Sunday, October 24, 2021

A homily about hope (30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

These readings highlight the virtue of hope. 

The first reading is all about hope for the remnant of God’s People. 

And the blind man in the Gospel hopes for a miracle, so he can see.

Hope is about what you cannot see, what seems impossible. 

That’s what Saint Paul says in his letter to the Romans: 

when you see it, when you have it in front of you, that’s not hope.

So, question: how are you doing on hope?

I ask because there are various concerns and anxieties 

weighing people down these days: 

the way the government is handling matters, 

the rising cost of living, 

the employment situation, 

Covid and vaccine mandates,

the plight of Americans and our friends left behind in Afghanistan; 

and if that’s not enough, there’s always the fears generated 

by the Archdiocese’s reorganization project which they’ve cheerfully named…”

Beacons of Hope Light”!*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing that off; just noting the humor.

Anyway, let’s talk about hope.

Hope isn’t about when things are going your way.

It comes into play precisely when the wheels are falling off!

Jeremiah’s beautiful words of hope 

were given to his people at the moment they were facing annihilation, 

the destruction of their country.

Bartimaeus inspires us, but he’d been blind since birth.

He was a penniless beggar, and his hope was for a miracle.

It ended well, but it raises a question:

If you’re worked up about a problem, are you as serene as Bartimaeus? 

If not, why not?

My point isn’t to promise everyone a miracle, 

but to illustrate the courage of Bartimaeus’ hope. 

Where does that hope come from? How do you achieve it?

Remember, hope is one of the “theological” virtues – 

Faith, Hope and Love – that come from God and it make us like God. 

So if you want hope, as the Holy Spirit for hope.

And I mean, more than just once, or once in a while.

Ask, ask, and ask 100 more times. Keep asking.

A second point: just because what we hope for isn’t seen, 

doesn’t mean we don’t see causes for hope, or signs giving us hope.

Bartimaeus was blind, but his hope was not:

he didn’t pick Jesus at random.

He’d heard things about Jesus that gave him reasons for hope.

So if you aren’t experiencing hope, 

then may I suggest you start looking around for reasons for hope.

If necessary, take a half hour, and a pencil and paper, 

and start writing down everything that is a sign or a cause for hope.

This is really old-fashioned advice, but it works.

Everyone here knows you can put a lot of things on that page.

A big part of Jeremiah’s message is that true, lasting hope 

isn’t in political power or prosperity, but in having God in their hearts.

Or, you could say, it’s not real estate but relationship.

It wasn’t about the land they longed for, 

but having their hearts and God’s heart fused together. 

That is the only sure ground for hope!

Now: stop and realize that what was merely hope for Jeremiah 

is not hope for us, because we have it! 

The new and everlasting covenant!

God came, became one of us, took a heart of flesh and blood,

and offered himself for us.

You and I have Him in the Mass, in the Eucharist, in our hearts!

“I am with you always,” Jesus said, “until the end of the world!”

You and I don’t have to hope for this – we HAVE this!

Nothing and no one can take this from us.

Remember Bartimaeus and remember what they said to him:

“Take courage. Get up. Jesus is calling you.”

* Of course it's "Beacons of Light," my mistake.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Treasure for Treasure (Sunday homily)

 I want to say something about the annual financial report, 

which is included in today’s bulletin, 

but that won’t be the main subject of my homily. 

Once a year I address this topic because 

I want you to know your pastor pays attention to such matters.

And I want you to see for yourself how everything is handled,

that your parish handles your money carefully – and where it goes.

What is given in the bulletin is only a summary; 

there is a far more detailed report that is prepared every year, 

and anyone who wants to see it is welcome to.

If you want to see that, or you have any questions, just let me know.

Some years it is necessary to ask your help to close a deficit; 

or there are unexpected expenses that need explaining. 

Despite all that is crazy in the world around us,

this year, St. Remy’s finances lately are happily boring.

So it really is just a coincidence that I’m talking about the budget 

on the same Sunday Jesus says, “give all your money away”!

Thank you for your generous support, 

which keeps our parish financially stable 

and pays the bills for all we do at St. Remy.

I am confident you see the value of what we’re doing, 

and you want to keep it going.

What the Scripture readings invite us to do is ask:

what truly is my most valuable possession?

There aren’t very many people who actually admit

that money and wealth are what matter most to them.

And yet it happens – more than we want to admit.

Not all of us to give away all our wealth.

Jesus knew that’s what the young man in front of him needed. 

For the rest of us: how do we learn to love our possessions less?

Let me offer a few suggestions.

Parents, if you aren’t doing it already, think about how your children – 

no matter how young they are – can learn to be less materialistic.

They may not yet know the value of money, 

but I bet they have stuff they love, maybe too much? 

What could they give away?

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your kids’ requests for stuff.

My poor parents, I don’t know how they did it, but at some point – 

with seven kids – they learned not to be manipulated by our dramatics.

My dad was actually fine with me having whatever I wanted. 

He would smile and say, “save your money and buy it!” 

May I also suggest trying to have a budget. 

Financial advisors always say, “pay yourself first,” 

meaning, save for the future.

As your soul advisor, I suggest you pay God first.

Have some idea of what you will give away, in money or time.

It doesn’t have to be a large amount; start small.

I know a man who has been tremendously successful in business 

and years ago, he decided he would plan things 

so that he gave all his money away by the time he died. 

How he’s working that out I don’t know. 

But one consequence was that he started 

giving away more than he had before.

It changed how he thought about money.

He started thinking more about the good it could do for others;

and above all, about the true treasure he has in Jesus Christ.

The lesson here isn’t just about money,

it’s about no longer being blind to whatever we value more than Jesus.

And seeing the young man turn away raises another point:

you and I never know what the road not taken would lead to.

If I give up a bad habit, I realize my life will be better, 

but how much better?

If I no longer spend hours absorbed with the Internet, 

where will that time go instead? To my faith?

To my spouse or my kids? What difference might that make?

Once again: what is really the most important thing to you?

Who is most important? 

What will you give up to have that treasure?

Saturday, October 02, 2021

The Family of Parishes & the Family as God created (Sunday homily)

 Obviously everyone is talking about the announcement Friday 

of the proposed “family” of parishes, of which St. Remy will be part.

That “family” will be made up of the following parishes: 

Saint Louis in North Star and St. Nicholas in Osgood, 

Holy Family in Frenchtown, St. Denis in Versailles, St. Remy, 

Immaculate Conception in Bradford, and St. Mary in Greenville.

There will be three priests in total, one of them as pastor.

There are several things I ask you to keep in mind.

First, this arrangement is not set in stone. 

The Archbishop is planning to make a final decision in November.

Second, we don’t know which priests will be assigned to this family.

I hope to stay here, and I’ve offered to be pastor.

But that won’t be known until February or so.

Third, I know everyone is going to have so many questions, 

many, or most, of which I won’t be able to answer.

I don’t know if I’ll be the pastor, 

and someone else might handle it a different way.

Also, it’s REALLY important that everyone 

in all these communities is included BEFORE decisions are made.

So I can’t start spouting off before that happens, you understand?

Please be patient when I keep saying, I don’t know! We’ll get there. 

Of course everyone is going to have different reactions:

maybe shock or anger or disappointment or worry. 

My reaction was actually relief; because now we know.

We can move forward; less uncertainty is better than more.

Here’s my view of the overall map for all 19 counties.

There are some arrangements that are ridiculously large –

such as in Logan, Champaign and Clarke counties –

while many of the parishes in Cincinnati, 

including the Cathedral, are being handled with kid gloves. 

That said, when it comes to our arrangement here,

this is as Goldilocks might say, “not too hot, and not too cold.”

I strongly encourage you to go to the Archdiocese website

and leave comments on the plan. You can write a letter as well.

Be clear, be specific, be constructive, be courteous.

As mentioned, there will be three priests for this new family.

Right now, there are five; so obviously, 

the daily and Sunday Mass schedules will have to change,

and that will likely have to happen by July.

So, you should be prepared to hear a lot more,

and we’ll figure out how everyone can give input in the new year.

I understand this is all a lot to take in.

I want you to know I intend to keep you well informed and also,

I intend to do everything I can to make this work. 

And if we ALL are flexible and cooperate, we WILL make it work.

At the same time, each of the individual parish communities

has its own identity and gifts, and no one wants to lose that.

That’s why the term “family of parishes” is well chosen.

In a family, we are not all carbon copies of each other.

There’s room for a lot of diversity and differences – BUT:

in a family, we aren’t all Lone Rangers, on our own.

In a family, we keep our own personalities, but stick together. 

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” and one of the special things 

about this larger community is that so many have a heart 

for the unborn child and for their mothers 

who sometimes don’t have the help and support they need.

Meanwhile, the readings are all about the true nature of family:

a man and a woman, together for life, 

cooperating with God who alone gives life.

Notice: today, every detail of this divine design is under attack:

Man-woman; together-for-life; cooperate with God.

Also notice that every detour from God’s plan, 

while it seems to bring happiness, ultimately fails to do so.

Jesus mentions divorce. That’s too complex for this homily.

To state what used to be obvious: 

every effort should be made to avoid divorce.

I’ve seen both parties try very hard to heal things – and it works! 

Not without pain, and not without great patience and forgiveness.

On the other hand, sometimes a civil divorce can’t be avoided.

And the Church teaches that there can be situations – 

involving violence, abuse, danger to the children, or financial ruin – 

where a spouse is justified in seeking a legal separation. 

What Jesus is saying is that a decision by a judge – a court ruling – 

can only change the legal, this-world relationship.

But marriage is more than a legal contract,

and everyone knows that’s true; because even after a divorce,

there are still relationships and responsibilities, 

particularly involving children. 

I also want to say to anyone who has been through a divorce:

sometimes you think you can’t be Catholic anymore. Not true!

Rather than try to deal with all the questions here, just call me!

I’m not going to shake my finger at you. 

I’ll be very glad to clear up misconceptions, and help any way I can.

As you’ve noticed, we’ve talked about family a couple of ways.

I know there are negatives to this parish reorganization, 

and we will just have to sit with that for a bit.

But at some point, you and I have to get on to the task – 

forgive the repetition – of being a family.

Meaning, we’ll have our arguments and push and shove,

but we’re a family; we are in this together. 

The reason the family exists – I mean both the natural family 

and the spiritual family, which we call the Church – 

is to be God’s image in the world and to bring God’s life into the world.