Christmas – Cycle A
Is 62:1-5, Psalm 89: 4-5, 16-17, 27, 29, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:18-25

When I was a kid my parent’s told me that St. Nicholas was very clever, he would not come to my house until I was fast asleep, and then he would sneak in and leave presents for us under the tree. I was always so excited on Christmas Eve that I had a hard time falling asleep.

I thought about that we might be able to help the kids get ready for bed tonight by reading a bedtime story.

[[READ The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola]]

There was a young orphan named Giovanni. He begged for food and slept in the doorways. Giovanni was happy because he could do something wonderful. He could juggle!


In the morning Giovanni would juggle oranges in front of Signor Baptista’s vegetable stand. People would watch Giovanni and buy vegetables. Signora Baptista would always feed Giovanni a bowl of soup.


One day a troupe of traveling players came to town with a play. Giovanni saw their pretty clothes, dancing and singing and said – “That is the life for me!” So he begged the Maestro “Please let me come with you. I will be a hard worker and … I can juggle!” The Maestro agreed and Giovanni became a traveling player.


Whenever he juggled Giovanni would dress up as a clown. First he would juggle rings, then clubs and then the Moon, the Earth and the Sun. When he got to the Earth and the Sun and the Moon he would juggle them higher and faster and the crowd would laugh and cheer.


Giovanni became famous, He traveled all over Italy playing to people. Once he juggled for a Count, then a Duchess, then a Prince. His act was always the same.


First he would juggle the rings.


Then he would juggle the clubs.


Then he would juggle the Earth and the Moon and the Sun in the heavens! Each time the people would clap and cheer and laugh. They really enjoyed Giovanni’s show.


One day when Giovanni was between two towns he was sitting in the shade of a tree eating a lunch of bread and cheese when Two Little Brothers came down the road. “Will you share your food with us good Clown for the love of God and the blessings of our Brother Francis?” “Of course good fellows, there is more than enough” said Giovanni.

As they ate, one of the two little brothers named St. Anthony told Giovanni how they went from town to town begging their food and spreading the joy of God. “Our founder, Brother Francis, says that everything sings of the glory of God. Why even your juggling.” “I only juggle to make people laugh and applaud” said Giovanni. “That is the same thing”, said St. Anthony, “If you give happiness to people, you give glory to God as well.” “Thank you” said Giovanni and after lunch they went on their way.


Giovanni became richer and richer and more famous. Wherever he went the crowds would be all smiles and laugh and clap – especially when he juggled the Sun and the Earth and the Moon.


Then one day while he was juggling the Sun, the Earth and the Moon he dropped the Sun in the Heavens. All of his balls came crashing down. The people laughed at him – but not from joy. They did a terrible thing and threw vegetables at him and so Giovanni had to run for his life.


Giovanni gave up juggling. He took off his clown face gave up juggling forever. He lost what little money he had saved and soon he was once again begging for food and sleeping in doorways. It is time to go home he thought.


It was a cold winters night when he got back home. The wind blew and the rain was icy and it was dark. The only place that was open was the Church of the little brothers, so Giovanni crept inside the dark Church and fell asleep cold and tired.


Gloria in excelcis Deo! Giovanni woke up to the Church filled with people singing the Gloria. He could scarcely believe his eyes! So much beauty, a long procession of Brothers and Sisters, Priests and Townspeople all bringing their gifts in front of a Statue of Mary and Jesus. He asked one of the townspeople what was going on. “It is the birthday of Jesus, it is Christmas! We are all bringing him our gifts to celebrate His birth”.

When Mass was over, everyone went home. The Church was dark again except for the candles around Mary and Jesus.


Giovanni went closer. Mary and Jesus seemed so serious, so stern. “I am but a poor beggar thought Giovanni, but I know what I can give as a gift.”


He opened up his juggling bag, put on his clown makeup and began to juggle for Mary and Jesus.


The porter came in and saw Giovanni and ran to get the Father. Giovanni was now juggling the Sun and the Earth and the Moon. They went around and around faster and more beautifully before. His heart was pounding, “For you sweet Jesus, for you!” cried Giovanni.


Suddenly his heart stopped, and he fell dead on the floor.

[[PAUSE]], [[PAGE]]

When the Father came in, he found Giovanni on the floor and he said – “This poor old clown is dead – may he rest in peace.” Then looking up at the statue of Mary and Jesus he noticed that Jesus was smiling, and in his hand he held the Sun. The End.


The Sun was Giovanni’s gift to Jesus for Christmas – he gave him part of himself, he showed Jesus his love by juggling for him. That is why Jesus had a smile on his face at the end of the story.

The gospels give us three different ideas for gifts for Jesus this Christmas.

The gift of love.
The gift that St. Joseph gave to Jesus was the gift of his love. Joseph responded to the Angel and took Mary to be his wife. His gift of love lasted his entire life, where he provided for, protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.

The gift of obedience.
When the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to ask if she would be the Mother of Jesus she responded with her yes. She said “Let it be done to me according to your word!” Mary’s gift to Jesus was to listen to his word and act on it in her heart.

The gift of help.
After Mary became pregnant with Jesus, she traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is the mother of John the Baptist to help her in her own pregnancy. Mary’s response to having Jesus grow within her was to share him with Elizabeth and John the Baptist.

What is your Gift to God this Christmas?
On Christmas we celebrate God’s generosity by giving one another presents. This Christmas, what gift are you going to bring to Christ? Love? Obedience? Help? When we give gifts of ourselves we share God’s love and proclaim Glory to God in the highest!


Look to the Barrens

3rd Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

Is 35:1-6a, 10, Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10, Jas 5:7-10, Gospel: Mt 11:2-11

Gaudete – Catching the first glimpse of Bethlehem
The reason why we are wearing pink vestments today is because today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for rejoice. We rejoice because we can see our hope – the coming of Christ into the world. It is as if we have been on a long journey, and we have just crested a ridge and can get our first glimpse at our destination – Bethlehem. It is in Bethlehem that we will celebrate God’s greatest blessing to us; His Son. Christmas is the celebration that God sent his Son to take on flesh so that we can have a new relationship with Him.

The correct liturgical description for the color that we wear today is “Rose”. Rose is particularly fitting color as today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and rose has always been a symbol of our Blessed Mother.

The story of St. Juan Diego and the Blessed Mother is well known. She appeared to him on the hill Tepeyac, outside of Mexico City, and asked him to have the Bishop build a Cathedral there. When St. Juan Diego asked the Bishop, he asked Juan Diego for proof. The next day the Blessed Mother told him to pick some roses at the top of the hill (it was December) and to fold them into his tilma. When Juan Diego opened his tilma before the Bishop on the roses cascaded out onto the floor, revealing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his apron.

Through this miracle, the entire country of Mexico converted to Christianity within a very short time. Our Lady of Guadalupe began as the patroness of Mexico, but over time she has extended her mantle to incorporate all the Americas; and so today we thank God for the convergence of these two celebrations – the celebration of Gaudate Sunday and of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why do we give gifts for Christmas?
Ask anyone you meet these days what Christmas is about and they are almost sure to answer that Christmas is about giving gifts. Why do we exchange gifts over this holiday? Why don’t we have Turkey gifts for Thanksgiving, and 4th of July gifts for Independence Day? We celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to the ones that we love because when we give gifts we imitate the big gift that God gave us on the first Christmas. When we give a gift we are giving of ourselves for another’s good. Giving gifts is a way for us to show our friends and family that we love them. Giving gifts is a way of putting our love into action.

Look for God’s presence in our weakness
In the first reading today the Prophet Isaiah uses the imagery of a desert as a symbol for our relationship with God. Isaiah shows us that God’s gifts are most readily seen when he brings the wastelands to life. Isaiah directs us to look to the deserts and wastelands to see God’s gift of life. He says “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.

God is our strength
Isaiah teaches us that Christ makes himself present in our weaknesses if we allow Him. He prays for God to “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened”. When Christ enters into our lives and our relationships they are transformed – we will see it because “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Relationship game
But what is our relationship with God like? If you had to use the imagery of Isaiah to describe your relationship with God what words would describe it? I want to invite you to take a moment and close your eyes and try to conjure up what that relationship would look like.

Fertile Farmland
Is it fertile farmland? Is your relationship with God filled with life and growth? Are you “on fire” for God? Is it a relationship where everything that is planted takes root quickly and bears fruit?

Rolling Hills
Is your relationship with God like rolling hills? Does it have its ups and downs yet still moves along? Is there a level of stability in it that leads to complacency?

Barren Desert
Or is your relationship with God a barren desert, quiet and empty of life? Is it a hard place where you have to work hard and get almost nowhere?


Review our relationships
No matter where we are in our relationship with God, or with our family and friends Isaiah can help us to understand what is going on in our lives.

· Where are you and I blind to our own sin that causes us to overlook our shortcomings in our friendships?
· Where are you and I deaf to the cries of the poor?
· Where do you and I fail to speak the truth, and because of our muteness our relationship is suffering?
· Where has our sin crippled our friendships because we lame and unable to act?

Who did you go out into the desert to see?
In the Gospel Jesus asks the disciples the question – “Who did you go out to see in the desert? Someone in nice clothes? Someone who would tell you what you want to hear?” “To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever born. People were drawn to John because he was a holy man, he was a man who let God direct his actions.

Let the Holy Spirit lead
St. John the Baptist allowed the Holy Spirit to direct his life. He did not worry if he was living in the desert, preaching by the Jordan or locked up in Herod’s prison. St. John surrendered all of his life to God. He knew that God can bring strength out of weakness which is why St. John surrendered his weakness to God so that God could be glorified. St. John knew that as long as he remained open to the Holy Spirit God would bring good out of evil no matter what. That is why Jesus says to John’s disciples – Tell John that “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” This is Jesus’ way of telling John that He is the Messiah.

How do we let God into our lives more readily?

Have Faith in God
First we need to be grounded in belief that no matter how hopeless or barren a relationship seems to be that God can breath new life into the situation. We need to trust in him that he will do so according to his timing.

Be a Farmer
Second, we need to be like Farmers. In the second reading St. Paul uses the imagery of the faith of a Farmer who plants the seed and then watches it take root in the ground. We too need to be firm in our faith – firm in our knowledge that if we are able to simply live our lives according to the Gospel then God will be glorified.

Farmers are Practical
Farmers are always practical; they like to dig in the dirt, water the crops and when the harvest is ready to gather in the grain. In a practical way we need to live our lives in accordance with the Ten Commandments. Isaiah gives us a clue on where to watch for God – look to the barren areas of our lives. St. Paul had a spiritual maxim; where I am weak God is strong. Where I am overcome with Sin, or temptation to Sin, that is where God can act in the most powerful ways if we only allow him.

Third – be patient
The most difficult part of the spiritual life is that it is an ongoing journey. It is not a novel where we can skip the boring parts. We can’t skip to the end to see how it finishes us. We need to live our way through it. Christ does tell us what the end is, but he doesn’t give us the details. While we are patiently watching the crops grow we need to surrender the areas of sin in our lives. We need to surrender the areas of weakness to God’s love so that Christ can fill these areas with his transforming love.

Gaudete – Rejoice!
When we are able to surrender the sinful areas of our life to God then God is able to bring the dead to life! Remember that no matter how barren or rocky a friendship is; no matter how blind, deaf, dumb or crippled we are by our sin; God is coming to bring us new life! This is why we rejoice today!


The Incredibles

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Mal 3:19-20a; Psalm Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 Thes 3:7-12; Gospel: Lk 21:5-19

The Incredibles
One of my favorite movies of all time is Pixar’s Animated Film “The Incredibles”. It is the story of a family of superhero’s who are trying to lead ordinary lives, concealing their secret identities and super powers. This family was started when Mr. Incredible (who has incredible strength) and Elastigirl (who has incredible flexibility) fall in love, get married and raise a family. They are forced into concealing their super-powers and have to live a life pretending to be normal humans.

Am I a Secret Christian Superhero?
I think that some of us Christian’s here can relate to this because we live in a world that wants us to pretend that we are not Christians. The readings today call us to examine the way we are leading our lives and to ask the question – Am I conforming my life to the way God wants me to live it or am I living my life the way the World wants me to live?

Addicted to Justice
Mr. Incredible has a problem, which is that he is addicted to justice. Even though doing the right thing has gotten him into trouble, he still sneaks out in the middle of the night with his superhero friend “Frozone” and they save people in trouble.

I think that we all share Mr. Incredible’s addiction to justice – we all have an intuitive sense of right and wrong, and we all get irritated when we witness injustice.

What is Justice?
Justice is acting in a way that reveals God’s love to the world.


The boss and the mugger
There is a scene in the movie where Mr. Incredible’s boss is meeting with him and a man who is mugged right outside the office. Mr. Incredible finds himself conflicted between his need to catch the mugger, and his need to have this job to provide for his family. He ends up resolving this inner conflict by punching out his boss after the mugger gets away.

Ask the Question – How is God’s love revealed by my actions?
This is why we need the definition of justice; it helps us to evaluate our actions to see if they are going to be good or bad. When we recognize that we are in conflict, we need to ask ourselves the question – how is God’s love revealed through this action?

Superhero’s confront Injustice
Whenever Mr. Incredible catches a bad guy he is always taking time to speak to the reporters about the crook he caught. He is pointing out to the community an injustice that needs correcting. If only Mr. Incredible could do this with his own actions then those situations too might be resolved with charity.

What is Injustice?
If Justice is acting in a way that reveals God’s love to the world than injustice is acting in a way that obscures God’s love in the world.


Lying to cover firing – Helping his nemesis
After he punches out his boss Mr. Incredible gets fired from his job. Unwittingly he is hired by his nemesis, an evil scientist named Syndrome who uses him to perfect his superhero killing robot.

To cover up for getting fired he lies to his wife, giving her the impression that he was promoted when in reality he was fired. He moonlights as a superhero and she thinks that he is having an affair. He gets trapped, and it seems that there is no way out.

