What Money Cannot Buy

September 18, 2022

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today’s liturgy reminds us that we are God’s stewards and that God expects faithful and prudent stewardship from us. The readings challenge us to use our God-given talents, wealth, and blessings wisely to attain Heavenly bliss. Today’s first reading from the book of Amos speaks against greed. The prophet speaks for the poor and the needy. They have God as their protector. The Israelites were waiting impatiently for the end of the holy days and Sabbaths so that they could proceed with their dishonest practices. In this specific case, the feast of the new moon was taking place. According to tradition, the first day of the new moon, like the Sabbath, was a day of rest. During these celebrations, without exception, no business was to be transacted. However, the Israelites were violating the Lord’s commands and drew His condemnation.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul invites us to pray for everyone, especially kings, rulers, leaders, and all those in charge. This prayer is necessary for conversion because, once we are converted we avoid corruption, injustice, and greed. Oppression of the poor is removed from our society. If everyone was to pray for those in authority, there would be better persons in power and better service to the public. Then, all people may live a quiet and peaceable life and come to salvation through the one mediator, Christ Jesus.

In the gospel, Jesus brings to light the fact that money and material things do not last forever, and therefore He advises us on how to make use of them without losing our salvation. It is the will of God that we should be happy here and have a share in the rich resources with which he endowed our world. The parable points out that Christians should be as prudent and resourceful in acquiring goodness as the steward was in acquiring money and making his future safe. Christians must give as much attention to things that concern their souls as they do to the things that concern worldly matters.

Jesus reminds us that earthly resources will eventually run out. Hence, our material possessions should be used for the good of others. The right use of wealth is, according to Jesus, to help the poor, the hungry, and the starving. That is the way that we make friends with God and please God.

There are many people in the Catholic Church who understand that God has given us money so that we can be generous to the needy, the poor, and the starving. Thus many of us are making wise investments for the future. Our Heavenly destiny depends on how we use the things of earth. Jesus gives us this parable in order to help us to see that our time is coming to an end and that we need to prepare an accounting. We must check whether we were using God’s gifts of wealth, health, talents, and other blessings selfishly. Or, were we using them for His glory by sharing them with others? Money is an instrument that can buy everything but happiness. It can purchase a ticket to every place but Heaven.

Learning from the Dishonest Steward

September 17, 2022

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Victor Feltes

In today’s strange parable, Jesus presents the scheming of a thief and a liar as an example we can learn from. We are not to imitate this dishonest steward’s treachery but rather his proactive shrewdness, “for the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

How shrewdly proactive are we in doing good? We hunt for bargains at the store or online. But do we pursue opportunities to be generous? You have wealth and skills – so share them creatively. We invest and save for retirement. But do we intentionally store up treasure in heaven like Jesus tells us to? You can take nothing with you when you die; but you can increase what wealth awaits you by sending it ahead of you beforehand through generous deeds done now on earth. Jesus tells us to be “as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” He wants us, in cooperation with his grace, to show initiative in strategically and sinlessly serving his Kingdom for God’s glory, for our good, and for the good of all. That’s a worthwhile takeaway, but let’s look a little deeper. Like many of Jesus’ stories, today’s parable contains weird details which goad us to grapple with it further. What do we discover when we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the dishonest steward?

In this story, a rich man has a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. (A steward is someone entrusted to manage another’s property, finances, or affairs.) The master summons his servant and said, “What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.” If you and I are this steward, then who is our rich master? Our Lord is God. We are his servants, and who could be richer than the one from whom all good things come?

What has God entrusted to us? St. Paul replies, “What do you have that you did not receive? … For we brought nothing into the world.” Even the hardest-working farmer relies upon God’s soil, sun, air, and water to transform the seeds into his harvest. Even our own efforts in doing good come from God, “for God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work,” as St. Paul tells the Philippians. Every good thing we have is his.

Have we squandered what God entrusted to us as stewards? Every sin is a misuse of what we’ve been given, and who of us has used what we were given to its full potential? Our Lord has put us on notice that a day is coming when our present stewardship will end with a full accounting of our stewardship, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” St. Paul writes, “then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.”

The steward in the parable says to himself, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.” He recognizes he is too weak and too proud. Similarly, who of us is strong enough to overcome death, to dig ourselves out of the grave? And if you or I were perfectly humble instead of proud, we would always live in the truth (about who God is and who we are) and we would never sin—and yet we do sin.

The steward says to himself, “I know what I shall do so that when I am removed from the stewardship they may welcome me into their homes.” He calls in his master’s debtors one by one, asking them, “How much do you owe my master?” He then forgives portions of their debts – sometimes a fifth or a half of what they owe. And in the end, amazingly, when what this dishonest steward has done is revealed, even his betrayed master commends him for acting prudently and this steward is welcomed into many mansions.

The Our Father prayer as it appears in St. Matthew’s Gospel says, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Whenever someone sins against you they sin against God too, creating a kind of debt, but you yourself can forgive a portion of that debt. When our Lord sees this, he commends you for it. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And when you are more mercifully generous than what is deserved, you gain blessings. “For the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” So learn from the dishonest steward. Forgive the sin-debts of others, be creative and proactive in your generosity on earth, and one day “you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Can Computers be Persons?

September 17, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In recent years, the question of artificial intelligence (AI) possessing personhood has become a hot topic of debate. Some believe that AI could one day achieve sentience and become its own entity, while others believe that personhood is something that can only be attained by beings with a soul. The Catholic Church has not yet taken an official stance on the matter [a debatable claim –Fr. VF], but it is an interesting question to consider. For example, if an AI became self-aware and could think and feel for itself, would it have the same rights as a human being? If an AI was created with the sole purpose of serving humans, is it ethical to treat it as a mere tool?

The preceding paragraph was not written by a human being but generated online by a LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). I gave the program GPT-3 the instruction: “Write an interesting introductory paragraph, including an example, for a Catholic article on the question of artificial intelligence possessing personhood.” The paragraph above was its first five sentences of its output. The accompanying illustration above was also created online using the image generation program DALL-E from my submitted prompt: “A robot touching a monolith (like in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’)”. GPT-3’s paragraph and DALL-E’s image each took less than a minute for computers to produce. We can expect computers to be capable of even more amazingly sophisticated things in years to come. This leads to the question: “Can computers be persons?

Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church in the modern world, says “[man] is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself.” But this teaching was written in 1965, when Seymour Cray had only begun building the earliest supercomputers in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Could mankind now fashion a new type of rational creature, a self-aware being endowed with an immortal soul? There are philosophical and theological issues with that proposition. First, if an AI were ever self-aware, how could we know? A computer need not be conscious to say “Hello, World!” according to its programming. Second, I am aware of nothing in divine revelation which suggests God would begin imparting souls into the works of our hands. Various electronics may be equipped with sensors and speakers and means of motion but I do not believe any of them will ever truly see or hear or speak or walk. As noted in René Magritte’s famous painting “The Treachery of Images,” a mere depiction of a pipe “is not a pipe.” Pope Francis spoke about this fundamental difference between man and machine, persons and things, in a 2019 address at the Vatican:

The inherent dignity of every human being must be firmly placed at the centre of our reflection and action. In this regard, it should be noted that the designation of ‘artificial intelligence,’ although certainly effective, may risk being misleading. The terms conceal the fact that – in spite of the useful fulfillment of servile tasks… functional automatisms remain qualitatively distant from the human prerogatives of knowledge and action. And therefore they can become socially dangerous. Moreover, the risk of man being ‘technologized,’ rather than technology humanized, is already real: so-called ‘intelligent machines’ are hastily attributed capacities that are properly human.

I cannot see Catholicism ever attributing personhood to complex machines, but I predict that others will begin to in the coming decades. As new applications are programed to increasingly replicate human conversation and emotion I could see young people imagining them as their real friends. As anthropomorphized technology’s creative feats far surpass our human abilities, I could even see some adults revering them as wise and powerful idols. If so, then these passages of Psalm 115 will find a new fulfillment: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell. They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk; they produce no sound from their throats. Their makers will be like them, and anyone who trusts in them.”

The potential of AI is very exciting, and yet it also holds dangers. The 5th Psalm reflects, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet…” Let us honor our Creator, defend the primacy of human dignity over all earthly creations, and never worship the works of our hands.

Born Again

September 10, 2022

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Dcn. Dick Kostner

Our readings for this Sunday have people who are either sinning or are in trouble with God or life and who are redeemed by either their faith or the faith of the followers of Jesus. Recently I was asked to do a funeral service for someone in our community who had committed suicide. It was a new experience for me which ultimately made me feel the love that God has for each one of us and how important being a part of the family of God has for our mental and physical health an well being. I related this to the great number of people who showed up to give their support to the grieving family, telling them that they were being called by Jesus to represent him in body form, to help family and friends get through and understand they are not alone when a tragedy and confusion occurs.

Life within our world has its ups and downs and we are all dependent upon divine help and a calling to be a spiritual representative of Jesus to help others continue on with experiences which have them feeling confused and alone. Sometimes the problems exist because of our inability to clearly see a situation and to realize that through the love of God and his followers any storm in life can be weathered. I can remember many years ago when my son and I went fishing with a neighbor and his son. While fishing the neighbors son was rambling on and on about all the material “things” a friend of his had and was feeling jealous of that friend. His dad blurted out that we all need to not worry about the gifts others have received if we but look at our own lives and realize all the good that God gives to each and every one of us, and how gifted we all are by those treasures we have already received.

This is what the elder son in today’s Gospel was mad about. He was upset because his father had held a party for his younger brother who had spent his inheritance on foolishness and had come to realize just how good he had it before leaving home. His insight caused the younger son to repent and return “home” to his family. Sometimes we are lost and need to be hit in the head before we come to our senses and realize how good life and God is to us. Many others who witness this get confused with divine forgiveness that allows conversions to occur to others who have experienced this divine love and forgiveness. That’s where the followers of Christ come in as a representative of the Body of Christ.

That is the vocation of those who have been baptized into the family of God. We are the flesh and blood of the living Christ. We are called to preach the gospel of love and forgiveness to those who have blinded by their sins and weaknesses, letting them know that God is waiting for their return home where there will be a great rejoicing by their spiritual family when they turn from their ways and proceed with their vocation of love of God and neighbor. Our Lutheran brothers and sisters call this “Being born again!

This “Being born again,” has its affect on us and how others “see” us. It is not hidden. I can remember when I did a wake service for the father of one of my high school classmates, who came up to be after the service and shook my hand and blurted out, “You scare the hell out of me!” Or a client classmate friend of mine I was doing some legal work for last year who said “I can’t believe you are the same person I went to high school with years ago!

We all have within us a soul that provides us with a hot line to God and his forgiveness and love. All we need to do is pick up the phone and yell “Help!” Help for ourselves or “Help!” for those we witness who need divine intervention and support. And to this assembly of the “Body of Christ” I say: “Welcome Home – And Happy Birthday!

The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son

September 10, 2022

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

On this twenty fourth Sunday of Ordinary time, by our faith in Christ, we have gathered in the presence of our Lord who is Loving, merciful, forgiving, and compassionate God. The Good News Jesus preached was that God is not a cruel, judging, and punishing God. He is our loving and forgiving Heavenly Father who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus.

In the first reading of today, we discover a God who is faithful to his vows. As a merciful and compassionate father. Moses is imploring a forgiving God to have mercy on the sinful people who have abandoned Him and turned to idol-worship. He reminds God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to show mercy to His unfaithful people. God heard the prayers of Moses on behalf of his people God hears Moses’ plea and takes his people back.

Today’s second reading, St. Paul repeats his story of conversion, intending to offer to everyone who will listen. As Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew, persecuted the church of God, but not only he forgiven, he is called to be an apostle. St. Paul always contrasts his life before Christ with his life after his Damascus experience. He had been the greatest of sinners, as a blasphemer and arrogant persecutor, God showed great mercy towards him. St. Paul invites us to marvel at the mercy of God and to find hope and help for dealing with our own need for conversion.

In the Gospel reading, the first two parables, there are the common elements of loss, searching, finding, rejoicing, and sharing of the joy. But in the third parable, we see a God forgiving and receiving sinners, the parables tell us about God’s generosity in seeking and receiving the sinner and the joy of the sinner in being received by a forgiving and loving God.

All three parables of Luke 15 end with a party or a celebration of the finding.  Since the self-righteous Pharisees, who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners, could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd’s joy on its discovery, the parable of the lost coin and the woman’s joy when she found it, and the parable of the lost and returned son and his Father’s joy. Besides presenting a God who is patiently waiting for the return of the sinners, ready to pardon them, these parables teach us of God’s infinite love and mercy.

We need to live every day as our merciful God’s forgiven children: Let us begin every day by prayer so that we may learn how to obey God’s holy will by doing good, avoiding evil, and trying to live in God’s presence everywhere. Before we go to bed at night, let us examine our conscience and confess to God our sins and failures of the day, asking His pardon and forgiveness.  Let us resolve to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have fallen into serious sins. Let us continue to ask for God’s forgiveness before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Thus, let us live a peaceful life as forgiven prodigal children, getting daily reconciled with God, our merciful and forgiving Father.

Let us not act like the Scribes, the Pharisees and the elder brother of the prodigal son who hold on to others’ sins rather we should act like Jesus who easily overlooks our faults and forgives us of our grave sins and then welcomes us back. We pray that the mercy of God may find us whenever we miss our track and patiently bring us back to his merciful bosom.

Parables of Towers & Kings

September 3, 2022

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” The gospels show him explaining parables to his apostles in private, but the meanings of Jesus’ symbolic stories about the Kingdom of God were kept somewhat hidden from the crowds. Christ’s enemies and scoffers would dismiss these tales as nonsense but those with faith in him would keep them and contemplate them. The foes to his public ministry walked away with no additional ammunition to attack him with, but his faithful disciples would discover wisdom in his teachings. As Jesus says, “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Sometimes the gospels explicitly tell us Jesus’ interpretations of his parables, as with The Parable of the Sower or The Parable of the Weeds. But many parables get presented without being unpacked, like our parables today: a parable about building a tower and a parable about considering battle against a stronger king. The context gives us clues to their meaning but some ambiguity remains. I believe this openness to interpretation can be intentional – inspired by God to convey multiple ideas at the same time, like that optical illusion where two profiled faces outline a vase between them, or the one where the same image depicts either an old woman or a young lady. Is the tower being built in today’s parable a good thing or a bad thing? Is the opposing king we contemplate fighting a wicked one or righteous? Each of these interpretations teaches us a lesson for the Kingdom of God.

In the first parable, Jesus asks, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’” In this parable, is the tower something good or something bad?

What is the Bible’s first and most famous tower? It’s the Tower of Babel in Genesis. The people at Babel said: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth!” This was after God had commanded Noah and his descendants to “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” But the people of Babel turned inward, seeking to glorify their own name apart from God through building a city and tower rivaling heaven.

The God of heaven, whose name is above every name, had to come down to examine their efforts. And God, foreseeing what evils Babel’s unchecked hubris and concentration of power would bring about on earth, confuses their speech. Having amusingly lost the ability to even say, “Hey, pass me that brick,” great and mighty Babel must abandon its proud project and its people scatter across the earth. Babel is the image of a wicked tower project, but another kind of tower in the Bible has positive connotations.

Both the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and Jesus Christ in the gospels speak of building watchtowers for vineyards to safeguard their previous fruits. Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants begins, “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower…” This echoes Isaiah’s song about his friend’s vineyard, which also notes, “within it he built a watchtower.” A farmer would dwell atop his tower to watch and guard his vineyard during harvest time, on the lookout for hungry foxes, badgers, jackals, and even human thieves. But a vineyard’s half-finished watchtower is of little or no use at all. Unlike the Tower of Babel, this sort of tower is good and wise to complete.

There also are two ways to take today’s second parable. Jesus asks, “What king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.” Can you prevail against an enemy who outnumbers you two-to-one? In ancient battles the side with the far more numerous forces typically won, but there were exceptions.

In the 1st Book of Maccabees, the army of the wicked, pagan King Antiochus, led by a commander who sought to ‘make a name for himself,’ came to fight the people of God on the battlefield. The soldiers of the Jewish leader, Judas Maccabeus, asked him: “How can we, few as we are, fight such a strong host as this? Besides, we are weak since we have not eaten today.” But Judas replied: “Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.” The people of God prevailed that day. Though outnumbered, the Jews would go on to win battle after battle against their enemy, so long as they were faithful in serving and honoring God.

So what do today’s parables mean for us? Well, what kind of tower are you intending to build? Is it a structure of sin, vanity, and pride (like the Tower of Babel) which will not reach heaven? Then sit down, recognize your foolishness, and change your plans, lest your foreseeable failure become your mockable, lasting legacy. Or do you plan to build a watchtower to guard your soul and protect your good fruits from anything or anyone (that is, any temptation) that would rob you? Then do not only invest in your project halfway. You cannot clear a ten-foot-wide chasm with five-foot jumps. Our hearts must not be divided, but fully devoted to Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us, “You cannot serve both God and Mammon (or, both God and money)… Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions (that is, anyone who would be unwilling to sacrifice his wealth to do my will) cannot be my disciple.” Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating (that is, if anyone loves more than me) his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This is the level of commitment that Jesus Christ expects from us.

