They All Ate

August 2, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied...  (Matthew 14:13-21)

THEY ALL ATE: Each time I have read the parable of the loaves and fishes, my focus has been on the miracle of the multiplication of resources. With only five loaves and two fish, Jesus was able to feed 5,000+ and have plenty left over.

Different words jumped out from the Gospel as I read it today: “They all ate and were satisfied…”

Today’s Gospel points to this: We must feed them all.

We cannot selectively feed those who come to us. The Gospel does not say that Jesus went through the crowd, deciding who would eat and who would not eat. He fed them all; and they were all satisfied – He met the needs of each individual.

For Christians, it is the same: Go out and make disciples of all men.

We must challenge ourselves by asking the question: Are we feeding everyone we encounter, or are we being selective in our feeding?

Homily: Put on a New Self

August 1, 2021 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 / Ephesians 4:17-24 / John 6:24-35

The following is the homily I will be delivering today at St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis:

Before I begin, I would like to ask for a show of hands — and be honest — how many of you, when referring to our new pastor, have accidentally called him POPE Francis? (Note for the reader: Our new pastor is Fr. Francis)

I have…at least three times that I know of.

I called him Pope Francis once when a friend asked who our new pastor was and didn’t even realize I had said it. My friend said, “The Holy Father is your new pastor? That’s awesome!”

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I’ve just returned from an extended vacation. I assisted at all the Masses on Father Francis’ first weekend here…then abandoned him for nearly three weeks. Thank you for your understanding, Father. Carol and I enjoyed our time away; I am rested and ready to get back to work.

While the vacation was great, I did receive some sad news. You may remember hearing stories about my neighbor, Shirley, in past homilies. Shirley passed away last week at the age of 85. I was the only person close to her and she was adamant she wanted no funeral or memorial service. Actually, what she told me was, “When I die, don’t make a fuss. Tell them to put me in a box and bury me.” I learned a long time ago to do as Shirley says.

Had I gone against her wishes I would have paid for it eventually. I can picture myself arriving at heaven’s gate and seeing Shirley standing there with St. Peter. Shirley would tell Peter, “Don’t you let him in. I told him not to make a fuss and he did it anyway.” And Peter would have said, “Yes, ma’am” and that would have been it for me.

I am, however, going to try to offer a hidden eulogy for Shirley within my homily. I just hope she does not consider it fussing over her.

Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians speaks to our responsibility to grow in our faith, to work daily on becoming the best version of our Christian selves. He wrote: You must no longer live as the Gentiles do…you should put away the old self and be renewed in the spirit…put on a new self, created in holiness.

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Lack of Faith

July 30, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:57-58)

LACK OF FAITH: All superheroes have a kryptonite that affects them, something that drains their power. In today’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus had a kryptonite, too. Matthew tells us that Jesus was “not able to perform any mighty deed” while in his native place. This was due to the lack of faith of the people living there. Their lack of faith was His kryptonite.

The people in his native place thought they were in control. They did not have faith in His ability to help them, leaving Jesus powerless.

Our kryptonite is the belief that we are in control. It drains us and makes us vulnerable. It also shows a lack of faith, which in turn, leaves Jesus powerless to help us.

So what’s the answer?

We must redefine what it means to be strong. Being strong has nothing to do with being in control, and everything to do with being self-aware. True strength lies in acknowledging our limitations, and embracing our weakness. When we acknowledge our weakness, and seek help, then we are showing strength. When we put our faith in God, we no longer hinder Him, allowing His power to flow through us.

Resurrection (versus resuscitation)

July 29, 2021 – Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
(John 11:23-24)

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

RESURRECTION: The raising of Lazarus from the dead is not a resurrection story; it is a resuscitation story. Lazarus was not resurrected, at least not at that point. Rather, he was resuscitated. He was still wrapped in his burial cloths; he was still bound. Jesus ordered, “Untie him and let him go.” Lazarus was brought back to life, returned to the earthly life he knew, and given a chance to continue living that same life. I’m sure he appreciated life more, and no longer took it for granted – but it was still an earthly life.

Understandably, this resuscitation brought joy to Lazarus and his family and friends. However, earthly joy is temporary – our ultimate goal is not resuscitation, but resurrection.

It is certainly not my intent to diminish the resuscitation of Lazarus. However, we have a desire for, and place our hope in, the resurrection. That is our ultimate goal.

We may need to be resuscitated along the way, perhaps multiple times along the way, to realize that desire. Many of us have a faith that is bound up – struggling and inactive – or perhaps even dead. What is offered to us in this world has become all that matters. Attaining things in the here and now has taken priority over attaining eternal life in heaven.

Our faith life and our personal relationship with God need to be resuscitated. We need life breathed back into the lungs of our faith. This resuscitation offers us a second chance at this life, more opportunities on earth to help us attain heaven. Our resuscitation will fuel our determination to live a faith-filled life, restore our hope in the resurrection, and reveal the glory of God.

Radiant

July 28, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

“…he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29-35)

RADIANT: Moses did not realize that each time he spoke with the Lord, his face would literally “light up.”

I hear people use that expression sometimes, most often when they are speaking about babies. Someone is holding a baby girl, and mommy or daddy comes into view. The baby kicks her legs and smiles a big smile, perhaps even giggles a little. The person holding the baby says to the parent, “She just lit up when you came into the room!”

What they mean is that the baby was excited, energized, and joyful at the sight of the parent.

The same thing happens when Carol goes away on a mission trip. She is gone for a week or ten days, and I go to the airport to pick her up upon return. I feel my heart pumping. When I see her, I can feel myself “light up.” I am so excited to see her beautiful face again.

Do we have this experience when it comes to the time we spend with God? Do we “light up” when we get a chance to pray? Are we excited and energized? Is there joy? Are we radiant?

This is God’s hope for us. He wants us to light up when we see Him come into view, when we feel His presence in our lives…to kick our legs and smile a big smile. He wants us to be radiant with His love.

Whoever Has Ears

July 27, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.  (Matthew 13:36-43)

WHOEVER HAS EARS: In today’s language, Jesus would probably say something like, “This means you!” or “Got that?”

We have ears and are capable of hearing, so this applies to all of us. We all struggle with our own personal baggage. We are imperfect; we are broken. We are sinners that stumble and fall often. Jesus knows that and accepts us regardless. He loves us through it and in spite of it.

However, we mustn’t pull others down with us. We must not spread hate and divisiveness with our words or actions or model selfishness by ignoring others that are obviously in need. We must not invite others into our darkness or push them away when they reveal their own brokenness.

Our sin is one thing, but causing others to sin is quite another. We must love others enough to protect them from sin. Got that?

Kingdom of Heaven

July 26, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'” (Matthew 13:31-35)

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: I think when we hear the phrase ‘Kingdom of heaven,’ our thoughts immediately turn to the gift of eternal life. Jesus is certainly preparing us for eternal life by encouraging us to live out the Gospel message.

However, I believe Jesus had more in mind than the next life. I believe that if we truly prepare as He instructs us, we are in reality creating a Kingdom of heaven right here on earth.

If we plant our mustard seed of faith (tiny as that may be), nurture it with loving service to others, and shine our light on it, it will grow. Our witness will be life-giving, and others will seek refuge in it (live in its branches). They in turn will plant their own seed…and on, and on.

Eternal life is definitely our goal, but joyful preparation for the Kingdom of heaven will help create our own heaven on earth.

Homily: Just One More

July 25, 2021 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I delivered the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis in 2018 on the same readings we have today:

In last week’s gospel, Jesus encouraged His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

Last week’s homily emphasized the need for us to take time to step away and renew ourselves. We need to stay strong for the work that lies ahead.

In today’s gospel, we find out why Jesus emphasized the importance of rest and renewal. There was much to do. Many people were in need. Many people needed to be fed, both literally and figuratively.

In this gospel story, we heard about the feeding of the five thousand. In John’s version, Jesus asked Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

The gospel goes on to say that Jesus said this to test Philip. He threw down the gauntlet: “There are many hungry people. What are you going to do about it?”

Philip’s response reflects the overwhelming enormity of the situation. He said: “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have even a little.”

What Philip was saying, and he spoke for all of the disciples, was: “What you are asking of us is impossible!”

If it was a test, Philip failed. In his defense, placed in the same situation, most of us would have failed as well. According to Philip, what Jesus asked of him was too much; it was impossible.

What was the right answer? What answer was Jesus expecting Philip to give? Hoping he would give?

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No Other Gods

July 23, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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.

“I, the LORD am your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)

NO OTHER GODS: In the first reading from Exodus, God reveals the Ten Commandments to Moses. The first commandment establishes our priority. “I, the LORD am your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.”

The remainder of the commandments flow from that established priority; each subsequent commandment warns us to avoid actions that direct us away from that priority. When we break any of the commandments, we are placing our own desires ahead of God’s will.

Which brings us to the lesson these readings provide for us. How can we apply this message to our daily lives? What does it mean to prioritize God? Isn’t going to Mass and praying enough?

Yes, God wants us to go to Mass. Yes, God wants us to pray. However, are we also mistreating our neighbor? Are we lacking in mercy and compassion? Are we judgmental and intolerant? Do we step over the poor and marginalized in the pursuit of our desires?

If going to Mass and praying are the sole expression of our faith, we have made the decision to place your own needs over God’s will.

Holding On

July 22, 2021 – Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a 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)

HOLDING ON: Mary Magdalene went to the Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. She was weeping and mourning. Then she realized that the “gardener” speaking to her was the risen Jesus. She was overjoyed and called out to Him, “Teacher!”

Jesus’ response? He told her, “Stop holding onto me.” This might seem like an odd response. Doesn’t Jesus want us to hold onto Him? Isn’t that in fact what gives us life and hope?

What Jesus was telling Mary Magdalene (and what He continues to tell us today) was that she should not allow the memory of her time with Jesus and the uncertainty of what lie ahead to freeze her in her tracks.

The life and work of Jesus did not end with His human death on the cross – it began! He passed the torch on to us, His believers. We need to make His death on the cross mean something. We honor Him, we show our love for Him, by living by His words and following His example.

He does not want us to spend our time shedding tears and mourning, but rather joyously spreading the Gospel message.

When we “hold onto Him,” we put everything on Him. When we “hold Him in our hearts,” we accept the obligation to bring Him to others.