Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Lent– B


2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23

Ephesians 2: 4-10

John 3: 14-21


In 1968 Richard Nixon was running for the office of President of the United States, and the Viet Nam War was raging on.  One of the campaign photo opportunities took the picture of a soldier in Viet Nam, who on his helmet had the letters L-O-V-E.

A week later, Richard Nixon got a letter from the mother of that soldier, thanking him for making her son known throughout the United States.  She asked him, “Could I please have a copy of that photo for myself?”  Her letter was signed, “Sincerely, Mrs. William Love.”

What that soldier wore on his helmet was not a revelation of what was in his heart.  It was simply stating his name.

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, when we look at the cross, we see on Jesus’ head not a helmet, but a crown of thorns.  We see above His head a sign, which had His name on it.  The usual custom for crucifixion was that the name of the crime was put on top of the cross.

But those of you who have accepted my challenge to read all four of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – during this season of Lent, will know that when you get to Jesus being crucified, in all four Gospels it is related that Pontius Pilate ordered that a different kind of sign be put on the top of Jesus’ cross.  John’s Gospel [John 19: 19] says that it was written in Latin, in Hebrew and in Greek.  The message was:  “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

The acronym in Latin is I.N.R.I.  In Latin, an “I” is the same thing as a “J” – they are interchangeable.  So the Latin that Pontius Pilate had put up there is:  “Iesus” (Jesus] “Nazarenus” (of Nazareth) “Rex” (the King) “Iudaeorum” (of the Jews).

We see in Jesus on that cross His unconditional love available to everyone.  We try to reflect that love of Jesus in our relationships with others.  But even with our best intentions, we sometimes add some conditions to our love.

Parents love their children, but conditions are attached, like:  “I expect you to respect and obey me.”  Right?  Husbands and wives love each other, but there are conditions attached, like:  “I expect you to support me emotionally,” and so forth, right?

But in Jesus on the cross we see His unconditional love, available to everyone.

We were born needing to be loved and we learn how to give love in return.

When a baby is born, the child wants to be loved.  And if you do not give the child the attention needed they will cry and scream bloody-murder until you do.  The child is born needing to be loved, and eventually will learn from the parents how to love in return.

We are God’s children and it is like that for us too.  We are born needing to be loved by God, and we learn how to love in return.

And so in today’s Gospel, we hear everybody’s favorite verse from the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”  God has loved us first and we learn how to love God and our neighbor in return.

There was a man who felt very lonely.  So he programmed his smart-devices to tell him that they loved him several times a day.  But it didn’t do a whole lot of good because an “I love you” from Siri or Alexa is just not the real thing.

We were born needing to be loved and we learn how to give love in return.  But God has loved us first.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”  And because God has loved us first, we can love in return.

There was a child born in 1866 near Boston, Massachusetts.  She was known early on as “Little Annie.”  Her poor parents came here from Ireland.  Her mother died while Annie was very young.  Her father was an alcoholic, who was physically and emotionally abusive to his family.  Shortly after his wife’s death he abandoned his children, so Little Annie, who had a vision disability, was placed in Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts at the age of ten and lived there for four years.

They called this hospital “The Almshouse.”  It was for people without homes, without money, and it was also for people who were having alcohol, emotional and mental difficulties.  A story about Little Annie says that with all she had been through, she went into that institution and she shut down.

One of the nurses there took an interest in Little Annie, but Annie wouldn’t respond.  This nurse then started baking brownies at home and leaving them by Little Annie’s door.  They would go untouched –  until one day the brownies were gone.  It was a breakthrough.

Eventually Little Annie bonded with that nurse.  She opened up and let other people into her life.  We know her today as Anne Sullivan.

What did Anne Sullivan do that was so noteworthy?  She bonded with Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, and Anne Sullivan opened up the world to Helen Keller.  And what did Helen Keller do?  She passed on that love to other people.

Little Annie needed to be loved, and that nurse came and loved her.  And then Anne Sullivan took that love to Helen Keller, who needed to be loved.  Helen Keller carried that love to person after person after person.  The chain got longer and longer.

You can look at the chain in the opposite direction, and where does it lead back to?  All the way back to God Himself, who loved us first.  And because God has loved us, we can love in return.

A non-believer can look at the cross and only see a man held there by nails, with a sign above His head with His name on it:  Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

But we have been graced and favored to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we see so much more.  On that cross we see love crucified and given for us:  unconditional love that is available to every single person in the world.

In childhood we learned that song:  “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  And the Gospel today tells us just that.  John, chapter 3, verse 16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

And as Jesus Himself tells us when He finished washing His apostles’ feet at the Last Supper:  “I give you a new commandment:  Love one another.  Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other”  [John 13: 14].

And the message of our crucified Savior for us disciples?  “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

2018 TROJAN TROT – Saturday, May 5th

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Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Third Sunday in Lent– B


Exodus 20: 1-17

1 Corinthians 1: 22-25

John 2: 13-25


There was a chain letter that was going around.  It read:  “If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other parishes that are tired of their pastors too.  Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the bottom of the list.  In one month you will receive 1,643 pastors, and one of them should be just perfect.  Have faith in this letter.  One church broke the chain and got their old pastor back in less than three weeks.”

Well, Jesus was not terribly popular with the temple leadership in today’s Gospel.  They were ready to bundle Him up and ship Him out.

We like to picture Jesus as gentle, meek and mild.  And so often He comes across that way in the Scriptures.  But not today.  He is at the temple in Jerusalem.  [We saw this scene last weekend in “Compassion – the Musical.”]  Jesus makes a whip out of cords, and He is angry.  He throws out those who are selling animals and changing money in the temple.  The translation that I like of what He said while expelling them is:  “My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”

Why was Jesus so angry in this Gospel?  It is important to know the real reason because people are often mistaken about this:  as though it were sinful to have a fish fry or a reverse raffle on parish grounds.  No, it was not because of the selling animals for sacrifice or exchanging Roman money for temple currency that Jesus was upset.

Animal sacrifice was part of the worship in the temple.  People coming from long distances found it difficult to bring animals with them, so as a convenience to them, they could buy an ox or a lamb or some doves for sacrifice right there.

They did not use the Roman coins for currency in the temple because on the Roman coin was a picture of the pagan emperor, and the emperor had declared himself to be a god.  So the temple had its own currency – and the worshippers would exchange the Roman currency for the temple currency.

Why was Jesus so angry?  For this reason:  people who were selling the animals for sacrifice had raised the prices sky-high, and they were gouging the people for their animals for worship.  And the people who were exchanging the Roman currency for the temple currency had hiked up the exchange rate outrageously.

Jewish people were cheating other Jewish people, all in the name of temple worship.  This caused Jesus to be angry and to throw out those crooked merchants for exploiting their own people.

Now, does that ever happen in the Church?  Does one Christian ever exploit another Christian?  Does one Christian ever exploit someone who is not a Christian?  I wish I could tell you that this never happens.  But you know as well as I do that sometimes it does.

Does this mean that there is something wrong with the teachings of Jesus?  Not at all.  But sometimes there is something wrong with the behavior of Jesus’ disciples.

There was a man who was recovering from back surgery one spring, and part of his therapy was taking a daily walk.  The weather was nice on his first walk and many people had their windows open.  He heard a piano student practicing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” – and really murdering it.  The man made it a point to go by that house every day at the same time, believing that he would hear continuous improvement.  But the piano student continued to massacre it.

Was the student’s poor performance of Beethoven’s composition a judgment on the composer?  No, but it was a judgment on the piano-player.

Sometimes Christians do not always play their parts well.  But this is a judgment on their poor performance and not on the way of life that Jesus has taught us to live.

Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that our sins could be forgiven and we could live a new life in Him:  as His disciples, and as His brothers and sisters.

I will leave you with a story that is a bit of a parable.  It is about a stranger who came into town and wanted to go to church.  He got to the church a bit early, found a parking place and parked his car.  He was getting out of his car when another motorist came along, rolled down his window and shouted at the visitor, “Hey – what are you doing?  That’s my parking spot!  You took my place!”  “Sorry,” the visitor said, and moved his car to another parking space.

The visitor came into the church, found a pew, knelt down quietly and began to pray.  A lady came into the church and said to him, “Hey – what are you doing here? That’s my pew!  You took my place!”  “Sorry,” he said, and he moved to another pew.

As Mass was about to begin, people were noticing that the stranger’s hands had nail marks in them and his sandaled feet did too.  They asked him:  “Who are you?  What’s going on?”

He stood up, looked at all of them and said, “I took your place.”

Jesus took our place on the cross.  Sinless though He was, He carried the burden of our sins on His shoulders, and He died for us:  so that our sins could be forgiven, and we could truly live the new life He won for us:  as His disciples, and as His brothers and sisters.

Look at the cross.  What do you see?  Jesus angry and calling down God’s wrath upon us?

No, not at all.  We see Jesus who loves us sinners so much – so much that “He took our place.”

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Second Sunday in Lent– B



Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

Romans 8: 31b-34

Mark 9: 2-10


In today’s Gospel of Jesus’ Transfiguration in glory before Peter, James and John, Jesus’ Heavenly Father says to them:  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”

And speaking of listening, some of us are pretty good at being selective listeners.  We hear what we want to hear, and we tune out the rest. Some of you may be thinking, “My husband is really a selective listener.”   But I also need to tell you that your husband is probably thinking the very same thing about you right now.

There is a story about a ninety-four-year-old man who had visited his doctor.  Two days later, the doctor ran into this old gentleman, who had a beautiful young lady on his arm.  The man said, “Doctor, I want to thank you for the good advice that you gave me in your office the other day.”  The doctor said, “What advice?”  The elderly man replied, “When you told me I should have a ‘hot mama’ and ‘be cheerful!’”  The doctor replied, “I said no such thing!  I told you that you had a heart murmur and to be careful!”

Selective listening …hearing what we want to hear.

There was a father who always seemed to be in a hurry.  That night his little girl wanted to tell him something, but she was waiting for the right moment.  Finally she said, “Daddy, I want to tell you about something that happened in school today, so I’ll tell you real, real fast!”  The dad said to her, “No, no, Honey. You can tell me real, real slow.”  The little girl then said something that hit him right between the eyes.  She said, “Well then, Daddy, you’ll have to listen real, real slow too.”

Sometimes one of the greatest acts of love that we can offer to someone else is listening to them – not selectively, but with our full attention.

This weekend we hosted productions of “Compassion the Musical” here in Saint Joseph Church as the beginning of our Lenten mission for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes.  In music and drama, it portrayed the compassion of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Saint Peter who was in prison, awaiting his own martyrdom.  Saint Peter remembers scenes, being played on the stage below, of Jesus showing compassion to the poor and the sick, to children and to sinners.

On Monday evening at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph Church, we will experience an evening of Taize Prayer.  In Taize, France, in the Burgundy region, there is an ecumenical monastery to which pilgrims from all over the world flock for this prayer experience.

We will have the church in candlelight, with music from Taize – “Jesus, Remember Me” is one of the pieces – with choirs from Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes as well as from Our Lady of the Falls Parish.  There will be stringed instruments, flute and readers – all under the leadership of the producer and director of “Compassion,” Christina Dupre.  This Taize prayer service will last about an hour, and will conclude with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.  This will be a beautiful and prayerful experience for all people of all ages.  And I invite you to come as a part of our Lenten mission.

A powerful way the Lord shows us His mercy and compassion is in the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation or Confession.

We celebrate the Sacrament of Penance here at Saint Joseph’s every Saturday morning from 11:00 until 12:00 Noon.  And every Thursday evening after the 7:00 PM Mass until 8:30 PM.

On this coming Wednesday evening, February 28th, we will have our annual diocesan-wide “Evening of Confession” in every parish with a resident priest from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.  What a gift!  And what a fine way to conclude our Lenten mission.  I encourage everyone to celebrate this great sacrament of the Lord’s mercy and compassion during this season of Lent.

In today’s Gospel, for the Second Sunday of Lent, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain with Him, and He is transfigured in glory before them.  His clothes are dazzlingly white for those moments.  On either side of Jesus are Moses and Elijah, those great figures from the Old Testament.  Then a cloud comes over them, and from that cloud the voice of Jesus’ Heavenly Father is heard:  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”

Listen to whom?  Listen to Jesus, the Son of God.  Listen to Him.

And why?  Because Jesus sees the whole picture.  You and I only see parts of the picture.

There is that fable about the blind men that were trying to describe an elephant.  One grabbed the tail and said, “An elephant is like a rope.”  Another one grabbed a leg and said, “No, an elephant is like a tree.”  None of them got it right in terms of how an elephant really looks.  They only had parts of the elephant in their imaginations.

No matter what our age or how much know, you and I don’t see the whole picture of our lives.  We only get glimpses.  That is why we ask those questions throughout our lives:  “Lord, why is this happening?”  “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  The Lord alone knows.  We need to listen to Him.

How do we listen to God?  He is speaking to each one of us right now during this Mass.  There is at least one thing during this Mass that the Lord is telling you that will help you be a better person this week.

He speaks through the Scriptures, the Eucharist, the prayers, the music and the silence.  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”  And not selectively, but with our full attention.

What can you and I do to listen more fully to Jesus?  Well, Easter is just five weeks away.  And there are four Gospel accounts, the very Word that Jesus speaks to us.  How about making the resolution today to read all four Gospels during the next five weeks?  I would suggest beginning with Mark’s Gospel – since it is the shortest one – and then continuing with Matthew and Luke, and finishing with John’s Gospel during Holy Week.

Perhaps this might be the beginning of a great new habit – reading the Bible, the Word of God, regularly.

And in doing this, Jesus asks us to hear Him – not selectively, but with our full attention.  And to take to heart the invitation of God the Father Himself when He says to us:  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”




Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, February 18th, 2018

First Sunday in Lent– B



Genesis 9: 8-15

1 Peter 3: 18-22

Mark 1: 12-15


When I say the word “temptation,” what comes to your mind right away?  Is it a moist chocolate brownie with thick frosting?  Is it hot, salty, greasy French fries?  If that is what you are thinking, we have to go a level deeper because temptation is a significant factor in all of our lives.

Temptation affects young people, old people, and all of us in between. None of us is exempt from temptation.  Even Jesus was tempted.  We read in the Letter to the Hebrews that Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned” [Hebrews 4: 15].

Today’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent has Jesus going out into the desert for forty days and forty nights to pray and to fast and to be tempted by Satan.

Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned” [Hebrews 4: 15].  And coming out of that desert experience, Jesus says to us:  “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

When you are at the supermarket, waiting in line to check out, there are those tabloids right there in the rack.  Now I am sure that nobody here buys one, but I bet that, while you are waiting, you might glance at the front pages.

Why do we do this?  Maybe it gives us some assurance:  “There are people out there who do worse things than I do!”  Or it might be the thought:  “I guess I’m not the only one who does that!”  But deep down inside us there is an interest, a fascination, even a certain amount of rejoicing at someone else’s downfall, or alleged downfall.  And yet, when the truth is told, we all have our temptations, our sins and our downfalls.  And we hope that nobody will ever find out exactly what they are!

Temptation is part of our human condition.  Oftentimes temptation appears to be so insignificant – like it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference.  But when we sin, our eyes are opened to what we really fell for.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and then their eyes were opened and they were ashamed and tried to hide from God.  And what they did was so significant that every single one of us comes into this world marked by their original sin and in need of Baptism.


There’s a little rhyme that goes:

Knock – knock.

“Who’s there?” I asked.

“A little lonely sin.”

“Enter,” I said.

And then all hell broke in.

That little rhyme says a lot, doesn’t it?  Our sins seem so small to begin with, but then all hell breaks in.

That’s one aspect of temptation.

A second one is this:  very often temptation leads to sin that becomes habit-forming, even addictive in its nature.

When I was a child, I had an allergy to chocolate:  when I ate chocolate I would get sick.  I remember one time in first grade when I ate some chocolate at lunchtime.  And after lunch I got sick in the classroom.

Now you would think I would have learned my lesson, but I continued to eat chocolate and get sick until I was fourteen years old!

I could ask myself now, “I wonder if I have outgrown that allergy?”  Well, I am not willing to take the risk, so I can tell you today that I have not had one bit of chocolate since my freshman year of high school.

I mention this because there is a parallel with sin.  We sin, we are sorry and we say, “I will never do that again.”  And then what happens?  We think:  “Well, this time it will be a little different.” Or, “I am a bit stronger now – it won’t affect me that way.” Or, “I deserve a little freedom.” And we do it again and again and again.

When are we finally going to wake up and realize that sin does not deliver what it promises?  Sin delivers regret and guilt and pain!

So how can I stop?  There is only one way – and not through sheer willpower alone.  We need God’s grace to recognize temptation and sin for what they are.  We need God’s grace to be forgiven and to change our lives by changing our habits.  And God is ready and willing to give us that grace –  especially as we observe the season of Lent.

And what kind of God do we sinners turn to as we “Repent and believe in the gospel?”  “The Lord is kind and merciful. slow to anger and rich in compassion” [Psalm 103: 8].

On Friday and Saturday evenings this coming week, the 23rd and 24th of February, at 7:30 PM, we are hosting “Compassion-the Musical” in Saint Joseph Church.  With a cast of 90 people – some of whom are from our parishes – it tells the story in word and in song of the compassion of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Saint Peter, who is in prison and awaiting his own martyrdom.  Saint Peter reflects on scenes in the Gospel that show how compassionate Jesus was to the poor, the sick, the children, the sinners and others at the margins of society.

“Compassion-the Musical” is our Lenten mission this year for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes.  It is a two-hour production with an intermission.  And it is suitable for all ages.

Having hosted “Compassion” before, I am so happy to share this blessing with you.  You might well like to come both nights!  I know that I will.

It is production of such high quality that it could take place, just as it will be presented to us, in Playhouse Square – and I would gladly pay $100 for a ticket.  And best of all, there are no tickets involved here.  It is free – and you and your families and friends are welcome.  A free-will offering is all that is being asked.

So please be here so that you will not miss what everyone will be talking about afterwards.  Come appreciate even more deeply the Lord’s mercy in “Compassion-the Musical” here in Saint Joseph Church this coming Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM.

I will leave you with a story.  There was an Indian brave that saw a mountain in the distance, and he longed to climb it.  And one day he did – all by himself.  He got to the top of that snow-capped mountain, and he felt very proud of himself as he looked out and saw the villages below.

And then he heard a rattling sound near his feet.  It was a rattlesnake who said to him:  “Indian brave, it’s so cold up here, and I’m so hungry.  Would you pick me up and carry me underneath your cloak, next to your heart, and take me down this mountain?”

And the Indian brave said:  “Nothin’ doin,’ Snake.  I know what you’ll do.  You’ll bite me and then I’ll die.”  And the snake responded:  “No I won’t.  I promise!”

So the Indian brave picked up the rattlesnake and he put it under his cloak next to his heart.  He carried that snake all the way down the mountain, and placed it gently on the ground.  He was very proud of himself for his courage. Then he heard a rattling sound, and the snake bit him in the leg.

The Indian brave said:  “Snake – you promised you wouldn’t do that! Why did you bite me?”

The snake responded:  “Indian brave, you knew what I was before you carried me close to your heart.”

That story makes a point about temptation.  We know what it is before we carry it close to our hearts.  So don’t be surprised by temptation – we’re all affected by it.  And don’t underestimate it either. It is no small thing!  And sin can become habit-forming, even addictive.

The remedy is turning to Jesus, our Savior, who says to us today:   “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus “was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned” [Hebrews 4: 15].

And still, “The Lord is kind and merciful. slow to anger and rich in compassion” [Psalm 103: 8].

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