Sunday, February 05, 2023

It's not one or the other, it's both (Sunday homily)

 This weekend is “Commitment Weekend” 

for the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal.” 

I’m not going to talk all about that for my whole homily. 

I’m mentioning it up front to give it prominence. 


All those who have envelopes for our parish 

should have gotten a mailing, 

and I am asking you to do what you can for this annual drive. 


If you need an envelope and a pledge form, 

we should have some, somewhere! 

Or give our parish staff a call, and they will help.


The readings say so much about serving those around us 

who are in need.  What occurred to me to say is this.


Some of us are really good at the corporal works of mercy. 

Making meals for neighbors, 

or gathering blankets for the homeless 

as our Ladies Society did recently – 

this comes instinctively to some of us more than others.


What no one can say is that God is unclear in his command: 

if you want God to hear your cry, 

hear the cry of those who are in need or who are facing oppression! 

It is totally clear.


Yet sometimes people boil Christianity down to these good works; 

as if to say, it doesn’t really matter if you seek to know God. 

All that matters are good works.

They’ll point to St. James who said, “faith without works is dead” – 

and that’s true.


But notice St. James still mentioned faith.


So, this is a chance to examine ourselves. 

Maybe you’re a go-out-and-do-stuff kind of person. 

And so it might be good to look inward and ask, 

how am I doing with the faith dimension? 

With prayer and seeking nourishment in the sacraments? 

Am I so busy doing Jesus’ bidding 

that I am not paying enough attention to Jesus himself?


Then turn that around.

Are you are person who always has the Rosary nearby, 

or a well-worn prayer book?

Perhaps your examination might include asking, 

am I finding enough time to help others? 

Am I so absorbed at Jesus’ feet, 

that I forget there are others to whom Jesus sends me?


As we all know, Lent starts in about 2-1/2 weeks, 

so right now is a good time to get ready. 

Lent isn’t just a time to deny ourselves; it is about conversion. 

I’m praying – and I hope you’ll pray with me –

that this Lent will be a powerful time for each of us to grow spiritually.


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?


Sunday, December 25, 2022

What is Christmas *really* about? (Christmas homily)

What is Christmas about, really?


It’s obviously more than celebrations and decorations – 

even if a lot of people don’t seem to know that, or remember.


Christmas is even about more than a child being born 

and shepherds adoring. 

The angels told the shepherds, that the child being born is a “sign”; 

a sign points to something still greater.


So what is that greater thing that Christmas is really about?


It can be summed up in the words of St. Athanasius, who said: 

“God became man so that man might become God.” 

Let me repeat that, so you really hear it: 

“God became man so that man might become God.”


Yes, he really said that. 

And so did a lot of saints and teachers of the Church. 

It’s in the Catechism, paragraph 460.


What does this mean?


It means that you and I are meant for more. 

More than 99% of what occupies our time, bad, good or indifferent. 

You and I are meant to be life-givers and world-changers. 

To be saints. 



Saints Louis & Zelie Martin – have you heard of them? 

They were an ordinary Catholic couple, 

striving to get each other and their children to heaven. 


You’ve heard of their daughter: St. Therese of Lisieux. 

Yet she, too, decided she would not do any great thing, 

but do lots of little things out of great love. 

Her little way captured hearts around the world.


Mother Theresa was called to care for the poorest of the poor. 

All she did was bathe and feed beggars, one at a time. 

She moved the world.


You and I are called to be saints. 

A saint is that person who accepts the Christmas Gift: 

that God became man so that men and women might become God.


What does this mean? It explains everything about the Gospel; 

it is what the whole Bible, 

and what all of God’s actions are leading toward. 


God wants us to be with him, united with him, 

changed by him, made new in a New Creation. 

“Through him, with him, and in him,” in a new heavens and a new earth.


Until our early 20s, we want to get older. We can’t wait! 

But then we want to hold in place, or get younger.

You and I naturally dread the inevitable loss of vigor.

And to a worldly mindset, nothing is worse than suffering.


But what if this trail of tears is a path of grace, 

leading to something new? 


Jesus goes ahead of us – from earth to heaven, old life to new.


This is what baptism begins and confirmation strengthens. 

This is what confession restores when we turn off the path of life.

The Holy Eucharist nourishes this rebirth. 

This is what our ordinary life of faithfulness leads to.


For this reason, the number one enemy of the human race 

is not hunger or war, unemployment or sickness or even death, 

as terrible as those things are. 

No, our greatest enemy is sin, because none of those other things 

can separate us from God and lead us to hell.


And one of the most dangerous sins – 

which we never talk about – is “sloth.” Laziness. 

Hitting the spiritual snooze button.


A lot of the time, we try to tame Christmas, and say, it’s about a baby, 

a family in trouble, such a nice story…aren’t the lights pretty? 


But only this makes Christmas awesome:

that God became man so that you and I might become God.


Only God is God. But he chooses to lift us up into his life; 

to be, as St. Peter says in one of his letters, 

“partakers of divine nature.” God created us in Paradise; but we left. 

He has wanted us back ever since. 

Still, we might wonder: why come as a child? 


Because then a child can come and say, I look like God. 

Because when God is born poor, and lives poor and hidden, 

then all those who are forgotten and neglected, 

can behold the Savior and say, I look like God. 


So that when the child grows up and is abused and wronged, 

all those who are oppressed in this world can say, I look like God. 


And when Jesus suffers and dies, 

all those facing pain and death know they are not alone, 

and that God has wounds, too. Wounds he is not ashamed of.


What is Christmas about? Christmas is an invitation.   


The God-man, the Christ Child, invites you. 

You’re here in his presence, right now. 

He offers himself and all his Gifts to you. 

To make us divine; to make an exchange: 

your life to him, and his to you. 

That’s the invitation. What will you do?


---


 

Post script: In case you’re wondering, who else said it?


Justin Martyr

Athanasius

Augustine

Irenaeus

Gregory of Nyssa

Cyril of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria

Theophilus of Antioch

Hippolytus of Rome

Maximus the Confessor

Basil of Caesarea

Thomas Aquinas