Homily: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

January 23, 2021

This homily was delivered at the daily Mass at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis yesterday morning. It is based on the words spoken in the movie, The Help. The gospel of the day detailed the calling of the twelve Apostles.

WE are “good enough,” deserving of his love, and have infinite value. We are worthy of his call as apostles, and so must do the work to which we have been called.

Regular People

January 21, 2021

He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, 
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. (Mark 3:13-19)

The twelve men Jesus ultimately called to be His apostles were not the best and the brightest. The Rabbis leading the religious communities were surrounded by scholarly disciples. These disciples studied and trained for years before being sent out as learned leaders. Only the best were called. Only the best survived.

Jesus, on the other hand, called fisherman and farmers, even a tax collector. He taught them through parables, but even those they had difficulty understanding at times. Once they had been called, their faith surged and faded. Doubt was always looming.

Yet that is who Jesus chose to call. That is who Jesus later sent out to “preach the gospel to every living creature.”

The apostles were not special because they were called. They were special because they responded. They were special because they left their nets and followed Him.

Jesus is calling you. He chose you. Don’t deny him because you think you’re “not good enough.”

Choosing Our Jesus

January 20, 2021

Looking around at them (the Pharisees) with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart… (Mark 3:1-6)

Before we dismiss the Pharisees as unintelligent, radical, or simply anti-Jesus, I think it is important to understand their perspective.

Let’s begin with the recognition that the Pharisees were anything but unintelligent; they were the most learned of Jewish scholars. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people awaited the Messiah, a great Savior that would wipe evil from the face of the earth and take his rightful place as king.

And then along came Jesus. He attracted many followers and those followers believed Jesus may be the long-awaited Messiah. The Pharisees immediately wanted to shut that down – not because of the good things Jesus was doing, but because he didn’t fit the image of what they had in mind.

They believed the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a white horse and an army of soldiers. They wanted him to defeat their enemies and put sinners to death. They pictured him as a mighty and powerful king that would reward the Pharisees for their faithful adherence to Jewish laws and customs.

However, Jesus did not fit the mold. He was not a warrior king. He was gentle and loving and compassionate. He did not put sinners to death; he ate with them and allowed them to be his followers. He didn’t even follow Jewish customs himself! How could he be the Messiah?

What angered Jesus was not the intelligence of the Pharisees or their strict adherence to Jewish law. He was angered by their hardened hearts. He was angered that they would not allow their hearts to be open to the possibility that their image of the Messiah was faulty.

He was angered that the Pharisees were more concerned with being right than they were in appreciating all that Jesus had to offer.

That’s our takeaway. Do we accept Jesus for what he is and what he offers to us? Do we appreciate the sacrifice he made for us and the many gifts he bestows on us?

Or do we accept only parts of Jesus? We like the kind and loving Jesus, but not the one that challenges us to live a life of holiness. We like the Jesus that forgives our sins, but not the one that challenges us to sin no more. We want to be loved unconditionally, but are not willing to love others in that same way.

Are we like the Pharisees? Do we only accept a Messiah that fits our image of what he should be? Do we just want to be right?

Stay the Course

January 19, 2021

We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.
(Hebrews 6:10-20)

The reading today was intended as a pep talk for the Hebrews: Stay the course, your reward will come later.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ can be challenging. The secular world offers a broad array of desirable things, tempting us to stray from what we know is right. If we succumb to temptation, we may receive immediate gratification, but it is temporary and does nothing to fill our hearts. Discipleship fills our hearts gradually and leads to eternal happiness. It is short-term empty promises versus a long-term inheritance.

The pep talk letter encouraged the Hebrews to stay the course; don’t allow the lack of immediate gratification to make them sluggish or steal their eagerness for the fulfillment of hope. They were reminded that their reward will come through faith and patience.

We may see others straying from what is right and holy; they may even appear to be enjoying “the good life.” We are encouraged, like the Hebrews, to stay the course – our reward will be great in heaven.

Homily: Dropping Pebbles

January 17, 2021 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3-19 / 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 / John 1:35-42

In early 2004, I got in the habit of checking the employment ads in The Criterion (the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis) each week. I had my brand-new school administrator’s license and was keeping an eye out for principal jobs at area Catholic schools.

My daughter, Laura, was looking through The Criterion one night and said, “Hey Dad, here’s a job that would be perfect for you.” I was surprised to hear her say that, as I thought I had reviewed the paper thoroughly.

She pointed to the ad that indicated Fatima Retreat House was looking for a director. I was curious why she thought of me for this position, so I asked her to share her thoughts. She went on to list the skills she thought I had and why they matched up well with what Fatima needed. I appreciated her opinion, but privately I dismissed it – I was, after all, looking for a principal job.

Less than an hour later, I received a call from my other daughter, Mary, who was off at college. We chatted a bit and then she said, “I saw an ad in The Criterion for a retreat house director at Fatima. That would be perfect for you.” She went on to tell me why I should consider the opportunity.

Since I had heard from both of my daughters, I felt like I should at least look into the job at Fatima. Long story short, I did some research, applied for the opening, and ended up landing the job.

It changed my life. My faith life exploded.

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Entering Into His Rest

January 15, 2021

…the promise of entering into his rest remains… (Hebrews 4:1)

This promise referred to in the Letter to the Hebrews is ours for the taking; we have a choice.

We have been asked to love God and love others, to keep our focus on God’s will for our lives. However, nowhere in scripture does it say this request is easy. To keep our focus on God’s will requires dying to self. Our need to control often stands in the way. Choosing what we want is so much easier and meets our immediate needs.

That said, meeting our immediate needs or satisfying a temporary desire of the flesh pales in comparison to the promise referred to in Hebrews: the promise of entering into his rest.

We have been promised the possibility of eternal life, of entering into his rest. Will we choose to accept this gift?

Relinquish control to God.

What Type of Heart Beats in You?

January 14, 2021

Oh, that today you would hear his voice, “Harden not your hearts… (Hebrews 3:7)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalm 95:8)

In today’s first reading, and again in our Responsorial Psalm, we hear the familiar words: If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.

What does it mean to “harden your heart?” Perhaps the easiest way come to an understanding of a hardened heart  is to describe the opposite type of heart – a “soft” heart if you will.

A soft heart is warm and welcoming, flexible and forgiving, open and tolerant. So a hard heart must be cold and inhospitable, inflexible and unforgiving, closed and intolerant. If we are Christians truly focused on living out the two greatest commandments, to love God and love others, it seems a soft heart would be a necessity.

Surely if we were to hear God’s voice, our heart would not harden…would it?

We need to remember that God speaks to us through the people we encounter in our daily lives: the co-worker we ignore each day because he is a little odd, our sister that we have yet to forgive after she said something hurtful to us, the homeless man we pass on the street and pretend not to see, the man on the bus we fear because of the way he looks or the color of his skin, and the spouse we argued with simply out of a need to be “right.”

Today you will hear God’s voice. He will speak through the people He puts in your life. What type of a heart will He find beating in you?