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Friday, May 1, 2015

Love One Another-the Supreme Commandment

John 15; 9-17 Love One Another-the Supreme Commandment

If you were going on a long trip, what would you say to your family and friends before you left?

If your children were moving away from home, what would you say to them?

If you knew that you were going to see someone for the last time, what would you say?

In each case you would probably remind them of your love and care as well as give them some instructions or words of advice. Well, not unlike us, knowing that He was soon to leave, Jesus gave us and his disciples His final instructions and words of advice. Today’s Gospel passage is part of the final instructions that Jesus gave to the disciples the night before he was crucified. Jesus knew that the disciples would not find love in the world. He knew that the world would largely hate them and his message. In fact, the world still hates his message today. How often are Christians belittled, ignored, or even attacked? Nevertheless, we, like the disciples, are called to love each other and our fellow man in spite of opposition. When we love each other, we will experience the joy of obeying God. When we love one another, we also allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and grow in us. But how it grows will depend on our connection to each other, to God, and to His church. The stronger our faith the more we will do, and it is the things that we do for God and for others that brings glory to God and strengthens the Holy Spirit within us.

Love for others means being willing to die for others. Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross for our sins. The men and women who serve in our armed forces also show this same type of love. They and countless others who served were willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of others. They were willing to go out of their way for others by dying to save their lives. They came to the aid of those who were in need even at their own personal expense, and they are still willing and ready to do so today.

Mothers show this same type of love for their children. More mothers than not would willingly lay down their lives for their children rather than see them suffer. Their love is freely given and given without compromise or cost. That is why we honor them so much. They reflect in a powerful and mystical way, God’s love.

Jesus also showed how far that type of love can take someone when he died for us. If Jesus could lay down his own life for us, isn’t there a part of our lives that we are willing to lay down as well? Maybe it has to do with a prejudice, an unwillingness to help, envy, something related to material goods, hatred, an unwillingness to forgive, or even something else?

This message that speaks of love is intimately connected to relationships. God wants us to have relationships that are more than superficial. But relationship building takes time and requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy and forgiveness. When we love one another we act as God’s hands and feet to those that he puts in our lives. Serving others does take time, effort, and sometimes even a little money but the blessings outweigh the costs.

We must not forget that loving others as God loved us is the heart of Christian discipleship.

Christian life can only exist through these human relationships, especially when they are based on mutual respect and humane values. The apostle Peter showed the same type of love in the first reading. His love for others, combined with the visions he and the Roman centurion Cornelius had led Peter to minister to Cornelius and his family. When Peter proclaimed the Good News, the Holy Spirit moved within his audience, and it marked both a second Pentecost and the spreading of the Good News to all people (not just the Jews). If the Holy Spirit could move in the hearts of Peter’s audience, it can also move in the hearts of the people in our world today. Yet, these people will need to be open to hearing it, and more especially we need to be open and willing to share it.

If we are to be fruitful for Christ, we must seek his will for our lives and let him lead us to what he wants us to do for others and for him, even if it seems a little uncomfortable.

Because when we love one another, we fulfill the second of Jesus’ two Great Commandments, to love thy neighbor as thyself. When we love Jesus, he also becomes our true best friend.

· Friends have our best interests in mind, just like Jesus does.

· Friends will be with us in good times and bad times just like Jesus is.

· They help us to expand our world, expose us to new and creative possibilities, and sustain us when we are in need.

God has chosen all of us for the purpose of bearing much eternal fruit in such personal characteristics as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These characteristics will grow within us and help us when we tell others about Jesus and lead them into a fruitful and personal relationship with him.

Let’s take a moment and reflect upon our lives, our lives as Christians.

· We can say that Jesus is our friend, but can we say that we are his friends?

· Do we listen to him when he speaks to us, or do we only want him to listen to us?

· Do we want to know what’s on his heart and mind, or do we only want to tell him what’s on ours?

Being a true friend of Jesus means listening to what he wants to tell us and then using that information to do his work in our world and in our lives.

So what is the true message for us here today? The message is:

· Christ is love, and we are to love as he has loved, even to the point of willingly laying down our lives for our friends.

· Even if the world shall hate us, we are to love, and in that love, and service of love, we will be eternally united with God.

