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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Do I love Jesus, above all things?




Homily – Deacon Pat – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year C)

I can remember not too many years ago.

My wife Liz and I had raised all of our children and had just seen off our youngest, Mackenzie, off to college in Chicago.

We had planned for many years that as soon as we were without children in the home, we would try our hand at being fulltime missionaries.

In preparation for moving out of the country we systematically sold and gave away everything we had accumulated over decades of married life.

That process of whittling down all that we owned to less than a dozen boxes, keeping mostly photo albums and some clothing, was quite enlightening.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the time.

Initially, I thought that parting with my motorcycle, tools, kayaks, fishing gear, weight lift equipment, and the such, would be traumatic, but surprisingly it wasn’t.

Somehow knowing that we were purging everything from our lives to make room for God and releasing the worry that often comes with caring for the “Things in our lives” and often “the associated debt” was actually quite refreshing.

It was on that final day, however, after selling our home, and having packed the few possessions we decided to keep, and then driving away, that a certain peace was revealed, a certain peacefulness that I had never known in my adult life.

Now, not owning much more than what we could carry allowed us to be completely free and present to what and where God was directing us, without distraction.

We experienced for the first-time what life could be like without the pressures and responsibilities that desiring and owning possessions often entails.

To this day I thank God for that opportunity, it changed our life and helped us to see what complete freedom looks and feels like.

A freedom to serve God to the fullest.

In a small way I feel that this experience somehow also relates to today’s message.

And in today’s readings and Gospel there is a message for all of us here today.

The message is clearly that we are to remain focused on our quest for heaven.

It is a call to live a Christ-centered life.

We are urged to focus our attention on heavenly realities more than on earthly shadows.

We are also reminded that we are in a transitory world.

And it is a call to make use of the “things of this world” prudently without losing our ultimate goal.

Because it is only when we make heaven our goal that the full meaning of life can be revealed and realized.

In the first reading of this Weekend it begins with a warning, translated: “Vanity, vanity, the Preacher says vanity…!”

It strikes a reality that most of us have neglected.

However, one day each one of us will come to terms with it.

The Preacher calls us to remember God in all that we do.

He reminds us that there will be an ultimate end to all created things.

He also reminds us that the ultimate goal here on earth is to walk our way straight to heaven.

And in the second reading, it hits the nail on its head.

In it, Saint Paul clearly differentiates true life, that is life lived in Christ, from a life lived outside of Christ.

Without mincing words, he reminds us that we must be heaven bound where Christ is everything.

Saint Paul tells us: 

“Kill everything in you that belongs to only earthly life, fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires, greed, false gods, and never tell each other lies.” 

This call to “kill everything evil” is simply a call to transform our lives, a call to purity of life, and call to remain steadfast.

Many Christians have become so attached to “the things of this world” that we hardly reflect about heaven any more.

This is because so many have come to believe that that heaven is an ancient tale told by the ignorant and believed by fools.

And additionally, in the gospel, Jesus speaks to our hearts just as he did to the man from the crowd: 

“Watch out and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made more secured by what he owns…” 

The pursuit of wealth and the pleasures of this world have so blinded so many of us to the reality that we are only pilgrims here on earth.

Avarice is one of the seven capital sins.

Also known as extreme greed for wealth or material gain.

It is a sin which makes one become like the material good that one seeks.

It is a hidden enemy of every child of God.  

Concerning avarice, Saint Thomas Aquinas says: 

“Temporal goods are subject to man that he may use them according to his needs, not that he should make them his main purpose, or be overly anxious about them.” 

The more we place our hopes on the things of this world, the more we lose sight of heaven.


“Where a man’s wealth is, there is his soul.”

Concluding this message for us here today - Here is a challenge for you and for me,

Let us begin today, right now, to focus our eyes and minds on heavenly things, and not only on the vain things of this world.

Let me say that again –

Let us begin today, right now, to focus our eyes and minds on heavenly things, and not only on the vain things of this world.

(Pause)

There is a saying that: “Real men and women love Jesus, not riches!” 

Indeed, real men and women are those who in spite of their fame, wealth, achievements, etcetera, love Jesus above all things.

Let us honestly and authentically ask ourselves, with all sincerity and humility,

Do I love Jesus, above all things?

