Father Kris' Korner
Father Kris’ Korner
October 7, 2018
In today’s Gospel, Jesus elevates marriage to an unbreakable sacrament when he said “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." He spoke out against divorce even though the Mosiac laws of his time permitted it. Allow me to me put into perspective what divorce was like 2000 years ago. A man did not need a sound reason to divorce his wife; he could simply dismiss her if he found her no longer attractive or even perhaps if she simply wasn’t a good cook. The woman and any of his children whom he wished to abandon had absolutely no rights – they were simply put out like the trash. Jesus’ compassion for woman and children could simply not allow this practice to continue.
It is well known that the Church doesn’t promote divorce but it isn’t that black and white. Even the Pope himself spoke of the nuances associated with divorce. He said that anyone who lives in a volatile relationship or is in danger of spousal abuse may leave the marriage - the Church is not heartless! We understand that there are many valid reasons for a couple to divorce. Once a divorce is granted, either spouse is then free to seek an annulment. The most frequent question that I receive about annulments is “Will the children be considered illegitimate?” The answer is absolutely not! The church still recognizes that you were married; an annulment simply means that the marriage was not sacramental because one or both of the spouses was unable to make a lifelong commitment for whatever reasons.
A few years ago the Church simplified annulments, now offers them for free, and the wait-time has been cut significantly. If you are remarried after a previous divorce without an annulment and want your current marriage to be sacramental (validated), why not finally begin the process of getting an annulment? I will be happy to assist you throughout the entire process. We wish all married couples God’s choicest blessings as our prayers go out to you this week.
September 30, 2018
In today’s gospel, Jesus warns harshly those who exploit or abuse children; “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The saints and angles and all creation cry over atrocities inflicted upon children. Young girls and boys are sold into the worldwide sex trafficking industry. Children are abused by trusted adults: parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, and yes even clergy members. Mere children are forced to become soldiers (killing machines) and are brainwashed to hate. Children are targeted by the drug industry and by illegal drug dealers and gangs. Children are denied home, food and education because they live in war-torn areas. These evils must be stopped; we cannot ignore them because they make us uncomfortable or because we feel utterly helpless in the fight. Whatever we can do – even if it is just pray – we must do to protect our little ones. As we enter the month of October, we offer our cries and prayers to the Blessed Mother as we place all victims in her care for their protection and healing. If the following poem touches your heart then please share it with someone else; for together we can prevail.
We pray for children who like to be tickled,
Who put their sticky fingers everywhere,
Who like to walk in puddles,
Who can never find their shoes.
We pray for children who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who have never had a new pair of sneakers to run down the street in,
Who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children who bring us sticky kisses and fists full of dandelions,
Who like to sleep with a dog,
Who insist on burying gold fish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who sing off key,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink.
We pray for those who never get dessert,
Who have watched their parents die,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for children who hide their dirty clothes under the bed,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store,
Who pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who love visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the school bus.
And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry,
Who cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move and have no being.
We pray for children who want to be carried.
We pray for children who must be carried.
And we pray for children who will grab the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.
September 23, 2018
Jealousy is a cancer that causes wars, murders innocent people, ruins relationships, and ultimately destroys its host by consuming it from the inside out. In our second reading from the Letter of St. James we hear “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” Our Lord Jesus Christ knew all too well about the human conditions of jealousy and envy. He saw envy festering in the Scribes and the Pharisees to the point where they became so blind to his holiness, miracles and teachings that they ultimately put him to death! In the process of plotting to destroy Jesus they hardened their hearts beyond repair, destroyed their own souls, and drove an eternal wedge between themselves and God’s love. Sadly, jealousy had convinced them that they were justified - so blind had they become. We’ve all heard the phrase “Blind Jealousy,” well, it turns out that it is scientifically true; we can become so overwhelmed with jealousy that the messages from our eyes to our brains are blocked by the emotional rage, i.e. we literally become blind. Jealousy springs forth from the all-too-fertile soil of insecurity or a false sense of self-importance. I pity woman who are deceived by their abusive boyfriends or spouses when he says things like… “I’m jealous because I love you so much.” St. Augustin said it bluntly “He that is jealous is not in love.”
Jealousy creates its own distorted version of reality; our eyes become like magnifying glasses capable of noticing the slightest faults of others; our ears distort another’s words; our minds turn inward and are no longer in tune to the outside world as it truly is. While walking with his closest disciples, Jesus, in great emotional distress, shared with them that he was going to be handed over and be killed. Instead of caring for Jesus they were preoccupied as to which disciple was the greatest - even Jesus’ disciples were not immune to envy and self-ambition. Please be careful, jealousy left unrestrained can grow into quite a beast and can be the most destructive of all human emotions both for the intended target and for the jealous person… if jealousy had a shape it would be a boomerang. Jealousy destroys love; the two cannot coexist. Please beg the Lord to remove any trace of envy or jealousy from your heart and soul before they eat away at everything that is loving and good in your life.