(This homily was adapted from a homily written by Craig Condon)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Thursday Mass

Holy Thursday Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Redding, California

Friday, March 6, 2015

True Meaning of Life (3rd Sunday of Lent - Year B)

Homily: True Meaning in Life
Third Sunday of Lent – Year B

It’s common to think of Jesus as a gentle and peace-loving man, but in today’s gospel we also see a different side of him. We see him make a whip out of cords, over-turn tables throwing coins everywhere, and attempting to drive evil-doers out of the temple area. Surely many were shocked by what they saw and witnessed…. but was there a point to his actions?

Do you think the merchants in the temple area thought of themselves as “evil-doers”? Probably not! Do you think there were always merchants in the temple area? No, probably not. I would assume that one day a man set-up shop, and entrepreneur, and then another, then another, and overtime a large market developed. There might have been some initial dissatisfaction over the selling of goods in the temple area, but overtime the gradual process of adding more and more merchants probably went unnoticed and after a few years it not only became normal but was expected.

Can you begin to see some similarity between this example and what has happened in our society? Just the other day I was visiting with a man who described a recent event that left him troubled. He told me that more than 10 years ago he removed the television from his home because he and his wife were fearful of what was being shown, fearful of the influential power of TV, and fearful of how it could negatively affect them and their children. He stated that since that time, 10 years ago, he hadn’t really seen much Television.

He then informed me that he had recently returned from a family visit in which he watched a variety of TV shows with his relatives. He reported that he was shocked at what appeared to be in almost every show: varying levels of nudeness, pre-marital sex, same sex relationships, affairs, and ramped immorality.  And what bothered him the most was that his relatives, who he believed were good Catholics, who attended mass every week, who adhered to all the catholic rules, and who also saw nothing wrong with the content of the shows.

He stated that in response to his relative’s apparent non-reaction, He initially questioned himself? Is Pre-Marital sex ok? Is looking at Naked and Half-Naked people ok? Is having an Affair ok?

Then he stated that he snapped out of it, recalling that all those behaviors were not only wrong, but actually sinful…. and that they ultimately separated people from God. He realized that his relatives had become “Desensitized”!  Might I ask, How many of us have also been desensitized through a gradual process, and now find little to no objection to what is so prevalent in society?

If Jesus were here today, do you think he would find our current culture Acceptable?  Holy?  And Just? I don’t think so, at least not much of it. As we begin to look at the world around us through Christ’s eyes, we begin to see a much different world. We can begin to see how certain behaviors and attitudes have evolved and have led many away from God and his ways.

Yet, it is more than just being desensitized that has caused this problem, we are still missing something important. I recall a story of a priest who was coming back to his parish house one evening in the dark only to be accosted by a robber who pulled a gun at him and demanded, “Your money or your life!”  As the priest reached his hand into his coat pocket the robber saw his Roman collar and said, “You’re a priest? You can go.”  The priest was rather surprised at this unexpected show of piety and so tried to reciprocate by offering the robber his pack of cigarettes, to which the robber replied, “No, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”  On the surface this sounds like a funny joke, but can you see how this robber is trying to keep the pious observance of not smoking during Lent while forgetting the more fundamental commandment of God, “Thou shalt not steal.” He is acting but not understanding the why of the action.

Maybe we are doing the same in our own lives, at least on some level.

Recently Pope Francis said that we are to ensure that on Fridays we aren’t avoiding meat to only feast and gorge ourselves on seafood. If so, what sacrifice would that be?

Our actions and behaviors as Catholics are to have a deeper meaning, and it is that meaning that is always more important than the action. Our lives are to have that deeper meaning also, the meaning that originates our actions, and that meaning that sustains us through difficult times, trying times, and through temptations.

As Catholics we should know the meaning of life, our unique meaning. Is it clear what that meaning is in your life? Is that meaning actually the thing that directs your actions, or are your actions just something you do, a pious gesture? These are good and important questions that we need to ask of ourselves.

This time of Lent is a time to slow down, quiet down, and to seriously reflect upon our lives and upon our true meaning and purpose here on earth. It is a time to identify our shortcomings, our inequities, to repent, to turn away from sin, to reunite ourselves to Christ, and to prepare ourselves in a special and meaningful way for the coming of Lord and Savior.

Take some time today and prayerfully ask God to open your hearts and minds, to allow you the ability to see where change is needed, and for God to help you in humble way to understand your true meaning in life.
Praise be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River

Homily – Deacon Pat Kearns
The Baptism of our Lord (Year B) Mark 1:7-11

Today we celebrate the Lord’s baptism by John in the Jordan River. This celebration marks a turning point in the Church’s liturgical calendar. This weekend the Christmas season ends and we will once again return to ordinary time. Although today’s Gospel message is short in length, having only 6 sentences, it contains an abundance of meaning for us as followers of Christ. We are presented with an example of Faith, Humility, and also the revelation of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Gospel begins with John proclaiming that one greater than himself will be coming, that he is not worthy to be compared to one that is to come, and that there will be a new type on baptism of much greater importance than what he can administer. John is quick to direct attention away from himself and onto the awaited messiah. He exhibits sincere and true humility. He also clarifies that there will be a notable and profound difference between his baptism of water and that of a baptism with the Holy Spirit. In John’s baptism, as with the other rites of the Old Testament, grace was only signified or symbolized. In his baptism the external act of cleansing was just that, an outward gesture of a desire for repentance. However, the new baptism, the one instituted by Christ not only signifies grace, but is the effective cause of grace, it actually confers grace.

Saint Pius X explained, “Baptism confers the first sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues, taking away Original Sin and any other personal sins [as with an adult baptism], as well as the entire debt of punishment which the baptized person owes for sin. In addition, baptism impresses the Christian Character in the soul and makes it able to receive the other Sacraments.” Powerful, isn’t it? It all starts with baptism.

I think it is also pertinent to point out that this act of baptism by Jesus is also his initial act of becoming public and beginning his public ministry. Until then, his life was mostly hidden. 

Often the question is asked, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” especially if his was without sin? The answer is, “He didn’t,” at least not in the same sense as to why we must be baptized. Yet, His baptismal act not only connected him with all of humanity it also set a precedent for others to follow. He in essence was leading the way and teaching by example. And it was through His baptism that sanctified the waters of baptism for all who were to follow for all of eternity, and also revealed to us the Holy Trinity. On coming up and out of the water the heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven claiming Jesus as God’s son. There it is! The Trinity revealed.
  • Jesus as the Son of God
  • The Holy Spirit expressed as a dove
  • And God speaking from heaven
This baptism was the public manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and as Messiah, ratified by the presence of the Blessed Trinity.

Saint Thomas Aquinas described the event as follows: “The Holy Spirit descended visibly in bodily form upon Christ when he was baptized so that we may believe Him to descend invisibly upon all those who are baptized afterwards.” Yes, we must have faith to believe, yet Christ and God knew that, and that is why they gave us a sign to help us believe.

And there are a few more things for us to consider from this short Gospel reading. In Christ’s baptism He laid the foundation for a new dispensation of grace. From that moment the baptized received remission from sin, became a child of God, a member of His church, and a citizen of heaven. This baptism becomes the gateway to the life of grace and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments. It is a necessary act for a life in Christ. It also defines our rights and responsibilities as a Christian, our privileges, and our mission. It is through our baptism, and living out of our baptismal promises that unites us with Christ and in this union we can find the strength to go about doing good and living as beloved sons and daughters by faith in the Son of God who lives in us. It is the duty of the baptized then to make a life of grace, a daily life of avoiding sin.

Now knowing this, let us take a moment and reflect upon our lives, our actions, our habits, and our interests, especially in light of who were are called to be as sons and daughters of God. We are called to be holy, disciplined, charitable, forgiving, compassionate, and most of all, loving. Well, do we hit the mark? Or is there room for improvement? Probably some room for improvement, at least in my case, maybe in yours as well.

So where do we beginAll it takes is one visit with the priest for confession to purify our souls, remove the barriers of God’s grace, and to return our souls to the state of our baptism, sinless.

In closing, and following the example of John the Baptist, let us today respond in faith and humility, opening ourselves to the effects of the Holy Trinity, and commit to living profoundly deeper and meaningful lives as Christians.

All this from just six short sentences from the Gospel of Mark! :)

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!