Homily: YOUR Defining Moment

August 9, 2020 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9-13 / Romans 9:1-5 / Matthew 14:22-33

I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Indianapolis today. You can listen to the audio version as delivered last night, or read the written text below:

 

I would like you to listen again to these five sentences from our gospel, broken into three segments.

One: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 
Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 

Two: But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and began to sink.

Three: He cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Within these five sentences, Peter undergoes three separate faith experiences: Strong faith, wavering faith, and a renewal of faith.

When we hear this gospel story, we tend to focus on Peter’s uncertainty, his lack of faith. Jesus even asked him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

This is not the only time Peter seemingly gives us an example of what NOT to do.

Continue reading

Homily: Why is God Eating Lunch at McDonald’s?

August 2, 2020 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I delivered the following homily, based on the same readings we have today, was at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Indianapolis in 2014

Today’s readings include: Isaiah 55:1-3, Romans 8:35-39, and Matthew 14:13-21

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

A little background before I share a story: When our children were young, Carol and I would prepare them before we went to church for Sunday Mass. We would remind them that we were entering the God’s house, and that they needed to be on their best behavior. We added that if they were quiet and really listened, God would talk to them.

Over their formative years, our two daughters paid close attention to what we said, and were generally well-behaved and attentive. Not so much with the boys. They didn’t really care whose house it was – they were going to do whatever they wanted.

And now the story: We were having lunch in McDonald’s one afternoon. Our daughter, Mary, was about 4 years old. The pastor of St. Pius at that time was Fr. Jim Sweeney. Long-time parishioners will remember Fr. Jim as a big man with a big personality. He knew no strangers and you always knew when Jim Sweeney was around.

He walked into the same McDonald’s that afternoon. After ordering, he walked around the restaurant, waving to parishioners and stopping to chat at most of the tables, including ours.

Mary could not take her eyes off of him. She was mesmerized. When Fr. Jim moved on to the next table, Mary leaned over to Carol and I and asked, “Why is God eating lunch at McDonald’s?”

Today I will be talking about God and food, or more precisely, God and being fed. Continue reading

Homily: Embrace the Gift

July 26, 2020 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 / Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 13:44-46

I delivered this homily at the vigil Mass last night at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis and will be delivering it again at the Masses this morning. You may listen to the homily by clicking below or the text of the homily follows if you would like to read it.

 

Most of us – at one time or another – have been overwhelmed by a gift we’ve received. The gift was a surprise; it was bigger or more expensive than expected; or maybe we thought we didn’t deserve the gift.

In the early 1990’s, I became quite ill and needed to go to a specialty hospital in Chicago. I was transported to that hospital for a week’s worth of treatments. Carol, of course, wanted to be with me. Our four children were ages 4-11. We had no extra money and our low-limit credit cards were maxed out. Carol left the kids with her sister and made the trip to Chicago, deciding that she would just figure out how to pay for a place to stay once she got there. I was in no condition to argue with her. She checked into a hotel across the street from the hospital — a hotel in downtown Chicago was not going to be cheap. She had no idea how she would pay for it at the end of the week. Continue reading

Homily: Did God Set Us Up to Fail?

July 5, 2020 – Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Romans 8:9-13 and Matthew 11:25-30

The following is a homily I delivered on these same readings at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis back in 2014:

Did God set us up to fail?

I certainly don’t want to second-guess God, but at times what He asks of us, and the position He puts us in, do not seem to be in alignment.

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Put yourself in a position to succeed.” The implication is that we should do things that accentuate our gifts and talents, that allow us to use our strengths while diminishing our weaknesses.

We follow that logic at school. We schedule students into classes based on their academic abilities and strengths. We put teachers in front of them who are licensed and competent in the subject matter, in the hope that the students experience success. We wouldn’t put a student who struggles in Math into the highest level Calculus class, or assign a teacher to the class who is trained to teach Social Studies. We would be setting that student up to fail.

I shared a story a few weeks ago about a fictional Fr. Joe, who did not prepare at all before attempting to deliver a homily. He was set up to fail, and he did just that.

Which brings me back to my original question: Did God set us up to fail? Continue reading

Homily: Serve, Pray, Repeat

June 28, 2020 – Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

I delivered the following homily on these same readings at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis this weekend in July of 2017:

I had the honor of speaking to the Serra Club of Indianapolis on Monday evening. The topic was, Our Work is Never Done. The central message of that presentation was – no matter how much you did one day to serve God and others, you are expected to get up the next day and do it again.

One of the reasons many people stray from the Church, or lapse in their faith, is that the role of disciple is demanding and relentless. By nature, human beings are self-centered. To focus on Jesus is hard work and cramps our style. Continue reading

Homily: Be Open, Prepare, Welcome

June 24, 2018 – Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Yesterday was my 8th anniversary of ordination. This homily was originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish in June of 2012…it was my very first homily.

Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. John is mentioned 91 times in the New Testament. He was involved in some pretty dramatic events:

  • He baptized Jesus in the Jordan and heard God speak
  • He was beheaded and his head served on a platter to King Herod

We also know that John the Baptist was not a ‘mainstream’ guy

  • He lived on the fringe of society
  • He was a desert dweller
  • He is described as wearing camel skin, having long scraggly hair and a beard, and it was written that he ate locusts and other insects

Descriptions of John may conjure up an image of someone who is not quite “all there.” But he was also described as “a voice crying out in the desert.” John had a powerful message that he was not afraid to share with whoever would listen. He preached a message of repentance.

Although he was loud and somewhat ‘in your face,’ the core of his message was one of love: Be open to Christ, prepare for Christ, and welcome Christ.

He was a voice crying out in the desert.

                    **********

I work with an organization called HOOP (Helping Our Own People). Our work is simple. We stop at our storage facility and pick up clothing and toiletries. We stop at a local church and pick up soup, sandwiches, and fruit. Then we take these items out and distribute them to the homeless near downtown Indianapolis. No questions asked, just give them what they need and spend some time in conversation. Continue reading

Homily: Our Only Fear Should Be Walking Alone

June 21, 2020 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; and Matthew 10:26-33

You can listen to the homily here:

 

I will be offering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:

I offer this story from a young adoptive mother:

Planning. It is one job we all do best. We like to plan our days and our futures to make life go smoothly and predictably. No surprises, please! Most of our plans come and go without a second thought, but what happens when they go awry? Eight years ago our family felt the Lord leading us to do foster care. Our plan was to foster babies until God’s perfectly chosen child became available for us to adopt. We were very excited! Finally, after about two years, God delivered a beautiful baby girl with huge brown eyes to our front door. Our plans were going great! Nonetheless, one trip to the neurologist brought all our preconceived ideas of our future to a screeching halt. Our beautiful baby girl had serious brain damage from the drugs that her birth mom used while pregnant. The doctor informed us that the child we desired to adopt would forever need to live at home and have continual care. We were stunned and scared. Thankfully, the Lord was not surprised. I can rest knowing that His plan had been determined long ago, and all I need to do is walk with Him into the unknown future. Seven years later, I can say with confidence how thankful I am for God’s plan and for our daughter with those beautiful big brown eyes. 

The following is a quote from the late Reverend Billy Graham. He wrote: Historians will likely call our era ‘the age of anxiety.’ Fear and anxiety are the natural results when our hopes are centered on anything other than God and His will for us.

Interestingly enough, Billy Graham wrote those words in 1965. Fifty-five years later, those words still ring true.

Continue reading

Homily: Why Were You Looking for Me?

June 20, 2020 – Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

After three days his parents found Jesus in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:41-51)

The following homily was originally delivered in June 2013 at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:

Young Jesus and I have something in common. In my youth, I too experienced being left behind. However, when comparing my experience to that of Jesus, the similarities end there:

  • Our family was not part of a caravan traveling home after Passover. We were heading to Wisconsin for vacation.
  • Jesus chose to stay behind. My parents forgot me.
  • Jesus spent his time in the temple. I was left at a truck stop on I-94.
  • When Jesus’ parents found him, he was sitting amongst the Rabbis, demonstrating his deep understanding of scripture. When my parents found me, I was chatting with a truck driver, wearing a cowboy hat, and eating a Popsicle.
  • When Jesus saw his parents, he said, “Why were you looking for me?” When I saw my parents, I started crying.

Continue reading

Homily: Am I a Pretender?

June 14, 2020 – Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

I delivered the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, IN in 2017: 

Let me begin with a heartfelt story:

A few years back, I was scheduled to give a talk at a parish and was sitting at our dining room table working on it. My son, Robby, came up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked what I was working on.

When I told him a had a presentation I was preparing for, he asked, “What’s the topic?”

I told him, “It’s a talk on effective parenting.”

Any one of my other three children would have said something kind and encouraging such as, “That’s great!” or “You’d be good at that!”

Not Robby. He laughed and said, “And they want you to talk about that?” Continue reading

Homily: Unlock Your Door!

May 31, 2020 – Pentecost Sunday

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Below is a homily I delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis, on Pentecost Sunday in 2013:

Everyone knows the story of Pentecost. The apostles had locked themselves in a room, afraid to go out and face the world without Jesus. The Holy Spirit entered the room in the form of tongues of fire flickering over their heads. They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and suddenly found themselves with the courage to unlock their doors, step out, and begin preaching the Gospel message. The Holy Spirit gave them a voice.

The most amazing part of the gift they received was that all who heard them were able to understand. People from foreign lands, speaking many different languages and dialects, could understand what the apostles had to say. Each heard the apostles in his own language.

This concept of “speaking in tongues” –  how is that even possible? Maybe it is not as mysterious as it sounds.

My wife, Carol, has been to El Salvador seven times. We have pictures of her in a small village, looking like the Pied Piper, surrounded by smiling Salvadoran children. Carol sketched out a mural on the side of the simple structure serving as the community center, and all of the children were helping her paint it. Big smiles on their faces, paint everywhere.

Each time she goes there, she comes home with stories of what beautiful people the Salvadorans are. She comes back enriched by her relationship with them.

One year, I had the opportunity to go with her to El Salvador. When we arrived at the village, young people called out, “Caroleena!” and ran to her, and gave her big hugs. It was not until then that it dawned on me, Carol doesn’t speak Spanish!

I watched her all week, stumbling over even the most basic Spanish words and phrases. But she smiled, and she laughed, and she touched them and hugged them, she cried with them, she worked side by side with them. She let them know she cared about them. She was speaking the universal language of love. They understood her. She must have been speaking in tongues.

Continue reading