Archive for the ‘Fatherhood’ Category

“I Believe in God”

February 20, 2021

1st Sunday of Lent

“I believe in God,
  the Father almighty,
  creator of heaven and earth.
  I believe in Jesus Christ,
  his only Son, our Lord.”

Thus begins the Apostles’ Creed, the earliest known Christian creed. Like the later Nicene Creed, it opens with a statement: “I believe” which in Latin is “Credo,” and from this the Church’s authoritative summaries of our Christian Faith are called creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is so named because it is rightly considered a faithful profession of the Faith the apostles believed and preached. Since our return to public Masses, we have been proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed together on Sundays and solemnities. For this season of Lent, I am going to do something I have never tried before. Beginning this Sunday and continuing through the 5th Sunday of Lent, I will be preaching a homily series on the Apostles’ Creed. Week by week, we will unpack this, “the oldest Roman catechism,” and explore its meaning and implications for us. The Apostles Creed begins, as all things began, with God.

I believe in God. The whole creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of this world it does so in relation to God. Each passage in the creed tells us more about him, much like how God has progressively revealed himself to us, who he is and what he is like, more and more throughout salvation history. Who is God? God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection. God is without beginning and without end. God is Truth who cannot lie. The beginning of sin and of man’s fall was due to a lie of the tempter who sowed doubt concerning God’s word, faithfulness, and love. God is love. God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God is an eternal exchange of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They call us to share in their personal communion of love now and forever, but the choice whether to respond is ours.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. God the Father is the Father of all. He is the origin of everything, of the Holy Trinity in eternity and of all Creation in history. The Father fashions the material universe and the spiritual realms distinct from and outside of himself, and by his gift he creates new life inside of them, including the angels and us. God the Father is transcendent authority, perfectly just, while providing good things and loving care for all his children.

The story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood from the Book of Genesis communicates important truths. God is our Creator with sovereignty over all he has made. He is holy and hates sin in his creatures. God’s Great Flood aims to wash away sin from the face of the earth and then begin anew through a new covenant with Noah. Yet the consequences of the Fall were neither cured nor cleansed; Noah and his household carried sin with them onto the ark and humanity’s waywardness continued after they disembarked.

This represents a cautionary tale for us against a common human error or misconception about how evil might be cancelled or conquered in this world. In 1945, the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to a Soviet forced labor camp for his criticism of communist tyranny. After his release he went on to write his most famous work, “The Gulag Archipelago.” In it, the Christian Solzhenitsyn shares this true insight:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

We can and should work for change in this world, but advocacy for changing evils “out there” will prove ultimately futile without accompanying spiritual change within us. But how are we to accomplish this most difficult transformation inside our own hearts? Human history and our personal experience show we cannot achieve this on our own, so how shall we be saved?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. On the cusp of his fruitful public ministry,

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
  and he remained in the desert for forty days,
  tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts…”

After the Fall of man, the garden paradise is replaced by a desert. The animals, formerly tame in the Garden of Eden, have become wild in our fractured world. Humanity now had a great debt with God it could not pay, a vast chasm between him and us we could not cross. The first Adam died unatoned, but a new Adam has come. The Eternal Son of God entered time and space and became human to reconcile God and man and establish a new covenant between us. Jesus comes to undo the Fall, dwelling in the desert among the wild beasts, to be tempted by the ancient serpent, the devil. Jesus comes to reclaim the crown that Adam had lost. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, would be the Lord of all. He comes and proclaims:

“This is the time of fulfillment.
  The Kingdom of God is at hand.
  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

During these forty desert days of Lent, Jesus invites you to approach him, asking his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. He invites you dwell with him, spend time with him, encountering him through daily prayer and the Holy Eucharist. Jesus would accompany and strengthen you in your earnest battles against temptation, growing you in his virtues. And he would perfect your love, forming you in his likeness, preparing you for more fruitful works on earth and for the supreme, communal joy of Heaven. Now is the time for Confession, for prayer, for the Mass, growth in virtue, and growth in love.

The Holy Spirit would lead you out to Jesus during this desert retreat of Lent. And everything Jesus does for you, everything he does within you, is to lead you back to God our Father. I believe and proclaim that this is the Father’s will for you. Yet, despite all of almighty God’s infinite, omnipotent power, only you can freely choose whether to answer him with your “Yes.”

God’s Divine Plan

December 26, 2020

Feast of the Holy Family
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Today I would like us to reflect on what the “Holy Family” really is. I want to begin by dissecting our definition of “family” and try to expand upon that definition to reveal the gift that God has given us. If I were to ask you to define “family” I believe most of us would say it’s a union of people consisting of a father, a mother and children. Now if I were to ask you to define what the “Holy Family” is, I believe most of us would say, “Well, that’s Joseph, Mary and Jesus.” But I think that if we reflect upon this a little bit we would realize there is something missing with our formula for “Holy Family”. How did all this begin? Well like everything its origins begin with the creator, with God. It was through a divine plan for the building of the kingdom, that God put together this relationship we call “family”.

Within the traditional family we have a “father”,  a head or lead person for this relationship. Let’s look at Joseph for some characteristics. Joseph was a humble person; a man who provided for his family; he was a listener to what God was saying to him, he was a listener to the concerns of the other family members. Joseph was trusting of what God had planned for him and his family even though he could not understand the details of the plan. Joseph was loving and cared deeply for Mary and for Jesus and was the primary teacher for his family for the laws of his Jewish faith. He was committed to obeying the laws of God and of his faith and in being the lead person to teach his family those laws.

Also within the traditional family there is a “mother”. a person committed to be the love glue of the family. Let’s look at Mary for some characteristics of this family member. Mary was a great listener. She had a tremendous faith that allowed her to trust in God; this faith allowed her much courage and she not only listened to God but was fearless in going out into uncharted waters. Mary was wise and loving and could read the will and needs of her family. She always put the welfare of her family first over her needs and desires.

Also within the traditional family there are children. Let’s look at Jesus to see what characteristics this family member has. Jesus was also a great listener. He listened to his parents and to his heavenly father. He was a student, a person thirsty to learn about his faith and his roots. Jesus was obedient to the will of his family and to the will of his heavenly father. Jesus was like the other family members, loving and caring about the welfare of his family and the welfare of others.

This relationship we call “family” was a creation of God with the purpose and design to help foster and grow the kingdom of God. So what is missing from our traditional definition of “Holy Family” is a very important member, that member being God, the Father, the creator of this entity. When God is so recognized we are no longer just a family we are now a “holy family” for we recognize that we were brought together through the divine plan of the Father!

Within our culture we see many attacks on the family. We find so called experts who are trying to re-define what a family is. We find a culture trying to re-define the roles of mother, father and children within a family, and even telling us that certain positions are not necessary to have a family. Whenever humans try to alter God’s divine plan there are going to be malfunctions and problems. If we remove for example certain parts of an automobile, we find that it does not run as good. Why, because we are altering what its creator intended. If certain key parts of a car are removed at some point it will no longer function or run. So it is with God’s creation of family. If we try and alter what the creator intended at some point it breaks down and will no longer function. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians today, tells it all, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

As members of the Holy Family of God our spirits are joined so that we can receive the benefits of intimacy both in this life and in the next. That means death becomes non existent. Those of you who have experienced the loss of a loved one know what I am talking about. While body presence may be missing the spirit of Holy family members lives on and time is no longer relevant. Members of God’s Holy Family continue their presence with us even after death. During the Advent Season I pondered this point when I was feeling bad that our Churches could not be filled to capacity because of Covid limitations. But during Mass I realized that our Church’s are still filled to capacity not just on Christmas and Easter but at every Mass because our deceased Holy Family members are still here with us in Spirit filling our Churches with standing room only. You know I am a Student of the Spirit. I’m going to share a quote from a favorite website of mine, Spirit Daily. Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the moving through grief, the value of redemptive suffering, and how to wait for God’s timing fruitfully. She says this about the mystery of the Holy Spirit:

When you’ve learned to attune yourself to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, you will be aware of His presence in you at all times. Sometimes God chooses to sleep in us, and we don’t notice Him moving or working. Other times, we have a distant but keen awareness that God is accompanying us through a difficult decision or terrifying prognosis.

One day we come to a realization that all we do throughout our days are done in and with Him. Even when we do not consciously or formally make an offering to God, the union we share with Him is so obvious that we don’t need to speak but just be. In that being, we discover the place where we end and God begins is a very short thread.

We are told by our Church Leaders that it is believed that during Christmas that God releases the most family members from Purgatory and welcomes them into heaven. I believe that is because of our Prayers and Masses that are offered up for those Souls who have joined us to celebrate Eucharist. So to all of the deceased Holy Family spiritual members with us today we need to say “Merry Christmas” and thanks for joining our Holy Family celebrations.

Five Reflections on St. Joseph

December 11, 2020

By Fr. Victor Feltes

This week, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal (that is, the entire) Church, Pope Francis declared this “The Year of St. Joseph” through December 8th, 2021. The Holy Father also published an apostolic letter about Jesus’ beloved foster-father entitled “Patris Corde” (or “With a Father’s Heart”). In it, Pope Francis writes about Christian devotion to this great saint and mentions how the phrase “Go to Joseph” has an Old Testament origin. These are five of my personal reflections on St. Joseph.

Go to Joseph

In the Book of Genesis, during a time of famine across the known world, the Egyptians begged their pharaoh for bread. He in turn replied, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.” Pharaoh was referring to Joseph the son of Jacob who had risen from a very lowly state to become the viceroy of the kingdom. Enlighted by divinely-inspired dreams, this Joseph’s leadership went on to feed and save the whole world from death, including his own family. According to the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the New Testament’s Joseph also had a father named Jacob. Though poor and obscure, St. Joseph’s heaven-sent dreams enabled him to guide and protect his Holy Family, leading to the world’s salvation through the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Today, as a powerful intercessor in the Kingdom of God, we are wise to “go to Joseph” for needed help.

His One Word

Within the Gospels, St. Joseph has no recorded words. There is no indication the foster-father of Jesus and spouse of the Virgin Mary was physically unable to speak or ever took a vow of silence; he is simply never quoted. Yet the Gospels suggest he said at least one specific word.

Matthew’s Gospel records how an angel (probably the Archangel Gabriel though perhaps another) told Joseph in a dream: “‘[Mary, your wife,] will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus…’ When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.” Just as John’s Gospel tells us “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book,” so St. Joseph almost certainly said many unrecorded things. But the one word that Scripture most clearly suggests St. Joseph said is “Jesus.” The name of Jesus is the sum total proclamation of St. Joseph’s life. May it be so for us as well.

Image of the Father

The Letter to the Colossians says of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Something analogous was true of St. Joseph for Jesus in being the earthly image of his Father in Heaven. Joseph’s life has no recorded beginning or end in the Bible. We know that he was a carpenter craftsman – a creator of many things to be blessing for others. Perhaps he looked at everything he made and found it very good. Alongside Mary, Jesus was obedient to Joseph; he was Jesus’ boyhood teacher, deliverer, and role-model. Jesus lovingly called him, “Abba, father.” St. Joseph was a holy and loving image of God the Father for his Son. Though imperfect, may we likewise be images of God for each of our biological and spiritual children.

