Sunday, February 10, 2019

Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Call of the Deacon

Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
1st Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

Today we are witnesses to a series of powerful call stories.

           In the first reading, we hear Isaiah’s call story, when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send?”  The self-avowed sinful Isaiah responds, “Here I am… send me.”
In our second reading, we hear St. Paul briefly share his call by Jesus to serve (not persecute) God’s people.

In today’s Gospel reading, we witness fisherman Simon Peter’s amazing call story. We hear Simon Peter say to Jesus after the miracle with the fish, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  Jesus says to Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you’ll be catching men.”
Jesus knows Peter doesn’t feel worthy to come follow him because of his past. But Jesus wants all of us to focus on the future with him, not on the many voices of fear that come from our past.
How many of us feel this way when we hear God’s call to serve His Church and His people?  
Yet, God still turns to self-avowed sinful people to help build His Church -- even handing Peter (and his successors) the keys to the Church.
This is one of the great mysteries of our faith, and shows how God can turn our weaknesses into strengths through the power of humble service, and how being open to God’s call can transform our lives, and conform us better to Christ.

One of the most inspirational characters in all of Christianity is St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons and the very first Christian martyr.
As some may recall, St. Stephen went to his death, asking the Lord to forgive his executioners. He was sent to his death for proclaiming the power of the Risen Christ to his angry countrymen, dying with an angelic smile on his face as he gazed on a vision of Jesus in heaven.
The word “martyr” actually translates to “witness.”
St. Stephen’s powerful witness still has an impact on people today. Most deacons claim him as one of their patron saints.
Benedictine College theology professor Andrew Swafford says, “When a teacher teaches with conviction as Stephen did, it makes an impact. It may lead to persecution, but other eyes are watching.”
St. Stephen’s witness changed the life of one eye-witness to his death in a dramatic way.  A young Saul of Tarsus held the coats of the men who stoned St. Stephen to death.
Saul was one of the most ferocious persecutors of the Christian faith, putting scores of men, women and children to death for believing in Jesus.
Saul became St. Paul, and his conversion and dramatic call story changed the Christian world forever. St. Paul would become one of the greatest witnesses and evangelists of our Christian faith. His experience with a deacon changed his life.
Recently, the Catholic Church celebrated the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate.

Popular Church commentator Rocco Palmo calls the restored diaconate one of the greatest success stories of Vatican II.
Deacons are the only religious vocation that is actually growing today. Nearly 50-thousand permanent deacons serve the world Church in 2019. 18-thousand deacons are now serving in U.S. alone.
The permanent diaconate started as a conversation in Cell Block 26 at Nazi death camp Dachau. This was the place set aside for clergy. During the Nazi reign of terror, over 24-hundred priests were kept there. Most were put to death.
Many priests in the prison camps lamented the lack of Catholic clergy with both a foot in the Church and a foot in public life. These priests felt the presence of permanent deacons could have helped prevent what happened in Nazi Germany.

A number of these priests survived the death camps and years later led the effort to restore the permanent diaconate during Vatican II. 
Many people ask, what is a deacon? 
Deacons are ordained clergy. Most are married.
And, no, deacons are not mini-priests or grownup altar servers! Quite the opposite.
Deacon is not a title as much as it is a representation of what they are called to do. The word deacon actually comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” meaning service or servant.
Deacons can baptize, perform weddings, lead funerals, preach and teach. The deacon’s role is to help make the priest’s job easier.

But equally as important, deacons are asked to be the eyes and ears of the Bishop.
The official title of a deacon in the Catholic Church is Reverend Mister (in the Orthodox Church deacons are called Father Deacon). But you can just call me Dennis. No title needed.
I always tell young people who think being a deacon is a big deal this analogy. If the Church were a circus, the Bishop would be the Ring Master. The priest would be the lion tamer. And the deacon would be the guy following around the elephant cleaning up the mess.
Deacons are unpaid servants of the Church.
That’s right. Deacons don’t get paid for their service.  
A small number of deacons are paid to lead parishes without a pastor, or serve as pastoral assistants at parishes, or work for the Archdiocese, but the vast majority of deacons do what they do with no financial gain.
You’ve heard of building up treasure in heaven?
Deacons do what they do because they love the Church and they love the people of God, and because they’re answering God’s call to greater service, especially to those on the margins of society.
The deacon has a three-fold ministry: Word, Liturgy and Service.
Most deacons today give homilies, assist the priest and bishop at Mass, and serve in prison, hospital and hospice ministry, work with those experiencing homelessness, assist migrants and refugees, feed the hungry, and serve the poor and oppressed in our society today (the same people we heard Jesus talk about a few weeks ago when he read from the scroll of Isaiah in his hometown synagogue).  This is the call of the deacon. 
Deacons are ordained to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
One theologian calls the deacon the living sacrament of service in the Church today.
           In our own parish community, we have two men in deacon formation, answering God’s call to deeper service.
With God’s providence, and the Bishop’s official call forward, these two men will be ordained in December of 2020.
Duane Schireman heard the call to deeper service years ago as a boy, but really felt the call start to resonate while accompanying his son and a delegation of young people from the parish to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain in August 2011.  Witnessing a sea of a million young people deepening their faith sparked his resolve to say “yes” to God. The trip also included stops in Rome and Assisi.
There are many who encouraged him along the way from family and friends, priest and deacon friends, to one inmate at Monroe State Reformatory. God speaks best through the people around us.
A few years ago, Duane retired from a long career as an HR executive with Boeing, doing so shortly after beginning deacon formation. He even felt God’s hand in that decision and how things worked out in leaving Boeing early. Duane credits the Virgin Mary for clearing the way for him to become a deacon. 
Chris Shambro’s call story also began as a young boy. For him it came while cleaning the Church with grandmother.
He was also encouraged by his best friend J.D. The two would regularly go to O-L-P-H to pray for God to give them a vocation, praying especially to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Chris contemplated the priesthood with his buddy J.D. That was until he met the woman of his dreams, now his wife, Ann.
His friend J.D. did go on to become a priest. You know him as Fr. Jack Shrum, one of Chris’ dearest friends and confidants.
Chris first thought about the diaconate in 2007, but he and Ann decided the kids were too young. He again felt called when a class was forming in 2014-2015 and said, “yes” to God.
Chris serves as IT manager for the Snohomish County Court system. He also serves as a Scout leader, and is active in numerous ministries at O-L-P-H.
Perhaps the greatest witness in our parish community today is Deacon Matt Zuanich and his 40-years of service as a deacon, most of them right here in our parish community.
He’s one of three surviving members of a class of 25 ordained in 1978. We call him the Arch-Deacon of IC and OLPH.
Today, Matt’s main ministry is taking care of his wife Kay.
Matt decided a few years back (at age 85!) to go to Senior Status as a deacon, meaning he’s not required to do all the things ordained deacons are asked to do (like continuing education, attending deacon retreats and gatherings, or actively serving as deacon) -- although you’ll still see Matt serving at the altar from time-to-time.
Matt credits his close friend Fr. Raymond Heffernan with encouraging him to say “yes” to God’s call to the diaconate.
Matt loves today’s Gospel story about Jesus’ request to Simon Peter to drop his nets and become a “fisher of men.” He even had that story printed on his ordination prayer cards and deacon business cards.
Matt has crocheted hundreds of these stoles for deacon and priest friends using skills learned as a commercial fisherman in his youth.
These are just a few examples of how we are all called by God to serve His Church and His people.
Jesus wants us to all to be focused on our future with him. Not keep looking over our shoulders at our pasts and come up with excuses to not follow Him deeper into His ministry.
So, my sisters and brothers, I ask you: how is God calling you to deeper service?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Homilía – Cuarto Domingo Ordinario - Rechazo

Lucas 4, 21-30

               El mensaje de hoy es sobre el rechazo. Nuestro propio rechazo al Mensaje del evangelio y el rechazo de los demás a la Buena Nueva de Jesucristo.
               Jesús conoce bien nuestros corazones humanos. Él sabe que a veces queremos controlar la voluntad de Jesús en nuestras vidas.
               Hoy, Jesús está en su ciudad natal. Acaba de decirles a su familia y amigos algo bastante impactante.
               Al leer las Escrituras de Isaías, dice:
“El espíritu del Señor está sobre mí, porque me ha ungido para llevar a los pobres la buena nueva, para anunciar la liberación a los cautivos y la curación a los ciegos, para dar libertad a los oprimidos y proclamar el año de gracia del Señor.”
Luego de enrollar el pergamino declara,
 “Hoy mismo se ha cumplido este pasaje de la Escritura que acaban de oír”.
Su familia y amigos están estupefactos. Luego, dicen: "¿No es éste el hijo de José?"
En este momento, se dan cuenta de que su Mesías es uno de los suyos. Esto es algo de lo que todos pueden regocijarse.
               Nuestro Obispo auxiliar Daniel Mueggenborg dice: 
"La razón por la que fueron tan complacidos con sus palabras 
fue porque la multitud pensaba que podían controlar 
a Jesús como uno de los suyos y guardar sus 
buenas obras y bendiciones para sí mismos". 
Pero luego Jesús continúa su mensaje diciéndoles a sus familiares y amigos que su mensaje no es solo para ellos, sino para todos.
Lo hace recordándoles lo que hizo el profeta Elías por la viuda de Sidón, una gentil. Él no hizo estas cosas por los israelitas, sino por alguien que no era de la tribu de Israel.
¿No hay momentos en que rechazamos lo que Jesús está diciendo en nuestras vidas? ¿O rechazamos la voluntad de Dios en nuestras vidas cuando es algo de lo que estamos sorprendidos?
A veces otros experimentan la misericordia de Dios y nosotros no. No creemos que esto sea justo.
Las multitudes en la ciudad natal de Jesús, Nazaret, piensan lo mismo.
               En su ira, intentan matar a Jesús, pero Jesús simplemente se va ileso.
               Jesús nos está recordando cómo debemos manejar el rechazo en nuestras vidas. No debemos tratar de convencer a la gente de que estamos en lo correcto y que ellos están equivocados. Solo debemos decir la verdad acerca de Jesús y alejarnos cuando enfrentemos el rechazo a este mensaje.
               El rechazo es duro. A nadie le gusta sentir rechazo. Es doloroso. Duele. Nuestra acción humana a veces es hablar enojado cuando enfrentamos el rechazo.
               Pero Jesús dice, no. No hagas esto. El quiere que nos alejemos y que llevemos su mensaje a aquellos que están más abiertos a escuchar sus Buenas Nuevas.
               A veces es más fácil para nosotros insistir en este rechazo y permitirnos gastar tiempo y energía para convencer a otros de nuestra perspectiva.
               Pero el rechazo es parte de la vida. Y Jesús no quiere que perdamos el tiempo con eso, incluso en nuestras propias familias y con nuestros amigos.
               Deberíamos alejarnos.
Tuve esta misma experiencia cuando estaba en formación para convertirme en diácono.
Cuando comencé mi formación de diácono, yo incluso tenía un trabajo que amaba.
Pero durante la formación, escuché a Dios llamándome a hacer más por Él y su Iglesia.             
Para mí, sucedió un día en noviembre de 2009. Estaba en mi primer año de formación y apenas estaba comenzando mí viaje para convertirme en diácono.
En ese día, Jesús irrumpió en mi vida y llamó mi atención.
En ese momento, era gerente de Radio Noticias K-O-M-O y ese día estaba en mi teléfono celular afuera de la casa de mi director espiritual, ayudando a nuestro equipo de noticias a coordinar la cobertura de un tiroteo importante que involucró a cuatro policías de Lakewood, asesinados en un café en Parkland.
               Cuando colgué el teléfono y comencé a caminar para mi reunión con mi amigo sacerdote, tuve la sensación más abrumadora: mi tiempo en K-O-M-O había terminado. Mi carrera de ocho años allí había terminado. Jesús tenía otros planes en mi vida.
            Pensé, ¿en serio, Señor? Dios, me diste este maravilloso trabajo, ¿y ahora quieres quitármelo?
               Compartí este mensaje de Dios con mi director espiritual. Él me dijo que orara por eso en la próxima semana y yo sabría mejor adónde me estaba guiando Dios.
         Unos días más tarde, el martes, recibí una llamada de la sala de prensa temprano por la mañana poco después de las 2 de la mañana. El asesino de los cuatro oficiales de policía fue baleado y asesinado en el sur de Seattle por un oficial de la policía de Seattle actuando en una corazonada.             
Me levanté, me bañe y me puse a trabajar para ayudar a coordinar un día largo, largo de cobertura de noticias.  
               Al final del día estaba cansado. Fue entonces cuando recordé mi pasantía pastoral en L’Arche, una comunidad de personas con discapacidades intelectuales.
               Pensé no puedo hacer esto. Estoy demasiado cansado.
               Pero cuando empecé a conducir a casa, a punto de no ir a mi tarea pastoral, sentí que Dios me guiaba en dirección a L’Arche.
               Llegué un poco tarde para la cena. Y cuando entre silenciosamente y me senté a la mesa, una de los residentes, una mujer encantadora y llena de alegría llamada Nancy, volteó hacia mí y me dijo: "Bienvenido a casa".
               Ella tenía razón. Finalmente estaba en casa donde siempre se suponía que debía estar.
               En ese momento, Dios me había mostrado que mi verdadero destino era el ministerio pastoral, no dirigir una gran organización de noticias.
               Era tiempo de trabajar para Jesús.
Además, muchas de las personas con las que trabajé en K-O-M-O rechazaron que me convirtiera en diácono de la Iglesia Católica. Hay mucha hostilidad hacia la Iglesia Católica en los medios de comunicación.
               Ahora, ya no cuestiono cuando Dios quiere que haga algo. Sólo lo hago.
               Cuando escuché su llamado a ir a Guatemala para aprender español, lo hice. Es por eso que estoy aquí con ustedes hoy.
               Estoy seguro de que tienes una historia similar acerca de la voluntad de Dios en tu vida o de que otros te rechazan por hacer la voluntad de Dios.
               No siempre entendemos lo que Jesús quiere de nosotros. Pero si decidimos no rechazar la voluntad de Dios, cuando seguimos a Jesús y lo ayudamos a construir el Reino de Dios, encontramos mucha felicidad y satisfacción en nuestras vidas.
               Este es su mensaje para todos nosotros este fin de semana.

Today's message is about rejection. Our own rejection of the Gospel message and the rejection of others to the Good News of Jesus Christ. 
Jesus knows our human hearts well. He knows we sometimes want to control Jesus' will in our lives.
Today, Jesus is in his hometown. He’s just told his family and friends something quite shocking.
In reading Isaiah’s scripture, he says,
                 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
                 He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Then rolling up the scroll he declares,
                "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
His family and friends are dumbstruck. Then, they say, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
In this moment, they realize their messiah is one of their own. 
This is something they can all rejoice in.
Our Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg says,
"The reason they were so pleased with His words was because the crowds thought they count control Jesus as one of their own and keep His good works and blessings for themselves."
But then Jesus continues his message telling his family and friends His message is not just for them, but for everyone.
He does this by reminding them of what the Prophet Elijah did for the Widow of Sidon, a gentile. He didn’t do these things for the Israelites, but someone who was not from the tribe of Israel.
Aren’t there times where we reject what Jesus is saying in our lives?  Or reject the will of God in our lives when it’s something we are surprised about?
Sometimes others experience God’s mercy and we do not. We don’t think this is fair.
The crowds in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth think the same thing.
In their anger, they try to put Jesus to death, but Jesus just walks away unharmed.
Jesus is reminding us how we should handle rejection in our lives. We should not try to convince people that we are right and they are wrong. We should just tell the truth about Jesus and walk away when we face rejection to this message.
Rejection is hard. No one likes to feel rejection. It’s painful. It hurts. Our human action sometimes is to speak out in anger when we face rejection.
But Jesus says, no. Do not do this. He wants us to walk away instead and take his message to those who are more open to hearing his Good News.
Sometimes it’s easier for us to dwell on this rejection and allow it to spend time and energy to convince others of our perspective.
But rejection is a part of life. And Jesus doesn’t want us to waste our time dealing with it, even in our own families and with our own friends.
We should walk away.
I had this very experience when I was in formation to become a deacon.
When I started my deacon formation I even had a job I loved.
But during formation, I heard God calling me to do more for Him and His Church. 
         For me, it happened one day in November 2009.  I was in my first year of formation and just beginning my journey to become a deacon. 
On that day, Jesus broke into my life and got my attention. 
At the time, I was manager of KOMO Newsradio and on that day was on my cell phone outside my spiritual director’s house helping our news team to coordinate coverage of a major shooting involving four Lakewood police officers, gunned down in a coffee shop in Parkland.
          As I hung up the phone and began to walk in for my meeting with my priest friend, I had the most overwhelming feeling:  My time at KOMO was over.  My eight year career there was over. Jesus had other plans in my life.
            I thought, really, Lord?  God, you gave me this marvelous job, and now you want to take it away from me?
            I shared this message from God with my spiritual director.  He told me to pray on it in the coming week and I would better know where God was leading me.
 A few days later on Tuesday, I got an early morning call from the newsroom at a little after 2 am.  The murderer of the four police officers was himself shot and killed in South Seattle by a Seattle police officer acting on a hunch.
            I got up, showered and went into work to help coordinate a long, long day of news coverage. 
By the end of the day I was tired.  It was then that I remembered my pastoral internship at L’Arche, a community of individuals with intellectual disabilities.  
I thought I can’t do this.  I’m too tired.  
But as I started to drive home, about to not go to my pastoral assignment, I felt God steering me in the direction of L’Arche.
  I got there a little late for dinner.  And as I quietly snuck in and sat down at the dinner table, one of the residents, a lovely, joy-filled woman named Nancy, turned to me and said, “Welcome Home.” 
She was right.  I was finally home where I was always supposed to be.
In that moment, God had showed me my true destiny was pastoral ministry, not running a large news organization.
It was time to work for Jesus. 
Besides, many of the people I worked with at KOMO rejected my becoming a deacon in the Catholic Church. There is much hostility to the Catholic Church in news media.
Now, I no longer question when God wants me to do something.  I just do it.
When I heard His call to go to Guatemala to learn Spanish, I did it.  It is why I am here with you today.
I am sure you have a similar story about God’s will in your life or being rejected by others for doing God’s will.
We don’t always understand what Jesus wants of us. But if we choose to not to reject the will of God, when we follow Jesus and help him build the Kingdom of God, we find much happiness and contentment in our lives.
This is His message for us all this weekend.