PETER AND PAUL ARE CALLING YOU OUT

WHAT A GREAT FEAST DAY!!! The Celebration of the St. Peter and Paul!!! The readings for the Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/062908.shtml

As always, I’m most grateful for your even reading my homily - and appreciate your feedback. The only way I can continue to (hopefully) connect with the people I’ve been sent to minister to is by knowing when I do connect and when I don’t - so thank you for your messages, and even your constructive criticisms. God Bless!

HOMILY:

You may or may not have heard of this group called the Pew Forum. The Pew Forum is like those organizations Gallup, Zogby, & Ramussen who do those political survey’s to tell you what percentage of the people they interview are going to vote for one candidate over another or their opinions to certain issues are.

Well the Pew Forum is a polling group, that basically focuses their exhaustive studies on the religious beliefs, practices, & opinions of the American people.

This past March, they released their “Religious Landscape Survey” which got a lot of media attention, as well as some discussion among the United States Catholic Bishops. While Roman Catholics make up the single largest religious denomination in the United States (about 24% of the American population is Roman Catholic) - what generated the most interest was the number of Catholics who were raised Catholic and have left the Church. They estimate about 10% of the American Population are people who have left the Catholic Church for another religion (or no religion at all). That number is larger than the total number of members in many other religious groups.

The Pew Forum followed up with a second part of their survey which was released this week. It gave some more interesting feedback about the beliefs that Catholic people hold which really differ from what the Church teaches. Two statistics really stood out - the survey stated that only 16% of Catholics believe that our religion is the one true faith (now this probably comes out of a sense of trying to be sensitive to the many different religions in our nation, but, our Church still teaches that Catholicism is the one true faith) and a second surprising statistic said that close to 30% of Catholics perceive God as an impersonal force rather than someone they could have a personal relationship with.

Today’s feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and these readings couldn’t come at a better time. Because the blood of these two martyrs demands our attention - they call us out asking “who do we say that Jesus is?”

Peter started out as a fisherman, and probably wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed (no offence to him - it’s in the scriptures, you can read all about his ups and downs) yet the man who denied he even knew who Jesus was when the mobs were getting ready to kill Jesus - the man who was plagued by doubts and his own failures throughout his years of following Jesus - we know him as our first Pope - the “rock” upon which Jesus would build the Church upon.

Paul, started as a great persecutor of the Church. He starts out as a murderer - one who was a Jewish zealot who was going to protect Judaism from these “crazy Christians.” So he approves of the killing of early Christians. Yet after his conversion, he will become one of the most effective missionaries and preachers to the Early Church - helping to evangelize Europe and parts of Asia, as well as writing 14 letters that are a part of the New Testament.

Both would be killed for doing these things - Peter would be crucified, Paul would be beheaded.

But what happened? How do we explain those types of turn-arounds? They gave their lives not because Christianity was a nice idea, not because they bought into Jesus’ teachings, not because they simply held a certain belief in this particular faith... They gave their lives because they had a personal, vibrant, authentic, relationship with God - they had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit dwelt within them.

That’s why Peter at the end of the First Reading can say, reflecting on how once again God has stood by him during his imprisonment -“I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me...” - That’s why Paul can say in the Second Reading “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” These men have experienced how God was with them and that He can work through them and in that, God would change the world through them.

It’s fitting that the Gospel has Jesus looking to Peter and asking him the question “Who do you say that I am?” Because that is the question for all of us to answer -

Is Jesus simply a nice moral teacher who gave us some ideals that we aspire to?

Is Jesus a philosopher, who had interesting theories on man’s existence that we are curious about?

Is Jesus a stranger, someone we’ve heard about but don’t really know intimately or personally in our own lives?

Many people might fall into a lot of those different camps - and this isn’t to condemn people who do - it’s a challenge to go deeper. Peter and Paul wouldn’t give their lives for a nice moral teacher, for some philosopher, for someone they didn’t know personally - and Jesus wouldn’t ask us to do that either. These two martyrs invite us to make St. Peter’s words in the Gospel today our own and truly see that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

When we begin to let that in, that has the power to truly change us. We can see that God has a specific plan for us - that God loves us - that God stands by us throughout our ups and downs - and the more we are in love with God, the more we willingly offer our lives up to Him - we become happy to die to ourselves and our wants and really want to live for Him and the service of one another.

In that mini-martyrdom on our parts, God will use us to change the world once again - maybe not so much by spreading the Gospel to those who’ve never heard it, but by living the Gospel, in front of those who’ve never really seen it lived out.

...FEAR ITSELF

Here is my Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 22, 2008 -(readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/062208.shtml)

Thanks to all my readers for their feedback and messages. I’m happy to be able to share my homily with those interested and appreciate you taking the time to stop by to read this. God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

There was a story in the news recently entitled Cancer Doctors Avoid End-of Life Talk. According to the story, many oncologists often refuse to tell terminally ill patients the truth about their condition. One of the major reasons is that they don’t wish to bring on a sense of fear in the patient. But the surprising thing according to a national study, cancer patients who were informed by their doctor of their true condition often did better than those who were not. Most patients who knew their condition were better prepared to face the reality, as well as their families. It helped them make decisions they had been putting off. It didn’t always take away the fear of death, but the truth often helped mitigate that understandable sense of fear.

Most people find mortality a bit fearful. It’s one of many fears that people have and rarely talk about. Of course people go through life with all kinds of fear. Some are legitimate ones. If you were walking through the woods and by chance met a bear, you might be a bit afraid. And you should be! (Actually, from what I read in the paper this week, you could be at McDonald’s on Route 1 and meet a bear too... That had to be a bit frightening, you’re looking to get an Egg McMuffin in the drive through, and there’s a bear in front of you)

Many people fear economic and employment right now, and that’s intensified when you you have a family to care for. Chronic illness have the same effect. Then of course, there are people who suffer from irrational or overwhelming fears better known as phobias. We all probably have a little bit of those too - but for those who legitimately suffer from this, the condition is crippling. Those fears may be labeled irrational but to the person dealing with it, it’s quite real. I’ll never forget in one of the Peanuts cartoons, Lucy telling Charlie Brown that his problem is that he has phobaphobia... which is the fear of everything! Well, I guess we can have those days too.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah wasn’t exactly thrilled about his calling by God to be a prophet. He knew that he was being sent with a message that the receivers weren’t all that interested in hearing. Jeremiah was sent to Israel just as they were on the brink of yet another national disaster. Their lack of attention to Jeremiah, and all the prophets before him, lead to their eventual conquest and captivity by the Babylonians. Time and again Jeremiah wanted to just pack it in and walk away because he knew that no one wanted to hear what he had to say. In fact he’s afraid to deliver the message because then, just as now, it’s very often the messenger who gets shot. He constantly had to work to overcome this fear.

In the gospel, Jesus warns the disciples to be wary of those who seek, not to destroy the body, but those who wish to destroy the soul. In other words, those who wish to crush our spirits, that part of ourselves that by it’s nature seeks union with God. Notice that Jesus pulls no punches here. He’s quite open and honest.

There is a sense of danger that goes along with being a disciple of Christ. For some, it required their very lives. But for Jesus that isn’t the most dangerous thing, nor is it the thing we should fear the most. The only thing he claims we should fear (not fear itself) but rather we should fear anything that would kill our desire for God and to be His disciple.

However, the trouble with those things that seek to destroy our souls or spirits is that very often, on the face of it, they don’t seem like something that we need to fear. In fact, the real danger lies in their being so innocent, so benign, so understandable that they don’t seem to pose any danger at all. For example, for some people who stop attending Mass it’s not that they’re all upset over an issue - they’re not all riled up and stop by the church to post their 95 thesis’ on the front door and then walk away. Rather, they simply drift away – a kid’s athletic event here, a chance to sleep in there, a busy weekend with too many things to get done around the house, the one day sale at the mall, a vacation trip they don’t want to interrupt with going to church. None of those things seem worth being afraid of do they? But strung all together they soon replace the regular practice of attending Mass for some people. That’s what makes them so problematic because their effect can be so deadly if they keep us from nourishing our spirits with the Eucharist.

We all have our own fears to deal with, the legitimate as well as the irrational. On any given Sunday –in any given church– people have their own concerns, their own worries and anxieties and their own fears that they bring with them. If we are to be true disciples we cannot pretend that we don’t have these emotions and feelings, or that they can often be formidable.

In bringing them before God and through the support of those around us those fears loose their potency and our spirits are strengthened. What we need to fear is anything that separates us from God. “Do not fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul.” In light of this gospel, many of the things we put time and energy into fearing, actually pales in comparison to the ones to which we often never give a second thought.

"I JUST DON'T LIKE TO SAY 'NO'"

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there.

Here’s my homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 15, 2008 - the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/061508.shtml - God Bless all of you, especially to the Dad’s!

HOMILY:

“I just don’t like to say ‘No.’”

United States Marine Major Steve Beck, swears he’s not a perfectionist. He has been catapulted into a duty he never trained for, never anticipated in his military career, and after 5 years of serving as a Casualty Assistance Call Officer (which is a professional way of saying he has to give families the news the devastating news that they have feared the most: their son or daughter has been killed in combat) for Major Beck, that seems to be a guiding principle as he does his duty: I just don’t like to say No.

He goes to people’s homes and gives them this news that, as one reporter described it, “has the power to shatter a soul.” Major Beck takes this duty not just serious, but personally. In meeting the families, he has realized that after his breaking this awful news that “they’re falling - either literally or figuratively - and [he says] you have to catch them. In this business, I can’t save his life. All I can do is catch the family while they’re falling.”

So Major Beck, does things that are beyond what might be labeled “standard operating procedures” in order to do this the way he would want it done if he were the one in the casket: A mother who lost her son requests that his best friend (who’s about to be deployed to Iraq) serve as a pallbearer, “Roger That” Major Beck says. When airport officials initially balked at requests by families to see their Marine’s casket unloaded from the planes on the runways, he negotiated with airport officials to have that done. For one family, the wife didn’t want her husband, Marine Lt Jim Cathey, left alone during the days preceding his funeral. Even though the Marines aren’t required to stand watch over a comrades body once the casket is safely locked away at night, in this case, Major Beck told the pallbearers sent for Lt. Cathey’s funeral “Katherine has expressed concerns about Jim being left alone - So we won’t leave him alone” and with that they took turns keeping all night and all day vigil for the next three days.

This is Major Beck’s mission, his duty - and, despite how hard, emotional, painfully difficult this duty is, this Marine seems to always come back to his own personal principle - “I just don’t like to say No.” For that - people of all sides of politics cannot help but admire, respect and appreciate that there are people like Major Beck who honor those of our military who are killed.

When we look at today’s readings, we can almost hear God saying the same thing - I just don’t like to say No to humanity throughout history.

To the Israelites in the first reading from Exodus - when they were enslaved, when they were being oppressed, when they thought they would remain in bondage and imprisoned, God reminds the Israelites what He did for them “you have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians, and how I bore you up on eagles wings and brought you here to myself.” God just doesn’t like to say “no”: He hears their cries. He goes out and saves them.

St. Paul is writing to the Romans, but he speaks a deep truth that goes to all Christians. When we have a fight with someone, and say, for the sake of argument, we are the cause of it, it’s up to us to initiate the possibility of forgiveness by saying “I’m sorry.” St. Paul is telling us - since original sin - since humanity had first (and continues throughout history right to this very day) turned away from God, turned away from His commands, turned away from His Love - He already reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ. God did this before we decided we needed, wanted, or desired that reconciliation. God didn’t say “no” to what Humanity needs and could not achieve on it’s own. St. Paul basically tells us that this new relationship we have with God has come, purely as God’s gift to the world.

And in the Gospel, Jesus’ call of the twelve is yet one more example of God just doesn’t like to say “no” to us. He has come to shepherd us - He has come to guide us now. And He wants all of the world to know this, so he has picked these 12 to be shepherds to go out into the world and do something – go to the lost sheep - bring them Home - and cure them raise them, cleanse them, free them so they can truly experience that The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand...

What makes someone like Major Beck a person that we admire is that his response resonates within us. We realize or recognize that God calls each of us to be equally as selfless. That’s almost instinctive that to truly participate in the things of God means emptying ourselves to accomplish His work. God is probing our hearts in these readings today - what is it that we’re being called to, asked to do, sacrifice for - that, maybe our instincts are telling us to reject, our logic is saying “that’s too hard, too much - let someone else do it” but in light of this generous, loving God, we find ourselves saying “I just don’t like to say no.”

A QUICK FYI




Hey everybody -

Just a quick FYI - I'll be on Lino Rulli's "The Catholic Guy Show" today (Friday) I believe in the 5:00 hour on Sirius Satellite Radio's The Catholic Channel (Ch 159)

If you're around, listen and call in 1-888-322-8465

God Bless,

Fr Jim

WHY DO WE GO TO CHURCH?

Here’s my homily for June 8, 2008 - the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time - the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/060808.shtml

Thanks for reading and your feedback - God Bless, Fr Jim

HOMILY:
Every once in awhile, a journalist of some sort will do a story, article, report where they get a sampling of answers to the question “Why do you go to Church?” There’s always a variety of answers that people will give, usually to a bunch of extremes - and all with some degree of truth to them. A couple of the articles that asked people “Why do you go to Church” reported responses like:
- Because my parents make me
- Because I think I should
- Because I don’t want to go to Hell
- Because it’s important to my wife or husband
- Because we want to set a good example for our kids
- Because I have a friend, a relative that’s sick that I want to pray for
- Because I always have and always will.
- Because I’m looking for meaning in my life
- Because I want to catch up with friends and neighbors
- Because I want to be around people who think about things the way I think

Maybe some of us can relate to some of those answers. There’s times in our lives when some of those reasons might be pretty important or even the only reason we come. As Catholics we believe that central to who we are, and why we come to Mass is to receive the Eucharist - to receive not a symbol but Jesus’ Body and Blood and to receive God’s word. That God still speaks to us in these scriptures.
And today’s readings tell us something that should impact not only why we come to Mass every week, but speak to our lives and our relationship with God.
In the first reading we hear from Hosea who is a prophet. It’s Hosea’s job to bring God’s word to the people. And God’s not exactly pleased with what’s going on: the people have been SO unfaithful, made SUCH a mess of things that they don’t even have a real sense of repentance, they lack a sincere desire of trying to make things right with God. They figure, let’s just offer God some sort of a sacrifice, let’s do this “ritual” thing - and we’ll all be “good” with God and we can go back to doing things – like we’re doing now. They’ve made their worship, their sacrifice, their repentance a type of a deductible and God is the insurance policy - do this one good thing so we can continue to do the bad things we want to do. (And hopefully our premium won’t go up with each bad thing we do). Their worship, their sacrifices to God are “like dew that early passes away” because they are less than sincere - they are empty because they lack the desire to really change - they lack meaning.
St. Paul in the second reading kind of gives an exclamation point to that as he continues a theme we heard last week our words have to be backed up by our actions. Think about it - there’s a difference when an entertainer at the end of a concert yells out to a crowd of thousands of people they’ve never met “I Love you” compared to when a husband and a wife at their 50th wedding anniversary says those same exact words to each other.
St. Paul makes this point using the Old Testament figure Abraham as an example. Abraham wasn’t a man who just said “I have Faith in God and I have my Hope in him” - His entire life was governed by his Faith and Hope in God. How?
Abraham and his wife are in their 80's when they find out there going to have their first born son - which has been a lifelong dream of theirs. Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed in these 4 - 5,000 years since Abraham was around - those aren’t exactly prime-child-bearing years for people. But as St. Paul points out in that reading today - Abraham believed - hoping against hope - that he would become the “father of many nations” (Romans 4:18) In their old age they had their first born son, and more than just a biological Father, Abraham became a father to generations of people who call upon God. He had Faith in God’s promises, Hope in something outside what the world would say was possible. God could do great things through Abraham because God is able to work through genuine Faith and genuine Hope.
But God’s not limited to that either (Thank God!) He can even work through sinful human beings. Which is the point that Jesus makes in a dramatic way in today’s Gospel. Matthew is far from what most would think is the “ideal” candidate to follow Jesus - let alone be one of the 12 apostles. He’s a tax collector, which means, as a Jew, he’s been co-operating with the hated Romans - the people who were occupying and oppressing the Jews. In Matthew the Romans were able to use the services of a Jew to collect money from his own people for that occupation, he could overcharge his fellow Jews and keep the extra money for himself. He could cheat his own people and the Romans would back him on it.
This is who Jesus calls to follow him? It’s Jesus way of saying - Believe in God’s mercy more than in your sins - Love God as He Loves you - Say you Love him, not just in your words, not just in your sacrifices - but with your whole life.
Our coming together each Sunday is an important thing and while there’s some less than ideal reasons at times- there can be a lot of good reasons or motivations. But the one that matters the most to God is when it comes from our hearts, when we come not here to get something, not out of an obligation to anyone - but simply, sincerely, and most profoundly because we Love Him.

Fr Jim on "The Catholic Guy Show" w/ Lino Rulli

This is a 10 minute clip of my phone call on Friday, May 30th The Catholic Guy Show w/ Lino Rulli (what's not included was my ruining of Lino's Suprise Birthday for Lou) Thanks to DAN the MAN of LINO FANS for getting this!

I am still clueless about uploading stuff like this - so you'd have to go here to listen to it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNnmPFkVrmc