Dying for the Faith

April 17, 2018

The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution. (Acts 7:51-8:1)

We have a reading with a number of “firsts” today. Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church, was the first Christian to die a martyr’s death. He continued to preach the word of God, despite seeing how his words infuriated the crowd. He willingly accepted the suffering and the death it would ultimately cause. And finally, he showed compassion and forgiveness for his persecutors in his plea, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Faith under fire graphically on display.

Another first: We get our first glimpse of the relentless persecutor of Christians, “a young man named Saul.” Saul, of course, would later undergo a conversion experience and become one of the most influential Christians in history – St. Paul. He would eventually dies a martyr’s death himself.

All things are possible through Him.

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Not Only When I am in Need

April 16, 2018

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. (John 6:22-29)

This Gospel passage follows the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus is calling out his disciples. He says, “You’re following me because I provide for you, not because you believe.”

We are guilty of this, aren’t we? We tend to turn to Jesus only in times of need, and unfortunately fail to give him much of our time when things are going smoothly.

I know I struggle with this. I am making an effort to work on this shortcoming. I am being more deliberate in my prayer life. My daily prayer always contains three parts, in this order: First, prayers of gratitude for another day and for all with which I have been blessed. Next, I pray for the needs of others. Finally, I pray for my own needs. By adding this structure to my prayer, I attempt to take the focus off of me.

I need Jesus in my life, and I will always turn to him when I am struggling. But I want to be sure He knows I want Him in my life everyday, and give Him the time and attention He deserves.

I want Him to know that I follow Him not only because He provides for me, but because I believe.

Homily: Repentance and Conversion

April 15, 2018 – Third Sunday of Easter

The following is a homily I delivered at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis in 2015 with the same readings we have today:

If you are a parent of more than one child, you may have experienced this.

Two of your children get into an argument. One of the children ends the argument by pushing, kicking, punching, or saying something mean to the other. You step in at that point. You bring them together, and you demand that the aggressor apologize to the offended.

The child rolls his eyes, and mumbles, “I’m sorry.”

Because he mumbled, you require him to try again. With full-blown attitude he says, “I’mmmmm sooorrrrrry.”

You are a persistent parent, and you know that’s not good enough. So you look the child in the eye and you insist, “Say it like you mean it!”

I am fortunate that in our 32 years of marriage, Carol and I have never had a disagreement or done anything to hurt one another ——- Why are you laughing?   (Since you cannot hear tone in a blog, I will simply tell you that this statement is not true)

So speaking hypothetically only, let’s say that one of us did hurt the other. As long as we are being hypothetical, let’s say it was me that hurt Carol.

Since I am a male, I would not sense on my own that I had hurt Carol, but her demeanor would make it clear that something was wrong.Through a process of elimination, I would discover that I must have done something or said something to hurt her. Connecting the dots, I would know that an apology was in order.

I would go to her, and in my most sincere voice, I would apologize for having hurt her. I might even add a hypothetical hug. Thinking my work was done, I would then turn to leave, only to hear from Carol: “Saying you’re sorry isn’t enough…you need to prove it by your actions.” Continue reading

Select From Among You…

April 14, 2018

I always like to point out this scripture reading when it rolls around in the liturgical cycle. A bit self-serving, but from today’s first reading I highlight the calling of the first deacons of the Church:

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-7)

Not sure about the “reputable” and “filled with…wisdom” but I am doing the best I can 🙂

Feed Them Yourselves

April 13, 2018

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining… (John 6:1-15)

Today’s Gospel is the very familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish.

Often when reflecting on Scripture, I put myself into the scene. What would have it been like to be one of the five thousand, watching the miracle revealed right before my eyes? As a disciple, still trying to decide what this guy Jesus was all about, what would be going through my mind?

My pastor, Fr. Jim Farrell, is a talented biblical storyteller. I have heard him tell this beautiful story through the eyes of the little boy who just happened to be passing by with the five barley loaves and two fish he had purchased at market.

Here is another interesting possibility: Maybe we should think of ourselves as the bread in this Gospel story. It certainly speaks to what Jesus calls us to do (despite the fact we are mere broken fragments), which is to carry the blessings of Jesus out to the world and nourish others.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. We are members of the Body of Christ. That makes us fragments of the larger loaf, right?

Fill Jerusalem with Your Teaching

April 12, 2018

When speaking at retreats or teaching an RCIA class, I often say, “Your faith is personal, but it is not private.”

With today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, I now have the scriptural basis for my claim.

The Apostles had been warned by members of the Sanhedrin not to speak of Jesus, or face serious consequences. “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…” (Acts 5:28)

The secular world would love for us to keep our faith to ourselves. However, like the Apostles, Jesus expects us to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

The world needs it now more than ever.

Speaking Out Against the Evils of an Unjust Government

April 11, 2018 – Memorial of St. Stanislaus

Anyone who reads the history of Eastern Europe cannot help but chance on the name of Stanislaus, the saintly but tragic bishop of Kraków, patron of Poland. He is remembered with Saints Thomas More and Thomas Becket for vigorous opposition to the evils of an unjust government.

Born in Szczepanow near Kraków on July 26, 1030, he was ordained a priest after being educated in the cathedral schools of Gniezno, then capital of Poland, and at Paris. He was appointed preacher and archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków, where his eloquence and example brought about real conversion in many of his penitents, both clergy and laity. He became bishop of Kraków in 1072.

During an expedition against the Grand Duchy of Kiev, Stanislaus became involved in the political situation of Poland. Known for his outspokenness, he aimed his attacks at the evils of the peasantry and the king, especially the unjust wars and immoral acts of King Boleslaus II.

The king first excused himself, then made a show of penance, then relapsed into his old ways. Stanislaus continued his open opposition in spite of charges of treason and threats of death, finally excommunicating the king. Enraged, the latter ordered soldiers to kill the bishop. When they refused, the king killed Stanislaus with his own hands.

Source: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-stanislaus/