Ordinary Time, 22nd Sunday. God is close to us in the Eucharist. Are we close to Him? We have to stay rooted in Christ in order to find the peace, joy, and meaning that we are looking for. But how do we stay rooted in Christ when he doesn’t seem to be listening? The truth is that God is often speaking and communicating with us, and we are the ones who are too busy and distracted to listen. God is with you here in Church; God will be with you the rest of the week. But will you be with him?

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SUBTITLE: YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO GO TO HEAVEN

If you ask the average Catholic, “When you die, do you think you’ll go to Heaven?” more often than not the answer is something like this:

I’m not sure but I’m a pretty good person. I mean I haven’t killed anybody. I’m no Mother Theresa, but nobody’s perfect, right? But I’m a pretty good person and I think God is OK with that.

If your questioner happens to be an Evangelical with a good knowledge of the Bible, they will immediately pounce on the Catholic: “So, you think you can earn your own salvation? That’s not what the Bible says! Look at this passage here:”

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,  which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

The Catholic looks confused, and starts to stammer, “I’ve never really read the Bible before…”  The Evangelical unfolds the story of God’s free gift of salvation to any who admit they are sinners and ask for forgiveness. The Catholic Church, he explains, teaches the false doctrine of “works righteousness” – that you can earn your salvation by being good.

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0047/0047_01.asp

Many Catholics leave the church because of an exchange like this. There’s just one little problem: this isn’t what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

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Ordinary Time, 21st Sunday. Marriage is a gift of yourself that is Total, Faithful, Fruitful, and Free. This helps explains “wives be subordinate to your husbands.” The wife is not expected to be dominated or walked-on. Rather, the man is first asked to lay down his life for his wife. If he will lay down his life for her, than she can be subordinate to him. And they both lay down their lives for one another.

St. Paul tell us that Jesus loves us the same way: Totally, Faithfully, Fruitfully, and Freely. In John chapter 6 Jesus explains that the total gift of Himself includes even His flesh and the last drop of His blood. Yes, God loves us that much. He wants us to become “one flesh” with Him in Communion. At the Last Supper it comes true: Jesus’ word transforms bread and wine into His flesh and blood. How do we respond to Jesus’ gift of himself? By giving ourselves back to him:

  • Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself to Christ in the Eucharist?
  • Will you love and honor Christ as man and wife for the rest of your life?
  • Will you accept fruit lovingly from God and raise it up to give glory to God through his Church?

Don’t leave Jesus standing at the altar!

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Ordinary Time, 20th Sunday. [featuring Deacon Michael Thiel] Jesus makes himself absolutely clear: “Eat Me!” Jesus would only command us to do something if it were possible to do it. These words come true at every Catholic Mass when the priest says: “This is my Body… this is my Blood… for you.” We eat His flesh and drink His blood at Sunday Mass.

How easy it is to receive without recognizing the priceless gift. Would you be more excited if Father said instead, “Ten million dollars” and handed you a pile of cold, hard cash? In a very real way, the Eucharist is a proposal for marriage. God desires union with us in Heaven forever, and the Eucharist is to prepares us for the banquet. How should we respond to God’s marriage proposal?

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Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary received her identity from God and lived in her identity. We are called to do the same. How does Mary help us? She is the “Queen Mother” in the Kingdom of God (see 1 Kings 2:19-21 and 1 Kings 15:2). Assumed into Heaven, she sits at the right hand of her Son, the King, and helps direct His kingdom. She also remains a mother to all who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus (Rev 12:17). The Queen Mother cares about all her children, including you and me. You are royalty; this is our try identity. Live it.

(15 Aug 2015)

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Ordinary Time, 18th Sunday. God has been providing for his people but we have been missing the signs. We are hungry for more than food and God wants to give us meaning, purpose, love. He gives us these gifts through His Son Jesus. This is why the Devil does anything he can to separate us from Jesus. Jesus is God’s answer to every need of the human heart, even despair and suicide. We have to get in the habit of seeking  Christ himself and ignoring distractions. Prayer helps us to seek God and put Him first, because nothing else satisfies.

(3 Aug 2015)

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I have not posted a lot of homilies this summer because I’ve been away several weekends. Over the weekend of July 12 I was away at a Steubenville Youth Conference. These have been going on for 40 years, and now take place at 17 locations around the US and Canada and include more than 50,000 people in a summer. They are powerful opportunities for young people to encounter God’s love for them and to be transformed by it. The music was great and the speakers were powerful, but can you guess what the youth loved the most? Mass, Confession, and Adoration. These were the most powerful ways they encountered Christ’s love for them. I hope that this summer has given you an opportunity to encounter Christ’s love for you and be changed by it. Check out the video at the end of this post for a glimpse into the youth conference itself. You can find my parish group at 4:37 in the video.

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Ordinary Time, 16th Sunday. The most amazing part of the Steubenville conference? Confession, Mass, and Adoration. It is where the young people heard the voice of the Shepherd. The bad shepherds follow the example of the Thief: they mislead and scatter. Jesus does the opposite: gathers and teaches, and restores the soul.

The voice of the Thief tells us we need euthanasia and assisted suicide in order to escape from suffering. It tells us that we should have the freedom to decide when our lives end. But the Shepherd shows us that love and community are the answers to the suffering we face. When things are cloudy and dark, where do we run? Run to the Good Shepherd!

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Ordinary Time, 14th Sunday. God has created us to serve. Having a master gives us purpose and keeps us from becoming aimless and depressed. Serving the greatest Master makes us all we were meant to be; serving lesser masters leaves us enslaved. When America declared independence, they understood they were to serve the people and follow God’s laws as a nation “under God.” Even our newly “independent” government realized we depend on one another, the laws of God, and the international community. God serves us a we serve Him. In serving God we discover true freedom.

(5 July 2015)

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Ordinary Time, 13th SundayRecorded live outdoors at the parish picnic Mass. It can be hard to trust that God really knows what He is doing. We have to learn to listen and cooperate with God’s ways. Today’s Gospel is a perfect example. A woman has been afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years; a twelve-year-old girl gets sick and dies. Does God really know what He is doing? Yes. Twelve years ago he had plans to answer both these prayers. God knows what is best for us.

Last Friday our Supreme Court discovered in the Bill of Rights a law that two brides or two grooms is the same thing as a bride and groom. How does Christ teach us to respond to this answer? First, with incredible love for every person, especially those who disagree with us. Second, Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’ that we don’t have absolute authority over this world or over our human nature. We have to work in accord with the nature our Creator has given us. Marriage is the intertwining of life and love; the social norms of Marriage exist for the sake of the children. The children will suffer the most from a distorted view of marriage.

We are not alone in this difficulty. God continues to be present in the world with incredible care for ever person. He wants to touch and heal every wound. More deeply, he wants a relationship with each person. The wounds and struggles, even the political struggles, are opportunities for us to turn to Jesus, to let him touch us, and begin a relationship with True Love. Stay in touch with Jesus.

(28 June 2015)

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