Thursday, July 5, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Homily 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Homily - 

Our Gospel reading today offers two images of seeds growing.  In the first parable, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like seeds that are planted and beyond our sight they germinate and grow ultimately bringing forth a harvest.  In the second parable, he tells us that God’s kingdom is like the smallest of seeds that can grow into a large plant.

One interpretation of these parables is that we must trust that our smallest of efforts – like a tiny seed – even when we can't always see it, can grow into something amazing.  God can break through into someone’s heart through a word or action that often to us seems insignificant. 

One of the most impactful moments in my spiritual life came from something I heard Fr. Richard Rohr once say on an audio tape. Years ago, I drove to Los Angeles frequently for work, and I decided to make that drive-time productive by listening to Fr. Rohr's bible study tapes.

What I remember most was something he said in an unprepared prayer. He said in a little prayer to begin his lesson, a prayer off the top of his head, something that changed everything for me.  He said: “The experiences of our lives if we let God use them are the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he would have us do.”

It doesn’t sound like much does it?

What I was going through at that moment in time made this little message life changing. You see I had cancer at that time and because of this short statement, I began to think of the cancer as something God could use.  This simple sentence in a spontaneous prayer changed everything for me – in a moment. 

Jesus is telling us with these seed parables that we should be aware that the smallest things we say or do can have an enormous impact.

Jesus' ministry must have looked so small to an outsider.  He converted very few who heard him, and even his closest disciples remained relatively clueless throughout his ministry.  And yet from that small start, his ministry changed the world. We just don't know what our small word or action might do. But Jesus tells us today that's exactly how God's kingdom is spread!

Paul tells the Corinthians – and he tells us – in today’s reading, “We need to walk by faith, not by sight.”  We need to trust that God is working even when we don’t see it. If we let God use the experiences of our lives – the good and the bad ones – he can use our small lives to increase his harvest.

Cancer stripped my life down to what really mattered.  You find out when you are seriously ill that the only thing that matters are the people you love.  The only thing – in the end – that counts is loving others. 

That simple little saying from Fr. Richard Rohr allowed me to give that experience over to God for him to use.  Which changed the whole course of my life; I am a deacon today because of this simple phrase.

Hearing this Gospel reading on Father’s Day makes we think of this message in the context of being a Father who has raised four children. The text talks about how God plants the seed of his kingdom inside us. Which is truly the most important job a Father has, to plant the seed of God’s kingdom in their children’s hearts.  And our reading today tells us we need to be patient; even though it's not always easy to see God's kingdom growing inside our children or us.  Even though we don’t seem to be getting holier and our kids often are not responding as we think they should, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, we must keep on cultivating the seed inside our family and us; especially by praying and by receiving the sacraments.

Raising a family takes lots of patience.  Sometimes parents see little evidence of maturity in a child.  What do parents do when this happens? They love the child even more and go on being patient.  Our job is to plant the seed of God’s kingdom in our hearts and the hearts of our family members, and then we must trust God and be patient.

God is trying to grow something special in each one of us, something beautiful, something infinitely more marvelous than any tree could ever be. If we trust God, things will work out in God's own time and in God's way. I'm living proof of that statement for sure.

I survived cancer, and God used that experience to change me and to change my family. If we let God use our experiences the day will come when God’s kingdom will emerge from our heart and grow into something glorious. So the message in today’s readings comes down to this: God planted the seed of his kingdom in your heart, and your job is to nurture it. If we stay close to Him and offer our lives to Him, we never know how He might use us to plant the seeds of hope in someone else.



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Down through the ages, our theologians have told us God is love. Saint Augustine taught that the Holy Spirit is – the bond – of love between the Father and the Son. There is such an immense love within the Father and the Son for each other that it spills over into our lives. A love as sweet as a breath or as passionate and powerful as a windstorm.

Scripture scholars tell us the Bible suggests that the apostles receive the Holy Spirit at two different events. In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus appears to the apostles and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them and sends them on to continue his work. Breath symbolizes life.  In the creation story in Genesis God breathed over the waters.  He also breathed on to the clay of the ground and formed the first human being. The Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit is Ruach – which is feminine by the way – and it means breath or wind. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into them the moment seems peaceful, the Spirit is personal, as personal as your next breath.  Saint Basil once said, "Through the Spirit, we become intimate with God."  And this moment – between Jesus and his apostles – seems intimate and sweet. In that intimate moment with Jesus, the apostles breathed in the sweetness of Jesus’ love.

In the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how at Pentecost they experienced the power of the Spirit as a rushing wind an invisible mighty wind with noticeable miraculous effects. Perhaps these two very different accounts of the Holy Spirit coming give us a hint of how we can expect to experience the Holy Spirit in our lives. Sometimes as gentle as a breath and other times as powerful as the wind. The Holy Spirit is unpredictable. 

Sometimes the Spirit comes to us like a breath, as sweet and gentle as a kiss. In the sacraments we experience the sweet kiss of the Spirit, the breath of God filling us.  Hidden in the waters of our baptism is the invigorating gift of the Spirit – washing us and cleansing us. When we gather at the Lord's table, we experience the Spirit in Eucharist. At the moment of consecration, the priest prays:                                                       
“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus.”

Like the dewfall, the Spirit gently and lovingly unites us into one Body transforming us into the Body of Christ as we receive the body of Christ.  This is done as we share the sacrament as a community. 

But we must also be ready for the wind and fire, a powerful driving force urging us to do things we never thought possible. On Pentecost, disciples gathered in that room experienced the love of God as a passionate driving force. The Spirit caught everyone by surprise rifling through the upper room like wind – or fire – compelling them to fly out of the exists speaking words they hadn't known five minutes before. The Holy Spirit of Pentecost is unpredictable who sometimes inspires us to do bold things. No one in the upper room in Jerusalem that day expected to speak a new language. Certainly, Peter did not expect to give his unrehearsed sermon, and I'm sure he was surprised when 3,000 people converted. The church was born in that moment of unearthly, unimagined strangeness when the fire and the wind inspired them to do bold things they never dreamed they could do.

Has this ever happened to you? 

Maybe you can remember a time when you said just the right thing to someone, and you didn't know where your words came from.  They came from the Spirit.

There may have been a time when you were inspired to do something bold you never dreamed you would do like move or change vocations. Think back was that the wind or fire of the Holy Spirit calling you to something new?

Perhaps in a time of prayer, or when reading the bible, or in nature, you were overwhelmed with awe or with a sense of peace and understanding. Like a fire burning in your heart. That came from the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in sacrament and inspiration for a purpose.  St. Paul tells us God deploys each of us – to do what He has for us to do – and gives us the gifts to do it. And what He has for us to do might surprise us like it did the apostles that first Pentecost.  And it may be way beyond our competence like it was for them.

Saint Paul said to the Corinthians and us today:
            
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

Today is a good day to ask ourselves:                                                                                                       
                                                               What gifts have I been given? 
                                                               What service am I called to?
                                                               What assignment does God have for me?


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pentecost

Alone we are only a spark,
But in the spirit we are a fire.
Alone we are only a string,
But in the spirit we are a lyre.
Alone we are only an anthill,
But in the spirit we are a mountain.
Alone we are only a drop,
But in the spirit we are a fountain.
Alone we are only a feather,
But in the spirit we are a wing.
Alone we are only a beggar,
But in the spirit we are a king.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jesus said to us the most important thing we can do is love our neighbors.  
Holiness does not come from being removed from the world 
but from engaging it.

How are you loving your neighbor?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Easter Message - The Mass


This weekend we celebrated the Last Supper on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil on Saturday the two most beautiful liturgies of the year. Our celebration carries several names, all with significant meaning. 

We call our liturgy Supper, Communion, Eucharist, and Mass.

Calling it a “Supper” reminds us that we eat and drink. It’s “Communion” because our eating and drinking together as a community deepens our fellowship with the Lord Jesus and each other. It’s “Eucharist” (from Greek eucharisto, “give thanks”) because we thank our Father for the gift of his Son, and we eat and drink in gratitude. “Mass,” the word Catholics use for liturgy, is the most mysterious and in some ways the most meaningful. Where does that word come from?

Mass is, apparently, a contraction of the dismissal at the end of the Latin Mass, it comes from the Latin words which are a proclamation - ite, missa est – “Go, you are sent.” The word “Mass” highlights the missional force of the Supper.

The Mass is not an event unto itself, a temporary respite from the world, it is a launching pad for action. In many ways, Mass is our most powerful name for our worship. The word tells us what our gathering is all about. We call our community supper a “Mass” to reminds us of the rhythm of the church’s life: We gather so that we can be dispersed; we eat and drink so that we may be satisfied and sent.

