A Christmas Story – Father Dennis’ Homily for December 25, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThere is a special place in heaven for star makers. It is to the right as you enter through those pearly gates. There you will find the star makers; Joe’s Stars, Giuseppe’s Stars and Hugo’s Stars. Now of the three star makers, Hugo’s stars are the best, the brightest, and they last the longest. You ask, “Why aren’t there star makers on earth?” These stars are hung from the heavens and when you look up at the sky on a clear night you will see all their wonder; so they have to be made in heaven.

One day God came to Hugo’s shop because God wanted to place an order for a very large star that would guide some very important people to a very special baby. Hugo and God agreed upon a price; well let’s say Hugo accepted what God was willing to pay. There’s no arguing with God—He always seems to have the final word. Hugo told God that the star would be ready within the week. “Excellent,” God said, “I will need it in a few days.”

A few days later Hugo approached God to say that the star was finished. It was huge and did it ever shine. God asked Hugo, “Please place it in the far eastern sky and let it move slowly to the small town of Bethlehem.” Hugo inquired who the special child was. God replied, “It is for my Son, who this very night is born in Bethlehem. He is going to teach my people that I really love them and I want to be with them.”

Hugo saw the star moving toward Bethlehem, and lo and behold there were three men following the star. They were the Magi coming to bring gifts to God’s Son.   It came to settle over the place where the child was.

Hugo got this idea that if one star could lead people to God’s Son, he could make other stars that would lead people to God’s Son. Now of course Hugo was a businessman and he knew there would be a nice bundle for him. One day God was walking past Hugo’s shop and Hugo ran out to meet Him. He said, “God, I can make you more stars that will lead more people to your Son. How about it?” God took Hugo to heaven’s edge and said, “Look down and what do you see?” Hugo saw that there were people, a lot of people, leading others to God’s Son. He was amazed; never in heaven would he ever think this would be possible—people leading people to God’s Son. It was almost unbelievable.

Make sure your light shines all year long so people who don’t know Jesus will find their way to Him.

Have a Blessed Christmas
and
Rejoice! For a Child has been given to us.

Fr. Dennis

 

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Creating Room In Our Church – Father Dennis’ Homily for December 18, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxA community I worked with in the Dominican Republic by the name of El Rosario was an ordinary one, but it did an extra-ordinary ministry.  In the village was a widow with her son who cared for his mother.  It became evident that in order to accomplish this, he had to seek employment in the capitol.  The base community took upon itself the responsibility for his mother while he was in the capitol.  This meant bringing water and food daily along with taking her to the doctor for her appointments.  The Community of El Rosario was Christ to this widow.

This is the best example I can think of when it comes to creating room in our Church for Christ.   In reality, we are the Body of Christ—the Church.  St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians describes the Church as the Body of Christ.  Using his famous analogy of the body he instructs the Corinthians that they are the Body of Christ.  He writes, “You, then, are the Body of Christ.  Every one of you is a member of it (1 Cor. 12:27).”  Being the Body of Christ is not on the front burner of our lives and yet, the Church is judged on its ability to illuminate Christ’s presence in the world.  Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  The challenge for us as Church is always to reflect Christ in our actions.

The themes of this Advent Season make sense.  Creating room for Christ has to begin with our hearts.  A long time ago, I asked you, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, could they collect enough evidence to convict you?”  It starts here—in our hearts.  It’s about getting to know Him in our hearts—taking time to be with Him, or taking Him in as Joseph took Mary and Jesus into his heart and his home.  If we have created room in our hearts for Jesus, He will have a place in our lives.  Robert Meagher in his book Beckonings: Moments of Faith wrote the following: “Every moment of one’s life becomes a loaf, which one is invited to break and share in the wilderness with one’s brothers and sisters so as to welcome the presence of the Lord.”  When He has a place in our lives, we can bring his presence into the world community.  This becomes the challenge of creating room for Christ in our Church—a Christ who has compassion, who walks with the marginalized, who shelters the homeless, who sees everyone as a brother and a sister.

You are a Christian.  What you do or do not do, will reflect on us all as Christians.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis

Creating Room In the Community – Father Dennis’ Homily for December 11, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxI have three stories of ordinary people who made a difference in our world.  The first story is about a young man, Austin Shirley.   When he returned from duty, he experienced a sudden lack of purpose in his life as many veterans today do.  He set out to find it in a way that was not just about himself, but was focused on wounded veterans around the country.  He mapped a 2,500-mile walking route that began in Jacksonville, Florida, and ended in San Diego, California. He followed it with his dog Archer and best friend John for nine and a half months raising money for his fellow servicemen along the way.  He traded in all of his possessions for hiking gear, camping equipment and food.  He raised more than $62,500 for Wounded Wear, and found the part of himself that was missing.  (Story from Ordinary People Whose Lives Can Inspire Us, 2015.)

The second story is about a young man with learning disabilities, who for his thirteenth birthday asked his family not to give him presents, but food for St. Martin de Porres Food Pantry.  He asked his extended family and neighbors to contribute food items to his special project.  He not only collected a car load of food, but he said this was his best birthday ever.

The third story is about you the parishioners.  I received a Christmas greeting from Habitat for Humanity with a personal note that read, “Dear Father Dirkx and St. Robert Parish, thanks so much for your support of Habitat this year.  We appreciate your services to families in the city.  Blessings to all this joyous Advent Season,” signed Brian Samla.

Creating room in the community means looking beyond our personal success and prioritizing giving, compassion and being a part of something larger than oneself as important.  It is a concrete reality that can be seen, heard and felt.  Jesus in the gospel when asked by the disciples of John the Baptist, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another,” simply replied, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”  In his answer Jesus invited John and his disciples to discover his identity.

In our deeds of making a difference we give the world an opportunity to discover the identity of Jesus, the one whom we follow.  Our good deeds are not about ourselves, but opportunities for others to come to know the Lord.  The family that moved into the house we helped build this past year, they don’t know us, but they know there are people out there that care, and in our caring have come to know the Lord.  Creating room in the world is not about what we say, but is all about what we do for others.  St. Therese of Avila often said we are the eyes, the hands, the feet, and the heart of Jesus in our world, because he depends upon us to convey his presence into the world.

Getting to know Jesus is in direct proportion to our to our selfless action in the world.  The more our knowledge of Him grows, so too, our willingness to do good in the world we touch.  Others see us acting as he acted, speaking as he spoke, caring as he cared, loving as he loved, giving self as he gave, and knowing that he walks with them.  This is the greatest gift we can give to another human being.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis 

Creating Room In Our Lives Part II – Father Dennis’ Homily for December 4, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxAt this past Saturday’s celebrated First Reconciliation for our second graders from Religious Education and our parish school there was a powerful example put forth by a few parents.  They went to confession after their child received his/her First Reconciliation.  These parents’ spoke loudly to our children.  Parents, I want to affirm you in your role as the first teachers of the faith for your children.  Faith is not only taught by what you say, but also by what you do.  Remember this as you guide your children in their relationship with Jesus.  When you bring your child to First Reconciliation, and you too receive the sacrament of mercy, you make a powerful statement to your child.  By your action you have shown them the importance of mercy.  Through this action, you are reflecting the love and mercy of God himself.  I cannot stress too much the importance of this action of faith, as this sacrament is the foundation of moving forward with God.

Our gospel today opens with the words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Repentance is a pre-requisite to discipleship and for recognizing the nearness of the kingdom of heaven.  Creating room in our lives is all about removing the sinfulness in our lives.  The Lord loves a humble, contrite heart (Psalm 51:19).  Just as we cannot add water to a bucket filled with soil, similarly, we must clean our hearts to allow the Lord to have space to enter and fill us.  What keeps you away from one of the most powerful sacraments that Jesus gave us?

We need God’s forgiveness in the same way the apostles needed Jesus’ mercy.  We are no different than the apostles were in Jesus’ time.  When they should have understood what He was saying, they didn’t get it.  Read the gospels and you will see their sinfulness.  When they should have been courageous, they were afraid.  When Jesus was telling them the importance of being a servant, they were arguing about who was the greatest.  When they ought to have stood by Him, they fled in fear.  When Peter had the opportunity to say he knew Jesus, he denied Him.  Their weaknesses did not hamper the work the Lord accomplished through them.  What keeps people away from this sacrament?—fear.  Is it a fear to be honest with yourself about your failures or a fear to admit them?  The Lord said often to the apostles, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  He says to you, who are afraid to come to the sacrament, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  He knows that you will leave after receiving his forgiveness with a burden lifted from your shoulders.

Repentance brings about the “good fruit” the Prophet Isaiah spoke about in our first reading:  wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord, and delight in the Lord.  When our pride gives way to humility, compassion is born.  When our jealousy gives way to appreciation, the other can be seen as gift.  When our lust gives way to purity of heart, one can see the Lord in the other.  When our anger gives way to understanding, justice and peace can blossom. When our greed gives way to sharing, others can share in God’s gifts of the earth.  When our envy gives way to openness, we can build bridges of understanding.  When our laziness gives way to righteousness, we have created a room for Him in our lives.  I invite you during this Advent to embrace the ½% Challenge—that is to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The ½% Challenge is seven minutes of your time to go to confession.  It will be the best seven minutes of your Advent.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis