Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: July 26, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time-B

 

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2 Kings 4: 42-44
Ephesians 4: 1-6
John 6: 1-15

 

So many of us use the internet to find information. Two students were having an argument over which search engine was the best. One of them said: “I really don’t like your choice because every time I use that one I get stuff that I don’t really need.” The other one replied: “That’s exactly why I use it – because sometimes the stuff I really need is not the stuff that I’m looking for.”

All the information that can come to us through the internet is very plentiful. It simply gives us a small glimpse of how God knows infinitely more, how mighty God is, and how bounteous God is with His blessings.

Bounty. That’s a word that you and I probably say three times a day with grace before meals, don’t we: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” Bounty means the extravagance of God with His blessings.

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus being bountiful with His blessings. Five thousand men are there at that mountain, and Jesus knows what He is going to do, but He tests His apostles. He asks, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” And Philip answers, “Lord, two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, says, “Jesus, there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good are these for so many?” Then Jesus says something very important: “Have the people recline.” He wants them to sit down on the grass. Then He takes the bread and the fish, blesses them and tells His apostles to distribute them. There is plenty for everybody – in fact there are twelve baskets of leftovers! We see the bounty of Jesus – how extravagant He is with His blessings!

But Jesus had the people sit down on the grass first. Why? For the very same reason that you and I are here today: to take the time to reflect on God’s blessings and to be grateful for them – and to get prepared for those still to come.

Notice that the people in the Gospel received something they hadn’t asked for. They came looking for more cures for the sick. But Jesus gave them something else – bread and fish multiplied so they could all be filled. All of this was in view of His gift to us of Himself in the Eucharist – His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – so that we can be nourished and strengthened in Him, with plenty for everyone.

There are some blessings in life that God wants to send us that we never asked for or even thought that we needed. But sometimes the stuff that we really need is not the stuff that we are looking for.

A lady in a small town was going to be evicted from her home. Some of the neighbors put some money together so she could pay the rent. One of them went to her home and knocked and knocked on her door but there was no answer.

Come to find out, she was inside that house all along, but she wouldn’t answer the door because she thought it was the landlord coming to evict her. Here the Lord had sent her someone to pay the rent but she was afraid to answer the door.

Sometimes the stuff that we really need is not the stuff that we are looking for. But the Lord knows what we need. As He has blessed us bountifully in the past, He is going to continue to bless us bountifully in the future as He knows best. In the Gospel, the five thousand received all that they wanted to eat, and there was still plenty left over to take home.

Take some time regularly to sit down and reflect on the Lord’s blessings to you – the ones you asked for and the ones that came to you as a complete surprise. As we sang in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “The hand of the Lord feeds us. He answers all our needs.”

As we pray our grace at our tables, let us not be in a hurry with our thanks: “Bless us, Lord …gifts … bounty … Amen. Pass the gravy please.”

Not like that, but with loving, grateful hearts, and expecting the Lord’s bountiful, often-surprising blessings that are still to come: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: 12 July 2015

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time-B

 

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Amos 7: 12-15
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6: 7-13

 

I wonder if you are ever tempted to advise God as to how He might do a better job in this world. Like, for instance, with food – wouldn’t it be great if God had put all the nutrients we need in pizza, fried chicken and ice cream, and put all those unwanted calories and saturated fat in turnips and parsnips?

Are you ever tempted to give God advice?

Sometimes when we look at the people that God has chosen, we might think that God could have done a better job. Like Moses – Moses was the one who led the Chosen People from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land. But Moses had murdered a man earlier in his life.

And then there is King David – from whose family- line the Messiah, Jesus, would be born. King David gave us the Book of Psalms, through God’s inspiration. King David had also committed adultery and murder.

The Lord chose Amos to be His prophet. We heard about Amos in the first reading today. Amos is brought before Amaziah, the head priest of the royal temple, and Amos is asked: “Amos, what are your credentials? Where did you go to prophet school?

Amos answers, “I don’t have any credentials. I have shepherded sheep, and I learned how to do that from my father and my grandfather. As a side job, I have been tending sycamore trees – I picked that up on my own by watching others. But I was in the market place and I saw people cheating each other. I saw widows being evicted from their homes, and I’ve seen children being sold for the price of a new pair of sandals. God told me to prophesy – God has made me His prophet. Those are my credentials.

And we wonder: couldn’t God have selected some more promising candidates?

In the New Testament, God doesn’t seem to do much better. We look at Jesus’ “cabinet” – Peter, James and John. Simon Peter had denied even knowing Jesus three times. James and John were very ambitious and their mother thought they ought to sit at the Lord’s right and left hand in the heavenly kingdom. It sure looks like God could have made some better choices.

And, in today’s Gospel, Jesus sends out the twelve Apostles – including Judas – to preach repentance and to cure the sick in His name. God chose them.

We hear in the second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that God has also chosen us: to be His beloved sons and daughters – and to become disciples of His Son, Jesus – and to live as faithful stewards of God’s bountiful blessings.

We have been chosen by God. And still we have questions just like people throughout the centuries have had: “Lord, are you really sure you want me?” The answer from God is: “Yes, I do. I have chosen you!

There was a graduation ceremony in a small Midwestern college, and one of the students was awarded a full scholarship for further studies because of his excellent performance there. As the graduation procession moved out at the end, that student went over to his mother and father. Everybody could see by the way that they were dressed that they were not people of privilege. He put that certificate in his mother’s hands, and she reached over and took her husband’s hand and put it on top of hers and that scholarship. She said to her husband, “It was worth all the sacrifices, wasn’t it honey?

And it was. That graduate was grateful for all that his mother and father went without so that he could go to college. And so, on the way out, he put that scholarship in the hands of those who had made it possible for him. He knew where his gratitude belonged.

Everything that we have and are is a gift from God. God wants us to receive His gifts to us and develop them with a return. As His stewards, we show our gratitude to God – who has chosen us to play a part in His plan for the world – by sharing our gifts generously with others.

Sister Irene Sandfry was the sacristan at Saint Joseph Parish in Avon Lake where I served as the pastor for eighteen years. She died last December at the age of 92. And she was a very holy woman.

She told us how, when her alarm clock rang at 3:15 AM, the first thing she would do – even before turning on the light – was to take hold of the small statue of Jesus on her night stand and say to Him each morning: “Jesus, what can I do for you today?” What a great way to begin each day, yes?

I recommend this practice to you. Don’t be afraid to ask Him: “Jesus, what can I do for you today?” And don’t be afraid to listen for His response. He will let you know.

And if you think you are a particular challenge to God, just look at the lives of people He has chosen in the past, and see what God was able to do through them!

Jesus, what can I do for you today? Help me to know. And help me to remember that, in spite of everything else, you have chosen me.”

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: 5 July 2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time-B

 

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Ezekiel 2: 2-5
2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Mark 6: 1-6

 

My name is Father Tim O’Connor. And I come to you today as the new pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Amherst and the new administrator of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in South Amherst. And I am delighted to be with you!

The prophet Ezekiel was in a very different situation in today’s first reading. God sent him to the Israelites with this warning: “Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.” I received no such warning from God – or the bishop – in my being sent to you!

For me, I am coming home to Lorain County and I am very happy about this. I was raised for the most part in Elyria – at Saint Jude Parish and later on at Saint Mary Parish, where I celebrated my First Mass 40 years ago last month.

For eighteen years I was the pastor at Saint Joseph Parish in Avon Lake at the other end of Lorain County. I come to you from Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Akron where I was the pastor for two years. And now I am back home and ready and willing to serve you.

Father Larry Martello was in the class one year ahead of me in the seminary. I was privileged to get to know him and his family and enjoy his friendship over the years. And I am not really replacing him. I am following him – whom you know as a faithful and loving priest.

And I am very happy that Father Michael Denk will be serving here for one more year as all of us together use this year to figure out how one priest can serve both of our parishes next year at this time.

I have come home to Lorain County. In today’s Gospel, Jesus has come home to Nazareth. And the people of Nazareth thought they had Him all figured out. They knew Him growing up. And they knew His family. How did He have the nerve to preach to them in their synagogue?

They had put Jesus in a box. And putting someone else in a box is a human inclination which can become a lifetime habit.

The fact is we are all more than other people think. And other people are all more than we think. And sometimes this “more” breaks through when people say: “I didn’t know you had that in you.”

And that is what was happening to Jesus. His hometown people thought they knew everything there was to know about Him. And my, were they mistaken!

Popular fiction is full of box-breaking stories. And we love to hear them and read them:

  • There is Clark Kent who was placed in the box of being a mild-mannered reporter. But he literally soared over the heads of others as Superman.
  • There was the floor-scrubbing Cinderella who became an elegant princess.
  • There was the ugly duckling that became a beautiful swan.
  • There was the kid from Kansas named Dorothy who got to visit the Land of Oz.

We love these stories and others because they give us the courage to strive for our dreams and not be limited to the boxes that others have put us in.

We are more than others see. And this is the call of the Gospel: to become the person that God has created us to be, the best version of ourselves.

There was the spoiled rich kid, named Francesco Bernadone, who ran around with his rat pack. And then one day he had a dream where the Lord said to him: “Serve the Master, and not the man.” Francesco became less and less interested in good-timing with his friends. And then there was the time he got off his horse and embraced a leper. He went home and renounced all the family money and privileges. And he walked away to become the happy poor man that we know today as Saint Francis of Assisi. And his friends had thought they had him all figured out. Were they mistaken!

There was the poor and rather uneducated French girl named Bernadette Soubirous who claimed that she saw the Blessed Mother at Lourdes. The people in authority did not at first believe her. They thought she would cave in and take back her story. But they didn’t know what she had within her! Now she is known as Saint Bernadette.

And the people of Jesus’ own home town thought they had Him all figured out. But there was far more to Him than any of them thought. And, as His followers, there is more to us than others may think as well.

So what am I saying to you today?

We are called – every single one of us – to be holy: to live outside of the box that others may have put us in. To turn from being indifferent to our Catholic faith to being in love with Jesus Christ and His Church. To live in everyday faithfulness to Him. And to make our discipleship evident to those around us.

And how can we do this? “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord told Saint Paul in today’s second reading. With God’s grace and God’s plan, we can do this.

And do what? To become a saint. Our goal is to be exactly as God thinks of us: to become the best version of ourselves.

And if this causes some box-building people around us to wonder, so much the better – for them and for us!