Saturday, July 15, 2017

Loving God's Word!

HOMILY FOR THE 15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 16, 2017:

A new pastor was assigned to a local Church, and was so overwhelmed with his new assignment that he didn’t have time to write a new homily each Sunday so he used the same homily four times in a row. A group of parishioners complained to the Bishop. The Bishop asked a simple question, “What was the homily about?” Stunned, they looked one to the other – not one of them could remember. So, the Bishop said, “Let him preach it one more time.”

They say that there are three things that St. Peter will ask you at the Pearly Gates if you want to get into Heaven: What was Sunday’s First Reading? Second Reading? And Gospel Reading? How many of us could answer today?

My friends, what place does God’s Word, Sacred Scripture, hold in our lives? In our first reading we heard, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”


Jesus gives us the parable of the seed and the sower meant to encourage our love of God’s Word. “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Pope Francis said, “Maybe we've made [the Word of God] a little difficult with explanations that no one understands, but the Christian life is as simple and easy as this: listen to the word of God and put it into practice.”

One man shared with a church group about the turnaround in his life since he started to love God’s Word. “Two years ago,” he said, “I had no appetite for the Word of God. On Sundays, I would shop around going from church to church to find the priest that gave the shortest homily. My idea of a good Mass was one that took 40 minutes or less! But, once I became open to God’s Word; I became like the writer of Psalm 119 who said, “Had your word, O Lord, not been my delight, I would have perished…I will never forget your words; through them you give me life.”

Jesus is calling us all to become people love the Word of God. Just listen to some of the things God says to us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Or “God is love and all who love dwell in God and God in them.” Or, “In all things God words for the good of those who love Him.” Or, “What, then, shall we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Or, “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” Or, “All of the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” In fact, that theme, “Do not be afraid,” is one of the most common messages spread all throughout the Bible. I could go on and on, and hopefully you, too, have your own favorites. Jesus wants us to be in love with the Word of God so that it can fill us, mold us, direct our lives.

A priest delivered a homily in 10 minutes one Sunday, which was about half his usual length. He explained to the parish, “I regret to inform you that my dog ate the rest of my homily which I was unable to deliver this morning.” After Mass, a visitor from another parish said to the priest, “Father, if that dog of yours has any pups, I want to get one to give to my priest.” My friends, if our favorite part of God’s Word is when it is over, then we are missing the point.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “The Word of God is living and active.” Loving God’s Word begins with our openness. Can we surrender to God’s Word? Can we believe in our hearts that there is nothing more important than God’s Word? Can we be people who pledge to live as St. James calls us to as “doers of the word and not hearers only…The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what they do.”

So, where does the Word of God fit into your life? The seed of God’s Word has been placed in each of us again today at this Holy Mass. Will it grow and be fruitful? Or will it wither and fade? Pope Francis said, “Listen to the word of God; listen with your ears and hear with your heart. God speaks to each of us. The Gospel was written for each of us.”

My friends, the Word of God is alive and active. It has the power to set us free, comfort our sorrows, heal our wounds, and feed our souls. May the Word of God light our lives and direct our paths. Let us love God’s Word!

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gentleness is the language of Christians















HOMILY FOR THE 14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 9, 2017:

One of Aesop’s Fables tells of a contest between the sun and the wind over which of the two was stronger. One day a person dressed in a coat was walking down a deserted country road. The sun said to the wind, “Whoever makes that person remove the coat faster will be the winner.” The wind agreed and decided to go first. The wind blew stronger and stronger, but no matter what, the just person held on to their coat tighter. Finally, exhausted, the wind gave up. Then the sun took over. All the sun did was shine in all its glory. Within minutes, the person took of their coat. The moral of Aesop’s story was: you can achieve more by gentleness than by violence.

In our world today, gentleness is not in as high regard as it once was. There was a time when the best compliment you could receive was to be called a gentle person. The word “gentleman” testifies to this reality. Today, however, our culture values aggressiveness and divisiveness more than it values gentleness. Just look at the media. News channels spend all day long shouting at each other. The average child spends 25 hours a week watching television, more time than they spend in school or engaged in any other activity except sleep. And it is estimated that by the time a child is 18; they will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. One study concluded that teens who watch more than one hour of TV a day were four times more likely to commit aggressive acts in adulthood. It shouldn’t be surprising that our culture reflects the violence of our age.

How different from what Jesus taught us today. He said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Likewise, in our first reading today, Zechariah foretold the gentleness of Jesus, “Your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, he is meek…and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” A beautiful example of the gentleness of Jesus is the way he handled the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was gentle not only with the woman, but also with her self-righteous accusers. He didn’t shout or rave. He didn’t yell or scream. He simply wrote in the sand gently with His finger. His gentle and loving compassion towards the woman stood out like a clap of thunder in the silence of a summer’s night in comparison to the violent accusations of the crowd.

Jesus repeatedly gives us gentle examples to imitate. He held up for us the shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep who didn’t react aggressively to the sheep that ran away. He placed the sheep gently and lovingly on his shoulders. Or the father of the Prodigal Son who didn’t shout at or reject his wayward son. Instead, he hugged him, he loved him and welcomed him home.

I read a story in Guideposts magazine about a child who grew up with a crippled and twisted back. Fully clothed, he could pass for healthy, but when he took his shirt off, his disfigurement was noticeable. As a boy, one day he stood in line waiting to be examined by the school doctor. He always dreaded the moment when the doctor would say, “Remove your shirt.” Finally the terrible moment came. He fumbled with his buttons, his hands shaking badly. At last, his shirt was off. The doctor looked at him and then did something very unusual. He walked around the desk, held the boy’s face in his big hands, looked right at him and said, gently, “Do you believe in God?” “Yes sir,” the boy responded. “Good! The more you believe in Him, the more you believe in yourself.” The doctor went back to his desk and wrote something on his chart before stepping out of the room for a moment. The boy was curious and so he quickly looked at the chart. Under the heading “Physical Characteristics,” the doctor had written, “This boy has a perfectly well-shaped head.” The boy couldn’t believe his eyes. And, although that brief episode took place many years ago, but the boy never forgot the gentleness and the encouraging words of that kind doctor. This is the invitation of today’s Gospel for all of us, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

And so, let us respond to the people we encounter as the sun did in Aesop’s fable – with gentleness and warmth. Let us engage those who have wronged us as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery; and as the father of the Prodigal Son – with compassion and understanding. Let us build up people with heavy burdens just as the doctor did – with tenderness and sensitivity.

Pope Francis said, “The language of Christians is the language of gentleness and respect. It’s terrible to see people who say they are Christians, but who are full of bitterness. The Holy Spirit is gentle and calls us to likewise be always gentle, and to always respect others.” Let gentleness and respect be our language always.

“Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Encountering Jesus through His wounds

FEAST OF ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE, July 3: 
“The path to our encounter with Jesus are his wounds. There is no other. 
In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God can be found on the path of meditation alone. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path. Yes they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God. 
Others thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. 
There are those who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts. But Jesus tells us [as He told Thomas] that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds. 
We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail, because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. 
And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. 'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help '. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. 
We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. 
Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed."
- Pope Francis, Feast of St. Thomas, July 3, 2013 

Caravaggio's "Incredulity of St. Thomas"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"I'm with them."

HOMILY FOR THE 13th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 2, 2017:

The new pastor reported to his new parish to preach, but on his first day only three people turned up to hear him preach. He asked the Deacon, “Did you let the parish know I would be preaching today?” “No” replied the Deacon, “but word seems to have got round anyway.” Well, I am very happy to see more than three people here today!

We just heard these beautiful and even poetic words from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “You must think of yourselves as living for God in Christ.” But, beautiful though they are, what does it mean to say that we are living for God in Christ? Jesus today goes even farther in the Gospel today to talk about what it means to be a worthy follower of Him. 

I just finished a wonderful vacation relaxing by the beach in Hampton, NH, and this gave me a chance to catch up on some things. Among them, I really enjoy an podcast called “On Being” which interviews a variety of people on issues of faith each week. One of the most stunning episodes that I listened to was with Martin Sheen, the well-known actor of such films as Apocalypse Now and of course for seven years, he was President Jeb Bartlett on The West Wing – still my favorite president! But, Martin is also an extremely devout Catholic and a longtime social activist.

I actually had the great opportunity to meet him briefly a number of years ago. Martin is very close with the Franciscans in California, and one day I was at a Franciscan retreat house in Malibu for a meeting when Martin suddenly popped out of a friar’s office into the hallway where I was chatting with some others. The West Wing was still on the air at the time, and so I had the great fun of shaking his hand and greeting him as “Mr. President.”

In the interview I was listening to last week, Martin discussed his faith and what it means for him to live for God in Christ. Martin was raised Catholic, but he had a crisis of faith around the time of Apocalypse Now which took him on a search for God that eventually lead him right back to the Catholicism of his childhood. Speaking of his spiritual awakening, he said, “The love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that ‘I’m looking for God.’ But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we are least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming. And that is the basic foundation of joy. Then we become enviably joyful. And we see it in others, and we seek to ignite that love in others. But, you can’t force someone to realize they’re loved, but you can show them. And most of the effort we make is just by living our lives, by being compassionate, and loving, and respectful, and being a vessel of service for others. That’s what feeds that love.”

My friends, we are incredibly and immensely loved by God. This is, perhaps, the most profound reality of our faith. That God loves us, or as we hear in the First Letter of John, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us first.” Let that sink in – God loved us first and best – and the certainty of that love fuels our joy. You are loved by God; you are God’s beloved. Nothing can change that or take it away. Even our greatest sin cannot take away the love that God has for us.

And, if you’re thinking today, “I want to feel that love” then you are in luck. We find the greatest expression of that love right here at Mass in the gift of the Eucharist. The early followers of Jesus, in fact, called Mass an Agape Feast which means love feast. This is a love feast where the God who loved us first showers that love on us. This is the love that we are then called to share with the world.

Again, from the Martin Sheen interview, he said, “It’s so overwhelming, at times, this reality of loving because one is loved. You just sit and stare sometimes into a vacuum and say, where did this come from, and why is it so clear, and why is it so simple, and so powerful? And one of the great mysteries that I experience at mass is the reception at communion. How do we embrace that? How can we possibly, consciously understand what that is? And I don’t have a clue. I just stand in line and say, ‘I’m Ramón, called Martin, your friend. And I’m with them.’ Whoever the crowd is, I’m getting in line with, you just look at the people who are in that line, that community; that is the greatest and simplest expression of overtly trying to explain this mystery. It is probably the most profound mystery in all of the universe, this love. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed just watching people in line to embrace the sacrament. It is the most profound thing. I never ever can get over it. It’s just something you have to surrender to. And just saying, I’m with them. That’s the community of saints.”

