Sunday, December 26, 2021

HOMILY– Holy Family – Our Holy Families


Merry Christmas.

I pray you will find time this Christmas season to spend with your family. Our holy families are where many of us find signs of God’s love in our own lives. Even if our family life is complicated.

Christmas is also a blessed time to celebrate how God’s love broke through our human existence to shine a light on the outcast, the broken, the rejected, the oppressed and the marginalized in our world.

Jesus was born into the world in the humblest of settings: a manger – a feeding trough for animals. Not a place where many would expect the Son of God to be born. But it was here he came to us all the same. This is an important point for us all to ponder.

Today we commemorate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. 

          Today, we also remember St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and one of the first seven deacons in the Church.

As I reflect on my life, and especially my call to the diaconate, I see how my holy family helped God to help me to become a deacon. More on that in a moment.

A lot of people are not familiar with deacons. Deacons have been with the Church since the dawn of Christianity. Permanent deacons were men and women who served the Church for the first millennium. But somewhere early in the second millennium the diaconate became “transitional,” as a year of service before someone was ordained a priest.

In 1967, Vatican II restored the permanent diaconate to the Church, but not all Bishops around the world embraced the idea. This is why there are no permanent deacons in some parts of the world.

          St. Stephen’s story is told well in the Acts of the Apostles.

He was one of the first seven deacons called to the Church and was killed after giving powerful preaching on Jesus to his persecutors who stoned him to death for blasphemy. He died using similar words to those of Jesus on the cross, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

The Catechism teaches what a deacon is in the Catholic Church.

Here’s what it says,

“Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (a ‘character’) which cannot be removed, and which configures them to Christ, who made himself a ‘deacon’ or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.” (CCC, 1570)

           When I was in the final year of my five-year formation, I was struggling with my call. I was asking God: Is this really what you want for my life? I would have to give up all my hopes and dreams for retirement. I had already walked away from my favorite job to have more time for formation and ministry. I was in a low place, a dark night of the soul.

It was then I experienced something that helped me to see God’s plan for my life.

In October 2011, my mother-in-law was in the hospital and not doing well. She had buried her 41-year-old daughter, my wife Mary’s baby sister Beth, earlier that year and was still mourning the loss of her spouse eight years earlier.

My brother-in-law was in Hawaii with friends to celebrate Beth’s life and to spread some of her ashes at her favorite beach on Maui.

When Mary’s mom went into the hospital, my wife dashed to her hometown of Spokane to be with her. But after a week there, work demands forced her to return to the Puget Sound area.

I went to be with my mother-in-law until my brother-in-law returned from Hawaii. I arrived on a Monday night and spent time with her at the hospital. She seemed fine.

But the next morning the doctor called at 5 AM to say Marge was going to die that day. I rushed to the hospital to be by her side, to pray with her the prayers of the dying, and hold her hand and talk to her in her final hours.

When she passed, I called my wife immediately and we prayed the prayers for the dead together.

It was then I realized what day it was, October 4th, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps the most famous deacon in the Church. 

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Lord, you let me witness birth in person for the first time on the Feast of St. Stephen when our first son was born. And now you let me witness death in person for the first time on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. These are the book ends of our life: birth and death.

The path to my life was clearly put before me. I was to become a deacon. I no longer had any doubts.

Today’s feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and today’s Gospel give us hope. Despite the fact that we might not understand all things, we know that God has a plan for our lives.

God’s ways are not always our ways. This is why today’s celebration is called the Holy Family and not the Perfect Family.

           God creates us uniquely and our differences are what make us holy. We humans live into God’s plan. Our lives develop in mysterious ways.

           Let us journey with Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Let us cast aside our hopes and our expectations and seek to live God’s will and remain open to where that journey might take us.

           Let us give thanks for our holy families who help us to see God alive in our lives.


Saturday, December 11, 2021

HOMILY– 3rd Sunday in Advent – Dawn On Us


This Advent, Fr.  Bryan and I are exploring the topic of being beacons of hope in challenging times.

This weekend, Gaudete Sunday, we called to rejoice.

But how do we do that?

In today’s Gospel, we see John the Baptist approached three times by three different groups seeking the answer to the question: “What should we do?”

Don’t we all ask this question of God sometimes in our lives?

What should we do to be better follower of Christ?

It is a question that has the potential to lead us disciples to take the next step in living our faith with integrity.

Real faith is not about how we pray or feel or about our personal relationship with Jesus. Real faith is about how we live our faith by what we do.

This is the secret to discovering hope in our lives. 

Hope can be a tricky thing.

Sometimes hope lies in the weeds and hides from us. Sometimes hope sneaks up and knocks us for a loop.

In these moments when hope breaks into our reality, we discover Christ in our lives, and our hearts are finally able to rejoice! 

I hear a beautiful line in the Divine Office morning prayer during Advent that touches on this reality: “Your light will come Jerusalem; the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.”

This is how the hope of God works in our lives. Hope dawns on us in radiant beauty.

Advent is a time of expectant hope as we prepare for Christmas. Gaudete Sunday is a time of joy. It’s why we wear the color rose symbolic of the rising of the sun.

But for some, the hope and joy of Christmas can be blunted by a tragic event or painful memory or a major health challenge.

I’m sure there are some of us here this weekend who are finding it hard to feel that expectant hope or joy in these challenging times.

I don’t remember how I lost the hope and joy of Christmas early in my life.

Sometime during my teenage years, the annual Christmas feeling disappeared from my heart.

Perhaps it happened after my father’s tragic death when I was fourteen. Or maybe it was an angry teenager shedding all things heartfelt from a painful childhood.

I don’t remember Christmas having the same impact as I trudged into adulthood.

Christmas meant nothing to me. My heart had little or no compassion for people in need. The people John the Baptist is pointing us to today.

I know I’m not the only person who has had a personal tragedy silence the hope and joy of Christmas in their heart. 

Christ was born to turn our despair into hope. Christ was born to fill our hearts with love and joy. Christ was born to bring “Peace on Earth, Good Will to all.”

It’s just sometimes in our lives when we experience too much pain, we become numb to hope. 

But God can grace us with a moment when we realize the many blessings we do have and count them all. 

In other words, there are times when we are graced with a moment where Christ dawns on our lives in radiant beauty! 

For me, joy and hope returned Christmas Eve 1986.

It was a foggy, still night. My new wife (the one true Catholic in the family at the time) wanted to go to Midnight Mass.

I begrudgingly went along not sensing what was about to happen.

As we drove to the nearby parish, Mary popped in the new cassette of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music (she has a near obsession with Christmas music).

As we rode along the song Silent Night came out of the speakers. I remembered this song being a favorite for my baby sister back when we were little kids.

Every Christmas, my sister Erin, my brothers Dan, and Jim, cousin Annie and I would reenact the manger scene at family gatherings.

My sister Erin loved Christmas. She was born with a congenital heart defect and found joy in only a few things thanks to hundreds of doctor’s visits and numerous heart surgeries.

           But love Christmas she did. And she loved her beloved toy piano she got in the final months of life.

That Christmas in 1967, a few months before she died, Erin unwrapped the toy piano after we had regaled the family in the true story of Christmas. I can still hear her playing it in my head.

As I daydreamed while driving, the closing strains of Silent Night snuck up and knocked my cold, stony heart for a loop.

At the end of the song, after the rushing of what sounds like some celestial wind, the song concludes with a child’s toy piano playing the opening stanza of Silent Night.

As I drove, tears streamed down my face. And I felt it!

The joy and hope of Christmas returned. God’s loving mercy penetrated my heart. And I have never lost that Christmas feeling.

           I pray you experience the expectant hope and joy that comes with Christmas. I pray your heart rings out with the love of Christ, and you show mercy to others. I pray Jesus dawns on your life in radiant beauty! Rejoice!

            The Lord is coming. Let our hearts be ready. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

HOMILY– 1st Sunday in Advent – Gratitude


Gratitude is the attitude we need most during these pandemic times.

Haven’t we all found ourselves mired in feelings of depression, or unhappiness or frustration or despair, during these past 20 months of isolation and social distancing?

I know I have. Certainly, you have, too.

Jesus is calling us to change our perspective and see our lives and our situations the way he sees them.

Gratitude is the attitude we need most.

Advent is a good time to put into practice this change to our perspective.

This weekend, Jesus is reminding his disciples that a change in attitude will help them to be ready for his coming at the end of time.

In our scripture this weekend from Luke's Gospel (called the little Apocalypse) Jesus is speaking about the great and fearful day of the coming of the Son of Man at the end of time. This is the third week we’ve read from the Bible’s apocalyptic literature where we hear of the culmination of history and the revelation of the reign of God. This is all designed to prepare us for Jesus' first coming at Christmas.

Here Jesus is reminding his disciples that the coming of the Son of Man at the end of time will be a cause for joy, courage, and hope. Not fear for believers.

Jesus comes into our human existence three times: at his birth, now in the ministry we do for him, and at the end of time. Our hearts must be attuned to this reality.

This is the change our perspective we all need. This is a change of perspective we can work on this Advent. This is a change of perspective that can transform our lives.

I’m reminded of a popular scene from a favorite Thanksgiving movie for many:  Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I’m sure most have seen it.

It’s a story about an uptight and intolerant advertising executive (Neal Page) who gets paired with a goodhearted, but annoying salesman of shower curtain rings (Del Griffith) after their airplane from New York to Chicago gets diverted to Wichita in a snowstorm.

They share together a three-day odyssey of misadventures as they attempt to get Neal home to his family for Thanksgiving.

The memorable scene comes at the end of the movie when Neal is finally on the Chicago light rail (known as the “L”) heading home.

As he’s reflecting on his experiences with Del he starts to realize something about his annoying new friend (it dons on him in a flash of memories): Del is homeless.

In that moment, Neal’s perspective changes as he returns to the light rail station where he left Del and gets the full story about Del’s reason for being a traveling salesman: He has no home to go home to after the death of his wife years earlier.

Neal invites Del to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner at his home and thanks Del for helping him to see the world differently than he did before.

So many people fail to show gratitude for their many blessings and understand there are many in this world with fewer blessings than we have.

We who live in the United States are blessed abundantly compared to the rest of the world. We should rejoice in these many blessings. Instead, of wanting more or feeling we don’t have enough.

           It is especially good to be reminded of this during the current pandemic, and during Advent.

           How do we grow in gratitude during this Advent to change our perspective?

           I’m thankful for author Emily Jaminet of Catholic Digest for offering these great ways to grow in gratitude:

“Prayer impacts our perspective!

If you are struggling with being grateful, take this matter to your prayer time! Ask the Lord for more graces to accept each moment of your life, as it is, and to overcome whatever is holding you back from being grateful. 

Surround yourself with people who are grateful for life.

Gratitude is an important virtue and flows from humility. ‘If souls are humble, they will be moved to give thanks,’ St. Teresa of Ávila said.

Materialism fuels our ingratitude.

Our culture and greed often lead us into a vicious circle of materialism: The more we get, the more we want. Materialism leads to the ‘give me’ mindset in which ‘stuff’ fills the void of our hearts. It is important to focus on the non-material world where we share our thanks with words of affirmation, kind deeds, and prayers of thanksgiving.

A major obstacle to being grateful or growing in this virtue is refusing to forgive.

When we refuse to forgive it leads us to grow in hard-heartedness. Consider forgiving those who have hurt you or robbed you of your joy. Seek to mend that relationship. When we seek out to strengthen our relationships with others, we grow closer to Christ. In the meantime, we grow in gratitude.

Worry and anxiety can also lead us away from being grateful.

There is a direct link between screen time and anxiety” (So, lose the smart phones and enjoy the now.)

Advent is a time of year when we are called to focus on shedding the things we don’t need in order to grow closer to Christ in all his comings.

Gratitude can help us to always be ready for Jesus, to always stay focused on what is important in our lives, and to always grow closer to God who is the wellspring of all our blessings in this life.

By showing gratitude always in all things, we become beacons of hope in these uncertain times. And draw others to be closer to Jesus.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

HOMILY– 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – The End


I saw an intriguing story in Catholic media this weekend about a deacon who died hours after delivering a homily about being ready for death.

In sharing this with you, don’t think this deacon doesn’t worry about tempting the same fate.

Here’s a quote from an article on the unexpected death:

"On a sunny Sunday afternoon Deacon Michael Puscas stood before his congregation and spoke of judgment day — he told parishioners to always be ready to meet the Lord, for they never know when they will live the last hours of their lives.

Just a few hours after speaking those words at Guardian Angels Parish in Colchester (Connecticut) on Nov. 7, the 68-year-old died suddenly, but peacefully, while swimming."

This weekend Jesus is talking about the end of the world. Pretty scary stuff.

But what he is really talking about is our readiness for, not only, his coming, but the end of our time here on earth.

We, Christians, are called to always be ready to meet Jesus and live our lives as if we could meet the Lord at any moment.

After all, we know neither the day nor the hour when He will return – just as we know neither the day nor hour when our journey in this life will end.

As we come to the close of the liturgical year, we are hearing readings from the Jewish Apocalyptic literature.

These readings are designed to get us thinking about the end.

Yes, Jesus is talking about the end of the world. To the audience in Mark’s Gospel, they thought the end was coming soon.

We should all be as prepared as Mark’s audience for the coming of the Lord.

When the Lord comes, or when our time on this earth comes to an end, all that will matter is the person we have become and what we have done to build up the Kingdom by serving others -- especially the poor and marginalized.

Friday, October 29, 2021

HOMILY– 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Keep it Simple


      One of my favorite movies scenes of all time came in a silly 90's comedy called "City Slickers."

          The movie is about a bunch of guys experiencing their mid-life crisis who go on a two-week cattle drive from a dude ranch in New Mexico to Colorado.

In the favorite scene, Curly, a quiet, tough cowboy, and Mitch, a greenhorn, chatty city slicker, are riding along the trail talking about life.

Curly tells the city slicker, “You city folks worry about a lot (things)… You spend 50-weeks a year getting knots in your rope and you think that two weeks up here will help you untie them.”

At that point, Curly turns to Mitch and says, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch replies, “No, what?” Curly holds up his  finger and says, “This!” Mitch says, “Your finger?”

Curly then goes on to explain that he means is that only one thing matters in life.

Mitch says, “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?"

Curly’s response, “That’s what you gotta figure out.”

Jesus has figured it out for us today.

The one thing is the greatest commandment (love God, love neighbor). It is that simple.

This is how we find happiness in life.

Jesus is employing what is called essentialism, a mindset where we eliminate all nonessential aspects of our lives and embrace one thing that is important in order to find happiness.

This is a mindset that Jesus encourages us to embrace today.  

           Love God. Love neighbor.  My sisters and brothers, Jesus wants us to keep it simple.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

HOMILY– 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Detachment (English & Spanish)


           Today Jesus is asking us, what possesses our lives?

What controls the precious time we have on this earth?

What are we addicted to or attached to that is unhealthy for us spiritually? 

Jesus is encouraging us to detach from these possessions? Only then will we be able to hear his message better.

           Easier said than done, I know.

This past week, many users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp had to go most of a day without these social media platforms. This was all due to a major technical issue.

Facebook was down for 80-million of its users, many here in the United States.  But its other products Instagram and WhatsApp were also down.

           It marked the longest outage for Facebook since 2008. Facebook has around three billion users worldwide.

           People addicted to social media were forced to detach from their habit for nearly a day.

I’m sure for some this was no easy matter.

           In this experience we can hear the voice of Jesus encouraging us to let go, put our focus on him and imitate what he is doing.

           Jesus loves us and desires to love others through us. But when our focus is elsewhere and not on him, how can this happen?

           We’ve all seen parents more focused on their smart phones than on their own children begging for their attention.

