How Should We Respond to the Breaking Good News of God’s Kingdom? – Peter Patrick’s Homily for January 25

FrPeterPatrickOf course all of us gathered here came to know God through our parents.  As we grew up, our parents, grandparents, relatives and friends continued to encourage us to attend Mass and other spiritual gatherings.  The question that follows after hearing the word of God is: “How should one respond to the challenge of the breaking good-news of God’s Kingdom?”  As St. James says: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only… (James 1:22).”

In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus calling his first disciples.  They left everything and followed him to proclaim the kingdom of God, which is the mission of Jesus.  When we say “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), “at hand” is intentionally ambiguous, meaning either here or there—or both—because God’s kingdom is not a place, but a way of life, what the world could look like and would look like, if we were living according to God’s gracious saving and loving plan.

Each one of us can say, with Jesus’ coming into the world the loving rule of God has come near, but not yet here with us.  We experience another rule in us that opposes God’s, namely the rule of sin/evil.  So Jesus again and again invites us to come under the loving rule of God by abandoning all unloving and ungodly ways.  “Kingdom of God” does not refer to a place or a territory but a new quality of life to be lived with God’s own values.                                                                                 

God’s values must be the rule of our lives and not worldly or selfish values.  When we submit ourselves to God’s loving rule in our lives and accept the gospel’s way of life, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live that way of life.  A change in us or a reshaping/reorientation of our lives is essential to experience the nearness of God’s Kingdom.  Hence, one’s proper response to God and his Kingdom coming so near to us is to ‘repent’ by opening our hearts to Jesus’ gospel-way of loving service.

The root-cause of all unloving ways is the way we think.  Therefore, today Jesus invites us again to change the way we think.  With God’s grace and strength, we have to try hard to replace our negative or evil thoughts with positive or good thoughts.  Repentance means to change our way of thinking, attitude and life’s choices, so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of our hearts, rather than sin, selfishness, and greed.

Let us be like the Ninevites, after hearing the Good News of God, they fasted and repented.

Blessings,

Fr. Peter Patrick

 

 

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The Liturgy of the Word – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 25

frdennisLast weekend we looked at the Introductory Rites of the Mass.  The Mass begins with an acknowledgement of our sinfulness and asking God to forgive us.  At this point, all is in God’s hands who not only forgives us, but showers us with His unconditional love.  In God’s love of sinners we find our path to Him.

Today we focus upon the Liturgy of the Word.  It is a time for us to listen to God speaking to us through the proclamation of the Word, from the Hebrew Scriptures, the letters to the early church and the Gospels.  The context for our listening to the Word is our lives and what is occurring within our lives.  When listening to the Word of God, one could practice Lectio Divino listening for a word or phrase that stands out for you.  This is the Spirit speaking directly to you through the proclamation of the Word.

This past Thursday I spoke to the first communicants and their parents about the Mass.  I encouraged them to listen for a word or a phrase that stood out for them during the proclamation of the Word.  I used today’s gospel for this lesson.  For one young father, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people (Mark 1: 17),” is what stood out for him.  I don’t know the context of his life or even what is happening in his life, but he heard a call to follow Jesus and become a fisher of people.  Maybe some of you heard this very same phrase—Jesus calling you and inviting you to be fishers of  people. If this is what stood out for you, there is a need to respond to the Lord.  What does it mean for a young father to follow Jesus and bring others to the Lord?  What does it mean for you?  A mother of a second grader heard the word “follow.”  She heard the Lord inviting her as a mother to  follow Him—to become His disciple.  Maybe some of you heard what she heard—“follow.” I wonder how many would have heard the call to repent as Jonah walked through the city of Nineveh in our first reading?  Or the urgency of the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians?  In a typical Sunday morning congregation people don’t hear the same things because the Spirit has different things to say to the individual participants.

Another way to listen to the proclamation of the Word is to use your imagination.  St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged his brothers to pray with their imagination.  One does so by placing oneself in the story.  Using today’s gospel, “The Call of the First Disciples,” one could be Peter or Andrew or a helper in the boat as they were fishing when they heard the call.  One could be Zebedee who was abandoned by his sons along with the hired persons or even one of these.  One could be Jesus who is calling the first disciples.  The listening with one’s imagination requires knowledge of the readings that are assigned for a particular Sunday.  These are always published in the weekly bulletin.  Hearing the proclamation of the Word from the perspective of different persons in the story opens the Word for the listener.  It helps the listener to hear the Word within the context of one’s life.

God has something to say to each of us at every Sunday Mass; we have to learn how to listen.  Matthew Kelly has a Mass Journal that one can receive free by going to DyanamicCatholic.com to order. It is based on the following question, “During this Mass, what is the one thing God is going to say to me to become a better version of myself this week?” Approaching the Liturgy of the Word with a listening stance allows God to speak to us, and God has much to say to us.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

 

 

How Did You Come To Know God? – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for January 18

FrPeterPatrickIf I would ask you; “How did you come to know God?” you would likely find it a very simple question to answer. It’s through our parents. The next question would be; “Who has been your role model or who has been encouraging you to attend Mass?” Some will say their parents, grandparents and others will say their friends.

We need each other as we continue to discern our vocation as Christians.

Last Sunday was the Baptism of our Lord, which was a moment to renew our baptism promises. After our baptism, what is next? We are called to be witnesses of Jesus through our words and deeds every day of our lives. Christian vocation involves hearing God’s call through human testimony, following Jesus, seeking him, finding him and bringing others to him by sharing that experience with them.

Though today is not Vocation Sunday, the readings are pointing us in that direction. In the first reading from 1 Samuel, we hear the calling of Samuel, and in the Gospel, Jesus calling the disciples. The first reading attunes our ears and sharpens our insight for a deeper appreciation of today’s Gospel. Today’s Old Testament passage, therefore, casts Eli in the role of John the Baptist, Eli helping his young disciple Samuel discern that the Lord is calling Samuel to a personal encounter, just as John the Baptist directs two of his disciples toward a personal encounter with Jesus. The episode offers modern disciples both challenge and comfort. On one hand, the Lord’s call is insistent and at first—for Samuel and how often for us—both confusing and disorienting. But that call is also comfortingly personal: the God who calls knows Samuel and us by name! Samuel’s response is every disciple’s perfect prayer: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

All of us gathered here need to be Eli, John and Andrew, all three of them helped others to discern their call to follow God. Parents, I would ask you to encourage your children to consider priesthood and religious life. I am here today because of the encouragement I got from my parents, although they did not know what God was calling me to be. We went to Mass as a family and attended prayer meetings. Being in the Church, my pastor noticed my vocation to priesthood, to which at first I was very resistant, but after giving it a chance, here I am now.

In this parish, we are blessed by having the St. John Paul II House of Discernment. It is a place where young men who are in college or working, after a certain process, are given a chance to live and support one another as they discern. Last year we had eight young men living here and we were blessed to have six join the seminary. If you would like any guidance, please don’t hesitate to talk to Fr. Dennis, Fr. Luke and myself, or any other priest or our seminarians. Let us continue praying for an increase of vocations, for our seminarians and especially those to be ordained this coming spring: our own St. Robert parishioner Andrew Linn and Patrick Behling of Holy Family.

The Mass: Introductory Rites – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 18

frdennisBeginning this weekend and continuing to the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the homilies will focus upon understanding the Mass. The goal is to increase your knowledge and awareness of what happens in the Mass in order to enhance your participation. Today we begin with the Introductory Rites.

Immediately following the sign of the cross and the greeting, we are called to acknowledge our sinfulness so as to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries. The penitential rite serves as a doorway into the Mass. Recently I attended a day of reflection and was struck with the comment of the presenter. He said, “Underlying all of our sinfulness is a belief that God doesn’t love us.” When we come face-to-face with our sinfulness we draw the conclusion things are so bad that God could not love us. It is only in acknowledging our sinfulness that we can be free to accept God’s unconditional love for us. Do we deserve such generous love from God? Not really, but we have a loving God who has not given up on us.

Think of your greatest sin, probably you are still struggling to forgive yourself for it. Your greatest sin is like a drop of water in a furnace. A drop of water is not going to put the flames of a furnace out, in fact, it will evaporate immediately. Our greatest sin is like a drop of water in the furnace of God’s love. We, human beings, fail to comprehend the intensity of God’s love for us. We can only begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us when we contemplate Jesus nailed to a cross. He suffered the agony and humiliation of the cross for us, for you, for me. All of this was done because He loves us.

In the penitential rite we accomplish three things. First, we acknowledge our sinfulness. Second, in acknowledging our sinfulness we can approach God and ask for forgiveness. We need know our sins in order to ask for forgiveness. Third, in acknowledging our sinfulness and asking for forgiveness, we are free to accept God’s love. The only response we can give to God in light of our sins is the acceptance of His unconditional love for us. Once we acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness it is out of our hands—it is now in the hands of God. Let me reiterate this point again because this is what we must always remember. Our only response to a forgiving God approaching our sinfulness is to accept His unconditional love for us. We have to allow God to be God to us. We are not in any position to dictate to God how God is to respond to us. We are not God, but the object of His generous love. Rejuvenated by the love of God, we give praise to Him by singing over and over again, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people of good will.” The introductory rites are all in relationship to the moments of forgiveness. The opening prayer summaries the forgiveness we seek and the praise we give to God for taking us back.

There was a banker who had two creditors. One owed him a huge amount of money and the other only a small amount. Since neither had the means to pay back their debt to the banker, the banker forgave their debt. In your mind, who was more grateful to the banker? Are you grateful to God who has forgiven you?

 

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for January 11, 2015

FrPeterPatrickThough today’s feast celebrates the Baptism of the Lord, the scriptures prompt reflection on our baptism, i.e., the witness we are called to bear in our daily lives. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks of the nature and mission of God’s Servant, to whom God has said: “I, the Lord, have called you, I grasped you by the hand; I formed you” (Isaiah 42:6); God and God’s Servant—Jesus, you and I—are called to be decisive in action, yet tender of heart.

John’s baptism was meant for repentance and forgiveness of sins (1:4). As Jesus was sinless, he needed neither repentance nor forgiveness of sins. In spite of that, Jesus accepts baptism from John in order to identify himself with our sinful condition (1:9), thus he shows his solidarity with sinful humanity.

The Gospel seems to suggest that Jesus became gradually conscious of his mission as he grew up and became a young man. His Baptism was a turning point in his life, a moment of final decision or ‘final commitment’ to the mission entrusted to him by his Father. Today’s text hints at a personal spiritual experience of Jesus at his baptism regarding his call to God’s mission, since it says that Jesus alone saw the heavens tearing apart, the Spirit descending on him and the voice from heaven declaring him as God’s Beloved Son (1:10-11). It seems an inner voice urged or propelled him very powerfully to commit himself firmly to God’s will.

Just like Jesus, the more we immerse ourselves into spiritual matters, the more we get to understand our mission and our calling as Christians. If we also enter into our inner room, we will hear that voice of God which will urge or propel us very powerfully to recommit ourselves firmly to God’s will.

Then the question arises: “What is my mission and calling as a follower of Christ?” This is a question we all need to ask ourselves as baptized persons. Like Jesus, by our baptism, we too are called to enter into the life-situation of those who are weak and vulnerable. We should not consider ourselves as virtuous and look down on those who are weak in faith and character as sinners.

By baptism we become God’s beloved sons and daughters and are entrusted with a mission of service. Like Him, we too are consecrated for a life of service. Jesus’ way is not a way of power and might but the way of sacrificial service.  Hence, this feast invites us to show forth that we are really God’s beloved children by remaining faithful to our baptismal vocation and mission. We must be always attuned to the inner voice of the Spirit that moves us to become more and more sensitive to needs of the modern world and look for newer and newer forms of service. Let us also commit ourselves to the mission and vision of our parish and serve in different ministries and give generously. Let us make this parish a better place to worship.

God’s World – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 11, 2015

frdennisThe 1992 film Wayne’s World introduced the audience to the world as Wayne, played by Mike Myers, and Garth, played by Dana Carvey, see it. As a comedy, it centered on the perception of the world according to Wayne and Garth. The hidden message of the film, as we laugh at their antics and jokes, was that we all live in a world of our perceptions. Like Wayne and Garth, they invited us to laugh at the perceptions and misperceptions of our own worlds.

Baptism introduces us into a different world; a world far unlike the one of our perceptions. Baptism introduces us to God’s world. We enter this world with the insight the Prophet Isaiah told the Israelites, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways (Isaiah 55: 8).” God and we are looking at the same world, but each is seeing something totally different. In God’s world we are invited keep our baptismal garment spotless—we were commanded by the Church at baptism with these words. “See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity…bring it unstained into the everlasting life of heaven, (Baptism Ritual #126).” The question is, “What does God mean by ‘spotless’ and what do we mean by it?”

In God’s world we are asked to live the dignity He has bestowed on us. This dignity is one of being a son or daughter of the Living God. We think of doing this as: we have to be perfect. God doesn’t demand perfection of us, only faithfulness. “Your ways and not my ways,” says the Lord God. In His world we are invited to grow in our identity as the beloved of God. He speaks to us as His beloved and showers us with grace upon grace. How often do we wonder how God can love a sinner like ourselves? At the core of our sinfulness is a belief that God doesn’t love us. In 2015, if there is one thing we can all accomplish in our spiritual lives it is to accept ourselves as God’s beloved. We sin and God forgives us because we are His beloved. We turn from Him and He seeks us out because we are His beloved. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” says the Lord God.

In baptism, God has claimed us for Himself, therefore, we are to allow God to lay claim on us. Eight times in the gospels someone is told, “Do not be afraid.” Allowing God to lay claim on us means giving up the fear of being too close to God. If we are His beloved, will he harm us? If God were to harm us, He would be denying Himself. Our God does not go back on His word. In His world we have to live with a radical openness to the Spirit who dwells within us. Conscious or unconscious, the Spirit of the Living God dwells within us—a Spirit given to us at baptism. It is this Spirit who has made us His sons and daughters. It is this Spirit who cries out, “Abba, Father!

In baptism we enter into relationships with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We enter into relationships with one another because we have become one with Jesus Christ. When we were baptized, the heavens were not torn open, but God the Father whispered into our ear, “You are my beloved son/my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.”

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis