Fr. Tim’s Homily for July 2, 2017

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A

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 2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a

 Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11 

Matthew 10: 37-42

 

The cruise ship was pulling out of port, and the first-seating passengers were on their way to the dining room.  A lady was walking all by herself.  She was elderly and apparently traveling alone.  She was dressed in a beige polyester pantsuit and her white hair was cut in a simple bob.  And she walked a bit hunched over.

The dining room musicians began to play “Begin the Beguine” [by Cole Porter, 1935].

The people then saw this elderly lady stand up straight and tall, throw her shoulders back, and shimmy and sway a little bit.  She did a very graceful “Lindy step” – back, shuffle, slide – and then, a moment or two later, arriving at her table, she slouched over and looked like the same little old lady all over again.

But for a moment, she enjoyed a freedom that she had not experienced in a long, long time.

On this Independence Day weekend, we look at the freedoms that we enjoy.

And what is freedom anyway?  Sometimes people think that freedom means the absence of responsibility:  that I can do anything that I want to do, and that I do not need to care about how this may affect someone else.  Even we, as disciples of Jesus, can be tempted to think this way.

Sometimes worn-out parents can long for the day when they are empty nesters.  Sometimes weary homeowners can dream about living in a water-view high rise.

But freedom is not the absence of responsibility.  I have known some empty nesters who now wish their children would come to visit them a little more often.  And I have known some people that have moved to a high-rise with a fabulous view that now wish they had a small lawn and garden to tend.

We see people in our society who have not accepted responsibility for their lives and we see the sad consequences that have followed.

Freedom is always linked with responsibility.  And the freedom won for us by Jesus Christ delivers us from the slavery of sin.

As Saint Paul teaches us today in his Letter to the Romans:  “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”      

Sin can leave us tired and depressed and feeling very guilty.  Of all the pain that there is in life, I do not know of any that is more acute than that of a troubled conscience.  Sin does not deliver the happiness or the freedom that it promises.  It is all an illusion.  And Satan is its chief advertiser.

I am struck by all of the advertising on television about new drugs.  You hear clearly about the health complaints that they may solve.  But then, in a quieter and quicker voice, you hear about all of the side effects that might follow.  And I come away thinking that I would rather stick with what I’ve already got than risk getting stuck with something worse!

Satan advertises but his temptations do not leave us better off.  We sinners know this.  “To do whatever I please” is not true freedom.

Jesus, our Savior, delivers us from the slavery of sin and gives us true and lasting freedom – “newness of life” – so that we can live as beloved sons and daughters of His Heavenly Father.

A man named Dale reflects on a part-time college job that he had, cleaning a church.

It was a beautiful day, so he opened the church windows – which did not have screens.  And then a bird flew in.

At first Dale thought that this was really neat, watching the bird fly around and listening to it chirp.  But then he realized what that bird could do to mess up all of his hard work.  So he decided to catch the bird and put it back outside.

But that was easier said than done.  The bird flew all over the place.  And every time it landed, it took off again before Dale could catch it.  But finally it landed on the floor, all bird-tired, and it let Dale pick it up.

Dale carried the bird in his hands to an open window and it flew off into the sky with “newness of life.”

This incident reminded Dale of a time in his life when he felt much like that bird.  He was tired and depressed and feeling guilty.  He went in one direction and then in another.  He had flights of fancy and crash landings.

And then one day he just put his life in the Lord’s hands.  And Dale gratefully received a new life of freedom as a beloved child of God.

Freedom is always linked with responsibility.  And freedom in Christ delivers us from the slavery of sin and offers us “newness of life.”

On this Independence Day weekend, we thank God for the gift of our freedom in this great nation.

We ask God for the grace that we need to accept and carry out our responsibilities.

And we open our hearts to the One who gives us freedom in this world and in the world to come.

A wonderful way to respond to Jesus’ invitation to put our lives in His hands is the prayer:  “Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle together.”

With shoulders back and head held high, we can “Begin the Beguine,” so to speak, partnered with Him.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for June 25, 2017

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A

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 Jeremiah 20: 1-13

 Romans 5: 12-15 

Matthew 10: 26-33

 

There are two Latin words that we commonly use: “terra firma,” meaning “earth that is firm.”

There was a man from Massachusetts who had a great fear of flying.  He said he had a great respect for terra firma.  As he put it, with his Boston accent:  “the less firma, the more terra.”

Ronald Reagan was afraid of flying, and yet, as President, he needed to do it.  He was asked by a reporter one day on Air Force One:  “Mr. President, have you overcome your fear of flying?”  And the President replied, “Not at all.  I am holding up this plane by sheer will power.”

We all have our fears.  One survey indicated that some people were more afraid of speaking before a crowd than they were of death itself.  I don’t know how you would feel about trading places with me right now.  But we all have our fears.

Fears that are unmanaged can really limit us.  Fear of failure….fear of rejection…fear of looking foolish…fear of intimacy…fear of change…fear of being criticized.  These and other fears that are unmanaged can hold us back.

So Jesus’ words to us today in the Gospel I find very encouraging.  Three times He tells us, “Do not be afraid.”  He uses the example of the sparrows. “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge…  So do not be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.”

One writer put it this way in terms of percentages:  “60% of our fears are totally unfounded.  20% are already behind us.  10% are so petty they really don’t make any difference.  Of the remaining 10%, 5% are real, but we can’t do anything about them.  That means only 5% are real fears that we can do something about.”

And yet how much time do we invest in that 95% rather than in the 5%?  And so Jesus tells us:  “Do not be afraid.”

Sometimes people are fearful because they do not have a healthy self-confidence.

We need to believe that you and I are beloved children of God, and that God gives us His grace to do what He has asked us to do.

God gives His grace in the present moment.  The future is not here yet, and so God’s grace for the future that we worry about is not here yet either.  When that future moment becomes the present moment, God’s grace will be there with us to face whatever challenges or opportunities are at hand.

Sometimes people object that they are so unworthy of God’s love.

The truth of the matter is that we all are unworthy of God’s love, but that is how magnificent God’s love is!  God loves every single one of us without exception.  God does.

Sometimes people are fearful because of their guilt.  I am not going to stand here today and tell you that there is no place for guilt in our lives.  There are some things we NEED to feel guilty about.  But we don’t have to stay there and wallow in them.  We have a God who is merciful.

If guilt is holding you back, for heaven’s sake, go to Confession!  The Lord has given us this powerful Sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive our sins so that we can start fresh.  “So do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us.  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”

There is a story that comes to us from Elmira, New York in 1905.  It is about Mr. and Mrs. Martin – her first name was Civilla. What an interesting name – Civilla – the kind of first name where you never have to use the last name!

Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle.  Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for twenty years, and Mr. Doolittle was confined to a wheelchair. They were described as being very warm, welcoming, Christian people.

During one of their visits the Martins asked the Doolittles, “How do you do this?  How do you stay so ‘up’ about things?”

Mrs. Doolittle responded this way:  “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Mrs. Martin was a poet, and she took that line and went home and crafted a poem around it.  When she finished the poem she sent it on to Charles Gabriel, who was a musician.  He set that poem to music.  Later on, actress and singer Ethel Waters made it famous.  In fact, she used its name for the title of her autobiography.

I thought that you might like to take a look at the words of that song, and perhaps take them into your own heart.  It goes:

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely

And long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion?

My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,

I sing because I’m free.

His eye is on the sparrow.

And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,”

His tender word I hear.

And resting on His goodness,

I lose my doubts and fears.

Though by the path He leadeth,

But one step I may see.

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus says.  Believe in yourself, for you are a beloved child of God.  Believe in God.  Trust in God, “for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Fr. Tim’s Homily for June 18, 2017

THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST-A

CORPUS CHRISTI

FATHER’S DAY

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 Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a

 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17 

John 6: 51-58

 

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Eucharist.

Our secular society tells us that we are individuals, that we are not connected with one another.  It says things like:  “It’s my life and I’ll live it as I please.”  “It’s my body, and I’ll do with it whatever I want to.” “You are not the boss of me!”

But our faith in Jesus Christ teaches us something very different:  that we are family.  We became connected with one another as adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father when we were baptized into the family of God, the Church.

When we receive Holy Communion – the Body and the Blood, the Soul and the Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – we are connected with Him and He with us.

And we are also connected with those around us here and throughout the world who are receiving the same Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Today we also celebrate our family relationships of fatherhood on this Father’s Day weekend.

An eighty-year-old man remarked that the proudest moments of his life were when he held each of his children right after they were born.

Fatherhood is a life-changing experience, and those of you who are fathers, think about when you held your children for the first time.  And then you looked at your baby’s mother who had carried that child in her womb for nine months.  Now for the first time you see your child’s face.  A great mystery is right there in your arms.

Mothers and fathers are very proud of their children.  But in humility they also know that it was not just the two of them that gave their baby life.  God is the Author of Life, and they cooperated with God in the giving of that life.

And so being a father is really accepting from God the vocation of fatherhood and faithfully following the calling that God has in mind for us.

If we look to the secular media for the meaning of fatherhood, very often the things that we see are no help at all.

We used to have television shows like Father Knows Best.  But now we have things like Married with Children, and a host of others.  Fathers used to be portrayed as being kind and compassionate and wise.  In today’s situation comedies, fathers are often portrayed as idiots, burping their way through life and being put down by sharp-tongued wives and smart-mouthed kids.  The theme is not “Father Knows Best,” but “Dumb Dad Knows Nothing.”

But rather than spending a lot of time lamenting this fact, it is better that we strive to become even better husbands and fathers, following the vocation, the calling, that God has in mind for us.

And how to do that today?  I am going to suggest two ideas.  And if you are already doing them I want to affirm you and support you.

The first is this:  remember that moment when you first held your newborn child.  Remember that moment often, and renew the commitments that you made that day to your child.  Lift up your children to the Lord, support them emotionally, and do this in ways that are appropriate to their age and the relationship that you have with them.  But always remember that first moment and renew those commitments regularly.

And the second is:  bring God to your family and live connected with Him.  Do this by beginning with yourself:  being faithful to Sunday Mass every week, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) regularly, responding to God by cultivating a personal prayer life.  And then pray with your children, or if they are no longer in your home, pray for your children.  Bring God to your family and live connected with Him.

Men sometimes find it difficult to pray because they find it hard to ask for help.  But let me assure you that it is a very masculine and wise thing to do:  to ask the Lord to help you.

So on this Father’s Day, we remember that fatherhood is a God-given calling, a graced vocation.  And today is a new day to live it, nourished and strengthened by Jesus, the Son of God, who comes to us in His gift of the Eucharist so that He may live in us and we may live in Him.

Happy Father’s Day.  And Happy Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

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