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”

See the Star. Follow the Star. Encounter the Lord. Give a Gift.

Homily for Epiphany (Year C)
January 6, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF: Sat 5:30 PM; Sun 8:00 AM

Focus:              He saw the star.  He followed the star.  He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

Function:        See the star.  Follow the star.  Encounter the Lord.  Give a gift.


They saw the star.
They followed the star.
They encountered the Lord.
They gave gifts.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany.  Epiphany – an “Aha!” moment.  The light bulb comes on.  A revelation.  A manifestation.  I see something that I did not see before.  I see something that was hidden.  The God who is hidden is revealed.  The infant lying in a manger is revealed as the newborn King.

Tonight we remember the story of the magi following the star to the Christ child lying in the manger.

They saw the star.
They followed the star.
They encountered God.
They gave him gifts.

About 5 years ago, Sean a 26 year old husband and father of a two-year old son, a wrestling coach, was coaching a wrestling tournament in Fargo in January. A blizzard was brewing.  It was 20 degrees below zero.  The tournament ends.  He wants to get home to his family.  As he is leaving Fargo, the storm is getting bad.  Visibility is poor; he can hardly see.  He drives past a man walking along the road in the frigid temperatures.

He saw the star.

At least, he thought he saw the star. He wasn’t entirely sure that it was a man walking, but it looked like a man.  It looked like he had no hat or gloves.  “Maybe the next car will stop…but I didn’t see him until I had already driven past…it’s -20 degrees…but I really want to get home before I get stranded here…but if I don’t stop, he could die…”

Sean turned the car around.

He followed the star.

He approached the man and invited him into his vehicle. The man climbed in.  The first words out of his mouth were, “There is a God!  I have been praying that someone would stop!”

He, too, saw the star.
He, too, followed the star.

It turned out that the man was about Sean’s age. He was homeless.  He had been working at the Fargo Dome and was on his way to a soup kitchen for a meal that evening, but he was so disoriented from the cold that he was walking in the wrong direction.  In fact, he was walking out of town.  Sean turned up the heater, and they talked as the man warmed his hands.  It turned out the man had a wife and a two-year-old son – about the same age as Sean’s son.

When they reached the soup kitchen, Sean gave the man his pair of gloves.

He saw the star.
He followed the star.
He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

They said their goodbyes and Sean continued on his way. The blizzard got worse.  Sean stopped at a gas station in a small town along the interstate and asked if there was a motel nearby.

There was no room at the inn.

In fact, there wasn’t even an inn.  But there was a Church – a small country church.  The gas station worker called someone in town to open it up.  Sean spent the night in the church basement by himself.

It was his stable. It was his manger.

He saw the star.
He followed the star.
He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

While he waited in the basement of that Church, he was haunted by the question. “What if I had kept going?  What if I hadn’t stopped?  What would have happened to him if I had passed by?”

Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit invites us to encounter the Lord so many times throughout the ordinary events of everyday life. So often we get a sense that we should do something.  We see the star.  But we come up with excuses for why we shouldn’t follow the star.

“It’s cold out there.”
“I’m not sure that I really saw a man there anyway – visibility is so poor.”
“I need to get home to my family.”
“The next car will stop.”

And yet, it’s in following the star that we encounter the Lord, and in encountering the Lord, we are moved to give a gift. And when we give the gift, we find that so much more has been given to us.  We have an incredible encounter that leaves its mark on us, that changes us, that reminds us of God’s mysterious workings in the world through us and through those around us.

Sean saw the star.
Sean followed the star.
Sean gave a gift.

And he received a gift in return –
an epiphany,
an encounter with Jesus in disguise,
Jesus disguised as a brother in Christ – someone like himself in need of a savior.

He received another gift in that night that he spent alone in the church basement:
that night at the stable,
a gift that forced him to reflect on the encounter he had just experienced in order to cement it into his memory,
a great story to be shared with his family,
a story of encounter that would be made all the more memorable by his silent night at the manger.

What about the homeless man?

He, too, saw the star – he prayed to God, perhaps for the first time in years. He looked up into the stars he could not see and made known his need for a savior.

He followed the star – he climbed inside the vehicle that pulled over.

He encountered the Lord. He encountered the Lord present within Sean, the Lord whose Spirit it was that urged Sean to pull over and to help someone in need.

He received a gift – the gift of the gloves.

And I’m sure he gave a gift:
the gift of his presence to his family,
the sharing of a story of a prayer answered,
the sharing of his faith, perhaps his newfound faith, in God who hears and answers prayers.

He gave the gift of his encounter.

