Worthiness

November 28, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. (Matthew 8:5-11)

WORTHINESS: These words, spoken by a Roman centurion and used as a part of the Communion Rite of our Catholic Mass, convey a powerful statement of faith. The centurion does not feel worthy of having Jesus come into his home, but trusts that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the words. He believes that it is possible.

These words are certainly memorable, and teach a great lesson on faith, but how do they fit into the Mass? Why include them as the words the faithful proclaim prior to receiving Holy Communion?

If you think about it, we are expressing a faith similar to that of the centurion. We are not worthy of receiving so precious a gift as the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. By saying these words, we are admitting our unworthiness. We are also saying, “We believe!” We are expressing a firm belief that all things are possible with God. Jesus does not have to be with us in human form for us to recognize His presence.

It is a bold statement.

When we receive Holy Communion the Eucharistic Minister says, “The Body of Christ.” We respond by saying, “Amen.” This puts an exclamation point on our belief in His presence. By saying, “Amen” we are saying “I would stake my life on it.”

None of us are worthy. God’s gift is that He comes to us anyway.

Homily: Embracing Opportunities

November 27, 2022 – First Sunday of Advent

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5 / Romans 13:11-14 / Matthew 24:37-44

The following is the homily I will be delivering at Masses at St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis this morning:

Human beings are tough to figure out. We like to be prepared; we want to be prepared. At the same time, we don’t like the idea of always being prepared just in case – that’s too much work.

That said, the language of the Advent season may make us uncomfortable. We are told to be “vigilant” – “watchful” – “attentive.” Such language implies we must be on our toes at all times.

If Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas, and we know Christmas is on December 25th, why the intensity?

Because Advent is not simply a time of preparation for Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. There is a difference.

The first coming of Jesus – his human birth – is celebrated on Christmas Day and that date is set on our calendar. It is a day we look forward to with joyful anticipation. However, the date of the second coming of Jesus – or Judgment Day – is unknown. It is a day we look to with anxiety and fear.

The only way to prepare for that day is to always be prepared.

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That Day

November 26, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. (Luke 21:34-36)

THAT DAY: These are challenging words Jesus presented to His disciples in today’s Gospel. “That day” He describes is Judgment Day, when our time on this earth ends.

When we meet Jesus face to face at the end of our days, who will He see?

Will He see someone who was only concerned about his own needs? Someone who lived carelessly and recklessly, always thinking, “I will make amends tomorrow”? Someone who rolled the dice, always assuming he had plenty of time left to get his life back on the right path?

Or will He meet someone who understood that how he lived his life on this earth mattered? Someone who understood God’s plan for him, and lived his life in service to Him and others? Someone who was prepared for this day, and meets Jesus confidently and joyfully?

Near the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus advised His disciples to “be vigilant at all times.” He wants us to heed that advice as well.

We never know when our time will come. May we live our lives in a way that ensures we meet Jesus with confidence and joyful anticipation, rather than fear and doubt.

My Words Will Not Pass Away

November 25, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:29-33)

MY WORDS WILL NOT PASS AWAY: Jesus reminds us today that our lives, and everything that is a part of our lives, are fleeting and limited. Only He and the message He shares are permanent and life-giving.

Interesting that this reading comes to us on Black Friday, as we enter the Christmas shopping season. We will load up on gifts and “stuff” again this year. We’ll wrap presents and pass them out. Those receiving the gifts will be excited and grateful.

Two months from now the memory of opening that gift will have faded, and the gift itself may very well be tucked away in a drawer, in the back of a closet, or sitting unused on a shelf.

I am certainly not trying to be bah-humbug when it comes to the fun of Christmas shopping. I don’t think Jesus is either.

The Gospel reminds us to acknowledge that the things of this earth and the joy they might bring are temporal. We should keep them in proper perspective, and not place undue significance on them.

If you want the presents you give this year to have real value, offer God’s presence as well. Give the joy that comes from offering your gift with genuine love.

If you care enough to give someone a gift, offer up a prayer for them as well. That gift will stay with them long after the gift you’ve purchased and wrapped for them has been used up or forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2022

On Thanksgiving Day, I reflect on all the prayers of gratitude I have shared with God over the past year. While I occasionally thank God for small victories – we paid our bills this month, a conflict was resolved, etc. – more often than not I find myself thanking God for the people He has put in my life.

When I count my blessings, I count people. I am blessed by my marriage to Carol, my best friend who said “I do” at the altar over 39 years ago. I am blessed to have four awesome kids and ten full-of-energy grandchildren.

I am blessed to have had parents that taught me right from wrong, brought me up in the faith, and taught me what it means to serve others.

I am blessed to be a part of strong faith communities. These communities are gifts because of the people that fill those pews, hallways, classrooms and offices. They give me hope for the future, hope for the larger Church.

Good and Gracious God,

Thank you for the gift of family. Thank you for the people, both those living and those with You, who have impacted my life. Thank you for the opportunity to worship and work in places where there are people who make me better by simply being around them. Thank you for putting people in my life who value and affirm me, while at the same time holding me accountable.

I know that I am blessed and pray to stay mindful of paying it forward.

In gratitude, I pray. Amen.

May you and your family enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and take time to reflect on the blessings – the people – God has put in your lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Because of My Name”

November 23, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. (Luke 21:12-19)

BECAUSE OF MY NAME: Jesus wanted to be clear about what it meant to follow Him. It was not going to be easy. There would be challenges along the way and many who would persecute the disciples of Jesus.

The salvation Jesus promised was not of this world. He was attempting to tell this eager new disciples, “It’s great that you are drawn to the hope of eternal salvation, but know that there is a price to pay. If you understand that and can withstand the challenges, follow Me.”

Do we endure hardships because of His name? Or do we avoid them?

What Sign Will There Be?

November 22, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” (Luke 21:5-11)

WHAT SIGN WILL THERE BE?: We don’t like to be caught off-guard, do we? We like to be prepared. At the same time, we don’t like the idea of always being prepared just in case. We would prefer that you tell us when something’s going to happen and we’ll get ready, even if it means rushing around at the last minute.

That approach to preparedness sends the wrong message to God. We are telling Him, “We are quite busy with other things. Just give me a sign when I need to be ready to meet You…then I will turn my attention to You.”

Nothing is more important than our relationship with God:

Our focus should always be on Him

He should always be our motivation.

Living for Him should always be our goal.

If we do these things, there is no need to rush around “getting ready”…we will always be prepared.

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

November 21, 2022 – Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Story of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was 3 years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Source: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/presentation-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary

Homily: We Are God’s Pearls

November 20, 2022 – Solemnity of Christ the King

Readings of the day: 2 Samuel 5:1-3 / Colossians 1:12-20 / Luke 22:35-43

I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:

I read something recently that I found interesting and wanted to share it with you. It explained how pearls are formed. Maybe you already know this; I did not.

What I came across was a written reflection. It explained how pearls are formed, and then compared that process to our human experience. The following comes from that reflection: 

Did you know that an oyster that has not been wounded in any way does not produce pearls? A pearl is a healed wound.

Pearls are a product of pain, the result of a foreign substance entering the oyster – a substance such as a grain of sand.

Lining the inside of an oyster shell is a shiny substance called nacre – also known as mother of pearl. When a foreign substance enters, it acts as an irritant, similar to the oyster getting a splinter. The oyster’s natural reaction is to cover up that irritant to protect itself. The nacre cells go to work and cover the foreign substance with layer upon layer of protection. As a result, a beautiful pearl is formed!

If there is no pain or wounding – no splinter – there are no pearls.

The reflection went on to connect this to our own journey: From our sinfulness – our brokenness – something beautiful can emerge. It is quite possible that our greatest ministry to others will come out of our greatest pain. Like the wounds of Christ, something beautiful will come from the wounds we endure.

We are the wounded oyster. When sin enters our hearts, Jesus seeks to protect us, wrapping us in layer upon layer of his mercy and love, and forming something beautiful out of our brokenness. There is conversion; he transforms us. This beauty is then reflected out to the world – his glory being revealed in us and through us.

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Resurrection

November 19, 2022 – Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

“The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:27-38)

Today’s Gospel features Jesus teaching the Sadducees about resurrection.

The information below from the Catechism of the Catholic Church includes some of what the Church teaches about resurrection:

991      Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live.”

992      God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed.

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