September 16, 2018
Jesus asked his closest disciples “Who do people say that I am?” After they answered him, Jesus then turned the question to them personally, “Who do you say that I am?” Today, Jesus asks each and every one of us that same question. If you are blessed with the gift of faith like Peter who answered “You are the Christ,” then you might answer similarly: Savior of the World, the Christ, Son of God, or my Lord. But once we come to understand who Jesus is, He then invites us to follow him and quickly adds that to do so we must take up our cross daily. Notice, Jesus never says that once we follow him everything in life will be rosy or easy or without suffering. In fact, he repeatedly said things like: if you wish to follow me you must deny yourself, love until it hurts, sacrifice your life if called upon to do so, undergo great suffering, and make serving the Lord your number one priority.
Following Jesus wholeheartedly is not for the faint of heart. For some ‘newbies’, once they encounter suffering they turn away Jesus because he did not protect them from it. So, I ask you… How have you suffered? Did it bring you closer to God or drive a wedge between you? How have you intentionally suffered because of your faith in Jesus Christ; i.e. have you given of yourself until it hurts? And just how much suffering would you be willing to endure because of your faith? Have you ever been near your breaking point when you thought about walking away from Jesus? I leave you with my favorite quote from Mother Teresa, “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.”
September 9, 2018
We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This saying is less about books and more about judging people based on outward appearances such as good looks, intelligence, wealth, fame, and clout. Sadly, we also judge on other external factors such as height weight, disability, physical imperfections, illness, poverty, lack of formal education, sexuality, race, skin color, religion and the list goes on and on. Jesus NEVER judged based on outward appearances or status, but rather looked into the hearts of people he encountered. He treated everyone equally; it did not matter if one was rich or poor, a prostitute or a statesman. He angered people who vied for his attention but did not get it because Jesus ‘wasted his time’ on the deaf, the mute, the blind and the lame. “Hey Jesus, ignore them; I am so much more important!” “Hey Jesus, she’s nothing more than a tramp prostitute – don’t let her touch you.” “Hey Jesus, come and dine at my house and I’ll invite the ‘right kind of people.’ Although Jesus was divine, the ability to look inside to a person’s heart is readily available to us mere mortals. However, it takes effort; it takes determination to not make snap judgements, it also takes the desire to truly want to see a person’s real beauty. We have all encountered people of inner beauty, but frankly, we’ve all met people who reveal their inner ugliness with condescending or racist comments and pessimistic judgmental negativity. How might your life be different if you stopped making judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Try rather to look for the good in everyone you meet. Last week I spoke about two women who were having a rather crass conversation at the pizza parlor... honestly, I didn’t even try to see their inner beauty – their words were too ugly – but I did try to sympathize with the pain in their hearts and I hope Jesus was more proud of me than disappointed as I wrestled not to judge them. Not judging takes practice - practice becomes virtue - and virtue transforms us into loving followers of Christ who see others through his eyes.
September 2, 2018
I recently ate at a pizza restaurant and although the pizza was delicious, I was unable to enjoy it. Two women seated next to me were having a conversation which included profanities and harsh judgements of everyone they knew. They did not try to damper their voices nor were they concerned about the constant vulgarities coming out of their mouths. In today’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples were being criticized for not washing their hands before eating which would render the meal unclean. Jesus’ response was quick, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts ... immorality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile." So back to the two women eating pizza - one might think that I was getting angry especially when the Lord’s name was being taken in vain, but I didn’t. Instead, I started to pray for the two women... nothing specific... I simply prayed for the healing of their minds and souls. I prayed for healing from whatever injuries that caused their hearts to be so hardened. I was not pulled into their negativity even though I so easily could have been, only because I chose to pray instead. And so I ask you, what comes out of your mouth; insults, gossip, slander, judgements, jealousy, anger, hated, conflict, and profanities? Or have you trained your tongue to speak of peace, love, mercy and compassion? Do you use your words to lift others up rather than put them down? What comes out of our mouths is indicative of what is going in our hearts - evil begets evil, but love begets love. The kiddie rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is completely untrue. Words hurt. Words scar for life. Words also heal. Please be careful and take control of what comes out of your mouth!
August 26, 2018
We’ve all heard the saying “Take it or leave it.” In today’s gospel, Jesus offered his own flesh as the Bread of Life and his own blood as the Blood of the New Covenant but many of Jesus’ early disciples said “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” And as a result “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus didn’t apologize and run after them saying he was just speaking metaphorically; that they somehow misunderstood him! He never watered it down for them either!!” From the Catholics Catechism: "The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life… For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself." Over the past few weeks I preached about the Eucharist and Mass; challenging you to articulate why Mass is important to you, and then asking you to take an honest look as to what you believe the Eucharist to be – REAL or SYMBOLIC. It breaks my heart to learn of people who have walked away from the Catholic Church or feel they’ve been pushed away. For in my heart, I worry they are walking away from a truly unique relationship with Jesus Christ. And now, with yet another abuse scandal, I worry that this young generation will become so angry and disillusioned that they will leave the faith once and for all. So, I ask you in all sincerity, why do you attend Mass even though the Catholic Church is imperfect? What might you say to someone who is angry or confused? And finally, do you believe in Jesus’ own words that the Eucharist is truly his Body and Blood?
August 19, 2018
Do you have any ‘sacred’ family heirlooms or an object that you hold very dear? And what if someone did something reprehensible to it because they didn’t know how much you cherished it; like blowing their nose on your great-great-grandmother’s hand crocheted doily.
This drawing is one of the first anti-Christian graffiti ever found mocking Christ’s crucifixion; it is a depiction of a man worshiping his god - a crucified man with a donkey head. Even today, there are artists who mock the crucifixion and other sacred Christian objects. They do not limit their disrespect to Christianity; they mock other religions as well. “Isn’t anything sacred anymore?” Some show disrespect deliberately while others are remorseful once they understand they did or said something offensive.
The most sacred object to a Catholic is the Eucharist. I’m often asked if a Catholic should receive communion at a Protestant service. The blunt answer is NO. And the same is true vice-versa; a non-Catholic should not receive our Eucharist. For Catholics, we believe wholeheartedly that the bread and wine actually become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ Himself. Other Christians do not believe to the degree that Catholics believe; some believe that Jesus meant these words metaphorically and not literally as we do. Because Catholics and Protestants do not share the same belief about the Body and Blood we should not partake in each other’s communion out of respect for each other’s beliefs. I’ve often heard “But they were so nice and welcoming and they invited us to receive – what harm is there in receiving another denomination’s communion?” It’s not a matter of being inviting or uninviting, it’s a matter of the belief that our Eucharist is incredibly sacred and we should respect it with reverence and our loyalty. Yes, it is sad that we cannot partake in each other’s sacred meals, but this compels us to pray that we will all dine at the One Table of the Lord in heaven. Jesus said “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” So, DO YOU BELIEVE that you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ when you receive the Eucharist? Think it over; mediate on it, take a leap of faith; belief in the Eucharist has eternal consequences.
August 12, 2018
As a priest, I witness incredible strength in the midst of suffering; brave parishioners who show incredible resolve in the face of great pain, obstacles, confusion, abandonment and disillusionment. Today’s first reading offers us a despairing scene from the life of the Prophet Elijah. We find him hungry, completely exhausted - physically and emotionally, and he begs God to take his life. We don’t even know why he is in such a state of despair because the reading jumps right into the middle of his story. God hears his distressed cries and provides him with bread and a jug of water so that he could continue his arduous journey. Have you ever felt so emotionally and physically drained that you feel like you have nothing left to give? I’ve witnessed this level of exhaustion especially in caregivers, in people carrying great burdens, and in people battling serious illnesses; yet, somehow they find incredible strength from within and from without. These people are your neighbors, your loved ones, people who sit near you in church, and who walk alongside you on the way to communion. When I was young my sister Gay told me that after she received the Eucharist she would watch as people passed by her on the way to communion. She told me she would pray for them, without knowing them and without knowing their lot in life; in awe that all kinds of people were united by the Eucharist. From different walks of life, from diverse circumstances, they come to mass to be strengthened by the support of the community, the prayers, the readings, the homily, and especially by the Eucharist so that they can continue to endure whatever life has dealt them. If someone were to ask you sincerely how you are strengthened by your faith and going to mass, what would your answer be? When have you been most strengthened by your faith and in particular by the Eucharistic celebration of Mass?
August 5, 2018
During the month of August we will hear portions of Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Homilies for these four weeks can prove to be very difficult since the Gospel readings sound nearly the same week after week. So to keep our homilies from falling flat we highlight specific aspects of the Eucharist. This week, my focus will be on the miracle of manna from the time of Moses. Since the new translation came out a few years ago, the priest, during Eucharistic Prayer II, now says “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” This is at the point when he extends his hands over the bread and wine to be consecrated into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does “like the dewfall” mean? It’s not just sentimental poetry; it has a wealth of meaning and direct references to the Old Testament when God fed his starving people daily with manna that appeared each morning with the dewfall. They had never seen anything like it before and from this manna they were able to make a kind of bread to sustain them. Jesus makes reference to this miracle in the Lord’s Prayer when he said “Give us this day our daily bread.” At each mass the Holy Spirit comes upon the bread and wine, gently and without drama or fanfare, performs the miracle of miracles that sustains us body and soul. If you’ve ever experienced a dewfall in the silence of the morning, then you know it can be quite beautiful as creation glistens in the sunlight. The dewfall inspires new hope, new beginnings, renewed trust, and a gentle washing away of the worries of yesterday. So, if you listen carefully for these three words “like the dewfall” perhaps you’ll be flooded with this beautiful imagery and be drawn more fully into the mystery of the Eucharist.
July 29, 2018
In the kingdom of God, a little bit goes a long way. In today’s Gospel, one boy was willing to share what he had for dinner - five barley loaves and two fish - and with the help of Jesus, five thousand men (plus woman and children) were fed! What would have happened if the boy had not come forward? Surely someone in the crowd must have had a morsel or two from their own dinner to share, yet none but the boy came forward. Perhaps he had not yet learned selfishness or perhaps he had not yet been led to believe that what he had to offer wasn’t good enough. You’ve heard the saying “Give him an inch and he’ll TAKE a mile,” well in the kingdom of God, it’s quite different… “Give God and inch and he’ll GIVE YOU a mile.” Did you know that the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters, educates and provides medical assistance to more people than any other organization in the world? If you are interested, please google “USCCB Catholic Health Care and Social Services.” The statistics of how the church provides aid around the world are astounding and something of which to be quite proud. And all this is possible because of your willingness to share what you have with others – even if it’s just a few dollars per week. God takes what we offer (insignificant as it may seem) and multiplies it so that real miracles happen. St. Mary’s and St. Augustin’s continue to concentrate our efforts to serve the poor locally and globally. We need your prayers and your help to do this. In fact, we have something exciting that is just in the beginning phase – a dream of mine to provide basic medical assistance to Newport’s poorest of the poor. Again, this is truly in its infancy, but with the grace of God may one day come to fruition. Are you willing you share your time, talent and treasure; what is your equivalent of offering five loaves and two fish? Remember, a little bit goes a long way!
July 22, 2018
The world recently witnessed one of the most complex and dramatic rescues of our time. We were all praying for the rescue of the 12 Thai soccer team children and their coach. However, many criticized their 25-year-old coach for his reckless leadership when he decided to lead the group into a dangerous, forbidden network of underground tunnels, known to flood at this time of year. However, we must recognize that there is a difference between making an error and purposely ‘mis-leading’ others. With so much worldwide division, we desperately need good and moral leadership; leaders who put the needs of others before their own self-interests. I often become saddened by the state of current political leadership simply because no one can ever fill the role of Jesus Christ – the Good Shepherd. Through our baptism we are called to join the Good Shepherd in guiding his flock; therefore, the responsibility to make good and moral decisions falls upon everyone’s shoulders; from leaders of governments and leaders of faith, to leaders of large corporations, down to local civic leaders, and further on down to you and me. We need people who put the needs of others before their own self-interests. Remember to thank God for those who serve selflessly on a daily basis: police, firefighters, our troops, medical professionals, teachers and the list goes on and on. Also remember to pray for their protection and for the success of their ministries and to pray in thanksgiving for those who lost their lives while in service to others. On a daily basis, how often do you put the needs of others before your own? Be honest! In our early development we are convinced that the world revolves around us but maturity has a way of reminding us that others come first. Deep down, at our very best, we are capable of acts of unlimited and sacrificial love. Deep down, there is a good and moral leader in all of us and Christ depends on you to shepherd those whom he has entrusted to your care.
July 15, 2018
In today’s Gospel Jesus sends out his disciples and warns them that their message of love and inclusion will be rejected by some. He told them “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet.” Have you ever felt unwelcomed? Some people maliciously go out of their way to make sure you know they don’t like you. Thirty years ago I was at a multicultural celebration at the Cathedral in Providence. There were beautiful native costumes and dances from various countries and cultures. The mood was festive and exhilarating. We all felt like we belonged to ONE CHURCH. But the mood changed quickly when a brave African American woman got up to deliver the key note address. She asked the congregation if anyone had ever been refused the Sign of Peace at Mass. She recounted the many times that people recoiled their hand once they noticed she was black and the many times they just pretended they didn’t see her and would extend their hand to other people. I was horrified to learn that people could be like that in God’s own home! From the beginning of Christianity we have struggled to be a welcoming religion. Today, we must increase the number of our flocks, not alienate, if we are to survive. Those fleeing from war-torn countries or poverty, those of different ethnicity and religion are being told they are not welcomed. Currently, we are seeing a very ugly side of our country; children being used as pawns - separated from their parents, cultures are clashing, racist violence is on the rise, and hatred, fear and suspicion are being cultivated from the top levels of our government; the secular world is battling the Kingdom of God. Even families and neighbors are divided on the issues of immigration. However, our Catholic beliefs are quite clear and perhaps even unpopular in some circles. Three years before this current crisis, Pope Francis, in his Papal Message on July 14, 2014, warned “I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain. They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.” Whether we encounter an immigrant, an abandoned child, or a new neighbor of a different color or religion, let us all be like Christ with outstretched arms as we sing “All are Welcome.”
July 8, 2018
Have you ever met a know-it-all? Even though the person might be very knowledgeable, a know-it-all often has a condescending air about them and is convinced they are right about everything despite opposing evidence. They are so self-assured that they can’t wait to get to heaven to show God how to run things because they know better. In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his home town where his kinsmen and friends give him such a hard time that he is unable to perform any miracles there. They were so obstinate that they even mocked him while he was preaching! You see, they thought they knew God’s ways; they had God all figured out. God was going to send a mighty savior who would descend from the clouds to annihilate their enemies. The Son of God would never be the son of a carpenter. They knew Jesus since he was a baby, his parents were Joseph and Mary, and so they were convinced that there was nothing special about him. All the hype about Jesus possibly being the long awaited Messiah was sheer nonsense. All the news of his miracles and his incredible fame in other lands was nothing more than a sham.
Imagine being in the very presence of Jesus and missing out due to your own stubbornness? What a loss for those people 2000 years ago! And what a loss for people today who continue to be obstinate, who say having faith is a sign of weakness, who claim there is no God, but then blame God for their woes, who denounce Jesus as the Son of God, or who believe that Jesus was just a man and nothing more. As Catholics who are constantly criticized for our faith; we must remain strong in our resolve to spread the Gospel. When we meet people who ridicule us, we find consolation knowing that Jesus was also ridiculed. When we meet people who call us old-fashioned, weak or brainwashed, when they condemn our church, take it in stride as did Jesus and simply carry on.
July 1, 2018
In today’s Gospel, we witness two miracles of Jesus: the first miracle was the healing of a woman who interrupted Jesus while he was on the way to heal a dying twelve year-old girl. The Gospel writer Mark shares this dramatic story which is filled with urgency and which has a multitude of lessons. The scene begins when Jairus, the head of the synagogue, asks Jesus to heal his daughter who is dying. Jesus goes with him and many people accompany Him, pushing on all sides, all hoping to witness a miracle. However, along the way, Jesus stopped unexpectedly because he felt healing power flow from him and he wanted to know whom he had just healed. The woman was desperate; she had suffered for 12 years and she spent all she had on doctors but instead of becoming better, she only got worse and was alienated from her community because her hemorrhaging made her ‘unclean.’ She risked severe punishment for simply being near others, and instead of asking Jesus in front of the crowd she touched Jesus’ clothes anonymously as he passed by. Jesus quickly assessed the situation, and not only restored her health, he also restored her dignity and her place in the community. During this interruption, people arrived from the house of Jairus to inform him that his daughter had died and that it was no longer necessary to disturb Jesus. Poor Jairus, what was he feeling? Was he growing impatient or even angry when Jesus stopped to talk to the women? Did he feel that his daughter was more important? Was he close to losing faith in Jesus? Jesus assured Jairus, and said, “Do not be afraid, just have faith!” At Jairus’ house people were making a commotion weeping and wailing because the girl had died. Jesus said to them, “The child is not dead; but asleep.” The people laughed but Jesus does not pay attention to them and enters into the room where the child is. He takes the child by the hand and says: “Talitha kum!” and she rises. Two miracles – two happy endings; but as I stated, this story has a multitude of lessons and so I offer a few questions for thought: • Have you ever been close to giving up hope and what got you through it? • Have you been brave in making your prayer requests known to the church community or to God directly? • Have you ever ‘broken the rules’ for a greater cause? • Have you ever been mocked because of your faith? • Have you ever been impatient with God for not answering your prayers in a timely fashion? • Have you ever been close to losing your faith? • Do you trust God to find solutions to seemingly impossible difficulties? From Luke 1:37 “For with God, nothing is impossible.”
May 12, 2018
Saying the last good-bye is never easy. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus praying to the Father for his disciples just before his crucifixion. He was entrusting his disciples into the Father’s loving care and protection. I have witnessed many adults telling a loved one who is near death that “It’s OK to go.” They assure them that their mission on earth is complete; that they have loved well, and that they are grateful for all the love they have received from them while on earth. And they assure them, in the hope of the resurrection, that they will be united with them once again in heaven. Those goodbyes are from the depth of a person’s soul, so genuine, so full of sorrow and hope. On March 14, 2016, I had to say my final goodbye to my sister Lynn; a goodbye for which I was completely unprepared. Lynn died unexpectedly one week after a routine heart operation. There were no last dramatic “I love you’s,” no hugging, no telling her that everything was going to be alright. In an instant she was gone and things were so hectic that I wasn’t able to be with my family in the hospital to just ‘be’ with her body. This might sound like it’s full of regrets, but it isn’t... my family members never depart from each other without saying or texting “I love you” and without a hug and kiss. You see, we don’t have to wait for life’s big goodbyes to tell our loved ones how much we love and appreciate them, to pray for them and to entrust them to God’s loving care; do it every day, every night, constantly tell them you love them and keep them constantly in your prayers! And wouldn’t it be an incredible gift to leave each of your loved ones a personal letter from you to be handed to them after you pass away? And so what if that isn’t your style… buy a Hallmark card then!! The letters and cards that I have saved from my deceased loved ones now have value beyond diamonds.
May 6, 2018
In today’s readings the theme is “Love one another.” The Apostles of the early church were faced with the decision of whether or not to baptize non-Jews. They thought their mission was only to the Jews but when Gentiles started to ask to be baptized, this posed a great dilemma. Do they let them join the church and, if so, are they allowed to keep their own customs, and will they be allowed to have leadership positions within the Church? There was no mistaking God’s desire to gather all people into his loving care. He gave the Gentiles the same Gifts of the Holy Spirit that he had given to the Jews: the gift to speak in different tongues, the gift to heal and dispel demons, etc. God had made it perfectly clear that Christianity should be offered to every person, everywhere. However, we never seem to learn our lesson; over the history of Christianity we have repeatedly made the decision of whom to “let in and whom to keep (or kick) out.” We take to heart Jesus’ command to spread the Gospel to all ends of the earth, to every people of every nation. As missionaries travel around the globe, new people, with different skin color, and language with new customs have changed our Church and will continue to change our Church; each time taking us out of our comfort zone until we settle in with a new reality. The demographics of our local communities change and therefore our parishes change. No matter who steps through the doors of our humble churches – black, white, yellow, rich, poor, gay, straight, old, young, non-Irish ;) and so on… may ALL feel loved and welcomed for God’s pure love does not discriminate. And so my brothers and sisters, this is how we love one another.
April 29, 2018
Finally! Spring has sprung. New life is bursting forth from winter’s wrath. Perhaps you’ve already done some yard work this spring. I recently gathered dried up branches and twigs that broke off and fell to the ground during this harsh, windy winter and burned them in a fire pit. This was a real-life example of the bible passage “I am the vine you are the branches… Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.” Jesus declared that he is the source of all life and if we cut ourselves off from him, we too, will eventually wither away or burn out spiritually, physically or emotionally. Sometimes people cut themselves off from Christ because they find “life” from other sources. Drugs, alcohol, addictions, affairs, get-rich-schemes, etc., claim they offer life but are nothing more than deceptions of evil that eventually suck the life out of their victims. I know far too many people whose lives have been ruined by these imitations of life.
There are other sources of life such as: friends, family, a special person, career, entertainment, sports, fame or fortune that all offer something good and can sustain someone for quite a while, but beware, for these can be taken away in an instant. In the long run, they all fall short of the abundant life that comes from Christ alone. What life-giving source(s) do you cling to? Which might do you harm in the long run? And in great need, to whom or what would you cling for dear life?
April 15, 2018
Have you ever had difficulty gaining another person’s trust...not because of anything you may have done, but that the other person may have had trust issues because of past hurt? Over the course of my priesthood and in my life in general, I have met many people who have been hurt by family, friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers. Someone attempted to con money from my elderly parents but luckily it did not happen, however, from that point on they never trusted anyone when it came to their savings or their house. No matter what advice my brothers and sisters gave them, they simply would not listen. Then in the last years of their life I became their legal Power of Attorney, I thought they would finally listen to me their “Priest Son.” Not a chance! I would get so frustrated but in the end all I could do is laugh and accept them just the way they were – Depression Babies and all.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection, but they did not trust that it was really him; they convince themselves he was a ghost even though he showed them his hands and his feet and ate some baked fish (everyone knows that ghost don’t eat fish)! They eventually came to trust that it was really Jesus. Only once their trust was won was he able to teach them about all the scriptures that predicted he would have to suffer, die and rise again. And only then was he able to challenge them to be witnesses of this “good news” to all ends of the earth. Can you think of times in your life when had to gain (or regain) another person’s trust? Have you ever risked trusting someone else and it turned out for the better? When have you had to trust in God? What obstacles did you have to overcome for God to gain your complete trust? How might your own life experiences help someone else trust in God? Like Jesus, you too may have to reveal your own woundedness, for it is through our own vulnerability that God works best.
April 8, 2018
In today’s Gospel we encounter Doubting Thomas. Poor Thomas had one moment of doubt and he will be defined by this uncertainty for all time. Thomas had to see the risen Christ for himself; he wouldn’t trust the testimony of ten of his closest friends. If ten people that I loved and trusted all told me the same story, of course I would believe them… or would I? I’d WANT to believe them and perhaps I could even convince myself that I SHOULD believe them; but, honestly, until I experienced it for myself there would always be some unresolved doubt. Jesus Christ, in his love and infinite patience, was not at all insulted by Thomas’ doubts. In fact, without judgement, He invited Thomas to touch his wounds to help him believe. Thomas is a lot like today’s modern skeptics or perhaps like our own friends and family who need scientific proof for nearly everything and who believe that religion or spirituality is a sign of weakness. Miracles happen every day and there are those who believe in them and there are just as many who immediately discredit them or attempt to dismiss faith in general. Let us model ourselves after Christ and instead of being insulted and perturbed by another’s unbelief or antagonism, let us rather invite them to dialogue about faith and truth. Someone may come to believe in Christ because of your humble testimony and teaching. Our Easter lies with young children in attendance. Many of these children will one day question their faith, please be patient and trust that your own witness of God’s love may speak louder than any words you may speak. Keep up the good work by spreading the Good News! Assist someone in their unbelief.
April 1, 2018
While preparing for this week’s bulletin I was looking for a nice depiction of Easter to put on the front cover. So, I googled Easter images and the results caused a pit in my stomach – image after image of colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, furry bunnies, little yellow chicks. I suppose that Easter, according to popular secular views, does not equate to Christ’s Resurrection? If you don’t believe me try searching for yourself. THEN… try searching for “Easter Religious.” Then you will find what the true meaning is! But isn’t it sad that yet another important Christian holiday has been snatched right out from under us; and for some of us, we haven’t even noticed. On Easter morning children will be scurrying around looking for hidden Easter eggs, devouring the chocolate in their Easter baskets, and hoping to get a glimpse of the Easter Bunny. Sadly, for some, this is all they know of Easter; they haven’t been taken to Mass, and in their homes there is no mention of Jesus dying on the cross and certainly no mention of his resurrection. For many adults, the holiest day of the year is just like every other day. But on this blessed day, all time and eternity changed, all sins were forgiven, the gates of heaven were opened, and a completely new way of being was ushered into existence through Jesus Christ. Have you ever tried to delve into the fullness of what Easter is all about? Have you taken time to reflect on how the Paschal Mystery (Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection) affects you personally? It takes work to make sense of it and to make it part of our lives; for most, it takes a lifetime… a lifetime of faith. May this Easter change your life forever, for the Lord is risen!
March 25, 2018
In the course of the Palm Sunday Mass we change our mood from “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” to “Crucify him! Crucify him!” In just a matter of a few days the crowds turned completely against Jesus. At first they gave him a king’s welcome and later they publically condemned him as though he were a common criminal. Why are humans so fickle? Why do we withdraw our loyalty so quickly? It is far too easy to criticize the crowds of Jesus’ time. You may think that, if you were there, you would never have given into the crowd mentality; that somehow you would have been the only one to shout “Set Jesus free!”
Today, it seems to be socially acceptable to criticize or even condemn the Church, religion and faith in general. When you hear such conversations do you defend you faith, do you talk about your own relationship with God, and do you speak up about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us? Do you join bashing the church or do you just remain silent as Jesus is crucified over and over again. Be brave and stand firm in your faith. We need you to cry out!
March 18, 2018
Next week is Palm Sunday when we read about the sufferings that Jesus endured during the last few days of his life. We will all shout Crucify Him, Crucify Him as he is scourged and crucified! In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ anxiety is riding as his death approaches. He has conflicting feelings of wanting his sufferings to pass him by, yet he also wants to completely obey the will of the Father so that the Father will be glorified. His obedience did not protect him from great emotional suffering but it did keep him keenly focused on the mission he was called to fulfill. Each and every one of us has been called to fulfill our own personal mission while we journey in this life – that mission is to glorify God by knowing, loving, and serving God in this world. This is why, at the end of every mass, I choose to dismissal “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Would others say that your life gives God glory? How do you purposely give God glory? If you have never thought about this, then please take this opportunity as our Lenten preparation for Easter is coming to an end.
March 11, 2018
At the St. Patrick’s Mass at St. Mary’s there is tremendous pride as the flags from the counties in Ireland are processed into the church. And with St. Patrick’s Day nearly upon us, those of Irish decent sign songs and drink to the memories of their counties and homeland. Irish folks ballads are songs and hymns that have been passed down from generation to generation. Many of these Irish ballads focus around happy themes such as love, friendship and camaraderie, but they also lament of famine, war, poverty, and hard work. These ballads help us to never forget what those who lived during those hard times endured – and shame on us if we ever forget!
In today’s first reading, the Israelites have been taken into captivity and they are completely heartbroken as they remember their beloved homeland. They cannot, and will not sing the songs of their heritage until they are reunited back home. It is natural for people to fondly remember the cherished places or endearing times in their lives. And it is also natural for us to lament over the sad and difficult times of our lives, especially as we remember our deceased loves ones. We promise – we vow – to never forget them. Since the deaths of my parents and sister and brother, I fear that I will never forget their faces and the sound of their voices as time passes on. So at family gatherings we purposely share stories – those same old stories – over and over again and no one ever complains.
The bible passage JOHN 3:16 reminds us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus endured great suffering on the cross for our healing and forgiveness; let us never take this for granted and let us vow to never forget all that He has done for us!
March 4, 2018
Anger is a serious issue these days especially with all the stresses we face on a daily basis. Quick violent outburst often have long lasting effects. Have you ever lost your temper? In today’s gospel, Jesus flies into a rage when he sees that the temple area has become nothing more than a market place. Sellers were making a profit and perhaps even cheating people during transactions. “How dare they in my Father’s house!” Jesus’ love for his Father and his respect for the sacredness of the temple caused him to “flip out.” However, this was not a sinful action and we must never use Jesus’ actions in the temple to justify our own temper outbursts. Anger is a natural human emotion especially when we witness an injustice; it is actually our duty to get angry and fight for justice. However, other than in defense, we must be careful never to rationalize harming another physically or emotionally; we aren’t perfect – we aren’t Jesus. Are you in control of your anger? Do you make excuses when you inflict physical or verbal abuse? Do you blame it on alcohol or stress, or do you blame others for your own outbursts? During this season of Lent, let us focus on our own anger issues. How do you handle your anger? Do you have control of your tongue or fists? Do you seek forgiveness once you calm down? Lastly, when you have been angered by and injustice which then led you to do something positive; after all, that’s the real message of today’s Gospel.
February 25, 2018
Our first reading offers us horrifying story with a very happy ending; God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. God, of course, had no intention of allowing harm to come to Isaac. Abraham’s complete trust in God delighted God so much that He promised to give him descendants as countless as the stars. Little did Abraham know that God was going to allow His only Son Jesus to be sacrificed for the salvation of the world. You’ve heard the saying “Give someone and inch and he’ll take a mile;” however, when we give God an inch, he gives us a mile! God always outdoes us in kindness, compassion and love.
If you felt God was asking you to do something for him, how far would you go? I’m not suggesting anything insane… but something more like: make a commitment to volunteer somewhere, spend more quality time with those you love, finally get help with an addiction, give to charity, make a conscious effort to grow closer to God, be more generous with your time and talent, or perhaps commit your whole being to following the Lord’s will. What fears and insecurities hold you back from giving God your all? What we give to God, God will not be outdone; He will give back to us a hundred fold in his way and in his own time.
February 18, 2018
We are 4 days into the 40 day season of Lent. During this season we prepare our hearts and souls by looking inward in hopes of improving our character and changing our way of life through repentance. Today, in our first reading, we listen to the ending of the “Noah’s Ark” story; the ultimate story of the consequences of people refusing to repent of their sinfulness. For most adults, Noah’s Ark is nothing more than a kiddie story of animals entering happily into the ark two-by-two. Children all over the world act out the story with their toy animals. But don’t make the mistake of romanticizing this story; many people’s lives were lost in the flood because they did not heed God’s call to repent. For the record: God does not punish us for sinning. Jesus over turned this misconception 2000 years ago. When we dabble in sin, we invite the consequences of sin. Through sinful choices, evil wreaks havoc; loved ones are hurt and lives are ruined. God never wants this to happen but he also lets us make our own choices. However, God sends us every grace to resist sin and even helps us repair the harmful effects of sin. The Father sent his own Son to die for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face the consequences of eternal separation from him. So that old line, “The Devil made me DO IT” just may have some merit. However, through God’s love and mercy we can also claim, The Father helped me UNDO IT!"
