17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

So, what to say about today’s Gospel, the familiar story of the loaves and the fishes. If you’ve looked at this week’s bulletin, you may have noticed that this miracle is repeated SIX TIMES in the four Gospels. Obviously it’s important. But eventually you begin to run out of things to say about it.

But there is one character in this story who doesn’t get talked about so much. It’s the little boy who contributes the bread and fish in the first place. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother points out the boy and the fact that he has five barley loaves and two fish. It’s not much, but it’s all he has. Here’s the thing. The kid could have kept the food for himself. He didn’t have to give up his food, especially since he had to know that such a small amount, while it would have been enough for him, isn’t much to feed such a large crowd. Could he have known what Jesus was going to do?

We know that Jesus knew because the Gospel says so. But there’s no way of knowing what was in the boy’s mind.

We don’t know much about the boy. In fact we don’t know anything about him except that he had come to hear Jesus speak and that he was smart enough to bring lunch. We don’t know if he was alone, or if he came with his parents. Maybe he came with some friends. John doesn’t tell us. All we know for sure is that there were 5,000 adults in the crowd and this kid was the only one who planned ahead. And we know that he was willing to give all he had, little as it might have been, to help feed the others. He couldn’t have known that his small amount of bread and fish would be more than enough to feed everyone.

When we look at this story, we usually focus on the miracle. Jesus fed the multitude with a small amount of food and had enough left over to fill twelve wicker baskets, one for each Apostle. It’s definitely a story worth retelling over and over. Jesus performed a great miracle which, of course, is the precursor of the Eucharist. But it wouldn’t have happened without the generosity of this unnamed boy.

Which brings us to our Eucharistic meal that Father will prepare in just a few minutes. There’s a reason why someone from the congregation brings up the bread and wine. It’s representative of today’s Gospel story. Father will turn YOUR gifts into Christ’s Body and Blood, just as he fed the 5,000 with the young man’s bread and fish.

But, wait! There’s more! At the same time you bring up the gifts of bread and wine, you also bring up your monetary gifts. We can’t celebrate the Eucharist without bread and wine and we can’t celebrate the Eucharist without your gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Like most things in the Church, the offertory is symbolic. You could mail in your contribution. Many people do. Some churches use on-line giving. We’re not there yet, but some day we may be. We get money from other sources, like weddings and dinners, but it’s the offertory procession, you’re bringing the bread, the wine, and your financial gifts that signifies your generosity. It’s a reminder that the word communion comes from the same root as community. Father consecrates your bread and wine and we celebrate a meal together.

Jesus could have sent the Apostles off to the grocery store to get fish and bread. But He didn’t. He allowed an anonymous boy to provide the material for the miracle. In the same way, Father and I could just bring the bread and wine out of the sacristy for Holy Communion and we could ask you to mail us your tithe. But we don’t. Your gift to the Church is returned as Jesus’ gift to you.

So, as the ushers take up the collection today, remember that it’s your gifts that make this meal possible. Without your presence and your gifts there would be no Eucharist. Like the unnamed little boy, you make the meal possible.

Religious Freedom

By now you’ve probably heard that the US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of so-called “gay marriage”.  Many people much more qualified than I am have already expressed their outrage at this decision, so I’m just going to say that marriage is a sacrament and that no government has the right to define it.  Archbishop Robert Carlson of Saint Louis has issued a short statement that, in my opinion, say all that needs to be said.

“The decision issued today by the Supreme Court to effectively change the legal definition of marriage in the United States does not alter the unassailable truth that marriage is, and always will be, the life-long, life-giving union of one man and one woman.”

Nuff said.

The Mountain

Today my son, Tim, completed the Leadville Trail Marathon in Leadville, CO, in 4:01:16, a pace of 15:34 minutes per mile.  Yes, I’m bragging.  If you want to brag about your kid, get your own blog.  The fact is that, other than prayer, I had nothing to do with his accomplishment.  I ran a little when I was younger, but nothing like this.  He ran up a mountain and then ran back down, at high altitude.  They tell me that coming down is actually harder than going up, but I wouldn’t know.

Running this marathon is the culmination of months of training in good weather and bad.  Tim’s run in heat and cold, rain, sleet, and snow.  Today is his reward for hours and hours of hard work.  Only another distance runner can have any idea of how much work this must have been and how satisfied he must be to have reached his goal.  Congratulations, Tim!

Here’s the thing.  We all have our own mountains.  Some we chose, like Tim’s challenge of Leadville.  Others of us have our mountains thrust upon us, not of our own choosing.  Most of us tackle our mountains alone, just like he ran alone all those hours.  We may have a support system, but when it comes to the actual climb, its usually just us and God.  Of course we know that nothing is impossible with God’s help, but it can be a lonely climb.  It’s easy to become discouraged.

I wish I could have been there to run with Tim through the training and the actual marathon, but like so many things in life, when it’s time to put up or shut up, human help just isn’t possible.  I have a lot of friends who are climbing their own mountains, and I pray for them every day.  But, in the end, we must put one foot in front of the other and keep going.  Life is a series of mountains, some steeper than others.

So, yes, I’m proud of my son, just as I’m proud of all my children.  On this Father’s Day weekend I’m very thankful that God has chosen me to be the father of four wonderful human beings who make me proud every day.  I’m also thankful for my five grandchildren (with number six on the way).  God is good.

I pray that whatever mountain you’re trying to climb today, that God will be by your side and that you’ll reach all your goals. Like the song says, “you’ll never walk alone.”

Happy Father’s Day!

The “Serenity Prayer”

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We’re all familiar with this prayer.  It’s usually associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step groups.  It’s known as “the serenity prayer.”  But notice that when we say this prayer we’re asking for three things:  serenity, courage, and wisdom.  It could be just as well be called “the courage prayer” or “the wisdom prayer”.

But we call it “the serenity prayer” because that’s what we’re all seeking.  Sure, it’s great to be brave and wise, but isn’t serenity what we’re all really seeking?  And to be serene, we also need courage and wisdom.  Serenity isn’t easily achieved.

When we say the Lord’s Prayer at mass the priest follows it with these words,

“Deliver us, Lord, we pray from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may always be free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Again, we’re asking for peace and to be free from all distress; in other words, serenity.

We live in a stressful world.  We can never be free from all things stressful.  But, with God’s help, we can learn to handle stress and to create our own brand of peace in our lives.  With can’t control what happens around us, but with God’s help, we can choose to be at peace.

The Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, or addicts, or any other particular group.  It’s something we should all include in our daily prayer lives.  When we’re faced with stressful situations, why not take a few seconds to repeat this awesome prayer silently, or even out loud when the situation warrants it.

Say it with me,

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen!

5 Timeless Truths from the Serenity Prayer that Offer Wisdom in the Modern Age

Continue reading

Saint Cyprian on the Lord’s Prayer

Today’s Liturgy of the Hours features a reading from Saint Cyprian on the subject of the Lord’s prayer.  He writes:

We do not say “My father who art in heaven” nor “Give me this day my daily bread.”  It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation, or to be delivered from evil.  Rather, we pray in public as a community and not for one individual but for all.  For the people of God are all one.”

Cyprian lived in the 3rd century, so his words are nothing new.  But how many of us pray the “Our Father” in this spirit of community?  We often hear people, especially young people, who say “I don’t need to go to mass.  I can pray on my own.”  But that’s not what Jesus taught us.  He said, “Pray like this:  Our Father who art in heaven.”  The idea that God lives in heaven was nothing new.  But calling Him Our Father was.

While many of us include this prayer as part of our daily devotion, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a communal prayer.  Even when we pray it in solitude, we’re calling on God in behalf of all people.

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend’s homily:

We walk by faith and not by sight. That’s what Saint Paul says in today’s second reading. And, he’s right. And not just in the spiritual sense that you might be thinking. When we physically walk, when we put one foot in front of the other to get from here to there, we walk by faith. We have faith we won’t fall on our faces. We have faith we won’t get struck by lighting or hit by a car. Without faith we couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Faith is crucial to our existence.

Of course, Paul IS talking about spiritual faith. Our faith, which we call the Catholic faith, expects us to believe a lot of things that we can’t believe by sight. Last week we celebrated the Body and Blood of Christ as we receive them in the Eucharist. They look like bread and wine. They smell like bread and wine. They taste like bread and wine, but our faith tells us otherwise.

Two weeks ago we celebrated the Holy Trinity, one God, three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can’t understand that intellectually. We must have faith.

In just a little while I’ll be marrying a couple here at Saint John’s. I’ll remind them that a sacramental marriage isn’t just permission for them to live together. We believe that there will be an actual change in them, making them one. It’s another one of those things that we have to see through our faith. They won’t look any different. They’ll still be the same people, but there will be an actual change and the longer they’re together, the more obvious that will be. Those of us who have been married for a long time know it’s true.

There are some other things that our faith teaches. Some are hard to accept just using our puny human minds. Some are a little more obvious. Here are some things that our Church teaches us.

  • Abortion is ALWAYS wrong.
  • The use of artificial birth control is a sin.
  • Cohabitation outside of marriage is a sin.
  • Marriage is only to be between a man and a woman.
  • Homosexual acts are always sinful.
  • You’re supposed to go to mass every week.
  • You should receive the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis.
  • The Ten Commandments are not suggestions.

I could go on, but here’s the thing. You can attend mass every week at a lot of Catholic parishes and you would never know these things are part of the faith. Why not? Easy. A lot of priests and deacons don’t like to talk about sin. We don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. We don’t want to make anybody mad. God forbid you should stop giving to the church because the truth hits too close to home. Of course, we also don’t want to face our own sins.

All these things are like the mustard seeds that Jesus talks about in the Gospel. They can start small but they can grow very large. See, there’s this guy called Satan. You may remember him. You used to hear a lot about him. But he’s clever. He’s managed to convince a lot of us that he’s not around anymore. Trust me, he is. And like that little mustard seed, once he gets into your life, he’s hard to get rid of. A good public relations man will tell you that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in Satan’s case he’s done an amazing job of keeping himself out of the limelight. Evidence of his work is all around us, but so many of us just don’t believe he exists. But, I digress.

Jesus didn’t tell this story to teach us about agriculture. He told it to teach us about faith. We have to have it. Everybody has it. Even atheists have faith. It may be misguided, but it’s THEIR faith. They have faith that this life is all there is. Lucky for them, God still loves them like He loves each one of us.

So these seeds we have can be good or bad. Whatever they are, by living our lives we sow these seeds. What we have to ask ourselves is whether we’re sowing good seeds or bad. What kind of faith are we showing to the people around us? It’s not an easy question to face and even harder to answer.

 

 

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Believe it or not, TODAY is the actual date of the feast of Corpus Christi.  For centuries it was celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and still is in many parts of the world.  Pope Francis will celebrate the feast this evening at the Vatican.  But like so many things Catholic, here in the United States, we insist on dumbing down the faith.  Even the name of the feast is now the “Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ”.  We can’t have too much of that old-fashioned Latin stuff, now can we?

We’ve moved many of the Holy Days to Sunday because that’s easier than trying to get “Catholics” into church on a week day.  Where confession (such a negative term) used to be a regular event, now it’s ok if you receive the “sacrament of reconciliation”  once a year.  (And most of us don’t even do that!)

Many of us who wear the collar are afraid to preach on any controversial topic.  We don’t want to offend anyone or, God forbid, cause someone to stop giving money!  Then we’re shocked when things like abortion and gay marriage become the law of the land.  Here at Saint John Nepomuk we have a lot of weddings.  Frankly, I’m surprised when I meet with an engaged couple to do the prenuptial paperwork and they give me two different addresses!  Cohabitation, or what we old people used to call “shacking up” or “living in sin” has become the norm, not the exception.  Again, cohabitation is a much nicer word.

I don’t want to get off on a big rant here, but sometimes I just shake my head at how we’ve let our faith, the faith founded by Jesus Christ Himself, get so watered down.  We Christians like to say that the Church is under attack, but the problem doesn’t lie outside the Church, it’s right here, on the inside.  We’re letting it happen every day.  Recently Ireland, once a devout Catholic country, legalized gay marriage.  Church attendance on the Emerald Isle has fallen off to a pathetic low.  How a country where the people have been fighting and killing each other over religion for centuries, can become so apathetic about the Lord is a mystery.  Unfortunately, the United States is headed in the same direction.

OK, I guess I’m done venting, but I hope and pray that Catholics and other Christians will wake up before it’s too late.  It’s proves how infinite God’s love is for us that He puts up with our foolishness.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 715 other followers