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.