We’ve all seen friends and couples out to dinner more focused on their iPhones than on each other.

We’ve all seen people walking the streets like zombies bumping into people or even light poles because they are so fixated on their phones.

I can only imagine what Jesus would have to say about our unhealthy addiction to our phones.

And for the record, your deacon counts himself among those addicting to this device. So, this message is for your preacher, too.

Today, Jesus is calling us to change our focus, keep our eyes on him and become his eyes and ears in the world with our ministry of presence to others, especially others most in need.

Again, Jesus loves us and desires to love others through us. This requires our cooperation and our sacrifice.

Christ calls us to use the blessings we have received for the good of others. Not be solely focused on ourselves and our needs all the time. This is a non-negotiable in the kingdom of God.

           This half-day break from our Facebook habit is but a glimpse of the kind of detachment we are all being asked to make in our relationship with Jesus Christ so we can do his will for others.

This is the wisdom of Jesus. This is the “prudence given (us).” This is how the spirit of wisdom dons on our human minds. We heard these words in our first reading.

When we turn to the message in the Gospel of Mark, we see the perfect example of how Jesus is calling us to new life, one detached from all that controls us.

One bible commentary makes this key point about Jesus’ encounter with the rich man. Here’s what it said:

“What a demanding person Mark’s Jesus is! Here is an eager, prospective disciple, who has kept all the commandments since his childhood. He wants everlasting life. Jesus looks on him with love, but then challenges him beyond his capacities (“[And] He went away sad …”).

Mark’s Jesus turns to his disciples and makes it clear to them that having many possessions is an almost insurmountable deterrent to possession of the kingdom of God. This overwhelmed Jesus’ disciples and probably overwhelmed Mark’s first readers as thoroughly as it challenges his readers today.”[1]

By having these attachments, we are unable to focus on the needs of other. Our possessions, our wealth, our status, our entitlement prevent us from being able to do the Lord’s will in this world.

As we heard, the rich man walked away sad.

His sadness was not caused by his many possessions. No, it was caused by his inability to accept Jesus’ challenging invitation to come follow him and his example.

The man clung too tightly to his sources of false security. This prevented him from attaching to the security offered by Jesus and then showing Jesus to others by sacrificing his prized possessions.

So what possessions are we clinging too tightly to?

Our wealth? Our ego? Our pride? Our anger? Our resentments? 

How let go of these things? How do we more fervently follow Jesus?  How do we become more focused on the needs of others, not ourselves?

This is great food for thought for the coming week.  

[1] Bergant, D., & Karris, R. J. (1989). The Collegeville Bible commentary: based on the New American Bible with revised New Testament (p. 924). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.


Hoy Jesús nos está preguntando, ¿Qué posee nuestras vidas? ¿Qué controla el precioso tiempo que tenemos en esta tierra? ¿A qué somos adictos o apegados que no es saludable para nosotros espiritualmente? Jesús nos está animando a separarnos de esas posesiones para escuchar mejor su mensaje.

           Es más fácil decirlo que hacerlo, lo sé.

La semana pasada, muchos usuarios de Facebook, Instagram y WhatsApp tuvieron que pasar la mayor parte del día sin estas plataformas de redes sociales. Todo esto se debió a un problema técnico importante.

Facebook cayó para 80 millones de sus usuarios, muchos aquí en los Estados Unidos.  Pero sus otros productos Instagram y WhatsApp también cayeron.

           Marcó la interrupción más larga para Facebook desde 2008. Facebook tiene alrededor de tres mil millones de usuarios en todo el mundo.

           Las personas adictas a las redes sociales se vieron obligadas a desprenderse de su hábito durante casi un día.

           Estoy seguro de que para algunos esto no fue un asunto fácil.

           En esta experiencia podemos escuchar la voz de Jesús animándonos a soltarnos, a poner nuestro enfoque en él e imitar lo que séestá haciendo.

           Jesús nos ama y desea amar a los demás a través de nosotros. Pero cuando nuestro enfoque está en otra parte y no en él, ¿cómo puede pasar esto?

           Todos hemos visto a los padres más enfocados en sus teléfonos inteligentes que en sus propios hijos que piden su atención.

           Todos hemos visto a amigos y parejas salir a cenar más enfocados en sus iPhones que uno en el otro.

Todos hemos visto a personas caminando por las calles como zombis chocando contra otras personas o incluso con postes de luz porque están muy obsesionados con sus teléfonos.

Solo puedo imaginar lo que Jesús tendría que decir sobre nuestra adicción poco saludable a nuestros teléfonos.

Y para que conste, su diácono se cuenta entre los adictos a este dispositivo. Por lo tanto, este mensaje también es para su predicador.

           Hoy, Jesús nos está llamando a cambiar nuestro enfoque, mantener nuestros ojos en él y convertirnos en sus ojos y oídos en el mundo, con nuestro ministerio de presencia hacia los demás, especialmente hacia los más necesitados.

Una vez más, Jesús nos ama y desea amar a los demás a través de nosotros. Esto requiere nuestra cooperación y nuestro sacrificio.

           Cristo nos llama a usar las bendiciones que hemos recibido para el bien de los demás. No estar solo enfocados en nosotros mismos y en nuestras necesidades todo el tiempo. Esto es algo innegociable en el reino de Dios.

Este descanso de medio día de nuestro hábito de Facebook, no es más que un vistazo al tipo de desapego que a todos se nos pide que tengamos una relación con Jesucristo a través de la cual podamos hacer su voluntad por los demás.

Esta es la sabiduría de Jesús. Esta es la "prudencia dada (a nosotros)". Así es como el espíritu de sabiduría se manifiesta en nuestras mentes humanas. Escuchamos estas palabras en nuestra primera lectura.

Cuando nos dirigimos al mensaje del Evangelio de Marcos, vemos el ejemplo perfecto de cómo Jesús nos está llamando a una nueva vida, una vida separada de todo lo que nos controla.          

Un comentario bíblico hace este punto clave en el encuentro de Jesús con el hombre rico.

Esto es lo que decía:

"¡Qué persona tan exigente es el Jesús de Marcos! Aquí hay un discípulo ansioso y prospectivo, que ha guardado todos los mandamientos desde su infancia. Él quiere la vida eterna. Jesús lo mira con amor, pero luego lo desafía más allá de sus capacidades ("[Y] se fue triste ...").

El Jesús de Marcos se dirige a sus discípulos y les deja claro que tener muchas posesiones es un elemento casi insuperable para la posesión del reino de Dios. Esto abrumó a los discípulos de Jesús y probablemente abrumó a los primeros lectores de Marcos tan a fondo como desafía a sus lectores de hoy". [1]

Al tener estos apegos, no podemos centrarnos en las necesidades de los demás. Nuestras posesiones, nuestra riqueza, nuestro estatus, nuestro derecho nos impiden poder hacer la voluntad del Señor en este mundo.

Como escuchamos, el hombre rico se fue triste.

Su tristeza no fue causada por tener muchas posesiones. No, fue causada por su incapacidad para aceptar la desafiante invitación de Jesús a venir a seguirlo a él y a su ejemplo.

El hombre se aferró demasiado fuerte a sus fuentes de falsa seguridad. Esto le impidió apegarse a la seguridad ofrecida por Jesús y luego mostrar a Jesús a los demás, sacrificando sus preciadas posesiones.

Entonces, ¿A qué posesiones nos aferramos demasiado fuerte?

          ¿A nuestra riqueza? ¿A Nuestro ego? ¿  orgullo? ¿A nuestra ira?   ¿A nuestros resentimientos? 

           ¿Cómo dejar ir estas cosas? ¿Cómo seguimos más fervientemente a Jesús?  ¿Cómo nos enfocamos más en las necesidades de los demás, no en nosotros mismos?

Este es un gran alimento para pensar para la próxima semana.   

[1] Bergant, D., & Karris, R. J. (1989). The Collegeville Bible commentary: based on the New American Bible with revised New Testament (p. 924). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.