For whom the bell tolls…

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Dt 18:15-20 Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9 1 Cor 7:32-35 Mk 1:21-28

Eastern Europe
A Cardinal who grew up in Eastern Europe once shared with a group of young people why church bells were so important to him. “They remind me of my Baptism, of my faith and my mission in life” he said. In his country the Church bells were rung every morning at sunrise to remind the people to begin their day with a prayer of thanksgiving to God. The job of ringing the bells belonged to the altar boys who had to get up before dawn, and walk down to the Church in the dark in order to ring the bells at sunrise.

When the communists took over Eastern Europe they wanted to destroy the Church, so they imposed a curfew until dawn to try to prevent the ringing of the church bells. This cardinal, and his boyhood friend were committed to serving God, and so they would get up early in the morning and sneak over to the Church to ring the bells. One morning when it was his friend’s turn to ring the bells, he was shot for violating the curfew. This tragedy devastated the village, but every day, the bells of the Church still spoke out…

Ringing Bells make a Joyful Noise
At St. Anthony’s we begin every Mass with the ringing of the Church bells. Our bells have always made a joyful noise to the Lord because they call us to open our hearts to God so that we can receive His love. In a certain way our bells are the voice of our Church, because when we hear them, we are reminded of God, our faith and our Baptism.

It takes two to ring the bells
There are two people involved in the ringing of the bells, the one pulling the rope, and the ones listening to the sound. All of us who are baptized have this dual vocation in our lives; we have a responsibility to listen to the sound of the bells (to listen to Christ) and to be a bell for Christ by living our witness to the Gospel before our friends and family.

Listening to Christ
The first reading today contains a stern warning to those of us with this dual responsibility. In it, God warns Moses and all of the prophets (That is us sisters and brothers) that we need to hear the truth – that is the whole truth, and not just the parts of the Truth that we are comfortable with. It is not enough for me to simply hear the Churches teachings on abortion and not hear her teachings on immigration or war, or to hear the Churches teaching on the liturgy and not hear her teachings on the care for the poor or the sick. If we want to be faithful listeners, then we need to hear the whole truth.

How do we listen to Christ?
The response for the responsorial psalm today says, “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts”. This means that we have an obligation to listen to Christ each day. We listen to Christ through attentive prayer. God has created each one of us with a specific mission in mind, a specific vocation, a calling. If we never listen to Christ, then we can only become aware of our vocation when God sneaks up behind us and whacks us over the head with the spiritual 2x4 (two by four).

Christian Life is Baptism flowing out into the world
The word Vocation means “one who is called”. There are two different connotations of the word vocation that I would like to address today; our baptismal vocation, and the vocations of service that we might be called to in Marriage or Holy orders.

Christian Life is our Baptismal Vocation flowing out into the world.
Fix in your minds the idea that at the moment of your Baptism God placed into your soul a rich spring, welling up with the purest, sweetest, cleanest water. Our Baptismal vocation is not a split instant in our life, but rather the water from this spring welling up within us and flowing out into the world over the course of our entire life. The grace that we received at Baptism remains effective for all eternity – and it desires to permeate into all of our relationships and interactions, washing them clean through the grace of God. Sadly, many Catholics receive this spring at Baptism and then seldom turn again to listen to the voice of God resonating in their souls. Some of us gathered here today may share this experience. For all of us, the readings today call us to listen anew to the bells of the Church!

Have a Conversation with God
I want to encourage all of us gathered here today to make time in our lives to listen to God. Specifically, we can take 10 minutes in the morning as we begin our days to reflect quietly with God about the people that God is calling us to be the bell of the Church for today. This is what God and Moses were doing in the first reading. They were reflecting together over the people that God had entrusted to Moses. Listening to God in prayer this way helps us to become aware of the ways that the grace that God has given us at baptism is flowing through our lives and into the world. It is also a way to become aware of when God is calling us into a more specific vocation – a vocation of service.

All are called to listen and dialog today
In the Church there are two sacramental vocations of service, marriage and holy orders. As a married Deacon, I need to be attentive to both of these calls, but all of us have a need to listen to God about both of the sacraments because all of us experience these sacraments in our lives. Those of us who are single, or young are called to listen and dialog with God about where He is calling us to serve and how he is calling us to serve. If we are ordained, or married, then we too have an obligation to dialog with God about how he is calling us to live out our sacraments today.

This means that like Christ, the prophet that Moses and God spoke about in the first reading, we have an obligation to listen to the whole truth of God in our sacramental life and not to shy away from the teachings of the Church that we find difficult or inconvenient. In this sense all of us need to hear the bells, and all of us need to be bell ringers…

Don’t be anxious about the things of the World.
St. Paul warns us today not to be anxious about the things of the world, but rather to trust in God. The reason why St. Paul warns us about this is because anxiety strangles our ability to listen to God and prevents us from trusting God.

Married People – Trust in the Lord
When it comes to marriage, do we choose to listen to Christ about contraception, or be anxious about the burden of children and so we contracept? Do we place other things above our vocation to serve one another out of love? Where in our marriage do we need to invite in the healing love of God. How can we allow him to enter into the wounds of our love and redeem them, heal them? In what ways are our marriages thirsty for the flowing, cleansing, refreshing, life-giving waters of baptism?


Bishops, Priests and Deacons – Trust in the Lord
For those of us in Holy Orders, are we faithful to the vows we made at our ordinations? Are we humble to His Will readily following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our ministry? Does our life of prayer continue to grow and deepen? Are we holding fast to the faith of the Church – the whole faith? Are we obedient to our Bishop, listening to him as good sons ought to? Do we continue to conform our lives to the example of Christ?


Pray for Vocations – Pray for our married couples
All of us experience the sacrament of marriage – either as husbands and wives or as sons and daughters, and so all of us are affected by the fidelity of those married couples in our community who are called by God to live out this sacrament. Let us pray then sisters and brothers for the married couples of our parish that God may give them the grace to live out their sacrament faithfully, and fruitfully.

Pray for Vocations – pray for our Bishop, Priests and Deacons
Likewise all of us here experience the sacrament of Holy Orders. Without it we could not gather week after week to receive the Eucharist and to celebrate the Mass. Let us take some time this week to pray in a special way for those in Holy Orders and those living the religious life. That they might be faithful to their vows taken at ordination and so reflect the love of God to the World.

Listen and Trust in God and you will discover your vocation
All of us here are called to a vocation in life. The way that we begin to discover this vocation is to listen to God and to trust in God.

To those of us here today that have not yet received either of these two sacraments I want to offer you this reassurance. The decision to enter the seminary to study for the priesthood or diaconate is a serious decision, however, it is not the final decision to be a priest or deacon but rather the next level of listening and trusting in God to see if He is calling you to Holy Orders. In the same way becoming engaged is a serious decision but it does not mean that you are married, but rather that you are going to spend some time considering marriage seriously. Engagement and entering the seminary means that we are willing to listen to God and to trust that He will make his will known to us.

To those of us here today who are living in Holy Orders or Marriage – we too have the same challenge: to listen to God in the context of our vocation and to trust that God will provide for the needs of our ministry. If we do this we will become better wives, better husbands, better priests and better deacons.

Brothers and Sisters when we listen to God we hear the peal of the bells. When we trust in God, we are the ones who are ringing the bells. Go and make joyful noise to the Lord this week!



Marian Devotion Hour with the Knights of Columbus

1 John 4:11-16, John 15:7-17

Oh Aahhu Aaahu Aaaaahu”!
When I was a kid we used to watch Tarzan movies. Everytime someone got into trouble, Tarzan would grab a vine, start swinging through the trees and yell “Oh Aahhu Aaahu Aaaaahu”! Then he would arrive in the nick of time and save the person in crisis or to right whatever wrong was being committed.

By now, I am sure you are now wondering, what is the connection between those old black and white Tarzan movies and our Blessed Mother.

Tarzan’s Vine – the means of heroic work
The connection is the vine. Without the vine Tarzan would not have gotten anywhere fast, and he would not have been able to go about the heroic work that made for great Saturday morning movies. The Gospel for our devotion today is taken from Jesus’ discourse at the last supper, where he says, I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, I will remain in you. Brothers, like Tarzan we to are called to heroic work, like our Blessed Mother, we too need to keep our hand ready to grasp onto the vine, so that God is able to work through us to show His love to the world, to speak out against what is wrong, and to do what is right.

Mary – the example of remaining in the vine
The readings today teach us how to stay connected to the Vine. Mary is the example “par excellence” of being connected to her Son Jesus. She teaches us with her loving acceptance of the words of the Archangel Gabriel, when she said to him – “Let it be done to me according to your word.” It is in her example of acceptance to the will and providence of the Father that we learn how to “remain in his love”. When Mary said yes to God, the Word began to take on His flesh within her womb, and so every day, she remained in His love, connected to the vine of salvation.

How do we remain in the love of God – Do His work!
God is glorified when we choose to spend time each day remaining in His love. We do this when we pray. When we provide for the sick, the poor, the disabled. When we choose to reject the love of God in our actions of Sin then we fall into darkness and separation from him. The Gospel today invites us to be whole and holy; to be men of integrity where who we are on the inside is reflected by who we are on the outside. That our connection to the vine that is God’s grace shines into the depths of our heart, illuminating the areas of our hearts that are in need of repentance, and motivating us to love as Christ loved – without counting the cost.

Grab a hold of the vine – take up the Rosary
Praying the Rosary is one way for us to stay rooted in the vine. It is through our meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary that we reflect on the events of Christ’s life through the eyes of His mother Mary. My dear brothers, let us grasp firmly to this vine as we live out our Christian life in the world, let us allow these meditations to penetrate to the depths of our hearts, so that all of our actions reflect clearly that we are men who abide in the Love of God.


Empty Chairs…

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B

1 Sam 3:3b-10,19 Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10, 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20, Jn 1:35-42


I know that you are wondering why I am sitting here at this card table for our homily. I wanted to use the idea of the kitchen table to help us reflect on some rather difficult issues that affect our Church and our families today.

The Kitchen Table
One of the places that our families regularly meet is around the kitchen table. Most days, after a long day at work, or school, or keeping up the house we gather here to share a meal, to give thanks to God and to talk about our day. Sometimes the kids dread the ritual questions such as – “What did you at school today?” It’s ok though, because most kids have equally ritual responses such as “Nothing”, or “Not Much”.

The place where families share life
At other times we share times of great joy, or love, or sadness. We might have a heated discussion, or laugh about a funny story, or just be happy hearing about a new friendship. Sometimes, we gather here in grief, to mourn the loss of loved ones, or some other family tragedy. It is around our kitchen tables that we share the joys and the struggles of life. Here at our table we share life with one another.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend of mine who will always have an empty chair at her kitchen table, a chair that does not have a child to fill it.

When Bernadette was 33 (thirty three) years old she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. The doctors said that she would be lucky to live. This news hit Bernadette like a ton of bricks because 3 (three) days earlier she had discovered that she was pregnant with her second child. One of her doctors said that she would probably die, and if she died then her baby would die as well. The doctor said “You’re going to have to fight this with all that you’ve got – without the baby on board”. Bernadette was confronted with the choice – die from cancer, or get an abortion and fight for all its worth – and you might live.

Empty Chairs…
Bernadette’s story is not an isolated story. The truth is that in our community one in three women have had an abortion. This means, that one in three women live with a kitchen table that has at least one empty chair at it – the chair for their missing children.


Women confronted with Abortion
Bernadette’s story is not uncommon in other ways. Most of the women who end up having abortions make those decisions in a time of crisis in their lives. Often women struggle with the issue of abortion not in clinical, academic debate, but in the nitty-gritty reality that we often find at our kitchen tables. Many times we face this decision in a state of psychological distress, and quite often we don’t end up making the best of choices. Many times we suffer the consequences of this crisis for years and years to come.

Men shirking responsibility
Men too share in this culpability to abortion – typically we panic and frantically look for a way to avoid our responsibility. There are probably men here today who have been responsible for paying for, or encouraging their wives or girlfriends into getting an abortion. We too have empty chairs at our kitchen tables. We too are in need of healing, forgiveness. The church teaches that those who have procured an abortion are in a state of mortal sin, and in need of receiving Christ’s forgiveness.

The quick-fix is a lie
Here is where our society fails us. Our culture teaches that happiness is a quick fix. We thrive on instant gratification, because it’s all about me. We like things to end up nice, neat and tidy, no muss, no fuss. It doesn’t often end this way at our family table, because it is here, when we are home, alone that we have to face the reality of the empty chair at our table. Mothers often suffer from guilt, anger, sadness, depression. These feelings come and go over time – but the wound remains, unhealed and bleeding deep inside of us.


Behold the Lamb of God!
John the Baptist begins today’s gospel with the expression – “Behold the Lamb of God!” With these words he points out to us the one person who we can meet that is able to bring forgiveness, healing and peace into our lives. With this expression – “The Lamb of God” St. John recalls to us that Christ is the paschal lamb, the sacrificial lamb who has taken on flesh like us, has joined us to offer himself in sacrifice, to assume the responsibility that we have shirked, to take away our sins, to wash us clean in the blood the cross.

Rabbi – where are you staying?
How can I ever approach Christ with sin on my soul? This is where we see the good news of the Gospel today. Andrew comes up to Jesus and asks an important question – “Rabbi – where are you staying?” Jesus answers him saying “Come and you will see”. Andrew stayed with Jesus for the rest of that day, and it convicted him in his heart that Jesus truly is the Lamb of God, that He is the one who was sent to take away the sins of the world. The beauty of responding to Christ’s invitation to follow him is that through our relationship with Him he purifies our lives, he washes away our sins allowing us to be transformed from a life of darkness in sin into the joy and peace of Christ.


Wounds bleed, only Christ heals
The wounds of abortion hurt us intensely. Personally, the wounds that we carry from abortion remain with us the rest of our lives. Often we hide them away behind grief, denial, shame where they fester and weep slowly in our souls for years. Today, the Gospel invites us to change that – to come to the “Lamb of God” and invite him into our wounds. Modern psychology gives us many wonderful tools for managing and understanding our pain and our suffering, but only Christ has the power to wash away our sins, to cleanse and heal our wounds with His loving grace. I invite all of those present who suffer from these wounds to look into Project Rachel – a ministry of the Church where those who suffer from the effects of abortion can find support, healing and peace in their lives.


Pray and write a letter
The Gospel calls all of us to action. For those who are not directly involved in abortion, we still suffer the consequences of a society without children. What can we do? Two things; Pray and write a letter.

Prayer and Fasting
This Thursday is the 36th (thirty-sixth) anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade that legalized abortion on demand in our country. This is a day of penance for our Church. This means that we are all to pray in a special way, and go out of our way to perform works of charity and to deny ourselves through fasting and abstinence.

Oppose FOCA
The second is to take some action to protect the children of our country who are in the womb. This week, congress is considering the Freedom of Choice Act – a law that will permit abortion in all 9 (nine) months of a woman’s pregnancy. I want to encourage all of you to sit down and write your senators and representatives encouraging them to oppose this horrible piece of legislation.

Learn the providence of God
Bernadette was faced with a crisis. She and her husband turned to Christ and prayed. After much struggle and discernment she chose to forego an abortion, and to have surgery to remove the cancer. After the surgery she had to wait until her child had grown large enough to survive the chemo-therapy, which she began starting in her second trimester. Bernadette delivered a healthy 8 (eight) pound baby girl, and survived her cancer at the same time. She did this by choosing to trust that God’s plan was the best for her. This is not the easy choice for her to make – but it was the best choice – because through it she learned to trust in the providence of God.


Come and you will see
Like Bernadette, we too are invited this week to learn to trust in the providence of God so that we can learn that He truly has the best plan for us. God’s plan isn’t always the easiest plan, but it is always the best plan. God is calling us as He called Samuel in the first reading. He is calling us to gather around his kitchen table in heaven. This week we are invited to begin to share our life with God anew.

Do we have the courage to invite Christ into our lives?
Do we have the faith to listen to Him?
Come and you will see!