Sunday, January 29, 2023

Meekness and humility; injustice and grace (Sunday homily)

Let’s talk about some of the words we heard in the readings.

If we are honest, we may doubt whether “meekness” 

is always a virtue. As we know, the meek get pushed around a lot.

Yet Jesus not only rewards the meek, 

but in another passage, he calls himself “meek and humble of heart.”


This is a good time to be clear about something.

There is a terrible, false idea out there about “accepting” abuse. 

Sometimes kids are told that’s what they are supposed to do. 

Sometimes girlfriends and wives think they are supposed to do that.

Let me state in the strongest terms: 

NO ONE is EVER supposed to put up with abuse. 

Our teachers, our principal at school, 

not only Bishop Leibold but any school, know how to help. 

Ask a trusted adult, ask a friend, to help you get help. 

Ask me, if you don’t know who to ask. 

And I want to add that anyone who has authority will be accountable to God 

for misusing that authority: pastor, parent or police officer. (Added at Mass.)

Jesus chose to endure the injustice of the Cross. 

It is a profound mystery, which each Lent we delve into.

There is a deep truth in the words of Isaiah, 

“by his stripes we are healed.” 

But Jesus did not endure injustice to say injustice was OK, 

but to stand with us in our suffering. 

Jesus chose to become lowly and poor and even despised, 

so that there wouldn’t be any single person who could say, 

“Jesus doesn’t know what I go through.”

Jesus, with us on our personal Cross, gives us courage 

not only to endure wrongs, but also to challenge them.

It is Jesus’ grace that has helped us, down the generations, 

to confront and overcome injustice. 

Often, it is precisely the weak and lowly who teach us how to do that.

Let’s talk about humility. 

True humility is not demeaning yourself, but rather, accepting yourself, 

being at peace with yourself, both in the gifts you and I do have, 

and the gifts we don’t have. 

Who I am, who you are, is not defined 

by money or position or any particular talent or ability, 

but by the supreme gift of being God’s children, and knowing that.

This allows you and me to face our weaknesses, 

and admit our sinful choices, 

because when I know God loves me, and offers me grace to change, 

my self-image isn’t threatened by confessing: “I am a sinner.” 

Rather, that confession becomes the doorway to salvation 

and true greatness as God measures it. In a word: heaven.

Then comes gratitude. I am not only at peace with myself; 

I can be grateful for who I am. 

I am not this or that person who is richer, thinner, 

more athletic or more artistic or more of anything else. 

I am me; you are you; and by God’s design, there is only ONE of you. 

God considers each of us important parts of his Creation; 

or else he wouldn’t have included us. No one is an accident. 

All this leads both to the Cross and beyond, to resurrection. 

Dying to pride and self-regard is how we are reborn 

as grateful sinners being changed, day by day, into glorious saints. 

And that, by the way, is the central reality of this and every Mass. 

Not just about the glory ahead, 

but the suffering and wrongs of now, which Jesus shares with us. 

To be baptized, to renew baptism in confession 

and to share in the Holy Eucharist as a Catholic, is to say: 

God made me, God saves me. I abandon myself into his hands. 

Every flaw and sin is an opportunity to be made glorious by his grace. 

To that journey and destination, you and I say yes and amen!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Beacons...of the Kingdom (Sunday homily)

 I want to call your attention to the second reading.

Am I the only one that smiles when it is read?

Saint Paul says, I hear there are divisions among you!

That could be any parish in any place in the world, from then to now!

It’s reassuring to know that some problems are as old as the hills – 

it takes the pressure off.

As we all know by now, Saint Mary, Saint Henry 

and Our Lady of Good Hope are now part of a “family of parishes.” 

And where Paul had to reprove the Corinthian Catholics about rivalries, 

I am very happy to give a commendation:

Our three parish families have been very cooperative 

as we move to being one parish family.

I hear this and that about the challenges other parishes are facing; 

I cannot emphasize enough how much your openness has helped!

Let me highlight an example: when St. Mary suffered a flood 

from the overhead sprinkler system on Christmas Eve, 

there was nothing but support and encouragement 

from folks at Our Lady of Good Hope and Saint Henry. 

