Fr. Tim’s Homily for May 7, 2017

Fourth  Sunday of Easter – A

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 Acts of the Apostles 2: 14a, 36-41

1 Peter 2: 20b-25

John 10: 1-10 

 

“The most important part of a church is its front door.”  At least, that is what one architect says.

I would have expected him to say that the most important part is the sanctuary area here up front.  But he says that it is the front door because that is what a visitor to the church encounters first.

A banker was writing about changes in the banking industry.  Years ago, banks used to be built like fortresses – big and tall with strong doors.  This conveyed the message:  “Your money is safe with us, and nobody is going to get to it except you.”

Now many bank buildings look smaller, with doors made out of glass, so that you can see lots of activity going on inside.  The message this conveys is:  “We are really working hard to make your money work for you.”

What do you see when you come to the doors of this church?

There is an old architectural idea – moving from the small to the large.  Frank Lloyd Wright used this technique a lot.

A long time ago, when castles were in vogue, at the entrance there was a citizen’s door and a royal door.  The height of the citizen’s door was a little lower than that of an average person.  This caused the citizen to enter the castle bowing humbly before the king.

We enter this church in humble reverence before Our Lord and King.  How did we first enter this family of the Church?  It was through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – by water and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And so as we enter the church we stop for a moment in humble reverence, and take holy water from the font and make the sign of the cross.  This reminds us of how we first came to belong to the family of the Church, and how grateful we are to have been invited by our Good Shepherd to come through the door that leads to everlasting life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus the Good Shepherd describes Himself as being the gate, the door.  Now that is a very humble expression.

How do some people present themselves?  “I am the person in charge here.  And I am very important.”

But Jesus says of Himself, “I am the gate.”  What does He mean?

He is the gate to everlasting life.  We can come to God the Father and we can live a fuller and more abundant life through Jesus.

Jesus says:  “I am the gate for the sheep….  Whoever enters through Me will be saved….  I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

On 14 June I celebrate the 42nd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  And on 9 July Sister Stefana celebrates her 50th jubilee as a Sister of Notre Dame.

I am convinced that the Lord is calling a number of our young people to holy orders and to the religious life.  Please be like Jesus the Gate for them – and welcome them through the door.  Let candidates that you see here know that you think they have what it takes, if indeed the Lord is calling them to be a priest or deacon, or a religious sister or brother.

With all that is going on in the life of the Church, would I do it all over again?  Would I become a priest?  Absolutely!  I have had headaches in the priesthood, but I have never had second thoughts.  In fact, I thank the Lord every day for calling me to be His priest, and for calling me to serve here at Saint Joseph and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parishes.

For me, I look at the past with gratitude and I look to the future with hope.   With God’s grace and your prayerful support, I intend to keep on doing this.  And I encourage you in your vocations to do the very same thing:  to hold the past in gratitude and the future with hope.

May Jesus, our Good Shepherd and our Gate, keep the doors of His Church wide open in welcome to all who would like to enter.  And may He keep us safe and secure as we serve Him with humble reverence.

And our hope is based on something that we prayed in the Responsorial Psalm today from Psalm 23:  “The Lord is my Shepherd.  There is nothing I shall want.”

Fr. Tim’s Homily for April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Easter – A

30 April 2017

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 Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33

1 Peter 1: 17-21

Luke 24: 13-35 

 

There is a phrase in one of the Mass prayers for the Easter season that makes me smile a bit.  It is found in the Easter Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer – that prayer that the priest prays just before we all sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  That phrase is:  “overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise.”  “Overcome with paschal/Easter joy…”

How “overcome with paschal joy” are you right now?  To be honest with you, I am still not quite “overcome” at this very moment.  And it is already the Third Sunday of Easter!

I know that even in this Easter season I still have a cross to carry.  Jesus has promised me eternal life in heaven, but right now I am still on the way there.  And the same is true for you.

Today’s Gospel is about two grieving disciples who are walking seven miles from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus.  They had suffered the loss of Jesus in His death on Calvary, and even though it was Easter Sunday night, they did not yet know that He was now alive.

Perhaps you are suffering a loss right now – a death, a disappointment, a friendship gone sour, unemployment, a move…  What does today’s Gospel have to say to us who are not exactly “overcome with paschal joy” right at this moment?  And how can “the four signs of a dynamic Catholic” – prayer, study, generosity and evangelization – help us?  Let’s take a look.

In today’s Gospel, Luke proposes three steps to help us find inner healing when we face death or some other serious loss – as the disciples did when faced with the death and the loss of Jesus.

Notice the first step:  the Scriptures.

When these hurting and grieving disciples were talking on the way to Emmaus, the Stranger approached and listened to them.

And then, although they did not recognize Him, “Jesus interpreted for them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures.”

Luke is teaching us that in a serious loss, the first step to healing is to read the Scriptures.

And so we open them – in prayer and in study – to find comfort and direction.  I encourage you, during this Easter season, to open your Bible and read the resurrection accounts in each of the Gospels as well as the material that follows them.  Read the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Saint Luke, to see how the early Church coped with their struggles and persecutions – and still could be “overcome with paschal joy.”  Find yourself in the Scriptures – as you pray with them and study them.

The Scriptures open up for us the meaning of our life and death in Jesus.  They help us through all of our losses to find hope in and through Him.

The second step:  the grieving disciples finally recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the Bread.”  “The breaking of the Bread” is a term the early Church used for “the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass.”

In the Mass, we get a glimpse that we are not alone in life or in death or in any of our losses.  We recognize, however dimly, that right now we are at table with Jesus – at His table, at this altar.

The Jesus that comes to us here in Holy Communion is the same Jesus that one day we will see in all of His glory.

We acknowledge His generosity to us.  And we pray generously in gratitude for this wonderful gift of Himself to us, the Eucharist.

The third step that Luke gives us in coming to terms with death and loss is community.

At the end of the Emmaus story, the first thing the disciples did – when they received the good news of the Scriptures and when they recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the Bread” – was to turn around and go back to their community in Jerusalem.

And so do we:  we gather as a family, as a community of faith, as parishes.  And here in this faith community we freely acknowledge our hurts and our pains, our hopes and our love.  And, in the context of such communal faith, healing can eventually take place.

And what is the sign here?  The sharing of the Gospel: evangelization.

Luke’s formula still works:  the Scriptures, the Eucharist, the Church Community.

And “the four signs of a dynamic Catholic” — prayer, study, generosity and evangelization – are our tools.

The two grieving disciples on the road to Emmaus heard Jesus explain the Scriptures to them and they came to recognize Him “in the breaking of the Bread.”  “Overcome with paschal joy,” they hurried back to their faith community in Jerusalem to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

And so do we.  Even now in our grief and in our losses, we can be “overcome with paschal joy” – or at least be “on the way.”

 

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