From The Pastor's Desk
Holy Family 12-29-02
Many people feel a real "let down" after all the festivities of Christmas. Family has come and gone, the Christmas liturgies are all over with, the wonderful banquets are over, all the gifts have been shared, and now it seems as if there is nothing more to look forward to. You may sit in your chair feeling a bit depressed and certainly not ready to have your break from work over! It is at these times when we need to finally get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas. All the above-mentioned realities are gifts that are from God. At Christmas we celebrate the most wonderful Gift that "God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whosoever believes in him may not perish but may have everlasting life!" If we look for deep satisfaction and lasting joy and peace in the things of this world, even very great and wonderful things, but without God, we will be only temporarily satisfied. Rather we should look for our deepest peace and joyful satisfaction in the knowledge of God's love for us. Then, after experiencing his deep love for us and living in communion with him, we will come back to the good things of this earth and truly enjoy them even more! Would the giver of the gift (everlasting life) deny us the ribbon (the good things of this earth)? We can only enjoy the ribbon if we know that there is a true and lasting gift! Oh, by the way, the Christmas season isn't over with until the baptism of the Lord! Therefore, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas 12-22/25-02
Well, It's the fourth Sunday of Advent with Christmas just around the corner. This is my first Christmas with the United Hearts of Ida County Cluster and I can only say that I am filled with gratitude and praise to God for the blessings of the two parishes! There is a Franciscan priest who is a welcoming presence for all who come to Shepherd's Field in the Holy Land (that is the field where the angels appeared to the shepherds announcing the good news of Christ's birth). He stresses to all pilgrims that it can be Christmas all year round when we allow Christ to be daily born in our hearts. Christ continues to become incarnate in his body, the Church. So please look to those around you and say, "MERRY CHRISTMAS" because Christ can be and often is daily born in you and me! May Christ be born anew in the UNITED HEARTS OF IDA COUNTY CLUSTER!
3rd Sunday of Advent 12-15-02
Someone has once said that we have two dogs living within us. One dog is a happy, tail-wagging, Scooby Do type and the other is a teeth bearing, vicious, hair raising, and growling type. Whichever dog we feed more is the one who will be predominant in our life to the point that the other may be nearly nonexistent. Feed the good dog within you with the thoughts and reality of God's love and the joy of his kingdom so that he will grow big and strong. While in prison, Saint Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, I say it again, REJOICE!" He could have let the negative reality of being thrown into prison predominate. But instead, he kept his eyes on the Lord, being filled with joy and praise. To RE-JOICE means to feel the joy over and over again. RE means Again. We use it in the word Repeat for example. I once sent a friend of mine a CD. She listened to it and then put it away. I asked if she ever listened to it again to which she responded, "O I already heard it once, and I don't need to hear it again." She treated the music as if it were a joke she heard once and didn't need to hear it again because she new the punch line. Obviously, music, familiar songs are repeatedly listened to because of their power to lift the spirit. So it is with the song of God's love. We keep replaying the song over and over to more and more penetrate our heart and bring us deep joy. God loves you. You are a child of God. Jesus is Risen. The Holy Spirit dwells within you. You are on your way to being a glowing Saint in Heaven. Etc... All of these are examples of the songs that we play over and over in our mind and heart. These are the songs that bring us into the joy of God.
2nd Sunday of Advent 12-8-02
Sheep can be pretty thickheaded and self-absorbed. They will be munching away at some grass, only to raise their heads and find out that they have strayed from the sheepfold. The good shepherd goes out in search for this lost lamb and in finding it put it on his shoulders then upon arriving home breaks one of its legs. At first this seems cruel, but in fact, it is an act of mercy. Two things happen as a result of this: 1. The lamb cannot wander away to be devoured by a ravenous wolf. 2. In the time of healing that takes place with it's little leg, the lamb develops a deep bond with the shepherd who takes special care of it, so that he does not want to run off either.
Jesus is the good shepherd who comforts us in our affliction and who afflicts us in our comfort. His goal is always to draw us closer to himself and to rescue us and save us from the ravages of sin.
On our part, we must continue to grow in our faith, hope and love by truly seeking the God of comfort rather than the comfort of God.
1st Sunday of Advent 12-1-02
Be watchful! Be alert! "I sure am tired!" These were the words I spoke to myself as I was heading back form Des Moines late one night. I was just aching to get home and dive under the covers and go off to slumber land. But, as happens so often on a long trip, I began to get lost in thought and missed my exit at highway 59. I almost made it to Omaha before I realized that I'd missed it! Please avoid putting it on automatic pilot as you journey toward your true and lasting home in heaven. Please attempt to intentionally and with great thought look were you are going and notice the "signs of the times" as you travel so that when your exit comes, you won't miss it. Unlike me, who could simply turn the car around and make my way back home to Ida Grove, your final exit goes by only once. Therefore, WATCH! That is what Advent is all about.
Christ the King 11-24-02
Are you wearing your Jesus glasses? What do you mean! You don't know what Jesus glasses are! Let me explain. When you put on your Jesus glasses (as opposed to "cultural" glasses), you no longer see attractive people or unattractive people. You no longer see intelligent people or unintelligent people. You no longer distinguish between talented and useful people in contrast to untalented and waste-of-space people. When you are wearing your Jesus glasses you look beyond all these "cultural" norms and measures to see only one thing, a precious life made in the image and likeness of God. You see only Jesus, knowing that whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do that unto Jesus himself! Along with Mother Teresa, do we recognize Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor? Remember what Saint John of the Cross said, "In the evening time of our life, we will be judged by love." When we come into the presence of Jesus at the end our life, the only thing that will matter is Faith, Hope, and Love. And the Greatest of these is Love!
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 11-17-02
My dad had a plaque on his office wall that read, It is not the mountain before me that wears me out, rather, the pebble in my shoe! Isn't this saying so true! The other day I was in a hurry to get to the religious good store in Sioux City. My timing was great... until I came upon a slow moving train that ended up being about a ten-minute wait. As I sat there Very irritated, it came to me out of the blue that last year, after 9-11, I was stranded in Rome for seven days, and I seemed to handle that better! I saw my foolishness, closed my eyes and nodded off into a peaceful sleep awakening about 30 seconds before the caboose crossed the tracks allowing me to pass. From that point on, the day was a great and peaceful, non-hurried day and all my chores were completed. The Lord gives grace for us to handle the big things in our life and beckons us not to sweat the small stuff. However, when it comes to little acts of charity and love, we need a different posture! Mother Teresa of Calcutta has said two key things about this: #1. Even the smallest act of kindness takes on infinite value when done for Christ. #2. God does not ask us to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary faithfulness. In the Gospel, the Lord asks us to offer our talents to him with great love and promises that if we are faithful in small matters, he will put us in charge of larger matters. We can transform the irritating pebbles in our shoes into nuggets of valuable gold. So keep on teaching those religious education classes that don't always seem to go as well as you planned. Keep getting up every morning offering your whole day to the Lord. Keep changing the diapers and making the meals. Keep shoveling your aging neighbor's walk. Someday these little gold nuggets will be used in your everlasting home in heaven!
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 11-10-02
If I could ask you to define Wisdom, what would you say it is? Many confuse wisdom with knowledge even though the two work hand in hand. Wisdom, can be defined as the ability to take the knowledge, persons, places, things, activities, and events of ones life and point it toward our final end which is to be a glowing saint in union with God. Wisdom helps us get through each day with meaning and purpose, knowing that everything that we think, say, do, or be is heading toward union with God. When you offer everything you have and are to God, it is all going somewhere. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, "Even the smallest acts when done for the love of God take on infinite value." The movie Gladiator had a tremendous line, which states that whatever we do on earth echoes in eternity. What good is knowledge of God if we do not follow it and end up in hell. That would be the opposite of wisdom, which is foolishness. Wisdom helps us live a good and sensible life here on earth and prepares us for the life beyond our short life. Solomon asked God for one thing, Wisdom. Because he did not ask for riches or long life or a host of other things, God gave him wisdom and all these others things besides. We hear a wise word from Romans, which states that, "God works all things together for the good of those who love him." Finally, Jesus, who IS wisdom itself tells us to seek the buried treasure and pearl of great price, not to spend ourselves, or time, money or energy on what fails to satisfy. We are to "spend this short time we have on earth building for something that will outlast it." (Cardinal Suenens) I would like to share one of my favorite wisdom lines often spoken to me by Father Gene Sitzman, "Good judgment is the fruit of experience and experience is often the result of poor judgment." In other words, we learn from our mistakes and are year after year formed into saints. Saint Alphonsus Liguori once said, "Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves his statues for paradise." May God Bless You as you wisely journey towards your home in Heaven!
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 11-3-02
Many people who hold close to the teachings in Sacred Scripture have real problems with priests being called "Father." Doesn't the scripture itself say "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in Heaven?" What is going on here is the fallacy of equivocation. This is a fallacy in logic wherein the same word has two different meanings with the wrong meaning being attributed to the same word. "The man had shingles (a medical condition), but I didn't see any hammer or nails to attach them to the roof!" Jesus simply wants us to realize that there is really only one Father, THE Father. We all have a father on earth, but there is only one who is THE Father and that is God. God gives earthly fathers and priests a share in his role as creator, protector and provider. Earthly men are called father only inasmuch as they share in the work of THE Father. One of the more accurate words for a priest that is found in Scripture would be Presbyter which means elder, not in the sense of age (that would be equivocation) but in the sense of leadership ability and giftedness. "There is one Lord, One faith, one baptism, One God and Father over all!" (Ephesians 4:5)
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 10-27-02
"Avoid using words in your homilies such as covenant!" These are the words of our presenter at our most recent priest convocation held in Omaha. While it was a great convocation on preaching, I adamantly disagree with the above statement. COVENANT IS ONE OF THE MOST CENTRAL AND KEY CONCEPTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AND IS CONTINUED AND COMPLTETED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, THE "NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT." So what is the covenant? Put simply, it is God giving his love to us and inviting us to return that love to him thus living in the covenant relationship. You cannot break the covenant because you cannot break God's love, however, you can break completely (through mortal sin) or hurt (through venial sin) the covenant relationship. The best way to live out the covenant is to follow the great commandment that the Lord gives to us, To "Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (What you do to the least, you do to God). When the Lord gives us this command we must be clearly aware that he is asking of us what he first offers to us. When Jesus hung upon the cross to die for us he demonstrated no greater love as he poured out his heart, soul, mind, strength, for us. He invited us to do the same and live in a perfect union of love with him forever.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 10-20-02
The two captains stood before the group of high school students picking teams for the football game. It is easy to be some of the first picked, in fact, kind of an ego trip, a sense of importance and belonging. Oh, but the sheer agony of being the last one picked especially if you are certain that the guy before you is light-years more uncoordinated and scrawnier than you! We want to be chosen. We want to belong. We want to feel as if we make a difference. In the kingdom of God, all these are infinitely true. God chose us even before we were born to be uniquely special and precious to him. He walks through the garden taking in the unique shapes, colors, and fragrances of each one of his flowers. If you took just ONE of these flowers from the garden it would be infinitely missed forever. We are that Chosen one. We are that Flower that gives glory to God in our own uniquely personal way! He envisioned us like an artist envisioning a song before playing even one note. He was joyfully with us at the moment of our conception and walks with us through the good times and bad times of our life, all the way until death, only then to receive us, renew us, and plant us in the Heavenly Garden forever! God Picked You!
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time 10-13-02
I was just home for the summer from seminary in Rome after two years of intense study. One thing I learned, besides theology, was how to prepare a fine Italian meal. I was so proud to show off my skills and was looking forward to trying them out on my brother Paul and his family. Paul walks through the door saying, "I just had a little bite at McDonalds but am sure looking forward to some of your cooking." Somehow I didn't believe that he was hungry after two hamburgers! Jeff, Paul's son, came in the house and went right to the cupboard only to find a bunch of red candy to eat. His dad, Paul, saw to it that Jeff didn't spoil his appetite on candy! I must admit, I thought that Paul should have heeded his own advice. Here was a situation where a luscious Italian meal was ready to be served and two of the main recipients had their eyes on other much less nutritious and much less healthy foods. Do we keep ourselves empty enough to truly receive from the Lord? Or do we fill ourselves with emptiness by eating a lot of the unhealthy junk food that this world has to offer? We often hear that the Lord wants to feed us, but do we let him? He wants to feed us with the true and nourishing bread of life and we often refuse to open wide our mouths so that he can fill them! Then like the Israelites whom God fed with manna, we complain that we don't like the food. Let us not demand our spiritual food, but humbly and gratefully eat whatever the Lord places on our plate. We would rather have tooth-rotting body-weakening candy. Please turn away from the sands of this world and come to Jesus who will give you living water. Turn away from the empty calories of this world and receive True Bread, Yes the Body of Christ!
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 10-6-02
May you Live until you die and in dying may you live forever!
Pope John Paul II has called for this Sunday until next Sunday to be a special week of prayer and fasting for peace in the world and an end to abortion. Please make special efforts to make it to mass or spend some special time in prayer and to fast from something that would be a sacrifice for you.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 9-29-02
The father took his two young boys bowling. Sherman was a frail little boy, but he loved the game and would bowl with all his might. He would wobble up to the lane and half-hazardly let go of the ball. One time he actually got a strike, but many times threw gutter balls. He would finish each game tired but joyful that he had done his best. His father looked lovingly at him and continued to pay for his next game. Herman, Sherman's twin brother hated the whole idea of bowling. He defiantly aimed his ball right for the gutter every time. His father looked at him with great distress and disappointment. Because his son was determined to not play and continued to blatantly throw gutter balls, his father sadly but justly stopped paying for his lane and had him wait outside in the dark car until they were ready to go home.
Sacred Scripture makes it very clear that all sin and fall short of the glory of God and that even the just person sins several times a day. The question is...Are we willing to enter into the struggle and try our best to bowl 300 or do we blatantly throw gutter balls. In the game of Love only Jesus and Mary have bowled 300! Nobody else has or will. We may bowl a good game, but we are always in need of forgiveness. The important thing is that we strive for holiness and do our best to love. If we do that, the Father will continue to pay for our lane. We must never defiantly throw gutter balls on purpose without even an attempt for a strike. If we give into sin, we are truly in the danger zone and certainly cannot expect our Father to continue to pay for our lane. So, stand up, pick up your burden, and try with all your wobbly might to love with the heart of Christ. The Father will continue to pay for your lane.
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 9-22-02
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, by Iron Butterfly. (That should take you back to the 60's!) You Light Up My Life, by Debbie Boone. (That should take you back to the 70's) 867 5309/Jenny by Tommy Tutone. (80's) Who Let the Dogs Out by Los Del Rio. (90's?) What do all of these songs have in common? Answer: they are all ONE HIT WONDERS. The group and their song came on the scene strong, continuously and hard and then... dropped off into oblivion. One of the artists commented that he was happy to have just one hit in his life and is content with that. But I have even better news than that! As much it would be cool to have even one hit, we must realize that every human being is a NO HIT WONDER. What this means is that we are a wonder even before we achieve any kind of success in this world. We become a smash hit in heaven at the moment of our conception. Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as we are knit together in our mother's womb. When we think of God's generosity we often think about what he gives us after we are born instead of realizing that the greatest wonder and gift that he gives us is our life with the ability to live in union with him. We were intentionally loved into existence by God for THIS one express purpose: LOVING AND BLISSFUL UNION. There is nothing we can offer for this free gift of God except an open and grateful heart to receive from His generosity.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 9-15-02
Forgiveness takes one. Reconciliation takes two. We can forgive someone who hurt us even if they still treat us uncharitably. If a person does not treat you well, it doesn't mean you should react in kind. It means that you are called to respond in the Spirit of Christ. This does not mean that you have to be in any kind of a relationship with them. This does not mean that you are to be their doormat. You have the right to leave the presence of an abusive person no matter who they are or what your relationship is with them! It simply means that you don't wish evil upon them and you don't act maliciously toward them. When we pick up a hot coal to throw at our enemies it is our hand that ends up getting burnt. Do yourself and your ulcer a great favor and forgive your enemies. Extent a blessing to them! Thus you will be blessed. Reconciliation may be able to happen. This is where the other party decides to bury the hatchet (not in your head) and truly open their heart to you in friendship and fellowship. Reconciliation is the ideal. Forgiveness is God's command.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 9-8-02
We are the body of Christ. Some of us are noses (I hope that doesn't mean that we are nosy), while others are ears, while some are eyes and so on and so forth. No matter where we exist in the body of Christ we must all be very aware of the dangers of an infection. The more infection that exists in a body, the sicker the body. I would like to propose that one of the most serious and deadly infections in the body of Christ is the infection of Slander and Gossip. Slander is the sin of spreading a lie or half-truth about someone that hurts or even completely destroys their reputation. Often Slander is perceived by the perpetrator as gossip. Gossip is the truth about someone that we spread with the same result as slander. Both are wrong and extremely dangerous. We have all done it, in either a small way, or perhaps a large way. Now is the time, even as you read this, to decide to the best of your ability to put an end to slander and gossip in your life. "Owe no debt to your neighbor except that which calls you to love because love fulfills the law." Many times when someone hurts us, we immediately start the process of defaming, gossiping, and slandering. In Matthew 18 we receive a clear and appropriate way to deal with such people. First we must go to that person alone keeping the issue between you and them. If they don't listen, then take two or three witnesses to confront this person. One example may be attempting to get someone who is drinking too much or too often into treatment. The third step is to refer them to the church (call your priest?). Finally, if they do not reform, and remain on the path to destruction, we are to detach in love, treating them like a Gentile or tax collector (this last one according to many scholars doesn't mean to treat him as beyond help, but to gently love them all the more as Jesus did in the hope of still winning that person over).
Anniversary of Sept. 11th - Mass on Sept 11th will be celebrated at 8:00 am in Holstein. If at all possible, I would encourage as many as possible to attend. All of our religious education classes that day will also have some kind of prayer service. If you cannot make it anywhere please take some special time at home to pray for all the victims and heroes of 9-11. Pray for peace!
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 9-1-02
All the seminarians in Rome were required to go through extensive psychological tests to make sure they were fit to serve the church as priests. After the testing, we were given the option to continue therapy and growth sessions. I opted to do this even though it would require two days a week, one hour each session. I will never forget one particular session when Father Kiley, my Irish therapist said to me, "You Americans are all alike. You have a little pain and you think you need to take a pill. Why don't you just learn to face your pain and deal with these issues! I don't want you to be a 50 year old man cryin' in your milk!" then he added, "Pain is not always bad. Often it is when we face our pain and don't try to medicate it through food or the things of this world that we come to intense growth." I have never forgotten those words…ever. They are seared in my soul and hopefully in my life. Garrison Keillor once said, "It is a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars." Lydia Heras, the mother of my friend Msgr. Michael Heras, commented to me about a seminarian, "He is a deep person. I know that he has suffered a lot in his life." Please don't see suffering as pointless and empty. When connected to Jesus Christ we can truly offer ourselves to him as a living sacrifice. We must take up our cross daily and follow in his ways. Christ left an example for us that we might follow in his footsteps. It is Christ, the Risen and triumphant one, victor over sin and death, radiant and glowing yes, but still and forever bearing the scars of the cross, who is our hope My your suffer with Christ, Die with Christ, and one day RISE with Christ. May you come through all the crosses and sufferings of your life to deep and everlasting joy.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 8-25-02
Saint Peter has been profiled by various scholars and poets as "idealistic," "a big talker," "impetuous," and even "severe." There is yet one more attribute said of Peter. He was a sinner! Here is the man who ate with Jesus and was markedly one of the closest to him out of the 12, and yet he denied Jesus not once, but THREE times…to a young girl! He showed weakness of character, and was downright spineless! But here is what Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) wrote about him. Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty. The reason God's plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and adding sinlessness to his severe nature might have made him unforgiving towards his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them. This was God's providential dispensation. He to whom the church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others. (On Saints Peter and Elijah: PG 50, 727-728) If you asked me to choose a confessor between a priest that has need of monthly confession or one that has need of only yearly confession, I would go to the first priest, to the one who understands the human condition and the daily struggle with sin. As much as I love Saint John (The apostle nearest and dearest to Jesus) I would much rather bear my soul to Peter…Of course, only after his denial of the Lord.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 8-18-02
"Prayer is the only power to which God surrenders," says Saint John of the Cross. A perfect example of this can be found in the Gospel. The Canaanite woman begged (prayed) Jesus to free her daughter from a tormenting demon. Jesus first response was to ignore her. Jesus was very clear in his mission and how it was to proceed, and this he did with laser-beam intensity and focus. So to have a Canaanite (Canaanites are the ancestral enemies of the Jews) women ask for a healing was certainly NOT in his plan. Jesus came to the Jews (The sons and daughters) first, and only planned to go out to the Gentiles latter, much in the same way as you must work on the foundation of a house before you decide what wall paper you wish to put in the kitchen upstairs. Not only did he ignore her, but also he called her a dog. "It is not right to take food from the sons and daughters and give it to the dogs." In all fairness, the word used for dog here is more endearing like a household pet as opposed to a street mutt! (See Barclay commentary) BUT THE WOMAN PERSISTED IN PRAYER AND LOVE. This altered action of the Lord! The Lord surrendered to the power of her prayer! He saw her great faith and granted her prayer. We who are sons and daughters of God through baptism should have great confidence that the Lord will hear our prayers and bless us. But please remember the old saying, "Do not pray for an easy life, rather pray to be a strong person!" Jesus tells us that we will suffer in the world but to take courage because he has overcome the world! ~ Jn .
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 8-11-02
The middle-aged man found himself in danger. A flash flood came upon him; he managed to make it to the rooftop, and called out to God to be saved. The man truly believed that God would save him, so at last a boat came inviting him to get in. He refused because he knew that God himself would save him. Next, a helicopter lowered a ladder to him beckoning him to crawl up. Once again, the man refused fully believing that God would save him. Alas, the currents reached the man sweeping him under to his death. The man then came to the Lord scratching his soaked head and asked God, "Why didn't you save me Lord? I called out to you in faith and you let me die!" The Lord then answered, " I sent you a boat. I sent you a helicopter. Why did you fail to recognize my saving hand in the people around you?" Sometimes like Elijah when we look for the Lord to be passing by we seek him in the strong, heavy wind, the crushing rocks, the earthquake, or the fire. But notice, the Lord was in none of these. The Lord was to be found in the tiny whispering sound. How many times do we fail to recognize the Lord in those around us, in the day in and day out times of silence and prayer, in a quiet walk through the woods, in the birth of a baby, so simple and yet profound beyond all imagining in the Eucharistic bread, so plain and yet such a profound and unfathomable mystery, that Christ is truly present; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity! Like Peter, if we keep our eyes on Jesus we will be able to walk on water, yet we are in such danger of drowning if we fearfully put our focus on all the perils that surround us. Life is difficult, but we truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS IN THE OBVIOUS WAYS THAT HE COMES TO YOU AND THE MIRIADS OF WAYS THAT HE COMES TO YOU IN THE TINY WHISPERING SOUND.
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time 8-4-02
What a joy it is to pop the top off a jar of Gerber baby food and feed a little baby in its high chair! One can barely shovel the apricot delight in the baby's mouth fast enough. Talk about inhaling food! This baby has such a hunger for food and we have such a hunger to nurture that baby and take care of it's every need. At these times, parents truly know how true the saying is from Scripture that "There is more joy in giving than in receiving." This is the way God looks upon us. He put a deep hunger in all of us, a hunger for love, life, and goodness, and a hunger for God. In Christ, God's heart is moved to pity. He wants to feed us. He asks only that we give him what little we have, he blesses it, multiplies it, and then feeds us. "Lord, we only have five loaves and two fish! What can you possibly do with so little?" The Lord then replies, "I created everything out of nothing. Entrust your life to me, all you have and are, even if it seems so insignificant and my blessing will multiply in your life and the lives of those around you. I so delight in feeding you! Come to the water, all you who are thirsty, receive grain and eat. Come without paying and without cost! Heed me and you shall eat well." Too often we fill that hunger and thirst with the sands of this world. The Lord calls us to repent of a life of emptiness and detach from those illusions we think will bring us happiness. Once while at a funeral where some 50 priests were gathered, I was feeling a bit intimidated by my fellow priests. Don't get me wrong, they are a great bunch of guys, but still I was giving into the temptation that day of wondering just what they thought about me. Do they respect me or not? Am I acceptable or do I stand rejected? After communion, I was praying and out of the blue, Just for a short moment I saw very clearly the face of the Lord. This is the only time this has ever happened to me. His face was strong but gentle, and he gave me a look that instilled deep confidence within me that I was in the care of the invincible and unconquerable Lord. The only thing I heard him say was, "PEACE BE WITH YOU." And then he was out of sight but still very much there. I looked out at all the priest with great love, and in a very non-defensive voice spoke to myself saying, " I don't care what they think, The Lord Has won the victory for me. I am loved by God. That is ALL that matters!" This experience, though very personal, is not at all exclusive or privy. It is meant for you! Do not let the world feed you with all of its lies. Listen to the Gospel, the word of the Lord. Let him feed you the truth that will set your heart free. You will be fed and God will be delighted!
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 7-28-02
If I could ask you to define Wisdom, what would you say it is? Many confuse wisdom with knowledge even though the two work hand in hand. Wisdom, can be defined as the ability to take the knowledge, persons, places, things, activities, and events of ones life and point it toward our final end which is to be a glowing saint in union with God. Wisdom helps us get through each day with meaning and purpose, knowing that everything that we think, say, do, or be is heading toward union with God. When you offer everything you have and are to God, it is all going somewhere. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, "Even the smallest acts when done for the love of God take on infinite value." The movie "Gladiator" had a tremendous line, which states that whatever we do on earth echoes in eternity. What good is knowledge of God if we do not follow it and end up in hell. That would be the opposite of wisdom, which is foolishness. Wisdom helps us live a good and sensible life here on earth and prepares us for the life beyond our short life. Solomon asked God for one thing, Wisdom. Because he did not ask for riches or long life or a host of other things, God gave him wisdom and all these others things besides. We hear a wise word from Romans, which states that, "God works all things together for the good of those who love him." Finally, Jesus, who IS wisdom itself tells us to seek the buried treasure and pearl of great price, not to spend ourselves, or time, money or energy on what fails to satisfy. We are to "spend this short time we have on earth building for something that will outlast it." (Cardinal Suenens) I would like to share one of my favorite wisdom lines often spoken to me by Father Gene Sitzman, "Good judgment is the fruit of experience and experience is often the result of poor judgment." In other words, we learn from our mistakes and are year after year formed into saints. Saint Alphonsus Liguori once said, "Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves his statues for paradise." May God Bless You as you wisely journey towards your home in Heaven
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 7-21-02
"Mom, I have a leg ache." Don't worry David, they are just growing pains. Hang in there!" This conversation was heard more than once at my home while growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I learned to endure the pain and come into healthy strong legs. This time of losing Msgr. Duchaine and transisting from two pastors to one will definitely entail some growing pains for all of us. The additional work for me with two parishes now and your adjustments to this will be cause for some growing pains. I would simply like to say to all of us, "Don't worry, they are just growing pains. Hang in there! All is well and all will be well!" Or in the words of Jesus, "Peace be with you!"
One year ago in my homily, I stated (and have re-stated many times) that my main goal as pastor of Sacred Heart is that all of us would one day be glowing saints in heaven. It is wonderful to see the last line of this week's gospel, "Then the saints will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom!" I will emphatically and clearly state this is my heartfelt desire for the people of Holstein as well. From now on I will be ministering to, addressing, serving, loving, and pasturing the United Hearts of Ida County Cluster with that goal in mind. While maintaining our separate parish identities, we are now challenged to move away from an "us" and "them" mentality to WE. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is united to the Sacred Heart of his Mother, Or Lady of Good Counsel. I want to praise and thank God for the 11 years of faithful, effective and loving service that Msgr. Mark Duchaine gave to the people of OLGC and for preparing the soil so well for the new kid on the block. May God Bless Him and his new parish!
WORLD YOUTH DAY
About a year ago, I had a strong sense that I was going to go to world youth day in Toronto, Ontario. I decided that I would not submit my name or jump through the 1000 hoops to get there. I simply prayed and said, " Lord, if you want me there, please open the door and I will walk through it." Well, that door opened and I am going. Talk about growing pains! NOT the best week as it is my first full week with the new parish! Well, please bear with me as I go there to do Mass, Hear confessions, and do music. So, Monday, July 22nd through Friday July 26th I will be at World Youth Day. Please note that I will be checking my messages at a minimum of 3 times a day. If there is an emergency please leave a message with your phone number and I will get to you very quickly. This is a norm for every time that I am gone.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 7-14-02
Can you believe that July 16th marks one year since my arrival? It has truly been the happiest year of my life! I look forward to many more years of growing together into "GLOWING SAINTS." I am a bit overwhelmed but much more excited about my new additional assignment of OLGC in Holstein. About 10 years ago I covered there for Msgr. Duchaine and told the people that "someday" it would be great to be their Pastor. Well... that day will be here July 16th. The cluster committee has been working hard, diligently, and faithfully in making the transition as smooth as possible. The people of Holstein must painfully say goodbye to a tremendous priest, Msgr. Duchaine and say hello to me, their new Pastor. It will be a much bigger change for them and almost imperceptible for you. As I become Pastor of OLGC in Holstein, I want to avoid an "US" and "THEM" mentality and work for a sense of "WE" or unity in our diversity. The very title of the cluster United Hearts of Ida County Cluster, views the Sacred Heart of Jesus united to the Motherly Heart of Our Lady of Good Counsel. While each of the parishes maintains a distinct parish identity, it is important that we feel comfortable sharing in many activities such as mass, prayer, adult and youth education, etc... There is One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism to which we are all called. We are all part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church on earth as we journey to the One Heaven to live forever together as glowing saints.
The Following will be the general schedule of the cluster:
1. Saturday - Holstein
a. 3:00 office (or earlier if needed)
b. 3:30 to 3:45 confessions (anytime by appointment)
c. 4:00 pm mass
2. Saturday - Ida Grove
a. 5:30 to 5:45 confessions (anytime by appointment)
b. 6:00 pm mass
3. Sunday - Ida Grove
a. 8:00 to 8:15 confessions
b. 8:30 am mass
4. Sunday - Holstein
a. 10:00 am mass
b. Appointments after mass
c. 11:30 R.C.I.A. (convert classes) first and third Sundays starting in September.
Location will be determined depending on the numbers from each parish.
5. Monday - Father David's day off with the exception of funerals and emergencies.
a. 7:00 pm mass in Ida Grove
b. 8:00 pm adult education classes every 1st and 3rd Tuesday
(Series: Alive With Baptism and Bible Study to name a few)
a. 8:00 am mass in Holstein
c. 1st and 3rd Wednesdays - 9 through 12 Youth Group and Catechesis (Ida Grove) from 7:15 to 9:15
d. 2nd and 4th Wednesdays - 9 through 12 Youth Group and Catechesis (Holstein) from ____ to _____
a. 2:00 pm mass at Good Samaritan Nursing home in Holstein EVERY FIRST THURSDAY. (Followed by appointments)
b. 7:00 pm mass in Holstein on every Thursday besides the first Thursday
a. 7:30 am mass in Ida Grove
b. 8:00 am holy hour including exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Morning Prayer, confessions, ending with benediction.
c. First Friday communions at both places
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time 7-7-02
Of all your fears great and small the greatest are those that won't happen at all. IF they do happen, nothing will be able to make Jesus un-risen from the dead or separate you from the love of God. With the Lord, Light and Peace, Joy and Love, and Eternal Life, is the Final Word. So, BE AFRAID OF NOTHING!
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 6-30-02
Wild Monkey is a delicacy in some parts of the world. Even though I prefer beef or chicken, there is a very specific way to capture a monkey. First you hollow out a coconut, take off the top, drill a small hole just big enough for a monkey to get his little hand through, place a piece of fruit in the coconut, then attach it to a tree. When the monkey grabs the fruit, he cannot pull it through the hole, as it is too small. He tries desperately to get the fruit out but will not let go of the fruit. The coconut in the tree captures the monkey. If he is a wise monkey, he will let go of the fruit and flee at the sight of the hunters. If he is a foolish monkey, he will refuse to let go of the fruit and end up in ruin at hands of the dart-wielding hunters. Jesus tells us that whoever would save or cling to his life will lose it, but whoever lets go of his life will save it. We need to let go of our time and yield to hospitality, let go of our agenda to trust the Lord's agenda, let go of our money that we cannot take with us any way, freely give of our talent so that others may be blessed, and finally, we must let go of our very health and life if we are to be reborn to everlasting life.
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 6-23-02
The big competition was on! Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Kelly were the two finalists for the big televised shop-off. The object of the contest was to fill your shopping basket to over-flowing and the one with the highest total won a years free shopping with a certain limit. The start gun went off! Mrs. Miller scurried systematically down each isle selecting the choicest and most expensive products. Mrs. Kelly took her time, throwing things in her basket without any worry or concern. Time was running and Mrs. Kelly was not. The final gun fired to signify that time was up. Both ladies returned to the front of the store with TV cameras and the host of the show Bart Barker. Mr. Barker questioned Mrs. Kelly, "You came all the way to the final competition, you had a chance for one years worth of free groceries, and then you didn't even try! Mrs. Miller won hands down! What were you thinking?" Mrs. Kelly responded calmly, "I am already a winner. You see, My Father...He owns the store!"
We often go through life grasping, clawing, and anxiously seeking fulfillment. We often live in a deprivation state of mind never thinking that we have enough and assuring ourselves by stockpiling that we will never run out. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong about securing your future and the future of your loved ones, but don't forget that the best things in life really are free. Jesus tells us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Fathers consent. He tells us that we are worth more than a flock of sparrows, that every hair on our head (some more, others less) has been counted so DO NOT BE AFRAID OF ANYTHING! We who have been baptized, filled with the very life of God, and are on our way to heaven, can be at peace. The creator of the universe, the one who created us to be his children, owns the store!
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time 6-16-02
I have always been a big fan of Dan Fogelberg. You may remember some of his songs such as Longer (1979), Leader of the Band (1981), Same Old Lang Syne (1981). Well, March of 1994 found him coming to Sioux City for a concert. NOBODY but NOBODY could go with me, so I thought, "Well, I guess I am not going." I was over visiting friends at their home when I said to Mike, "Dan Fogelberg, one of my all time favorite artists is right here in town and I am not going? How can this be? I am Going!" I was out the door and in five minutes at the ticket counter only to discover that in my haste I had forgotten my billfold. Just as I was inquiring about the price of tickets, a young couple approached me, placed a ticket in front of me and invited me to join them. The husband said, "Our friend was going to go with us but her daughter was taken to the hospital, so please help us put this ticket to good use. You owe us nothing but to have a good time." I then promised to say a prayer for the woman's daughter. The man then looked me in the eye and asked "Dave Hemann?" to which I responded "Mark Lynch?" It ended up that we were long lost college friends! He then proceeded to tell me about another mutual Loras college friend whose new baby boy was discovered to be deaf. We said a prayer for healing on the spot. The boy was in fact healed. So... I went to a concert with no money and no one to watch it with. I ended up with a free ticket with my old college buddy and his lovely new wife in an almost front row seat to enjoy the sounds of one of my all time favorite artists. I was thanking the Lord throughout the entire concert when all of the sudden I prayed, "Ok Lord, what do I owe you for this one? Why did you do this for me?" His answer was, "Because I love you and you are my precious son. You do not have to do anything. I simply want you to enjoy this gift." This was pure, spontaneous, undeserved, unmerited grace. "While we were still sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 We thank and praise you Lord for the many graces and blessing you shower upon us at every moment of every day of our lives!
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time 6-9-02
Legend has it that Juan Diego, the man who saw Our Lady Of Guadalupe, was called into intense questioning before the bishop. The bishop instructed Juan Diego to ask the blessed Mother to ask Jesus to reveal to her and subsequently back to him (the bishop) his "Big Sin" while he was in seminary. Juan Diego returned to the Bishop with an answer. "Ok," asked the bishop, " What was my big sin?" Juan Diego replied, "The Lord Jesus Christ told the Blessed Mother to tell me, to tell you that he does not remember because you have been forgiven." If any of us get to heaven it is not because we are so great but because God's mercy is great. The center of our spiritual life then is not our worthiness, but God's love. Jesus tells us that healthy people do not need doctors but sick people do. He said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners." Such a description fits all of us.
Corpus Christi 6-2-02
One of my earliest memories of mass was that of going up to communion with my family and hearing the priest say in a solemn voice over and over, "Corpus Christi." I didn't exactly know what was going on but I knew that it was most important. I remember watching mom bury her face in her hands in profound focus and silence after receiving the host. Something was going on. I could sense the sacred going on and when mom "came to" I asked her, "Mom, what does 'Corpus Christi' mean?" She replied correctly (as usual), "It means 'the Body of Christ'." I really couldn't understand how Jesus was present but I did (and still do) believe that Jesus is present at every Eucharist; Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This belief in the true presence of Christ was held from the very beginning, from the Last Supper, to the primitive church, the ancient church, through the ages, right to today. I especially like to get a sense what it must have been like for Peter and Paul and the rest of the disciples as they celebrated the Eucharist in memory of their Lord and best friend who left the Eucharist as his enduring presence until he comes again. They literally saw the Risen Lord, then they continued to encounter him in the Eucharist and we are privileged to join them as well. Usually when we eat food, it breaks down and becomes us. In the Eucharist we break down and become transformed into Christ. We the church then, are the body of Christ, each of us members.
Trinity Sunday 5-26-02
It is clear from the New Testament that our God is a Triune God or Trinity. For Example, at the beginning of Acts and in the Gospel of John, to name a few, we read of Jesus teaching his disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit who would clothe them with power and teach them everything. In Matthew 28, Jesus instructs his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The last line of this Sunday's second reading from 2 Corinthians is one of the clearest Trinitarian teachings in the New Testament. Paul prays "May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always." This Grace (caris) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love (Agaph) of God, and the Fellowship (Koinwnia) of the Holy Spirit IS with those who profess their faith in the Lord and are baptized. These three words Grace, Love, and Fellowship tell us much about who God is in essence and What God does flowing from his essence. (Please note that since there is one God and three equal persons in the Trinity that each of these words can be predicated of each person in the same measure in both quantity and quality.)
1. Grace (Favor)- "In the specifically Christian sense of the word, God's unmerited free, spontaneous love for sinful man, revealed and made effective in Jesus Christ." (Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible) The most significant Grace or Favor bestowed upon us is the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the means by which this grace of salvation and union with God is given to us. God the Father is the SENDER, Jesus Christ is the one SENT, The Holy Spirit, Sent from the Father and the Son REMAINS with us until we are returned to the Sender.
2. Love- If there is anything that most fully describes God's essence and function it would be that of LOVE. This unmerited, unconditional and free love of God, a love that is totally giving of itself, is God. God does not love us because we exist. Rather, we exist because God loves us. God, who is Love, loved us into existence so that we might live in a perfect loving union with him and all the Saints forever.
3. Fellowship- The Trinity is a fellowship of Love and Grace. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Love between them is the Holy Spirit of Love. Heaven is a getting caught up in this Divine whirlpool of Love forever.
As kids we would walk over to Ellen's rest home to their pop machine and walk away with a strawberry or grape soda. I think the price was 15 or 25 cents. One night I was alone, it was dark and late, I was only 9 years old, scared to death to walk the dark streets alone, but very thirsty. Motivated by a thirst for strawberry soda, I managed to fearfully and quickly walk the dark 5 blocks bounding over a 4 ft fence with the speed and agility of a scardie cat. After what seemed to be a journey of one thousand miles, I arrived at Ellen's warm and safe lobby to get my refreshing soda. I drank it right down and then...Panic! Not having the motivation to walk all the way back home I said a prayer. "God, please help me get home." Just then, and this is no exaggeration, my older brother Pat walked through the door. Now you have to understand, Pat was and still is cool beyond cool, toughly wearing dad's old army jacket, afraid of nothing, he asked, "What are you doing here?" Putting on my most fearless face I answered, "Oh I was just here getting' some pop and thought I would just walk home. Where are you going?" He replied, "I am going home too. Lets walk together." I cannot begin to tell you how proudly and confidently, how safely and securely I walked home that evening. I was beyond words grateful for my brother Pat. Our real home is in heaven. Sometimes the journey seems dark and frightening. Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans, but would be with us always to the end of time, and that he would be with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not just the Pure Light, Power and Love of God. The Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity is exactly that...a person, God truly and really is present to us as the intimate companion of our soul. Our prayer is just like that of a nine year old boy, "God, please help me get home!" to which God answers and says "Peace be with you, Be not afraid, I am with you always at every moment of your life, in good times and bad, sickness or health, richer or poorer, till death do we meet face to face. Our brother Jesus walks with us always through his ever present Spirit dwelling within us.
Imagine if the Risen Lord Jesus Christ came to you with the words from today's Gospel "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to carry out everything I have commanded you!" You would go forth with great confidence knowing that the Lord would be with you to bless and protect you. Then suddenly after delivering a woman from the evil one, the magistrates seize you, humiliate you by stripping you in front of everyone, give you a severe beating, then lock you up in maximum security with your ankles secured to the ground. You might rightly complain against the Lord saying, "Look Lord, we were just trying to do your will! Now look at the mess you got us into. Why have you forsaken us? You double crossed us!" This happened to Paul and Silas. Instead of cursing the Lord they decided to praise him and sing hymns while the other prisoners listened. BECAUSE of this attitude of "praising God in all things" they hastened the coming of the Lord to miraculously save them. An earthquake, the doors fling open, the shackles drop off their ankles and they are set free while also converting the jailer and his family. Such wonders! Such courage as only the Lord could give! In the midst of their distress they didn't forgot the last words Jesus said "I am with you always until the end of the world!" What prison do you find yourself in these days? What chains shackle you? You have the choice of either complaining or praising God in the midst of your trials. Praise is a marvelous way to open up to the saving power of God. It is easy to praise God when all seems to be going our way, but we must most especially praise him when things seem to be at their lowest. This will hasten his coming and allow his saving power into our life. If we would truly be open to God our heart would be enlightened to the great hope and rich inheritance to which He calls us. Then we would have the strength to endure even joyfully what ever comes to us.
6th Sunday of Easter 5-5-02
What is the greatest and most enduring gift of your life, the one reality that gives you absolute and complete security? If you said SANCTIFYING GRACE, you would be correct. What is Sanctifying Grace? It is the habitual (enduring) life of God dwelling within you by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If someone important came to your home for a visit, first you would quickly answer the door lest they get away in their limo and second, you would promptly attend to them and their every need with great hospitality. My friends! We have the very Lord of Life living within us, personally and truly present to us at every moment of our existence. I think one of my greatest regrets when I die and come into his "face to face" presence will be the many times he beckoned me to lovingly attend to him who dwells in my heart but I was too busy to acknowledge him. Jesus promises us that he will not leave us orphans, but that he will come to us. And he says that whoever loves him will be loved by him and the Father and that he will reveal himself to us. Saint Peter says that we must "Sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts." That means that we must with great awe and reverence turn to our Lord who lives in our hearts to Praise, Thank, Honor, Bless, and Adore him. It means that we must deeply rest in his love with great peace, love and joy knowing that in Christ we conquer all the evils that this world can throw us. If you have the entire world but are without Sanctifying grace, you have nothing. If you have nothing, but are filled with the life of God through grace, you have everything.
5th Sunday of Easter 4-28-02
Do you believe that you are living an authentic Catholic/Christian Life? Some of the signs are as follows: 1. You have been baptized and realize that you are part of the bigger picture called the "People of God" or the "Church", that you are not just an isolated monad before God. Through Christ you realize that you are deeply connected and related to your brothers and sisters throughout the world. 2. You have some awareness of God as a personal God in "whom you live and move and have your being." God is not just a doctrine, philosophy or teaching, but rather a personal God who knows and loves you through and through. He is the Good Shepherd whose voice you recognize and in who's steps you confidently follow. 3. The fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 are found in your life; Love, Joy Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. To be considered a true follower of Christ there must be ONE MORE ELEMENT in your life…that element is…4. STRUGGLE. Jesus said to all "If any one wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" Luke 9:23. And in the Gospel of John he tells us that we will suffer in the world but to have courage because he has overcome the world. Even when everything is about as good as it can possibly be on this side of the grave we always seem to have some kinds of struggle even if it is the fear that something will go wrong to upset our now great life. I often tell people that I have never been happier in my life than in Ida Grove, Iowa yet I make a solemn promise and declaration that I don't want to spend eternity in Ida Grove, just many years! Jesus promises that in His Fathers house there are many mansions for us. He asks us to have Faith in God and Faith in him. He, the Risen Christ has indeed gone to prepare a place for us so that where he is we also may one day be, never to be parted. Please perservere then in the struggle, with Jesus the best is yet to come.
4th Sunday of Easter 4-21-02
I remember many years ago watching a very scary and exciting movie called War of the Worlds. I found myself having a religiously touching moment as I viewed a pastor walking right into the midst of the Martian attack. As bursts of flame and scary moments of destruction encircled him, he recited with great faith the 23rd psalm. The Lord is my shepherd…though I walk through the valley of darkness and the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are at my side with your rod and staff that gives me courage. As he recited that, I felt right along with him the faith and trust in the Lord to save me as well. In today's world we may not be under attack from the Martians, but we are certainly under attack in many and varied places and ways. When this happens, do we buckle under in fear or do we buck up in faith? That doesn't mean that we never fear anything. However, It DOES mean that we proclaim right along with St. Peter, HE IS ALIVE! With the Lord at my side, I shall not fear!
3rd Sunday of Easter 4-14-02
Thomas Merton, the celebrated Trappist monk and author once wrote: True encounter with Christ liberates something in us, a power we did not know we had, a hope, a capacity for life, a resilience, an ability to bounce back when we thought we were completely defeated, a capacity to grow and to change, a power of creative transformation. I placed these words in the front of my now tattered and torn high school bible. They have been with me through high school, college, seminary, and almost 17 years of priestly ministry. They are as true and even more personally meaningful to me now as the day this statement first touched my heart. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were feeling completely defeated and discouraged, and then the marvelous encounter with the Risen Christ helped them to bounce back even beyond their original hopes. They had looked for a messiah to deliver them from the tyranny of Roman rule, a mere political leader as it were who would give them a good life on this earth. As Jesus opened the Sacred Scriptures to them their hearts burned within them for they realized that the deliverance from evil went way beyond the chains and oppression of this world. The Risen Christ gave them the hope and promise that they could be free from sin and have everlasting life. Notice that "he acted as if he were going farther" then the disciples freely invited him to "Stay with us." The Lord will never force his way into our lives. He shows us the truth about who he is and what he wants to offer us then he waits for us to freely invite him into our hearts and lives to be who he really is, our Lord, Our God, our All, our Savior. Our faith and hope, then, are centered in God. In this constantly changing world, the Risen Christ is our Rock and Eternal Security. Perhaps you are at a time in your life when you feel "completely defeated." If so, I would invite you to say to the Lord "Be with me Lord, Stay with me!" From this stance of prayer, I would hope that you would have a "true encounter with Christ" and experience the beauty and joy of his saving hand.
2nd Sunday of Easter 4-7-02
If you could go back to any time period for a visit, where would you go? I have asked many people this question with just as many interesting answers. One person wanted to go back to the 50's when everything seemed so "safe and simple" and the "music was tremendous." Another person wanted to go to the pre-historic period of dinosaurs as long as they could be safe. In most of these conversations I reveal to the person or group that I would love to follow the historic Jesus through his life right up to his resurrection and appearances to the twelve and the "500 brothers at once, many of whom are still alive although some have fallen asleep." The people's response to this is almost always "Why didn't I think of that!" The fact is, we must rely on the solid testimony of "those witnesses that God chose beforehand, those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead." The central proclamation of Christianity is Christ is Risen! Alleluia! This proclamation is strongly supported by such powerful passages as 1Corinthians 15, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Acts of the Apostles 10: 37-43, John 20: 19-31. These readings, which the church brings to the forefront in this Easter season, are ones rich in meaning and theology. Saints Peter, Paul, and John (along with others) are saying in essence, "We are witnesses to testify to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is not a cleverly concocted myth, or just some story to save face and to prove to the Jews and Romans that we are right. We firmly believe and profess to the point of shedding our own blood in martyrdom that Christ is Risen, not just the teaching or philosophy of Jesus rose, but the person of Jesus Christ Rose, is Alive, Alleluia! and that through faith in him you may have the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life." Peter goes on to say that even though we (you and me), have never seen him, you may firmly believe in him and accomplish faith's goal, your salvation.
Sacred Triduum 2002
"Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed." How true these words are for every one of us! That is why we call the celebration of the Lord's Supper Eucharist. Eucharist means to give thanks. We give thanks to God the Father for the saving death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ made present to us in space and time every time we celebrate the Eucharist. The cross of Calvary is uprooted and placed in our midst at every Eucharist. The one time event of salvation reaches down through the centuries to be Christ's real presence for the gathered assembly. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death Lord Jesus until you come again! The center of our spiritual life then is not whether we are worthy or not. The center, sum and summit of everything we do is the 100%, complete, absolute, and total love of God given to us in Christ. God does not ask if we are worthy as much as he asks if we are ready to receive him and with him life, love, and everlasting life. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:54 This Eucharist celebrated on the night before Christ died was made a reality on the Good Friday only to culminate on Holy Saturday with the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Christ from the dead. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN, INDEED, HE IS TRULY RISEN! I pray that this paschal mystery of the death and rising of Christ will be the center reality of your life! HAPPY EASTER!
Palm Sunday 3-24-02
The story is told of a certain popular and beloved evangelist who was once given a 10-minute standing ovation by a huge crowd in an auditorium. After the people quieted down, he approached the microphone and addressed the crowd in these words: "When Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey, he received a similar reception from a crowd filled with great praise, singing hosanna! It would have been a great mistake for the donkey to think that such a reception was meant for him!" This great man was truly humble. He realized that he was merely a donkey for the Lord and that anything great and worthy of praise is really the work of the Lord. Along with him, let us acknowledge the good work that the Lord does in and through us and praise and thank God with all our hearts
5th Sunday of Lent 3-17-02
"My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts!" Are we open to an initial belief in the Lord? Are we open to a deepening of our current belief? To believe in the Lord Jesus as God and Savior is the intent of the Gospel of John. We read in John 20:30-31, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these were written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. It reads that you may believe for those who need to initially embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and God. Other manuscripts read that you may continue to believe for those who need to deepen their already present faith in Jesus. In Today's story of Lazarus we hear Jesus saying to Martha I am the resurrection and the life...whoever believes in me will live...and never die. Then he asks Do you believe this? To which she responds Yes Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. At the end of this story we see many Jews coming to believe in Him as well. Jesus is asking you this day DO YOU BELIEVE IN ME? Please do yourself and the entire world along with all of heaven a great favor and say YES LORD, I BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE GOD, THE CHRIST, MY LORD AND MY SAVIOR!
4th Sunday of Lent 3-10-02
"God, where are you?" Have you ever prayed that? Sometimes it would be great to literally see God. Well, In Christ we do see God. "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him." John 1:18 and in another verse Jesus says to Philip "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." John 14:9 Jesus is he Incarnate Word of God. We no longer have to grasp and wonder about God. We see in Jesus our God who is willing to leave the Glory of heaven to enter into our fallen and sinful situation, to become sin itself that we might become the very holiness of God. The word incarnation literally means Christ coming to us (in) in (carnis) the flesh. From there we also move to a sacramental reality called the incarnational principle which states that God uses material sensible realities (such as water, oil, bread, wine, gestures like the laying on of hands and the sign of the cross) to mediate spiritual reality. Even Jesus made mud from soil and saliva to put on the man's eyes who was blind. The man needed that sensible reality to hook in to the grace of healing that Jesus wanted to bestow. So too for us, in the sacraments, we being people who see, feel, taste, and touch, encounter our God (who is Spirit) through the material realities. In fact, the Eucharist actually becomes the real presence of Jesus Christ himself. The Lord comes to us in our broken and hurting reality, in our blindness in order to let God's works shine forth in us.
3rd Sunday of Lent 3-3-02
July of 1978 found me at Kansas City in Arrow Head Stadium. It was the final liturgy for the annual catholic charismatic conference and it was about as hot as anyone could imagine. During the liturgy on a hot blue-sky day out of nowhere came a cloud that rested over the stadium only to drop a gentle and much welcomed rain upon us. We longed for the water to cool our overheated bodies. In fact, ambulances were carting a significant number of people off to the hospital and places of cool rest. The mass was over and I proceeded to go to the parking lot to find my ride back to Fort Dodge. The heat could be seen rising off of the asphalt parking lot. I was thirsty beyond words. I just couldn't take the heat and thirst any longer so I went and found one of the few open concession stands. I said, "Please give me a large water and a large seven up!" As I guzzled down the water, my entire parched body rejoiced. NEVER did water taste that good in my entire life (you may now get up and fetch a drink)! Sitting back in the car in the parking lot, plenty hydrated and very happy, I randomly opened my bible to two significant passages in a row. The first passage was Psalm 63. " O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless, and without water." The second passage was from Revelation. "Let him who is thirsty come forward; let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water!" Needless to say, those passages were right on! We all have this incredible thirst. We often attempt to quench this thirst by drinking the sands of the world only to find ourselves thirsting even more. Only the life giving water of God's loving presence can truly slake our thirst. This was the clear and powerful word to the Samaritan woman at the well. It is Jesus' clear word to us today.
2nd Sunday of Lent 2-24-02
Silence indeed is Golden, but the fact remains that a good portion of our day is spent in conversation. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain to non-verbally communicate to them his Divinity. He did this by being transfigured before their very eyes and literally shining forth like the sun, brilliant and bright. Jesus also communicated verbally through his words as well to Peter, James, and John and to Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets). And then of course, we have the words of the Father Himself saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." What a communication! There is no doubt that these conversations were filled with love, light, and truth. How about the conversations we engage in? Are they holy or are they unholy. Lent is a great time to re-examine our conversations to see if they in fact give glory to God by building up other people and the kingdom of God. One thing that we should really give up for lent and every other day of the year for that matter are the sins of Gossip and Slander. Gossip is the spreading of the truth about another person that mare or wrecks their reputation. Sometimes people say "Well, It's true so I can say it!" This is not true! Slander is the spreading of lies or speculation or half-truths about someone that hurts them. Please note that there is nothing wrong with news. News is information about someone that is either neutral or even up building. "So and so is going to Creighton University because they are so smart!" I would dare say that there is hardly anything more destructive to the morale of a community than gossip or slander. It is an infection that needs to be driven out through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Gospel of Matthew is very clear about what to do. If you have something against someone go to them and point out their fault but keep it between the two of you. If he doesn't listen bring in another so that there can be two or three witnesses. If he still doesn't listen, refer him to the church. And if he doesn't listen to the church treat him like a tax collector or a gentile. (Matthew 18:15-17) It is not just a matter of giving up slander and gossip. It is also a matter of making sure that our conversations are glowing with faith, hope, and love, words that flow from a person who is truly connected to the living and loving God.
1st Sunday of Lent 2-17-02
As a young boy whenever I heard the word LENT I always thought of LINT under my bed. It conjured up images of dust bunnies under my bed, lowly and gray, that would eventually hop out at Easter. This really isn't too far from the truth. What image does the word lent bring to your mind? LENT is a Middle English word meaning spring. It is that period between the cold, dead, and gray period of winter, and the warm, alive color of Easter. Just as spring, Lent is a time of great hope where we who die now rise to new life. We go with Jesus himself into the desert to fast, pray, and do battle against the devil, only to come out filled with the Spirit and empowered to love!
Lent is a time to stop denying and projecting our sin. Denial is the act of not owning up to our sin. Then we project that sin on to others in Judgment. It is time to acknowledge our sin, NOT so that we will wallow in shame and guilt, but so that we can be free. "Through one transgression (Adam) condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act (Jesus), acquittal and life came to all." It is also time to sweep our own side of the street. Every time we point a finger, three are pointing back at us (unless you have a strange way of pointing)!
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2-10-02
Jesus says to us "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." Yet, there are so many days when we may feel so dull and unable to shine! The following suggestions may help your light to shine brighter and stronger:
1. Humbly ask God for forgiveness: Lets face it, our good deeds are one of the main ways that we concretely show forth our light. Therefore, when the mud of sin or bad deeds is plastered on our light we need to be cleansed of our sin. A very sincere and heartfelt act of contrition is usually good enough for this. However, sometimes we may need a more intense cleansing and high polishing through the actual sacrament of reconciliation. We read in 1 John 1:6-7,9 "If we say 'We have fellowship with him,' while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of his son Jesus cleanses us from all sin...If we acknowledge our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us fro m all wrongdoing." If you feel dull and anxious, like something just isn't quite right, perhaps its time to be honest with your life and be free in Jesus Christ!
2. Get back to daily prayer: The battery that runs our light is our heart. The way to re-charge your heart is to plug into the source of all light, love, joy, peace, and power. Remember what you have heard before...NO PRAYER, NO POWER; SOME PRAYER, SOME POWER; A LOT OF PRAYER, A LOT OF POWER. Put simply, prayer works. When you first put a battery in a charger it doesn't seem to do the trick right away. You need substantial time. If you take God seriously, he will take you seriously and your life will be filled with his power and light. You can take about recharging your batteries until you are blue in the face, but it won't happen until you walk over to the charger and actually put the batteries in. JUST DO IT!!
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2-3-02
Humility is the supernatural (God Given) virtue (a good habit) by which one attains the correct perception of one's relationship with God. (Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Dictionary). Humility is the ability to see that God is God and we are not! Saint Teresa of Avila, a doctor or teacher of the church, says that humility is truth. The truth is that "In God we live and move, and have our being..." (Acts of the Apostles) and as Jesus tell us in the 15th Chapter of John "I am the vine and you are the branches…Apart from me you can do nothing." We are totally reliant upon God for everything. It is very clear that the humble are very pleasing to God. "So humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" 1 Peter 5:6. There is a very beautiful passage in Isaiah 57:15 which says "For thus says the Lord who is high and exalted... on high I dwell and with the crushed and dejected in spirit." " O happy he whose heart can break and peace and pardon win, how else may man make straight his path and cleanse his soul from sin, How else but through a broken heart may the Lord Christ enter in." (Gerard McGinnity) Our response to failure can be that of Judas (Despair and ruin) or that of Saint Peter (humble repentance leading to Glowing Sainthood!" The choice is yours.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 1-27-02
Do you consider your life to be precious? I certainly hope so! Given that your life is precious, just WHEN did it start to become precious? Perhaps when you finished law school with a degree MAGNA CUM LAUDE? Perhaps right at birth? So when did you start to become precious? Even before your birth? You were already precious and valuable at nine months. What about 8 months? Yes! What about at 6 months and 25 days? Sure! Were you precious at 5 months? 4. 3. 2. 1. Yes!! I would like to propose that you were even precious at a week, a day, and yes, at the very moment of conception! You were Precious in the mind and heart of God even before conception "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you!" (Jeremiah 1:5) God, who is love, loved you into existence. THERE IS NO SUCH A THING AS AN ACCIDENT.
The seed of the man is living but it is not yet human life. The egg of a woman is living but it is not yet human life. However, at the very moment of conception the living seed of the man and the living egg of the woman are joined together to form a human person, human life, and a living soul. There is not half of a person there, not one fourth of a person, one eighth of a soul. There is an entire soul around which a human body will grow and develop. Once you were not and now you are. Once there was no being, now there is being. Praise God for the preciousness of your life!
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 1-20-02
Terrorism can be defined as a "systematic and methodic way of committing violence against the unsuspecting and innocent." On September 11th 2001, The twin towers were filled with many innocent and unsuspecting citizens. As the terrorists flew into the buildings some 4,000 people were murdered within a very short time. Americans were rightly and justly shocked, numbed, and outraged at these happenings. Abortion is also a systematic and methodic way of committing violence against the unsuspecting and innocent human beings in the womb. We certainly need to put an end to terrorism in all it's forms which also includes abortion. Interesting enough is the fact that since roe vs wade in 1973 which legalized abortion, there have been a little more that 40,000,000 abortions which would come to almost 1,500,000 a year and 4,000 a day, the same number of people lost on September 11th. Mother Teresa once said that America will rise or fall on the issue of abortion.
Baptism of the Lord 1-13-02
Baptism of the Lord. You wouldn't think that Jesus would need to be baptized. After all, he is God. However, it is important to note that none of the persons of the Trinity act alone. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. Between them lives the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit. John Baptizes Jesus, the Spirit comes upon him, and the voice of the Father is heard saying, "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests." When Jesus acts, it is in the will and power of the Father and the Spirit. Where one leaves off, the other begins but no one can tell where that line is because they are one. The three persons of the one God act in complete and total oneness and unity. It is this oneness and unity of love and life of which we will all share for eternity.
Epiphany of the Lord 1-6-02
O Christian, if your heart is happy will you kindly inform your face! This doesn't mean that we walk around with a phony grin all day. It DOES mean that the peace, love, and joy of the Lord is gently and genuinely reflected not only on our face but in the whole manner of how we carry ourselves. Thomas Merton, the celebrated trappist monk and author once said that he could tell everything about a new aspiring monk to the monastery just by the way he closed a door. This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the EPIPHANY which means the revelation or manifestation of Christ. Literally, It means to "shine light upon". The star of Bethlehem shone down upon Christ revealing him to the nations as the Savior of the world. Now Jesus, the light of the world makes known and reveals God to the entire world (represented by the Magi). Since we have been filled with the Spirit of Christ we too manifest Christ to the world by the light of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.