Ephphatha! Be Opened!

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
September 8-9, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday: 5:30 PM, Sunday: 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 5:30 PM

Focus:              Christ opens the ears and the lips of our hearts.
Function:         Ephphatha!  Be Opened!


Caravaggio St. Thomas

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (Caravaggio)

Today’s gospel presents a vivid image for us, a very earthy image. Jesus spits on his fingers and touches a man’s tongue and ears…and his tongue is freed and his ears are opened.

Divine power passes through human elements.

The Incarnation is at the center of our Christian faith. God became a man so that man might become God. (St. Athanasius)

Tertullian, another Church Father, put it this way:

The flesh is the hinge of salvation…

The flesh is washed so that the soul might be made clean.
The flesh is anointed so that the soul might be consecrated.
The flesh is signed so that the soul may be protected.
The flesh is overshadowed by the laying on of hands so that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit
The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ so that the soul too may be filled with God.

Christ took up our flesh in order to use it as a vehicle to communicate to us his divine life.

The human becomes a vehicle for the divine.
The body becomes a vehicle for the spirit.
The physical becomes a vehicle for the spiritual.

Go back to the beginning, all the way to the beginning. Adam and Eve in the Garden.  They walked in harmony with God.  They were united to him in relationship.

Then something happened. What happened?  Rebellion.  They chose against God.  Sin entered the world, and with sin, death.

With the Fall, came the fall of creation. Physical evils.  Death.  Illness.  Disabilities.  Diseases.  None of this was intended by God from the beginning.

These physical realities that exist around us point to spiritual realities. Something has gone terribly wrong.

Just as the physical faculties of some of our brothers and sisters were disabled by the Fall, so the spiritual faculties of all of us to see, hear, and relate to God were also disabled by the Fall.

The people of Israel had a reminder that they recited every day – the Shema…”Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, and the Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength.”

Hear, O Israel…Hearing symbolized openness to God. Those who were deaf could not hear physical words spoken, but those who had the ears of their hearts closed could not accept the word of God even when they heard it.  They rejected it.  The prophets used deafness as a metaphor for people who resisted God.

Saint Benedict opens the rule of life for his monks with this exhortation: Listen, my son, to the precepts of your master. Incline the ear of your heart.  Disobedience was the original sin.  The ears of the heart had been closed.

Those who were blind could not see the world around them, but “all had sinned and been deprived of the glory of God.” The eyes of our hearts had been closed by sin.  Blinded by our pride, we were cast into the darkness.

And it was there, in the darkness, in the quiet, where our God comes.

Our God comes with vindication. He comes with power.

Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, pierces the darkness by his coming as a man born of the Virgin Mary one cold night in a stable in a forgotten region of the world.

The divine becomes human.
The Word becomes flesh.
He takes up our flesh.
Our flesh becomes the hinge of salvation because it is also now His flesh.

His flesh encounters the flesh of the man in today’s Gospel, a man whose physical condition points to our spiritual condition – deaf to the Word of God and unable to proclaim his glory.

Brothers and sisters, that man is each and every one of us.
That man is each and every one of us stuck in our sins, powerless to heal ourselves.
That man is each and every one of us awaiting a divine healer, someone with the power to set us free, to restore what had been lost.

In today’s Gospel, the flesh of God encounters the flesh of man.
The flesh of God touches our flesh.

And a single word is spoken: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”

And the man is restored.

Brothers and sisters, how beautiful that that same word is a part of the rite of baptism.

After a child has been baptized, they are anointed with the holy oil, they are clothed in the white garment, and they receive the light of Christ. The priest then touches the ears and lips of the child with the word “Ephphatha!” – “The Lord Jesus made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the Glory of God the Father.”

Our lips and ears have been opened to speak of Christ and to listen to Christ!

The words that Christ spoke to the man in today’s Gospel were spoken to you on the day of your baptism, and I say them to you again today:

Ephphatha! Be opened!

Be open to hear the word of God and to proclaim his praises!

Be open to the reality of God’s presence in our midst!

Be open to hear the Word of God spoken to you through the witness of others!

Be open to and willing to speak of God’s word to others – to proclaim God’s praises to others!

Ephphatha!

Be open to the joy of having your sins forgiven!

Be open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your heart – promptings that call you to action even though what he is calling you to is outside of your comfort zone – callings to love, to give, to show tenderness, to care.

Where is your heart closed?

To which of Christ’s teachings, to which of the Church’s teachings, is the ear of your heart closed?

What fears or sins paralyze the lips of your heart?

The Lord speaks to you today: Ephphatha! Be opened!

Allow yourself to be opened and your heart will leap for joy when it hears the Word of God and accepts it.

The flesh is the hinge of salvation.

We are about to receive this flesh. But in order to receive it, in order to truly receive it, in order to receive Him…our hearts must be open.

