True Charity is a Fire that will Divide

Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
August 17-18, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sat 5:30 PM; Sun 8:00 AM, 5:30 PM
St. Francis, Fisher – Sun 10:00 AM

Focus:              True charity is a fire that will divide.
Function:         Be a fork in the road

fork in road.jpg

Father, make of me a crisis man.
Bring those I contact to decision.
Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in me.[1] 

This prayer by the evangelist and martyr Jim Elliot,
an evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador,
hung outside of my classmate Mark’s door
when we were in the seminary.

Mark was a crisis man,
a man of conviction,
a man set on fire with the love of God.

The fire of divine love that raged in his heart was a dividing fire,
a fire that called me out on a few occasions
and made me realize
where I was compromising in my own discipleship:

The fire of his silence after I had spoken an uncharitable word about another classmate…

The fire of seeing him reading his Bible at the end of his early morning holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, when I was late for mine…

The fire of his courage to stand up for what was right even if it was unpopular to do so…

Father, make of me a crisis man.
Bring those I contact to decision.
Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in me.

Our God is a consuming fire,
a devouring fire.

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!

The message of the Gospel is meant to rid us of every burden and sin that clings to us.
It is a burning fire,
a purifying fire,
a fire that clears away the dead so that new life can spring up.

The Church’s message is Jesus’ message, and that message is meant to challenge us.
A “get along attitude” is not the attitude of the Gospel.

Charity, divine charity, is the message of the Gospel.

And true Charity is a fire that will divide.

Division is not the intention of charity, but true charity will cause division at times. And that is OK.  In fact, it is necessary.

Pope Benedict XVI:
If the Church simply aims to avoid conflict,
merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere,
then her real message can no longer make any impact.
For this message is in fact there
precisely in order to conflict with our behavior,
to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth.
Truth does not come cheap.  It makes demands, and it also burns.

True charity is not a bland indifferentism that accepts everything a person says.

True charity is a love that convicts the heart,
a love,
a passion,
that wills the good of the other.

True charity is a love, a choice,
to be for someone.

True charity is the passionate opposition
to that which works evil in the life of the beloved.

That evil must be burned away. It must be burned away by the Word of Truth which must be spoken.

If you want to see how charity divides, pick any issue that has to do with the dignity of the human person and speak the truth of the Church’s teaching to that issue. Have a conversation and speak the truth
in charity,
in love,
out of care for the true good of the other person,
to the issue of:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Euthanasia
  • The death penalty
  • Immigration
  • What marriage is and what marriage is not
  • Living together outside of the sacrament of marriage
  • Gender issues

To speak a word of love is to speak a fiery word.

It is to speak not my word,
but the word of God
in this or that situation,
and to allow that word to clear out all that is opposed to it.

To be on fire with the love of God is to be a man or woman of conviction,
a man or woman who is convicted by the love of Jesus for me and for you,
a conviction that causes me to stand up for what is right and to face with courage what is wrong,
to stand up and to face it because of my love for God and because of God’s love for you.

True charity calls us to be men and women of integrity, truth, and goodness,
men and women on fire with the love of God for souls,
disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to cast a fire on the earth!

Jesus came to cast a fire upon the earth,
and he says that this fire will cause division.

True Charity is a fire that will divide.

To be for one thing is necessarily to be against another.[2]
To turn toward one thing, it is necessary to turn away from something else.

To face the East is to have your back to the West.
To turn to the Good is to turn away from Evil.

We now come to this Eucharist, and we turn toward Christ.

We turn the One who came to cast a fire on the earth.
We come to our God who is a consuming fire.

In consuming him, we are to allow him to consume us.

In the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati:
Feed on this Bread of the Angels
from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles,
the struggles against passions and against all adversities,
because Jesus Christ has promised
to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist,
eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it. 

And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire,
then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God
who has called you to be part of his flock
and you will enjoy that peace
which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted.
Because true happiness…does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.[3]

My classmate Mark allowed Christ to consume him,
and Mark’s life became a fork in the road that compelled me to turn more toward Christ.

So too for you.

If you come forward to consume him and allow him to consume you,
his divine fire will rage within you
he will make of your life
a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in you.

[1] Prayer by Jim Elliot.

[2] Bishop Robert Barron, Homily for August 18, 2019.

[3] Deeter, Rev. Timothy E and Christine M Wohar, eds., Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family (Staten Island, NY: Fathers and Brothers of the Society of St. Paul, 2008), 129.

Faith Pushes Us Forward on Our Pilgrimage

Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
August 6-7, 2016
St. Philip’s Bemidji – 5:30 PM; 7:30 AM; 9:00 AM

August 11, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 AM; 10:00 AM

Focus:              Faith pushes us forward on our pilgrimage.
Function:        Take the next step.


It is good to be with you again. As you may know, three weeks ago I left for a pilgrimage to Spain to walk “el Camino de Santiago,” or “The Way of Saint James.”

The tradition holds that, after the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, St. James evangelized Spain. In the 9th century, a shepherd discovered the tomb containing his bones and, in time, a Church was built over the site.  It became a popular pilgrimage site, and there are paths beginning in France that lead across Northern Spain, ending at the Cathedral in Santiago.  This became known as the Camino, which is Spanish for “the Way” of Saint James.  Many, many pilgrims walk the Camino each year as a pilgrimage.  Some start in France and spend 4-5 weeks walking the 775 kms to reach the Cathedral.  Our group started in Sarria, Spain, and walked the last 115 kms in 6 days.

When we arrived in Sarria, we had a rest day before we started walking. I remember walking through town.  It was an unsettling experience.  I didn’t understand the language very well.  The surroundings were unfamiliar.  I wasn’t entirely sure where I was on the map.  The Cathedral seemed so far away.  I was making this pilgrimage with a group, and only for 6 days.  I began to think of people who made this pilgrimage by themselves.  It seemed like such a daunting undertaking.  If I’m honest, I have to admit that some fear set in – fear that would have discouraged me from starting out on the journey had I been alone – fear that would have taken some faith and courage to overcome.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Faith led Abraham, our father in faith, to leave his home and all that was familiar and to set out for a far-away land that the Lord had promised to give him. He had the strength and courage to leave because he had faith in the God who had made the promise.  Even though he could not see where he was going, he had a real faith that he would arrive in the land that was promised to him.


The next day, when we started out on our pilgrimage, we came across the first of many granite markers we would see. These markers had a yellow arrow that pointed to the path and indicated how far we were from the Cathedral.  As we walked, we kept our eyes open for the next marker.  They were everywhere. They were the evidence of our destination, the Cathedral, which we could not see.  By following the path that the markers laid out for us, we had faith that we would realize – that we would come to see – the Cathedral that we hoped that we would see.  The markers with their yellow arrows gave us faith and hope that we were going in the right direction. Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

A pilgrimage is not always easy. Sometimes things don’t go as we had planned. Sometimes there are blisters – painful, nasty blisters.  We walked 14 miles the first day.  At the end of that day, my friend Deacon Jerry had 4 blisters on the bottom of his feet.  He rested his feet that afternoon, applied some moleskin to them, and set out with us the next day.  We walked another 14 miles, and Jerry had a couple of more blisters at the end of that day.  He rested again and applied some more moleskin.  Day 3 was a shorter walk – only 8 miles.  By the end of that day, Jerry was in agony.  He could hardly walk.

When we got to the hotel, someone in our group asked the clerk if there was anyone who would be able to look at his blisters and treat them properly. The clerk contacted a massage therapist who often visited pilgrims on the way.  Ludi arrived at the hotel in minutes, took one look at his feet, and said he needed to have a doctor look at them.  She then drove us to the hospital in her own car and then waited with us for over an hour while they treated his blisters.  She then drove us back to the hotel, and adamantly refused to take any money for her time.  “No, no, no, you are my friends.”

Pope Francis has said that “Faith is not a light that scatters all our darkness, but a lamp that guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.” In other words, faith does not light up the whole path so that we can see the destination, but it is just bright enough to help us see the next step we should take.  Faith does not remove the darkness of suffering, but it accompanies us in the darkness.  The light of Faith shines brightly when the darkness is great.  In the hour of trial, faith brings light.  The name Ludi means “light”, “one who is full of light.”  Ludi was, indeed, a great light for us on the Way.


Deacon Jerry had to skip 2 days of the pilgrimage, but was able to rejoin us for the final day. After 6 days and 76 miles of following the yellow arrows on the granite markers, we finally reached the Cathedral in Santiago.  They yellow arrows had pushed us forward on our pilgrimage, and by following them, one by one, one after another, we reached our destination.

Brothers and sisters, life is a pilgrimage. We are journeying toward a destination – the heavenly Jerusalem – the Kingdom of Heaven where Christ, the premier pilgrim, has gone before to mark the way for us.  He blazed the trail and has left markers along the path so that we can follow where He has gone.


He has left us yellow arrows in the Commandments that show us how to live – where to walk – so that we do not stray from the path that leads to eternal life. Wide is the road that leads to destruction and narrow the way that leads to the Kingdom of God, but the command of the Lord is clear, giving light to the eye, so that we can see the path we should follow.

He has left us the Eucharist – the Mass – as the Memorial of his Sacrifice to nourish and strengthen us on our journey and to keep us on the path to eternal life – the Memorial which we do in remembrance of Him who made us the great promise: “I am going to prepare a place for you…” Our faith in what God will do is strengthened when we remember what God has done.


He has given us friends and family – fellow pilgrims along the way – some of whom are ahead of us – who know the way because they can see the next marker on the horizon when we do not yet know where we are going.

Life is a journey. Life is a pilgrimage.  There are hills and valleys.  There are blisters on our feet.  There are fellow pilgrims along the Way.  There are markers pointing out the way we should go even though we may not yet see the destination.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Faith pushes us forward on our pilgrimage.

Have faith, take the next step, and look for the next marker.

And when the journey is over, we will have a great story to tell.

cathedral - santiago

Cathedral of Saint James (“Santiago”)


The main altar inside the Cathedral


The tomb of Saint James in the crypt of the Cathedral


So Many Things Don’t Matter to God. Some Things Do.

Homily for 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
August 3-4, 2019
St. Lawrence, Mentor – Sat 7:30 PM; Sun 10:30 AM
St. Joseph, Fertile – Sun 8:30 AM
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sun 5:30 PM

Focus:              So many things don’t matter to God
Function:        Seek what matters to God


DL Moody (1800’s preacher): Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.

 So many things don’t matter to God

  • Your hair color
  • The car you drive
  • Sports results
  • The plot of the latest TV show
  • The latest drama on social media
  • Your job title
  • Vanity – having my ego stoked
  • Money, possessions

So many things don’t matter to God

Some things matter greatly to God:

  • Relationships
  • Quantity time
  • Virtue: the disposition to love and to live in right relationship with others. Humility, Patience, Generosity, Gratitude, Diligence, Discipline, Temperance, Chastity.
  • Learning to love – learning to make a gift of yourself to others
  • Loving God and Loving others: union with God and union with others. PURPOSE – THIS IS WHY YOU EXIST. God made us for him.
  • Prayer, which fosters and strengthens your relationship with God
  • Repentance: “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”
  • Eternity – our eternal salvation

So many things don’t matter to God.

Some things matter greatly to God.

Holiness: transforming our desires so that “what matters to me is what matters to God.”
To advance along the path of holiness is to stop chasing what matters to me and to start chasing what matters to God.

In your own life, how do you know what matters to God?

The gospel gives us a clue.
The gospel puts it into perspective.

The man in the gospel chased things that did not matter to God. He had been given all of these riches, all of these good things.  Instead of emptying his barns and making a gift of what he had to others, he stored them up for himself so that he could rest on his laurels.

And that very night his life was demanded of him.

How do you know what matters to God?

Here’s the test:
If your life was demanded of you tonight, what will you wish you would have done?

Recently I listened to a talk where the speaker likened how old you are to the time of day.
If you are 15 years old, it’s 10:25 AM.
If you are 20 years old, it’s 11:34 AM.
If you are 25 years old, it’s 12:42 PM – just after lunch.
If you are 35 years old, it’s 3:00 PM.
If you are 45 years old, it’s 5:15 PM.
If you are 50 years old, it’s 6:25 PM.
If you are 70 years old, it’s 11:00 PM.

It puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? I thought I had more time…

Are you chasing what matters to God?  Or are you chasing what matters to you?  When you get to the end of your life, you will wish you had chased what mattered to God, because what matters to God is what will ultimately matter to us in the end.

Cardinal Francis George: The only things you take with you in the life to come are the things you’ve given away on earth.

Bishop Robert Barron: You’ll have in the heavenly realm nothing other than the love you’ve cultivated here below.

The man in the gospel would not give his life away, so his life was demanded of him.

John Paul II: Man will not fully find himself until he learns to make a sincere gift of himself.

Jesus: He who loses his life for my sake will find it.

We are meant to give our lives away.

My work in the Office of Vocations with the Diocese of Crookston: walking with guys discerning a vocation to the priesthood. It’s so often the same.  “I think this is what God wants.  It’s not what I want”

To the infinite call of God, man must add his finite yes.

God empties himself in the call to the man, man must empty himself so that he can receive that call.

The man being called to the priesthood must learn to want for himself what God wants for him.

The man must die to himself, must empty himself, in order to be filled with what God desires to give.

It’s a painful thing to give up what you want, but once you do, you find that really you wanted what God wanted for you all along.

State of things in the Diocese.  It takes 6-8 years to journey through seminary. 15 of our 35 active priests eligible to retire in that time.  We have 4 men in seminary.  God will provide.  This is not a cause for despair, but it is a cause to ask ourselves if we are doing our part, if we are doing all that we can.

God is still calling, but the men he is calling may not want what God wants.  To get to that point – they need your help.

They need you to empty yourself of your riches so that they can discover what God wants for them, and ultimately, what we want for them – to realize their vocations as priests.

Will you give of the riches of your encouragement, speaking that word that you’d rather hold in because you don’t know how it will be received?

Will you pour out the gift of your prayers and the sacrifice of your time? In the words of your pastor: “How can we expect a man to give his whole life in service to God’s people when we will not give an hour a week before the Blessed Sacrament praying for his vocation?”

Brothers and sisters,
The goal of life is not to fill your barn.
The goal of life is to empty your barn,
to empty it so that you have room to receive what God wishes to give you: life to the full on this earth and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let me say it again.

What matters to God is not that you fill your barn.
What matters to God is that you empty your barn so that he can fill it with what he wants to give you.

What ultimately matters to God? You.  He emptied himself for you.

What does he want to give you?
His very self (Crucifix)

What does he want to give you?
His very self (Eucharist/altar)

He emptied himself for you.
Will you empty yourself for him?

There is Need of Only One Thing

Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
July 21, 2019
St. Francis, Fisher – 8:00 AM; Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM

Focus:               There is Need of Only One Thing
Function:         Listen to Him.


Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Johannes Vermeer
ca. 1655

Unum Est Necessarium…

There is need of only One Thing…

In an attempt to become more focused and more organized, I recently purchased a new planner. It has everything:

A place to list my goals for the upcoming year and to outline my next steps for each goal

A monthly calendar so that I can see my big commitments that are coming up

A weekly preview so that I can look ahead to the next week and see what must get done this week, and a place to record my weekly “big three” – three items that I need to accomplish this week to advance my goals for the year

Daily pages that list my schedule for today, my “big three” for today, my miscellaneous tasks that will crop up during the week.

At the heart of this planner is the weekly preview. Sit down at the end of each week, review the previous week, and look ahead to the next week.  Plan it out.  What did I accomplish last week?  Did I focus on what was essential?  Why or why not?  Look ahead to next week.  Where do I have blocks of time?  Plan what to do with that time, so that when it comes I don’t spin my wheels doing the mundane but rather focus on the essential.  Focus on the One Thing rather than on the many things that distract me from the One Thing.

There is need of only One Thing…

This week I ran across a book that I ordered during my seminary years. The book is called “The One Thing”.  It’s a business book.  The premise of the book is that the many things I could do should never be at the mercy of the One Thing that I should do. Successful people know what their “One Thing” is and they focus all of their energy into that One Thing.  Often it’s one small thing that pays big dividends over time.  At the beginning of the book is a Russian Proverb: If you chase 2 rabbits, you will not catch either one. In other words, focus on the One Thing…

There is need of only one thing…

Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.

Many things vie for our attention and our energy. Often they are good things.  Providing hospitality for a guest who is the Son of God is certainly a task worthy of our energy.  And yet we can get so caught up in needing to have everything perfect that we miss out on the person right in front of us.

It is important to provide for the material needs of the person in front of us, but what about their spiritual needs? The need to be heard, the need for an encounter, the need for a gaze of love and of deep sharing.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the many things vying for our attention that we miss out on the One Thing…

There is need of only One Thing…

What is the One Thing?

At the end of your life…
When all is said and done…
When you leave this world and stand before your God on the day of your judgment…
What will be the One Thing you will wish you had done?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks these words: This is eternal life, to know you, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

That’s it. That’s the One Thing. To know you, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. This is the One Thing because this is Eternal Life.

How do we know him? The same way we know any person.

Listen to him.

In order to truly know another person,
we have to spend time listening to them,
listening to them share their heart,
listening to their joys and struggles,
listening to their thoughts and opinions, their hopes and dreams,
listening to what they value as most dear.

That is often the most difficult thing to do. It is much easier, for me anyway, to bustle about the kitchen than it is to sit in front of another person with no agenda and to listen to what they have to say.

Listen to him.

At the transfiguration, the Father’s voice was heard: This is my chosen Son.  Listen to him (Luke 9:35).

This is the One Thing. This is what Mary did.  She sat at his feet, listening to him speak.

This is often the most difficult thing to do. For me, it’s easier to sit in the chapel when I am praying the breviary or working on a homily than it is to sit there in silence, with no agenda, listening for the voice of the Lord to speak.

And yet there is need of only One Thing…

This is the One Thing…to know you, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Know him and you will love him.
Know him and you will keep the commandments.
Know him and you will see him in your daily life.
Know him and everything else falls into place.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being the Spiritual Director for the JPII Middle School camp. The kids at the camp had a lot of time to sit at the feet of Jesus in adoration.  We challenged them to speak to the Lord in adoration.

On the last day of camp, they had an opportunity to share an experience from the week in front of the other campers and their parents.

One young man described how he had sat in the front row during adoration on Monday evening. He looked at the Eucharist in the monstrance and silently asked, “Jesus, if you are there, can you show me?”  Right at that moment, I turned on my microphone and repeated part of the first reading from mass that morning:

I am with you. I will never leave you.  I will protect you.  I will lead you home.

He felt a wave of peace wash over him as he sat at the feet of Jesus.

On Wednesday evening, we were in adoration again. I told the story of woman with the hemorrhage for twelve years, of how she had spent everything she had for a cure but nothing had worked.  Jesus is passing by in the crowd.  She says, “if only I can touch the tassel of his cloak, I will be healed.”  She reaches out, touches Jesus’ cloak, and is immediately healed of her affliction.  Jesus turns around and, aware that power had gone out from him, asks, “Who touched me?”  The woman falls at his feet and tells him the whole truth.  Jesus looks at her and says, “Woman, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

After sharing that story, I told the campers that Jesus would again pass through the crowd and they would be invited to touch his garments and ask for what they needed. I then carried the Eucharist through the crowd, holding the monstrance with the humeral veil and inviting the kids to touch the humeral veil as they offered their prayers.  One by one, the Eucharist stopped before each kid.  One girl described touching the cloak and feeling a huge burden that she had been carrying be lifted off of her shoulders.

Peace descended upon her as she sat at the feet of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, can we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his words? Can we do that this week?  What if we spent 10 minutes each day this week with the gospel reading for that day or for next Sunday?

What if we read the passage and gave some time of silence?

What if we read the passage a second time and asked, “Lord, where does this touch my life?” and gave some more silence?

What if we read it a third time and asked, “What are you saying to me, Lord?” and gave some more silence?

Pope Benedict XVI has said that sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his words in Scripture in this way would bring about “a new spiritual springtime” within the Church.

There is need of only one thing. Listen to him.

Listen to him, and you will learn from him.
Listen to him, and you will care with him.
Listen to him, and you will cry and laugh with him.
Listen to him and you will suffer and rise with him.
Listen to him and you will be transfigured with him.[i]

As you go about your week, ask yourself: “What’s my One Thing?”

This week, be willing to sacrifice the many things in order to focus on the One Thing: Jesus Christ, the one who leads us to eternal life.


The Sacred Heart of Jesus Has All We Need

Homily for Solemnity of the Sacred Heart
June 29, 2019; 8:30 AM
Sacred Heart, EGF (125th Jubilee with Eucharistic Procession)

Focus:          The Sacred Heart of Jesus has all we need
Function:    Let the Eucharist Lead

20190628 Eucharistic Procession 20-38-2

One of the images here at Sacred Heart that has always captured my attention is the stained glass window of the Good Shepherd. It’s behind you in the balcony, but it’s always in front of me.  Of all of the windows in the Church, that one is the most vibrant and easy to decipher.  It’s the image that catches your eye, at least my eye, every time I walk into the social hall.

It’s a beautiful image but I’ve always thought it was a bit of an odd image, for us anyway. I have nothing against the Good Shepherd, but it seems to me that an image of the Sacred Heart would have been more appropriate for such a prominent spot.

Msgr. AI Merth was the pastor here when that window was installed. As it turns out, he had indeed asked for a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart to be commissioned for that space.  He desired that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as the namesake for our parish, be honored in that way.  Imagine his surprise when they brought him into the church after installing the window and he saw the image of the Good Shepherd…He was quite disappointed.

When I heard that story, I shared Msgr. Merth’s sentiment. A beautiful image of the Sacred Heart might inspire one to a greater love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus under whose Lordship we have placed this parish, and whose feast we celebrate today.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus has all we need.

As Jesus hung upon the cross, the soldier’s spear thrust through his sacred side and pierced his Most Sacred Heart, pouring forth the treasure that was contained inside:

The blood poured out for the remission of our sins.
The water that cleanses us in baptism.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus has all we need. What is this heart?

It is the font from which all graces flow.
It is the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments and the source of their power.
It is a fount of love and mercy.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus has all we need because the love of Jesus is all we need.

What is this love?

It is the love that led him to sacrifice himself for the sake of the Beloved.
It is the love that leaves the 99 and goes in search of the one.
It is the love that rejoices when the sinner repents and comes home to the Father’s house.

The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the love of the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps the image of the Good Shepherd is the perfect image for Sacred Heart parish.

It is the perfect image because the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Heart of the Good Shepherd.

If you want an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
If you want to see what it looks like in action,
look to the Good Shepherd.

I will tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered.
I myself will pasture my sheep.
I myself will give them rest.
The lost I will seek out: Baptism.
The strayed I will bring back: Reconciliation.
The inured I will bind up; the sick I will heal: Anointing of the Sick.

Such is the love of the Good Shepherd.
Such is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus has all we need,
and God, in his love, allows this Heart to remain with us always.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd remains with us in the Eucharist.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we let the Eucharist lead us.
Today, the sheep follow the lead of the Good Shepherd.

20190628 Eucharistic Procession 20-38.jpg

We follow where he leads even if it’s not where we want to go.

We follow because we trust that he is leading us to the greenest pastures
even if we need to leave pastures that appear green right now,
to pass through the desert,
over barren rocky crevices,
into what seems like a wasteland.

We follow even though we’d rather stay put.

We follow even though we’d rather stay in Egypt.

We follow because we know he is leading us into the Pastures of the Promised Land,
to the better streams of a better life even in this world.

Today, the heart of the Good Shepherd will use you to draw others’ attention to his heart.

Today he will lead you along streets and sidewalks,
over railroad tracks,
across DeMers Avenue
through traffic and campground.

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Today he will use you to bring others to his Heart. Today you bear witness to the power of his heart in your own life.  Your footsteps on this pilgrimage today proclaim to the world, to the city of East Grand Forks: “I am willing to follow”.

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People may ask: “What are you doing?” Give a simple answer: “We are following the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Join us!”

Take courage.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Heart of the Good Shepherd who will never lead you astray.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is all we need.