February 11, 2018
A few weeks ago, I was called to a local nursing home to provide the Anointing of the Sick for an elderly gentleman who was near death. When I entered the room, a woman was in full precaution gear with rubber gloves and a mask. There was no sign on the door for precautions, so I simply asked her why she had them on. She answered that the man was highly contagious! I was so caught off guard that I ran out of the room as fast as I could. I quickly ran to get a mask but then decided against wearing the gloves. I did not want to anoint someone through rubber gloves although it is permissible. I thought in this instance, I must touch the man with my bare finger to anoint him with the holy oil. That dying gentleman deserved my fullest respect. In today’s gospel, we encounter a leper. Lepers had to shout out “Unclean” whenever they came close to other people so that no one would touch them, even accidentally. Jesus said to the unclean leper “Be made clean” and while saying this He reached out and touched him (knowing this was quite against the law). Jesus not only saw the man’s leprosy but recognized his human dignity. As Catholics, we believe that nothing is quite as healing as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, you can ask for healing and forgiveness in your own private way, but in confession we hear the words of forgiveness from the priest who speaks for Christ. And as part of the sacrament, the priest raises his hand symbolically or places his hand on the head of the person during the prayer of absolution; this symbolizes Jesus’ healing touch of the leper. What sins in your life make you “unclean?” There is only one way to clean a soul – namely through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. The Church asks that each Catholic receives this Sacrament twice a year: before Christmas and before Easter. Please consider going to confession during this season of Lent and “Be made clean” in anticipation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
February 4, 2018
The biblical figure Job forces us to reflect on our understanding of why suffering is in the world. Why do some people suffer so much while others seem to evade it? There are no easy answers except that the church has always taught that suffering aids in the purification of souls and of the entire world. Jesus did not promise to protect us from suffering but only that he would tie himself to us and share in our burdens. Since he endured his own horrific sufferings he is able to be completely empathetic in our pain. He shouldered the entire sin-suffering of the world upon the cross. When inflicted with suffering, asking why never leads to answers and it never invites healing. As I watched both my parents die, I realized that long suffering was part of their lives; my father suffered with his mental illness and was in excruciating physical pain during his last years. My mother raised seven children, cared for an ill husband, carries two stillborns to full term, lived in near poverty conditions and then, at the end of her life, lived with mental anguish as her memories faded from her mind. Why didn’t God ever give either of them a break? Asking this question only leads to a dead end. We must look at those who suffer as heroes, especially those who faith gives them peace and hope where there could have not been nothing but despair. My comfort, OUR COMFORT is to know that those who suffer will eventually be freed and will be at peace for all eternity; a glorious eternity that awaits us all. We can be proud to know that our sufferings have helped, in some mysterious way, to make this world a holier place.
January 28, 2018
Many teachers in today’s school systems have the daunting task of keeping their students under control as basic respect is nearly nonexistent in classrooms these days. New teachers are amazed at some of the “old timers” who can walk into a room and with just their presence settle the students down. For some experienced teachers it is simply a skill that they learned; for others it is a result of years of nurturing and loving their students; thus, earning their respect. Jesus taught with this kind of authority and earned the respect and admiration of his followers. In his brilliance he knew the law – every letter of the law, but he taught and applied the law with mercy and compassion. The Scribes and Pharisees had long forgotten to be merciful and, in the process, became hardened and hypocritical. Think of someone whom you know to be hypocritical; what is it about them that turns you off? In every situation Jesus was authentic and practiced what he preached; people admired this and wanted to know more about this amazing man who had the ability to command evil spirits and restore people’s lives. Do you practice what you preach? Are you hypocritical in any way? Do you deal with others with mercy and compassion or are you quick to judge and even quicker to punish? Also, do you have the discipline to control sin and temptation in your own life or does sin have control over you? In a twelve-step program, participants are encouraged to depend on a higher power; as Catholics we believe this higher power is Jesus Christ. So, if you are a bit out of control then turn to Jesus and be amazed by all he can do for you!
January 21, 2018
The running of the Olympic torch is a time-honored tradition; it is passed from one person to another from its beginning location to its destination. When I became pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. George was kind enough to have my name etched on a stone tablet along with the names of the previous twelve pastors. When I saw my name on the stone, it was then that I realized those pastors that came before me cared for the parish and then passed the torch on to the next successor. A year later, yet another torch was passed on to me when I became pastor of St. Augustin’s. so, not only am I now carrying two torches, I will also face unprecedented challenges with today’s growing disinterest in God; I can only pray that one day I will pass on two healthy parishes to the next pastor.
John the Baptist’s mission was to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near and to warn everyone to repent from sin. After John was arrested and beheaded, Jesus picked up where John left off and continued to proclaim repentance from sin. John was a loner, but unlike him, Jesus gathered companions for his ministry. Even though he was the Lord of the Universe, Jesus needed the support of family and close friends. What companions have you made along your life journey? Who are the people who have supported and encouraged you? Jesus also knew that it was essential to pass on His Ministry to others. What person(s) have inspired you throughout your life? What torches (ministries, causes or callings) have been passed on to you?