Archive for July, 2011

Back from retreat

July 25, 2011

A retreat is a great opportunity to get away and spend time with the Lord. I was on retreat last week and just returned to the parish yesterday. The retreat was a very prayerful time and I was able to catch up on some needed rest.

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Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2011

“Those who are just must be kind.”  That is what our first reading tells us this afternoon.  We are created in the image and likeness of God and we are called to imitate God in our daily lives: we are called to be channels of God’s love to others.  God is love, and we are called to love.  God is merciful and we are commanded to be merciful.  In the Psalm today, we hear that God is abounding in kindness.  Kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The fruits are those things which are produced in us by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence within our souls.

We also have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and work to cultivate those fruits in our lives.  Our Lord has said that Christians should be different from non-Christians: they ought to be recognized by their love.  You and I are to show God’s love to those that we encounter.  Our first obligation is to love God, but the second command Our Lord tells us is like the first: we are to love our neighbor.

Love of neighbor can manifest itself in many different ways.  We are not called to like everyone; we are not called to have a close relationship with everyone.  There are likely certain personalities which we find more agreeable and those which we find more challenging: yet, whether we like someone or not, we are called to love our neighbor.  Who is our neighbor?  Everyone we come in contact with is our neighbor.  Our Lord calls us even to love those whom we might consider enemies: those who have hurt us.  We can stand up for what is just, of course, yet we must always do so with charity in our hearts.

One of the ways in which we express our love for others is by treating them with kindness.  We may not always feel like treating someone with kindness.  True charity is not necessarily connected with warm, fuzzy emotions.  We can feel irritated with someone and continue to act kindly toward them.  That might sound like hypocrisy at first, but all virtue is exercised in the face of opposition.  The truly brave person, for example, does not act bravely because they do not feel fear: the brave person feels fear but acts courageously despite the fear that they feel.  We do not have to act on every feeling that we experience: in fact it would be bad if we did.  When someone annoys us but we continue to treat them with patience and kindness we are acting, not hypocritically, but with true charity.

It is true, at times we are called to correct others.  We cannot judge hearts, but we can know a tree by its fruit: and when we a brother or sister in the Lord falling into sin, it is charitable to call them to repentance.  Yet even in correcting others, we must keep charity and kindness in our speech and in our actions.  We are called to love others and one of the ways that we show love to others is how we treat them: trying to keep charity in our actions and in our speech is a little way that we can imitate God and allow His love to flow through us in the world.

Let us do all that we can to allow God’s light to shine through our lives.  May we bear witness to the love of God in our speech, in our actions and in our lives.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to imitate You in all that we do.  Give us the grace that we need, Lord, to keep charity with others so that they may see You at work in our lives.  Help us to follow You ever more faithfully in all that we do.  Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like Yours.  Amen.

Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2011

[I just realized that I haven’t posted last week’s Sunday homily . . . if anyone has been looking for it, sorry about that!]

In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares us to dirt—well, actually soil.  In the rather lengthy Gospel parable that we have just listened to, the seed is the Word of God which is sown into our hearts through our hearing of the Gospel; our hearts are the various kinds of soil described.  Jesus uses four figures for what happens to the seeds, but there are essentially three possible responses that we can have to the Word being sown within us: first, we can hear and yet not understand God’s Word; second, we can hear and understand yet not persevere in living out God’s Word due to trials and persecutions, worldly anxieties or the lure of riches; third, we can put God’s Word into effect in our lives and bear fruit.

Simply knowing about God’s Word is not enough.  If we stop and think about it, even the Devil knows Sacred Scripture: when Our Lord spent forty days in the wilderness, the Devil put Him to the test and the Devil quoted Scripture to Our Lord in order to tempt Him.  We must go beyond simply knowing about Scripture.  It is important to know Scripture; Bible studies can greatly help us in our spiritual lives: the more we understand Scripture, the more it helps us to grow in our faith.  Yet we cannot stop at merely studying Scriptural texts: Scripture is not a textbook meant to be studied, Scripture is a living Word and we have to let that Word penetrate our hearts and shape the way that we live our lives.

How do we avoid being in the first category that Our Lord described in today’s Gospel?  How do we avoid hearing but not understanding?  This first place where the seed of the Word is scattered is not soil at all: the first seeds described by the Lord fall, not upon soil, but upon the path.  Presumably the path is not made of soil, but stone.  The seed cannot take root because the path denies the seed access to the soil.  In order to allow the Word to enter, we must have hearts that are open to hearing God’s Word.  God will not force His way into our hearts.  We have to be open to believing.  Saint Augustine said that we have to believe in order to understand and then our understanding will help us grow in our belief.  If we are not open to faith, we will not understand.  It would be like trying to see something while refusing to open our eyes.  A heart that is open to God is a pre-requisite.  Then we need to learn about Scripture and pray with God’s Word.  Fr. John often says that the Bible is God’s love letter to you.  The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture thousands of years ago, yet the Bible is not irrelevant or out-dated.  The same Holy Spirit Who inspired the authors of Sacred Scripture to write wants to speak to your heart through Scripture.  We believe that it is the Holy Spirit that speaks to us through the Scriptures.  Every Sunday we pray together in the Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life; Who Proceeds from the Father and the Son; Who is worshipped and glorified; Who has spoken through the Prophets.  Every week we all profess that the Holy Spirit inspired the Prophets to write what they wrote in Scripture: that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Prophets; who does the Holy Spirit speak to through the Prophets?  He speaks to you, and to me through the Prophets.  Do you want to hear God speak to you?  Listen to Him: read His Word.  Study it to learn what it means, but more importantly pray with Scripture: God will speak to you through it if you allow Him to.

The second and third categories mentioned by Our Lord in today’s Gospel is the seed sown on rocky ground and the seed sown in thorns; Our Lord explains that these are those who receive the Word yet do not persevere in it.  The Word is received, but then difficulties or worldliness creep in and withers or chokes out the Word.  How do we avoid falling into these two situations?  We avoid it by our day-to-day fidelity.  Our Lord calls us to be faithful to Him: “Take up your cross and follow me,” Our Lord says.  A cross is not a pleasant thing to bear.  Bearing witness to our Catholic Faith in a culture that is so hostile to any religion is not easy: it takes courage.  Fidelity to the daily duties of our state in life is not a glamorous, sensational experience.  Yet that is what God asks of us.  We are called to love; we are called to love God above all things and to love others as ourselves.  We are called to bear witness to God in our lives; regular contact with Scripture not only instructs us how we are to live it also communicates the grace and strength to us to do so.

Only when we hear the Word of God, understand it (through prayer) and bear fruit by living the Word out in our lives can we say that we are rich soil that Our Lord calls us to be.  Let us not only be hearers of the Word but also doers.  May God help us to have hearts that are open to receiving His Word and may we put it into practice each and every day.  Lord Jesus Christ, we believe, increase our faith.  Give us ears that are open to hear and minds that are open to understanding Your Word.  May Your Word instruct us and inspire us that we may follow You ever more faithfully.  May Your Word bear abundant fruit in our lives.  Amen.

Mission Sunday

July 3, 2011

[We have a missionary from Haiti joining us this Sunday, therefore the homily is abbreviated so as to give time for the mission appeal.  May God bless the work of all missionaries; may they bear much fruit and lead many souls to Jesus Christ!]

“You are in the Spirit if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  These words of Saint Paul from our second reading are a reminder to all of us that we have been set apart for Christ through our Baptism.  At our Baptism, we were claimed for Christ; at our Baptism we were made members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church; at our Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit into our souls for the first time and are made sons and daughters of God.

When we were baptized, certain promises were made on our behalf, or if we were baptized as adults we ourselves made certain promises.  We promised to reject sin and to follow Christ.  That is the very definition of what it means to be a Christian: to be a follower of Christ.  In Baptism, we not only receive the Holy Spirit, we also receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  One of the gifts that we receive at Baptism is the gift of faith.  That gift is given to us, and yet it has to be cultivated as we continue to learn about our Catholic Faith and put that faith into practice.  Faith is a gift that is meant to be lived; it is a gift that we are meant to share with others.  Through our Baptism, we have received a mission: we are called to bear witness to Christ in the world.  We don’t all have to go to the missions to fulfill that calling; we are called to bear witness to the love of God in our day-to-day lives.  We are called to live the love that God has created us for; we are to be instruments that bring God’s love to our families and to our friends and even to our enemies.  We are called to reflect God’s love to everyone that we meet.

This Sunday, we are focused in a particular way on the missions.  The missions are an important way that the Gospel message is shared with those who would not otherwise have access to Faith in Jesus Christ.  We are all called, as baptized Christians to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.  We are to do that personally with those whom we encounter; we can also help to spread the Gospel through our support of missionaries who take the Gospel to other places.  We have a missionary with us this afternoon that has spent several years in the missions, and he will take just a few minutes to share a little bit about the missions with us and how we can help.  There are envelopes at the end of the pews designated for help for the missions.