The Hour of his Death

When did St. Joseph die? Luke’s Gospel tells us that when 12-year-old Jesus was found at the Temple in Jerusalem he went down with his parents to Nazareth and was obedient to them. After that joyful reunion, St. Joseph makes no further personal appearances in the Gospels. Joseph had apparently passed away by the time of Christ’s Passion since Jesus on the Cross does not entrust his blessed mother’s care to her faithful husband but to a beloved disciple. Other episodes in the Gospels suggest that Joseph died before the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

How did St. Joseph die? If Joseph, the heir to the throne of David, had been murdered we would expect this prefigurement of Jesus’ own death to be described in the Gospels like the death of St. John the Baptist. Unless some sudden catastrophe befell him, an ailing Joseph would have reached his deathbed. And who would have been compassionately comforting him and powerfully praying for him at his bedside as he reached his hour of death? His having most likely died peacefully in the loving presence of Jesus and Mary makes St. Joseph the patron saint of a happy death.

The Terror of Demons

St. Joseph is called “the Terror of Demons” and his spouse “the Queen of Angels.” Yet the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation was greatly troubled and afraid at the Archangel Gabriel’s greeting, and when resettling his Holy Family from Egypt Joseph feared mere flesh and blood – avoiding Judea because Herod’s son ruled there. How can this man and woman now be leaders of awesome angels or banes of dangerous demons?

One key trait Joseph and Mary shared is obedience. The Book of Exodus displays Moses’ obedience by recording God’s instructions to him and then repeatedly presenting Moses doing “just as the Lord had commanded.” Whenever St. Joseph receives instructions from God (to take Mary into his home, to escape to Egypt, or to return to Israel) the text that follows has Joseph doing exactly as God commanded. Mary was also radically open to God’s will, as when she famously said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The demons, for their part, fell from Heaven’s glory because they refused to do God’s will.

Joseph and Mary were also among the first on earth to accept and love the (then still-unborn) baby Jesus. The demons, in contrast, were the first to reject the Son of God. We do not know the exact reasons for their primordial rebellion but some theorize the demons took offense at God’s plan that the Eternal Son would become an incarnate human being, crowning that creature with a greater glory than the angels. “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world,” says the Book of Wisdom.

Joseph and Mary’s obedience to God’s will and their love for Jesus on earth lead to them being gloriously empowered in Heaven. Jesus told his disciples, “you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” and St. Paul reminded the Corinthians “we will judge angels.” It seems that faithful human creatures who, by God’s grace, love and serve the Lord in the likeness of Christ himself are best suited to become powerful, humble, servant rulers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us throughout this holy year!

Revealers of God — Funeral Homily for Kevin Lenfant, 70

December 3, 2020

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,” God said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” By God’s Word all things were made and his divine attributes are reflected in this universe he’s created. In the inspired word of God, the Holy Scriptures, we read about how he reveals himself to humanity throughout salvation history, through powerful deeds, prophetic words, and poetic images that reveal what he is really like. But ultimately and greatest of all, God reveals himself to us through the Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; (but) in these last days, he (speaks) to us through a Son, …through whom he created the universe,” the Word of God. Jesus Christ, the Bible, and God’s creation make use of familiar things to help reveal God to us. There’s warriors battling, couples marrying, fathers fathering, shepherds shepherding, and plants producing new life. A faithful Christian’s life will reveal God too, as his mysteries are reflected in the features of our lives.

There is a great deal of war and conflict in the Scriptures. This should not be surprising, since this world is broken and often evil. Wickedness is at war with goodness, so good men are called upon to defend the defenseless, to shield the innocent from evil assault. No nation is without flaws, but we should love and defend the goodness of our own. In the Old Testament, armed conflicts abound, but in the New Testament the martial imagery is turned to focus upon the spiritual battle which is being fought around us and within us. St. Paul tells us, “put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day,” for our greatest struggle is not with flesh and blood but with spiritual evils in this world. Our calling is to Semper Fi, being “always faithful”, but we know how difficult this is, “for a righteous man may fall seven times.” So when a brother dies we pray for him, like the Maccabean army prayed for their fallen in today’s first reading from the Old Testament, that whatever flaws or attachments to sin remain in them may be purged away, that those who die as friends of God may experience his full and splendid rewards in Heaven.

Another very plentiful thing found in the Bible is shepherds. Among the Old Testament patriarchs there is Abraham, Jacob-Israel, and his twelve sons – shepherds all. Later, there’s the prophet Moses, King David, and Amos the prophet, each of whom tended flocks for some time before receiving a higher calling from God. The first to hear the happy news of Christmas night were shepherds. The bond between a shepherd and his flock can be a very close one. So close that David, in writing today’s psalm, the most famous of all the psalms, depicts God as his shepherd and David himself as his well-cared-for sheep. The sheep of a good shepherd are like his children to him. He is as a father to his flock. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… and they recognize his voice.” He knows his own and they know him. The good shepherd devotes his life to his sheep and little lambs. He delights in his flock and his presence comforts them. Rita tells me that family came first for Kevin. She tells me how he loves his children and grandchildren, that he loved to watch them grow, and how extremely proud he is of them. Such is his fatherhood.

A third common theme we encounter is married love. The saints see an allegory in the romantic Old Testament book The Song of Songs: God’s pursuit and love of his people Israel. In the Gospels, Jesus Christ calls himself the Bridegroom, and New Testament passages call the relationship of Jesus Christ with his Church a marriage. As Book of Revelation declares, “The marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. … Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” This leads us to a mystery: did God use our familiar and intimate knowledge of human marriage, the covenantal love of a man and woman, to describe the union of Christ and his Church because this was the best available image for him to borrow, or rather did he create and establish marriage from the beginning to reveal and foreshadow the fulfillment with him that was always meant to be?

Rita told me the delightful story of how she and Kevin met. It was another Normal day at Illinois State University where they were both college students. Rita was having a hard time in a political science class, while political science was Kevin’s major, so he came over and tutored her. Apparently Rita was very impressed by many things about him because once he had left she turned to her friend and said, “Don’t let me marry him.” But she did. And it’s a good thing she did. Why was Rita afraid? ‘Well,’ she thought, ‘I’m so young, we’re both in college, he’s planning to be in the Marines, and how would all that work?’ But thankfully these doubts did not prevail. Imagine how much would have been lost if they had! When our Lord Jesus Christ proposes to be a greater part of our lives, we can similarly balk, all sorts of doubts and fears arise, but I urge you, I plead with you, to say “Yes” to him all the same. In this life, opportunities for some relationships pass by without another chance for something more. But with God, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done, all long as we still live, we can start more devotedly following him today.

Jesus often preached to the crowds using familiar things. For example, Jesus spoke about fish around fishermen, of bread and salt to bakers and cooks, and of plants to farmers in the countryside. He says, “Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” At one point Kevin and Rita owned three flower shops. Now there is just the one they started in Bloomer more than forty years ago. Rita tells me that Kevin, between the two of them, probably likes flowers more. The flowers they sold would sprout and grow, beautifully blossom, and then fade and wither. This is a sad reality, but we are consoled by the knowledge that there are more flowers for us to enjoy. Similarly, in this world we are born and grow, we blossom and die, but we are consoled by the knowledge in Christ that this is not our end.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus was not eager to suffer, he asked his Father in the Garden if it were possible that this cup of suffering might pass him, but he was not unwilling to die because he knew that would not be the end of good things for him. It’s O.K. to want to live, to fight against illness and death, for life is a great good. But it is also O.K. to die. “For if we live,” as St. Paul says, “we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; …whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” It’s O.K. to mourn. It’s O.K. to cry. But God’s Word reveals to us that we should not despair. Heed God’s word, in creation, on the Sacred Page, and in the person of our Savior, so that you and I and Kevin may all be happily reunited in God story one day.

Naming Jesus — January 1 — Mary the Mother of God

January 7, 2020

“When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

Who named Jesus? In one sense, it was his parents; Mary his mother and Joseph his adoptive-father. Yet this name was not their own idea. At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel told Mary: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” And later on, an angel of God, likely Gabriel but perhaps another, told Joseph in a dream: “[Mary, your wife,] will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So this name was communicated to Jesus’ parents, and both parents were instructed to name him so, but the idea of this name and the commands to bestow it did not originate with the angels.

The word “angel” comes from the Greek and Latin words for “messenger,” and the angel spirits are messengers of God. The Archangel Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth to announce to Mary the plan and will of God. So who named Jesus? First and foremost, God. The Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians declares, “[God] bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth”.

And what does the name of Jesus mean? The name “Jesus” (or “Iēsous” in Greek) is “Yeshua” in Hebrew, which means “Yahweh helps,” or “God saves.” The name of Jesus, given him by his Heavenly Father, denotes the message and the mission of the Son, And this message and mission was given him by the Father. Jesus declares, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak,” and “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” The Father names his Son, and the Son is obedient to his Father’s authority.

Naming someone or something is to author its name, and authorship denotes authority over that person or thing. In the story of Creation, God creates and names the Day and the Night; the Sky, the Earth, and the Sea. Then the Lord forms man from the ground and settles him in the garden, with a mission to cultivate, protect, and care for it. Then God forms the animals from the ground, bringing each to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. Since none of these would be a suitable partner for the man the Lord formed another from the man’s rib, perhaps the bone closest to the core of man’s being, God’s last and ultimate creature. When the Lord brought her to the man, he rejoiced: “This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken,” and the man gave his wife the name “Eve.” God blessed them and said to them: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.

The man has sovereignty and dominion over the creatures he named. Parents, likewise, have authority over their children. As we heard last Sunday from the Book of Sirach, on the Feast of the Holy Family, “God sets a father in honor over his children; [and] a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.” Both Joseph and Mary name Jesus on this eighth day after his birth and they exercise authority over the Child-God. “[Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” All legitimate authority (in a family, a workplace, a government, or the Church) is to be exercised in accord with God’s will. And when authority is exercised in this way, we can expect the household, business, nation, or Church to thrive—provided that legitimate, godly authority is likewise obeyed in accord with God’s will. ‘Jesus went down with Joseph and Mary, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.’

Who have you been entrusted with authority over? For whom has God given you a mission to cultivate, protect, and care for as their Christ-like servant-leader? Recognize your mission, and exercise your authority in accord with God’s will as a blessing for others. And realize that those with spiritual authority over others (as you may have in your household) can literally bless them. Usually when we say “God bless you,” (that is, when we say this to a peer) we are not really blessing them ourselves but desiring, hoping, wishing, praying that God might bless them. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “Unquestionably, a lesser person is blessed by a greater.” When we have spiritual authority for someone we can personally speak blessings upon them.

Words can not only encourage, but they also seem to have metaphysical power. Our first reading recounts how Aaron and his sons as priests of Israel were given authority to bless God’s people. The Old Testament patriarchs blessed their children and we see their words fulfilled. God creates and Jesus works miracles through spoken words; God said “let there be light” and there was light. Jesus said to the paralytic your sins are forgiven; stand up, pick up your mat, and go home, and the man was healed inside and out. Your words of blessing, in accord with God’s authority, can have great power, too.

[After preaching this homily last night, a parishioner shared with me that she and her husband learned about blessing and claiming dominion your household from friends a decade ago. They notice a difference in their family in their years of marriage before and after. For example, when she begins to fell minor health issues coming on, she asks for her husband’s blessing, and reports that she can “feel the power of his prayers.”]

So husbands, bless your wives and children, mothers bless your children, and bless your grandchildren, too. And on this first day of the year, ask God our Father and Holy Mary, the Mother of God and our spiritual mother too, to bless you and yours in this new year ahead.

The Good Father

June 26, 2019

How do we know about the Most Holy Trinity? Humanity learned of the it late in history, but the Trinity existed before the universe began. In retrospect, Christians can read the Old Testament and see the truth of the one true God being one God in three Divine Persons hinted at, but this eternal reality was only clearly revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

Some people, past and present, have claimed that Jesus was not divine – that he was just a man, or an angel, or something else more exulted than us but less than God. But this is not what the Early Church believed. Prologue of St. John’s Gospel proclaims: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh.” (That’s Jesus Christ.) And when St. Thomas sees Jesus resurrected and exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus does not correct him for idolatry, because Jesus is truly God.

Others, past and present, have held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just one person, God, who manifests himself in different modes, like an actor who puts on masks to play different parts. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” If Jesus and the Father are the same person, then who is Jesus talking to? The Father and the Son are distinct persons who know and love each other.

Others people have said, simplifying the mystery, that the three persons of the Trinity are three Gods. But God had instilled Monotheism, the belief that there is only one God, deeply into his Jewish people: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” And the earliest Christians, all of them Jews, believed this as well. For example, in his New Testament letter, St. James writes, “You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.” The oneness of God is treated as a given, while at the same time the Church confessed that “Jesus Christ (the Son of God) is Lord.” Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

This year, Holy Trinity Sunday lands upon Father’s Day weekend. God the Father is the origin and paragon of fatherhood. So let’s explore what Jesus reveals to us about God the Father and what fathers are called to be.

The Good Father has Authority, but is he not Unapproachable
In the Garden, Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” Jesus submits to his “Abba, Father’s” plan. And his use of the word “Abba” is a big deal. As St. John Paul the Great observed, “An Israelite would not have used [“Abba” to address God] even in prayer. Only one who regarded himself as Son of God in the proper sense of the word could have spoken thus of him and to him as Father – Abba, or my Father, Daddy, Papa!” We are encouraged by Scripture and the Holy Spirit to be this familiar with the Father as well, calling God our “Abba” too.

The Good Father Listens
Outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me…” God always hears our words to him; be they words of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, or Supplication, or just our telling him about our day.

The Good Father Cares and Provides
Jesus said, “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.” “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Though when we ask for something he may answer with a “not yet,” or by fulfilling our longing in a better way than we had thought of, the Father always cares, listens, and provides.

The Good Father Encourages
At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Father declared from Heaven, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And on Mt. Tabor, at Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Father spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Imagine how it must have felt for Jesus to hear his Father profess his love for him and pleasure in him. Our words are powerful for one another. Let us strive, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to make our compliments and praises outnumber our criticisms and complaints.

The Good Father Teaches through his Word and Example
Jesus said, “the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.” “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” The influence a father can have is reflected by a large, 1990’s Swiss study which found that the religious practice of a father is what most determines the future attendance of his children at church. It found that if a father is non-practicing and the mother is a regular churchgoer, only 2% of their children will go on to become regular worshipers while over 60% of such children will be lost completely to the church. However, if the father is a regular churchgoer while the mother is non-practicing, 44% of these children grow up to become regular churchgoers too – more than twenty-fold impact! Such is the importance and influence of a father’s example.

And finally, the Good Father Loves his Child’s Mother
At the Visitation, filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth declared to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women,” and Mary rejoiced, “From this day all generations will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” It has been rightly said that the best way for a father to love his children is to dearly love their mother.

Some of us have had very good dad, while for some of us our fathers were very far from perfect. There is a cultural crisis with fatherhood today; we see its effects in our country’s schools and in our country’s prisons. Gentlemen, take our heavenly Father as your model. And if you’re ever unsure of how to resemble our Father, look at His son, for St. Paul calls him “the image of the invisible God.” May God bless all our fathers, living or passed on, and may God help all of us here who are fathers to become better ones.

Call No Man Father?

June 19, 2018

Was it unchristian for our country to celebrate Father’s Day last Sunday? That’s one implication of a common criticism raised against the Catholic Church. Sometimes Protestants chide us, “Jesus said, ‘Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in Heaven,’ so why do you Catholics call priests and popes ‘Father?’” Yet this charge could also be raised against St. Paul who writes in his Letter to the Romans of “our father Abraham” and “our father Issac.” What’s more, St. Paul is moved by the Holy Spirit in his First Letter to the Corinthians to assert himself as their spiritual father: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

So what is Jesus saying in his teaching on titles (father, master, rabbi/teacher) in Matthew 23? Judging from the whole of the New Testament, our Lord’s concern is not with labels or hierarchy in themselves (for “he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.”) Jesus is warning us against the fallen, human attitudes that we can attach to positions and titles of authority and honor. Jesus says, “You have one teacher… you have but one Father in Heaven… you have but one master, the Messiah.” We must not allow anyone (be they a noted thinker, politician, celebrity, employer, or parent) to displace or compromise God’s primacy in our lives. Embracing a teaching or custom against our Faith is to worship an idol instead of God. And Jesus says “you are all brothers…. The greatest among you must be your servant.” So whenever we are called into a position of influence (be it as a parent, pastor, politician, or what have you) we must remain humble and glorify God while serving him and our neighbors.

The Venerable Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen once observed, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Our Faith has good answers to offer anyone who cares enough about the truth to simply look or listen. So do not fear religious conversations with your family, friends, or peers. You’ll both learn more along the way and you could very well help them into the fullness of Jesus’ Catholic Church.

