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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Knowing Jesus and second chances


Homily for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Year A

Adapted from a homily by Fr. Tommy Lane

Isn’t it rather shocking to hear Jesus say, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

Of course, Jesus was talking about the tax collectors and prostitutes who had listened to his preaching and had had changed their lives.

·      Fitting that description might be Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector.

·      Also, One of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew also called Levi who had been a tax collector.

·      And what about Mary Magdalene?

o  The Scriptures do not explicitly say that she had been a prostitute but Luke tells us that Jesus expelled seven demons from her so certainly she had lived what we might describe as “a very bad life” before she met Jesus.

So, in the parable that Jesus taught, we can identify the tax collectors and prostitutes as the first son who at first said no to his father but then thought better and obeyed his father and worked in the vineyard.

They had lived a life disobedient to God in the past, but when they heard the preaching of Jesus they changed.

Like the first son they said no at first but later said yes.

On the other hand, the chief priests and elders of the people were like the second son in Jesus’ parable who said “Yes sir” but did not obey his father.

They heard the preaching of Jesus and knew the Scriptures but their hearts were closed and they were not responding to God.

Why were tax collectors and sinners able to open their hearts and respond to the preaching of Jesus while the chief priests and elders were not?

Perhaps it is because the tax collectors and sinners had reached rock bottom and realized that the lives they were living were empty and meaningless.

In Jesus they found life as it was meant to be.

Jesus offered hope to them, hope they never before had.

When they converted to this new way of life, the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading were fulfilled,

if a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins which he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (Ezek 18:27-28)


If Jesus were talking to us now, we can imagine that he might say, “The drug addicts, the alcoholics, the gang members, the adulterers, the liars, the thieves, and the dishonest are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.”

That would be rather shocking to hear, but if those just mentioned really allowed Jesus to touch their hearts, turned toward Him, stopped their sinning, while we only knew about Jesus, but did not know him personally in our heart, that would make a lot of sense.

Those who lived dark lives in the past and have undergone conversion experiences may be living life at a much deeper level than many of us here today.

Having experienced the depths of misery and the meaningless of their former life they have probably probed very deeply into the meaning of life and found that only in friendship with God does life have value.

Likewise, many of those who enter the Catholic Church later in life know the faith at a much deeper level than a lot of us “Cradle Catholics” because they were searching for answers in their own church denomination, or in life itself, and did not find the answers, but found the complete answer in the Catholic Church.

I find it fascinating to hear the stories of those who allowed Jesus to touch their hearts and then their whole lives changed.

One example is John Pridmore, now a catholic evangelist, who shared the story of his dark past and his conversion in his book From Gangland to Promised Land.

He described the moment of his conversion like this:

“I sat alone and found myself thinking how my life was completely messed up.

I felt very depressed and empty…

Then I heard what I can only describe as a voice.

It was telling me the worst things I had ever done…

It was the voice of God, my conscience.

The breath was going out of me.

It was as if I was dying, and an incredible fear gripped me.

I’m going to hell, I thought.

I fell to my knees, and tears began to well up in my eyes. ‘Give me another chance!’ I cried.

Suddenly, I felt as if someone’s hands were on my shoulders and I was being lifted up.

An incredible warmth overpowered me and the fear immediately evaporated.

At that moment I knew — really knew, not just believed — that God was real.

…Then I did something I had never done before: I prayed:

‘God, up to now, all I’ve done is take from you and now I want to give.’

Then, What I can only describe as an awesome feeling of love consumed me.…

I knew for the first time in my life that I was loved by God.

Up until then, I had always thought I was worthless and it didn’t matter whether I lived or died.”
(From Gangland to Promised Land 84-85)

Later in his book and looking back on his life he wrote:

Looking back across my life — a journey, you might say, from gangland to promised land — I’ve come to understand that we just need to ask Jesus to reveal himself in our hearts and let us know that he’s real and that he loves us.

I did, and He replied.

To anyone who is skeptical about this, I would simply say, “just do it.”

If someone had said this to me when I was involved in all that criminal activity, I would probably have laughed and told them they were living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

Now I know that Jesus is real, not through reading books or studying theology, but from personal experience.
(From Gangland to Promised Land 174)

John Pridmore was like the first son in Jesus’ parable; in his early life he said no to work in the vineyard, but then underwent a conversion, came to know Jesus, and said yes to work in the vineyard. 

Pridmore further wrote:

When I was with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the South Bronx, Father Bernard told me about the time he went to work with some poor people in a village in the mountains of northern America.

He was deeply impressed by one old man who, despite having no running water, no electricity and little food, was so joyful.

‘How come you’re so happy when you have so little?’ asked Father Bernard.

‘Because I know Jesus,’ replied the old man.

‘But I know Jesus as well.’

‘No. You might know about Jesus in your head, but not in your heart.’

(From Gangland to Promised Land 175)


So, what is the message for all of us here today?

Well, maybe it starts with a question?

The question is:

Do I know Jesus, do I truly know Him, or do I only know about Him?

If those who were drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members, and even prostitutes, have turned away from sin and now know Jesus personally and intimately, and if we only know about Him and have not stopped our sinning, then surely Jesus can say they are making their way into the kingdom of God before us.

Let us ask ourselves that very important and revealing question once again:

Do I only know about Jesus, or do I truly know Him personally and in my heart?

Have I met Him?

Do I often spend time with Him?

If not, tell Him that you want to meet Him, to get to know Him, to feel His presence in your life.

And then carefully listen for Him in the quiet of your heart, in your conscience, and in those special daily encounters with other people, but most importantly…..

Humbly, open your heart and allow Him to live within you.

It is never too late to become… like… the first son.


The Parable of the Laborers


Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16) means different things to different people. I would like to see it as Jesus teaching us about being called by God and staying close to God when called. The householder went to the marketplace to hire laborers. That was the place where the unemployed would wait each day hoping for someone to hire them. If they already had work, they would not have been standing by idly in the marketplace. They were hired because they had nothing. God can only invite us, call us, and give us his gifts when we are open to receiving God’s gifts. For some, it may be easier to hear God speak when they are in the marketplace with nothing else in life, when life appears to be in turmoil. When we are not in control God can take over and direct us. We see this in many characters in Sacred Scripture.

St. Paul was on the ground on the road to Damascus when Jesus spoke to him (Acts 9). When Jesus spoke to him, he was not riding along happily but was already on the ground. And even lying helplessly on the ground, he was not ready for what Jesus wanted to tell him. Jesus told him to go to Damascus where he would be told what to do. He was blind for the three days before his baptism in Damascus. Paul spent three days in darkness, on an intense retreat, to prepare to receive the word that Jesus wanted to give him: to be his missionary to the Gentiles. Paul received his call to work in the vineyard when he was thrown on the ground and blind for three days.

The good thief, as we call him, received the call on the last day of his life (Luke 23:42-43). Nailed on a cross beside Jesus he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) We could not find someone in a worse predicament in the gospel than nailed to a cross. But in that dreadful moment, this thief had the humility to speak to Jesus and hear the beautiful words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” If he had not been on that cross that day he would not have spoken to Jesus as he did, nor received the beautiful promise that he did from Jesus. The good thief had to be crucified to enter Paradise that day with Jesus. On the worst day of his life, he was called to work in the vineyard because it was the only day he would stop to listen to the call. He had to be last in order to hear the call from Jesus to become first.

We would expect those who received the call first in the day would appreciate the unparalleled privilege they had received. But their grumbling, when they were paid the same amount as those who were called last into the vineyard, betrays what was really going on in their minds. Even though they worked in God’s vineyard from the beginning, they were not close to God. Their resentment towards those who came last betrayed what their problem really was—they did not know the love of God. It is possible that those who were hired last to work in the vineyard knew God’s heart better at the end of the day.

The unhealthy spirituality of those first called to the vineyard is a warning and invitation to all who work in the vineyard. We have received the unparalleled grace to work in God’s vineyard, but we are also in need of ongoing conversion. Those called later in the day underwent some sort of conversion to be able to respond to the call to work in God’s vineyard. But those called first to work in God’s vineyard are in need of ongoing conversion not to develop an unhealthy spirituality like those called first in the parable. We have very helpful moments built into our day to keep our hearts converted and focused on God: we celebrate the Eucharist, we pray the liturgy of the hours, make holy hours, we do spiritual reading, we pray the rosary, we have fraternity groups. These are all precious and necessary moments to help us know the love of God while working in his vineyard. We can only work fruitfully in the vineyard if we withdraw from the work of vineyard a few times each day in silence. It is only by withdrawing from the work of the vineyard to contemplate the love of God of the vineyard that we can fruitfully do the work in the vineyard. To me, it seems the error made by those first called in the parable made was that they did not stop to reflect on God’s gift to them. Those who were called later, knew what they did not have before they were called to the vineyard and were more capable of appreciating God’s gift.

I like to see the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard as Jesus teaching us about being called by God and staying close to God when called. Sometimes we can only hear what God has to say to us when we are in the marketplace with nothing, when we are thrown on the ground and blind, or nailed to a cross. Although painful, if we respond to God’s call, these painful moments become precious moments of conversion. The unhealthy spirituality of those first called to the vineyard is a warning and invitation to all those who work in the vineyard. It is only by withdrawing from the work of the vineyard to contemplate the love of God of the vineyard that we can fruitfully do the work in the vineyard. Whether we receive the call to work in God’s vineyard later in the day, or receive it early in the day, we are all alike in need of reflecting on the love of God so that we can fruitfully serve the loving God who called us.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Kevin Kearns Funeral Homily 01.20.2023


Kevin Kearns Homily – Deacon Pat Kearns (Funeral Mass 01/20/2023) 

Kevin was quite the man, remarkable in many different ways. He was smart, creative, kind, giving, and yes at times stubborn and onery. He was also a fighter and a man of faith. We were quite surprised many years ago when he was diagnosed with advanced stage 4 cancer. He was only given a 50/50 chance to live. He fought, receive great medical care, and won the battle. He eventually went into remission and after so many years was deemed completely healed, cured. He did have some residual side effects from the drugs and radiation, he became hard of hearing, but he wouldn’t admit it. 😊 
Just like how he would never admit he was color blind. Remember some of the outfits he would wear? He swore those colors matched. 😊 

But seriously, having cancer changed his life greatly. After his recover he saw life much differently. He knew that life could end at any time and unexpectedly. If you ever asked him how he was doing, he would always say “Blessed.” He truly saw his life that way. He embraced life and was thankful for the life he had. He also shared his blessing with others. Most might not know but years ago he created a charitable organization that he named “Hope Floats.” He used the organization to sponsor teachers in poor areas of Africa and Guatemala. He also helped with the funding of cancer and diabetes research, and did so much more, too much to list. He was always looking for ways to help those in need, especially children. Maybe that was his way of being fatherly since he had never married. And speaking of fatherly, after our father suddenly died at the age of 65, Kevin naturally and effortlessly took over the role as the patriarch of the family. He watched over his younger 5 brothers, their lives, their families, and was always eager to help if help was needed. He also had a family-related dream. For many years he dreamed that one day he would buy a large piece of property and that all the brothers and their wives could live by each other and share in each other’s daily lives. He loved his brothers more than anything. Well, a little more than a year ago, Kevin did acquire a large horse ranch in South Carolina. He then moved to the ranch and became a South Carolina resident. My brother Tim and his wife Angela followed. And two of the other brothers were beginning to make plans to join them in the near future. His dream was becoming a reality. I had never seen Kevin happier than when he was on the ranch or with his horses. He especially enjoyed driving the tractors, riding the horses, puttering around the ranch on his Kubota Mule, or exploring the forest on one of the quads. In a small way we might say he was already experiencing a bit of Heaven on earth. + 

When we reminisce about the life of a loved one, especially so near to their time of passing, and if they go suddenly as in Kevin’s case, one can’t help but feel a sense of sadness and sorrow. We are united today in our sadness and sorrow at the death of Kevin Kearns. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we Christians are also united by something else... our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. The reality... not a "maybe" or "I hope so" or fantasy or wishful thinking, but a reality. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to Kevin and how we are to keep going from here. When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are True. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to it by saying, "Yes, I believe; it is true!" God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it! Death was not part of God's original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Death is not from God; death is from turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death's power. He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death! God has spoken to the world through Christ, and told us that He wants to give us victory over death in and through Jesus Christ! Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Many people, on coming to a wake or funeral, do not know what to say! Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death has been conquered! Many people think that the story of human life is, "Birth, life, and death." For a Christian, it's different. The story is not "Birth, life, and death," but rather, "Life, death, and Resurrection!" Death does not have the last word; life does! Death is not the last period after the last sentence of the last chapter of the human story. There's another chapter to come! Death is not the end of the human story; it's the middle. The end of the story is Resurrection and life that has no end! The farewell that we give to Kevin today is a temporary farewell; the burial we give Kevin is a temporary burial. He will live! He will rise! 

The ceremony today contains many reminders of this, and it points us to the fact that Kevin was baptized. We sprinkled the (remains) with holy water at the beginning of the ceremony... This recalls the waters of baptism that were once poured on Kevin. The white funeral pall is a reminder of the white garment placed on the newly-baptized... a sign of the new life of Christ given to the Christian. This candle is the Easter candle; it is present at every baptism, and symbolizes the Risen Christ. When Kevin was baptized right here in this church, the life of the Risen Christ was poured into his soul! He began to share, here on earth, the life of heaven! At baptism, God rescued Kevin from the power of death; He literally snatched him from the dominion of death and transferred him into the Kingdom of Christ -- a kingdom of eternal life. Christ said to Kevin on that day, "You do not belong to death! You belong to me!" Therefore, a Christian does not merely die. A Christian dies in Christ. Those two words, "in Christ," make all the difference in the world! We belong to Him by baptism, and we live in Him by a life of prayer, obedience to His teachings, and faithfulness to the Sacraments of the Church. If we live in Christ and die in Christ, we will rise in Christ! In the midst of all this, should we grieve? Yes, brothers and sisters, it is OK to grieve; it is natural, because we love Kevin. Even Christ wept when His friend Lazarus died... and He wept even though He was about to bring Him back to life! Yes, we as Christians grieve. But we grieve with hope. It is OK to be sad today that we do not see Kevin anymore, but it would be wrong to think we will never see him again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair. Christ is alive! We pray today for Kevin that he may complete the journey to heaven. Pray for him every day, and for yourselves. Look at him today and say with faith, "Kevin, you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and so do we!" Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Year A – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time


Year A – 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time 
Homily written by Father Craig M. McMahon, O.S.A. 

Readings Is 8:23 – 9:3 Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 Mt 4:12-23 

The truth is that the men Jesus called were ordinary. 

We know that four were fishermen and that there would be no reason to call them to live, work, and minister together apart from the purposes of the Kingdom of God. 

 As humans, they were prone to all of the mistakes, faults, failures, and sin inherent in our species. 

How very strange, then, that from a human perspective, the advancement of the Gospel depended upon these imperfect people. 

And, it’s a strategy that God still employs today – ordinary people called forth to serve the Kingdom. 

The only requirement is faith. Always has been; always will be. 

The notion of God’s call is central to the Bible’s understanding of human existence before God. 

 The life of our call begins with Jesus - we don’t ask for it nor can it be manufactured. Jesus’s authority is the source of the call and often it comes unexpectedly and without warning. 

The focal point of the call is to follow after Jesus – follow the person of Christ. Jesus then is leading and out front – disciples both then and now – follow behind, not knowing exactly what lies ahead. 

Strangely enough, for this amazing mission: God wants ordinary broken people, not holier-than-thou ones. 

 Kierkegaard once said that what Jesus wants is followers, not admirers. 

This idea puts the calling of the Disciplines in perspective – because what those twelve lacked in common interests – they more than made up for with faith and a willingness to be challenged and changed by that faith. 

Andrew, Simon, James, and John, those men dared to hope for change, and those men dared to put their faith in Jesus Christ. 

They were some of the first people who followed the Holy Spirit into the unknown, hoping that the future would be different from the past. 

As the world renowned Catholic bible scholar, Fr. Donald Senior C.P. said, both their call and ours is not about a specific function in the church, but more fundamentally it is a call to seek the face of God, and the fullness of life itself. This is the endpoint of the biblical quest: to see the face of God and live. 

So they left their father in the boat, so they dropped their nets and followed, so they agreed to be transformed – their old life gone forever and their new life dedicated to Christ. 

And, in doing so the past gives way to a future story not yet told, the old dies and new life begins – these ordinary people followed. 

 He called them not because they were special, but because they were ordinary. 

 In fact, I can think of nothing more comforting than the reality that God called and calls – people just like us – asking to us to repent and believe for the in-breaking of God’s Reign has begun.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Faith (Luke 17:5-10) 27th Sunday Ordinary time – Deacon Pat

Faith (Luke 17:5-10) 27th Sunday Ordinary time – Deacon Pat

Adapted from a homily by Father Michael Marsh


How many of us have said: “If I just had more faith.”

I think most of us have struggled with this at some point in our lives.

We might even have thought:

·       If I just had more faith, I wouldn’t have so many questions or doubts.

·       If I just had more faith, God would answer my prayers.

·       If I just had more faith, he or she would not have died; or he or she would have recovered.

·       If I just had more faith, I would be more involved in the Church.

·       If I just had more faith, I would be a better person, a better parent, a better spouse.

·       If I just had more faith, I would know what to do, I would handle things better. 

·       If I just had more faith, life would be different.

Sound Familiar? 

Maybe to understand this Gospel message more deeply and this concept of faith we need to examine the apostle’s approach to faith.

Jesus has just warned them not to become stumbling blocks to others and enjoined them to forgive as often as an offender repents even if it is seven times in one day.

The Apostles must have thought:

·       This new teaching is too difficult to do and to live that way.

So, they asked, “Jesus, Increase our faith.”

It seems like a reasonable request.

If a little is good, a lot must be better.

If McDonald’s can supersize our fries and drinks surely Jesus can supersize our faith.

This request to increase their faith,

the belief that if they had more faith things would be different,

reveals, at best, a misunderstanding of faith itself and,

at worst, probably demonstrates a fair amount of unfaithfulness.


Jesus is very clear that faithfulness is not about size or quantity.

“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,” he says, “you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

·       Faith is not given to us in a packet to be spent as currency in our dealings with God.

·       Faith is not measured out according to how difficult the task or work before us will be.

·       Faith is not a thing we have or get.

Faith is a relationship of trust and love.

It means opening ourselves to receive another’s life and giving our life to another.

That other is Jesus the Christ.

That one faith-relationship is determinative of who we are and how we live.

·       Faith is not about giving intellectual agreement to a particular doctrine or idea.

·       Faith is not about how much or how strongly we believe Jesus’s words or actions.

When we speak about a married couple’s faithfulness, we do not mean they always believe or agree with each other’s ideas or even a particular understanding of marriage.

·       They are faithful because they have committed themselves to each other in love and trust.

·       They are faithful because they continually give their life to the other and receive the other’s life as their own.

·       They are faithful because they carry with them that one relationship wherever they go, in all that they are, and all that they do.

So true it is also in our faith-relationship with Jesus.

Faith will not, however, change the circumstances of our lives.

Instead, it changes us.

Living in faith does not shield us from the pain and difficulties of life,

it does not undo the past,

and it will not guarantee a particular future.


Rather, faith is the means by which we face and deal with the circumstances of life – the difficulties and losses, the joys and successes, the opportunities and possibilities.

Faith does not get us a pat on the back, a reward, or a promotion in God’s eyes.

It is simply the way in which we live and move and have our being so that,

at the end of the day,

the faithful ones can say, without pride or shame,

“We have done only what we ought to have done!”

Nothing more and nothing less.

·       We have lived in openness to, trust in, and love for Christ.

·       We have allowed him to guide our decisions, our words, and our actions.

·       We have been sustained by him in both life and death.


Faith, however, is not lived out in the abstract.

It is practiced day after day in the ordinary everyday circumstances.

Some days when the pain and heaviness of life seem more than we can carry it is by faith,

relationship with Jesus,

that we get up each morning and face the reality of life.

Other days present other circumstances.

When we feel the pain of the world and respond with compassion by:

·       feeding the hungry,

·       housing the homeless,

·       speaking for justice;

·       when we experience the brokenness of a relationship and offer forgiveness and mercy;

·       when we see the downtrodden and offer our presence and prayers,

·       and when we help a woman carry her pregnancy to term,


 — in all those things we have lived, seen, and acted by faith.

And speaking of acting, we now have a special opportunity to put our faith in action, especially in light of the reversal of Roe versus Wade.

We have an opportunity to help those mothers with a crisis pregnancy who might have previously aborted their child.

So many will now be in need of reassurance, support, friendship, and help.

Thank goodness for the Gabriel Project where volunteers called Gabriel Angels are trained to:

·  be a resource to answer questions about pregnancy, childcare, and parenting,

·       Provide friendship and emotional and spiritual support,

·       Help with items for a new baby,

·       And have knowledge about available community resources.

Maybe God is calling you to become one of these Gabriel Angels, one of their volunteers?

Or maybe you can help in other ways.

Truly this is something worth praying about.

God often creates situations and then waits for us to act. Or not act.

Wasn’t it Padre Pio that once stated the greatest of all sins in the world are sins of omission?

Situations where God was waiting for us to act and we did nothing.


So what is our take-away from this special Gospel message today?

Maybe it is that Faith is how we live;

the lens through which we see ourselves, others, and the world;

the criterion by which we act and speak.

Maybe it means that Faithfulness no matter where we go, no matter what circumstances we face we do so in relationship with the One who created, loves, sustains, and redeems us.

Jesus does not supersize our faith.

It is not necessary.

We live by faith not because we have enough faith but because we have faith, any faith, even mustard-seed sized faith.

That is all we need.

Jesus believes that, so should we.

The question is not how much faith we have, but rather, how are we living the faith we do have?

How is our faith, our relationship with Jesus, changing our lives, our relationships, the lives of others?

If it is not, more of the same will surely make no difference.

The mustard seed of faith is already planted within us.

It is Christ himself. 

He has withheld from us nothing.

We already have enough.

We already are enough.

We do not need more faith.

We need more response to the faith, to Christ, to the relationship we already have.

Let us now act upon this faith, starting today, and become a reflection of Christ to the world around us.