Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Church is our Prophet and more powerful than we know (Sunday homily)

 The readings give us an opportunity to talk about what a prophet is.

But it’s also about who we are.

In the first reading, when Moses says a “prophet” 

would come after him, this doesn’t refer only to one person, but many. 

Of course, there were many prophets that came after Moses.

Many were great figures, like Isaiah, others tragic, like Samson.

Notice also, the Gospel shows us something 

you never saw anywhere before in Scripture. 

None of the Old Testament prophets 

ever exercised authority over demons. 

Only Jesus Christ does this. 

It’s a powerful sign that he is, of course, 

more than just a prophet, but God himself, become man.

A third point: after Jesus comes, there are no more prophets.

Instead, the Lord calls the Apostles; 

and they are the foundation of the Church.

They go out in his name and they, too have authority over demons.

To this day, this is an attribute of the Church.

Let me highlight that again: 

none of the prophets had this power over evil – but the Church does.

So that makes clear who has the authority in the world today,

Not only of a prophet, but of an Apostle, and really, of Jesus himself:

And it is his Body, the Church.

Now, I realize that as soon as I say that, 

people think of the weaknesses of so many bishops, 

so many disappointments, and it’s hard to believe what I’m saying. 

But I want to draw out a few things here.

First, don’t fail to see how much of Christ’s power is at work, right now,

through the Church.

Every time a baby is baptized, evil is cast out.

Every confession does the same.

Meanwhile, every day the Mass is offered 

and the Word of God is shared, 

both at Mass and in so many other ways.

And there is nothing more powerful 

than the Mass and the Word of God.

When you pray, you are as powerful as you will ever be.

That’s true because of the Holy Spirit you received in baptism!

It’s funny, in a way, because when people underestimate 

the reality of the spiritual power at work in the Church, 

they are doing exactly what people did to Jesus himself! 

People will complain about the bishops not being tough enough, 

and I’m not arguing with you. 

But it strikes me as odd to say, “because the bishops are weak, 

I’m turning away from what is really strong about the Church” – 

and that is the sacraments.

Here’s another point. If the Church is weak in many ways,

blame the bishops or the priests, sure; 

but the Church is 99% laypeople. 

You are where the bishops and priests come from. 

I’m not excusing leaders for not leading;

but so many people say, “oh father, 

if you just say something, people will do what you tell them.”

Oh, I wish I had that power! But I don’t!

It’s so much easier to say, it’s the bishops, it’s the priests, 

it’s the media, it’s big business, it’s the government…

But I think G.K. Chesterton got it right.

When asked, “What’s wrong with the Church?” He said, “I am.”

None of us has any hope of fixing what’s wrong in other people.

What you and I can do – and what we hate to do, 

that’s why we’d rather point elsewhere – is to change ourselves!

So if you want the Church to be a more powerful prophet in the world,

you need look no further than the mirror.

You and I both.

If you want to be spiritually powerful, if you want to combat evil,

Go to confession. 

Make your morning offering every day.

Your battle for daily holiness – and mine – 

is the front lines, it’s not somewhere else.

Of course, this is often tedious and feels pointless.

The soldier in the trenches can easily say, 

“It doesn’t seem like we are getting anywhere, 

none of this makes any sense” – 

right up until the day the war is finally won.

There is a Prophet in our world. It’s Us! It’s you.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Being generous is not foolish (Sunday homily)

 The first reading is from the Book of Jonah. 

If you have never read the whole book of Jonah, you can easily do it; 

it’s very short and it’s very funny.

When God first calls Jonah to go to Nineveh 

and call them to repentance, the prophet runs away. 

Why? You can find out in the last part of the book: 

Jonah knew God would end up forgiving the people – if they repented – 

and Jonah felt foolish having gone through all that.

Which raises a point: sometimes doing the right thing 

can make you and me feel foolish.

So, for example, someone comes to you and gives an apology, 

and you accept it. 

People around you say, “oh don’t be so foolish, that person’s fake! 

She’ll turn on you again.” 

And sure enough, that’s what happens. Was it foolish to forgive?

Which raises the question: is God foolish? 

To be good to those who ignore him? 

To forgive and forgive and forgive? 

God has forgiven me in confession more times than I can count – 

how about you? Should God stop being so generous?

To choose to be generous – with our time, 

with our talents and our money and other resources – 

is, purely and simply, the right thing to do. 

In doing so, you and I are imitating God. 

If you give food to a street person in Dayton, 

maybe he will throw it away, or trade it for drugs. You don’t know. 

But God knows exactly what everyone of us will do 

with the gifts he gives us – and yet God gives abundantly:

Above all, giving himself to us on the Cross!

It is not that we don’t want to be prudent; but in the end, 

it is simply a good idea to be generous; 

and I mean that in the broadest sense, not only with stuff, 

but above all, ourselves.

Today throughout the 19 counties of the Archdiocese, 

we are kicking off the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal. 

Archbishop Schnurr sends out a recorded message,

 which some parishes will play instead of the homily. 

I don’t do that; instead, I try to give my own homily, 

drawing on the Archbishop’s message.

Let me remind you of the good works you make happen with this fund:

- Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services 

- Hospital, campus, and prison ministries;  

- Stronger evangelization efforts; 

- St. Rita School for the Deaf; 

- The seminary and vocation programs; 

- and our retired archdiocesan priests. 

To quote the Archbishop, 

“ Despite … tremendous obstacles and setbacks 

that many donors themselves encountered last year, 

the 2020 CMA campaign exceeded its fund-raising goal of $5 million…

“Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services 

provide emergency food assistance, including drive-through options, 

to meet the increasing needs of families. 


“Hospital chaplains remain a vital, physical presence 

for those they serve, especially when 

family members were not permitted to visit.


“And our retired Archdiocesan priests, 

while a part of the high-risk population for COVID-19, 

continued to serve as they are able, helping with Masses, 

the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and more.”

Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll get a letter 

inviting you to take part. 

Also we’ll have some envelopes in the pews in a couple of weeks. 

Every year Saint Remy parishioners are generous – thank you! – 

and we exceed our goal. 

You should know that when we go above the goal, 

some of that comes back to our parish 

and helps pay for our programs for our kids.

The past 10 months have been pretty bumpy and stressful.

But one thing has stayed constant: you’ve been generous in helping people in need. 

And that’s an encouraging thing.

Let’s stay steady on that path. It’s not a foolish thing to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

How would Saint Remy have handled Joe Biden?

 Today we celebrate our parish patron, Saint Remy. 

His day actually falls on January 13, 

but we’re allowed to shift the celebration to a nearby Sunday, 

and that’s what we do every year.

Saint Remy – or Remigius as he would have called himself, 

and that name, by the way, appears outside

on the stone up in the front wall of our church; 

if you’ve never noticed, go look at it after Mass! – 

lived at a time of great social and political upheaval. 

So while I am not saying our situation is exactly the same, 

I think he would have understood the anxieties 

lots of people face right now. He is a good saint for our times.

What Remigius had to deal with was, as I say,

really worse than our situation. His world was falling apart. 

And yes, I know some think that’s what you and I are facing now. 

I don’t agree, but there’s no point in arguing.

If that’s what you think – or if you know people who feel that way – 

then that’s where St. Remy can teach us some things.

In Bishop Remigius’ time, his homeland of Gaul – present day France – 

passed from being Roman to being part of the new Frankish Kingdom. 

Imagine driving through town one day, 

and where the U.S. flag was flying 

at the post office and the school yesterday, 

a new, foreign flag has taken it’s place. 

That gives you a sense of what the folks went through then, 

along with war and chaos along the way.

Now here’s the point, here’s what matters: How did Bishop Remy react? 

He kept his focus on his mission, 

which was basically the same no matter the situation: 

stay close to Jesus Christ, and be a witness to Jesus Christ!

So let’s just talk about what has so many people on edge right now. 

After a long and weird battle in the courts and on Twitter, 

leading to shameful events at the U.S. Capitol a couple of weeks ago, 

the question of who will be our next president is settled: 

it will be Joseph Biden. 

It’s no secret he didn’t get many votes around here, 

and the reasons are obvious: 

he takes terrible positions on so many issues. 

He is completely in favor of abortion on demand 

and he supports the redefinition of marriage.  

These positions, of course, are entirely contrary to the Catholic Faith, 

in which Mr. Biden was baptized and which he still professes.

Now, I am very tempted to make some observations 

about the political situation, but that will swallow up my homily, 

and that’s not why I’m here. 

Mr. Biden certainly wants to do some bad things, 

such as providing a lot more tax money for abortion, 

and that would be very bad; 

but you and I won’t be silent when he tries 

and I think he will have a tough fight if he goes down that road. 

There’s no reason to be fatalistic and just get panicky.

Meanwhile, other people are worked up; angry; losing sleep; frightened; paralyzed.

But this is not how Remigius reacted!

Saint Remy reached out to the new arrivals, the Franks. 

He befriended their leader, Clovis. 

And the result is on display in this window, right by Saint Joseph: 

Through the influence of his wife, St. Clotilde, and Remy, 

King Clovis was baptized. That changed everything that came after.

No matter what happens, your mission and mine 

fundamentally doesn’t change. We bear witness. 

I don’t blame anyone for feeling badly 

about the outcome of the election, but maybe it’s time to move on? 

Given the challenges ahead, does it do any good to lose sleep 

and get into angry conversations? How does this help? 

Especially the anger? How does that help?

Here’s an idea I have. Let’s notice something: 

Mr. Biden is – despite his terrible positions on several issues –

 a baptized, confirmed Catholic. And he goes regularly to Mass. 

He should not be receiving Holy Communion 

until he repents of his stance against these teachings of the Faith, 

but I am in favor of him going to Mass as often as possible; aren’t you?

Here’s something else. Notice who his patron saint is: Saint Joseph. 

And what did Pope Francis do a few weeks ago? 

Declare this a special Year of St. Joseph! Coincidence?

So here’s my idea. How about, starting today, 

you and I beg the intercession of St. Joseph, 

for our incoming president, also named Joseph?

Let’s pray for the conversion of his heart, 

and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in him.

Doesn’t that sound like something St. Remy would do?

Thursday, January 07, 2021

There are worse things...

There are worse things than losing an election.

There are worse things than losing an election that is stolen.*

For example, losing your soul. And one way you lose your soul is to affirm as good what only weeks before, you declared was evil. What happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was evil; how do I know? Because it was evil when it happened in Portland, Oregon, over many months; and when it happened in Seattle and Minneapolis and in Washington, D.C., and in many other places last year, under the auspices of Antifa and "Black Lives Matter." 

Oh, you say the media and various politicians are hypocritical? Of course they are! But why do you make their hypocrisy your own?

When people argue, "well, they did it first," I recall trying that exact argument with my parents when I was 7 years old. They didn't buy it; no parents ever do.

There are people who are greatly discouraged about election results, especially the outcome in Georgia. Keep perspective. Elections go as they go; and if you think this is the first time anyone claimed there was widespread fraud, I refer you to the election of 1960, or how about the 1876 election? Check that one out. I don't blame people for not knowing history, but if you don't know much history, please stop with the histrionics about how our situation is the "worst EVER!" 

Also, let's actually review:

Former Vice President Joe Biden's victory is pretty narrow; not a landslide. You know who won by a landslide? Lyndon Baines Johnson: what an epic disaster he was! But we survived; and the political pendulum swung another way.

Even after putatively winning both U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, the Democratic Party has exactly 50 vote in the U.S. Senate; and they lost major ground in the U.S. House; this is an extremely fragile majority. It will be very hard for President-elect Biden to pass very much. In theory, if every single Democrat sticks together, they can enact almost anything. That's not very likely.


In the states, the GOP gained ground in controlling legislatures; that has implications for redistricting.

The courts are in the best shape they've been in for a long time, thanks to much better nominees from President Trump. Yes, of course Biden will name his judges, but Trump had a unique opportunity, as a result of a large number of vacancies, particularly in the appellate courts; Biden inherits, I believe, exactly zero appellate court vacancies. And, of course, Trump made a big impact on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Are you worried about election shenanigans? They didn't happen everywhere; and if you want a political environment favorable to addressing them, this is as good as you're going to get. Do you know what state did not have problems this time? Florida. Why? Because after the fiasco of 2000, the legislature fixed things. Now is the time for Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan to do the same. And guess what? The GOP is well positioned in many of those places, and guess what else? There's an election in two years, and I would expect the GOP, if it is smart and mobilized, to make gains again.

And spare me the claim that there won't ever be another free election. Just have some soothing tea and cookies and calm down. 

President Donald Trump, in my judgment, had an extraordinarily successful term. However, he governed in a remarkably chaotic way, and his public statements and representations were especially so. I'd say at this point, he really shot himself in the foot in the last few months. For him and his team to be caught unprepared for whatever election fraud may have happened -- and to have failed utterly to have a legal strategy -- is all on him. And while he is not responsible for the violent behavior of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol -- I think it's pretty clear many of them were not even Trump supporters, but who knows for sure? -- he is responsible for organizing and supporting a massive rally, and saying, let's go to the Capitol, and then it blew up in his face. There is, thankfully, a very short list of incidents of people attacking the U.S. Capitol; but now included in that list will be reference to "Trump supporters" doing so, on the day that his defeat for re-election was finally determined. That is something he did to himself.

If I were advising President Trump, I'd say, "it's never too late to learn to be disciplined in your message"; but I am doubtful he's going to learn that lesson at this late date. The GOP really isn't impossibly stupid and they will, before very long, move into opposition to Biden; but they weren't going to do it while their supposed allies were breaking into the Capitol! And they aren't going to do it in the next few weeks when Biden takes his victory lap. Let him have his victory lap; it won't be long before all that fades and he actually has to do something. Blaming Trump won't work out very well for long, and as I said already, his field of action is very limited. He can issue executive orders (which can be overturned by his successor, and may be struck down by the courts). When Trump is out of the picture, the political landscape will change. Take some deep breaths and be patient.

Meanwhile, before and after all this is whether you have any faith, and what you have faith in. If you have faith in God, then learn to accept that God is more patient than you (and I!) want him to be. And consider also that what God considers a successful outcome isn't the same for us. God's will will prevail. That is certain. Whether your will, or mine, or any other creature's, will prevail? Very different.

Remember the words of our Lord: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul"? Keep your soul. Keep to the law of love above all things.

Oh, and for all those on the left who suddenly discovered that rioting and intimidation is wrong? Welcome to the fight.

* I'm not really interested in litigating whether the 2020 election was stolen; but I'm addressing this point to people who are convinced that it was.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

'See the light; be the light' (Epiphany homily)

 This is going to sound hokey, but: 

the title of my homily is: “See the light – be the light.”

We start with the Magi, these Wise Men, these seekers, in the Gospel. 

They saw the light. A star caught their attention, and they followed it.

God has a lot of ways to get our attention. 

It may not have happened to you, but it has happened to a lot of us. 

A lot of folks here can remember a time when God set them straight, 

turned them around, answered a prayer. 


When I was 19, I was in my first year of college, 

and I was at a point in my life 

when I was starting really to ask questions about God, 

about being a Christian. And I was going to a Bible study. 

And out of the blue, I heard Christ speak in my heart. 

I can’t really put it into words, but it was clear: 

he was calling me to follow him, 

just like he did with Peter and Andrew, James and John and others.

That was my experience; other people have different experiences.

One way or the other, God gets your attention.

For these Seekers in the Gospel, it was a star. 

They saw the light, and they followed it.

And that light brought you here, whether you realize it or not.

But notice what the other readings talked about. 

Isaiah told us that the Light would shine first on his people, Israel. 

But then, the light would shine to the world. 

How does the Light reach the whole world? That’s your part, and mine.

The Magi did their part; later the Apostles, 

and those who knew them; 

and generation by generation, the light has been passed to you.

Children, do you know what happened when you were baptized? 

The priest handed a light – a lit candle – to your godparent. 

And that godparent’s job, with your parents and family, 

is to get that light of faith into your hands, so it’s not theirs, 

but yours.

That candle stands for the light you and I receive in baptism, 

and no matter what anyone says or does, 

nothing can put it out, only you and I can do that.

And, thankfully, if we do, God gives us back that light 

when we go to confession. God wants us filled with light.

Each one of us is then that light someone else needs to see!

Be the light. Let it happen in you.

You and I will not know, until eternity, 

how even the smallest words or actions of ours 

can set great things in motion. 

When you are out and about, eating a meal, don’t be afraid 

to make the sign of the cross and say grace. 

It’s a small thing, but powerful.

We’re giving out blessed chalk today with a prayer, 

so you can mark your house as belonging to Christ. 

It’s a nice old tradition, and if you have kids, they’ll love it. 

It’s a reminder that each year belongs to Jesus:

This is the year of the Lord, 2021.

Small acts of kindness; everyday faithfulness, 

when witnessed by others, over time 

become a blazing sign of God’s grace.

You and I are here: we have followed the light, 

whether we knew it or not, here we are. 

Christ brought you here to change you.

To be light through you.