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Waiting and Hoping: Gospel Reflections for Pandemic Times

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Waiting and Hoping Gospel Reflections for Pandemic Times by Deacon Bill Frere

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Saturday March 7 2020 seemed like a typical day I deaconed the 5pm Mass at St Robert Bellarmine Parish and then Ginger and I headed down to the church hall to celebrate the parish s St Patrick s Day party and dinner The following Wednesday I presided at a committal service for a member of the St Kateri community All was normal And then on Saturday March 13 the world stopped Travel was restricted we were all sheltered in place at home not venturing out except for emergencies Restaurants and movie theaters closed Churches shut their doors No more Masses No funerals weddings or Baptisms No prayer services and no Eucharist For the foreseeable future my liturgical ministry was put on hold But there was still this desire to find a way to help the people through this pandemic to keep them connected to their faith Barely seven weeks before in January my wife Ginger and I had revisited the Holy Land with a group of friends fellow deacons and parishoners It was a prayerful Spirit filled journey that even now warms the heart and enlivens the soul So beginning on Sunday March 14 using photos from our Holy Land trips I began to share a reflection on the Gospel of the day Over 200 days later those daily reflections continue Peace Deacon Bill October 12 2020 Deacon Bill Frere is a Permanent Deacon in the Archdiocese of Chicago ministering to St Robert Bellarmine Parish and St Kateri Center of Chicago Deacon Bill and Ginger his wife of 46 years have one daughter Jaime Josh and grandsons Tyler and Nate You can contact him at wfrere archchicago org All content 2020 Deacon Bill Frere Reproduction and distribution without written consent is prohibited

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Third Sunday of Lent John 4 5 42 Barriers Jordan River Caesarea Philippi When Jesus meets the woman at the well He has every reason to have nothing to do with her She is a woman and Jews would never associate or talk to a woman in public She is a Samaritan a fallen away Jew and Jews would have nothing at all to do with Samaritans And yet He did He broke through society s barriers about whom to talk to and whom to avoid and He engaged her in conversation He saw through her exterior and saw within what she truly was a child of God And the woman through the eyes of faith saw Jesus for who He truly is the Messiah the Son of God And she believed How often do we allow today s society to tell us whom to talk to and whom to avoid How often do we judge people just by what we see their gender their clothing their culture What will it take for us to see everyone with the eyes of faith to see everyone as a brother or sister a child of God 3

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Monday Third Week of Lent Gospel Luke 4 24 30 Kill the Messenger Fields of Galilee Mt Precipice In today s Gospel Jesus preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth his hometown It does not go well The people become so enraged at him for reminding them of their sinfulness that they drag him out and attempt to throw him off the top of Mt Precipice the pic How well do we handle criticism How often do we lash out at the messenger and lose sight of the words of correction NEWS FLASH None of us are perfect we all need correction from time to time God calls each one of us to give and accept correction in the spirit of love and the desire to change to become better Christians Don t kill the messenger 4

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Tuesday Third Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 18 21 35 How Many Times Must I Forgive Wailing Wall Jerusalem In today s Gospel Peter wants to know how many times must I forgive another Once 7 times Jesus responds 77 times In other words always Then He uses a parable to illustrate His point Why should I forgive someone else for hurting me Why should I do it once much less 7 times They should ask for forgiveness first then maybe How can I possibly forgive 77 times Fool me once shame on you Fool me twice shame on me The Golden Rule directs us to love our neighbor as ourselves Forgiveness works the same way The Our Father tells us forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us Turn the situation around We are all human we all make mistakes How many times do we want to be forgiven Only once If we hope for forgiveness for all our failings then God calls us to offer forgiveness to others for their failings as well 5

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Wednesday Third Week of Lent Gospel Matthew 5 17 19 There are too many rules Why do I have to obey them Sunrise Sea of Galilee As we enter this third day of home schooling you have probably already heard these words many times by now The quick answer is Because I said so probably the same thing our parents said to us Let s face it none of us like rules We think they limit us we think we know better we wish they were easier to follow Every time we get a new boss a new principal a new teacher or babysitter we hope they will change the rules and make things easier Jesus followers were thinking the same thing in today s Gospel But He sets them straight He isn t here to change the rules to eliminate them or cut them down He is here to change our FOCUS Quit thinking about obeying the law just because it s the law Quit thinking about focusing on how the law affects ourselves Focus on how the rules focus on others Focus on how cheating lying and stealing hurts others and hurts my relationship with them Why do we make rules for our kids Because we want them to learn to grow to thrive to get along with others Why do I have to obey your rules Because I love you It s a new day the sun is rising over the Sea of Galilee Be calm and carry on 6

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Thursday Feast of St Joseph Gospel Luke 2 41 51 Faith in Action Shepherds Cave Outside Bethlehem We celebrate today the Feast of St Joseph And a couple of thoughts come to mind about this spouse of Mary and foster father of Jesus First with every story about Joseph in the Gospels things are in crisis The angel tells him Mary is pregnant The angel warns him that Herod wants to kill Jesus and he has to gather up his family and flee to Egypt And then when Jesus is 12 they lose him in Jerusalem Joseph just doesn t catch a break Every moment he is called on to act and act swiftly Secondly in all of the Gospels Joseph says not one single word not one He simply acts In the midst of crisis he doesn t sit around and talk things out he puts his faith in God and acts He knows what needs to be done and he does it Whether we are parents or not in moments of crisis we are all called to act to trust in God that things will work out and simply do God s will May God give us the strength the courage the grace to put our faith into action out of love for our family and for our neighbor Be safe Be well 7

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Friday Third Week of Lent Gospel Mark 12 28 34 Who is My Neighbor Walking the Via Dolorosa It s a very familiar story in the Gospel what s the greatest commandment It s a very familiar answer Love God and love your neighbor And it s a very familiar follow up question So who is my neighbor But given our present circumstance given our hunkering down with family and given all this time to ourselves I have a better question Who ISN T our neighbor Is it the guy carrying the cross or the guy following behind Is it the woman with the umbrella or the one walking past Is it the child behind the window or the one holding the coffee cup Does it really matter Can we really afford to separate people into categories anymore Or should we recognize that we are all in this together Reach out today to at least one other person someone you don t even know Say something Do something anything so that they can see that they have a neighbor 8

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Saturday Third Week of Lent Gospel Luke 18 9 14 The Pharisee and the Tax Collector Praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Two men go up to the Temple to pray one a Pharisee and one a tax collector But what a difference in how they pray I am not sure the Pharisee is actually praying it sounds more like arrogance and boasting Boy am I glad I am not like everyone else His focus is entirely on comparing everyone to himself he concentrates on looking outward at others The tax collector however looks inward His focus is internal There are no comparisons here only honest reflection simple humility about his sinfulness and a genuine love of God for His grace and His mercy The bars and restaurants are closed The cinema and theaters are shut Jobs have been put on hold Libraries and parks are not available Churches and concerts are shuttered Sports are cancelled It goes without saying that we all have a lot more time on our hands these days We have all been forced to step aside from our daily routine the daily grind Let s take some of that time to pray to talk to God to turn inward Consider it an opportunity to humbly and honestly reflect on who we are and discern what changes we need to make in order to become a true child of God 9

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Fourth Sunday of Lent Gospel John 9 1 41 I m not blind You re blind Rainbow at the Jordan River Jesus restores sight to a man blind since birth And all the Pharisees can do is argue over who s to blame for the man s blindness The story makes you realize that the real blindness exists in the Pharisees not the poor man They argue over all the petty legalism and fail to see the miracle right in front of their eyes Unfortunately we can be guilty of the same blindness We can get so caught up in arguments and issues that we think are so important And we miss all the beauty that the Creator has bestowed on us like a rainbow the gift of family time the gentle smile of a child the touch of a loving hand Open your eyes today See the wonders of the Creator that are all around you and show your gratitude by being a miracle to others 10

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Monday Fourth Week of Lent Gospel John 4 43 54 Cure of the Royal Official s Son Altar Over Jesus tomb An official from Capernaum asks Jesus to come to his home and cure his sick son Jesus tells him his son is cured and the man believes him When he returns home he finds that his son is indeed cured A miracle occurs Did you catch it Did you see it No not the cure of the son The real miracle happened before that It was the miracle of faith that the man believed Jesus without even seeing it for himself He believed BEFORE he saw that his son was cured Too often we think miracles happen and then we believe that miracles cause belief It is quite the opposite Miracles happen because of our faith The real miracle here is not what happens before our eyes It s what happens inside our hearts Jesus words brought the man to belief and that belief spread to his family and his whole household 11

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Tuesday Fourth Week of Lent Gospel John 5 1 16 Cure of the Sick Man On the Shores of Sea of Galilee The man in today s Gospel is sick and needs help for even the simplest of tasks And he has been that way for 38 years He hasn t just lost the ability to walk he has lost the will to walk How many times have we been in the same circumstance Weighed down by the stresses of life whether it s physical or emotional we just can t move Paralyzed by fear anger loss depression overwhelmed by the demands of a complicated life and a crazy mixed up world we just don t want to move Rather we pull the covers over our head and try to shut the world out And yet all it took for that man was a few words from Jesus Rise and walk Jesus speaks those same words to us sometimes in our prayers sometimes in the voice of a child or a best friend Be strong get up and walk lean on me if you have to you are not alone You are never alone 12

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Wednesday Feast of the Annunciation Gospel Luke 1 26 38 Angel Gabriel Appears to Mary Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth When was the last time you said YES I mean a real unequivocal YES Clean your room Do your homework Get a job Set the table Wash the dishes When was the last time we said YES and really meant it A real Yes Not yes but when I feel like it Not yes but maybe later Not yes but grudgingly and unwillingly A YES without limits or conditions a yes without any time frame or complete awareness of what your YES might mean A total willing trusting YES Ever This is the YES we see in today s Gospel Mary barely a teen not knowing what the future may hold not reluctant or afraid not let me think about it not YES but not now Just a simple and total YES Complete trust in God and in His plan for her Your will be done When was the last time we said YES with trust and faith without conditions or time limits What are we waiting for 13

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Thursday Fourth Week of Lent Gospel John 5 31 47 Words and Works Boat Chapel Magdala Jesus tells the crowds that essentially this is how you see the Father through my words and through my works What I say and what I do give testimony to the Father That reminds us that words are not enough It is not enough to say we are Christian our actions need to reflect our Christian faith So in this time of isolation and separation we may find it is easy for the words to come for the time to pray But how do we put our faith into action when we are so limited in movement How about calling loved ones to check on their well being What about a live chat with that best friend How about making thinking of you cards for the neighbors How about just playing an old fashioned board game with the family or putting together a jigsaw puzzle Simple things that reflect our love and concern So what are you going to do today 14

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Friday Fourth Week of Lent Gospel John 7 1 2 10 25 30 Do We Know God Chapel of Tears Jerusalem The people are angry This guy Jesus claims to be the Christ the Messiah the Son of God That can t be we KNOW him He s just a carpenter s son from a backwater village in Galilee We take a lot of polls and questionnaires on Facebook these days asking us do we really know our friends Do you know my favorite color food movie favorite music or TV show Is that it Is that all there is to knowing someone all these favorites What about what makes me cry how do I handle loss how do I treat someone I consider a friend what makes me sad laugh or angry Do you really know me on the inside So the question has to be asked do we know God How When To really know someone I think demands time and effort and commitment How often do we spend time with Him in conversation in prayer in meditation Is it enough If not when do we start Spend some time with Him today and tomorrow and tomorrow 15

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Saturday Fourth Week of Lent Gospel John 7 40 58 Go Home Mount of the Beatitudes All the people could do in today s Gospel is argue who is this Jesus The Christ Just a guy from Galilee The Pharisees the people Nicodemus they all cannot agree They were getting close to the point of violence But in the end what did they do They all went home To calm themselves down to avoid doing something they might regret to step away from the situation they all went home We have all gone home today not by choice so much as for our safety and wellbeing It is obviously a difficult time of separation isolation and fear But it can also be a time of opportunity a chance to get away from the daily irritations we face the guy who cuts us off in traffic the person who bumps into us because they are so focused on their phone the 3 customers who all need our assistance right here right now the work phone that never stops ringing the 30 different things we NEED to do today and the insane schedule of important meetings So many distractions so many times we could fly off the handle willing to argue and get upset over such little things What we have here is an opportunity to focus on the important things in our life our family and our relationship with God So go home stay home really spend time with the family appreciate the time you have with them And spend some time real actual quiet time with God talk to Him pray to Him Go home to God 16

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Sunday Fifth Sunday in Lent Gospel John 11 1 45 Raising of Lazarus from the Dead Entrance to Jesus Tomb Jesus fully divine and fully human It s a core belief but I wonder how often we really take the time to reflect on it Jesus is divine Son of God and He is completely human He shares his humanity in common with us It reminds me of a prayer I say as a Deacon at Mass through this mingling of water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity This story about the raising of Lazarus from the dead brings that belief to reality Jesus knew Lazarus was dead before He got the news but still He cried He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few moments and yet still He cried He knew death is not forever but the Kingdom is eternal and still He cried He knows the world is full of sorrow and pain and regret and loss and depression and devastation and He cried He cried because knowing the end of the story the Kingdom of Heaven doesn t mean you don t cry at the sad parts along the way For us this is one of those sad parts But we know that Jesus is right by our side through it all as our brother as our Savior 17

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Monday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 8 1 11 Woman caught in Adultery expecting the worst Garden of Gethsemane Makes you wonder doesn t it Where exactly were the Pharisees hiding in order to catch the woman in the act of adultery How long were they hiding How long were they planning this Why would they put so much time and energy into expecting someone to sin much less catch them at it Jesus was spending some time in the Garden of Gethsemane praying and was then confronted by this situation The difference between Him and the Pharisees is stark The Pharisees seem to view people at their worst and expect nothing less nothing more They pre judge others based on their past and don t even allow the possibility that they could change Jesus sees the woman forgives her sins her past and challenges her to do better 18 Where are we Do we judge others based on something they did in the past Do we treat them as sinners and ourselves as better Or do we accept people as they are human fragile prone to mistakes and hope for the best Aren t we all in the same boat Don t we all make mistakes Don t we all hope for forgiveness for the chance to do better

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Tuesday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 8 21 30 Jesus Predicts His Death on the Cross Altar Over the Site of the Crucifixion You know that day that absolute worst day of your life when everything fell apart when you felt completely alone and abandoned Remember that day when you knew all hope was lost and things would never be the same again Remember that day you knew would be your last that day that you were convinced you would never survive And yet here you are Got through it didn t you Made it to the next day didn t you How the heck did that happen Did it all happen on your own Jesus tells the Pharisees that He is going to die on the cross He predicts His own death a horrible painful death a death weighed down by the sins of humanity And yet He trusts in God He sees beyond death to the Resurrection when He says The one who sent me is with me He has not left me alone God know we are tired He knows these days are difficult and seemingly hopeless But He reminds us through Jesus words that we are not alone Trust Believe 19

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Wednesday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 8 31 42 Jesus Continues to Confront the Pharisees Anointing Stone in Church of Holy Sepulchre Jesus continues to spar with the Pharisees in today s Gospel They argue that they are the children of Abraham man children of the Law Jesus challenges them by reminding them they are first and foremost children of God In all honesty we know we are both children of man and children of God But do we really believe that Do we really give each parent the time and the love that they deserve We are all spending a lot more time with our parents children these days How much of it is quality time How much of it is time where we grow together in a closer relationship Have you learned anything new about your parents kids Have they learned anything new about you And what about God our Father How much time are you spending with Him Are you doing anything to grow closer in relationship with Him Have you learned anything new about Him Have you opened yourself up to Him shared yourself with Him We have the time What are we waiting for 20

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Thursday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 8 51 59 Kill the Messenger Holy Sepulchre from Above Let s face it nobody likes to hear bad news nobody likes to hear the honest truth We d rather stop up our ears and pretend we aren t listening rather than accept the news that maybe just maybe we aren t as perfect as we think or that our beliefs are not in line with the truth We either blind ourselves to the truth or we lash out at the person speaking the truth In today s Gospel Jesus continues to debate with the Pharisees And He says in very plain language I AM the Son of God And the Jews reaction Kill the messenger They pick up stones to throw at Him They refuse to accept the truth they refuse to allow the possibility that their beliefs could be in error At times in our lives we all need a bit of humility We all need a good dose of loving honesty from a friend At times we all stray from the path and need some gentle correction to get back on track So please be open to the course correction and please don t kill the messenger 21

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Friday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 10 31 42 Taking a Break On the Banks of the Jordan River For Jesus another day of debate with the Pharisees another clear statement of His divinity and another attempt by the Jews to arrest Him Jesus response this time is to step away leave Jerusalem and go off to a quiet spot along the Jordan River Maybe He just needed a break from the constant arguments and stress Maybe He knew it was not yet His time Maybe He recognized that He needed some time to talk with His Father 22 We all need that time away Unfortunately we never seem to find the time or actually make the time I ll do it later I m too busy right now It s not important I ll get to it tomorrow Maybe at this moment in time we need to remind ourselves that we are STAYING at home not STUCK at home Maybe we need to see this time as an opportunity and not a prison sentence We have all been so incredibly busy and stressed out too much to do and no time for ourselves no time for prayer What s our excuse now We have the time NOW we have some quiet time NOW we have this opportunity NOW We have the NOW to talk with Our Father What are we waiting for

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Saturday Fifth Week in Lent Gospel John 11 45 56 Can t We All Just Get Along Chapel at Mount of Beatitudes Let s face it at times we all get aggravated with each other And especially when we are going through this period of close quarters it is so much easier and more frequent that we bicker and argue and get on each other s nerves We know what irritates our little brother sister and yet we do it anyway We know exactly what buttons to push to send them over the edge and we do it anyway But it s something quite different to actually band together to deliberately plot against someone We all know what it s like to be ganged up on to be picked on not by a single person but by a whole group of people That is what s happening in today s Gospel The Pharisees have had enough of verbally sparring with Jesus They meet together they plot together to have Him arrested and eventually put to death They decide to dump all their fears their anger and insecurities onto one person Jesus It s called scapegoating placing all our sins and weaknesses on a single person and making them pay for our faults So let s not let ourselves get to that point Even though our nerves are a bit frayed our concerns about the future are raw and our fears are heightened can t we all just get along Maybe it s important to remind ourselves today of the Beatitudes simple virtues of humility peace making and mercy Be well Be safe Be kind 23

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Palm Sunday Gospel Matthew 21 1 11 A Welcome Sight When I was little and growing up in the country in Southern Maryland there were a lot of times when my mom would get a call from a neighbor up the road warning us that travelling preachers were in the area and ringing doorbells She would then have us hurry up and shut all the windows close the blinds lock the doors and turn off all the lights and hunker down and pretend no one was home until the people moved on Not the most welcoming of attitudes And yet there were other times mostly Sunday afternoons when we would all pile into the car and go visit family We would always sit together on the front porch share tea and cookies and conversation Needless to say as a child I was only interested in the cookies not the conversation But if there were cousins home then we would use the time to play together And every place we went was warm and welcoming Welcomes This is what we hear in the Gospel for Palm Sunday Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem welcomed like a rock star people laying down their cloaks and branches like a red carpet People yelling Hosanna to welcome to the Son of David Cheering Him on like it was a parade for winning the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup And yet only five days later Jesus will be leaving the city of Jerusalem in a much different circumstance Beaten and bloody crowned with thorns carrying a wooden cross and jeered at and mocked by the same crowd Leaving Jerusalem like a condemned criminal heading to His execution an object of shame and derision We are entering the holiest week of the liturgical year In seven days we will end the season of Lent and celebrate the joy of Easter Jesus Resurrection the core of our faith The question we must ask ourselves is How will we respond to Easter Will we run and hide like I did as a little boy afraid to show ourselves and our faith Or will we welcome Jesus into our home like a member of the family and share our thoughts and concerns with Him Will we welcome Him into our lives with the joy and celebration of Palm Sunday Or will we deny Him jeer at Him mock and belittle Him like a common thief Or will we simply ignore Him Choose 24

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Monday of Holy Week Gospel John 12 1 11 We Gather Together Adoration Chapel in Church of Holy Sepulchre There is a lot going on in today s Gospel reading Mary anointing Jesus feet in anticipation of His crucifixion and death Judas complaining about money being wasted the chief priests plotting to kill not only Jesus but Lazarus as well But let s focus on one simple thing Jesus gathers with Mary Martha Lazarus and others for dinner In the midst of all the stress and turmoil He experienced in Jerusalem Jesus takes the time to share a meal with His friends Knowing that things will come to an awful climax in just a few days Jesus reminds us all of the importance of sharing a simple meal with friends and family Given our present circumstance of stay at home we have all come to appreciate the importance of being with our family and friends The sudden absence of such opportunities brings us to a painful realization of how often we take family gatherings for granted And it is only when it is taken away that we truly appreciate its value The same can be said for Mass and the Sacraments when we are suddenly separated from the table of the Lord It is then unfortunately that we truly come to appreciate its impact and effect on our lives on our spiritual life We didn t attend Palm Sunday Mass yesterday at our parish church we didn t receive Holy Communion in our hands and we didn t return home with palm branches blessed by the pastor But God is still with us The Spirit is still within us Jesus still touches us with His words and actions And we still have the opportunity every day to share that Spirit with our family as we gather together even for a simple meal 25

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Tuesday of Holy Week Gospel John 13 21 33 36 38 A Web of Betrayal Peter s Denial Church of St Peter Gallicantu This is NOT an easy Gospel to read much less pray over Betrayal Denial We see people at their worst their lowest Judas turning his back on Jesus slinking around in the shadows in the dead of night betraying Jesus in secret all for a bag of money Peter in the light of a charcoal fire publicly denying he even knows Jesus not once but three separate times Judas betraying Jesus in secret by his actions and Peter denying Jesus by his words in public If we are truly honest with ourselves we have all had moments of turning our back on Jesus moments when we are uncomfortable with proclaiming or living up to our faith moments when we took the easy way out And what does that say about us that we are human fragile fallible that we all at times stumble and fall 26 Judas and Peter s sin both happened BEFORE the cross And yet Jesus still accepted his suffering crucifixion and death He didn t turn His back on us He still loves us even in our weakest moments Even when we turn away from Him Jesus remains right behind us with open arms and loving heart waiting for us to turn back to Him

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Wednesday of Holy Week Gospel Matthew 26 14 25 A Day of Preparation The Cenacle Room Where Jesus Celebrated the Last Supper Today s Gospel from Matthew re tells the story we heard yesterday about Judas So let s not repeat ourselves let s focus on what the rest of the Apostles are doing preparing for the Last Supper Today Jews around the world are preparing for Passover which begins this evening at sunset That means preparing all the food the house and themselves for this most sacred feast We find the Apostles doing the same thing finding a room securing the proper food and then gathering for the feast of Passover The pic you see today is of the Cenacle the room where the Last Supper was held We too are busy preparing for our feast Easter But what a difference a year makes This year there will be no large gathering of extended family The menu may be different the setting may be different the celebration of Easter Mass will definitely be different But we are all still preparing And maybe this time will not be as frantic as in the past I like to think that this year our celebration will be more intimate more relaxed and less stressed just our immediate family Maybe we won t worry so much about cleaning the house or worrying about if we have enough chairs or food to accommodate the crowd of people Maybe we won t spend so much of our time prepping the home and the dinner table And maybe just maybe we will have more time to prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating Jesus Resurrection How will you prepare for Easter 27

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Holy Thursday Gospel John 13 1 15 Celebration of the Last Supper Mass on Mount Carmel Growing up we always had a lot of big family dinners birthdays Thanksgiving Christmas and Easter Sunday Gatherings that one single table could never accommodate So the adults ate at the dining room table and all the kids ate in the kitchen Kids table adults table I m guessing all of you had something similar And all that time I had this desire to MOVE UP to graduate to the adult table I think in the back of my mind I thought the food would be better that the menu would be somehow different Not so much I think most of us had the same experience with First Communion All that time beforehand we just couldn t wait til the day of our First Communion We were so excited to not just attend Mass but receive Communion the Eucharist to not just gather around the table of the Lord but share in the meal Anticipation that deep down excitement about getting fed or receiving Communion We all have felt it However the Gospel today reminds us it s not just about receiving it s about giving It s not just about being served it s also about serving Jesus and the Apostles are gathered together for their celebration of the Passover In the middle of the meal the Last Supper Jesus gets up and washes the feet of His disciples He performs the role of a servant not a master not a teacher but a lowly servant and he reminds the apostles they must do the same It is a reminder to us all that it is in giving that we receive 28

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We all know this is a most unusual Holy Thursday we know that our Easter dinner will be different this year There will be a smaller crowd and probably a smaller menu Chances are there will be no need for a kids table One Table One Meal As children we may not have been very involved in the prep and serving of the meal we probably thought the food just magically appeared Our only job was to eat Even as an adult there are plenty of times where I avoided going into the kitchen and I just left the prep to Ginger her mom and Jaime At best I probably set the table Don t let that happen this year In this time of separation from our extended family we have an opportunity to do more to make our family meal not just about the food but about the family not just about what we are getting but what we can give To join together and literally serve each other So why not split up the dishes Let each of us prepare 1 dish so that when the table is set each of us has made a contribution and each of us has something to give Whether we gather around a dinner table or we gather around an altar whether we gather to feed our body or feed our souls we gather TOGETHER On this day Jesus gave us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist Let us all thank Him with the gift of ourselves in serving Him by being of service to each other 29

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Good Friday Gospel John 18 1 19 42 The Sign of the Cross Anointing Stone Church of Holy Sepulchre What was the first prayer you learned growing up Our Father Hail Mary Grace Now I lay me down to sleep The Sign of the Cross Too often we don t think of it as only an intro to prayer not a prayer itself But it is A simple sign of our faith our belief in God in the Trinity Father Son and Holy Spirit It is a verbal reminder of our belief in God But the Sign of the Cross can also be something more We come today to the end of the Season of Lent It is a perfect time to reflect back on those 40 days and determine how well we observed the 3 practices of prayer fasting and almsgiving Consider the visual aspect of the Sign of the Cross we touch our head our gut and our shoulders Head our thoughts We are called to turn our thoughts to God to pray to Him to talk to Our Father OFTEN just as Jesus encouraged us to do Gut our humanity what we share with Jesus our physical nature But sometimes we focus too much on our physical needs food looking good exercise our self all good but too often we overdo it we end up thinking more of ourselves OUR needs and not those of others So during Lent God called us to reflect on our spiritual self and not so much our physical He called us to fast to give up something we THINK we really need something we believe we just can t do without that daily piece of pie or cookies the hours we spend in front of the TV or the game system to remember that in the end what matters is our soul Shoulders we have all been filled with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and especially in Confirmation where we are given the strength to not only practice our faith but to witness to our faith in our actions with others We are called to REACH OUT OUR HANDS to those in need TO SHOULDER THEIR NEEDS to give of ourselves to others That is what we mean by almsgiving sometimes it s donating to a worthy cause sometimes it s contributing to a clothing drive or a food drive Sometimes it s simply giving our time to listen when someone needs to talk to comfort when someone is hurting 30 But especially for today when we observe Jesus crucifixion and death when He gave up His life in atonement for our sins the Sign of the Cross is a visual reminder of the Cross itself That Cross It is a reminder of the suffering and death of our brother Jesus Even after enduring a crown of thorns a painful lashing with a whip

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and a long path to Golgotha carrying a cross of at least 50 pounds He was nailed to a cross and died a horrible shameful painful death It was a public execution He endured not only unbearable pain and agony but also the taunts and jeers of the people gathered around the cross It was a slow agonizing death where muscles were stretched and the condemned was left gasping for a breath of air The Cross a symbol of execution and condemnation But if that is all we believe about the cross we are missing something It is not just about pain and suffering and death It is not just about shame and cruelty It is first and foremost the sign of God s love That is how much God loves us That is how much Jesus loves us That He would willingly give Himself up to all that pain and suffering and death because He loves us It really isn t a sign of shame it s a symbol of LOVE And that is what we celebrate today not merely Jesus sacrifice not just the pain and death He endured but the LOVE He has for each and every one of us a love that we share in and return every time we PRAY every time we GIVE UP the unnecessary things in life and focus on what s really important every time we help out someone in need And every time we do all of that IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Amen 31

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Holy Saturday Gospel Mark 16 1 7 Waiting and Hoping Entrance to Jesus Tomb Today is Holy Saturday one day after Jesus crucifixion and death on Good Friday and one day before Easter Sunday Jesus Resurrection We are caught in this awkward in between time Between the sorrow and pain of Good Friday and the sheer joy and happiness of Easter Sunday And yet if you think about it that is exactly what life is about moments of pain and sorrow and moments of happiness and joy And if you really reflect on it you would realize that most of our entire life is Holy Saturday moments not Good Fridays or Easter Sundays Yes there are days of pain and days of happiness But most of our days are perfectly normal average days days not full of intense emotion days spent inbetween sorrow and joy days spent in waiting or anticipation But given our present circumstance of isolation and separation of staying at home and stay 6 feet apart those normal days can also be filled with anxiety and fear worry and stress So as Christians let s just take the time to remember all that has happened during Holy Week all that we believe in as Christians One of Jesus hand picked Apostles betrayed and sold Him out and yet Sunday is still coming Three of His Apostles couldn t even stay awake and ran away when the guards came and yet Sunday is coming Jesus is arrested convicted of blasphemy and put in a jail cell and yet Sunday is coming He was condemned whipped jeered at and crowned with thorns and Sunday is still coming He was forced to carry his own cross nailed to it and hung there for hours and Sunday is still coming He died on that cross and was buried in secret in a borrowed tomb and yet Sunday is coming Good Friday brought us sadness and grief but tomorrow Easter Sunday brings us joy and salvation We are all in this in between time as Christians and as human beings dealing with the virus Even in moment of sadness and worry and stress we still have FAITH Even in the midst of this time of isolation and separation we still have HOPE I found this online and I think it speaks to us as Christians and as human beings longing for the joy of Easter Yes there is fear yes there is isolation Yes there is panic buying yes there is sickness yes there is even death 32

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But they say that in Wuhan China after so many years of noise you can hear the birds sing again They say that after just a few weeks of quiet the sky is no longer thick with fumes but blue and clear They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across empty squares keeping their door open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them They say that a hotel in Ireland is offering free delivered meals to the homebound Today a young woman is busy spreading flyers with her phone number on it throughout the neighborhood so that the elderly might have someone to call and talk to Today churches synagogues mosques and temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless the sick and the weary All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way All over the world people are waking to a new reality to how big we really are to how little control we really have to what really matters to love So we pray and we remember that yes there is fear but there doesn t have to be hate yes there is isolation but there doesn t have to be loneliness yes there is panic buying but there doesn t have to be meanness yes there is sickness but there doesn t have to be disease of the soul yes there is even death but there can always be a rebirth of love and faith Wake up to the choices you make as to how to live now TODAY take a breath LISTEN behind the factory noises of your panic the birds are singing again the sky is clearing Spring is coming and we are always encompassed by love Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square SING All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting Be Well Be Safe And Keep Hoping Keep Believing Easter Sunday is Coming 33

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Easter Sunday Gospel John 20 1 9 Alleluia Moment Church of the Transfiguration Mt Tabor Alleluia It is a word we have not heard for 40 days A word missing from any liturgy for the entire season of Lent In point of fact it is actually two words not one And it comes from Hebrew The first word HALLELU means praise and the second YAH means GOD It is the root for the Hebrew word for God YAHWEH So literally it means praise God But even that doesn t do it justice It s a word of joy a word used in song bursting with emotion and happiness Kind of like when we hear Praise the Lord Obviously it is a most appropriate expression for what we celebrate today the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus He who we thought was dead has come back to us risen from the dead Not long after they got married Jaime and Josh our daughter and son in law experienced a time of separation Josh went off to boot camp for something like three or four months It was a difficult time for them to be separated from someone you know you believe in you love I can still remember Ginger Jaime and I travelling down to Alabama for Josh graduation ceremony Throughout the whole program Jaime sat there fidgeting with nervous energy her legs going up and down in anticipation she just couldn t keep still And when the ceremony was finally over she leaped out of her seat like she was shot out of a cannon She raced down the aisle and flung herself into Josh s arms Now that was a reunion That was a moment of sheer joy and love That was an ALLELUIA moment The one thing I find curious in today s Gospel the Gospel for Easter Sunday is what s missing Jesus All we really have is an empty tomb Peter John and the other disciples have all experienced the agony of Jesus death the pain of being separated from the one they love And yet Peter and John come to believe that Jesus is risen not because they have seen Him yet but because of His absence The real personal reunion takes place later on in stories we will hear from the Gospel throughout the coming weeks and season of Easter when the Apostles actually see Jesus when Mary Magdalene wants to run to him and hug Him when the disciples on the way to Emmaus find their hearts on fire from speaking with Him Those are all real ALLELUIA moments moments of unbridled joy of faith of love That burst of exuberance and joy that causes your hearts to sing 34

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We all know what it s like to be separated from friends and family from the ones we love especially NOW but we have to still believe We have to still love them even in their absence And we look forward to when we will see them again touch them again and hug them again We know that in many ways our faith and love for them has grown in this time of being apart Their absence has caused us to understand just how much a part of our lives how much a part of our heart they really are And we know that love and joy will spill out of us when we re unite So too with our Faith in this time of separation from our parish church from our parish Mass and Holy Week services we have all learned how much we miss it how much more we believe in and love the Eucharist even in its absence And we all look forward to that moment when the church doors reopen when we gather together as a community of faith where we hear the proclamation of the Gospel when we greet our neighbors with the sign of peace and when we receive the Eucharist Now that is what we mean by an ALLELUIA moment And that is what we celebrate today a moment of reuniting with our Saviour with our Christian faith ALLELUIA 35

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Easter Monday Gospel Matthew 28 8 15 A Question of Faith Jesus in Magdala Jesus is Risen Yesterday s story continues Today Jesus is not only risen He has appeared to others Jesus meets Mary Magdalene and the other Mary He greets them and they fall to their feet and do Him homage The guards apparently also see but their reaction is completely different They run into Jerusalem to submit their report and then they accept money let s call it what it is a bribe to lie and spread a false report Two sets of witnesses two very different responses one of faith and adoration the other of denial and falsehood And that is the question for us today which response do we take How do we respond to the Resurrection Do we accept Jesus Resurrection as the basis for our faith Or do we pretend it never happened and try to undo other peoples beliefs Do we believe it in one breath and then in moments of crisis we take the easy way out and deny Do we let the ways of the world money possessions popularity get in the way of our spiritual journey It is all just a question of faith 36

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Easter Tuesday Gospel John 20 11 18 Share and Share Alike Mass in Cave at Gethsemane Remember when you were little and you got that one toy for Christmas or for your birthday And you just wouldn t let it out of your sight Remember how you would hold on to it for dear life and even sleep with it just to make sure it didn t get lost Remember too how you didn t want to share it with anyone else until Mom or Dad forced you to Remember how even though you would never admit it sharing the toy somehow made it even better because it gave you a chance to explain it show it and share the joy of it Well that is what s happening in today s Gospel Mary Magdalene sits weeping at the empty tomb and the Risen Jesus appears to her She doesn t recognize Him until He calls her by name And then out of sheer joy she tries to hug Him and refuses to let go Jesus has to lovingly remind her to stop holding Him and to go and spread the news to all the disciples Mary has a very hard time letting go of Jesus just like we can t let go of that favorite toy But in the end we like Mary Magdalene are all called to be disciples to be missionaries We are all called to spread the Good News The news of the Resurrection is to be proclaimed to be shared not merely kept hidden in our hearts The joy of the Resurrection needs to be passed on our faith in Jesus needs to be shared Share and share alike 37

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Easter Wednesday Gospel Luke 24 13 35 Walking with Jesus I spent all of my high school life and part of college living and studying at a seminary nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural Virginia It was a quiet and secluded life full of homework and prayer Stuck away on a narrow country road you entered the grounds at a low brick entry gate and then a short drive up to the campus of buildings We had everything you could ever need Olympic size swimming pool basketball courts track playing fields classrooms beautiful chapel our own infirmary and rec rooms But what mattered the most to me was that short road barely a quarter mile in length from the gate to the main buildings I can t tell you how many times after a long day of classes many of us either alone or with a small group would walk out to the gate and then back No matter the reason for the walk whether it was stress upset homesickness depression sadness the need to blow off steam or anger or the simple need to just get away by the time I made it out to the gate and back those negative emotions were gone It was a journey that calmed my soul and eased whatever burdens I had It re energized me to return to seminary life with a renewed energy and even today I so miss that walk But what I didn t realize until much later in life was that no matter if I was walking alone or with a friend there was always someone else alongside me us Jesus For us to get through all those tough times I realize now that Jesus had to have been there with us gently guiding us back along the right path We just didn t realize it We just didn t see Him there until much later in life So it is today with the disciples on their way to Emmaus They are returning to Emmaus crushed and saddened by Jesus death And yet Jesus walks with them talks with them teaches them But it is only later on after He has left that they realized it was Him Only after they realize their hearts were on fire with His words and in His breaking of the bread then they slap their foreheads and realize the truth that Jesus was right there with them So it is for all of us No matter how alone we feel how isolated we are we truly are not alone Jesus really is right here with us walking beside us guiding us reassuring us and comforting us So take that walk today enjoy that crisp cold air and the light carpet of snow and realize you are not alone You never were 38

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Easter Thursday Gospel Luke 24 35 48 Shock and Awe Church of Dormition Jerusalem The Apostles in today s Gospel seem to be at their most human their most vulnerable They are still reeling from the shock of Jesus horrific suffering and death And then 2 disciples return from Emmaus to tell them that they had seen the Risen Jesus They keep hearing other stories about Jesus appearing to the women at the tomb They are literally in emotional conflict believe not believe hope not hope afraid and embarrassed by their own actions or lack of action And then Jesus suddenly appears It s no wonder that they should feel all those emotions and all at once And what does Jesus do Peace be with you He calms their fears Relax take a deep breath I am here be at peace And only then after calming their emotions showing them that it really is Him and sharing some food to show He isn t some ghost only then does He begin to talk to them and to teach them from Scriptures We all have plenty to worry about these days plenty to stress over our health the health of our loved ones worries over the simple basics of life food shelter and safety It can be overwhelming and physically and emotionally draining And what does Jesus say to us what is the very first thing Jesus says to us Be at Peace Relax Trust me Believe that I am really here with you and listen to me Calm yourself and take a deep breath Why are you troubled Why do so many questions arise in your hearts Hear me hear my words and do not be afraid 39

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Easter Friday Gospel John 21 1 14 Sitting around the Campfire Please forgive my sense of humor today but in a different reality today s Gospel reads like a pilot episode for a new TV comedy A group of men return home to their village after three years on the road and they try to return to their former occupation fishermen It doesn t go well they spend the whole night and catch nothing Then as dawn breaks some joker on the beach calling them children yells to them to go fish over there Yeah right So they do and they catch a boatload One of them recognizes the guy on the beach as their dearest friend And what does Peter do he jumps into the Sea and swims ashore in his best version of Forrest Gump When they all get there their friend has made a fire on the beach and has cooked them breakfast So they sit down and what do they talk about with this long lost friend NOTHING Not a word is spoken It s like say something I m not gonna say something you say something Strange But this isn t a comedy show this is real life These Apostles have returned to their home after three years travelling with Jesus They are despondent demoralized and defeated after His crucifixion and death They have lost their leader their teacher their friend So they give up and come home to their former lives as fishermen And it does not go well After a whole night of trying they can t even catch a single fish A man on the shore tells them to try a different spot and they catch more fish than the nets can handle One of them says That s Jesus Peter in his typical impulsiveness and joy instead of staying in the boat jumps into the sea and swims ashore When they all get there they see it really is Jesus whom they thought dead He has prepared a fire and they gather with Him on the beach around the fire and share a morning meal In their joy their awkwardness perhaps even their embarrassment no one says a word I have always loved this Gospel reading just the image of Jesus and the Apostles sitting around a campfire and sharing a simple meal It is both touching and heartwarming It is human It is a reminder to me that no matter my circumstance whether I am depressed or lost swimming in a sea of troubles or drowning in fear all I have to do is make an effort to reach out to Him and Jesus will be waiting for me with open arms and food for the journey I don t even have to say anything He knows He understands and He will always be there for me with a warm fire and a welcoming heart 40

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Easter Saturday Gospel Mark 16 9 15 Snap Out of It Synagogue Church in Nazareth A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood He was praying to God for help Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof Jump in I can save you The stranded fellow shouted back No it s OK I m praying to God and he is going to save me So the rowboat went on Then a motorboat came by The fellow in the motorboat shouted Jump in I can save you To this the stranded man said No thanks I m praying to God and he is going to save me I have faith So the motorboat went on Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety To this the stranded man again replied No thanks I m praying to God and he is going to save me I have faith So the helicopter reluctantly flew off Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned He went to Heaven He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God at which point he exclaimed I had faith in You but You didn t save me You let me drown I don t understand why To this God replied I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter what more did you expect 41

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Jesus almost seems a bit frustrated with His disciples in today s Gospel a lot like God in the story He appears to Mary Magdalene she tells the disciples and they don t believe He appears to the 2 disciples on the way to Emmaus they tell the disciples and they don t believe Finally He appears to all the disciples and REBUKES them I sent you Mary Magdalene and other disciples SNAP OUT OF IT What more do you want But then something unexpected happens at least unexpected for us Jesus changes His tone and sends them off into the world to proclaim the Gospel He MOVES ON He made Himself clear He got His message across and He corrected their attitude And then He commissions them to go out into the world He doesn t harp on their stubbornness and He doesn t let them remain focused on their past failings Let s move on Aren t we all just like the disciples Too often we stay mired in the past with things we failed to do we refuse to let go of our stubbornness or our faults We fail to accept them and then move on God calls us all today to recognize our past faults learn from them and then move on Get up Get moving You have God s work to do today 42

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Second Sunday of Easter Gospel John 20 19 31 No Doubt Seeing is Believing Peter s Rock A man went to a barber shop to have his hair and his beard cut as always He started to have a good conversation with the barber who attended him They talked about so many things and a variety of subjects Suddenly they touched the subject of God The barber said Look man I don t believe that God exists as you say so Why do you say that asked the client Well it s so easy you just have to go out in the street to realize that God does not exist Tell me if God exists would there be so many sick people Would there be abandoned children If God exists there would be no suffering nor pain I can t think of a God who permits all of these things The client stopped for a moment thinking but he didn t want to respond so as to prevent an argument The barber finished his job and the client went out of the shop Just after he left the barber shop he saw a man in the street with a long hair and beard it seems that it had been a long time since he had his hair cut and he looked so untidy Then the client again entered the barber shop and he said to the barber Know what Barbers do not exist How come they don t exist asked the barber Well I am here and I am a barber No the client exclaimed They don t exist because if they did there would be no people with long hair and beards like that man who is walking in the street Ah barbers do exist what happens is that some people do not come to us 43

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Exactly affirmed the client That s the point God does exist What happens is people don t go to Him and do not look for Him That s why there s so much pain and suffering in the world Faith Belief That s what it s all about and that s what today s Gospel is all about Thomas Doubting Thomas is not there when Jesus appears to the other disciples and he insists that he won t believe unless he sees Jesus sees His wounds and touches them for himself I ve always thought Thomas has gotten the short end of the stick I mean the disciples are in a locked room they have been hiding ever since Jesus was crucified They are in fear that the authorities will look for them arrest them and have them killed And so they hide So for Thomas not to be there that first time meant he was out in the city probably getting food or provisions for the group So what he lacks in faith perhaps is made up for with his courage to venture out into the city But don t forget what has gone on before in this week s readings Mary Magdalene brings them news from the tomb and they don t believe The 2 disciples bring back news from Emmaus and they don t believe Chances are that first appearance to them in the locked room happened with them all doubting what they are seeing as well Thomas is just 1 appearance behind them and he is merely voicing what they were all feeling at that first appearance Doubt Is this a ghost Am I really seeing Jesus Do I really believe Do I need to see to believe We all have doubts especially in these times We all wonder and question what s going on Where is God in all of this We all need to be a bit like that barber s customer Maybe I can t see God Himself right now but I can see Him working through others in these difficult times I see Him in the man who checks up on his elderly neighbor to see if he needs any groceries I see Him in the grade school kids making cards and drawings for the seniors at the retirement home I see Him in the family who face time their out of town relatives a lot more often than before I see Him in the kids who use Zoom to play a game of Yahtzee with their friends I see Him in the daily outpouring of drive by birthday celebrations for a little child God is not hidden He is right here in front of us We only have to set aside our doubts and see with the eyes of faith 44

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Monday Second Week of Easter Gospel John 3 1 8 I ve Got a Secret Waters at Caesarea Philippi Today s Gospel focuses on Nicodemus a rich and powerful Pharisee And while the conversation between Jesus and him is significant the timing is everything Nicodemus visits Jesus in the dead of night in secret He is beginning to believe in Him but he is fearful that anyone else finds out He is worried about losing his political and religious power his status and popularity He is trying to balance his standing in the world with his growing beliefs in Jesus message He is trying to become a follower but only on his terms And that won t work So where do we stand as a follower of Jesus Are we Christian only when it s convenient only when no one is watching Are we so concerned with our physical wants and needs our status and popularity that we are reluctant to be fully and visibly Christian Do we seek out Jesus only in the dead of night when the world is not watching Jesus today talks about being re born in the water and in the Spirit We have all been reborn in the waters of Baptism we have all been filled with the Holy Spirit We have all professed our faith with our Baptismal Promises When do we carry them out What will it take for us to be Christian in the light of day To proclaim Jesus message by our words and our actions What will it take to be Christian in moments of inconvenience moments when the world is watching 45

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Tuesday Second Week of Easter Gospel John 3 7b 15 Blowing in the Wind Gethsemane Mass The wind was really blowing last night rattling windows and whistling while knocking over garbage cans It serves as a reminder to us that even though you can hear it even though you can feel it you just can t control it Jesus says much the same thing in today s Gospel when He continues to chat with Nicodemus The wind blows where it wills and you can hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit Too often we think we are in charge that we control any and everything Too often we are completely wrong We are uncomfortable when we don t know what s going on we feel powerless We think we should be able to direct every aspect of our lives and that we know what s best for us But Jesus reminds us today that is not the case Yes we do feel and hear the wind but we don t control it We don t even know where it comes from and where it is going That wind for us is the Spirit the Spirit of God We have to learn to let go and let God Let the Spirit take us where it wills We have to learn to trust and surrender ourselves to the Spirit 46 Many times when I am working on a homily I struggle to find meaning something to latch on to as a focal point And I push and prod and stress But it is only when I just step aside when I let go and pray over the Scriptures once again then the Spirit has the room and the time to work through me We are all filled with the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation But we have to learn to stop and listen to stop and let the Spirit speak to us guide us and work through us Be well Be safe everyone

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Wednesday Second Week of Easter Gospel John 3 16 21 In Pursuit Raising Jairus Daughter If you ve ever seen a protest march or a parade a football game a political rally or a peace justice march you have seen these numbers John 3 16 That s it just one simple verse no long story or parable no extended narrative or collection of wise sayings John 3 16 And if you never understood it you probably went to a Bible to look it up Perfect advertising to get you to open up a Bible One single sentence simple and direct God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life Too often I think we picture this life as a journey trying to stay on the right path to get to God as if God is sitting still It s as if God is stuck on a mountain and it s our task to find our way to Him All the action depends on us and God is just sitting there waiting for us This verse shows us something completely the opposite God doesn t just wait around for us God pursues us He doesn t wait for us to look for Him He comes to us And His motivation Love pure and simple He loves us so much that He wants to be with us He wants us to be with Him forever So He doesn t wait He came to us as His Son Jesus He took on human form to be with us to lead us to suffer and die for us And all of this out of love I know it s been said before the cross is not just a sign of suffering and death it is a sign of love so much love that God has for us So much that He is willing to do anything for us so that we can share in His divine life so that we might not perish but have eternal life God pursues us every day He is not 3000 miles away on the top of a mountain He is right here in the neighbor who needs groceries in the child who needs help with homework in the friend who needs to talk and unburden All we need to do is turn around see Him and respond with the same love that He has for us 47

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Thursday Second Week of Easter Gospel John 3 31 36 Short and Sweet Stone in Garden of Gethsemane Whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life I don t think it can get any simpler than that Believe in Jesus Believe that He is the Son of God Believe that He suffered and died for our sins Believe that He rose from the dead and offers us the gift of that same eternal life But let s be clear belief is not just a simple intellectual exercise It s not the same as if I flip this switch I believe the light will go on It is not merely a mind game Belief in Jesus involves our entire self body and soul head and heart It means that we are called to live out that belief in our daily lives We are called to demonstrate that belief in our actions with others And not just once not just occasionally but day in and day out Our life is to be a reflection of our belief Wow Things just got a lot more difficult How in the world can I do that I know I m gonna mess up I know I am gonna stumble and fall I can t do this by myself Today s Gospel addresses that as well God does not ration out the gift of the Spirit The Spirit The Spirit will be there to guide us support us calm us down and energize us to move forward You are not alone Believe in me and trust in the Spirit 48

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Friday Second Week of Easter Gospel John 6 1 15 A Familiar Rhythm If you look closely at today s picture you will see a mosaic image of loaves and fishes from the church at Tabgha on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of the Mount of the Beatitudes It is believed to be the site of today s Gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes and is the earliest representation of this familiar symbol The story of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a familiar one And the Gospel provides so much detail in the telling of the story the abundant grass the specific number of loaves and fishes the boy who brings them the number of people gathered the disciples complaining about the size of the crowd and the impossibility of feeding them and the number of baskets of leftovers All very familiar But there is another very familiar rhythm to this story that could easily escape us if we didn t take another close read of the verses What we see is the same movement the same rhythm that we experience at Mass Jesus spends the day preaching and teaching the crowd His words draw them together and motivate them to want to stay and hear more This reminds us of the beginning of Mass the Liturgy of the Word where we hear the Word of God Then the boy and the disciples bring Jesus the five loaves and two fishes the Presentation of the Gifts of bread and wine Then Jesus blesses the gifts gives thanks to God and distributes them to the crowd the Liturgy of the Eucharist where the priest blesses the gifts offers thanks to God and those simple gifts are transformed into His Body and Blood and offered to us as food for the soul So consider this today s story is not just a miracle story about Jesus compassion for the hungry crowd It is also a reminder of His love for us a love that provides us with the Eucharist His Body and Blood food for our spiritual journey In this time of separation from the Mass and Communion it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the wonder of such a gift and hopefully a greater appreciation of the Eucharist in our lives 49

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Saturday Feast of St Mark Gospel Mark 16 15 20 You re Hired Chapel of the Ascension We take a brief pause today during the Season of Easter to celebrate the Feast of St Mark Apostle and Evangelist What we hear in today s Gospel is the very end of the story according to Mark the Ascension Rather curious actually since we still have a long way to go before we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension There is a story I recall many decades ago about a Christian missionary who went and lived with an isolated tribe in Africa For 2 years he lived with them worked with them instructed them and guided them in the Christian faith At the end of 2 years a good number of them were baptized And at the end of the ritual he got up and told them I have finished my last instruction in your village I will never come back to teach anyone else here From this day on it is you people who must teach and judge whether anyone is ready for Baptism From this day forward stop depending on me and start depending on the Holy Spirit You were a people with a past and no future now you are the People of God You are now the Church If what I have taught you means anything at all you will continue to grow in the faith and share that faith with others It is now all up to you In today s Gospel Jesus gathers with His 11 Apostles for one last time He has been instructing them training them guiding them for 3 years Their internship is now over they have passed the test They ve got the job It is now their responsibility to carry on the faith to proclaim the Good News to the whole world The Holy Spirit will continue to be with them to guide and support them even when death seems imminent And all who are baptized will be saved 50 We too have been in training all our lives We have been filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of our Baptism It is our mission as well to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News by our words and our actions You got the job You re hired Now get to work

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Third Sunday of Easter Gospel Luke 24 35 48 You Be Jesus Mass at Gethsemane We have heard this Gospel before and recently on the Thursday after Easter Sunday At that time we reflected on the two disciples as they travelled on the way to Emmaus disheartened and downcast after Jesus crucifixion and death And we reflected on the journey that we all take through life with its ups and downs trials and tribulations And we were reminded that no matter what we were going through Jesus was still right there beside us that we are never alone But today let s look at the Gospel from another perspective There s a story about a young mother who was preparing pancakes for her sons Kevin age five and Ryan age three The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson So she said to the boys If Jesus were sitting here He would say Let my brother have the first pancake I can wait Kevin turned to his younger brother and said Ryan you be Jesus We are all Christian We are all called to be Christ like But if we are really honest with ourselves none of us really wants the job To be Christ to others Nope too tough too demanding I mean we are only human Let s face it in one sense Kevin gets it He recognizes that being Christ like is tough But even though he knows it s the right thing to do he chooses the easy way and passes it off to his brother We know we are hurting during this difficult time and we certainly know there are others who are also struggling sad despondent downcast just like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus Look out for them Offer a word of encouragement Call them to see how they re doing Wave to them from across the street Send a card or an email Find a way to let them know they aren t alone that you are walking this path with them Be a good neighbor Be a good friend or relative Be JESUS 51

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Monday Third Week of Easter Gospel John 6 22 29 Persistence Synagogue in Capernaum We pick up the story from last Friday when Jesus fed the crowd with the multiplication of loaves and fishes He then quickly leaves and apparently walks across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum His disciples eventually follow Him But the crowds the next morning wake to find them all gone And instead of being satisfied with the events of the previous day they all go looking for Him like a group of star struck fans They finally grab boats cross the Sea of Galilee and find Him in Capernaum Talk about persistence The crowd wanted more from Jesus They followed Him At this point it s probably safe to say they were at least curious much less looking for another free meal But they put a lot of effort into locating Him So maybe this was the beginning of faith for them and not just a desire to fill an empty stomach And so Jesus continues to teach them how to grow in their budding faith and how to receive the food of eternal life You have to do the works of God and you have to believe in Me We hear so much about God pursuing us walking with us reminding us we are not alone But what about the reverse How often do we pursue God How often do we deliberately go looking for Him How persistent are we in searching for God in our lives It s not enough to just believe in Him we are all called to FOLLOW Him We are all called to faith in action To believe and to do the works of God It s not enough to just sit around and wait for God to come to us Search for Him Look for Him Grab a boat cross the sea follow in His path Be persistent in your faith 52

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Tuesday Third Week of Easter Gospel John 6 30 35 Knead to Know Well so much for yesterday s budding faith that the crowd following Jesus seemed to be showing Today it becomes obvious all they are interested in is another miracle give us another meal give us more bread like Moses did with manna in the desert It s like they are a group of little kids in front of a magician ooh cool do it again Jesus response however is not one of action but of words I am the Bread of Life As many of you know I fancy myself a bit of a baker at least as far as zucchini bread is concerned When the opportunity and the time present themselves I will go on a baking binge and easily make a couple of dozen loaves at a time It s meticulous time consuming work but oh so rewarding But it is not the same as baking something else like bread That is a whole different ballgame Last week now that I have all this extra time I tried my hand at making biscuits from scratch All in all I was pretty pleased with myself I d never done it before but they did turn out really good One step closer to making bread but not there just yet I am still very nervous about taking that step I know it will take a lot longer to make I know it will take a lot more work mixing and rolling and kneading the dough I know it will take a lot of time and patience stepping away doing nothing and letting the dough rise And even then there is the anxiety of waiting for it to come out of the oven and tasting it A lot of work maybe too much work But in the end worth it And don t even get me started on making frybread Jesus today offers us the Bread of Life His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist We know that in order to attain eternal life it is going to take work effort time and a lot of patience especially with ourselves But it is worth the effort right It has now been 52 days since I last deaconed a Mass since I received Communion I know that is something we are all going through this separation from the Eucharist It has not been easy and there are still more days ahead of the same But at least in this time away from the Sacraments maybe we are gaining a greater appreciation for the Eucharist a better understanding of its importance in our lives now that we are separated from it Jesus is still waiting for us still there for us What we are called to do during this time of isolation is work on our faith Spend the time with God in prayer and meditation Quit looking for quick easy miracles like the crowd in today s Gospel Set aside time for just you and God And be patient Give yourself the time for your faith to grow and rise And don t be so anxious and worried about how things will turn out It s meticulous time consuming and work but oh so rewarding And remember that God is here and He has the words the Bread of eternal life 53

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Wednesday Third Week of Easter Gospel John 6 35 40 Spiritual Hunger Open Market in Jerusalem If we are really honest with ourselves we are all going a bit stir crazy I mean we love our family would do anything for them But this is getting ridiculous Let s face it we are all getting on each other s nerves no matter how much we love each other Our tempers and our patience are in short supply And each day seems much like the previous one I sometimes wonder how much of this anxiety and short temper are due to a lack of spiritual nourishment None of us has ever been separated from the Eucharist for this long of a time and there seems to be no end in sight Today s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Bread of Life our source of spiritual food and eternal life Whoever comes to Him will never hunger and never thirst We are all famished we are all struggling with a hunger for the Eucharist And we are probably taking out that hunger taking out that parched thirst on the ones we love our family But Jesus reminds us at the end of today s Gospel everyone who sees the Son and believes will have eternal life So while we are separated from reception of the Eucharist we are still called to see Jesus in each other We are all called to set aside our impatience our short tempers and see Jesus in our family and to be Jesus to them Not so easy I know But maybe we could set aside some time each day for a simple family activity whether it s to play a silly game or perhaps to bake some bread that seems rather appropriate for today Forget about the argument from yesterday or the meltdown from this morning Forget about the mess you might make forget about the cleanup Just work together play together and in the 54 process maybe see Jesus in each other

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Thursday Third Week of Easter Gospel John 6 44 51 Bread The Staff of Life Mass in the Cave at Bethlehem Bread Simple basic food the staff of life as many would say It is a food that crosses borders and transcends cultures It is the same around the world and yet completely different And there is such a variety of names soda bread bagel naan injera pita tortilla brioche Italian matzoh challah roti lavash English muffin frybread and so many more It is one food that all cultures share and yet it is at the same time different in preparation look and taste For all intents and purposes it sustains all of us gives us life and binds us all together Jesus in today s Gospel continues to explain to the crowd that He is the Bread of Life not merely for this human life but life eternal Not bread made by human hands but bread from heaven Not bread that gives us life and nourishment for a day but His flesh that gives us eternal life It is this bread of life that we have been missing that we have been craving for many weeks now We may be scattered separated isolated from family and friends We may feel lost and saddened and cut off from our church our parish and our Sacraments But we are not cut off from our faith our faith in God and our firm belief that Jesus really is the Bread of Life He binds us all together draws us all together and holds us all together Someone said recently that given the corona virus we are all in the same boat I d slightly disagree We are all in the same storm but we are all in different boats We all have our own specific circumstance our own unique situation But we are all dealing with the same storm And it is the one true Bread of Life that unites us all in faith as we all seek to weather this storm 55

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Friday Feast of St Joseph the Worker Gospel Matthew 13 54 58 A Man of Action St Joseph s Church Nazareth Back when I was in high school in the seminary I remember my Dad picking me up to bring me home for the summer I had let my hair grow long really long over the past few months My Dad said not one word Instead he drove me straight to the barber shop for a haircut and then home Not a word was spoken none was needed I got the message loud and clear My Dad was a man of very few words but his actions spoke volumes And those actions spoke of a man of compassion dedication to his family ready and willing to put in the work to take care of those he loved We celebrate today the Feast of St Joseph the Worker If you spent some time poring over all the Gospels looking for enlightening words from St Joseph it would be a complete waste of time We do not hear any words from Joseph Rather it is his actions that speak to us it is his response to God that shows his faith in the Lord and his love for his family He hears God s words and he acts such deep faith and trust such hope In today s Gospel Jesus returns to Nazareth to preach and the people won t listen This is just the carpenter s son he can t be a prophet Joseph is defined by what he does his work And it is that work that we remember today It is a reminder not only of Joseph s faith but also the dignity of work It is a reminder of the value of laboring for others of the value of simple honest work done out of love for one s family Joseph labors in silence but his work and his efforts speak volumes He hears God s words and he acts such deep faith and trust such hope We are all called to this good honest work performed out of faith hope compassion generosity kindness and patience We are all called to daily labor So let s especially remember today all those who work for the benefit of others particularly all of our first responders police firefighters doctors nurses nurse practitioners farmers truck drivers merchants and many more too many to list We celebrate their time and effort their toil and labor in service to others We pray for their well being and their safety 56

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Saturday Third Week of Easter Gospel John 6 60 69 You Can t Handle the Truth Capernaum on Sea of Galilee We have all faced moments like this in our lives Maybe it was Mom and Dad sitting us down to hit us with the hard truth the stark reality of life Maybe we messed up and now it was time to come clean and face the punishment Maybe it was having to deal with a harsh reality sudden death or illness the breakup of a family or a relationship or the boss sitting us down for a performance review that does not go well Harsh stark reality In the times we live in this strikes home even more acutely Sitting our children down to talk to them about Covid 19 Having to explain what a pandemic is And searching for ways to answer the tough questions Why can t I go outside and play with my friends Why can t I go to school Why do I have to wear a mask Why can t we go to McDonalds Why do I have to do my school work You re not my teacher There are no easy questions and certainly no easy answers Many of Jesus disciples in today s Gospel also have a difficult time with the truth Jesus is offering them His Body and Blood He is offering them eternal life And they can t accept it they refuse to believe it In fact many of His disciples walk away and go back to their former lives Instead of moving forward in life and in faith they choose to go back to the way things used to be They turn their backs on life eternal and head home So Jesus asks the Apostles whether they are going to leave as well And Peter answers with a stunning profession of faith Where else should we go You have the words of eternal life We know that you are the Holy One of God In moments of trial and testing when life hits us with harsh reality Jesus asks us the same question Are you going to leave me Are you going to turn your back on me Or will you continue to follow me 57

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Fourth Sunday of Easter Gospel John 10 1 10 Mary Had a Little Lamb Mary had a little lamb you know the rest We hear a lot about sheep and shepherds in today s readings the very familiar Psalm response the Lord is my shepherd and the Gospel where Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd and the Gatekeeper But unless we grew up in the country or worked on a farm our experience of sheep is probably limited to nursery rhymes and petting zoos Sheep especially from a child s perspective are cute cuddly They seem so innocent and trusting But in a word sheep are DUMB Without any guidance they will wander anywhere they will eat anything They have no natural defenses and without a protector they are food for any predator They need a shepherd someone who watches over them full time There is no such thing as a day off for a shepherd he lives with them day in and day out He feeds them guides them and protects them That is what it means when the Psalm says the Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want In verdant pastures he gives me repose beside restful waters he leads me he refreshes my soul He guides me in right paths for his name s sake Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil for you are at my side A shepherd protects his flock he lays down his life for them At night he leads them into his cave corral But there is no real gate The shepherd lies down at the entrance and becomes a living gate to protect them from any predators or robbers Anything that wants to attack his sheep has to face him first A shepherd literally lays down his life for his sheep Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd He knows His sheep and we know Him Throughout our lives He guides us feeds us and protects us Even when we are so stubborn that we refuse to listen when we want to go our own way to ignore His direction He gently calls us back to Him calms our fears stays with us and leads us to restful waters We are weak but His strength gives us courage We are defenseless but He protects us On our own we are lost but He guides us along the right path to eternal life Mary did indeed have a little lamb the Lamb of God the Good Shepherd who gathers us here today to hear His Word and then to trust in Him as we face the day 58

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Monday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 10 11 18 A Member of the Flock Walking the Via Dolorosa How are we followers of Jesus How did it happen What made us become a member of the flock Yes Jesus chose us but how have we responded How have we chosen to follow Him Today s Gospel continues Jesus discourse on the Good Shepherd But since we focused on the goodness of the Shepherd yesterday let s look at the sheep the flock How do we recognize Jesus by the sound of His voice Why do we follow Him Do we find comfort and protection in Him Do we trust He will lead us safely He willingly gave His life for us out of love He guides us protects us nourishes us and shelters us How do we respond What draws us to Him Is it the sound of His voice His loving actions His suffering and death for our salvation What made you follow Him And how will you follow Him today What can you do today that reflects your faith as a Christian as a follower of the Good Shepherd as a faithful member of the flock 59

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Tuesday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 10 22 30 Are You Listening On the Shores of the Mediterranean Sea Tel Aviv Clean your room Pick up your dirty clothes Do your homework Close the door Put your dirty dishes in the sink How many times do I have to tell you I m guessing every single one of us has not only heard these words but also spoken them at some point in our lives My mom always called it selective hearing we only hear what we want to hear And that is what is going on in today s Gospel The Pharisees want Jesus to tell them who He really is His response I already told you He then compares them to His flock of followers my sheep hear my voice they listen to me You are deaf They are not It s a good lesson for all of us At times we all have selective hearing we hear only what we want to hear We want praise and avoid criticism even if it s meant to be constructive And yet too often we need to be corrected to be guided back to the right path by our Good Shepherd We need to listen All the time not just selectively Have you noticed lately The incredible decrease in noise in our lives There are less planes in the sky There are fewer cars on the streets Less foot traffic outside the house It has gotten so much quieter these past 7 weeks And perhaps not just less noise there are also fewer distractions At times our selective hearing is also due to all the noise and distraction in our lives We can t hear the violin for the orchestra For good or bad we now have an incredible amount of quiet time available to us How will we use it To clean the house Recycle that overflowing closet Rearrange all the kitchen shelves Repaint the rec room Take care of that honey do list How about adding one thing to the list LISTEN Take some time daily sit down breathe open our ears and LISTEN Listen to the voce of the Good Shepherd 60

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Wednesday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 12 44 50 There s a Light on in the Hallway When our daughter was little we had a whole bedtime routine to go through every night before she settled down to sleep I imagine all of you had something similar We would read a story or two to her But then we would open the closet door look under the bed and shoo out of the room all the ghosts and littles so that she could sleep peacefully We would of course also leave a light on for her to feel safe Today s Gospel really brings that memory back when I read I came into the world as light so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness We all have moments of darkness even as adults Moments when we are lost frightened so unsure of the future that we just want to crawl under the covers and wish all the monsters to go away But Jesus reminds us today that we are not alone that we are not lost in the darkness He came into this world to bring light to be light for us He is our Light of the World and He calls us out of the darkness to share in that light It reminds me of a song Light in the Hallway by an acapella group Pentatonix I included the lyrics below So spend some time today reflecting on the lights in your life Jesus your best friend family etc And then consider how you have been a light for others Jesus calls us to let His light shine not just ON us but THROUGH us Close your eyes lay your head down Now it s time to sleep May you find great adventure As you lie and dream If you re scared of the darkness I will calm your fear There s a light in the hallway So you know I m here So count your blessings every day It makes the monsters go away And everything will be okay You are not alone You are right at home Goodnight goodnight 61

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Thursday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 13 16 20 Sharing the Journey On the Shores of the Sea of Galilee We have all lost friends people who said they would stand by us forever and yet turned around and spread vicious rumors behind our back We have all had friends who say one thing to our face and completely trash us when our back is turned Betrayed Used Kicked to the curb People we thought we knew and trusted people we confided in and leaned on In today s Gospel Jesus had that same experience He has just shared His Body and Blood with the Apostles He has just washed their feet But then He says The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me After all He has done He reveals that Judas will betray Him Can you imagine how He must have felt And yet He still moves forward He still continues to reassure His friends that they are not alone that He will still send the Spirit and they will be transformed He doesn t give up on them 62 Thirty five years ago I lost my best friend Since then I haven t seen him talked to him nothing I still don t even know why he stopped talking to me But that kind of experience shouldn t stop any of us from sharing our friendship with others it shouldn t make us retreat into a ball of anger or mistrust It certainly didn t stop Jesus We have all lost friends What matters is how we handle it how we move forward in life and whether we let one broken relationship color all the others Jesus reminds us today that the Spirit does indeed dwell within us that we are not alone that He has not abandoned us And we are called to treat each other in the same way Never be cruel never be cowardly Remember hate is always foolish and love is always wise Always try to be nice and never fail to be kind And always share the journey

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Friday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 14 1 6 I Don t Need No Stinking Map A Commune in Galilee Wow talk about d j vu Today s Gospel is going to sound very familiar to you It s a shorter version of this coming Sunday s Gospel So now for something completely different Like any good husband I prefer to be the driver and that also means I know where we are going all the time Who needs a map Who needs directions I got this I think I inherited it from my father He always got us there but not always very quickly My mom would complain why is it taking so long My dad would respond we re taking the scenic route That s code for I m being stubborn We like to think we don t need any help we can do this on our own We know the way to go and we will get there eventually So it s rather refreshing to hear Thomas in today s Gospel say that he doesn t know the way Maybe he was the backseat driver But Jesus gently reminds them that He is the way The way to heaven to eternal life is through our belief in Jesus The problem remains we are still very stubborn we think we know better we think we know what s best for us and we can handle everything on our own I don t need a map or GPS or a navigator I got this So for once let s put aside the stubbornness and let s let Jesus take the wheel or at least let s listen to His directions and actually follow them He knows the Way He is the Way And the Truth And the Life 63

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Saturday Fourth Week of Easter Gospel John 14 7 14 I Just Don t Understand Church of St Catherine Nazareth We hear a lot about knowing in today s Gospel If you know me you know also the Father It s a relatively simple word but too often misunderstood We pass someone on the street and we tell our spouse I know that guy Really How well do you know him You mean you recognize him You know his name His likes and dislikes His favorite food or sports team His hobbies What do you mean you know him Most languages have more than one word for the concept of knowing Latin has scio and cognosco French has savoir and connaitre And they mean something completely different It s the difference between being familiar with something and really understanding something For example I flip a light switch I know the light goes on For me that means I am familiar with the light going on I recognize it It does NOT mean that I understand how electricity works what wires should connect together or how the filament in the lightbulb works Two very different meanings for one simple word So what does it mean to know God Do I can I really ever understand Him fully Or do I simply recognize Him am I just familiar with Him Neither meaning seems to work here Perhaps the real meaning lies somewhere in between Let s face it we can never fully understand God But I would hope that we are familiar with Him that we have had some experience with Him that we can recognize Him and His work in our lives Hopefully that experience or familiarity leads us to something more to something deeper to a real relationship with Him And that is what God calls us to a relationship with Him a relationship of love To see Him at work in our lives to see Him through the actions and love of others God is all around us each and every day Do you know God Did you see Him in the sunrise or the frost on the grass Did you recognize Him in the birth of a child or the kindness of a stranger Do you see Him Do you recognize Him 64

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Fifth Sunday of Easter Gospel John 14 1 12 The Carrot the Egg and the Coffee Beans There was a young woman who was having a lot of problems with life job relationships pretty much everything She was struggling and wanted to just give up So she went to see her mom for some advice After hearing her story her mom had her put 3 pots on the stove to boil and put a carrot in the first pot an egg in the second and coffee beans in the third and then let the pots boil After 20 minutes she fished out the carrot egg and some of the coffee and asked her daughter what she saw A carrot an egg and coffee No she said you need to look closer Each object faced the same adversity boiling water but each one reacted differently The carrot went in strong and rigid but came out soft and weak The egg went in fragile but came out hard and unrelenting But the coffee beans They were different They changed the water they changed the situation So how do you handle life s problems Do you start strong but then go soft and lose your strength Will you go in gentle and fluid like the egg but come out hardened and stiff Or will you be the coffee beans and change the situation around you and make it better We all struggle with life we all worry about tomorrow We are all are afraid of something the dark heights water enclosed spaces spiders being alone or ignored or rejected How do we respond Like the carrot The egg Or the coffee beans But listen to the beginning of today s Gospel do not let your hearts be troubled be not afraid Be not afraid it is the most repeated word in the whole Bible 365 times Imagine that one for every day of the year Jesus and the Apostles are gathered for the Last Supper and the Apostles are terrified heartsick They are in fear of the future and what will happen to Jesus what will happen to them Jesus knows what is coming His arrest trial torture crucifixion and death And yet He is focused not on Himself but on his friends and their fears And what does He say Don t let your hearts be troubled do not be afraid Don t worry You are not alone Trust in me Trust in God Turn that fear into trust into faith And that is the theme of all of today s readings trust in the Lord have faith Dispel your doubts and your fears We are all living in a time of uncertainty of stress and worry for ourselves and our loved ones We listen to the numbers of those hospitalized and those who have passed and we are afraid Just like He did with the Apostles Jesus understands He sees your pain and fear And He responds to us do not let your hearts be troubled believe in Me believe in the Father believe in my promise of eternal life 65

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Monday Fifth Week of Easter Gospel John 14 21 26 It s Not That Simple Church of St Peter Primacy Sea of Galilee Do you know the difference between right and wrong Good and bad Do you know the Ten Commandments Do you know Jesus great commandment to love God and love our neighbor Do you know that observing the commandments will bring us eternal life Do you know that not following the law of love will lead us in the opposite direction So what s the problem Why do we keep falling down Why do we keep making mistakes sometimes the same mistake over and over again We ve been shown the Way We know the Way And yet we keep choosing to travel another way Jesus recognizes that and He promises in today s Gospel to give us some help He promises to send the Advocate the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that He taught us Let s face it we all need reminders we all need encouragement and support We were filled with that Spirit at Baptism and in Confirmation We continue to be filled with the Spirit Sometimes we just need the Spirit s gentle reminder to get back on the right path That Great Spirit speaks to us every day in our hearts in the kindness of others in the wonders of nature We just need to open our eyes and ears and pay attention Aho Amen 66

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Tuesday Fifth Week of Easter Gospel John 14 27 31 Peace be with You Nazareth I think most of us would agree that over these last couple of months in a sense things have been a lot more peaceful So much less airplanes in the sky cars on the streets streets so empty And yet if that s our definition of peace then I think we re missing something Too often we seem to define peace as the lack or absence of something else Peace is the absence of war the lack of noise or the absence of stress in our lives peace is getting away from everything and everyone Given that perspective then peace is a sort of emptiness and not a presence of anything Is that it Is that all there is If so then peace is just contentment freedom from distractions it comes across as being very passive and very temporary We get away somewhere or we find a cozy corner away from people to get some peace and quiet It seems lonely and ultimately unfulfilling That is not the peace that Jesus speaks of today Peace I leave with you my peace I give to you Not as the world gives do I give it to you It is not the sort of peace we are used to but it is the peace that we all need It s not the peace that comes from absence it IS the peace that comes from PRESENCE Jesus presence in our lives and our acknowledgement of it Perhaps peace is realizing that Jesus is always with us and we have nothing to fear Perhaps peace is the realization of the presence of the Spirit within us And far from doing nothing that awareness and presence energizes us to action to be Christ like to others We are all used to sharing the Sign of Peace at Mass Maybe it s time to see that action not as a simple gesture of sharing but a call to action to spread peace to others especially in this time of loneliness and fear Peace be with you 67

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Wednesday Fifth Week of Easter Gospel John 15 1 8 Connections Garden of Olives Gethsemane I guess today s Gospel cannot be much clearer Jesus is the vine and we are the branches Jesus gives us life and if we stay connected to Him we will remain alive and healthy As long as we stay connected He feeds and nourishes us The connection to the Eucharist is rather obvious we are spiritually nourished by His Body and Blood The Eucharist sustains us helps us to grow in our relationship with Jesus and with each other Our role as the branches is simple to bear fruit If we are being fed then we have to grow in faith and in love Otherwise we cut ourselves off from the vine and from the other branches It is not enough for us to just be alive to go through the motions of religion We must be fruitful Our faith in God must deepen and flourish This speaks to us of a connection not only to Jesus the Vine but also to each other the branches At a time when we are separated from the Eucharist that is not easy But remember if we are connected to the Vine Jesus then we are also intimately connected to each other Again it is a connection of faith and love Can we not still act in faith and love towards each other even in this time of separation Can we not still reach out and check on our fellow branches As separated as we are those connections have become so much more important in their absence Maybe this is a good time to re connect with family and friends to restore and revitalize those former connections so that all the branches grow just a little bit more bear just a little more fruit 68

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Thursday St Matthias Apostle Gospel John 15 9 17 A Roll of the Dice Anointing Stone Church of Holy Sepulchre We celebrate today the Feast of St Matthias Apostle And here is what we know about Matthias he was selected by lot to take Judas place as one of the Twelve That s it that s all we know No background No info on his missionary work or even his death nothing All we have is a roll of the dice So was that all just a matter of chance Sheer blind luck Today s Gospel tells us that was not the case Jesus tells His Apostles It was not you who chose me but I who chose you Luck had nothing to do with it It was divinely inspired God was at work as He always is We like to think our parents made this conscious decision to have us baptized Or we believe that we make this choice to receive the Sacraments But in reality it wasn t our choice at all It was our response The choice was God s God chose us as His children out of love What we see as a personal choice is really a response to God s call This coming Sunday I will celebrate the fifth anniversary of my ordination as a Permanent Deacon Time flies Way back in my first year of deacon formation I mistakenly kept thinking about whether this is something I want to do something I can choose to do I was so wrong It wasn t about what I wanted It was all about discerning whether this is what God wants me to do Is this where God is calling me And how do I respond God calls each and every one of us to follow Him to follow His commandments to love one another What we have to decide is how to answer God s call What is our response 69

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Friday Fifth Week of Easter Gospel John 15 12 17 You Got a Friend in Me Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem If it feels like your memory is slipping away I had the same reaction Didn t we just hear this same Gospel yesterday Yes we really did although I did have to doublecheck a couple of times just to be sure my mind wasn t playing tricks on me Kind of the reverse of walking into a room and forgetting why you are there Anyway In today s Gospel Jesus tells the disciples I call you friends for so indeed you are Friends Not simply followers or disciples Not subjects or worshippers Not even mere companions Friends It s a good opportunity for us today to reflect on what it means to be a friend what it means to have a best friend Friendship real friendship is a relationship built on love and not convenience based on the depth of that love and not frequency of contact At its core a real friend is someone who accepts you as you are not as they want you to be A real friend is someone who has seen you at your worst and still stands beside you A real friend loves you warts and all A real friend sees the best in you even when you refuse to see it yourself Jesus calls His disciples friends He has seen them at their worst they doubt Him they deny Him they abandon Him And He still calls them friends He still loves them enough to lay down His life for them And not just for the disciples but for each of us He has seen all of us at our worst even when we doubted even when we turned our back on Him And yet He still loves us still walks with us still recognizes the good in us My wife Ginger always has this one word to remind me of our relationship STUCK We are stuck to each other stuck with each other in every good sense imaginable It means no matter what I am right here by your side we are stuck together we face whatever life throws at us TOGETHER And so Jesus reminds us 70 today you ve got a friend in Me And I m not going anywhere STUCK

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Saturday Fifth Week of Easter Gospel John 15 18 21 It Ain t Easy Being Green I Mean Christian Church of Peter s Primacy Upon this rock I will build my Church It s not easy to be Christian to be Catholic not in the world we live in Obviously right now it is down right depressing no access to church to Mass to the Eucharist But let s face it even before COVID19 appeared this secular world wanted no part of what we believe in Truth Honesty Kindness Selflessness Focusing on possessions and not others Simple common decency Looking out for the poor the downtrodden the neglected Nope nope this world wants none of that Jesus saw that attitude even in the world that He and the Apostles lived in The world hates you and it will persecute you because of me Things have certainly not changed It would be so easy to just give in and give up and follow the crowd Take the easy road But the only real benefit to the easy road is that it s easy nothing more It is ultimately unfulfilling It boils down to a question philosophers and theologians have debated for centuries Are we bodies with a soul or souls with a body Catch the difference What matter more the body or the soul Jesus answers this question in today s Gospel You do not belong to this world So don t get so attached to it You belong to God your destiny is the kingdom of heaven This world is temporary life with Me is forever So go ahead be kind today help out a stranger Be truthful and decent Love your neighbor Be Christian Will some people hate you for it Certainly Will you be persecuted for taking a neighborly approach to others Absolutely But that s the point We are called not to change ourselves to fit the world We are called to change the world to Christify the world 71

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Sixth Sunday of Easter Gospel John 14 15 21 Family Connections Deacon Ordination May 17 2015 As I read over today s Gospel 3 words kept popping up in my mind commandments love and Advocate Keep my commandments I love you and I will send you an Advocate On face value they don t relate looked at together they don t make any sense But maybe they do When I was in grade school I was a pretty good student But the one subject I loved more than anything was Spelling From fifth to eighth grade I got far enough into the qualifying round for the National Spelling Bee And every year I lost and I lost to the same kid So when I got to 8th grade I knew this was my last chance I studied day and night pored over the list of words and prepared myself better than I ever had before So when the qualifying round began I was confident and ready And as other students slipped up and stepped down I continued to progress until it was down to me and my nemesis The next word I got was unfamiliar and I did the best I could I thought I nailed it correctly I was wrong and the bell dinged What I wasn t prepared for was what happened next I saw my dad come running down the aisle from his seat in the auditorium I saw him race over to the judges to plead my case to stand up for me to defend me He didn t win the argument with the judges But you know what that didn t matter to me at all I realized that some things are way more important than a spelling bee Life is more about commandments and love and having an Advocate Growing up we had rules to follow just like everyone and we knew there would be a parental response when the rules were broken My Dad was the enforcer And discipline was swift and effective But it wasn t until that spelling bee in eighth grade that I realized that rules were important and that enforcing the rules was done out of love and not meanness or hard heartedness That was the day I saw the reason for having rules that was the day I saw the love my father had for me that was the day I saw him not just as the enforcer but as my Advocate my protector my guide my counselor I began to see what the relationship between parent and child was all about About rules yes But also about love and about guidance And that is what Jesus is talking about today our relationship with God the Father Are there rules Commandments Yes But the rules are there to guide us and give us direction And they are made out of love God calls us to a relationship of love 72

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love between parent and child And He promises us that He will never abandon us He will always be there to love us to guide us to counsel us Jesus says it Himself I will never leave you as orphans You are not alone Five years ago today I was ordained a permanent deacon Five years ago today I put on this stole the one in the picture for the very first time It was a gift from my wife Ginger But it also a reminder to me that throughout the 4 years of formation of classes and exams and oral presentations and practicums I did not reach ordination all by myself And these past 5 years of serving as a Deacon were also not spent alone All of you my family Ginger Jaime Josh Tyler and Nate Ginger s mom and dad my parents sisters and brother my St Kateri family and my St Robert s family You have all supported prayed for guided and inspired me You have never let me feel alone You have always reminded me that God is with us always in His commandments in His love and in His Spirit of wisdom It is a reminder to me of the words of one of my favorite Christian songs Close your eyes lay your head down Now it s time to sleep May you find great adventure As you lie and dream If you re scared of the darkness I will calm your fear There s a light in the hallway So you know I m here So count your blessings every day It makes the monsters go away And everything will be okay You are not alone You are right at home Goodnight goodnight Miigwetch thank you 73

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Monday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 15 26 16 4 This is Gonna Hurt Storms over Mt Carmel Nobody likes going to the dentist Even worse nobody likes hearing the dentist say This may hurt a bit A bit Right that s dentist code for grab the armrests and hold on it s gonna be a bumpy ride That is what we hear in today s Gospel This is gonna hurt You are going to feel pain to suffer People will toss you out of the synagogue torture you even kill you for your faith The world is full of anger and violence and you are going to feel it because of your faith in Me But because of that faith I am sending you the Spirit the Advocate to guide and support you Keep the faith Storms are coming but you are not alone Nobody likes hearing bad news we tend to avoid it at all costs Nobody wants to hear that we could die for our Christian faith It begs the question What are you willing to die for Who are you willing to die for Best friend Parents Child Religious beliefs We always seem to ask that question But maybe it s time to re phrase the question What are you willing to LIVE for What are you willing to spend your life in service to In this world of uncertainty and violence and selfishness what are you willing to direct your entire life toward Is this life gonna hurt Yes of course But what would give your life meaning and purpose Is your faith so important so valuable that you are willing to face this world and be recognized as a follower of Jesus 74

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Tuesday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 16 5 11 Grieving They ve been with Him for three years Traveled from town to town on foot shared meals together witnessed countless miracles raising the dead casting out demons calming storms 3 years of learning from Him listening to His parables His instructions His verbal battles with the Pharisees And in just hours He will be arrested tortured and put to death They are devastated Jesus says it Himself grief has filled their hearts We all know grief felt it suffered through it We have all lost loved ones to death and disease We have all felt the pain of a shattered relationship the loneliness of despair the emptiness and devastation of a life no longer there And yet in the midst of all that sadness Jesus still comforts them He reminds them that this is not the end that the Advocate will be coming The Spirit will come and fill their hearts And so it is for us Even in the middle of the night the Spirit will tend to our wounds and heal our distress Even in our grief the Spirit is with us Through it all through it all My eyes are on You And through it all through it all It is well And through it all through it all My eyes are on You And it is well with me And far be it from me to not believe Even when my eyes can t see And this mountain that s in front of me Will be thrown into the midst of the sea And through it all through it all My eyes are on You And through it all through it all It is well 75

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Wednesday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 16 12 15 The Spirit of Truth Sea of Galilee In today s Gospel Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth to guide us in all things We all need guidance we all need to listen and hear the truth We all need a helping hand A simple but powerful message for all of us so let s just keep it simple today O Great Spirit Help me always To speak the truth quietly To listen with an open mind When others speak And to remember the peace That may be found in silence Aho 76

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Thursday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 16 16 20 This is Gonna Hurt Part Two Gethsemane Grotto Your little child runs into the house screaming in pain after falling and skinning her knee She s bleeding and scared And you do what any parent does you hold her calm her down as best you can You tell her this will hurt a bit when you clean her wounds but you also tell her it will all get better And a bit later you have her smiling again and running back outside to play Your words and actions all convey your love and your compassion for what she is going through And her actions show her faith in you This is exactly what Jesus is saying to the Apostles in today s Gospel You are going to feel pain with My suffering and death You will suffer at the hands of others for professing the faith You will be persecuted and even put to death for believing in Me Your grief will be great But in the end you will also feel joy joy in the resurrection joy in the kingdom of heaven His words are filled with love and compassion Just like a parent would do anything to take away the pain and make it like it never happened Jesus knows that pain and grief are a part of life But Jesus also knows that death is not the end That is not always easy for us to accept The loss of a loved one is crushing and life changing It takes a good deal of trust of faith that God will ease our sadness and that He has truly prepared a place for us in heaven Just like a parent with an injured child we give comfort and hope So too does Jesus do the same with the Apostles and us Have Faith 77

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Friday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 16 20 23 I ve Got Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart Outside the Old City of Jerusalem This is a rather short Gospel today but it actually has 2 different threads running through it The first is a continuation of yesterday s theme in the midst of our pain there will come joy Jesus uses the image of a woman going through the pain of giving birth which transforms into the joy of a new life While I was there right by Ginger s side for the entire process of bringing our daughter Jaime into the world my only remembrance of pain was Ginger s crushing grip as I held her hand throughout the contractions But the emotion of holding Jaime in my arms for the first time indescribably joyful and beyond words And the joy that awaits us in the Kingdom Way beyond anything we can imagine The second thread reminds us of the importance of prayer Whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give you People are not mind readers If you want something you really do have to ask for it And when we are talking about God that means prayer That means we have to talk to God in prayer and do it constantly But wait a sec God will always answer our prayers Really I will get what I ask for But that is not my experience And probably not yours either What we have to realize is that God can and does answer all our prayers But there can be 3 possible answers Yes not right now and I have a better idea God never says NO Either He says YES or He says Yes but not right now it will happen later when I see that the time is right Or He says I have a better idea an idea you hadn t thought of 78 Either way we trust and believe that God answers our prayers Either way even in the midst of incredible pain God does hear our cry and really does respond at a time that is best for us and in a way that will bring us joy

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Saturday Sixth Week of Easter Gospel John 16 23 28 I ve Got a Better Idea Rosary Procession Nazareth Jesus continues yesterday s theme of the importance of prayer whatever you ask of the Father He will give you Guess I should have saved yesterday s homily for today eh Jesus reminds us that God truly is Our Father He is the one we pray to when we need comfort help or support But since He is God He does already know what we will ask Him Isn t that just like a parent How often have we run to our parents to ask for something and they already knew what we were going to ask for And God does answer us but not always in the way we expect or want My favorite sci fi show of all time is Doctor Who It s been around since 1963 and follows the adventures of an alien who travels throughout time and space in a British police box that he calls the Tardis Many times it is more a mis adventure than an adventure And from time to time he complains that the Tardis never takes him where he WANTS to go And the Tardis wisely responded to him Yes but I always take you where you NEED to go Isn t that the same with God God hears all our prayers God answers all our prayers but in unexpected ways Like the Father He is God answers us with giving us what we need and not always what we want Like a loving parent He knows what is best for us and always finds a way to point us in the right direction along the path that leads us back to Him 79

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Sunday Feast of the Ascension Gospel Matthew 28 16 20 A Good Kick in the Pants Chapel of the Ascension Jerusalem I am blessed to be not just a husband but also a father and a grandfather to 2 boys Tyler and Nate 2 teenage boys Need I say more And especially during this extended stay at home there is little motivation for them to do anything on time it becomes almost impossible to even get them out of bed at a decent hour Rise and shine happens anytime between Noon and 2 And breakfast is really more of a late lunch But we also have to remember those days when we were teenagers and that bed felt so warm and cozy and how difficult it was to leave such a comfortable spot At least until Mom or Dad said get up get moving are you going to sleep all day Sometimes this lack of movement is not about a lack of motivation it s more about uncertainty of how to move forward It s more about what do I do now We spend years in school with exams and projects and grades and then we graduate and for some of us we hit that point right after the ceremony where we ask ourselves now what We all need that kick in the pants Or we get that job after filling out the application going through the interview and the training and we sit down at our desk on that first day and we suddenly realize now what do I do I remember my first week of teaching high school religion After all those years of educational classes and months of preparing for that first week I had put together class notes that I was sure would last a good 2 weeks of classes I barely made it through the first day Now what do I do I needed a good kick in the pants The apostles are pretty much in the same boat in today s Scriptures Jesus is giving them essentially His final instructions You will be My witnesses to the ends of the earth You will make disciples of all nations You will baptize in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit and you will teach them My commandments And you will not be alone I will be with you the Spirit will be with you And then Jesus ascends into heaven before their eyes And what do the disciples do They just stand there gaping up into the sky You can almost hear them saying to themselves oh geez He s gone Now what do I do Well I m not gonna go preach first I ll let someone else go first Kind of like Mikey in the Life cereal commercial I m not gonna try it you try it 80

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It takes two angels to appear and knock some sense into them Why are you just standing around looking up into the sky Jesus has gone but will return later So get moving get busy He left you a mission Get to it We all have that same mission to be disciples and missionaries to spread the word We are all called to wake up get out of bed and get moving We are all called to live out our Baptismal promises to witness to our faith in our words in our actions in our life So consider this a group kick in the pants Get Up Get Moving We have work to do 81

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Monday Seventh Week of Easter Gospel Matthew 28 29 33 A Time to Pause and Remember Church of Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem Given our present stay at home circumstances it is hard not to identify strongly with this line from today s Gospel Behold the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone We have all been scattered back to our homes and at times we certainly all feel alone and abandoned during this time of unprecedented illness and fear In some ways this may have been what the disciples felt yesterday when Jesus left them and ascended to heaven They certainly didn t feel like celebrating or rejoicing in spite of everything Jesus told them it was a somber event But they needed the time to remember Jesus words Take courage I have conquered the world I will not abandon you and I will send you the Spirit the Advocate 82 And so it is for us today on Memorial Day It is not a time of celebration of fireworks and blowing of horns It is a day to remember all those who gave their lives in service to their country especially loved ones and family to preserve our freedom It is a time of thoughtfulness and gratitude It is a time of remembrance of lives lost and freedoms preserved It is a time to also remember that while we have lost so many lives to war we have not been abandoned by our Brother Jesus that we are not alone Take courage I am with you always Have peace in Me

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Tuesday 7th Week of Easter Gospel John 17 1 11 Time s Up Dome of the Rock Jerusalem In yesterday s Gospel reading Jesus tells His disciples The hour is coming a phrase He uses quite a number of times throughout the Gospels Even at the Feast at Cana when Mary wants Him to do something about the wine shortage He tells her that His hour has not yet come Today things change Today the hour has come In a matter of hours He will be arrested tortured and put to death Jesus hour has come the time to glorify God His Father to accomplish the work He was given to give eternal life to all who believe So what about us What about today What will we do to glorify God today What can we do to show our Christian faith today Not tomorrow or the day after Today And if not today then when What are we waiting for Time is Up The time is Now Rise and shine Give God your glory 83

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Wednesday Seventh Week of Easter Gospel John 17 11 19 We Are The World Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Jesus words in today s Gospel are directed in prayer to His Father asking Him to protect and guide His disciples But they are also a reminder to us that practicing our faith does not and should not happen in a bubble Jesus tells us that we do not belong to this world but we are all sent into this world to change it And so He asks God not to take us out of this world but to protect us and guide us as we carry the Word to the world We will face rejection hatred ignorance even abuse for our faith We will be laughed at and scorned for our beliefs It is clear that Christian faith demands not just pious prayers but firm action We cannot live out our faith one hour one day a week and then rejoin the world as if nothing has changed Bishop Barron said something along the lines that we are called not so much to modernize the Church but Christify the world We are called to change the world not the message So what can we do today to make that happen Check on the well being of our elderly neighbor Call up a friend or relative that we haven t talked to in a while Send some thinking of you greeting cards to residents in a nursing home How about when we go shopping we buy a couple extra food items and drop them off at a food pantry How about just gathering together as a family for prayer We may be physically isolated at the moment but there are plenty of ways for us to interact with the world Spread the Word 84

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Thursday Seventh Week of Easter Gospel John 17 20 26 Can t We All Just Get Along Renewing Baptismal Vows Jordan River Today Jesus continues His prayer to the Father and He prays for one thing Unity That we all may be one just as He is One with the Father We have heard it before one Lord one faith one Baptism one church Pardon me for saying this but I m not seeing much unity these past few months or even longer We are so at odds with each other politically socially spiritually Everyone seems on edge ready to pick a fight or argue about anything We take sides and then dig in to the point of demeaning the character of others We look for differences instead of appreciating what we have in common We lump people into groups instead of appreciating their uniqueness In short we seem to be doing the exact opposite of what Jesus is praying for Boy do we all need a good infusion of the Spirit How can we ever reach unity The answer I believe is in the nature of Jesus relationship with the Father It is a relationship of love They are united in love And Jesus prayer is that we be one with each other just as Jesus is one with the Father in love Jesus wants us to realize that we are all a gift from God and we are called to share that gift to be that gift to others Do you want unity Do you want us all to get along to treat each other as brothers and sisters as children of God Then we have to build relationships of love just as Jesus and the Father One Lord one Faith one Baptism one Love that unites us all 85

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Friday Seventh Week of Easter Gospel John 21 15 19 Reconciliation Three Peat Peter the Rock Tabgha As Jesus appears to the disciples for almost the last time before His Ascension He asks Peter Do you love me Not once but three times A bit of overkill Maybe not Most scripture scholars suggest that these three statements of faith are meant to balance out Peter s three denials of Jesus on Holy Thursday night Still it seems a bit odd If this was a conversation between a parent and a child or a teenager you can picture the child slowly getting annoyed I answered you once how many times do I have to say it Even Peter gets a bit distressed But this moment shouldn t make us annoyed it gives us hope It tells us that every single time we falter every time we act sinfully God also gives us an opportunity to make things right Every time I act like there is no God no golden rule then God is still there providing us an opportunity to return to His grace At every moment in our life God offers us a chance at reconciliation But words are just the first step Reconciliation also involves action Jesus challenges Peter to show his love by caring for others Feed my lambs feed my sheep It is not enough to say I love you put those words into action 86 Every day we are given the chance to reconcile with the Father to reunite with Him in love and friendship And every day we are given so many chances to act on those words of love to restore our relationship with God and with each other

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Saturday Seventh Week of Easter Gospel John 21 20 25 Me Me Me Salads Jerusalem style Two pieces of pie left on the plate one decidedly bigger than the other Two brothers looking at the pie What could go wrong Mom seizes the moment for a moral lesson You know if Jesus was here He would let his brother choose first So the older brother says to the younger one You be Jesus None of us really wants to be Jesus much less follow Him It s too hard And you know why because deep down we are all too human We think too much of ourselves We envy others We are jealous of others We are selfish and want only what s good for ourselves We think we have to come first We see this in today s Gospel Peter basically is asking Jesus you like him better than me don t you Jesus response so what don t worry about others Don t be jealous Don t be envious Focus on following Me Focus on all I have taught you Love Me and love others Live your life for others and not for yourself It really isn t about getting the bigger piece of pie It s about making sure everyone gets a piece of pie 87

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Sunday Feast of Pentecost Gospel John 20 19 23 Acts of Apostles 2 1 11 What energizes you Your job your family a hobby or favorite pastime What stirs you up gives you life For me it was my ordination my first Mass baptism wedding It was my own wedding birth of our daughter time spent with my grandsons special times like birthdays graduation drive by a simple car ride with philosophy talk What gives you life and energy What is it that changes you from I don t want to do anything but sit and vegetate to let s get going We see that energy that breath of life in today s Gospel Pentecost The Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles in tongues of fire and a rushing wind Upon a group of men who up until today were in hiding fearful for their lives lacking courage A group of men who basically were illiterate uneducated farmers and fishermen from a tiny village country bumpkins far removed from life in the big city And yet look at them now filled with the Spirit energized stirred up to spread the Word converting people from around the known world We celebrate today the end of the Easter Season and the return of Ordinary Time But on this Feast of Pentecost we also celebrate the birthday of the Church This is the beginning when Jesus disciples take up His mission of spreading the Word It is a reminder to us that by our Baptism and Confirmation we have all been filled with the Spirit We have all been given that energy that stirring of our spirit to spread the Word Consider all the time and energy we put in to celebrate a special birthday How much does your faith energize you These are days of unrest and anger of violence and pain of hatred and racial divide of diseases of the body and of the soul Now more than ever we need to remember that we are all temples of the Holy Spirit that we are all filled with the Spirit and today is the birth of our faith Two thousand years later in some ways we are still huddled together in the Upper Room in fear We pray that the Spirit renew us and renew our troubled world We pray for the Spirit to energize us to bring peace and understanding to this broken world 88

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Monday Feast of Mary Mother of the Church Gospel John 19 25 34 Help Me Mom Church of St Joseph Nazareth I can t begin to count much less remember all the times my mom has come to my aid when I needed it Caring for me when I was sick helping me with that difficult math homework supporting me when I moved into my first apartment listening to me when life got difficult protecting me when I fell and skinned my knee Most of the time it was a dirty thankless job but she did it anyway and she never looked for thanks or recognition She did it all out of love We celebrate today the Feast of Mary Mother of the Church It is a reminder to us all that Mary is not only Jesus Mother but our own Today s Gospel tells us the same story At the cross Jesus tells John that Mary is now his mother and he is her son By extension we have all become Mary s children and Mary truly is Mother of the Church And if we run to our own mothers in times of trouble times of pain and anguish so too are we called to run to Mary to pray for her intercession in times when our soul needs comfort and encouragement Certainly during these past few days of violence and unrest of fear for one s safety and well being at a time when we pray for guidance and leadership we call to Mary Help us to heal our wounds hear us in this troubled time support our worried souls and be with us as we search for meaning and peace Aho 89

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Tuesday Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 12 13 17 We are All in the Same Boat Sea of Galilee Hypocrites They say one thing with smiles and mean something completely opposite They praise us to our face and demean us behind our back They look for ways to trip us up and make us look foolish They are our best friend and our worst enemy They are the Pharisees in today s Gospel looking for a way to discredit Jesus and make Him look foolish They try to put Jesus in an awkward position when they ask whether to pay the Roman tax But Jesus response puts them in their place Give to man what belongs to man and to God what belongs to God He leaves it to them to answer their own question During this time of violence and fear this time of disrespect and lack of common decency God leaves it to US to answer the same question What do we owe to our fellow man What do we owe to each other Respect Equality The right to a decent job and a fair wage The right to worship freely The right to be treated justly and not discriminated against by the color of our skin or our ethnic origin The right to be treated the same way we want to be treated Not as animals but as human beings with dignity honor and justice To treat each as members of one family as children of God And what do we owe to God How about everything Our life our livelihood our family our friends our world Everything And if that is really true if it is something we really believe then we should be treating all of God s gifts with the respect and love and the dignity they deserve We should remember that all that God has given us is not our own to do with as we like We are caretakers of this earth We are members of one human family Respect it Nurture it Love it 90 Someone said recently that the definition of racism is telling the Creator that He made a mistake That is not the Spirit of Creation Our God is a God of love He is our Father Jesus reminds us again and again God is the source and summit of all life And we His children are called to live with Him and each other in a relationship of love and respect

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Wednesday Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 12 18 27 One Bride for Seven Brothers Ruins in Magdala Hypocrisy Round Two Today it s the Sadducees turn to try and get under Jesus skin by asking a ridiculous question about heaven What if a woman ended up marrying seven men brothers Then who is she married to when she gets to heaven Let s be clear the Sadducees don t even want an answer from Jesus they just want to make Him look foolish They don t even believe in a resurrection And that I think is the point Their only focus is on this life They believe there is nothing after death They believe that any reward or punishment happens to us in this life not the next So they can only conceive of heaven in human terms in terms of marriage and human love Jesus sets them in their place He simply says there is no marriage or getting married in heaven What He means is that heaven is so completely beyond this human existence so completely beyond anything we can imagine It is living so totally in the presence of God that simple human desires are trivial We think we know what love is Jesus says wait until you get to heaven Then you will know real love We think we know what happiness is just wait So if the fears and anxiety of these past few months are getting to you to us all and there seems to be no end of bad news and hypocrisy and outright bigotry just wait Remember Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life 91

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Thursday Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 12 28 34 Love is the Answer and the Question Chapel at Cana Finally A Pharisee asking Jesus an honest question and actually agreeing with His answer There are 616 precepts in Jewish Law and asking Jesus which one is the greatest is probably asking for trouble Jesus answer perfectly sums it all up Why obey all those precepts Love love is the answer I obey the law because I love the lawgiver God Because I want the relationship to be strong and to flourish It s that love of a parent for a child the willingness to get up in the middle of the night to give them a glass of water even though you were sleeping soundly It s a love that goes out of its way to comfort them when they are sick or skinned their knee It s a love that joyfully shares in their laughter even when you have a long list of jobs to do around the house It is a love that is active self less and expansive It is love that goes way beyond words and is expressed in how I live my life how I treat others It is a love where I lose my self my selfishness and ego because I am so devoted so focused on the good of another That means love is more than just a feeling more than just another emotion Love is a way of life It is taking the infinite love we have received from God and sharing it with others It is a love that is expressed not merely in words but with our mind our heart our soul our entire being Love really is the answer 92

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Friday Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 12 35 37 Scratching My Head Street Scene Bethlehem You ever have the experience of going to a teacher to get them to explain something they said in class And you walk away even more confused and even more filled with questions than you did before Yes I know many of my students had that happen when I talked about the chair Even my grandsons are like please don t go there you re making my head hurt In many ways throughout the Gospels Jesus does exactly that He challenges us makes us think and not just blindly swallow whatever He is saying His parables always end with an unexpected twist that no one sees coming He challenges us to rethink what it means to love to be a neighbor how to treat our enemies Sometimes most of the time even the disciples are confused and have to ask Him later can you explain that to us This is a short Gospel reading only 2 verses And yet I am scratching my head The scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David but David calls the Christ LORD So which is it How can it be both Jesus offers no answer or explanation It is left to the crowd to consider what He meant It is left to us to believe but that doesn t necessarily mean to understand In the end Jesus reminds us that following Him is not just simple lip service It is following Him with our whole heart our whole mind and soul Saying yes to Jesus is not just words but actions It may be at times scratching my head in wonder But it is always trusting in Jesus that He knows the way 93

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Saturday Ninth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Mark 12 38 44 The Gift of Life Praying at the Wailing Wall the Temple This long period of staying at home has in some ways cut down on our spending Less driving less money spent on gas No dining out No date nights at the movies No mornings at the coffee shop And it s not just about making do with what you have It s not just about consolidating our shopping trips It s about suddenly having the time to really think about what I want and what I really need It s about realizing what s really important in our lives and what things we can just discard Besides all the house cleaning top to bottom and the sorting out of all the stuff we have accumulated over the years it has been a time to really appreciate all we have and to realize how little we really need It has been a time to recognize and contribute to those organizations that really help the poor the homeless the hungry the disenfranchised the belittled and the ignored Today s Gospel has the familiar story of the poor woman praying in the Temple who gives what little she has back to God What s important to her is not what she doesn t have but what she does What matters to her is giving back to God in thanks for the simple gift of life She sees that her real wealth lies in her capacity to love to express her gratitude to God through generosity to others 94 God in His infinite love gave each of us the gift of life Every day we have the chance to express our thanks our love How do you plan to thank God today How do you plan to use this gift of life

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Sunday Feast of the Most Holy Trinity Gospel John 3 16 18 God Above Beside Within Us Sunrise Today we celebrate the Feast of Holy Trinity a key church doctrine three Persons in one God Father Son and Holy Spirit one of the great mysteries of our faith We hear in today s readings a description of those 3 persons The First ReadingGod the Father the Creator and Law Giver The God so far above us all that we bow down before Him in reverence and obedience The Second Reading the Holy Spirit God who brings us peace and love and fellowship The Spirit or encouragement inside all of us by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation And the Gospel God the Son Jesus Christ who took on human form to redeem us of our sins and lead us to eternal life Jesus who walked the same earth as all of us Essentially the Trinity is a relationship the love between father and son and a love so intense that it is embodied in the Holy Spirit A relationship that through Baptism has included us as children of God brothers and sisters of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit a relationship that grows and develops as we grow and develop In simplest terms we can see the Trinity in this way God the Father above us creating us guiding us and teaching us right and wrong reminding us of when we falter the just judge loving us even when we mess up just like a father God the Son beside us Jesus who shared in this earthly life who walked and sat together with his disciples and shared a meal God the Holy Spirit within us coming upon the disciples at Pentecost filling us and them with love and the fire of faith In some ways it reminds me of the relationship between a father and his children a relationship of love a relationship that grows and changes over time It reminds me of my relationship with my dad God the Father above us Literally as a child looking up to the father who created me Literally as a child looking to my dad for understanding right from wrong I was not always the most obedient of sons there were plenty of times when I would test the limits of my Dad s patience and get into trouble All it took was for my mom to say wait until your dad get home My dad was not only the creator of the rules he was also the enforcer the judge And judgement was always swift and effective 95

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God the Son walking beside us Later in life when my grandmother passed away and I saw my Dad cry for the very first time It gave me the opportunity to grieve with him to comfort him to stand with him in his sorrow no longer as a child but as a friend God the Spirit within us I remember gathering with my Mom and family for the first family dinner after my Dad passed away and taking his chair at the dining room table I proceeded to tell a string of my corny jokes and I suddenly realized in that moment that I sounded just like Dad And I realized that from that moment on I carry him with me inside He is always with me guiding me inspiring me encouraging me If that is the love between a human father and child just imagine the love of God the Father for us his children We are loved by him unconditionally By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation we are all sons and daughters of God brothers and sisters of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit God above us God beside us God within us 96

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Monday Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 1 12 Go Tell it on the Mountain This is an all too familiar Gospel reading the Beatitudes Whenever my Scripture classes got to this passage I always joked that these should be the A attitudes not the B attitudes These are the ideal of how we should act Yeah I know corny But consider today not just WHAT Jesus says today consider WHERE He preaches On a mountain top That should be a familiar setting After the Flood Noah and the ark settle on Mount Ararat where Noah offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God Abram takes Isaac to the mountain top to sacrifice him and instead God extends to Abram the first covenant It is on Mt Sinai that God give Moses the tablets of the Law The Jews went up to Jerusalem to the Mount to worship in the Temple Many times Jesus went off to a mountain to be alone and to pray Mountains were always considered sacred places to pray places to physically get close to God So when Jesus preaches the Beatitudes in today s Gospel from the mountain top it is God speaking to His people instructing them on how to live and how to love The question for you today is where do you go to meet God to talk to Him to pray to Him I am sure most of us will say I go to church But for the past 3 months that has not been an option So where have you been going to pray Where have you been going to listen to God Where is your personal mountain top Your private place for praying When I was praying and prepping to preach for our Mass at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem I ended up finding a quiet corner in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Unfortunately that is not a place available to me on a regular basis And like you church has not been available for me either So I find a quiet place at home sometimes outside with shade and the sound of birds and sometimes it s just comfortably curled up in a chair We are now slowly opening the churches up for Sacraments and for private prayer Soon we will be opening for Mass But in the meantime where do you pray And consider this even when our churches fully open that doesn t mean you have to abandon that personal prayer place you have at home That private space is still there and so is God 97

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Tuesday Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 13 19 Let s Get Cooking Spice Shop in Jerusalem Ginger and I watch a lot of food shows most of them cooking competitions like Top Chef Food Network Star Hell s Kitchen and Chopped And with all of those shows it boggles the mind how often someone gets booted off the competition because their dish lacked flavor because their dish either lacked or needed just another pinch of salt I have to admit I like my share of salt To Ginger s chagrin I am always adding more salt to the dish I recall someone once saying that they would never trust anyone who salted their food before they even tasted it To each his own I guess We tend to forget how important salt was in the ancient world Yes it was used to season food and to enhance or bring out the innate flavor of the dish But it was also used as a preservative At a time of no refrigeration or freezing that was the only way to extend the shelf life of food You salted fish to preserve it for the days when you didn t catch any fish Salt back then was gold 98 We live in a world today that has been dulled by sin ignorance and sheer boredom We see so much violence hatred and outright bigotry that we become used to it at times unaffected by it Today s Gospel reminds us that we are all called to transform that blandness of life to give flavor to our own lives and that of others We are called to preserve our faith and keep it alive and keep it fresh and flavorful And we are also called to spread that faith to bring that same energy and spice to the faith life of others So let s get cooking

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Wednesday Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 17 19 Coming Down the Mountain Mountains Outside Nazareth A little context and background here Jesus has gone up on the mountain to teach the crowd He has given them new commandments such as the Beatitudes and today He bluntly tells them that He is not here to get rid of the old Commandments but to fulfill them Life just got a bit tougher Going up a mountain and giving new laws very clearly remind us of God giving Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai But Jesus goes further and adds the law of love Then in today s Gospel He says in no uncertain terms that doesn t mean you don t need to follow the Commandments any more It s not an either or it s both So for anyone in the crowd hoping for an easy path to heaven sorry not gonna happen Let s face it most of the Commandments are worded in terms of AVOIDING evil Jesus command to love others is about DOING good We are all called to follow both It is not enough to avoid evil we are called to DO good It s about positive action for others We are called to not merely avoid evil we are called to confront it Chances are some people after hearing this walked away from Jesus They thought no this is too hard I was hoping for an easy way Being good being loving to others acting in a loving way is difficult It takes effort and commitment We ve heard His words Now it s time to come down off the mountain and really live out our Christian faith 99

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Thursday St Barnabas Apostle Gospel Matthew 5 20 26 Ch Ch Ch Changes Church of the Nativity Bethlehem Remember all the fights we all got into as kids Arguing yelling pouting walking away in a huff and even physically fighting And remember all the times our parents would drag you all back together make you face each other shake hands and say you were sorry How did that work out for you In today s Gospel Jesus challenges us to go way beyond a simple handshake and a couple of words that carried no real repentance Jesus is calling for real heartfelt soul shaking change Not just in our words or actions but change down to our very soul The Greek word is metanoia And it speaks of a life altering soulsearching turning away from anger and resentment to an attitude of forgiveness and repentance Change is hard none of us like it It is more comfortable to stay the way we are But change is also necessary We hold grudges too easily and too long We like to think I m only mad at that one person and I will never forgive them But in the end that grudge affects all the people around you Our anger at that one person affects us to the core We become closed in on ourselves and we begin to shut everyone out And as long as we hold that anger that unforgiving attitude nothing is going to change Simple words Let It Go Move on The words are simple actually following through now that is hard But that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do Change your mind change your heart Let it go offer forgiveness and reconcile with your brother Otherwise all this built up animosity all this resentment will end up consuming you and ruling your life Ch Ch Ch Changes Let it go 100

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Friday Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 27 32 Stuck Renewing Marriage Vows Chapel at Cana Today s Gospel is filled with all sorts of stark images and language plucking out your eyeball cutting off your arm It s the sort of imagery that seems destined for a very gory movie not suitable for children And yet through it all there are notes of tenderness and compassion words of mercy and grace We are reminded that sin begins not with our actions but with our thoughts our intentions Years ago George Carlin had a comedy sketch about sin Basically he said if you were planning to go downtown to kill someone save your bus fare you ve already committed the sin A bit stark but there is truth here sin exists when we deliberately intend to do something we know is wrong But that also means that virtue begins with our intentions as well Good begins in our heart with what we plan to do Whether we are talking about sin or virtue intentions matter And then Jesus speaks on marriage and divorce Again intentions matter Marriage demands that we really think long and hard before the ceremony And when difficulties arise and they will we choose to work together to resolve them not run away at the first sign of a problem Ginger and I in a couple of months will be celebrating 46 years of marriage Through it all she has one single word for this union of ours STUCK We are stuck together Can I tell you a secret I don t feel stuck at all I feel united I feel loved I feel that both of us years ago deliberately intended to do something good to step away from ME and work on becoming US Through it all it has been about our intentions not merely our actions Through it all we have basically worked to renew our marriage vows every day Every day we are STUCK Lovingly gratefully intentionally STUCK 101

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Saturday Tenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 33 37 Yes or No St Peter in Gallicantu Cock Crowing Church Jerusalem Especially when we were little we all had that experience of getting caught with our hands in the cookie jar or chocolate all over our face The broken vase is on the floor and we are standing right there The wall is covered with child like drawings and the crayon is in our hand Caught red handed And yet when mom or dad asked did you do this we quickly answered Nope not me Denial Complete and utter denial must have been the wind Why is it so hard to admit our sins Why is it so easy to be dishonest Even when the evidence is plain as day we refuse to admit to our mistakes Jesus keeps it simple and direct in today s Gospel let your yes mean yes and your no mean no Be honest Be honest with yourself and be honest with others Consider all the time and effort it takes to lie the elaborate stories we weave the memorizing of the story to keep all the facts straight Remember all the stories we concocted for getting home late and how proud we were of convincing our parents of the truthfulness of our story What an effort and all to avoid the truth all to avoid responsibility Too often we are great storytellers Jesus challenges us today to be great truth tellers 102

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Sunday Feast of Corpus Christi Gospel John 6 51 58 It s the Real Thing Mass at Bethlehem My watch stopped working a couple of weeks ago But because of corona I had to wait even longer just to take it in to get fixed That may not seem like such a big deal but that watch is 50 years old it belonged to my Dad and since his death I have worn it faithfully every single day I also wear a ring on my right hand a class ring But not mine it was also my dad s for his 1939 high school graduation It is 81 years old Both of them are a constant reminder to me of my dad our relationship and all the memories I have of him They give me a feeling that my dad is still here with me guiding me and encouraging me But in the end the watch is not my dad the ring is not my dad They are reminders they are symbols memories of the past But it s not the same as having him right here beside me I m holding an unconsecrated host simple unleavened bread nothing more But in a few moments at Mass it will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Not symbolically It s not just a symbol not just a memory not just a reminder of the Last Supper It truly becomes Jesus Body and Blood It is real We celebrate today the Feast of Corpus Christi the Body and Blood of Christ The Eucharist the gift of real spiritual food that feeds our souls All our readings today speak of God s gift to His people the gift of manna in the desert to Moses and the Hebrews Jesus proclaiming Himself the Living Bread that has come down from heaven all who eat of it will live forever The cup of blessing and the bread we break They all speak to us of God s great love and care for us It speaks of a great exchange of gifts 103

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God created all life human and animal and plants He created the wheat in the field and the grapes on the vine And He gives it all to us to care for and to help it flourish And what do we do we take that wheat and grapes and change them into bread and wine We then offer it back to God as we present the gifts at Mass And what does God do He takes that bread and wine and transforms them into His Body and Blood and offers it back to us to sustain us on our spiritual journey to eternal life What a gift A couple of years ago we had a group of French visitors to the St Kateri Center We celebrated Mass with them And I will never forget the experience of ministering Holy Communion to them The quiet awe and reverence they showed The prayerful care they took as they took the Host in their hands There was no rush no hurriedness to just get the Host and get back to their pew This was no assembly line or group racing to get their food It was meditative prayerful reverent as if they were receiving Communion for the very first time For the past three months we have been separated from friends and family from our livelihood and even our income from simple pleasures of going to the movies or a restaurant or the park or the library Separated especially from the Mass and Sacraments We have been separated from the Eucharist from the Body and Blood of Christ My hope my prayer is that as we transition back to attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist we come with the same reverence the same piety and hunger for the Eucharist that we saw in those French visitors And may we never ever take Holy Communion for granted May we always remember and BELIEVE that what we receive in the Eucharist is not some symbol or memory but truly the Body and Blood of Christ 104

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Monday Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 38 42 Hit Me Baby One More Time Walking the Via Dolorosa Jerusalem If we look back on our childhood most of us will remember all the times we got into a fight sometimes just verbal sometimes out and out physical Sometime we won sometimes we lost Sometimes we came away bloodied and defeated sometimes we gave as good as we got Through it all we probably forgot why we were fighting in the first place only the fight itself But we do remember that at the start we had a choice We could either fight or run That was it or so we thought In today s Gospel we realize there really is a third option We hear the familiar words of Jesus to turn the other cheek I always pictured this scene as the height of cowardice to just stand there and take it to do nothing I saw this as utter passivity cowardice But it s not It is an act of defiance I could just run away essentially try and avoid the situation Or I could give back to the aggressor exactly what they are giving me violence What Jesus says is to stand there look them in the eyes and give them the chance to really think about what they are doing without resorting to violence Peaceful non violent protest Gandhi learned that lesson Martin Luther King learned that lesson Rosa Parks learned that lesson This is not about being passive this is about standing strong in the face of violence and hatred It s about giving the other person a chance to think about what they re doing to consider the consequences of their actions It s about standing up against aggression hatred bigotry and racism and saying I am not going to fight according to your rules and I am not going to run away from the problem Stand up for what you believe in Be courageous Be forgiving Be strong Be Christ like 105

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Tuesday Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 5 43 48 Enemy Mine Synagogue in Capernaum Who s your biggest enemy That co worker who is always trying to undercut your efforts That family member who always treats you like you were 9 years old That former best friend who betrayed your deepest secrets That parent who just doesn t understand you Enemies we all have them or so we think They vex us torment us and make us think of sad and hurtful times They refuse to forgive and move on they harp on the past and treat us like we will never grow up And yet in the end I have to admit that my greatest enemy is myself My greatest enemy is my refusal to move on to let go It s that attitude of seeing others as how I choose to see them and not as they really are We spend our lives focusing on what makes us different and not on what we have in common We put people into categories we play Goldilocks They are either too big or too small one color or another one gender or another one culture or another We keep looking for people who are just right not too hot and not too cold And then we get upset when someone does the same to us We keep focusing on the differences Ask ourselves this question did Jesus have any enemies Sure there were plenty of people who considered Him an enemy But was there anyone He considered an enemy much less treated them as an enemy Not really If there was then His sacrifice on the cross was meant for only a select few And do we really believe that He forgave the thief on the cross he forgave His executioners He forgave His disciples who denied Him deserted Him and betrayed Him Someone once said that racism is telling the Creator that He made a mistake I can t believe that I won t believe that Jesus challenges us in today s Gospel to love our enemies to love everyone Is that hard of course It means we need to stop looking at what separates us to stop looking at our differences and to look at what we all have in common The sun rises on all of us good and bad The rain falls on all of us just and unjust We are all children of God the Creator made each and 106 every one of us And the Creator does not make mistakes

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Wednesday Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 6 1 6 16 18 It s Not Just for Lent Anymore If today s Gospel sounds familiar you would be correct Barely 4 months ago we heard this same Gospel reading It was Ash Wednesday and the intent was obvious We were entering a time of self reflection and penitence in preparation for the events of Holy Week So why now Why do we have to hear this now Perhaps it s a reminder that prayer fasting and almsgiving are not just Lenten practices Perhaps these religious disciplines are meant for all of us all the time Scary You mean I should pray every day Fast every day Take care of others every day And even more troubling I have to do it for the right reasons Not for show but out of love So in this time of isolation and stay at home how is that going for ya Are you praying more Fasting more Giving more We certainly have more time on our hands How are we using it Are we leaving ourselves some quiet time just for ourselves and the Creator Maybe in the morning with that first cup of coffee and watching the beauty of a sunrise Maybe at the end of the day when we turn off the TV and reflect back on the events of the day And what about fasting Are we cutting down on our food intake Chances are we are doing the exact opposite Most of us have heard about the college Freshman 15 It s normal for a teenager to pack on an extra 15 pounds that first year of college Anyone experiencing a Covid 15 Are we eating more snacking more And how am I supposed to give to others when I am so separated from everyone Consider this we all have more time on our hands these days Perhaps this is an opportunity to reflect on all we have all we should be grateful for And then how about making the effort to clean out the excess stuff in our house to donate to worthy causes How about making the time to send off a donation to that food pantry or shelter whose work we admire and applaud Prayer Fasting Almsgiving It s not just for Lent anymore 107

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Thursday Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 6 7 15 It s All in the Name Dad Ever notice how a name what we call someone speaks volumes about our relationship with them Sometimes formal and aloof sometimes affectionate sometimes comical and relaxed When I was little I always called my father Father It was formal respectful and reflected a very proper sort of relationship It reflected my view of him as a rock steady and strong As life went on though that relationship changed and I began to call him Dad and our greetings always included a warm hug The Jews in the Old Testament and in Jesus time had a name for God Yahweh It was the name God called Himself with Moses at the burning bush It was and is a word that Jews will never speak out loud It is a word of reverence and respect like a subject for their king It speaks of a relationship of obedience and awe for someone I am not worthy to even call by name But then Jesus comes along and in today s Gospel turns everything on its head He tells us to call God Abba when we pray Let s be clear Abba does not mean Father It means daddy It s the word a little child uses for their father It s a word full of love and affection It speaks of a new and different relationship that Jesus calls us to God is closer to us than a king to his people God is our dad He loves us like a dad He cares for us guides us and protects us like a dad Relationships It s all in the name 108

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Friday Solemnity of Sacred Heart of Jesus Gospel Matthew 11 25 30 Out of the Mouths of Babies Walking the Streets of Jerusalem Many years ago when our daughter was barely two or three years old we went to visit my Papa who was very sick We knew it was probably the last time we would have the chance to see him before he passed What amazed me during our visit was that Jaime seemed to go out of her way to get Great Papa to help her get her dressed tie her shoes that sort of thing It was something that I hadn t seen her do before It was like she was building up memories for her for him who knows A few months later he passed away and after we returned home from the funeral I spent many a sleepless night grieving his loss One night as I sat there wide awake and teary eyed Jaime comes in and climbs into my lap She asked me why I was crying and I told her I miss Papa She looked at me and simply said you don t need to cry Papa is in heaven Out of the mouths of babies Today s Gospel speaks of the need for us all to become like little children God has revealed Himself not to the wise but to the child like Truth be told as we grow we all become a bit jaded cynical we seem to develop this hard shell where we keep the world out and our emotions inside Jesus reminds us today that we need to become like that little child We need to keep that sense of wonder that feeling of looking at things for the first time fresh and clean and new We need to take the time to stand in awe of the simple things like a newly blossomed flower the beauty of a rainbow the touch of a loving hand Yes that means stop and smell the flowers But that also means we need to let go of our burdens to lighten our load to not get so wrapped up in the stressed of life that we miss the obvious God loves us We need to take on some of that selflessness that a child possesses and move away from our own ego and self importance Take that weight off your shoulders and find that child within 109

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Saturday Memorial of Immaculate Heart of Mary Gospel Luke 2 41 51 A Journey of Faith Church of St Joseph Nazareth Pardon for a moment my warped sense of humor today s Gospel recounts the story of Jesus being lost in the Temple And I keep getting this image of Mary and Joseph praying to God You know that Son of yours Um we lost Him Okay moving on Those of us who are parents have probably had a moment when we turned around in the grocery store for just a moment and we lost sight of our little one The panic the fear that empty feeling in the pit of our stomach where did he go Now imagine Mary and Joseph going through that for 4 days And imagine their joy and relief at finding Him In the end this was not merely a journey to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover It was not just a journey to find Jesus And it was not just a journey back home to Nazareth It was a journey of faith For Mary and Joseph this was the first glimpse of Jesus true nature His divinity This was their first realization that He was more than just a carpenter s son This was a journey of faith It is a journey that we all take That journey of faith will have moments of joy and moments of great sadness and pain It is personal and life long It involves loss and sorrow doubt and reawakening It is a journey that brings great rewards and tremendous sacrifice At times we will feel lost and abandoned But in the end that journey leads us 110 all home

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Sunday Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 26 33 Scary Thoughts Masada Judean Desert I have a question for you What are you afraid of What is it that sends a chill down your spine and leads to sleepless night and stressed out days For some of us it s a fear of heights fear of flying enclosed spaces fear of the unknown maybe it s spiders or snakes or maybe a fear of the darkness When our daughter Jaime was growing up she was not all that comfortable with going to sleep at night We had a whole routine to go through every night so that she would feel safe After the bedtime stories we had to check under her bed open the closet door and shoo out of the room all the monsters lurking in the darkness We left her door open just a bit and we kept a light on in the hallway That pretty much did the trick to calm her fears We all have fears and that is what Jesus speaks about to us in today s Gospel Do Not Fear Be Not Afraid It is the most repeated phrase in the entire Bible Some scholars apparently with a lot of time on their hands have said that the phrase is repeated 365 times throughout the New and Old Testament 365 times I can t believe that is just a coincidence One for every day of the year A reminder to us not to be afraid no matter what the situation no matter what day God is always with us No matter what we are afraid of no matter how hopeless we feel no matter what stresses we are dealing with we are not alone I know we find that hard to believe I know we all still stress I know we all have had days and situations that we thought we would never survive But think about it All those days we thought we thought we were completely alone that we would never make it out alive when everything seemed hopeless Looking back now we did survive we did make it despite all of our worst fears And if truth be told we realize now that we couldn t have gotten through it all by ourselves all on our own Someone had to have been watching over us looking out for us calming our fears and reminding us that we were never alone That was God Our Father in Heaven Unfortunately too often we seem to recognize God s presence AFTER the fact and not during the crisis For example I remember when I was little and my parents took us all to the movies But it wasn t any cute Disney movie it was a horror movie THE FLY And I was terrified I kept asking to go to the bathroom not for the normal reason but so I could avoid watching the movie Eventually my dad figured out what was going on and told me NO MORE Sit next to me and stay put I thought 111

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I was being punished But when the next scary scene happened and I cringed in fear my dad took his hat and simply covered my face until the scene was over He continued to do that throughout the rest of the movie But it s only now that I realize how much he was looking out for me protecting me calming my fears being with me at a difficult time How he was there for me when I was afraid Today we celebrate Father s Day We celebrate our dads and all those father figures in our lives All those men who stood beside us guided us protected us in times of fear and worry all those fathers who told us time and again don t be afraid you are not alone Whether they are still here with us physically or remain in our hearts and memories they continue to tell us I am with you always And if that was my experience of my father how much more so Our Father in heaven who reminds us today and every day Fear Not You are not alone you are right at home You are worth so much more than you can imagine And I am with you always It s the same feeling the same love that we hear in a song I came across recently Close your eyes lay your head down Now it s time to sleep May you find great adventure As you lie and dream If you re scared of the darkness I will calm your fear There s a light in the hallway So you know I m here So count your blessings every day It makes the monsters go away And everything will be okay You are not alone You are right at home Goodnight goodnight 112

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Monday Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 7 1 5 Dirty Laundry Along the Jordan River I know I have used this story before but given today s Gospel it bears repeating A young married couple are sitting in the kitchen of their brand new home having breakfast The wife looks out the window and sees her neighbor hanging her laundry on the clothesline That laundry isn t clean she said it s still dirty Someone should teach her how to wash her clothes She has a lot to learn This happens again a few days later and again a few days after that Each time the wife complains about the neighbor and her dirty laundry Finally one morning she looks out the kitchen window and in surprise she says Wow someone must have taught her how to wash clothes someone must have finally said something to her Her husband looks up at her and says No dear actually I got up early this morning and washed our window Don t judge unless you want to be judged Quit finding the fault in others and not see the same faults in ourselves I guess it s human nature that in finding fault in others we raise ourselves in stature above them At least I know how to get my laundry clean At least I m not like them We pump ourselves up in pride and egotism by looking down on others We are so good at finding fault in others that we miss the same failings in ourselves And perhaps even worse all the time and energy we spend in judging others ends up being time we should have spent in loving others How can we possibly help others with their problems when we turn a blind eye to our own How about we spend a bit of time today cleaning some of our own dirty laundry 113

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Tuesday Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 7 6 12 14 It Ain t Easy Being Christian Door of Humility Bethlehem I consider myself a half way decent handyman not great but I manage I try to get things done get things fixed And during this time of isolation I certainly have had the time to tackle my honey do list But on occasion I try to cut corners to do a quick patch job and then I pay for it farther down the line I slap some paint on a window sill but neglect to scrape and prime the area first And then months later that same sill needs painting again after my quick job flakes away We all wish life was easy manageable predictable but that just isn t the case Life is hard living is hard And any attempt to rush through it ends up eventually slapping us in the face Snap out of it This is what Jesus addresses in today s Gospel We all have one task to be Christian to treat others the way we want to be treated But too often we rush to complete the task Too often we think we have better things to do Too often we choose to take the wide gate Take a good look at today s photo This is the entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Do you see the entrance It s that little dark square roughly in the center of the picture That doorway entrance is only 4 feet high and 2 feet wide The only way to enter the Church is to bow to crouch down That s why it s called the Door of Humility If you really want to enter you have to make an effort 114 Jesus tells us we have a choice the easy way or the hard way the wide gate or the narrow one We all wish life was easy we all hope for an uncomplicated life But as they say the only reward in taking the easy way is that it s easy Jesus reminds us today that being Christian living a life of love and service to others is not easy But the reward is eternal life

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Wednesday Nativity of St John the Baptist Gospel Luke 1 57 66 80 We Are Called Jordan River We are called How would you finish that sentence Some of us would answer with our name and perhaps how we came by that name I am called Bill first born son named after my father And then since we share that name in common I could speak about how much alike my dad and I are in action and temperament with our namesake Such a conversation reveals a lot about who we are where we have come from and our connection with the past We celebrate today the Birth of John the Baptist It is his mother Elizabeth who insists that he will be called John not Zechariah like his father He will be called John even though no one else in the family has that name He will be unique But there can another meaning to that phrase And it speaks not to the past but to the future We are called Isaiah in the first reading was called called to be a prophet called to be God s spokesman St Paul in the second reading was called called to spread the Word to the Gentiles And John the Baptist was called to be a voice crying out in the desert to proclaim a baptism of repentance and the coming of the Messiah This other calling speaks not of the past but of the future what we are called to become We are all called Called by a name that reflects our connection to our family to our shared past But we are also called by name by God to move forward to proclaim in our own way the Word of God in our words in our actions in our relationships with others We are all called What are you called What are you called to be 115

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Thursday Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 7 21 29 Walking the Walk Entrance to Church of Holy Sepulchre Time for a short trip in the Way Back Machine with Sherman and Mr Peabody Did you clean your room Did you do your homework Did you put your dirty dishes in the sink Did you take out the garbage Shall I go on We all know the answer to those questions and we all know it s the same YES Yes of course I did Or at least that was the answer until we got caught And then we had to actually DO the work That is what Jesus is talking about in today s Gospel It s not enough to say the words It s not enough to make grand speeches or to proclaim what a wonderful person or Christian we are We are called to ACTION Don t just say the words act on them Don t just call yourself a Christian live a Christian life It s not enough to talk the talk we have to walk the walk So excuse the brief reflection I have a pile of dirty dishes to clean 116

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Friday 12th Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 8 1 4 Father Knows Best Chapel at Mt Tabor At some point in our lives we have probably had that unfortunate experience of wanting something a bit too much Maybe it was a toy a new bike fancy sneakers whatever And we were willing to do anything to get it even throw a nice little tantrum in public to get our point across I did that once for a bright red sweater that I thought I just had to have And I sulked and pouted in the store until I got what I wanted Not very proud of that In the end I probably only wore that sweater a couple of times before I got tired of it In today s Gospel we have a leper who only wants one thing to be cured But his approach is not that of a little kid First of all He approaches Jesus Jesus performs a lot of miracles in the Gospels but the majority of the time it is Jesus approaching the afflicted person And yet here it is the leper who approaches Jesus He is an outcast shunned by the people expected to keep his distance Imagine the courage and faith involved for him to go to Jesus in public Imagine the humility in recognizing his own suffering and asking for help But it s what happens next that really sets this miracle apart He simply and calmly does 2 things He first pays homage to Jesus He worships Him and acknowledges Him as Lord And then he simply says If it is Your will You can make me clean He doesn t demand that Jesus cure him He doesn t beg for it to happen He doesn t cause a scene just to get what he wants It is a simple request acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and that His will is greater than anything It is a recognition that as much as he would like to be cured he leaves it all in the hands of God He sees that Father Knows Best That is real prayer 117

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Saturday Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 8 5 17 Words Words Words Nazareth Synagogue Words They can cut to the heart of the matter or they can cut a relationship in two They can bring comfort hope encouragement support and love But they can also be the source of anger hatred jealousy disinterest and despair They can bring unity and peace or division and resentment They can bring faith and healing We all know this to be true The kind word when we are in pain The words of encouragement from a teacher that emboldens us to move forward The gentle words of a loving parent to ease our moments of hopelessness The Roman centurion in today s Gospel knows the value of words And he believes in the power of Jesus His faith in Jesus is so strong that for him all it takes is just a word from Jesus and he knows that his beloved servant is healed He doesn t need to have Jesus come to his home Just tell me he is healed and I believe 118 Words and faith go hand in hand Words literally mean nothing to us unless we trust the person who is speaking them Words and faith Words have the power to heal to give us hope to wipe away our tears and lead us out of the darkness How much more so then the Word of God

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Sunday Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 37 42 The Cost Rewards of Discipleship I m holding in my hand a simple piece of paper barely bigger than an index card It s a mini golf scorecard and it s 47 years old At the time the game itself probably cost only about 6 Certainly a lot less than you would pay today So the cost today doesn t seem like much But for me all that time ago it was a wealth of money So it cost me a lot But the rewards of the card Well that is priceless This was one of the first dates Ginger and I went on And who would have guessed how that would turn out All the memories we have shared painful and joyful All the times we have shared together and the people who have touched our lives Priceless Cost and reward Two vastly different concepts but they play a key role in all of today s readings In the first reading a rich woman goes out of her way to set aside a room just for the prophet Elisha The cost for her probably not much But the reward She saw in Elisha a good man a prophet a holy man of God And she was rewarded with a son in her old age In the second reading Paul reminds us all that if we are baptized into Christ then we are also baptized into His death and just as we are buried with Him so too we will be raised with Him to life eternal Cost and reward And in the Gospel we are confronted with that stark saying if you want to be My disciples you must take up your cross and follow me But to do that we must commit ourselves to Christ and to the mission It means we need to set some priorities It means that it will cost us It doesn t mean that we abandon our family It means that we don t allow ourselves to become so attached to this life that we miss the big picture the Kingdom of Heaven Love your parents love your children and love God Will there be suffering Will we experience pain and loss and grief Of course But remember this the COST is temporary The value the reward is eternal And for anyone asking the really important question Ginger beat me in that first miniature golf game 53 62 Ouch That cost me 119

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Monday Feast of Sts Peter and Paul Gospel Matthew 16 13 19 Who are You Who are you No I don t mean the theme song from CSI I mean if someone asked you who you are how would you answer Some would respond simply with their name Others might say I m a father a wife a son grandma cousin friend Still others might say teacher police officer carpenter lawyer nurse student bus driver web designer athlete No matter what the answer each response speaks of a relationship a connection to others Each response ties us to others in unique and personal ways None of us live in isolation we all live in relationship with others Jesus asks a similar question in today s Gospel Who do people say I am Some say John the Baptist reborn or Elijah or Jeremiah or a prophet Jesus then asks who do YOU say I am And it s Peter who responds You are the Christ the Son of the Living God Peter s answer is one of faith But it also a recognition of Jesus relationship to us You are the Christ the Messiah OUR Savior You are the SON of God It is an answer that reflects relationships Jesus is not just God He is OUR Savior He is OUR Brother Just as we define ourselves by our relationships so too Jesus is recognized by His relationship with us It is a relationship of love and affection a family connection It is probably a relationship we tend to take for granted For example did we think to add child of God or Jesus brother sister to our response to who are you Why Why not We celebrate today the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul two completely different individuals Peter was a poor uneducated fisherman living off the sweat of his brow He was hard headed and didn t always understand what Jesus was saying he kept asking Him to explain things Paul was highly educated rich a Roman citizen and a Pharisee who persecuted Jesus followers The two of them did not always get along And yet they had one key thing in common they were brothers in Christ They were committed to spreading the Word of God And they died for their beliefs Who are you Do you consider yourself a child of God How important is that relationship to you Do you live your life spreading the Word How dedicated are you to your Brother Jesus 120

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Tuesday Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 8 23 27 The Storm Inside Stormy Night Tel Aviv Ever been driving in the middle of a snowstorm Roads are iced up and you can barely see ahead of you Windshield keeps fogging up and you can t even tell if you re on the right side of the road Ever been home in the midst of a long and loud thunderstorm The house is shaking and the windows are rattling to the point you think they will break And you keep checking the basement for water Terrifying times that shake you to the core That s where the disciples are in today s Gospel This is no leisurely ride on the Sea of Galilee Storms pop up out of nowhere and this one is terrifying even for the disciples most of whom are fishermen and should be used to it They are scared and fearful for their life And Jesus Well He is sleeping After awakening He rebukes them for being worried for their safety He reminds them that He is right there with them And then He simply calms the sea and the storm subsides Perhaps the lesson is this Jesus was right there The disciples forgot He was right there and they lost faith How often do we do the same thing All the trials all the stresses and hardships that life throws at us all the times when we become hopeless and fearful for our life How could we forget Jesus is right there with us He is always with us Trust in God Trust in Him always being there for us In the midst of the storm have a little faith 121

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Wednesday Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 8 28 34 The Demons Inside Storms over Mount Carmel We are all in some way fighting demons They may be in the form of addictions to alcohol or drugs They may be painful moments from the past that haunt us daily and prevent us from moving forward They may be unhealthy personal relationships that we just don t have the strength to break away from They may be habits that limit our growth and isolate us from our family and friends In yesterday s Gospel Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee Today the journey continues He and the disciples arrive at the land of Gadara the southeastern shore of the Galilee And it is there that He casts out 2 demons Look at it this way Yesterday He calmed the outer storm Today He calms the storm WITHIN His power is over not just the forces of nature but over the destructive elements inside us all We fight these demons every single day every moment And as time goes on we realize we can t maintain this battle all on our own We rely on the love and concern of our family and friends And we have faith that whether the storms are in front of us or inside of us we are not alone He is with us 122 Great Spirit help me today to move beyond my fears my insecurities my doubts my demons Help me to see beyond my faults and failings and appreciate the good within Calm the demons inside of me so that I can be a source of good not only for myself but for others Aho

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Thursday Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 9 1 8 A Helping Hand Magdala Chapel We are all hurting these days whether it s the pain of being apart from our loved ones or the pain of a loss of income or even our job Maybe it s the pain as a parent dealing with our kids stress and their questions about what s going on Maybe it s the stress of missing what used to be so normal and easy going to the store for groceries taking a walk or answering the door Or we worry when we get a cough or our muscles start to ache We are all in pain We are all hurting We all in some way need healing and comfort We see this with the paralyzed man in today s Gospel whom Jesus heals Most often when we hear this story we focus on the paralyzed man But let s change our perspective The only way he meets Jesus the only way he has the opportunity to be cured is because of the kindness of others He can do nothing for himself He has to rely on others to bring him to Jesus That calls for a very healthy dose of compassion and of faith Sickness back then was a sign of sin you avoided that person so you wouldn t get infected And yet people carried him to Jesus out of compassion for his suffering and out of an obvious faith that Jesus would cure him We are all hurting these days You don t have to look too far to see that Are we just going to ignore the pain of others today Are we just going to walk on by and avoid eye contact Or are we going to stop and lend a helping hand Out of compassion and out of a deep faith in the Creator Great Spirit I pray today that you awaken us to the needs of others I pray that you awaken us to what we should be doing for others 123

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Friday Feast of St Thomas Apostle Gospel John 20 24 29 No Doubt The Upper Room Jerusalem Throughout our lives we all have moments where our confidence falters where our faith just seems to disappear It can be our faith in ourselves in others even our faith in God Moments of doubt and disbelief That moment when we have that presentation to give that can make or break our job security That moment of riding our bike for the first time without the training wheels That moment as a parent when you have to just sit quietly and watch your daughter take that first bike ride That moment when we face asking her him to spend the rest of their life together That moment when you wonder what this world has come to violence racism pandemic mistrust unkindness outright hatred anxiety frustration That moment when you are paralyzed with worry and fear about the future We are all human we all have doubts And we worry whether this makes us less in the eyes of the Creator And yet in today s Gospel after Thomas expressed his doubts about Jesus rising from the dead the very first words Jesus says to him is Peace be with you He didn t yell he didn t correct him or sit him down and give him the talk Jesus words were those of calm and compassion He understands He doesn t turn His back on us He doesn t walk away He holds out His hands to us with calm and compassion and love Creator God calm our fears Be with us today and every day Give us peace and comfort in times of worry and fear And help us to be that source of faith and love to others Aho 124

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Saturday Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 9 14 17 Celebrate Irish Singers at the Jaffa Gate The Pharisees in today s Gospel are complaining to Jesus that His disciples do not fast like any fine upstanding Jews Jesus reply is a reminder to us all that even in the midst of fear and sadness we should not avoid celebrating those times of joy those moments in life that call for laughter and child like wonder Happy 4th of July Are you happy Do you really feel like celebrating Is your whole family gathering to celebrate like you ve done in the past We are living in a time of divisive language and rhetoric a time of unrest sickness and fear a time of isolation and dis connectedness We mask our faces and our feelings We distance ourselves from family out of concern for their health and safety What the heck is there to celebrate Jesus reminds us today that there are times when we NEED to celebrate to remind ourselves of who we are and all that we have friends family the gift of life and love the beauty of nature granted by the Creator the freedom to speak our mind and practice our faith the simple gifts of food on the table and a place to lay our heads Maybe this holiday is a different mindset Maybe we can t celebrate WITH our entire family but we can celebrate their presence in our lives Whether it s a 70th birthday on the 3rd hint hint or the 244th birthday of our nation on the 4th don t let the worries of the world stop you from celebrating If for no other reason we all need a moment to smile to appreciate our family and friends to be grateful for the many gifts of the Creator Great Spirit keep me free today free of fear and stress and sadness Bring joy to my heart and gratitude to my soul Aho 125

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 11 25 30 The Little Ones Open Market Jerusalem There s a story about a rather eccentric teacher who was always looking for creative ways to test torture his students Sometimes it was crazy project and sometimes it was a wacky exam that tested not just their knowledge but also their experience So one day he hands out a test typical normal test Q A except this was the last question What s the name of the school janitor One of his students looked at the question and thought I know he s short wears glasses and has light brown hair but how in the world would I know his name So he left it blank and turned in his paper When class was over he went up to the teacher and asked whether that last question would count in the test grade Absolutely said the teacher Throughout your whole life you will find that every person you cross paths with is important significant They deserve your respect your attention and care even if all you do is smile and say hello Everyone is important Everyone is significant 126 In today s Gospel Jesus reflects on the little ones and the belief that God has hidden things from the wise and the learned and revealed them only to these little ones Too often I think we look on those two words as referring to children that out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom

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But perhaps this phrase has a much broader meaning What about all the people that society calls little the unimportant the poor the marginalized the forgotten the ignored the invisible These are exactly the people to whom Jesus directed His mission the poor the sick women the outcasts the gentiles the Samaritans All those who needed to hear the word of God to feel His compassion and His love to appreciate His wisdom These are the people who best understood Jesus words and message These are the people who have no illusions about having wealth or power or influence These are not the wise ones in society who think they have all the answers They are not the self righteous who think they are in control They are the check out clerks janitors the hospital cleaning crew the grocery store worker the animal shelter caregiver They are all the service workers nurses medical assistants EMTs food pantry workers the bus driver the barista at the coffee shop the security guard the hotel maid and restaurant cook the newspaper delivery guy the mailman and the FedEx guy that street corner musician and the baker The sandwich vendor and the kid who mows the neighbor s lawn These are the Little Ones They may struggle to put food on the table but still share with others who have nothing They are willing to give their clothes to someone who seemed to need them more These are the little ones who seem to have gotten the message who share the good news that Jesus came to announce Those are the little ones These are the ones that St Paul speaks of in the 2nd reading those who live not in the flesh but in the Spirit Those in whom the Spirit of God dwells Those who do labor and are burdened but who have put on the yoke of Christ and have found rest Jesus reminds us today Everyone is important Everyone is significant But especially the little ones those faithful un famous people the ones ignored and taken for granted by today s society who have heard the wisdom of God who live by it and show all of us the way to God if we only pay attention The Lord reminds us that He lifts up all who are falling He raises up all who are bowed down The Lord is gracious and merciful slow to anger and rich in kindness good and compassionate to all 127

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Monday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 9 18 26 Touchy Touchy Raising of Jairus Daughter Magdala In today s Gospel we hear of not one but two miracles the cure of the woman with a 12 year hemorrhage and the raising of Jairus daughter In both cases the miracles occur through a simple touch of the hand For the woman it was a touch of faith belief that she could be cured by merely touching Jesus With Jairus daughter Jesus takes her by the hand and brings her back to life Touch A gentle touch of faith a touch of love and compassion a touch of healing and rebirth We all know the value and meaning of such a gesture That pat on the back that encourages That strong handshake of friendship The gentle touch of love on the cheek That two handed touch on the shoulder that imparts comfort and blessing We all know that touch And in this time of pandemic and social distancing we all miss that touch We value it so much more now that it s missing There used to be an old AT T commercial about reach out and touch someone If we haven t already done so maybe this is exactly the time to reach out We are all missing that physical contact that visible sign of friendship love and support And if we are missing it then our loved ones and our family are missing it too So take the time today reach out with a gentle touch let your family and friends know you are thinking of them missing them caring for them Maybe we can t touch their hand but we can still touch their heart Great Spirit I ask you today to help me to be more loving and compassionate to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to others to be a gentle caring person who sees the hurt in others and is willing to be a source of healing and faith Aho 128

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Tuesday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 9 32 38 I Am Tired Site of Nativity Bethlehem Are you tired Worn out Stressed out Do you get up after a fitful night of sleep feeling even more exhausted than the day before We are all feeling it tired of disease of worry of watching the news tired of violence and hatred tired of unconscionable acts of cruelty tired of seeing nothing change tired of people with too many divisive words and not enough healing actions I think we are all feeling that way lately a bit lost sheep looking for a good shepherd We don t often see the human side of Jesus in the Gospels Mostly we see the miracle worker the raiser of people from the dead the healer the teacher the Resurrected Son of God But sometimes like in the Garden of Gethsemane we see His humanity what we share in common with Him And we get a glimpse of that human side in today s Gospel Jesus spends all His time traveling from town on town on foot He teaches in the synagogues He preaches the Kingdom of God and He cures every illness and disease And it never stops the crowds keep coming the poor the sick the lame the neglected they all keep coming with seemingly no end in sight And He welcomes them all He comes across as physically tired and exhausted and yet out of compassion for the abandoned and the troubled He turns no one away He knows they need a shepherd But He also knows that more shepherds are needed He recognizes that there will always be the poor and the sick and the marginalized And so He prays that more laborers more shepherds step up to the task And that is our calling No matter how tired we are there is always someone else who doesn t even have a place to sleep As stressed as we are there is always someone else whose problems and situation are so much worse Great Spirit help me live today with an open heart No matter how tired or worn out I am may I be open to the needs of others open to compassion and service open 129 to the sick and the troubled open to the call of the Creator

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Wednesday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 1 7 You re On the List St Peter s House Capernaum Throughout our lives we end up on a lot of lists Some of them are simple voter registration wedding invitation list seating charts for class tax records basketball team roster Same reflect past accomplishments dean s list honor roll all star roster graduation top girl scout cookie sellers Some speak of the future deacon ordination list wedding party list of company new hires And some lists that we would rather not be on Mom s list detention list Santa s naughty list Good and bad past and future each of them speak of who we are and who we are capable of becoming We read of another list in today s Gospel the listing of the names of the Apostles From our perspective we can look back on their lives and appreciate all that they accomplished from that moment in time they spread the Word they healed and cured they kept the Faith and they died for it But at this moment in time they were just a ragtag bunch of fishermen and farmers and tax collectors a group of nobodies with little education or incentive And yet Jesus specifically chose each one of them He saw something in them that they couldn t see themselves And He gave them a mission to spread the faith That simple list of names established the Church gave us a spiritual goal and direction and it set us all on a path to the Kingdom 130 We too are on a list The Creator has called each one of us by name to spread the Word to be the Word for others He sees in us qualities and abilities that we have not yet realized much less imagined He knows us better than ourselves He knows who we are and what we are capable of becoming Go out then and spread the Word My Creator take my hand and guide me through the day

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Thursday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 7 15 Marching Orders Rosary Procession Nazareth Years ago when I was about to move into my first apartment as a Sophomore at the University of Maryland I can remember my mom and dad giving me a rather lengthy talk on all the things I should shouldn t do in order to survive There were instructions on laundry grocery shopping cooking what I should shouldn t be eating how to spend save my money cleaning and remembering to call them OFTEN I am sure most of you went through something similar in your life At some point we all got our marching orders In yesterday s Gospel Jesus prepares to send His Apostles off to spread the Word Today He gives them their marching orders all the do s and don ts Don t bring any extra clothing no money no walking stick no extra pair of sandals Go out and cure the sick raise the dead drive out demons And wherever you go always greet people with a sign of peace And if people will not accept the Word then just move on and continue the mission We are all called to that same mission Maybe we won t be healing the sick or raising the dead But we are all called to spread the Word to share and live out our Faith And we are all called to do so in peace Peace That should be very familiar to us We share a sign of peace at every Mass although these days it is from a distance And at the very end of Mass when we are sent back out into the world it is with PEACE The Mass is ended go in PEACE Go in PEACE glorifying the Lord by your life That is our mission That is our daily mission Go forth in peace and spread the Good News And remember travel light Great Spirit help me to appreciate the mission you have given me Let my mind be clear to hear your voice and peacefilled to share your word Aho 131

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Friday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 16 23 This is Gonna Hurt A Lot Garden of Gethsemane Jerusalem Nobody likes to go to the doctor s office Besides the fear that something is seriously wrong there is that underlying terror that you are going to hear THOSE words this is going to hurt a little What a lie It never hurt a little it hurt a lot and it kept hurting for hours afterward Today s Gospel continues Jesus marching orders to His disciples as He prepares to send them off to spread the Word So far He has instructed them on what to bring what not to bring what they will be doing and how to approach people in general peace be with you But today is different way different Jesus basically waits til the last minute to add these words to His instructions It is His oh by the way talk He warns them that the world will respond very poorly to their message You will be whipped and abused You will be hauled into court and accused of all sorts of crimes You will be betrayed and your own family will disown you You will be hated and constantly on the run You will be like sheep among wolves Now get going Worst Pep Talk Ever However in the midst of all that doom and gloom Jesus does remind the disciples that the Spirit will be with them to guide and inspire them You are not alone ever That is a good reminder for us all when we feel down or troubled alone and abandoned You are not alone you never have been Creator thank you for the dawn of a new day Each sunrise brings the hope of new life and a renewed spirit Help me to see Your presence in all I do and all I encounter this bright new day Aho On a personal note birthday blessing and best wishes today to my sister Theresa 132

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Saturday Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 24 33 Don t Worry Be Happy Mass at Gethsemane We have been down this road before in an earlier homily Be Not Afraid It is the most repeated phrase in the Bible repeated 365 times one for every day of the year It is a reminder to trust in God to let go and let God And in today s Gospel Jesus speaks these words of comfort just before He sends the disciples on their way just after preparing them for their mission just after speaking frankly to them about how painful this mission will be Don t be afraid Remember that you are precious in the eyes of God Remember that others may hurt your body but not your soul We live in a time of fear fear for our health our future our livelihood We live in a time of uncertainty and stress But if Jesus final words to His disciples before they went off to spread the Word were words of comfort and compassion then maybe those are the same words that should bring us some solace as we face this new day And maybe that can also be our mission today as His followers offer some words some sign of comfort and consolation to someone else today For that family member who is just about to lose it for the neighbor with that stunned blank look on their face that child of ours who is having a meltdown for no particular reason for that spouse who is feeling the weight of too much uncertainty Offer those same words Don t be afraid I am right here with you Creator help me to make this a day to give more than I receive to help and not hinder to create and not destroy 133

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 1 23 Spread the Word The Fields of Galilee Most of you know I have been a high school religion teacher for 40 years So it s not unusual for me to cross paths with some of my former students And it s always a special treat to reconnect with them And that is what happened this week I had the chance to meet up and chat with one of my students We spent almost an hour catching up what s new with her what I m up to and how our respective families have grown over the years But what struck me the most was that moment when she got out of her car and our eyes met She was crying And I m like what s wrong nothing at all just so glad to see you and to thank you for all you ve done for me Sheesh Throughout our conversation she constantly talked about what an influence I had on her not just in high school but through the ensuing years It was humbling embarrassing and uplifting You see she graduated from high school 36 years ago And all this time she remembered all this time I had no idea how much of a difference how much of an effect I had on her life Many of us have had that experience where something we said or did years ago resonated with someone touched them and perhaps changed them 134 The Gospel today is very a familiar one The Sower and the Seed Some fell on rocky ground some on the path some among the thorns and some on fertile soil We know from Jesus explanation to the disciples that the seed is the Word of God the message of salvation And the different soils are the many different people who hear the Word

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Often we reflect on what type of soil we are how open are we to the Word Do we hear it and follow it for just a while and then move on Are we so caught up in the worries of the world that those worries choke the Word out of us Does it take root Does it bear fruit In the process we picture God or Jesus as the sower But let s do something different let s put ourselves in the role of the sower Picture yourself as the one who scatters the seed Every day we scatter the seeds the seeds of faith the seeds of the Word of God Isn t that our calling To be Christian To act Christ like From our perspective the Sower in the parable is a miserable failure 75 of the seed he scatters never takes root never bears fruit But does that really make him a failure Whether he knows it or not some of what he scatters does take root it does blossom and bear fruit And so it is with us Every day we scatter the seed the Word every day by our words our actions and our interactions with others The seed falls where it may and most of the time we never see it take root most of the time we never realize that we are sowing the seed We just sow the seed and move on in life And sometimes unbeknownst to us like that former student of mine something we did something we said takes root and makes a difference in someone else s life We are all called to be Christian we are called to bear witness to the Gospel message we are all called to be sowers of the seed And that is what we are challenged to do today to scatter the seed to spread the Word 135

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Monday Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 10 34 11 1 Been There But Have I Done That Praying in the Church of Holy Sepulchre If you re like me you re reading today s Gospel and it s like wait a minute didn t we just recently proclaim this Gospel As a matter of fact YES two weeks ago thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time On that Sunday I preached about mini golf cards and the cost rewards of being a disciple I spoke of the need to take up the cross I spoke of the need not to abandon parents and siblings but to set priorities in our lives So what now It s been two weeks since that reflection Maybe this is the perfect time to look back on the past two weeks and examine our spiritual journey What s changed Have you changed Have your priorities changed or been adjusted Have you done anything to proclaim to the world that your faith matters Have you given that cup of water to a little child Summer cleaned your house and donated what you don t need to a worthy cause Increased your prayer time Done any spiritual reading Mended any family fences Settled any grudges Forgiven or asked to be forgiven The world certainly has not changed for the better in the last couple of weeks Have you What have you done to lessen your attachment to this world and increased your attachment to the Kingdom This is your two week notice How s it going 136

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Tuesday Feast of St Kateri Tekakwitha Gospel Matthew 25 1 13 Stay Awake Be Prepared St Kateri National Shrine Fonda New York As many of you know besides being stationed at St Robert Bellarmine Parish I also serve as the Permanent Deacon for the Native American community in the Archdiocese of Chicago based at the St Kateri Center at St Benedict Parish on the north side We celebrate today the feast of St Kateri Tekakwitha To give you a little background Kateri was born to an Algonquin Mohawk tribe in upstate New York in 1656 When she was a child smallpox hit her village her mother father and brother all died She survived but the smallpox left her partially blind weak and her face permanently scarred and blistered the rest of her life She often went out in public with a blanket to hide her scars She was adopted by her uncle and at the age of 10 the village was visited by the Black Robes Her encounters with the priests and other Christians and the stories she heard of the Gospel moved her And so at the age of 19 on Easter Sunday she was baptized taking the name Kateri in honor of St Catherine of Siena For that she faced persecution and abuse from her uncle and from the entire village She was called lazy for not working on Sundays She was called a traitor to her roots they accused her of witchcraft and promiscuity and incest She refused to accept marriage and instead dedicated herself to the Catholic Faith Kateri s devotion was total Every morning even in the coldest days of winter she stood before the chapel door until it opened and remained inside the church until after the last Mass She had a great love of the Eucharist and the crucified Christ She helped catechize the young and care for the old You ll see her depicted holding a small cross made of twigs She often would fashion these crosses herself and place them throughout the woods Because of the smallpox her health was always frail and in 1680 she caught a cold and died at the age of 24 Her final words were Jesus I love you Moments after her death it is said her face became luminous and the scars completely vanished On October 21 2012 she became the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church She is venerated today as the patroness of ecology and the environment of those living in exile and all Native Americans The Gospel today tells the story of the 5 wise and the 5 foolish virgins Staying awake staying prepared It s the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it Knowing how to be a Christian and actually living a Christian life 137

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For example knowledge is knowing that zucchini is a fruit a berry not a vegetable Wisdom is NOT putting it into a FRUIT salad Kateri serves as a perfect example of a wise virgin She spent her life in service to Jesus refusing marriage and taking a vow of perpetual virginity In spite of the taunts and persecutions of her village she not only kept the faith she spread the faith by teaching the young caring for the elderly and praying for the conversion of her village I was blessed a couple of years ago to visit her national shrine in upstate New York where I was also honored to deacon that community s Sunday Mass It was there I learned another example of the difference between knowledge and wisdom Just because I am a deacon doesn t mean I know everything Up to that point I had always pronounced her name as KAteri or KaTERI What I learned that day after a great deal of practice and teaching from a group of Mohawk women that the proper pronunciation is GA DA LEE We learn something new every day We hopefully grow every day not only in age but also in faith We pray today for the wisdom of Kateri who like the wise virgins stayed awake to the power of the Spirit and the coming of the Savior into her heart Who by her prayerful life and constant loving service to others prepared all her life for meeting the Creator in the Kingdom And so we pray 138 O Saint Kateri Lily of the Mohawks Your love for Jesus so strong so steadfast pray that we may become like you Your short and painful life showed us your strength and humility Pray that we may become forever humble like you Like the bright and shining stars at night we pray that your light may forever shine down upon us giving light hope peacefulness and serenity in our darkest moments Fill our hearts Saint Kateri Tekakwitha with your same love for Jesus and pray that we may have the strength and courage to become one like you in Heaven Through Christ our Lord Amen

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Wednesday Feast of St Bonaventure Gospel Matthew 11 25 27 God Bless the Child in all of us Walking along a Country Road I don t care how old we are or how old we feel there is something about summers even one as weird and unsettling as this one that brings out the child in all of us We become nostalgic we reminisce and try to recapture those care free times from the past Running through the sprinklers or racing down the slip n slide Chasing the ice cream truck Riding bikes with our friends around the neighborhoods Swinging so high the poles came out of the ground Picking berries and catching fireflies Thanks Teri Family vacations watermelon and lemonade camp fires sunsets on the beach and endless games of catch They were times of innocence and happiness times when we appreciated the value of friendship and family when we listened to stories from Papa and baked with Mom But it is only now that we appreciate the value and the memories of being a child That is what Jesus is talking about in today s Gospel the wisdom of a child When we could see the world around us and appreciate and savor its simplicity and beauty Just recently a friend of mine was dealing with a lot of stress in their life long days and a longer week of work stressed to the max and unable to find a way to let it all go I told her simply get out of the house find a shady place nearby like a garden or park And then just sit down and smell the roses Take the time to appreciate all that the Creator has given us I think it is no coincidence that today s Gospel follows yesterday s observance of St Kateri patroness of the environment Ginger and I ended the day sitting on the deck in the dark burning some sage praying to Kateri and enjoying the quiet and the gentle breeze We all need that time that space to just step away from the stress of the world and be thankful for all the Creator has gifted us Take that time today Remind yourself of that child like innocence and wonder and trust And go catch some fireflies Great Spirit help me to remember to touch the earth Slow me down today Help me to recapture that gentleness and kindness of childhood that trust and wisdom of our elders and that love of you who has given us life Aho 139

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Thursday Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 11 28 30 Share the Load Sharing a Moment We all have our burdens we are all weighed down with cares and stress and worries for ourselves our family and our world We all trudge through long days and sleepless nights wondering when we will find a break from the load and relief from the hardships In today s Gospel Jesus tells us to bring our troubles to Him and He will give us rest OK sounds good But then He says to take on HIS yoke because His yoke is easy and light and we will find rest Seriously His yoke is easy Let go of my burden and take on His How is that gonna be any better Are we missing something here Well of course we are Unlike Jesus followers most of us lack simple farming experience we simply don t realize that a yoke is meant for TWO oxen And that is the crux of Jesus words today The yoke is not meant for one it is meant for two to share the load The burden no matter what it is is not meant to be carried by yourself alone Jesus tells us that His yoke has room for one more person YOU Jesus says to bring your worries to Him and let s share the load And by sharing the weight your burden becomes easier and lighter You don t have to carry your stresses and worries alone Share your burden with Jesus share them with the people that God sends to you today the ones who ask how you are doing and is there anything I can do for you Creator help today to learn how to share to share my burdens with those who care to share your spirit with those who need a gentle voice and a supportive shoulder 140

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Friday Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 12 1 8 Saints and Sinners Celebrating Mass at Capernaum Have you ever read or seen Les Miserables In brief Jean Valjean is sent to prison for stealing bread to feed his starving family Cruel and heartless Yes I know stealing is wrong but aren t there some exceptions times when basic human needs outweigh the law The Apostles in today s Gospel are caught picking grain on the Sabbath in order to eat The law is clear no work on the Sabbath and picking grain qualifies as work Jesus reminds the Pharisees that there have been exceptions to the rule in the past particularly King David And He tries to teach them that God is not just a Law giver but a loving parent We all know that to be true We all grew up with rules from our parents and discipline when we faltered For those of us who are parents there were certainly times when our child broke a rule and yet they were so heart broken and devastated by it that any punishment from us would have been counter productive How could we discipline them any more than they were punishing themselves So what did we do We forgave them we loved them God reminds us today that He is Our Father He is a loving forgiving Parent Yes of course there are rules to follow But through it all God is merciful and loving and compassionate I read a line today from Bishop Barron that speaks directly to today s Gospel all saints have a past all sinners have a future 141

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Saturday Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 12 14 21 No Rest for the Weary On the Shores of the Sea of Galilee We have all had that week s from hell What started out as a relatively normal calm week turned into more work more stress more demands to carry out And it wasn t just work it was also people asking for help people you couldn t and wouldn t say no to So you just let it pile on That day you thought you had completely free was transformed into a non stop rush here and there to take care of a variety of commitments Now don t get me wrong many of those commitments were done willingly and out of love because you just can t say no and you truly want to help But at the end of the day you are exhausted And so it is for Jesus in today s Gospel The Pharisees are openly plotting to arrest and kill Jesus So He went away from that place But the crowds follow Him And He CURED THEM ALL He didn t avoid the crowds He didn t tell them to leave Him alone He welcomed them and cured them and not just some ALL of them No matter how tired how overloaded He was He responded to the needs of those in pain He responded out of love Those of us who are parents know those nights when we are so tired that we can t move All we want is uninterrupted sleep And yet if our child calls out in the middle of the night we get up and tend to their needs out of love 142 And so it is that we are called to do the same No matter the time the circumstance no matter how tired or stressed we are when a friend in need calls out we answer the call The Responsorial Psalm says it quite plainly you behold misery and sorrow taking them in your hands On you the unfortunate man depends of the fatherless you are the helper Great Spirit open my eyes and my heart today so that I may better serve you and my family Aho

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 24 30 Be Patient My Child Tied Up in Knots Many years ago I remember one summer when it was time for our daughter Jaime to learn how to ride a bicycle So I took off the training wheels she climbed onto the bike and proceeded to take off I followed close behind holding onto the back bumper trying to keep the bike upright and trying to make sure she didn t fall It was exhausting for both of us I thought I was being a good dad by doing everything I could to keep her from falling But it didn t work We were both getting frustrated Finally she had had enough and she banished me to sit on the front porch while she worked it out on her own It took time and it took a lot of patience something neither one of us had much of at the start of the process I was getting impatient with the process and she was getting impatient with me Patience was in short supply But in the end patience won out In today s Gospel we hear the parable of the weeds among the wheat A man sows good seed on his farm and then one night after all have retired his enemy comes and sows weeds among his crop His servants discover the deed when the weeds begin to sprout And they ask the master whether they should pull up the weeds And he says no if they did they would end up pulling up the wheat as well and destroy the crop Rather he says wait until harvest time Then harvest it all separate the weeds from the wheat and then destroy the weeds For most of us we see this parable as a story about the Last Judgment when God will separate the good from the bad the weeds from the wheat And the image we have of God is that of a just Judge a god who rewards the good and punishes the wicked a stern God who doles out punishment on the Last Day 143

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But maybe there is something else going on something more than just a lesson on Judgement Day something more than just picturing God as Judge Maybe there is another lesson to be learned When the weeds are sown along with the wheat God doesn t take immediate action He doesn t jump in and destroy the weeds He waits He lets the weeds grow along with the wheat I read a quote this week from Bishop Robert Barron every saint has a past and every sinner has a future Every one of us makes mistakes we falter But our sins of yesterday are not the end of the story Every one of us has the opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes The possibility of growth is available to us all And that is what s happening here God is giving the weeds the chance to learn to change Our God is not just a God of the Law He is a God of love and compassion He is a God of patience We all tend to be impatient or frustrated whether it s with ourselves or others whether it s with learning to ride a bike or rushing to get a job done Life can tie us up in knots that seem unsolvable But unlike us God is willing to wait to take His time And He reminds us today that even though we stray we can grow and convert we can change from that weed to wheat God is patient And so we pray today for the gift of patience patience with ourselves and with others We pray for the wisdom to learn from our mistakes and we ask God for the grace and the strength to recognize that even as sinners we have a future if we trust in God 144

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Monday Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 12 38 42 What s Your Sign Sign Mount of the Beatitudes In case you haven t noticed we live in a world of signs Not just traffic signs and price tags for sale signs and animal crossings And consider how much more dependent we have become lately on signs Shops now have only one entrance and one exit door There are one way signs for the aisles in grocery stores and 6 feet apart signs for us to keep our distance in banks Arrows to direct us which way to go to communion in church and signs to warn us about wearing masks Signs They protect us provide us with information they give us direction And in today s Gospel that is exactly what the Scribes and Pharisees are looking for from Jesus Give Us A Sign Show us the way Show us who you really are Prove yourself I have to admit given all that we are going through lately with Corona and business shutdowns and social distancing I am guessing we are all in the same boat as the Pharisees on this one Give me a sign Give me some idea of where we are going how is this all going to pan out Give me some sign that things are going to get better Of course the Pharisees were just looking for a way to trip Jesus up to embarrass Himself We however are looking for encouragement comfort We are all praying to find some meaning and purpose to all that is going on But maybe that is the sign Maybe all that is going on is the signal for us to re examine all that is normal all that is routine all that we have taken for granted We have been given an opportunity to step away from normal and take the time to really appreciate all we have in our life family friends faith To take the time to re order our lives and our priorities To realize all that we have missed the touch of a loved one the gathering together of our faith community the simple gift of eating out the gift of the Eucharist Maybe the sign really is a sign to refocus to re direct my life Creator help me not to be discouraged during this time of unrest and uncertainty Give me the strength and wisdom to refocus my life and rededicate myself to You and my brothers and sisters to re energize my heart and my soul 145

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Tuesday Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 12 46 50 They Ain t Heavy They re My Brothers Sisters Overlooking Jerusalem I ended yesterday s reflection with a prayer to the Creator asking for strength to rededicate ourselves to our brothers and sisters But I never specifically said who they were I have one brother George and two sisters Mary and Theresa By blood these are my brother and sisters But today s Gospel reminds us that all are brothers and sisters That s gonna make for a lot of birthday presents Seriously it s a simple message but it demands much of us We were all adopted as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father at Baptism That makes us all brothers and sisters in faith And it means we are called to treat each other as such No not fighting tooth and nail like we do sometimes as siblings But treating them with respect and love and dropping everything at a moment s notice because someone else was threatening them You know that to be true We may fight and disagree at times but God help anyone who tries to hurt my sister Jesus today reminds us that if we truly are His disciples then we must treat each other as brothers and sisters And we should expect to be treated the same as well And by the way my brothers and sisters my birthday was July 3 some of you missed it but I am still accepting presents from all my brothers and sisters 146 Great Spirit give me the courage today to speak the truth and to act on that truth We are all Your children May my words and actions today reflect that simple and loving truth

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Wednesday Feast of St Mary Magdalene Gospel John 20 1 2 11 18 A Rollercoaster of Emotions Town of Magdala Just a few days ago I mentioned a quote from Bishop Barron every saint has a past and every sinner has a future There is no better example than Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today Tradition holds her to be a former prostitute probably the one who washed Jesus feet with her hair and whom Jesus forgave and told to sin no more She was a faithful disciple of Jesus And today s Gospel portrays her at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning Consider this she is the first witness to Jesus Resurrection not Peter not John not even Mary His Mother She is the first Evangelist she is the first to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is risen from the dead Consider also the all too painful range of emotions she experiences The utter grief and despair as she finds the stone rolled away and the tomb completely empty Who stole Jesus body and where have they taken Him And then the unbridled joy and happiness when Jesus reveals Himself to her her all too human desire to hug Him out of relief that He is risen Such a rollercoaster of emotions In this time of uncertainty and worry we have all had our share of conflicting emotions sadness over the separation from loved ones grief from the passing of a family member and the sheer gut wrenching agony of not being there to hug them comfort them And sometimes hopefully that joy of talking with them crying with them perhaps even being able to see them although from a distance Mary Magdalene experienced that whole range of emotions and yet through it all she still proclaimed the Risen Jesus she still kept the faith And that is what we pray for today the strength to see the Risen Jesus the courage to keep the faith and the wisdom to feel joy even in the midst of sorrow 147

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Thursday Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 10 17 Let Me Tell You a Story My very first semester of teaching was a complete disaster I knew all the material I had all the training and preparation I needed I was prepared or so I thought Nothing worked I presented the notes but all I got back was a classroom full of blank stares There was no engagement it was like we were on two different levels or speaking two different languages And that in the end was completely true I was teaching the material at them but not to them I realized I needed to speak to them where THEY were at not at a level where I was at And so I began to weave in stories to make my point to throw out some corny jokes or stunts to catch their attention Go figure it worked for 40 years Every time we read the Gospel it seems as if Jesus is always being followed by an immense crowd Whenever He speaks the crowd is there hanging on His every word How did that happen Why would anybody sit for hours in the blazing heat of Israel just to listen to someone speak We all know the answer Jesus spoke in parables He shared His message of hope of love and forgiveness in stories And not just any stories but stories His audience could relate to could identify with These were ordinary salt of the earth people with simple lives and occupations So Jesus told stories about farmers and fishermen about fathers and sons about weddings and disagreements about baking and sharing a meal He KNEW HIS AUDIENCE He spoke to them where they were at not where He wanted them to be But He did something more He always added a twist to His parables a surprise ending something to make sure they were listening something to make them stop and think Nobody leaves 99 sheep to go off just to find 1 lost sheep No one throws a party for a son who has squandered his inheritance and wished his father were dead No one sells everything they have just to buy a pearl That is why in today s Gospel He tells the Pharisees that they see but don t understand they hear but don t really listen The mysteries of the Kingdom have been revealed to the disciples and they will understand with their hearts and be converted Jesus continues to speak to us today through these simple not so much stories We need only to open not just our ears and our eyes to His words but our hearts as well Great Spirit you whisper to me every day Help me to calm my fears to open my eyes and to listen with my heart to your words of peace and solace Aho 148

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Friday Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 18 23 The Sower The Seed Part II Starved Rock Yes I know We just visited this Gospel parable 2 Sundays ago The sower scatters seed everywhere and only some falls on rich soil And then Jesus explains the parable to the disciples So let s make this short and to the point We know the seed is the Word of God We know the Word of God is proclaimed to us every single day We know God speaks to us every day So my question is this what soil are YOU today Are you the rocky soil that starts off joyful and then that joy quickly fades away Are you the soil among the thorns so caught up in the cares of the world that you are too stressed to hear Or are you the rich soil that hears the Word and lives it out What soil are you today And if you are the rocky soil or the soil with thorns ask yourself what is it that prevents you from hearing and living out the Word What in this world are you so attached to so anxious about that it prevents you from listening What can you do to change it TODAY And if you are the rich soil what are you going to do with the Word today How will you live it out Who will you share it with We all walk the same path we call life And yet we all see and experience a life quite different from each other May our path today be rich and fruitful 149

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Saturday Feast of St James Apostle Gospel Matthew 20 20 28 Sons of Thunder Synagogue Church Nazareth Years ago when our daughter was in grade school I remember some sort of honors ceremony where she was hoping to get an award don t remember what but she didn t And she was upset So like any loving dad I went out and bought her a generic trophy to help her feel better Yeah I was one of those parents But let s face it we all want the best for our kids we would do whatever it takes for them and I still do But in reality there is only so much we can do for them most of the time they need to learn and to grow from their successes and failures on their own As we celebrate today the Feast of St James Apostle we see in the Gospel a mother who demands that Jesus give her 2 sons James and John thrones of authority to rule the Kingdom alongside Jesus Jesus shows incredible restraint and calmness with her much more than the other 10 Apostles who grumble about such a request I have to wonder whether their upset is more about why didn t I ask first Jesus reminds them all that ruling is not about lording it over others To rule is to serve And James will learn that lesson for the rest of his life Later on in the Gospel Jesus and the Apostles are kicked out of a certain town James and his brother John asks do you want us to call down thunder and lightning on them That is why they were called the Sons of Thunder They still had a lot to learn And so do we We need to remind ourselves that the greatest leaders are those who serve others We need to remember that we are all earthen vessels and that power comes from God not from ourselves We need to realize that we cannot spend eternity with Jesus if we can t accept service suffering and sacrifice like James in this life Creator God wake me up Open my eyes and heart to the needs of my human family Help me to see and respond to their suffering to their needs without demanding any reward Aho 150

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Sunday Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 44 52 Greatest Treasure Greatest Joy View of Mt Tabor from Mount Precipice Nazareth So I have a question what s your greatest treasure in this life Who what brings you the greatest joy Maybe it s your spouse or your child your best friend or that first grandchild For me the answer is simple it s Ginger my wife I can still remember the very first time I ever saw her I was working at Loyola U of Chicago and I walked into the Student Government Office and saw this vision She took my breath away so much that I just lost the ability to talk coherently I remember her sitting there fiddling with her camera and in my idiocy the first thing I did was offer to show her how to use the camera Little did I know that she was already working as a professional photographer Worst opening line ever But look at us now married almost 46 years and counting Through all those years of tears and smiles ups and downs that life has thrown at us she is my greatest treasure my greatest joy She makes me a better person a better husband a better father and papa and deacon She challenges me to ask more of myself than I could imagine And what would I do for her Anything everything I would pay any price sacrifice anything for her 151

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Greatest Treasure It s the same theme we hear in a couple of parables in today s Gospel So let s focus on the first one A laborer is working in the field plowing the land and he finds a hidden treasure He is just a tenant on the land not the owner And the law at the time dictates that anything found on the land belongs to the owner not the one who finds it So what does he do He re buries the treasure and then goes off and scrapes together every bit of money he can he probably even sells most of his possessions And he then buys the land from the owner in order to possess the treasure He is willing to pay any price endure any hardship just to get that treasure He is willing to sacrifice everything no price is too high That is ridiculous that makes no human sense at all To give up any and everything you have just to possess one thing And yet we all know there are treasures in our life worth any price The question for us today is where does God fit into this reflection where does God fit into your life How much of a treasure is your faith How much do you value your relationship with God How much of a price are you willing to pay to be a disciple of Christ What would you sacrifice for your brother Jesus That laborer in the field didn t think twice about the price of the field or the sacrifices he would be making His only thought was one of joy The joy of possessing that treasure And so it should be for us The treasure is eternal life the treasure is the Kingdom of God We often focus on the cost of discipleship the sacrifices we have to make Today instead let s focus on the JOY of discipleship Let s reflect on the joy of having God as our Father and the treasure of His presence in our lives Let s focus on all the joys God has bestowed on us in this life parents children friends and family and all the joys we hope for in the next 152

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Monday Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 31 35 With Great Abandon Making Bread You see this dot at the end of this sentence Yeah the period That s how big small a mustard seed is That tiny little dot that Jesus talks about in today s Gospel That smidgen that can end up growing to a height of over nine feet What Jesus doesn t mention is that the mustard plant is essentially a weed Once it takes root it grows with great abandon and is almost impossible to get rid of Kind of like kudzu in the South Nobody sows mustard seed nobody puts it in their garden If they did it would take over the garden and choke out any other plants Such an exaggeration And in the second of today s parables Jesus speaks of a woman who prepares three measures of flour to make bread One thing I have become relatively proficient at over this past four pandemic months is baking bread I always avoided the effort and thought it would take too much time most of which is spent waiting for the dough to rise But now I m baking bread every week and we haven t bought a loaf from the store in over three months The recipe I use requires about four cups of flour out of that I end up with two small loaves of fresh bread However the woman in today s parable is using three measures of wheat flour That s over a bushel of flour and would end up making over a dozen loaves of bread In Jesus time baking bread was a daily chore and no family is going to eat that much bread in one day So what s going on We know Jesus is a master storyteller He is also a mast exaggerator for the sake of making a point And the point here is all about faith real faith in God and in Jesus It s all about a faith so deep so strong that once it takes root in our heart it grows with abandon and is impossible to uproot from our lives It is a faith that energizes our hearts and our lives to spread it around It fills us with love and hope for the future it feeds our souls Creator of all life no matter where we turn you are there with us to guide us and to shelter us from the storms of life Be with us today and every day Help us to grow in faith in You and love for our brothers and sisters 153

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Tuesday Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 36 43 A Wise Man Once Said Church of St Peter s Primacy Tabgha I am not the greatest at asking for directions or for help I am more a learn from my mistakes kind of guy Give me a project like assembling a 400 piece bookshelf office work station and I will go at it completely on my own In the process I must admit it probably takes me twice as long to complete but then I tell myself I did it all by myself So in the end I feel what I lack in wisdom is made up for with brute force not always a good thing The disciples in today s Gospel are in a much better frame of mind Jesus has just shared the Parable of the Sower and the Seed And they don t understand They don t get it But give them credit they then ask Jesus to explain it to them For once I think Jesus explanation takes a back seat to the attitude of His disciples They are honest they are willing to admit that they don t get the meaning of Jesus story That shows a good deal of honesty I m not as smart as I think I am It shows a willingness to learn teach me the meaning And it displays a certain wisdom admitting that I don t have all the answers and that I need help and direction And it shows an attitude of humility that there are many things that I just cannot control 154 It s an attitude that in the face of disease and uncertainty we all need today We are living at a time with a lot more questions than answers and we need that attitude of teach me now more than ever This is not a time when I can do it all myself As trite as it sounds we will only get through this together We all need those daily reminders wash your hands disinfect your phone where s your mask 6 feet please and wash your hands again We all need to remember that what I do affects those around me We all need a good dose of humility of honesty and wisdom We all need like the disciples to admit we don t have all the answers and to put ourselves in the hands of Jesus to pray for His guidance to ask for His helping hand Great Spirit help me today to appreciate my failings and your Wisdom to abandon my selfishness and seek comfort under your wings Give me a caring heart and a discerning mind

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Wednesday Feast of St Martha Gospel John 11 19 27 Luke 10 38 42 Family Matters We celebrate today the Feast of St Martha sister of Mary and Lazarus And we actually have two options for the Gospel reading One is from Luke where Jesus visits the town of Bethany and comes to dinner at Martha s home Mary spends her time sitting and listening to Jesus while Martha spends all her time cooking and serving the meal She then complains bitterly about Mary not helping her out with the chores The second Gospel is from John and tells of Jesus other visit after the death of Lazarus Martha hearing that Jesus is on His way doesn t wait for him to enter the house but rushes out to greet Him on the road She unloads her grief and a bit of anger at Him complaining that if He had been there earlier Lazarus would not have died And in the end she also professes her faith in Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life Consider this the emotions that Martha shares with Jesus are not the sort of emotions you share with just anyone They are the deep feelings we share only with our family our siblings and our parents The upset the anger the joy the grief these are all deeply felt gut wrenching emotions that in moments of crisis we share with those we love because we feel safe with them We trust them we love them But there are people missing from these stories the parents Nowhere do we hear anything about Mary and Martha and Lazarus parents And yet we actually do For these two sisters to share such heartfelt emotions with Jesus speaks of children whose parents comforted them in times of distress encouraged them in times of uncertainty cared for them in times of loneliness taught them in times of need and loved them always They must have been parents like my parents in law who today celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary Bob and Shirley Houren Parents who love and teach and guide and counsel Parents who provide an example of patience and forgiveness Parents who raise their children by their words and their example and especially their love Parents like God the Father who knows our struggles and our successes our highs and our lows our failings and our recovery Parents who are always there for us now and in the Kingdom of Heaven 155

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Thursday Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 13 47 53 Gone Fishin Jesus Boat Capernaum So after many on the water adventures here is my definition of fishing It s a couple of minutes of either joyful success or utter failure surrounded by hours and hours of absolutely nothing mostly utter failure When you finally snag something on your line it can be anything from a clump of seaweed a piece of garbage a fish so small you have to throw it back tangled lines with your fishing buddy or maybe an actual keeper Don t get me wrong those long hours of boredom can be very relaxing and meditative But the real thrill the real sense of hope and anticipation comes when you feel that pull on your line You think maybe this is the big one the one I can tell stories about the rest of my life But hope meets reality only when your hook breaks the surface of the water and hope transforms into reality You never know you hope you pray but you never really know for sure until you haul it into the boat So it is with today s Gospel At the end of time God will pull all of us into the boat He hopes that the catch us will all be keepers He wants all of us to share in the Kingdom But nothing is for sure not until we break the surface of the water and are brought into the boat Until then it is all up to us how we live how we treat others God always offers His guidance His love and His grace but the choice of how to live this life falls to us Dare I say it Sink or Swim Creator help me today to keep my focus on You and how I can best serve You Guide me and lead me forward along the Red Road so that I may always be alive to Your presence in my life 156

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Friday Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola Gospel Matthew 13 54 58 Going Home Synagogue in Nazareth A father passing by his teenage son s room was astonished to see that his bed was neatly made and everything picked up off the floor Then he saw the envelope propped up prominently on the pillow With a sickening feeling he moved in closer to investigate The letter was addressed to him With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands to read what was within Dear Dad It is with great regret and sorrow that I m writing you I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you I ve been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice However I knew you would not approve of her because of her piercings tattoos and tight motorcycle clothes Also she is so much older than me Stacy said that we will be very happy She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter Don t worry Dad I m 15 and I know how to take care of myself Someday I m sure we ll be back to visit so you can get to know your many grandchildren Love Joshua P S Dad none of the above is true I m over at Jason s house I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the school report card that s under my pillow Call me when it s safe for me to come home 157

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We can only imagine the homecoming that awaits Joshua when he finally comes home I m guessing we all have had a moment when we had to face our dad after screwing something up times when we failed and had to answer for our failure I remember just after getting my license coming home and pulling into the driveway and denting both of the family cars all at once It was not a pleasant homecoming or conversation with my father But there were also plenty of times when the homecoming was one of joy not fear Times when I would come home from a year away at college or that first visit after we married or after that first child times of love and laughter For me those were also opportunities for me to work side by side with my dad in his little country store ringing up customers stocking shelves pumping gas And then we d spend Sundays playing softball or just throwing the ball around No matter when we would come home we would greet each other at the door sit down for some conversation and then move to the dining room table to share a meal That s what homecoming means In today s Gospel Jesus comes home And it is not pleasant He is not accepted and He makes the choice not to return again But what s significant is this when He does go home where does He go He goes to the synagogue not His family home or Joseph s shop He goes home to the house of His Father where He preaches and teaches 158 Your church your parish your faith is your home your spiritual home We are all one family of God our Father We call God Our Father He raised us up out of the dust of the earth he cares for us he nurtures us he guides us and helps us grow he does all he can to prepare us for the Kingdom of Heaven where one day He will welcome us HOME

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Saturday Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 14 1 12 Gotcha Old City of Jerusalem Remember when you were little and you did something wrong Maybe you broke something and then tried to hide the evidence Maybe you stole something or played with matches Maybe you lied to your parents maybe more than once And nothing happened You thought you got away with it and you breathed a sigh of relief And then later on days even months suddenly the truth comes out and bites you in the rear You thought all was well and then it all comes back to haunt you That s what happens to Herod Antipas in today s Gospel He hears about Jesus the preacher the miracle worker And his first thought is oh no John the Baptist is risen from the dead He has come back to torment me again even though I had him beheaded Herod had let his insecurities his fears and selfish desires rule his life He allowed them to shape his decisions even though he knew what was truly right and what was wrong At times we all fall into that trap We give in to our personal desires and weaknesses even though we know better And as time goes on we tell ourselves that we are just fine we got away with it And then it goes and hits us right in the face We all make bad choices we all falter along the way But even when we do fall God is there not to say Gotcha but there to help us shake off the dust and get back on our feet to offer a loving hand to forgive Let s never forget that Great Spirit we are all trying to stay on the right path but we know we sometimes stumble and fall Be with us today Keep our eyes clear and steady our heart pure and open to your counsel Give us the courage to stand and the wisdom to carry on 159

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 14 13 21 Food for the Soul Machaneh Yehuda Open Market Jerusalem I admit it Ginger and I are FOODIES We watch more than our share of food and cooking shows Top Chef Chopped you name it And from to time we have been lucky enough to dine at some pretty incredible Top Chef restaurants places where you want to take out your phone and take pics of the food before you even eat it Amazing memorable meals And other times it s just a simple breakfast in a picnic basket shared on the beach as we watch the sun rise But sometimes you don t have to go out for a great meal and great food Sometimes it happens at home when we work together to prepare a meal where in the midst of chopping veggies and trimming the meat we also share memories and laughter All of them wonderful memories and truth be told it wasn t just about the food or sharing a meal it was the conversation the laughter the remembering and the sharing of our hearts It was the combination of the words and the food not just one or the other But let s face it some meals are memorable for all the wrong reasons Going out for a speaker and a meal the words were forgettable and the meal was one of the rubber chicken experiences Or using a new recipe at home and the result was disposable We hear about another meal in today s Gospel the multiplication of the loaves and fishes The crowd has been following and listening to Jesus all day in the heat and the dust And it s only in the evening that the disciples tell Jesus we are far away from any town and the crowd is hungry 5 000 people not even including women and children what should we do All we have is five loaves of bread and two fish And then the miracle happens Most homilies I ve heard focus on the food and use it as a symbol of Jesus feeding us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist In fact this is the Gospel that is proclaimed on the Feast of Corpus Christi the Body and Blood Some focus on the miracle itself the physical multiplication of the loaves and fishes to feed the crowd 160 But I want to focus on something else What if what if there is more than the one miracle taking place here What if there are more miracles going on than just the one we can see and touch and taste What if the real miracle happened not so much in front of our eyes but deep inside our hearts What if that crowd just

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wanted to give Jesus a quick listen to hear this new preacher and then go on with their day What if His words touched them deep in their hearts so much so that they ended up staying the entire day listening to His words of love and compassion That would be a miracle What if they were carrying some food along with them but had no intention of sharing especially with strangers What if Jesus words touched them so deeply that the real miracle was a change of heart What if touched by His words they changed on the inside in their hearts and in their souls Changed so much that selfishness and greed and fear transformed into love of neighbor and caring for those less fortunate Think about it the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes the filling of their bellies the satisfying of their physical hunger that lasted just one day But the other miracle the filling of their hearts with the Word of God the promise of eternal life that s a miracle that changes not only their physical selves but their soul and that will last for a lifetime That crowd gathered for a talk In the process they shared a meal In the process they experienced a change of heart an awakening of faith a conversion Every time we gather for the Eucharist we gather first to hear the Word of God proclaimed and preached And then we share a meal not simple bread but the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Are we changed Is our faith awakened and refreshed Do we experience a change deep inside our soul a conversion of spirit and of direction in life Every day God calls to us reaches out to us offers us words of comfort and hope offer us food for the soul food for our spiritual journey May we today respond to this miracle in our lives with faith with humility and with a renewed spirit 161

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Monday Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 14 22 36 Give It A Rest Sunrise We will hear today s Gospel the Calming of the Storm again this coming Sunday So let s focus more on the first few verses before the storm hits Jesus has just spent the entire day with a crowd of over 5 000 people preaching teaching and providing them with the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish Imagine how exhausted He must have been And yet the journey continues His mission continues So what does He do He sends the disciples on ahead and He goes up the mountain to pray With all that He still has to accomplish all the people He still wants to share the message with all the sick He will still cure He takes the time to take care of Himself In fact He doesn t just TAKE the time He MAKES the time to step aside to catch His breath to basically recharge his batteries His physical and His spiritual energy He makes the time to talk with His Father That is a lesson for us all We are all over worked and over stressed weighed down by the cares of the world and of our family worries about their health and well being But if we don t take care of ourselves first we end up not being able to care for others If we don t make time for ourselves to catch our breath to recharge our spiritual batteries then who will Yes I know we all have too much to do and not enough time to get it done Just consider what Jesus does He takes some time apart and then gets right back into the mission 162 The work will always be there for us to tackle The cares of the world will always be there for us to stress over So I m asking you today give it a rest take some time for yourself today have that extra cup of coffee do that crossword puzzle watch the sun rise breathe settle down in a quiet place and just be at peace Great Spirit be with me today and always Calm my fears and ease my worries Help me today in some small way to step aside from the cares of the world and appreciate all that you have gifted me Aho

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Tuesday Feast of St John Vianney Gospel Matthew 14 22 36 or 15 1 14 or 9 35 10 1 A Simple Soul A Simple Faith Cure d Ars Joliet Illinois For some reason depending on which source you use there are at least 3 options for the Gospel today one of which is the same reading from yesterday Curiouser and curiouser What to do So let s just focus a bit on the Feast Day instead St John Vianney the Cure d Ars He continues to be my mom s all time favorite and patron saint We grew up with various religious statues and medals of him at times we gifted her with a special relic And we often visited a neighboring church that had a shrine dedicated to him in fact it was just a few years ago that the shrine went through a renovation and updating Even for my grandson Tyler when he was confirmed a few years ago it was in a basilica that also had a shrine to St John Vianney Needless to say we did take pictures St John Vianney was a simple gentle soul And his gifts lay more in compassion than in academics it was a struggle and perhaps a miracle in itself that he was approved for ordination He spent his life as a simple parish priest and was widely known for spending up to 18 hours in the confessional every day ministering and counseling his flock This simple man spent his life laboring to reconcile his people to God He is the patron saint of priests and to my knowledge is the only parish priest to be canonized Too often we look for faith in heavy tomes of academic learning and come away more confused than before Sometimes faith comes to us in simple terms in the simplicity of life We only have to take the time to see it embrace it and share it Great Spirit help me today to be a source of compassion and hope to those around me May my life be a weaving of simple words and actions all directed to serving you 163

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Wednesday Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 15 21 28 But She Persisted A woman comes up to Jesus tells Him her daughter is afflicted with a demon and asks Him to cure her Seems simple enough we already know how this should end Jesus says yes and cures her daughter Easey peasey right But not so fast It is obvious that the woman has great faith she truly believes He can cure her daughter She truly believes that Jesus is more than just a man she even goes so far as to bow down before Him and pay Him homage But faith is more than something you feel inside your soul it is more than something you keep to yourself She doesn t just have faith she has faith in the face of adversity In the culture she is living in she literally has no rights She has everything going against her she is a woman she is a pagan and a foreigner Add to that the fact that she deliberately confronts Jesus in public and tries to engage Him in a conversation She has everything going against her and yet she persists And how does Jesus respond At first He completely ignores her snubs her treats her as if she doesn t even exist And when she persists He then insults her and essentially compares her to a dog And yet she persists And perhaps most importantly she has faith in action Her faith shapes her life and her actions It is a faith that is open for all to see It is a faith that shows her love for others her daughter and her hope for the future It is a faith that guides and supports her even in times of distress In spite of being ignored snubbed treated as if she was a nobody undeserving of even a simple conversation in spite of being insulted she persisted Her faith persisted And because of that faith a miracle occurs And that is our challenge to keep our faith in the Creator Even when it s inconvenient even when it s uncomfortable even when we are ignored or mistreated even when everyone else around us questions and doubts Keep the faith Be persistent Creator God give me courage today give me strength to believe in You to trust in You even in the midst of sickness and pain of violence and hatred of ignorance and mistrust Give me courage to keep my faith in You 164

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Thursday Feast of the Transfiguration Gospel Matthew 17 1 9 Climbing the Mountain Church of the Transfiguration Mount Tabor Back when I was in the seminary the Blue Ridge Mountains were our back yard and climbing the mountain right behind the seminary was a rite of passage The goal was to head out immediately after breakfast race to the base climb the mountain race back to the Seminary before dinner time It was a grueling test of fortitude but the few moments you had at the top surveying the surrounding countryside were incredibly fulfilling much less awesome and peaceful In the Old Testament mountains are mentioned over 500 times It was a place where you encountered the divine where you were closer to God Mount Ararat where Noah s ark came to rest and God made first covenant Mt Sinai where Moses met God received Ten Commandments and his face shone white Mount of Olives where Jesus often went to pray Mount Zion where the Temple was built Mount Hebron where God makes his covenant with Abram Mount of Beatitudes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave us the New Law And Mount Tabor where today s Gospel takes place Mount Tabor is a very high very steep mountain it has a treacherous windy switch back road with no guard rails with barely enough room for 1 vehicle much less two way traffic It is better experienced with your eyes shut But the view from the top Spectacular And the time and effort to get there well worth it We all have mountains to climb when our minds are occupied with earthly things especially these days But we are reminded that our citizenship is in heaven that these frail human bodies will be transformed into glorified bodies like what Peter James and John experience on Mount Tabor a taste of heaven That is what awaits us all on the mountain top the Kingdom of Heaven if we only have the courage and the faith to climb the mountain 165

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Friday Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 16 24 28 Now Comes the Hard Part Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Life is hard I don t really need to tell you this Unless you ve been living on a deserted island for the past five months you already know that Fear isolation sickness separation anxiety loss feeling financially and spiritually poor even depression We have all been there wondering what s next and looking for that light at the end of this long dark tunnel We sit with this dazed expression on our face wondering what s next The disciples must have experienced something like this they have already had their share of being cast out of villages banned from the Temple ignored and laughed at for leaving their families to follow this itinerant preacher And then in today s Gospel Jesus tells them bluntly that things will get worse If you really want to follow Me then you must deny yourself and take up your cross Things are gonna get tougher Certainly not the best of pep talks eh To be a true follower of Jesus yes it will not be easy there will be suffering and pain But even in today s Gospel Jesus reminds them there is also reward so be strong It reminds me of something I say at committal services when I speak about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead a reminder to us all that Jesus is both divine and human He knew Lazarus was dead and He cried He knew that moments later He would raise Lazarus from the dead and yet He still cried He knew death was not forever but the Kingdom is And He cried He cried because knowing the end of the story is the Kingdom doesn t mean you don t cry at the sad parts This is one of those sad parts but it is not the end of the story Slow me down Lord Help me today to look beyond the overwhelming issues of the world and appreciate the simple gifts of life and love of family and friends and of 166 Your presence in all I see and do

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Saturday Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 17 14 20 Have a Little Faith In Me Rainbow Jordan River After some five months of masks six feet apart small groups a slow return to Mass and a ton of Zoom meetings I think we all have the same question Okay God what s Your plan here What s the big picture What the heck are You doing We just don t see it Sure we still believe in God but we wish we had some glimpse of how He is working That is what today s Gospel addresses O you of little faith Just because we don t see God at work doesn t mean He isn t working Just because everything seems the same or even worse doesn t mean God isn t looking out for us caring for us God is working even if we don t see it with our eyes Have a little faith faith that God has a plan that things will work out according to God s plan and time not our own I helped lead scores of high school retreats they were called Kairos God s Time That is real faith faith that there is a God that He is looking out for us that He will see us through this according to His Time Have a little faith 167

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 14 22 33 The Sea Was Angry My Friend The Sea of Galilee I m holding a Rosary I must admit I don t pray it as often as I should In some ways I think it goes back to when I was a child and the times when we prayed it altogether as a family We would be in the car driving somewhere and we ran into the middle of a snowstorm It was only then that my mom would whip out the rosary and have us all pray together Or when we were at home during a terrible thunderstorm lightning noise rattling of the windows and shaking of the house and then the lights go out And then we would pray the rosary Good times right Maybe that s why I tend to avoid it a bit it s been a reminder of dark times of storms and threatening weather And that s what we hear in today s Gospel a storm on the Sea of Galilee I bought this rosary 10 years ago the first time I visited the Holy Land the first time I took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee It was a calm sunny day and the water was like glass It was so quiet and peaceful But our guide reminded us that all of that could change in a matter of minutes That s how short a time it would take for a storm to suddenly spring up and change the moment into a stomach churning rollercoaster experience And that is what happens in today s Gospel It s about four in the morning and the storm hits with the Apostles in a small boat tossed about by the waves fighting against a strong wind and all of this in the darkness 168

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And yet I can t help wondering what was Peter thinking Why in the world did he jump out of the boat He is a fisherman by trade he s been fishing all his life on the Sea of Galilee He is used to fishing in the dark he is used to dealing with storms and high winds What the heck was he thinking Jumping out of the boat in the dark in the middle of a storm is the last thing any experienced fisherman would ever do I mean it s not like you can out swim or escape the storm We already know that Peter can sometimes be bold impulsive rash He rushes into words and actions without thinking and only considers what he s doing afterwards Peter who when Jesus says come follow me drops everything his boat his friends his family and immediately follows Jesus Peter who when Jesus tries to wash his feet at the Last Supper says No and then says of wash everything Peter who insists I will never deny you and then goes and denies Jesus 3 times But maybe what he was doing was not as impulsive as we think maybe he wasn t trying to get away from the storm but to get TO Jesus In the middle of the storm battered by the wind and the waves fearful for his life all he wanted was to be near Jesus Isn t that what we all do when a storm or one of life s difficulties smacks us in the face don t we all tend to hunker down gather together in prayer and ask for safe passage through the storm Whenever we are battered by the storms of life don t we all seek shelter don t we all shelter in place don t we all call out to Jesus in prayer ask for His help His protection from the storm Don t we all cry out to Him like Peter Save me Lord Is that really any different from my Mom pulling out the rosary when the storm hits when the lightning crackles All she wanted was for us to join together be close to God to pray to Him to ask for help in the midst of fear My goodness I think I just admitted my mom was right 169

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Monday Feast of St Lawrence Deacon and Martyr Gospel John 12 24 26 Service with a Smile Amphitheater Caesarea Maritima We are all a bit like the seeds in today s Gospel The life the real life lies inside the seed and in order for the life to come out and grow the seed has to die to break open and let the life burst forth That means we all have to die a little let go a little of the things of this life money power personal fame possessions in order to prepare for the Kingdom In order to reach the Kingdom we have to sacrifice and we have to serve As Deacons we are all called to one mission service It comes from the Greek diakonia which means servant I learned something new today it also means dusty one someone who kicks up the dust of the street as they go about on their errands I kind of like that someone who get dirty as they perform their service We celebrate today the Feast of St Lawrence deacon and martyr When he was asked by the Prefect of Rome to bring him all the treasures of the Church Lawrence brought him all the poor widowed maimed and lepers the real treasures of the Church When he was being roasted to death he is purported to have said Turn me over I m done on this side 170 A life of service it is what we are all called to to serve God by serving others St Lawrence s life and Jesus words today remind us that it will not be easy and we will have to sacrifice But like St Lawrence we should not be afraid to get ourselves dusty and we should perform our service with joy even a good sense of humor

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Tuesday Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 18 1 5 10 12 14 A Child like Wonder Easter Egg Hunt One hundred fifty days ago you and I began this daily Gospel conversation I know hard to believe Sometimes the days pass so slowly sometimes they just whiz by One hundred fifty days at least of isolating from friends and family from liturgies and Eucharist And you know what I have missed the most besides Mass and family and friends I miss my kids I miss my altar servers I miss their enthusiasm their dedication their energy I miss their excitement as 4th graders showing up for new server training their trying on the robes for the first time and learning how to tie their cord with the secret knot I miss their nervousness at serving their first Mass and their drive to make sure they do everything right And yes even their upset when something goes wrong I miss their joy at serving a special Mass like Confirmation with the Bishop or the Holy Week liturgies I miss their wideeyed excitement and their jumping up and down nervousness before Mass starts And I miss them running up to me at school recess asking me when is the next time I serve Mass Their joy their sheer energy brings out the same in all of us That is the child that Jesus talks about in today s Gospel the child we are all called to be That child is what Jesus calls the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven And that is what we are all called to be a child trusting humble joyful energetic for the Faith willing to learn and grow willing to serve A child who sees everything as if for the first time like their wide eyed excitement at opening presents on Christmas morning or hunting for eggs on Easter Sunday morning We are called to remember that child inside us all we are called to live a life of joy and wonder as we serve God and each other Creator of all help us today to be a source of joy and peace to others Guide us and remind us of the simple joy of laughter and play of love and service 171

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Wednesday Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 18 15 20 Houston We Have a Problem Remember that pool party when you were little that you weren t invited to Remember getting picked last for a baseball game and it was your best friend doing the picking Or someone close to you completely forgetting your birthday Remember what it felt like how much it hurt Face it we have all had those moments when someone hurt us deeply Maybe it was deliberate maybe unintentional either way we are in pain and we are angry What do we do with all that negative emotion Many of us myself included tend to keep it inside We fume and grumble and complain we let it fester and grow until we reach the point where we take it out on everyone around us What was once a problem between 2 people turns into something that affects the whole community Jesus in today s Gospel recognizes our oh so human condition and provides a way out a way to resolve the issue and heal the wounds But it is not easy It requires honesty truth and a willingness to forgive to be forgiven and to heal First quit gossiping and complaining to others The issue is between the two of you so go directly to that person and speak your grievance Hard Of course but in the process you are not just healing the relationship you are healing yourself getting rid of those negative feelings and resentment Besides how many times have you faced the other person and it was only then that they realized they had hurt you All that pain you are carrying and they never knew never realized Second if one on one doesn t work then bring 2 other persons with you as witnesses and try again And if that doesn t work if they refuse to acknowledge their fault then bring it to the whole community Drastic Yes Necessary Yes There is a basic message Jesus is trying to teach sin affects everyone Anger and resentment and jealousy and hate if ignored will only deepen and end up affecting the whole community the whole family As much as we are in pain and hurting it will only get worse if we don t seek to confront it and attempt to heal That takes courage honesty a willingness to forgive and be forgiven and love especially love Jesus gave the Apostles the keys to the Kingdom the power to bind and to loose But He has given to all of us the power to forgive and the command to love each other Great Spirit help me today to be humble to realize that we are all fragile creatures Let me not attack others but seek to heal and mend old wounds and rebuild relationships 172

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Thursday Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 18 21 19 1 Fool Me Once Fool Me Twice Sunset in Galilee It s hard enough to forgive someone but what if they constantly hurt us lie to us apologize and then go and do it again and again We have all been there and it always hurts and makes us question why should I bother to forgive Today Gospel picks up right from yesterday s reading forgive Confront the person who hurt you and help them to change And today Peter jumps in like always and asks the question we are all silently asking How many times do I have to do this How many times do I have to forgive Seven No seventy seven times essentially our response must be to forgive ALWAYS Seriously After all times they betrayed me after all the times they turn around and repeat the same thing Seriously Yes seriously God reminds us He is a God of compassion and mercy a loving parent like the father in the Prodigal Son Maybe we should turn the question around How many times do you want to be forgiven After all the times we mess up all the times we stumble and fall how many times should we be forgiven Do we really want a limit Just like the debtor in today s Gospel if we want to be forgiven then we also have to be forgiving And not just forgiving by our words We can all say the words but then still let it fester inside of us No we need to be forgiving in our words and our actions in our heart Kind of like let it go in Frozen Forgive just like we pray in the Lord s Prayer forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us Difficult yes Impossible No Great Spirit I am so grateful that you are always here with me guiding me and protecting me even when I falter and doubt myself and others Give me strength today to see the best in others to see your presence in all those around me and to act with compassion and kindness towards all my brothers and sisters 173

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Friday Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 19 3 12 In Good Times and In Bad A month ago our TV stopped working so we went and bought a new one a bigger one We downsized last week got rid of our two cars and are now managing with just one The pump on our pool died so we replaced it We live in a disposable world we seem to have lost the ability perhaps even the will to fix things It s easier to throw it out and buy a new one Have a disagreement with your boss quit and look for a new job That wasn t always the case I used to work a lot on my old cars learning from my father in law how to tune a car replace the brakes and rotate the tires These days we want something done quickly and with as little effort as possible Better to toss it out and move on it saves time and aggravation Unfortunately we do the same with people When things get tough when problems arise it s easier to walk away from the relationship than to put in the time and effort to work on it We can t be bothered That is what Jesus is addressing in today s Gospel when He is asked about divorce We are meant to be together we are meant to commit ourselves to each other That doesn t mean there aren t times when relationships die or when they become so violent or harmful that we must step aside What I mean is that sometimes we give up too easily Relationships marriages require time and effort it is not something we should take for granted Those I do s signal the beginning of a marriage the beginning of WE not simply I On Monday Ginger and I will be celebrating 46 years of marriage Smooth sailing Not always Was it work and effort Yup And there was also a lot of laughter and love But through it all we grew and we grew together Just remember God loves us always and never gives up on us He is committed to our growth in faith and in love He reminds us today to do the same don t give up on each other don t give up so easily on any of our relationships Put in the effort and work at being a better US God hasn t given up on us why should we give up on each other Creator Spirit make me a channel of your peace of your love Guide me and strengthen me to see the value of others in my life even those who test my patience and my faith 174

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Saturday Feast of the Assumption of Mary Gospel Luke 1 39 56 Joy Joy Joy Remember that Christmas when you were little and all you wanted was that ONE present that ONE toy Nothing else mattered And yet as much as you wanted it you were also convinced that it just wasn t going to happen you knew you wouldn t get it And then on Christmas morning you opened your presents and there it was Do you remember how you felt Do you remember how happy you were Was that JOY Is that how you would define JOY Or maybe it was the day you said I do to the love of your life knowing you would get to spend the rest of your life with that soulmate that vision of loveliness Is that how you define JOY Or the miracle of the birth of your first child or grandchild That wonder over new life that is beyond words Joy comes spilling out of today s Gospel It is expressed by 2 women Mary and her cousin Elizabeth It s a joy that can t be contained it rushes out like a torrent of water in their words and their actions Two cousins both pregnant embracing each other with happiness over each of their impending births Each of them praising God for not only the miracle of new life but the promise of redemption and salvation And Mary bursting forth with the Magnificat the Canticle of Mary which as deacons we pray every evening as part of the Liturgy of the Hours It is a praise of God for all He has done and all He will do through Jesus Mary s child We celebrate today the Feast of the Assumption of Mary we celebrate her being taken up into heaven body and soul It truly is a day of great joy Mary suffered much throughout her life the long tiring trip to Bethlehem left alone while He began His public life of preaching and watching her Son being tortured and put to death on a cross But this is a day of great joy because it is a reminder to us all of what we hope for live for resurrection and reunion with Christ That is the importance of today Mary has been raised and is now together with her Son This is the Joy we are all working toward Far beyond the joy of any Christmas present this is a Joy that lasts forever Creator of all life teach me to respect and appreciate all life Help me to see You in every leaf every flower every child Help me to see Your Spirit in every living thing and to treat others not only with respect but with love and joy 175

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 15 21 28 But She Persisted Caesarea Philippi As many of you know Ginger and I are cat people We have two cats Rosie and Gracie both of them 18 years old Which means they are senior citizens and they are really starting to slow down and act their age Gracie especially has really struggled these last four months or so She cries throughout the night not simple meows but painful moans So Ginger has had to get up every couple of hours every night to feed her And I have risen for the day at 4 4 30am every morning to give Ginger a little time to get some sleep It has been exhausting But we couldn t just leave her to cry through the night We found that wouldn t work she is very persistent and won t take ignoring her lightly And even though we were tired and crabby we still got up to take care of her not so much because we had to but because we care for her Not unlike getting up throughout the night to answer the call of a crying newborn We do it out of love to answer her persistent call In today s Gospel a woman comes up to Jesus tells Him her daughter is afflicted with a demon and asks Him to cure her Seems simple enough we already know how this should end Jesus says yes and cures her daughter Easey peasey right But not so fast It is obvious that the woman has great faith she truly believes He can cure her daughter She truly believes that Jesus is more than just a man she even goes so far as to bow down before Him and pay Him homage But faith is more than something you feel inside your soul it is more than something you keep to yourself 176

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But she doesn t just have faith she has faith in the face of adversity In the culture she is living in she literally has no rights She has everything going against her she is a woman she is a pagan and a foreigner Add to that the fact that she is an unaccompanied woman who deliberately confronts Jesus in public and tries to engage Him in a conversation She has everything going against her and yet she persists And how does Jesus respond At first He completely ignores her snubs her treats her as if she doesn t even exist And when she persists He then insults her and essentially compares her to a dog And yet she persists She calmly accepts His insult and replies back to Him not with anger but with a firm belief that God hears the prayers of all people even foreigners even pagans even non Jews And perhaps most importantly she has faith in action Her faith shapes her life and her actions It is a faith that is open for all to see It is a faith that shows her love for others her daughter and her hope for the future It is a faith that guides and supports her even in times of distress In spite of being ignored snubbed treated as if she was a nobody undeserving of even a simple conversation in spite of being insulted she persisted Her faith persisted And because of that faith a miracle occurs And that is our challenge to keep our faith in the Creator Even when it s inconvenient even when it s uncomfortable even when we are ignored or mistreated even when everyone else around us questions and doubts even when the world seems to be falling apart Keep the faith Be persistent Creator God give me courage today give me strength to believe in You to trust in You even in the midst of sickness and pain of violence and hatred of ignorance and mistrust Give me courage to keep my faith in You in my thoughts in my words and in my actions Aho 177

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Monday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 19 16 22 Let It Go Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem Perhaps one good thing about these past 5 months has been that many of us have had the chance to clean house in every sense of the word Slowly and methodically I ve been able to clean every room in our house top to bottom even windows and curtains That also meant cleaning out closets and drawers packing up and getting rid of lots of stuff that has been lying there unused for years It has been a downsizing event that still continues as we move to a simpler more practical and ultimately more satisfying life together But in the process of removing all those possessions I think most of us are forgetting the other stuff the stuff that s lying around inside of us all those slights and grudges that we insist on holding onto We all have them Whether they are relationships that have become toxic or moments when we felt hurt or abandoned or betrayed or forgotten we hold onto them like they are some battle wound or badge of courage For any other injury we would head to the doctor for stitches and healing Instead we deliberately keep the wound open and sore and decide that it s the responsibility of the other person to fix it not us And in the process look at what it does to us We grow cold and distant We see the other person only in the light of that single hurt We stunt our spiritual growth and choose to live in the past We make ourselves at times to be a great martyr for bearing the hurt We hold onto it like it s a prized possession We refuse to let it go and move on Our view and attitude toward that other person is frozen in time and yet in reality we are the ones who are frozen stuck in the past stuck with anger and pain and hurt 178

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The rich young man in today s Gospel is also stuck He knows what he has to do to become a follower of Jesus Another version of this story tells of Jesus looking on this young man with love All he has to do is let go and he can t do it For him it s his physical possessions all his stuff What is it for us Is it that person who lied to us about something completely unimportant Is it that person who forgot your birthday Is it that person who constantly slights you to your face or behind your back Whoever or whatever it is the damage remains only as long as you allow it to remain Let It Go Clean Your House Downsize Those Negative Feelings Look at it more not as giving up but as freeing yourself freeing yourself to follow Christ If there is anything the rich young man gets right it s the question he asks What must I do to gain eternal life That s the question we should be asking ourselves today Are all these hurt feelings and resentment helping me to gain eternal life If not let them go Great Spirit help me to live a good life a life of peace and justice of trust and honesty of respect and honesty and a willingness to learn and grow in wisdom and grace On an entirely personal note happy 46th to my lovely patient wife Ginger No worries I am never letting you go 179

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Tuesday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 19 23 30 Let It Go Part II Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Today is a sort of follow up to yesterday s Gospel about the rich young man Jesus spends some time explaining to His disciples how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven He speaks of the importance of sacrifice The image that stands out however is that of the camel and the gate It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven Our first thought is that of a sewing needle and the tiny eye where we run the thread through But Jesus was probably talking about something a lot more familiar to His disciples There were eight Gates leading into the ancient City of Jerusalem most of them still visible and used today gates like the Jaffa Gate East Gate Lion s Gate Zion Gate even the Dung Gate used to take out the garbage But there is also a very narrow small gate that was used by merchants In order to get their camels through the gate all the baggage all the cargo had to be unloaded off the camel in order for the camel to pass into Jerusalem That is the metaphor here When we enter the Kingdom of Heaven we carry nothing with us no house no car no headphones no money no possessions of any kind We bring only ourselves and it is only ourselves by which we are judged God looks into our hearts not our wallets or purses He looks into our soul Just as we came into this world so we enter the next Our riches are measured not in dollars or investments but in our love for others and our faith in the Creator The more we see the things of this world as just that things and not an end unto themselves then the closer we get to the Kingdom the closer we get to God Great Spirit help me to appreciate all the things of this world as gifts and not goals Grant me the wisdom to respect all the wonders of creation and to see in them Your great love and care 180

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Wednesday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 20 1 16 It s Not Fair Working in the Fields Israel There are no easy answers today just a lot of infuriating questions It seems so unfair so unjust The first laborers worked all day and the last ones barely at all And yet they get paid the same The land owner also could have avoided any fuss by just paying the all day guys first and sending them on their way But he pays them last and they get to see what everyone else gets And maybe that s the point the lesson is for them The other laborers don t get paid more they all get paid the same So if we see the land owner as God then the payment must be eternal life Keeping the faith practicing the faith brings us to the Kingdom of Heaven There are no separate Kingdoms only one The reward is the same for all of us And for God it doesn t matter WHEN we hear the Word and follow it it only matter IF we hear the Word and follow it This is a parable that speaks to us of the mercy and compassion of God He is a generous God who offers all of us eternal life no matter who we are where we are or when we receive His Word Great Spirit help me today to not be so focused on comparing myself with everyone else Help me to keep my life in balance to learn to be in harmony with You and with myself 181

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Thursday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 22 1 14 Dress Code Years ago I remember going to a business lunch with a group of teachers in New York I didn t realize there was a dress code jackets and I didn t bring one The restaurant staff gave me one awful looking slightly smelly jacket that was available just for people like me It was embarrassing We read in today s Gospel about a wedding feast given by a rich man for his son All his friends and relatives were invited and all refused to come They didn t just forget they made a deliberate choice not to attend Eventually the father invites in anyone everyone he can find the poor the good the bad But when the father comes in to greet all his guests he sees someone not wearing a wedding garment Now this is where I always had problems with the parable That poor man how can you expect him to have a wedding garment he just got invited at the last moment How rude How inconsiderate of the host But wait a minute not so fast It was the responsibility of the host to provide a wedding garment for all the guests not the guests themselves That way no one needed to feel embarrassed because they were not dressed as well as others This way everyone was dressed the same and all could enjoy the celebration I guess that would have worked well for me if everyone was wearing that same awful coat This is obviously a metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven All are invited But some will refuse to come Others come willingly and accept the wedding garment following the teachings of Christ And that other guest Well basically the guest without a wedding garment was making a deliberate choice of disobedience and disrespect He was offered the garment but he refused He wanted to enjoy the benefits of the wedding feast without following the instructions of the host God He wanted to enter the Kingdom but only on his terms Too often we think we know better we have a better plan than anyone else even God We want to walk our own path without concern for others And only later do we see and suffer the consequences Following Christ is not always easy but the reward is worth it Creator of all grant me today the wisdom and humility to follow your Word and the courage to see it through Aho 182

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Friday Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 22 34 40 He Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah Mass at Magdala I admit there were plenty of times when I was little that I really pushed the limits on my parents rules tried to see how much I could get away with I m guessing we all did at some point Wash your hands clean your room do your homework obey your parents don t lie make your bed don t steal Too often our words of rebellion were simple WHY Why make my bed Who s gonna see it And it was probably not until we were much older that it all began to sink in and we understood that not only do we all need reminders of right and wrong from time to time but we do good out of love for others Many of the Jews at the time of Jesus seemed to have forgotten that They stuck strictly to obedience of the Commandments simply because they were the Commandments But they had forgotten WHY they should be followed And that motive LOVE is key to all our relationships Think about it most of the 10 Commandments are about avoiding evil don t do this don t do that I could lock myself away in a box for the rest of my life and obey most of them no one to lie to to steal from But all I m doing is avoiding evil Am I actually doing anything GOOD Jesus reminds us in the Gospel today that the greatest commandment is LOVE Love of God and love of neighbor I do good I avoid evil because I care about others because I love God And I don t want to hurt that relationship One more thought the love that Jesus is talking about is active It is not simply a nice feeling I have inside It is this powerful energizing emotion that reveals itself in all our actions It is not just a bunch of words but it s what we do and how we treat our loved ones It s how we give of ourselves for their benefit even when it s inconvenient even when it s difficult It s a love that grows and flourishes makes us stronger and better Great Spirit you created us out of love Help us to realize that the base of all things is love love of you and love of others P S I still make my bed occasionally 183

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Saturday Queenship of Mary Gospel Matthew 23 1 12 Walking the Walk Palm Sunday Road Jerusalem You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk Practice what you preach Put your money where your mouth is You talk a good game but Put up or shut up We hear it all the time We probably say it all the time And in today s Gospel even Jesus calls out the Pharisees who preach the teachings of Moses but fail to act on their own words We celebrate today the Queenship of Mary we celebrate Mary who as a teenage girl said YES to God s will when visited by the Angel Gabriel And she then spent her whole life living out that YES acting and serving God because of that YES She spent her entire life not just hearing God s Word but acting on it As the world tentatively tries to reach some sense of normality as the churches slowly open we all find ourselves back in the pews listening to the Scriptures hearing the pastor or deacon preach We respond with Amen and It is right and just And then we leave and return to our lives Has anything changed Do we feel any different Do we act any different Has there been any effect on us from hearing the Word and receiving the Eucharist Have we changed at all It is well past time for us to be Christian not just in words but in our actions not just within the walls of the Church but out in the world It is well past time for us to show that we can not only talk the talk but walk the walk Great Spirit thank you for the gift of walking with you today May it open my eyes and my heart to the world around me 184

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Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time Matthew 16 21 27 The Key to Success The Door Entrance to Church of Holy Sepulchre I don t know if I m the crazy one or if everyone has one of these cups This cup is filled with keys There are house keys and apartment keys car keys lock box keys luggage keys for travel keys that I don t even remember what lock they fit In a sense this cup contains a record of my adult life my first car my first apartment our first apartment as husband and wife the keys we were given when we bought our first and only house There are keys that open doors and keys that lock away and protect valuables Keys seem to be a recurring theme in today s readings Eliakim in the first reading is given the keys to the House of David the King He will control all the storerooms and treasuries of the King In effect he will be responsible for taking care of the needs of the people providing them with food and resources like a father would for his family And in today s Gospel Jesus gives to Peter the keys to the Kingdom He establishes the Church on the rock Peter literally PETRUS which means rock Traditionally this scene took place on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee at a place called Tabgha and there is a church called Church of the Primacy of Peter built over the site of that rock Jesus first asked His disciples who am I Kind of reminds me of the theme song from CSI TV show Who Are YOU And His disciples respond with answers like John the Baptist Elijah Jeremiah one of the prophets you re a miracle worker a teacher a preacher Different answers but they all have one thing in common they reflect a view that Jesus is merely HUMAN It s only Peter who responds with something different something illuminating you are the Christ you are the Son of God You are Divine Not just human And for that statement of belief Jesus established the Church and gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom Jesus establishes Peter and his successors the Popes as the foundation the rock of the Church Like Eliakim Jesus is entrusting Peter with the resources of the Kingdom to distribute to the faithful Jesus established Peter and his successors not as kings but as stewards of the House of God to open the way to the Kingdom of Heaven and to safeguard the teachings of Christ the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God Even today we see the image of those keys in the papal coat of arms two crossed keys one silver and one gold tied together with a red cord 185

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The holiest Christian site in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the place of Jesus death burial and resurrection Since the 7th century the key to the Church has been held by one family Early every morning around 3am they open the Church and every night around 9am they lock the doors And because the keyhole is so high on the door a ladder has to be passed through a small opening in the door in order to reach it and then passed back through the hatch It is a ritual that requires cooperation between the family outside and the friars within It requires devotion and duty and dedication And it is a ritual that requires faith a shared faith between the Christian priests of the Holy Sepulchre and the Moslem family who have been entrusted with that key for over 500 years KEYS They open up doorways to new life new opportunities new possibilities They lock away and protect our valuables Nowadays most of our keys don t really look all that much like keys anymore they are a set of words and symbols they re the passwords we use to access bank accounts medical records email accounts and personal information And even in the Church keys don t always look like keys I am holding our daughter s Baptismal candle 2 days ago was the anniversary of her Baptism This is one of many symbols from the Sacrament of Baptism that opened the door to her new life as an adopted daughter of God This is a key to her new life as a member of the family of God And this is a cross the key that through the life death and resurrection of Jesus opened to us all the Kingdom of Heaven And yet these are only a few examples The keys to the Kingdom are all around us a grieving mother a hungry child a sick parent a friend suffering from depression the gradual reopening of our churches to prayer and the sacraments These are all keys to our Christian faith if we only choose to respond to them 186 The keys are right there in front of us the doors have been opened It remains for us to step through

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Monday Feast of St Bartholomew John 1 45 51 The Journey of Faith I don t know about you but I am not a fan of walking into new situations or meeting people for the first time I feel awkward and quite a bit tongue tied wondering what to talk about and how they will react to me It takes me a while to warm up to them and feel comfortable Yeah I know what you re going to say you re a teacher you re used to getting up in front of a crowd of strangers most of them unimpressed and trying to grab their attention But this is different one on one is more direct nowhere to hide We celebrate today the Feast of St Bartholomew one of the Twelve Most Scripture scholars identify him as the Nathaniel we read about in today s Gospel the brother of Philip We see in this Gospel his first encounter with Jesus And while there is that first time awkwardness he quickly warms up to Jesus and eventually chooses to follow Him This is a good example of our journey of faith At first we are reluctant even skeptical Nathaniel when invited by his brother Philip really wants nothing to do with this Jesus He believes that nothing good can come out of Galilee this Jesus is not worth the trouble But he eventually agrees to just take a look at the man And what is Jesus reaction He sees him coming from a distance and immediately loves him He recognizes him right away as a good and honest and faithful man and He loves him And He promises Nathaniel Bartholomew that if he joins the other disciples he will see even greater things And he follows Jesus Is that any different from our own journey of faith At first we are reluctant uncomfortable unwilling to move in that direction It would mean change and we don t like to change We are skeptical doubtful that anything good can come from this And then what is Jesus reaction He immediately loves us loves us from the very first moment from the very first encounter No restrictions no conditions simple complete love And then He offers us the chance to follow Him and to earn a reward so unimaginable so overwhelming so eternal And that is where He leaves it It is then our choice our decision follow Him or not We face that choice every day Every moment of our lives we have the chance to say YES to follow Him to follow that journey of faith Where I ask does that journey take you TODAY What will be your response 187

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Tuesday Twenty First Week in Ordinary Time Matthew 23 23 26 Rotten on the Inside Perhaps one of the only good things to come out of this pandemic is that Ginger and I had the opportunity to put in a small garden something we haven t been able to do for at least 5 years It s a modest garden green peppers tomatoes a few herbs and zucchini And I am enjoying a real bumper crop with the zucchini a few dozen loaves of z bread already and much more to come I m even trying some new recipes something I ve not had the time or energy to do before But every once in a while I get a bad one And the problem is you don t see it coming On the outside all looks great perfect But then I cut it open and the zucchini is all rotten on the inside And then you have to just throw it away Ugh A very unpleasant surprise In today s Gospel Jesus uses extremely harsh language for the Pharisees and Scribes for being so clean and perfect on the outside but utterly rotten within He chastises them for being so concerned about collecting tithes on herbs like cumin and dill and yet not caring at all about the welfare of the people The Law demanded that the people contribute 10 of all of their produce and crops to the Temple Too often instead of burning them as an offering the Pharisees and Scribes would take them for their own personal use Lawful on the outside but rotten within They paid more attention to outward appearance and not to one s inner soul more attention to crops and herbs and not to justice and mercy and compassion Maybe this is our wake up call to look deep inside ourselves Does our outward appearance match our inner attitude Do we put up a good front but are dead inside Do we worry too much about ourselves and not enough about others Do I do the right thing but for selfish reasons We all make mistakes we are all at times blind to the needs of others What can I do today so that my words and actions my thoughts and intentions fully reflect the Spirit within Take some time today to look deep inside cut open that zucchini and see what you find Is it worth making some bread with The Creator has a purpose for each and every one of us We may not know it we may not understand it But we are on this earth to fulfill that purpose It is our task to prepare ourselves by prayer by being unselfish by choosing to walk a spiritual path 188

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Wednesday Twenty First Week in Ordinary Time Matthew 23 27 32 Whitewashed Tombs Ancient Cemetery Outside Jerusalem There s a story about a preacher who was accused of not practicing what he preached He responded Well at least I don t preach what I practice Hypocrite It comes from a Greek word for actor someone who put on a show for others Someone who acts a part and pretends to be good just for admiration and applause If you thought Jesus was blunt in yesterday s Gospel today goes way beyond The Pharisees and Scribes are like whitewashed tombs with only dead men s bones and filth inside The Jews believed that contact with the dead automatically made you unclean so the tombs were painted white to warn the people away to prevent them from touching the stones So the Pharisees only appear righteous but they are ultimately only concerned with themselves But why such harsh words Why does Jesus condemn the Pharisees so bluntly Maybe it s because their supposedly sincere words were leading others astray They care only about one thing themselves and about garnering applause from others Maybe Jesus was concerned with the effect of their words on others It s bad enough that a person says one thing and does something completely different What s worse is if they can convince others to follow their example At some point in our lives we have all been swayed by the honeyed words of another They said the right things the things we wanted to hear what we needed to hear at the time We were fooled and we learned a bitter lesson not only about whom to trust but how much our own words have an effect on others The lesson here is twofold to value others not only for their words but for their actions AND not to fall into the same trap of being a hypocrite ourselves saying things just for the admiration or applause of others Great Spirit help me to live for others today and learn that love is the key and that my words must reflect what is in my heart 189

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Thursday Twenty First Week in Ordinary Time Matthew 24 4 51 Ready Set Go Remember that first day of school when we were little Maybe we were excited Maybe upset that the summer was over Maybe glad that we get to see our friends again Maybe nervous about a new teacher new classes new homework But do you remember all the work all the preparation that our parents went through to get us ready for that day Shopping for school supplies new clothes Trips to the grocery store for extra food to make for school lunches Maybe even getting us up early weeks before school started so that we were back on schedule Our parents probably spent weeks getting us ready for that first day of school And for many of you you were doing exactly the same thing this week getting your kids ready for school But this time was different this time it wasn t just after three months of summer it was after six long months of isolation three of e learning and three of a very weird summer And the preparations were different as well Now you were looking for masks and shields special guidelines on what they can can t bring for lunch and social distancing even at recess So much preparation And why do we do it Because we love our kids and we want to keep them safe and protected We want to make sure they are prepared for the new day the new school reality And so it is with today s Gospel and the story of the faithful and unfaithful servant The faithful servant is always ready always prepared for the return of the master And the unfaithful one wastes his time and never looks to the future Too late he rushes at the last minute to make up for all the lost time and opportunities We are all called to be ready for the return of the master it is not a simple last minute rush it s a lifelong preparation It requires faith and dedication and yes even love It requires the sort of effort we put in to get our kids ready for school and dare I say for life It is an unquestioning faith in the future and an unconditional love for each other and for the Master Creator of all keep me focused today and every day on my one true purpose to serve You Guide me lead me to always be ready to answer the call to turn my faith in You into an active love for others 190

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Friday Twenty First Week in Ordinary Time Matthew 25 1 13 Tough Love Church of Holy Sepulchre Anybody have one of those friends someone who always seems to be in trouble or in need Someone who always runs to you for help for money for solutions for bail or maybe even an alibi And out of friendship out of love you always help them out I mean face it isn t that the Christian thing to do I think that s what s happening today in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins The foolish ones are asking for help give us some of your oil But the wise ones say NO What How rude How unkind How unfriendly How un Christian Aren t these the wise virgins Why aren t they helping But perhaps that is exactly the point Sometimes you have to say no sometimes you have to practice a bit of tough love Sometimes foolish friends become too dependent on you to always come to their rescue They expect there will always be a safety net But sooner or later they have to learn to stand on their own 2 feet make their own decisions and take responsibility Sometimes maybe the most Christian thing we can do is not solve all their problems but give them the opportunity to resolve them themselves I don t mean we abandon them or leave them stranded I mean we still love and support them but we provide the opportunity for them to direct their own lives We give them the chance to pick themselves up and carry on Face it when we finally stand before God we will only be carrying our own lamps our own oil 191

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Saturday Beheading of John the Baptist Matthew 6 17 29 Don t Lose Your Head Masada Herod the Great s Fortress near the Dead Sea Today s Gospel is a study in contrasts There is Herod so full of greed and lust that he promises Salome anything even half his kingdom after she dances for him A man so focused on his own vices and desires that he can t think rationally And there is John the Baptist who in this passage is notable for his absence He doesn t say a word and yet he is the center of the story Two men utterly different like 2 sides of the same coin and yet their lives were so interwoven and connected And the story ends so gruesomely with John s head being brought to Salome on a platter who then hands it to her mother Contrasts John spending his life focused on his mission to prepare the way of the Lord So dedicated to the truth that when Herod marries his brother s wife John publically and forcefully calls out Herod for living in sin So devoted to calling people to repentance of their sins that he is not afraid to call Herod to task for his sin and for the need to change his life Courage faith witness to the truth And then there is Herod who is only concerned with his own base desires and selfishness A king more filled with lust and greed than the truth He would do anything for a pretty face or to satisfy his appetite A man who makes ludicrous promises without thought or good judgement and only feels remorse after the fact All of us have probably felt that same tug in two directions whether we admit it or not the desire to be truthful honest loving of others and the urge to look out only for ourselves and our desires The tug of war between what is right and what is easy That battle goes on inside each of us every day In the end this story ends with both men losing their head John for the sake of his faith and Herod for the sake of his desires What about us Who wins today 192

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Sunday Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Matthew 16 21 27 Taking the Easy Road Via Dolorosa Jerusalem A King was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor Instead of choosing one of his children he invited all the young people from his kingdom and told them I am going to give each one of you a seed today one very special seed I want you to plant the seed water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this seed I will then judge the plants that you bring and based on your efforts I will choose the next ruler One of the boys went home and excitedly told his mother the story She helped him get a pot filled with soil and he planted the seed and watered it carefully Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown After about three weeks some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow He kept checking his seed but nothing ever grew Three weeks four weeks five weeks went by still nothing By now others were talking about their plants but he didn t have a plant and he felt like a failure Six months went by still nothing in his pot and he knew his seed had died Everyone else had trees or flowers but he had nothing A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the king for inspection The boy reluctantly took his empty pot to the palace He was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths They were beautiful in all shapes and sizes When the king arrived he surveyed the room and greeted the young people And the boy tried to hide in the back Suddenly the king spotted him at the back of the room with his empty pot He ordered his guards to bring him to the front He was terrified The king asked him what happened I don t know he said I planted the seed watered it every day pulled weeds and cared for it as best I could But nothing grew I m sorry Then the King spoke to the crowd One year ago today I gave everyone here a seed I told you to take the seed plant it water it and bring it back to me today But I gave you all boiled seeds that couldn t grow All of you except this boy have brought me trees and plants and flowers When you found that the seed would not grow you substituted another seed for the one I gave you This boy was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it Therefore he is the one who will be the new king That young boy had a choice actually all the youth had a choice But he was the only one to make the honest decision the tough decision to take the right road 193

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even though it was difficult and uncomfortable All the others chose to take the easy road no worries no responsibilities a dishonest path They all faced a sort of temptation right or wrong easy or demanding We see a similar choice in today s Gospel It was only last week that we heard Peter proclaim Jesus as the divine Son of God and Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven and made him the rock on which the Church is built Today Peter returns to that impetuous stubborn blunt and brash Apostle we are so used to Jesus has just predicted His own suffering and death And what does Peter do He jumps right in and contradicts Jesus No no way that s not gonna happen And Jesus responds by calling Peter Satan Jesus in His human nature also faced temptations like in the desert And He faces one here The temptation to take the easy road no pain no suffering or the difficult path of suffering and death Jesus is basically addressing not only Peter but Satan himself recognizing the temptation for what it is the temptation to avoid a demanding life and death and to take the easy path His response is clear begone Satan don t tempt me As Christians we are all faced with difficult choices difficult temptations And there are plenty of times when we do take the easy way out Either out of laziness or fear or a simple lack of courage we look for quick solutions and then have to deal with the consequences of our lack of action We jump headlong into a situation kind of like Peter jumping out of the boat in the middle of a storm and then we re stuck with how do I get myself out of this mess Jesus reminds us that in order to truly follow Him we all must take up our cross Will it be difficult Yes Is it an easy path Definitely not But the reward is eternal life May God give us the strength the courage and wisdom to make the difficult choices to turn away from the easy path and to follow in His footsteps No pain no gain 194

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Monday Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time Luke 4 16 30 A Rush to Judgement Ever had that experience of running into an old relative someone who hasn t seen you since you were little and they proceed to treat you like you were still that little child they used to play with It s as if from their perspective you never changed you never grew up And when you try to tell them all that you have accomplished and the bright future you are working toward they almost refuse to believe it no not my little boy That is what s happening in today s Gospel Jesus has returned to Nazareth after being baptized by John and praying for 40 days in the desert At this point He has done nothing no miracles no parables no preaching nothing at all And He goes to the synagogue to offer His first sermon And He reads from the Prophet Isaiah The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind to let the oppressed go free It is a prophecy about the Messiah the long hoped for Messiah And He then tells them clearly that today that prophecy is fulfilled I am the Messiah They are enraged and upset This can t be we know this man He is just the son of the carpenter We saw him playing as a child He is just a Jew like any of us They become so upset that they drag Him out of the synagogue out of Nazareth to the top of Mount Precipice to throw Him off the cliff But He passes through their midst and leaves to begin His mission In spite of their denial their hatred and their doubt that He will amount to anything Jesus begins His Mission We have all faced moments of push back from others moments when we start a new job or career or a new life and all we get from others is doubt You won t make it you won t be able to handle it Do you think he s really going through with it He ll never amount to anything Moments that make us doubt our choices and perhaps rethink our life goals Moments when we question our abilities and our resolve But even though we have had moments like that in the past we got through them Moments when God was with us all along So maybe today could be the day to spend in gratitude to thank God for all He has done for us to get us this far in life To thank Him for His many blessings that gave us the strength and courage to move on in life To thank Him for those special people in our lives who love us encourage us push us and correct us when we need it and people who gave us the courage to move forward and succeed People like my mom who celebrates her birthday today Happy 95th Birthday Mom 195

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Tuesday Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time Luke 4 31 37 I Know You Synagogue in Capernaum With 40 years of teaching high school religion under my belt that adds up to thousands of students And even after all this time it seems I never forget a face It s a running joke with Ginger that we can t go anywhere without us running into a former student If that wasn t odd enough as soon as I see them I recognize them and know their name Then I proceed to tell Ginger You remember them they were they did they were in that class and Ginger s pat answer I don t remember But I do I remember them I know them That s what happening in today s Gospel Jesus is preaching in Capernaum and the people are amazed at His teaching But there is a man there possessed by a demon And it s the demon who recognizes Jesus and calls Him by name You are the Holy One of God He recognizes Him not merely as a preacher but as the Son of God Says something doesn t it Even the demons recognize Jesus for who He really is The question for us today is do we know Jesus How do you know Him Is He just words on a page or stories that you ve heard or repeated Is He real Would we recognize Him In all those times of trial and heartache when we prayed so fervently for help do we remember the Son of the Living God Do we see Him in the face of others who cry out for justice or mercy or peace Do we recognize Him in the cries of the poor the homeless the lost and forsaken Do we take the time and the energy and the patience to look for Jesus remember His presence in our lives and to know that He truly is the Son of the Most High 196

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Wednesday Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time Luke 4 38 44 A Luke Warm Reception Ruins of Peter s House Capernaum In case you hadn t noticed this week our daily Gospel readings have shifted from Matthew to Luke Tradition tells us that Luke was a Gentile and a doctor So it s not unusual then that when Jesus performs a healing miracle Luke provides a bit more detail to the illness And so Peter s mother in law is not just sick she is sick with a severe fever In the days ahead when we go deeper into Luke you will also see an emphasis on Jesus as the Savior of all people not just Jews In fact He shows a particular affection for the second class citizens the poor the sick the non Jews women and the oppressed But today consider what s been happening ever since the week began On Monday we saw Jesus being run out of Nazareth His home town In fact the people tried to throw Him off a cliff And then look at these past 2 days Jesus comes to Capernaum preaches in their synagogue and then today heals Peter s mother inlaw And their reaction They are amazed at His words and His authority anyone who was sick was brought to Him and cured and they spread the word about this amazing preacher What a warm reception What a different reception from what happened in Nazareth In fact Jesus comes to make Capernaum basically His home for the next few years Yesterday we talked about whether or how we know Jesus Today the focus is on how do we react to that knowledge If we really do believe Jesus is the Son of the Most High how do we respond Do we try to push Him out of our life get rid of Him like the Nazareans Or do we provide a warm welcome open our arms and our hearts to His words and actions What kind of reception do we give to Jesus Do we offer such an open response that Jesus doesn t just visit us but He takes up residence in our hearts Great Spirit allow me today to feel Your presence Help me to remember and appreciate that You are always here beside me Give me the openness to welcome You into my life 197

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Thursday Feast of St Gregory the Great Luke 5 1 11 Waiting for that Lightning Bolt How many times have you walked away from a challenge Turned your back on something so new and different that you were afraid Something that you knew would completely change your life Either it was too radically different or you were too comfortable with the life you were living Ten years ago I was happily teaching high school religion Life was good and very full not only as a teacher but as a husband father and grandfather And I knew retirement was not that far away But then a chance comment after Mass changed everything Have you ever thought about becoming a Deacon Simple answer NO End of story or so I thought But the possibility kept nagging at me and I kept ignoring it I figured fine I will just wait for that obvious lightning bolt from heaven just to be sure Reluctant to change sure Nervous about upsetting my life absolutely Difficult choice Actually choice is not the right word Response is more accurate response to the call So yes it was a difficult response but also one that ended up merging my home life my work life and my spiritual life into one In the end there was no lightning bolt only a gentle call that comes to you where you are at and offers you a new direction More about that some other time Peter in today s Gospel is given that call He has already seen Jesus preach in the synagogue in Capernaum He has seen Him cure his mother in law And now coming to shore after a long and fruitless night of fishing Jesus asks to borrow his boat to preach to the crowd OK fine But then Jesus asks him to put back out onto the Sea of Galilee Peter is reluctant but OK fine And they catch a multitude of fish When they get to shore Jesus asks Peter the really challenging question drop everything and follow Me Leave your home your wife and family your job and friends and take on a new challenge Peter is afraid he knows he isn t perfect and he asks Jesus to leave him in his unworthiness But Jesus persists and Peter answers the call And so it is with all of us Jesus comes to each one of us not with a lightning bolt or a burning bush He meets us where we are at he meets us in the events of our ordinary lives and offers us the challenge not to separate our spiritual life from home and work but to make it all one To make our faith and love of God the focus of our daily life not just something we do on a Sunday morning Creator help me to let go of old ways old thoughts Let me be open to change and to growth and let that change be an opportunity for me to draw closer to You 198

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Friday Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time Luke 5 33 39 The Times They Are A Changin Six months Six whole months of wearing masks and keeping six feet of distance Six months of staying away from large gatherings away from family and friends Some of that time spent stuck at home not even going out for groceries or church or even work And sometimes self isolating ourselves after we came into contact with someone who tested positive 6 long difficult months of getting used to the new normal Well it definitely is new but it certainly is not normal It s not like we really had a choice either This isn t the same as moving into a new house or starting a new job For safety for everyone s health this was and is necessary But that doesn t mean we have to like it Some of us are still struggling still upset still reluctant to change to adjust And that is understandable Some of us myself included have a hard time getting used to something new and different We feel lost untethered and definitely upset Changes are coming in today s Gospel as well Jesus and His disciples are not acting properly at least according to the Scribes and Pharisees They aren t fasting and observing the Law like John the Baptist and his followers My goodness they are eating and drinking as if they were at a wedding And the Jewish leaders are furious they are doing everything they can to maintain the status quo They are not just reluctant to change They are defiantly resistant Things must stay normal no matter the cost The old is good No need to change Jesus tells them that these changes are a good thing new cloak new wine new wineskins This is a cause for celebration But the leaders don t see it they refuse to see it It is difficult to see much good in the midst of this pandemic but we have to try We suddenly have all this spare time on our hands How are we using it To complain about what we have lost Or use it for something positive I have certainly upped my baking skills not just zucchini bread but cake and muffins even baking bread every week We take daily walks through the neighborhood and people are actually saying hi as we cross paths And we are spending time in prayer If nothing else we have been given the precious gift of time time to grow in our faith and time to learn from the Master Time to toss out the old wine and savor the new Time not so much to complain about what we miss but to appreciate all that we have Great Spirit I know that every change is preceded by a struggle Help me through this struggle Pour down your grace and strength and courage and hope to face this new day 199

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Saturday Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time Luke 6 1 5 Have A Little Heart Fields of Plenty near Gaza Strip Have you ever read or seen Les Miserables Simply Jean Valjean is sent to prison for stealing bread to feed his starving family Cruel and heartless Yes I know stealing is wrong but aren t there some exceptions some times when basic human needs outweigh the law The Apostles in today s Gospel are caught picking grain on the Sabbath The law is clear no work on the Sabbath and picking grain qualifies as work even if you are hungry Kind of reminds me of picking huckleberries in the woods behind our house when we were kids Jesus reminds the Pharisees that there have been exceptions to the rule in the past particularly King David when he and his men ate bread that was set aside only for the priests And He tries to teach them that God is not just a Law giver but a loving parent We all know that to be true We all grew up with rules from our parents and discipline when we faltered For those of us who are parents there were certainly times when our child broke a rule and yet they were so heart broken and devastated by it that any punishment from us would have been counter productive How could we discipline them any more than they were punishing themselves So what did we do We forgave them we loved them God reminds us today that He is Our Father He is a loving forgiving Parent Yes of course there are rules to follow But through it all God is merciful and loving and compassionate We all need that day of rest probably more a week or even a month of rest a break from the work a day world time to catch our breath collect our thoughts even energize our spiritual batteries Especially in the midst of this pandemic this Labor Day weekend is a good time to do just that But God reminds us today that even as we take our Sabbath break from work we can never take a break from treating others with love and compassion 200

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Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 18 15 20 Grudge Works Wailing Wall Jerusalem Remember that pool party when you were little that you weren t invited to Remember getting picked last for a baseball game and it was your best friend doing the picking Or that promotion you were perfect for but you got skipped over like you weren t even there Remember what it felt like how much it hurt Face it we have all had those moments when someone hurt us deeply Maybe it was deliberate maybe unintentional either way we are in pain we are angry What do we do with all that negative emotion Many of us myself included tend to keep it inside We fume and grumble and complain we let it fester and grow until we reach the point where we take it out on everyone around us What was once a problem between 2 people turns into something that affects the whole community We tell ourselves and others I m not one to hold a grudge But we do I do At times I seem to be a master at it Whether it s a forgotten birthday or treated like I was invisible or unimportant I don t just hold a grudge I feed off it and allow it to feed off me It leads to resentment negative feelings It pushes us to live in the past reliving over and over again those slights and mistakes of others It prevents us from living in the here and now prevents us from growing and moving forward prevents us from allowing others to be the person they are and not the person we thought they were Jesus in today s Gospel recognizes our oh so human condition and provides a way out a way to resolve the issue and heal the wounds But it is not easy It requires honesty truth and a willingness to forgive to be forgiven and to heal a firm desire to move forward 201

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First quit gossiping and complaining to others The issue is between the two of you so go directly to that person and speak your grievance Hard Of course but in the process you are not just healing the relationship you are healing yourself getting rid of those negative feelings and resentment Besides how many times have you faced the other person and it was only then that they realized they had hurt you All that pain you were carrying around and they never knew never realized Second if one on one doesn t work then bring 2 other persons with you as witnesses and try again And if that doesn t work if they refuse to acknowledge their fault then bring it to the whole community Drastic Yes Necessary Yes There is a basic message Jesus is trying to teach sin affects everyone Anger and resentment and jealousy and hate if ignored will only deepen and end up affecting the whole community the whole family As much as we are in pain and hurting it will only get worse if we don t seek to confront it and attempt to heal That takes courage honesty a willingness to forgive and be forgiven and love especially love It s an opportunity not for us to lord it over someone else and show how wrong they are but the chance for repentance for healing and reconciliation Jesus gave the Apostles the keys to the Kingdom the power to bind and to loose But He has given all of us the power to forgive and the command to love each other We are all called to look out for each other How can we call ourselves a disciple if we see a wrong and do nothing say nothing How can we expect forgiveness for wrongs we committed if we don t offer the same forgiveness to others Great Spirit help me today to be humble to realize that we are all fragile creatures Let me not attack others but seek to heal and mend old wounds and build new and stronger relationships Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of danger and uncertainty Help me find compassion without resentment overwhelming me Help me to seek strength and courage not to be greater than others but to fight my greatest enemy myself Make us always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes In peace and protection walk before us In strength and wisdom walk beside us In honor and courage walk behind us In power and resolve fly above us Aho And Miigwetch 202

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Monday Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 6 11 Timing Is Everything Falafel Time Jerusalem Ever get bailed out rescued at the last minute The teacher postponing that test you didn t study for That neighbor who helped you shovel out your car after a snowstorm That job offer that came out of nowhere after months of fruitless searching That best friend who calls you up just when you needed a supportive voice We ve all had moments like this a little miracle happening just when we needed it But I wonder is it just about timing Is it any less of a miracle a wonder if it happened at a different time Is timing everything Is there ever a bad time for a good thing to happen Timing matters in today s Gospel Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath And the scribes and Pharisees are just waiting for Jesus to cure a man with a withered hand to accuse Him of doing work on the Sabbath For them timing is all important For Jesus it s not about the timing it s about compassion caring for your brother That man with a withered hand would not have been able to work would not have been allowed to work He would have been shunned and ostracized because of his deformity he would have been an outcast Do you think it mattered to him what day it was But it mattered to the Jewish leaders Jesus makes it clear there is nothing more important than taking care of your brother sister There is no law greater than love of your neighbor So I pose this question can there ever be a bad time to do a good deed Is the bad time more a matter of inconvenience for ourselves than ministering to the needs of others Let us remember on this Labor Day all those who give not only of their time but their heart to serve others 203

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Tuesday Nativity of Our Blessed Mother Gospel Matthew 1 1 16 18 23 Mom Time Mary s Home Nazareth Just last week we celebrated my Mom s 95th birthday Well not so much celebrated I mean since I am here in Chicago and she is in Southern Maryland and given the reluctance to travel during the pandemic celebrating is a relative word But we did send her cards and flowers and a present seriously what can you give someone celebrating 95 years that they haven t already gotten and we did talk on the phone and give her our best wishes Through it all it was an opportunity to give thanks for her long life and her life as our mother It certainly can t have been easy wrangling the four of us but she more than managed it And so we celebrated not only her life as a mother but the life she had given us as her sons and daughters We celebrate another birthday today the Nativity of Mary And we would do well to not only celebrate her birth but also her life as the Mother of our Savior a life that paved the way for our new life as sons and daughters of the Father Matthew opens today s Gospel with a long list of Jesus genealogy tracing His roots all the way back to Abraham through the line of King David That is no coincidence it was through Abraham that the Jewish faith was instituted And it is through Jesus that our Christian faith our life as brothers and sisters of Jesus originated Birthdays are always a time of hope and thanksgiving Hope for the future for many more days of celebration hope for a long and productive life And thanksgiving a chance to look back on a life well lived a life full of memories and blessings And so let us celebrate our Blessed Lady s birthday today in the same vein Thanksgiving for all our blessings received gratitude for Mary s YES and her life of faith And hope for blessings still to come and a life to share in the Kingdom of Heaven 204

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Wednesday Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 20 26 Leaping for Joy Have you ever had a moment when you literally leapt for joy I mean literally jumped in the air because you were so happy Maybe it was the last out when the Cubs won the World Series Maybe it was when you learned you passed that final exam of your worst class or that acceptance letter from your 1 college Maybe when you made the softball team or passed the boards to become a nurse A time when you were so full of joy that you couldn t contain your excitement So multiply that by a couple of billion and maybe we get close to the joy that Jesus is talking about in today s Gospel The joy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven the joy of realizing the Kingdom is yours Leaping for joy and pumping your fist in the air a joy that can t be contained inside and must be bursting out of every pore in your body This is Luke s retelling of the Beatitudes and it is quite different More bold more joyful and more direct Blessed are you who are NOW poor NOW hungry NOW weeping NOW being hated by others What a comfort to those in pain and how insightful that Jesus addresses His words to only those clearly suffering in this life A reminder that all you are suffering in this life will not last But Luke takes it a bit further and Jesus addresses the opposite group the rich the filled the laughing all those who are causing the suffering Woe to you In no uncertain terms the ones who are preying on the poor and defenseless will also have their day of judgment But for the poor the suffering all those treated unfairly the ignored and the invisible the message is clear You are not forgotten You are loved and cared for and your Father in heaven has a reward for you greater than you can imagine A reward well worth jumping for joy Great Spirit give me the strength today to let go of my attachment to the things of this life wealth power popularity selfishness hate anger bitterness and jealousy Help me to let go of the things of this world and embrace the beauty of Your Creation Help me to surrender myself to You and then find joy worth jumping for 205

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Thursday Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 27 38 Keep It Simple Taking a Walk I remember as a young father the times I would go outside after hearing the neighborhood kids arguing or fighting about something I felt somehow that it was part of my job as a parent to be a peace maker So I would go out gather the kids together have them all say they were sorry and shake hands And I would get the dumbest looks from all of them And for a very good reason By the time I got outside they had already moved on They had already completely forgotten what they were arguing about and just went back to playing together Forgive and forget If only it were so simple these days If only we hadn t forgotten how to be child like All we seem to see and read about today are adults acting CHILD ISH Spoiled demanding to get our way refusing to see the other side angry bitter vengeful full of spite and selfishness We call each other fools and idiots we belittle others because they are different Why did we ever grow up Why did we forget We face a hard lesson in today s Gospel Jesus has been leading up to these words over the past week or so And today He lays down the law in no uncertain terms Love everyone even your enemies Forgive all Be merciful just as your Father is merciful Simple Yes Easy to carry out Hardly In fact almost impossible to practice And yet in another sense it is easy You don t have to choose who to love and who not to love just love everyone You don t have to decide who to forgive forgive everyone Treat everyone the same 206 Treat others the way you want to be treated We said before in another homily that sin affects the whole community not just the sinner How much more so LOVE Jesus has given us a seemingly impossible task difficult to practice much less master But if not us then who If not here then where If not now then when May the peace of Christ and the love of God our Father direct our hearts and our actions

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Friday Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 39 42 Humble Pie Lighting a Candle Church of Holy Sepulchre A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard wearing his baseball cap and toting a ball and bat I m the greatest HITTER in the world he announced Then he tossed the ball into the air swung at it and missed Strike One he yelled Undaunted he picked up the ball and said again I m the greatest hitter in the world He tossed the ball into the air When it came down he swung again and missed Strike Two he cried out The boy then paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully He spit on his hands and rubbed them together He straightened his cap and said once more I m the greatest hitter in the world Again he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it He missed Strike Three Wow he exclaimed I m the greatest PITCHER in the world It s good to believe in yourself It s good to be confident in your abilities and to be proud of your accomplishments But many times we can go overboard and in the process of thinking we are the best we end up belittling everyone else The sin of pride of selfishness The belief that I know better than anyone the belief that I am better than anyone Here s a little secret We are not perfect not you and certainly not I There is such a fine line between being proud of our actions and boasting about them to the detriment of others What we need is a little humility perhaps a nice big dose of it sometimes to wake us up And that is what the Gospel addresses today 207

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We cannot spend our lives pointing out everyone else s faults and not see the same faults in ourselves We cannot spend our lives in arrogance not seeing the needs of others and tending to them Especially today on the 19th anniversary of 9 11 we are called to appreciate and remember all the families and victims of September 11th 2001 for all selfless first responders firefighters police officers and emergency service workers who gave their lives in service and in humility It was a day that I learned what it really means to be a father to be a husband to be a friend It was a day we all rushed to a phone or to get home to hug our family to tell them we loved them to make sure they were all okay It was a day when saying I love you became more than just a daily ritual It was a day that we lost not only lives of friends and family fellow human beings but we also lost our innocence when we can no longer take our sense of comfort and security our relationships for granted It was a day that will forever change the way we look up at the sky at the sound of a plane When wings became weapons and passengers became pawns It was a day that opened our eyes to a world of violence and uncertainty But it wasn t just about loss since that day we have also gained we have gained a greater appreciation for our parents and family we have gained a deeper sense of what it means to call someone a friend Even in the midst of tragedy we have learned to value that we are all one color one faith one soul one people and when violence affects one individual it diminishes us all But in the long run if we are to gain any meaning from September 11 we must also open our hearts To provide food in a world where many walk in hunger To witness to our faith in a world where many walk in fear To be friend and family in a world where many walk alone To appreciate all the days we have had together and all the days to come To accept the joys and the sorrows that bind us ever closer together To teach us that we can do no great things Only small things with great love 208 So that all that has divided us will merge And compassion will come to a world that is harsh and unkind And no one will be subject to the will of another And all will be rich and free and varied And all will share in the earth s abundance And all will care for the sick and the weak and the old And all will cherish the young And all will cherish life s creatures And all will make peace not just a word but a way of life

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Saturday Twenty Third Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 6 43 49 Shaky Ground Storms over Mt Carmel An elderly carpenter was ready to retire He told his employer contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoying his extended family He would miss the paycheck but he needed to retire They could get by The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor The carpenter said yes but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials It was an unfortunate way to end his career When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house the contractor handed the front door key to the carpenter This is your house he said my gift to you What a shock What a shame If he had only known he was building his own house he would have done it all so differently Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well For whatever reasons the carpenter made some very poor unwise decisions he had lost his drive his heart for the job He no longer believed in what he was doing He lacked wisdom He lacked faith He lacked spirit heart Just like the carpenter every day we build our own house we build our lives every day we hammer a nail set up a wall paint a room And sometimes we don t do a very good job we get lazy forgetful less focused and some days we just give up thinking we don t have the will or the right tools for the job Today s Gospel reminds us of the need to build our house on solid ground on a solid faith On a house that can withstand anything wind storms rushing waters That solid house depends on our faith in the words of Christ It depends on us living a real Spirit filled life energized to live out the Gospel And it depends on a good dose of wisdom the ability to make the right decisions even when faced with the storms of life Creator heal my mind and my heart today Let me not only see love but be love 209

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Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 18 21 35 Forgiveness I Am So Sorry Site of Peter s Denial Jerusalem Two days ago we remembered those horrible events of 9 11 from 19 years ago It s a memorial that even today brings tears and sadness and causes us to remember where we were what we were doing The day before September 10 I walked out of school after a typically long Monday of classes and drove home to an empty house Ginger was away for a two weeklong East Coast business trip I proceeded to order out an overly large pizza which I totally consumed I turned on the TV to watch Monday Night Football but grew bored with the game and went upstairs to read a book Ginger called and we spent maybe five minutes of idle chitchat before saying the requisite I love you and goodnight Life was normal predictable And the next morning the world changed We adults became as children staring deaf and dumb at the TV as one image after another shocked us into silence And our children became as adults forced much too soon to witness brutal acts of unforgiveable violence and destruction and voicing questions for which we had no answers Everything we believed in accepted took for granted burst into flames and collapsed with the towers We found we had no appetite for food and when we tried to force ourselves to eat it seemed bland and tasteless We spent our waking hours glued to the TV and for many of us we went to sleep if we slept at all with the radio on afraid of more horrors to come I spent most of that day unable to contact Ginger knowing she was somewhere on the East Coast but not exactly sure where she was and whether she was safe Communications were down her cell phone wouldn t connect and it wasn t until late that night we finally talked and made sure all was well It was a day when I would have given anything to hear her voice hold her hand It was a day when each of us felt so totally alone and yet so completely united in grief It was a day when saying I love you became more than just a daily ritual But it was also a day not just of love but of seeking forgiveness I didn t just want to say I love you but also I m sorry for any and everything I ever did to hurt you any time I screwed up or made you shed a tear or caused you disappointment or upset It was a day of repentance and seeking forgiveness 210 And that is what today s Gospel addresses repentance and forgiveness Peter is

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looking for a way to limit the number of times he has to forgive someone and Jesus is not giving in Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had told Peter that even if someone comes to you seven times in one day asking for forgiveness you give it So Peter figures seven times is enough Not quite Peter is looking for a loophole a limit And Jesus answers him not just once not just 7 times but 70 times 7 essentially infinity Jesus message is clear there is no limit to forgiveness Just as there is no limit to love And He then uses a parable to make things crystal clear A servant owed his master a huge sum of money more than he could ever hope to repay in his entire life and yet the master out of mercy and compassion forgives the debt But then the servant turns around and refuses to forgive one of his fellow servants who owed him only a few coins In spite of being forgiven himself he refuses to show the same mercy to his fellow servant He even resorts to violence in an effort to recover his money He has completely forgotten the lesson from his master He has completely forgotten the Golden Rule treat others the way you want to be treated The Golden Rule it is not just about love it is also about forgiveness It is not just about love others as you want to be loved It is also forgive others as you yourself wish to be forgiven Love and forgiveness go hand in hand If we want to be loved we need to be loving If we want to be forgiven we need to be forgiving Jesus shows us the way of forgiveness He forgave the woman caught in adultery He forgave Thomas doubts He forgave Peter s denial And He forgives us when we stumble and fall God s mercy and compassion has no limits He is kind and merciful slow to anger and rich in compassion He pardons all our iniquities heals all our ills He redeems our life from destruction crowns us with kindness and compassion And just as the master forgave his servant we are called not just to ask for forgiveness but to be generous in forgiving others not just once not just 7 times but overwhelmingly just as Jesus does 211

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Monday Exaltation of the Cross Gospel John 3 13 17 The Sign of the Cross Golgotha Church of the Holy Sepulchre What was the first prayer you learned growing up Our Father Hail Mary Grace Now I lay me down to sleep The Sign of the Cross Too often we think of it as only an intro to prayer not a prayer itself But it is A simple sign of our faith our belief in God in the Trinity Father Son and Holy Spirit It is a verbal reminder of our belief in God But the Sign of the Cross can also be something more We come today to the Feast of the Veneration of the Cross a perfect time to reflect on its meaning in our lives Consider the visual aspect of the Sign of the Cross we touch our head our gut and our shoulders Head our thoughts we are called to turn our thoughts to God to pray to Him to talk to Our Father OFTEN just as Jesus encouraged us to do Gut our humanity what we share with Jesus our physical nature But sometimes we focus too much on our physical needs food looking good exercise our self all good but too often we overdo it we end up thinking more of ourselves OUR needs and not those of others So during Lent God called us to reflect on our spiritual self and not so much our physical He calls us to fast to give up something we THINK we really need something we believe we just can t do without that daily piece of pie or cookies the hours we spend in front of the TV or the game system to remember that in the end what matters is our soul 212

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Shoulders we have all been filled with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and especially in Confirmation where we are given the strength to not only practice our faith but to witness to our faith in our actions with others We are called to REACH OUT OUR HANDS to those in need TO SHOULDER THEIR NEEDS to give of ourselves to others That is what we mean by almsgiving sometimes it s donating to a worthy cause sometimes it s contributing to a clothing drive or a food drive Sometimes it s simply giving our time to listen when someone needs to talk to comfort when someone is hurting But especially for today when we recall Jesus crucifixion and death when he gave up His life in atonement for our sins the Sign of the Cross is a visual reminder of the Cross itself It is a reminder of the suffering and death of our brother Jesus Even after enduring a crown of thorns a painful lashing with a whip and a long path to Golgotha carrying a cross of at least 50 pounds He was nailed to that cross and died a horrible shameful painful death It was a public execution he endured not only unbearable pain and agony but also the taunts and jeers of the people gathered around the cross It was a slow agonizing death where muscles where stretched and the condemned was left gasping for a breath of air The Cross a symbol of execution and condemnation a sign of our salvation But if that is all we believe about the cross we are missing something It is not just about pain and suffering and death It is not just about shame and cruelty It is first and foremost the sign of God s love That is how much God loves us That is how much Jesus loves us That He would willingly give Himself up to all that pain and suffering and death because He loves us It really isn t a sign of shame it s a symbol of LOVE And that is what we remember today not merely Jesus sacrifice not just the pain and death He endured but the LOVE He has for each and every one of us a love that we share in and return every time we PRAY every time we GIVE UP the unnecessary things in life and focus on what s really important every time we help out someone in need And every time we do all of that IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 213

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Tuesday Our Lady of Sorrows Gospel Luke 2 33 35 John 19 25 27 Choices Mary Church of Dormition If I ever had the choice of being a mom as opposed to a dad thank you very much but NO I am quite happy as a Dad I ve seen we have all seen the trials and tribulations our mothers have gone through their disappointments their worries their silent suffering all those moments of trial and tribulations that we put them through And yet in spite of all our antics and failures they still love us I guess in a sense we have all contributed to their sainthood For today s Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows there is a choice of 2 Gospel readings One reading from Luke has Simeon s prophecy that sorrow will pierce her heart like a sword And the other from John shows Mary at the foot of the cross at Calvary One predicts her sorrow the other described the fulfillment of that prophecy sorrow at its worst But consider all the choices Mary made in between all that silent suffering when the Pharisees wanted to arrest Him The upset when He was run out of Nazareth and almost thrown off the hill How many times she must have wanted to take away the pain While she was remarkably silent throughout most of Jesus ministry it was her presence that speaks to us today Maybe she couldn t take away the pain but she could still be there with Him supporting Him suffering with Him loving Him as only a mother could 214 Think about that today think about how much our mom has always been there for us always present for us always there to listen and to help especially in times of pain and sorrow When Jesus entrusted Mary to His disciple John at the foot of the cross He was also entrusting her to all of us So then consider today that Mary is also always with us to guide us support us suffer with us love us

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Wednesday Saints Cornelius Cyprian Gospel Luke 7 31 35 My Way or the Highway Walking in Caesarea Philippi We bought a new car recently something with a lot more bells and whistles than we are used to You know the deal a display screen with way too many options hands free phone for all those really important calls you have to make while you re stuck in traffic Google assist for directions and even a rear view camera But you know what Most of the time I prefer the old fashioned way and you know why Because I know better Whatever route Google tells me to follow I always think I know a better way However long Google tells me it will take to reach my destination I think I can get there quicker And that rear view camera I don t completely trust it I prefer to listen to my own voice my own thoughts I know what s best and I have all the answers And that is exactly what Jesus is warning us about in today s Gospel The Pharisees just won t listen to anyone except themselves they think they have all the answers And if anyone different comes along they should be condemned and ignored like John the Baptist Children play the flute but people refuse to dance they sing a sad song but people refused to weep They accept God they believe in God but only on their own terms They are blind to God s truth and message Creator teach me to listen To hear your voice and wisdom in the words of others Teach me that if I follow only my own path I will lose my way and stray from the one true path that leads me to You PS I never get lost sometimes I just take the scenic route 215

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Thursday Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 7 36 50 Hospitality 101 Early last year Ginger s parents decided it was time to simplify their lives and downsize their home So we helped them sort through all their possessions and decide what they wanted to keep and what should be discarded It involved cleaning out their current house and checking out new possibilities Even when they moved into their new home at Central Baptist Village there was still a lot to do picking out new furniture and deciding on the best arrangement everything to make their new home warm and comfortable But not just for them Such care was taken to make their home hospitable open and welcoming to visitors making sure there was room and seating comfortable seating for family and friends for all who came to visit Open door open arms open heart Quite the opposite of what we read in today s Gospel A Pharisee has invited Jesus to his home for dinner But hospitality is sadly lacking even non existent He doesn t greet Jesus with a kiss He doesn t wash His feet to wipe away the dust of the street Hospitality in your home was a given for the Jews at the time of Jesus Otherwise you could be sure that people would not be hospitable to you in return And yet this Pharisee shows none of it It s as if all he is interested in is himself Maybe all he wanted was to tell his fellow Pharisess guess who s coming to dinner Or maybe all he is doing is trying to get Jesus to perform a miracle a trick for his friends Either way hospitality is far from his mind The sinful woman however shows all the elements of hospitality that the Pharisee lacks In fact her hospitality extends not from welcoming Jesus into her home She is welcoming Him into her heart And that is our question for today Are we welcoming Jesus into our home Into our heart What are we doing to prepare our home ourselves to welcome Him into our lives We spend a lot of time and energy prepping our home for a dinner party for a birthday cleaning cooking best clothes etc How much effort do we expend to welcome Jesus into our soul Is there downsizing that we need to do in our lives Do we need to simplify our lifestyle Do we need to stop thinking so much about ourselves and more about our relationship with Jesus How welcoming are we really How hospitable are we 216

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Friday Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 8 1 3 A Dignified Approach Magdala Home of Mary Madgalene So a question how old were you when you realized that Mom wasn t really your mother s name When did you find out that she had a real first name like Susan or Louise Wow imagine that a special name just like me and you not just mom It seems rather trivial and unimportant but it makes a huge difference It gives her a certain dignity a uniqueness all her own The Gospel today is very short but the implications are immense Jesus is travelling from town to town accompanied by the Twelve notice they are NOT called by name They are all just lumped together as one unit But then something unusual happens women are mentioned And here things get special They are mentioned as individuals they are each called by name Compare that with yesterday s Gospel where the woman who crashed the Pharisee s dinner party was NOT given a name That may seem like no big deal but in the world at the time women were treated as second class citizens They were restricted in what they could do and where they could go They basically had little to no rights And yet here they are apparently women with some money since they were the ones who were providing for the group s needs out of their resources And most importantly they were treated as disciples just as much as the Twelve Jesus gave them respect and dignity He treated them as individuals with a unique character and He called them each by their name 217

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Saturday Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 8 4 15 Spreading the Word Fruits of the Harvest Jerusalem I know what you re going to say Yeah yeah the sower and the seed rocky ground weeds thorns trodden path and good soil I ve heard this plenty of times before and besides Jesus explains the entire parable in today s Gospel Same old same old What kind of ground am I What prevents me from hearing the Word What do I have to do to be more receptive to the Word OK then let s take a different perspective Picture yourself as the Sower Wait what Yes picture yourself as the Sower You are the one spreading the Word No no that s not right that can t be right God is the Sower But aren t we all Christians Aren t we all meant to live a Christ like life Aren t we all disciples Of course And as disciples we are all called to spread the Word by our words and our actions day in and day out Does that mean everyone will get it Of course not Just as in the parable some people will be stubborn and refuse to listen Some people will be tempted away from the Word by the devil And some will be so caught up in the world that they lose interest and stray Will that make things difficult Yes but remember that for some people the Word will germinate and grow and blossom And they will bear fruit 218 So the message today How will you spread the Word today How much of an effort will you make And in the process don t be discouraged your efforts will bear fruit Be a disciple today Spread the Word

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Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Matthew 20 1 16 It s Not Fair The Fields of Galilee A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons Kevin 5 and Ryan 3 The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson If Jesus were sitting here He would say Let my brother have the first pancake I can wait Kevin turned to his younger brother and said Ryan you be Jesus If we are honest we all have probably had a similar experience either as a brother or sibling fighting over a piece of pie who goes first complaining that one got a bigger Christmas present or that mom or dad likes them better And even though the words are not spoken they are obviously hanging in the air in such a situation ITS NOT FAIR That is essentially what we are hearing today in the Gospel Laborers in a vineyard who have put in a long full day of work 12 hours from 6 to 6 are complaining that others who only worked as little as one hour are being paid the same wage I have worked all day with the sweat of my brow And here someone you hire at the very last and only works one hour gets the same pay as me IT S NOT FAIR If we were honest here and we were those same day laborers we would probably be complaining and grumbling long and loud just like them But notice that there really wouldn t have been an argument at all if the owner had paid the full day laborers FIRST Then they would have been on their way and never heard the rest of the story They would have walked away with a full day s pay for a full day s labor Perfectly acceptable perfectly fair They never would have seen that the one hour workers were generously paid the same wage So something else is going on here more than a simple lesson on justice Jesus deliberately flips the order of payment so that the day long laborers go LAST And as each group gets paid you have to believe the 12 hour workers are getting more and more HOPEFUL of a bigger paycheck But that doesn t happen they get paid exactly what they agreed to exactly what they expected exactly what was FAIR And all of that hope explodes into anger Contrast that with the hope displayed by those chosen last They stayed and hoped ALL DAY LONG that someone would hire them If you were ever involved in choosing teams for a baseball game and ended up being chosen last you can identify All the talented people are picked first And last are the unskilled those who are somehow lacking in physical ability or mental acuity These are the laborers who have stuck around through the heat of the day still hoping for a job for a chance to prove themselves 219

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So consider that this is a parable NOT about human justice but really about God s unlimited generosity The laborers get angry only when they compare their wages and effort with the effort of someone else They get upset when they think more of themselves and less of someone else They think the owner has been unjust to them when he really has only been generous with the others Who s to say we all wouldn t have had a similar reaction Even as parents we know how difficult it is to be both fair and loving just and compassionate when we deal with our children The same holds true for grandparents Often when I am blessed with spending the day with my 2 grandsons I will treat them among other things to lunch But I made the mistake one time of asking them where do you want to go Big mistake I got two completely different answers Portillo s and Taco Bell and the obvious hint that whichever I chose I would hear complaints IT S NOT FAIR You like him better you picked him first last time I couldn t win It is not an easy task but even the oldest son in the pancake story gets it He knows how hard it is to be like Jesus To be just and generous that s why he pushes the role of Jesus to his little brother And yet that is exactly what we are all called to do In God s eyes it doesn t matter if we have lived our whole lives in faithful service to God or if we have only just come to the Faith It doesn t matter if we have lived a good moral life or if we repented and asked for forgiveness on our deathbed It doesn t matter if we have worked in the vineyard all our life or if we entered the workforce at the last hour God loves us ALL wholely completely unconditionally EQUALLY Whether we worked 12 hours or one the reward He offers us all is one and the same eternal life with Him in heaven God is just and fair kind and loving generous and compassionate to us all And while His ways are not our ways we are called to strive to be the same to be fair and generous just and compassionate to be Christian to all those around us And so like the opening story God challenges us all YOU BE JESUS 220

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Monday Feast of St Matthew the Apostle Gospel Matthew 9 9 13 Hospitality Part Two Fruits of the Harvest Jerusalem What a difference a few days make Last Thursday we read about a Pharisee inviting Jesus to dinner and the atmosphere was anything but hospitable in fact it was downright unfriendly And then today Jesus basically invites Himself to dinner at the house of Matthew Yes he was a Jew but he was also a tax collector That meant he took money from his own people and handed it over to the enemy the Romans And he probably kept some of the money for himself He was considered a traitor by his fellow Jews he would have been despised and shunned And yet Jesus invites Himself to Matthew s home for dinner And amazingly or maybe not other tax collectors and sinners joined the meal Jesus explains to the Pharisees that He hasn t come for the righteous but for the sinners In fact Matthew s Gospel has this recurring theme of Jesus calling sinners to Himself and offering mercy Consider what a ragtag group of misfits are at this dinner Jesus Matthew other tax collectors sinners and the disciples Yes even the disciples a group of farmers fishermen illiterates one who will betray Him one who will deny Him 3 times one who will doubt His Resurrection and 2 who are so concerned with their status in the group that their mom insists they get special seating in the Kingdom It makes you wonder what sort of vetting process there was to become a disciple But they all do have one thing in common they are all sinners and they are all in need of mercy and forgiveness So say we all We are all sinners we have all fallen time and time again And every time Jesus offers us mercy and forgiveness Every time we falter He offers us a chance to return to the table of the Lord His love is endless and so is His mercy Great Spirit help me today to remove my doubts especially my doubts about myself Help me to see the path to You and give me the strength and the faith to follow it 221

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Tuesday Twenty Fifth Week in Ordinary Time Gospel Luke 8 19 21 Family Time St Kateri Center Chicago We paid our respects this past Friday to one of our Native elders as she took her final journey back to the Creator We prayed for her as one family and we honored her for a full life a life of love and service to her community and to her faith One of the most touching and heartfelt words we heard as we stood together in the sunshine was this she was everybody s grandma Can you imagine what love and affection what care and concern guided her throughout her entire life for such a statement to be offered She served her community for decades as a volunteer and social services director She devoted herself to caring for the needs of her community She treated everyone as family helping them with donations of food and clothing toys for the kids and shelter for those in need She saw everyone as part of her family and she treated everyone as such She was a woman of deep faith and great love of kindness and compassion What an example she is of Jesus words in today s Gospel Anyone who hears the Word of God and acts on it is part of my family We are all part of one family not by blood but by faith if we only act on that faith And the elder we continue to mourn today did exactly that Because of her faith she saw everyone as part of her family and she treated and cared for them just like a grandma would 222 May Mother Earth guide your feet May Father Sky keep his arms around you May Grandfather Sun warm your coldest days May Grandmother Moon keep the glow in your heart May the Ancestors light the way as you make your journey home And the Great Spirit always keep all of us shielded from pain and sorrow

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