My friends, what we gather for here today is no more complicated than this – God loved us first and best. God has already found us. That same God wants to shower His love on us today in this Eucharist. If you have been longing to feel that love, then surrender to it here today. Let God’s love wash over you and touch the very depths of your being. God wants the Eucharist today to bind us, connect us, inspire us, and send us out in the world to remind the whole world that the love of God is meant for all.

God is with us, and we live together for God in Christ. And, as Martin said, “I’m with them!”

May the Lord give you peace.

Müller out, Ladaria in at CDF | America Magazine

By Gerard O'Connell | July 01, 2017 | AMERICA MAGAZINE

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, a Spanish Jesuit, as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successor to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican announced at midday, July 1.

Pope Francis’ decision to nominate a new prefect of the C.D.F. is perhaps the most important appointment he has made to the Roman Curia after that of naming Cardinal Pietro Parolin as secretary of state.

It is destined to have far-reaching consequences, not the least of which is to ensure that the C.D.F. and its prefect are rowing with and not against the pope on key issues, including the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia,” synodality and cooperation with the commission for the protection of minors.

At the time of his appointment, the 73-year old archbishop was Secretary of the C.D.F., that is, the number two position in the congregation. He was appointed to that role by Benedict XVI on July 9, 2008.

Today’s Vatican communique confirmed the story that had been widely circulated the previous afternoon and evening that Francis had not renewed the mandate of the German cardinal. It also announced that Archbishop Ladaria would succeed Cardinal Müller in his roles as the President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission.

America has learned that Pope Francis received Cardinal Müller in private audience in his library in the Vatican at noon on June 30 and informed him that he would not be reconfirmed as prefect when his five-year mandate, which was due to end on July 2, concluded. Informed sources told America that Francis offered him the possibility of re-assignment to another position in the Vatican after the summer holidays, but the German cardinal turned this down on the grounds that since he had been head of the “supreme” congregation (as the C.D.F. is called in Vatican parlance) it would be beneath his dignity to accept another post and so he preferred to go into retirement.

Sources told America that the Vatican was scheduled to announce the change at the head of the C.D.F. on Monday, July 3, but after the audience with the pope, Cardinal Müller returned to the C.D.F. and informed his colleagues that he was no longer head of the congregation. That news was quickly passed to media close to the cardinal and became public some hours later. For this reason, the Vatican decided to make the announcement at noon today.

In choosing Archbishop Ladaria to replace him, the pope has opted for a highly qualified theologian who shares his pastorally sensitive approach, having worked closely with him in these years, and has the ability to manage the C.D.F.

In an interview on May 12 with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, Cardinal Müller reiterated his argument that Pope Francis’ post-synodal statement on the family does not open the door to receiving Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. This came after bishops’ conferences in Germany, Argentina and Malta issued guidelines on “Amoris” that allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacrament in certain situations.America has learned that a number of cardinals had asked Francis to remove Cardinal Müller from that post because he had on several occasions publicly disagreed with or distanced himself from the pope’s positions—in particular regarding “Amoris Laetitia”—and they felt this was undermining the papal office and magisterium.

“It is not good that the bishops’ conferences are making official interpretations of the pope,” Cardinal Müller said. “That is not Catholic. We have this document of the pope, and it must be read in the context of the complete Catholic tradition.”

While Pope Francis has signaled openness to an investigation into the role of women deacons in church history, establishing a commission (headed by Archbishop Ladaria) to study the issue, Cardinal Müller was firm in his opposition to the idea. “No. Impossible. It will not come.”

After Marie Collins, a sex abuse survivor who resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on March 1, cited what she described as resistance coming from some Vatican offices, in particular the C.D.F., against implementing recommendations, Cardinal Müller dismissed her claims. “I think this cliché must be put to an end: the idea that the pope, who wants the reform, is on one side and, on the other, a group of resisters who want to block it,” Cardinal Müller said.

Born at Manacor, on the Spanish island of Majorca, Archbishop Ladaria entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) after graduating in law at the University of Madrid in 1966. He went on to study at the Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid, and Sankt Georgen Graduate school of philosophy and theology in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

After his ordination to the priesthood in July 1973, Ladaria obtained a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, in 1975 and went onto be a professor of dogmatic theology, first at the Comillas university, and then in 1984 at the Gregorian University, where he was vice-rector from 1986-1994.

St. John Paul II appointed him as a member of the International Theological Commission in 1992 and consultor of the C.D.F. in 1995. As secretary-general of the I.T.C., a post he held until 2009, he led its revision of the church’s understanding of limbo which concluded that children who die without baptism can enjoy the beatific vision in heaven.

Benedict XVI appointed him as secretary of the C.D.F. on July 9, 2008, and made him archbishop. He has served as consultor to the congregation for bishops and the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity, and has been involved in the dialogue with Saint Pius X Society. Last August, Pope Francis appointed him as president of the study commission on the women’s diaconate. At the C.D.F. he has also been involved in dealing with the abuse of minors by clergy.

Monday, June 12, 2017

President Carter shakes every hand on a plane



 
All kinds of things can run through the heads of people buckling themselves into an airline seat with even a remote understanding of current high-altitude events.
There's the possibility of a bloody passenger being dragged off the plane, or of a brawl breaking out, or even the remote chance that the person in 13D will have to be subdued with duct tape.
But passengers on a Delta flight from the D.C. area to Atlanta got a surprise that was welcome and charming: a grinning, nonagenarian, bolo-tie-wearing former president who ambled down the aisle, apparently shaking every single passenger's hand.
The video clip of Jimmy Carter was taken by passenger James Parker Sheffield. He's the one in the video who says “What a pleasure. Thank you,” in five words summing up the collective thoughts of the Internet since it was tweeted on Thursday.
Carter and Sheffield and about 100 other people were sharing a flight from a D.C. area airport to Atlanta, Sheffield told Atlanta ABC-affiliate WSB-TV.
The flight was delayed slightly, and flight attendants had just announced that the cabin door was closed. In the video, flight attendants can be seen tucking away the last pieces of luggage.
“It's hard to put into words what a nice reprieve from the current political theater this moment was,” Sheffield told WSV-TV. “His enthusiasm was authentic and humble, in a way that made things feel less heavy for a moment.”
Off camera, a woman can be heard saying “I love you, Jimmy Carter.”
Occasionally, news stories will crop up that say Carter is a nice, decent guy. He does have a Nobel Peace Prize after all, “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” So he's no stranger to handshakes.
He's also taught Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., for decades, and when he announced that he was battling cancer, hundreds made pilgrimages to the church to see him, according to The Washington Post's David Weigel.
He's spent 30 years hammering homes for Habitat for Humanity and lending his celebrity to the cause.
Deanna Congileo, a spokeswoman for Carter, declined to give out details about his travel for security purposes. But she said the airplane handshakes are not uncommon.
“For decades since he left office, he has shaken hands with his fellow travelers on planes,” she said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “He enjoys it, and passengers are excited to get to interact with a former president.”
Although Carter's spokeswoman wouldn't confirm this, the Atlanta Journal Constitution hinted at another reason he presses the flesh with all the passengers: Some would undoubtedly recognize him and ask to meet him during the flight. Spending a few minutes shaking everyone's hand before the flight leaves the gate obviates a potential headache for the pilots and crew.
Carter alludes to the potential problems of flying with a dignitary in a joke with one passenger:
“It's not my fault we're late by the way.”

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Let the Word go forth! | Pentecost

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST, June 4, 2017:













“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” That, of course, is a line from one of the most quoted speeches of the 20th century – the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, who would have turned 100 years old this past Thursday had history not had a different destiny for him. It is an incredible speech; and was one that alerted the world that change was in the air; there was a generational shift. Kennedy stated boldly, “Let the word go forth… that the torch had been passed to a new generation.”

Today, on this Pentecost Sunday, those five words could also sum up the meaning of today’s great feast: Let the Word go forth, but this time we speak of God’s Word. In the dramatic events of that first Pentecost, when the bewildered and excited disciples poured into the streets of Jerusalem, they had one purpose in mind: to let the Word go forth. And it did. The Word went forth from Jerusalem to Judea, and on to Corinth and Ephesus and Rome and Africa and Spain and even, eventually, in succeeding centuries, right here to America, right here to Raynham.

What began with a few frightened people in a darkened room in Jerusalem has spilled out and touched every corner of the earth. The word has gone forth in every language and is felt and understood in the hearts of billions-upon-billions of people. And it all began on this day we celebrate, Pentecost, often called the birthday of the Church.

Birthday is an appropriate image for Pentecost – especially when we look at it in the bigger Scriptural picture. The word “Pentecost”, means 50th and was for the Jewish people a celebration that took place 50 days after the Passover. For them, this was a day to celebrate the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. There, what were different tribes entered into a covenant with God and with one another and became the People of God. Pentecost celebrated the birth of this new people. We know that the Holy Spirit gives birth to God’s presence in amazing ways. It is through a different kind of Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit descended on Mary – that Jesus was born into our world. And it is through this Pentecost – the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and the disciples huddled and afraid in that upper room – that the Body of Christ is once again born into the world; this time as the Church. We, too, are part of that miracle. We too are called to continue to bring forth the same Body of Christ into our world today.

It is said that the Church doesn’t have a mission, but that the Mission has a Church. Jesus didn’t come to give us an institution or an organization. Instead, Jesus gave us a task to accomplish. The institution of the Church came about not to serve itself, but to serve that mission; to help organize that work of God. So what is that work? Jesus tells us Himself, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you;” or in the words of JFK, to “let the word go forth.” The mission that the Father gave the Son is the very same mission that the Son gives to all of us who follow Him. So just as the Son came to reveal God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and joy to us, we are to continue that Revelation, we are commissioned to spread that same Good News to everyone we encounter.

Just as Jesus came to show us how to live, we are called to be the example of Christian love to our brothers and sisters. Just as Jesus was rooted in Scripture and its life-giving Words for us, we are called to do the same. Just as Jesus reached out to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned – we are called to reach out to those in most need in our world today. In short, we are called to be that presence of Christ, the Body of Christ, in the world today. The Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and God was born in our world; the Holy Spirit descended upon the gathered disciples and the Church was born. Today, the Holy Spirit descends upon the bread and wine on our altar, and the Presence of Christ will be born in them; and, today, the Holy Spirit will come upon each of us in this Holy Mass and will be born within us once again – all in he hopes that we willgive birth to that Presence of God outside of the walls of this church.

The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven that we celebrated last week can leave us with a false impression that God is no longer on the scene. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a strong reminder to us that God is still right here, in our midst; that God is still truly present. We have not been abandoned by our God, rather, He still dwells among us; He dwells in us, God dwells through us. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us makes good the promise of Jesus, “Know that I am with you always until the end of the world.”

And so as the Holy Spirit of God once again descends upon us in this Mass; upon the Church in this Pentecost – let the word go forth that we will be the people who love and praise our God; let the word go forth that we will be members of His Church going from this place to be His presence of love and joy and peace; that we will go forth sharing His kindness and goodness and gentleness. That we will go forth to be the gentle, forgiving and compassionate presence of God in our world.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.” And let the Word go forth.

May the Lord give you peace.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

10 Years of A Friar's Life!

So I just wanted to offer a word to acknowledge that this blog, A FRIAR'S LIFE, reached its 10 year anniversary a few months ago.  So grateful to all of you who are regular readers of the blog. It has put me in contact with people far and wide. I'm always amazed at the range of places people are accessing from.  Looking right now at the feed for example, people have accessed content from Brooklyn, the Philippines, KwaZulu-Natal, Japan, Auckland, Seattle, Oceanside (CA), Peoria, Gettysburg, Victoria, Goa, and on and on..

Each week of course, I share my homily that I offer in person in area parishes.  A full church will be somewhere between 300-500 people who hear a homily.  The average readership via this blog is about 1,100 people a week. So, in a real way, this is a big part of my "congregation".  Thank you for reading every week!!

Here are some of the highest read posts of the last 10 years:


  1. Pope Francis prepares sandwich for Swiss guard  (This by a huge percentage really grabbed people's attention)
  2. A possible response from US bishops to gay marriage
  3. How Christians should really respond to Caitlyn Jenner
  4. Putting on the apron of service
  5. A Pope in Brown | America Magazine
  6. Pope Benedict & St. Francis: He resigned too!
I've also enjoyed doing "Ask Fr. Tom" and should probably resurrect that one. It was always a great way to connect with your questions.

So, thank you for reading, and I hope you keep reading in the years ahead!!

Peace,
Fr. Tom

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Live for Heaven











HOMILY FOR THE 7th SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 28,2 017:
In the top drawer of my desk I keep a prayer card that had belonged to my Aunt Pat. Aunt Pat was my Dad’s oldest sister and she passed away a few years ago. The night before her funeral, her daughters gave me this prayer card, which they had found in her well-worn Bible. The card contained a well-known poem often read at funeral’s called “Safely Home.” But, in the margins my Aunt had handwritten two notes. One said simply, “Please read this at my funeral.” But on the other side she had written, “My last prayer is that you all get right with God, so I’ll see you all again.” Aunt Pat, especially as she was nearing her own death, had a mind and a heart that was fixed firmly on Heaven – and she wanted the same for all of the people she loved.

While I’m sure we all want to get to Heaven, I would bet that getting there isn’t something most of us think about on any given day. This is for two reasons. First, the practical demands of everyday life on earth usually grab our attention even though Jesus came to earth to lead us to Heaven, or as we’ll hear in the Eucharistic Prayer today, “Where Christ has gone, we hope to follow.” Heaven is the goal; Heaven is the destination of our lives on earth. How foolish a traveler would be to struggle forward without ever thinking about where they are going!

But there is another reason why we don’t give too much thought to Heaven: it’s simply because imagining eternal life is hard for us. Jesus gives us some insight today. He said, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ.”

We all know that the greatest joy of our lives is the relationships of love we are blessed with. What would all of the most beautiful things in the world be – the wonders of nature, the joy of children and family, beautiful works of art, even nice homes and cool cars – what would these be without others to share them with? Loving relationships make life’s most ordinary activities enjoyable and meaningful.

Today Jesus is telling us that Heaven is nothing more or less than a perfect relationship of love, an everlasting getting-to-know-God, Christ, the saints, being reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. These relationships will never get boring or tedious, because God is infinite, and getting to know Him is an adventure that will never end. If the best human friendships never lose their luster, how much more indescribable will our eternal friendship with God be!

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series has a beautiful way of explaining the reality of that Heavenly relationship with God. Narnia tells the story of English school children who find their way into another world where they have many adventures and go on special quests to defeat the forces of evil. All the children love Narnia, and they love their adventures there; and are always sorry to have to go back to England at the end of each adventure.

At the end of the last book, however, it turns out that they don’t have to go back. They are permitted to stay in “Aslan’s Country” forever, which in the books is the equivalent of Heaven. Lewis describes this reality, “For [the children], [the end of the books] was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the title and the cover page. Now at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Compared to life in Heaven, absolutely everything that had come before, all the amazing adventures and thrilling experiences, were nothing more than a hint, a faint idea of how wonderful the rest of the chapters were. And life in Heaven was always getting better and better, like a book with an endless amount of chapters, each one better than the last.

In his encyclical, “Saved in Hope,” Pope Emeritus Benedict gave a simple suggestion of how we can daily lead lives focused on Heaven. He suggested reviving the tradition of “offering up” the small trials of each day, those little sufferings, pains, and inconveniences, that we all go through all the time. We all experience them. No one escapes them. From traffic jams to money worries, the trials of daily life affect us all. “Offering them up” simply means turning them into a prayer. Instead of complaining, we turn our minds to Christ, and we unite our small sufferings with Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, joining them with God’s plan of redemption. By doing this, we keep our hearts set on the Lord. And if we do that, with the help of God, eternal life will surely be ours.

My friends, my Aunt Pat had it right: let us get ourselves right with God so that in the glory and complete and perfect joy that is Heaven, we will see each other again. Or as St. Bernadette Soubirous said, “Let us work for Heaven: all the rest is nothing.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

You are God's people now

HOMILY FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 14, 2017:

A mother was preparing pancakes for her young sons, David and Billy. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity to teach the boys a good moral lesson and said, “Boys, if Jesus were sitting here, He would say ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” And so, David turned to his younger brother and said, “Billy, you be Jesus!”

Have you ever thought about the reality that you have been called by God? Each one of us didn’t end up here by accident today. We are Catholics today for one singular reason – because God has called us to be. Now, typically when we talk about being called, we are usually talking only about those whose vocation it is to be a priest, a deacon, or a consecrated religious brother or sister, but being called by God, God having a plan for our lives, this is something that belongs to each and every one of us. God calls each of us just personally, He calls each of us tenderly.

We heard this in our second reading today, from St. Peter’s First Letter. He said, “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” And the very next verse beyond our reading, St. Peter says, “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people.” These words of St. Peter are directed to all the baptized, all those who call themselves Christians, to all of us. And Peter reminds us today that we are chosen, we are God’s own. He has called US out of darkness. We were no people and now we are God’s people. Each and every one of us!

When we fully embrace the fact that God has called us, we gain a clarity about our identity, a clarity about who God wants us to be. It is this God-given identity that we are being called to share with the world. The world needs to know the people called by God. Our action in the world needs to be a recognizable reflection of the God who has called us.





I read a wonderful book a few years ago by Marilyn Robinson called Gilead. It is the fictional autobiography of an elderly congregational pastor writing letters to his young son for posterity. In one passage he writes, “When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you - What is the Lord asking of me in this moment? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, this is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, well, then you are free to act differently than the circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own light. You are freed of the impulse to hate or resent the person. Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior. How well do we understand our role? With how much assurance do we perform it?”

I love the thought that God calls us to be present in the world as artists of our behavior, artists of our faith, artists who paint the world with the love of God, consciously responding to the challenges that our world presents in ways that transform them into something new and holy. And it is all about our identity in Christ, and identity given to us through our call. An identity that means to implant in us and bring out from us incredible joy.

If we are artists, the color we are called to paint the world with is the color of joy. Pope Francis speaks about joy constantly. It is his major theme. In one of his earliest Masses, he said, “A Christian is a man or a woman of joy. Jesus teaches us this, the Church teaches us this. Joy is a gift from God. It fills us from within. It is like an anointing of the Spirit. The Christian sings with joy, and walks with joy, and carries this joy.”

This simple message of joy is critical because we know we live in a world that so often lacks joy. We live in a world that is wracked by seemingly endless wars and disease; we live in a culture of political divisiveness; there is poverty and violence all around; there are difficulties in families, in marriages, among children, in all our relationships. To this, the Pope challenges us to live lives that are different than the divisions around us; lives that paint the world with joy. He said, “Joy…always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved” by God.

My friends, this is, what it means for us to be called. You are chosen by God. Now you are God’s people. And He is calling you to radiate joy. We should be joyful as Jesus was joyful, as joyful as Pope Francis is; radiating the joy that is a gift of God.

The Pope said, “I invite all Christians everywhere to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her. Whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”

My friends, as we continue our Easter journey, as we encounter Jesus who is waiting for us in this Mass today, I want to renew that invitation of Pope Francis in each of our hearts today. Renew your encounter with Jesus who has called you. Renew your encounter with the God who loves you and who has called you to be a people uniquely His own. Let God’s love be planted in you again so that you may beam with joy.

We have been called to show the world how to love. We are here to be the joyful face of God that conquers the darkness of our hearts, the darkness of our times. Let us be artists of our behavior, artists of our faith, artists who paint the world with the joy that is a gift from God. You were no people, now you are God’s people.

May the Lord give you peace.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"A poor sinner" | What does Easter mean today?

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, Easter, April 16, 2017:





















Three people died and found themselves at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter greeted them and said they could only enter if they could answer one simple question, “What is Easter?” The first one replied, “That's easy, it's the holiday in November when everybody gets together, eats turkey, and is thankful.” “Sorry,” said St. Peter, and moved on to the second, “What is Easter?” They replied, “I know. Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus.” St. Peter just shook his head and looked to the third person, “What is Easter?” The third one smiled and said, “Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and His disciples were eating the Last Supper and He was deceived and turned over to Roman authorities who took Him to be crucified. They made Him wear a crown of thorns, and He was hung on a cross, buried in a nearby cave which was sealed by a large stone,” the man paused before finishing, “Oh, and every year the stone is moved aside so that Jesus can come out, and if He sees his shadow there’s six more weeks of winter.” So close!

My friends, as we gather on this beautiful Easter Sunday morning, St. Peter’s question is a good one for us to ponder as well, “What is Easter?” We know the easy answer, which is good news for us in case St. Peter asks, that Easter celebrates Jesus resurrection from the dead. That’s a deeply powerful theological reality, one that we all hope to share in when our lives come to an end. We want to be raised too. We want to live with Jesus in Heaven forever too. But, what does Easter mean for us today, here, hopefully long before we’re called home?

Today isn’t just another day. We gather today because we are a people who believe in something that should be impossible. We commemorate that a man was raised from the dead. This should not be possible. People don’t rise from the dead all around us. Each and every Sunday we profess this belief, “in the resurrection of the dead.” We believe in the impossibility that death has no hold on us. So what does Easter mean for us today?

Let me tell you a story. Empress Zita of Bourbon was the last Empress of the once great Astro-Hungarian Empire. She died in 1989 and was the last royal of an age past, an age that we usually associate with many centuries ago. Her funeral in 1989 was full of pomp, circumstance and ancient rituals. The most interesting moment came following the funeral Mass when the procession led to the Franciscan church in Vienna where she would be buried in the Imperial Crypt below. Eight thousand mourners filed out of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and fell in line behind the catafalque drawn by six black Noricum stallions.

Two hours later, when the procession reached the entrance of the Church, the pallbearers and friars played out a ceremony dating centuries back. One Franciscan opened a small window in the church door and asked, “Who wishes to enter?” The pallbearers answered, “Zita, Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia. Queen of Jerusalem. Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow.” The friar responded, “We know of no one by that name,” and closed the window. A second knock and the friar again asks, “Who wishes to enter?” The response, “Zita, Empress and Royal Apostolic Majesty of Austria, and Apostolic Queen of Hungary.” Again, the friar responded, “I do not know this person.” Finally, a third knock. “Who wishes to enter here?” and the answer from the pallbearers, “Zita of Hapsburg, a poor sinner.” With this answer, the doors of the church opened to receive the queen.

What does Easter mean for us today? It means that the resurrection transforms us and raises us to something new. It completely changes our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, our relationship with the world – bringing to each of them new life and conquering even what has seemed impossible.

It means that in the end the only thing that matters is allowing ourselves to be transformed and becoming that transformation in the world. Empress Zita had all that the world could offer – fame, power, wealth. None of that granted her entry into eternity. Only faith in Jesus, recognition of the need for God, and following God’s ways could do that. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us to once again set our course on Christ, to live lives that give witness to the resurrection by what we say and more importantly by what we do. We make the resurrection present today when we love when it is difficult to love, when we reach out to those who live on the margins of our society, when we go the extra mile and show the unexpected kindness.

To a world that chooses vengeance, we are called to offer gestures of compassion and forgiveness; to a world that seeks only power, money and prestige, we are called to offer gestures of humility and kindness; to a world that selfishly cares only for itself; we are called to offer gestures of love and concern; of openness and acceptance of others. Change often feels impossible, but we are reminded today that we are the people of the impossible and so let us change the world by our gestures of peace and care and joy – especially in the situations, times and places where those gestures are least expected.

There’s a wonderful line at the end of the movie Chocolat. In the final scene on Easter Sunday, the young priest says in his homily, "We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. We’ve got to measure our goodness by what we embrace, what we create and whom we include." This is what Easter means for us today.

The spiritual writer Ron Rolheiser wrote, "Ultimately, belief in the resurrection asks us to believe that, despite a strong experience to the contrary, reality is gracious, light does triumph over darkness, love over self-interest, justice over oppression, peace over chaos, fulfilment over hunger. Faith in the resurrection is the trust that, in the end, everything is good."

Happy Easter and may the Lord give you peace.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The great "patient" who suffers the pain of all humanity | Pope Francis

HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION, April 9, 2017
His Holiness Pope Francis

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For thirty-two years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient”, who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honour and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Surely we're not blind?











HOMILY FOR THE 4th SUNDAY OF LENT (Laetare Sunday), March 26, 2017:

Join me in song for a moment – you all know this one: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Thank you. Beautiful. I think we might have some new members for the Choir here.

I was blind, but now I see. You may have noticed that our Scriptures today are full of these opposing images of darkness vs. light; and blindness vs. sight. “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” is the surprising question that we hear from the Pharisees and it is a question that is meant to resonate in our hearts today as well. Surely, we are not blind also?

Today’s Gospel passage gives us an incredible story of Jesus that functions on different levels. On the surface is a spectacular story of the power of Jesus; His power to heal. How amazing it must have been to be present and see this scene. Everyone knew this man to be blind all his life. And, now through this dramatic action of mud and saliva, Jesus restores physical sight to the man. And, all are amazed, but the story quickly shifts away from that level to the deeper level that asks where true blindness exists? Is it merely in the eyes? Or is real blindness in the heart; in the soul?

The author John Howard Griffin is well known for his book Black Like Me, which describes his experience of living disguised as a black man in the South in the early 1960s during years of bitter racial turmoil. It was also later made into a movie. What is not widely known about Mr. Griffin, though, is that during World War II, he was blinded in an airplane explosion; and he lived for 12 years completely blind. He could not see anything. Then one day, walking down a street near his parent’s home in Texas, he suddenly began to see what he described as “red sand” and without warning his sight returned. A specialist later told him that he had been suffering from a blockage to an optic nerve that had suddenly cleared. Referring to that experience, Griffin told a news reporter, “You can’t imagine what it is like for a father to see his children for the first time. I had constantly pictured them in my mind and then there they were - so much more beautiful that I had ever imagined.”

Blindness, whether physical or spiritual, whether interior or exterior, is about what we are failing or unable to see. You know, the very first words that God speaks in the Bible are these, “Let there be light.” The very first words of God are to make it possible for our eyes to see the beauty of His creation; to literally see His presence that is all around us. When we are spiritually blind – that is really the heart of the matter – we are blind because we have failed to see God who is right in front of us; all around us; speaking to our hearts; speaking to our lives.

Surely, we’re not blind too, are we? This question meant to echo in our hearts today challenges our own blindness that keeps us from seeing God around us. Can we see God here, in this Church? Do we see Him present in His Word and Sacrament; in each other? More importantly, what happens when we walk out of those doors? Do we see God there? In our husbands and wives; in our sons and daughters; in our friends and family and co-workers? How about in the homeless person, the drug addict, the lost and the forsaken? How about in the immigrant, the refugee, the prisoner, even in our enemies?

Our blindness has not fully been healed until no matter where we look, we see only God; we see only a brother or a sister; we see only the Kingdom. There was a curious throw-away line at the beginning of our Gospel. It said, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam — which means Sent.” We gather in this Church so that God may clear away our blindness, and then we are sent into the world to be His light. So, let there be light. Let us see the light. Let us be the light.

Surely, we are not blind too? Invite God to shine His light on any blindness in our lives; to heal any blindness in our hearts; to illumine any places where we can’t see Him. And let us hear the words of St. Paul meant for us, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

“Lord that we may see.”

Join me again, won’t you? “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

May the Lord give you peace!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Do you believe in a God who loves you?








HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, March 5, 2017:

“Do you believe in a God who loves you? Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?” These questions came from a pastoral letter issued last year on Ash Wednesday by Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, the bishop of Springfield, and they are words that get at the heart of what Lent is all about.

Bishop Rozanski used this letter as an opportunity to do something rare for a church official – apologizing to and seeking reconciliation with those who have ever felt unwelcome in Church because of their gender, their race, or their sexual orientation.

“Do you believe in a God who loves you? Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?” I was moved by the bishop’s words because they are words that I know many Catholics have been longing to hear, but also because they struck me at the start of this Lent as the kind of words that should define the very attitude of every Christian; perhaps a sort of mission statement for us all. Pope Francis said early in his papacy, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

Our Gospel today presents us with the temptation of Jesus in the desert. In this moment, the Devil tempts Jesus with very worldly things – he tempts Him with all the power and glory, wealth and fame, that the world can muster. Jesus doesn’t take the bait. He knows that the things being offered to Him are weak and pitiful in the light of what is real and true in God’s sight. He knows that all of the money or power in the world can’t bring about the change that mercy, love, reconciliation, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and joy can. He knows this with certainty in the depths of His heart and so these temptations, in the end, are no temptation at all.

My friends, as we stand at the start of this Lenten journey once again I ask you: “Do you believe in a God who loves you? Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?” Because these are the things that matter. These are the things that have the power – true power – to change your life and the lives of those around you. I also believe this is where too many of us struggle. We are perhaps uncertain of God’s love for us, or perhaps have never truly felt it. Maybe we have not sought out God’s forgiveness in far too long, or no longer believe we need it; or worse, no longer believe we are deserving of it. We, too often, fear to break the ice with the person from whom we need to simply say, “Please forgive me. I was wrong.” But, these are the words that change lives. These are the words that heal hearts. These are the words that change the world. Perhaps this Lent you will speak them yourself. God never tires of forgiving us. God’s mercy has no limits. God is love itself and invites us to dwell in that love. Do you believe?

So, what do you want your Lent to be about this year? Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven. But, YOU are the Church – not this stone and mortar, stained-glass and marble – you are the church.

May this Lent help each of us become more and more a place of mercy, may we become people of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed loved and forgiven. This is what our Lent should truly be about. This is what really matters.

“Do you believe in a God who loves you? Do you believe in a God who forgives? Are you able to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you? Are you able to ask forgiveness from them?”

May the Lord give you peace.

With hearts that have grown by three | #FriarFriday

By Tom Washburn, OFM

H
ave you ever stopped to think that the word “Lent” is a bit of a strange word?  It is one of those words that we simply know, but perhaps we’ve never thought about where it comes from or what it means. We simply know that it is the name that we give to this liturgical season, but have you ever thought about what the word means?
[Lent]When we invoke the word “Lent” we usually think about things that are very austere. We think about the things that we give up during this season.  For example, the British newspaper The Independent conducted a survey and these were the top things that people give up during Lent: chocolates and other sweets; social networking like facebook and twitter; alcohol, meat, coffee and carbonated drinks.  These are the sacrifices that we make and are usually the way we define this season – as a time of fasting and prayer, a time of penance and sacrifice.     
But this brings us back to this curious word, “Lent.” The word “Lent” does not mean sacrifice or penance or any of the austere terms we associate with the season. It means literally “springtime.”  The word “Lent” comes to us from the Old English word “lencten” which is the root of words we know today like “lengthen.”  It is a reference to springtime because it was used to describe the time of year when the days begin to get longer and brighter as the sunlight lengthens. So, Lent is about springtime and springtime is all about renewal, new beginnings and new life.
In his message for Lent this year, Pope Francis said, “Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts,” to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.”
This image of springtime, of newness, of lengthening, is the appropriate one for us to embrace during Lent. We engage in our penitential practices, our sacrifices, not to punish ourselves for being far from God the rest of the year. We do these things so that they will renew us as the springtime renews our world. As the warmth of spring embraces our land, we welcome the warmth of the Holy Spirit to warm our hearts and rekindle in us the fire of God’s love. We do these things so that they might lengthen and increase the capacity of our hearts to love more, to be more kind to others, especially those we sometimes struggle with, to offer compassion, especially to the immigrant and refugee, the hungry and the homeless, to all those who are in need, to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, and to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Just like springtime, the season of Lent invites us to let light conquer our darkness, to let that light shine a bit more brightly as each day of our Lenten journey passes.  
[How the Grinch Stole Christmas]There’s a wonderful line towards the end of Dr. Suess’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It says, “The Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” My friends, as we embark on our annual Lenten pilgrimage, let us begin again. Let embrace the newness, the renewal, the lengthening and strengthening and increasing the capacity of our hearts that Lent offers each of us. Let us reach the joy of Easter with hearts that have grown by three so that the true meaning of our faith might be evident to all who see us.
Pope Francis concluded his Lenten mission by saying, “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”
The Holy Father also offered this advice for our Lenten fast. And so I’ll end by sharing it with you:
Fast from hurting words and say more kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with greater gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with peaceful patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with profound hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God’s plan.
Fast from complaints and contemplate holy simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be more prayerfully present.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with overwhelming joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled to one another.
Fast from words and be silent so you can hear the simple voice of God.
May the Lord give you peace.