Father Kris' Korner
Father Kris’ Korner
January 13, 2019
Welcome to the official-official last day of the Christmas season which ends with the Baptism of Jesus and an acknowledgment by the Father that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Jesus was not an infant when he was baptized; in fact, he was 30 years old. But why did Jesus want to be baptized by John when baptism was for repentance of sins? He had nothing for which to repent; he had no sin! Even John the Baptist was perplexed and told Jesus “You should be baptizing me!” But baptism is not only for the wiping away of original sin; it signifies our adoption as children of God and it is also our anointing / commissioning as PRIESTS, PROPHETS and KINGS. As “Priests” we are called to offer God our prayers, intercessions, as well as our daily sacrifices. As “Prophets” we are called to speak out against injustice as we speak the truth boldly. As “Kings” we are reminded that we are God’s children – members of his royal family with riches promised to us beyond our wildest imaginations. Jesus’ Baptism was his official endorsement by the Father at the beginning of his mission for the salvation of the human race. In the waters of Baptism, Jesus’ showed us that he identifies with sinners; so much so that He will take the Sins of the World upon his own shoulders at his crucifixion. Also, his baptism redefined the Sacrament of Baptism as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Father acknowledged Jesus as His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased; when did you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, your Savior? Can you recall any major “ah ha” moments when you understood this more deeply or felt it in the depths of your heart? Those moments, those ‘revelations’ are God’s gifts to you; cherish them and share them. Perhaps through your witness, others might come to believe and acknowledge for themselves that Jesus is indeed the Messiah!
December 30, 2018
Merry Christmas to all and may you experience the fullness of God’s blessings throughout the New Year. The Sunday following Christmas focuses on the Holy Family. At this time of year, some families send out a newsletter with their Christmas cards in which they describe what has been happening with various family members throughout the year. These letters often include, births, marriages, engagements, but they also contain news of illness, hardship or even death. Normally, I too take this opportunity to talk about my own family in the bulletin as an example of a real family who faces life with divine assistance from God. But this year I’ve decided to share just a few examples from our parishioners’ lives (leaving out the names of course!). We have had joyful births, baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations, children going off to college, new careers, engagements, weddings, anointings and healings - physical, emotional and spiritual. We’ve had news of cancer, accidents that have left our bodies weak or in pain, the onset of Alzheimer’s, divorces and separations, and financial hardships. We’ve had deaths after long suffering, unexpected deaths, and some families have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis. We’ve had loved ones who turned away from the church and we’ve had loved ones who have returned. You see, WE ARE A FAMILY… we are a holy family called CHURCH. When one of us suffers, we all suffer; when one of us celebrates, we all celebrate; when one of us needs help, we pool our resources to come to their assistance. Not every family is perfect; in fact some are quite dysfunctional so some people have to build a family of their own whether it be from among members related by blood or marriage, by friendship, or by adoption into God’s family through the Unity of the Holy Spirit. Please remember to be grateful to God for whomever you acknowledge as YOUR FAMILY.
FAMILY PRAYER FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
We give you thanks Lord God who has blessed us with life and love.
You have given us the gift of family.
Help us to nurture and to protect
to guide and to love one another.
Through the intercession of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph - protect us.
Give us wisdom and courage, joy and faithfulness
in responding to our special vocation as a Christian family
so we may help each other to grow in grace and love
to the glory of God. Amen.
December 23, 2018
The fourth candle of the Advent Wreath is lighted leaving just one day until Christmas Eve. Hopefully, the Advent reflection books that we sent to you have been uplifting and inspirational. In today’s Gospel, we finally hear the news of the infant; the Angel Gabriel had just announced to Mary that she will conceive and bear a son. The angel also told her that her elderly relative had also conceived a child. The Blessed Mother gives us an example of putting the needs of others before our own, for upon hearing the news of her relative Elizabeth, Mary set out in haste to offer her help. Mary had overwhelming concerns of her own; she had just said yes to being the mother of the Son of God, she hadn’t had relations with her future husband and she was pregnant and he wants to divorce her because he believes she’s had an affair, and yet even with all this, she went in haste to care for Elizabeth. There are many saints and heroes among us who put others’ needs above their own. Every day there are people who give of themselves to the point of exhaustion because they mirror Christ’s sacrificial love and compassion. What merit is there in giving of our time, talent and treasure only when it is convenient? May our Blessed Mother Mary, the saints, and even your own real-life heroes inspire you to help others even though the timing isn’t right, even though you feel like you’re not good enough, and even though you can’t afford it. Mother Teresa says it beautifully… “Give, but give until it hurts.”
December 16, 2018
In days past, the third Sunday of Advent was called Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). The entrance antiphon for today’s mass is “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We light the third candle, the rose candle, to remind us that we are halfway there and Christmas is coming quickly. The readings today speak of rejoicing, gladness, joy and sharing. In preparation for Christmas, let us recall the richest blessings of our lives; times of great gladness and joy, love and friendship, and those special gifts only heaven can bestow. Let us anticipate the coming of Christ with the same joy as a child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. As part of our passage from childhood to adulthood we shift our focus from receiving to giving. This week, let us remember those very special gifts that we gave over the years; those gifts that we shared from the depths of our hearts and the sacrifices we made for others because of our love and devotion; those gifts that we have given of ourselves without expecting anything in return. But let us also remember the gifts we have received; of course I am not talking about material items, but rather, those gifts that are granted from above such as joy, love, friendship, community, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom and strength. I know so many of our parishioners who are sorrowful and burdened especially when they must face another holiday season without the one(s) they love. Yes, even to you, the Church says “Rejoice in the Lord always.” I will preach to my last breath that healing comes about through laughter, remembering joyful times, and telling the stories of the fondest memories our loved ones. With each tale we tell, with each tear from laughing heartily, we get stronger in our hope that we will all be reunited one day because God has given us the greatest gift ever – the gift of his Son! Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
December 9, 2018
I’ve gone on many hikes in the mountains of the Adirondacks and even scaled the walls of the Grand Canyon, so I know what it is like to appreciate level smooth ground on a difficult journey. There is nothing quite like a smooth path with no obstacles to give your weary soul rejuvenation. Imagine the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years, facing one obstacle after another; hunger, thirst, despair, dissention, abandonment, captivity and oppression. Some people, perhaps our own parishioners, have had more than their fair share of life’s ups and downs and have faced great crises and heartaches and have not given up or given in. In today’s readings we hear that God, through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, has paved our way into heaven by leveling all obstacles to our salvation. Even though the path to heaven should be easy, we humans make it difficult through our sinfulness. However, nothing will separate us from the love of Christ; not anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or death, or even the evil one. God has proved his love for us by opening the gates of heaven once and for all. All he asks in return is for us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. How can you deepen your love for God during this season of Advent? And how might you be able to smooth another person’s obstacles during this season of giving?
December 2, 2018
Ah, the wearin’ of the purple at mass is back once again! Advent is here. A lonely lighted candle on our Advent Wreath reminds us that we are beginning the season of WAITING and PREPARATION. You may have already begun putting up the Christmas decorations in and around your home. It’s an exciting time; little children counting down the days; adults searching for great deals on presents and making plans for the Holidays. But in all of this, are you remembering to prepare your hearts for the coming of the Christ Child? Every year I cannot express more emphatically that you have a manger scene in your home; it keeps us grounded and focused. Send cards with a religious theme to gently remind others of the true meaning of the Christmas. To help us all get in the true spirit, we have sent every registered parishioner a booklet called “Waiting in Joyful Hope - Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas.” With so much fear, intolerance and violence in the world I challenge you, during this advent season, to focus on peace and being peacemakers. Please don’t get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas or be brought low by each day’s terrible news, but rather focus on the joy of God becoming human like us. Do whatever you can to Keep Christ in Christmas! Be joyful and be at peace.
November 25, 2018
This is the Last Sunday of the church year and we conclude with the celebration of Christ the King of the Universe. Our Sunday readings depict not a mighty and powerful king; but rather a humble man about to be crucified, who refused to defend himself even though Pilate tried to pressure him to admit that he was the King of the Jews. Jesus simply answered “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Have you ever noticed the letters I N R I on a crucifix? These letters (in Latin) stand for “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” It was actually Pilate who insisted that this inscription be written on the cross even though many objected. I find it completely baffling that Jesus Christ, the King of the entire Universe is simply not invited into some people’s hearts or is outright rejected. Many turn their backs on the Author or Life because they believe they are doing just fine without divine assistance and they are convinced that they don’t need Jesus’ love which is offered so freely. Even though the whole universe was created through Him, with Him, and in Him, he never forces himself upon us. What role does Jesus Christ have in your life… a very minor role, an acquaintance only when you need something, a dear friend, protector and guide, or perhaps even Lord of your life? How has your relationship with Jesus Christ changed throughout your lifetime? When have you grown closer to Him and what may have caused you to backslide? As of right now, who’s in the ‘driver’s seat’ of your life; you or Jesus, your spouse or your children, your own amusement or addictions, your job or career? Have you ever considered surrendering your life wholly to Christ your King of the Universe? What’s holding you back
November 18, 2018
The church year (Liturgical Year) is coming to a close at the end of November and as we come to the end it is good to reflect on our lives, especially our spiritual lives. Have you grown closer to God or perhaps drifted further away? What challenges have you had concerning your personal faith or your trust in the Catholic Church? Have you had any “Ah ha” moments that deepened your faith? Life can be discouraging at times and the world seems to be going to “hell in a handbasket” with constant news about war and terrorism, mass shootings, heinous atrocities against good and innocent people, an increase in natural disasters caused by global warming, and pollution that threatens our precious planet. With the arrival of Prince Louis and another grandchild on the way, Prince Charles, the next King of the United Kingdom, shared his fears for their future when he said, "I am about to have another grandchild actually. I suspect quite a few of you may too have grandchildren or will do soon. It does seem to me insanity if we are going to bequeath this completely polluted, damaged and destroyed world to them. All grandchildren deserve a better future."
Evil seems to be winning the battle over good on so many levels and we are left wondering if humans will survive much longer. What keeps you from falling into despair and how do you fight against hatred and fear? What are the reasons for your hope? Be assured - LOVE will conquer hate. Jesus Christ has already triumphed over sin and death; “And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Would his angels sweep you up into Glory or leave you behind with the damned? Would you be spiritually ready if Jesus were to return at any moment?
November 11, 2018
In today’s two readings we encounter two very poor widows; both who trust in the Lord so much that they give away nearly all they had. During a great famine, the first widow and her son are about to eat the last bit of food they have and after that they will surely starve to death. A prophet arrives at their home and demands a portion of their food and tells them they can have what’s left over. If I were that widow, I would have told him to take a hike, but because he was a man of God she trusted him when he told her that her food would never run out while he stayed at her house. And low and behold, it happened just as the prophet foretold, they all had enough to eat each day until the famine was finally over.
We encounter the second widow in the temple by the treasury box (poor box). In those days the poor boxes had chimes inside so that the coins would ding as you dropped them in. If you had lots of money it sounded like a modern slot machine so everyone would hear it and turn to see who was being so “generous.” No one noticed the measly ding-ding of the widow’s two coins, that is, except for Jesus. In fact he made an example of her generosity by saying “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
In the Kingdom of God there is no such thing as being generous to a fault. When we are generous because of our love of God and neighbor, he in turn responds to us with even greater generosity; it is simply a matter of deep trust. When have you witnessed this truth in your own life? When and how have you given of yourself only to find you received more in return? If you can’t think of one instance then perhaps this is a wakeup call. Amen?
November 4, 2018
Humans, in every period of our existence have honored our deceased loved ones. It is deep within our nature to remember their impact on our lives, to mourn their passing, and to hope to be with them again. On November 1st, All Saints Day, the church honors all those whom the church upholds as official saints - those whom we know “made it” – those whose lives were holy and exemplary. There are a few important requirements for a person to become a saint; most notably, two miracles must take place through the intercession of that person. The miracle is usually a healing which is instantaneous, permanent, and complete while also being scientifically unexplainable. The miracle must be approved by a panel of independent doctors and theologians along with the final approval from the pope himself. After the first verified miracle a person is declared “BLESSED.” After a second verified miracle the person is finally honored as a “SAINT.”
But how do we honor ‘regular’ people who pass away? Recently, my Italian cousins had a party to remember and celebrate our deceased loved ones. Of course it dug up some sorrow but sharing their stories helped us to heal. On November 2nd, All Souls Day, our parishes held a very special Concert of Remembrance to help our parishioners heal and to honor their recently departed loved ones. During the month of November, their names are placed on the altar. At the part of the mass when we remember the dead, I place my hand over the names and pause so that all parishioners can remember their own loved ones. The names of four members of my family are among those on the altar. Let all of us find comfort and hope in Jesus’ promise that he will never abandon us and that, through his death and resurrection, we will live in eternal glory together with our loved ones.
How does your family honor its deceased? Do you tell their stories to younger generations? Do you reminisce by looking at old photos? If you are able, do you visit their graves? Why not honor them during every mass in November? All Souls envelopes were sent out and can also be found at the entrances of the church; if you want to include a donation that is totally up to you. Please honor your loved ones by proudly placing their names on the altar.
October 28, 2018
So much is happening in this week’s gospel story that it needs to be picked apart to understand its fullness. Bartimaeus, a blind man, was pushed to the back along the side of the road as Jesus passed by. Others, thinking themselves more important, were blocking his access to Jesus. When has your own sinfulness hindered someone from experiencing God’s love? But Bartimaeus used his hearing to listen for Jesus and then used his voice to make his needs known. When have you truly cried out to God for help in your life? But why did the crowd essentially tell Bartimaeus to shut up? Perhaps they thought he wasn’t important enough? Or perhaps they were selfishly hoping that their own wishes would be granted before his? When have you placed your own needs or desires before someone else who was in greater need? How can you change this in the future?
Next, Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants. Isn’t it obvious what the man wants?... He is blind, he wants to see! Although it may have seemed obvious, Jesus gives Bartimaeus the chance to speak for himself. Perhaps, all his life, the blind man was ignored because people thought he wasn’t capable due to his handicap. He answered Jesus “Master, I want to see.” However, in the scriptures “wanting to see” has two meanings… the desire for EYESIGHT and also the desire for DEEP FAITH. It is evident that Bartimaeus desired both because, after receiving eyesight, he immediately became a devoted follower of Jesus.
If Jesus were to ask you “What do you want?” how might you answer? We pray constantly for this and for that and for other people’s needs, but what do YOU want from the Lord for yourself? Give it some thought… Might you dare ‘waste’ your request by simply asking for deep faith?
October 21, 2018
In today’s gospel Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." I’ve witnessed some young priests who have the attitude that they simply because they wear the roman collar they deserve your respect. My attitude, perhaps because I became at priest at age 40 was this… the day I became a priest was the day that I started earning your respect. Jesus came to us as a servant – never seeking praise and adulations, never using his authority for personal gain. As much as he modeled this, his disciples still bickered about who was greatest among them. They hadn’t yet fully appreciated the humble example that Jesus laid before them. Of course, this all changed after the Holy Spirit had ignited their hearts and they truly became Christ-like servant leaders willing to give up their lives for the sake of the Gospel. This weekend our Confirmation students will receive the Holy Spirit and hopefully each of them will go on to change the world as they serve God through service of others. Please keep them in your prayers.
May the words of the “Servant Song” inspire everyone:
Will you let me be your servant? Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey. We are travelers on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night time of your fear. I will hold my hand out to you; speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh, I'll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow till we've seen this journey through.
October 14, 2018
Wealth, power, and success generate false security and Jesus most certainly rejects them. Nothing we can ever do or achieve will merit us the rewards of heaven and sorry, Led Zeppelin got it wrong - she can’t buy a stairway to heaven. In today’s Gospel, a rich man ran up, knelt down before Jesus, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" After a brief conversation, Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Afterwards, Jesus said to his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
There has been a 2000 year controversy over exactly what Jesus meant when he spoke of the eye of a needle; some scholars believe he was talking about the eye of a sewing needle which truly would make it impossible for a camel to pass through, while other scholars believe he was referring to a low, narrow passageway through the fortified walls of an ancient city.
A merchant would have to unload all the goods off the camel to allow it access through the narrow way. This could be a warning to those who foolishly try to take their wealth and privilege with them into the next life or to those who try keeping their wealth by leaving it all to their family – thus clutching on to it in some sly way. Oh, that they might consider donating some of that wealth to charity so they can leave this world a better place.
I always feel badly for those who are wealthy when we read this passage at mass. However, Jesus’ interpretation of “wealthy” goes far beyond that of just money; it could be anything that convinces us that we don’t need to be dependent on God – that somehow, through our own merits, we’re responsible for our own successes and perhaps even that we can buy our entrance into heaven.
The words of Jesus, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" provoked great astonishment among the disciples because He contradicted everything they were ever taught about material goods and wealth as being signs that one was in God’s good favor. The pursuit of wealth actually drives a wedge between so many and God, whereas, generosity and philanthropy draw one closer. In my heart I fear there are many among us who have gambled away the riches that await us in heaven and replaced them with the immediate gratifying riches here on earth; how sad to be so deceived. Imagine throwing away eternal happiness in exchange for opulence during one’s brief life on this planet. Wouldn’t you rather share your riches during this brief time on earth than to be denied life for all eternity!
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.”