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.


'ADORATION OF THE MAGI'

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”


manger

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?

Or…

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.

The Most Holy Name of Mary

Homily for the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary
September 12, 2018
Sacred Heart School
High School Mass


holy name of maryOur salvation begins when the archangel speaks the name of Mary. Gabriel, in the glory of his grandeur, appears to a poor virgin.  He calls upon her Name in a prayer familiar to us:

Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with You.”

 Actually, if you listen closely, you will notice that he dares not speak her name. He says, “Hail, full of grace!”, not “Hail, Mary, full of grace.”

In the Old Testament, Jews did not speak the Name of God…Yahweh. They did not speak it because it was Holy.  They gave it great reverence.  God did not reveal his name to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.  The first time he revealed his name, he revealed it to Moses, and only after he had taken off His sandals because of the reverence due to the Name…

Contrast that with us today: How often we hear people cursing carelessly with the Name of God…

The Name of God is Holy.

The Name of Jesus is Holy…St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians tells us that it is:
The Name above every other Name,
That at th
e Name of Jesus,
Every knee should bend,
In the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth,
And every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father:
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!

Mary, too: Her name is holy.

It is a Name of Honor.
It is a Holy Name.
It is a Motherly Name.
It is a Name Responsive to our Needs.

It is a Name of Honor. It is invoked twice in the Hail Mary.  It echoes and re-echoes in the prayers of the Church: “O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary…”  Catholic tradition has us give a slight bow of the head at when the name of Jesus or Mary is spoken – a sign of reverence and honor for a Name of Honor…

It is a Holy Name. The angel did not dare to speak it.  The Name of Mary marks the woman who was Full of Grace, without sin from the moment of her conception, and who found favor with God.  It is the name of the woman who conceived and bore the Holy Son of God.

It is a Motherly Name. The Mother of Jesus is our Mother.  The Church is the Body of Christ – you are a member of that Body.  You are a member of Christ’s Body, and so His Mother is your Mother.  At the foot of the cross, the Lord looked down and saw his mother and the beloved disciple standing there.  He looked at his mother and, looking toward the beloved disciple, he said to her: “Behold your son.”  Then looking at the beloved disciple, he said to him: “Behold your mother.”  The beloved disciple represents each of us.  Jesus gives us his mother to be our mother.  Mary is a Motherly Name…a name spoken with tenderness on the lips of her children…

It is a Name Responsive to our Needs. Mary’s response is one word: Fiat! Yes!  She gave her fiat to the angel Gabriel when he asked her to bear God’s son into the world.  She gave her fiat to the couple at the wedding feast when they had run out of wine, telling the servants to “do whatever He tells you…”  And she will give her fiat to you if you turn to her and call upon her name in your need.  It is a name responsive to the need for the faithful on whose lips echo and re-echo the name of Mary, who turn to her in confidence, calling on her as our Mother in times of danger and distress.

Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known
That anyone who fled to thy protection,
Sought thy help,
Or implored thy intercession
Was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly to thee, O Virgin of Virgins, My Mother.
To thee do I come, before thee I stand,
Sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions,
But in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Our salvation began when the archangel spoke the Name of Mary.

So, too, does our salvation begin when we speak the name of Mary. For when we speak her name:
Her Name of Honor
Her Holy Name
Her Motherly Name
Her Name so Responsive to our Needs…

When we speak the Name of Mary, the Word of God who was conceived in her womb takes root in our souls, and brings forth Jesus.

With all faith and devotion today, let us call upon her Name with Honor so that Jesus Christ might be born in us:

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art though among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

 

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!

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?