Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

Sunday, May 20, 2018 

Pentecost Sunday-B

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Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23 or John 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15

 

Right now, I ask you to picture that first Pentecost in your mind, with the Holy Spirit coming down upon the apostles.  There is the sound of strong wind, and tongues of fire appear over their heads.  And from that Pentecost event, the ones who had been scared to death become courageous and carry the message of Jesus Christ to the world.

I would like to paint another picture for you today in your mind’s eye using one word.  That word is power And on three levels:  power in our world, the power of the Holy Spirit, and power in each of our lives.

First, power in our world.  Power is the ability to do things.  We have all kinds of power.  We have physical power – strength.  We have mental power – intelligence.  We have will power – being able to say “yes” or “no.”  We have political power, economic power, social power, digital power and so on.  Power in our world.

Second, we also have the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you.  Then you are to be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1: 8].

How are we to be His witnesses?  Through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I must do an aside here for a moment and tell you about a great temptation for us who preach homilies.  And the temptation is this:  having talked about power in our world and the power of the Holy Spirit, then to clobber the one and to exalt the other.

I am going to resist that temptation today and make another suggestion:  that we take the power that we each have in our world and link it with the power that we receive from the Holy Spirit.

And to do what?  To transform our world according to the vision, according to the dream, that God has for us.

Third, because we each have power.  I look at you today, and there is a lot of power right here in this church.  Every single one of you is a powerful person no matter what your age or background, education or calling may be.  Even babies are powerful persons.  Look at the power that a crying baby has to grab our immediate attention!

We all have power.   It is important to remember that the more power we have, the greater is our responsibility to be men and women for others.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we stay on course.

On this Feast of Pentecost, I am going to ask you to do something that may at first sound a bit haughty or prideful.  And here it is:  take some time today by yourself in quiet and think about how powerful you are.

Think about what you can do.  Think about the people that you influence.  And when you realize the power that you have, consciously link that power with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Use that power, perhaps to go out to someone who feels isolated and lonely.  Use that power to listen to someone who needs an understanding ear.  Use that power to give someone else an opportunity that you can give them.

Use that power perhaps to run for public office or to help shape legislation that will protect the dignity and value of every human life.  Use that power to make your own little corner of God’s earth a better place to live in.

You have power.  Link that power with the power of the Holy Spirit.  And begin to imagine what you can do when you let the Holy Spirit loose in your life!

 

Come, Holy Spirit.

Fill the hearts of your faithful.

Kindle in us the fire of your love.

And renew the face of the earth.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, May 13, 2018

 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord-B

Mother’s Day

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Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11

Ephesians 1: 17-23 or 4: 1-13

Mark 16: 15-20

 

Mary was going to visit her mother, and she took along her teenage daughter.  Getting into the car, Mary said, “Honey, don’t you think your skirt is a little too short?”  Her daughter rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, Mom!” (You know how it’s done!)

When Mary got to her mother’s house, the first thing her mom said to her was, “Dear, don’t you think your neckline is a little too low?”  Once a mother, always a mother, right?

On this Mother’s Day we honor our mothers, and our grandmothers and our godmothers – and all of the women who have had and continue to have a powerful motherly influence on us.  This is a weekend that we celebrate our relationships, and they are so important.

And to be a good disciple of Jesus – to be in a growing relationship with Him – is a message in the Scriptures for this Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord.

The Ascension is Jesus’ final curtain call as He goes back to heaven to be seated at His Father’s right hand.  His disciples are hanging on His every word. He tells them – and us – today: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” [Mark 16: 15].  “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” [Acts of the Apostles 1: 8].  Proclaim what?  Witness what? That Jesus offers us a personal relationship with Himself.

Our mothers, and those with a motherly influence, help us to appreciate the value of our relationships – with God and with each other –  and to grow in them.

A woman was describing an experience with her elderly mother that opened her eyes to the beautiful relationship that they had with each other, and this is what she wrote:

“A few years ago, my mother asked me to go shopping with her for a new dress.  We visited nearly every store, and my mother tried on dress after dress, rejecting them one by one.

“As the day wore on, I grew weary and my mother grew frustrated.  Finally, at our last stop, my mother tried on a lovely blue three-piece outfit.  The blouse had a bow at the neckline, and as I stood there in the dressing room with her, I watched as she tried to tie the bow.  Her hands were so badly crippled from arthritis that she couldn’t do it.

“Suddenly, my impatience gave way to an overwhelming wave of compassion for this woman, my mother.  I went over to tie the bow for her.  The outfit was beautiful, and she bought it.

“For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that these were the loving hands that had fed me, bathed me, dressed me, tied my shoelaces and bows, caressed and comforted me, and most of all, prayed for me.

“Later in the evening, I took her hands in mine, kissed them and, much to her surprise, told her that to me they were the most beautiful hands in the world.  I am so glad that God let me see with new eyes what a precious, priceless gift a loving, self-sacrificing mother is.  I can only pray that someday my hands, and my heart, will have earned such a beauty of their own.”

How our vision gets sharpened and how our understanding deepens over the years…

As you and I know, in the secular, cynical age that we live in, motherhood is often ridiculed and de-valued.  I have another story from another woman about how precious the gift of motherhood is, how exalted a vocation it is.  This is what she wrote:

“A friend of mine went to the County Clerk’s office to renew her driver’s license.  ‘Do you have a job or are you just a …?’ the recorder asked her. My friend, fuming, snapped, ‘Of course I have a job.  I’m a mother.’  The recorder replied, ‘We don’t list motheras an occupation.’

“Well, I found myself in the same situation one day when I was at our town hall.  The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed a high-sounding title like ‘Official Interrogator’ or ‘Town Registrar.’  She asked, ‘And what is your occupation?’

“I don’t know where they came from, but all of a sudden the words popped out of my mouth:  ‘I am a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations,’ I said.

The clerk paused, pen frozen in mid-air.  I repeated the title slowly:  ‘I am a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.’  The clerk wrote my pompous title in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

“The clerk said, ‘Might I ask just what you do in your field?’  I replied, ‘I have a continuing program of research in the laboratory and in the field. I am working for my Masters(and my masters are indeed my whole family) and I already have four credits(and they are my four daughters).  Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, and I often work 17-18 hours a day.  But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.’

“There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice.  She completed the form, stood up, and personally accompanied me to the door. As I drove into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by three of my lab assistants – ages thirteen, seven and three.  And upstairs, I could hear our next experimental model (six months old) in the child development program, loudly testing out a new vocal pattern.

“I felt triumphant.  I had scored a beat on bureaucracy.  And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to society than anyone else.  I was a mother.

We ask God’s blessing today upon our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, all of those who show us a motherly love.

We thank you who are Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations for helping us to grow and strengthen our relationships with God and with others – and with you!

And, through the prayers of our Blessed Mother Mary, may the Lord continue to bless you all, richly and warmly.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, May 6, 2018

 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sixth Sunday of Easter – B

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Acts of the Apostles 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48

1 John 4: 7-10

John 15: 9-17

 

“I believe in one God,” the Creed, our Profession of Faith, begins.

There are two forms of the Creed that we pray regularly.  One is the Apostles’ Creed that we use for the renewal of our Baptismal promises, and that we use to begin the rosary with the prayer on the crucifix.

The other form of the Creed is a longer version given to us by the Council of Nicea, and called the Nicene Creed.  That is the one that we pray every Sunday at Mass.

In the Apostles’ Creed, there is this line:  “He was crucified, died and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again.”  That line, Jesus “descended into hell” – do you know what that means?

First off, this is not the hell of eternal damnation.  This hell is different.  Sometimes it is called “the realm of the dead.”  Or in Greek mythology it was referred to as “Hades” or “the underworld.”

When Adam and Eve sinned, the gates of heaven were closed until our Redeemer would come.  So all of the people from Adam and Eve all the way forward to the time of the crucifixion, who died loving God, could not yet get into heaven.  When Jesus died on the cross our sins were forgiven, the gates of heaven were opened, and He “descended into hell” to lead the just ones into heaven.

One Christian writer pictures it this way:  with Jesus going to His foster father, Saint Joseph, first, and Saint Joseph saying to Jesus:  “Son, tell me – how is your mother?”

“He descended into hell” to take all those faithful people to the kingdom of heaven.

But what does that expression mean for us?  I would like to present two lessons.  And here is the first:  there is no wall, there is no door that we human beings can make that the Lord is unable to come through.

Some years ago, Paul was my barber, and seeing Paul every couple of weeks, we became friends.  Paul was a good Catholic man.  He was an adult altar server at St. John’s Cathedral.  I got to know Paul’s wife and their son.

And then about thirteen years ago I got the sad news that Paul had apparently taken his own life.

Paul’s sudden death came as a surprise to me and to other people who knew him and loved him.  Apparently Paul had set up an internal wall and on his side there was a personal hell which he felt he could not cope with any longer.  But even at that moment of despair, Jesus was there with Paul.

There is a famous painting by Holman Hunt called, “Light of the World.”  It is an illustration of a quote from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” [Rev. 3: 20].  It depicts a man on his side of the door all crouched in fear and in the shadows.  On the other side is Jesus holding a lamp and knocking.  In that painting the artist put the door handle only on the inside.  It conveys the message that Christ is standing there knocking, but we have to decide whether or not to let Him in.

Is that accurate theology?  Not entirely.  Not in the light of today’s readings.  St. John told us in the second reading today:  “In this is love:  not that we have loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son as expiation [as forgiveness] for our sins.”  In other words, God has loved us first.

In the Gospel Jesus says:  “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

And so the first lesson is this:  “He descended into hell.”  There is no wall, there is no door that we human beings can make that the Lord is unable to come through.

And the second lesson is this:  if we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we must descend into the hells of other people to help them along too.

I use for my example Pope John XXIII, now called Saint John XXIII.  When he was first elected pope, he visited a prison in the city of Rome and he told the prisoners, “You couldn’t come to see me, so I came to see you!”

John XXIII told them, “There are three ways for men to lose money in Italy:  farming, gambling and womanizing.”  He said, “My dad chose the least interesting of those three ways – he was a farmer.”  He went on to say that one of his brothers got caught poaching, and one of his uncles had done time in prison.  He reassured the men, “We are all children of God. And I – I am your brother.”

One of the men, a convicted murderer, came up to John XXIII and asked, “Is there hope of forgiveness for me?”  John XXIII answered that question not with words but with a deed.  He embraced that prisoner – he gave him a warm hug.

John XXIII descended into their hell to show them that there was a place in the Lord’s heart for them.

Open your heart to the Lord.  Let Him descend into your life – into whatever personal hell might be there.  There is no wall, there is no door that we human beings can make that the Lord is unable to come through.

He is with us, and if we are disciples of Jesus Christ, we must descend into the hells of other people to help them along too.  Maybe by showing some kindness, some compassion, offering a listening ear… perhaps even with a warm hug.

They are mysterious words: “He descended into hell.”  But they give us the Lord’s reassurance that He is with us on our pilgrimage through life, and they give us His own example for us to follow.

 

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