Monday, October 30, 2023

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 

He said to him,

"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the greatest and the first commandment.

The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We are living in challenging times. We are dealing with a difficult economic situation, with inflation impacting all of us. We hear over and over the perils of global warming. We recently lived through a pandemic. And now wars are flaring up around the globe. 

It's easy to get so caught up in this kind of news that we lose heart. Jesus says to each one of us today: Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose heart.

If you are focused on the world's problems, he tells us you are focused on the wrong thing. The most important commandment our God has given us is to LOVE.

Jesus is saying our call in life is to love God and each other … period.

The good news of our faith is that this love we are called to is not one way. God never gives up on us. God never stops loving us. He is always seeking us out, patiently offering His love for us. When we love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole soul, when loving God and each other becomes the focus of our lives, the problems of the world fade into the background.

The love Jesus speaks of is not mere sentiment. He is asking us to make a total commitment to God, to love God and each other, to make this the focus of our lives.

He is calling us to make loving God our highest priority. And then to express that love through loving actions towards others. If we truly love God, we will love everyone God loves, even those who are, for us, rather unlovable.

About 100 years after the time of Christ, a non-Christian named Aristides wrote to Emperor Hadrian describing how the early Christians lived. Listen to these words. They tell us what we are called to be like.

Aristides said to the Emperor, "Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows. They save orphans from those who would hurt them. If a Christian person has something, he gives to a person who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians invite them to come into their home and consider them a brother or a sister. If they see someone who is ill or someone who is in prison, they go visit them. If they hear that one of them is in great tribulation, they will give that person all that he or she needs. These Christians are a new kind of people. They seem to be filled with the Spirit of God! There is something Divine in them.”  

This description by Aristides is what we, as followers of Christ, are called to be. That is what Jesus is talking about today: loving our God and loving each other. If we make that our priority, it changes us. We see the world differently. We live out our call to LOVE. It may not change the world, but it will undoubtedly change us; it will change OUR WORLD.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves means seeing and treating others with the respect and love that God gives them.

As Christians, we don't want to waste our lives. We know in our hearts that what Jesus says today is true.We know Jesus is right when he says the only path to life is loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. We want to do something and not just talk about it. 

So what are we to do? 

First, we must let God's love enfold us. In the embrace of him, who sees everything yet loves us nonetheless, we find the power to act. The power to give ourselves to one another. And in doing that, we'll find the joy we long for.

Trust in God’s love for you. Trust the full extent of it. Let him enfold you completely, and the power to love with all your heart will follow. Living in this world of love, it becomes much easier to – as the great saint Padre Pio said – pray, hope, and don't worry.

Always remember God loves you and wants your love in return.

Monday, September 25, 2023

 Jesus told his disciples this parable:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'

When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'


If I polled the congregation this morning, I think many, if not most of us, would feel the first workers who worked all day and received the same as those who worked a few hours got a lousy deal.

This story isn’t really about the workers being taken advantage of, because they’re receiving exactly what He promised them. When we look at this situation, it's easy to make the big mistake of judging by the world's standards, not God's. The prophet Isaiah reminds us God does not think like us!

This story is all about the vineyard owner’s generosity.   God’s generosity.

In this parable, the vineyard owner is God, and all of humanity are the workers. If we judge this situation by God's standards, we might discover that when you come to faith in God, when you enter God's vineyard, is not the issue; the issue is how generous our God is when we do enter his vineyard.

A few years ago, my good friend Bob O'Neill told me a story about a friend of his. Bob was a judge, and the friend he told me about was also a judge. Bob's friend was dying, and he was very depressed. The judge who was passing had not been a man of faith. In fact, he was a person who had regularly ridiculed people of faith. On his deathbed, Bob heard that his friend was frightened. Bob O'Neil visited his friend and courageously asked his friend how he was with God. The terminally ill man said to Bob: It’s too late for me. 

To which Bob responded by reading his friend – this passage – this parable from the bible. He told his friend that God doesn't care when you enter the vineyard. The reward is the same. That day, Bob's friend committed his life to Christ and passed on a few days later, full of joy. Bob's courageous conversation impacted the man's whole family, who found God through their father’s spiritual journey.  

How does Jesus’ parable of the Workers apply to us today?

Look at it this way. Every Christian is a worker God calls to labor in the vineyard of God's earthly Kingdom. Some of us were called at birth; we are often called "cradle Catholics." And maybe some of us workers are not carrying our workload. Perhaps this is why the vineyard owner in the parable had to keep hiring more workers. It wasn't that he had underestimated the size of the job. It’s just that some of the all-day workers were not pulling their load. They were not using their talents as God had intended that they use them. This leads us back to the fact that some late-coming Christians are doing remarkable work in the vineyard of God's Kingdom. Converts to the faith are often among the hardest-working members of the Church. I think about 20% of all the deacons in San Diego are converts.

So, as we return to the altar, let us thank God for the zeal and the inspiration of those who have been called at a later hour to work in the vineyard of God’s Kingdom.  And let us ask God to inspire and motivate us to join them in working harder to bring in the great harvest that is out there. 

Like my friend Bob O’Neill did.

Then, in heaven, we will all rejoice together, singing the praises of our God, who has been so merciful, forgiving, and generous.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

What happened at the Ascension?

We might compare the feast of the Ascension to the passing of a baton from one runner to another in a relay race. That day Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to his followers … to us.                                                                                                                                
Jesus gave us the assignment to complete the work He began. 

The message of the Ascension is a simple one. Jesus invites us to take from his hand the baton he received from his Father; and tells us to continue the work that his Father gave Him to do on earth. It’s a call to witness Jesus and teach others about Him wherever we find ourselves and in whatever manner the Holy Spirit inspires us to use.

The Ascension is all about simply taking Jesus' invitation seriously to be His witness to our world and his teacher to those we encounter in our life.

As Jesus exited this earth, He asked us to continue the work He began on earth in the environments where we live … our homes … our places of work … our parishes. Does this mean we must preach about Jesus as Peter and the other disciples did in our first reading? For most of us, probably not. It’s more about how we live. St. Frances once said: "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

Taking the baton from Jesus means living the Gospel in our daily lives. At the very least, it means being witnesses to Jesus in our own families. Only if we begin taking our Christian calling seriously will the message of Jesus take hold in our world. And, if we step out in faith and do it, our faith will ripple around the globe. And, if enough of us do it, that ripple will grow into a tidal wave. And that tidal wave — empowered by the Holy Spirit — will renew the face of the earth in a way we never dreamed possible.

Don't be disheartened; pick up the baton and carry on!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

With gratitude 

optimism is sustainable.

If you can find something

to be grateful for

Then you find something

to look forward to

Then you can carry on. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

I've been to four funerals in the past week or so. Which filled my heart with this message for us all: Life is short, and the goal should be to live each moment to the fullest. We mustn’t waste time in anger, regrets, and worries. Life is too short to be holding grudges. 

Mother Theresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet. We have only today.”

My two brothers and I did not speak to each other for many years. Some of that was from past hurts, but most was laziness. We didn't take the time to reach out to each other. My brothers died within a few months of each other last year. My heart is heavy with regret. Learn from me – call someone today and tell them you care; mend fences if you need to. Life is fleeting.

One way to make life more joyful is to be grateful. Gratitude and joy are uniquely linked. According to a study by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, people who keep a happiness journal for a week feel happier than people who don't, even three months after they stopped writing it.

Lately, I've learned to take some time in the morning - praying, sipping coffee, and coming up with my day's to-do list. It has become the most precious time of the day for me now. I try to make sure the things on my list are not just chores but reflect what came to my heart during prayer. I try to ensure my list includes things I want to be doing and reaching out to people God put on my heart. In my morning prayer time, I reflect on the life I want to be living.

A Swiss philosopher once said: "Life is short. We don't have much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk this way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind," and I would add to that beautiful message to always be aware of the blessings of God, who made us, loves us, and encourages us to love one another.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

 On October 7, we celebrate 
the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary 
in honor of the Blessed Mother.  

October was also the month in which Mary appeared for the last time to shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, 
urging them to 


Join me this October
praying the rosary for peace in Ukraine

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

God values humility - Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

There aren't too many benefits of growing old, except if you live long enough, you begin to put things in perspective. When you're young, you constantly worry about what other people think of you. You worry about whether they think you're good-looking or your peers think you are cool. I can’t imagine what it’s like with social media! If you're lucky, you stop worrying about those things somewhere along the line. You stop caring so much about what other people think of you. And when you get to my age, you realize that most of the people you worried about weren’t thinking about you at all. 

In our Gospel reading, Jesus is with a whole lot of people who were all caught up in what others thought of them. And he told them a truth about how God sees us. He said:

“Those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 14:11

We all want to be great … right?   So, what does it mean to be humble?

Does it mean to put ourselves down?

Does it mean to think less of ourselves? 

Does it mean to deny our true worth or to belittle it?

Not at all!

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself. It doesn't mean having a low opinion of your gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all. When we take ourselves out of the picture, what is left? God and others. That is what Jesus is talking about, putting God and others first in our lives.

Jesus is the most remarkable example of humility. In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul tells us: “… though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” Jesus Christ was humble. He lived his life obeying his Father and serving us, even giving up his life to save us. 

To be humble is to imitate Jesus. He once said about himself: “The Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve." Mark 10:45  If you are struggling to understand what Jesus is saying about humility, just think of Him on his knees washing his disciples' feet. Or think about Him on the cross giving up his life for us. True humility is to take the talents that God has given us and use them to lift others up. 

I read a story about Pope John Paul II, now "Saint" John Paul II. The story goes that a priest was visiting Rome. And on the steps of one of the churches, he saw a beggar who looked very familiar. To his surprise, he realized it was one of his classmates from the seminary. "Didn't we go to the seminary together?" he asked. "Yes," said the beggar. "But you're a priest, right?" "Not anymore," the beggar replied, "I fell off the deep end."

A short time later, the priest had an audience with Pope John Paul II. He told him the story and asked him to pray for his friend. The Pope assured him that he would. Later that day, the priest received a phone call inviting him to have dinner with the Pope, and the Pope asked him to bring the ex-priest with him. He ran to the church, found his friend, and gave him the good news. But the beggar said, "I'm a mess. I haven't showered in a  long time, and my clothes are filthy." But the priest took him back to his hotel room and helped him get all cleaned up.

At the end of a very enjoyable dinner, the Holy Father asked to be alone with the ex-priest. After a long while, the man came out with tears in his eyes. "What happened?" his friend asked. The man replied, "The Pope asked me to hear his confession! I told him, 'Your Holiness, look at me! I'm a beggar, not a priest!'  But the Pope looked at me and said, "Who among us is not a beggar? I too come before the Lord as a beggar asking for forgiveness of my sins." I told him I was not in good standing with the Church, but the Pope assured me that as the Bishop of Rome, he could reinstate me right then and there."

After he heard the Holy Father's confession, the newly reinstated priest asked the Pope to hear his confession. Then Pope John Paul II gave him an assignment to minister to the beggars on the steps of the church where he had been found. Through the humility of Pope John Paul II, who saw himself as God saw him, this former beggar received a new hope, a new mission, and a new beginning.

The Goal for each of us is to see ourselves as God sees us. The world doesn’t believe that the Virtue of Humility is important or even desirable. But God thinks otherwise. To be truly humble means to see ourselves as God sees us.

We’re about to receive the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. But before we do, we will all make the following statement: 

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

We say these words first spoken by a Roman Centurion, a very powerful man, a very successful man who came to Jesus to plead for him to save his sick servant. Jesus was a nobody in that culture, just a humble carpenter, but this powerful man came to him in humility. And like that Centurion, in a few minutes, we are called to humble ourselves before Jesus and see his power and presence in the simple bread and wine that Father Sebastian will bless in a moment. We believe as Catholics that in the holy Eucharist, the Lord is truly and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine. Just as the mighty Centurion recognized God's power in a humble carpenter, we are called to see that same Jesus in the humble elements of bread and wine. So today, let’s each of us say those words before communion with conviction. In true humility, let us open our hearts to the Lord our God, who humbled himself to join us today.