Blessed are You – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 29, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxCan politicians live the Beatitudes? I asked this question of a few people this week. One person said that maybe a few politicians could live them. Another person simply said to me that it was a good question and still another person said, “Absolutely not.” Her answer had a definitive tone to it. The real question we need to ask is, “Are we able to live the Beatitudes?” If we knew the world would come to an end on Tuesday, January 31st, all of us and politicians included could live the Beatitudes.

What was Jesus’ intent when He gave us the Beatitudes? We must put them in the context in which Jesus delivered them in order to understand them. Besides the disciples, the crowd also gathered around Him to listen to His teaching. Matthew described the crowd with these words, “They brought to Him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics (Matt. 4:24).” These are all the broken people who were marginalized by their society that Jesus was speaking to on the mountain. It is the background for understanding the Beatitudes. The first eight of the Beatitudes are in the third person. It is only the last one that is in the second person, “Blessed are you when they insult you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me (Matthew 5:11).” Was Jesus describing what He saw in the crowd that gathered to be healed? Echoed in the Beatitudes is the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah—the humble of the earth, the keepers of the law, the seekers of justice and humility who become the faithful remnant of God.

An ancient Chinese philosopher once said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” This is what the Beatitudes are inviting us to do—let go of what we are so that we become what we might be. Jesus knew we human beings have the capacity to embrace the teachings of the Beatitudes otherwise He would not have given them to us. He knew our human nature is flawed and imperfect but He also knew we have the capacity for breaking the cycle of violence. The Beatitudes puts forth a life-style that breaks this cycle. It is only when we let go of what we are, what we think we are, that we are free to embrace what is most profound about being human. These words of Jesus invite us to the fullness of who we can become in our humanity. Jesus knew that we are built for forgiveness. We are built to be compassionate. We are built not for violence. We are built for love in the long-term. The Beatitudes open us to what we were built for and what we are capable of living in our relationship with others.

The fullness of who we can become is found in the emptiness of what we think we are.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

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By My Side: Walk with Me – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 22, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxThere are a lot of people and things that “call us.” Sometimes the important calls get lost amid the thousands of other distractions of our world pulling us in this direction and in that direction. How do we sort it all out so that our attention focuses upon the essentials? In order to answer the question we have to define what the essentials are.

This past week the Church celebrated the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot, who lived in the late 200’s and early 300’s. He came from a wealthy family and with wealth comes all the distractions of life. He was moved by Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor….then come, follow me (Matt. 19:21).” He did just that by selling his possessions and following Jesus into the desert, where he became a hermit. He is known as the Patriarch of Monasticism. He is a good model for us today. He models for us what is essential: prayer, taking time in solitude, relationship and personal health. He lived to be 105, with his sight and all his teeth intact.

We live in a society in which we are pulled in many directions and multiple messages tell us that if we have this, whatever “this” is, we will be more fulfilled. In the midst of all this we have to ask ourselves what is essential and whose call are we going to answer? How do we find our desert in the midst of a materialistic society?

Peter, Andrew, James and John were called by Jesus to come after Him and He would teach them how to be fishers of men and women. We are told that they left everything, even their father in the case of James and John, and followed Him. The key for us is, what do we need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus today? It is not that we have to leave everything behind, but those things that always get in the way of saying “yes” to Jesus. Each one of us has to figure out what that is for ourselves. The “following” became a top priority for the Galilean fishermen. On your scale of one to ten, where do you place following the Lord? If you are a husband and a father, how are you answering Jesus’ call to come follow Him? If you are a wife and mother, how are you answering Jesus’ call to follow Him? If you are a student, a young adult, how are you answering Jesus’ call to follow? Whatever your status and position in life, that is where the call to follow Jesus needs to be answered. It is in our station in life that we need to hear the call and embrace His mission, which is compelling, challenging, and demanding.

Robert Frost once wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” When you say “yes” to Jesus, the road you must take becomes clear and for you it will make all the difference.

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Choose the Path: Walk With Me – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 15, 2016

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxPope Francis, in his recent statement on priestly formation for seminaries, proposed a seven-year track. The seminarian spends his first formation year getting to know who Jesus is through prayer, the Mass, spiritual guidance and studying the life of Jesus Christ. During the next two years of philosophy the candidate learns about discipleship and committing oneself to being a disciple of the Lord. In the last four years of theology the candidate learns what it means to be on mission—Francis is speaking about the mission Jesus Christ entrusted 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. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.”

It is interesting to note the sequence of the development the Holy Father is proposing. A candidate can come to understand discipleship, and commit his life to the Lord as a disciple, only after he has come to know the Lord in a personal way. One can only commit oneself to being on mission after one has both understood discipleship and has made a commitment to be a disciple. One year of formation builds on the other until the candidate is ready to be ordained by the Church. If this is true for the formation of clergy, there is than a pattern for our own understanding of discipleship and being on mission. It presumes that we know who Jesus Christ is in a personal way.