And who is the powerful king we contemplate doing battle with? If that king in the parable is God we would be foolish to oppose him. You could not defeat him or the coming of his Kingdom with even a billion troops at your command. So it is wise to seek out and accept his peace terms now before Jesus Christ returns. Alternatively, what if that king in our parable is the Evil One? Then we should not be afraid. The devil and the demons hate us and war against us; they are legion. Yet “victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven.” As St. James writes, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

In conclusion, as you can see, the simple parables of Jesus contain riches for those who listen and keep them. Reject the foolishness of pride and vanity. Resist sin and the devil by being fully allied with Christ. Do not have a divided heart, but instead wisely invest all-in with Jesus.

St. Andrew & Discipleship

September 3, 2022

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

St. Andrew was an Apostle of Jesus Christ. After preaching the Gospel and founding many Churches in Russia, and Turkey, and moved to Greece he converted many people to Christianity. He even converted Maximilla, the proconsul’s Aegue’s wife. Maximilla was furious and sought revenge so much that he arrested St. Andrew and commanded him to give up his faith by offering incense to the idols. If he did this would let him live. But St. Andrew pleaded with him to accept Christ and thus save his soul. St. Andrew was scourged and condemned to die upon the cross. He hung upon the cross for three days suffering great agony. Before his death, he prayed “accept me, O Christ Jesus whom I love, accept my spirit in peace in your eternal realm.” He died on an X-shaped cross. St. Andrew loved God more than his life, his brothers, his sisters, and even his parents.

Christ is not literally calling us to hate the members of our family to be his disciples. He loved and obeyed his parents. Also, His mother was his first and best disciple. So, we too must love members of our families. He is not in any way preaching the gospel of hatred, rather He wants us to be more committed to his ministry.

The Gospel reading today mentions at least three things that we need to do so we can become Jesus disciple. First, we need to ‘hate’ our family and our life. This means we should make Jesus our priority and everything will fall into place. We love our families and friends but if they tell us to stop going to church, we should not listen to them. Instead, we pray for them, and in due time, they will understand and even become fellow Christians.

Second, it is necessary to carry our cross if we want to follow Jesus. This means death to ourselves, to our ego, to our old habits and behavior so that we can have a new life with Him.

Third, we are asked to renounce our possessions to be a disciple. Many times, our devotion to our business or profession gives us less time for our spiritual growth. Likewise, our material wealth becomes a source of sin because we are too attached to it. We should use our possession to glorify God and not to bring us damnation.

Jesus is telling us that we should not let anyone, including family members and even friends, hinder us from following Him. To be a true disciple, we must make Jesus our foremost priority like St. Andrew, who gave his life for Jesus and His Mission. All the other things become secondary.

Commitment and sacrifice help us to give anything to follow Jesus. These dispose us to be a better disciple of Christ. These helps us to be better husbands, wives, parents, and children. They help us to be better leaders and even servants. In the spirit of commitment and sacrifice, the wisdom of God becomes fully alive and active in us. They also help us deepen our trust in God’s divine providence and protection so that we can follow Jesus.

Meet Your Hero

August 29, 2022

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Have you ever met a famous person? There’s feelings of excitement and pleasure when you get that opportunity but often there’s some nervous awkwardness as well. You know a little about celebrities, about the things they’ve done, but you don’t really know them. You are really strangers to each other and that colors your encounter, limiting your connection. But by spending an hour sharing company and conversation of your admired person you would begin to deepen your acquaintance.

What if you had a sibling, a childhood friend, or a best friend in college who went on to fame and success? Encounters with that celebrity would feel very different because of your existing relationship. The pope, the president, tech billionaires, and movie stars have family and friends who have known them since long before they were famous. And when those close relations get personal invites to the Vatican, to the White House, to go yachting, or to attend a film premiere they rejoice at the opportunity, but they do not come to meet a celebrity but be with their friend or family member.

Imagine yourself back again in high school or at your first job, but possessing the wisdom that you have now. If it were revealed to you that one of your peers, one of your classmates or coworkers, would become truly great, like one day be canonized a saint, would you be interested in befriending them? Of course! You would be blessed to share their friendship. What sort of person would neglect the opportunity to get to know such a person better? One day, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus Christ is our admired hero whom we can get to know in deeper, more intimate, friendship now before his greatness is acknowledged by all the world.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…” Yet these realities, present at every Mass surrounding Jesus in the Eucharist, remain veiled to our sight. They are not yet clearly manifest like the blazing fire, gloomy darkness, storms, and trumpet blasts which terrified the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. These supernatural realities are hidden for now, such that non-believers dismiss them and even believers can neglect them. Too often, Catholics neglect the Lord who calls us to celebrate the Holy Mass and to worship him truly present in the Eucharist.

Jesus says, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet… go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.” It takes humility to consistently come and worship him, the proud refuse, but faithfulness will be rewarded with glory, for “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Prophet Sirach wrote, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Who does the Lord delight in more: those who give their gifts of money or those who give him themselves? “Humble yourself,” as Sirach says, “and you will find favor with God.”

One way to humble yourself, to grow in friendship with Christ and open yourself to receive his graces, in addition to coming to Sunday Mass, is through praying Holy Hours in the presence of our Lord. The Eucharist is “the Source and Summit of the Christian life” because it is the encounter with Jesus Christ and his one sacrifice. And at the conclusion of the Mass the Real Presence of Jesus (his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, his whole living person) endures in all of the consecrated Hosts which remain. We keep these Host of our Lord inside the tabernacle. This is why when we enter, or exit, or cross this church, we genuflect (bending our knee) towards Jesus present there. So even outside of times of Mass, we can take a seat or kneel before Christ’s enduring presence sharing his company and conversation in worship. When you do this for sixty minutes it’s called a Holy Hour, which is a practice highly-recommended by the saints.

One of the best ways to pray a Holy Hour is at Eucharistic Adoration, when our Lord is placed upon the altar in a golden holder called a monstrance, which has a window so that you may gaze upon him. Adorers speak silently to Jesus and listen in their minds and hearts for his occasional replies. Some people bring their bibles or spiritual books to read and then relate to the Lord about what they’re read. Some people pray devotions, like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people simply sit with Christ; they look at him and he looks at them. Once it becomes a habit, these Holy Hours pass swiftly, like an episode of your favorite TV show. Simply sitting in the sunlight—doing nothing—will give you a tan. Likewise, spending time with the Lord in this way will change you, it will not be without effect. Your personal relationship with Jesus Christ will grow and what is more important than that?

For years, St. John the Baptist’s Church in Cooks Valley has had 1st Friday Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays before the 1st Friday of each month, from their 8:30 AM Thursday Mass until the 10:30 AM Mass on Friday. Now, St. Paul’s Church in Bloomer is beginning monthly Eucharistic Adoration as well, on Thursdays before the 2nd Friday of each month, following their Thursday morning Mass until 7 PM that day. Please say to our Lord, “Yes Jesus, I can devote one Holy Hour a month to you in the Blessed Sacrament.” Give him this gift, because God will not be outdone in generosity, and you will grow in your friendship with Jesus Christ, our hero, whose name shall be exalted above every name.

The Gift of Eternal Life ― Funeral Homily for Leonard & Jean Halfman

August 26, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Imagine if, one night in a dream, an archangel visited you. His incredible glory fills your vision and you are convinced he comes from heaven. He bears a message for you. “Behold,” he announces, “the Lord God has decreed that you shall never die.” Then the angel departs from you and you awake in the morning wondering what this means.

A few years pass and you notice nothing unusual. You wonder if you might have imagined it. But a few more years pass and you realize that you’re not aging. A decade passes, and then another, but your age remains the same. If anything, you seem a little bit younger, while you see your friends and relatives grow older. You delight to be healthy and able to join them for their good times and you are grateful you can be there for them in their hard times. Eventually, you attend all of their funerals. You mourn their passing, but your life still contains joy.

Through the years, you make new friends. Perhaps you marry, or remarry, and have many children. You collect new hobbies, go back to school to earn degrees, and start careers in various fields. Eventually, you explore other regions of the world, learn new languages, and experience the best of other cultures. Your unending lifetimes would fill centuries, and your centuries might span millennia, but the longing within you would remain unfulfilled.

Your eyes may be filled by beautiful sights, your mouth may be filled with delicious tastes, and your ears may be filled with lovely sounds, but you would become envious of those who die because this world’s good things cannot fully satisfy. God places within us a natural wariness of death, and this is healthy and good. (If human beings failed to take proper care of themselves—if we were naturally apathetic towards survival—how could God’s purposes be accomplished in our lives?) But after having lived for multiple lifetimes, the blessing of earthly immortality would feel like being left out, left behind, like a curse. You would envy those who get to experience what’s next, while you continue to wait, with great impatience, for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

This funeral is unique in all my years of priesthood. Never before have I celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial for more than one person at once. And thankfully, today’s double funeral does not follow a horrific tragedy, such as a family’s fatal car crash or a double murder. Leonard and Jean lived longer lives than most people: eighty years and seventy-seven years respectively. And they lived fuller lives than most people, with strong Catholic Faith which they imparted to their children through fifty-six years of marriage.

Though a quiet, introverted pessimist was paired with a talkative, extroverted optimist, together they reflected Christian excellence to the world – feeding others through an extraordinary dairy herd, and supporting and caring for the sick and dying. Both endured physical sufferings, realizing along the way that the brain is a bodily organ which can require a physician’s help as much as any other. And finally, after sharing a lifetime together, their earthly lives came to natural ends less than ten weeks apart from each other. Despite living only one lifespan each, Leonard and Jean did not see their coming deaths as tragedies. I am told by their children, “In their own way, each experienced joy when they realized that they were nearing the end of this life and entering eternal life, and they were ready to go.”

Jesus says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink… ill and you cared for me…” The Book of Wisdom says, “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble…” So while there is naturally some sadness today, we do not mourn a tragedy but rejoice in a triumph. As St. Paul said: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? … Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Are you Friends with Jesus?

August 21, 2022

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

How many friends do you have on earth? When was the last time you counted them? It’s not the same as the number of Facebook friends you have. Each of us have many acquaintances, but fewer friendly acquaintances, and still fewer true friends. What is it that makes you and your friends friends? Are you friends with Jesus and how can you tell?

Luke’s Gospel relates a parable which foreshadows that not all will die as friends of Christ. The Lord Jesus is the master of the house and he plainly warns us that after he has arisen and locked the door, many will stand outside knocking and saying, “Lord, open the door for us… We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” But he will answer, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” In the parallel passage to this which appears in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus cautions us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.’” Seeing many figures from the Old Covenant and from around the world saved, reclining at table, and feasting in the kingdom of God, those kept outside will be angry and grieved, wailing and grinding their teeth, at having squandered their chance to enter.

But doesn’t Jesus say elsewhere: “Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”? That is true for us during this lifetime, but at the moment of death one’s eternal fate is sealed. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.” (CCC #1021) We must come to Jesus. Jesus says, “I am the gate…. No one comes to the Father except through me… Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Now is the time to approach him and befriend him for our salvation. We know that he loves us, but are we friends with Jesus?

When I was growing up, I thought about how many friends I had. I wondered, “Who counts as a friend?” I came up with a test: my close friends were those who could invite me to their house for supper with their family, or whom I could have over to eat with mine, without it being strange. With most of my grade school peers such invites would have felt weird, but with my handful of friends it felt fine. Eating with other people has been a sign of fellowship since ancient times. This is partly why Jesus calls us to Mass, to this meal together with him and the family of God. What greater dinner invitation could we receive than this?

Yet, simply eating with our Lord does not guarantee our closeness. During his public ministry, Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with them while regarding him with suspicion, and recall what those locked outside in the parable say to our Lord: “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” Merely being present for these activities does not automatically yield a close friendship with Christ. At every Mass, Jesus’ Word is taught and his Body and Blood are consumed, but friendship with Christ is about more than just coming to church. So how can we be closer to him?

I recognized my boyhood friends in those whom I would visit for meals and whom I would likewise welcome to dine with me. Jesus invites us to visit him in the Eucharist but desires that we in turn would invite him to our homes. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” How can we invite Jesus inside? How do we receive him into the places where we live?

Jesus knocks upon the door of our souls and hearts and minds each day, and through daily prayer we let him in. Open the door to him by prioritizing your relationship with habits of devotion. Be a gracious host to your great guest and make him feel at completely home, listening to his voice and fulfilling all his requests. Seek to serve the Kingdom of Christ and embody his righteousness as a saint like him. Reject your sins and love like him, for Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jesus knows we’ll mess up sometimes, but Christ’s true friends will strive to be his close friends.

Choose the Narrow Gate

August 20, 2022

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Salvation is a past, present, and future event. We were saved from the bondage of sin when we were baptized as children or adults. We are being saved in the present, when we cooperate with God’s grace by loving others as Jesus did, by sharing our blessing with the needy, and being reconciled with God daily through His forgiveness of our sins. We will be definitively saved when we hear the loving invitation from Jesus, our Judge, at the moment of our death when we hear Him say, “Good and faithful servant, you were faithful in little things enter into the joy of your Master.”

Today’s first reading about the prophesy of Isaiah, we hear about the return of God’s people to Jerusalem. It is an assurance that God will fulfill His promise to His People. God will soon fulfill his promise of restoring us to Himself. He will do this to show His saving power. God has the purpose for this gathering, this is for the glory of his name. In other words, every work he does has the remote aim of giving Him Glory. In addition to gathering us unto Himself, God will also make us his ambassadors to other nations.

Today’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews gives us the “narrow gate” theology. The road less often taken and the gate less often chosen are the paths of God’s discipline. The pain and suffering Christians experience are the parts of God’s discipline given in love. We are being disciplined by our afflictions, strengthened to walk that straight and narrow path – that we may enter the gate and take our place at the banquet of the righteous. The experience is similar to that of a child being disciplined by loving parents who desire only to help him grow, mature, and become responsible.

In the Gospel, Jesus answers a very difficult question, “Lord, will there be only a few saved?” His response was very simple, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door.” Jesus affirms that God wants all persons to enjoy eternal life. But he stresses our need for constant fidelity and vigilance to His commandments throughout our lives. Thus Jesus reminds us that, even though God wants all of us to be saved, we all need to work at it. Entry into God’s Kingdom is not automatically granted. Jesus came to bring God’s love and freedom to the whole world. The message of his Gospel is that there is not a single person, people, nation, race or class which will be excluded from experiencing the love and liberation that God offers.

We need to make wise decisions and choose the narrow gate. God allows us to decide every day what road we will walk down and what gate we will choose. He encourages us to choose His way and His life. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” this means a consistent denial of self for the steady follower of Jesus.

We need to cooperate with God’s grace every day, by choosing the narrow way and the narrow gate of self – control of our evil tendencies, evil habits, and addictions. God gives us divine strength to practice self – control. We are enabled to love others, see the face of Jesus in them, and share our blessings with them. The Holy Spirit guides us through the narrow way in daily prayer, bible reading, and reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.

The Way to Peace

August 14, 2022

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

In today’s world, every morning we see and hear multiple stories of division and violence, in families, cities and countries. In today’s gospel Jesus asked his disciple a question? “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He then talks about households being divided and family members turning on each other. What is the message Jesus is trying to convey to the disciples and to us? Is He trying to open our minds and hearts to the reality of our world and the reality of our human condition?

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah experiences the consequences of the word of God burning within him. His message was so disturbing to the leading men in the society so their simple and selfish plan was to get rid of him by setting the king up against him. Although they succeeded in their lot, God proved himself a powerful Savior. As the one who sent the prophet, He did not allow him to perish, but in His way came to his aid. Our God is ever faithful and ready to deliver us in times of difficulty.

Today’s second reading is from the letter to the Hebrews. It reminds the early Christians of what an authentic Christian life consists of, that is, to remain faithful to the will of the Heavenly Father even to the point of enduring opposition and suffering death just as Jesus did. The author of this letter reminds the community not to lose sight of Jesus by remaining steadfast to Him and not becoming discouraged in their commitments to his teaching. Jesus promises that the faithful follower will receive a divine reward. This passage is clearly encouraging the new converts to reject the previous way of life in favor of a life in Christ.

In today’s gospel, Jesus, the Prince of peace invites his disciple to a holy war against sin and evil forces. The message of Jesus brings love, compassion, harmony, and peace. Love brings people together so that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female. It is Jesus nature challenges injustice, corruption, discrimination, abuse, dishonesty, and all attacks on human dignity. Jesus has come to set fire on earth and bring division instead of peace. Fire is the sign of purification – Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Fire is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a consuming fire. The ministry of Jesus on earth included preparing the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the as Sanctifier.

The Spirit of Jesus is given to all freely who choose to follow him through baptism. This is a fire planted within us, to guide us, to direct us, and to admonish us when we deviate from the path. The fire of Jesus that lives in each of us helps to mold us into what we are meant to be, a burning flame that warms our hearts and encourages us to continue the work of Jesus today.

During our baptism we received the light of Christ and were instructed to keep that light burning brightly until the return of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts at Confirmation to set us on fire. We have to inflame people to care, to serve, and to bless one another with all the gifts of Faith. We should allow that fire to burn the impurities in us that may be war, violence, and division and to discover the pure gold and silver within us.

Our Many Friends in Heaven

August 14, 2022

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews celebrates the faith and actions of Old Testament heroes: beginning with Abel, Enoch, and Noah; Abraham and Sarah; Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; Moses and Rahab; Israel’s judges Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah; David, Samuel, and all the prophets. Then comes the passages of today’s second reading:

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”

These witnesses surrounding us who can help us follow Jesus are not far away. As The Letter to the Hebrews tells us later in the same chapter:

You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

St. Paul once wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But can the holy dead help us in more ways than merely being a good examples? Indeed. First we must understand that the holy dead are still alive.

The Sadducees who questioned Jesus about the resurrection of the dead did not believe in life after death and only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. So using only those five books (known as the Torah), Jesus proves that the dead still live. Jesus asks them: “Have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the [burning] bush, how God told him, ‘I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

But have the holy dead ever been of any help to the living? “Behold,” at Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, “two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Even before he opened the gates of heaven, they are aware of the nature of Jesus’ salvific mission and encourage him before he undergoes his Passion. By the will of God, Jesus was aided by the saints and they would help us too. The Book of Revelation shows saints in heaven now, before the end of the world. They express concern about events down here on earth and offer their prayers to God.

Offering prayers to the saints above goes back to the Early Church. The first centuries saw huge theological fights over things like deciding on which date to celebrate Easter or choosing the very best word in Greek to articulate a tenet about the Trinity, but the Early Church never blinked at prayers asking the intercession of the saints. If this practice had been some novel innovation alien to the Faith passed down by the apostles, it would have raised major upheaval. The presence of such prayers in the historical record and the simultaneous absence of major controversy tells us something.

Now when some non-Catholic Christians hear about us praying to saints, they assume this means we worship saints. We love and honor saints, but we worship God alone. The objectors misunderstand by equating all prayer with worship. The word “pray” is an old English word which means “to ask, or request.” This word is commonly seen in Shakespeare plays, as in “I pray thee, hold thy peace.” Praying to saints is asking them to ask God to help us.

At this point some critics counter, “Then why not simply go to Jesus? Why not just pray directly to him?” We can and we do, but I would ask these persons if they ever ask their family members or friends to pray for them and whether they consider this a good and worthwhile thing to do. Scripture indeed teaches us to “pray for one another,” noting that “the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” If you’re going to ask anyone to pray for you, who better than a holy saint in Heaven?

In preparing for this homily, it occurred to me to look up the saint for today to use as an illustration of what we can learn from them and how they can help us. I typed into my search engine: “August 13 feast day” and information about St. Anthony of Padua popped up. This was both a outstanding and peculiar result; outstanding because he’s a great and fascinating saint, peculiar because his feast day is not August 13th but June 13th. I took this as a sign that acquaintance with St. Anthony is meant to be more widely shared today.

St. Anthony of Padua was born in Portugal in 1095. Though from a prominent family, he entered religious order at the age of fifteen. He sought to become a martyr by preaching Christ in Muslim lands, and eventually received his superiors’ permission to do so, but illness prevented his journey. He then tried to live quiet life of prayer and penance as a hermit, but God again had other plans for him. When asked to give a short sermon during a meal held for Dominicans and Franciscans following an ordination Mass, Anthony’s previously unknown brilliance shined through.

Anthony was reportedly “gifted with a prodigious memory, so that he retained all he read, and could have it ready at hand whenever needed.” St. Thomas Aquinas is also said to have had a memory like that, having written his book “The Golden Chain” (a collection of the Church Fathers’ commentary on each chapter of the Gospels) from memory. These anecdotes are plausible to me because I personally know a cardinal who could have met you once years before and at your next meeting would remember your face, your name, where you had met, and what you talked about. Though you and I lack this incredible gift, there is an encouragement for us in it. If natural human brains in this fallen world can sometimes possess this amazing ability, then our minds in glorified bodies will be capable of the same and more one day.

St. Anthony met and befriended St. Francis of Assisi, who sent him forth to be a traveling preacher. His preaching drew crowds so large that the churches could not hold all of the people. One of the things I love about saints’ stories is learning about how they handled difficulties, be they personal, interpersonal, or practical problems. For instance, how does one preach to a crowd of 30,000 gathered in an open field in the time before electricity? St. Anthony would stand and speak from a raised platform in the center, then brothers posted at increasing distances around him would repeat his message, phrase by phrase, to the crowd.

Like many other saints, we can read St. Anthony’s wisdom online for free. Some quotes from St. Anthony include: “Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.” He said, “Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul.” And, “Attribute to God every good that you have received. If you take credit for something that does not belong to you, you will be guilty of theft.”

St. Anthony was once a victim of theft. One of the monks ran away from his monastery and took with him one of Anthony’s books. In those days before the printing press, books could be very pricey and might be resold for fast cash. This particular book was dear to St. Anthony so he prayed it might return. His prayer was answered when the runaway brother had a change of heart, returned to the community, and repentantly gave back the book. This story is the reason why St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items.

His intercession in finding lost items is powerful. I encourage small children be taught to say this delightful prayer while spinning: “Tony, Tony, come around, help what’s lost to soon be found.” (Of course, adults may choose different words and omit the action entirely if they prefer). This February, during the process of selling St. Jude’s Church, I realized that the key to the church I needed for a meeting in New Auburn that same hour was missing. I checked all over my rectory’s floors, tables, and countertops. It occurred to me I might have lost it amongst the dirty laundry, so I took my hamper down to the laundry room. Before searching my fresh, clean clothes I began checking my dirty clothes’ pockets. Then I thought, ‘I should pray for St. Anthony of Padua’s help.’ At the very moment I began to speak to him, my hand touched the key in a pants pocket. It was surreal and I felt very, very grateful.

Like the story I told at yesterday’s funeral, as Anthony lay dying (at the age of 35 from an illness) he had a vision of a heavenly visitor. One of the friars asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently. He replied, “I see my Lord!” Saints’ stories also contain weird and wonderful miracles, which show that there is more to reality than the world we see. When Anthony’s tomb was opened thirteen years after his passing, his body had naturally decayed to dusty bones, but his motionless tongue—which had proclaimed Jesus Christ so well—appeared healthy, moistened, and alive.

Are you called to be a European religious brother, priest, and Doctor of the Church like St. Anthony of Padua? Almost certainly not. Nor are you called to be an celibate Middle Eastern carpenter like Jesus Christ. But the saints show us powerful and beautiful reflections of Christ, different ways of being like our Lord, in every age and walk of life.

I hope that you will get closer to St. Anthony and the many friends we have in heaven. Ask God to introduce you, learn about them and befriend them. By the time you discover a new saint, he or she knows and loves you already, for the knowledge and love possessed by the saints in glory partakes of the wisdom and love of God.

Invited Home ― Funeral Homily for Kathleen Zwiefelhofer, 82

August 12, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

In my priesthood, I have visited many dying people and heard many stories told by family members about them. In this, I have found patterns among Christians dying. For instance, as I have spoken about before, the dying person may or may not know they are in their final week of life, yet he or she is often blessed to have “a last good day.” A happy day shared with loved ones or enjoying a dearly-loved activity is gifted to them by God, from whom all good things come.

Another providential pattern I often see when visiting the dying is how people come to for the Anointing of the Sick. Though wavering in consciousness when I call their names and they open their eyes and they realize a priest has come to share God’s grace. When I came Kathleen’s side in the emergency room to give her the sacrament for those in danger of death, I called her name and she opened her eyes, and knowingly received this consolation from God. Kathleen’s journey from this life features two more elements dying Christians commonly experience. The first was her desire “to go home.”

As we grow old, our bodies are beset with infirmities. This reminds us that all of us must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what [we] did in the body, whether good or evil.” Our physical frailty helps to detach us from this world so that we are open to something greater. Our weakness leads us pray like the psalm: “Put an end to my affliction and my suffering; and take all my sins away. … To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”

Throughout this year, burdened in her mind and body, Kathleen has expressed a desire “to go home.” She said this while still living at home, in the house she grew up in, next-door to St. Paul’s Church. So what “home” did she mean? Kathleen, in faith, was expressing her longing for heaven. St. Paul writes, “We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. [And so] we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.

The second detail from Kathleen’s story which I have encountered before in others is visions of visitors. Kathleen’s parents, George and Catherine, and her husband, Leon, each died many years ago. Yet Kathleen reported being in dialogue with them. She said they discussed with her whether or not it was “time for her to go.” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, by saints and angels who desire us to dwell with them in God’s holy city, the new and heavenly Jerusalem. They pray for us and help us. On the morning before Kathleen was taken to the hospital, she had another vision. She extended her palm before her saying, “He’s right here. He’s right here,” though she did not clarify whom.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is the reason we are here. He is why Kathleen did not fear to die. And he is the cause we have for hope in unending life and a greater home. Let us pray for Kathleen’s soul, entrusting her to our loving Lord.

In the Boss’s Shoes

August 7, 2022

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Once upon a time, you had an idea, an idea to bless the entire world by starting a new business from scratch. You fully invested yourself into the project – your time and talent and treasure – to make this enterprise successful, and it was very successful. After leading your business for many years without a single vacation, you announced you would be taking some time away. You reassured your employees the company would continue and that you would be back, perhaps in a few weeks or maybe several months.

You gave careful instructions to all of your managers for what they were to do in your absence, and then you left on a journey which was out of this world. You celebrated a beautiful, destination wedding which you had long-looked forward to and enjoyed many other things. Then one Friday afternoon around 3:00 PM, you returned to your workplace, your creation.

Driving into the parking lot, you’re surprised by how few cars there are. Your confusion turns into shock when you discover the building’s front doors are locked, despite it being business hours. Fishing out your keys from your pocket you unlock the door and walk into an empty lobby. First, you go to your office and find your dear secretary, Mary, at her desk.

Thank God you’re here,” she says and she begins to tear up. “After you left, everything became horrible. Despite what you told them, people started doing their own thing. When I tried to correct them, they wouldn’t listen and were cruel.” “Where are they now?” you ask. “Most of the salaried employees have simply stopped showing up, and the rest are skipping work today to make it another ‘long weekend.’” “Mary, I thank you for your faithfulness. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I will make it up to you.

As you walk throughout the building you notice many empty beer bottles and pizza boxes laying around. The cubicles and warehouse are nearly deserted, except for Jennifer helping customers over the phone at her computer and Michael moving shipping crates on his forklift. Then you find several of the junior employees goofing-off in the break room. They become very quiet when you enter.

Why aren’t you working?” “Because… no one has told us what to do.” “Fine! Start by clearing these tables and picking up the floor. Clean these workspaces and take out the trash. Then report back to me.

Returning to your office, you immediately dictate two memos: the first, firing all of your current managers for cause, and a second memo giving large raises and promotions to Mary, Jennifer, and Michael, appointing them as the new leaders of their departments. I trust this tale sounds familiar; it is similar to Jesus’ parables but dressed in modern clothes.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to be prepared “like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” Blessed will such servants be upon his arrival, especially if he finds them vigilant in nighttime’s “second or third watch,” that is, during this world’s darkest hours. Their joyfully returning lord and master will be so grateful for their proven faithfulness. “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them,” just like Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, dries their feet with a towel wrapped around his waist, and gives them his Eucharist at the Last Supper. Our Lord and Master, who shall come knocking on an unknown future day – either on the day we die or on the Last Day – is Jesus Christ himself.

As for those who say “the master is delayed in coming” or imagine he is never coming back, who mistreat other people (the menservants and the maidservants) and serve their own selfish desires (eating and drinking and getting drunk), our Lord will come at an unknown hour and punish them severely, condemning them to where the unfaithful go.

In the beginning, God had an idea, an idea to bless our entire world, creating this universe from scratch. Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, has fully invested himself into his enterprise’s success. Yet Jesus has given us all freewill. Though never far, Christ leaves us free to choose to be his good co-workers or to do our own wicked thing. Today I hope that, having imagined yourself in the Boss’s shoes, you may better personally feel and appreciate how much our Lord treasures your faithfulness and how eager he is to reward it.