We must allow him speak to this word to us
We must receive this word he speaks to us
We must receive his Ephphatha,
W
e must be open to the word that heals,
to his word that restores,
to his word that calls us to live in such a way as to be united ever more closely to him, without compromise.

Ephphatha! Be opened!

Opening Chaplain’s Conference: Who Will You Be Tomorrow?

Opening Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Let us pray.

God our Father,
You call all people to hear your word and be taught by the example of Christ your Son.
Bless this new school year.
Give holiness and wisdom to our teachers.
Give prudence and the blessing of good example to our parents.
Give open hearts and minds to our students as all together we strive to do your will in our lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.[1]

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. Day 2. The excitement is still fresh, or for some of us, perhaps the mourning of a lost summer is fresher. Our seventh graders are still figuring out the routine, wondering “how in the world I am going to use the restroom and get to my next classroom all the way down the hall in three minutes?”

We stand just inside the doorway of this new school year. We stand at the beginning. I would like to reflect a bit this morning on the importance of beginnings. I think that beginnings offer us a unique opportunity, an opportunity that can be easily lost in the hustle and bustle of the school day if we don’t pay attention. Beginnings, especially this beginning of a new school year, offer us an opportunity to pause, to look at where we are now, and to look at where we are going.

What is in store for you this year? How will you have changed by the end of this school year? How will you have grown, or not grown? How will you be different?

Who will you be by the time you graduate from Sacred Heart?

Who do you desire to be? Perhaps more importantly, who does God desire you to be?

I know who God desires you to be.

He desires you to be a saint.

He desires you to be young men and young women of integrity, men and women of character, men and women of virtue.

He wants to set you free from the sins that enslave you.

He wants you to flourish.

He wants you to be joyful, bold, and confident. He wants you to be a leader. He wants you to know what your life is about.  He wants you to live fully and to love deeply.

You are called to love. You are called to love with the Heart of God. You are called to love with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ under whose Lordship we place this school!

Brothers and sisters, that starts here. That starts now. That starts today. At the beginning.

If we do not choose to practice love of God and love of neighbor here, now, today and every day this year, how can we expect to learn it? How can we expect to get where we are going?

The road to Heaven, the road to sainthood, is paved with your choices, your daily choices, your hourly choices, the choices of each moment, to live the great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

All of your actions form the person that you are becoming. Every choice you make has an impact on who you will be. No choice is isolated in itself. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a virtue or vice. Sow a virtue/vice, reap character. Sow character, reap a destiny.

Virtue frees you to become the person you were made to be. Vice enslaves you and prevents you from becoming the person you were made to be.

Allow me to give an example.

Honesty is a virtue. A person with the virtue of honesty makes honest decisions quickly and easily. They do not struggle to tell the truth. It is their default mode of acting. How do you develop the virtue of honesty? By performing repeated acts of honesty. One act of honesty. Another act of honesty. Forms the habit of honesty. More acts of honesty. Virtue of Honesty – a character trait.

Likewise: if you tell a lie, then tell another lie, then tell another lie, pretty soon you develop the habit of lying. Keep doing that, and pretty soon you develop the vice of lying. You now lie promptly, easily, and without thinking. It becomes your default mode of acting. You have developed the vice of lying.

The Lord calls you to become men and women of virtue, men and women of character. In a single word, he calls you to become saint! He wants you to become who He were created to be.

Sacred Heart is more than just a school that forms your mind. Sacred Heart is unique in that it strives to form the whole person. You are here to be formed in mind, body, and soul.

You are formed in body through healthy nutrition, through health and physical education classes, and through various athletics in which you train for and in which you participate.

You are formed in mind through the many classes that you take, classes that give you the basic skills and knowledge that you will use throughout the rest of your life.

You are formed in soul through the many opportunities to grow in your relationship with God and with each other. You are formed in soul by being challenged to grow in virtue, to develop the habits that will help you to become the best person you can be.

How do we go about this?

First: pray.

You are given ample opportunities here to pray. You have Mass on Wednesdays. You have a prayer period every day. You have a chapel upstairs where the Jesus himself is present in the Eucharist. You are given opportunities to lead prayer in your classrooms. Learn to pray.

Prayer is a relationship. If you are going to learn to love God and to love others with the heart of God, you must learn to pray. You must encounter the living God. This requires something of you. You have to give yourself to prayer. You must give yourself fully to prayer and seek to praise God, to thank God, to ask God for what you and for what others need with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. You cannot learn to pray if you simply stand on the sidelines with everyone else. You have to get in the game. So often we end up just going through the motions when it comes to prayer. We mumble the response and we don’t put our hearts into it. Brothers and sisters, going through the motions, or just “being here” while prayer is going on, is not prayer. It is a waste of your time.

Learn to pray more this year. Seek to deepen your relationship with God. Even on days when you don’t feel like it, especially on days when you don’t feel like it, choose to show up. As Brooks Bollinger said yesterday: “Have the courage to show up.” Show up with more than your body, show up with your mind and soul as well. Think about what you are doing and saying. If you are present in body but absent in mind and soul during prayer, you are forming your heart toward the vices of ingratitude, selfishness, and irreverence. When you are present in mind and spirit to prayer, when you put your heart into it, when you lift your voice and speak the responses boldly and loudly, when you sing out in order to praise God instead of mumbling along with the crowd, the Lord forms you in the virtues of gratitude and reverence. You begin to flourish and the Lord forms your heart to become a person with magnanimity, that is, a person with greatness of soul.

Pray this year.

Second: Study.

Study diligently in your classes, yes. But also study your own spiritual life. Which vices and habits of sin do you need to overcome? Study how you can do that. Which virtues and good habits do you need to develop? Study how you can do that. Study how others have done that by reading up on the lives of the saints and on spiritual books that inspire your heart to strive after virtue.

This year, in the high school chapel, we will have a small library of books that I have selected that will help you grow spiritually. Spend some time reading them. You don’t have to spend a lot of time – spend 10 minutes a day. Take a book to your study hall. Take a book into adoration.

This year, we will continue to have priests available each week for spiritual direction and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The schedule for each week (including which priest will be available) is posted outside of the High School Chapel. Priests will be available on Wednesdays over lunch, and on Thursdays during your study hall periods in 7th, 8th, and 9th period.

I cannot stress enough the importance of going to a confession on a regular basis. If you struggle with habits of sin in your life, you need to be going to confession regularly. Not only does the Lord forgive your sins, but he also gives you the grace to fight temptations and to overcome them. He will set you free. MAKE USE OF THIS SACRAMENT. Stop compromising with sin in your life. Each time that you give in to acts of sin, you are forming your heart in vice and are enslaving yourself to sin – you are preventing yourself from becoming the person that your future husband, wife, and kids will need you to be. You are preventing yourself from becoming the priest or religious or single person that the Church needs you to be.

You can come to the chapel during these times for spiritual direction from a priest. What is spiritual direction? It is a place where you can have a conversation with a priest. What could you talk about? You can talk about things like: Questions of faith, struggles in faith, doubts in your faith, struggles with chastity or pornography, relationship issues. You can talk about your prayer life and what God might be calling you to do in a situation that you find yourself in. You can talk about how prayer is dry and doesn’t seem to be working for you, and the priest can help you to find a way to pray that works for you. Spiritual Direction is a place where you can speak one-on-one with a priest about your own faith journey. This is an incredible opportunity that most people do not have. Again, MAKE USE OF IT!

Study.

Third, serve.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Imitate him. Serve your teachers and your classmates. Go beyond the bare minimum of what is asked of you by your commitment hours. Be like Mary and say “yes” when something is asked of you, instead of looking for a way out. God does incredible things when we simply say “yes”. When Mary said “yes” to the angel Gabriel, God brought about the salvation of the world. God will do great things when you say “yes”, too.

Go outside of yourself. Ask others how they are doing. When others ask you, instead of complaining, look for the blessings. Count your blessings, as Brooks encouraged you to do yesterday. Cultivate the virtue of gratitude. Your attitude has an impact on everyone around you. Build them up. Curb gossip and negativity. Serve your brothers and sisters by being committed to making their day better.

Pray, study, serve.

Your high school years are your training years. The boy or girl you choose to be today will determine the man or woman you become tomorrow. The virtues that you cultivate (or fail to cultivate) today will form the man or woman that you will be tomorrow. Sacred Heart provides the best environment possible to help you to become men and women of virtue. But you have to make use of it. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make the most of it.


[1] Adapted from Sacerdos in Aeternum: Prayers and Blessings for Priests (Second Edition), edited by Denis Robinson, OSB (St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press, 2014), page. 103.

Get off the Fence: Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth

Homily for Monday of the Fifteenth Week in OT (Year II)
Monday, July 16, 2018 – Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Northern Pines Bible Camp – Park Rapids, MN
John Paul II Camp – Day 2


Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Carmel is a mountain in Israel.

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)

  • This story takes place on Mount Carmel
  • Israelites are two-faced. Duplicity.
  • They say they worship God, but they also worship Baal. Baal: storm God.
  • Their duplicity, their two-facedness, made their worship worthless.
  • Elijah’s challenge to them: How long will you straddle the issue by advocating 2 different opinions?”
  • Baal is the storm god and he can’t make fire fall from Heaven.
  • The Lord God makes the fire fall from heaven to consume the sacrifice.

Today’s Feast: Our Lady of Mount Carmel

  • Hermits went to Mount Carmel (where Elijah had the showdown with the prophets of Baal). They settled there to pursue God in lives totally devoted to prayer. 1100’s. They dedicated themselves to prayer and penance…to working on their interior life. Became known as the “Carmelites”
  • 1251 – St. Simon Stock and the Brown Scapular. Mary appeared to him. Vision of the scapular. Those who entrust themselves to her would have her protection and intercession. A reminder that the spiritual life comes first.
  • Scapular is an exterior sign of interior trust. It’s not effective if it’s looked upon with superstition. Clothe your heart with the Spirit of the Scapular if you are going to place the cloth scapular around your neck. Monks (hermits) – wear scapulars.
  • Mary – model of authenticity. Opposite of the Israelites in the story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. Her “yes” meant “yes”. Be it done unto me according to thy word. She is a model of trust. She is a model of faithfulness. Her words match her actions.
    • How could she do this?
    • She pondered these things in her heart. She had an interior life. She was a woman of prayer. Like the Carmelites, she devoted time to contemplation, to her interior life, to prayer.

What about us?

Today’s readings issue a big challenge to us. It is this: If you are going to call yourself a Christian, if you are going to call yourself a disciple, then you have to live it.

You can’t worship God in song and then live lives of sin.  Your worship must match your works.

Your heart is revealed in your actions.

We hear in the first reading: I will not listen! Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil. Learn to do good.

In other words, if you are going to offer me true worship, then your worship must match your works. Your words must match your actions.

Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal comes to us today.  How long will you straddle the issue by living a double life?!  Is the Lord Jesus your god? Or is your sin your god?  Choose.  Get off the fence. The devil owns the fence. Choose.

Jesus: Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

It’s a struggle, but the struggle is important. Make a decision.

The grace in all of this, and what today’s feast reminds us, is this: We don’t walk alone.

Saint John Paul II said this: Walking with our Blessed Mother, the model of complete faithfulness to the Lord, we will fear no obstacles or difficulties. Supported by her intercession, like Elijah we will be able to fulfill our call to be authentic prophets in our time…May Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we call upon today with special devotion, help us tirelessly climb to the summit of the mountain of holiness. May she help us to love nothing more than Jesus.

You are Called and Chosen

Homily for Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Northern Pines Bible Camp – Park Rapids, MN
John Paul II Camp – Day 1


Welcome – camp is a time set apart. Pulled out of the normalcy of everyday life. An opportunity.

Jesus and the Apostles. He pulled them aside, apart from the normalcy of everyday life. Their first task was to be with Jesus. Second Task: they were sent out. This camp is your time apart…your time apart with Jesus.  Make the most of it.

Why are you here?

  • Parents made me
  • Heard it was fun
  • God called you to be here

Why did God call you to be here?

  1. To heal a wound
  2. To open your heart
  3. To call you to himself so that he could send you out (Gospel)
  4. To call you to change or set the course for your life
    • To repent, to turn away from sin
    • To remind you, or to teach you for the first time, that you are a beloved Son or Daughter of the Father.
  5. To show you that you are loved
  6. To set you on the path to becoming who you were meant to be
  7. To become what you were meant to be. Holy. A Saint.

God has chosen you to be a saint!

  1. Second reading: “God chose you in him, from the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him” God chose you from the beginning. From before you were born. From the foundation of the world.
  2. For the glory of God
  3. The glory of God is man fully alive! – St. Irenaeus.
  4. Staff and Service Team – models of holiness. See their joy and zeal. They are on their way.

Amos was called and chosen. The Twelve were called and chosen. You are called and chosen. You have to choose Him. Your yes must meet God’s yes. You must add your choice of God to His choice of you.

  • What is your life about? To become a saint.
  • Why are you here? To become a saint.
    • To see what it looks like. That’s what this week is all about. It is a week to encounter Jesus, to have a time apart with him, to share life with him, in the Body of Christ (the Eucharist) and in the Body of Christ (the Church community gathered here).

At the end of the week, you will be sent out.

  • Sent to tell others what he’s done for you.
  • Sent back changed – a different person for having known Christ.
  • Sent to show others the way to him.
  • Sent to proclaim what he has done for you here.

What, Then, Will This Child Be?

Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist
June 24, 2018
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 8:00 AM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM


Mass with Stuffed AnimalsA little girl, age 5, is out in the barn while her family takes care of the evening milking. She has a spray bottle, a pair of scissors, and a hairbrush.  She has all the tools she needs; now she needs a client.  Then she spots her, trying to sneak by unnoticed, but of course she doesn’t go unnoticed.  Snowflake will do.  The little girl grabs the cat, sprays her down, and begins to comb and trim her white coat.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

She grew up to be a hairdresser.

Another young girl, around 10 years old, makes her lesson plans, prepares her worksheets, and sits her brother and sister down at the two school desks that her father bought at an auction sale. Class begins.  She teaches the lesson and grades their papers.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

She grew up to be a middle school math teacher.

A young boy, just 8 years old, lines his stuffed animals up on the staircase. He places a small story book in the hands of each one.  The table is set up at the foot of the steps with some Ritz crackers and grape juice.  He opens the daily missal he received for his first communion and begins to preside at Mass for his little congregation.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

He grew up and was ordained a priest.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was entrusted with a mission – the mission to go before the Lord to prepare his way – the great precursor – the one who would prepare the people for the coming of Christ and point him out when he came.

He was given this mission from before his birth.

He was created by God for this very purpose.

His vocation, his calling from God, it does not come from himself. It is not determined by himself.  It is bigger than he is.  It comes from outside of himself.  It comes from the plan of God himself.

God created him to be the lamp that would allow the Light to shine brightly.
God created him to the voice that would allow the Word to be heard…

This, of course, he does.

He speaks of the “one who is coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie…”

He preaches his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…

He points to Jesus as he walks by and exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” And because he fulfilled his vocation, the first two disciples begin to follow Jesus.

This mission that he was given from before his birth, he begins to fulfill even before his birth. When Mary greets Elizabeth, John points to Christ hidden in their midst by leaping for joy in his mother’s womb.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

Brothers and sisters, what did people see in you when you were a child that caused them to ask this question?

What mission has God entrusted you with?

What calling has he given you?

Have you listened for it? Are you still listening for it?

Of the children, of the young adults in our midst, have you asked the question, “What then, will this child be?”

Others often see in us what we can’t see in ourselves, or what we don’t want to see in ourselves.

Today we celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist. We celebrate his birthday – the beginning.  John stands at the beginning of his mission and begins to live it out.

Two weeks ago, I attended the priesthood ordination of my good friend, Fr. Nate Brunn. Yesterday, the two of us celebrated Mass together with his parents and a couple of seminarians.

There is nothing so beautiful as to see someone living into their vocation and living it to the full.

Last week, I attended the wedding of two friends. I watched them pledge their lives to each other.  Yesterday, I witnessed a couple renewing their wedding vows after 35 years of marriage.

There is nothing so beautiful as to see someone living into their vocation and living it to the full.

Today, we celebrate the beginning of the vocation of John the Baptist. He lived into his vocation, his calling from God.

Are you living into yours?

Chaplain’s Conference: Ending Well

Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Monday, May 21, 2018


thats all folks

Here we are: the home stretch. The end is in sight.  As we approach the end of the school year, it is important to pause and consider how we will end this school year.

The Book of Sirach (11:28) reminds us of this important truth:
Call no man happy before his death,
For by how he ends, a man is known.

Brothers and sisters, we are known and remembered, not by how we begin, but rather by how we end.

It helps to begin well. But if we have a rocky start, we can recover.
It is critical to end well.

In the end, a Christian is judged not by how he begins, but by how he ends. Saint Paul is remembered for his love for God and his spreading of the gospel, not for his persecution and killing of Christians. Paul began as a sinner but ended as a saint. He rejoices in Heaven now. He is remembered not for how he began, but for by how he ended.

At the end of our lives, when we stand before the Lord on the day of our judgement, we will not be judged for how we began. We will be judged for how we ended.

The best way to make sure that we will end our lives well is to practice by ending each chapter of our lives well.

The chapter of this school year, this chapter of your life, is coming to an end.

My challenge to you is this: End well.

For by how he ends, a man is known.

How will you be remembered?

I think there are three things that we can say that help us to end well.

First: Thank You

Thank you can be a difficult thing to say. It means acknowledging that I have received something that is a gift. It means acknowledging that I couldn’t have done it on my own. It means taking the time to go to another person, to seek them out, to look them in the eye, and to express gratitude for what they have done for me.

There are teachers and coaches who made an impact on you this year. They have given of themselves so that you could grow.  They have sacrificed their time and energy for you. Thank them. Really thank them. Go out of your way to approach them and to tell them of the impact that they made on you. Others have shown you real friendship this year. Thank them for being a good friend.

Do not leave the doors of this building for the last time this year without saying “thank you”.

Second: I’m sorry

If saying thank you is difficult, saying “I’m sorry” is more difficult. Yet it’s even more important than saying “thank you”.

Repentance is at the heart of the gospel and at the heart of what it is to be a Christian. Own up to your own sins, weaknesses, and failures. Grow by them.

Whom have you hurt this year?
What relationships are strained?

Saint Paul tells the Ephesians: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

The sun is setting on this school year. The time is short.

True love says “I’m sorry” for the good of the other.
Self-love says “it’s too hard or awkward so I’ll just let it blow over. In a week, it won’t matter.”

Brothers and sisters, it does matter. By how he ends, a man is known. Don’t be remembered for old grudges, resentment, hurt, and unforgiveness. Be remembered for healing a wound. Be remembered for having the guts to right a wrong. Who do you need to apologize to before you leave on Friday?

Say “I’m sorry”.

Finally: I love you

This might seem strange for a high school setting.  But what does “I love you” mean?  To love is to will the good of the other person. It is to choose their good. In our context, a first step might be to tell another person “I wish you the best.”

Can we say that to each other as this year comes to a close? Even if we don’t see eye to eye with each other, perhaps especially with that person with whom we don’t see eye to eye? Can we say, “Have a great summer. I wish you the best”?

