Saturday, December 10, 2011

HOMILY - Third Sunday in Advent (Year B)

This Advent, I found myself returning to the writings and homilies of Father Alfred Delp for spiritual inspiration. Fr. Delp was a German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned and martyred in a Nazi death camp in 1945. At the time of his arrest, he was the Rector of St. George Church in Munich and had a reputation for being a gripping and dynamic preacher. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime and a leader in the Resistance movement.
I like to read Father Delp’s writings because he was a great Christian man, filled with a deep faith and was fearless in his calling as a priest, even in the face of great chaos, fear and hostility.
He has wonderful insights for this season of Advent. Father Delp speaks of Advent, especially, as a time in which we journey towards an encounter with the Ultimate, with the Almighty, with the Lord God. Father Delp writes that to be face-to-face with the Ultimate and Almighty that we must be “in a state of being shaken, with an alert, awakened heart that does not freeze up, does not become weary, or cramped, or deadened, but sees things as they are.” These words are echoed in the passages from the last several Sunday’s readings: to stay alert and sober.
Father Delp also speaks of Advent as a time for us to make a confession. In one sense, his use of confession means to acknowledge and seek forgiveness for sin in our life as we await Christ’s second coming. And so, I do invite and encourage you to join us at our Advent Parish Penance Service tomorrow/this evening, in which we will pray Evening Prayer together and will have the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Father Delp also speaks of confession in the sense of making a public declaration or affirmation. He states that each of us are asked daily, just as John the Baptist was asked in today’s Gospel, “Who are you.” Our response, like John’s is two-fold: who we are not and who we are. In response to the question: “Who are you?,” John responded, “I am not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet,” but I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'" as Isaiah the prophet said;” AND “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John’s confession comes from a wonderful clarity of thought and integrity of action – these are beautiful qualities that we speak of in our Saturday morning men’s initiative as qualities of authentic male leadership. It is this clarity and integrity that makes John focused and determined in his love and service to God.
This is true also of Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians, in our Second Reading; Mary’s Magnificat, which was today’s Responsorial Psalm; and of the prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading. Each in their own way possess great clarity and integrity in who they are and what they are called to do. Paul’s joy-filled pastoral letter to the Thessalonians show his great love for and service to this community. Mary’s hymn of praise comes immediately after being told the impossible – that she was to conceive a child – and expresses her openness and joy to God’s calling. And Isaiah, who rejoices heartily in the LORD, is clear in his call to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.
It is not always clear what we are called to do or what brings us joy. Yet, it is from an encounter with the Lord that has come and a Lord that is yet to come that we find clarity of thought, integrity in action AND joy in who we are.
Like Father Delp, John the Baptist, Saint Paul, the prophet Isaiah, and Mary, let us be grounded in who we are through our relationship with Jesus Christ, who taught us how to be in relationship with God and others; and who suffered and died so that we might be in this relationship eternally.
This Advent we rejoice that God became man, in Jesus Christ, and we eagerly await his second coming.
And, when asked: “Who are you?;” rejoice in the comfort and assurance of knowing who you are and what you are calling is.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

HOMILY - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Last Sunday, my wife and I watch the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie is based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner. Gardner, played by Will Smith, is smart salesman and family man who invested the family’s savings in a business opportunity. The business opportunity proves to be not a success and he loses everything - his house, his bank account, credit cards, and his wife – and he is left to raise his son alone. Forced to live out in the streets with his son, Gardner is now desperate to find a steady job; he takes on a job as a stockbroker, but before he can receive his first paycheck, he needs to go through 6 months of unpaid training. In the meantime, they are homeless, living off pennies. I won’t tell you how it ends, because it is a good movie for your family and you to watch, which I hope you do.
This movie had me thinking all week about two things: 1) what do I fear; and 2) what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. For the father in the movie, he feared losing his son and was willing to risk everything to provide for him day-to-day and into the future. Like him, and I suspect like each of you, I fear losing a job or my house, not having money to provide for my family, a broken marriage or the loss of a loved one, or loss of the respect, trust or love from another. And, I suspect, that you like me, fear also the pain, hurt, failure and embarrassment that results when things like this happen.
This movie also challenged me to ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. Am I willing to sacrifice my ego, pride, possessions to gain or protect something I value even more – such as my family or my faith. I would like to think that like the father in the movie, that I have the discipline and focus to persevere even under the most difficult situations – I pray that you and I do if ever faced with such a challenge.
Coincidentally, this is exactly what we have been talking about in our That Man Is You initiative on Saturday mornings. In fact, just this morning we were ask if we are willing to “pay the price” for what we believe.
We need to ask the same questions not just in our families and places of work but also in our faith life: 1) what do I fear; and 2) what am I willing to sacrifice or risk for what I believe. For us as Christians, our ultimate fear is being separated from God’s love eternally – “thrown into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth,” which was the fate of the third servant in the Gospel.

Although I don’t always understand or appreciate God’s love, I do know the great joy and peace I experience in God’s presence as I interact with each of you, assist at this liturgy, hear and proclaim Sacred Scripture, receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, receive God’s mercy in Reconciliation, and serve those in need. And I am motivated to never lose this joy and peace - to not be separated from this great love.
And it is in our faith, that we hold that through the grace of God, that we are willing to make great sacrifices and take great risks so that we will know and experience God’s great love now and eternally – and that we share this great love with others.
(Pause) We are at that point in the liturgical year in which we are called to reflect on the end of time, final judgment, and Christ’s second coming. We are reminded that we are called by God to risk everything for His kingdom and not to play it safe or rest in the security of the status quo.
We are challenged by Jesus in today’s Gospel to not hid or shrink from our responsibilities, but to abandon fear and be industrious, reliable and creative in doing God’s will! We have work to do as Christians – to do God’s will in this world, which is to share God’s love with others. And so we must act out of love, not fear. As we await what is to come, we can see our family life and places of work as opportunities to risk, to grow, in our faith and love in God and to in turn love and serve others.
For me this week, I have asked these questions of myself in my place of work (my day job) and as a result I have challenged myself to change some bad habits that I have found myself doing in order that I am focused on what I need to do at work, and that I can say that I am doing God’s will in all that I do.
As many of you know, my wife is pregnant and due any day/week. The pain of labor, which Paul refers to in today’s second reading, will soon be upon her “suddenly” – but not soon enough she is ready!
I don’t wish for any of you to be caught off-guard when our Lord does come. So do not rest – stay alert and ready! Fear being separated from God’s love and be willing to take any risk, make any sacrifice so that you can stand before God, and for Him to say to you “well done, my good and faithful servant…come and share your master’s joy.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011

HOMILY - Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

As some of you know, I am coaching our parish’s 6th grade football team. A couple of weeks ago as the team was warming up for a game against St. Brigid, one of my player’s shoe fell off. I admittedly got frustrated with that happening – certainly not at the player, who is great. It was not the first and probably not the last time it will happen - they often put on and off their cleats like slippers or flip-flops. My frustration was that I want my players to be prepared – focused and ready for the immediate game, and I also want them to approach everything with a bigger purpose in mind. So, little things like not tying their shoes tightly to play a game do matter. Sure they will remember 6th grade football by wins and losses and that is okay. But I really want them to see 6th grade football as a time that they matured as Christian young men and that through this time playing they obtained the skills they need for the rest of their life – things like: humility, responding well to adversity, obedience, helping others, teamwork, sacrifice, endurance, and controlled emotion. All of these are great virtues that they will need as they mature into manhood – as husbands, fathers, and even as priests and deacons.

I share this story – not to talk about football – but because it mirrors the point made in today’s Gospel: that God is inviting us to know and experience something even bigger and better than what we know now - the kingdom of God: this wonderful peace and joy that we are invited to know and experience now and eternally. The kingdom of God is like the wedding feast presented to us in the First Reading and Gospel. A celebration filled with great company, much happiness and joy, and the best of food and drink.

While our loving and merciful God is persistent in extending his invitation to join this celebration, just as the father in today’s Gospel – offering again and again an invitation to all, we too often do respond properly or at all to the invitation. We are often like the people in the parable who refuse the invitation, ignore it completely, make excuses why we can’t attend, and might even be hostile to the messengers of the invitation. We do this in big and small ways every day – by our sinful thoughts, words and deeds against ourselves, others, and God. More often, however, we are like the rejected guest who comes under-dressed – who has accepted the invitation but failed to respond appropriately to God’s invitation. In other words, like him, we say “yes” this is what we want, but we do not respond with acts of kindness, justice, humility, love and compassion to others. All words and no action. We must live out our faith by our actions - our believe must be evidenced by our actions.

I know too well that is hard at times to respond as we should. Going back to my football team, I challenge them to persist and endure through aches, pains, even loss because that is what they will do as men. I get that for a 6th grade boy the trials and tribulations of a grown man are as remote as the man on the moon. However, I still want them to begin to understand that they need to move beyond themselves – their own wants – to be part of something even greater. I want them to respond properly and well to God's invitation. The same is true for each of us. This is what God wants and challenges us to do. We must move beyond our own wants and respond with acts of kindness, justice, humility, love and compassion towards others. This is what it means to accept the invitation to live in the kingdom of God. And this is the only way that we truly and fully experience all that the kingdom of God offers.

This point is reinforced by Paul in today’s Second Reading. Writing from jail, Paul is consumed with Christ – eliminating his earthly concerns, but never his desire for Christ. It is Paul who recognizes that he is part of something much bigger and that he is called to something even greater. He has a single purpose in mind. We see this not only in his words, but by his actions – selfLESSly thinking of and acting for others. It is in Christ that Paul finds the strength to do this and it is in Christ that he is filled with great joy and thanksgiving for God and those who have supported him in his times of need.

And this is a good starting point for each of us as we try respond to God’s call. Let us also find strength Christ, just as Paul did. Let us find strength in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, we are about to receive. Let us find strength in Christ’s example of love and obedience to God. Let us find strength in Christ’s out pouring of grace to help us respond as we are called to respond.
It is in Christ that we like Paul can trust that: “God will fully supply whatever we need, in accord with his glorious riches.” It is in Christ that we can also say with confidence and thanksgiving “To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.” And it is in Christ that we have the strength and courage to respond to God’s invitation.
My friends, we are called to live in the kingdom of God. I pray that we have the courage to say yes to God invitation to join this celebration and the strength to respond with great acts of kindness, justice, humility, love and compassion.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Homily - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

What I especially like about today’s readings is that they reveal a very important truth, beauty and joy about our God. God our Father is “kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion” and who wants more than anything to restore the broken relationship we have with him because of sin. It is our loving God who, as we sung in the Psalm: pardons all our iniquities, heals all our ills, redeems our life from destruction and crown us with kindness and compassion. Today’s readings challenge us to be restored in this love relationship with our God by seeking forgiveness and forgiving.
Today’s second reading and Gospel were originally intended for communities filled with conflict and tension. And so, we have Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Rome and Matthew’s Gospel for the Christian Gentiles in Antioch. These letters are a plea to these communities to be united, not divided, by recognizing their oneness through and with Christ and then seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness. In fact, Matthew recalls Jesus challenge to his disciples to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times,” which means as often as necessary and in excess!
The plea found in today’s readings is also directed to each of us. I suspect that you might be like me and find it hard, at times, to seek forgiveness and grant forgiveness. There is often so much hurt, pain and even anger in relationships, which is further compounded by our own pride and egos. We see this in our families, places of work, and in our communities. This weekend’s Anniversary of the tragic events of 9-11 is a sober reminder of this reality in our world.
Before we can forgive others from our hearts, as Jesus commands us; before we can get to a place where we can begin to seek forgiveness and grant forgiveness as we are called to do, we must first start with a hard look at our self – becoming more aware of our own faults and weakness and how we have offended God and others. This requires a great humility to say I am not perfect, that the world does not evolve around me, and to take responsibility and accountability rather than blame God or someone else when things don’t go the way I want. There is actually a great freedom and sense of peace that we can experience when we acknowledge our faults and weaknesses, even when it may be embarrassing or a sign of weakness to do so.
For this reason, I like the fact that we begin the celebration of the Mass with the Penitential Rite – taking a moment to reflect on our sins and asking for the mercy of God and others. In doing this, we stand together with our fellow Christians to acknowledge our own faults and failings and to seek forgiveness before we experience God in the Sacred Scripture and in the Eucharist. We stand together, as the Body of Christ, united in faith and hope in our loving God.
In the new Roman Missal, which we will being to use during Advent, the Confiteor – the “I confess to Almighty God” prayer of the Penitential Rite – will change slightly to provide a more accurate translation from Latin to English and will better ground us in the Scriptural sources for this part of the Mass. There are several notable changes:
First, instead of say simply saying “I have sinned” we will say “that I have greatly sinned,” which is taken from King David’s acknowledgment of his own sin against God.
The second change is the repeating three times of the statement “through my fault” with the third time including the words “through my most grievous fault” – this is done not to glorify our sins, but to heighten the awareness and responsibility for our sins.
Finally, the new Roman Missal encourages the striking of the chest three times as we say “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” This practice is actually an ancient practice proper for this prayer, which never went out of use, maybe only out of fashion.
The hope is that these changes will cause in each of us, as we pray this prayer, a greater awareness and responsibility for the personal sin in our life and our need for conversion, forgiveness and a restoration in our relationship with God.
And my prayer for you is that you will find a peace and even a freedom that comes from acknowledging and taking responsibility for your own faults and failings – and in doing so, you are then able to see your son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, co-worker or friend, or even a stranger as one in Christ. And thus we can be quick and generous in forgiving those who offend us and humble, yet confident in seeking forgiveness from others.
My friends, be filled by the grace of the Eucharist we are about to receive that you may today acknowledge your own sinfulness; seek forgiveness from God and others, whom you have offended; and be able and ready to forgive others from our heart, not just 7 times, but 77 times.
May God bless you!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Knaus and Bauerle Homily

Jeffrey Knaus & Maren Bauerle

Introduce self

Unfortunately, I did not have the joy to prepare them for marriage, we have to credit Father Belden (St. Paul MN) with getting them here, but since Maren went to grade school here at Our Lady of Peace, I am guessing that she is a very smart young woman. She and Jeffrey intentionally selected Labor Day weekend to marry.

MAYBE: Long holiday weekend to extend celebration (at the risk of running out of wine as in the Gospel)
To be in Columbus Ohio for a home Watterson and OSU football game
Easy to remember Anniversary (wish I would have thought of that)

But maybe it is that you appreciate that Marriage is truly a labor of love. Today’s second reading expresses this love to which you must aspire to and work for in your marriage:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it not selfish, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. IT NEVER FAILS.
Such love certainly requires – like any labor we do – hard work, sacrifice, teamwork, humility, patience – these and many more graces that you now receive through this Sacrament!

And this labor is worth it! In our day jobs, in which we labor, we work for a paycheck to pay bills or buy stuff, maybe we work for the weekend – so that we can enjoy things and people. However, with Marriage our goal – the purpose of our labor – is to get our spouse to Heaven - that perfect unity with our loving God, who – as we read in our First Reading - made each of us - man and woman - out of love to be one in love. It is in Heaven that we will experience the eternal joy, peace, and happiness God desires for us from the very beginning.

Maren and Jeffrey – please never forget this primary purpose of marriage!

Just as Jesus – in today’s Gospel – began his public ministry, you two also now begin your public ministry to each other with this goal in mind. So, it is a very important and significant that you begin with this very public action that they are making today. You are stating in a very public way before all of us gathered here to say:

1. That you have come here FREELY and WITHOUT RESERVATION
2. To give yourself FULLY AND COMPLETELY to each other
3. That you will love each other FOREVER
4. That you will be OPEN LIFE and to raise any children in the Catholic faith
5. To do this in GOOD TIMES and BAD, SICKNESS and HEALTH, for the REST of their LIFE

I personally thank you for making this public statement of your love for each other.

I also thank you for making this public statement of your hope and trust in our Catholic faith that will guide you and support you in your marriage.

I pray that your marriage is filled with great joy in the years to come and that this labor of love which you public begin today leads both of you to eternal joy and peace with our loving God.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lindsay Peters & Mark Rutkus Wedding Homily

Introduce self
Did not have the chance to prepare them for marriage, credit Father with getting them here
But, had great joy in working with both of them as Lindsay prepared to join the Catholic Church
As I have got to know them, two things stand out for me on their wedding day.
Both work in the public spot – Mark (campaigns and city government) & Lindsay (providing the public meeting space of companies/individuals). So, they both appreciate the importance, the power, the significance of doing something publically
So, it is not lost on me, and I am certain that it is not lost on Mark and Lindsay of the importance and significance of the very public action that they are making today. They are stating in a very public way before all of us gathered here that:
1. That they have come here FREELY and WITHOUT RESERVATION
2. To give themselves FULLY AND COMPLETELY to each other
3. That they will love each other FOREVER
4. That they will be OPEN LIFE and to raise any children in the Catholic faith
5. To do this in GOOD TIMES and BAD, SICKNESS and HEALTH, for the REST of their LIFE
This certainly takes a love that we just heard of in today’s readings – it is an unconditional love, even a sacrificial love, in which one puts aside one’s own wants and needs for another. Such a love allows one to make such a public statement as Lindsay and Mark will make before us in just a couple of minutes.
Such a public statement also requires a HOPE and TRUST – not only in each – but also in something bigger – a hope and trust in an eternal life, which leads to my second observation of Mark & Lindsay.
Mark has obviously had some political campaign experience (maybe he has roped Lindsay into doing some phone calls or lit drops for candidates).
TODAY, we kick-off the greatest campaign for both Mark and Lindsay, which has as their single goal: to get each other to Heaven, that perfect unity with our loving God, who – as we read in our First Reading - made out of love man and woman to be one in love. It is in Heaven that we will experience the eternal joy, peace, and happiness God desires for us from the very beginning.
Like any campaign, with marriage there will be ebbs and flows – (mis)communication, money problems, drama, lots of emotion, and also lots of hard work, compromise, sacrifice, humility (and I also pray that there will be lots of joy for you two). Just as St. Paul urges the Corinthians to our Second Reading, I urge you to not let jealousy, ego, rudeness, selfishness, tempers, and arrogance keep you from loving each other as you are called to love, as you must love, in order for this marriage to be successful!
Unfortunately, we will not know if your greatest campaign – your marriage – was successful, until we too enter Heaven. But you two will know daily just how successful this marriage is going, as you reflect every night on the “daily polling results” as to: whether you have loved your spouse as you should today; whether you have placed the needs of your marriage and your spouse ahead of your own needs and wants; whether you have thanked and praised your spouse today; whether you have sought forgiveness from your spouse or granted forgiveness to your spouse today, whether you have comforted your spouse in his/her need. YOU WILL KNOW!
I personally thank you for making this public statement of your love for each other, as well as you hope and trust in our Catholic faith, and I pray that your marriage is filled with great joy and eternal success.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homily - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

It is with great sadness as I read the stories and see pictures of the crisis in East Africa. The East African drought of 2011that is hitting Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia so hard is proving to be one of the worst in 50 years. Extreme hunger is rapidly becoming a harsh daily reality for more than 11 million people in East Africa. This severe lack of rainfall has resulted in failed crops, livestock dying, and critical shortages in food and water for people, which in turn has resulted drastic increases in food prices and an influx of refugees who have fled to seek food. Just in the past 90 days in the southern portion of Somalia, the drought and famine have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5. Further compounding this natural disaster is the political unrest in this area of the African continent and growing violence. In fact, I just read in yesterday’s paper of the chaos, violence and murder in a refugee camp, which is supposedly a safe-haven for those seeking relief.
I can only image how weak and fragile those individuals and families must be. How sacred and alone they must feel. And how their hunger and thirst must consume every second of their day. And how dramatic and extreme this poverty is when compared with the growing poverty in our country. And I imagine the great depression they must feel.

And I think of what the prophet Elijah in today’s first reading must have been feeling as he hid the cave at mount Horeb. Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings presents us with the aftermath of Elijah's brilliant victory in the contest with Jezebel and the priests of Baal atop Mount Carmel, which ironically brought much needed rain after a three year drought fortold by the prophet Elijah.

Just when Elijah should have been triumphant, he receives a message telling him of Jezebel's murderous intentions, and he is "afraid" (3). The spectacularly exemplary servant of God is now in a rut -- believing that all of his efforts were in vain! In Chapter 18, Elijah was at the height of success; in Chapter 19 he is in the depths of despair. In Chapter 18 he is on the mountain peak of victory; in Chapter 19 he is in the valley of defeat. In Chapter 18 he is elated; in Chapter 19 he is completely deflated.

Father Thomas Rosica identifies several reasons for Elijah’s feelings of depression. There was fear – the great, fiery prophet of Israel is scared to death of wicked Queen Jezebel's threats and thus flees for his life. There was also a sense of failure - Elijah had a very low self-esteem having seemingly failed to change Israel's lack of faith. There was also fatigue. Elijah was physically exhausted and emotionally empty. This is the great danger of peak experiences. Finally, there was a feeling of futility. Elijah feels alone, hopeless and has little hope for the future. He suffers from paranoia, thinking that everyone is out to get him. So, he hides in a cave.

Father Rosica goes on to note that what happened to Elijah happens to us, especially when we pay much more attention to negative events than to all the good that is happening around us. It happens when we are very hard on ourselves, and take ourselves far too seriously, and God not seriously enough! This is exactly what happened to Peter in today’s Gospel when he doubted!

Father Rosica suggests that perhaps the best way to break through such doubt and depression is to refocus away from our own needs and wants and to focus on the needs of others – to feel compassion for others. And Saint Paul certainly gives us such an example of this in today’s second reading – he is willing to trade is own eternal life so that his fellow Israelite might accept Jesus Christ and their own eternal salvation – he does this selfLESSly completely out of love and concern for his own people. What a wonderful example for each of us.

We can each do this when – like Elijah, Paul and even Peter – know God’s presence in our life. This is a source of great joy. It is God’s loving presence – sometimes in great and power ways (like calming a storm), but more often the silence and whispers of daily life – that we find hope and encouragement in this world of chaos and sin.

In the midst of our own stormy seas, let us this week direct our minds and hearts to those suffering in East Africa. And there is certainly things we CAN do – even though we are thousands of miles away. Most importantly, we can pray. We can pray for those suffering in East Africa – we can pray for those who don’t know how to pray or don’t have the energy or faith to pray. We can pray that they might be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, that they might have the strength to fight another day and to help care for their loved ones. Prayer is a great unifier – just as we gathered here united in prayer through this Eucharist; let’s us also be united in prayer with and for those suffering in Africa.
We can also give generously of our money to the many efforts by groups like Catholic Relief Services. You can call or visit the Diocese’s website to learn more about these organizations and the great impact they are having, even amidst this crisis.
Finally, you can learn more about the crisis in East Africa and share this with others.
These are all things that we are called to do as Christians. My friends, Take courage, do not be afraid!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HOMILY - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

I want to first recognize and congratulate Sister Barbara on her Anniversary (today/yesterday) of her profession to the Dominicans – thank you for saying yes to God’s call and for your service to the Church and Our Lady of Peace Parish.
Today’s Gospel beings: “Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.” This has caused me to think about what Jesus might have been doing as he sat and looked out at the sea in that moment of silence.
Maybe as he stared at the water he thought of the passage from the book of the prophet of Isaiah, from today’s First Reading, in which the Lord speaks of water coming from heaven, watering the earth and making it fertile and fruitful, so that those who hunger and thirst might be satisfied. Maybe Jesus hoped and prayed that, like the effect of water on our physical needs, that his words – the good news of God’s great love and mercy – would be fertile and fruitful to all who heard them.
Then again, maybe Jesus was thinking about how he wanted those who heard him speak to know that there is something greater waiting for them – an eternal joy and peace. And maybe as he looked upon the water he saw the faces of those who have heard him speak and, knowing them each personally, he knew that for many they were suffering and hurting in many ways and would have trouble hearing his message. And just maybe in that moment of silence, Jesus prayed for them that they, like St. Paul from whom we read in our Second Reading, may hear his words and find hope and encouragement; that they may, as St. Paul did, “consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
And maybe also in that silence, Jesus had a moment of frustration, wondering why so many who heard what he was saying still did not get it; why so many “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” Certainly, we have all had those moments of watching a loved one not see or do what seems so obvious to us – as parents, as friends or co-workers, we have watched someone we love swing at a pitch too high, or date the “wrong” person, or behave inappropriately, or struggle with depression or addiction. I can certainly understand if Jesus felt frustrated, maybe even hopeless as he watched so many ignore his Father’s great love and mercy for them; seemly to reject his offer of eternal peace.

But here is what is so wonderful about Jesus: as the Gospel continues, Jesus is engulfed by a crowd of people who interrupt his silence – he does not get angry or retreat; rather, he makes room so that all can hear his message of God’s great love and mercy. Because Jesus knows the necessity of this message, he gets into a boat and sits down as the whole crowd stands along the shore and he speaks to them at length in parables. In fact, we will hear over the next several weeks Jesus telling several parables to this same crowd of people with the hope that they might look and see and hear and listen and understand.
The parable of the sower is a beautiful story to help us better understand God’s love for us – it is our God who generously and without reservation shares his love and mercy with us. Even in our culture of consumption and greed, we can appreciate the almost recklessness and inefficiency of throwing seed everywhere and anywhere – on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, as well as on rich soil, with the hope that it might grow and produce fruit. But that is how freely our God loves and is willing to forgive.
And this certainly mirrors our own experiences, right? As parents and children or as spouses we are called to love generously and even recklessly. We love even when we have been hurt or disappointed. We also know the great reward we receive when we do love and are loved in return. And, so we know exactly what Jesus is saying when talks of the “seed falling on rich soil and producing fruit a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” We know the 30 or 60 or 100 fold joy we experience in loving and being loved.
The challenge for us is to give freely and love generously knowing that much of our effort may be wasted. Hopefully this is not true in the case of our marriage or family life. But, we know that often the efforts we make have no result, our dreams never materialize, and the love invested in relationships sometimes fail. Despite this potential, I invite you and encourage you to take the great risk and give freely and love generously, trusting in Jesus’ promise of a 30 or 60 or even 100 fold return that we will experience if we love as we are called to love. And in the moments of doubt or despair, believe in and trust that what we know now in no way compares with the glory to be revealed to us! If we trust this promise, the reward will be endless, the fruit bountiful, and the love overflowing!
May God bless you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

HOMILY - Pentecost (Year A)

[Father Kavanagh 28th Anniversary as a priest.]
The past couple of weeks have been extra-ordinarily busy for my family and me – all good stuff, but just busy all-day, every-day it seems. When I find myself over-extended, which I admittedly do too often, I find myself of going through the motions of completing task X, Y, and Z without investing lots of thought or emotion to each task. The risk in doing this is that I miss the joy of life, which is the happiness that comes in loving and being loved from our everyday experiences. We must realize that we are called to know, experience, and share with others God’s great love for us and the great joy that comes from this love.
Throughout the Easter season, which concludes this Sunday with Pentecost, we have been celebrating this great love of our God. We celebrate our God who, out of love, sent his Son to us to teach us how to love and heals our broken relationship with God, by his obedient and humble death on the cross; and it is our loving God who also gives us his Spirit, which we celebrate today, to help us and comfort us as we live out our Christian lives of love and service to God and others.
The Holy Spirit, which the Apostles received at Pentecost and we receive in the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism and Confirmation, is a wonderful gift from our loving God. We credit the Pentecost event with the start of the Church, and more importantly, with the movement of the Apostles from fear and doubt to boldly praising our loving God and proclaiming his love to all.
The tradition of the Church lists twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, which result when we, like the Apostles, give ourselves completely to God’s love. When we put aside our own agenda and love and trust God completely, then God, through his Holy Spirit, generously pours out in our lives: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.
I can attest to this! When I place my complete trust in God – putting aside my own agenda or worries – then and only then am I truly at peace and I am a better husband and father, son and brother, friend and co-worker, a better deacon in service to you and the Church. When I do this, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are present in me and I have a glimpse of the eternal happiness that God offers.
However, I am not perfect. And possibly like you, I too often find myself consumed by doubt and insecurity, pride and selfishness, all of which keeps me from loving as I should. So too often I find myself unable to love as I am called to love and feeling incomplete because I am not living as I am called to live.
But here is truly the Good News: our God loves us so much that he knows our faults and weaknesses, is willing to move beyond our self-imposed limitations, and gives us – without condition or hesitation – the gift of his Holy Spirit to help us to live as we are called to live. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are:
1. Wisdom, which is the desire to direct our whole life to God
2. Understanding, which enables us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith
3. Counsel, which warns us of the sin and evil in our world
4. Fortitude, which strengthens us to do the will of God in all things
5. Knowledge, which enables us to discover the will of God in all things
6. Piety, which is the love of God and helps us to obey Him out of love
7. Fear of the Lord, which places in us a dread of sin and fear of offending God
It is these gifts that help us to live as the Christian men and women we are called to live. Maybe, you are living very busy lives and not experiencing fully God’s love; maybe you are in a place between despair and hope, that Father Kavanagh spoke of last weekend; or maybe you are struggling with an addiction, an illness or a very difficult relationship. So, I encourage you, wherever you may be, to ask in your daily prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit you need most that day. And, trust that if you ask, God will provide!
In concluding, I offer this prayer for you and me from the Rite of Confirmation:
All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon US to be OUR helper and guide. Give US the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill US with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

HOMILY - Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Today’s readings draw us even closer to Jesus. The readings for this Fourth Sunday of Easter, as known as Good Shepherd Sunday, help us to focus our attention on our relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
The custom of focusing on Jesus as the Good Shepherd during the Easter season is a very ancient practice. As early as the fifth century, we read of individuals, like Pope Leo the Great, who describe this intimate connection between the Shepherd and his sheep to explain our relationship with Jesus – a connection that begins at our Baptism and is strengthened in the Eucharist.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is trying to teach the Pharisees who he truly is. Pulling both from the Old Testament and from the common experience of Jesus’ time, Jesus uses the metaphor of gatekeepers, shepherds and sheep to describe who Jesus truly is. Jesus is the gatekeeper who opens the way for us to God. As the shepherd, Jesus leads his sheep to God. It is Jesus who has come from God and who leads us to God the Father.
As the good shepherd, Jesus perfectly cares for his sheep – for each one of us. He is in a loving relationship with us – even to the point of insult, suffering, crucifixion, and death. Jesus knows us by name and invites us to enter through the ‘gate’ from sin and death to eternal peace and joy. As proclaimed in the Gospel, Jesus has come in order to give us life, and to give it more abundantly.
In return, the sheep know their shepherd’s voice and respond to his voice. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus in last week’s Gospel, we can say that our ‘hearts are burning’ whenever we are Christ’s presence – we know in our hearts and our minds the desire we possess to be in relationship with him. Too often, however, we don’t know how to respond or, more often, we choose not to respond.
For this reason, we need great men and women in the Church to teach us how to respond and to give us the example and encouragement to respond as we should. Christ the Shepherd who nourishes and safeguards his flock provides for us the example of such humble service to God and others. While each of are called and anointed at Baptism to follow Christ’s example of service to God and his Church, we need, in a special and specific way, great men and women willing to consecrate their life exclusively in service to the Church and its members.
We need men and women to answer God’s call to priestly and religious life. We need great men and women who are in love with God and his Church and are willing to “leave behind their own narrow agenda and notions of self-fulfillment” to serve God and his Church. We need great men and women, like the Apostle Peter in today’s first reading, who was filled with the Holy Spirit and was willing to risk everything so that others may know God’s great love and mercy. We need great men and women who know and will help us to know, as in today’s Psalm, that the “Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing else that I want.” We need of great men and women willing to follow Christ’s example and endure insult and suffering for God and his Church. We need great men and women who are willing to lead us in Christ’s mission to give life and to give it more abundantly.
We need great men and women, like Father Kavanagh (Monsignor Ruef) and Sister Barbara, who are willing to selfLESSly serve God and others. We need great men and women, who in their special role in the Church, will fearlessly proclaim the Gospel, teach others of God’s great love for us and how we are to respond to such love, and to model Christian virtue.
We need great men and women like those sitting with us today and like those in the families of our parish to say yes to God’s call to serve his Church.
Pope Benedict has declared this Sunday the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The Pope in his message for this Day states that: “Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the Lord… in parish communities, in Christian families and in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.” And, so let us pray for those discerning a call to priestly or religious life. AND, let us pray that our parish and its families may be places where we may experience the living God. Let us pray that our parish and our families may be places where we may know of our encouragement and support for vocations. Let us pray that our parish and our families may be places where we feel the warmth of this community as we say “yes” to God and the Church. Let us pray that those discerning a vocation to priestly or religious life, like each of us, may have the strength, the wisdom and the courage to follow our Shepherd, Jesus.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Homily - Passion Sunday (Year A)

Today, I will simply pose a question and offer an invitation to you.
First, the question…in the loving memory of Monsignor McFarland (may his soul rest in peace), I ask you: “Are you better today, then you were Ash Wednesday?” Let me ask this even more specifically, as we reflect on today’s readings: “Are you more obedient to God’s will today then you were on Ash Wednesday?” “Are you today more like Christ, who was obedient to God the Father even to the point of death?” While not necessarily physical death, death to pride, lust, hate, fear – whatever it is that keeps you from trusting unconditionally and loving without limit, just as God loves us. If not “better,” then Monsignor McFarland would say two things, which I now say to you: “why not?” and “it’s not too late!”Pray over whatever it is that has kept you from being a better Christian man or woman. And then be filled with the grace of the Eucharist that we are about to receive to have the courage and the wisdom to be more like Christ tomorrow then you are today.
And second, an invitation…I invite you to join us in our parish’s Holy Week celebrations. Father Kavanagh has reminded us throughout Lent that we are on a journey of purification and enlightenment in our relationship with God – just not our candidates preparing to join the Church, but each one of us. The liturgies of Holy Week – especially the liturgy of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter – lead us to experience the goal of our faith journey: the great joy of God’s love for us. The publication Living with Christ, recalls beautifully that “as we revisit the events of the final tumultuous week in Jesus’ life – the Last Supper, his passion and death, and his Resurrection - we are plunged by memory and ritual into the mystery that reveals and defines the meaning of Jesus’ existence and of our own. His story is our story, and what happened to him is the pattern for what is happening now and what will happen to us in the future.” So, I invite you to celebrate these liturgies and experience God’s great love for you. For some, I know that this will be a difficult invitation to accept – there is work, and practices or games, or other commitments. I ask you to pray and make the commitment – and sacrifice, if necessary – to join us this week. I hope and pray to see your family and you this week. May God bless you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

HOMILY - First Sunday in Lent (Year A)

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Jesus is telling us that we must listen to what he is teaching us – we must hear it and obey it – and we must act, we must put into action in our life what he says. If we do this, if we ground ourselves on his words by loving and serving God and others, then we will be like a house built on rock – unwavering in the midst of any challenge or temptation. It is like that skilled athlete training continuously, single-minded, undistracted and completely focused on achieving her athletic goal. For us as Catholics, we must also train continuously, single-minded, undistracted and completely focused on achieving on our goal – Heaven.
I can only image that it was with just such discipline that Jesus withstood the three temptations of the devil in today’s Gospel. And it is just such discipline that will allow us to withstand the temptations in our life that distract us from our goal of obtaining eternal happiness and peace. Jesus was so grounded in who he was and what his purpose was that he was not going to be easily distracted by the devil. We must be just as disciplined in what we say and by what we do.
Our Lenten journey is an opportunity to re-focus and re-ground our lives in this discipline of our faith. And it is at the end of this Lenten journey – the Easter celebration – that we find both our inspiration and model: Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered, died and rose for us, so that we might be in the right relationship with our God and that we might experience Heaven. It was Jesus, as St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading, “through one righteous act,” freed us and gave us life; through the obedience of Jesus, we will be made righteous. It was Jesus’ complete love for, trust in and obedience to God the Father that is also an inspiration and a model for how we are to live our lives – lives of love, trust and obedience to God our Father.
When we place our unconditional love and complete trust in God and when we are fully obedient to God’s plan for us, we are liberated. Liberated from power of sin. While we may still experience temptation, like Jesus, we will be so grounded in who we are and what we are called to do, that we will resist whatever temptation to sin is placed before us.
When we place our unconditional love and complete trust in God and when we are fully obedient to God’s plan for us, we also are able to move beyond our own wants and consider the needs of others and serve them. This is an important part of our faith life – that we not only avoid sin, but that we actively love. Certainly this means clothing the naked, feeding the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick. This also means that we are called to promote economic justice.
I share this point, because it is timely and relevant as our state legislature debates the elimination of collective bargaining.
In our Catholic tradition, justice places the good of the person at the center of all economic activities. It stresses that the economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy. It challenges society to measure the moral effectiveness of our economic practices by how well they strengthen families and provide for the poor and vulnerable. Our Church’s teaching on justice has also long recognized that all people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, to organize and join unions or other associations, and to engage in collective bargaining.
This doctrine of the Church promotes mutual partnerships where both the needs of labor and the needs of management are freely and openly acknowledged and addressed. It challenges both unions and management to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities.
I share NOT because I am advocating for one side or another on any particular piece of legislative. However, I do share this teaching with you as an encouragement to engage in this debate honestly with these principals in mind. And, like everything in our life, if we are grounded in the teachings of Jesus and his Church, we will be disciplined to resist the temptation to think selfishly and we will be able to consider how our words and actions can help those in need. This is what we are called to do.
The author Mary Birmingham writes that the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, which was read in today’s first reading, is not an exercise in despair, but rather a reflection of hope: hope in the God of mercy and compassion. In our human weakness, we will not always be as strong in the face of temptation – as Jesus was, we may be more like Adam and Eve. And we may not be as charitable to the needs of others as we are called to be. We will be disobedient and sin. But the great joy of our faith is that our God is full of mercy and compassion. And, so we pray, as we begin our Lenten journey: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

HOMILY - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

This past week’s readings for the daily Mass recall the two stories of creation from the Book of Genesis. These stories have great meaning and purpose for us as Christians. Two important truths about God our Creator are, first, we are made in God’s image and likeness and we are made good; and second, we are given free will to choose how we live in relationship with our Creator. Both of these truths are wonderful statements about the great love God has for each one of us.
Today’s readings remind us in special way of this second point – of the freedom God gives us. We were not made as machines or robots that simply follow orders or commands; rather, out of love, God gives us free will to choose whether to be in relationship with Him. The Book of Sirach tells us that we have choices to make and our choices have consequences. God places before us “life and death,” “good and evil” and if we choose God and place our trust in Him, we will be saved and have life.
Last week, Deacon Matthew reminded us of Jesus’ challenge to be the light and salt to the world and the unique and important role each of us has in this mission. Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel by giving us very specific and practical ways that we can be the light and salt to the world. In each of Jesus’ examples in today’s Gospel we are reminded that we have a choice – a choice to love or not. We have the choice for anger or peace; for lust or discipline and respect; to divorce or to up hold the sanctity of marriage AND of our husband or wife; and the choice to make our words honor God or not.
For many of us, these are hard words to hear and are even harder words to follow. It is often not easy to love as we are called to love because we may have never loved that way before or because we may have never been loved by another in that way before. This is also hard, because Jesus is calling us to do more than just the minimum – he is calling us to greatness. And this is the point of Jesus’ Sermon and his statement that he has come to fulfill the law. He wants us to know that God’s commandments are more than just a set of rules. He wants us to know that they are given to us so that we might know God’s love for us and so that we might in turn share that love with others.
You may be like me when you hear this Gospel proclaimed and think that I have certainly failed to love as Jesus calls us to love. Well, don’t be discouraged – there is hope. God in his great love is ready to forgive and to help you and me to do better, so that we can experience the love, the joy, the peace God offers us now and eternally.
To be the Christian men and women we are called to be, St. Paul states us in today’s second reading that we must know and trust in God’s wisdom, not the wisdom of this world. God’s wisdom has been made known to us through the Holy Spirit and we must follow this wisdom. AND we must not be misled or fooled into following what popular culture say is good or right, which may conflict with what God commands of us. For example, such wisdom of the day holds that marriage is a matter of convenience that we can simply ditch when things become difficult; or that the dignity and sanctity of life is not absolute and it is okay abort, execute, and euthanize life. We are called to a higher standard, we are called to follow God’s wisdom, to follow God’s command to love.
Our Christian lives require great humility and trust in Jesus Christ. It is Paul who readily acknowledges in his letter to the Corinthians of his weaknesses and limitations in his ministry to the Corinthians and who is grounded in the truth of God’s love, which motivates him, strengthens him, and frees him to be the man he is called to be. In the same way, we must seek greater humility, be quick to acknowledge our weaknesses and be ready to place our trust in God, and in doing so be empowered by God to be the great Christian we are called to be.
We have a choice. We can chose to respond to the challenge to love presented to us in today’s readings in basically one of two ways. We can say: “I feel overwhelmed and full of doubt, I am weak, I can never respond as God wants me to, I am just not capable of doing this.” OR, we can say: “I trust you God, and with your help because I am not capable of doing this alone, I can and will do this – I will love you and others as you have commanded me to love.”
And, here is the good news: you can do this, and I invite and encourage you to do it! I say this for two reasons. First, this is what God wants! This is what God made us to know and do. And, second, because this is God’s will, God generously gives His grace to help us achieve this. He gives us his grace in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist that we will receive in just a couple of minutes, and in countless other ways so that we can experience his incredible outpouring of love for each one of us.
Jesus promises us in today’s Gospel that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” With God’s help, let us chose to love as Jesus commands us, so that we too may be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, January 10, 2011

HOMILY - Baptism of the Lord (Year A)

Wouldn’t be great if all of our really big or difficult questions in life had a clear and unambiguous answer like what Jesus receives in today’s Gospel? The heavens were opened for him. He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus must have known at that very moment with certainly and confidence who he was and what he was called to do. That he is the one anticipated in today’s First Reading when God says: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations. God’s anointing establishes Jesus’ authority and inaugurates his public ministry to be the servant-leader who is not interested in fame or power, but peace and justice and love – God’s love for each of us.
Celebrating Jesus’ Baptism is an opportunity for each of us to recall our own Baptism. Like Christ, at our Baptism, we were also called by God, filled with his Holy Spirit, and given the grace to live lives of holiness - to live in the right relationship with God and with others. Today’s First Reading is speaking of Jesus, and also speaking directly to each of us and our Baptismal calling: I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. We are called and anointed to live great Christian lives – I love to stress this with my boys, when I talk with the students at school, and with the players I coach. We are all each called to be great and holy men and women.
Among many other things, being holy means acknowledging and protecting the human dignity of all people, especially those who are the most vulnerable in our society – the poor, the weak and sick, the abused child, the drug addict, the dementia patient, the victim of crime and war, and especially the unborn.
The Catholic Church is a Pro-Life Church. The Church teaches us that we are called to promote and protect the dignity of life, at every stage of life. While we must always love, forgive and show great compassion and care for the sinner, it is never morally acceptable and we must always be opposed to any act that offends the sanctity life.
Catholics are pro-life because our Christian tradition is pro-life. As Pope John Paul II once said, Christians believe that “All human life is sacred, for it is created in the image and likeness of God.” The deliberate killing or disrespect of a human being destroys a unique creation, which God has called specially into existence.
Christian teaching also obliges us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, with whom we are united in our Baptism, and who spoke and acted strongly and compassionately in favor of the most despised and vulnerable persons in society. Jesus touched lepers, spoke with prostitutes, and showed special mercy and tenderness to the sick, the poor, and children. Our society today has many vulnerable persons and we have a responsibility to speak and act in defense of these persons – and to show care and compassion for those hurting and in need.
I urge you to answer your Baptismal call to holiness and seek to protect all life, including the most vulnerable and especially the unborn, and to care for and support those discerning an abortion or who have had an abortion. And there are certainly many things you can do.
If you know someone who is pregnant, give them as much support and encouragement as you can. Let them know that they are loved and their child is loved AND that there IS support and help for them and for their child.
If you know someone who has had an abortion, let them know that they too are loved and encourage them to seek the support, the forgiveness and peace they now need AND which is available to them.
I also invite you to join us tomorrow/this evening in the Gathering Space to hear the powerful story of by Ruth Yorston, Executive Director of the Greater Columbus Right to Life, and her journey from working in the abortion industry to now serving as a leading advocate for pro-life issues in our community.
I also encourage you to learn more about the issue of abortion and other pro-life issues, the Church’s teachings on these issues, and ways to get involved in the pro-life movement. There are also several excellent pro-life CDs on display in the Gathering Space. You can also find many excellent pro-life resources and upcoming events online at the Diocese’s website.
If nothing else, please pray. Pray for a culture of life, not death. Pray for an end to abortion. Pray for the lives lost to abortion – and take some comfort in knowing that their souls are with God in Heaven. Pray for the women who have had an abortion, and for the fathers of those babies, that they may know God’s love, seek forgiveness and be at peace. Pray for women considering abortion, and again for the fathers of those babies, that they find the hope, the courage, the love to seek alternatives to abortion and choose life. Pray for the doctors and staff of abortion clinics that they may see clearly what they are doing and stop. And, finally, pray for all those who work in the pro-life community, that may never tire or compromise in their efforts to end abortion. And I will continue to pray for each of you. May God bless you.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

HOMILY – Tony Albarano Funeral Mass

On behalf of the Our Lady of Peace Parish, I want to first extend, to Michelle, Vince and the rest of Tony’s family and friends, our great sadness and sorrow at the sudden loss of Tony. He was a very good man and will be missed greatly.
At the Christmas Vigil Mass, the opening prayer invites us to “pray that Christmas morning will find us at peace.” I suspect for many in this Church, Christmas morning was not a time of peace – with Tony’s death occurring just days before. However, it is through our Catholic faith that peace can be found even in the midst of such pain and sadness.
It is our hope that Tony now rests in eternal peace. We recall in today’s First Reading that “the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.” This is my hope for the soul of Tony, who was a good and just man – that he is in the hand of God and that no torment shall ever touch him again! It is my hope and prayer that on this past Christmas morning – and every morning - Tony is at peace. I pray that Tony now “abides with God in love.”
Michelle, I know that this Christmas morning you were not at peace, and really not on any morning since Tony passed away – or really not even since before Thanksgiving Day. And it may be a long while before you find peace again. For now, take comfort and find peace in recalling that short amount of time a week ago you had alone together with Tony. I know that in the midst of great sadness and chaos, during that time together both Tony and you were able to be peace just before he passed away. I know that you will cherish that. Know that the peace and love both Tony and you felt at that moment was real, true and pure – a gift from God in the midst of such great anxiety and pain.
Know also that that moment was also the product of your marriage together, which had as its goal to make Tony and you better persons – and to ultimately get each other to Heaven. I believe that the peace Tony now knows is because of you and your marriage. I also believe that your marriage to Tony and his love and care for you made you a better woman – a woman who has the strength to endure and in time will find lasting peace in the midst of this tragedy.

In the meantime, know, as we sung in today’s Responsorial Psalm, that the Lord is your shepherd – that anything you might want or need, God will provide. He will provide you comfort and protection, he will guide you and protect you; he will give you courage and nourishment. Pray and God will provide.
Vince, I suspect for you too that Christmas morning did not find you at peace. Your dad loved you and you loved him, too. For now, allow the love that you shared with your father to give you some peace. Today’s Second Reading is something of a pep talk – reminding us of God’s great love for us in the midst of struggle and discouragement. So, take some comfort and find some peace in knowing that you are also loved by God, as a father loves his son.
Vince, your dad was a great man – a caring and loving man, who worked very hard, had a great sense of humor, was brave and self-LESS, and did many wonderful things. Erin, Ryan, Colin and you were blessed to have such a wonderful example of what it means to be a man. I urge each of you to follow his example of being such a caring and generous man, who took serious his role and responsibility to provide for his family – even to the point of being on his death bed and still wanting to go to work (maybe it was the medications or out of habit, but I want to believe that it was also out of a great sense of loyalty to work and out of responsibility to provide for his family that he wanted to go to work on the day he died). What a wonderful example for each of you young men.
Finally, for the many friends and family of Tony gathered here, I suspect that Christmas morning may not have been a time of peace for you either. However, embrace Jesus’ word’s in today’s Gospel and “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Our Catholic faith professes that by Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven, he has made it possible for us to know eternal peace – to have one of the many rooms Jesus describes in today’s Gospel that awaits us in his Father’s house. This is the gift God offered Tony – and we pray that Tony is now at peace (I will let you image how Tony has deck-out his room) – and this is a gift God offers to each one of us. Let this be a source of hope and encouragement and peace for you.
As we, the community gathered here to remember Tony, continue with this celebration of the Mass, let us all take some comfort and find some peace in what we say and do next.