Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Like a Pumpkin - an All Saints Day homily


How does God see us? As scripture relates to us, we are His children. Let us not be mistaken about that we are indeed His children. One way of looking at this is with Halloween being this past Monday and Thanksgiving on the horizon is that in God's eye we are all pumpkins! Yes, in God's eyes we are all pumpkins. Okay so, before you think that I have had one too many pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks, just run with me on this for second.

If you think about it no two pumpkins are alike, they are all unique in their own way. Just like no two human beings are the same. Further, pumpkins are orange and nothing rhymes with orange, pointing to another aspect of uniqueness, and a sense of being set aside from the rest of creation just as humanity is. So, we like the pumpkin are created by God and like a pumpkin that is hollowed out, all the seeds and pulp are taken out, carved, and a candle place inside so too are we in Baptism. In baptism the Lord clears away the gunk of original sin and imprints the image of the cross upon us and places a light and the call to sainthood within us. It is then our job to make sure the light is kept burning brightly and to display the image placed upon us to the best of our ability just like a light displays the image carved on a jack-o-lantern.

How can we keep the light within us burning brightly? Well certainly through prayer, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, Scripture, putting our faith into action by helping others are all ways we can maintain the light. On this day, as we remember the saints, we also remember it is by way of following the teachings and examples of the saints that we can help fuel the fire within and allow the image placed upon in Baptism to shine brightly.

At St. Charles we have the images of the saints on the ceiling, not to drum up business for any chiropractors that may be in the parish but to remind us where the saints are because of their faithfulness and that they are indeed there to guide us, inspire, and pray for us.

For example, take St. Terese of Liseux who, although she passed away in her early 20's, taught us to do our everyday activities no matter how great or small, with great joy and love. In this way, through her simple way, St. Terese, the Little Flower, helps us to fuel the fire by helping us to see how everyday things can be "everyway" things that help us to live and embrace our faith. Take St. Francis of Assisi who taught us to preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary to use words, in other words to let our actions be a living example, a living proclamation of the faith we have within. Take Gianna Beretta Molla, after just celebrating the gift of life in October, we remember how she defied the opinion of doctors to abort her baby and became an advocate of life. Lastly, one who is a personal favorite of mine, and not simply because he is Polish but because of what he taught me as Pope and that is Blessed John Paul II the Great. As a JP2 Generation Priest, I am inspired by his affirmation of the youth, hence the reason I wore the vestment I received at World Youth Day this past summer in Madrid, and I am also encourage by his constant insistence to not be afraid to follow Christ. To never, ever be afraid to say Yes to the God and although we may face persecution like many believers before us, we too receive the reward of the Saints as the Gospel tells us: eternal life.

The saints they are our example and our inspiration and we honor them today, we also honor today our own call to sainthood. We are all called to be saints, to lead and inspire the next generation by our example, just as so many holy men and women have done for us.

Now I know some of you maybe thinking, well I'm just not worthy or, if you only knew what I've done or, that's not me. But who are we kidding, really?! Nothing could be further from the truth. We are called to sainthood! Think of it this way, as Sara, a friend of mine, reminds me all the time, that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Meaning that there are many saints who have a checkered past and yet because they found the way, they found Christ and turned their lives towards God, they became the saints we know today which by the same token means that we have tomorrow and we have the power to be the saint God calls us to be, to get back up and choose Christ.

The saints, help fuel the fire within, they help to keep the light of Christ burning brightly by their teaching and example. How will we, like the saints, respond in faith? How will we keep the image placed upon us at baptism by the "Master Carver," shining brightly? Which saints will we look to to guide us on our way, to inspire and encourage us, to help us become the saints of today that God calls us to be?! And lastly, what example will we set for further generations, how will we go forward to inspire the next generation of saints and honor the call of sainthood?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Reflection of What's Within

Am I a liar? Frustration. I have much work to do. I know I'm not perfect.

In reflection upon this week's Gospel, these are some of the thoughts that came to my mind. I share these thoughts not because of need for sympathy or pity but by way of honesty.

In a very direct and forward way, through an analysis of the Pharisees talks about the importance of practicing what we preach. However, is the our first reaction to think about the person in our life that does not practice what he or she preaches? The truth is that there are genuinely people that we encounter whose words and actions, whose words and faith, just don't seem to match up.

Sometimes though, when we are so inclined to point the finger, perhaps what we need to point to is ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves when we point to a fault of another person, could it really be a fault within that we are hitting upon or don't want to acknowledge ourselves?

Practicing what we preach, practicing the faith we profess, requires a sense of introspection. In other, words working to improve the short comings and points for improvement within; for the only person any of us can truly change is ourselves.

The pathway to change though, is not about creating a laundry list of what we don't like about ourselves or what we know to be a fault because I'm sure that if I passed out a paper and pen to everyone here, we could all make our own list of points of improvement. Although it is important to be aware of our points for growth in a real and honest way. The pathway of change Jesus calls us to is not by a list of changes but rather a change of heart. The Lord calls us to place ourselves at the service of others and to conduct ourselves with humility.

If we have a change of heart to infuse our lives with humility and place others before us, the changes that need to happen to bring our words, faith, and actions in accord with each other as one consistent entity, will fall into line automatically. A better way to look at this is to say, that we must take on the servant heart of Christ. To lead with the same servant leadership Jesus shows us in the Gospel.

We also know that when this change of heart takes place great potential for true and lasting change within ourselves and in our world increases all the more. For who among us has not or would not be touched, and in some way changed, by someone reaching out to us, helping us, or encouraging us? Would we not be different in some way?

Therefore, where is it that we are called to cultivate the servant heart of Christ? Where can we better place others before ourselves and allow the Lord's call to help our words, actions, and faith be of one accord?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who is my neighbor?

Imagine a neighbor from your street came to you asking for your help to feed his or her family. Would you help?

Imagine a neighbor from a few streets away came to you in need of someone to talk to. Would you be there to listen and to help?

Imagine a neighbor from the next town over asked you for some help in the yard. Would you help this neighbor?

Who is my neighbor?

In a very direct way the Lord puts before us the true testament of love as He tells us that not just some but the whole law and the prophets, in other words our very life, depends upon the commandments to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our ability to dedicate ourselves and love God with our whole hearts, souls, and minds, may come easy to us, for all we have to do is drop to our knees or drop into Merici Chapel for some time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. But to love our neighbor as ourselves can challenge us. In this call to love we must go beyond ourselves, at times beyond our comfort zones, we must let our walls fall down and see things we’d rather not see, and recognize and respond to the needs of others on and beyond the corner of our street.

Four years ago I had an experience that helped me to gain a deeper realization of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. In June of 2007 I joined the CRS (Catholic Relief Services) Global Fellows program. Global Fellows is a program that trains priests and deacons to share the story and the way to new life for our neighbors around the world. After receiving training at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore, I boarded a plane bound for Cambodia. Cambodia, is a nation of about 14.5 million people and the size of the state of Missouri that is struggling with poverty and illness due to years of civil unrest and dictatorship and yet a country whose future is bright and rich in possibility and potential.

One day after traveling by jeep through bumpy dusty dirt roads which seemed to take forever, I encountered a health initiative project that trains volunteers from local villages to diagnose and treat tuberculosis and other illnesses. Because of this training many people who would otherwise die of disease are treated and survive and communities are strengthened. Also, I remember clearly one of the local health care volunteers saying that because of the training she received and what she now can do for her village that she sees her own self worth, she has experienced new purpose and meaning, she has a new life.

I am grateful to Catholic Relief Services because of not only what it taught me but what Catholic Relief Services does for our neighbors around the world. For us Catholics in the United States, Catholic Relief Services is our main outreach to those in need across the globe. CRS provides immediate aid in times of need, for example the earthquake in Haiti or most recently the famine in East Africa; but also the CRS difference is that it also helps people in the areas of healthcare, farming and food security, community building, fair trade, obtaining fair loans, advocacy for the poor, and many other areas that help our neighbors in this world to live to their fullest potential, which is something we all hope and long for and do our best to fulfill.

My time in Cambodia showed me, and demonstrates for all of us, what is possible when we challenge ourselves to open our eyes, recognize and respond to the needs of our neighbors both across our street and across the world.

This week may we challenge ourselves to recognize and love our neighbor as God has called us to.

For some of us that means reconciling what we allow to get in the way of loving others as ourselves. For someone of us that may mean pitching in and helping a neighbor with an immediate need. For some us this may mean encouraging a neighbor to use his or her gifts and talents to the best of their abilities, to live to their fullest potential. For some of us that means learning more about the needs of our neighbors that we cannot see. For example logging on to and becoming more informed or writing our representatives in congress to assist those most in need; because our voice must be heard, no matter how long it takes.

As Blessed John Paul II once said, "Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." As we seek to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind may we cast our nets to love all our neighbors as ourselves and in doing be caught up in arms of God's mercy and love.



A special word of thanks to Fr. Chris Trenta, a fellow CRS Global Fellow, and parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Wooster for his inspiration which made this homily possible.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

pushing further... a discerning process

Building upon "Give us this day, our daily bread," in today's gospel from Luke we hear:

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

What we are called to consider is that in being receptive to the food that sustains us, our daily bread, it is also a matter of discernment. What I mean is that, have you ever found yourself going back to prayer time and time again and it just seems like there are no answers, or maybe like your prayers are going unanswered or that maybe, just maybe God isn't listening? But then! You hit that point, the "Ah-ha" moment where things make sense, the light bulb goes on, and you realize what you really need or what God really is trying to say to you, something other than what you want and that you did not hear at first. At times it all becomes crystal clear.

This reminds us that as our lives change, what we need changes and as all this unfolds we must remember that as we ask, seek, and knock in order to find we must listen and discern. Listen and discern. Listen and discern.

This process takes time and will require much persistence and patience on our behalf because we all know full too well that God is not going to text us back right away. We need to invite that daily bread in - the scripture, the Eucharist, our daily prayer - allow it to nourish us, become one with us, and enlighten us or bring us a step further than where we were before.

May we be persistent and patient in cultivating a discerning heart.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Want or Need?

"When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse"
-"Fix You" by Coldplay

This week we hear the story of Jonah play out in the daily Mass readings, Today it seems in some ways, in his desire and his attempt to escape God's will, he got what he wanted but not what he needed, nothing quite worked out, and in the end he was no happier; perhaps stuck in reverse? Which brings us to the Gospel for today in which we hear St. Luke's account of Jesus instructing His disciples to pray which over time has became for us The Lord's Prayer or The Our Father, one of, if not the most common prayer amongst Christians.

When we think of, "Give us this day, our daily bread," what do we truly think of? In this request, this prayer of supplication to the Lord, do we assume this to mean what we think we want or do we acknowledge and humbly ask God to sustain us with what we truly need?

What we want and what we truly need can at times be two different things. Could it be that we can see the brush stroke but God sees the picture? I remember a field education assignment in the seminary some years back, it wasn't what I wanted and at first I was upset and frustrated but now on the flip side of that experience and some years later, it truly was what I needed. Sort of like, we want the burger and fries but really we need the fruits and veggies.

Today, may we humbly, openly, and honestly pray the Lord's Prayer and when we get to the line, "Give us this day, our daily bread," with love and trust, accept what the Lord gives to us to nourish and sustain us, knowing that is what we truly need.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Hole

The Hole Author: unknown
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless...
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I still fall in... it’s a habit...
But my eyes are open. I see it is there.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down a different street.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a celebration that draws us to examine, reflect, pray, and learn about our Triune God, 1 God 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On this day we can talk about different theological concepts or continue to go on and on about how we can't fully understand the Trinity but seriously folks, how often are we going to play that record?! Heck, how often do we not understand each other??? It doesn't mean we can't know someone nor does it mean we cannot know the Trinity either! So let's build a bridge and get over it already!

This Trinity Sunday, perhaps it is the case that we are called to approach the Trinity altogether differently. To go a step further, could it very well be that the celebration of the Trinity is more about us, than anything else? That is: we, and the world shall know the Trinity and it's existence not by facts and principles but rather, how we live it.

For example: In today's Gospel we hear the famous John 3:16 that we is so prominently displayed on posters at sports events, etc. For God so loved that world that He sent His only Son... In this we are reminded that when Christ came to earth, a real human face was put on the God we cannot see here on earth. Real flesh, real bone, real blood, really human. This should remind us that we are created in God's image and likeness and that if we are to be true to the image and likeness we have been created in, then we are to be the presence of God, the Trinity in this world.

We are called to love as the Father loves - unconditionally, full of mercy, abounding in forgiveness. We are called to love as the Son loves - walking with us, sacrificially, showing what true love is. We are called to love as the Holy Spirit loves - using our time, gifts and talents for the good of all, aware of the breath of life, the presence of God within.

Or put another way: Like St. Paul speaks of in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians do we ask ourselves: Am I the one who seeks to mend ways, forgive, not get stuck in the negative, learn and move on, or do I just wallow in the vortex of negativity? Do seek to meet people where they are or do I judge and criticize without understanding? Do I seek peace or my way alone?

This week may we grow in awareness of the image we have been created in and what that means for how we are to live. In prayer a way of doing this may simply be taking a mirror and taking a good hard look at ourselves and ask, what image of God am I bringing forth in the world? What do I see, what do others see in me... and by the same token what don't I or others see that should be?

May we note what we do well and be honest in challenging ourselves to grow. As we celebrate the Trinity may we live the image we have been created in and called to be. Amen.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

In his sermon notes, St. Anthony of Padua writes: "The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ."

For more on St. Anthony:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Stories Are Gift - Christmas Homily 2010

I hold in my hand what could be a hot commodity right now. After all the running around we've all done to prepare for Christ's coming. Could anybody go for a nice hot cup of Starbucks coffee?

If there is one thing you should know about me if you do not already is that Starbucks and I are pretty close. Not like me and Jesus close, but close. Starbucks could even be considered, dare I say, sacramental? JK! And so, to know me is to know that part of my personal story is that a good cup of coffee, Starbucks in particular, is part of my life.

One thing I have noticed over the past couple of months is the message that is printed on the sleeve, for the coffee cup. The sleeve, the thing that allows us to pick up a cup of peppermint mocha goodness worry free! Anyway, the message on the cup sleeve this holiday season is: "STORIES ARE GIFTS - SHARE"

Stories are gifts, share. Stories are gifts, share. As I reflected upon Christmas this year I kept coming back to this phrase. I kept wondering why? Well, I realized that if we are to truly make good about the mystery of this Christmas season, of Christ coming to earth and taking on flesh, then it is imperative that we share our Christmas story.

Now it would be easy for me to tell you to go home and along with your loved ones share stories of Christmas past. Stories of the hours you spent baking cookies or stringing popcorn, stories about family traditions, stories about a special gift you gave or received. It would even been easy for me to tell you to go home and tell the Christmas story that is near and dear to us Clevelanders, that of Ralphie and is quest for the Red Ryder BB gun!

We all have these kinds of Christmas stories. For example, just the other day I was helping my grandmother set up her nativity set and she was describing some of the scenery that go with her set, where some of the pieces came from, and part of her Christmas story that is now part of my own. Now,it would be easy for me to tell you, that as you pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie, to share these stories; but the reality is is that these are not the Christmas stories we are called to share.

You see if we want to make good on what this Feast and Season of Christmas is all about... If we really want to share the Christmas story of Christ taking on flesh... of God breaking into our humanity... of God being born in us... a mystery and a story that strikes to very core of our Christianity... of our humanity... then we are called to share a different kind of Christmas story.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, every time we share stories of when we've experienced the presence of God whether in good times or bad; when we name and claim these stories we become deeply aware of the presence, the grace of God at work in us and in doing so, we proclaim to the world the essence of the Christmas season... the story of Christ being born in us... the story of Emmanuel "God is with us!"

What is your Christmas story? Is it a story of the triumph? A story of how your faith has made a difference in your life? A story of how your faith has helped you or helped you to help another? A story of how even in struggle someone reached out to you? These stories are gifts that we are called to share because when we share these stories we open our eyes to the reality that Christmas is not a December 25th thing but an everyday thing! By sharing the stories of when we found ourselves on fire for God or even the times of struggle and someone reached out to us or we reached out to someone else; we share the Christmas story, the story of Christ being born in us, day in and day out.

It is important for us to share these Christmas stories because when we do this we proclaim to the world that our God is indeed alive! When we share these Christmas stories, these God experiences, we proclaim to the darkness, "you got nothin'!"

Stories are gifts, share. Our personal Christmas Stories are gifts, share.

And so I ask you my brothers and sisters, when you gather with family and friends, what Christmas story will you share? How will you proclaim, Emmanuel "God is with us." Will you share a story of triumph? A story of when your faith made all the difference? What Christmas story will you share?