Brothers and sisters,
God led the magi to Jesus. He leads us too, through so many ordinary events within our lives, if we just pay attention.  See the star.  Have faith and follow the star, and then see what happens.  Go on a great adventure.  You may just encounter the Lord in an unexpected place, an unexpected place like a manger on a cold winter night that was so deep.

Let There Be Light

Homily for Christmas Eve (Year C)
December 24, 2018
4:30 PM – Holy Trinity, Tabor
10:00 PM – Sacred Heart, EGF

Readings from “Mass During the Night”


In the beginning, God said “Let there be light”
The light shone
We walked in the light – in friendship with God.

We had the fire of love in our hearts – love for God and for each other.

And then something happened…The original sin – we were plunged into the darkness – we had to leave the Garden of Eden, that place of light and life…

And darkness enveloped us…
the darkness of sin that separated us from God.

The weight of sin – the yoke of sin – we took upon our shoulders – a weight so heavy that it was sure to crush us.

And, already at that time,
God had a plan…

A plan to set things right
A plan to undo what had been done
A plan to restore what had been lost
A plan which the prophets spoke of throughout the ages

God had a plan to save us.

Tonight, in a stable in Bethlehem, this plan is fulfilled.
The fullness of time has come.

Tonight, God sends forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom us from the law.

Tonight, the grace of God appears, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires. The angel of the Lord appears to shepherds who are keeping watch over their flocks as the darkness of night surrounds them.

Tonight, the prophecy is fulfilled:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown!

Brothers and sisters, behold the significance of this night.

Tonight, God speaks his word again, he speaks again that same word that he spoke in the beginning: “Let there be light!”

God recreates his wounded creation. Time is reset to the year 0 because we have a new beginning.

“Let there be light!”

Let there be light to scatter the darkness of sin!
Let there be light to lead them along the path to salvation!

Tonight is indeed a momentous occasion.

Tonight, the yoke that burdened us has been smashed!
The weight of our sin has been removed!
The rod of our taskmaster has been smashed!

Our chains have been broken, and we have escaped. The shackles of sin can hold us no longer because tonight,
A child is born for us!
A son is given us!
Upon his shoulder dominion rests!

God, in his love for each of us, gives us not only a Son but HIS OWN SON.

My brothers and sisters, if you ever doubt that God could love you, look to the manger. Look to the manger and see what He gave for you.  He gave the best gift he could give – he gave the gift of His Son.

And, in 33 years, he will exchange the wood of the crib for the wood of the cross. So great, so immense, is God’s love for you.

God, in his love for us, chooses to share in our humanity so that we can share in his divinity.

“He who clothes the whole world with its varied beauty, is wrapped up in common linen, that we might be able to receive the best robe.”[1]

“He is confined to the narrow space of a manger – He whose seat is in the Heavens, so that He might give us ample room in the Heavenly Kingdom. He who is the Bread of Angels is laid in a manger, that He might feast us with the Bread of his flesh.”[2]

How appropriate that this manger, this feeding trough, lies in Bethlehem – the town whose very name means “the House of Bread”.

Tonight, we like those shepherds, see the glory of God. We see the light shining in the darkness, and we follow the light.

We come to Bethlehem.
We come to the manger.

We come and bend the knee in adoration at a mystery so great – that God would take on our flesh to save us.

Every Sunday, we say the Creed. We make a profound bow at the words that speak of the mystery held out for us to adore tonight.  We bow at the words “and by the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Tonight, because this mystery is made present to us, we pause and genuflect at these words. As we do so tonight, I invite you to genuflect with not only your knees, but with your heart as well.  Bring your heart to its knees and point it toward the manger as you join the shepherds in bending your knee in love and in worship of the newborn King.

“No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a newborn child.”[3]

“In the very act of reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth.”[4]

How can it be otherwise? How can I kneel before a mystery of love so great and remain unchanged?

May I arise tonight as a new man or new woman. May my life, like His, be a total gift of self from this night onward.

[1] St. Bede
[2] St. Bede
[3] CCC 563
[4] St. Leo the Great

The Immaculate Conception Finds Its Fulfillment in the Annunciation

Homily for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Friday, December 7, 2018 (Vigil Mass)
5:30 PM – Sacred Heart, EGF

Focus:               The Immaculate Conception finds its fulfillment in the Annunciation.
Function:         Stay close to Mary so you too can say “yes!”

immaculate conception

Concupiscence: a disordered tendency which comes from sin and inclines us to sin. “I do what I do not want to do and I do not do what I want to do”

“Return with me to the Garden of Eden…”

Imagine! Harmony of Intellect, Will, and Desires.

A Fallen Angel appears – Satan – the serpent in the garden, whose deception led to the conception of a lie in Eve’s heart, a lie that would be passed on to all of her children, and their children, and their children, down through the centuries. A lie that the Creator could not be trusted.

Eve ate from the tree of which God had forbidden them to eat. And we fell.  We fell hard, and far.

All of creation fell. Humanity fell.

The intellect was darkened. The will was weakened.  Desires became disordered.

Human beings were enslaved to sin. Created free, they were no longer truly free as they were in the beginning.  True freedom is perfect virtue – the ability to desire and to choose the good: easily, without struggle, and promptly.

Yet, already at the very beginning, when all seems lost, God has a plan. The “proto-evangelion” – the first Gospel…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers…

You: Satan, a Fallen Angel
Woman: an illusion to Mary
His Offspring – the fallen angels and the principalities and powers of sin, death, and Hell
Her Offspring – Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, and those joined to him. Christ the Head and also we who are members of His Body.

All of this brings us to tonight’s Feast: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. A New Beginning.

A New Eve who would truly become the Mother of all the Living, the Mother of those alive in Christ.

Believed through the centuries and formally declared by the Church when in danger of being challenged, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was formally declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854 as an infallible dogma to be held definitively by the faithful:

The doctrine “that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”

She was immaculate. She was immaculately conceived.

Humanity had a second chance.

Eve was free from the stain of original sin in the beginning. A fallen angel appeared to her, she allowed the trust in her Creator to die in her heart, and she sinned.  Creation fell.

Mary was free from the stain of original sin from the beginning of her existence. Like Eve, she was fully free to give her “yes” to God.  And angel appeared by her, she allowed the trust in her Creator to flourish in her heart, and she conceived Life itself in her womb…Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…Jesus Christ, the one who would rescue us from sin and death and restore us to Eternal Life!

Tonight’s Gospel is the fulfillment of tonight’s feast!

The Immaculate Conception finds its fulfillment in the Annunciation!

Mary was conceived without sin so that she would be free to give her “yes” at the Annunciation.

St. Anselm: “He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.”

Mary is the new Eve.

In Mary, God is solving the problem of sin that entered the world through Eve. Mary’s “yes”, her “fiat”, gives us Christ who came to set us free!

St. Irenaeus: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What the Virgin Eve had bound through her disbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed by her faith.”

And so, she is truly “Full of Grace” as the Angel Gabriel declares. Grace abounds in the one who was given the grace of original innocence – an Immaculate Conception.

A spotless, clean vessel was prepared in order to be filled with the best of wine – the Blood of Christ himself.

Let us indeed “sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds!”

One last thought for we who consider ourselves disciples of the Lord:

On the day of salvation, when Christ hung on the Cross, of those who were the closest disciples of Jesus, of his Twelve Apostles:
One had betrayed him.
One had denied him.
Nine had fled.

Only one remained.

John, the Beloved Disciple remained. He remained near the side of Mary at the foot of the cross.

Was it accidental that the disciple closest to Mary was the One who had the courage to stand under the cross?  I think not…

John shows us that the disciple who takes Mary by the hand is able to follow our Lord all the way to Calvary.

Let us beseech Mary that she will inflame our hearts with the same love and courage that John had on Good Friday,[1] so that, in the face of our own trials and temptations, when we like John who have not been conceived without sin feel the weight of concupiscence crushing us…we may, like John, and like Mary, give our “yes”.

[1] Tim Gray.  “Mary as the New Eve” in Chapter IV of Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God, page 55.

He Will Come Again. Are you ready?

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
November 18, 2018
Holy Trinity, Tabor: 10:00 AM

Focus:               He will come again.
Function:         Wake up and be ready.

Christ the Judge

Christ in Majesty
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington DC

If today was the day, would you be ready?

Everyday life can wear us down. We lose sight of the glory we are made for.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are made for love.

We are made for the glory of Heaven.

We are made to live forever, but we have to choose.

We choose to see the glory to which we are called and to live in a manner worthy of the call we have received, or we choose to give in to our own selfishness and stubbornness.

We choose to live for Heaven or to live for Hell.

We live for Heaven when we embrace the trials and tribulations of life, when we struggle against sin and vice, against our own hard-heartedness, when we humble our sinful pride and forsake the pleasures of today for the glory of tomorrow.

We live for Hell when we give into the temptations of sin: pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, when we live beneath our dignity, when we live for the pleasures of this world and lose sight of the eternal.

When it is all said and done, each of us will give an account for the choices we’ve made.

