A Wedding Homily – 2017

Welcome, we are all here to witness something awesome!  We have come to witness two unique individuals come forward, and with God’s grace,  become one.  We are about to witness the power of their love for each other, and the power of God’s love, made present here before us; and that should fill us all with awe!
For that is one of the objectives that a celebration of a sacrament is suppose to accomplish.  It is an opportunity to encounter the Divine; through the ordinary objects that our God has created: water, olive oil, bread and wine,..a ring.  A sacrament is also a means by which God transforms the individual or individuals who are receiving the sacrament.  Through the waters of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin, and become born again as a child of God.  Through the anointing with holy oil, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  When we receive consecrated bread and wine, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become one with Christ.  And in the exchange of rings, which symbolizes the pledge, in love, of a man and a woman to each other, to their union.  And it also symbolizes God’s pledge to you both; that He will be with you always.

For God is the source of all life, and of all love.  And through His Spirit, that love can fill your hearts, your souls, all the way down into the very depths of your being.  The power of God’s Presence within you, the power of His love; will help you experience the joyful times more intensely; will help you through the trying times with more hope.  Remember always the description of love we have just heard from the writings of St. Paul:

“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”                  (1 Corinthians)

Love will never fail, if we continually open our hearts, and be present to God, the Father.  A Dutch priest and author, had a personal revelation; reflecting on when God addressed Jesus, as He was coming up out of the waters of the Jordan River, as His “Beloved.”  And He also calls you, me,  all of us here, “Beloved.”  Whether we have been good or bad; whether we have ignored Him or not; whether we believe in Him or not; He still calls each one of us”Beloved.”

It is by the power of that love; by the gift of His Spirit, that you both have been drawn to this place, to this sacred moment of time.  And we have all been drawn here to witness something awesome.

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Weekend Coffee Share -10/23/2016

deacon coffee mugOver a cup of decaf (ugh!) coffee, I will let you know that I have some worries over this upcoming Election Day, and it’s aftermath.  Donald Trump’s statement at a rally that he will accept the election results as legitimate, only if he wins; really concerns me.  Now, he has tried to tone that statement down; saying he is only keeping possible legal challenges open; but his followers are already convinced the election process is rigged.  And there is a very angry electorate out there, on both sides.  And we have seen how easy it is for protests to get violent.

Our national elections, with its smooth transfer of power, has been an inspiration to the rest of the world.  And many experts, Democratic and Republican, have spoken out about how hard it is to actually rig a national election.  There is no central control, but each state has its own election organizers and governing boards.  It is hoped that some of these facts filter through to the Trump followers.

This may be, on many fronts, the most challenging election the nation has faced, since the time of Lincoln.  But what gives me hope; what keeps me on a more or less even keel, is this phrase from a psalm I remember: “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why groan within me?  Trust in God, I will praise him still; my Savior and my God.”  Whether things go well, or go bad, I trust that God will be with me: with all of us.  And with his help, as one nation, we will see things through.

The cup is empty, I am ready for bed.  See you all next week, over a cup of coffee.

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time – 2016

 

millaisthe_pharisee_and_the_publican_tateSirach 35: 12-14, 16-18

2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18

Luke 18: 9-14

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, who both go up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray.  Jesus tells us about how the Pharisee “took up his position.”  Jesus hints that this Pharisee had a designated spot, probably in a prominent place in the Temple Sanctuary.  Jesus has the Pharisee, in his prayers, tell God of the “good” he has done during his life; how thankful he is, that God did not make him like the rest of humanity, especially that (ugh!) tax collector in the back of the Temple courtyard.  Jesus, in his tale, turns our attention to that tax collector; who many in Israel of this at time, considered a thief and a traitor.  This tax collector is on his knees, bent over, not daring to raise his eyes.  His only prayer is: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Jesus then must have shocked his audience when he declared that the tax collector left the Temple area justified, but not the Pharisee!  It all has to do with humility.

Humility is somewhat of a dirty word in our society.  Our social media, our TV programming, our magazines, are full of stories of people who really make a big deal of themselves. In no way could it be said that they are being humble. Those seeking a job, are always told to present yourself in the best possible light; really sell yourself and your skills to a possible employer.  There is no room for being humble in that scenario.  Or is there?  What I mean is that to be humble, is not that we let other people walk over us; but that we acknowledge our true self, the self that was created by God.  We acknowledge all the gifts and talents we possess, were given to us by the God who loves us.  We acknowledge that everyone else around us, has been similarly blessed with unique skills and talents.   And to be humble, is to also acknowledge that at times, we may have misused those skills and talents. And we acknowledge that we need the healing power of the Father’s forgiveness.

Jesus is calling on us to remember who we truly are; what our relationship with God truly is.  In a certain way, Jesus is echoing the words of the prophet Micah: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you; Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with you God.” (Micah 6:8)

 

 

 

 

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics, indeed, all peoples, to pray for the care of Creation.  He asks that we first offer praise and thanks to God the Creator for the precious gift of this earth.  Then, we should pray that He sends His Spirit into our hearts, to inspire us to care for this gift He has given us.  Pope Francis composed a prayer that he included in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” that could provide a good starting point for our reflections.  I am also including below, a prayer, a hymn, by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is joining with all of Creation, in giving praise to God.  May we all do the same this day.

Francis and Brother Sun

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

“…And In His Saints!” A Work of Fiction from a Real Tragedy

niceThe French EMT helps load another stretcher into the ambulance, and shuts its doors as it takes off.  She wearily turns around and looks down the street of tragedy; lined with the injured, and the dead.  Just a little while ago it was full of people, celebrating the founding of a republic, celebrating Bastille Day.  Then tragedy struck in this city of Nice; one maniac in a truck, mowing the people down.  Now, there is fear, agony, and grief.  And her heart is screaming:  “Where are You in all of this?”

She closes her eyes for second.  When she opens them, she is looking at the curbside.  She notices for the first time, a little friar, dressed in a patched brown habit.  He is holding the hand of an injured child, singing a French ditty for her.

The sound of sobbing draws her attention to two women, kneeling over a covered body.  One of them is bent over with grief; the other has her arm around the grieving woman’s shoulders, holding her tight.  This woman looks like she is from the Middle East.  She is wearing a long blue veil; her face looks as if she has known much sorrow in her life, and now she is comforting another woman through hers.

The EMT looks further down the street of tragedy and saw a police officer standing guard.  He nervously stares out into night, holding his rifle tight.  The EMT blinks her eyes, because she could swear there was a girl standing next to him.  She is dressed like a French peasant, with short-cropped hair.  Her hand is gripping the officer’s shoulder, as with fierce eyes, she also stares into night with him.  Is that a sword in her other hand?

Movement next to her drew the EMT’s attention.  She stares at her medical bag, and sees that someone has placed a red rose in it.  She looks quickly behind her and thinks she sees a nun, a Carmelite nun, disappearing into the crowds.  She turns around again, but the people she saw, the friar, the woman in blue, the peasant girl, have also disappeared.  She looks down to her bag, the rose is real.  As she looks at it; she suddenly no longer feels so alone.  She grabs her medical bag, takes a deep breath, and walks back down the street of tragedy.

“Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.”

Weekend Coffee Share 07/10/16

deacon coffee mugIf we were having coffee, I would tell you how sadden I have been about the news of the police shootings and killing of two black men, and then the shootings  of 11 police officers in Dallas, TX; resulting in deaths of five officers.  There is an air of unease in the country right now; the black communities distrust and fear their police forces; the police feel threatened by the very people they have sworn to protect and serve.  And there are politicians, who with their rhetoric are fanning the flames.  Communities are becoming divided, hunkering down in their own enclaves, with no interest in dialogue.

It seems ironic that at Catholic Masses celebrated throughout this country, the Gospel proclaimed included these words:

“You shall love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,

with all your being,

with all your strength,

and with all your mind,

and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10: 25-24)

The Gospel call is to see all people as our neighbors, to respect and to love them.  And to talk with each other, and find common ground to reduce the stresses that threaten to tear this republic apart; whose 240th anniversary we have just celebrated.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my wife and I joined my siblings, and a cousin and his family at a cabin in Maine, which my aunt owns.  It is on Lake Sokokis, in Limerick ME.  It was too cool for swimming, but we did have a wonderful cookout.

If we were having coffee, I would share with my experience of leading a Sacrament of Baptism catechesis class for new parents who wish to have their infants baptized, and become part of the Catholic Church.  I had five couples in attendance; one couple brought their newborn with them.  The child slept through the class.  I try to help these parents realize that the baptism of their children is not just an encounter with the love of God for the children; but also a special opportunity for them to encounter God, through the Holy Spirit.  I tell them that when the priest will ask what they are asking of the Church, and they reply: “Baptism”; they and their child’s lives will be forever changed.  The baby will experience a rebirth through the baptismal waters; they will have committed themselves to bring the child in the faith.  And not just though placing the child in religious education classes; but by the example of their struggle to live the faith.

Well, my coffee mug is empty; it is almost midnight, and I have a long week to look forward to.  See you all next time over a cup of coffee.

 

 

Terror Strikes Again!

pray for parisMy wife and I do not turn on the TV much during the day.  When I do, I am usually watching TV reruns, until it is time for the evening news.  So yesterday, I was shocked when I saw the breaking news on WCVB TV, Channel 5, about the terrorist attacks throughout the city of Paris, France.

I know the scientific research is out there explaining it, but I still cannot understand why a human person can inflict so much pain, so much suffering, on another person.  How individuals can turn the great religions of humanity, faiths that teach peace, tolerance, charity, and mercy; and use them as the reason for slaughtering so many innocent men, women, children, and themselves!

In the face of so much evil, so much suffering, so much death; you cannot blame someone losing their faith in a merciful God.  As bad as things are in the world, as much as I may, at times, give in to despair; I cannot abandon my faith in God, nor my love for my Creator.  The Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the path to true peace.  God the Son, came into the world, so that by his death and Resurrection, we are freed from the fear of suffering and death.  That does not mean that we will not encounter suffering.  That does not mean we will not continue to experience death, of loved ones, and our own.  But God has shown us that there is a sunrise to defeat the darkness, that life, transformed and glorified, does exist.  That there is hope.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3: 1-3)