The Lord Gives Himself for You. Give Yourself to Him.

Homily – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
May 28, 2016
St. Charles, Pennington – 4:00 PM.

Focus:              The Lord gives himself for you.
Function:        Give yourself to him.

memorial day

This weekend, we celebrate Memorial Day. Tomorrow, across the country, people will gather in parks and auditoriums to remember and to give thanks for those who have offered their lives in service to our country.

Some gave of themselves to serve and never came home.

Others served and came back with wounds – wounds that have left scars in their bodies, minds, or spirits.

They gave their lives.
We received the freedom we enjoy today.
And so, we give an hour tomorrow to remember their sacrifice.

The time we give tomorrow seems so small and yet it means so much to those who served. By showing up tomorrow, we show that we remember. We express gratitude.

In the first reading, Abram has just returned from a battle. His nephew, Lot was living in Sodom when an enemy attacked. Lot and the people of Sodom, along with all of their goods, were captured by the enemy. Abram learned of this and set out to rescue Lot. He was victorious. Not only did he rescue his nephew from the clutches of the enemy, but he also brought back with Him the spoils of war – the goods that the enemy had captured from Sodom when they captured Lot.

Abram is returning from the battle when the priest Melchizedek meets him. Their caravans are loaded with the spoils of war. Melchizedek blesses God for giving Abram the victory, and he blesses Abram as well.

God gave Abram a great victory.
Abram received Lot and his goods back.
And so, Abram gave God, through the priest, a tenth of everything.

In today’s Gospel, the people are hungry. Jesus desires to satisfy their need. He turns to His disciples: “Give them some food yourselves.”

The disciples give everything they have, but it’s not much.
Jesus receives their meager offering.
Jesus gives his blessing, and thousands are fed.

Today is the feast of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” At the last supper, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and said, “Take and eat…This is my body which will be given up for you.” Then he took the chalice: “Take and drink…This is my blood – my blood which will be poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

The Crucifixion - Leon Bonnat

The Crucifixion – Leon Bonnat

On Calvary, Christ held nothing back. He holds nothing back. Christ gives Himself – his very self. He gives everything – all that he is. Body. Blood. Soul. Divinity.

At this altar, we stand at the foot of Calvary and receive the gift he gives. And what does he give?

He gives his life for your life,
his death for your death,
his innocence for your sin.

Christ gives Himself for you. He gives everything for you.

Christ gives his Body and Blood.
We receive the pledge of eternal life.

What are you going to give to him?

Will you give yourself to him?

Will you give him your shame and your sins so that he can bath them in the ocean of his mercy?

Will you give him your hurts and your grudges so that you can be free to love generously?

Will you give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty even as he satisfies your hunger and quenches your thirst in this banquet?

Will you give him your worries and anxieties, your pain and suffering, your sins and failings? Can you give them up to him on the altar of sacrifice as you receive the pledge of your salvation in the simple form of bread and wine, a Body broken and Blood outpoured?

Brothers and sisters, Christ receives what we give to him and he blesses it. He blesses what we offer and multiplies it, making it bear abundant fruit.

He gives Himself for you.

Will you give yourself to Him?

God is Present Even When He Seems to be Absent

Homily – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, Year II – May 5, 2016
First Homily as a Deacon in the STA Chapel – Saint Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, IN.

Focus:              God is present even when He seems to be absent.
Function:        Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God is doing.

St. Mary's - Red Lake

A little while and you will no longer see me
And again a little while and you will see me

The poorest area within the Diocese of Crookston is the Red Lake Nation, which is a sovereign nation for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. Drug use is high.  Literacy levels are low.  Many children are born addicted to heroin or with fetal alcohol syndrome.  The crime rate is high.  The unemployment rate is over 50%.  The average lifespan is 45 years.

In the midst of the Red Lake Nation sits St. Mary’s Mission. The mission includes the parish and a small school.  It is making a difference.  Most of the kids at the school can read at or above their grade level.  Because they find a sense of belonging at the mission – a sense of family – most of the kids will not join a gang in the future.

Fr. Jerry Rogers is the pastor of St. Mary’s Mission. As you can imagine, it is a very difficult assignment.  Resources are scarce.  Most families cannot afford to pay the $425/year tuition.  Fr. Jerry works hard to raise funds so that the mission can continue.

A little while and you will no longer see me.

Last week, someone broke into Fr. Jerry’s office and stole his wallet and the Sunday collection, totaling $530. That must have made him so angry.  He’s working his tail off, he has virtually no resources to work with, and even the small amount that he does have to work with is stolen.  At some point, he had to ask himself – “What’s the use?  Why not give up?”

And again a little while and you will see me.

Then there was a knock at the door. A woman comes in.  “Father, I heard that the collection was stolen, I want to give you something…”  She puts a handful of change on his desk and leaves.  Half an hour later, a man comes in.  “Father, we don’t want you to think that we’re all like this.  It’s not a lot, but we want you to have it”.  He puts a handful of dollar bills and some change on the table.    This goes on for the next two days – people come into Fr. Jerry’s office at different times and give handfuls of change and dollar bills.  $2000.

And again a little while and you will see me.

Fr. Jerry goes to DMV to renew driver’s license, since it was in his wallet. The woman behind the counter says “That’ll be $16.75.”  That’s when Fr. Jerry realizes that he doesn’t have his wallet – it was stolen, after all, and he didn’t bring his checkbook.  How is he going to pay the fee?  Then he remembers that one of the people had given him money while was out of his office, and he had put it in his pocket for the time being.  He empties his pockets on the counter and they add it up.  You guessed it – exactly $16.75 – to the penny.  The DMV employee was moved to tears.

God is the one who makes our work bear fruit. He teaches us to put our trust in Him and not in ourselves.  God is present.  God is present even when it seems He is absent.

He takes a seemingly hopeless situation, and brings great good out of it. He stirs the hearts of people to give generously.  He turns the one stolen Sunday collection into the equivalent of four Sunday collections.  He enkindles faith in the heart of a woman working at a local DMV office.  He brings hope to a humble priest by reminding him that he is not alone in his ministry.

He teaches a baby deacon to depend on him, even when that means scrapping his carefully prepared homily at 7:00 PM and starting over.

A little while and you will no longer see me
And again a little while and you will see me

Brothers and sisters, we are called to depend on him and not on ourselves.

Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God is doing.
Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God will do.

He will bring good out of evil. He will shine light in the darkness.

He will bring life out of death.

God Wants To Be Your Best Friend

First Homily as a Deacon
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C
First Communion Sunday
May 1, 2016
St. Joseph’s, Brooks – 8:00 AM

Focus:          God wants to be your best friend and come to stay with you.
Function:    Be ready for God to come and stay with you.

John Honiotes Deacon OrdinationTwo weeks ago, my friend Stephen and I traveled to Joliet, IL for the diaconate ordination of a good friend. It was a great celebration.  The Church was packed and the reception lasted for hours.  John preached his first homily the next day, and he set the bar pretty high.

I was honored to attend the ordination of my friend, but I was particularly honored that John invited us to stay with him and his family while we were in town. I was honored because, while John is a good friend, I also knew this was going to be a busy weekend for him and his family, and that a lot of people would want to see him.  I did not want him to feel as though he needed to entertain guests during this time, and yet, I looked forward to the time we would be able to spend together.

I was struck by the hospitality of his family. I remember pulling up to their house.  His mom met us at the door, gave us a hug, welcomed us in, and asked if we needed any help with our bags.  Then, she offered us a beer and asked if we were hungry – she had shredded beef in a crockpot for us whenever we got hungry.  The air mattresses were set up in the basement for the three of us.  She enlisted our help in getting a few things ready for the weekend.  It was a joy to be able to stay with John – to talk with him, to pray with him, and to just spend time with him in the ordinary moments of this extraordinary time in his life.

I didn’t feel like a guest in their home. I felt welcomed.  I felt like I belonged.  I felt like I was part of the family.

God wants to be your best friend. He wants to come to come and stay with you.  He wants to come and stay with you at your house.  In fact, you are his house.  You are the dwelling place of God.  Listen again to the words of the Gospel:

Whoever loves me will keep my word.
And my Father will love him.
And we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

Jesus wants to come and make his dwelling with you. He wants to make his home in you.  He wants to come and spend time with you – to know you – to be in friendship with you.  He wants to be your best friend.

To the four of you who are making your first communion today:

When you have a best friend, you want to spend a lot of time with that person. You want to invite him over to your house – to spend the night at your house.  So, you prepare.  You get things ready.  You do all of your chores without complaining.  You make your bed and pick up your room.  You listen to Mom and Dad.  You are even nice to your brothers and sisters!  You get things ready so that your friend will feel welcomed.

When your friend comes over, you spend a lot of time with him. You talk with him and play with him.  When he spends the night at your house, he sleeps in your room.  And what’s the best part about having your best friend spend the night at your house – in your room?  Going to bed early, right?  No!  You usually stay up late talking to each other, laughing with each other.  You share your toys with him.  You eat your meals with him.  You spend time together and get to know each other better.  You invite him into your daily life, your daily routine – the normal moments of your everyday life.  You invite your friend over to your house, and when he comes to your house often, you become closer friends – almost like brothers.  He is welcomed in your house.  He becomes like a member of the family.

God wants to be your best friend. And today, today is the day.  He comes to stay at your house.  Jesus, who is fully present in the bread we break and the cup we share at this altar, comes into your house and stays with you.  He comes to live with you.  And if you allow him to live within – if you allow him to become your friend, you will be like that holy city coming down out of Heaven – that holy city that “gleamed with the splendor of God”, because God lived within it.

You’ve prepared for this day. You’ve made your room ready for him, and now he is on his way.  He will soon be here, right here on this altar.  Welcome him in when he comes.  Do everything you can to make sure he enjoys his stay.  Treat him with kindness.  Treat his other friends with kindness.  Love him and keep his word, and he will come and make his dwelling with you.  When you come up for Communion and receive him at the door of your lips, welcome him into the room of your heart.  Tell him, “Jesus, come and make your home in my heart.”

Invite him back again next week and the week after that. Carry him with you in your heart during the week and prepare for him to come and stay with you again next Sunday.  When your room gets messy – and it will get messy – when the dirty clothes pile up on the floor of your heart – let him help you clean it up by going to Confession.  So often we feel like we need to make everything look good on the outside, but it’s about the inside.  Get the inside right and the outside will follow.  Have a friendship with Jesus and you will become like Jesus.  Become like Jesus and you will act like Jesus because of your love for him.  The reason why I didn’t feel like a guest at John’s house was because he invited me into what was happening.  We spent time together in the ordinary events of the day, and our friendship deepened.

Celebrate your second, third, and fourth Holy Communion. Invite him to stay with you week after week after week.  Let him become your best friend.

And someday, someday, he will invite you to come and stay with him at his home – in Heaven.