That day is coming.

If today was the day, would you be ready?

Today’s readings at the end of this liturgical year call out to us like the blaring of a smoke detector in the middle of the night, a warning to wake up and see the danger in which we stand if we just stay put where we are as the fire rages around us…

We’ve seen the destruction caused by the fires in California. People were warned to evacuate.  Most heeded the warning – they saw the signs of the times.  Others ignored the warnings – they nearly lost their lives.  Some did.

If today was the day, would you be ready?

In World War II, in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where darkness spread over the land in a time of great tribulation, ten men were chosen to be sent to a starvation bunker, among them a man named Francis Gajowniczek. He pleaded for his life.  Another man stepped out of line and offered to take his place.  His name was Maximilian Kolbe.  St. Maximilian Kolbe embraced the sufferings of today because he knew the glory to which he would be called tomorrow.  He spent his life conforming his heart to the Heart of His God, so that when Christ came riding on the clouds for him, he was ready to follow.

What about us?

Today’s readings are the alarm. Wake up.  Be prepared.  Raise your gaze from the gutter of your sins to the glory of heaven!  See the eternal glory to which you are called, and begin anew to live for it today.

Repent and believe in the Gospel.

We live in the age of mercy. God has given us this time to repent and to believe in the gospel, to live in a manner worthy of the call we have received, the call to be his Sons and Daughters in Christ.  We live in the age of mercy.  We have Christ’s Blood available to us to wash away our sins.  We have only to accept it.  We live in the age of mercy, but brothers and sisters, make no mistake, this age will come to an end, whether by our own death or by Christ’s second coming.

Repent and believe in the Gospel. Hear the alarm sounding and change your ways while there is still time.  Live today so as to be ready for tomorrow.  Accept his mercy in this hour and be reconciled to him so that when he comes in power and glory, he may take you to himself.

He wants to take you to himself. But you must be willing to go there.  More than any pleasure this life can offer, you must want to go there.

The end is coming.

Perhaps today.

Are you ready?

Are you living for that day?

The Cross will Come

Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
September 16, 2018
St. Francis, Fisher – 8:00 AM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 10:00 AM

Focus:              The Cross will come.
Function:         Take up your Cross when it comes.

girl carrying the cross

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly…”

It had to be a hard message to hear…they had seen so many great things – healings, miracles of nature, people raised from the dead…and now this.

The Son of Man must suffer greatly…

He prepared them for it before it would happen.

He summoned them and said to them: Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up His cross, and follow me.”

In other words, “Strengthen your hearts. Be prepared.  Train for it now.”

In the life of every Christian, the cross comes.

We don’t go looking for the Cross – the cross will come. That is a guarantee.  But we want to be ready for it when it comes…
Ready to shoulder it and to pick it up like He picked his up and carried it…
Ready to shoulder it with him…
Ready to carry it with our brothers and sisters…

Be ready. Prepare now, or else when the cross comes, it may crush you.  It is almost impossible to learn what do with suffering when you are in the midst of it.  You must learn how to carry the cross before it comes so that when it comes you are able to bear it.

When the cross comes, people usually react in one of three ways:
They become angry and bitter.
They give in to pity, hopelessness, and despair
Or they join it to the suffering of Jesus and offer it up for the salvation of the world…

Last week, I visited a man and his wife in their home. The man suffers from chronic back pain.  It pains his wife to watch him.  He can’t do what he used to be able to do…there are only so many crossword puzzles he can do in a day.  And the pain is unbearable at times.  As we visited, I tried to gage his faith…would he be able to hear this message of the power of offering up his suffering or would he not be able to bear it?  His faith seemed strong enough that he could bear it.  The message was helpful to him and gave meaning to his suffering.  It gave him the strength to bear his suffering with hope.

The Christian carries his cross differently than a non-Christian. The Christian carries his cross with hope because he knows that the Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over the cross.

Suffering does not get the last word.
The suffering of the cross leads to the glory of the resurrection.
Good Friday gives way to Easter Sunday.

If we can remember that, if we can focus on the end in the midst of our suffering, if we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who won for us the salvation of the world by his suffering on the cross, then we will have the strength to carry our cross when it comes.

Jesus’ suffering led to the salvation of the world.

We, as members of His Church, are members of His Body. The Church is the Body of Christ and we are members of his body, and when we suffer, if we choose to accept our suffering because there is nothing we can do about it, if we choose to accept the cross that comes our way, not wishing for it, not looking for a cross to bear, but bearing the one that comes our way…when we as members of his body join our suffering to His suffering, then our suffering becomes his suffering…

And, brothers and sisters, that is redemptive. Christ’s suffering won the salvation of the world!

When we join our suffering to the suffering of Jesus, when we give it to him, when we say: “Jesus, this hurts! There’s nothing I can do about it…I choose to offer it to you, to join it to your suffering.  Join it to your suffering and I offer it for [insert name here]…”

When we do that, it is then that we “make up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ”, as Saint Paul says. Not that Christ’s suffering on the Cross was lacking anything – it wasn’t.  But as members of his body, when we suffer, he suffers, and if we, like him, offer that suffering up as an act of love for someone, salvation comes about.

Saint John Paul II is known for saying this: “Don’t waste your suffering.” Join it to the suffering of Christ and offer it for someone in need of God’s grace.  Offer it for the conversion of those who do not know the Lord, or who have fallen away from the practice of their faith.

Love turns suffering into sacrifice, and that is a powerful gift of grace.

Last year at this time, I celebrated the funeral for a man named Rich. Rich had a heavy cross in his life.  In his early 40’s, he was diagnosed with cancer.  He was in a lot of pain.  He went through chemo and radiation.  His cancer went into remission.  Praise God.  Then he was diagnosed with ALS.  It was a huge cross.  He experienced more suffering.  He was in a lot of pain.  Do you know what he did with that pain?

He didn’t become angry or bitter.
He didn’t fall into pity, hopelessness, or despair.
No, he chose to go to his daughter’s volleyball games and cheer her on in the bleachers despite the pain.

Love turned his suffering into a sacrifice of love for his daughter. And his suffering revealed the depths of his love for his daughter.

It is through the Cross the grace rushes in. It was from Christ’s side on the Cross, his side pierced by the soldier’s lance on the cross, where the blood and water gushed forth like a raging torrent, the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments poured out for the salvation of the world…

How will you respond when the Cross comes?

Will you pick up the cross? Will you let the suffering touch you?  Will you let it affect you?  Will you allow the suffering of a brother or sister, another member of Christ’s body, touch you?  Will you offer up your suffering, joining it to that of Christ for the salvation of the world?


Will you refuse to pick up the cross?
Will you get angry, judgmental, or bitter?
Will you distance yourself from the person who is suffering like the 9 apostles who fled from Christ when the cross came for him?
Will you empty the Cross of its power by complaining about the smallest crosses that come your way?

The answer to that question depends on how you train yourself now.

How do you train yourself now?

Deny yourself and pick up your cross in the small things of daily life, so that when the big one comes, you have the spiritual strength to bear it.

One simple example…our bishop has asked us to abstain from meat on Fridays as an act of penance for the Church. It is an ancient practice of joining a small suffering to that of Christ as we remember Friday as the day when he endured his passion, suffering so much for us out of love.

How do you respond to that request? Do you refuse to pick it up?  Do you complain, get angry or bitter about it?  Or do you pick it up and bear it gladly?

What are some of the crosses that come our way in life?

Physical suffering and the chronic pain that can come with that.

Being ridiculed for standing up for what’s right.

Staying in the Church in the midst of the mess in which we find ourselves right now – responding with honesty and humility when we are challenged as to why we are still Catholic by echoing the words of Peter, “To whom shall we go? [He] has the words of eternal life.”

We carry our crosses when we fight our temptations to sin, whether it be sins of pride, anger, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, or lust…

We take up our cross when we stand by another in their suffering like Mary who stood by her son’s side at the foot of the cross as he endured the agony of His cross.

We experience the cross when we experience the loss of a loved one or when a family member stops practicing their faith or loses faith in God altogether…

In God’s providence, and in God’s time, we have been hearing a lot about the Cross over the past 3 days.

Friday was the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. On Friday, the Church reminded us that the suffering of the Cross does not get the last word.  The suffering of the Cross leads to the glory of the resurrection.  Friday reminded us to keep the glory in mind even as we endure the suffering so that we have the strength to offer it up, to carry our cross when it comes.

By the way, do you know the day on which Rich died? The man who knew so much suffering in his life?  He died on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  Beautiful.

Saturday was the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. On Saturday, the Church held up Mary as a model who stood by her son’s side in the midst of his suffering.  Mary allowed herself to experience Christ’s suffering.  The sword of sorrow pierced through Mary’s heart on its way to pierce the side of her son as he hung upon the cross.

We can more easily carry our crosses for Him knowing that he carried his cross for us.

When the cross comes, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Join the suffering of your cross to the suffering of Him who bore his cross for you.

Do that, and you will participate with him in the salvation and redemption of the world.

Do that, and you will have all the strength you need.