Are we able to read the directions?

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week

Ordinary Time

Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13

Matthew 9:32-38

I will begin my homily by saying I am not a good handyman. When putting something together, I do not understand directions well. I bought a portable fish finder because I was told it was super easy to use. I decided to put it together yesterday and struggled, so I gave up and went down to pray. During my prayer time, it dawned on me to check on u-tube to see if someone had made a video on how to assemble the fish finder I bought, and sure enough, there was one. I assembled the fish finder with this guy’s simple and able-to-see directions. Now I will need to do the same thing to figure out how to use it. How are we following the directions in our spiritual lives?

In our first reading from Hosea, the people are not following the directions given to them by God as they have made idols and worshipped pagan gods. So Hosea insists they stop doing what they are doing and return to follow God’s ways.  

In our Gospel, the Pharisees are not following the directions of God as they cannot believe that Jesus the Messiah. After driving out a demon, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a demon, which is why he has the power to drive out other demons. The Pharisees are like me, not following the directions in front of them.

The people are amazed that Jesus can dispel demons and want more! The people are like the simple video I watched to assemble my fish finder.

As we gather on this day, do we know how to follow the direction of Christ that is laid before us? Are we being the good disciples of Jesus and gathering others to follow Jesus by how we live?

May we come to follow the directions given to us in this Eucharist and do His will today.

Faith before Fear!

Fourteenth Sunday Ordinary Time

Isaiah 66:1-14

Galatians 6:14-18

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Thank you for coming back! Last weekend I began my remarks by asking, “Who is ready to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior?” Of course, a fair amount of you responded by saying “Yes” or raising your hands. We are called to follow Jesus as school children follow their teachers and as hikers follow the leader on the trial. But, to be a faithful follower of Jesus means much more.

Last’s week question was easy all you had to do is respond yes or no. My question this week is much harder and now it will cost us something. Our question this week is, “What does it mean to follow Jesus, and what will it cost us?”

But before you jump into that I want to set the answer to that question in this statement. “Faith before Fear!” I was told this as I was exhibiting fear as I was trying to prepare for a funeral this past week, and it helped me tremendously. “Faith before Fear!” What do I mean by this? It means it is ok to be afraid, but we are not to allow that fear to overcome us. We are to hold fast to our faith and push away our fear.

In our second reading, St. Paul is all about “Faith before Fear!” St. Paul says, I boast of nothing except the cross of Jesus Christ, and when I dispel fear, I live in peace.”

In our Gospel, Jesus promotes “Faith before Fear!” as he sends out 72 disciples. These 72 represent us as they are told, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.” Notice none say, “No!”  

To be a follower of Jesus Christ means we need to be ready at any moment to be sent out to lead by bringing the Good News of Jesus to others. It will mean that we live with “Faith before Fear” because all we are sent out with is our faith. How many of us, when we are traveling, bring everything we will need on our trip? It will mean “Faith before Fear” because Jesus tells the followers that they are being sent out as lambs before wolves. It will take “Faith before Fear” because the message of Jesus is to bring peace wherever they go.

As followers of Jesus Christ, and being ready to go to wherever Jesus tells us to go, let us go there with “Faith before Fear!” Let that be our homework.

How is your hearing?

Friday of the 13th Week Ordinary Time

Amos 8:4-6, 9-12

Matthew 9:9-13

Take our hearing aids. Without my hearing aids, I lose 20% of my hearing. If you are a child or someone with a high-pitched voice, I will not be able to hear 50% of what you are saying. As all of us will lose some of our hearing, how do we need to hear God’s voice in our life today?

In our first reading, Amos hopes the people will hear him as he calls them from their sinfulness to hear God’s voice. The people of God have fallen away from this and are treating the poor unjustly by cheating them and taking their sandals on loan. Amos tells them that God will send a famine on the land, and it will not be a famine of food or water but of hearing the Word of God. When this happens, they will fall even deeper into their sinfulness. Can you imagine not hearing the voice of God in our lives? I would be completely lost!

Our Gospel is a story of one who hears the voice of God and goes on to be a great follower of Jesus. So we hear the tax collector Matthew’s calling when Jesus says, “Follow me,” sets everything down, and follows Jesus.

As we gather today, how do we need to hear the voice of God differently? What is God asking of us, and where is he leading us?

Our past forgiveness of sins!

Thursday of the 13th Week Ordinary Time

Amos 7:10-17

Matthew 9:1-8

Are there past sins in our lives that we cannot forgive of ourselves, although God has already forgiven us? We often hang on to things that hold us back from being what God wants us to be because we cannot forgive ourselves. Therefore, it is a good day to access our lives and enjoy the forgiveness of God.

In our first reading, Amos speaks to the people about how God will condemn them if they do not repent of their sinfulness. Amaziah, a priest, but a bad one, tells Amos you are not a prophet and to stop telling the people of their sexual sins because they do not like it.

Amos responds, “I am just a simple man who God called to speak to you. So I must do what God asks of me?”

In our Gospel, a paralytic man is brought to Jesus and Jesus, and the first thing Jesus says to the man is, “Your sins are forgiven.” This begins a firestorm of questions as the scribes say, “Only God can forgive sins.” Jesus continues by saying, “Pick up your mat and go home; your sins are forgiven.”

My friends in Christ, are there any sins we are hanging onto that we need to hear Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven, now pick up your mat and go home.” God is always ready to make us whole again and welcome us home.   

Upon this Rock!

Wednesday Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

St. Peter & St. Paul

Acts 12:1-11  

Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

Matthew 16:13-19

When I was at St. Patrick’s in Parnell, we decided to gut the Church’s interior and refurbish everything. If you have been out to this Church, you know how iconic it is. The Church, statues, and redoes were all painted. We ordered new lights, an altar, and a carpet. There are two things that I remember vividly about this time is that the workers were so excited to work on the Church as some requested to be pulled off the jobs they were on to come to build. The other thing was each weekend, after the Masses, we gave tours of the Church so people could go and see for themselves the progress that was being made each week. The Church in Parnell is one of the oldest in our diocese, and yet today, we celebrate a Church that has been around for centuries because of people like St. Peter and St. Paul.

Jesus Christ is the mystery of God given to us in this world. Peter and Paul were charged with conveying that mystery to the world. As a result, both these men greatly impacted what we know today as our Church.

St. Peter would deny Jesus and fumble around many times trying to understand who Jesus is, yet he was given the keys to the Kingdom of God to begin our Church here on earth. Peter would be a strong message of Jesus Christ to the people of Jerusalem.

St. Paul began by trying to do all he could to end this new faith by persecuting and killing anyone who professed Jesus is Lord. Then, Paul would have a massive conversion and bring the message of Jesus to the Gentiles.

May we never give up on the Church and always have our faith centered on Christ, who will lead us to a new understanding.  

The fear inside!

Tuesday Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12

Matthew 8:23-27

St. Irenaeus

In our Gospel, the disciples are in a boat and are being tossed about by a great storm. Jesus is in the boat, and somehow he is sleeping through the whole storm. Then, as the disciples wake him because they are afraid they will sink, he gets up and yells, and that wind and the waves and the wind dies down. Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “You have little faith.” What a precarious thing to speak to the disciples?

In my understanding, a lack of faith would be Jesus asking the disciples, “Do you believe that I can heal this young girl or raise this man from the dead?” If the disciples say, “No!” that is a lack of faith?

Let’s dive right in and explore what this may mean for us today. Although the disciples are professional fishermen and have been on many storms on the Sea of Galilee, this storm is different. The original Greek word for this storm is “great shaking.” What may be happening is more than a storm on the sea, but an earthquake, so the disciples have a right to be frightened?

The Sermon on the Mountain covers three chapters, and as chapter eight begins, Jesus begins his public ministry. First, he heals a leper, a servant, Peter’s mother-in-law and expels many demons. Now he gets into a boat, and an earthquake happens while he is asleep.

Everything Jesus does is for discipleship to him and for a future purpose to help people to believe in him. We can never let our experience of life overwhelm our experience of faith. What I see in our readings is for us to face any of our fears as if we are looking into the face of Christ. Our fears can trap us and have us do some crazy things. When we keep our fears locked up within us, our fears only get bigger

May we let go of our fears and hear the Lord shout at them to be quiet and calm, and may we be at peace.

Are we ready to claim Christ as our Savior?

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Kings 19: 16, 19-21

Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Luke 9:51-62

Are we ready to follow the Lord Jesus Christ wherever he may lead us? Many of us would respond with a firm “Yes,” but let’s look deeper into our response to the Lord. Think of our sins, our sins of gossiping, lust, excessive drinking, or drugs. All of these sins hold us back from totally saying yes to the Lord. At every Mass, we pray for life, from conception to natural death, and now the Supreme Court has overturned this 50-year-old decision. Now how do we feel? How immediate would we answer, “Yes?”

In the first reading, we hear the call of Elisha to become a prophet. When Elijah puts his cloak over Elisha, God has chosen him to be the next prophet. Since almost every prophet is put to death, Elisha asks to return home and say goodbye to his family. However, he does not return to his family, and to show his willingness to follow Elijah, he burns all his possessions and becomes a prophet for God. Are we ready to leave behind anything that holds us back from following the Lord?   

I love the first line of our Gospel, which tells us that “Jesus resolutely was determined to go to Jerusalem.” However, I found a version of verse 51 that I like better: “Jesus, set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem, knowing all the hardship and suffering he will endure, and he is walking with his face extended out. It has been 50 years of praying to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and that determination is what has gotten us to this week’s verdict.

In our Gospel story, we hear of one person who wants to follow Jesus, and Jesus tells them of the hardships they will experience for being a follower of his. Jesus then invites two others, and they each have a good reason not to follow Jesus at this time. These two people each say, “But first I must…” It is easy to say “Yes” to Jesus in principle and much harder in life when it will demand something of us. Delayed obedience is disobedience. How often do we say, “Yes, but first I must.”

Our homework this week is to try and make every decision a yes first to Jesus in light of our time, tithe, and attention.  

May we continue to pray for life from conception to natural death? May we pray for all women and families to let them know that the Catholic Church is here for them to support them in life? May we also pray for those who have had an abortion and offer love and compassion, and may we always say yes, to Jesus Christ?

Are you a Million Dollar Winner?

The Birth of John the Baptist

Isaiah 49:1-6

Acts 13:22-26

Luke 1:57-66, 80

Have you ever won the Lottery? In October 1975, someone bought me a Michigan Lottery Ticket for my birthday. Not believing in the Lottery, I threw the ticket away. I remember hearing the news that the unclaimed Lottery ticket for the week of October 11 has expired for claiming the million-dollar prize. Oh, well! Today is the day to claim our Million dollar prize!

In our Gospel, Zechariah and Elizabeth may have felt like Lottery winners as their baby boy is born, and when they name him John, Zechariah regains his speech, and the whole town feels like winners.

John would point the way for Christ to come, which is why in some statues of John, his index finger is longer than his other fingers. An excellent example is at St. Patrick’s in Parnell, as John the Baptist points to the tabernacle.

Our first reading from Isaiah is a million-dollar winner as we hear what could have been said about John. Isaiah says, “You are my servant in whom I will be glorified. I have toiled in vain and have spent all my strength.”

I do not know if I was the winner of the Michigan Lottery back in the day, but I know that when we come to the Eucharist, we are winning a million blessings. Being a child of God and his priest makes me feel like a million-dollar winner every day.

Introduction: Today, we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. The Church, in her great wisdom, does not celebrate many birthdays. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birthday, and John’s birth today. Notice how we celebrate this day after the summer equinox when daylight begins to lessen, and we celebrate the birth of Christ six months after the winter equinox when daylight begins to increase. John said, “He must decrease, and He must increase.” May we do the same today!

Am I on vacation with my faith?

Wednesday Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

II Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3

Matthew 7:15-20

I look at what I eat every day and think I am pretty boring and predictable! At breakfast, I eat eggs and bacon or sausage. I have oatmeal at lunch, and it is a salad for dinner. It almost sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Although my meals are not extravagant, there is one thing in my life that I need to keep exciting and not boring, and that is my faith in Jesus Christ, my Lord, and Savior.

In our first reading, King Josiah is doing everything he can to keep the people of God on fire for the Lord God because other kings have led the people astray. He is restoring the temple, and when one of the high priests discovered a scroll from Deuteronomy, the entire book is read to the people. King Josiah declares for himself and everyone to return to the Lord God and to the truth that has been given to them.

In our Gospel, Jesus wants his followers to be on fire for him when he warns them about the false prophets. Unfortunately, I believe we have a lot of false prophets in our world today, and they are trying to destroy our Catholic faith. Jesus continues, saying, “Good trees bear good fruit, and bad trees bear bad fruit.” He continues, saying, “By your fruits, you will be known.”

It is summer, and we maybe are lured into thinking we can relax on our faith. It is not time to do this but to stay vigilant in our faith and not give up. May the grace of the Eucharist keep us also connected to Christ?

Introduction to Mass: Our Psalm says, “Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord. Instruct me, O Lord, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them.”

Do I have faith in God?

The question seems simple, but so important to answer!

Tuesday Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

II Kings 19: 9-11, 14-21, 31-36

Matthew 7: 6, 12-14

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

As I was making my list of the things I had to do on Monday, I began to think of all the decisions I had to make. I had a doctor’s appointment, I had to go to the grocery store, and I had a few things to decide about doing. Finally, the question came to me, “What was the only decision I had to make this day?” As I ate my breakfast, I asked myself, “Do I have faith?” Do I have faith to believe that all will be well? I went through my day asking myself that question whenever I had to answer a question. What are the important questions we need to ask ourselves today?

In the first reading, King Hezekiah has been given a letter from the King of the Assyrians to surrender to him or have the city of Jerusalem destroyed. King Hezekiah makes the right decision to take the letter to the temple and lay it on the floor and pray to God about what he is to do.

Later, a message comes to him from the prophet Isaiah telling him that God has heard his prayer and that nothing will happen to him or the kingdom. The Assyrian army would retreat, and no harm was done to the city of Jerusalem.

In our Gospel, Jesus pushes his disciples to make the right decision of faith in all that we do. Therefore, we are not to throw our faith out the window when tuff times come. Instead, we are to enter through the narrow gate, which means to remember that we are children of God and that all will be well.

In all the decisions we have to make today, may we make the first and foremost decision to follow the Lord in all we do.  

Introduction:

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. He was born an imperial prince, and at a young age, he began to practice prayer and penance and rejected his family’s values. He became a priest and joined the Jesuits. When the plague broke out in Rome, Aloysius offered to serve the sick and the dying in a hospital. Unfortunately, he caught the disease and died three months later at the age of 23. He was canonized as a saint and is a patron saint of youth. Let us, like St. Aloysius, be people of prayer and be willing to serve others led by God’s spirit.