Now we say “Go in peace glorifying God by your life” to end our Mass. These are not just nice words to make us feel good. To literally “go in peace” is an incredible challenge. Because of our baptism as Christians, we are called to be different. We are called to be holy—as Peter said, a people “set apart.” To “go in peace” means much more than to leave with a good feeling. It means that we leave church with the intention of making peace happen in our personal lives and in what happens around us.

We are called to the Lord’s Supper, which prepares us to “go in peace glorifying God by our life.” When we say, “Thanks be to God,” we are thanking God profoundly and joyfully that the Mass is over and that we can leave church with renewed power to make God’s love and peace real in our individual circles of influence. Christ lives and works in and through us, the people of God.

What one thing will you do this week, as a person SENT by God?



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We all have unique gifts given us to build up the Kingdom - even you!

Mother Teresa said it best:

"I can do something you cannot do; you can do something I cannot do. Together let us do something beautiful for God."

Friday, March 9, 2018

Talking to God ...


All prayer begins with the invitation of God, who invites us to know him in a personal manner. The triune mystery, the energizing presence in all things, is always reaching out to us through the indwelling Spirit.

We think that prayer is our effort to reach out to God. What appears to be our initiative is actually our response to God’s Spirit prompting us to pray. Often we go about the day unaware of God’s gracious presence calling us to new life. When we pray, we wake up to God’s call and loving embrace. This is why St. Paul advises us to, “Pray without ceasing.”

The best way to speak to God in prayer is as one friend to another.  We can thank God for food, our house, our teachers; asking God to bring our family members safely home from work and school, or saying sorry when we hurt each other. These are prayers of thanks, petition, and forgiveness.

Christian tradition teaches that God speaks to us in many ways, especially through Jesus Christ, but many struggle to hear God speak at all. The psalmist warns, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” The key word in that sentence is "if." The psalmist thinks the problem is hard hearts, which is no doubt correct, but we also have a hearing problem. Living in a fast-paced, noisy world, we struggle to hear the voice of God. Many Christians do not know how to listen for God’s voice because they do not understand how God speaks. Many conclude, therefore, that God does not talk to us. If we do not expect God to speak to us, we will not listen for God’s voice.  We harden our hearts and close our minds.

How does God speak to us?

One way is through remorse. Sometimes we act against the work and mission of Christ and engage in destructive behavior. When these situations arise, the Holy Spirit works to change our behavior by filling us with remorse. Many Christians assume they only experience God in moments of peace and joy, but Saint Ignatius of Loyola reminds us that God speaks to us in other ways, particularly in experiences of remorse. This is an act of love on God’s part because God desires to free us from our distorted attitudes and actions. God speaks to us through feelings of regret and sorrow over how we act at times.

The Lord also speaks to us in confession. Through the priest’s words, we experience the Lord’s mercy and compassion. After admitting what we have done and agreeing to do our penance. We often feel light, happy and filled with energy. According to St. Ignatius, God encourages the person who seeks reconciliation by restoring the relationship and by filling them with energy, courage, clarity, and inspirations. God also gives spiritual consolation. What is that? The most common form is feelings of quiet and peace and experiences of interior joy that attract us to live like Christ. When we are feeling free from guilt, we have a sense of God filling us with joy. That is an experience of “spiritual consolation,” a result of our cooperation with the Lord.

St. Ignatius believed that all the good we receive in our lives comes from God, like light streaming toward us from the sun. We always need to ask ourselves: “What good things was I given today?”  Most of us would answer family, friends, our home, and food. Do we know what God is saying to us when he gives us such good things? He is telling us how much he loves us and cares for us.

Why doesn’t God speak to me as he spoke to the prophets or the disciples of Jesus?

This is a common question for many Christians, adults as well as children. Our experiences, interpreted in the light of these Ignatian principles, reminds us that the Lord Jesus is always speaking to us through our relationships and choices, through our feelings, desires, imagination, and thoughts. He speaks through creation, through the gift of our lives, through other people and through our own abilities, opportunities, and struggles. The Lord desires to be in a relationship with us, to free and transform us into his image. Our task is to listen and respond.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Transfiguration

It’s been a tough year in America. First came the hurricanes that devastated so many people.  Then the wildfires which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors here in California.  And now another awful mass shooting at a school. A year like this prompts so many of us to ask … "Why?"

Why does God allow tragedy and suffering?

And the truth is there’s a mystery to tragedies like these. We don’t know the answer. And we may never know until God explains all things to us. To these big tragic events, we can all add the everyday pain and suffering we experience in our individual lives. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, injuries, heartache, crime and the loss of someone dear to us.  And we ask –  Why? Why? Why?

