8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This is my homily for the 8th week of Ordinary Time.  We seldom have an 8th week because Lent has usually started by the first of March, but this year we do.  So enjoy some readings that you may not have heard in a while.  

We live in a world of sound bites.  CBS claims to have “real news”. Those two four letter words mean a lot more than their ordinary meaning.  Fox News is “fair and balanced”. I don’t think anybody, even their biggest fans, believe that they don’t lean to the conservative side.  Coca Cola is the “real thing” .  Here in Saint Louis hockey fans bleed blue and we shop at Carroll House because we like nice things. KMOX is “the voice of Saint Louis,” Commercials tell us not to smell like Walter.

 

We have a President who communicates in 140 character tweets.  And most of us carry a telephone around in our pockets or purses even though we may never actually talk to anyone.  If I want to meet my wife for lunch I’ll send her a text message: Lunch? And she’ll reply: ok. Where & when? I’ll text her back Chick-Fil-A @ 1:00.  And she’ll answer back: ok. Seven words and two characters, assuming “ok” is a word. We have the most advanced communication system in history and nobody talks to anybody anymore.  We have to go to the history books to find the great presidential speeches. Imagine if Lincoln had had Twitter at Gettysburg.

 

Do you remember when you were in grade school?  Every year you’d get a new wooden ruler. It had the Golden Rule on it and was sponsored by Coke.  I went to a public school, so I don’t know if they do that anymore or not, but fifty years later I still remember those rulers.  On the front it said “A good rule…Do unto others as you wouldhave them do unto you.” Then on the back it said compliments of the Coca Cola Bottling Company.”  That was back when public schools and public corporations didn’t mind being associated with the Bible.ruler

For around ten bucks, plus shipping, you can buy one of those rulers on ebay.

But, this isn’t a new thing.  Oh, the technology may be new but sound bites date back to the time before Christ.  In the first reading today Sirach, who wrote from 200-175 BC, or about two centuries before Christ,  gives us four sound bites, three of them about speech.:

“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.”  We may not be familiar with a sieve, but it’s the way they used to separate the grain from the husks.  You’d put the grain in the sieve and shake it. The holes were a certain size and the grain would be separated from the husks.  Sirach is telling us that when we speak our faults fall out of our mouths just like the husks fall out of the sieve.

 

Then he tells us that:  “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does ones speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”  This is a similar message to the first one and finally he says:”Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.”

 

It was either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain who said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Same thought, just expressed in a different way.

 

Saint Steven was the first deacon and also the first martyr.  He was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel. They told us in formation that Steven was doing just fine until he opened his mouth.

 

In the middle of the reading, Sirach goes off on a different track and says: “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.”  If you’ve ever gone to Silver Dollar City, chances you’ve watched the potters at work.  After they complete a piece it goes in the oven to be cured. If the clay isn’t right, the oven will crack it and destroy the piece.  So, tribulation will destroy us if our souls aren’t just.

 

If we turn to Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus speaking in the same type of sound bite.  “Can a blind person lead a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit.”  Two thousand years later this saying is part of our language.  How often have you heard someone say “that’s like the blind leading the blind.”  Of course Jesus’ meaning is a little deeper here. He’s not talking about two blind guys falling into a hole.  He’s talking about us following false prophets. How can someone lead you to heaven if they don’t know how to get there themselves.  We see these people on television on Sunday morning, but they’ve been around a lot longer than TV.

 

“No disciple is superior to the teacher but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”  That one’s pretty obvious.

 

But then He asks the disciples a question.  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Think about your basement at home.  Or, if you don’t have a basement, think about the attic.  Think about the wooden beams that hold the whole thing together.  Then imagine one of them sticking out of your eye. Go ahead. I’ll wait.  Got it? OK, now imagine trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye with that big beam sticking out of your eye.  You couldn’t even get close enough to see the splinter.

 

YOU HYPOCRITE!  Get your own house in order before you try to help somebody else.  Don’t be like the blind leading the blind.

 

Finally Luke takes us back to Sirach and talks about the quality of the tree producing good fruit.  “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil, for out ot the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

 

Have a great Lent!

 

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3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time–Ezra

Here’s my homily for this weekend,  Enjoy

 

People love stories.  We enjoy stories that entertain us and stories that teach us things.  Stories are powerful. The Book of the Gospels is full of stories about Jesus and stories Jesus told which we call parables.  Jesus parables make up roughly 30% of the New Testament. In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel the Apostles ask Jesus why He speaks to the people in parables.  Jesus answers that while they, the Apostles, know the secrets of God’s kingdom, the people aren’t ready yet so He must speak to them in parables.

 

For example, He could have told them to pray constantly, but they wouldn’t get it.  Instead He told them the story of the judge and the persistent widow. That they understood.

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Here’s a more modern parable.  Some of us are cat people and some of us are dog people.   Some of us are neither. I happen to be a cat person. But suppose you don’t know anything about dogs or cats.  I could try to explain the difference or I could tell you a story.

 

A German shepherd, a doberman, and a cat die.  All three meet God and He wants to know what they believe in.  

 

The German shepherd says, “I believe in discipline, training, and loyalty to my master.”  God says “that’s good. You may sit at my right side.”

 

The doberman says, “”I believe in  the love, care, and protection of my master.  “Ah, God says, “you may sit at my left side.” Then God looks at the cat.  “And what do you believe?” The cat answers, “I believe you’re sitting in my seat.”

 

That’s the difference between dogs and cats.

 

Jan and I babysat our 18 month-old grandson last  night.  This morning he and Momo were reading this book. It’s by Dr, Seuss and it’s called “Mr, Brown Can Moo, Can You?” a typical, silly Dr, Seuss book.  You know one of the first things we teach little kids is animal sounds. You know, “the cow goes moo”. Well this book is full of all kinds of sounds and goofy pictures, and my grandson can repeat most of the sounds.

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But, l think if you just sat him down with a list of sounds, he probably wouldn’t get it nearly as fast as he’s gotten it from good old Dr, Seuss.  Again, stories are powerful.

 

In the first reading today from the Book of Nehemiah the Hebrew people have been in exile in Babylon for more than 100 years.  There’s nobody alive who remembers what it was like before they were captured. There are some people, like Ezra the priest who have kept the traditions alive, but to most of the people it’s just ancient history.  Living among the Babylonians for more than a century, most of the people have adopted the Babylonian lifestyle.

But, now they’re back.   They’ve returned to Jerusalem and Ezra has brought them all together, “all the men, the women, and all the children old enough to understand.”  They’re gathered in front of the Water Gate, which isn’t a hotel in Washington DC, but it’s the gap in the city wall where the water comes in. They’re outside in the sun and they’re going to need a lot of water.  Ezra is standing on a wooden platform that’s been built just for the occasion. He opens the scroll and begins to read from the Torah. Notice he read from dawn to midday, around six or seven hours. If you’re one of those people who think mass should never take more than 45 minutes, preferably less, think about that.  They stood out in the sun for six or seven hours. I told you they would need a lot of water,

 

They weren’t just standing around.  They had their hands raised high and were shouting “Amen!  Amen! Then they prostrated themselves on the ground. They were all weeping because they realized what they had been missing; how they had let the Lord down.  Have you ever cried at mass, other than maybe at a funeral? Has it ever occurred to you how undeserving you are of God’s love? Well, that’s how the people were feeling.

 

Then Nehemiah, who was governer, said to the people, “Don’t be sad.  Don’t weep! Today is holy to the Lord, your God. Rejoice in the Lord! Have a party!”  That was some powerful story that Ezra read to the people.

 

Now, normally this is where I would talk about the Gospel.  But since this week’s Gospel and next weeks are basically part 1 and 2 of the same story I’m just going to point out how Jesus reading from the scroll is just like Ezra’s doing it in the first reading and say again that there is tremendous power in stories.  This is the beginning of Luke’s Gospel and he addresses it to “most excellent Theophilus.” The word means “lover of God” so Luke probably isn’t writing to any particular person.

 

Jesus has returned after being tempted and today finds Himself in Nazareth, His home town.  He attends synagogue on the Sabbath and stands up and reads from the scroll just like Ezra had.  He finishes by telling His listeners “today this scripture reading is fulfilled in your hearing.”  But come back next weekend and you’ll hear that the outcome is very different. Stay tuned.

 

God Bless America!

I was talking to a friend the other day.  She told me she has started a blog.  I gave her some encouragement and offered to help any way I can.  Then I came home and looked at this blog and realized that I haven’t posted since Memorial Day!  Over a month ago!  If I were an aspiring blogger I would take Deacon Mike’s advice and toss it in the trash can.  I’m embarrassed.

I could make all kinds of excuses for my inactivity but I won’t.  I know better.  This coming November, this blog will be ten years old.  I actually started blogging for my former employer in April 2006, more than twelve years ago.  I think I know how to blog.  I even know how to blog on a regular basis because in my capacity as “professional blogger” I was expected to do it as part of my job.  So, what happened?

Life happened.  Other things seemed to always get in the way.  Believe it or not, these beautiful words of wisdom don’t just flow magically from my fingers.  A good post takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.

Then there are those fingers themselves.  I’ve developed a neurological condition called Essential Tremor, that causes my hands to shake.  It’s hereditary.  My mom had it too.  Aside from being very aggravating, it makes it very hard to type (or eat).  If I’m going to continue, and I am, I’m going to look into voice recognition software to make this less of a chore.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Declaration_Engrav_Pg1of1_doctored_0.jpgBut, as I often do, I digress.  Today is America’s birthday.  242 years ago a brave group of colonists thumbed their noses at King George and declared our independence.  In doing so, they risked everything.  If this experiment had failed they would have lost their families, their homes, and their lives.

Those original Americans had settled along the East Coast.  The thirteen colonies all bordered the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s no way those Founding Fathers could have imagined the vast land we know today as the United States of America.  They had no way of knowing the natural resources that we would enjoy.

God blessed those founders in their efforts and has blessed our country throughout its history.  But today so many of us want to turn our backs on God.  We want Him out of our courthouses and our schools.  So many forget what He has done for us.

There’s a contentious fight over undocumented foreigners coming into our country illegally.  But whichever side of that argument you happen to be on, here’s one incontrovertible fact.  Thousands of people want to come into our country but nobody’s trying to sneak out.  If the President builds a wall, there won’t be any US citizens trying to climb over it.

So, enjoy your freedom.  Enjoy your ability to come and go as you please.  Enjoy the day off from work but don’t forget the reason for the celebration.

Check out this video:

http://a.msn.com/09/en-us/AAzwpfz?ocid=se

3rd Sunday of Easter

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

These are the first words Jesus speaks to the Apostles both in today’s Gospel and in last week’s. Remember, last week he appeared to them in the locked room. That was when Thomas wasn’t with the others. A week later he came back, and again He greeted them “Peace be with you.” Now today He comes back as they were talking to the two disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus` and what are his first words?  “Peace be with you.”

peace be with you

See, here’s the thing. Jesus was dead. They saw Him die. He was as dead as Monty Python’s parrot.  Now, here He is again “in the flesh”. That had to be a frightening thing to experience. He knew that so He started his conversation with them by offering them “Peace”.

 

In today’s Gospel Luke writes that they were “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” So Jesus said to them, “Hey. Do you have anything to eat?” “They gave Him a piece of baked fish and He ate it in front of them.” He did that to prove that He wasn’t a ghost.  If a ghost had eaten the fish it would have just fallen on the floor.

 

A little sidebar here, if you read the entire Gospel of Luke you’ll see that Jesus was always eating. The book is full of dinners that Jesus attended with various people. Luke loved to write about these events. So it’s no surprise that even after Jesus has died and been risen from the dead that Luke would introduce some food.   Luke’s Jesus would have loved Saint Louis fish fries during Lent. But, I digress.

 

Jesus tells the Apostles that everything written about Him in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.

 

Now, if we look back at the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke, Peter says to the people, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.” Remember, in Jesus times there were lots of gods running around. There were Roman gods, and Greek gods, and Egyptian gods. But Peter tells the people that Jesus didn’t come from any of those phony-baloney gods, He came from The God. Capital T, capital G. The God of our fathers.

 

But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say “You denied the holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Then here’s the real zinger,  “The author of life you put to death.” Ouch!

 

But John, in his letter, our second reading, gives us hope. He tells us not to sin, but if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He is expiation for our sins.” How can we be sure of this? Keep Jesus’ commandments. And His commandments are very simple. Love Him and love our neighbors. That’s it. It’s amazing how many people can’t get that right.

 

PEACE BE WITH YOU.

 

Good Friday

[Originally posted March 29, 2013]

Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence in preparation for Jesus’ glorious resurrection. We’re all encouraged to attend services today, but it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation. You don’t have to come to church today. You can’t eat meat and you can’t eat between meals, but you don’t have to come to church. I think that’s a little bit odd. On the day that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to save you and me from our sins, I think we should be here. Obviously, so do you.

On the other hand, the fact that this isn’t a day when we’re obliged to come to church, says something about those of us who do come, and those who don’t. One of my wife’s pet peeves is people who don’t send thank you notes. It seems like that simple, common courtesy has fallen by the way side. It’s just good manners to thank someone who’s done something for you. If it’s bad form not to thank someone who has given you a toaster, how much worse is it to not thank someone who’s died for your sins.

Our church will be full tomorrow night for the Easter Vigil. Doesn’t it make sense that it should be full today too? Even in this politically correct, what’s in it for me, don’t mix religion and politics, world, a lot of people get today off. Good luck trying to find a politician in Washington DC today. They’ve all gone home for the Easter break. You’d think that more people, not having to work or go to school today, might take an hour to drop by and say, “Hey, Jesus! Thank you for suffering terrible torture, being beaten and ridiculed, and for dying the painful death on the cross for me.”

I could have told you ahead of time who would be in church today. I can also tell you a lot of people who aren’t. But you and I are here. We love Jesus and we’re thankful that a loving God would send His only begotten Son to die so that we might live.

Today is a solemn celebration. We mourn Jesus’ death. We see Him lying in the tomb and we realize that if it wasn’t for our sins, He wouldn’t be there. We’re sad and we’re sorry for what we’ve done. We also have the advantage of history telling us what’s about to happen. Tomorrow the tomb will be empty because He’s risen from the dead. Where today’s service is solemn, tomorrow’s will be joyful. There will be candles and bells and incense and we’ll rejoice that He’s overcome death. We will celebrate His resurrection because it’s the precursor to our own resurrection!

In a few minutes, we’ll quietly leave church anxious to return tomorrow or Sunday for the great celebration.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving us from ourselves.

Goodbye 2017

sit-computer-healthy

I know you’re sitting in front of your computer (tablet, smart phone) breathlessly waiting for your favorite blogger to give you some words of wisdom to take you into the new year.  That’s a lot of responsibility you’re putting on me and, frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it.

There are a lot of places you can go to get inspired but you’ve chosen to come here so I guess I owe it to you to give it my best shot.  After all, I’ve been watching the Hallmark Channel almost nonstop since Thanksgiving.  I should be very inspired.  Let me say something in passing about the folks at Hallmark TV.  Like the Catholic Church, they don’t consider December 25 to be the end of the Christmas season.  They continue to run Christmas movies.  And even though they’re all the same movie, with the same plot, they’re Christmas movies all the same.

So, let me start my end-of-the-year diatribe with a few words about the Christmas season.  Holy Mother Church divides the year into seasons.  The Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  This year that was December 3.  So right away we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.

Advent is always four weeks long so this year the last Sunday of Advent was December 24, which was also Christmas Eve, the BEGINNING of the Christmas season.  Today, Sunday, December 31 is the Feast of the Holy Family.  It’s also secular New Years Eve.

The following Sunday, January 7 is the Feast of the Epiphany and the next day, Monday the 8th wdead christmas treee celebrate the  Baptism of the Lord.  That’s the end of the Christmas season.  You can finally take down that tree that’s been up since the first of November.

But don’t get too comfortable with Ordinary√ Time this year.  We’ll just barely get the green vestments out and it will be time for the purple of Lent.  Ash Wednesday, 2018, is on February 14, Valentines Day.  Six weeks of Lent (and fish fries) and it will be Easter again.

So that’s your lesson on the Church calendar but it’s hardly the words of wisdom you’ve been waiting for so I’m going to borrow something from Father Z’s blog.  (If you don’t follow Father  Z, you should).  Today Father Z reminds us that a plenary indulgence is available to us both today and tomorrow.

You may ask “what is an indulgence?”  And indulgence is the release from temporal punishment for your sins.  Just because you’ve been forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation you still have to be cleansed from your sins before you can get into heaven.  That’s what we call purgatory and an indulgence (partial) can reduce your time in purgatory while a plenary indulgence wipes your slate clean.  Here’s how you can obtain a plenary indulgence today.

  1.  Go to confession and received communion within a reasonable time (20 days)
  2. Recite or sing the Te Deum..
  3. Pray for the Pope’s intentions.  (One Our Father and one Hail Mary)
  4. Detest and detach yourself from even venial sins.

We can also receive a plenary indulgence tomorrow (January 1) by the singing or recitation of the Veni Creator Spiritus plus the other three things above.

So I guess giving you a way to cut some time off your stay in purgatory, even if it’s not wise, it’s certainly helpful.

Have a safe and blessed January 1.  Be careful out there and stay warm.

Advent Turns into Christmas

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They say that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your long-range plans.  This week has certainly proven that to be true.  Last week at this time I had all kinds of things that  I was going to post for the fourth week of  Advent.  It would have been awesome!  Then, last Saturday I went out with some of my adult kids and some of my grandchildren.  We were watching a Christmas parade and waiting to cross the street to go to lunch.  The next thing I knew, I was laying flat on my back on the sidewalk.  My legs just gave out on me.

As I lay there on the sidewalk I realized that all these people I didn’t know were helping me to get back on my feet (with a lot of help from a light pole that kept me from falling right back where I had been).  Lesson number 1 was that there are a lot of good people in the world.  Total strangers had stopped their celebration to help me.  People are basically good.  And God is great!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my adult kids and daughter-in-law insisted (demanded) that I go to the hospital.  All I wanted to do was go to lunch, but it wasn’t to be.  My lovely and talented wife poured me into the car and delivered me to the emergency room.  It would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Let me say here that I have a lot of respect for doctors and the work they do.  Over the last few years, I’ve had to opportunity to meet a lot of them.  See the thing is, specialists specialize.  They each try to frame your illness in terms of their specialty.  That’s what they know and that’s the way it is.  On the other hand, ER docs are more inclined to look at the big picture.  The first thing they did to me in the Emergency Room was order a CAT scan, something none of my “team” of specialists had never done.  It turns out the trouble has been mostly in my head, literally.

Lesson number 2, what looks like a problem may turn out to be a blessing.  I’ll be going in for surgery in January which may solve a lot of my health issues.  I have something called hydrocephalus I never did get lunch.

To make a short story long, I spent three days in the hospital and my week of clever Advent posts went right out the window. Thank God for my daughter who finished my Christmas shopping for me and even wrapped everything.  And thank God for family members who are smarter than I am.  If I’d had my way I would have gone to lunch and gone home not knowing what was going on in my head.  Lesson number 3, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, I’ll sum up with this one Advent/Christmas offering.  The weeks of waiting are over.  Tonight our Savior comes.  What an awesome occasion.  I’ve returned to my home parish and I can’t wait for Christmas mass.  This year will be extra special, not that every Christmas isn’t extra special.  We have a God who’s so wonderful, so loving, that He sent His only Son to become one of us!  Thanks to this great gift we can look forward to an eternity in paradise!

We buried a friend of mine yesterday.  Who could ask for a better Christmas gift than to be free from pain and earthly worries and be on our way to heaven?   Prayers go out to his family, but I believe that they understand that death is just a beginning.  Yesterday’s funeral was truly a celebration of life!  We have no idea what God has in store for us.

I’m going to close this with the wish that you and your families have a peaceful and blessed Christmas.  Thank you for reading Deaconcast and I hope you’ll continue to check in.  I have some exciting plans for 2018, but you can see what sometimes happens to plans.  God’s plan is the only one that counts and we have no idea what that may be.  Our job is to continually pray for knowledge of His plan for us and for the power to make it happen.

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!