He now gives his heart to us again as we celebrate this Eucharist.

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His Body, His Flesh is now given to us to nourish us for the journey ahead.

His Blood, poured forth from His Sacred Heart,
will soon flow once again through our veins
just as we will soon flow through the streets of this city.

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May the Heart of Jesus,
in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection,
at every moment,
in all the tabernacles of the world,
even to the end of time.

The Ascension of the Lord

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension (Year C)
June 1-2, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF:                  Saturday, 5:30 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor:                 Sunday, 8:00 AM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher:   Sunday, 10:00 AM


40 days ago, at Easter, the joy of the Resurrection filled our hearts.

Today, the cause of our joy is the Ascension,
the day when our human nature was carried up, in Christ,
above the hosts of heaven.

Our fallen humanity was restored to its original glory, actually beyond its original glory, and raised up to the heights of heaven.

We just finished celebrating the month of May. May is the month of Mary.  We have the tradition of crowning the statue of Mary.  We crown her, acknowledging that she is queen of heaven but also queen of our hearts.

We crown her as queen because her humble “yes” to the announcement of the angel on the day of Annunciation led to the Incarnation of the Son of God. Divinity descends and is joined to humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She humbled herself and God exalted her.

Divinity descends and is joined to humanity. Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is not half God and half man.  In him, divinity and humanity are joined together.  They cannot be separated and yet they are not mixed together.  It is a mystery that confounds the human mind.

It is a mystery proclaimed at every mass as the altar is prepared. The bread and wine are brought forward, and the priest or deacon pours a small amount of water into the wine and says:water and wine

By the mystery of this water and wine,
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

God humbled himself on that day of the Annunciation by taking on our humanity, and today he is glorified as he is raised up to Heaven.

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of the Incarnation.
Divinity is joined to humanity.

Today is the fulfillment of that mystery.
Our humanity is now taken up with his divinity.

In our opening prayer for this Mass, we prayed to the Father with these words:

the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope. 

The Church is the Body of Christ.
The Body has a head, and that head is Christ.
That Body also has members, and we are the members.

May we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope.

He joined himself to our humanity so that we might be joined to his divinity.

Brothers and sisters,
ours is a high calling,
a sublime calling,
a call to the heights of divinity itself.

On Christmas Day, St. Leo the Great says these words to his congregation:

Christian, remember your dignity,
and now that you share in God’s own nature,
do not return by sin to your former base condition.
Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member.
Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters,

You are made to climb to the heights of Heaven!

You are made for an eternal weight of glory!

You are made to rise above the ashes of a mediocre life
that the world holds out to you
and to make your life an offering of fragrant incense
ascending to the throne of God
by striving to root out sin
and to live a life of heroic virtue,
a life lived for God in the midst of a world stinking from the smells of selfishness and individualism.

You are made to live as if you believe that you who are Jesus says you are:
a son,
a daughter,
of the Living God,
redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ beyond all price:

the blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel which cried out from the ground after Cain had slain him,

the blood of Christ that, today, as he ascends into Heaven,
now appears before God on our behalf,
interceding for us even as this same blood appears on this altar
and is raised up to God on our behalf with these words:

Through him and with him and in him,
O God Almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.

Mary humbled herself and God exalted her.

Jesus humbled himself and was exalted.

We, too, must humble ourselves
if we are to be exalted,
if we are to be raised,
to the heights of Heaven.

We must submit ourselves to him by allowing him to be the Lord of every aspect of our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI said this:

Jesus himself is what we call “Heaven.” Heaven is not a place.  Heaven is a person – the person of Him in whom God and Man are inseparably one.  And we go to Heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into Him.  In this sense, “ascension into Heaven” can be something that happens in our every day lives.

And that is a reason for rejoicing today!

Love One Another

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C)
May 18-19, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF:     Saturday 5:30 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM (Baccalaureate); 5:30 PM

Focus:               Love One Another
Function:         Love One Another

A few years back, in a nearby school district, there was a student who just didn’t quite fit in. Joel, the custodian, always made time to talk and joke with her, to ask her how things were going. This fall, she was involved in a car accident and died. The day after the accident, her dad called and asked Joel if he would be a pall bearer at her funeral.

Her dad recounted that she had once told him, “Dad, if anything ever happens to you, I’d want Joel to be my dad.”

Joel was floored. He never knew that. It took her dying for him to find that out. He didn’t think he was doing anything special. He treated all of the other students the same way. But to her, it meant the world.

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: Love one another.
By this will all know that you are my disciples:
If you have love for one another.

Love one another.

See one another through my eyes.
See one another as I see you.

Love one another.

Love those who are easy to love.
Love those who are hard to love.

Love one another as I have loved you.

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to love one another as Christ loved us, then the love of Christ must dwell in us.

St. Teresa of Calcutta:
Intense love does not measure; it just gives.
To be an apostle of the Sacred Heart, one must be burning with love, intense love for your neighbor…
This love must come from within, from our union with Christ.

Is your heart afire with love? Does your heart wish to suffer for the good of another? Are you an apostle of the Sacred Heart?

Have you allowed your heart to be replaced with the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

A heart of flesh

A heart of tenderness and compassion

A heart that listens to another,
that listens to the voice of God
and then listens for what the voice of God has to say to the Other

Do you give from your heart and not merely from your hands?

Do you offer a sacrifice of love or merely a sacrifice of obligation?

Do you give without counting the cost because whatever our love costs us pales in comparison to what it cost him? Where do you find yourself counting the cost?

Brothers and sisters,
He gave himself entirely for us on the Cross.
We now must give ourselves entirely to him and to each other.

He gives himself entirely to us in the Eucharist

This is my body, which will be given up for you.

Can we love one another like that? Can we make those sacred words our own?

This is my body, given up for you? This is my blood, poured out for you?

If we are not willing to do that,
if we are not willing to try to do that,
how can we approach this altar with any integrity?

His love saves us from ourselves.
Our ego
Our selfishness
Our navel-gazing
The endless selfishness of the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.

His love calls us out of ourselves and into mission.
His love makes life worth living.

St. John Paul II:
Man will not fully find himself until he learns to make a sincere gift of himself.

He who loses his life for my sake will find it.

At the end of your life, when you have lost your life, what will others say about you?

The measure of life for the Christian is the measure of love.

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
By this will all know that you are my disciples:
If you have love for one another.

Transitions stir up a lot within us. They bring to the forefront what is important.
Jesus in transition – says these words before he leaves his disciples.
You are in transition – “I will be with you only a little while longer”

Sometimes when we feel this, we try to avoid it. Challenge: live in the moment. Don’t avoid it. End well. Begin well. Don’t miss the transition. Love in the midst of the transition:

3 things to say to transition well: Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.

Say that to your family, your teachers, your classmates. To do this is to love one another.

The Resurrection Changes Everything. Run to the Tomb!

Homily for Easter Sunday (Year C)
April 21, 2019
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 8 AM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 10 AM

Focus:              The Resurrection changes everything
Function:         Run to the tomb.


Happy Easter!

The early Christians had a greeting that they shared with each other.
One would say: Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
And the others would reply: Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
R:\ Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Resurrection: rise again; raising up

Resurgence: increasing or reviving after a period of little activity.
re – again
surgere – to rise

Resuscitate – to breathe new life into a body that was dead.

Resurrection – not just life but “new life” – “changed life” – “restored life”

The Resurrection changes everything!

Jesus had new life but so did those disciples who ran to the tomb.
How could anything ever be the same again?
How could they not speak of what they had seen?

For them, Resurrection led to mission. So too for us.

They were witnesses to the Resurrection.
So are we.
Their story is our story – it has been passed down to us.

What have you seen and heard?
What have you looked upon?

Perhaps we need a resuscitation of our belief in the Resurrection.

Perhaps we need to come again and see the tomb,
to go to that place where we think we know what we will see…

No change since the last time I was here
That same unmovable stone blocking the entrance

Brothers and sisters, come to the tomb.

Come and see the place where he was laid

Come like Mary Magdalen,
Mary who went to the tomb expecting one thing but finding another,
finding that it all had been true.

Come to the tomb and you will be astounded at what you find, or rather at what you don’t find.

Run to the tomb

Run like Peter and run like John
Run at the news that Mary brings,
Run at the news that seems too good to be true,
at the news that strikes fear into your heart,
fear at first that someone has stolen his body,
but also fear that it could all be true;
not a servile fear but a fear that is wonder in awe in the presence of the living, indeed the LIVING God.

Run to the tomb.

Run to the tomb and see for yourself.

See the stone rolled back.
See the burial cloths there.
See the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Run to the tomb and you will find that Jesus is not the only One to be resurrected,
to be given new life,
to be raised to new life.

Run to the tomb and you will find new life…
Run to the tomb and you will find new hope…

Last week we watched the burning of the 800 year old Notre Dame Cathedral.  I visited there three years ago.  The Cathedral contains a reliquary, and inside the reliquary is the Crown of Thorns.  THE Crown of Thorns that Christ wore on Good Friday.

We have all of these relics, these remains from the crucifixion, that remind us of the promise of the empty tomb.

When the fire was discovered, the chaplain of the Cathedral ran inside and rescued the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.

Even in the midst of that Cathedral that became a fiery tomb, there is the promise of rebuilding, or new life, of resurrection.

Run to the tomb.

Run to the tomb and you will become a witness of these things…
Run to the tomb; see and believe.

Run to the tomb and then run from the tomb
Run to Peter and to John and tell them what you have seen

My brothers and sisters, the Resurrection changes everything.
And we are the witnesses.

Come to the tomb.
Run to the tomb.
See for yourself.
Then run back to the others.
Tell them what you have seen.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
R:\ Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Christ Exchanged His Life for Our Death

Good Friday Homily
April 19, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – 3 PM

Focus:              Christ exchanged his life for death so that we might exchange our death for life.
Function:        Receive the gift.


Christ Crucified
Artist: Giotto
ca. 1310

O wondrous exchange!

The One deserves salvation while the many deserve condemnation,
and yet
The One is condemned so that the many might be saved.

Christ exchanges his life for our death
so that we might exchange our death for his life.

It was our infirmities he bore,
Our sufferings he endured,
Our sins for which he was crushed,
Our death that he died.

O glorious exchange!

What is an exchange?
An act of reciprocal giving and receiving.
Not merely giving, but giving and receiving.

It has been said that “a gift is not a gift until it has been given.” That is true.
But it also true that “a gift is not a gift until it has been received.”

If we give a gift to someone and they decline the gift, where does that leave us?

We have just been given an immense gift.
Will we receive it?

Christ just emptied himself and gave his life for us.
Let us receive that gift into our hearts.

And, with hearts overflowing with love and gratitude,
let us give him our love and gratitude.

Brothers and sisters, come to the cross.

Come to the place, to the intersection, where the exchange takes place.
Come to the place from which the sacraments receive their power.
Come and receive the gift.

Come to the cross.
Come to venerate the cross.
Come to behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.

When we come with our love and gratitude,
He receives our love and gratitude,
and gives his body once again in the Eucharist.

Christ exchanges his life for your death
so that you might exchange your death for his life.

Exchange your death for his life.

O marvelous exchange!

And it happens at the Cross.

Come Home

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), Year C
March 30-31, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday, 5:30 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – Sunday, 10:00 AM

Focus:       You don’t have to earn the right to come home.
Function: Come home.

Robert Frost death of the hired man


Home is the place of our origin, our growing up.
It is our place of residence.
It is a place of comfort and familiarity.
It is the place where we feel attached.
Home is where we belong.

Recently I read Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Death of the Hired Man”. The poem is about the homecoming of a hired farmhand named Silas who has been less than reliable and has left the farmer high and dry in the past.

I’d like to share part of the poem with you:

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard.  

“Silas is back.”        

She pushed [Warren] outward with her through the door
And shut it after her.

“Be kind,” she said.

She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.

“When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,” he said.
“I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
‘If he left then,’ I said, ‘that ended it.’
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most…
…In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.”

“Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,” Mary said.

“I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.”

“He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When [I got home] I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognise him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.”

“Warren,” she said, “he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.”

  “Home,” he mocked gently.

Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home. …,” [Mary said.]

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”[I]

Brothers and sisters, during this Lenten season, I have had several conversations with people that have revolved around repentance, conversion, and one’s relationship with God.

In more than a few of these conversations, the dialogue has gone something like this:

“I know I need to go to confession, but I’m not ready.”
“What’s holding you back?”
“I need to fix myself before confess my sins otherwise I’ll lying and it won’t be sincere.”

In other words, I’m not yet ready to come home.

I’m not yet ready to come home, because I believe that

Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.

And I don’t want that.  I don’t want pity.  I want to have my act together.  I want to earn the Father’s love.  I want to be worthy of the Father’s love.

The parable of the prodigal son overturns this logic. We may view home as the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. But that is not how the Father views it.

The Father views it like Mary:
I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.

The Father stands on his doorstep,
longing for his lost child to return home;
to return to where he belongs, near the Father’s heart,
to return, not with everything fixed and put nicely together,
but to return as we are,
reeking like the dung from the pigpen of our sins,
and it is there, it is then,
when we stink to high heaven,
that the Father throws his arms around us and weeps with joy that his son, his daughter, has returned.

And it is there, it is then,
when we experience the mercy and tenderness of the Father’s love for us,
that we are able to work on growing in those areas where we struggle with sin.

We work on them after we have been washed clean in the shower of his tears for us.
We work on them with his grace when we are in his grace.
We work on them together with him, not apart from him.

My brothers and sisters, we don’t fix ourselves before we come home.
No, first we come home, we are embraced,
and it is there,
it is then,
in the Father’s house,
where we work on getting our house in order,
on making things right.

Until the day we stop trying to earn the Father’s love for us,
until we are able to experience his love for us in the muck of our sins,
we will not truly appreciate what it means to be home.

Home is not the place where, when we have to go there, He has to take us in.
No, home is rather something we somehow haven’t to deserve.

Some of you may find yourselves resisting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It has been years since you’ve been reconciled.  The Lord is calling you there, but you don’t think you’re ready.  You want to fix yourself before you return. You feel the weight of your sins.  They are crushing you.  They are killing you.

I offer to you tonight the words of St. Paul:
Be reconciled to God!

Come home!

The Father is waiting, watching and waiting with longing in his heart and with open arms to welcome home his son or daughter who is lost.

Come home.

Make the Father’s heart rejoice.

He doesn’t care what you’ve done. He just wants you home.
He doesn’t want you to earn your way home. He just wants you home.

You are enough as you are.
Come as you are.

Come home.

[i] Robert Frost, “The Death of the Hired Man”