The world is saved from a deadly virus by the ultimate sacrifice.

In 2002 Matthew Kelly wrote Rediscover Catholicism. In the prologue he shares a story that seems so appropriate at this time and so I share it with you for reflection.

Imagine this. You’re driving home from work next Monday after a long day. You turn on your radio and you hear a brief report about a small village in India where some people have suddenly died, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. It’s not influenza, but four people are dead, so the Centers for Disease Control is sending some doctors to India to investigate. You don’t think too much about it — people die every day — but coming home from church the following Sunday you hear another report on the radio, only now they say it’s not four people who have died, but thirty thousand, in the back hills of India. Whole villages have been wiped out and experts confirm this flu is a strain that has never been seen before.

By the time you get up Monday morning, it’s the lead story. The disease is spreading. It’s not just India that is affected. Now it has spread to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and northern Africa, but it still seems far away. Before you know it, you’re hearing this story everywhere. The media have now coined it “the mystery flu.” The President has announced that he and his family are praying for the victims and their families and are hoping for the situation to be resolved quickly. But everyone is wondering how we are ever going to contain it. That’s when the President of France makes an announcement that shocks Europe: He is closing the French borders. No one can enter the country, and that’s why that night you’re watching a little bit of CNN before going to bed. Your jaw hits your chest when a weeping woman’s words are translated into English from a French news program: There’s a man lying in a hospital in Paris dying of the mystery flu. It has come to Europe. Panic strikes. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for a week before you even know it, then you have four days of unbelievable symptoms, and then you die. The British close their borders, but it’s too late. The disease breaks out in Southampton, Liverpool, and London, and on Tuesday morning the President of the United States makes the following announcement: “Due to a national security risk, all flights to and from the United States have been canceled. If your loved ones are overseas, I’m sorry. They cannot come home until we find a cure for this horrific disease.”

Within four days, America is plunged into an unbelievable fear. People are wondering, What if it comes to this country? Preachers on television are saying it’s the scourge of God. Then on Tuesday night you are at church for Bible study, when somebody runs in from the parking lot and yells, “Turn on a radio!” And while everyone listens to a small radio, the announcement is made: Two women are lying in a hospital in New York City dying of the mystery flu. It has come to America. Within hours the disease envelops the country. People are working around the clock, trying to find an antidote, but nothing is working. The disease breaks out in California, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts. It’s as though it’s just sweeping in from the borders.

Then suddenly the news comes out: The code has been broken. A cure has been found. A vaccine can be made. But it’s going to take the blood of somebody who hasn’t been infected. So you and I are asked to do just one thing: Go to the nearest hospital and have our blood tested. When we hear the sirens go off in our neighborhood, we are to make our way quickly, quietly, and safely to the hospital. Sure enough, by the time you and your family get to the hospital it’s late Friday night. There are long lines of people and a constant rush of doctors and nurses taking blood and putting labels on it. Finally, it is your turn. You go first, then your spouse and children follow, and once the doctors have taken your blood they say to you, “Wait here in the parking lot for your name to be called.” You stand around with your family and neighbors, scared, waiting, wondering. Wondering quietly to yourself, What on earth is going on here? Is this the end of the world? How did it ever come to this? Nobody seems to have had their name called; the doctors just keep taking people’s blood. But then suddenly a young man comes running out of the hospital, screaming. He’s yelling a name and waving a clipboard. You don’t hear him at first. “What’s he saying?” someone asks. The young man screams the name again as he and a team of medical staff run in your direction, but again you cannot hear him. But then your son tugs on your jacket and says, “Daddy, that’s me. That’s my name they’re calling.” Before you know it, they have grabbed your boy. “Wait a minute. Hold on!” you say, running after them. “That’s my son.” “It’s okay,” they reply. “We think he has the right blood type. We just need to check one more time to make sure he doesn’t have the disease.” Five tense minutes later, out come the doctors and nurses, crying and hugging each another; some of them are even laughing. It’s the first time you have seen anybody laugh in a week. An old doctor walks up to you and your spouse and says, “Thank you. Your son’s blood is perfect. It’s clean, it’s pure, he doesn’t have the disease, and we can use it to make the vaccine.”

As the news begins to spread across the parking lot, people scream and pray and laugh and cry. You can hear the crowd erupting in the background as the gray-haired doctor pulls you and your spouse aside to say, “I need to talk to you. We didn’t realize that the donor would be a minor and we . . . we need you to sign a consent form.” The doctor presents the form and you quickly begin to sign it, but then your eye catches something. The box for the number of pints of blood to be taken is empty. “How many pints?” you ask. That is when the old doctor’s smile fades, and he says, “We had no idea it would be a child. We weren’t prepared for that.”

You ask him again, “How many pints?” The old doctor looks away and says regretfully, “We are going to need it all!”

“But I don’t understand. What do you mean you need it all? He’s my only son!”

The doctor grabs you by the shoulders, pulls you close, looks you straight in the eyes, and says, “We are talking about the whole world here. Do you understand? The whole world. Please, sign the form. We need to hurry!” “But can’t you give him a transfusion?” you plead. “If we had clean blood we would, but we don’t. Please, will you sign the form? What would you do?

In numb silence you sign the form because you know it’s the only thing to do. Then the doctor says to you, “Would you like to have a moment with your son before we get started?”

Could you walk into that hospital room where your son sits on a table saying, “Daddy? Mommy? What’s going on?” Could you tell your son you love him? And when the doctors and nurses come back in and say, “I’m sorry, we’ve got to get started now; people all over the world are dying,” could you leave? Could you walk out while your son is crying out to you, “Mom? Dad? What’s going on? Where are you going? Why are you leaving? Why have you abandoned me?”

The following week, they hold a ceremony to honor your son for his phenomenal contribution to humanity … but some people sleep through it, others don’t even bother to come because they have better things to do, and some people come with a pretentious smile and pretend to care, while others sit around and say, “This is boring!” Wouldn’t you want to stand up and say, “Excuse me! I’m not sure if you are aware of it or not, but the amazing life you have, my son died so that you could have that life. My son died so that you could live. He died for you. Does it mean nothing to you?”

Perhaps that is what God wants to say.

Father, seeing it from your eyes should break our hearts. Maybe now we can begin to comprehend the great love you have for us.

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In the story of our salvation the difference is that the Son knew what it would cost and He chose to pay the price to save us and continues to do so by offering us His Body and Blood to give us life.

During this difficult time my we trust is His love

and place ourselves and those we love in His capable hands.

Untying the knots in our lives

In today’s Gospel (Mt 4:1-11)Jesus goes into the desert and there He is tempted by the devil. In our first reading from the book of Genesis, (Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7) Adam and Eve encountered the serpent in the Garden of Eden and there they too were tempted by the devil. We now enter into this forty-day period known as Lent and it is likely that we too will be tempted by the devil. The good news is that by God’s grace we do not have to succumb to the lies of the evil one as did our first parents, Adam and Eve; and not only that but as we recognize our sin, by God’s grace and boundless mercy, we can be forgiven.

At the Second Vatican Council they took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary.” Our first reading today, on this first Sunday of Lent illustrates the knot that was tied which the virgin Eve, bound tightly by her disobedience and unbelief; But, by saying yes to God when asked to be the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary loosened that knot by her faith and her trust in God.

Pope Francis in 2013 said, “…We know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We all have some of these knots and we can ask in our heart of hearts: What are the knots in my life?

They are big and small, loose and tight. These knots are symbolic of the problems and struggles we face in life. They are knots of discord in our families, misunderstandings between parents and children, knots tied by disrespect, violence, or apathy; and the knots of deep hurts between a husband and wife. The knots of a son or daughter addicted to drugs, children who are sick or separated from home or separated from God, the knots of alcoholism, abortion, depression, illness, unemployment, fear, or loneliness. These knots can come from within us or outside of us; they can be physical, spiritual, mental or emotional.

These knots suffocate the soul, beat us down, and try to rob us of our joy. And the worst of these knots are those that do their best to separate us from God, and God’s love. Sometimes the knots and tangles in our lives seem so ensnarled that we begin to think it’s hopeless even to try undoing them. However, Pope Francis reminds us, “It is a mistake to say anything of the sort! All the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience, can be undone. He invites us to go to the blessed Mother saying, “She, as a woman of faith, will surely tell you: “Get up, go to the Lord: he understands you”. And she leads us by the hand as a Mother, our Mother, to the embrace of our Father, the Father of mercies. Nothing is impossible for God’s mercy.

This Lenten season we are invited to uncover the knots in our lives, and seeking the intercession of Mary, the mother of God, to take those knots to the Lord who by his boundless mercy will help us loosen and untie those knots so that we can live as children of God.

To remind us of the task before us each time you come to church during this Lenten season as visual reminder you will see this knotted rope on the cross and we ask you today, if you did not do so on Ash Wednesday, to take a small one to keep in your purse or pocket during this Lenten season and to use it during your times of reflection and prayer.

Once we know the knots in our lives it is then time to take them to the “Undoer of knots,” asking the Blessed Mother to intercede for us…and she, no doubt, will lead us to her beloved Son, Jesus, to seek his forgiveness and be healed by his merciful love. It is only by God’s grace that these knots that we tie in our lives can be undone. So, during this Lenten season as we remember that we are the children of Adam and Eve. May we also remember that by Baptism we are the children of the Blessed Mother, and Jesus, who was not only victorious over the evil one in the dessert but also victorious over sin and death. May we allow him to untie the knots in our lives, because as Pope Francis reminds us, “nothing is impossible for God’s mercy!”NOTHING!!

Knowing Who and Whose we are

Knowing Who and Whose we are

The abduction of Elizabeth Smart is well-known, as are many of the details of her story. In mid-summer 2002, Elizabeth was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City bedroom under cover of darkness by Brian David Mitchell, a deranged, messianic drifter.  She was taken to his camp deep in the woods, where she was brutalized by Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  For nine months, Elizabeth endured her captivity, until in March of 2003 when she was recognized on a Salt Lake City street and freed. These broad strokes have been known publicly since the events occurred almost 18 years ago 

But it was not widely known until later just how flagrantly Mitchell and Barzee paraded with Elizabeth through her own neighborhood.  Scott Carrier, a neighbor and a parent of one of Elizabeth’s classmates, commented, “Through the summer Elizabeth’s photo hung in every window of every shop and on every lamp post.  Her father and her family appeared regularly on local, national and international news programs, begging and weeping for her safe return.  It seemed she was hidden somewhere far away, somewhere just beyond the broadcasting spectrum.  Then, when she was found nine months later…we realized she’d actually been right here in front of us, walking around downtown, reading in the library, eating in fast-food restaurants…They began coming into the city by day, passing within a quarter-mile of Elizabeth’s home…And no one figured it out.”

Elizabeth subsequently attested that she would not, she could not, cry out and reveal her name, because she believed Brian Mitchell’s threat to kill her and her family. Of all those around her, only her captor, the near-demonic Mitchell, knew her name.  But she never forgot who she was.  She knew her identity, even when no one else recognized her.

Halfway through Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to identify him.  He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Very soon thereafter, Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John, and God’s own voice from heaven confirms in their hearing the true identity of Jesus.

          This is when Jesus’ identity is made known publicly and explicitly, when others begin to recognize accurately who Jesus is.  But long before Peter’s proclamation is Jesus’ own recognition of his identity.  Jesus, since his baptism in today’s Gospel has known who he is. We are told in the Gospel that –to Jesus alone, to only Jesus’ eyes and ears–the heaven of God opens and God’s own Spirit; God’s own voice names Jesus, saying, “You are my Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”

          For thirteen chapters, then, from now until Peter’s proclamation in the middle of the Gospel, Jesus must walk through the world–including during a trip home to Nazareth on the streets of his own neighborhood–knowing who he is but unable to cry out his identity, unable to share his true nature.  Throughout all that time, he is a stranger to those who purport to know him and love him.  In cruel irony for Jesus, only the demons he encounters recognize him for who he truly is.

          It is a common literary motif: where a character knows his identity but cannot declare it. The character must walk through the world hidden in plain sight. Imagine for a minute, what it would be like to walk through the world in this way, hidden in plain sight, unrecognized even by those who love us? 

          Writers return again and again to this notion not because it is tantalizing fiction, but because it is agonizing truth.  Truth be told, we, each of us, travel the streets of our hometowns, the hallways of our workplaces and schools, even the rooms of our very homes, with our true full identities unknown to any but ourselves. Think how often both the accolades and the criticisms you receive seem to you to be spoken about someone else, about some stranger who only vaguely reminds you of yourself. Remember those times when you believe if the world just knew the real you it would love you and rejoice in you, along with those times when you feel quite sure if the world knew the real you it would recoil in fear and disgust. We must admit the irony that the only ones who truly seem to know us–the real me–are the demons: self-doubts, anxieties, our weaknesses toward vice.  The demons try to convince us of our identity.

          Except that today, above all other days, we are reminded on this Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, to remember into whom we are baptized.  We are called to remember who and whose we are! At his own baptism, God spoke to Jesus, and half a Gospel later God spoke to the disciples, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” That is his identity. 

          And in the Sacrament of Baptism, Jesus unites us to the Father, and Jesus’ identity becomes our own.  We emerge from the water reborn into him.  Lest we forget, baptism is not primarily about the opportunity to unpack the traditional christening gown (as beautiful as it may be) or take family photos or eat good cake.  Baptism is the sacrament in which God declares—that we no longer need to mute our tongues from declaring who we are.  We no longer need to duck into the shadows for fear of exposure to the world.  Because who we are–who you and I only and truly are–are the sons and daughters of God.  That identity is etched upon us more deeply than any mask.  Its beauty smoothes all ugliness.  Its truth silences the mocking laughter of the demons.           It turns out that often even we did not truly know ourselves.  What we secretly thought we were, in both our best and our worst moments, was wrong.  We are neither the expert nor the fraud, the angel nor the monster, the beauty nor the beast.  The truth of us is far simpler and far more glorious.  We are the baptized, bearing the seal of the Holy Spirit on our brows just as the dove descended on Jesus.  We can walk the streets of our neighborhoods, the hallways of our workplaces and schools, the rooms of our homes–indeed, we can look in the mirror–and say, “Look at me, the real me.  I am a child of God.  I am called beloved, by God.” And now that Same God nourishes us with the precious Body and Blood of his beloved Son. How blessed we are!!

A Grain from a Balance…

I usually don’t encourage people to read the Old Testament / the Hebrew Scriptures. Instead I encourage them to read the Gospels which are a bit less confusing. However, the first reading this weekend from the Book of Wisdom would be the exception. Not only is it not confusing; it is central to understanding our right relationship with God.

The author of the Book of Wisdom states, “the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.” How can he say that? Obviously the author did not have the experience we have of seeing the universe through the lens of the Hubble Telescope! The Hubble Telescope tells us just the opposite. The universe is not tiny like a grain of sand or a drop of morning dew. On the contrary, the universe is vast; made up of billions upon billions of stars. We see no beginning or end to the universe. Our Milky Way Galaxy makes up a tiny portion of the universe and our mother earth is only a small portion of the Galaxy. So, how can the author speak of the universe as tiny? He can do so because he begins his statement by saying, “Before the LORD… “ Compared to its creator the universe is tiny.

Now if you find this news rather humbling imagine that while our earth is only a small part of the galaxy; what are we? You and I are just one of the roughly 7.5 billion people who inhabit the earth. Talk about tiny! But that is exactly the point the author of the Book of Wisdom is trying to make. If a comparison could help; How much attention do you give to a crumb on the kitchen counter? I would suspect not much. If you are anything like me you just sweep it off the counter onto the floor without a second thought. So each of us, I would suggest, is just a crumb on the counter of the universe!! Not very significant in the grand scheme of things.

A balance was a type of scale with a pan on either side used to weigh things long before we had digital scales. Place a grain of sand on one of the trays. Does the scale move? I think not. Yet the author of Wisdom says that is what the universe is in comparison to God. Which, by the way, makes us even more infinitesimal in comparison to God. Which could be very depressing to consider that you and I are just crumbs on the counter to God.

However, Wisdom does not stop here. The author goes on to say, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made…” This is the astounding mystery of our God. That while we give no thought to the crumbs on the counter; God cares about us crumbs. God loves us and shows mercy to us; ALL OF US! God does not love us because we are good. We are good because God loves us. Theologians refer to this as the love of predilection. The author goes on to say, “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?” All exists because God loved it into existence and sustains it by his continued love. A song is given life, as it were by the singer. So, all that exists in given life though God’s love. Therefore, the autor can say, “…But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls,  for your imperishable spirit is in all things!”

This brings us to better understand Jesus in the Gospel. We are told Zacchaeus, was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man. So, we know that just like other tax collectors of that time who cooperated with the Romans and extorted money from people to line their own pockets, he was hated. He and everyone else knew he was not “a good man.” However, to everyone’s surprise, (I imagine even Zacchaeus) when Jesus comes into the town he looks up in the tree and calls Zacchaeus by name saying, “today I must stay at your house.” Clearly this action by Jesus radically changed Zacchaeus’ life. How is it that with all the good people in that town Jesus chose to stay in Zacchaeus’ house? Because God is “the lover of souls;” all souls, maybe especially the souls that have strayed.

I find it interesting that we who are all crumbs think we can pass judgement on other crumbs believing that I am a better crumb than that one. That was true even in Jesus time. Yet the one is greater than us crumbs shows mercy and compassion.

Just as Jesus chose to spend time and dine with Zacchaeus in the Gospel; so He chooses to spend time with us and dine with us even though we are mere crumbs in the universe. Not only that but he provides the meal not just the bread and water we deserve but God invites us to feed on the very Body and Blood of His Only begotten Son.

I am sure that there are many things we can find to complain about today. However, when we are confronted with today’s readings we need to know how blessed we are to be loved by the creator of the universe, who thinks so much of each crumb He created that Jesus came, suffered, died and rose; and even now continually nourishes us that we may have life in Him. WOW!!!

Homily regarding the sexual abuse Scandal in society and the church delivered Aug. 18, 2019

HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME                 YEAR C

Abuse Scandal 2019

Brothers and sisters, I’m sure most of you are aware of the horrific sexual abuse crisis that has haunted our Church and continues to be brought to the forefront in the media.

Last fall, New York State’s attorney general launched an investigation into the handling of cases of clergy sexual abuse by New York’s seven dioceses and the Archdiocese of New York. The probe is one of nine similar investigations underway by attorneys general across the nation. Meanwhile, the Child Victims Act, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Feb. 14, which was enacted this past Wednesday will open a one-year, look-back “window” into the state’s statute of limitations on civil suits related to child sexual abuse. During this one-year period, previously time-barred claims, because of the statute of limitations, of child sexual abuse can be filed against individuals and organizations, no matter how long ago the abuse is alleged to have occurred. This applies not only to the church but all victims of sexual abuse in all public and private institutions. With this occurring we will notice much more public attention being focused on this issue. For this reason I have chosen to preach on this difficult subject at all Masses this weekend.

In our second reading this weekend from the Letter to the Hebrews where the author implores, “…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.” I believe that this is key for all Catholic believers. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we also address the issue of sexual abuse and as we work to heal and to restore victims, and continue to create a safe environment for all God’s people.

Bishop Robert Barron in his “Letter to a Suffering Church” describes the Clergy abuse scandal as a diabolical masterpiece of the evil one. In saying this he does not mean to imply that human beings bear no responsibility, actually the contrary. He says, and we know, that “the devil works typically through suggestion, insinuation, temptation and seduction.” Bishop Barron points out that the evil one “is powerless until he finds men and women who will cooperate with him.” The evil one even had the audacity to tempt Jesus himself, but Jesus always proved to be to0 strong to succumb to sin.

In our profession of faith we say “I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”  And mind you; the Church is and always will be holy, but make no mistake, it is made up of sinful human beings not just among the laity but also among the clergy. I am not speaking this weekend to stand in condemnation of the men who committed these atrocities. While these acts are horrendous and sinful, I need…we need… to echo the words of St. Peter, who recognized as he knelt before Jesus that “I am a sinful man.” We are not called to stand in condemnation of the perpetrators, but to stand in condemnation of the acts and to assist the victim survivors. Leaving the final judgement to God. For we will all, each of us, stand before the judgement seat of God.

It would be understandable in light of this horrendous scandal in the church to consider abandoning the Catholic Church and your Catholic faith. But to do so would be to play right into the hands of the evil one. The Letter to the Hebrews goes on to say, “[Jesus] endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God…in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus promised the Church, in spite of its human dimension… “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”        

While I will not go into detail here, the scriptures are very clear about Jesus’ love for children, in His role as the Good Shepherd. In fact Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” It is the lack of humility and service that has led us to this place near “The gates of hell.”

Finally, I quote Bishop Robert Barron, who reminds us that the church has faced very difficult times before. “In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel there is a scene of absolutely pivotal importance. Finding the Lord’s words concerning the Eucharist too much to take, the majority of Jesus’ followers abandoned him. Turning to his inner circle…Jesus simply says, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ [With the entire movement hanging in the balance Peter speaks up] Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’

While the context might be different; the fundamental principle is the same: If you have found in Jesus, through the church, everlasting life, salvation, and the answer to the deepest longings of your life, as I have. Then, no matter how difficult things become, and no matter how many others turn away, you and I must stay!!

I could say so much more but for now this is enough. In order to assist you on your journey; at all the exits you will find a letter from our Bishop Salvatore Matano regarding this issue. You will also find a link in the bulletin to a video message he produced and we have ordered 100 copies of Bishop Barron’s book: Letter to a Suffering Church. Please watch our parish app for information regarding their arrival.

In the gospel Jesus says that he has “come to set the earth on fire…” It is not a fire that destroys but a fire of the cross that purifies; a fire that purges from sin and a fire that strengthens. In metallurgy, there is a process called “tempering”, where materials like iron and steel are heat treated to increase their strength. May we allow this fire to burn within our souls and within the church to purify us and strengthen our faith.

I would like to close with the closing prayer from the chaplet of mercy; offering it for the victim survivors of sexual abuse and also for the perpetrators of this horrendous act:

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

THE MEANING OF LIFE

I did not preach this week. Deacon Bob McCormick preached and shared the following inspiring story as he reflected on today’s Gospel about “the scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Here is the story he shared:

Alexander Papaderos was born on the island of Crete. During the Second World War Alexander’s hometown, Lividas, was destroyed by the Nazis and Alexander, still a child, was interned in a concentration camp.

After the war he was determined to be a force for peace and forgiveness. He studied theology in the Orthodox church and in 1965 opened an institute designed to promote peace and reconciliation. He would lecture on various topics regarding the Greek Culture.

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Alexander Papaderos turned and made his ritual gesture to signal the conclusion of class and asked, “Are there any questions?”

Quiet swept over the room. The two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.  “No questions?” Dr. Papaderos said as he swept the room with his eyes. One student raised his hand. “Dr. Papaderos. what is the meaning of life?”

The usual laughter followed and people began to stir about getting ready to leave. Dr. Papaderos held UP his hand and stilled the room to perfect peace. He looked at the student who had asked the question for a long time to let the student know he didn’t appreciated him trying to make light of the situation.

“I will answer your question,” Dr. Papaderos said as everyone slowly slid back into their seats.

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this:

“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the biggest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game, but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light – truth, understanding, knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places in the hearts of men and women – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.”

And then he took the small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto the face of the student who had asked the question. The student in a quiet voice said, “thank you.”

We too are mere fragments of a mirror through which God’s light can shine as did the light of the Samaritan in today’s Gospel when we choose compassion and mercy rather than selfishness, which is always the message of the Eucharist we receive.

Don’t forget, “The Lord is with you!” Father Stan

HOMILY FOR PENTECOST 2019

WHAT IS SOMETHING WE DO ALL THE TIME BUT SELDOM THINK ABOUT IT?

HERE IS A HINT…THE HEBREW WORD FOR SPIRIT IS “RUAH.” THE PRONUNCIATION OF THIS WORD SHOULD HELP YOU. IT MEANS WIND OR BREATH.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE WORD “CONSPIRE” MEANS TO BREATHE TOGETHER?

LET’S CONSPIRE for a moment!

DO ME A FAVOR, TAKE A DEEP BREATH. NOW HOLD IT. NOW BLOW IT OUT. I FIGURE THAT BECAUSE WE WERE CONSPIRING, WE JUST LAUNCHED A CONSPIRACY! AND IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY TO THAT WORD “CONSPIRACY,” YOU WILL HEAR THE WORD “SPIRIT” IN THERE ALSO.

– TO CONSPIRE – IS TO BE FILLED WITH THE SAME SPIRIT, TO BE ENLIVENED BY THE SAME WIND.

THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS AMONG US WHEN WE COME TOGETHER TO WORSHIP GOD. THE HOLY SPIRIT SWOOPS IN KNITTING US TOGTHER THROUGH THE SONGS WE SING, THE PRAYERS WE PRAY, THE BREATHS WE BREATHE.

TAKE ANOTHER BREATH. HOLD IT. BLOW IT OUT AGAIN. IF YOU’VE EVER STUDIED EARTH SCIENCE, THEN YOU KNOW THAT OUR PLANET IS WRAPPED IN A PROTECTIVE VEIL WE CALL THE ATMOSPHERE. THE ATMOSPHERE SEPARATES THE AIR WE BREATHE FROM THE COLD VACUUM OF OUTER SPACE. BENEATH THE ATMOSPHERE IS ALL THE AIR THAT EVER WAS. NO CLEANING COMPANY COMES ALONG EVERY HUNDRED YEARS OR SO TO SUCK OUT THE OLD AIR AND PUMP IN SOME NEW AIR. WHILE PLANTS CAN CREATE MORE OXYGEN FOR US TO BREATH, BASICALLY, THE SAME AIR JUST KEEPS RECIRCULATING, WHICH MEANS EVERY TIME ANY OF US BREATHES:

  • WE BREATHE STAR DUST LEFT OVER FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.
  • WE BREATHE DINDSAUR BREATH.
  • WE BREATHE AIR FROM THE RAIN FORESTS OF KENYA AND AIR WHICH IS YELLOW WITH SULFUR FROM MEXICO CITY.
  • WE BREATHE THE SAME AIR PLATO. BREATHED,
  • AND MOZART
  • AND MICHELANGELO…AND JESUS!
  • EVERY TIME WE BREATHE, WE TAKE IN WHAT WAS ONCE SOME BABY’S FIRST BREATH, OR SOME DYING PERSON’S LAST BREATH.

WE TAKE THE AIR IN, WE USE IT TO LIVE, AND WHEN WE BREATHE OUT, IT CARRIES SOME OF US WITH IT INTO THE NEXT PERSON, OR TREE, OR ANIMAL WHO ALSO USES IT TO LIVE.

TAKE ANOTHER BREATH. HOLD IT. BLOW IT OUT AGAIN. I HAVE A SENSE THAT WHEN JESUS WILLINGLY LET GO OF HIS LAST BREATH, FOR LOVE OF US, THAT BREATH HOVERED IN THE AIR IN FRONT OF HIM FOR A MOMENT AND THEN IT WAS SET LOOSE ON THE EARTH.

IT WAS A BREATH – SO FULL OF PASSION, SO FULL OF LIFE – IT DIDN’T SIMPLY DISSIPATE.

INSTEAD… IT GREW IN STRENGTH AND VOLUME UNTIL IT WAS A MIGHTY WIND THAT GOD SENT SPINNING THROUGH AN UPPER ROOM IN JERUSALEM ON PENTECOST DAY CENTURIES AGO.

WE ARE TOLD THAT THERE WERE ABOUT 120 OF THEM, ALL MOPING AROUND WONDERING WHAT THEY WERE GOING TO DO WITHOUT JESUS NOW THAT HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, WHEN THEY HEARD A MIGHTY WIND BLOW THROUGH THE ENTIRE HOUSE …AND THEY WERE FILLED WITH GOD’S OWN BREATH!! THEN THEY BREATHED OUT AND OUT OF THEM CAME LANGUAGES THEY DID NOT EVEN KNOW THEY KNEW.

         CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE WHAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD WERE IN JERUSALEM FOR THE FESTIVAL. IMAGINE HOW SURPRIZED THEY WERE TO HEAR THEIR OWN NATIVE LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY STRANGERS – AND NOT JUST ANY STRANGERS – BUT A BUNCH OF GALILEANS – COMMON FISHERMAN FROM NORTHERN ISRAEL DRESSED IN THE EQUIVALENT OF FIRST CENTURY OVERALLS – ALL OF THEM GOING ON AND ON ABOUT GOD’S MIGHTY ACTS LIKE A BUNCH OF PH.D.’S

TAKE ANOTHER BREATH. HOLD IT. BLOW IT OUT AGAIN. WE ARE TOLD THAT BEFORE THE DAY WAS OVER THE CHURCH HAD GROWN FROM 120 TO MORE THAN 3000!!!

BY BREATHING IN THE BREATH OF GOD, THE SHY BECAME BOLD, THOSE WHO WERE LOST FOUND DIRECTION. DISCIPLES WHO DIDN’T THINK THEY COULD TIE THEIR OWN SANDLES WITHOUT JESUS DISCOVERED ABILITIES WITHIN THEMSELVES THEY NEVER KNEW THEY HAD.

  • WHEN THEY OPENED THEIR MOUTHS TO SPEAK, THEY SOUNDED LIKE JESUS.
  • WHEN THEY LAID HANDS UPON THE SICK, IT WAS AS IF JESUS HIMSELF HAD TOUCHED THEM.
  • THEY WERE DOING THINGS THEY HAD ONLY SEEN JESUS DO.

AND THERE WAS NO EXPLANATION FOR IT…

EXCEPT THAT THEY HAD DARED TO INHALE ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST.

THEY BREATHED IN GOD’S OWN BREATH AND WERE TRANSFORMED BY IT.

THE HOLY SPIRIT HAD ENTERED INTO THEM THE SAME WAY THE SPIRIT ENTERED INTO MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS, AND FOR THE SAME REASON. IT WAS TIME FOR GOD TO BE BORN AGAIN ­NOT IN ONE BODY THIS TIME, BUT IN A BODY OF BELIEVERS WHO WOULD RECEIVE THE BREATH OF LIFE FROM THEIR LORD AND PASS IT ON.

TAKE ANOTHER BREATH. HOLD IT. BLOW IT OUT AGAIN. DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO ACTS THE WAY GOD DID THAT PENTECOST DAY SO LONG AGO?

DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN A GOD WHO BLOWS THROUGH CLOSED DOORS AND SETS OUR HEARTS ON FIRE? DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN A GOD WITH POWER TO TRANSFORM ORDINARY BREAD AND WINE INTO THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST? DO WE STILL BELIEVE THAT GOD HAS THE POWER TO TRANSFORM US, BOTH AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS A PEOPLE?

…OR HAVE WE COME TO AN UNSPOKEN AGREEMENT THAT OUR GOD IS PRETTY OLD AND TIRED BY NOW! SOMEONE TO WHOM WE ADDRESS OUR PRAYER REQUESTS BUT NOT ANYONE WE REALLY EXPECT TO CHANGE OUR LIVES?

EVIDENCE OF THE SPIRIT’S PRESENCE AND ACTION ISN’T THAT DIFFICULT TO SPOT.

  • WHENEVER ONE PLUS ONE PLUS ONE EQUALS ONE,
  •  WHENEVER YOU FIND YOURSELF SPEAKING WITH ELOQUENCE YOU KNOW YOU DO NOT HAVE,
  • OR OFFERING FORGIVENESS YOU HAD NOT MEANT TO OFFER,
  • WHENEVER YOU FIND YOURSELF TAKING RISKS YOU THOUGHT YOU DID NOT HAVE THE COURAGE TO TAKE
  • OR REACHING OUT TO SOMEONE YOU HAD INTENDED TO WALK A WAY FROM

YOU CAN BE SURE THAT THE SPIRIT IS AT WORK IN YOUR HEART.

AND MORE THAN THAT, YOU ARE TAKING PART IN IT, BREATHING IN AND BREATHING OUT, TAKING GOD INTO YOU AND GIVING GOD BACK TO THE WORLD AGAIN.

NOW TAKE A DEEP BREATH. AND JUST KEEP BREATHING.

THIS AIR IS SACRED IT IS IMBUED WITH GOD’S SPIRIT.

OPEN YOU HEART TO THAT SPIRIT AND DISCOVER THE TRUTH THAT ST. PAUL SHARES WITH US IN THE SECOND READING. HAVE THE COURAGE TO SHARE YOUR GIFTS AND TALENTS AND EXPERIENCE ONCE AGAIN THE MIRICLE OF PENTECOST!!

NEXT TIME YOU TAKE A DEEP BREATH RECOGNIZE THE POTENTIAL IN THAT BREATH AND INVITE THE HOLY SPIRIT IN.

…As I have loved you

Have you ever heard “The Hand Song?” It is a beautiful portrayal of Jesus’ “new commandment” in today’s Gospel.

 In the song a young boy picks roses for his mother. The trouble is, she has been raising these roses with great care, and he has now broken off all the beautiful flowers. As he brings them to her, thorns dig into his hands. She lovingly extracts these, reminders of her roses. And the song states:

…and she knew it was love. It was one she could understand.
He was showing his love and that’s how he hurt his hands.

Some time later, she held  the boy close on her knee, and he listened to her read stories from the bible. He saw a picture of Jesus and cried out, Momma, he’s got some scars just like me.

And he knew it was love. It was one he could understand.
He was showing His love and that’s how He hurt His hands.

As a young man he is called by Uncle Sam. His “number” is drawn, and in battle he throws himself in front of a friend to shield him from gunfire. He gives his life, something he had learned from the roses and from the cross.

And they knew it was love. It was one they could understand.
He was showing his love, and that’s how he hurt his hands.

And they knew it was love. It was one they could understand.
He was showing his love, and that’s how he hurt his hands.

…As I have loved you

Jesus said…I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We see in the wounds in Jesus hands what it costs to really love. Is it “one we can understand?” Is it an example that you and I are willing to follow? If we want to be his disciples then it is one we need to understand and follow!

Don’t forget, “The Lord is with you!”              Fr. Stan

Happy Mother’s Day!!

I was blessed with a wonderful mother who shared her unconditional love for me and all my brothers and sisters. One of my sisters is a mother and grandmother now!! She is following beautifully in our mother’s footsteps. In addition to her love, out of love she shared her faith with me. Her love for God was evident by the life she led. Even when I strayed from the faith it was her prayers and example that brought me back to the faith that she shared with me and because of her, I too fell in love with Jesus and chose to respond to the invitation of the Good Shepherd and become a priest.

I am also aware that offering a mother’s love to another does not necessitate physically giving birth to a child. On Saturday I presided at the funeral for Sister Susan Cain, a Sister of Mercy. She work as the driving force of Steuben Rural Ministry which reaches out in mercy and charity to those who need a hand up. She was always there to assist those who came and to love them with a mother’s / a shepherd’s love! Women such as her and my own mother inspire and challenge me every day. Many of these women also offer me support and encouragement on my journey for which I will always be grateful and pray God’s blessings upon them.

The following is a blessing we prayed over the mother’s in church on this mother’s day. I hope you will join me in this prayer of blessing. Our world is sorely in need of good mothers/good shepherds!

Loving God, source and sustainer of all life, we thank you for the precious gift of our mothers, who through their unconditional love and constant care model your love for your Church as the Good Shepherd.

We ask your blessing upon the mothers who are unable to be with us here today.  May they know how much we love them.

We pray for birth mothers who have loved their children so much, they have shared the gift of their child with those who could better care for them and their needs. 

We pray for adoptive mothers, that they may always know they are a revelation of God’s love for their children. 

We pray for women who have never given birth, yet who bestow a mother’s love upon those whose lives they touch.

We ask your blessing upon expectant mothers, and upon those who would very much like to be mothers but who are unable to have children or are experiencing difficulty having a child.

We pray for mothers who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth, crib death, accident, and tragedy, that they may know your peace and consolation.

Bless these women.  Give them strength to live faith-filled and loving lives.  Protect them, guide them, and keep them always in your care.We ask this through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.