The Preferred Side – Fr. Dennis’ Homily For November 26, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxRemember your mother telling you when you were a child, “Clean your plate!  There are poor children in China that would love to eat what is left on your plate.”  There was a lesson in what she was saying.  She was asking us to be grateful for what we have and not waste it, but she made us aware of the poor.  If you have worked among the less fortunate either in serving a meal at St. Ben’s, or volunteering at the Guest House, or the House of Peace, or the Open Door Café, or one of the food pantries in the Milwaukee area, or the Adult Learning Center, those whom you served taught you to see the world through their eyes.  Their view of reality is far different from ours.  This is what the poor of the Dominican Republic taught me—viewing the world through their eyes.  They are the only ones who can teach us this lesson.  It is a lesson that has stayed with me all this time.  I consider it to be their gift to me.

The gospel we have just heard is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching.  Following this parable, we move into the Passion and Resurrection Narrative in Matthew’s Gospel.  All of what Jesus was teaching prior to this is summed up in the parable of the Judgment of the Nations.  Great attention has to be paid to this parable because of its placement in Matthew’s Gospel.  The parable of The Judgment of the Nations is an application of the two great commandments:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).”

What we have here is not an economic policy.  It is not a leftist agenda or even a liberal one.  Jesus put forth the basis of how we are going to be judged at the end time.  Jesus, who is the King of the Universe, is in all people and within us.  Both this gospel and our first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel remind us about others who need our help and care.  We honor Jesus, the King of the Universe by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the ill and those in prison.  This is the greatest honor we can give to Jesus, the King of the Universe.  As we focus on one another we focus on Jesus Christ.  We do so because every person has a dignity and a value given to them by God.  Do we not pray, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”?  It’s God’s statement about us.  He is pleased to dwell among us and within us.

In truth this parable of the judgment scene is calling us to active love.  It is an invitation from God for our salvation.  “As often as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”  John Kavanaugh, SJ stated, “These words that challenge us are the very words that save us.”  We are given only one lifetime to accept our salvation and that is this life we are now living.  Doing to the least of our brothers and sisters we are accepting the salvation Christ won for us on the cross.  If you were to die today, what side of the throne would Jesus put you—on the right or on the left?

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

P.S.  Advent is a great time to get on the right side of the throne.  Don’t miss this opportunity!

 

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The Solemnity of Christ the King – Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for November 26, 2017

Photograph of Father Peter PatrickToday we are celebrating the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The Solemnity was instituted by Pope Pius XI in response to the rise of secularization, atheism, and communism in 1925. While the world was increasingly telling Christians that they must compartmentalize their religion and give their highest allegiance to the government, Pope Pius XI responded with the feast.

We may ask ourselves if Jesus deserved to be called a King as we understand the term. Christ’s kingdom is not political, but a spiritual rule of love established in human hearts through service and sacrifice; it belongs to those who hear His voice and bear witness to the truth revealed by Him.

Amidst of all what is happening in the world, we may ask ourselves what should we do? Yes! It’s a valid question. To carry on the mission of Jesus, we are called to be his witness in all circumstances. By the virtue of our baptism, we are Christ-like. In the Rites of Baptism we hear these words as we are anointed with Chrism: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body sharing everlasting life.”

Back at home (Kenya), we Catholics have a common phrase we use to greet each other: “Christ thy kingdom comes, in our hearts through Mother Mary.” When we talk of a kingdom, then it means there is a king and that is Jesus Christ! The last Sunday of the liturgical calendar of the Church, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King before the beginning of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year. In Advent, we prepare for the two comings of Christ: as a baby in Bethlehem, and his return as a king in glory. This celebration of Jesus’ kingship prepares us for both comings of Christ.

The gospel today is telling us: “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did unto me.” Feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the ill and those in prisons is easy, but we should go beyond that. Mother Teresa of Calcutta puts it in a way that points to how we can become more caring and loving: “God has identified himself with the hungry, the sick, the naked, the homeless; hunger not only for bread, but for love, for care, to be somebody to someone; nakedness, not for clothing only, but nakedness of that compassion that very few people give to the unknown; homelessness, not only just for a shelter made from stone but for that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Peter Patrick

 

 

Listen to Mama – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for November 12, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis DirkxFr. Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R at the recent archdiocesan conference on the “Spirituality of Stewardship” told the following story:  His father died when he was three years old, leaving his mother as a single parent on a fixed income.  Those of you who live on a fixed income can understand her struggles.  Although on a limited income, she made sure to give her weekly contribution to the church.  Often she would tell Maurice, “The Church is a blessing for us, therefore, we don’t take from the Church we give to the Church.”  At the age of thirteen he wanted to go to the Redemptorist seminary near East Troy.  (He mentioned it was the pictures of the swimming pool and tennis courts that caught his eye!)  His mother took him to the seminary, and as the bursar was explaining the cost to his mom he thought, “This is not going to happen.”  After the bursar delineated the cost, his mother told him, “I live on a fixed income and after paying the rent, buying food, and giving my weekly contribution to the church there is $55 left.”  She told the brother that every month she would send $55 toward her son’s education.  When Maurice was a few years away from ordination, his mother had a severe stroke.  He decided that being the only child he would leave the seminary and take care of his mother.  His mother explained to him, “I gave you to the Church to become a priest.  You don’t take from the Church you give to the Church.”

She models for us not only what stewardship is about, but what it means to be a disciple.  She embodies six qualities of stewardship.  First, she, who is on a fixed income, was generous.  Generosity is the starting point of stewardship.  This is the grace we need to ask God to give us.  Second, her mindset is one of being hospitable—the willingness to welcome the Lord into her life.  Third, she lived on a level beyond selfishness.  She had every reason in the world to hoard the little life dealt her.  Fourth, she was just.  Being just is living in right relationships with God, others, and self.  One could tell God was first in her life and it spilled over into her relationships with others.  Fifth, she gave of her resources, not comparing her gift with others.  Sixth, she was present to others.  Her stewardship gave witness to what God had blessed her with.

Stewardship is about responding to Jesus Christ.  It’s not about us.  God has blessed us in so many ways and we are to use these gifts to further the divine plan.  When filling out your commitment card, I ask that you take time in prayer asking for the grace of generosity.  Imagine Jesus Christ standing before you gazing into your eyes as you are about to fill out the commitment form.  You are giving to Him.  Give of your resources like Father Maurice’s mother gave.  Let it be a gift from your heart.  This is how God has gifted us.  Disciples are awesome people.  This Thanksgiving, as you gather around the table with your loved ones, thank God for the many gifts He has given you.  When you share your gifts, keep one eye on your blessings and the other on Jesus.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis

 

Practice What You Believe! – Fr. Dennis’ Homily for November 5, 2017

Portrait of Father Dennis Dirkx“Practice what you preach!”  “Not only talk the talk, but walk the talk!”  “Actions speak louder than words!”  “Preach the gospel but use words only when needed.”  “By their fruits you will know them.”  No matter how one puts it, faith by its very nature has to be a lived reality in our relationship with God and with one another.  Parents, you know this because your children learn by your actions more than by your words.

Matthew’s Gospel, more than the other three gospels, emphasizes the need to put faith into action.  We will find the culmination of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel for the Feast of Christ the King—the parable of the last judgment.  What is at stake is the integrity of faith, the integrity of how we live out our faith in daily life.  In order to be faithful to God, it means responding to the human needs around us.  If we are blind to the human needs around us, we are blind to seeing God.  Last Sunday Jesus gave us the two great commandments:  “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus, in putting these two together, taught we cannot separate them.  If we do not love our neighbor, we do not love God.  He not only taught this, but it was His lifestyle and thus it is the lifestyle for us, His disciples.  Faith involves words and actions, body and soul.

It comes down to living in right relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves.  The “other” list we like to short-list.  It is easy to love those we love, those we like and those whom we can tolerate.  Jesus is talking about all our brothers and sisters.  We live in an interconnected global society.  This past week on the national news, scientists said that global warming may be reversible.  How we use energy, what we do to the environment, and what candidates we support affects not only all of us, but all of our sisters and brothers on this planet, even those who are not born.

God made our hearts expandable.  We have the capacity to love all our sisters and brothers.  St. James in his letter makes it totally clear.  He wrote, “Be doers of the words and not hearers only, deluding yourselves (James 1:22).”  Let’s live in right relationships and as St. Francis instructed his brothers, “Preach the gospel, but use words only when needed.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Dennis