Mark Miller joins us this morning. Mark is a seminarian of the Diocese of Crookston, studying for the priesthood. He just graduated from college seminary. He begins his theology studies at a new seminary in the Fall. In four years, God willing, he will become Father Mark. He just experienced an ending with his graduation from college. I’ve invited him to share some of his thoughts on what it means to end well with us this morning.

[Mark speaks]

Now, I have a couple of more things I’d like to say.

First, thank you.  It has been an honor and a joy to be your chaplain this year.  It has been a blessing to get to know you and to watch you grow.  Thank you for welcoming me into your midst.   Thank you for rising to the occasion when I challenged you to step up and grow.  Thank you for your witness in my life.  I am grateful for each and every one of you.

Second, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for the times that you wanted to talk to me about something and I appeared to be too busy.  I’m sorry for the times when I challenged you when you were having a bad day and weren’t open to being challenged.  I’m sorry for the times that I took myself more seriously than I needed to: Sophomores, I’m sorry.  Teaching is not a strength of mine but I am working on it and hope to improve for next year.

Finally, I love you.  I do.  I wish you the best in your summer endeavors and I look forward to seeing you back here next year.  Seniors, you always have a home at Sacred Heart.  Come back and see us when you are home.  I am just a phone call away if you need anything next year.

On Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church.  Today, we celebrate the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church.  We celebrate the openness of a young girl from Nazareth to receiving the Holy Spirit, an openness that allowed her to conceive the Son of God as the fruit of her womb.  And so it is fitting that, as we seek to end this school year well, we ask for her intercession.

Hail Mary…

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Homily for Pentecost (Year B)
May 20, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – 7:30, 9:00, 10:30

Focus:               That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
Function:         Live in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Pentecost - Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer

Pentecost
Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer
1750
The painting was on an altar in the Church of Holy Spirit in Sopron, Hungary.

The Prince of the Apostles, filled with fear, denied knowing Jesus on the night of his arrest. This same Peter, on the day of Pentecost, stood up with the other apostles and boldly proclaimed to those same people who had shouted “Crucify Him!”, that Jesus is the Son of God and has been raised from the dead.  They were cut to the heart, they repented, and 3000 people were baptized that day.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

One hundred thirty years ago, a man murdered three women in Paris. He showed no signs of remorse and was sentenced to death by guillotine.  This cut to the heart of a young girl who lived more than 100 miles away.  She was so moved by the thought that this man might die without having repented, that she decided to fast and pray for his conversion.  On the day of his execution, the man turned to the officer accompanying him, asked for a crucifix, and kissed it three times before he was beheaded.  The young girl, elated that her prayer had been answered, later joined a Carmelite convent and took the name Therese of Lisieux.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

A young woman, just 24 years old, attends the funeral of her mother-in-law who died much too young at the age of 44. After communion, she begins to break.  The tears roll down her face as she realizes it is time to say goodbye for the last time.  She feels a hand touch her shoulder and give a warm, comforting squeeze.  Peace descends upon her.  Everything will be OK.  She turns around to see who reached out in a moment of compassion.  No one is there.  The pew behind her is empty.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate when we face the Accuser.
He is our Consoler in moments of incredible pain and loss.

The Holy Spirit is the One who emboldens us to step out in faith, out of our comfort zones. He is the One who does something through us that we could never do on our own power.

The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the grace to love our enemies,
the One who teaches us all things
the One who gives us what we need at the moment we need it.

He is the One who gives power to our preaching and to our prayers.
It is the Holy Spirit who brings sinners to repentance,
who converts hearts, who convicts hearts.

That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit who breathed over the waters at the dawn of creation is the same Holy Spirit who was breathed into your soul at the moment of your baptism.

It is this same Holy Spirit who prays within us when we do not know how to pray as we ought, who prays with inexpressible groanings as we long for the coming of the Kingdom, as we long for peace, for love, for acceptance, for meaning, as we long for God himself. It is the Holy Spirit who makes our souls cry out: “Abba, Father!”

The same Holy Spirit whose power overshadowed a young girl from Nazareth, causing her to conceive the Son of God as the fruit of her womb, is the same Holy Spirit whose power, whose gifts, were conceived in you when you received the Sacrament of Confirmation so that your soul might bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The power of the Holy Spirit is the power to live fully and to love deeply.

It is the power, it is the flame of love within the heart of the baptized believer to love as Jesus loves, to love with a heart of fire, to love with a heart blazing, raging with the uncontrollable fire of charity, an all-consuming fire of the love of God himself.

The Holy Spirit who is the bond of love between the Father and the Son is the same Holy Spirit who is the bond of love between a husband and a wife united in the Sacrament of Matrimony, a bond of love so tight that it can never be broken, a bond that gives the power to remain faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, a bond of love that points to Christ’s love for his Church.

The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, calls us into our very existence.

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that ordinary gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, not only calls us into this existence we call “life” but calls us to eternal life by providing us with the Bread of Life.

