Sunday, July 15, 2018

Will You Go...Will You?

15 Sun OT - Yr B - 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville


There I was…minding my own business.  I was a software developer and a business consultant.  But Jesus tapped me on the shoulder…told me to go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.  That’s how it happened, really.  I was driving home from work on Friday afternoon – a beautiful Friday afternoon, on my way to a hot date.  I was drinking all the pleasure and success this life had to offer and enjoying every minute of it!  Windows down, sunroof open, good music a little too loud on the radio.  Stopped at a red light, all of a sudden I said out loud over the music, “I should go be a monk like Thomas Merton.”  That was the spring of 2003.  Here we are 15 years later.  What an Adventure!!  

I get what Amos was saying.  ‘Look here – cut me some slack!  I wasn’t a prophet.  I was minding my own business – I was a shepherd and a forester when God grabbed hold of me and told me to go and spread the news that God loves them and wants to call them back to Him.’  That story is repeated over and over again in the human history all over the world and since the beginning of time.  

Moses.  Abraham.  Ruth.  Peter & Andrew.  James & John.  Mary Magdalen.  Matthew.  Mother Theresa.  John Paul II.  Fr. Alan. 

And you…

//

Every great story in Sacred Scripture either begins or ends with God sending someone to go tell other people the Good News that He loves them.  Every story with God involves two pieces at some point.  The first is God getting our attention, helping us turn to find and encounter Him – and the second is God sending us to share the Good News that He loves us with others.  That’s the Great Adventure of the Christian life…and until we’re living life that way, we’ll be missing something.  We’ll be somehow unfulfilled.  Our relationship with God will be somehow incomplete.  The glimmer of Adventure will be missing from our step, from our smile, from our lives.

//

And you know what’s most amazing?  God sends us with what we already have!  What a strange plan this is!  Jesus sent his disciples with nothing more than what they already had.  'Don't go home first, don't pack extras just in case, and don’t use the need to stockpile supplies or get stronger in your faith, or learn how to share the story with others as an excuse or a delay.  All you need is what you’ve got right now - I’ll provide whatever else you need.'  

That sounds like a tall order, doesn't it?  But here's the irony: being willing to go with only what you already have is as easy as taking the first step.  It requires no preparation, no planning, and no delay.  And it eliminates - completely eradicates - all the excuses that keep us locked in indecision and sometimes leaves us never starting out in the first place.

How many times have you felt the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in your heart to step out in faith and witness to the Gospel, but said to yourself, ‘I’ll do that one day…once I’ve had a chance to learn more about my faith.’ How often have we said, ‘I really want to get involved in this ministry of the Church, and I will…once I have more time, or money, or confidence, or…’ - well… you can fill in the blank.  

If we pay careful attention to today’s Gospel, we see that Jesus sent them with what they already had right there with them – because what they already had was enough:  they knew Jesus, and they had one another.  That’s all it takes.  And you know what friends, you and I already have that, too.  We know Jesus, and we’ve got one another.  That means we’re fully stocked and ready to go…

//

Some of you God is asking to pack just enough to last a semester and head off to seminary – some of you God is calling to the priesthood – some of you God is calling to religious life, taking even less than the seminarians with you.  I pray every day that you’ll find the courage to say yes to that call.  

But God doesn’t only call priests and religious.  God calls us to spread the Gospel to Northpoint Prison, and to share His love in the nursing homes.  He calls us to spread the Good News to our neighbors.  God calls us to love, and serve, and carry the good news all around us.  Us – not me alone – us.  The spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is our mission and ministry, not mine.  All those things some of you think I should be doing could be God nudging you to see that you should be doing.  Mission and ministry is not reserved for the priest; in fact, in the mind of the Church, my job is to prepare you and send you just like I do at the end of every Mass.  What are you doing for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls?  Where are you going – who are you bringing the love of Jesus to?

You see, God doesn’t only call priests and religious.  He calls doctors and lawyers and teachers and electricians and accountants and engineers and stay-home moms & dads and business owners and retirees and you-name-its!  

In St. Matthew’s version of the Gospel story we heard today, Jesus sees the world around Him and His Sacred Heart is filled with compassion for the tiredness of the world – the tiredness, loneliness, hunger & thirst, hopelessness and despair.  He looks around, and His Sacred Heart is filled with compassion because the world around Him was like sheep without a Shepherd.  And you know what He did?  Jesus sent his disciples to the world in need with no delay – and He does the same thing today.  He sends us, if we’ll go…

//

Friends…have you seen the world around us?  Have you watched the videos on Facebook or seen the reports on the evening news?  Have you looked – really looked – at the tiredness, loneliness, hunger & thirst, hopelessness and despair in the world around us today – in our neighborhoods and schools and service agencies today?  It’ll break your heart!  It’ll take your breath away.  And you know what Jesus does when He sees it?  The same thing He did two thousand years ago:  He sends us our from this place to the world in need.  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”  That sound familiar?

