Category: Homilies

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A little joke written by Noah Hart:

Carpooling to work, a man got increasingly stressed with each trip. After a week of panic attacks, he went to the doctor. “I’m fine on the bridges, in the traffic and even in the dark after a long day,” the man explained. “But when I go through tunnels with those four other guys, I feel like I’m gonna explode. Am I crazy?” “Not at all,” the doc said. “You just have CARPOOL TUNNEL SYNDROME.”

I know, another stupid joke! But I picked this one to emphasize the point that we all might get to the point that we might panic when life hits us hard, and things simply do not make sense to us.

In our first reading from Exodus, we hear of the people Israel being at the base of Mount Sinai. There they accept the challenge to serve God, who alone has delivered them from captivity and protected them thus far along their journey to the promised land. They are reminded of how good God is to them — and even though they were considered aliens in the land of Egypt — they are now the Chosen children of God, and will receive His generosity and protection. Because of this, they all must promise (make a Covenant) with God to protect the less fortunate of the family of God, namely the widow and the orphan, those who had no one to otherwise provide for them. This responsibility is seen as vital in the eyes of God, and if someone does not do what is expected, it would be a reason for them to panic.

So, we skip ahead in time, and we find Jesus, within the Gospel of Matthew, who always likes a little controversy. Jesus had just silenced the Sadducees, and we see a group of Pharisees hanging around in the temple courtyard discussing which Law of the Covenant was the most important — something they did on a regular basis — and look who they catch walking nearby, this one they call Jesus, let’s see what he has to say about this question.

Jesus looks at them with pity, seeing that they not only should have known, but also be the ones who sets the example for others to follow.

A little history — Judaism believed that, in addition to the Torah, Moses also received from God 613 oral laws. 248 positive ones and 365 negative ones.

So, a scholar of the law, a scribe, tests Jesus regarding which law is the greatest. Jesus does not just have an opinion, he does the obvious thing, he quotes scripture: 

Deuteronomy 6:5…

Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord our God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your strength.

and Leviticus 19:18…

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Once Jesus combined these two teachings, the scribe along with the Pharisees had reason to panic. Everything made sense! Their hypocrisy was made apparent.

This became solid orthodoxy for not only Judaism, but also for Matthew’s Jewish Christian community.

My brothers and sisters, simply keep this Golden Rule as the Law of your lives, and there will be no reason to panic. And, if for some reason you do — do not worry, you too might just have CARPOOL TUNNEL SYNDROME.

Readings for Sunday, October 25, 2020

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our readings throughout this week and for this weekend have caused me to think a lot about the soul and Jesus as the physician of our souls. Many of the Gospel readings this last week describe tensions between Jesus and the various religious leaders because there were differences between what they were teaching or expecting of others, but not practicing themselves. Jesus describes them as hypocrites and other not so flattering terms. I do not think Jesus is doing this to be cruel, but to diagnose an ailment or ailments that had infected them at the level of their soul. 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church our souls are the most important and lasting part of ourselves. Our souls are created and given to us directly by God at the moment of our conception. It is our soul that makes us most like the image of God. Our soul is immortal; it does not die when our bodies die. Our soul is what gives life to our bodies. It is our soul that will be reunited with our body at the final Resurrection. Sacraments like baptism and confirmation imprint on the soul the indelible character that consecrates us for the worshipping of God.

For something that is so important and so precious, how often do we give much thought to our soul’s health? Do we stop to think about how our soul has been or is being effected by the conditions of this world, particularly now, with so much uncertainty and division? Today our Gospel tells us that Jesus looks into, is concerned about, and offers healing for our souls. Do you hear Jesus calling to you through your conscience? Through his love he offers us not only a diagnosis, but healing through scripture, liturgy, and the sacraments. Like any process of healing it may be uncomfortable, but His healing will allow us to his experience His goodness both here and in the life to come.

In closing I offer this prayer written by Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

Lord Jesus, make us realize that it is only by the frequent deaths of ourselves and our self-centered desires that we come to live more fully; for it is by dying with you that we can rise with you.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Readings for Sunday, October 18, 2020

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This past week, I was on a retreat in Biddeford Pool, Maine with 15 of my brother priests of NH. One afternoon as I had some free time, I was walking on the beach, looking down I was wondering what treasures I might find that would be washed in from the waves.

It reminded me of a joke I once heard:

A man finds a magic lamp while walking down the beach. He rubs the lamp and out pops a magic genie! The genie says, I’ll grant you three wishes BUT!!! There is a catch, whatever you wish for, three of your worst enemies will receive double. After thinking long and hard about his decision the man finally answers, “I’d like a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO.” “Done” says the genie and snaps his fingers. The man instantly feels the weight of the keys in his pocket.  “I’d like $500,000 tax free” says the man. “Done” says the genie, and the man reaches into his other pocket and finds a power ball ticket. Finally, the man takes a deep breath and wishes his third and final wish. “I wish to donate a kidney!”

If you ever found a magic lamp, or won the lottery, what would you wish for? What would you do with your fortune? I know I would try to buy back the old school next door for our religious education program and our other parish activities, I would also add on to the back of St. Rose of Lima Church for better handicapped parking and entryway, and of course; storage. I would also build a food pantry and housewares storage building on the Franconia property. Don’t get me wrong, I would also take a nice vacation somewhere.

Our Scripture readings this weekend talk about “Having a second chance and having it all. 

I shall live in the House of the Lord,
all the days of my life.

What is important to you?

What do you value the most?

How best do you convey to others what you think and feel that brings eternal value to your existence?

I know these questions are difficult for our younger parishioners, but I know you too simply want to make a difference!

We can’t make a difference by ourselves; we all need the Grace of God to see clearly.

I’m sure you have all heard of the story of the little fish in the sea searching for the ocean, and the adult fish stating “you’re in it”, and the little fish stating, “No this is just the sea, I’m looking for the ocean!”

People ask me all the time, “Where is the Kingdom of God?” I always, state: “Look around, it’s right in front of you!”

Readings for Sunday, October 11, 2020

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here’s a joke I’m sure you’ve heard before, but it’s a good one and worth repeating, it is from Mel Greene:

A guy died and was waiting at the Pearly Gates while Saint Peter leafed through his big book to see if the guy was worthy. Saint Peter went through the book several times, furrowed his brow, and said to the guy,

You know, I can’t see that you ever did anything really bad in your life, but you never really did anything good, either. If you can point to even one really good deed, you’re in.

The fellow thought or a moment, and said,

Yeah, there was one time when I was driving down the highway and saw a giant group of bikers assaulting this poor girl. I slowed down my car to see what was going on, and, sure enough, there they were, about fifty of them, tormenting this terrified young woman. Infuriated, I got out of my car, grabbed a tire iron out of my trunk, and walked up to the leader of the gang, a huge guy with a studded leather jacket and a chain running from his nose to his ear. As I walked up to the leader, the bikers formed a circle around me. So, I ripped the leader’s chain off of his face and smashed him over his head with the tire iron. Laid him out. Then I turned and yelled at the rest of them, “Leave this poor innocent girl alone! You are all a bunch of sick, deranged animals, go home before I teach you all a lesson in pain!”

Saint Peter, impressed, says,

Really? When did this happen?

Oh, about two minutes ago.

Doesn’t our first reading from Isaiah and our Gospel from Matthew sound alike? Looking a little closer, we notice that in Isaiah, the Vines and the Fruit are the problem; and in Matthew we notice that the produce is fine, but the delivery system is malfunctioning (that the real problem is with the tenants).

In Isaiah, the vineyard represents God’s people. God gives them every advantage to produce the good fruit that represents right judgment and justice. But instead, their prideful ways lead to oppression, bloodshed, and cries for help. To change for the better, the nation will have to experience deprivation and ruin. Only such harsh measures will make them wiser in the things that really matter.

In the Gospel, at first glance, you might think that the story is about how God takes his vision of salvation away from the Jewish people and gives it to the Gentile people (if it was a tenant problem). It is not a story of how God favored the Christians over the Jewish people. It is a story of the replacement of the Jewish leaders of the time, who were not doing what they were supposed to be doing and they were to be replaced by new competent, faithful Jewish leaders that would become the structure of the Church. (The Apostles).

Like the joke that I began with, God gives each of us every chance to do what is right, even at the last action of our lives. He is constantly rooting for us (cheering us on) to do the right thing.

Let’s choose to be a part of God’s Kingdom — not by hanging on to old grudges or hurts, not by thinking we are not good enough, not by living on “auto-pilot” — but rather, by living in thanksgiving and celebration.

Saint Paul challenges us to keep on doing what we must (prayer and petition) — so what you have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me — and then the God of peace will be with you.

This week, may we be challenged to gain insight on how we must become a great harvest for the Lord… As we come to the table of the Lord, let us offer ourselves as the fruit of the vine, and work of human hands.

Readings for Sunday, October 3, 2020

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For over 80 years now the Serenity Prayer has been used by many twelve-step programs, it is written by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

We can change some things, but not others. Honesty and courage help us to know which is which and not to shrink from whatever we can change.

I love this Gospel passage from Matthew, note the very first line: Jesus addresses his question to the chief priests and the elders (the people that have power and influence over other people’s lives). Jesus isn’t happy with them at all! He sees that they don’t practice what they preach. Can you imagine what they are thinking when they hear Jesus state that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before them?  Oh yeah, definitely a should’ve had a V8 moment for sure! Tax collectors and prostitutes heard John the Baptist say “Repent, and change your ways, and know of God’s love for you!” And they did! And yet, even when the chief priests and elders witnessed this fact, they refused to change. They didn’t see any need to repent.

Change is not easy; in fact, it is extremely hard to do.  

Joke of the weekend:
Written by Norm Schmitz

The burial service for the elderly woman climaxed with a massive clasp of thunder, followed by a bolt of lightning, accompanied by even more thunder. “Well,” said her husband to the shaken pastor when it ended, “she’s there.”

Many of us could easily fill in the blanks of this sentence: “If only someone else _______________ (fill in one or more names) had done __________, then my life would have turned out much better.” We are, however, not nearly as likely to say, “If only I had done ____________, then my life would have turned out better.”  

People become adult Christians not simply by reaching a certain age but, more importantly, by accepting the responsibilities flowing from their Baptism as disciples of Jesus and by integrating into their faith life’s highs and lows.

In our freedom of choice, we have the ability to change, and if we’re willing and have the courage, then we are able to repent, and make that change.

God is calling each of us to change daily, just a little bit. Did you ever tell someone “Don’t change, I like you just the way you are.”? And, from that moment on they have no choice, but to change.

Hopefully, the homilies that have been given by me and Deacon Steve have had an impact on you, as we journey together, on this ever-changing thing we call life.

Readings for Sunday, September 27, 2020

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the last week we have added a member to our household. She is about 11 weeks old and her name is Maggie. Maggie is an English Springer Spaniel. She is beautiful and full of fun but here is the problem: Maggie thinks like a dog not like a human. There is really nothing wrong with her natural inclinations — that is, if she was going to be living primarily with other dogs, but her life will mean having more time with people rather than other dogs. So we are learning how to communicate with each other. She has taught us how recognize when she has to go out, when she is tired, or when she is hungry. We are teaching her how to recognize when we want her to pay attention to us, and the rules for living in our house. We have not been her only teachers — our cat Mattea has also lent a hand by helping her to understand that furry objects that hiss and growl often come with sharp claws that make noses sting. 

As I was watching Linda this morning doing some training with Maggie, it struck me that this is what our readings are telling us this weekend: that we are human and that we do not naturally think or understand the ways of God. It appears that this was the case even before the fall from our true human nature. From the very beginning, God was instructing Adam and Eve how to conduct themselves so we could have a good relationship with each other and with Him. God is a very patient, caring teacher, but also a detail-oriented teacher. 

The readings from Isaiah offer words of encouragement as they tell us to seek the Lord while he may be found, to learn His ways and to walk away from those things that are destructive, thus robbing us of the fullness of life.

Saint Paul in our second reading describes how the more he began to understand the ways of God, he realized the purpose of our life affords us an opportunity to serve God and teach others about God’s goodness. And even death will not end our lives, because though actions of Jesus and our faithfulness to God’s ways, our souls will finally find their place of rest in our eternal home. 

It is to that end — for the salvation of souls — that the Gospel reminds us that God wants absolutely no soul to be lost to darkness or deprived of His friendship. Like the laborers who were called earlier in the day, God would like us to hear and accept his invitation early on so that we can experience the gift of his closeness as we live out our days here on earth. God also understands that there are conditions and things that injure some souls. These wounds may hinder, block, or prevent a person from being able to receive him. In very severe cases like this it may only be in the final hours of life that the soul is prepared and ready to receive His love. God still wants us, even when do not want Him and actively reject Him.

You are here today because you have heard that call and have accepted Gods invitation to friendship. We are all familiar with the tools that God has provided us so that we can learn about his ways. Despite our many ways of communicating with each other, there is still a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, and a complete lack of awareness that such tools exist. Our understanding, our friendship, our desire to seek to understand and to see each other are like those little bits of cheese we have been offering to Maggie. These are actions open doors to communication, to relationship, and encourage the soul to seek the ways of God.

Readings for Sunday, September 20, 2020

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A couple days ago, a parishioner asked me about our current situation in this pandemic. She inquired of me about all the people out there that simply don’t believe in God, or don’t have faith to fall back on. She asked, what about them, what happens to them? My response to her, was that they simply and quickly become angry, even to the point of violence. Sound familiar? Forgiveness is essential to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our 1st reading is from Sirach, it begins with: 

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.

Revenge and hate have no place in our relationship with God and others.  Treating others with mercy gives a peace grounded in divine grace.

Our 2nd reading from Romans challenges us to surrender control of our own bodies and our souls. Do you believe that you belong to the Lord?  Think about it! Every time that I’ve witnessed someone dying in my presence, I think to myself, there he or she goes home to the Lord! That the soul actually leaves the body and goes to our Lord Jesus. Not only do I hope that I can recognize him when I die, but most especially, that he recognizes me, for I have definitely surrendered my body and soul to him.

The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that we must not fall into judgment over our brothers and sisters. Don’t get me wrong, we receive at Confirmation the Gift of the Holy Spirit called right judgement. It’s a thin line between having right judgement and not falling into judgement over our brother or sister. God forgives, and then he forgets! What a gift! We tend to forgive, but never forget. God does not ask the impossible from us. God asks us to grow in his image. If we are able to do so, our hearts will be changed. As God has shown us his mercy and love, we are called to do the same. If this is too deep or seems impossible or complicated, I would simply ask you to start by offering a prayer to God that you will be able to start to forgive. Ask him for the grace to simply begin.

I would like to end my homily with a little joke. It is written by Victoria Velasco:

My mother and I were at the hospital awaiting some test results when several firemen were wheeled into the emergency room on stretchers. One young man was placed into the cubicle next to us. A hospital employee began to ask him questions so she could fill out the necessary paperwork.  When he was asked his phone number, we had to laugh. His reply? “911.” 

As we remember the events of 9/11 or the need to call 911 in times of trouble, may we be reminded of God’s presence in our lives. For only He gives us what we truly need; forgiveness, mercy, love, and salvation.

Readings for Sunday, September 13, 2020

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

All three of this weekend’s readings have to do with three simple things:

  1. Love of God
  2. Love of Neighbor
  3. Love of Self

Are all three of these happening in your lives? For many of us, it is easier for us to love God than our neighbor, or to love our neighbor more than ourselves.

However, the Golden Rule has been given to us a challenge: Love God with your entire being and love your neighbor as you do yourself! For the true disciple of Christ, this can take a life-long endeavor!

I’d like to share a little joke written by Amy Bertman:

While attending a convention, three psychiatrists take a walk. 

People are always coming to us with their guilt and fears.

One says,

but we have no one to go to with our own problems.

Another suggests

Since we are all professionals, why don’t we hear each other right now?

They agree this is a good idea. The first psychiatrist confesses;

I’m a compulsive shopper and deeply in debt, so I overbill patients as often as I can.

The second admits,

I have a drug problem that’s out of control and I frequently pressure my patients into buying illegal drugs for me.

The third psychiatrist says,

I know it is wrong, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t keep a secret.

Obviously, this is not living out the Golden Rule!

In our first reading, God tells Ezekiel to continue warning the people of Jerusalem about their sins lest their blood be on his hands. We too are called to be a “Prophet,” not by standing on street corners with a sign and yelling at people, but rather by taking advantage of every situation life gives us and handle them as a disciple of Jesus.

In our second reading Paul tells the Romans, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” All of us must see that there is deeper meaning within the laws and the rules that we keep, and if we keep in mind the Golden Rule, we will be sure to see that.

The Gospel of Matthew encourages us to seek reconciliation with anyone who sins against us. Think about it in these three ways:

  1. As children of God and believers in Jesus Christ, our actions must mirror what Jesus taught us.
  2. The power of the community is emphasized by Jesus: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
  3. Forgiveness, even though difficult, must be sincere.

As we know of the Trinity as being one God, and three persons, so too must we think about the Golden Rule as being intimately connected as one rule, but contingent upon God, self, and neighbor.

Readings for Sunday, September 6, 2020

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Milton Berle once said:

My doctor recently told me that jogging would add ten years to my life. I think he was right. I feel ten years older already!

We often hear about “Free Will”, and “Everything happens for a reason.” If you think about it, these two terms don’t coincide. How can one have the freedom to choose right from wrong, and then when there are consequences from our choice (good or bad), can we really justify our actions by stating that it was all a part of God’s Plan for us? Yes, God is eternal (always was, always is, and always will be), so he already knows what we are going to choose, but that doesn’t mean it is a part of His Plan.  However, it does mean He will use what we choose.

Jeremiah in our first reading felt duped by God. He thought that seeing he was a prophet for God Himself, he would be on Easy Street, however quite the opposite happened. And the more he tried pulling away from his obligation, the more he felt pulled into God’s plan for him and the world.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus must’ve had a glimpse of what the Father wanted of him, but that didn’t make his choice any easier. Just because He is the Son of God, that didn’t cheapen the ultimate sacrifice of giving up his life for us in any way imaginable. He knew why he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer on many different levels. The same must be true for his disciples, who had given up everything to follow him. Then they hear that he was going to Jerusalem to die?

During these hard times that we find ourselves in, we ask the question of “What’s next?”  

The focus of today’s message has to be found in our second reading from Romans: 

Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you many discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Like today’s response to the Psalm, we say: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, if it did, we would hold no responsibility for our thoughts, words, or our actions. We would hold no consequence or personal responsibility for them. However, God doesn’t make it that easy for us, rather he tells us to pick up our crosses daily, and simply follow him, even if we might feel duped every now and then.

Readings for Sunday, August 30, 2020

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Each time I read this passage from Matthew I am reminded of a powerful and deeply moving moment that happened during my formation as a Deacon. It was a formation weekend and the leader proclaimed this passage from Matthew. He spent a few moments reflecting on the passage and talked about the power of validation. About telling how telling others how one of their most special gifts has impacted ones life, has the power to transform and change lives for the better. He asked for two volunteers to do such an exercise for the group. A hush filled the room. The interaction between these two people was not only moving, it was sacred. We were then separated into groups and were invited to take turns doing this with each other. Have you ever had the experience of having someone looking deeply into your soul and reveal a positive attribute about yourself that you knew had but was not sure anyone else saw or felt. Then to add to that how that part of yourself had impacted another person for the better. It is like being seen for the first time.

So it is between Jesus and Peter in this passage. Through the the gift of grace, as Jesus asks Who do you say I am, Peter voices you are the Christ the Son of the living God. You are not a dead prophet but the living God come to earth. While Jesus does not need it, Peter validates that Jesus is the one who the prophets have foretold. In that moment Peter acknowledges that throughout history God has had a plan and that the key element of that plan is  unfolding right in that moment. 

This is precisely what Paul is writing about in Romans when he talks about the wisdom and inscrutable ways of God. That God has, and is quietly weaving, this plan of salvation throughout all of human history. Isaiah says it has and will be revealed as God gives and takes away the authority of human leaders dependent how they use that power to build up or tear down God’s kingdom. It is revealed through the institution of the Church as it uses it authority given to Peter in this scripture passage to make decisions on matters of faith and morals. Is revealed in our lives as we discern, as we find out the role we are to play in this plan of salvation. Like Saint Peter, our ability to discern that role hinges on grace and on how we each answer the question Jesus poses…Who do you say I am?

Readings for Sunday, August 23, 2020