Check Your Selfishness at the Door

January 8, 2021

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12)

The leper “fell prostrate.” Prostrate defined: lying stretched out on the ground with one’s face downward, especially in reverence or submission.

Can you imagine the sense of awe and wonder of the leper? He had heard of this man, Jesus, who healed the sick and forgave sinners. This same Jesus was in his town; he might have the opportunity to meet him and ask for help.

When he did, in fact, have that opportunity, he was overwhelmed. He threw himself on the ground at Jesus’ feet, an act of abject humility, a complete “death to self.” His actions said to Jesus, “I am completely unworthy of what I am about to ask. I leave my life in your hands.”

When I was ordained to the diaconate, a part of the Rite called for us, the candidates for ordination, to prostrate ourselves on the floor of the cathedral prior to our ordination. It was a profound experience and served to offer the same message to anyone witnessing it: “I am completely unworthy of what I am about to ask. I leave my life in your hands.”

Perhaps this gives us pause. How do we approach God with our needs? What is the state of our heart? Do we “check our selfishness” at the door, or are we thinking to ourselves, “I deserve this.”

May God grant us the humility we need.

It’s Here. It’s Now.

January 7, 2021

Jesus stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. 
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. 

He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:14-22)

There are times when I read a Gospel passage that I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the synagogue in Nazareth the day Jesus was handed that scroll. He opened the scroll and read a Scripture passage from Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. The Gospel tells us, “the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”

There was electricity in the air. Something big was happening. Then Jesus said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

He basically told them, “What I just read is about me. It is happening right now. Christ is among you right now.”

Can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of the people in the synagogue that day? This man grew up right here in Nazareth. He’s the man we’ve had our eye on because of all the odd things he has been doing – eating with sinners and tax collectors, healing on the Sabbath. This man is telling us He is the Christ. I’m sure there was a whole range of thoughts and emotions coursing through the synagogue:

Fear – What if what he is saying is true? I have been waiting and preparing, but am I ready to meet Christ today?

Doubt – How can this be? I was expecting God’s anointed one to ride in on a white horse, a king to save his people, not this simple preacher.

For some it may have been joy. Finally he has come! Praise God!

Jesus said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled.”

The word “today” is a powerful word. “Today” means there is no more time left, no more waiting.

It’s here. It’s now.

Sponge, Mirror, or Prism?

January 6, 2021

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another. 
No one has ever seen God. 
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
(1 John 4:11)

In today’s first reading, John writes beautifully of the love God has for us, as well as how we are intended to respond to that love. I am a visual person, so here are a few images that came to mind as I reflected on our response to God’s love.

We could be a sponge – just soak it in.

We could be a mirror – allowing the love of God to bounce off of us and reflect onto others.

OR…we could be a prism – allowing the light of God’s love to shine through us. The light enters us as one color but is broken down into a full range of colors and radiates outward, reflecting both who we are, and who God is, to EVERYONE.

God’s love is brought to perfection when we radiate his love in this way.

Directionless and Defenseless

January 5, 2021

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34-44)

I was listening to a Q&A with Bishop Robert Barron yesterday, focused on the topic of evangelizing to the “unaffiliated” – those people who do not formally align themselves with any religion. Bishop Barron said that current data shows that over 50% of baptized Catholics under the age of 30 now consider themselves unaffiliated – that is a vast crowd.

This came to mind as I read today’s gospel. The unaffiliated are the vast crowd that are like sheep without a shepherd. A sheep left on its own faces two insurmountable challenges. First, it is directionless – it wanders. Second, it is defenseless – it is unable to ward off attack by predators.

A person that is unaffiliated, without the shepherding of a viable faith life, is vulnerable to being “consumed” by the world – will find himself in the belly of the predator if you will.

When you hear the word unaffiliated or the phrase lost sheep, it is likely that someone – or several people – come to mind. Your first thought may be, “I feel sorry for them and want to help, but I’m no shepherd!” Maybe you are, and maybe you’re not – that is not for me to say. However, I know what we CAN do. We can do what the disciples did in the gospel: We can feed the sheep.

We feed others when we share our stories of God’s presence in our lives. We feed others when we live lives that serve as witness to the strength of our faith – to the love we have for Jesus Christ. We feed others by planting seeds of hope, offering joy and gratitude in the face of daily challenges.

Remember what the Good Shepherd said to his disciples when they told him the “sheep” were hungry. “Give them some food yourselves.” 

“God Needs Storytellers” Live-Stream

January 4, 2021

When the pandemic began, my wife Carol and I sought ways to help people connect with their faith, during a time they might be feeling very dis-connected.

We began hosting a livestream show each Wednesday morning called, God Needs Storytellers. It can be seen on the St. Pius X Parish Facebook page Wednesday mornings at 7:00 a.m. It is recorded and posted on the Facebook page immediately afterward, so it can be viewed live or is available to watch at another time more convenient for the viewer.

God is constantly tapping us on the shoulder, letting us know he is actively engaged in our lives. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many people do not recognize God’s presence.

That is where we come in – God needs storytellers! By virtue of our baptism, we – all Christians – have an obligation to proclaim the gospel. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Our hope is that by sharing our stories, we will plant seeds of hope for others. We want to help them recall stories of their own – realizing God has been active in their lives as well. Then, hopefully, they will share their stories with others. We want to be the small pebbles thrown into the lake – sending out “ripples” of faith.

The show has gotten good response and we are blessed to be able to continue to share each Wednesday morning. If you have not seen our show, you are welcome to join us!

Please consider joining us on Wednesday mornings in 2021 at https://www.facebook.com/spxparishindy

Homily: Wise Men Still Seek Him

January 3, 2021 – Feast of The Epiphany

Before Christmas, my pregnant daughter sent me an email, attaching a copy of a cartoon she had come across. The cartoon depicted the nativity manger scene. Mary and Joseph knelt in front of the crib that held the child Jesus. There were three women included in the cartoon, each bearing a gift: One had a box of diapers, the second had a case of baby formula, and the third, a casserole.

The caption of the cartoon read, “Thankfully, after the three wise men left, three wiser women dropped by.”

********************

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The term epiphany refers to a revelation: important, long-awaited information is revealed. While additional events also revealed Jesus as the Christ, it was the experience of the magi that is considered the landmark event of the epiphany.

In Fr. Jim’s Christmas homily, he referenced these men that made the trip to visit the Christ child, saying, “the Magi, the three kings, the wise men – whatever you choose to call them – came bearing gifts.”

Why do we have three different names for this same group of visitors?

Continue reading

Audio Homily: Run to the Light in 2021

January 2, 2021

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light, 
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:1-18)

Click below to hear my homily from Thursday morning, the Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas:

Top Posts of 2020 – #1

January 1, 2021

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I re-post the Top 7 Posts of the Year – based on the number of views each post received.

Today we have the Top Post of the Year. The following was the most-viewed post by a wide margin. It was originally posted on June 9, 2020 and was titled, My Apology to Black Americans.

I am a 60-year-old white man with my fair share of personal baggage. Over the last 15 years, thanks to my formation as a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church, I have evolved. My perception of the world and how God intends for me to interact with it has evolved as well: I am much more reflective and introspective than I used to be. I have a much better idea of who I am and who I am called to be. I am more in-tune with my gifts and am humbled by new insights into my personal weaknesses. I am more inclined to see the world as it really is, although I am not as cynical as I used to be. I am more compassionate and empathetic. I am more accepting of the viewpoints of others. I have a genuine desire to be a good and loving person, and to help others in their efforts to do the same. 

I share all of this as a backdrop to my processing of recent events in our country. Since George Floyd was killed on May 25th, I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on my own attitude toward race, considering what I have done or not done to contribute to the systemic racism that exists in America.

Continue reading

Top Posts of 2020 – #2

December 31, 2020

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I re-post the Top 7 Posts of the Year – based on the number of views each post received.

Today we have Post #2 on the Top Posts countdown. The following was originally posted on July 4, 2020 and was titled, Before Choosing a Side…

As we celebrate July 4th and the birth of our nation, a few thoughts for your consideration:

I have tuned into the nightly news and followed social media ad nauseam in recent months, watching events in our country unfold: the ups and downs of the pandemic and the arguments and conflict that have ensued; the passionate fight for the rights of all Americans; and the organized effort to address the issue of systemic racism in our country.

It seems that it is human nature to quickly choose a “side.” These types of challenging situations are very seldom viewed objectively, as topics to be presented and discussed. Society instead views tough situations subjectively; strong emotions and the intense desire to be right overrule any inclination toward open dialogue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning anyone’s right or inclination to be emotionally invested. It is when our emotions immediately join forces with our desire to be right that open dialogue and respect for others is pushed aside. To complicate matters, there are often people on both “sides” of these emotionally-charged issues that bring their own agendas to the table, muddying the waters for those of us who may be trying to understand what is at stake and making the situation even more divisive.

Continue reading

Top Posts of 2020 – #3

December 30, 2020

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I re-post the Top 7 Posts of the Year – based on the number of views each post received.

Today we have Post #3 on the Top Posts countdown. The following was originally posted on March 13, 2020 and was titled, A Coronavirus Prayer

The following prayer was written by Kerry Weber and is referenced below:

Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another. Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow. Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us.

Source: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/02/coronavirus-prayer