Homily: Go Ahead and Jump

April 10, 2021 – Second Sunday of Easter

Today’s gospel shares the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas” from John 20:19-31. The following is a homily I delivered on that same gospel back in 2018.

I once saw a single-frame comic in a Christian magazine in the doctor’s office. It came to mind when reflecting on today’s gospel reading. The comic showed the apostles sitting in a large room, watching television together. On the TV screen was a show in which one of the characters, with drooping shoulders and a sad face, was saying, “I’m sorry for being such a doubting Thomas.”

The apostles in the comic were all having a great laugh – slapping their knees with delight and pointing at Thomas. Thomas was red in the face and steam was coming out of his ears. A thought bubble was over his head which read, “You make one mistake and you never hear the end of it.”

His famous mistake: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks…I will not believe.”

Poor Thomas – a victim of poor timing and circumstances! He was not in the right place at the right time and has forever been branded as Doubting Thomas.

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Ordinary People

April 10, 2021 – Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus. (Acts 4:13-21)

ORDINARY PEOPLE: The scribes were amazed by the boldness of the teaching of Peter and John, as they were “ordinary men.”

I think it is important for us to remember that the Apostles of Jesus were indeed just ordinary men. They were not chosen because they were special or had unique talents. They were ordinary men who were willing to answer the call of Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” they dropped their fishing nets and stepped away from their lucrative tax collecting jobs and followed Him.

We know the rest of the story. The Apostles doubted; they questioned; they denied; and they lacked faith. All the while, Jesus loved them and called them His own.

Jesus calls us, ordinary people, to follow Him as well. He understands that we are sinners, broken people who doubt and lack faith at times. This does not deter Jesus from loving us and calling us His own.

May we, and all ordinary people, have the courage to speak with the boldness of Peter and John. In so doing, we serve as witness to others who may be doubting their own ability to respond to the love of Jesus Christ.

Homily: We are His Children

April 9, 2021 – Friday in the Octave of Easter

Homily originally delivered in April 2013 at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, IN

Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. (John 21:1-14)

Homily theme: The resurrected Jesus calls his Apostles “children.” This reminds us of our need to embrace our faith with the joy and exuberance of a child. We are Jesus’ children. He has His arms opened wide and invites us to run to Him.

I am confident that Fr. Jim has never begun one of his homilies with this line: Let’s talk about potty training.

Our first child went through potty training by the book. She did everything just the way she was supposed to, and it was over and done with quickly and easily with no looking back.

It was a much longer, more difficult path with young Rick. He seemed to understand the concept of going to the bathroom on his own. He knew where the bathroom was. He liked his little step stool he got to stand on.

He had difficulty with two parts of the process: First, for whatever reason, he took off all of his clothes to go to the bathroom. I don’t know what else to say about that…that’s just what he did. If we were good parents, we probably would have tried to break him of that habit, but it was just too funny to watch.

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Peace

April 8, 2021 – Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

“Peace be with you” (Luke 24:37)

PEACE: What a wonderful gift Jesus gave His disciples – the gift of peace.

I am not a very demonstrative person. There are not many things that make me angry or frustrate me. People often tell me I have a calming presence.

That has not always been the case. In the past, I allowed things to get to me. I allowed the actions of others or circumstances out of my control to eat away at me. Sometimes it bubbled up inside of me and piled up as stress and anxiety. Other times it came out in the form of anger or resentment.

So what is different now? I am at peace. My relationship with Jesus has grown and I live each day secure in the fact that He is with me.

Peace be with you.

How could knowing that Jesus offers His peace and His presence to me not settle my nerves and calm me? With peace comes a new perspective: I am comfortable with who I am, flaws and all. I am more accepting of others, flaws and all. I don’t spend time stressing over things that are outside of my control. I am confident that Jesus walks at my side.

The words from today’s Gospel are used in the celebration of the Mass. The priest says these words before the congregation is invited to offer one another a sign of peace.

Next time someone turns to you at Mass and offers you the peace of Christ, keep in mind what a beautiful gift you are being given.

Set Out at Once

April 7, 2021 – Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem… (Luke 24:32-33)

On the road that day, Jesus met the disciples where they were – confused, downtrodden, grieving, and lacking faith. He ultimately revealed Himself to them. He literally turned them around. Suffering and death did not have the last word.

The burning in their hearts was their faith being re-ignited. It is what energized them to “set out at once” and return to Jerusalem with the good news that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

We have all been on a similar journey at one time or another. We are the disciples on the road to Emmaus. One minute our faith is solid, the next minute we find ourselves walking in the opposite direction.

I believe there is much to learn from the disciples traveling to Emmaus. Despite the fact that their eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus, their actions that day made an encounter with the risen Lord possible. The two disciples welcomed a stranger, invited Him in – not once, but twice.

When Jesus approached them and interrupted their discussion, they could have ignored Him or told Him it was a private conversation. They did not. They were open to Him, engaged Him, and were attentive to what He had to say.

As they neared the end of their travels, Luke informs us that Jesus “gave the impression that he was going on farther.” Jesus does not force Himself on anyone. The disciples could have cut ties with Him right then. But they didn’t; once again, they invited Him in.

Jesus wants to have a personal encounter with us. He walks along with us on our road to Emmaus. He wants to be welcomed by us and to engage with us. He wants to turn us around and point us back to Jerusalem.

Are we allowing for that?

Stop Holding on to Me

April 6, 2021 – Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me…” (John 20:17)

STOP HOLDING ON TO ME: Wait…aren’t we supposed to hold on to Jesus?

Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene may seem a bit harsh. She had watched her friend, mentor, and inspiration cruelly put to death just a few days prior. She thought she would never see Him again. Upon recognizing Him, she cried out in joy, “Rabbouni!” To which He responded firmly, “Stop holding on to me.”

There was a sense of urgency in His voice. There was no time to waste mourning and lamenting what was lost. Focus, time, and energy needed to be directed on what was found –a new life made possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death.

Don’t dwell on Good Friday, celebrate Easter!

Run!

April 5, 2021 – Monday in the Octave of Easter

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)

RUN: It is important that Mathew chose to use the word ran in today’s Gospel story of the empty tomb. The believers were so overjoyed, so filled with knowledge of the Good News, that they ran to tell others. When was the last time you felt that way about your faith? When was the last time you felt the urge to run and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others?

Our faith life may be personal, but it is not private. It is meant to be shared.

These days, social media and tweeting and blogging equate to the disciples running to share the Good News. I encourage this sharing – this online evangelization – but we need to make sure that in the process we do not run past the people in our daily lives. We need to share the joy of the Easter season with our families, friends, and co-workers; and model the faith for them.

Go ahead and climb that mountain and shout the Good News to the world, but don’t forget to also share it with the people you meet on your way up the mountain.

He is Risen!

April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday!

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:8-9)

HE IS RISEN: I can’t think of anything more fitting to reflect on in your prayers today.

Think of all Christ endured, embrace his passion and death, and KNOW that He is RISEN today – and with that comes hope in our own resurrection!

Come to the Water

April 3, 2021 – Holy Saturday

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Thus says the LORD: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost…” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

COME TO THE WATER: How many different ways has God told us to come to Him in our need? Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened to you. Seek and you shall find.

In today’s reading from Isaiah, He again extends this offer to us.

What is keeping us from accepting His offer? Is it our need to control things? The desire to hide our vulnerability?

What is it that you are thirsting for? Maybe the peace that comes from knowing Jesus is present in your life; a break from the chaos and non-stop pace of your life; the courage to make an important decision or to forgive someone who has hurt you. Perhaps you just want to be wrapped in the arms of someone who loves you unconditionally.

Regardless of the reason for your thirst, God invites you forward, to “come to the water.” He will provide you with whatever it is that you need. You’ll drink the life-giving water He offers and find comfort.

His love is boundless, so the next time you thirst He will be there, once again inviting you to come to Him.

Homily: The Humanity of Jesus

April 2, 2021 – Good Friday

I will be delivering the following homily at today’s Good Friday services at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:

From early on in our catechesis, we have been taught that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. While I accept that as a mystery of my faith, I struggle to understand it. Specifically, I struggle to relate to the humanity of Jesus.

Jesus was human, so that means he was like me. Scripture is full of stories of Jesus saying profound and beautiful things. He healed the lame, brought sight to the blind, fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and some fish; he performed miracle after miracle. I certainly see the divinity of Jesus, but how is he like me?

Our difficulty in relating to the humanity of Jesus may come from the fact that scripture tells us very little about him prior to his work in public ministry, when his divinity was at the forefront. Perhaps if we had more stories of Jesus growing up, we might be better able to relate to his humanity.

The one story we get of young Jesus is one in which he is left behind in Jerusalem following the Passover festival and his parents search frantically for him for three days. I get a glimpse of his humanity because I can relate to a little boy wandering off from his parents. However, I know this: If I had wandered away and been lost for three days, I guarantee you my parents would NOT have found me in a temple talking theology with Jewish scholars. So again, tough to relate.

However, in the various readings of the passion and death of Jesus, we witness a shared humanity with Jesus.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he agonized over what was about to happen. He even asked God to let the cup pass from him if possible. We can hear the agony in his voice. I can relate to that – I have been frightened of what was to come and I have begged God to make it go away.

Jesus found his friends sleeping when he had asked them to stay awake and pray with him. We can hear the frustration in his voice. I can relate to that – I have been frustrated at times when friends have let me down.

When Jesus was scourged, carried the cross, and had nails driven into his hands and feet, he experienced REAL pain – HUMAN pain. We can hear the exhaustion in his voice and hear his cries of anguish. I can relate to that – not on the scale Jesus experienced, but I have been so tired I didn’t think I could take another step; I have experienced excruciating pain.

Finally, Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We can hear the despair in his voice. I can relate to that – I have felt abandoned by God at times. I have questioned him and wondered aloud why he has allowed terrible things to happen in our world, why I have failed to feel his presence in my life.

The readings from this week allow us to truly experience the humanity of Jesus; we draw closer to him and can better relate to him.

Here’s the beautiful part: Just when we feel closest to Jesus, and can relate to him most fully, he rises from the dead. His agony, frustration, exhaustion, pain, anguish, and despair – his humanity – lead to his resurrection.

This is why we use the phrase “our hope in the resurrection.” Jesus, at his most human, offers us HOPE. If rising from the dead and experiencing eternal life can happen for Jesus, who was fully human, it can happen for us, too!

There is hope for us; our own frustration, pain and despair – if we are willing to offer it up to God – can lead us to new life.

Hope in the resurrection; I can relate to that.

Here is the video version of the homily: