Homilies Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

What strikes me about these readings is that they speak of the fact that we, with our limited human minds and imaginations, often don’t get God. Even those of us who are people of strong faith often miss what God is trying to do in us and among us. Which puts us in company with the Apostles. They lived with Jesus every day, and still, very often, they didn’t understand what he was trying to say to them or teach them. Jesus was trying to warn them not to get caught up in all the things the Pharisees get caught up in, and they thought he was disappointed they didn’t have enough food. Talk about getting your wires crossed.

Then look at the first reading. We’re only in the sixth chapter of the first book of the Bible, just a few pages from the creation of the heavens, the earth, everything in them, and all of humanity. And it seems like God is already thinking this was a failed experiment. Or are we getting our wires crossed again? Maybe the purification of the earth was always part of God’s plan for our salvation. Maybe the new life that came forth after the flood was a foretaste and promise of the new life that would come from the Resurrection of the Lord.  Maybe the flood itself is a foretaste of Holy Baptism, which washes away everything in us that is impure.

What we might take away from the Scriptures today is that often things of faith aren’t as easy to figure out as they may seem at first. We might often be missing what God is doing in us and among us. But a second, long look at things with the grace of the Holy Spirit can help us to see the salvation in the midst of everything that’s messed up. In the midst of all our calamities, God is absolutely working to bring us back to himself. But we have to pray for the grace to see that.

As we get ready to launch into Lent tomorrow, maybe that could be one of our Lenten practices.  To really reflect on what God is doing in us and among us.  What has he been trying to teach us in the midst of this pandemic?  How does receiving ashes by sprinkling on the head as opposed to the cross on the forehead give us opportunities to connect to the biblical practice of sprinkling ashes for penance?  In order to grow in our faith, which must be the goal of all our lives, we need to be open to seeing things as God sees them.  We need to uncross our wires, and let Jesus teach us the Way to the Father.

Homilies Ordinary Time

The Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

In ancient days, a diagnosis of leprosy was a death sentence.  And that’s not just because they didn’t know how to treat the disease.  They didn’t – but what was really horrible is the way the lepers were treated.  First of all, they were called lepers – not people – so being labeled as such stripped them of their personhood, and put them on the same level as a virus that needed to be eradicated.  They were cut off from the community, so they would have no community or even family support.  They were forbidden to worship with the community, so they must also have felt cut off from God.  And so it went for those who contracted leprosy: sick and alone, they were left to survive as best they could, or just to die.

If that doesn’t sound somewhat like the current pandemic, I don’t know what does.  It’s heartbreaking to me to see how people die alone in hospitals because their loved ones are kept from visiting.  I understand what’s behind it, but the emotional cost of that is something we shouldn’t underestimate.

The worst part about the way the ancients treated leprosy is that most of the time people didn’t actually have leprosy: their lack of scientific knowledge led them to label as leprosy any kind of skin ailment.  The rules for dealing with people with these diseases were based on fear: they didn’t want to contract the disease themselves, so the “clean” ones ostracized those with disease, treating them as if they didn’t exist.

Jesus, obviously, didn’t agree with that kind of way of “treating” the illness of leprosy.  He didn’t really have any more scientific resources at that time to treat the disease, but it wasn’t the disease he was concerned about.  No, he was concerned about the person, not the illness.  And so he does not take offense when the leper breaks the Levitical law that we heard in our first reading and actually approaches Jesus.  Jesus, too breaks the law by reaching out to touch him and saying, with an authority that comes from God himself, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”

The thing is, we don’t treat lepers very well today, either.  I don’t mean people who have the actual disease of leprosy – that is actually pretty rare, very treatable, and even curable, in this day and age.  What I mean is that there are a lot of leprosies out there.  Some people tend to ostracize a loved one when they contract a difficult disease, like cancer.  They can’t bear the thought of death, or they don’t like hospitals, or they feel powerless to help in these situations, so they stay away.  Hospitals and nursing homes are full of people who never receive a visit from family or friends.  Right now, with the pandemic, it’s not possible, but in times when it is, a lot of people don’t get visited.  Our pastoral care ministers could probably tell you many heart-breaking stories with that theme.

And leprosy doesn’t apply just to sick people.  People who are different in any way are subject to ostracization: people who have different color skin than us, people who are not Catholic or not Christian, people who are homosexual, people who are poor or homeless.  All of these we treat from a distance, keeping them outside the community, outside of means of support, outside of the love of God in just the same way the ancients dealt with lepers.  We have a tendency to label people and then write them off.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad God doesn’t treat broken people that way.  Because then I might be cut off because of the brokenness of my many sins.  We all have something in us that is unclean, and it would be woe for us if God just wrote us off.  He doesn’t.  He reaches out to touch us to, exactly where we are at, without fear of contracting the illness of our sin himself, and heals us from the inside out.  “I do will it.  Be made clean.”

Our religion, thankfully, has rituals for the things that infest us.  When we are sick, there is the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  When we are sinful, there is the sacrament of Penance.  We call these the sacraments of healing, because they do just that: give us God’s grace when we are sick or dying, and his forgiveness and mercy when we have sinned.

Many people misunderstand the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  No longer do we think of that as something to be done at the last possible moment.  It should be done as soon as it is known that a person is gravely ill.  We rely on doctors to tell us that.  It should be done before someone has serious surgery.  It should be done when a person is suffering from mental illness of any kind.  It might be done more than once: when a person is first diagnosed, for example, and then again when they are near death, or when the illness is worse in any way.  It should be done at a hospital or nursing home, or in a person’s home, or even here at church.  Wherever the person is or is most comfortable.  We are also having a Mass with Anointing of the Sick during Lent here in church.  The sacrament provides grace to live through an illness, or mercy on the journey to eternity, sometimes even healing if that is what God knows to be good for the person.  Please don’t wait until a person has just moments left to send for a priest, don’t be afraid to ask us to anoint you before surgery, and don’t assume that if you’re in the hospital, we will know – they can’t really tell us that any more.

As for the Sacrament of Penance, there are many opportunities to celebrate that sacrament: Saturdays at 2:30 pm, and during Lent, starting this Friday, we will have a confessions on Fridays at 6pm.  The problem can sometimes be that a person feels embarrassed to go to Confession if they’ve been away from the sacrament for a long time.  Don’t be.  It’s our job to help you make a good Confession, and we are absolutely committed to doing that.  Your sins don’t make us think less of you; in fact I always have deep respect for the person who lowers his or her defenses and lets God have mercy on them.

These are wonderful sacraments of healing.  God gives them to us because he will not be like those living in Levitical times.  Just as he reached out to the leper in today’s Gospel, so Christ longs to reach out and touch all of us in our brokenness, in our uncleanness, and make us whole again.  As the Psalmist sings today, so we can pray: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”   Praise God for Jesus’ words today: “I do will it.  Be made clean!”

Homilies Ordinary Time

Friday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

In today’s readings we have two different ways of approaching God, with two different outcomes. 

In our first reading, we have the story of the fall of humanity from Genesis, the first book in the Bible.  Over the past week, we have heard the stories of creation: how God created the world, the universe, and everything in them.  The most glorious of all his creation was the creation of man and woman, the first humans, the only part of creation that was made in God’s image and likeness, the ones for which God created everything else that he created.  All of his creation was good; it had to be made good so that it would be good enough for the people he created in love, to love.

And we know the story: the minute God leaves the people to themselves to explore the world in all its wonder, they eat the fruit of the forbidden tree.  They are tempted by the devil who had to absolutely hate the goodness of creation, because the devil never loves anything, let alone anything good.  So he works against the people and against God and convinces the woman, and she the man, that they should have something they weren’t supposed to have.  He made them desire it more than anything, even though God had given them everything they need and then some.

When we think about it, it almost seems unfair, right?  I mean, what’s the big deal about eating some fruit?  Why was that so bad?  Here’s the problem with it.  The devil made them want something that wasn’t God.  The people had everything: a place in paradise, and a loving relationship with God.  But the devil convinced them to want a piece of fruit more than they wanted that loving relationship with God.  And ever since, we have been doing that.  God still wants us and makes us in love.  But we so often turn away because we want something more than we want that loving relationship with God.

Now, look at the Gospel.  The people bring Jesus a man that was suffering for a long time.  He had a speech impediment and couldn’t say anything, let alone give praise to God.  But he turned to God instead of turning away, and he received the gift of speech.  And with that healing, with that gift of speech, his relationship with God became more than it ever was.  Even though Jesus asked him not to, his new voice couldn’t stop praising God!

Friends, for way too long, we have wanted stuff more than we have wanted God.  But if we would get it right and give ourselves to him, he might just heal us and give us a voice that can proclaim love, and peace, and grace, and healing, and justice, and joy – a voice that praises God and brings nothing but grace and healing to our hurting world.  So Lent starts next Wednesday, right?  What better time than Lent to think about what it is that we have been wanting more than we want God.  And then turn from that pain and let Jesus touch our tongue and give us grace to do more than we ever could on our own.

God made us for paradise, and we have to stop wanting to live broken lives, let Jesus heal us, and go into the world telling everyone what he has done for us.  Jesus has done all things well: he has made the deaf hear and the mute speak.  He wants to give us the voice we need to make our world better than ever.  We just have to let him.

Homilies Ordinary Time

Monday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Recognizing goodness in the world is an art form that brings happiness.  Too often in our day to day life, we run into others, and maybe it’s even ourselves, who seem to live to find fault with just about everything and everyone.  And sometimes it’s understandable: life is hard, and some days the bad seems to pile on so much that we can’t see anything good.  But I think we need to be constantly looking for the good if we ever want to find peace.

In today’s readings, there is goodness all over the place.  This morning we begin the reading of the creation narrative from Genesis.  Today we have the first four of the days, in which God creates day and night, the sky, sea and earth and everything that grows on it, and the sun, moon, and all the lights of the sky.  God’s reflection on these moments of creation is worth noting: he finds them good.

Just in case “good” doesn’t sound like much, we have to know that goodness is an attribute of God: God is goodness itself, goodness in its purest form, good beyond which nothing can be.  So when God says that something is good, He’s not just saying, “eh, you know, I guess it’s good,” but more like, “now, that’s good.”

And we can probably resonate in some way with that reflection.  Haven’t we been on vacation, you know, back when we could do those things without fear of a pandemic, and out on the road trip, we come across scenery that’s new to us: maybe a mountain range, or the shores of the ocean, or a beautiful canyon or forest range.  When we have taken that in, maybe we’ve gasped a breath of air, and thought, “now that’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen.”  We’ve noticed the goodness in it.

Perhaps, too, we can notice the goodness in a person God has created.  One whose love comes across brilliantly, a person who restores our faith in humanity.  Maybe when we’ve met someone like that, we might say to ourselves, “now she’s a good person” or “he’s really good to his loved ones.”  Hopefully, there are people in our lives in whom we have seen goodness.

People who look for goodness in the world are most likely to find it.  People who are on the lookout for people or places or creation that fills them with a sense of goodness are more likely to be close to God.  Our reflection today needs to take us on the hunt for goodness.  After we’ve left this place of worship, will we be ready to abandon seeing what’s wrong with everything and everyone, and instead look for what’s good?  Will we be ready to see the good things that God is giving us?  Will we be ready to see God?

Homilies Ordinary Time

The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It doesn’t take too much of our imagination to think of examples of suffering, having been through the last year of our lives.  All of us can probably think of someone we know who has suffered from COVID-19, or at least the scare of it, and many of us know of those who have died from the disease.  It has affected almost every aspect of our lives from the prospect of hugging our loved ones to eating out at a favorite restaurant.  Many have been affected economically in the last year, businesses closing, many people becoming unemployed.  Add to that the racial injustice, social unrest, political rancor, violence in our cities, and the reality of suffering is very real for all of us.

Suffering, though, is something of a mystery to us.  Today we hear it in our first reading: Job, the innocent man, has been the victim of Satan’s testing: he has lost his family and riches, and has been afflicted physically.  His friends have gathered around and given him all the popular answers of that time and place as to why he is suffering: namely, that he, or his ancestors, must have sinned and offended God, and so God allowed him to suffer in this way.  But Job rejects that thinking, as we all should: it is offensive.  Our sins have no doubt been huge, but this kind of thinking reduces God to a capricious child who throws away his toys when he tires of them.