The Giving Tree — Tuesday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

March 1, 2011

Do you remember The Giving Tree, that very green childrens book by Shel Silverstein? It’s a story about a boy and the tree that loved him. When he is a boy, the tree gives him her leaves to play with and her apples to eat. However, when the boy becomes a young man he comes asking for money, so that he can buy things and have fun. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, she gives him her apples for him to sell. Time passes, and he comes back, this time asking for a house. The tree lets him cut off her branches so that he may build one. Later, much later, the boy returns again, but he is now a much older and sadder man.”I want a boat that will take me far away from here,” he says. “Can you give me a boat?” The tree offers her trunk and he takes it. He fashions a boat, and sails far away. After a long time, the boy returns, now a very tried and very old man. The tree is now just an old stump. He has taken everything, but she still gives. The story closes with these words: “‘Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ And the boy did. And the tree was happy.”

Now if The Giving Tree has always been one of your favorite books, that’s ok. If it has a special place in your heart, don’t let me or anybody take that from you. But, as for me, this book has always bothered the heck out of me. Even when I was a kid, the story filled me with indignation. Do you know what I’m taking about?

It’s the boy! The selfish, ungrateful boy, who never gives anything back. He receives everything the tree has to give and he never says, “Thank you.” He takes everything she has to give, uses all of it up on himself, and he never says, “I’m sorry.” This book would have been so much better if he just said “thank you” at the end. Does this kid’s behavior in the story of The Giving Tree bother you like it bothers me? If so, then you and I should make sure that we’re not doing the same in our own lives.

So who would be the “giving tree” we take for granted in our lives? Our moms and dads come first to mind. They’ve given us life, food, shelter, clothing, and love our entire lives. What have we given back to them? They probably don’t need your material support right now, but they would appreciate signs of your love. (It’s probably no coincidence that Shel Silverstein dedicated The Giving Tree to his own mom.) But there is another “Giving Tree” we can take for granted, who is even greater and more generous than our parents. I speak of God, and of Jesus Christ, “from whom all good things come.” What should we do for our parents and for God? We should honor them with our words. We should obey them in our actions. We should be grateful for everything and show it.

For God, we do this by way of sacrifices. (This Eucharist is a thanksgiving sacrifice. The name itself means thanksgiving in Greek.) Yet our sacrifice is not merely what happens here at church, but the offering of our whole lives. Those who make no sacrifices for God in their daily lives bring nothing to His altar. What do we have to offer Him today? What will we have to offer him tomorrow?

Jesus Christ is The Giving Tree. At this sacrifice, let us say to Him, “I’m sorry, for misusing your gifts.” Let us say, “Thank you, for your generosity to us.” And let us say, “I love you,” because that will make Him happy.

Child of God Homily

February 9, 2011

 
Do you know who Bill Gates is? He started a computer software company called Microsoft and is one of the richest men in the world.  If Bill Gates were your dad do you think that he would be willing to buy you things you could never have otherwise? Imagine if President Obama were your uncle.  Do you think he would invite you to the White House sometime?  Do you think that you would have the opportunity to talk to him about your concerns and ideas for the world? Hold that in mind…

When I was younger, something about how we professed the Nicene Creed on Sundays struck me as strange: “For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven. *Profound Bow* By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. *Straighten* He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried.” I wondered, “Why do we bow for Jesus being born? Heck, even I was even born. Why don’t we bow for His suffering instead?” 

We tend to think of God becoming man as a perfectly normal thing for God to do, we take it for granted, but it is actually the most surprising thing that has ever happened in history. The divine Son became one of us so that He could be our brother, and so that His Father could be ours. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

Our heavenly Father is unimaginably rich, and He wants to provide for you and bless you. Our Father is all-powerful, and He is always open to hearing your prayers. Our Father in heaven has a house far greater than the White House, and He is preparing a place for you to stay. Remember this: you are a child of God the Father, and that’s a big deal.

We’re in a Hurry — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

July 18, 2010

The other day I was thinking about this homily when I heard the words of some modern poets on my radio. They said:

I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
But, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

This goes to show that we still have a Martha problem today. The group Alabama said that they didn’t know why we get in a hurry, even though we’re not having fun, but I think I know the answer. The reason is that our loves and good desires are mixed with fears. If we would take that fear away, we would find peace.

Martha loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him well, but she had fears mixed in. She was the one who invited Him to the house and He probably had His apostles and other disciples with Him. She was busy serving them all, perhaps making the biggest meal she had ever made, and she was full of worries. “What if I’m a poor host and Jesus is disappointed with me? What if there’s not enough food for everyone to eat?”

We are often the same way. We fear that our lives are on the edge of disaster if our own plans and efforts should fail. We worry about bad things happening to ourselves and the people we love. We are anxiety about how Jesus feels about us.

Martha had a great desire to do good, but Martha’s fear tempted her to do harm. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. (The Greek word for disciple actually means “one who sits at the feet of.”) Martha tries to take Jesus’ disciple away from Him.

Similiar thing can happen in our live on account of fear mixed with love. A husband and father can obsess about his work, out of a love for his family and a desire to provide, but his family can be left feeling like they come second in his life. A wife and mother can be so concerned that her loved ones will be safe and happy that she tries to control everything, making her family less happy because of it. Martha’s problem and ours is not that we work–work is a part of life–but in how we go about it.

Jesus says to Martha, and to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” What is this one thing we need? We need the peace of Christ. What is the peace of Christ? It is several things.

It is the awareness that God is near and guiding us. In the first reading, three heavenly visitors approach outside of Abraham’s tent. Now, the Holy Spirit dwells within our tents, Jesus is at our side, and we have a Father above. We are never left on our own.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that whatever may happen to us or those we love, it is for our good. As St. Paul observes in the second reading, even his sufferings are a cause for rejoicing for they advance the salvation of the whole Church with Christ.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that misery is not just around the corner, nor is happiness out of reach. Happiness is at head, in the knowledge that Jesus loves us, likes us, cares about us, and cares for us. Living in the peace of Christ means there is no reason for us to be unhappy.

Let us continue to do works of love for God, ourselves, and others, but let us do them always in the peace of Christ.

Father’s Day Homily

June 19, 2010

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1) As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Through faith [and baptism] you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27) God is our Father who lives and reigns in Heaven. What is the fatherhood of God the Father like? What can we say about His fatherhood. I offer these insights:

The Father’s love begets life.
We see this in His Son, who is eternally begotten from the Father. And begetting is not a merely an action which the Father had done and then walked away from. The Son is eternally begotten from the Father in love.  And, as the Prologue of John’s Gospel says, “All things came to be through [this Son], and …. what came to be through him was life…” The Father’s love begets life.

The Father labors in love.
God the Father labors to fashion and sustain creation; heaven and earth and every creature, seen and unseen. He makes them in love and preserves them in love. As the prophet in the book of Wisdom observes, “[Lord,] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:24-12:1)  The Father labors in love.

The Father guides His family.
The world became dark though sin, so the Father enlightened it. The people became lost without Him, so the Father guided them. The Father enlightens and guides His children by speaking His word to them. Jesus Christ is the Father’s word. The Father guides His family.

The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.
At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Yet, as today’s gospel recalls, the Father also called His beloved Son to take up the cross. Four days before His Passion, Jesus said, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28) On the cross, Jesus was not just lifted up, but exalted. The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.

The Father is just like the Son.
Some people find it difficult to relate to the Father, but the Father is just like His Son. At the Last Supper, Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” (John 14:8-10)  The Father is just like the Son.

The Father transcends human fatherhood, but He is the origin and standard of all fatherhood.
God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. The Father is neither man nor woman: He is God. Although the Father is the origin of all fatherhood, He transcends human fatherhood. No one is father as God is Father. Yet, we who are earthly fathers, who have natural or spiritual families and children of our own, must take our Father in Heaven as our standard and model. Each of the insights I have given for God the Father have application for our fatherhood.

Your fatherhood should beget life.
Now the begetting of life is not merely biological, if it were then priests would not be fathers. There are some biological fathers who beget life and leave. These men fall very far short being true fathers. True fathers give life and nurture that life forever, like God the Father who begets His Son eternally. If you are a mother or father, even if even if your children should die, even if you should die, you are a mother or father forever.

Your natural fatherhood should be fruitful. More than just biologically, but biologically, too. What would you think of a priest who was both capable and called to work to beget more spiritual children by sharing the gospel, but who refused to do so for self-centered reasons. What if he were to say, “I’m happy with the number of parishioners I have already.” Your fatherhood should beget life.

Your fatherhood should be a labor in love.
Always remember whom you are working for and work for love of them. Beware of an ambitious careerism, which is all about you. What would you think of a priest whose primary ambition was to become a cardinal, instead of those entrusted to him. 

At home or at the workplace, labor in love for your family. And take time to rest and enjoy them. Even God the Father rested after His labors to enjoy how “very good” it was.

Your fatherhood should guide your family.
You are called to be a leader, guide, and teacher for your family. Your wife will not begrudge your lead if you love her and lead her as Jesus loves and leads the Church. Remember, Jesus died for His family and bride.

As parents, you are the primary educators of your children. Sometimes we think of education as only what happens at school. But the most important lessons in life are not taught in the schools, but in the home. The home is the domestic Church and the school of love.

In your fatherhood, let your children know your pleasure in them and always call them ever higher, to all they can be.
Always show them your pleasure, that with them you are well-pleased. But like God, love them too much to let us remain as we are.  Grow them to their full potential.

In your fatherhood, take the Father in heaven as your standard and model.
If you’re ever unsure of how to image the Father, look at His son, for Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. The Father is just like the Son.

May God bless all our Fathers, living or dead, and may help we who are fathers to be better ones.

An Incomplete Lord’s Prayer — Thursday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

June 18, 2010

Sometime in the past, I realized that I didn’t pray the Lord’s Prayer right.  It’s not that I was actually changing the words Jesus taught us to say, but I realized my focus was not fully what Jesus had in mind. My subjective, firsthand experience of praying the prayer went something like this: 

God, who art in heaven…
     [<Here I get distracted for several seconds>]
…give me this day my daily bread,
and forgive me my trespasses,
as I forgive those who trespass against me,
and lead me not into temptation,
but deliver me from evil.

Did you notice anything different?

First, Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father” because we are not praying to anonymous force, but a person, a divine person who is imaged in a special way by natural and spiritual fathers on earth. Earthly fatherhood is a diminished image of Him. Biological fatherhood teaches us about our heavenly Father’s transcendence, while devoted fathers teach us about His love. (“The respective ‘perfections’ of [both] man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God,” as the Catechism teaches, but “Our Father” is significant.)

Second, the prayer’s early petitions, “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” are every bit as important as the later petitions ‘about us.’ God is justly entitled to glory, His kingdom and reign.  Remember that all these are essential and conducive to our own greatest happiness.

Third, the Lord’s Prayer is not meant to be prayed just for yourself or myself, but for all of our Father’s family, for the whole Church, for even the whole world. The Our Father is not only a petitionary prayer, but an intercessory prayer.

So when we prayer the Our Father, the perfect prayer which Jesus taught us, let us pray it in its completeness, with a presence of mind and fullness of heart.

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

November 23, 2009

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Jesus Christ is our king, now and forever. Yet, the idea of monarchy doesn’t really resonate with us. And it’s not just because we don’t have an earthly king ruling our country. It’s that we’re not big fans of authority. We are wary of anyone having too much power. This is because power is often abused.

Those with any degree of power, be it over entire people or a single employee, can abuse that power. We can fall into thinking only of themselves and our own advantages and be blind and deaf to the legitimate concerns and genuine needs of others. Sometimes those with power hold on to it jealously and will stomp out any real or perceived threats to that power without regard to the truth. This is how the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate responds to Christ. When Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews,” he is not searching for the Jewish messiah, or even the truth.  He is probing for a political threat to himself.

The true purpose of power and authority is for serving the good of others. This goes for the Church and for all government, for our workplaces and our homes. The reason that our all-powerful God shares some of His power and authority with us, His creatures, is not so that we may be self-serving. It is so that we may serve others, give them life and bless them, and in this way resemble God Himself. God has given of Himself, given us life, and blessed all creation.

As Jesus said to His apostles, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Jesus showed his perfect love for us by becoming a slave and dying for us on the cross. For this reason, we do not fear the idea of Him being the first among us, reigning as our king. The Church, His bride, welcomes its royal bridegroom. And as it is for the bride of Christ as a whole, so it is for every Christian soul in relationship with Christ.

Every bride yearns to be fought for, to be pursued and to be a priority to someone. Christ has made us His priority.  He came down from heaven in pursuit of us. He has fought for and died for us, and now in heaven He still fights for us.

Every bride also wants an adventure to share. She doesn’t want to be the adventure; she wants to be caught up in something greater than herself. When we are living for ourselves we are alone, without purpose, and empty. Each of us is meant to live a life about more than just ourselves.  A life in Christ. We each have a vocation, a calling from God, a unique part to play in an epic adventure, a significant part to play in His great story.

Every bride wants to have a beauty to unveil. And it’s not just an exterior beauty. It’s a deep desire to truly BE the beauty and to be delighted in by the bridegroom. Christ is the lover of our souls and all of us wish to have beautiful souls. Each person desires to be approved and uniquely enjoyed by Christ. For us males, this is a desire for his approval and regard.  To be one who He is unashamed to call us His brother, a member on his team; a man in His platoon

Why bring up how Christ our King is the perfect bridegroom for His bride, the Church? Gentlemen, take note. Imitate Christ for your brides with Christian chivalry, love your wives as Christ loves the Church, and you will be like our king for your queen. Fight battles on Christ’s side for your beautiful bride. Lay down your life for her each day. Be Christ the king’s shining knight for her—honor, serve, and defend your bride and lead her on an adventure. The power you have is for her and you family.

For any of us, with any power and authority comes responsibility. And the power each of us has gives us a great opportunity. For by serving Christ our King and by caring for those He has entrusted to our care, we win the only glory and happiness worth having, that of Christ our king—the glory and happiness with the power to last forever.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

August 17, 2009

We humans are forgetful creatures. Look at the Hebrews, running short on food and patience in the first reading. It’s only one month since they’ve walked freely out of Egypt; after ten miraculous plagues, after the parting of a sea before them, after the total destruction of their enemies behind them. It’s just one month later and they’ve already forgotten God’s desire and creative ability to care for them. They’ve forgotten, and their hope is gone.

In the Gospel there’s more forgetfulness.  The people come to Jesus and they ask Him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” Have they already forgotten about His recent miraculous sign, how just the other day he multiplied loaves and fish for them?  Recalling that miracle to mind would have strengthened their faith and hope.

We’re forgetful too. I, for example, often have a problem remembering how the responsorial psalm goes.  I hear it, I repeat it, and then it’s gone. We’re forgetful people. For instance, can you remember what I preached about the last Sunday I was here? I wouldn’t expect you to.

I spoke about how we should be hopeful because of Jesus Christ. I also strongly emphasized the importance of each of us to pray every day. This morning I want to teach you how we can be strengthened in faith and hope by recalling in prayer our most grace-filled memories.

Maybe you pray as the first thing when you wake up. Maybe you pray before you go to bed each night. Maybe you pray while you’re driving, perhaps imagining Jesus or Mary in the seat beside you. Maybe you make a daily visit to Jesus here really present in our tabernacle. When and where you pray each day is not as important as the prayers you offer and the connection and consolation that Christ wants to give you.

Anyone who prays frequently will have times when they sometimes seem to wander about in a desert of unfocused thoughts. By an act of will, we can try digging a hole here or there, looking for new, fresh, spiritual water. But there is an easier way to go about things when our prayer time feels hard and dry.

If we search our memories we can find places and times when God was obviously close and active. Perhaps a time when He silently but clearly spoke to you, or a time when He provided for you in answer to your prayers. Perhaps the births of your children or day you got married are moments that perceivably touched the eternal.

These memories can be wellsprings of grace and consolation for you. Just because we have left a well behind in your past doesn’t mean that well is run dry. What was true then, is still true now and you can go back their in your memories and draw graces from it again. Our grace-filled memories can serve as an anchor of hope, our ever-accessible source for faith and hope in prayer.

There is one more thing I on which I want to speak.  Our psalm said today:

“What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength and the wonders that he wrought.”

This psalm is not only written for the Old Testament Jews, its meant for us as well. And when it mentions “fathers” here, priests like me are not the fathers it has foremost in mind. Fathers, if your children only hear about God from me, your silence will speak a message to them. It is important that you be a spiritual leader for your family and tell the stories of our faith and of your faith.

Parents, have you ever told your children of “the glorious deeds” that the Lord has done for you? If not, why not? Do you feel reluctant to tell? Or do you think that there is nothing to tell? Either way, a change needs to happen.

So remember, whether you are dry at prayer, or raising children for the Lord, remember to remember.