At least Jesus was honest with us about the inevitability of suffering. In the Gospel of John, he said, "You will have to suffer in this world." He didn't say – you might – he said it is going to happen. But why?

If you ask me, “Why did God allow the gunman to spray a high school in Florida with gunfire just a few days ago?” the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words: "I do not know."  None of us have God's mind we don't share his perspective.

Saint Paul once said: "Now we see things imperfectly like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity." Someday we'll see clearly, but for now, things are foggy. We can't understand everything from our limited perspective.                                               

The people suffering from the Florida tragedy don't need a big theological treatise right now, any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What they desperately need now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. They need a shoulder to cry on from someone who cares. They need friends to journey with them through the pain.  And we know and can be grateful, that so many churches and ministries of that community are helping them experience that.

It is still important to grapple with the question of why God allows suffering in our lives. I had a very good friend who taught me a lot about suffering. His name was Liam Hearne. Liam was born with cystic fibrosis he had been in and out of hospitals his whole life and yet he told me one day he thought God is fair. I looked at him in amazement and said, “Liam you think that God is fair after all you have been through, and he said, "Yes … and God has all eternity to make it up to me."

There was the transfigured Christ standing right in front of me - Liam Hearn.

We've all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter to reject God to become hard and angry and sullen can cause another person to turn to God to become more gentle and more loving and more tender willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain.

That was Liam! He was always ready to reach out to comfort others.

The God we worship isn't some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. He entered our world and personally experienced our pain. But he also came into our world to show us the glory of God too. That’s what the Gospel story teaches us today. Yes, suffering exists, and Christ who shared in our humanity shared in our suffering so that we could share in his divinity. And that day on the mountain he showed Peter, James, and John - and us - His divinity is something truly spectacular.

John Henry Newman a 19th-century convert who became a cardinal told us what this moment truly means. He said: “It is the duty and the privilege of all disciples of our glorified Savior, to be exalted and transfigured with Him; to live in heaven in their thoughts, motives, aims, desires, likings, prayers, praises, intercessions, even while they are in the flesh; to look like other men, to be busy like other men, to be passed over in the crowd of men, or even to be scorned or oppressed, as other men may be, but all the while to have a secret channel of communication with the Most High, a gift the world knows not of; to have their life hid with Christ in God.”

That is our call to be transformed too.

To shine the light of Christ – the glory of God – to those all around us

To like Liam be a beacon of light even in a broken world.



Saturday, February 24, 2018

“Where is the life we have lost in living;
where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge;
where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”— T.S. Eliot

Monday, January 29, 2018

Faith–religion–is all about mystery.  I am not talking about that which is unknowable, but that which is entirely knowable. God will always be mystery and God will still be knowable. So how do we engage the mystery that is God? 
It’s in becoming aware of our powerlessness that we gain faith in something greater than ourselves.  If we believe we are powerful and have all the knowledge we need about life and its meaning, then we have no need of a higher power.

The spiritual journey, the journey to knowing God, is a journey into the mystery of our own powerlessness. Life is the best teacher.  Life is full of disappointment, betrayal, abandonment, failure, and rejection, and that is the stuff of religious education. It’s the losses, disappointments, and failures that are our best teachers. When we embrace our brokenness, we can begin to embrace the one who loves us just as we are.  We need to let go of the lies the world offers and open our hearts to what’s real, then we can begin to discover the knowable God. 

We often muse about why so many people in church have white hair.  It’s because they have traveled this journey of life’s disappointments and have come to know the knowable God who loves them unconditionally. They have come to realize the emptiness of selfishness and greed. Real spiritual growth comes when we let go of our addiction to self.

How do we know when we have found God? When we begin to focus on the other. When there is an increased capacity for compassion, forgiveness, and love.  When we begin to turn away from the all-demanding self and turn our eyes and hearts out to the other, then we are starting to discover the knowable God. 

Jesus said that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. He also said if we spend our life trying to find our life, we’ll lose it; on the other hand, if we spend our life letting go of our life, we’ll find it. 

Our culture is made to order for this spiritual journey. We love to define our self almost entirely by external achievements, by external appearance, by skin color, by the car we drive, where we live, and so forth. Which of course is all illusion; or as Jesus said about the rich man who built more barns - foolishness. There’s something more in life than accumulating money and possessions. There's something more in life than worrying about what others think of us. Eventually, we all figure that out whether we find God or not. 

So how do we know God? We find Him when we’ve let go of all of the obscurities that blind us to Him. When we transcend the illusions of the world, we begin to know the very knowable God.  As Christians, we are so fortunate because we follow a God in Jesus who modeled it for us.  We follow a God who loves us so dearly, he became one of us to show The Way. 




Friday, January 26, 2018

REPENT - We don't like that word very much. Homily 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:14-20

In the Gospel reading, Mark gives us the first record we have of Jesus preaching. His first sermon was short and powerful: 

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

One word – leaps out of that message. A word we Christians aren’t too fond of - REPENT.  
It sounds so negative when we hear the word – repent. It often causes us to call to mind those things that make us feel guilty. So, if you are like me, you pretty much avoid the word. But the truth is to “repent” in the language of the gospels - Greek - it means something a bit different.  The Greek word is metanoia. Repentance – or metanoia – is not merely a moral call to stop sinning. Rather, it refers to what we might call “conversion,” changing one’s mind, heart and life toward God. Shifting the focus of our lives. The kingdom that Jesus preached is about transformation. To repent is to transform yourself. Jesus is asking us to make a turn in our life. Not so much to turn from something, but to turn to something.

To repent is to turn inside, to look within ourselves and ask – What am I doing here? Is this the way God wants me to live? The answer may be … “YES” … but you won’t know unless you look within. To repent is to turn to Christ and accept the Gospel – the Good News – he brought to the world. And let it change our lives for the better.

One of the most significant saints in our church's history is an excellent example of this.Saint Augustine’s life as a young man was characterized by loose living and a search for the answers to life's fundamental questions. He would follow various philosophers, only to become disillusioned with their teachings.  He had success and lovers. He should have been happy, but he wasn’t.  He went one day to hear the preaching of the local bishop Ambrose.  He went only to hear Ambrose's eloquent style of speaking for he was a famous orator. But what he heard that day led him to a new understanding of the Christian Faith. He had this metanoia, this change of heart, Jesus called for in his first sermon. Augustine said it felt as if his heart was flooded with light. He turned entirely from his life of sin to a life that embraced the Gospel – the Good News. He was Baptized by Ambrose the following Easter. Later, reflecting on this experience, Augustine wrote about this turn to Christ. He said in a prayer to Christ. “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Augustine went on to become a powerful influence on the spirituality and the theology of the Christian Church. He became one of the Church’s greatest theologians – a Doctor of the Church.

How do you turn toward Christ as he did? Not just a “book learning” of Jesus but let him get inside of you; to have an experience like Augustine and feel as if your heart is flooded with light. To repent means to turn toward Jesus and open your heart and mind to his message. The first thing is you must get to know him. Augustine met Jesus in a sermon at church and then learned more as he prepared for his baptism. You can hear Christ speak to you at church, in the words of the Bible, and he can speak to you in your life. Listen for his invitation to metanoia – a change of heart. But be prepared to let him shake you up and to love you and stir something up you never felt before. This transformation – this metanoia – comes with an invitation

We hear today the story of the first four people who turned their lives to Christ and left their old lives behind to follow him. Jesus' first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John respond to God's call by abandoning their old life. They got out of their fishing boats and let Jesus lead them. God seems to choose the most unlikely people to believe in the Gospel and to proclaim the good news. Those four simple fishermen knew a lot about bait and nets but little about preaching and building a church.                             
Today he still does the same thing. He calls an elementary school teacher, a stockbroker, a waiter, a lawyer, a nurse, a firefighter, and even retirees. And he wants us all to be fishers of men. He wants us to be changed by the Gospel – the Good News – to repent and to experience metanoia, to turn toward him.  No matter who we are.

And then he sends us out into the sea of humanity to go deep-soul fishing, because the Church's primary business, and so each Christian's primary business, is the fishing business. 

Your neighborhood is a lake full of fish. 
Your office is a lake full of fish.                  
Your school is a lake full of fish.
Your family is a lake full of fish.                                                                             

When Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men,” He was saying,                                
“I will take you … 
with your personality
your background
your testimony
your influence
and I will use you to catch men and women, and boys and girls, and bring them into my family.” When we offer Christ our skills, he will use us. When we accept his invitation, we find the fulfillment of our life’s work. St. Augustine said it well in his prayer at his moment of metanoia, at the moment of his invitation:

“You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”