Hi everyone - here's my homily for October 23, 2016, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today can be found at:  Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - and all your feedback.  Hope you have a great week!  God Bless- Fr Jim 

17 days and it will all be over... Then again, the way this campaign season has gone, it might be correct to say God willing - it will be all over or maybe God help us - it will be all over. Every four years with each Presidential campaign people claim that this is the most important election in our lifetime; it’s the most negative election in our lifetime; and that people can’t wait for it to be over. But it seems, or feels this year like that’s particularly true. There has been stories about people being extremely stressed about the election; polls are reporting that majorities of people are voting out of fear of the opposing candidate rather than for the person they’re voting for. The negativity and tension has gotten more personal between the candidates and even among their supporters - as we hear stories of people ripping signs for Trump or Clinton off of people’s lawns or damaging cars with different political bumper stickers on them; friends and family members getting into fights and not talking to one another anymore; and so on.

The ugliness of it all really struck home for me the other day. At Mass, we had come to the prayer of the faithful, and one of the intentions was for our elected officials and those who will be elected. In that moment, just picturing both candidates - and hearing that intention, a friends description "I can’t believe one of these two maniacs is going to be our President" came to mind. Just thinking about it, I was so aggravated with both of them. Almost instinctually I even said to myself I didn’t want to pray for either one of them. That moment really got to me and bothered me all week...

Because I recognized later how I’ve allowed myself to be convinced by the lies of the evil one. The same evil one who has manipulated people on both sides of this campaign to demonize the other candidate; or the other candidates supporters... The same evil one that has helped us destroy civil discourse and constructive, logical, reasonable debates into some fiasco that’s part Soap Opera, part UFC cage match fight complete with instant polls allowing people to vote "who won" so we can all participate in this slimefest... Well that same evil one helped turn me into having some feelings of moral superiority, arrogance and just really a lack of charity in my heart for both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton. Like all sin - it doesn’t do any good for anyone. It doesn’t help me at all. It doesn’t help these candidates. It sure doesn’t help our country and God is not glorified at all.

This all really hit home the more I kept looking at these readings tonight: Think about what we just heard - In the first reading, the writer from the Book of Sirach states pretty upfront - "The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites." God has no favorites. Each and every one of us is His creature. In a talk to college students a few years ago that I was attending, this keynote speaker made the observation "that God loves the Pope as much just as much as He loves the prostitute." When we hear that, there’s a tendency to say, yeah I know we’re supposed to say that and all... but, come on????really????

Yet if we don’t believe that, what hope does any one of us ever have?

Think about it. If we want to get into a moral superiority game or competition there’s two options - we’re either going to lose or just give up. Because there’s always going to be someone who’s just a little holier or got a better handle on something, or resists a specific temptation better. So if we live in competition with one another, we’re simply waiting to be one-upped by someone else (which results in us looking for ways to keep knocking everyone else down to size, looking for their flaws to feel better about ourselves)

Or the other option, we’re just going to give up. If we fall for the lie that we’re all messed up, we’re all sinners and there’s nothing we can do about it, we can become hopeless and completely forget who Jesus is and why He came to us. Thankfully St. Paul in that second reading is here to remind us what that is - which is our reason for Hope. That the Lord wants to "rescue [us] from every evil threat and will bring [us] safe to his heavenly kingdom."

That’s the whole point for all of us trying to resist sin, trying to be holy. Because eventually we want to be with God forever. As we get distracted by the glow from our televisions, computers and phones – we forget that it’s not about this world... It’s about wanting to be with God for all eternity.

Yet God doesn’t want us to simply wait for that to happen. He wants us to begin experience that now and help each other to get there. He wants us to experience that amazing love that imagined us into existence. Just think of that. You and I mean that much, matter that much to God that He imagined us into being. That God has dreams for you and I. And each of us and each of the dreams He has for us are so beautiful, so important to Him that not even our worst sins could ever wipe that away. We might make things unnecessarily harder for ourselves and it might take longer for those dreams to become realities when we sin. But He offers up His own Son to fill that gap between the life of sin we’re in and that new life in His Kingdom we want to enter into. Which is why Jesus wants us to focus on that rather than on how we rank in relation to one another.

That’s what Jesus is trying to point out in this parable: the Pharisee gets so caught up with himself, that he ends up not praying to God. Oh he’s talking to God, but only to make sure God takes some time to worship him! Just look at what the pharisee says - He uses the word "I" 4 times and in those few short lines. It’s all about what he’s doing - "God I do this and I do that and I’m not anything like that guy over there." God becomes an afterthought. The Pharisee wants to make sure God was keeping acurate records to see how good he was and how messed up the other guy is.

On the flip side, the tax collector never uses the word "I."

He knows that he’s a sinner.
He knows his life is a mess.
He doesn’t need help from others pointing that out.
He needs help getting out of the mess he’s in.
He needs Mercy.
He needs Forgiveness.
He needs God and he knows that only way things are going to change in his life is by God showing him Mercy - By God working in his life. By the tax collector letting God be God and letting him into his heart and soul things can change for him.

As Election Day grows closer, it’s obvious more than ever that we live in some pretty wacky times. Political observers speculate whoever wins will enter the White House will do so as one of the most unpopular President-elects in history. Even more troubling is the reality of how divided we are as a nation, as a people are becoming– all of which are signs of the evil one who thrives on division. So we have to be really careful and remember that at it’s most basic level the goal of all sin is to turn people away from God and turn people against one another.

What can unify us is remembering, even in the midst of this polarizing time that God desires that each and everyone of us will be a part of His Kingdom - in eternity for sure, but that Kingdom is to begin here and now. The Lord loves Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump and each and everyone of their supporters as much as He loves me and you. My sins sadden Him as much as those we like to point out between both of these two candidates as much as anyone one else’s does.

Jesus is asking us to consider the possibilities if we stopped tearing one another down and instead began trying to help one another to truly live for Him now and desire only Him for all eternity. Whether you choose to vote or not - Whoever you vote for, or vote against, outside of that decision at the battle box, we’re challenged to pray for both of them (realizing one of them will most likely be our President) Praying that God will have Mercy on both of them, on me, and on each and every one of us us sinners... knowing that He does and truly desires to share that mercy with all those who call upon Him.


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 16, 2016.  The readings can be found at: .  Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on facebook, twitter and reddit - and for your comments and feedback.  Have a great week -  Fr Jim


Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  

It’s rare that the Gospel identifies right from the get-go what Jesus’ intention was in telling a parable. It’s also rare that it would end with a rhetorical, somewhat puzzling question that has stuck with me all week: when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? In between that we hear this somewhat off putting parable. Jesus tells this story of a widow demanding justice from an unjust judge, who eventually wears the guy down out of her persistence to give her the justice she deserves. The point Jesus’ was making is that God who isn’t an unjust judge - rather the complete opposite, a Father who intimately cares about us, who knows our every need, our every fear, our every pain - How much more will He to be attentive to us when we remain faithful and turn to Him with our needs.

The more I prayed with this, the more it seems to me that Jesus is acknowledging how hard prayer can be for us. That he understands that we can become weary when bad things keep happening - when someone loses their job, when someone goes through a break up, when someone feels betrayed or let down by a close friend, when someone gets sick, when someone dies. That we can be tempted to give up, wonder what’s the point, what’s the use to praying when things don’t improve. That the doubts can take hold when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

One time that I really felt like that was during my senior year of high school. My birthday being in November, I was one of the last in my class to turn 17 and get my drivers license. That’s really one of the greatest feelings you experience at that age - that sense of independence. I remember thinking how amazing it was to be alone in the car driving back to High School that day I got my license. Well a few days later, I convinced my parents (after a whole day of furious arguing) that I should be allowed to drive some friends to the movies. It was going to be my first time driving at night. It had been raining all day, and they were concerned - not because they didnt trust me, but because I didn't have enough experience driving (by the way, it couldn’t have been a lamer plan - we were going to see Home Alone). Finally, after a whole day of fighting (and using my ace card of you-never-did-this-to-my-brothers) my parents gave in. I picked up my friends. All in all, there were going to be three friends with me (that was the one lie I had told my parents - I was only supposed to have two people in the car with me - but I thought what’s one more?).

I had just picked up the third person, and started to drive. It was pretty dark out, even at 7:00. I was in an unfamiliar part of town - but I saw the main street up ahead, which was pretty well lit up, and I just focused on getting to that street . . . Not even realizing I had pulled into another intersection . . . not even realizing I had gone right through a stop sign - with a car coming right at me. The car slammed right into my truck - we spun practically 360 degrees, finally coming to a stop by crashing into a curb. I remember I couldn’t even open my door, and all I could see was someone lying on the ground.

"Oh my God, did I hit someone?"

I climbed out of the passenger side of the car and looked down. It was the girl who had been sitting right behind me. She had crashed through the rear passenger window, and was on the ground, unconscious, with severe internal injuries - so severe she needed to be airlifted to a trauma center in Newark. The rest of the night was filled with interviews by cops, tests to make sure I hadn’t been drinking (which I hadn’t) or taken drugs (again a no) - and it was finally determined to be just a terrible mistake, an awful accident. I went to the hospital to see my friend in a coma, with doctors unsure of her prognosis - and I kept apologizing over and over to my friends, my family .

No one could comfort me - in fact, I didn’t believe I deserved comfort when I still didn’t know if my friend would live or die - or would have to live with permanent disabilities. The pain I felt, thinking that my friend could die because of a terrible mistake I had made, was one of the darkest nights of my life. I truly felt loneliness like I’ve never experienced. I cried like I’ve never cried before. I not only had this guilt that my friend's life could be over, or ruined - but kind of felt that mine was 'over' as well.

I had been a good kid - The only high school senior who was still an altar server; volunteered at the parish - why did this happen to me? I got home, went into my bedroom and started to sob again, as I looked up at the cross over my bed and just said, "Jesus I don’t even know what to do - help me". I knew he couldn’t make the clock turn backwards and restart the whole night (or if he could, technically, because he is God, but I didn’t expect that to happen). I almost couldn't believe my prayers for my friend mattered (since I had been the cause of it all) - I really didn’t know what I needed - I didn’t even know what to pray for.

But - the thing was I knew Who to go to. Which is why today's Gospel triggered this painful memory. What did we hear Jesus say: Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? In the midst of my prayer that awful night, came a remarkable peace when I felt like I heard a voice in my heart saying "Everything’s going to be alright, just have faith in me." I didn’t know what that meant, but I believed it. It was so real that I actually was able to fall asleep, and wake up the next day, even momentarily forgetting what had happened the night before.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, that one moment of peace was all I had to hold on to. We never had the miraculous healing I had wanted. I wanted my friend to wake up that next morning, 100% better, maybe be back in school in a couple of days, and for everything to quickly get back to "normal". In reality, her recovery would be a lot longer, and more painful than I can ever imagine, even to this day. The set backs she would suffer, the worries all of us had for her recovery, kept re-emerging in new and varied ways fueling fear and guilt, throughout my senior year. It was hard to keep praying, it was hard to keep the faith when I didn’t seem to get any signs, messages or anything other than that one moment that first night when I felt the Lord promising me things would be alright...

At one point a few weeks later, I overheard a relative speaking to my Mom and saying "You see, that’s why I don’t believe in God - Jim’s such a good kid, he never does anything wrong and something like that happens to him... what’s the point." Something just clicked in my head - I remember thinking to myself – God didn’t cause this accident - that was my fault – But I knew that He was what was getting me through this. From those first moments of complete aloneness, complete isolation, complete darkness - where I felt totally unlovable because of the mistake I had made - where I felt that no one would ever be able to forgive me (especially if the worst had happened, which it could have) - that night Jesus was with me in that horrible void. In the days and weeks and years that followed, I was able to accept and believe in the people Christ sent into my life to help me through this painful time. And months later to give thanks to God, that my friend was finally able to return to school and to some of her life before that horrible night.

Jesus in tonight’s Gospel seems to acknowledge that at some point, every one of us will ask the question Is God worth the trouble, the investment, the bother. We go through some dark night, (that maybe goes on for much more than a night) and feel God is nowhere to be found and we can become angry and frustrated. We feel weary and that temptation to give up seems more reasonable than persisting in prayer.

It is in those moments of despair, of pain , of abandonment, of betrayal that we have to trust even more than before that God is listening, is present, is attentive. We almost have to double down and persist in our prayer.

Not because he doesn’t know our needs. In fact scripture tells us that it’s the complete opposite - Jesus has told us He knows our needs even before we ask them. So when we reach out to Him in the midst of whatever difficulty it is we’re facing, prayer is more than just a cry to tell God what’s the matter, but a reminder to ourselves that God is near . . .He is with us . . . He is by our side in whatever battle we’re facing. And when we recognize that, we begin to reaffirm or discover anew that:

God is our ally
Faith in Him is our strength
and prayer is the expression of this faith. (Pope Francis, Oct 20, 2013)

As we live these realities, we begin to in our own simple ways respond to Jesus question - when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth? - with a heartfelt, confident, Yes Lord.


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for OCTOBER 9, 2016 the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today can be found at: . Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and for all your comments and feedback. Have a great week - Fr Jim


It’s hard to believe that the prime-time cartoon "The Simpsons" has been on for close to 30 years now. While "new episodes" about the dysfunctional Simpson family of Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be, I still crack up at re-runs from the early seasons. One of my favorite episodes from those first seasons, is called "Bart Gets an F." The episode sets up what a terrible student Bart is. After he fails his book report on Treasure Island, Mrs. Krabappel keeps Bart after class and points out that his grades are steadily falling and reminds him about the major history test the next day. After dodging taking the test with fake illnesses, then attempting to cheat, Bart eventually fails that test. Things have gone from bad to worse, so much so that the school is considering making Bart repeat the 4th grade again. At hearing this Bart tells everyone he will do better and he promises to pass the 4th grade. While Bart makes some improvements in his academics, eventually it comes down to this last big test. That night before going to bed and after studying, Bart still realizes that as much as he’s tried, as much as he’s made some strides, he still feels he hasn’t done enough to pass the test. Lisa watches, as he offers up a prayer to God that goes:

Well, old-timer, I guess this is the end of the road. I know I haven't always been a good kid, but if I have to go to school tomorrow, I'll fail the test and be held back. I just need one more day to study, Lord. I need your help. His sister Lisa, spying on Bart from the hallway observes: Prayer - The last refuge of a scoundrel. Bart continues in his pleading to God laying out options: A teachers' strike, a power failure, a blizzard. Anything that'll cancel school tomorrow. I know it's asking a lot, but if anyone can do it, You can. Thanking You in advance, Your pal, Bart Simpson

The scene ends with flurries start to fall on the Simpson’s house at nighttime. The next morning Marge wakes up Bart, and shows him all the snow that has fallen. The family huddles around the radio in the kitchen listening to business and school closings. Bart and Homer do a dance when they hear that the school and somewhat (frighteningly on reflection now) the nuclear power plant are closed. Bart throws on his snow gear, grabs a sled, and heads outside, but Lisa blocks the door tells him she heard his prayer and says I’m no theologian. I don’t claim to know who or what God is. All I know is he’s a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together. And you owe him big time.

What is the point of prayer? Does the appearance of our wishes being answered mean that God has heard our cry, changed the cosmos over all the other prayers and intentions of the day to give us what we want, hoping that we will love him, serve him, be devoted to him more? Sports fans, tend to think they’re teams are truly blessed (or have made a deal with the evil one, depending upon your fan-perspective) but does God really operate that way to change the course of events to make sure that one ball goes over the wall, to get the home run, to win the game, so they advance to the next round of the playoffs?

Interesting questions that Saints and theologians give a lot of different answers to. Can God do those things, yes... Would He? Does He? Why would He? Not so simply answered.

Even more challenging, What about us? What is our motivation - what is the point of prayer for us? Is God just some magic genie in the sky that we try to placate, manipulate things out of for our own well-being (and if it helps someone else out too, that’s great...)

For 9 out of 10 of the lepers whom Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel, it kind of appears that way. Just a refresher on leprosy - it was an incurable disease... to this day, it can be prevented and controlled but it cannot be cured. It causes loss of sensation, paralysis and it’s just pretty gross. Because of all that and the fear that it was highly contagious, lepers were cast out of the society. Sent to live apart in a colony of people with the same ailment. So now not only were they sick, in pain, afraid... they were also incredibly alone.

As Jesus is walking by this day... He’s not just out for a stroll by the way - he’s on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified... Even though he’s got his passion and death on his mind, Jesus remains other-focused, selfless. He hears the cries of these lepers. He hears their prayer – JESUS MASTER HAVE PITY ON US. Jesus simply tells them "Go show yourselves to the priests" and they are obedient. As they are on their way, they’re healed. Miracles don’t necessarily have to be big, dramatic moments that stand out like a burning bush or walking on water. God’s intervention in our lives often happens simply as we’re living our lives.

Perhaps it was because of this less than dramatic way that they’re cured that 9 of them, didn’t reflect on the cause of their healing. Only the one comes back to Jesus. Only one comes back in worship and awe. Only one comes back to say "Thank You." And in that, the one out of the ten underlines that this Gospel is more than just about good manners (as if Mom and Dad needed to explain to you "When someone cures you of leprosy, you say Thank You.") - Jesus encountering the one who has returned to give thanks explains - You’re faith has saved you.

Prayer is meant to open us up, Prayer is meant to change us, not simply in giving us what we want - but recognizing that God truly supplies us with all that we could ever need. Prayer isn’t about getting that A on that test or that Home run in the world series or even working a miracle cure to a deadly, painful disease - rather it’s about recognizing how God is that loving, that attentive to all that we struggle with, all that we are, all that we hope to be... He sees us beyond this moment, this day, this problem, this struggle and sees the potential, the possibilities, the beautiful creation that He has made each of us to be. That realization is meant to change us to recognizing how our faith has saved us, sustains us as well.

For Bart Simpson, realizing that God has listened and responded to his prayers, that made him resist that temptation to play in the snow, study like he never studied before, and scrape through getting a D on his test, barely getting him to pass the 4th Grade. For us, it’s probably not so easy or cut and dry as a 30 minute sitcom would convey. St. Mother Teresa saw it like this: I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things."

Jesus tells us that Yes, He hears our prayers, he answers them in His own way, in His own time... all with the hopes that we will truly find and discover how He is actively listening and responding to us always. May we be like the one leper, who once he realizes what God has done for him couldn’t continue to live life "as usual," and find no better response than to return in worship, in awe, in thanksgiving to Him.


I’d like to punch the person who came up with the cliche “Time heals all wounds.”
Punching probably sounds a bit extreme, particularly coming from a priest,  but another cliche (or rather truism) is that one of the stages of grief is anger, so I think I’m covered.

Today it’s two years since my father suddenly passed away.  And I can’t quite wrap my mind around that.  Some days it feels much longer than that, others it feels like yesterday.  Some times it seems we’ve accepted this new reality as a family - others, I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but I know I find myself catching myself, reminding myself that this really happened.

In all of those varied and different emotions, feelings and experiences - the one constant is the realization that time hasn’t healed anything.  Because healing to me means wholeness, restoration. After suffering this loss, I think that part of the problem with that cliche is that on this side of eternity, that’s not going to happen.  It’s true, I’m not as in shock as I was two years ago, and have a better handle on my emotions and reactions to memories then I did in those first days and weeks.

But it still hurts.  We still feel Dad’s absence and miss him.  It still hurts.

So for me, I want to banish that cliche.  To me, grief is not a wound that is ever going to be healed till Christ vanquishes it forever, we’re all one with Him in his Resurrection, united in His Kingdom where seeing the Lord in his fullness, He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

In the meantime if I need an image to describe grief - rather than feeling frustrated at my wound that time has forgotten to heal, to me, grief is more like a break you’ve experienced on your arm or leg.  Yes the bone was re-set, the fracture mended...  you’re able to walk, run, wave - many of the things you were able to do before the break occurred, sometimes it's like it never happened.  But at times the pain returns - sometimes without warning - maybe because of bad weather, change of seasons, different environment, or for no discernable reason at all - you feel that injury again, it throbs, it’s sore, you’re not able to do what you did before the break for a period of time - it hurts.

That’s what grief is to me.

Love and miss you Dad.

October 6, 2016


Homily for the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi - October 4

The "Transitus" of Francis -
from the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore, Assisi, Italy
St. Francis of Assisi

Just hearing his name, people have immediate thoughts. Some will think of him as the "saint who loved animals"; while others may cite the "Make me a channel of your peace" prayer attributed to him (which, spoiler alert - although in it’s tone and message is very "Franciscan" it wasn’t written by Francis)

I remember the "Blessing of Animals" and sang that hymn at Mass many times growing up, and I’m sure those gentle images of Francis are what made him such a beloved example of a "saint" to me growing up - and are most definitely why his popularity continues to soar centuries since his death from people of all (or even no) faith.

It wasn’t until I was in the Seminary, attending a retreat that was based on St. Bonaventure’s "Life of Francis" that I developed a great love, a deep admiration that was so strong I started to pray and discern whether the Lord might be calling me not just to the Priesthood, but to be a Franciscan priest. And one of the profound things that came from that retreat was realizing that all those admirable qualities that we so often attribute to him don’t even skim the surface of St. Francis.

Quite simply, this man had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ... He so clearly heard God’s voice, that when he did, he answered him.

Not always immediately.

Not always perfectly.

For example, he knew that God was prompting him to care for the poor. This one day he would encounter a leper on his path as he was returning home (at the Lord’s direction) and his gut, his impulse was one of "horror." But that call of Christ to truly die to self - to move past that revulsion and instead see and love Christ before him in the leper compelled him to stop his horse on that plain, get down and run and kiss the man - giving him his alms and his affection. As he mounted his horse to continue his journey, he looked around at all the open plains around him - and it was completely clear.. The leper couldn’t be seen anywhere.

That experience - miraculous, mysterious - that encounter with Jesus Christ captured Francis’ heart. And so he would renounce everything to follow Christ. And when he Christ called out to him from a cross found in a dilapidated church to "Rebuild my Church which has fallen into disrepair" - he with a single-minded focus simply started picking up rocks and rebuilding the physical structure. And as he kept working, he began to realize – OOOHHH - not just this Church – not this Physical building - but THE CHURCH - the humble man, the "Poverello" of Assisi did - because He Loved Jesus and Loved Jesus’ Church. And he wanted to repair the damages that caused and came from The Protestant Reformation.

What draws me to Francis, what’s made me love him is his Love of Christ, his Love of the Catholic Church.
It’s his imitation of Christ.
It’s the somewhat spontaneous responses he makes.
It’s the struggles he had to make those responses.
It’s his mistakes and willingness to learn from them.
It’s that relentless pursuit of Christ and how Jesus was calling Him throughout his ministry.
It’s his simplicity in living on this earth.
It’s his depth of desire for the transcendent.
It’s his utter devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
It’s his immense humility.
It’s his brutal honesty.
It’s his ability to see Christ all around while at the same time his humanity which at times frustrated him with those around him he found it more consoling to preach to the animals (where his "love of the animals" came from - they were often more receptive audiences)

This complex but simple man who’s been tried to be imitated so often that there’s dozens of religious communities founded that try to follow his example in trying to follow Christ truly fascinates me... inspires me...

While I never did end up in one of those many orders, I still consider myself a friend of Francis’ who I pray will continue to pray for me... encourage me to live up to his words as a Priest of Jesus Christ "now that we have left the world, we have nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him."

Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi


Hi everyone, here's my homily for the 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 2, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at: Thanks as always for reading, commenting and sharing this blog on facebook, twitter and reddit. Grateful for your support and interest.  Have a blessed week!  - Fr Jim.  (PS - if you're in the area, Tuesday night we have an Exorcist coming to speak to us here at MSU.  Check out our website under "Bulletin" for this week's edition with details)


A couple of years ago, 28 year old Australian model and marathon runner Turia Pitt made international headlines. Not because of some lucrative deal she had signed; endorsement she had landed or competition she had won - but for something far more heart wrenching. While out on an ultra-marathon in 2011, she got trapped in a grass fire which resulted in her being burned over 65% of her body and having several amputations. After suffering such a life-threatening trauma, it’s a miracle that she’s still alive. She spent over 2 years in the hospital, most of that time wearing a compression stocking over all of her body. She endured over 200 surgeries, including radical reconstruction of different body parts. She had to fight to get out of bed. She had to fight to walk again. She had to fight to accept the disfiguration that has resulted from all of this.

One of the most important people in her life has been her boyfriend Michael. They had dated for years... as he explained it, he had fallen for his "whip smart, bubbly and gorgeous" girlfriend so much that he quit his job as a police officer and went to work as a miner in the Western part of Australia where she lived just to be closer to her. After the fire, he remained by her bed side every day 7 am to 7 pm. Eventually he would give up his job to be by her side, and help her conquer the mental battle she was engaged in to try to find that will to live, which he did. As Turia explains "If he believed in me, I had to believe in myself."

Looking at the pictures, reading the incredible, long, painful road to recovery that she is still on - can be overwhelming. People reflecting on this story just exteriorly might think how sad, how cruel, how awful this was - this is - for this young girl and her family to have to suffer through. Or we can see something deeper, a small but not insignificant - in fact quite remarkable story of love, of perseverance, of faith – that if we allow it to, we can’t help but be changed a bit just in reflecting on it. That’s the thing though we have to look for it... We have to work for it.

Because it’s normal for us to want the Disney/Hollywood happily ever after story endings. We want to hear she survived, went through a surgery, recovered and life went back to what it was before. But as we get older, we realize - rarely is that the case.

That realization can be even more challenging as people of faith for those of us who make it here to Sunday Mass. Because we’re here, because we believe, – there’s almost this unwritten, unspoken presumption on our parts that we’re immune from these bad things from happening. Or if by chance the devil is successful in wreaking havoc on us, that we’d bounce back really quickly with God’s help. Yet the bad things happen and more often we’re left with all kinds of questions usually beginning with Why -

Why did this happen?

Why is this person sick?

Why did this person die?

Why did I lose my job?

Why do I feel alone, abandoned?

Why do I feel unloved?

In our first reading today - Habakkuk, a prophet of the Old Testament – (while confronting a different circumstance) asks God the same question - Why God? Why are we good people suffering? Why do you seem distant as we’re being surrounded by destruction? No, you didn’t miss something in the reading - God doesn’t give a clear answer to the prophet. That this prophet asked such a question almost 3,000 years ago should tell us something: Suffering - and what appears as God’s not dealing with it - has been and still is one of the biggest obstacles for people to be a believer in God. And it’s a stumbling block for people to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because look what happens in the Gospel we just heard . The apostles come to Jesus and say "Increase our Faith." They were wondering where God was or what following Jesus meant after they had encountered real suffering. In the scene right before the Gospel we just heard, the apostles had tried to heal a sick child and weren’t able to. That’s why they ask Jesus to "Increase our Faith" - in a sense they’re saying "Make us more powerful Lord" and what does he say? "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree ‘be uprooted and planed in the sea’ and it would obey you."

After this really awful encounter that the apostles had, an experience where they had to have felt ineffective, were disappointed in themselves, probably sad – Jesus basically says to them "you have a very, very meager faith." I could hear the apostles thinking Oh so it’s our fault now? We don’t believe enough?

No. That’s not what Jesus is saying. Not that his answer would satisfy everyone who is dealing with sorrow - who is confronted with suffering - who is in pain right now. But what Jesus’ is telling us is that if we truly have Faith - great things can happen.

If we have Faith, we can re-imagine the world.

If we have Faith, we can change the world.

If we have Faith, we can have extraordinary powers that topple what people call "conventional wisdom"

The problem is we want this Faith to work like magic. We think "OK God - I believe in you - REALLY I do - so heal this kid of cancer." And when it doesn’t work - that’s our reason to NOT believe anymore.

But that’s not Faith.

Faith finds God’s presence, God’s action in the midst of life - in the midst of our worlds - in the midst of all the good and bad things and still believes that God will win out in the end. That yes, death will be defeated, that yes, suffering and pain will end. That God is working with us and through us to make that happen here and now in all kinds of ways. The problem is it might not be in ways we would choose ourselves - we want the miraculous cure as we lay hands on a sick person - we want to bring our friends and relatives back from the dead.

Pope Francis so beautifully explained in one of my favorite quotes of his: "Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2)."

In other words, we’re not suppose to have Faith in our desires - rather Faith in God and believing that He works - sometimes He works in incredible miraculous ways, sometimes in small mustard seeds that won’t be able to be appreciated for some time - but we have to come back to believing that he works with us, through us and all around us.

Turia Pitt’s boyfriend Michael, while she was in intensive care, while it was still unclear if she would even survive promised himself "if she lives, I’ll marry her." He purchased an engagement ring while she was still in the hospital and popped the question a year ago - to which Turia said yes, and they hope to get married this year. In a follow up interview a reporter from CNN asked him "Did you at any moment think about leaving her and hiring someone to take care of her and moving on with your life?" Michael
explained "I feel in love with her soul... she’s the only woman who can continue to fulfill my dreams." For me I was blown away by that incredibly moving response of his - but was also taken aback by the question in the first place. It kind of sadly reveals how we expect people to respond: that because she suffered such a tragedy; doesn’t look as beautiful as she once did; that no one would blame him for wanting to find someone who looked better, who didn’t require so much care - especially since he is so young. Yet, their love story has continued to touch countless people around the world - and their new life where they travel the globe hiking and raising awareness for a charity that provides free reconstructive surgeries for people in poor countries or where medical care is inadequate is transforming lives of those in most need.

No doubt each and everyone of us tonight has our own lists of intentions, and prayers. And some might be incredibly challenging - Mom is out of work; Dad is sick; a friend has died. Our being here is in part a sign of our love for them and our seeking God’s presence... looking for answers, looking for power and strength to solve those issues as we too want Jesus to "increase our faith." Very gently the Lord points out - we already posses all the faith necessary. We don’t need an increase of faith - but rather an increase of trust in Him ...

Don't ignore the WARNING!!

Hello everyone, here's my homily for the 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - September 25, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at: .  Thanks for stopping by to read this blog, for sharing it on facebook, twitter and reddit - and for your feedback and comments. Have a great week!  Fr Jim


Have you ever noticed how many warning signs we get over things that you wouldn’t think we needed?  For example:

You would think that it would be obvious to all of us that driving 65 mph on the Garden State Parkway, or even slower on local roads with all kinds of split minute distractions and things to be aware of, that texting and driving isn’t a good idea. You would think we wouldn’t need to be reminded of that. Yet the fact that there's a nationwide campaign with the slogan over the last few years called "Stop the Texts/Stop the Wrecks" all begging, pleading people not to text and drive says we do. Just a few that you might have seen took various approaches to try to get the point across to people - "Texting and Driving the same as suicide" "11 Teens die per week from texting and driving" "It’s a short trip from OMG to 911."

Or - you would think that by now, everyone knows the dangers of smoking cigarettes (not going to get into the discussion of the dangers of smoking other things, lest this turn into an unintended debate). We’ve heard it in health classes in high school learning the dangers that tobacco, nicotine can cause to our bodies;    we’ve seen the dramatic commercials on Television where people who’ve lost limbs, been diagnosed with Cancer appeal directly to viewers not to suffer a similar fate that they have from smoking;    we can’t miss the huge warning labels slapped right on every packaging of cigarettes basically saying "THIS STUFF CAN KILL YOU."   While the number of people smoking has decreased in the last few decades, obviously there’s a great number of people who do seem to be ignoring these warnings.

Or drunk driving...  How many celebrities do we need to see get arrested followed by a horrible public spectacle;  How many DWI checkpoints need to take place (some that are even announced well in advance, so it’s not like police want to arrest people) How many simulations have high schools done dramatically showing students getting arrested and others being portrayed as being killed in the accident to underline in our minds that we shouldn’t drink and drive?  Yet, people still take the chance - lie to themselves "I’m okay it’s only a few blocks" - get behind the wheel and ignore the warning...

All of these different efforts, campaigns, messages warning people of the possibilities of making poor choices... can be extremely powerful, effective, heartfelt and sincere messages.  But ultimately the decision to pay attention, to heed, to change our behaviors or not... to take the warnings to heart. . . to not be foolish to think we won’t suffer similar disastrous events as these other poor folks rests on us.

That’s the thing with warning signs we have to see the importance of them, realize what’s at jeopardy and then make a fundamental choice or decision to pay attention to them. To learn from them.  To heed the warning...

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is issuing a warning.  And it’s not simply a warning about the need of taking care of the poor. For the last few weeks we’ve been hearing Jesus teaching.  And in this crowd he’s got different groups listening to him:

- He’s got his disciples and followers there - so those are the ones who are already committed to Him. 

- He’s got those who’ve heard about Him coming around and wanting to see what all the fuss is about.

- He’s got the Pharisees, the religious elite, the people who believed they were the religious experts of the day -- they are there checking out what Jesus is saying too. 

And what have they been listening to Jesus say?  Well in this one day, they first heard the parables of the Lost sheep - the Lost Coin - and "The prodigal son" (which we reflected on 2 weeks ago); then they heard the parable of the dishonest steward (which was last week’s gospel). And then right before we pick up on today’s Gospel reading, there was a small but really important incident that the lectionary skips before we get to Jesus telling this story about a dead man named Lazarus. 

In that skipped portion, the Gospel says that "the Pharisees who heard all of this sneered at Jesus."

Imagine that - they sneered at all that they had just heard. What was it exactly that they were so dismissive over?

- Were they laughing at Jesus’ revelation of who God is, this loving, merciful father who never stops thinking about any of His Children any of us - even the most lost, wayward of us...

- Were they rejecting Jesus’ telling them that the blessings of wealth, health and power aren’t signs – aren’t ways of showing how great and wonderful we are in God’s eyes... but rather it’s in what we do with those things, how we live as God’s own children that will determine that. 

- Were they dismissing all of these things, considering themselves more superior to Jesus?

Whatever the case might be, they were missing the warning sign that Jesus was offering which was how destructive they were being to their spiritual lives.  Because as the rich and powerful Pharisees - who thought to themselves that they knew it all - that they "got" religion... (and probably thought to themselves Who’s this Jesus telling us who God is?  How dare he tell us that we need to take these blessings which tells us God loves us and help those who God has cursed - that’s why we’re rich and they're poor).

Jesus loves and cares even for the Pharisees even as they mock him, He remains undeterred and tries again with another warning. So we hear this cautionary tale about this poor man Lazarus.  

Now the thing about this message though is that it’s not Jesus being a pre-cursor to Robin Hood. He’s not interested in "class warfare" and pitting the rich versus the poor - which sadly some try to do to advance political arguments or agendas.

Because if you listened carefully, Jesus isn’t condemning wealth or riches. He’s condemning that the rich man who died was so attached to them, so blinded by them, embarked on a lifelong relentless pursuit for them, even to the expense of everyone around him.   Lazarus –who was materially poor and suffering didn’t even cross this guy’s mind as he passed him on the front stoop everyday. What’s so jarring is that the poor man isn’t some nameless, anonymous individual. The rich guy (interestingly who does remain nameless)  knows the poor guy’s name — LAZARUS.  After he had ignored the opportunity to utilize the most precious gifts of wealth, health and power to help the man at the door. After he had rejected the love of God which could have been radically transformed his and Lazarus life and countelss others around him... after all that, he’s wondering why there’s this abyss and chasm between him and God. He’s the one who’s created this chasm. Even then he remains he finally acknowledges Lazarus- calling out to him by name, he doesn’t beg his forgiveness - he only does so to ask Lazarus to now alleviate the torment he’s created for himself.

By then, Jesus explains, it’s too late.

God’s love, His Mercy, His desire for us to be with Him for all eternity never ends. That’s who God is. So these warning aren’t meant to scare us into following Him.  But Jesus wants us to be clear that these are all choices that we make. You and I might not be the "rich man" in the parable in terms of material wealth, but if we take stock of our blessings, our opportunities, our comforts - we have to see how indeed rich we are in many different ways. And there are people in our lives, in our visions who are in a sense calling out to us for our attention, our assistance, our love. There are choices that are played out everyday in countless ways right here in our towns, our families, our campus, dorms and classrooms. 

How we recognize them by name and respond with offering whatever it is of ourselves that we can to fulfill their needs testifies whether we are pursuing Jesus or not.  Are we trying to follow him?  Are we striving to live this life in the way He created me too? Are we desiring and seeking Him? Or do I laugh in the face of Christ by my actions or inactions.

On a certain level, when we really reflect and think of all that God has done for us, all that we’ve experienced and continue to learn and grasp, it should be as obvious what it is we should do with these blessings, with this life of ours to serve God and one another. It’s kind of sad that we even need such warning signs over some obvious things.  What is sadder still is if we chose to ignore them.