Creating Room In Our Lives – Father Dennis’ Homily for November 27, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxLast week we explored the idea of creating room in our hearts as the starting point, because if it doesn’t begin in the heart it will not happen anywhere else. Hopefully you have picked up the 1% Challenge and begun to get to know Jesus through Scripture. I personally am doing the 1% Challenge and I must admit that I am discovering new insights into who Jesus is. I am amazed that at 70 plus there is so much of Jesus that I don’t know.

In Mark’s gospel Jesus describes his family of disciples in this way when told that his mother and his brothers wanted to see him: “He said in reply, ’Who are my mother and my bothers?’ And gazing around him at those seated in the circle he continued, ‘These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.’” We who are His disciples are family to the Risen Lord. In the gospel of St. John intimate knowledge of Jesus is a prerequisite for discipleship. For the past few years we have been talking about discipleship both in the homilies and in small faith sharing groups. Each of us has intimate knowledge of our family members simply because we are a part of the family. This intimate knowledge of Jesus comes about in getting to know Him. This is the purpose of the 1% Challenge.

The commitment to becoming a disciple of Jesus is a dynamic, evolving process. There is no one point at which we can say that we intimately know Jesus Christ, because the more we begin to know, the more we realize how much about Him we do not know. Creating room in our lives implies that as our knowledge of Him increases that He becomes an intimate companion who walks with us through our day. I always like to use the image that He is in the driving seat and we are in the passenger seat. This takes a little shifting of how we live out our day and how we are in relationship with other people. The Bible calls this righteousness or justice, which is to say, we strive to live in right-relationship with God and others, especially the poor and the marginalized.

Creating room in our hearts is just the beginning. It also means creating room in our lives, creating room in our community, and finally creating room in our Church. There is a lot being said about making America great again, and there is no better way than putting Jesus back into the big picture.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis

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Creating Room – Father Dennis’ Homily for November 20, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxWhen Jesus invited Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree to tell him he was going to stay with him, the crowd complained that Jesus went to a sinner’s house. Today, when I held the host up after consecration I looked at the Lord intently and said, “Not much has changed over these past two thousand years, you are still hanging out with sinners.” In his earthly ministry and after his resurrection Jesus still prefers to befriend sinners. He wants to hang out with you this Advent.

Advent is a busy time for most of us as we prepare for Christmas. The tradition of making Christmas cookies, buying gifts for family and friends, the children’s Christmas program that you don’t want to miss, wrapping gifts, and planning the Christmas dinner fill the season. This is on top of all the ordinary things one has to do. It would be nice if somehow they could tack on two extra days for each of the weeks of Advent in order to have an enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done without losing your mind, but in reality there are 28 days before Christmas.

I offer you the 1% Challenge so you can create room for the Lord who loves to hang out with sinners. It is simple. 1% of your day is fifteen minutes in which I ask you to pray with scripture in order to get to know Jesus. Beside the fifteen minutes you will need a Bible and a space where you and the Lord can be alone. Follow the directions on the 1% Challenge card that divides the time into ask, seek, and knock. If you faithfully take fifteen minutes each day during Advent, you will come to know Jesus, but you will also have created room for him.

Somebody once asked me, “What’s the number one thing you would want your parishioners to have?”   I want to have you come to know the Lord Jesus. All that I do as a priest is directed to fulfilling this lofty, but not impossible, goal. This is also the goal our staff here at St. Robert of Newminster Parish wants to accomplish. We are all about helping you to get to know the Lord Jesus—of creating room for him.

I pray that you have the experience of gazing upon the consecrated host and telling him, “Not much has changed over these past two thousand years, you are still hanging out with sinners.”

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Gratitude, the Core of Our Journey – Father Dennis’ Homily for November 13, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThis week we celebrate Thanksgiving and it is good to pause and give thanks for all that has been given to us. The greatest gift is the gift of life. Living with a sense of gratitude for this gift is to respect life not only in ourselves, but in all people including the unborn. I was shocked to read in last Saturday’s Journal Sentinel that school leaders had to quell inflammatory post-election comments between students at our two best known Catholic High Schools. Knowing both of these high schools and the high moral standard that they teach, one cannot place any blame on the schools. Children reflect the attitudes of their parents. What shocks me the most is that “good Catholic” parents would teach their children a lack of respect for human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Protecting the life of the unborn was a criterion in one’s voting and indeed the Catholic Church teaches us the sanctity of human life from the unborn to life’s natural end.   What happened in our two outstanding Catholic high schools last week is a disregard for human life. The late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago often spoke and taught us about the “seamless garment of life,” that is to respect life is to respect all of life.

As Catholics and as disciples of Jesus Christ we always have to keep our hearts focused upon him whom we follow.   In the fourth Eucharistic Prayer: “Jesus, Who Went about Doing Good,” we proclaim in the preface, “He, (Jesus), always showed compassion for children and for the poor, for the sick and for sinners, and he became a neighbor to the oppressed and the afflicted. By word and deed he announced to the world that you are our Father and that you care for all your sons and daughters.” This is the standard by which we are called to live in our daily lives. This is the attitude that Catholic parents ought to be imparting to their children.

In the same Eucharistic Prayer we pray, “Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labor and are burdened. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at his command.” In this post-election time we Catholic disciples of Jesus Christ ought to make the front page of the newspaper because we have defended the life-given rights of all of our brothers and sisters and not because we have made inflammatory comments that are both inappropriate and hurtful.

The article in last Saturday’s Journal Sentinel is a call for all of us to examine our attitudes about justice and respect for all our brothers and sisters. Grateful for the gift of life is a seamless garment for all of life.

Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis

Stewardship: The Choice to Live – Father Dennis’ Homily for November 6, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThese are some overheard comments my hearing aids have picked up over the years regarding stewardship: “Stewardship Sunday means he is going to ask us for money.” That comment is probably the most common of all. The following comment is a classic: “They always seem to want money.” A pastor may talk about money once a year, but it is the standard comment some make. The one I find interesting, since I very seldom talk about money, is: “You would think that there is more to talk about in a homily than money.” What is stewardship? Obviously these do not define stewardship.

First of all stewardship is not about you nor is it about me. It is all about Jesus Christ and responding to His great commission. At the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus handed over his mission to the Church: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28: 19-20).” This is the mission given to the Church, and since we are a part of the Church this mission is given to St. Robert of Newminster Parish. It is a mission that we shall be held accountable for on Judgement Day. If one could take Jesus out of the picture, stewardship would make no sense because it has to be understood in terms of our relationship with Him.

In order for stewardship on both a parish level and a personal level to have meaning, we need to see ourselves as co-redeemers with Jesus. Yes, we have to see ourselves as co-redeemers. I mean this in the sense that Jesus is the Redeemer, and when we allow ourselves to be channels of his redemption we become co-redeemers. St. Ignatius of Loyola defined co-redeemers by doing God’s will. He said: “To give, and not to count the cost; to fight, and not to heed the wounds, to toil, and not to seek for rest, to labor, and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will.” For St. Ignatius and also for St. Francis, doing the will of God was of greater value than any possession. Both of these men came from wealthy families. It can be no different for us today as it was for them. If doing God’s will is more valuable than what we have, we have put our feet firmly on the road to stewardship. Another way of saying this is: if fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ is top priority in our lives and if we ordered all that we are and have to this goal, than stewardship is meaningful and life-giving.

As co-redeemers with Jesus Christ, we are to reflect Christ in the world around us in our prayer, in our actions, and in our giving. This is stewardship. These also become the places where we encounter Jesus in a personal way. The very act of reflecting Christ is also for us a place of encounter, that we may reflect more of who He is and less of who we are. This is stewardship. St. Augustine after his conversion said this about stewardship: “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” He would not have said this before his conversion. Stewardship is a way of being in relationship with the Lord in which I place everything I am and have at the service to Him. This is the life-goal that we ought to strive toward because this is the path of discipleship.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis