Archive for the ‘21st Sunday’ Category

Blessed Are You 8-23-2020

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

They were surrounding him. They were simple people:
his disciples, fishermen, people who did not think very much
of themselves. People nobody thought very much of.
Nobody ever asked their opinions. Nobody ever paid much
attention to what they thought or felt. The people who
mattered looked down on them. They smelled of fish. The
smell came out of their hair and out of their clothing.
And now Jesus whom they had followed as their model,
whom they had imitated like children, whom they were
surprised to be allowed to follow, asked them, “What name
would you give me? Who do you people say that I am?”
They could not believe their ears. It was impossible that
he was asking for their opinion. That is why they started
telling him what the scribes, the priests, the Pharisees, the
political leaders, and the important ones were saying. They answered, “They say, those other ones say that you are John
the Baptizer, others say Jeremiah, others Elijah, and again
others, one of the prophets.”
Then he said, “But you, who do you say I am?” They
looked at one another. Was he really going to pay attention
to what they thought? Again they looked at one another.
They nudged Peter, who was obviously their leader, and he
said, “I know who you are, we know who you are. You are
the Messiah, you are the Son of the Living God.”
And then Jesus said something strange. He said, “Peter,
how blessed you are because you do not say that of yourself.
What you said came from God, God in you.”
What Jesus said of Peter, he also said to us. I pray that we
believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I pray that we believe that
Jesus is the Son of God. I hope that is the reason we come
together today. That same God who was in Peter must be in us. We are
charged with God’s spirit. We are full of the Son’s spirit.
God is in us.
A lot of us have the bad habit of thinking of ourselves as
totally negative, as non-participants in so many affairs, as in
a sense, good-for-nothing. Just like the early disciples
thought of themselves.
Others are important – others are leading the world. We
forget the good in us – we forget God in us. We overlook our
potential – our dignity.
I read about an African Bishop, who was described as a
contemporary saint by TIME magazine. He was from
Tanzania. Bishop Christopher said we need two types of
confessional boxes in our churches, some at the right side and
some at the left side. In the left ones, you confess your sins,
getting as a penance to go to the right side with the obligation
to confess honestly the good you did, the good in you, the God in you. That is what Jesus said of Peter. Blessed are you, Peter. God is with you. That is what I say to you. God
is with you – in you. Don’t forget it! Live like you believe
it. Blessed are you!

The Narrow Door 8-25-2019

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could
use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes,
here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my
category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into
experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical,
and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I
became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to.
To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I
figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this
note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…
please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused
you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole
family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life.
Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone
and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was
praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation
program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was
then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace
and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn
more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I
must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come
into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has
blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in
my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself
more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely your, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The
door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris
from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder
how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to
struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat
Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians
are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in
stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the
wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose
them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but
because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke
22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like
it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow
Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and
the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown.
They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to
themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can
I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I
love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they
follow the Gospel.
Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name
only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide
serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone
pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not
because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are
Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a
sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do
we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only
through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-
boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft
Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before
us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.

Yes we should be talking about Sex Abuse in Church 8-26-2018

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

When I was pastor in a parish called Madonna del Sasso, I was involved in the building of a wonderful parish hall. It was very exciting for me to see this building come up and how it met the needs of the community as your parish hall has done for you. It was very interesting for me to see the foundation being prepared. I learned a lot about all the ingredients and exacting preparation that goes into making a solid foundation….a foundation that will be strong and secure enough to withstand all the various storms that will come its way.

We are often reminded that the Church, the Catholic Church to be specific, needs a solid and secure foundation…and that foundation is JESUS CHRIST. If you flip through the pages of history you see that the Catholic Church has endured many serious storms. I believe this to be true only because of its foundation…JESUS CHRIST.

The Catholic Church today is going through some serious storms. I honestly feel one of the most serious is the sexual misconduct of priests and all the hurt, pain and mistrust that goes along with that unhealthy behavior. As a Catholic priest for 46 years I would like to share with you some personal reflections about this “storm”.

I think some are quick to say that we shouldn’t be talking about this topic in church…I believe we should. It is going on in our Church family and as disgusting and repulsive as it may be, it needs to be faced and named. Along with that, we need to constructively and honestly deal with it… so real healing can take place and trust can be slowly restored.

As a human being, as a lifelong Catholic, and as a priest, I am very embarrassed, discouraged, hurt and angered by what I see on TV and Internet, read in newspapers and magazines, and hear people talking about it wherever I go…. about how some priests have sexually used and abused people of various ages….how some church leadership has covered things up, moved priest from place to place and pretended that nothing was wrong. As hard as it is to hear these things…they are true….and we must deal with them.

As a human being, as a lifelong Catholic, and as a priest who is committed to helping the Church grow, heal and deal more openly with its problems and weaknesses and not just point a critical and negative finger of judgment at “those people”
-I apologize for the devastating damage that some priests have inflicted on innocent people…on any of you.
-I apologize to any of the victims and their families and I promise that I will keep them in my daily prayers
-I apologize to the parishioners who sit in the pews, Sunday after Sunday and repeatedly have to hear the statement, “What is wrong with your Church?”
I want to assure you that my apologies are not made simply to be politically correct, rather they are sincere.

I assure you, that in our Diocese under Bishops Ryan, Garcia and Wilkerson’s leadership, there is an open, honest, fair process that has been established to face such issues and not cover them up. I offer an open invitation from myself and from our Bishop, to you and anyone else, to help heal any damage….whatever it takes.

So consequently, how do you or I keep this storm in perspective, not be overwhelmed by it and not mistrust every priest brother and sister we meet? For me, I recall all the priests, sisters, and brothers who have impacted my life in a positive way with love, sensitivity, care and concern over the years. I try to keep in mind that it is a small percentage of all priests who have done these awful deeds. I am saddened when I hear priests say things like, “I’ll never be seen around kids” or “you’ll never find me over at the school or at the CCD classes.”

Because, I love these young people and realize what a great gift they are to our Church, I will not let the sins of a few or the somewhat understandable mistrusting looks of others, keep me from ministering to young people and kids in the Church as I have done for the past 46 years.

I pray that our Church will learn some great lessons from this storm and that some things that need to change will change. During this time we need to constantly ask ourselves: What can we learn from this? How can we grow from this to fully become the Church of Jesus Christ?

We need to remind ourselves often, that we cannot make the foundation of our faith or the foundation of the church, a particular priest, sister or brother. It is unfair and unrealistic for everyone concerned. Signs of earned respect and affirmation are necessary but putting anyone on a pedestal is a very unhealthy posture.

In closing, I pray that we have the heart of Jesus Christ…a heart that is filled with compassion for those that are hurt and abused… a heart of forgiveness for those who inflict abuse, even if they are not on my list of those who deserve forgiveness… a heart that is not quick to judge and condemn those accused… a heart that is committed to building the church that is always in need of healing and growth…and a heart that is not afraid to ask and answer the HARD questions.