The Kingdom of God is at Hand: Repent and Believe in the Gospel – Father Dennis’ Homily for February 22

frdennisClose your eyes and imagine yourself in Capernaum at the time of Jesus. Maybe you are a potter at the potter’s wheel or a mother cooking a meal for the family or you are gathered with other women at the Sea of Galilee doing the laundry or helping your dad who is a fisherman. You can feel the cool breeze of the Sea of Galilee caressing your face. A preacher comes to town. He walks up to you. He catches your attention by looking into your eyes. His warm smile melts the defenses within you. He says to you, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15).” You hear the urgency in his voice as he announces the nearness of God’s Kingdom. He invites you to repent. You think of the choices you have made—the good ones and the ones you want to forget. You feel yourself being drawn to him as he invites you to believe in the Gospel. (Slowly bring yourself back to the present moment.)

St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged his brothers to pray with their imagination when they approached a scripture text by placing themselves in the story. By doing so, it opens the scripture to the moment “now.” I did this during the past week and I realize I was hearing the message as an invitation to this time of Lent—a time of faith. You too, by using your imagination, have heard His call as you begin this Lenten journey. Lent becomes a time to anticipate the nearness of God’s Kingdom. It becomes a wilderness where we, as James Martin SJ states in his book, Jesus, “need to name our own demons—we need to say, ‘I am vain’ or ‘I am greedy’ or ‘I have this addiction’ in order open ourselves to healing.” Once we open yourselves to healing, you are well on the road to repenting. The wilderness was a place where Jesus battled evil, as each of us must do daily.

Life can be difficult, it can be unfair and it can knock us down. A promise not to drink can be shattered by walking into a bar. A promise to be non-judgmental falls apart when the other person does something stupid, at least in our eyes. The promise to be clean of heart is lost in a glance. “Sin crouches nearby, to tempt us in our struggles, our losses and our suffering,” John Martens said. The permanent changes we seek in our lives are difficult, but not impossible. Instead of giving up for Lent, we have to give in to the Holy Spirit and the real presence of Jesus in Word and sacrament. Look at what Jesus has done for us, St. Peter recounts in our second reading. He died for us, brought us to God the Father, and has given you God’s Words. On our own, we would never have been able to reconcile ourselves to God, but by the power of Jesus Christ this has been accomplished. If he has done this once for us, will He not do the same as we battle our demons? This is where believing is so important.

We can experience the true joy of Lent by owning up to ourselves and facing the challenges in our lives. Let us take a moment to name the one permanent change we want to make this Lenten Season—the one demon we want to get rid of. (Pause to name this for yourself.)

 

Come Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit.
We give in to you, Holy Spirit and to you, Jesus
knowing that your power is brought to perfection in our weakness.
By your strength help us to overcome
the evil we wish to abandon.
If we fall, be there to pick us up
so can continue the good fight
and come to rest in the joy of Easter.
We ask this in your name always and forever.

Amen.

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Which Kind of Spiritual ‘Leprosy’ Are You Bringing to Jesus? – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for February 15

FrPeterPatrickWhich kind of spiritual ‘leprosy’ are you bringing to Jesus? Yes! Jesus is God; he knows everything that we are going through and what we need to become better people. Jesus touches our hearts when we cry to him to be healed from our spiritual ‘leprosy’ – just as he did to the leper in today’s gospel.

Last Sunday we heard in the gospel, the disciples told Jesus that the mother-in-law of Simon and Andrew was sick and he healed her. In that case, it was a collective responsibility as a community of faith; praying and taking care of the suffering. Today’s gospel is different, the sick man, a leper to be precise, an outcast, came to Jesus. Kneeling down in front of him, he begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” In this case it’s an individual responsibility. When we use Jesus to make us clean, it is so personal even our loved ones don’t know which kind of leprosy we are suffering from.

Today’s readings are preparing us for Lent, a time to reflect more deeply on what is separating us from God and others. In ancient society, people feared lepers because they feared catching the disease. The leper’s life was a living hell. People hated the sight of them, and the lepers in turn hated the sight of themselves. Leprosy represents our sins, and unlike the first reading, the leper went shouting “Unclean, unclean!” In the gospel we hear; “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” After realizing who he was; physically he was somehow disfigured, spiritually he was excluded from daily worship, and socially he was separated from his family and the community: He was “empty” in so many ways, but Mark portrays him as “full” of faith: his prayer was faithful and true.

Even us, we are empty in so many ways. We are called to be like the leper who in his mind did not have any doubt in Jesus. And in Jesus’ heart, there was no hesitation of reaching him and also reaching us when we confess our sins to him. Sometimes we think our sinfulness is so terrible that we cannot be forgiven: Our life is so messed up, a disaster, so destructive that we can’t pick up the pieces and start over again.

Whenever we think our life is ruined and broken forever we only need to bring all the pieces to Jesus and he will make us whole again. Jesus can repair our broken life and even make it better and more beautiful than it was before. From leper to child of God to preacher of the Gospel: how profoundly transformative this healing is! For the leper and his community were not whole themselves until he was healed restored to wholeness and returned to the community.

St. Paul sums up today’s readings this way in a letter to the second Corinthians: “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair… and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed… For this reason, we never become discouraged” (2Cor 4:8-9,16).

Blessings,

Fr. Peter Patrick

Lent – Why?

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Have you ever tried to bring up the subject of having a meaningful Lent only to hear a student, child, or spouse ask, “Why do we have to have Lent?” It is a good question and one that may rest deep in our Catholic psyche.

I recall a wonderful colleague who encouraged me to make Lent “gracious and relational.” At a time when our parish is talking about engaging more members in ministry; when we are doing a picture directory to connect names with faces; and when we are beginning another series of faith sharing groups to connect us to the Cross, thinking about making Lent gracious and relational may be appropriate.

Our Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, is relational. In baptism, through the graciousness of God’s great love, we are identified as a child of God. If our Lenten journey is to help us grow in our relationship to Jesus who, as St. Alphonsus Ligouri says, is not only a brother, but “our closest, dearest friend,” then the Lenten Sunday Gospels offer much for reflection.

Wouldn’t it be amazing and worth our repentance and small sacrifices if at the end of Lent we hear God’s voice say to us as God says to Jesus in the Transfiguration Gospel, “This is my beloved son” or “This is my beloved daughter”? Here are some ideas as to how to make Lent gracious and relational:

  1. Read and re-read the Lenten Gospels. The citations appear in our bulletin and are posted on our website and Facebook page.
  1. Be attentive to the homily series: “Repent and Believe: A Disciple’s Journey” and use the homily guide in the bulletin and on the website and Facebook page to prepare for and reflect on the Sunday preaching.
  1. Join a small faith sharing group and more deeply connect to Jesus through conversation with other parishioners.
  1. Commit to spending an hour each week in Adoration (Wednesday nights or Fridays) or praying for others on the Prayer Network.
  1. Receive God’s gracious love, the self-gift of Jesus, and return a gift—engagement in a parish ministry along with financial support of the parish and the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.

Good and gracious God, as a son, as a daughter, I offer Lent 2015 with repentance and in thanksgiving for your love and for all that you have first given me.

 

Rosemary Murphy

Stewardship Director

Connections to the Cross: A Lenten Journey

Small Group Discussion Facilitators

2014 Small Group Discussion Facilitators

My name is Wendy Scherwenka and on behalf of the leaders of the 17 small groups offered by St. Robert and Holy Family parishes, I would like to extend a very warm invitation to you. The weekly gatherings are a beautiful opportunity to strengthen and/or create a personal bond with Jesus – special and unique for you.

I agreed to participate not because I am a biblical scholar, but because I see this as an opportunity to marinate in the prayers and readings, discover how they speak to my heart and to connect with Jesus on a very personal level.

We have been meeting as a small group of leaders for the last 4 weeks, initially as a group of strangers.  We spend our time praying, contemplating , reading bible passages, sharing insights , feelings & experiences – opening ourselves up to Jesus and each other. It’s very gentle and comfortable – and it just happens.   I am seeing how this special time spent with Jesus affects each person in the group in amazingly different and beautiful ways. And for me personally, there has been a whole new life and light breathed into these words of scripture that I can feel deeply in my heart. I am so grateful and treasure the special bonds being formed and strengthened in my personal faith and with our community. It is a wonderful gift.

We would be honored to have you join us. There are many gatherings to choose from.   You can contact Greg Kelsch (kelschg@hfparish.org, 332-9220) or Merridith Frediani (mhfrediani@gmail.com, 962-1289) for more information or to sign up. We would love to hear from you by this Friday.

Blessings to you and have a fantastic day.

 Wendy Scherwenka

Financial Challenges for 2015 and Beyond

frdennisDear Parishioners,

Recently, in preparing my homilies on our stewardship theme, I reflected on the challenges my mother faced following the death of her first husband.   Times were tough when, as a single mom, she was the primary wage-earner and had to keep her eye on the cash flow in order to provide for the needs of my sister Louise.

It occurred to me that my family situation was similar to what we face today at St. Robert. No doubt you have heard my message of the need for prudent stewardship of our resources in managing our parish finances at this time. We have ended the last three years with a deficit totaling almost a million dollars.   In preparing the 2015-2016 budget, we have committed to reductions totaling $350,000 by increasing revenue, utilizing investment income, and reducing expenses.

I am very proud of the work of our Finance Council and Stewardship Committee in addressing and eliminating the projected shortfall.   Very shortly our Pastoral Council will become involved with a review of all of our ministries for their effectiveness in meeting the spiritual needs of our membership.

As one of our ministry volunteers stated recently, “We have to manage our reality.” That’s what my mom did and that’s what we have to do now at St. Robert. I feel very good about the process that our parish leadership is now undertaking to set the parish on a firm financial basis.   I will be reporting back to you regularly as we move through this process and as I consider recommendations from our parish leaders. Over and above the work of our leadership, I am available to listen and talk with you, the parishioner in the pew, about our situation. Feel free to contact me through our parish office.

St. Robert does need your increased financial support. If you can increase your regular support or if you can give a one-time financial gift, I assure that your contribution will directly affect the future of our ministries. I ask you to prayerfully consider what you can do to help.

Sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,

Father Dennis Dirkx

Pastor

The Liturgy of the Eucharist – Father Dennis’ Homily for February 1

frdennisLast week the theme of the homily focused upon the Liturgy of the Word. It is a time when God speaks to us through the Hebrew Scriptures, the letters of the early Church and the Gospels. We listen for the word or phrase the Holy Spirit reveals to us. The Spirit will speak to each one of us, but we have to listen. The Lenten preaching theme will follow the weekly small faith sharing groups since both are based upon the Sunday Lenten readings. It will begin with the announcement of the First Sunday of Lent, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” I would encourage you to sign up for a small faith sharing group this Lenten Season. It will be awesome!

A few weeks ago I presented some thoughts about the Mass to the first communicants and their parents. I stated that by the time we get to the Liturgy of the Eucharist we go on to auto pilot. One of the fathers was nodding his head in agreement. There are probably several reasons for this. Oftentimes we see it as a monologue, but it is far from this. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a shared prayer offered to God the Father by the celebrant and the congregation. It begins with the offering of bread and wine that is a symbol of us as gifts. As the priest is offering these gifts to God the Father, offer yourself or the hectic week you have just experienced or the struggle that has been pulling you down. God the Father welcomes such precious gifts, honors them and holds them in his sacred hands. What more can we ask of our God?

In accepting our gifts, God transforms them into the Body and Blood of His Beloved Son. Together with Jesus Christ who offers Himself to the Father we pray, “Look, we pray, upon the oblation, the offering, of your Church and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, (The Third Eucharistic Prayer).” We ask God the Father to recognize the Jesus through whom we have been reconciled to Him. In all boldness we dare to address the Father with these words. We ask the Father to gather us together as one by the Holy Spirit and to have a share in the glorious life of the saints. We ask the Father to advance the peace and salvation of the world; to be with our Pope, our archbishop, those who serve in ministry and with all people God has gathered unto himself. We ask Him to hear our prayers and to remember our loved ones who have gone before us and all who have died in His mercy. We really do ask God the Father for a lot in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Would you put yourself on auto pilot if you were talking to your boss or listening to your spouse or listening to your child or friend? The challenge of the Eucharistic Prayer, the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is making it our own— offering it as if this was the very first time we have done it. Did you know there are ten different Eucharistic Prayers a celebrant can use on a given Sunday?

The last words following the consecration of the wine are, “Do this in memory of me.” The “this” Jesus refers to is the sacrifice on the cross in which the past and the present are brought together so that what happened at Calvary is manifested in the midst of those gathered around the altar. As we enter into the Eucharistic Prayer if this is the one thing we can always remember and be present to it, we will have understood the essence of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Dennis

I Know Who You Are – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for February 1

FrPeterPatrick“I know who you are,” said the man with the unclean spirit. Even with an unclean spirit, he knew who Jesus was. What about us, do we know who Jesus is? Do we know each other well as family members and parish members? Last Sunday we heard in the gospel Jesus calling his first disciples. Those disciples left their livelihood and their loved ones to follow him although they did not know him well. To follow Jesus, you need to make a radical decision.

Knowing Jesus is one thing, and living according to his teachings is another. Is just like being baptized and living the baptism promises. Jesus came to claim back the kingdom of God which was taken over by the evil one. As we understand, God’s kingdom is not a place, but a way of life, it is what the world could look like, would look like, if we were living according to God’s gracious saving and loving plan.

When we look around the world, we see a lot of evil. We ask ourselves, why is Satan’s kingdom still so powerful in our times? The answer is that the coming of God’s kingdom is not an instant happening but a gradual process. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God, and left us the task of completing it. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer; “Thy kingdom come.” it is a reminder of our duty of making this world a better place to live.

By being baptized, it’s our individual and collective duty to carry on the mission of Jesus, but due to our human weaknesses and evil in us, God’s kingdom is very slow to come. Take just one example. How many of us live out Jesus’ command to love one another as he loves us? (John 15:12). Our failure to love one another as Jesus loves us extends not only to our enemies and to our neighbors, but sometimes to our own family.

The reason we fail to love even our family as we should is usually not because of malice or being mean. More often than not, it’s simply because we are negligent, forgetful, and delinquent in our vocation to love. We get so involved in the affair of life that we overlook the needs of family members. We forget how wonderful they really are.

As Jesus slowed down to attend to the man who had an unclean spirit, let us also slow down enough to appreciate one another. We are so busy doing other things that we miss doing the one thing that makes all other things worthwhile. It’s being said; “Charity beings at home.” Let us begin with our immediate family members. Today’s gospel is an invitation to slow down. It’s an invitation to see people as they really are and to love them as Jesus loves us.

Blessings,

Fr. Peter Patrick