That’s not Job’s God and it’s not our God either.  I’d like to say that we have eliminated that notion of why suffering happens, but sadly it persists.  Many people think they are being punished by God because of their sins when they are suffering.  And there is some logic to it: our sins do bring on sadness in this life.  Sin does have consequences, and while these consequences are not God’s will for us, they are a result of our poor choices.  But let us be clear that God does not penalize us in this way by willing our suffering.

In fact, God has such a distaste for our suffering, that he sent his only Son to come and redeem us.  Jesus was one who suffered too, remember: being nailed to the cross, dying for our sins – but even before that, weeping with those who wept for loved ones, lamenting the hardness of heart of the children of Israel, being tempted by the devil in the desert, even understanding the hungry crowd and miraculously providing a meal for them out of five loaves and a couple of fish.  Jesus felt our affliction and suffering personally, and never abandoned anyone engaged in it.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is found healing.  First Peter’s mother-in-law, and then those who came to him at sundown.  In this reading, Jesus is a sign of God’s desire to deal with suffering.  As Christians, we acknowledge the suffering in our midst, we do what we can to alleviate it, and we give it to our God who does not will our suffering, but who walks with us through it when it comes up in our lives.  Jesus doesn’t alleviate all pain from the world; some of that just persists.  But he never abandons those who are suffering: he didn’t in his earthly life and he doesn’t now.  We must do all that we can, in his Name, to alleviate the suffering of others, and then we must trust that our God who loves us beyond our imagining, will take care of the suffering that remains in the unfolding of eternity.

But the key here is that we care for those who suffer.  Indeed, we are partners with them in their suffering.  This weekend we kick off our annual diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal which funds the various ministries of the diocese of Joliet.  We at Saint Mary’s depend on these ministries to help us: educating seminarians like Frank, our new intern and Deacon John; and supporting the efforts of our school and religious education program.  In addition, through the efforts of Catholic Charities, housing is provided for those who are in need, and meals are served to the hungry.  Catholic Charities has partnered with us to bring the food trucks to our parish to help serve our hungry neighbors, especially during this pandemic.  We are blessed that we can come together as a diocese to provide these services, to “Shine the Light of Christ” on those who are in need.  You have received a mailing from the diocese about the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal over the last few weeks.  I ask you to join me in being as generous as you are able to be in this difficult time.

We can’t make all of the suffering in the whole world go away.  But we can do the little things that make others’ suffering a little less, helping them to know the healing presence of Christ, together.

Homilies Ordinary Time

The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Heaven knows there are a lot of experts out there, or at least people who claim to be experts.  That’s why blogs and comments posted on news stories and Facebook are so popular: everyone claims to know something about everything.  Or at least it sure seems that way.  Certainly, it should give us pause when we think about the quality of information we get from these sources.  We see that time and time again: Whether it’s sports news, political news, or even the weather, half the time what we hear is pure conjecture, and not something resembling the truth at all.  Why we give so much of our time to hearing it should frighten us.

This being the case, it should give us all the more pause when people give us their religious knowledge.  So often it starts with words like “I think…” or “In my opinion…” and perhaps ends with “I think that’s what’s right,” or “I think that’s what’s right for me,” or even, “that’s my truth.”  As if our opinion on what’s right is the truth.  But when it comes to faith and morals, it doesn’t matter what we think; our opinions are not truth, and the subjectivity of “what seems right for me” is completely useless.  Faith and morals are about the Truth – Truth with a capital “T”, and there is just one source for that knowledge, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Moses, that relationship with the Truth was life-giving.  He was close to the Lord.  He had been up the mountain and seen the Lord face-to-face, which no one was thought to be able to do and live.  So when he told the people what the Lord had said, they trusted him.  In today’s first reading, Moses seems to know that that trust would dwindle after his death, and so he foretells that a prophet would come after him one day, a prophet like Moses himself, who would have the Truth in him.  He was foreshadowing our Lord, of course.

So Jesus arrives in Capernaum, and you can almost feel the anticipation.  I imagine they had heard about Jesus and the things he said and did, and were probably eager to see what might transpire when he arrived in their town.  In the midst of teaching the people, he encounters a man with an unclean spirit.  And this is what illustrates the conflict.  The scribes were there.  These were the religious leaders of the people.  It was their job to write out and interpret the Scriptures and to be the resource of truth for their community.

But they didn’t.  For whatever reason, they had long since abandoned their vocation and focused instead on adherence to the rules and making profit on God’s word.  Thus, they were unable to cast out the spirit from the man, and in fact, they would more likely have cast the man himself out so that he wouldn’t be a disruption.  But in order to see what would happen, they didn’t cast him out; they left him for Jesus to deal with.

And Jesus does deal with him.  Only instead of casting the man out, he does what was more important and cast out the evil spirit.  The man wasn’t the problem; the evil spirit was.  That evil spirit was actually an icon, a photograph, of what was wrong with their religion: they tolerated the evil they could not control, and cared nothing for the people who needed their God.  The people are then astonished that his teaching was able to cleanse them from the evil in their midst.  This was a teaching with authority, and not the so-called teaching of their scribes.

I think this is what we have to catch.  There’s lots of teaching out there, but precious little of it with authority.  Broken political promises, self-help gurus on television and in books, blogs that claim to know where the world is headed – none of this has authority.  There is only one authority that can cleanse us of the evil amidst us, only one source of Truth and that is our Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to do much more listening to him than to the other noise that’s out there.  We need to catch the Gospel and not the latest gossip, and then put what we hear into practice.

If we would listen to our Lord’s teaching, it would indeed help us deal to with poverty, crime, violence, drugs, lack of respect for life, racism, healing a world plagued by a pandemic, and all the many other demons that are out there seeking to ruin us.  And so we have to tune in to the right message.  We have to seek the Truth and turn off all the noise.  Perhaps it’s time we made a retreat, or joined a Bible study or a book discussion or a prayer group, all of which we offer here at the parish all the time.  Lent is coming up in two weeks.  Now would be a good time to take advantage of our parish’s Lenten offerings to bring us closer to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

We have to give way more attention to our prayer lives and put God’s love and God’s will first.  If all we’re hearing is the lies, we’ll never get rid of the demons in our midst.  But if we would listen to the Truth, if we would harden not our hearts, we will indeed find ourselves healed, and then our land blessed, and all the world made right.

Homilies Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Faith is that moment in our walk with the Lord when we have to put our money where our mouth is.  Faith says that we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and that who he says he is has a profound impact on our life.  It’s easy to have faith when things are going well, isn’t it?  When there’s not a pandemic, and when we can live our lives the way we want to, and when we can see our loved ones wherever and whenever we want to, and actually hug them, when we’re not worried about disease or illness or social unrest or political bickering or job insecurity or family issues or whatever the crisis is, it’s easy to have faith then, right?

But when things get crazy, well.  That’s a whole different thing.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is very right when he says that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  Because faith is real when you have to step out of your comfort zone.  Abraham literally took a step in faith when he went to a foreign country and believed that, though Sarah was sterile, God would provide descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. 

But most of us would probably fare little better than the apostles in the boat in today’s Gospel reading.  The moment a little storm comes along, or even a big one, we forget that God cares about us and we feel as though we are perishing in the middle of the night on the sea. 

So where are you on the faith journey?  Are you taking that step into the unknown like Abraham?  Or are you freaking out in the storm?  If it’s the second thing, maybe today it would help to name the storm, to recognize what it’s doing to you, doing to your faith life.  Because the unnamed storms can’t be addressed.  When we know what they are, we can bring them to Jesus, who does actually care about us, who does not desire our perishing, and who longs to shout into that storm, “Quiet, be still!”

If the wind and the sea obey him, so will the storms that are raging in us right now.  They really will.

Homilies Ordinary Time

The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Repentance, friends, is a highly underrated activity.

I remember back in 2012, just after we started using the new translation of the Roman Missal, on Ash Wednesday, I was giving folks their ashes.  As I usually do, I used both of the little instructions as I gave the ashes.  One of them says this: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  That’s a direct quote, by the way, from today’s Gospel reading. But it was a change, because it used to say, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”  After Mass, a parent came to me visibly upset, because I had told her teenage daughter to repent.  As if teenagers have no need of repentance.  Hey, we all do.  I do, you do, we all need to repent.  If we didn’t need to repent, we wouldn’t need Jesus, and if we don’t need Jesus, we don’t need heaven, and then we know where we are.  In fact, Jesus was always criticizing the religious establishment for being people who had no need of repentance.  He was clear about saying they would not enter the kingdom of God.

So I think repentance is a great spiritual practice.  It’s that practice that gives us a second chance, and a third, and a thousandth, and whatever, because our God never gets tired of forgiving us and showing us mercy.  Pope Francis has said that the sad thing is that we get tired of asking for mercy, when God is ready to give it time and again.  That, friends, is why we have the sacrament of Penance, where we can come in to the place of confession, and leave our sins behind, restoring our relationship with God, with the Church, and with the people in our lives.  Repentance is powerful and has profound implications on where we will spend eternity.  Repentance is the greatest gift to our spiritual lives.

If we do it.

And we need to do it right now, we can’t put repentance off for another day or when things quiet down a little or when we’re done loving our sins.  One of the things that I think plagues us modern people is that we tend to have delusions of eternity.  By that I mean, we tend to have a view that we have all the time in the world, and so we put off things that are truly important, things like repentance, because we always think we have plenty of time.  We put off going to confession, because we don’t have time to think about that right now, and besides it takes time to examine our conscience.  We put off being of service, because the kids have sports and we don’t even know where to start.  We put off our prayer life, or going to Mass, because we’re exhausted and it’s hard to quiet ourselves and let God speak to us.  It’s no wonder someone once said, “One of the greatest labor-saving inventions of today is tomorrow.”

So the readings today really speak to us.  In our first reading, after some procrastinating of his own, and ending up in the belly of a big fish, God has him disgorged on the shores of Nineveh to do what he was sent to do: preach repentance to the Ninevites.  The Ninevites were unspeakably evil to the Israelites, so it’s no wonder Jonah dragged his feet when it came to preaching to them.  Why would they listen to him?  And who cares if they didn’t?  Let God destroy them, he thought, and be out of our hair forever.  It seems Jonah had some repenting to do too.  So he preaches repentance to them, and notice what happens: they immediately put on sackcloth and ashes and take up a fast.  They do repent of their evil deeds, and do penance right away, and thus God relents and cancels the punishment he had planned to inflict on them.

In our second reading, Saint Paul is very clear with the Corinthians: time is running out.  And because time is running out, there is no time like the present to cast off the concerns of this earthly existence.  So stop worrying about purely human relationships, stop worrying about weeping, rejoicing, buying and selling and using the world.  Because there’s not going to be a world here for long.

Now, I should mention that Saint Paul was certainly writing out of the view that people of his day generally had, which is that the second coming of Christ and the final judgment would happen very soon.  It did not, obviously, happen in their lifetimes, but the message is still valid.  We don’t know how much time we will have, and so ultimately we must always be prepared to go to heaven.  We can’t be putting it off: we have to cast off cares that are purely rooted in this life, repent of our sinfulness, and hitch our wagons to a relationship with Jesus Christ that alone will bring us to the life to come.

And so we see the issue brought out in the call of the first apostles.  Jesus preaches the kingdom of God with a call to repentance.  This, by the way, is the third luminous mystery of the rosary.  In his preaching, Jesus passes by a fishing town and calls to Andrew, Peter, James and John.  They don’t hesitate for a second when he tells them to “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  They leave behind the boats, their fishing equipment, their family and even the workers who were hired to help them and follow Jesus.

Whatever the motivation for that quick change in life may have been, we need to see that when they are called, they follow immediately.  They don’t put it off; they don’t say, hey, let us bring in fish for today and send the hired men home.  They don’t ask for time to say goodbye to their family, they don’t hesitate even for a moment.  There is no time like the present: come, follow me.

We disciples also are called to be fishers of men.  And there is no time like the present.  We may not have tomorrow, so we have to repent of the things that hold us back from being effective disciples and hold us back from pursuing the life of heaven, and then preach the Good News to those God puts in our path, through our words and most importantly through our actions.  We don’t know when Jesus will return in glory and demand – as he is most worthy to demand – an accounting of our life and our blessings, so we have to do it right this minute.  

And this week, in remembrance of the sad decision of Roe v Wade in 1973, we have to be a people who pray and write our legislators and take a stand for life in any way we can.  Thousands of babies die from abortion every year, the sick elderly are ignored, racism and discrimination continue even in this day and age, and so much more.  We know, we have been taught, that life is precious from conception to natural death.  We need to tell the world how urgent that is so that no more lives would be wasted or suppressed for convenience.

The work of discipleship is of the utmost importance and is extremely urgent, souls need to be saved, hearts need to be won for the kingdom, lives need to be changed – and so we have to be willing to do it right now, not just when we’re good and ready, not when we have a few moments, not when things settle down a bit.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.

The Kingdom of God is that important, brothers and sisters.  When will we respond?  When will we give everything to follow God’s call in our own lives?  It better be now, because the world as we know it is passing away.

Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

My eldest niece is going to graduate from college this year; I can’t believe how time has flown.  But back when she was little, she knew how to wrap Uncle Patrick around her little finger.  I remember one time when we were out at the mall – you know, back when we could do things like that! – she said something like, “If you want, you can buy me a cookie.”  It reminded me of the way the leper approached Jesus in today’s Gospel.  And my niece found out that I did indeed want to buy her a cookie!

You know, the most amazing thing about this miracle isn’t really the miracle itself.  Sure, cleansing someone of leprosy is a big deal.  But for me, the real miracle here surrounds those first three words the leper says to Jesus, “If you wish…”  “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Isn’t it true that we so often wonder about God’s will for our lives?  Especially when we’re going through something tragic, or chronically frustrating, we can wonder how this all fits into God’s plan for us.  If God wishes, he can cleanse us, forgive us, heal us, turn our lives around.  But sometimes we just aren’t sure what God wishes to do in our lives.  Sometimes I think, we underestimate God’s concern for us.

And here the poor leper finds out that healing is indeed God’s will for him.  But not just the kind of healing that wipes out leprosy.  Sure, that’s what everyone saw.  But the real healing happened in that leper’s heart.  He surely wondered if God cared about him at all, just as we so often do, and in Jesus’ healing words – “I do will it” – he found out that God cared for him greatly.

Not all of us are going to have this kind of miraculous encounter with God.  But we certainly all ask the question “what does God will for me?” at some point in our lives.  As we come to the Eucharist today, perhaps we all can ask that sort of question.  Reaching out to receive our Lord, may we pray “If you wish, you can feed me.”  “If you wish, you can pour out your blood to wipe away my sins.”  “If you wish, you can strengthen my faith.”  “If you wish you can make me new.”  “If you wish, you can take away my doubt.” “If you wish, you can heal my family.”  “If you wish, you can heal our nation.” 

What does God wish to do in your life?

Homilies Ordinary Time

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Our worshipping in these last days of the Church year is often difficult, I think, because these readings are just hard to hear.  The readings from Revelation this week have been confusing, to say the least, and maybe even a little frightening.  And even if we could ignore the fright of the Revelation, well the Gospel is a bit more violent this morning than we’d like to experience first thing in the morning, I think.

But there is a spiritual principle at work here.  We are being called to mindfulness.  If during this liturgical year we’ve been a little lax, or even have become complacent, these readings are calling us to wake up lest we miss what God is doing.  God is bringing the whole of creation to its fulfillment, and we are called to be witnesses of it.  We dare not be like those who missed the time of their visitation.  We have been given the wonderful gift of Christ’s presence in our lives all year long, and we are asked to look back at where that wonderful gift has taken us.

And if we haven’t come as far as we should, then we are called to wake up and realize what’s slipping away from us.  We must not be left out of the kingdom, all our hopes smashed to the ground, all because we didn’t recognize that our greatest hope was right in front of us all the time. We know the time is running short.  The days are shorter, and night approaches more quickly than we’d like.  The leaves have gone from the trees.  The nip in the air has turned to cold and even frost.  These are the physical manifestations of creation groaning to come to its fulfillment, at least for the meteorological year.

But if the encroaching winter leaves us empty and aching for warmth, then these final days of the Church year might find us also aching for the warmth of the kingdom, that kingdom we were created to live in all our days.  Let us not be like Jerusalem; we dare not miss the time of our visitation!