27th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Thank You

I gave this homily today at my home parish.  I’d like to add a big THANK YOU to you for following DeaconCast.

We’ve just gone through the part of the year where we’ve been focused on stewardship.  You’ve heard a lot of homilies that included the words “time, talent, and treasure.”  Now we’ve moved into what some of us call “second collection season.”  It seems like there’s an extra envelope for some cause or other almost every week.  That’s partly because no one wants their collection during the summer when people are off on vacation.  Once school starts up, that’s prime time.


Guess what!  I’m not going to ask you to contribute to anything today.  What I do want to do is to say “thank you.”  Thank you for your generous gifts of your time, talent, and treasure.  Thank you for your kind contributions to last week’s collection for my brother deacons in formation.  These men are grateful for your help.


Thank you for your support of all the other second collections.   Jesus calls us to help one another and you never fail to do just that.


Thank you for your weekly support of our parish.  Jan and I visit other parishes occasionally and I always check the bulletin to see what kind of support those parishioners are giving their church.  Very seldom do I see a parish that’s proportionally more generous than you are.


Thanks to all of you who donate your time to further our mission.  I won’t try to  name all the ministries here, because if I do I’m sure to miss someone.  But I want you to know that we appreciate everything that you all do to support our parish family.


Last, but not least, I want to thank all of you for your spiritual support.  I know I’ve told this story before, but when Jan and I first moved into this parish, thirty-five years ago, people told us we should go to mass somewhere else because Saint Bernadette wasn’t going to be around much longer.  And, we definitely shouldn’t send our kids to school here.


All four of our kids did go to school here, right up until the school did close in 1999, 24 years later and only after a lot of other “strong” schools had already closed.  Thirty five years later the parish is going strong, getting new members virtually every week.


Personally, I appreciate the fact that you sit there patiently in the pews, enduring my preaching.  Your faith brings you to church.  You hope that I’ll say something at least half-way intelligent.  And your kind words and encouragement are definitely an act of charity.  Thank you for that.


Believe me, what I’ve just said is absolutely sincere.  I thank God that I’m assigned to my home parish, the only parish I’ve really ever belonged to.  I may or may not be here a year from now.  I may not be here next week.  That’s for God and the deacon personnel board to decide, but I’m truly grateful to all of you.  But, I’ve also said these things to make a point.


Isn’t it nice when somebody says “thank you”.  Those two words have great power.  In today’s Gospel, only one of the ten lepers who were cleansed came back to Jesus to say “thank you.”  Only one out of ten!  And he was a Samaritan!  Remember that Jews and Samaritans hated each other.  But “this foreigner” as Jesus called him, took the time to come back to thank the Jewish Messiah.


He didn’t just stroll up to Jesus and say, “Hey, thanks, man.  I appreciate it.”  “He returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.”


I don’t know what the other nine were thinking.  There’s no way to know.  Were they all Jews?  We don’t know, but Jesus’ words seem to indicate that at least some of the others were Jews, if not all of them.  Maybe, because they WERE Jews, the “chosen people” they felt like they were entitled to be cleansed.


Maybe they were just following Jesus’ instructions to go show themselves to the priests.  Maybe they came back later.  We don’t know.


But here’s what we DO know.  The Samaritan leper, the one who came back, was saved.  Jesus said “your faith has saved YOU.”  In other words, gratitude and faith are two sides of the same coin.  If you have faith in God you have to be grateful to God.  Isn’t that why we’re really here.  To give Him thanks and praise.  The very word, Eucharist, means “thanksgiving”.  The second half of our liturgy, the part after I finally stop talking, is called the liturgy of the Eucharist; the liturgy of thanksgiving.


It’s something we all know we’re supposed to do.  When we were little, what did mom ask us when someone did something nice for us?  “What do you say?”  And, hopefully we’d say “thank you.”


Our prayer should be the same.  There’s nothing wrong with asking God for the things we need.  We’re going to do that together in just a few minutes.  But when our prayers are answered, the next logical step is to do what that Samaritan leper did.


Even God, the almighty Creator of the universe needs our thanks.  He craves it just as much as we do.  Jesus answered all ten lepers’ prayers by healing them of their physical illness.  But He only saved one of them.  The one who took the time to say “thank you.”





A House Divided

Homily for October 8, 2010

abraham lincolnIf we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

That was Abraham Lincoln speaking on June 16, 1858 about slavery in the United States.

Two years later, Lincoln would be elected President and the southern states would have begun succeeding from the Union.  Three years later, in 1861, Confederate forces would fire on Fort Sumpter and the Civil War would begin. As Lincoln predicted, it would take a great crisis to bring us together.  We would be united again, but only after much bloodshed and the loss of thousands of American lives on both sides.

Lincoln’s reference to a “house divided” comes from the 11th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which I just read.  Anything divided against itself doesn’t have much chance of surviving, whether it’s a family, a country, a church, or even Satan himself as Jesus points out.

We should take Jesus’ words and Lincoln’s words to heart when we look at what’s going on in the world today.  Have you ever seen more division?  In our own Church there are so-called Liberal Catholics and Conservative Catholics pulling the Church first one way then another.  But in reality, there’s only one Church.  This pendulum has been swinging back and forth for more than 2,000 years.

Even in the earliest years, there was division in the Church.  Paul alludes to it in the first reading.  Some early Christians thought that they had to adhere strictly to Jewish law and some thought Jewish law was abolished with the new covenant.  It became a big issue when Paul and others started converting gentiles.  Did a gentile have to be circumcised to become a Christian?  Did he or she have to follow Jewish dietary laws?  It took the first Church Council, held in Jerusalem in the first century to settle the issue.

What about our country?  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the United States is more divided today than it was even in Lincoln’s time.  There is no civil discourse.  Conservatives and Liberals would rather shout one another down than work to achieve any meaningful solutions.  Meanwhile, our economy is in the dumpster and we live in constant fear of terrorist attacks.  Many people of faith are more concerned with the things that separate us than with the things that bring us together.

So, you and I, as Christian Catholics are left to do what we do best and that’s PRAY!  Pray for peace.  Pray for a return to economic prosperity, not just for the United States but for all the world.  And pray that our country wakes up to the fact that we’ve been blessed by God in ways our forefathers never dreamed of.  We have a beautiful country and abundant natural resources.  We have an attitude, or at least we used to, that with God anything is possible.  But many of our brothers and sisters have turned away from God.  It’s up to us to pray those people back into the fold.

It’s up us to not let the atheists take away our rights to pray, to worship God, and to make our country, one nation, under God, once again.

Top 10 Reasons for Being a Hospital Minister

I was asked to give a 10 minute talk today on hospital ministry to a group of deacons.  My first idea was to present a “Top 10 List” of reasons for being a hospital minister.  But, on further review, I decided that the format wasn’t right for the gathering.  But I do think it might have some value here, so I’m going to go ahead and post it for your reading enjoyment.  Feel free to comment below on either the content or the format.

P.S.  You don’t have to be a deacon to be a hospital minister.


10.  It feels good. I always leave the hospital feeling better than I felt when I got there.  Some nights I see ten or twelve people.  Some nights I only see one or two, but the people I visit inspire me to be a better person.  I’ve seen miracles happen at the hospital and I’m pretty sure I’ve met angels.

9.  There are five types of patients.  Catholics; fallen-away Catholics; non-Catholic Christians; religious non-Christians; and non-religious.  Each one really offers a unique ministry, not just a healing ministry, but also an educational ministry.  A lot of the people I see, even Catholics, have no idea what a deacon is.

8.  As much as Catholics need to come to church, the Church needs to come to them. By offering them prayer and the sacraments, hospital ministers make Catholic patients feel comforted and part of a larger community.  (communion, Sos)

7.  Fallen-away Catholics might just come back if they feel like the Church still cares about them.  Sadly, sometimes they’ve been away a long time because of something someone said or did.  (Pt this week who “couldn’t get” an annulment.

6.  Depending on their particular denomination, our separated brothers and sisters may tolerate Catholics, be indifferent to Catholics, or hate Catholics.  By treating them with respect and providing them with comfort and prayer, I may be able to break down some walls and leave them feeling better about us and our Church.

5.  When people are in need, they need and appreciate prayer.  Even non-Christians can be comforted by our prayers.   It’s a way to build bridges. I once had a Hindu lady chase me down the hall begging me to come and pray for her mother.  I did and you can’t imagine how grateful she was and how good I felt.  Remember Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

4. There are no atheists in fox holes.” I don’t think there are any atheists on the gurney on the way to the cardiac operating room either.  Non-religious types, when they’re in trouble, usually don’t mind hedging their bets.  I’ve never had anyone tell me, actually there have been two in ten years, but that’s another story, not to pray for them. Our presence as Catholic ministers may just be the push they need to reconsider God and their relationship with them.

3.  We get free parking and a discount in the cafeteria.  Plus, we get a swell Christmas gift every year.

2.  As deacons, we’re called to serve. Each of us has his own calling.  Some of us just haven’t figured out what it is yet.  Hospital ministry is just one type of service.  Some may love it.  Some may hate it.  But you never know until you try.  Remember, I hated it when I was in formation.

1.  The number one reason to practice hospital ministry:  It makes Jesus happy and making Jesus happy makes me happy.