No one hear complained about having to attend Mass 

at either St. Henry or Our Lady of Good Hope.

We were able to accommodate religious education classes 

at Bishop Leibold School for a couple of Wednesdays; no complaints.

Good news: starting this weekend, we’re back here.

Soon our offices downstairs will be ready to reopen.

Every year at this time, not only our parishes, but all parishes, 

all Catholics of the Archdiocese, 

do something very ordinary but very important, together. 

We organize something called the Catholic Ministries Appeal.

You may think of it as merely a fund drive. But it is more. 

It is all of us, united in one mind and purpose as St. Paul says today, 

being Christ to one another and to our community.

Let me remind you of the six projects funded by this annual drive:

- St Rita School for the Deaf;

- Catholic Social Services;

- The needs of our retired priests;

- Our seminary and vocations promotion;

- Ministry on college campuses, in hospitals, and in prisons;

- The revival of evangelization at every level of the archdiocese.

Every penny of this drive stays in our archdiocese. 

You may not realize we have four men in the seminary, right now, 

from our family of parishes. 

The chaplains at the Kettering and Premier hospitals 

are tremendously helpful, 

caring for many of our own parishioners during the year. 

This appeal supports outreach to the students at Wright State,   

Miami University and the University of Cincinnati, for example, 

working to keep our college students connected to their faith. 

And every year we have men and women in area prisons 

who become Catholic. 

Isaiah’s words about people in darkness 

sounds like what prisons can be; 

how wonderful to bring the light of Christ there! 

Last year, all three of our parishes significantly exceeded our goals. 

As a result, a portion of those extra donations 

come back to our parishes to support our local needs.

Perhaps each of us puts in $5 or $10; maybe $50 or $100, 

or even more if we’ve got the means. 

At the parish level, the goals for our three parishes totals $117,000; 

and the goal for all the archdiocese is $5,000,000. 

This is one of those times when you and I can look beyond 

our own family and our own parish, 

and see ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

To quote something Archbishop Schnurr said about this appeal:

we can do so much more together than each of us can do individually. 

In the Gospel, when Jesus tells us twice to repent, 

he means of course, being sorry for our sins. 

But it also means conversion, meaning a change in who we are.

The grave danger we can all fall into is to get so settled and satisfied 

that you and I can’t acknowledge a need to change. 

We’re just fine the way we are.

This applies in our family life; parish life, 

and in our personal spiritual life. 

To that Jesus says: Repent! Admit you need to change. 

Because change is coming, Jesus tells us.

He’s not talking about Beacons of Light, or social change;

He means change of the highest order: the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our parishes as a family, and each of us as individual Catholics, 

are beacons of that Kingdom; 

but only with conversion and readiness will you and I really shine.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Our Lady of Hope (Sunday homily)

This weekend we celebrate the patronal feast of this parish: 

Our Lady of Hope. This is a special feast day just for our parish here!

Although history isn’t everyone’s favorite topic, 

a little background might be of interest.

The story begins in January, 1871 in northwest France. 

France and Germany were at war, and France was losing badly.

German armies were marching west, toward the small town of Pontmain. 

What’s more, 38 men and boys from that town 

had been conscripted into the French army, and no one knew their fate.

On the evening of January 17, two boys, 

helping their father with farm chores looked up and saw Mary, 

dressed all in blue, covered with gold stars.

There’s an interesting twist: mom and dad didn’t see Mary, 

but other children in the town did. 

Sometimes we adults get too set in our ways 

and won’t be open to something new. 

God often chooses children as messengers! 

As everyone was anxious about the war, 

Mary’s message that evening was:

“Pray, my children. God will hear you in time. 

My Son allows Himself to be touched.”

That’s interesting! Did she mean, touched, as in, moved?

Or, touched, as in physical contact?

The answer, of course, is both:

God the Son chose to become human,

Which means he has a body that can be touched,

And a heart that can be moved to compassion.

I think the reason Jesus often sends his Mother with this message 

is because she is so convincing a messenger.

In the Gospel we heard, Jesus doesn’t disagree that Mary is blessed, but emphasizes the greater blessing: 

that Mary hears the word of God and observes it.

So she is an excellent messenger from heaven, 

to urge you and me to have hope that Jesus will hear.

That very evening, as the townspeople – led by the children! – 

were praying to Mary, the commander of the German army 

decided to halt his advance; and the town of Pontmain was delivered.

A week later, an armistice was signed, 

and soon the men and boys of the town return, all alive, all safe.

Now, the next part of the story is curious;

That is, how did our parish gain the title, “Our Lady of Good Hope”?

The first church in this parish was named St. Michael, 

with the first Mass offered in October, 1852. 

It was known as a German parish.

In 1880, the German pastor, Father Kalenberg, 

launched a drive to build a new church; 

and later that year, Archbishop Elder laid the cornerstone; 

and in July, 1881, the new church was consecrated, 

“Our Immaculate Lady of Good Hope.”

That was just ten years after Mary appeared 

to the children in Pontmain – France!

So there’s a part of the story still to be unraveled.

But I’m willing to bet those children 

in that French village never heard of Miamisburg, Ohio!

Here we are, 150 years distant from those events,

And the faith and openness of a few children in a small French village

has created a channel of grace for you and me.

Mary still bids you and me to keep praying and keep hoping.

We have different fears and worries.

But heaven’s message is the same:

Keep praying. God will hear you in time.

Jesus allows himself to be touched.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Don't miss your sign (Epiphany homily)

 Today we celebrate the Epiphany. 

What is an “epiphany”?

If you or I have a sudden moment of clarity, 

we’ll call it an “epiphany,” or, an “‘aha!’ moment.”

So it works like this:

Christmas is when God is born a human being. But only a few learn of it.

January 1 is the eighth day; that’s when a newborn boy is circumcised;

And when his name is given publicly for the first time.

Today, Epiphany: now the child is revealed to the nations.

He’s not just a Messiah for the Jewish people, 

but as Isaiah said in the first reading, light for the nations.

And that’s where the Magi come in—they are a symbol of the nations.

Their arrival is the beginning of the world having it’s “aha” moment.

So who are these “Magi”? 

Magi were sort of like priest-philosophers

of the religion of Zoroastrianism.

And one of the things they did was to study the stars, 

expecting them to give signs and meaning. 

Now, as we know, sometimes the stars and planets 

do line up in curious ways, 

and you can have several seem to “meet” in the sky, 

making for an unusual light which—

because it might happen so rarely—

no one alive had ever seen before. 

Nowadays, we have so much artificial light in the sky that we miss a lot.

But in those days, everyone saw a night sky full of light; 

and if you watched it, you saw lots of interesting things.

So while the sign they saw might have been a miracle, 

it also might have been one of the delightful surprises 

that happen in the long course of the ages, planned by God.

Whatever the sign was, it stirred up the magi to make a journey;

and it alarmed Herod and the whole city.

Now, here’s where I give you something to ponder.

They only saw that star because they were paying attention;

What signs might you have missed—because you weren’t looking?

Or, maybe you sort-of saw, but,

because you didn’t want to deal with it, you pretended you didn’t see?

Sometimes we find the message troubling; but it doesn’t have to be. 

Herod could have welcomed Jesus – 

imagine how well that could have gone!

So many people find the sacrament of confession troubling.

They come in afraid and anxious,

but they leave so very, very, VERY happy:

because they didn’t ignore the prompting of their conscience.

I meet couples frequently who are preparing for marriage.

They are always glad they didn’t ignore 

the signs and promptings that led them to each other.

And I tell you right now, I am not sorry 

I followed the star that led me to be a priest.

But what if at the end of my life on earth, I discovered I missed it?

Then I would have been sorry.

Finally, we are sometimes tempted to think 

that our particular part isn’t important. 

But great things almost always start with tiny beginnings.

A baby is born. Far away visitors come to see.

But little by little, the message spread; 

until the year of our Lord 2023 when a third of the world 

calls Christ their king. 

There are still Herods, striking out in violence.

Even so, the light keeps spreading. 

The word of Isaiah is being fulfilled.

Today you are the Magi who came to visit.

What have you seen? What will you lay at his feet?

And, what will you tell others that you saw?