Do I love Jesus, above all things?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ)



Corpus Christi Homily– Year C- Deacon Pat Kearns 

I can recall a few years ago being in the small town of San Lucas Tolim├ín, in Guatemala, during the Feast of Corpus Christi. The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. I had always heard of how the Catholic people of these small towns in Central and South America had elaborately celebrated their feast days but had never witnessed it first-hand before. The night before the celebration the local priest had asked if I would help him with the procession the next day. Of course, I said, yes. Nervously, I waited to see what would happen next. I had been told very little of what to expect but that the town’s people would be decorating the streets and that we would process through the town carrying Jesus in the Holy Eucharist housed in the monstrance. I had awoken early the next morning, actually at 3 a.m. with the noise of the townsfolk beginning their ritual of making what they call “Alfombras” or carpets, down the middle of the streets. I watched as each family, in front of their home, take pride in laying down upon the ground with great reverence and precision their elaborate designs that resembled mosaics using tropical flowers, colored sawdust, banana leaves, pine needles, fruit and vegetables, and various other items in preparation of the holy procession. These holy carpets ran through the entire town and as we started the procession at 12 noon the families were still frantically making their final touches. Led by two dozen altar boys, many swinging thuribles of burning incense, and shaded by a canopy held over my head by four of the local leaders, we began our journey through the town. The entire town, hundreds of people partook in the procession and followed as we carried Jesus over the most beautiful and heavenly road I had ever traveled. Periodically we would stop the procession to enter a home which inside had prepared an altar to receive Jesus for a brief period of rest. But the most amazing thing was that as we entered the home everyone inside immediately fell to their knees upon the sight of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The encounter was so powerful that many began to weep in Christ’s presence. This not only occurred once but in every house that we entered during the procession. After three hours, and walking many miles, we finally ended the procession in front of the 500-year-old church, and while holding Jesus in my arms, and as I turned to face the crowd, I could see the entire town looking toward Christ and awaiting their blessing. I could barely contain the emotion provoked by the humility and respect exhibited by those Guatemalans. To this day I carry this experience close to my heart and wonder what it was that allowed those Mayan Indians and Ladinos to so clearly see Christ in the Holy Eucharist. 

What is their pain and suffering that they had endured in their lives? 
Did it have something to do with surrendering their will? 
Was it somehow related to sacrifice? 
Was it a sign of their humility? 
Or was it something else? 

Our lives might not have as much difficulty as those in 3rd countries, but many times in our lives God asks us too, to do or endure difficult things. He asks us to give of ourselves by obeying his will when our natural tendency is to do things our own way. He wants us to follow the Church teachings and our well-formed conscience, but that often means giving something up. It means self-sacrifice. In those moments, we sometimes turn away from God because we are afraid that if we give something up for God, we won't have anything left for ourselves. In today’s Gospel, in the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus addresses that fear. The Apostles were no doubt hungry after a long day of ministry. They barely had enough food to feed themselves - only five loaves of bread and two fish for a dozen hearty men. Yet, Jesus asks them to give it all away. Can you picture their sad, hungry, and tired faces as they reluctantly hand over their dinner to Jesus? But Jesus took the loaves, blessed them, broke them, and gave them back to the disciples to distribute to the crowds. And at the end, each disciple had an entire basketful left over for himself. By giving the little they had to Christ, they received much more in return. Christ will never, never be outdone in generosity. The more we give to him, the more we will receive. As St. Luke had described using the words of Christ: "Give, and gifts will be given to you; by good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." When God asks us to empty ourselves, it's only so he can have room to fill us up with something better. (pause) Well, at this point you might be wondering what does this message have to do with my life? How is it applicable to me? What is it that God asking of me today? These are all great questions and the answers are probably as unique and individual as all of you are. But maybe he is asking some of us to give up a habit of sin or to confess a sin that has been poisoning our lives and the lives of those around us. Maybe he has put on our hearts a desire to support the Church more directly, with some of our time, some of our talents, or even with some of our treasure. Maybe he is simply asking some of us to put our worries and sufferings into his hands and to let go. Maybe he is calling some of us to leave everything behind and set out on the adventure of a vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life. Whatever it is, however frightening such a sacrifice may appear, in this Mass we can take courage because Jesus is about to show us once again just how marvelous his power is. In a few moments, we are going to offer him ordinary bread and wine. And through the ministry of his priest, he will take those gifts, bless them, and transform them into something extraordinary, more miraculous than even the multiplication of loaves: He will make them become his own presence, his own body, blood, soul, and divinity. If he can do that, if he can transform ordinary bread and wine into heavenly food, surely, he can take whatever he is asking us to give to him, and turn it into something wonderful, much more wonderful than we can imagine. If he's asking us to give him something, it's only because he wants to give us much more in return. (Pause) 

In conclusion of God’s message to us here today, I hope and pray that through the power of God’s grace, we will be able to see as the Guatemalan people had seen through their eyes of faith, the truth and reality of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist (Corpus Christi), and that when we see him too, we will be drawn to fall to our knees in awe and joy, that our hearts will burst in love, and that we humbly weep knowing that we are in the presence of God, That we possess docility to respond to his call, to empty ourselves in order to be filled with his grace, and to know without a doubt, that he loves us, that He truly, truly, loves us.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Ascension of Jesus Christ



Homily for the Ascension of Jesus by Fr. Tommy Lane



At the end of school what do you want to do? - I want to do my Senior Certificate.

After your Senior Certificate what do you want to do? - I want to go to college.

After college what do you want to do? - I want to get a job.

Then what do you want to do? - I want to make big money.

What do you want to do after making money? - I want to build a big house.

After that what do you intend to do? - I want to get married.

What will you do after getting married? - I will have a family.

What will you do after having a family? - I will retire.

What do you want to do after you retire? - I want to take a rest.

What will you do after taking a rest? - I don’t know.

Will you die? - Oh yes, I will die too.

 We are so busy doing things, achieving, making progress that we can forget what life is all about, preparing to meet God in heaven. The Ascension of Jesus reminds us that during our lives we are “only passing through” on this earth, as we say. We are pilgrims on a journey. Just as Jesus’ earthly life was temporary, and he ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, so also our lives here are temporary, will come to an end, and we will meet God in the next life. The Ascension of Jesus reminds us in all of our busyness not to forget what life is all about.

Remember that conversation with a student. What will you do next? The student had an answer for everything but never thought about dying and what would happen then. Part of the prayer in the letter to the Ephesians, the second reading today (Eph 1:17-23; Years A & C), is so beautiful. May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. (Eph 1:17-19) It is a most beautiful prayer and description of living life preparing for eternal life.

The Ascension of Jesus reminds us that God has great plans for us that are out of this world and that prayer in the second reading also reminds us that God has great plans for us that are out of this world. You can look at your self in three ways: what you think of yourself, what others think of you, and what God thinks of you. The most important is what God thinks of you. What does God think of you?

The second reading gives us the answer. God looks on you as his son or daughter since you were baptized: May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you…(Eph 1:17-18) You want the perfect house, the perfect car, in fact you want the best of everything. But in fact the best awaits us in the next life because God has planned the very best for you. In that prayer Paul prayed, May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see … what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit…(Eph 1:17-18) The saints are promised glory in the next life. Whatever possessions or riches you have are nothing compared to the riches of heaven. Can you take this £1 to heaven with you? (holding up money). No, it is nothing compared to the riches of heaven, May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see … what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit…(Eph 1:17-18)

 As we listen to so many reports about corruption it seems that people use all sorts of ways of exerting power and influence over others. Does God exert any power or influence over our lives? Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore God the Father “has put all things under his [Christ’s] feet”. (Eph 1:22) This is the power and influence of God exerts over you. So the prayer continues, May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see … how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. (Eph 1:17-19) God wants the best for you and through Christ offers you the best and therefore put all enemies under the feet of Christ when Jesus rose from the dead so that you can be free to enjoy the life God offers you. God has exercised power for you. Live with Christ enjoying the power God has exercised for you. What a wonderful privilege we all enjoy as sons and daughters of God since baptism. How wonderful is this calling that we have all received. How wonderful are the riches of heaven that God has planned for us, it certainly makes us see all our striving after riches here in a new light, and how wonderful is the power God worked in Jesus’ resurrection to raise us all to new life.

 Before Jesus ascended, he entrusted his mission to the Apostles saying, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations...” (Matt 28:19; Gospel Year A) While that mission was entrusted to the Apostles, and to the bishops who are the successors of the Apostles, and their assistants, the priests, you can assist them in their mission to evangelize by praying for them and assisting them in their work for the Lord in so many ways, especially by giving witness that you follow Christ. This is another way in which you live the prayer of the second reading seeing what hope his call holds for you. May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. (Eph 1:17-19)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Love as I have Loved You



LESSON: The New Commandment

The Church, like a good mother, is very wise. She gives us a full seven weeks of Easter season. We need this extended time to reflect on those lessons Christ taught us in his passion and resurrection.

Plants have to spend time outside to gradually absorb the sunlight and transform it into nutrients. Just so, our souls have to spend time basking in the light of Christ's revelation, so that we can absorb the grace God wants to give us.

Today especially, we are reminded of the New Commandment that Christ gave us the day before he suffered.

• We are brought back to that Last Supper, when Jesus was gathered with his closest companions and opened his heart to them.

• It was the night when his heart overflowed with love as it never had before.

• It was the night when he revealed the secret identity of every Christian, the distinguishing mark: "This is how all will know that you are my disciples," he said, "if you have love for one another."

• And not just any kind of love, but Christ-like love: "I give you a new commandment... As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." Being a Christian is much more than being a member of a club. Being a Christian means having an urgent, important mission in life.

• It means being another Christ in the world.

• Jesus gave his very life in order to fulfill his Father's will and win salvation for sinners.

• Each one of us is called to reproduce in the unique circumstances of our lives that exact same pattern: dedicating our lives to discovering and fulfilling God's will, and striving to help as many people as possible know, love, and follow Christ.

ILLUSTRATION: Gandhi's Critique and Chesterton's Quip

Mahatma Gandhi, last century's leader of India's independence movement, received his education in Europe.

• Although he wasn't Christian, he had many opportunities to study Christianity and get to know Christians.

• Later in his life he commented on this experience. He said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

G.K. Chesterton, the famous British convert to Catholicism and great apologist for the faith in the early twentieth century, made a similar statement.

 • He was responding to critics who claimed that since Christianity had been around for so long, but hadn't solved the world's problems, it must be false.

• Chesterton retorted: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

These two quotations remind us of something we already know: too often, too many Christians are satisfied with a mediocre Christianity. But Christ wants more for us.

• He wants to release our full potential as human beings.

• What does that potential consist of? It consists of our capacity to love, to know others as Christ knows them, and to dedicate ourselves to their good.

• Christ knows that if we follow him down that path, we will be truly happy, and we will make those around us truly happy, here on earth and forever in heaven.

How can that happen? It has to start right here - right in our hearts. Christ has already shown us the way. Christ has promised to give us the grace. But none of that will matter unless each one of us makes a firm decision to have one goal in life: to take up the difficult but sure path of knowing, loving, and following Christ. Only then will we have an answer for critics like Gandhi, because only then will we, Christians, become like Christ.

APPLICATION:

Mother Teresa and the Right Idea of Love One thing that can sometimes hold us back in our efforts to follow the Lord's New Commandment is a false idea of what love should feel like.

• We tend to think that true love is always accompanied by nice feelings, and if the feelings go away, that means the love has gone away too.

• That's what radio and TV tell us, but that's not what the Gospel tells us.

• Love, true love, Christ-like love, goes deeper than feelings. It demands sacrifice, self-giving, and self-forgetfulness.

• Christ-like love always involves a cross. That's what makes it Christ-like; that's what makes it true love.

If we can get this truth to sink down from our heads into our hearts, we will be freer to love more as Christ loves, and we will lead happier lives, and make those around us happier. Maybe the words of a real expert in Christ-like love will help convince us of this. Here is a profile of real Christian love from Bl Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway. 

Why? Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God…It was never between you and them anyway."

Today when Jesus comes to renew his commitment to us in Holy Communion, let's ask him to convince us once and for all that Christian love doesn't mean nice feelings, but self-giving, self-forgetting, and going out of our way to help our neighbors, just as he went out of the way to help us

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Divine Mercy (Year C)



As many of you already know, today is The Feast of Divine Mercy, or better known as “Divine Mercy Sunday” which was instituted by Saint John Paul II on April 30, of the year 2000.

However, the origin of this day began in 1931, when a young nun, Saint Faustina, saw a vision of Jesus with Rays of Mercy streaming from the area of His heart.

Christ told her to have an image painted to represent this vision and to sign it, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

In a series of revelations, Christ taught her that His mercy is unlimited and available even to the greatest sinners, and he revealed special ways for people to respond to His mercy.

Yet, the real question for all of us here today is:

“Do we really understand Christ's Mercy?”

When we look at the Gospel reading Jesus appears to his apostles and says to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were not at peace.
They knew Jesus Christ, they believed in Him, but they were not at peace.

And in the second reading we hear Our Lord say, “Do not be afraid.”

Why would we be afraid?

The only reason we would be afraid and not be at peace is when we are not trusting Him.

So, here are some questions that maybe we could ask ourselves and ponder:

Is it that we don't fully believe?

Is it that in our heads we know; but in our hearts we often don't accept?

Could it be that we don't want to let him in very close because we know that it will probably do something to us; something that will require a change in our lives?

Is that why, we, at certain times don't let him come any closer?

Are we sometimes afraid to be vulnerable with God?
(pause)
Listening to our Lord's words from today’s scripture, He tells us:

“Do Not be Afraid, Be at Peace.”
We are also shown how the Holy Spirit breathed upon the disciples and how they are given the authority to forgive sins, our sins.

And when we really know that our sins are forgiven, that is when we can be at peace.

That is when we have nothing to fear if we truly believe in the promises of Our Lord.

But do people actually believe in the promises of Christ?

Do they actually believe in the Mercy of God?

Maybe this issue has much deeper roots?

·       Maybe they don't even believe in their own dignity.

·       Maybe they don't believe in the forgiveness of sin.

·       Maybe they don't believe that God really loves them because they don't believe that they can be loved.

But what does our Lord do?

He comes to us and He points to his heart.

The rays of love flow from his heart depicting, in two different colors, the waters of baptism and the blood of Jesus Christ.

These symbols represent The Eucharist and Baptism; the covenant, and the celebration of the covenant, that each one of us has entered into.

And related to this, there is also a reality that is more profound than anything in the world.

It is the reality of the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the actual reality of having our souls cleansed of sin through Confession.

When we kneel before the priest in confession and hear those beautiful words of absolution, we should walk out with the knowledge, the unshakable knowledge, that our sins have been removed from our soul.

They are no longer there.

The Mercy of God is greater than anything we can do; that is what Our Lord wants us to know.

That there is nothing we can do that is bigger than Him.

He wants, more than anything, to forgive our sins.

Yet - many do not go to regular confession.
And some estimates state that only 20% even fulfill the Catholic obligation of yearly confession.

WHY?

Why is it that so many don’t take advantage of the healing Sacrament of Confession?

If we are one of these people, maybe this is a question we should ask ourselves and pray about?

Jesus said that it was because of his love and mercy for us that he gave us the Sacrament of Confession.

And Saint Faustina records Jesus saying in such a beautiful way:

Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of my mercy, the blood and water which came forth from My heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it.

For every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in my mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour out the bounty of my grace upon your soul.

When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting for you there.

I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul.

Here the misery of the soul meets God solely with the vessel of trust.

If their trust is great, there is no limit to my generosity.”

In conclusion of today’s message let us remember that in confession, our sins are forgiven for all who believe and are truly contrite, that is our Catholic belief.

And it is in the utilization of confession and believing in the promises of Christ is what ultimately brings us healing and Peace.

Jesus is reaching out to each one of us.

The question we should ask ourselves is:

Will we draw near?

Or will we keep backing away, only to remain at arm’s reach?

Why don’t we all choose to Accept Christ's Mercy into our lives, (Especially Today) of all days.

·       Let’s all vow to accept his forgiveness,

·       To Believe in Him,

·       To Believe in our own holiness,

·       and to Believe and to know deep in our hearts and soul that God loves us,

that He truly loves us… so very much!