Fr. Tim’s Homily for April 16, 2017

Father O’Connor’s Easter Sunday Homily

16 April 2017

image

Readings

 

We are so familiar with the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that it is difficult for us to capture a sense of the total astonishment of the first witnesses.

To begin with, there are no adequate words to describe what had never happened before to any human being.  We are plunged into the deepest mystery.  We might understand the words, but we cannot fully grasp their inner meaning.

For the first time since creation began, there is a living human being that will never know death again.  On Easter, time and eternity – both mysterious – have come together:  a living, human body that will never stop living.  And because Jesus lives, we will live forever.

We can only imagine the complete astonishment of Mary Magdalene and the apostles when the Risen Christ appeared to them.  They must have thought, “He was dead, and somehow He is now alive.  It really is Jesus.  He still has the marks of His wounds.”

That the resurrection of Jesus happened on Easter Sunday morning is a matter of faith.  As Christian people, we believe this.  And the faith to do so is itself a gift from God.

Last night, two members of our parish faith community received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist:  Nicholas Toney and Lea Hall.  They received and accepted the gift of faith as did 523 new Catholics in the parishes of our Diocese of Cleveland last evening at the Easter Vigil.

Those who try to penetrate the impenetrable and fathom the unfathomable will all come up with explanations that only inspire skepticism.

“Jesus came back spiritually from the dead,” some say.  So, apparently, does Elvis Presley.

Others say, “Jesus would not be remembered if He had not come back in some way.”  That is a bit of an improvement, but Gautama Budda has Jesus beat on this score.  Budda is remembered after nearly three thousand years.

But what about the faith of billions of people throughout more than two thousand years who have believed that Jesus truly rose from the dead?  That is a much stronger argument and should make us listen to what Christianity has to say.

To use the words of Cardinal Newman, “You have to bend your stiff neck to decide that your mind is not the measure of all things in heaven and on earth.”

We need to accept the testimony of the prophets and the apostles who have seen and heard the sights and sounds of eternity, and shared them with us.

“You have to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, or you cannot enter into it,” as Jesus Himself tells us [Luke 18: 17].

Easter is the day to believe with all of your heart and soul, mind and strength that Jesus, who once was dead, is now alive.  And that because He lives, we will live forever too.  This belief gives our life today profound meaning and significance.

As the Christian hymn puts it:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

For I know He holds the future.

And life is worth the living just because He lives.

How sad life must be without a belief in the Resurrection.  God must give a special grace to those who do not know about it, just to keep them going.

I feel sorrier for those who identify themselves as Christians, but for whom the resurrection has no real bearing on their daily lives.

Life has lots of sorrows, lots of “ways of the Cross.”  And, if you live long enough, it includes several trips to Calvary as well.

But life has only one Easter.  So let’s get ready and live as people who already share in His resurrection – because He lives!

For we do indeed believe and proclaim:  He is risen!  He is truly risen!

And we are grateful, and continue to be astonished.

 

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – A

 

image

Isaiah 50: 4-7

Philippians 2: 6-11

Matthew 26: 14-26: 66

 

 

Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, pages 189-216

Chapter 6: “A New Level of Thinking”

and the Epilogue

 

For six weeks in Lent we have been reading and studying together Matthew Kelly’s book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic:  prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.  Each Sunday, I have been relating some of the Scripture readings to each section of the book.

Today, on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, we finish with chapter 6, “A New Level of Thinking,” and the Epilogue.  You will find this week’s discussion questions in the bulletin.

“If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze,” says Saint Catherine of Siena [1347-1380].

That is another way of saying that if you are the best version of yourself – if we all strive to be the best versions of ourselves – we can change the world.

And we can do this, all because of what Jesus has done for us by His cross and resurrection – which we just proclaimed in the Passion account according to Saint Matthew.

What is required of us is a new level of thinking.

Throughout this book, we have explored a number of key concepts:

continuous improvement;

incremental spirituality;

continuous learning;

best practices;

game changers;

personal transformation;

“I can do that!”;

intentionality;

engagement and disengagement;

meeting people where they are;

Win, Build, Send;

you get what you can measure;

the 80/20 principle;

and the four signs of a Dynamic Catholic:  prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.

Always be thinking about how well you apply these key concepts in your daily life.

Every time you get involved in our parishes in any way, try to apply one of these concepts.

Imagine what would happen if we intentionally organized everything we do in the Church around the four signs.

Imagine if, from cradle to grave, we focused on helping Catholics develop the four signs.

Are you ready to let Jesus take you to the next level in your spiritual life?

When enough people answer “yes” to this question, the Church will again become fresh and vibrant, relevant and invigorated.

And God will use us not only to transform our parishes and the Church, but also to change the world.

Use this Holy Week for prayer, for study, for generosity and to evangelize – to continue growing as a Dynamic Catholic.  

If you only come to church this week on Palm Sunday and on Easter Sunday, you will miss a lot.

Our Holy Week schedule is printed in this weekend’s bulletin.  Take a copy with you today, and participate in as many events as you can this Holy Week.

Let’s make this the best Holy Week that we have ever spent!

Can we do this?  Yes or yes?

Yes, we can, fellow Dynamic Catholics.  Yes, we can, with God’s grace and favor.

Happy Holy Week, everyone!

Fr. Tim’s Homily for April 2, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Lent -A

image

Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Romans 8: 8-11

John 11: 1-45

 

 

Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, pages 143-187

Chapter 5:  “Changing the World”

EVANGELIZATION

The prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading today, takes us to a cemetery. What a cheerful thought, right? – until we listen to what God says through Ezekiel:  “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…  I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”

We see that prophecy being fulfilled in today’s Gospel with the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus – two sisters and a brother – had a home that Jesus loved to visit.  It was a place for Him to just get away from the crowd, be with close friends, have a good meal, share some conversation, and then be ready to get back at it again.

Jesus had been told that Lazarus was ill.  But by the time Jesus got there Lazarus was already dead and in the tomb for four days.

The Gospel says that Jesus wept.  He cried, and people said, “See how He loved him.” (Any of you who right now are mourning the loss of someone you love know what Jesus felt.)

And then at the tomb, Jesus, showing that He was the Lord of Life, said:  “Take away the stone.”  Then He commanded in a loud voice:   “Lazarus, come out!”

Lazarus came out, all dressed in his burial wrappings.  He looked like a mummy, but he was alive.  Then Jesus said:  “Untie him and let him go.”

Jesus raised Lazarus to life from the grave.

“O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…  I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”

The Scriptures today are about life.  And so is chapter 5 in Matthew Kelly’s book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, on the subject of evangelization.

It begins with this question:  How is the best way to live?  Because if we are going to evangelize – share the Gospel with others – we need to be convinced that following Jesus is indeed the best way to live.

Matthew Kelly remarks that the world is the way it is today because of human behavior.  What makes the world better or worse tomorrow?  The way we live our lives today.

Imagine all of the misery that could be avoided if we all just lived by the life-giving wisdom found in the Ten Commandments.  Think for a moment on all the suffering we see on the evening news that is caused because humanity has been unwilling to follow the wisdom of the Ten Commandments.

Every great civilization has concerned itself with this question:  How is the best way to live?  Our current secular culture has virtually no interest in pursuing this question.  Today we are more interested in how we want to live than we are in discovering the best way to live.

Jesus’ answer to how the best way to live is:  “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind and with all of your strength… and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 26: 37-39).

God wants to win you with His love and wisdom.  God wants to build you up spiritually so that you have the knowledge and habits to live in His love and walk in His ways.  And God wants to send you out into the world to share His love with others.

Win.  Build.  Send.  These are the three components of the process of evangelization.

Among the highly engaged Catholics who were interviewed as a part of this research, 89% described a conversion experience – an event in their life that won them to a more engaged relationship with God.

God wants to build in you a dynamic spirituality.  He wants our parishes to help people of all ages build a spiritual life so that through our regular spiritual routines He can build and refine all of us in His image – according to His dream for us – so that we can truly become the-best-versions-of-ourselves.

It is not enough to hope that this happens.  We need process and intentionality.  These are two of the key ingredients of effective evangelization.

Just like the other three signs of a Dynamic Catholic – prayer, study and generosity – evangelization isn’t just going to happen.  We need a plan.  And it is win, build and send.

Through the win and build stages, one of the things that happens to people is that they start to feel good about being Catholic.  We don’t talk anywhere near enough about this.  But it is absolutely essential to the life and growth of the Church.

Highly engaged Catholics feel good about being Catholic and are anxious to share their findings as “the best way to live.”  They are inspired – and inspiring – Catholics.

When Dynamic Catholics were asked what they did to try to share the faith with others, their top six answers were:

  1. Pass Catholic books and CDs around.
  2. Invite people to Catholic events.
  3. Bring a Godly perspective to conversations.
  4. Learn the Catholic teachings on certain issues and be able to articulate them when the Church is attacked over those issues in social settings.
  5. Help people discover answers to questions that cause them to doubt the Catholic faith.
  6. Demonstrate the love of God through faithful and generous friendship.

Evangelization is to the Church what breathing is to a person:  it is life-giving and life-sustaining.

Try to do one thing each week – even something very small – to share the faith with someone who crosses your path.

The fourth sign of a Dynamic Catholic is Evangelization.

Discussion questions on evangelization – “Changing the World” – are found inside this weekend’s bulletin as are the page numbers for next weekend’s conclusion of The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic:  “A New Level of Thinking.”

Until then, happy prayer, happy study, happy generosity, happy evangelization – and happy Lent, my fellow Dynamic Catholics!

 

Older posts «

» Newer posts