us of our sins.

The meeting with the Samaritan women comes early in the Gospel of John, only a few days after Jesus embarks upon his ministry. After Jesus called and assembled his disciples, they traveled to Cana for the wedding, where Jesus performs his first miracle of changing the water into wine. Afterward, he travels to Jerusalem, where he cleanses the temple. Later that night, Jesus encounters the Pharisee Nicodemus. During the meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus teaches Nicodemus about being born “from above,” which requires not the physical birth, but the birth of water and spirit, which we know as Baptism.

The word “born” in the context of being children of God means they accept who Jesus is—”the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.” This is from Chapter 1 of John, speaking of John the Baptist, who is not the Light, but the one who came to testify to the Light, and that those who accept the testimony would believe in Jesus, who gives the power to become children of God.

When talking with Nicodemus, Jesus says that Nicodemus must be born “anothen,” the Greek word meaning both “from above and again.” Nicodemus misunderstands as being “born again,” which is impossible, but being born “from above” is very much a reality and God’s desire for all.

The Hour is Coming

 Jesus then leaves for the region of Judea with his disciples in tow, where he spends time baptizing. However, scripture notes Jesus only baptizes his disciples, so even the disciples had to be “born from above.”

This brings us to Jesus and the disciples leaving for Galilee, in which they pass through Samaria. Now, we’ve heard before that the Hasidic Jews, who piously adhered to the Law, did not get along with the people of Samaria, because the Samaritans didn’t follow all the Laws and precepts of the Hasidic Jews. Rather than pass through Samaria, Hasidic Jews would go around Samaria, even if it meant extra days of travel.

But Jesus passes through Samaria and thus the encounter at the well.

At first, this Samaritan woman who Jesus meets at the well doesn’t understand him. However, the more Jesus speaks to her, the more she becomes open to the truth—especially after Jesus tells of her infidelities.

She first recognizes Jesus as a “man of God”—a prophet. In further conversation, Jesus tells her the “hour is coming” when there will be no difference in where you worship—neither her mountain nor Jerusalem (again a contentious point)—but will consist of how you worship. True believers, those that accept the testimony of Christ, will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.

And the truth points to Jesus. When his works are accomplished upon earth, and He ascends to his rightful place, He will send the Holy Spirit, i.e., the living water.

The woman then speaks of a belief shared by both the Jews and Samaritans, which is the Messiah. This is where Jesus has been leading her to throughout this entire encounter—the truth and conversion. She becomes a believer and the first witness and disciple besides the Apostles. She then goes away to testify to the truth and lead others to Christ, which is still our commission today.

God Is There for Us

Today’s first reading from Exodus gives an example of how God will provide for us even when we grumble and put Him to the test. I think we’ve all become a little hard of heart and rebellious at times in our lives and maybe even without the extreme circumstances of the Israelites, whose desert journey tells of a dire need we take for granted, but yet so necessary for survival.

No, it isn’t water I’m speaking about but our dependence upon God.

Further, it proves a point: God will be there for us regardless.

Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us that justification, and being placed in the right relationship with God and all things, doesn’t come from our accomplishments—however righteous they may be—but only through divine grace.

Grace is translated from the Greek word “charis,” which literally means gift. Our faith calls us to accept and respond to God’s gift as it is, well, a gift.

The Hasidic Jews, no matter how pious in observing the Laws, don’t justify themselves over the Samaritans, who didn’t follow the letter of the Law. In truth, it was the Samaritan woman who got it right by accepting the truth, giving testimony, and then passing it on.

Importantly, we have something our biblical forefathers and foremothers didn’t have—and that is the Body and Blood of Christ, along with the water and Spirit. We’ve been given so much more in testimony and in the Sacraments of Baptism (water and Spirit), Confirmation (Spirit and testimony) and Eucharist (Body and Blood).

So, during this Lenten journey, our proverbial forty days in the desert, how will we respond? With a hardness of heart and rebellion, or embracing the truth and conversion?

Feb 2023

February 26, 2023, First Sunday of Lent      

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune             

Hello everyone. It’s so good to see you as we celebrate together the First Sunday of Lent.

Ample Opportunity

Lent is an opportunity for each of us to grow deeper in our relationship with God, to become the disciples God calls each of us to be.

So, let us begin, in the name of the Farther, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

It’s a question many will get asked these next few days.

If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol, sweets, and cigarettes is the way to go.

But if you want to change your heart, a harder fasting is needed. A harder fast will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free. So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Pope Francis suggests that even more than sweets or alcohol, we fast from indifference toward others.

In his annual Lenten message, in 2021, the Pope said,  “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians.”

How might we fast from indifference toward God and others?

Pope Francis tells us how:

  • Fast from hurting words … and say kind words
  • Fast from sadness … and be filled with gratitude
  • Fast from anger … and be filled with patience
  • Fast from pessimism … and be filled with hope
  • Fast from worries … and have trust in God
  • Fast from complaints … and contemplate simplicity
  • Fast from pressures … and be prayerful
  • Fast from bitterness … and fill your hearts with joy
  • Fast from selfishness … and be compassionate to others
  • Fast from grudges … and be reconciled
  • Fast from words … and be silent, so you can listen!

During this season of lent, let’s pray God will shower us with the grace we need to truly fast from indifference from God and others and enable each of us to become the disciples God has called us to be.

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

February 5, 2023 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

Hello, everyone. It’s so good to see you today as we gather to celebrate the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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

“Are you a practicing Catholic?”

For over 10 years, I served as the Pastoral Administrator for St. John Vianney Parish in Bath and Hammondsport. In that role, I often met with young couples who wanted to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in one of our church sites. Most couples whom I met with wanted to get married at St. Gabriel’s Church in Hammondsport because they’d already booked their wedding reception at one of the local wineries.

One of the questions I’d ask the couple was: “Are you both practicing Catholics?”

After a rather long pause, I would often hear something like: “Well, we don’t get to Church as often as we should. We try to attend Mass at least once a month, but sometimes we’re unable to. We do try to attend Mass at least on Christmas and Easter.”

It was clear from their response they thought I was asking if they attended Church every weekend.

And they were partly correct—I did want to know how consistently they attended Mass.

However, attending Mass, as necessary and praiseworthy as that is, is not the only thing I was looking for when asking, “Are you a practicing Catholic?”

One possible answer to that question is what today’s scripture readings are about.

How would you answer that question?

I think we’d all agree participating in Mass each week is a very important part of what it means to be a practicing Catholic. Yes, when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we praise the God who loves us. At the beginning of Mass, we pray for God’s forgiveness for our sins and then are fed by God’s Words as we hear the Scripture readings proclaimed in our midst.

Hopefully, the homily will help open God’s Word and help us apply God’s Word to our daily lives. As we hear the priest proclaim the Eucharistic Prayers, we join our prayers to his as we offer praise to God.

Then the moment comes when we are fed by the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receiving the Body of Christ, we receive the grace to be the disciples God has called us to be.

Finally, our Mass ends with the final blessing from the priest and the proclamation of the Deacon who tells us: “Our Mass has ended. Go in peace to love and serve our Lord.”

Yes, participating in Mass each week is a very important part of what it means to be a practicing Catholic, but we’d be missing the boat if we think that is all we mean by saying we are “practicing Catholics.”

Today’s Gospel reading calls us to be the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” Our Gospel ends today with Jesus saying, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

How does our light shine before others?

The answer to that question is found in today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah. In that first reading, the Lord tells us: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”

So, here we are in 2023. How do we respond to the Isaiah’s challenge? Where can we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked?

I know it’s not always easy to address the needs of the poor in our midst, but I’d like to suggest how we might.

How can we feed the hungry? One way would be to donate food to the food banks in our area. I know the food bank run by Catholic Charities in Bath is always looking for food donations. I’m sure the same is true for the food bank in Corning. From time to time, our parish holds a food drive, asking for canned foods donations. The next time you hear our parish is having a food drive, bring some cans of food.

Another way we can feed the hungry is by becoming a volunteer with the Meals on Wheels program, which is always looking for help, especially as we move beyond the COVID pandemic.

Finally, if someone knocks on your door asking for food, give them something to eat. When I was the pastoral administrator in Bath, I would often have people knock on the door of the parish office asking for food. When possible, I’d take the person to the Chat A While restaurant and buy them a meal.

In terms of giving shelter to the homeless, Catholic Charities has a program where they provide a hotel room to a homeless person for a couple of nights. That program is expensive, and I know Catholic Charities appreciates monetary donations to allow them to help the homeless.

When it comes to clothing the naked, how many of us have clothes in our closets that we haven’t worn in over a year? We can help “clothe the naked” by donating these clothes to shelters and clothing bins that you often see in the parking lots of different churches. During these cold winter days, there are many school children who don’t have warm coats to wear. Ask your teacher friends if they know a student who could really use a warm coat. My daughter, Ellen, works with special education kids, many of whom come from very poor families. Ellen is always sharing stories of her students’ clothing needs. Many of her friends donate warm jackets and other articles of clothing to these children in need.

Thus, if we keep our ears open to the needs of the poor, we can find ways to respond. In responding, we let our light—the light of Christ—shine before others. And in doing so, we give glory to our heavenly Father.

So, what does it mean to be a practicing Catholic?

Yes, part of the answer involves participating in Mass each week. The other 90% involves responding to the invitation at the end of mass to: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

We love and serve the Lord by helping each know God loves them. We do this by putting the words of Isaiah into practice:

  • We find ways to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked.
  • We follow the command of Jesus, in today’s Gospel: “Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

As we prepare to come before the table of the Lord to receive the Body of Christ, let’s ask our heavenly Father to shower us with the grace so we may be the disciples He calls us to be.

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

January 2023