Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: March 27th, 2016

Easter Sunday


Luke 24: 1-12

Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Remember that pointed question posed by the angel that first Easter morning?

The Gospel tells us that the women who were close to Jesus went to the tomb early Easter Sunday morning to anoint the dead body of the Lord. To their shock, upon arrival at the cemetery, they found the stone rolled away from the door to the grave, but no corpse. That’s when the heavenly messengers arrived to ask that pivotal question, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

Jesus is not dead! He’s alive!  He has risen as He said!

And Jesus lives in His Church! During this Easter Season, we do well to look for the Church among the living, not the dead.

To be sure, we are tempted at times to consider the Church a graveyard: closing parishes and schools, declining numbers of priests, sisters, brothers; lifelong, life-giving, faithful marriages between husbands and wives under attack; heart-wrenching stories in the news about clergy sexual abuse of minors; people leaving the Church, or no longer going to Sunday Mass; dissent from the clear teachings of the Church in faith and morals…

…you get my point? Are you depressed yet? Did you enjoy that visit to the cemetery?  Is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, a corpse?

Sometimes we’re tempted to think so, and there are certainly those who would dance on the grave!

But the great faith of Easter thunders out, “He is alive and still with us!” And He is with us in His Church. So, what do you say we stop looking for the living among the dead?

Let’s take the pulse here and check some vital signs, and I hope you’ll agree that it’s morning in the Church, not night;  it’s spring, not winter;  it’s Easter, not Good Friday.

At the Easter Vigil last evening, I had the honor of welcoming 6 adults into the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism – or Profession of Faith, for those already baptized – Confirmation, and first Eucharist.  Most of the 185 parishes in our diocese had the same exhilaration, with hundreds joining the Church in our diocese alone, and millions throughout the world. These people of faith aren’t hooking up with a cadaver but with a vibrant living Person.

These millions joyfully confessed their faith in “all that the Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” What attracted them is a Church that teaches with clarity and credibility all that Jesus taught His apostles, a Church aware of its divine mandate to teach God’s unchanging truth with love.

This Easter explosion of sacramental life will continue this year:

• thousands of our beloved children will receive Our Lord for the first time in Holy Communion;

• scores of our teenagers reach Christian maturity in the Sacrament of Confirmation;

• 5 young men in our diocese will be ordained priests on 21 May;

• so many students are soon to graduate from our excellent Catholic elementary schools and high schools and colleges;

• promising young couples are putting the final touches on their wedding plans, eager to seal their vocation with a sacrament of the Church;

• our people – young and old – give so generously of their time, their talent and their treasure, serving others in the name of Jesus; and are committed to becoming more Dynamic Catholics by the regular practice of prayer, study, generosity and evangelization;

• the latest annual outside audit of dioceses in the United States demonstrates that children are safer in the Catholic Church today than anywhere else, as nobody, nowhere is doing more to confront the plague of sexual abuse of minors – found sadly in every religion, institution, profession and walk of life – than the Catholic Church is doing in the United States;

• our priests report that many, many people came to the Sacrament of Penance this Lent;

• political observers of all stripes note that the Catholic Church is the clearest, most consistent voice on issues such as respect for all human life, human rights, religious liberty and justice for the poor, the marginalized and the immigrant;

• one in five Americans is treated in a Catholic hospital;

• look at the work of Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and all that the Catholic Church does to feed, clothe, house, care for and educate more people in need than any other organization on this planet.  And we don’t ask them, “Are you Catholic?”  We ask instead, “Are you hungry?”  or “How can we help?”  We don’t do this because they are Catholic.  We do it because we are Catholic;

• with 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide – and with  67 million Catholics in the United States – we are the largest faith community on earth.

I could go on and on with the “good news,” but I trust you get my point: the Church, like Jesus, is alive, not dead.

Now I realize a lot of newspapers want us on the obituary page, and our many enemies warn that they will not rest until there is a “going out of business” sign in front of every Catholic parish.  But the Church seems to keep bursting out of the tomb.

As the apostles found out, the glorified body of the risen Christ still bore the gaping wounds from the nails and spear.

So does His body, the Church. We’ve got wounds galore, and we always will.

But the Church is strong, healthy, alive, growing…and we’re in the wrong place if we’re looking for the living among the dead!

Jesus is risen from the dead!  Alleluia, Alleluia!

And His body, the Church, is alive in Him!  Alleluia, Alleluia!

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: March 20th, 2016

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord


Passion of the Lord



If you come to church on Palm Sunday and don’t come back to church again until Easter Sunday, you are going to miss a whole lot!  All of this week’s events and times are in the bulletin.  By way of a personal invitation, let me just give you an overview of opportunities before us this Holy Week.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the usual morning Masses.

All of the Masses and services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday will be in Saint Joseph Church.

Morning Prayer will be celebrated at 9:00 AM on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

On Holy Thursday evening, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins at 7:00.  That evening we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood and Jesus’ mandate – command – that we wash each other’s feet in service.  Holy Thursday Mass is followed by an opportunity for Sacramental Confession and also Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until Night Prayer at 9:45 PM.

Good Friday, the day Jesus died for us, is a day of abstaining from meat for all of us who are 14 years of age and older; and also a day of fasting for those of us between 18 and 59 with one principal meal, two lesser meals and no snacks in between – but water, coffee, tea, other liquids are fine.

Good Friday is the only day in the Church year that the Church does not celebrate Mass.  Instead we celebrate the Lord’s Passion at 12:00 Noon, followed by an opportunity for Sacramental Confession until 3:00 PM.

Our final Lenten Fish Fry will be held at Saint Joseph on Good Friday evening from 5:00 until 7:00.  And at 7:00 that evening we will pray The Stations of the Cross both at Saint Joseph and at Nativity.

On Holy Saturday we have Confessions in the morning from 11:00 until 12:00 Noon.  The blessing of Easter foods takes place in church at 1:30 in the afternoon.

And may I remind you that there is no 4:00 or 5:30 PM Mass on Holy Saturday here – or any place in the world!  On Holy Saturday, Mass takes place when it becomes dark.  It is the first Mass of Easter – the Easter Vigil.

Weather permitting, our Scouts will prepare the Easter Vigil new fire outdoors in front of the church.  We will gather there at 8:45 PM on Holy Saturday night and then process into the church by candlelight at 9:00 PM.

On Easter Sunday morning our celebration of Easter continues at the regular Sunday morning times at Saint Joseph and Nativity Churches, as we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and as we renew the promises of our baptism.

This is a week of invitation and grace. The Lord wants your heart, and He wants mine.  If you come here on Palm Sunday and don’t come back again until Easter Sunday, you are going to miss a whole lot!

Please be here for as many activities as you can this week.  Make this the best Holy Week that you have ever spent.  And I guarantee you that you will be glad that you did.

Happy Holy Week, everyone!

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: March 13th, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent-C


Isaiah 43: 16-21
Philippians 3: 8-14
John 8: 1-11


Part of today’s Gospel is included in one of the flashback scenes in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”  A woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery was brought to Jesus by the Scribes and Pharisees.  And they asked Him:  “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?”

The Gospel goes on to say that “they said this to test Him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him.  And Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger.”

Why did He do this?  I will give you three theories, all of which are plausible.

The first theory says that Jesus did this to buy some time.  It is like what we do when we say, “Would you please repeat the question?”  He wanted to think things over in prayer, so He took some time to draw on the ground with His finger.

The second theory is that He wanted the Scribes and Pharisees to keep on talking so that maybe they would come to realize just how cruel they were being to that woman, and perhaps talk themselves out of it.

The third theory – and this is the one I like best – says that Jesus began writing down the sins of her accusers.  And this gives a lot of punch to His statement, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  He resumed His writing.  “And they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.”

The Gospel then says that “He was left alone with the woman before Him.”  And He said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  And she replied, “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

This Gospel passage shows us how Jesus treats sinners:  with His compassion and mercy.

As human beings, we are often tempted to hold other people to a higher standard than we live by.  We criticize the faults of other people, when those same faults are glaringly part of our own lives.

Jesus is showing us how we should treat people who have done wrong:  with compassion and mercy.  As is said of doctors, “to frequently heal, often bring relief, but always deliver compassion.”

When we see someone else who has fallen into sin, our attitude should not be:  “That stupid fool!”  Rather we should remember how we have been forgiven by the Lord, perhaps in some very serious ways, and offer them the kind compassion and mercy that we have so gratefully received.

Jesus also shows us how He treats this individual who was before Him.   He did not say that her sin was not serious or that it was no big deal.  It was serious and a big deal.  Rather, He forgave her and He gave her another chance.  Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Our parish mission with Fr. Michael Denk, takes place in Saint Joseph Church on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings this week at 7:00 PM.  I hope that you can come.

And on Tuesday evening, our parish mission will conclude with a Communal Penance Service at 8:00 PM. with a good number of priests available for individual Confession and sacramental absolution.

Please take advantage of the Lord’s offer of mercy.  Today’s Gospel shows us what kind of Savior we are privileged to have.

“Has no one condemned you?”  And she replied, “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

What a mighty, compassionate and merciful Lord we serve!