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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Hearing Jesus' Voice - 4th Sunday of Easter

As I read and re-read the gospel in preparation for this Sunday I identified a variety of topics that we could explore: 
  • The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and what that actually means. 
  • How a Good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. 
  • How a hired man doesn’t see the sheep as his own, and runs away and abandons them at the first sign of trouble. 
  • How Jesus made it a point to mention that there are sheep outside of his fold, but that he needed to care for them too. 
  • And that he needed to lay down his life only to take it up again. 
But there was something else contained in the Gospel that seemed to stand out from the others, at least to me, it was when Jesus said: I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.

This sentence intrigued me and I knew there was something special about it. I began to investigate what this might have meant at the time of Jesus and found this out. It was very common in the afternoon and before nightfall for shepherds to bring their sheep down from hills where they had been grazing so they could be protected and away from danger while in a shelter. During the night the sheep from different flocks would intermingle and by the time morning came, it would be difficult to know which sheep belonged to who. Yet, each morning the shepherds would call out to their sheep and recognizing the unique voice of their shepherd they would go to them. The sheep recognized their shepherd and the shepherd knew his sheep. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is the Shepherd and that His sheep know His voice. We are to be His sheep. 

Now knowing the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, I then began to contemplate what it meant to hear God’s voice and to be able to recognize it, and I pondered what might keep me from hearing it. Then I thought of our contemporary world – especially this last year during the pandemic. We constantly hear many voices speaking to us through the television, the internet, Twitter, and text messages. We are bombarded with the voices and ideas of politicians, celebrities, athletes, journalists, lawyers, and newscasters. We are smothered by messages and ways of looking at the world that may or may not be very Christ-like. Yet, Jesus teaches us that to follow Him we must recognize His voice. And since most of us will never hear His voice audibly, we should learn to identify the other ways He speaks to us. 

The ordinary way that most of us will hear and recognize Him will be in our prayers. So, we must ask ourselves: have we developed a prayer life that will allow us to hear Him? So often He speaks in the quiet of our heart and our mind. Have we developed a method of prayer that also allows our mind and our heart to rest in peaceful quiet? If our life is in a state of constant distraction, constant stimulation, and endless external activities, how will we ever hear His voice? I have come to know that to hear His voice and to hear it clearly, it is in the quiet that it can be recognized. And since God often uses situations, events, and encounters to speak to us, we should reflect upon our daily events each night. It is in that prayerful reflection, that meditation, that examination of conscience, that He so often speaks to us, guides us, and inspired us. I was once told that we should imagine Jesus walking slowly through our minds and holding a candle. That He will gently point the candle toward a thought or an idea, illuminating it, and drawing quiet attention toward it. However, if we aren’t paying attention, it will go unnoticed and His voice will never be heard.

I couldn’t help but reflect again on that small portion of today’s Gospel: I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; So how is it that one truly gets to know another? It is through spending time together, openly sharing our thoughts, our dreams, our inspirations, our trials, our troubles, and our fears. It is through having a relationship. The question we must ask of ourselves is “How much am I investing in this relationship with Christ?” Is it enough? Has it been enough that He will know me and recognize me? Do I truly know Him? Can I recognize His voice as my shepherd? Do I truly know who to follow in this world? All very meaningful and important questions that we should be asking of ourselves. And in doing so, I have a challenge for each of us here today: Why don’t we begin today to set aside some time each day or night to sit in quiet? To pray, To talk, To reflect, To listen, And to deepen our relationship, and our friendship with Christ. I want to be able to recognize His voice, don’t you?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday – Deacon Pat Kearns

In the gospel proclaimed today we have followed Jesus from the praises of Palm Sunday, through His passion, His suffering, and ultimately His death. For us Catholics, this week, Holy Week, continues the story of what we are, and who we are as a people. This week is the most Holy Week of the year. And beginning this week, today is Palm Sunday; where we celebrate that “First Joy” of the Lenten Season. We celebrate our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves in the street before him. 

In a few days, we will arrive at Holy Thursday – The most complex and profound of all religious observances, with the exception only to Easter. Holy Thursday celebrates, as instituted by Christ himself, that of the Holy Eucharist and of the priesthood. His last supper with the disciples, and the celebration of Passover, He is the Self-offered Passover victim. Every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice by Christ’s authority and command in exactly the same way. The last supper was also Christ’s farewell to his disciples, some of whom would betray, desert, and deny him, all before the sun would rise again. 

Then, following Holy Thursday is Good Friday, when the entire Church fixes her gaze on the cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Good Friday:
 • in the adoration of the cross, 
 • in the chanting of the “Reproaches,”
 • in the proclamation of the passion, 
 • and in receiving the pre-consecrated Host, we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the death of our Lord. 

Then…. The Easter Vigil. The vigil, held at night, signifies Christ’s passage from the dead-to-the-living by the liturgy that begins in darkness, representing Sin and Death, and is enlightened by the fire and the Easter candle, the light of Christ. The Church, the mystical Body of Christ and the community of believers, is led from spiritual darkness to the light of His truth. We rejoice in Christ’s bodily resurrection from the darkness of the tomb: 
• we pray for our passage from death into eternal life, 
• from sin into grace, 
• from the weariness and infirmity of old age to the freshness and vigor of youth,  
• from the anguish of the cross to peace and unity with God, 
• and from this sinful world unto the Father in heaven. 

As we now begin Holy Week, it is a time for deep and sincere reflection on who we are, on our current relationship with Christ, and a time to embrace Christ’s passion. Everything we are as Catholics rest upon this week. The week that includes Christ’s Passion, His Death, and ultimately His resurrection. It is a time for us to embrace our own passion, our own sorrows, our own troubles, our own crosses, and to die to the sinfulness of our lives. The sinfulness that all too often is rooted in Greed, Pride, Lust, and Envy. If not done already this Lent, it is time for Confession, a time to be freed from the shackles of sin. It is a time to unite our lives with Christ. It is a time to be resurrected with Christ. To be spiritually resurrected anew, awakened to His joy, His freedom, His power, and His love. Pause His life is to become our life… His life is to become our life…….

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Kearns Boys - Life Stories by Six Brothers (Audio Version Coming Soon)


The paperback version of the book was released a few months ago and has been well received.

We are currently recording the audio version with each brother personally recording their own stories.

Here is a sample from the end of the book where each brother shares their reflection on writing the
book.

This is from Pat (Number 4 brother).



Saturday, February 6, 2021

God's Healing Touch (Mark 1:40-45)

 Homily – Deacon Pat - Mark 1:40-45


God’s Healing Touch

In today’s gospel, we heard that a leper approached Jesus with strong faith and with a humble heart asked for healing.

Seeing his faith and humility, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him with love and mercy.

That touch to the leper bridged the gap between what is clean and what was unclean, and in that connection he purified the man and he was healed.

We all need healing from some kind of leprosy that separates us from our true selves, from others, and from God.

But what is this so-called Leprosy that I speak of?

·       Is our leprosy a pervasive selfishness?

·       Is it an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, excessive internet shopping, gambling, or pornography?

· It is a chronic expression of anger, rudeness, hostility, self-centeredness, or righteousness?

·       Is it gossip, or an unhealth addiction to the internet and social media?

The list could go on and on….

Weakness in many ways goes hand in hand with being human does it not?

We all know our weaknesses, don’t we?

Especially if we are practicing the Catholic practice of examining our conscience on a daily basis, reflecting each night during our prayers on not only the blessing from the day but also on our failures, our sins, and our short comings.

Those who have kept the discipline of the daily examine are well aware of their spiritual leprosy.

And those that are aware have three choices:

·       They can try to rationalize away their weakness. The devil loves that!

·       They can live in a sense of personal shame while doing nothing about it. The devil likes that too!

·       Or, they can turn to Christ and ask for healing. You can image how the devil feels about that.

I think most of us here would agree that to be human is to battle against inclinations and temptations that often are contrary to a Godly choice or what we would consider a virtue.

I would bet that many of us here would also agree that even the most fervent and devout Catholic will slip and fall to temptation from time to time.

But what separates those who are actually embracing the faith and God’s Sacraments from those who are not, are those who run toward Christ when they sin.

Running to Christ means running to the Church and her Sacraments as in the Sacrament of healing, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.

This is where we reach out to God with a contrite spirit and humbly ask for forgiveness and our soul is washed clean by God’s touch of grace.

Yes, it takes humility and faith to go to confession.

Just as the Leper in the gospel surely showed humility and faith as he approached and spoke to Jesus, and asked to be healed.

Isn’t it remarkable how these Gospel passages can speak to us directly if we allow them to?

·       Ask, and God shall hear.

·       Ask and God can heal.

And when we are healed, we can then be an agent of further healing to others.

Yes, it takes faith and courage, but Jesus calls each one of us to destroy the walls that separate us from Him, and from others, and to welcome the outcasts and the untouchables of society.

Those outcasts and those untouchables might just be some that we can call family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, or even co-workers.

God’s loving hand must reach out to the poor, the sick, and lepers — this often can be done through us — and Jesus wants us to touch their lives.

And how we touch their lives does not need to be great missionary feats or enormous acts.

They can be very simple as Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us through her motto: “Do small things with great love,” her “small things” left a big impact on the lives of so many of the poor and outcast.

Yet Mother Teresa’s lived wisdom taught us even more as she said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy, but rather the feeling of being lonely and unwanted.”

I know this personally to be true after spending over three decades serving those in the mental health system.

The pain of loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is a greater sorrow, a deeper ache, than any other disease I am aware of.

And yet, this pain and sorrow at times can be so easily relived.

All it might take is for someone to be willing to be Christ-like to them.

 

I recall a story I once heard of St. Francis of Assisi encountering and kissed a leper on the road.

The leper soon disappeared and then Francis realized that he had embraced and kissed Christ.

 

I wonder how many opportunities we have had to meet Christ on the road of our daily lives and missed those opportunities due to being too distracted, too self-focused, or just too unbothered?

Our Pope Francis very often says that, “Our Church community should be seen as a hospital for sinners, not as a hotel for saints.”

 

Lets us begin today seeing our own faults first.

This will keep us humble.

Let us also pledge that we will run toward Christ when we sin and ask for His forgiveness.

 

And Finally, as we prepare ourselves to receive in just a short time the Most Holy Eucharist, Christ himself in body, blood, soul, and divinity, that we accept his healing touch.

That He will open our hearts to see those in our families and in our community who are hurting.

And that we will share God’s love and mercy with them as we would share with Christ himself.

Praise be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Thanksgiving Message (Luke 17:11-19)


Thanksgiving Day

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. (Lk 17:11-19)

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

“The Gospel of the Lord”

 


 

In Luke’s gospel, we start with ten men who have the worst disease of their day.

The physical ramifications are horrendous.

Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, missing fingers, missing toes, damaged limbs.

In many cases, the initial pain of leprosy gives way to something more terrible than that - a loss of sensation in nerve endings, leading to more damage to more body parts.

The disease can take 30 years to run its course, and in that time span, entire limbs can simply fall off. It is, assuredly, a most horrible disease.

We have nearly an impossible task in trying to fathom what it was like 2,000 years ago when medical treatment as we know it today was almost non-existent.

I recalled reading in a book a few years back while being on a pilgrimage, a Christian woman was near a modern-day leper colony.

Something within her had always wanted to minister in a leper colony and her trip overseas had given her the first opportunity to be near such a place.

She walked by the entrance three times.

She saw those who were suffering.

She begged herself for a chance to go inside. But she could not.

The reason? The smell overwhelmed her.

She could not work up the stomach to go inside the colony.

She could not bear the thought of missing the opportunity to personally serve the Lord and the Lepers, but at the same time becoming violently ill at what she was faced with seemed to be too much.

The trip passed, and she was not able to go inside.

And, I think, we gained a new appreciation of how bad this disease must have been in the days of Christ.

It wasn't just the grotesque damage, or the attack to our sight.

It wasn't just the loud cries, the attack to our hearing.

It was also the smell of rotting, decaying flesh, overwhelming even our sense of smell.

The emotional pain of a leper, however, must have been even worse than the physical pain.

He was removed from his family, from his community.

There could be no contact, whatsoever, with his children or grandchildren.

None. Immediately removed. His wife would not be allowed to kiss him goodbye.

He would not have allowed it anyway, for fear that she, too, would become afflicted.

Lepers tended to roam together, looking for food, begging for assistance from a great distance, learning to yell in loud voices, both from the need to warn others, and to beg for help from across the way.

What would it have been like to have been removed from friends and family for a lifetime, and to have been forced to announce that removal on a daily basis? It must have been horrible.

And yet, in this account, ten men encounter Jesus, and hear him say the most unusual thing.

"We want to be well!" they scream at Jesus.

And the great teacher responds, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."

The local priest had duties other than leading the worship on each Sabbath.

He was also something of a health official.

If a person was miraculously healed of leprosy, it was up to the priest to inspect the body, to test for a complete removal of the disease, and to announce the person healed.

In such cases, the person would have been cleansed, and at that point, it would be fine for the leper to see his wife again, to hold his daughter again, to look for work again.

If the priest gave him the OK, he would be healed!

Now, Jesus says to these lepers, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."

They look down at their bodies.

The hands of one man are still mangled.

Another man looks at his leg, which ends with a filthy rag at the knee.

Another looks at his skin, and finds it as repulsive as ever.

In other words, all of these men were no better off than they had been ten minutes earlier, when they had first spotted the famous teacher.

And yet, they headed off in search of the priests.

And on their way, they were healed.

On their way, a hand reappeared and tingled with life.

A crutch tripped on a filthy rag, as it fell to the ground.

The leg was back, healthy, whole, complete.

The skin cleared, and the tiny hairs on a forearm turned from snow white to a healthy brown.

One looked at the other, another looked at the rest, and the screaming started.

The smiles broke into cheering and a sweet madness.

They raced off in the distance, not believing that the nightmare was finally over.

But in order for the miracle to happen, these men had to start walking in faith before their circumstances had changed one tiny bit.

Is there a more potent lesson for us, on this Thanksgiving Day?

We cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith.

We cannot put conditions on our holy God.

We cannot say, "Lord, as soon as there's enough money, I will follow your instructions."

We cannot pray, "Lord, if you'll just solve this issue in my family, I'll start going to church regularly."

We cannot put conditions on God!

Instead, God places a demand for faith on us, before anything at all has changed.

God might say, "Love me despite the disease.

Obey me despite the lack of talent, or the lack of resources.

Follow me now, despite the depression.

Say no to the temptation, while it still is difficult.

Praise me in the darkest of nights, and in the worst of circumstances."

This is the nature of God, a God who loves us so much.

He gives us the opportunity to be thankful when nothing about our circumstances gives us motivation.

My friends, that is the very definition of faith.

If we praised God only on the good days, only in the best of circumstances, it would not be faith at all.

That would be more like a business arrangement - and this is not about business!

Some of you might be in horrible circumstances, right now.

This year has been one of the most difficult years for so many of us.

With the COVID pandemic and all its effects, it has created so much turmoil; financial, emotional, a sense of overwhelming fear and anxiety.

Many have lost jobs, and lost their homes.

For many of us, our lives have been permanently affected and the way of life we had known and were comfortable with is no longer in sight.

Yet, we are Catholic, we are to believe. We are to have faith.

We are to know that God’s ways are not our ways and that He uses everything to create a greater good and to give an opportunity for us to grow in virtue, especially trust, love, patience, perseverance, forgiveness, and hope.

So, the question on this Day of Thanksgiving is:

Will we be thankful despite the difficult circumstances?

Will we, like the Lepers, believe and have faith in the promises of Christ?