You have all it takes to be sent if you’ll go: you know Jesus and you’ve got this community of faith.  You have all it takes…if you’ll go.  

Will you go?

Where will you go this week to bring the light and love of Jesus to the world around you?

Where will you go?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Stealing Your Extra...

13 Sun OT - Yr B - 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville


As you excel in faith, discourse, knowledge, earnestness, and love…may you also excel in following the example of Jesus to give from your richness so that others might become rich.

At first, the prisoners looked back at me as if I were a crazy man.  Literally – the facial expressions said, “Father – you’re WACK! What the heck are you talking about?”  It was Thursday afternoon at Northpoint prison and we were celebrating the Mass we’re now celebrating.  They’d heard the readings we just heard, and when I stood up to preach the homily I said, “The Church teaches us that the abundance of your riches belong to the poor who don’t have enough.”  What the…?  He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?  Anybody remember that old TV show called Different Strokes, with Gary Coleman playing Arnold, the younger brother.  “What you talkin’ bout Willis?”  Yep – that was the look on their faces.

But that’s what I told them.  And it’s one of the cornerstone principles of Catholic Social teaching, rooted in Sacred Scripture like our second reading today.  Whatever you have that is “extra” belongs to those who go without.  If you keep your extra – if you save your extra – if you store up your extra – you’re not just being uncharitable, the Church’s teaching takes it a step farther: you’re stealing it from the poor, because your extra belongs to the them.

If I have $25, and I only need $20…if I keep that extra $5, I’m not just stingy – I’m a thief.  Because, according to the teaching of the Church, that $5 belongs to the poor.  It’s right there in the second reading: “…your abundance at the present time should supply their needs…”  Whatever you have that is extra belongs to those who do not have what they need.  If you have two coats, and your neighbor has no coats, one of your coats already belongs to the person who doesn’t have one.  If you keep it in your closet… you’re stealing something that doesn’t belong to you.  Uh oh…that’s uncomfortable….

//

Our Finance Council might be hoping I’ll take this as an opportunity to mention that we’re finishing our current fiscal year about $20,000 short of our offertory budget for the past year.  I could take this opportunity say that we need all of our families to see whether or not they have just $10 more they could share with the parish each week so we can get back on track.  (The numbers work out even better than that, actually…if 150 families were to add just $10 a week to their routine giving, we’d actually be right where we should be for the coming year.)  

But today…today I want to talk about something besides money.  Your offering is important – it’s what enables us to worship God well in this beautiful Church – it’s what enables us to plant and nurture the seed of faith in the lives of our young people – it’s what enables us to provide rent and utility assistance to others in our community when they’re desperate – it’s what enables us to provide more than 400 meals a month to hungry people in the community.  Your offerings are important…but we have other treasures to share…

//

If we were to try to make a list of what we truly have an abundance of in this parish family – what might we come up with?  I believe we’d come up with a list of our riches that the community around us needs even more desperately than they need food, clothing, shelter, and money.  The Scripture invites us to look at what we have in rich abundance, and give it freely – to take it to them who need it most – to offer it in a way they can accept it.

I’ve been here as your Pastor for two years this weekend.  I’ve come to see our abundance.  Let’s make this list together and see if you see what I see.  We have an abundance of love.  We love God, we love the faith, we love our parish and we love one another.  We have an abundance of love…and an abundance of welcome.  We introduce ourselves, we greet one another and the visitor and newcomer.  We have an abundance of love, and welcome, and care.  We really care for others.  We care for their souls – we want to help everyone draw closer to Jesus – and we care for their bodies – we pray for healing, we visit the sick and shut in and imprisoned – we care for minds – we bare one another’s burdens.  We have an abundance of love, welcome, care and friendship.  We’re good friends in this parish – or at least we try to be.  We smile, we greet, we say, “How you doin’?” and we mean it.  We are so rich in this parish family…rich in things that so many who live within a stone’s throw of our Church building and our places of work and hour homes – we’re rich in things that those who live and work around us so desperately need!

And that abundance…our abundance – our extra – belongs to those who don’t have enough love, or welcome, or care, or friendship.  If  we keep all that to ourselves, we’re stealing it from them.  

//

Paul admonishes us today to share from our abundance… “…not that others should have relief while [we] are burdened, but that as a matter of equality [our] abundance at the present time should supply their needs…”  The world we live in is in desperate need of what we have:  love, welcome, care and friendship.  Scatter our plenty around this community, friends.  Take it to them, and invite them to come here to this place to receive from our common table of plenty.  

It’s simple – if you’ll do it.  Think right now:  who do you know who is in desperate need of love.  Bring them with you to Church next weekend.  Who needs welcome?  Bring them to the next after Mass fellowship.  Who needs care?  Get the information about Steven Ministry available after Mass and put them in contact with our care-giving team.  Who needs friendship – invite them for a cup of coffee and share with them the friendship you find in our family of faith.  

Our parish family is a rich storehouse of love, welcome, care, and friendship…and it belongs to those who go without them.  Our mission is to bring it to them – and bring them to the table of plenty here in this place.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

When God Calls...

Nativity of St. John the Baptist - Yr B - 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

I’ve often wondered at the story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John – the story we hear in the Gospel readings for this weekend – part of the story at the Vigil and the rest of the story on Sunday morning.  We know the story pretty well, I think.  Zechariah & Elizabeth were a good and holy couple – “righteous in the eyes of God” and living “blamelessly.”  Late in life Zechariah was to have the special honor and responsibility of entering the “Holy of Holies” to burn incense before God Himself.  He enters the temple and goes in to the holiest of places to light incense.  And just as the smoke gets started...Gabriel appears!  Friends, when Gabriel shows up, something is about to go down.  Like dramatic music that starts playing in the background during a good movie, Gabriel on the scene means something’s up.  "Zechariah - the prayers you and Elizabeth have prayed for many years are going to be answered.  Elizabeth is going to have a baby - and he will be even greater than all of the prophets that have ever been."


“Uh…say what?”  I’ve seen that same look on some of your faces, for example, when I’ve suggested to you that your sons might have a vocation to the priesthood or your daughters a vocation to religious life.  Or when I’ve asked some of you to consider whether God might be calling you to priesthood or religious life.  “Uh – wow – thanks for the compliment Father…butttttt…that’s not the plan.”  We make our plans, don’t we?  And when God needs to step in to them for the good of the Gospel, we sometimes balk a little bit…or a lot.  

So, Zechariah is in good company when he says, “Nice thought, Gabriel, and I appreciate the visit.  But…that’s just not gonna’ happen.”  Zechariah isn't thinking like a person of faith in this moment, and who could blame him!?!  God’s messenger had just asked for the impossible.  But, Zechariah is forgetting that every call in Scripture begins with a disbelief, an impossibility, and a reasonable objection.  Think about it a moment.  You know the stories.  Moses.  “But I don’t talk so good – and who will believe you sent me.”  Jonah – who’s only reply at first was to go the exact opposite direction from the one God had asked him to go.  Jeremiah – who tried to tell God that he was too young.  Zechariah is in the same basic situation as all of them, and he acts at first in the same way.  And so does God. 

Every time God calls us to do something important for the kingdom, the story begins in the same way, with some sort of disbelief or objection.  And in every case, God says (in one way or another), “Listen to me, trust me.  This is a good and holy thing.  I’ll go with you – I’ll do this with you and for you if you’ll just say yes.  So…what do you say?”

//

What stands out to me is the difference between Zechariah’s experience and Mary’s.  Mary was presented with the same sort of call, but she reacts differently – and it goes differently with her.  Zechariah is struck dumb – made unable to speak after learning the part he is to play in the plan of salvation; Mary is sent on a journey to visit Elizabeth and begin her life of love and service to others.  And what accounts for the difference?  I think it is in their responses.

Mary asks an honest question: How can this be since I have known not a man? She asks a question, but remains open and willing for whatever God needs from her:  OK then, whatever you need – count me in.  I don’t know how you’re gonna’ do it…but that’s up to You, God.  Count me in – I’m on board – You lead, I’ll follow.  

Mary asks an honest question, but what does Zechariah do?  He asks for proof and sets himself against the plan saying it’s impossible: “How will I know this is so?  For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  When faced with the impossible call from God, Mary asks her question but opens herself to the mystery and working of God, while Zechariah asks for proof and resists based on what seems to him to be an impossibility.  And what happens next – for both of them?  Mary is sent on a mission and the word of God begins to grow within her, while Zechariah is struck dumb – made unable to speak; made to be without words – until he is ready to speak in accordance with God’s wonderful and miraculous plan.  “Because you did not believe my words…you will become mute until the day these things occur.”  

//

There is a pattern in the Christian life – in the life and experience of every disciple of Jesus Christ.  A pattern that becomes clearer when we look at the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Nativity of the Lord.  God calls sometimes when we least expect it – and He calls us to do the unplanned and seemingly impossible.  Lead this parish committee.  Join the parish’s evangelization efforts.  Sign up for this mission trip.  Help with the parish Youth Group.  Become a lector, an altar server, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a Stephen Minister.  Support your child’s discernment toward priesthood or religious life.  Listen to God calling you to the convent or the seminary.  God shows up when we least expect it, when our plans for the future are mapped out and settled – and He calls us to do the unplanned, the uncomfortable, sometimes what even seems impossible.  And then He waits…

…when we respond like Zechariah – when we demand proof or hold back because it seems impossible, uncomfortable, or inconvenient, in one way or another God will quiet us until we’re able to really hear Him clearly.  Sometimes our spiritual life goes stale.  Sometimes we get fascinated with the world and ponder its attractions and allurements until they lose their shine.  Sometimes God just gets very quiet, and lets us go do our own thing, waiting patiently for us to turn to look toward Him again.  And when we’re ready to acknowledge the call – when we’re ready to let God be God and work His mighty wonders in our lives, His power and love and goodness flow through us and He “unseals our lips” –  having connected again with the power of God we too begin to speak as Zechariah did, praising God.  If our faith seems stale, its always good to ask: “How has God called me that I’ve rejected or ignored…”

//

How is God calling you?  What amazing – perhaps unbelievable – thing is God trying to present you with?  How is God calling you to be a part of His divine plan to spread the Gospel and play a role in saving souls?

Does your life in Christ feel muted?  Does your growth as a disciple seem slowed or stunted?  Sometimes – often – it’s our Zechariah response that’s holding us back.  God’s not mad at us – God loves us!  He calls us because it draws us closer to Himself, deeper into His love.  He’s standing by, waiting, eager for you to turn toward Him and change that Zechariah response into a Mary response:  Here I am, God – I’ll do whatever it is that you ask of me!

How is God calling you – and how are you responding?


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Seeing with the Eyes of the Angels

Corpus Christi - Yr B - 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
If only we could see with the eyes of the angels…

//

Last week I played a little bit of a trick on you – but there’s no trick this week.  No slight of hand.  No smoke and mirrors.  Everything that you see and hear today will be at the same time the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience in your life, and apparently nothing special at all.  A little bit of bread.  A few cups of cheap wine.  Apparently nothing special at all. 

If only we could see with the eyes of the angels…

//

Someone asked me last week: “Father – why do you care so much about Corpus Christi – why do you preach so much about adoration – why do you talk so much about the Real Presence?  It’s not that big of a deal.”  I didn’t know how to respond.  I still don’t.  Maybe it’s because it changed my life, maybe it’s because He changed my life.  I grew up celebrating communion in a holy and wonderful protestant Church.  I learned to be a disciple in that wonderful Church among those wonderful sisters and brothers in Christ.  But something changed when I encountered the Eucharist.  I was a skeptic.  “Yeah right – bread a wine turned magically somehow into the His actual Body and Blood.  Nice thought… but… really?”

If only we could see with the eyes of the angels…

//

Something happened as I started attending Mass all those years ago.  I began to sense deep down in my soul that there was something different at Mass, something different – something more there on the altar at Mass.  I began to hunger for the Eucharist – I began to hunger for a closeness with Christ that I never knew before.  I can’t explain it…  Well, that’s not true – I can explain it.  But not in words that make sense to the world.  Friends…the Eucharist drew me in, drew me into Christ, drew me into the Church…drew me to the priesthood.  Jesus in the Eucharist drew me into His Very Self…and my life has never been the same.  And He can – He will – Jesus can and will do the same for you, over and over again at this altar…

If only we could see with the eyes of the angels…

//

If only we could see with the eyes of the angels, everything else would fall away when we turn toward the altar and make ready for Jesus to come.  We’d see – we’d encounter Jesus, who loved everyone…Jesus who loves you, just how you are, and wants nothing more than to draw you to Himself.  If only we could see with the eyes of the angels, we’d feel that love pour out on us that calls us to Jesus…calls us to holiness…not condemning us…not even condemning our sin…but calling to us beyond our sin…calling us to life, real life, full, total, and free life – life lived for love, for love of God and of our neighbor.  If we could just see with the eyes of the angels, our trips to this altar would open up for us a moment into eternity where we find ourselves face to face with Jesus The Christ…the great Lover of our souls…

If only we could see with the eyes of the angels…

//

Look today, friends – sisters & brothers, open your eyes and your hearts.  Jesus comes – as perfectly and completely and lovingly as before; Jesus comes to you, to us, because He loves us – Jesus comes to strengthen us and make us one with Himself.  Open your eyes…open your hearts…see – SEE! – with the eyes of the angels...

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
Comes the powers of hell to vanquish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Exciting Special Guest - Will You Make Sure to Be Here?

Holy Trinity - Yr B - 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville

Before we start I have a brief announcement – some exciting news.  I’ve just heard from the Papal Nuncio that the Holy Father is planning a trip to the United States, and Pope Francis has asked to come and visit our parish!  He’s planning to come right here to this Church and hold a special audience with us.  After a short formal beginning, he’s just going to remain here for several hours welcoming you, listening to you, sharing his compassion and concern for you, and offering you his love and encouragement.  To make plans, I need to get some idea of how many of you would want to come to welcome him.  Would you just stand up so we can get a good count? … …  OK – good.  Thank you.

That’s going to happen on Friday, and then on Saturday and Sunday, he’ll be with us for our Masses and stick around after Mass for a few moments to visit with us all.  Following the 11:15 Mass, we’re invited to walk with him over to the park across the street to pray together for our community before returning to the Church and an informal gathering to celebrate his visit.  Even if you’ve attended one of the other Masses, you’re invited to join us for that.  Isn’t it exciting?  Can you imagine?!?!?  Wow!  I can’t wait!

//

I have a confession to make…I deliberately made a mistake in that announcement just now.  Although – we should be even more excited about the truth; there’s even more reason to be eager to change your plans a little next weekend.  Let me make the announcement correctly:

Jesus is coming to visit with us in a special way next weekend!  He’s going to come right here to this Church and hold a special audience with us for the feast of Corpus Christi.  After the brief Rite of Exposition at the end of Mass on Friday, He’s just going to remain here for several hours welcoming you, listening to you, sharing His compassion and concern for you, and offering you His love and encouragement.  You can come and go as you please.  He’ll be here – right here on the altar on Friday from 12:45 or so until 4:30 when we can all gather to receive His special blessing at Benediction. We’ve tried to get some idea of how many plan to come to welcome him – I think only two or three people are signed up so far on the schedule back in the Narthex.  Why is that, I wonder? 

So, we’ll have our special visit with Jesus on First Friday like we do every month, and then on Saturday and Sunday, the Lord Jesus will be with us for our Masses and stick around after Mass for a few moments to visit with us all in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Following the 11:15 Mass, we’re invited to walk with Jesus over to the park across the street to pray together for our community before returning to the Church and an informal gathering to celebrate His visit.  Even if you’ve attended another Masses next weekend, you’re invited to join us for that.  Isn’t it exciting?!?!

//

Once during my time at the Cathedral, I made a similar “accidental announcement.”  I said that Coach Cal would be offering a special free one-on-one basketball clinic followed by a one-on-one time to welcome and visit with anyone who showed up.  I asked everyone who was excited and wanted to take part to stand up.  And while they were standing, I made the correction to the announcement and asked how many still planned to come for Adoration.  Because, obviously, being Catholic Christians and believing that Jesus really is the Son of God, and that He comes to be with us in the Eucharist in a very special way we’d all want to come and love and be loved by Him.  “If you’re planning to be here for Adoration next week, please stay standing – everyone else have a seat.”  About 85% of them sat down.

I wonder why that is?  Why would we be more excited to see and spend time with Coach Cal or Pope Francis than we are to honor and visit with Jesus in a special way at our Corpus Christi celebration next week?

Friends – our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is not some lofty pious rambling.  It is a central aspect of our faith.  Otherwise the things we do at Mass make no sense.  Genuflecting when we enter the Church toward the Divine Presence is playacting, unless we believe that Jesus is really there.  Lighting the red tabernacle lamp is an empty gesture, unless we do so to call our attention to the King of the Universe here among us.  Kneeling during the consecration is empty ritual unless we do so because we know that Jesus – our friend, our Lord, our Savior – is coming to be among us.

We make time on the weekend to visit with friends and family, to go camping, to host family meals and go hiking, fishing, or get caught up on our latest Netflix binge.  We need to empower, strengthen, and act on our belief in the Eucharist by making plans to visit Jesus in Adoration too…especially on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ next weekend.

//

We all know it to be true – actions speak louder than words.  What we do, how we plan our time, what we give our priority – this all preaches what we believe…and it shapes and forms our truest beliefs.  The Most Holy Trinity is present among us, loves and welcomes us, cares for us most especially in the Most Holy Eucharist.  That’s what we believe as Catholics. 

I hope to see you here next weekend as we give witness to that belief in our observances of Corpus Christi.