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 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 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?
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.
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.