We have to make a conscious commitment to grow in our personal knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ. So, what am I saying? If we only come to Mass on the weekend and throughout the rest of the week do not avail ourselves of opportunities for personal prayer, reflection, reading of scripture, and works of charity we will find ourselves not growing in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our commitment to being a disciple on a mission is in direct proportion to our personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. St. Robert of Newminster Parish offers you a variety of experiences to personally come to know Jesus. In Advent we offer the ONE% Challenge to get to know Jesus. If you did not finish it, start over or pick up where you left off. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is available every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. and on every Friday in the chapel. There is Mass during the week. On Wednesday evenings during adoration and every Saturday there is the opportunity for reconciliation. There are the winter small faith sharing groups that are offered to you and also Lenten small faith sharing groups. Take time each day to read and reflect upon a passage in one of the gospels. As your personal knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ grows so too will your understanding of being a disciple on a mission.

The next eight Sundays we are inviting you to walk with Jesus with the Sunday gospels. Today John the Baptist is inviting you to choose the path to Jesus. John proclaims, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” As you grow in your personal knowledge and relationship with Jesus, you will find yourself saying, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Manifestation – Father Dennis’ Homily for Epiphany, January 8, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxEpiphany means manifestation. The feasts of Christmas and Epiphany manifest our God to us. Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation and manifests to us that God in Jesus has become human. He is as St. Matthew stated, “Emmanuel–God is with us.” He is one of us in all things but sin. In becoming human God has come to know firsthand what it means to be one of us. He has come to understand our strengths, our weaknesses and our inclination to sin. He knows how easy it is to cross the line from temptation to sin. None of us ought to ever say, “God doesn’t understand what it means to be human.” If we have said it, than we have forgotten the manifestation of Christmas.

Matthew also spoke about another manifestation of the Lord—Epiphany. God through Jesus of Nazareth revealed He is a God for all people and that we can find Him in this world if only we seek His guiding light. The community for which Matthew writes his gospel is one that exists after the fall of Jerusalem. His community was located in Antioch, comprised of both Jewish/Christians and Gentile/Christians. Remember the Jewish people awaited the coming of the Messiah, but the Gentiles did not. Against this background, Matthew told the story of the Magi—Gentiles, who came to Jerusalem seeking the newborn king of the Jews. What better way can you say to Gentile/Christians that He has come for you too? We know this truth about Our God—He is a God for all people and for all times. God is inclusive and when we are inclusive of others we can discover the fullness and depth of His love for us.

There is another message that Epiphany communicates to us—it is about searching, about seeking, and about finding God present in our lives. He is a God whom we must seek beyond Sunday mornings. He is a God whom we must seek beyond our comfort zones, because God doesn’t know anything about comfort zones. Remember He was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn. He is a God whom we must seek in the difficult times and in the best of times. Seeking means we must fine-tune our vision, so that we can look into the very ordinary and find the presence of God in the face of an immigrant, in the face of a mother who lost her child through gun violence, in the face of a spouse or child who embraces you, in the face of an annoying coworker, in the face of the panhandler on the street corner.

“God-with-us—Emmanuel” is at the heart of Matthew’s gospel. So convinced of this singular truth is he that he ends his gospel with these words of Jesus: “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” Seek and you will find Him in the ordinary and in the most usual places.

Sincerely Yours In Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

In the Beginning – Father Dennis’ Homily for January 1, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxMatthew, the gospel writer, begins his story of Jesus, the Savior, with Abraham, our father in faith. Mark begins his story of Jesus, the Savior, at the waters of the Jordan River with the baptism of John the Baptist. Luke, the gospel writer, begins his story of Jesus, the Savior, with the announcement of the Birth of John. John, on the other hand, begins his story of Jesus, the Savior, from the beginning of time when the Word was in God’s presence and the Word was God.

From the very beginning God intended to send His Son to be our Redeemer; one who would be the light to pierce the darkness of our world. He emptied Himself and took upon Himself this lowly flesh of ours that He might deliver us from our self-centeredness. He spoke to us what God from the very beginning of time knew that we are His Beloved Sons and Daughters, created in His Image and Likeness. When we turned and walked away, He called us back and stretched His arms wide that He may embrace us and saved us from ourselves.

He invited us to follow Him from the manger of Bethlehem to Mount Calvary where He died for us that we may have life—life in abundance. He breathed into us life as once the Father blew into our nostrils the breath of life when we became a living being. He blew into us the Spirit—the Spirit of the Living God and washed us in the waters of baptism. He feeds us that we may not go hungry with His Body and Blood.

He knocks on the doors of our hearts—doors that can only be opened from within, hoping that there will be a welcome and a warm embrace as once He stretched out His arms for us. We need a St. Paul to remind us as he reminded the Corinthians, “Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” We pray with St. Augustine, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. You were with me, but I was not with you.”

He comes again this day to quietly tell us that we are always the Beloved of God and that our sinfulness cannot squelch the light of this truth. The host of angels still sing in the heavens above, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis