Thursday, January 28, 2021

HOMILY – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Driving Out Demons


        Jesus is in the Inaugural phase of his ministry. He is teaching with much authority as the one Moses foretold in today's reading from Deuteronomy. And his first miracle happens at a religious gathering.  

The man with an unclean spirit asks an important question:  “Jesus, what have you to do with us?” In other words, “Jesus, what do you want from us.”

As shared in this week’s parish wide email, "Jesus starts to build the Kingdom of God not by overcoming the evil that is out there – in the world of the unfaithful – but by first casting out the evil that is present in here – within the lives of those who are trying to be faithful. That's us."

This perspective is found in the book "Come Follow Me."

This is the same inaugural message found in the poem The Hill We Climb so beautifully shared at the recent Presidential Inauguration by Catholic Amanda Gorman.

The 22-year-old Youth Poet Laureate stole the show with her words of warning about the need to live into our better angels.

If you have not read it yet, I have posted it on Facebook. 

Here is just a snippet of her prophetic and cleansing words for us all shared on the same Capitol steps defiled just a few weeks ago:

“So we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another, we seek harm to none and harmony for all.”

This is the message of Jesus today. We must look inside ourselves first, drive out the demons in our own hearts first in order to take the first steps toward the way of peace.

This is an exorcism worthy of much prayer time.

Friday, January 15, 2021

HOMILY – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Come and See


        “What are you looking for?”

These are the first words Jesus speaks at the beginning of John’s Gospel. They are directed not only to these two disciples of John the Baptist, but to all of us.

As Seattle’s Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg shared in his book Come Follow Me, “First words are important words.”

Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?” 

It is a question posed to the eventual Apostle Andrew and an unnamed person some scholars believe is the beloved disciple John (author of this Gospel).

“What are you looking for?”

Why do we come to Mass?  Are we here because it is an obligation? Or are we here to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ and better hear his voice urging us to serve others and Him.

“What are you looking for?”

Are we open to deepening our understanding of what Christ is teaching us or do we have it all figured out?

“What are you looking for?”

Jesus speaks these provocative words for a reason. He wants us to reflect on why faith is important in our lives and to learn how to better share our witness with the world. 

Jesus then invites the disciples, and us, to, “Come, and … see.”

After spending a short time with the one John the Baptist called “the Lamb of God,” Andrew is so excited about what he has found he cannot wait to share the good news with his brother Simon Peter and bring him to Jesus.

Bishop Mueggenborg says, “The story of the first disciples is not complete until we are told they go out and introduce others to Jesus… The Gospel of John is trying to tell us that discipleship necessarily involves missionary outreach to others inviting them to share in the relationship we have with the Lord.”

This is an invitation to an even greater journey. When we follow Jesus, we learn to follow him everywhere. We follow him to hospital rooms and to prisons, to the homeless on the streets and to the poor in faraway lands. We follow Jesus to wherever he calls us to follow him, and “Come … and see.”

And this is not always a comfortable place. But he always calls us to deepen our understanding and awareness of Him as we serve our neighbors, no matter who they are.

This is not a place of opinions about what we think about people and how they live their lives, but a place where love and mercy can blossom, a place where others (and we) can find Jesus.

         I have been blessed to see these transformations in understanding and awareness with our MercyWatch team in Everett.

Over 250 volunteer doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical scribes, food preparers and street outreach volunteers tend to the homeless in Snohomish County. Our team will this week begin a partnership with the Snohomish Health District to provide COVID vaccinations to those experiencing homelessness in our area.

I’ve also been blessed to see these transformations in young people and older parishioners who joined a parish mission trip to one of the poorest parts of Guatemala in the summer of 2015.

We built houses, built stoves, built roads, and left behind thousands of dollars donated by our Everett parish community to contract local carpenters and artisans to finish the work started by our parishioners.

          In addition, we learned how to do laundry the old-fashioned way with water and wash board. We learned how to carry large, heavy bundles of firewood sticks using our foreheads and our backs. We even were invited to play our new friends in a fun game of soccer, and even held our own thanks to the athletic talents of one of our younger parishioners who was a scholarship collegiate softball player on the LaSalle University team. This young woman is now a doctor based in Chelan county serving those on the margins in a rural health district. Her life forever transformed by her missionary discipleship work.

In each of these experiences, we built relationships with the people of the community. And most importantly we walked in their shoes.

We all experienced something amazing and deepened our relationship with Christ as we entered into relationship with those living on the margins.

This is how we are called to embrace Pope Francis’ Culture of Encounter. This is how we join Jesus to “Come, and … see.” 

We are currently forming a team (at Christ Our Hope and St. Pat’s) to engage with our unhoused sisters and brothers in downtown Seattle. If you want to take part, shoot me an email. Formation starts this month.

If you are unable to join us on the streets for this outreach, you can help by supporting our outreach efforts by purchasing needed survival items. See this week’s parish email for ways you can donate to this important initiative.

God calls each of us to serve in the ministry of Jesus, just as God called Samuel to be a trustworthy disciple of the Lord.

Sometimes we, too, may be like Samuel, confused when God comes calling us by name.

Let us pray we will all learn to better hear God’s voice and respond to God’s call with “Here I am Lord your servant is listening.”   

 In Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel) Pope Francis encouraged us all to do our part, saying, “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’ If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim Him joyfully: ‘We have found the Messiah!’ (John 1:41).” 

So, I ask you again. “What are you looking for?”

Perhaps it is time to follow Jesus’ call to “Come, and … see,” and join in as we share Christ’s ministry of love to the world.

I’ll leave you with this. The late Jesuit Dean Brackley had a famous quote about the power of transformation that comes from this Culture of Encounter on the peripheries. He wrote:

“First it breaks your heart, then you fall in love, then you’re ruined for life.”

This is how we conform our hearts to Jesus. This is how we step further into the kingdom. This is how we best serve Christ. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

HOMILY – Epiphany 2021 – A Closer Look


What a gift to have the Christmas star appear in night skies around the world days before Christmas 2020. 

Although we in the cloudy Northwest may have been deprived of this wonderous site, the star was seen all over the planet. The star actually was not a star at all, but the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn – something that hasn’t happened in 800 years. And a reminder of the star that may have guided the Magi over 2-thousand years ago.

The Magi were seeking a closer look at a prophesy they had studied for years. They wanted to see up close the newborn King of the Jews and present his family with gifts befitting royalty.  Gold for a King, frankincense (incense) for a priest, and the burial perfume myrrh for a man who would eventually die. These gifts were a prophetic sign of what was to come in the life of Jesus.

When we take a closer look at things we gain greater insight into what we are looking at. The Magi knew this and wanted a closer look at the long-prophesied Messiah.

Normally I do not use pictures in homilies, but thought it would help us to take a closer look at things. And perhaps in this closer look we might see the hand of the divine.

Last week as we celebrated the holy family, we heard God’s conversation with childless Abram. God told an old man his progeny would be as countless as the stars in the sky or the sand on the shore.

Have you ever taken a look at sand up close? Here’s what you would see if you did.    

This is what sand looks like under a microscope. The hand of God present in the billions and billions of once living things that make up sand on the shore. This picture may be an epiphany for some seeing it for the first time, creating new insight and revelation about what makes up sand.

How about we take a closer look at the stars in the skies? Thanks to the Hubble Telescope, we now can see an up close look at those billions and billions of stars in the skies.

And we might even see the hand of God in these pictures.

Literally, the hand of God. 

Or the face of God.

Or the gates of Heaven. 

Or the mind of Christ.

Or with an even more vivid imagination, the Virgin Mary praying in the heavens.

These are all actual photos taken by Hubble and give us an up-close glimpse of the heavens. When we take a closer look, we see amazing things and gain deeper insight and more meaningful revelations about our universe. These photos are an epiphany to scientists studying the universe.

Now let’s bring that look closer to home to see God’s hand present in our world today.

Nativity scenes were not common until St. Francis of Assisi. This up-close view of the birth of Jesus came about when Francis, a deacon, sought permission from Pope Honorious III in 1223 to rekindle the devotion to the birth of Christ by using a Nativity scene.

One must remember that the Catholic Church was riddled with scandal and turmoil when God asked St. Francis to rebuild his Church. His spirit-led creativity helped the common faithful to see the uncommon reality of the birth of our savior in a new way. A new, up close look at the reality that God became man in the child of Jesus the Christ. This was an epiphany 800 years ago and brought the faithful closer to God.  

In the week before Christmas, our outreach team got an up close look at something heartbreaking on a cold, rainy night. We met a mom living in her car with young children.

They were fleeing domestic violence. They were homeless for the first time. They were very scared.

After talking with the mom, our team decided to do something we normally do not do. We decided no kid should spend Christmas living in a car. So, we put them up in a hotel for 10-days.

One of our college student outreach workers volunteered to play Santa Claus and found out what the girls wanted and needed from St. Nick.

This outreach worker (with a heart of gold) said her family (a family that includes a mother who is a kindergarten teacher) wanted to take care of Christmas for this the unsheltered family.  

  Here are the gifts she got them – up close.

This family helping a family in need were joined by another family who bought clothes for the children.

It was a very Merry Christmas for mom and her children.

I would share the picture of the smiling children sent to me on Christmas Day, but due to privacy will ask that you see this picture up close in your mind’s eye.  I’m happy to report they are now in a domestic violence shelter in the area.

When we see things far away, we can miss details that provide us with insight and revelation.

Perspectives change when we see things up close. This view can create an epiphany.

As the Magi came bearing gifts, each of us have gifts to be shared … with God and with others.

Gifts are what we bring. Gifts are what we share. We all have gifts to share if we have the courage to open our hearts to see the reality of God, and the face of Jesus, up close.