Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homily – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

     1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Galatians 5:1, 13-18
Luke 9:51-62

Today’s Gospel message is about pretense.  It’s about fooling ourselves.  It’s about trying to pull the wool over the eyes of others.

This passage from Luke’s Gospel also marks the exact point when Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem, a journey he knows will end in death.

As Jesus is passing through Samaria, he’s able to look into the hearts of three would be followers and reply, “You’re just saying you want to follow me, but you have all these conditions and pretenses as roadblocks.  You’re not yet ready to give up everything and follow me.”

“Giving up everything.”  That’s what Jesus demands of his disciples; giving up old ways of acting; giving up old ways of thinking; giving up old ways of believing, and following him with our whole hearts.  That’s what Jesus demands of all of us.

I’d like to talk about another side of “giving up everything.”

The story I am about to tell you is not mine.

It’s been kicking around the internet for years, and shared by many.  Maybe you’ve heard it or read it before.

It’s a beautiful story, perhaps even a parable, about the times when our faces are turned toward Jerusalem. 

Sometimes our life story can turn us into prophets, plowing the fields and planting seeds by sharing our experiences with others so all can see God more clearly especially in the darkest moments of lives.

Here’s the story I found on the internet.  Again, it is not my own. 


“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school.

His name was Kyle.

It looked like he was carrying all of his books.  I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd.'

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.

They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.

His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.

He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.
My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks.'
They really should get lives.’

He looked at me and said, 'Hey, thanks!'  There was a big smile on his face.

It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.
As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.

He said he had gone to private school before now.

We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.
He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends.

He said yes.

We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.

I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you’re gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!' He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.

When we were seniors we began to think about college.  Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.

He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class.

I teased him all the time about being a nerd.

He had to prepare a speech for graduation.  I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle.  He looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!'

He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) …  smiled... and said ' Thanks.'

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began...

'Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.

Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach... but mostly your friends....

I am here to tell ALL of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.

I am going to tell you a story.'

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told of the first day we met.

He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.
He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.

He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

'Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.'

I heard a gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.

I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.

Not until that moment did I realize its depth of the experience."

Powerful story, huh?
It reminds me of another story told by a dear friend who is now the President of Archbishop Murphy High School. 

Matt Schambari talks about a young man he found one day in the school chapel at a Catholic high school in Nevada.  The boy looked despondent and was crying.  Matt noticed him there and walked over to talk to him. 

            The boy wouldn’t say much to the then young Campus Minister.  So, Matt pulled a rosary out of his pocket and gave it to the boy, telling him the rosary is a powerful thing when you’re troubled and searching for God’s help.

            It turned out the boy was at the Chapel contemplating suicide.  Matt didn’t find out about that until a long time after when the boy told him.  The boy said had it not been for Matt’s concern and the rosary, he likely have ended his life. 

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus deciding it was time to head to Jerusalem.  His time on earth was drawing to a close.  This was not a decision He made on his own, but a reality He knew He had to face.

By heading to Jerusalem, He was headed toward persecution, suffering and death. 

We all are headed toward Jerusalem -- eventually. 

It’s not a choice we get to make for ourselves.  But guided by the Holy Spirit it is one we all with face in due time.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus again reminds His disciples the cost of discipleship is high.  You have to be ready to give up everything to have a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Many want to place conditions on that relationship with Jesus.  But only in surrendering ourselves fully to Christ can we break free from the chains that bind us and often times drag us down into a pit of despair. 

For it is in this sweet surrender that we experience true freedom.  Those were the words in today’s second reading by St. Paul.

Faith is such a challenging thing for young people to accept today.  The allures of our popular culture are far too attractive (violent video games, music with dangerous messages, mass media sexualizing children at younger and younger ages, etc.). 

The cost of discipleship for many young people today is just too high or something they reason away as unneeded, just superstition from their childhood.

But faith in Jesus Christ and to truly experience Christ’s love is what our young people need most today.  Especially in times when their burden is too heavy to bear and they feel they have no one to turn to.  Or when death seems the only option.

Keep the lines of communication open to the people you love.  Know what’s going on inside their heads.  Show them love always. Walk with them in good times and in bad. 

Have that conversation you’re afraid to have, and then listen. Avoid judgment and condemnation.  Ask the Holy Spirit for courage as you offer advice.  And most importantly, let them know they’re unconditionally loved.   

Sure, we all will face our own Jerusalem in due time. 

I pray we will face it with gratitude for those who have helped us on the journey and a belief in God through the person of Jesus Christ who understands all things, helps us bear all things, and is always by our side. 

We are never alone.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Holy Spirit Goes To Work

I love watching the Holy Spirit at work in our world today. 

This story is about how the Spirit made a wish come true for one of the people we met on our Maryknoll pilgrimage in January this year. 

My fellow priests, deacons and I had a special experience while in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.
The Catholic Church there was founded by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and is the site of the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother in 1981. 

We actually slept on the floor in the rectory a few hundred feet from where Fr. Stan was shot and killed.  

We also were honored to concelebrate a special Sunday Mass with the Bishop and all who experienced this now carry a beautiful, lifelong memory with them.

While staying at the parish, Director Felipe Coche shared a need at the parochial school. 

The school desperately needed new computers for the elementary and secondary school
children. The mustard seed was planted.

When we got back from the trip we went to work quietly raising the funds for this project. 

To date, we've successfully raised just under six thousand dollars.

This week, we got pictures from Felipe of his dream coming to fruition.

Not only did they have enough money for the computers for the kids, but they were also able to get new laptops for the three parish priests, too.

A special thanks to the following donors to the Parroquia Santiago Atitlan Computer Project:

Dcn. Jose and Lucinda Blakeley - Redmond, WA
Fr. Bob Williams - Anderson, IN 
Dcn. Bruno and Agatha Bahk - Bellevue, WA
Dcn. Stephen and Dorothy Tobon - Staten Island, NY
Fr. Tom Peyton - Tybee Island, GA
Fr. Tom Connery - Glenville, NY
Dcn. Joe and Mary Sifferman - Seattle, WA
Dcn. Rey and Amor Ronquillo - Lacey, WA
Dcn. Bill and J.T. Batstone - Shelton, WA
Richelle and Scott Shields - Everett, WA
Judy and Tim McNamara - Everett, WA
Dcn. Dennis and Mary Kelly - Mukilteo, WA
News Talk Concepts Inc. - Mukilteo, WA

(Since donations continue to come in I will update the list)

Another big thanks to Little Rock (Arkansas) Bishop Anthony B. Taylor for his personal assistance in our fundraising effort.

He personally helped facilitate getting the funds to Guatemala for us. 

Bishop Taylor was formerly an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese Oklahoma City and has been a friend of the Santiago Atitlan parish for years.
Bishop Taylor is leading the effort to have Fr. Stan Rother made a saint.  (Who knows? Perhaps this will count as a miracle toward his canonization).
The Spirit moved generously throughout this experience and made a dream come true for some of our lesser sisters and brothers in the mountains of Guatemala.

Thank you to all who took part in this successful fundraising effort.

I'll be returning to Santiago Atitlan this summer while studying Spanish for six weeks in Antigua, Guatemala.  It'll be a joy to see Felipe's vision as a reality with my own eyes.  Peace...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Homily – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13
Galatians 2:16, 19-21
Luke 7:36-8:3 

I’d like to talk about the danger of assumption and how assumption many times leads to an even more treacherous danger:  judgment.
Just as the Gospel story is Jesus’ way of teaching a Pharisee about the dangers of assumption and judgment, the story I will share with you proves the lesson still holds true today, some two-thousand years after Christ.
Sadly, we all can be Pharisees at times (Yes, even priests and deacons).  We can all judge people for their outward appearances or how they behave.  But can we truly judge a book by its cover? 
When we assume we make a “you know what” out of you and me. 
I worked for a former Navy commander who taught me to NEVER use the word assume.  It’s dangerous ground to stand on, kind of like standing on ice, and only makes us look silly when we slip and fall.
This story is about changing the world one life at a time; by showing love to one single person.  But it’s also the story about the assumptions and judgment lurking in our hearts that prevent us from taking the first step and building a dignity-filled relationship.
My dear friend Dianah and her family first saw the homeless woman sitting on a street corner ranting and raving as traffic drove by while coming home from Sunday church service in their hometown of Spokane.  
The woman clearly was dealing with some deep-seeded demons and appeared mentally ill. 
Most people would just look the other way and keep driving. 
Dianah and her family had done so several times before one particularly cold day when her boyfriend Mike just couldn’t do it.  He could no longer look the other way and keep driving.
He got out of the car, walked up to the woman, and said, “Is there anything you need?”  The woman said, “I’d love a cup of coffee.”  So, they drove to the corner Chevron to buy the coffee and Dianah said, “We need to get her a sandwich, too.” So they bought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   Turned out the woman “loved peanut butter and jelly” sandwiches.  She was so excited about the sandwich and hot coffee and said, “Thank you.”
Dianah is someone I’ve known for 16 years.  She knows about judgment and when I tell her full story you may be surprised to hear who judged her.
This would not be the last time Dianah and the homeless woman would see each other.  Dianah would drive by every couple of days and ask if there was anything the woman needed.
This went on for months.  Dianah found out the woman loved hot cocoa and warm banana bread with butter on it.  So she brought her some fresh banana bread and hot cocoa on a regular basis.   The woman usually would look at Dianah like she was “just nuts” for doing all these nice things for her. 
She asked her, “Why do you keep stopping by?”  Saying, other "people stop by, but you keep coming back.”
Dianah said, “I think God put you in my life for a reason.”  The homeless woman said to her, “Yea, maybe.”
The woman told Dianah, “People like you don’t come back.”  In other words, well-dressed, professional people like Dianah don’t come back.  Dianah would drop off tarps and blankets and other needed items for the street lady.
Dianah would usually sit down on the sidewalk with the woman during their visits together to get on her level. 
One day during a visit, Dianah noticed the woman didn’t have any shoes.  This was in the middle of winter.  It was cold out.  The woman claimed someone had taken her shoes.  So, Dianah went and got her a pair. 
Dianah eventually learned the woman’s name was Marcella.
Due to city ordinances, Marcella was forced to move on a regular basis.  This made it difficult for Dianah to find her.   But Dianah always found a way to track down Marcella.

           I first learned of Dianah’s experiences with Marcella through Facebook picture posts from Dianah’s boyfriend Mike, another dear friend and longtime homeless advocate.
          A friendship blossomed and Marcella began to count on Dianah to stop by for a visit.  Slowly, her mood started to change.  Dianah would see Marcella smile, joke and laugh more and more.
One day Dianah stopped by and could tell Marcella was crying.  It was such a bitter, cold winter day that Dianah was afraid to get out of the car.  Turned out it was the anniversary of Marcella’s father’s death a decade and a half earlier and Marcella was not in the mood for a visit. 
Dianah asked, “Are you OK?  Do you need a hug?” 
Marcella looked at her and said, “I’m strong.”
Dianah told her “You are strong, but we’re still allowed to be hurting inside.”    She got out of her car and hugged Marcella as the homeless woman cried in Dianah’s arms for a long while.  And in that moment, Dianah and Marcella became forever friends.
Once Marcella told Dianah, “People keep telling me I’m on Facebook.  I don’t even know what Facebook is.  But you’re making me famous.”  Dianah said, “No, I think you’re making yourself famous.”
Soon, others would join in helping Marcella on the streets due to her Facebook fame.  In fact, Dianah met a Spokane police officer who would check in on Marcella every night just to make sure she was OK.
Dianah realized Marcella had a heart that was not meant to be on the streets and started to look for ways to get her off the street and talking to Marcella about this. 
Dianah also began to bring her young daughter Kaitlin by to join them on the visits.  Kaitlin and Marcella would always play jacks.
A few months later Dianah and her family were about to go on vacation.  So, she told Marcella about the vacation each day she visited in the weeks before departing so Marcella would remember.
When Dianah got back from vacation and tracked down Marcella, there were lots of tears and another long, long hug.  Marcella had gotten confused and was afraid she would never see Dianah again. 
 A few months later, Dianah lost touch with Marcella.  Dianah became despondent.  Where was her friend?  She disappeared from the streets.  Had something happened? 
Weeks went by and Marcella was nowhere to be found. 
Dianah and her family attend a Sunday service at a non-denominational church that does a weekly feed for low income and homeless in Spokane.  Actually, many homeless attend the church service, too.
One Sunday, just as the service was ending, Dianah caught sight of Marcella, all cleaned up and looking nice, sitting right across from her.  Dianah screamed out in a loud voice, “Marcella!” and ran to her friend for an embrace. 
Marcella told Dianah that day, “You know, we’re kindred spirits.”
Marcella is getting mental health counseling and taking her medications.  She's moved back home with her estranged husband.  Her life is far from normal, but she's no longer on the streets, and now is on the road to recovery.  Dianah even found out Marcella used to be a nurse. 
Both had judged a book by its cover.  Both had been wrong about each other.  Both learned to love each other just as Christ loved the woman who cleaned his feet in today’s Gospel reading.
Many assume the woman in the Gospel story is guilty of some kind of sexual sin, although there’s nothing in the text to suggest such a thing. 
My friend Dianah has been judged in her past, too.  Judged for being a divorcee, judged as being an immoral person, judged as an unfit mother to her 10-year-old daughter. 
Sadly, the one who judged her was a Catholic priest. 
This breaks my heart and shows we can all be Pharisees at times and assume things about people that are not true.
I know Dianah as a salt of the earth person.  When she told me what the priest had said to her, I was shocked, saddened and at a loss of words.
I love our Catholic Church, but even priests and deacons can judge a book by its cover, assume things about people, and not show the dignity Christ showed ALL he encountered during his ministry.    
One bible commentary points out this Gospel passage is “SOBER in its presentation of religious self-righteousness.” 

Another interesting thing about today’s Gospel reading is the presence of women throughout the reading.  It wasn’t that uncommon for women to support rabbis and their disciples with money, property and food, but to leave home and travel with a rabbi - that was scandalous in the time of Jesus.
 This bible story helps us to understand we may be blind to our sinfulness, or too fearful or too proud to ask that our debt be written off.
I pray all followers of Christ will look deep inside OUR hearts and question the assumptions and judgments that keep us at arm’s length of Christ’s love.  And ask God to write off our debt and make us new again.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I always marvel at the innocent wisdom of children.

This beautiful conversation between mother and young son about the food they eat was headlined in the media as "Innocence Lost," but could just as easily been labeled "Innocence Found." 

Luiz's love and compassion for animals is evident.  I'm guessing he could be a future vegetarian. 


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Homily - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Genesis 14:18-20
1st Corinthians 11:23-26
Luke 9:11b-17

What’s our response to the miracles in our lives? 

Most would say gratitude is a pretty good response.  Saying or showing “thanks” to God for the extraordinary gifts in our life.    But how best to do that? 

I’m sure those fed by Jesus’ miracle with the fish and loaves were grateful for having their hunger satisfied by Christ. 

In a moment, we, too, will share in the feast that keeps on giving.  

Pope Francis said in a homily this week:  Jesus speaks in the silence of the mystery of the Eucharist and reminds us each time that following him means going out of ourselves and making our lives not something we 'possess,' but a gift to him and (a gift) to others."

So, what are the miracles in your life?  What are you most thankful for?

Your children?  Your spouse?  Your friends?   

What blessings in your life do you lift up in prayer in the quiet of your heart to say “thank you” to our heavenly creator?

In my life, I’m most thankful for unanswered prayers.

All throughout my childhood, I wanted to go to high school at Blanchet.  But with my father’s death when I was 14, it was not to be. 

I had a paper route and vowed to help pay for it, but my mother still couldn’t afford it. 

My dreams of a Catholic high school education came crashing down as a single mom and nurse at Harborview struggled to keep her family of three boys together on a small salary. 

But by going to the high school closest to my childhood home, I discovered the world of radio which led to a career in the industry. 

This one-time newspaper delivery boy would develop a passion for news, opening the door to college and a degree in Communications from WSU, eventually a job as a news reporter and anchor at KING radio in 1984, and a chance meeting with a young intern named Mary Gillespie who would become my wife and the mother of our two boys.

Actually I don’t believe in chance.  I believe in destiny. 

That’s my story.   I’m sure you have your miracle story, too. 

Scott Carty has a beautiful miracle story.  It’s one of abundance coming from very little in life. 

Scott was a young teenage boy living in Seattle when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She was a single mom caring for four children.  Scott was the second oldest.

When Scott’s mom went into the hospital, he and his siblings were split up and shipped off to live with relatives.  Eventually, they all ended up as wards of the state after their mother’s death.

The year was 1965.  Scott was turned over to the Youth Service Center.  It might as well have been jail sentence as far as he was concerned. 

Locked doors.  Locked gates.  A fenced perimeter.  It was a living hell to a boy of thirteen.

Scott lived at the home for mostly troubled youths for several months before a fateful court date and judge’s ruling that he be remanded there until the age of 18. 

Scott considered this a life sentence and felt hopeless and filled with despair.

But in the courtroom that day was a Seattle Times newspaper reporter who felt Scott’s pain and told his story, under the banner headline, “Clean Cut Boy, 13, Has No Place To Go.”

Thinking about the news article still brings tears to this now Boeing retiree’s eyes nearly 50 years later and chokes him up with emotion. 

For it’s what happened next that would change his life forever. 

A Lake Sammamish couple read the article in the Sunday paper that weekend.  Scott still has their copy.  You can see where they wrote down the phone number to the Youth Service Center.

Scott says, a “social worker called and said, ‘There’s a couple that wants (you to) spend the weekend with them.”

Louise and Wayne Carty lived in a home on Lake Sammamish.  They even had a boat.  The teenage boy thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  He said, “my prayers had been answered.”

As the weekend was ending, Scott was dreading his return to hell.  But the Carty’s sat him down at the kitchen table and told him, “We’d like you to come and stay with us for as long as you’d like.”  One week later Scott moved in. 

But the story gets better. 

After the Carty’s found out about Scott’s two sisters and one brother, they offered to take them in, too.

Scott recalls, “we all went down to the courthouse and were adopted, all on the same day.”

Scott adds, “To have your complete family as one unit – even though it happened to me, I still don’t believe it.” 

Scott’s been married to his wife Denise for 31 years.  They have kids of their own and even took in an older foster son.  It was his way of giving back for the miracle in his life.

Nothing in our lives is left to chance. Our creator has a plan for each and every one of us. 
When I asked earlier, what miracles in your live are you thankful for, perhaps you were thinking of your faith?  Or the miracle of your life?  Or the breath you just took thanks to a loving creator? 

Or you are thankful to Jesus Christ for offering His Body and Blood as your spiritual nourishment.  This sacrificial gift of Himself in the Eucharist was given on the cross to feed us and save us, brings us everlasting life.  What better gift is there than that?

Pope Francis said of today’s scripture reading that “he’s ‘always struck’ by the disciples asking Jesus to send the crowd away to find food and lodging and Jesus telling them, ‘Give them some food yourselves.’ “

The Pope spoke something quite profound, saying “In the face of the crowd's needs, this is the disciples' solution: Everyone takes care of himself; dismiss the crowd.”

His Holiness Pope Francis went on to say, “Many times we Christians have that same temptation; we don't take on the needs of others, but dismiss them with a compassionate 'May God help you' or a not-so-compassionate 'Good luck.'”

Jesus' solution, though, was to ask God's blessing on the little they had, and then share it with all. 

When we take the Eucharist today and adore Jesus Christ truly present in the His Most Holy Body and Blood, do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Him?

How do we show our gratitude to Jesus for this miraculous gift of the Eucharist?

As we heard in the first reading from Genesis, “Abram gave him a tenth of everything” to God as thanksgiving for the miracles in his life.  As much as our church could dearly use a tithe of “a tenth of everything,” that’s not what I’m asking for today.

What I am asking is for you to give a little of yourself to our Church community.  What I am asking is for you to share yourself with others.  What I am asking is for you to make a big difference in the lives of others in right here in our community.

Be transformed by the Eucharist.  Become what you receive.
I’m holding a Stewardship of Talent card in my hand.  If you’re thankful for everything God has given you in your life, this is your way of paying it forward, of saying “thanks” to your Creator.

Just pray over the card and find something on the list that’s calling your name. 

Perhaps you think you’re too busy and don’t have enough time to help? 

Just like the disciples who thought five loaves and two fishes wouldn’t be enough to feed a crowd of 5-thousand men and their families, with Jesus at your side, you’ll always have enough.  In fact, you’ll probably have plenty leftover.  Trust me.

If you need help discerning where God is calling you to use your talents, please see me after Mass and we can set up a time to pray together and see where God is leading you.

Whether it’s unanswered prayers or answered prayers that make miracles happen in our lives, the miracle of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is ALWAYS there sustain us and feed us.  And call us to be Christ to others.   

Transformed by the Eucharist, what miracle will you become to someone else?