Who do you say that I am?

Solemnity of Peter and Paul

Acts 12:1-11 Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18 Mt 16:13-19

Today the Church begins her one year long celebration of the Birth of St. Paul. St. Paul was born 2000 years ago in Tarsus, a small town in southern Turkey. His parents were Jewish and he was raised as a Pharisee. St. Paul was converted to Christianity in about 35 AD, when he was on the way to Damascus to persecute the Church. Pope Benedict declared that for the next year the Church will be celebrating the Holy Year of St. Paul – The man who wrote the bulk of the New Testament and helped to bring Faith in Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.

The principle question of the Gospel today is the question that Jesus puts to his disciples, and it is a question that he puts to us. Jesus asks us the question – “Who do you Say that I Am”? This is the most important question that we need to answer today because our whole relationship with God – the creator of the universe is framed by this question.

Jesus has been with his disciples for over a year. They have lived with him, witnessed the authority of his teaching. These men have seen him cure the sick, cleanse lepers, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk. Jesus asks them the question – “Who do you say that I am”.

First Jesus calls us to follow him

I think that it is important that we pay attention to the plan which Jesus used to reveal himself to the Apostles. In the beginning of Matthews Gospel. Jesus begins his ministry by calling the Apostles Peter and Andrew, James and his brother John. He says to them – “Come and follow me, and I will make you fishers of Men”. Then he sets about curing the sick, the insane and all who were afflicted by the devil. After being with Jesus for over a year, journeying with him, and being sent by Him to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God Jesus confronts them with this question – “Who do you say that I am?”

In our relationship with Jesus we witness who he is

Jesus did not show up on a street corner heal some sick guys and then ask this most important of questions, rather he invited the Apostles to follow him, live with him, enter into relationship with him. He led them to discover the answer within themselves, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit to come to know Christ as The Messiah, the anointed one of God. Jesus let his actions and deeds witness to the truth of who he was.

Those with a distant relationship with Jesus (The Jews). Who did they say that He was?

What did the Jews at the time of Christ think? - Some say John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the other Prophets – a Holy Man to be sure, but nothing profound.

Do we have a distant relationship with Jesus? How do we answer his question?

There are still people today who answer Christ’s question in this way. If we are one of those who answer this question that way, then Jesus is not divine, and if we think about him seriously enough, then we will end up dismissing not only Him but our entire faith. If Jesus is just a prophet, then what do we think of his claim to be the Son of God? Later in the Gospel after Peter’s Confession he is revealed as God’s Son by the Father, and in John’s Gospel he makes that explicit claim. If we think that Christ is one of the Prophets, a holy man, but not divine, then he really ends up being a kind of religious nut – because we don’t take his claim to divinity seriously. He was a nice guy except for that whole son of God thing… He was a nice guy except for that whole drink my blood and eat my flesh thing…

What are the bonds / limits on our relationship?

There is another way that we respond to the question – “Who do you say that I am”? We place bounds on our relationship with Christ. What kind of bounds? The bounds of our sin. In this way we are like both Peter and Paul in the other readings today. In the first reading we see that Peter is bound in chains and thrown in prison. For him, the chains and prison were those of persecution, something the Church has suffered from the time of her founding. What chains bind us from fully proclaiming the Gospel, from witnessing fully to the reality of Who Christ is? In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter is freed from those chains by an angel and led back to the house of Mark the Evangelist, (And Peter’s future secretary).

Who do you say that I am?

What are the things that limit how we can answer this question of Christ? What are the chains that are restraining our relationship with Christ?
• Am I afraid of this kind of relationship with him?
• Am I angry with Christ over my current lot in life?
• What am I afraid of learning if I let my relationship grow to this level?
• Do I fear what others will say of me if I have this kind of relationship with Jesus?

How often do we allow the world to distort our confession of Faith in Jesus Christ because we are unwilling to suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel? How often is our confession of Faith chained by human expectation, or limitation! Today we can call upon Christ for the courage to witness to the Gospel, to be freed from the chains that hold us down from confessing true faith.

Who do you say that I am? – St. Paul at the end of his life

St. Paul answers this question for us as well in his letter to Timothy. This letter was perhaps the last letter that St. Paul wrote. In our readings today he begins by stating that his “life is being poured out as a libation” – This means that his life is being poured out as a sacrifice of love to the Gospel, to the teaching and truth of who Jesus Christ is. Like Peter in the first reading at the time when Paul is writing this letter he is in prison, awaiting his beheading by the Emperor Nero outside the walls of the city of Rome. Paul testifies with his life to the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

It is not too late to begin to run!

At the end of his life, just days before his execution St. Paul testifies that he has run the good race – his reflection on his life is that he did bear witness to the truth of Jesus. He is ready to go and be with God. He encourages us by reminding us that it is not too late to start running. It is not too late to be freed from prison. Let us today open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, so that He can use us to proclaim this week that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the Anointed one of God, the Son of the Most High. We do this when we live lives like St. Paul, when we allow ourselves to be poured out like a libation – a sacrificial offering to the Love of Christ in all that we say and do. In doing this, we confess with not just our lips, but with the actions of our heart and soul and mind that Jesus Christ is Lord!


Building the civilization of love, Slaying Dragons

Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A

Ex 19:2-6a Psalm Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5 Rom 5:6-11 Mt 9:36—10:8

Authority over unclean spirits

In the Gospel today we hear about how Jesus gave the disciples authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to cure every illness.

Authority of Fathers

Today, in our country we will celebrate another group of men to whom God has given authority – they are Fathers – men who by the grace of God have a profound authority in the life of their children, Today I would like to reflect on the role of the Father.



Fathers are fundamental in Gods plan

I have brought a few things with me today to help us reflect on Fatherhood – the first of which is a plan. In today’s Gospel we see that Jesus had a plan for communicating the Gospel to the world, a plan that was carried out by the disciples. Before Christ called his disciples to carry out His plan, God the Father had a more profound plan, to show the world his love through Fathers.


Fathers are universal – everyone has one

Fathers play a fundamental role in everyone’s life. None of us are here without a father. Fathers reflect God the Fathers role in creation – Fathers create life outside of themselves out o live.


Fathers form the primordial lens that we look through to see God the Father.

In a profound way, Father’s form within their children the primordial image of who God the Father is. No one can think about God without seeing God through the image of their own Father. This means that everything we dad’s do has relevance and importance. As children we grow up looking at how our Father did things. This becomes for us a standard and a goal. Some of us have excellent standards, which are like a good ruler


No Father to measure myself against

while others have poor examples, or non-existent examples. One of my dear friends had his Father murdered when he was 12 years old. One day while we were talking about being Dad’s, he shared that losing his Dad at that age had a profound effect on him, and in a certain sense made him rely more on the example of God the Father in his own Fatherhood. Being a good father means we establish within our children a good standard, a measure of what it means to be a Dad, a clear lens through which our children will see God the Father.

Spend some time cooperating with God the Father

Given the profound role we play in God’s plan for all people. Dad’s need to spend some time today thinking about how we are cooperating with God’s plan.

What ways do we cooperate with His plan for our children?


Father’s Teach their children

Another role that Father’s play in the lives of their children is to teach them. Father’s teach by doing. [[GET SOME WOOD AND HOLD IT ON THE TABLE]]. Our children watch our actions closely, and they learn from our actions. As Father’s we share in the mission of the disciples. We do this by establishing a family that is founded on love, the love that we show to our wives. Pope John Paul II described the family as the Domestic Church –

  • the place where children are schooled in what it means to love,
  • what it means to care,
  • what it means to pray and
  • what it means to sacrifice for one another.


What are the lessons that we are teaching?

Are our families places of love and peace, places where God is found? What lessons are we Fathers teaching our children? The readings today call us to examine ourselves in our vocation.


Oops – Time to correct our mistakes

We might see things that we are ashamed of – if we do, then rejoice – not in our shame, but in the opportunity to change, to start anew and to correct the mistakes of the past.


Fathers teach prayer – Fathers Bless

Because Fathers are in God’s primordial plan on how people get to know Him, all Fathers have a special role in teaching their children about God. We do this when we gather our families for prayer, when we pray with our wives, we set the tone at family celebrations and gatherings. Today is a day for Fathers to begin anew to teach about God, in our actions, words and deeds.

We learn from scriptures that Fathers are called to Bless their children like God blesses us. Never pass up an opportunity to bless your children. This is a special role that both Mothers and Fathers share. Even when they are teen-agers sneak into their rooms in the middle of the night and bless your children, on the forehead the Father, and Son and Holy Spirit. When your children gather with you today, take this opportunity to give them your blessing. Never loose sight of your vocation to bless your children.

Fathers are not teaching the faith in the Church today

As a church we struggle with this. The Dad’s who have come here today might want to seriously consider helping out in teaching Catechism this next year. If you find yourself wondering about your faith – teaching it is a sure-fire way to learn. 90% of our teachers here are women. We are extremely grateful for their ministry, but the truth is, that our children are learning an incomplete view of the faith. We need Father’s to step up to the plate, and to teach the faith in the Church as well as at the home.


Fathers are Dragon Slayers

I have an Icon in my prayer book. It is the smallest of all Icon’s, just the size of a business card. It is an Icon of St. George – who was famous for slaying the dragon. Everyone has heard of the story of George and the Dragon. Often, when I get up and pray in the morning, I am reminded by that Icon of my vocation as a Father, and as a Dragon Slayer.

The Dragon we slay is that of Sin

In Iconography, the Dragon represents Sin, evil. The dragon that St. George slew was of sin in his life. All Fathers have been given authority to guard and protect their family from all evil. When we decide that it is time to go about slaying dragons we need to start at home, not with our wife, or our kids, but with ourselves. The first dragons we need to confront are the sins in our own lives that take us away from God, that invite Satan into our lives, and into our homes.

Dragon Slaying takes courage

Dragon Slaying is hard work, it starts with prayer and humility – confession – asking God for forgiveness, going to our spiritual Father and asking for the blessing of almighty God, and the healing grace that Jesus poured out for us on the Cross. [[HOLD UP THE CROSS]]. This takes true courage – but remember, it is ok because your children are watching, and they are learning from you by your actions.

What are the Dragons that attack us?

Many Fathers in the world today struggle against mighty dragons. This is where we call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit – of Perseverance. Get up and try again. I know that many of us here suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, indifference or anger. Take the opportunity this week to avail yourself of the disciples witness to drive out unclean spirits – be healed and become stronger in your relationship with God. When Father’s choose to do this; their families are transformed into places of love, peace and joy.

What is a Father?

A Father is a man who cooperates with God to create new life – his children. He provides for his family an environment that is safe from the forces of evil. His life reflects the love of God. A Father is the primordial lens through which his children come to know God. The witness of our love for our families is in the way we sacrifice to bring about the best possible things for our children. Let us spend this day celebrating the love of our fathers, and reflecting on the sacrifice of our heavenly Father.



I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners

Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A

Hos 6:3-6 Psalm Ps 50:1, 8, 12-13, 14-15 Rom 4:18-25 Mt 9:9-13

NOTE: This past week our Parish celebrated it's fiesta. The fiesta planners asked if I would come to the Fiesta as St. Anthony of Padua, (our patron). My response was to challenge my fellow parishoners to a greater service to the sick of our community to which they generously responded. As my part of the deal, I got a tonsure and came to the fiesta as St. Anthony.

Tonsure Time
I wanted to point out to those not tall enough to notice that this past Friday I got a new haircut. I told the barber who gave it to me that I would start a new trend – Retro hair circa 1200 AD. He said that he had never given this kind of haircut before in his life, and he kept trying to leave a lot of hair on the top of my head, so that when I cut off the rest of the hair my head wouldn’t look so bad. He was a little embarrassed and kept worrying about what the other hair stylists in the salon would say about his barbering skills. When I got home, I had the help of my family in finally trimming down my hair to the right level of “shaved”.

Witness at Work – Let God out of the box!

At the same time, this has been a beautiful opportunity to witness to the Gospel in a way that people do not expect. It strikes at the heart of our insecurity with God. As Americans, we like to keep our relationship with God nice and private, without any truly disruptive effects on our life. It is unsettling when our love for God leads us to wear a goofy hairstyle. This unsettled-ness can end in one of two ways – either folks can leave thinking that we are just crazy (something that might happen anyway) or they ask “Why?” – which opens the relationship to a deeper level, to more dialog. This is what the readings are about today. Christ tells us himself that he came to heal the sinners, to bring them back into relationship with God – so that they might have abundant life!

The Conversion of St. Matthew

There is a great irony in the Gospel today, and it has many layers, like the layers of an onion. Let’s examine some of the different layers of this Gospel.

Roman Tax Collector = Enemy of God

Matthew, by his own admission is a Tax Collector. That means he was actively working against the Kingdom of Israel by collecting taxes for the Roman Government. You might be thinking to yourself, that’s not bad, I have a friend who works for the IRS and he is not a bad person. This is where some history can help us. In Israel the Roman Government is an enemy force, occupying the Kingdom of Israel and setting up a puppet ruler. The Jews believed that Israel is God’s Kingdom, and so if you are working to collect money for an occupying army, you are a direct enemy of the Kingdom of God. He was actively working to support the enemies of God.

Humility of St. Matthew

The second layer of the onion becomes apparent when we consider which Gospel says this and to which community in the early Church that Gospel was written. St. Matthew himself wrote the Gospel that we read today, so in a way it is a public admission of his own sinfulness. Matthew wrote his Gospel to the early Christian community who were converts to Christianity from Judaism; he was writing this to the folks who would most readily understand the seriousness of his sin.

When we read in the beginning of the Gospel today that Matthew was sitting at his tax post, Matthew is not glorifying his life of sin as sometimes we have a tendency to do when we are not truly repentant. This is a statement of his humility, his admission of the terrible life he led before Jesus was able to touch his heart.

John Chrysostum - God’s Perfect Timing

St. John Chrysostum asked the question – Why didn’t Jesus call Matthew at the same time He called Peter and Andrew, James and John? Jesus called Matthew at the time that was perfect for Matthew’s conversion. He was able to reach into the life of Matthew and touch his heart in a way that opened Matthew up to be filled with the great love of God.

Second Layer of the Onion – Complete conversion

The second layer of the onion is the witness of Matthew’s complete conversion in his heart – that he would admit to his sinful past to the early Jewish church – not to flaunt or wallow in his former sinful life (Something which we do if we are not completely converted in our hearts) – but rather to give glory to God by witnessing to the fullness of His love.

Christ came to bring us into a closer relationship with God. In order for us to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, we need to understand what is getting in the way of our relationship with Him.

More Connected – Less in relationship

Last year a new college was opened up in Lander, Wyoming; the Wyoming Catholic College. This college is the only college in the United States where the dorm rooms have no televisions, the use of cell phones is banned and there is limited internet connectivity. A few weeks ago I had the chance to talk with the president of the college. He explained to me the reason behind these policies. He said that the more connected we are (the more opportunity that we have to text, email, im, phone and chat with one another) the less ability that we have to relate with one another. Technology has become a barrier to true relationship in our world.

Holier than thou!

This difficulty in relationship leads us to the third layer of the onion is Christ’s statement at the end of the Gospel – “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Jesus is speaking to the people who are judging him for his actions without understanding His mission to lead people back into relationship with God. The righteous are my their own statement those who think that they are “Holier than thou”.

Let God out of the Box

In many ways the Pharisees who are criticizing Jesus are most like we Americans, because they feel that their relationship with God is private, nicely boxed in and neatly packaged. Like the Pharisees, we too risk a point in our own spiritual lives where our own religious devotion becomes a barrier to a deeper relationship with God. We can get into a mode where we become complacent with our relationship with God. So when Jesus says that he is The Pharisees, like us often use their own religiosity to protect them from a deeper relationship with God. How do we hear Jesus’ statement “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners..”? Are we healthy, and so have no need for God’s love, or do we think that we are healthy and are unable to accept Christ’s healing?

Humility opens us up to the healing of the Great Physician

St. Matthew gives us the clue to getting out of this spiritual malaise – humility, recognizing that our souls are sick and in need of the Great Physician – Jesus Christ. Are our relationships with Christ boxed up in nice neat packages that seldom shows it’s light to the world, or are we ready to open ourselves up to the healing love of the Great Physician? Today’s Gospels lead us to the question – Which area of my life is in most need of conversion, of encountering the healing love of God this week?


Tommy and the Bread of Angels

Homily for First Holy Communion

This Sunday some of the children of our parish received Holy Communion for the first time, so I prepared a special homily for them.

Little Brothers and Sisters

My favorite saint is St. Francis of Assisi. He and his best friends got together and started a group called the Little Brothers. Well, I haven’t joined the little brothers (I am worried that I might not be little enough), but St. Francis and I are both brothers in another way, we are both Deacons. So, I think it is right that we talk with one another today as St. Francis would have us address one another – My Little Brothers and Sisters.

Nicely Dressed!

Everyone is dressed up so nice today! I wonder why? Is it because you are going to see someone special? Who? Your best friend? We are dressed up today because today is a very special day – for all of us here today – but especially for you. Today you will welcome Jesus into your souls in a very special way.

Playing and Fasting

Today, we have fasted for a little bit, we didn’t eat anything for at least an hour before coming to mass. Why? To let our hearts hunger a little bit for Jesus, when He comes into our soul. Have you ever been out all day playing really hard. Running around, climbing trees, finding frogs, scaring your sister or your brother? Then when you get home from such a busy day of play you sit down for dinner, and even if it is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cold glass of milk it tastes so good! This is why we fast a little before Mass, so that when we come to the Altar to receive Jesus, He tastes so good!

Clean – Body and Soul

I bet many of you had to take a bath, scrub behind the ears and dress up in nice clothes. Even more importantly than coming to Mass with clean hands and face is that we come to Mass with a clean soul. This is why many of you went to confession to clean out the sin off of your soul, so that when Jesus comes to visit in your soul here at the Mass you are most able to talk with Him.

Tommy Aquinas

I want to tell you about the special meal that you are going to receive today. To do so, I am going to get the help of another Saint, Tommy Aquinas. Tommy was a Dominican Priest lived a long time ago. Tommy loved his food. In fact he was so big that they had to cut out a hole in his desk so he could sit at it.

Being Italian, his favorite food was probably Spaghetti. But, had it been invented at the time, I am sure that it would have been Ice Cream.

Bread of Angels

Tommy wrote that the best food ever, better than Spaghetti and Ice Cream put together is the Bread of Angels – Which is the Holy Eucharist. Tommy loved the Bread of Angels so much that he wrote a song that goes like this
The bread of angels becomes the bread of man
The bread of heaven puts an end to symbols
When we receive the Body of Christ, and we drink the Blood of Christ we are eating and drinking the food of eternal life. That is why Tommy called it the Bread of Angels and the Bread of Heaven. It really needs to be special food if it is bread from heaven.

The Consecration – How the Bread of Wheat becomes the Bread of Angels

But that makes me wonder. How does the bread from heaven get here? When we bring up the gifts, we bring up ordinary bread and wine – bread made from wheat, and wine made from grapes. Then, during the Mass, the Holy Spirit, working through Father Dan comes and changes this bread and this wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus – the Son of God. When that happens it is really important, and if the Altar Servers are paying attention, they ring the bells to remind everyone – Hey this is important, Jesus is here!

Holy Communion

Then, later in the Mass (As Tommy says in his song)
You God, three and one
Visit us as we pray to you;
By your footsteps guide us on our way
To the light which you inhabit.

An Important Guest in our Little House

We come up to the Altar and we receive the Lord. It is always important to receive Jesus and not to take Him. We need to remember how special we are to be able to receive Him into our souls. Think of your soul as a little house, and you are sitting inside your house, dressed up nice and special waiting for a very important guest to arrive. When that guest arrives, they will knock on the door. Do we get up, open the door and pull them in? Or do we open the door, and bow low, out of respect, and invite them in? This is why when we see Jesus in the Eucharist we bow with our heads, and then when the minister says to us – The Body of Christ – we reply – Amen (I believe it!).

Visit with your BFF (best friend forever)

Then we return to our seats in the pew. And this time, Jesus comes into the little house of your soul for a visit. How do you act when your best friend comes over? You want to do things with you. That is why Jesus comes to us every week, so that every week we can do stuff together. Share with Jesus your prayers, your thoughts, your worries. Tell Him thank you for visiting your soul. Ask Him for help with the problems that you have, tell Him how you feel.

Queens and Kings

My good friend St. Francis used to say this to the Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses of his time: “Put aside your worries and receive with Joy the Most Holy Body and Most Holy Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ!