Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: February 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent-C

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Deuteronomy 26: 4-10
Romans 10: 8-13
Luke 4: 1-13

 

Advice columnist Ann Landers once invited her readership to submit some of the lies that people often tell.  This is what some of the readers sent in:

“Ten pounds is nothing on a person of your height!”

“You made it yourself?  I never would have guessed!”

“You don’t look a day over forty!”

“Of course I’ll respect you in the morning!”

“It’s delicious, but I just can’t eat another bite!”

“The new ownership won’t affect you. The company will remain the same as it was before.”

“You don’t need this in writing – you have my personal guarantee!”

“Put away that map – I know exactly where I’m going!”

 

Lies…we hear them so often.  And a lie is at the foundation of nearly every sin we commit.

In today’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Jesus goes out to the desert to fast and pray.  And we hear about the devil coming to Jesus and tempting Him with three big lies.

In the first temptation the lie is: “If it feels good, just do it!”

Jesus had been fasting for forty days and forty nights, and He was hungry.  The devil says to Him, “Well if you are the Son of God, take that stone over there, use your divine power and change it into a loaf of bread.  You are hungry, aren’t you?”

Jesus was in the desert to be alone with His Heavenly Father.  The devil wanted Him to just call it quits.  “Who cares what your Heavenly Father’s plan is?  You are hungry now.”

If it feels good, just do it.

We all know what the desert is like.  We have all been there, and maybe you are there right now:  the desert of losing a loved one, an illness, a divorce, unemployment, a dream that has crashed and burned.  There are lots of deserts, and the lie comes to us:  “Get out of that desert – you deserve some comfort for yourself.  If it feels good to you right now, just do it!”

Yet the voice of God is saying to us, “You are in the desert, and here is time when only I can renew you.  Listen to My voice – I am with you.”

That is the first temptation with its lie:  “If it feels good, just do it.”

The second temptation is also based on a lie:  “Seize the moment and forget about eternity.”

The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth in an instant: “These all belong to me and I can give them to whomever I wish.”  [This is another lie. They don’t belong to the devil at all.]  “All you need to do, Jesus, is bow down and worship me, and they’re all yours.”

“Seize the moment. Forget about eternity.”  If Jesus had fallen for that lie He would never have gone to His cross – and then where would you and I be right now?  Unredeemed and left in our sins.

Jesus didn’t fall for that temptation.  Jesus always had in mind the present moment with its eternal significance.

The third temptation carries this lie:  “Look out for number one, because if you don’t, nobody else is going to!”

The devil took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and led Him up a tower and said, “All right – if you are the Son of God, leap off!  And the angels will come and rescue you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”  What was the devil tempting Him to do?  To be a celebrity miracle worker.

But that is not why Jesus came – to look out for Himself.  He came to be our Redeemer and Savior by laying down His life for us on the cross.  He made Himself the last of all and the servant of all.

These three lies of the devil are still with us, aren’t they?  “If it feels good now, do it.”  “Seize the moment and forget about eternity.” “Look out for number one, because if you don’t, nobody else will.”

There is another lie that is still with us and is perhaps even more foundational than these other three:  “You really can’t trust God.”

Ever feel that way:  being in a desert, feeling powerless, unsure where to go? …and thinking, I just can’t trust God?

I was thinking about my mother and father, and remembering my mother’s fortieth birthday.  As she was approaching that birthday she was also expecting my little brother, the sixth baby in our family. Turning forty, and being pregnant – she wasn’t happy about either one.

My parents were absolutely pro-life – having this baby wasn’t the question.  But even being pro-life didn’t mean that my mother was really excited about that pregnancy at age forty.  Chrystopher was born during the summer before my senior year in high school.  Being the firstborn, I’m seventeen years older than he.

I remember that fortieth birthday of my mother two weeks later.  She did not want a party.  We got her a cake and she was not pleased.

Five years later, my father died of cancer.  My mother told me so many times thereafter how grateful she was to God for the birth of Chrystopher.  After my father died she had a little boy to love and to raise, and God could not have blessed her more richly.

She trusted in God even when she didn’t feel like trusting in God. When we trust in God it doesn’t always mean that everything is immediately going to be just the way we want it.  But God will work out His own purposes, in His own good time and in His own good way…. Trust in God.

African-American Christians have a wonderful hymn that carries this theme.  It reminds us to look at the cross, to see the arms of Christ outstretched with an embrace that welcomes every single one of us.  It is entitled, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.  Here is verse three:

What have I to dread, what have I have to fear,

Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms.

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

 

Whatever desert you are in right now, know that God is with you.  Whatever voices of deception tempt you, listen for His voice of truth.  Trust Him.  The embrace of the Lord’s arms is wide on the cross.

For we are:

Leaning, leaning,

Safe and secure from all alarms.

Leaning, leaning,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.

If you would like to see a video of Solveig Henderson’s rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” click here.

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: January 24, 2016

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

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Nehemia 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12: 12-30
Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21

 

An American woman was doing some shopping in London, England and needed some advice on the merchandise.  She looked up at a clerk and the clerk just stood there almost lifelessly and ignored her.  She looked around the store and everybody seemed to be frozen stiff.  She was very uneasy.

All of a sudden, everybody came back to life.  And then she realized what was happening:  it was November 11th, Armistice Day, and in Great Britain at noon that day, everyone stops for a reverent moment of silence to remember those fallen in war.

Sometimes in life we can feel like we’re a bit disconnected with everybody else and we don’t know how we fit in.

An elderly man had decided that it was time that he started to do some traveling.  He made some arrangements, got his passport and was getting his visa.  The official asked him, “Would you raise your right hand, and do you promise to do all in your power to uphold the Constitution of the United States, both here and abroad?”  He was puzzled, and said, “All by myself???”

We can feel like we have tons of responsibility on our shoulders and that we are carrying it all by ourselves.  And so St. Paul gives us an instruction today in his first letter to the Corinthians.

In those days some of the Corinthian people felt that they were being asked to do all the work, and other people considered themselves absolved of all responsibility to help.

And so St. Paul teaches: “Well, if the body were just an eye, what would we do about hearing?  And if the body were only an ear, what would we do about the sense of smell?”  He says that all of the parts of our bodies are important, and they work together as a unity.  And so do we as parts of the Body of Christ, the Church.  We all have a part to play and we need one another.

There was an ad in the newspaper one day that said: “Seeking a co-author for a book on self-reliance.”  Now that does sound a bit silly, doesn’t it?  But yet, it’s true.  We need one another.

I came across a little poem that is more cute than anything, but it drives home a point.  The poem reads:

Dick needs Jane, and Jack needs Jill

And Tom is Jerry’s chum.

Need we mention Mutt and Jeff

And Tweedles Dee and Dum?

Sherlock Holmes and Watson

Were as thick as any thieves,

And don’t forget that Adam

Was a bosom friend of Eve’s.

Like ham and eggs and curds and whey,

Good friends go well together.

They’re salt and pepper, fish and chips

And stars ‘n stripes forever.

Yes, friendship is a fact of life

From Shreveport to Shanghai.

As Orville said to Wilbur,

“It’s the only way to fly!”

Our need for community is not a weakness – it is a strength.  We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church.  Community is right at the core of the life of the Church.

There are things that you can do that I don’t know how to do, and I’m sure there are things that I can do that you can’t do.  What do we do about this?  We help each other.

We are grateful stewards of God’s bountiful blessings.  We develop God’s gifts to us of time, talent and treasure.  As a sign of our gratitude, we share our gifts generously according to the ways we have been blessed.  And we receive gifts from others according to our needs.

One author wrote: “God forbid that the President of the United States would end up in the hospital for two weeks.  But if he did, the United States government would continue on, wouldn’t it?  But, if all of those people who collected our garbage throughout the United States went on strike for two weeks, we would be in deep, deep trouble, wouldn’t we?”

We’re all important in God’s eyes, no matter what our age, no matter what our talents, no matter where we live.

This past Friday, January 22nd, was the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in our country.

What do we believe?  We believe that human life begins not at birth; human life begins at the first moment of our conception.  And all human life is worthy of dignity and respect from that first moment of conception until that moment when God calls us home at the end of our lives.

Children in the womb are part of the Body of Christ too.  We need to proclaim their dignity and their worth.  We are all members of the Body of Christ.

I will leave you with a story:

A lady was attending a jazz concert in New Orleans.  She noticed down in the first row a little boy who kept waving his hands in the air, and it was irritating her – “Why can’t he behave and just listen to this great music?”  And then she realized he had cerebral palsy, and that’s how he was responding to the sounds.

The band leader was very perceptive.  After the intermission he said to the audience, “Now I need the help of all of you for this next number.  I’d like you all to put your hands in the air and wave them to the beat – feel the rhythm of this next piece.”  And they did.

Later on the woman reflected that that little boy’s different-ness in his approach to music became the communal response of the whole crowd.  He had taught them another way to appreciate those great sounds.

We are one body.  We all have talents that we can share.  We all have needs that others can fulfill.

Why is this so?  Because we are one family in Christ and members of His Body, the Church.  How blessed we are to be so.

 

Fr. O’Connor’s Homily: January 17, 2016

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

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Isaiah 62: 1-5
1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
John 2: 1-11

 

A woman wrote an article about re-decorating their family home.  Things went well until her husband overruled the interior designer and hung a 16X20 inch picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus over the fireplace mantle.

The woman tried to get her husband to reconsider, but without any success.  And then she recalled the words of Jesus:  “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father” [Matthew 10: 32].  And that settled it for her.

Now she says that she is glad that her husband prevailed.  She thinks that picture of Jesus has had a remarkable effect on her family and their visitors.

A guest commented, “You know, that Jesus doesn’t look at you.  He looks right through you.”

A friend sitting across from the picture said, “I always feel so peaceful in your home.”

The woman said that the picture’s most striking impact is that so often it would draw conversations to an even higher level.

She ends her article by saying:  “This much I know.  When you invite Jesus into your home, you are never the same again.”

The newly-married couple in today’s Gospel – who had run out of wine at their wedding reception in Cana – would agree with that woman.  They invited Jesus into their home and He worked His first miracle there.  And they were never the same again.

And it is no coincidence that this first miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine, foreshadowed His miracle at the Last Supper, turning wine into His own Blood and bread into His own Body in the Eucharist.  And this miracle continues today in this Mass.

Have you invited Jesus into your home in a practical way?

Would a visitor see evidence on your walls that you follow Jesus?  Or would they merely say, “I see you love Beyonce and LeBron.”

Or suppose your son or daughter brought a friend home from college.  Would that friend say to them on their return trip, “Your family is really Christian.  I can’t remember praying at meals like we prayed in your home.  I didn’t hear anyone in your family putting someone else down.  And I can’t remember ever seeing such love as I saw in your home.  You are so blessed!”

That college friend would never be the same again because they had met Jesus in your home.

Inviting Jesus into our homes could be the most important thing that we ever do.  We can show this with a crucifix or a picture, by praying reverently at meals, by never speaking badly of others, and by treating each other with genuine love and respect.

Jesus promises us in the Book of Revelation:  “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with Me” [Revelation 3: 20].

As the author stated at the conclusion of her article, “This much I know.  When you invite Jesus into your home, you are never the same again.”  You are all the better.

 

Lord Jesus, come into our homes.

May our minds be ever open to your Word.

May our hands be ever outstretched to the needy.

And may our hearts be ever one with your Sacred Heart.  Amen.