That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, you have been given the Holy Spirit. You are temples of the Holy Spirit.

He dwells within you. He does.

He is with you.
His power is within you.

The Holy Spirit continues to be poured out upon you, within you, a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The secret to living in the power of the Holy Spirit is this:
Call upon him. Pray and pray often: Come Holy Spirit!

Call upon him and then give in to his power working within your soul. Let your soul cry out in glory to God when the Holy Spirit inspires you to do so.  Give in to the inexpressible groanings, the searching for God, the inspirations to do something heroic, something more, something…saintly.

Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created,
and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Come Holy Spirit.  Come and give me the strength to perform that small act of love that I feel called to do but am putting off because it’s outside of my comfort zone.

Come Holy Spirit. Come and give me the strength and grace to overcome my fears and to deny myself, take up my cross, the cross I know you’ve given me to carry but that I am afraid to carry, and follow you.

Come Holy Spirit. Come and give me the courage to take the next step in pursuing my vocation in life, the vocation that you have given to me.

Brothers and sisters, call upon the Holy Spirit and you will live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Live in the power of the Holy Spirit and you will experience the real power of Pentecost.

What is the Lord placing on your heart right now? I invite you to pray…

Come Holy Spirit. Come and help me to…

Be a Contemplative in Action

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
April 29, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM

Focus:              Without Me, You Can Do Nothing
Function:         Be a Contemplative in Action


frassati 1.jpgPier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901 in Turin, Italy. He was born in an affluent family.  His father owned a national newspaper, was first a senator and later the ambassador to Berlin.

The family was not a religious one, but Pier Giorgio was homeschooled, and a priest was brought in to teach him Latin. Pier Giorgio asked this priest to tell him the story of Jesus, and his love for the Lord grew.  Soon, he was sneaking out of the house in the early hours of the morning to run to the Church, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, attend daily Mass, and then run home again and be in bed before his family awoke.

frassatiAs he grew, he had many friends. He loved to go mountain climbing and play sports.  He was competitive in playing games with his friends.  He’d say: “If you win, I’ll give you money, but if I win, you come to a holy hour with me.”  He’d win and they’d head to the church, laughing and pushing each other on the way.  Then they’d enter the Church.  Pier Giorgio would go up front, near the altar, and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, fixing his gaze on the Lord, lost in prayer.  His friends would fall asleep in the back of the church.  After an hour, Pier Giorgio would rise, wake his friends, and they’d head for home.

His love for Jesus soon led to a love for the poor. He was often late for dinner because he would give the money that his parents had given him for the train to a poor person.  He would run all the way home, head upstairs, change out of his sweaty shirt, and then slide down the banister, stopping just outside of the dining room to pray his meal grace so as to not embarrass his family, and then enter the dining room to join his family for dinner.

He would take food from his family’s table and bring it into the homes of the poor. When he was 18, his father bought him a car.  He sold the car and gave half of the money to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the other half he used over time to buy day-old bread from the bakery which he personally delivered to the homes of the poor that he had met.

He would take flowers from the drawing room of his family’s home and put them on the coffins of the poor.

Fridays were to be a day of penance, so on Fridays he visited not only the poor but also the sick. One day a friend asked him, “Pier Giorgio, how can you stand going into those houses?  They are so gross and they smell bad.”

Pier Giorgio responded by saying, “Jesus visits me every day in Holy Communion, and I repay him in my own small way by visiting him in the poor.”

Eventually, he contacted polio from one of the sick people that he visited. It would claim his life at age 24.  His last dying act, hours before he died, was to scribble out a note to a friend, stating that the medications in his coat pocket were for a poor man named Converso.  He asked his friend to deliver the medication and to renew the prescription and charge it to his account.

Jesus said to his disciples,
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

Pier Giorgio’s long nights before the tabernacle led to long days serving the poor.

In receiving Holy Communion, he received the energy to face the day…

Pier Giorgio was a contemplative in action, as we are called to be. By remaining in Jesus, by contemplating the life of Jesus, by spending time in prayer and by doing penance to stir up his zeal, Pier Giorgio found the strength and love to accomplish much in his short life.

A life of contemplation leads to a life of meaning.
A life of contemplation leads to a life lived to the full.
A life of contemplation leads to a life of action.

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to be contemplatives in action. We must cultivate the interior life.  Contemplation is the soul of our action.  It gives meaning to our action.

There are two extremes to be avoided. Contemplation without action leads to a quietism, a timidity that does not bear fruit.  On the other hand, action without contemplation leads to workaholism and a frenzy for the exterior life – the love of action for action’s sake.

When contemplation is strangled by activity, we lose our sense of direction, our sense of purpose. We lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.

The supernatural life offered to each of us, the interior life which we are called to have, is nothing other than the life of Jesus Christ himself in my soul. By this life, Jesus imparts to me His very Spirit.  Then my outward acts become the manifestations of the life of Jesus in me.[i]

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

How are you cultivating your interior life throughout the week? Are you cultivating it?

We cultivate the interior life by spending time in contemplation,
by spending time in prayer, in silence and solitude so that we can hear Jesus’ voice speaking to us,
by receiving the sacraments through which Jesus gives us His grace in our souls.

We remain in him by spending time in prayer, by performing acts of penance for the sake of others and by partaking of the sacraments, and then we go out and perform our daily duties with the mind of Christ who remains in us as we remain in him.

When we remain in him, he remains in us, and the works that we perform are not our own but the works of Jesus himself…works that will bear abundant fruit.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Remain in him.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will bear much fruit.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will be a life full of meaning and joy.
Be a contemplative in action, and you will reap a harvest worthy of Heaven.


man of the beatitudes
Pier Giorgio’s sister, Luciana, wrote a biography of him, entitled “A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati“.  It’s a great read.

 

 

 


[i] Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O, The Soul of the Apostolate (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2012), p. 13.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter
April 21-22, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF: 5:00 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor: 8:00 AM; St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher: 10:00 AM

Focus:              Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Function:        Let him shepherd you.


Fr. Peter the Good Shepherd

Some friends at Mom and Dad’s farm on the weekend of my diaconate ordination in 2016.  Fr. Peter is a veteran priest, 3 of us are rookie priests, and 1 will be ordained this summer.

Thank God that Jesus is a Good Shepherd, because I know how much I am prone to wander…

 

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus leads me to green pastures, he shows me where to drink from the waters of salvation, he feeds me with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation…

And as the sheep, I walk away, focused more on myself than on him. I choose to wallow in the muck of my sins, I wander away, off on my own path, rather than walking in the way he has pointed out to me.

And when I do that, when I sin, he calls me back. He never abandons me.  He comes looking for me.  He beckons.  He calls out to me.  He invites me to “turn around” and to repent, to call out to him even as he calls out to me so that he can find me, pick me up, put me on his shoulders, and bring me back.  He reminds me that I can’t do it without him, that I am dependent on him, that I need him.  But he also reminds me that that’s OK, because he is there for me.  He is my Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I am the sheep.  To be a good disciple is to be a good sheep – a sheep who gets distracted and wander from time to time, certainly; but also a sheep who knows the One to whom he belongs.  I am to be a sheep who knows the heart of His Shepherd.

The heart of my Shepherd is a heart of love, a heart that listens, a heart that calls me, that protects me, that leads me, that feeds me. The heart of my Shepherd knows the heart of his sheep.  The heart of my Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

And, brothers and sisters, he invites us to do the same.

The Good Shepherd first invites us to follow him as his sheep, then as we mature he invites us to become shepherds for others.

He calls us to do this as husbands and fathers, and wives and mothers, who introduce their children to the Good Shepherd.

He calls us to do this as priests who stand in the person of Christ, who make Christ present in a parish through the celebration of the sacraments and in the preaching of His Word…

He calls us to do this as monks and nuns, as brothers and sisters, who by the radical yet joyful laying down of their lives give us an example of faith and sacrifice to imitate as they devote their lives to leading others to the Good Shepherd.

Today is World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Today, the Church asks us to pray particularly for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Pope Francis has asked every Christian in the world to spend some time today praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

The Good Shepherd speaks into the hearts of the children and young adults in our midst. Today is a day to remember that as they grow and mature, their vocation will be revealed to them, if they learn to listen for it, if we pray for them, and if we promote an environment where that vocation is encouraged to grow and flourish, an environment where it will not suffocate from fear or lack of encouragement.

Our diocese needs priests. When was the last time you told a young man that you think he’d be a good priest and why?  Our future shepherds are among us.  Christ does not leave his Church without shepherds.  They just need us to shepherd them as they grow and discover this call.

We can shepherd others only if we ourselves know and strive to follow the Good Shepherd. If we don’t know the voice of the Good Shepherd in our own lives, if we don’t try to listen and to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd in our own lives, then we become a hireling and not a shepherd.

St. Gregory the Great said this:
Whether a man be a shepherd or a hireling, cannot be told for certain, except in a time of trial. In tranquil times, the hireling generally stands watch like the shepherd.  But when the wolf comes, then everyone shows with what spirit he stood watch over the flock.

The shepherd is the one who has learned to lay down his life for the sheep…

The shepherd is the one who loves with a sacrificial type of love…

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd precisely because he is also the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God who offered himself upon the altar of the Cross in order to take away the sins of the world.

Blessed indeed are we who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

 

Office of Readings: The Cross of Christ Gives Life to the Human Race

The following is from the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours – Friday of the Third Week of Easter.  St. Ephrem was a deacon who lived in the 4th century.  He left us many hymns, poems, and sermons.  I found this one particularly good.


From a sermon by Saint Ephrem, deacon
The cross of Christ gives life to the human race

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strongroom and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.