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Friday, December 27, 2019
Saturday, December 14, 2019
Deacon Pat Kearns
3rd Sunday of Advent
Is 35:1-6a, 10, Mt 11:2-11
Today we light the 3rd Advent Candle. In many traditional Advent wreaths, there are three purple candles and one rose-colored candle. The rose-colored candle is reserved for the third Sunday of Advent. It is different from all the others. This particular candle symbolizes “Rejoicing”. Let’s explore in a little deeper way, the meaning of this 3rd Sunday of Advent and listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah, allowing the words to settle upon our hearts.
• Strengthen the hands that are feeble.
• Make firm the knees that are weak.
• Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!
• Here is your God; He comes with Vindication, with Divine recompense.
In other words, God comes to “make-up” for what is lacking in our lives. And finally: He comes to save us!
Advent is a time of expecting and waiting. For some, it is simply a time of shopping and preparing for the exchange of gifts at Christmas. But for Catholics, it is a time with a much deeper meaning. Advent is a time to take a closer look at our lives, especially in regard to our preparedness for Christ’s coming. As Christmas approaches, we acknowledge the beauty and gravity of that gift of our Lord who humbled himself to take on our humanity. That gift, indeed, is beyond our complete understanding and will remain a mystery to so many of us. We also acknowledge that He will come again and that when He returns, that will be the end, the end to life as we know it. However, we must also realize, that HE is also here now, this year, this week, this day, and at this very moment. And why is He here? He is here to save us! So my question to all of you is, what do we need saving from?
• How are our hands feeble?
• How are our knees weak?
• What are our fears?
• What wrong do we need Him to set right?
• How are we blind?
• What is it that we cannot hear?
• In what ways are we lame?
Advent is a time to think about those questions.
Another important question to all of us comes from the depths of a prison, the prison where John the Baptist suffered in Herod’s palace. The same place where John sent his followers to ask the Lord: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? Bishop Fulton Sheen said that John was discouraged and perhaps even close to despair when he acted in such a way. John had spent his whole life waiting for the coming of the Christ, and now that he had come, or so he thought, he still suffers in a prison. Can’t you imagine why he might have thought?
• Is this really the Christ?
• Is this really the one that I am being called to die for?
And how does Jesus respond to John? Jesus states: “Look at all the wonderful things that are happening to the people around here.
• The Blind are seeing,
• The deaf are hearing,
• The dumb are speaking,
• and the lame are leaping.”
And then Jesus states: “The poor have the good news preached to them.” What does this mean? Who are the poor that He speaks of? We are the poor. “It is us!”
When we truly acknowledge our faults, our inequities, our short comings, and realize just how poor we actually are; and when we reach out for Him, the one who has been faithfully waiting for us to respond, then and only then, our world begins to change. A transformation begins. Something so very special is set into motion. He hears our thoughts, our prayers, and then He begins to shine His light onto us during our hours of desperation. He begins to fill us with wisdom and peace in places where there had only been confusion. He begins to show us the tiniest ways to begin to unravel the knots that we have wrapped around us through repeated bad choices and sinfulness. But we have to reach out for him, we must look in His direction for our answers. Yes, this seems so very simple, but not unlike John, we might also experience doubt at times. We might question our faith, especially when we are frightened, hurt, and worn down by trial after trial. Honestly: haven’t we all questioned, either in our thoughts or at least in our actions:
• Are you the one?
• Should we be looking somewhere else?
And how many of us have, and are still looking somewhere else for the answers? How many of us are seeking peace, joy, and love in all the wrong places? How many of us seek love, but settle for lust? How many of us seek joy, but settle for cheap pleasure? Seek satisfaction, but instead, merely feed our greed? Seek wisdom, but then listen to fools. Seek true beauty, but instead, latch onto what only makes us uglier. Seek intimacy, but settle for less.
Yet, as we reach out for God, choose to look toward him for the answers, we are then touched by a ray of light, a grace, a sense of warmth, an idea, an understanding, a promise of hope and wonder that is Christ, the Christ that is the One! We begin to yearn and hunger for what is pure and true. We begin to make changes in our lives; we throw away the lies and deceptions as we come clean with the Sacrament of confession. We suddenly discover within ourselves the ability to make choices that are different than what we had been accustomed to in that lost cycle of habit. Our behaviors begin to change, we begin to meet new friends, we begin to grow closer to God, to the Church, and then, all of a sudden we find a deeper meaning and understanding in the liturgy, the Mass. We begin to see our participation with heaven and the spiritual world. We progressively transform into the person that we were created to be by God. We experience love, joy, and peace. We see beauty where we had never noticed it before. We find ourselves drawn to the scriptures, because maybe for the first time, they now become alive and directly speak to us. As we receive Holy Communion, the Eucharist now joyfully burns within us as we truly realize who that it is we have just consumed. We begin to taste in our lives the fruits of the Spirit that Saint Paul spoke of: Love, Joy, Peace, and Patience. We become kind and generous. And all of this begins as we have chosen to turn to God, to Christ for the answers.
This is the Joy that is behind the Rose-colored candle. The joy of the third Sunday of Advent. It is the message of hope and salvation. It is the understanding that, YES, we are the poor. And that we have heard the good news preached to us. We have found THE ONE we are looking for.
As we begin to embrace our faith, our beautiful Catholic faith, and we realize the treasures of the Sacraments; we can then begin to joyfully understand the eternal rewards of being a Christian, and… Just how truly rich…we are!
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Homily – Year C – 32nd Sunday – Deacon Pat Kearns
Listening to today’s readings and Gospel message you probably heard a variety of issues:
- perverse and wicked people,
- and even a wife married to seven brothers,
How often in our lives to do we talk about our death, or the end of our life with those around us, especially those close to us like our spouses, family, and friends? It is much easier to talk about the death of others than it is to talk about our own death. Yet, this is so very important, and the message today will give us much to think about.
As Catholics, we are to be living our lives in preparation for death. A life well-lived, especially in regard to a life well-lived in the faith, brings about a comfortable death and ease of transition from this life to the next. But why is it that so many people fear death? Fear of death comes from a lack of faith and hope. Faith is the foundation of our spiritual life that we are to have as Catholics, and it is with this faith that brings us hope. It is that hope that brings us courage in the light of difficulty, even when that difficulty includes the possibility of death. That hope is the understanding that there will be life after death, a life of such love, peace, and tranquility like we have never seen or experienced before.
So how does this all come about? Like many things in life, it begins in the family. The Father brings faith and truth into the home. Not exclusively, but that is his role and task. The wife embraces that faith and truth, internalizes it, and turns it into love and charity. It is the wife who is the heart and love of the home. And when the father who is faith, mixes with the wife who is love, working together, springs forth hope. With faith and hope, we are able to combat fear. The fear of death is only present when we are lacking faith and hope in our lives. Especially because it is faith and hope that specifically brings forth courage.
Looking at our first reading of today, it speaks of a mother and her seven sons who obviously had strong faith, a faith that had been nourished, and a faith that had been well-lived, as evident by their amazing hope. Some of their reactions to the threat of being put to death were:
- “The King of the world will raise us up to live again.”
- “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up.”
- “We are ready to die rather than turn away from God.”
Their faith created their hope and even in the midst of being put to death, they remained courageous. Hope is so strong that not even death can break it.
The second reading speaks of this hope. Saint Paul shares that the Lord Jesus, and God our Father, who has loved us has also given us everlasting encouragement and good HOPE through His grace, encourages our hearts and strengthens us in every good deed and word. We are to be cognizant of this and realizing that embracing the virtuous Catholic life also brings with it the grace of a happy death. Don’t we all want the grace of a happy death?
At this point, you might be asking how is it that we can embrace our Catholic lives, our Catholic faith, be living our lives well, and how to be prepared for when difficult times come, especially times that might involve death. First of all, we are to do the basics of what it means to be Catholic.
- We are to speak and listen to God daily in prayer.
- We are to attend weekly Mass and holy days of obligation.
- We should cleanse our souls quickly every time they become stained with mortal sin through the Sacrament of confession.
- We are to be charitable with our time, talents, and treasure.
- We are to learn our faith and especially what the Church teaches about death, so that we are well prepared to make the right decisions for ourselves and for our loved ones.
As many of you know, I have worked in health care, in hospitals, and with patients and families for over 35 years. I have seen many peaceful, holy, and inspiring deaths, with supportive family and friends, circled around the person in prayer and in love. I have seen lonely deaths. I have also witnessed some very troublesome and chaotic deaths with families being torn apart by the need to make certain care decisions, often in haste, and without any knowledge from a prior discussion with the person who the decision will affect the most. Often, the family has no idea what the person would want or not want done.
This brings us back to my initial question; How often in our lives to do we talk about our death, or the end of our life with those around us, especially those close to us like our spouses, family, and friends? If we are desiring to have a peaceful and comfortable death, we need to live our lives well, and to make sure we share our thoughts and ideas about death with those the closest to us. Because the time may come when we are not able to communicate our desires and we will be relying on others to make those decisions for us. The decisions often include such things as being placed on a ventilator, having feeding tubes placed or not placed, performing or not performing CPR, just to mention a few. Can you imagine the stress placed on an individual who must make these decisions for someone else when they truly do not know what the person would have desired?
There are many mechanisms available for a person to document their specific desires so that they can be honored at such a critical time, like Advance Directives, Living Wills, and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care. These documents are easily available and can be obtained often for free on the internet, from physician’s offices, and even at many parishes, but they do not take the place of sitting down with one’s family and having a discussion about how exactly one feels about death and the processes surrounding it.
In conclusion, there are many practical things that can be done, and should be done, well in advance, as previously mentioned, to clearly give guidance to family, friends, and care providers, describing what your wishes are regarding what to do and not to do if a time comes where you cannot speak for yourself. This will ensure your wishes are honored and will prevent any unnecessary stress or guilt on others. We should also ensure that we clearly understand the teachings of our faith on end of life issues by speaking to an informed priest, deacon, or others knowledgeable in the faith. One can also reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church for sound advice.
Additionally, we should be focused on living a life “well-lived in the faith.”
And always remembering that:
- Our Faith truly understood and truly lived brings us hope.
- Faith mixed with love springs forth hope.
- Hope is what fuels our lives as Christians.
- It is what prepares us for those difficult times in life, even times that might include death.
- It is what gives us courage and allows us to overcome fear.
Catholic hope is so powerful, so truly powerful, nothing can break it, not even death. Amen
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Corpus Christi Homily– Year C- Deacon Pat Kearns
I can recall a few years ago being in the small town of San Lucas Tolimán, 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.