How do we fall into the Injustice Trap - Malachi
We too can fall into the Injustice trap. In the first Reading the prophet Malachi says “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch

Two will be burned – Evildoers and the Proud
Did you notice that there are two kinds of people who will be burned away in that last day? They are evildoers and those who are proud.

How do Christians become evil-doers?
First, we might say – “God loves me and He won’t worry about my little faults here or there”. This is wrong because we think that we can earn our way into heaven without paying attention to what is inside our hearts.

How are we guilty of pride?
The other way is for us to think that we have already made it and we don’t need to do any works because we are here in the Church. This is the sin of pride because our actions do not reflect what our faith teaches.

Sin is like burning garbage
What is behind both of these actions is sin. Sin is like a garbage heap that spontaneously combusts. Have you ever smelt burning trash? It reeks and stinks, and burns itself away to nothing. When we allow sin to persist in our lives that is what it does to our souls. Sin corrodes and destroys us until nothing is left but our own self-consuming anger. This is the kind of fire that is used to describe hell – the place where unrepentant sinners end up.

God’s love is a purifying fire.
Earlier in this same chapter Malachi speaks of God’s love being like fire as well. He uses the image of God’s love being like fire purifying silver – burning off the sin and corruption and leaving our soul as God created us to be – beautiful and precious in his sight.

When we repent we expose ourselves to the purifying fire of God’s love. That fire burns away the sin in our lives so that we become purely who God created us to be. God’s purifying fire allows his love to be revealed to the world through our actions. This is the witness of all of those Christian superheroes we call the Saints – like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

How do we escape from the trap? By becoming People of action
Mr. Incredible gets caught both by his nemesis Syndrome and his wife Elastigirl. He does not get stuck because he remains a man of action. It is the actions of Mr. Incredible, of his wife and his family that ultimately free him and save a whole bunch of other people from Syndrome’s evil schemes. God often uses our family and friends to reach out to us and save us when we are trapped in sin.

Choose to be a Superhero!
We too are called to be Christian Superheroes because we are called to be women and men of action. This means that we

Love Justice
- That we ask the Holy Spirit for the gift to see how God’s love needs to be revealed in each situation of each day.
Confront Injustice
- That we ask the Holy Spirit to point out where our actions are obscuring God’s love in the world. Ask Him to make us aware of the temptation to sin.
And Take action
- Examine our lives for injustice. When we find it – confess it!
- Reach out to someone with charity this week. Maybe it is a family member who you have hurt, or a friend at work or school, or maybe it is someone who has fallen on hard times.

This is how Christ invites us to prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven.


Veni Sancte Spiritus!

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C

Ex 17:8-13; Psalm 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; 2 Tm 3:14-4:2; Gospel: Lk 18:1-8

I want to teach you a very short prayer and song today – so I brought my conductors baton to help out. The prayer is “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which is Latin for “Come Holy Spirit




An image of God - the Choir Master
I am sure that some of you were not expecting to come to choir practice today. The reason why I asked you to sing is because I would like to give you an image of God that you might not have – that is the image of God the Choir-Master.

A Good Choir Master seeks the best out of each singer
A Choir Master is the leader of a choir who helps everyone to sing in unison, on key and to the same tune or melody. A good choir master will see the talents of his singers and then find the right part’s for them to sing in the choir.

Christ is the best Football Coach
However, this is Bronco’s season so perhaps a better image is that God is like a good football coach. If you have ever had the opportunity to train under a good coach then you have an idea of what I am talking about. Think back to those days in practice when the coach pushed you harder than you thought you could go – he was always encouraging you to run a little faster, to hit a little harder. Bit by bit you were molded into the player that he always knew you could.


Each one of us has a vocation to fill – just like Moses
Last week we started to preach about vocations here in the parish. The first reading gives us an idea of how God uses each persons individual vocation to bring about His kingdom. In the first reading today God is very much acting in the coach role. A superior army that is attacking them to destroy them outnumbers the Israelites. God uses the vocations of various people to protect his children. He uses Moses to pray, and Aaron and Hur are to help Moses in his prayer. Joshua is the general and it is his vocation to plan the fight and to choose the men to fight it. The chosen men are the soldiers who carry the fight to the enemy and ultimately bring about the victory. Would God have been glorified if Moses had prayed but did not have the help of Aaron and Hur, or if Joshua planned the battle but the chosen men did not fight? No, it took everyone responding to their vocation to bring victory for God’s people.

God is calling each of us to our own vocation
The same is true for our Church today. God is calling each of us to our particular vocations. It is up to us to listen to that call and then to respond to God with our hearts. God is the coach calling each of us here our vocations – the questions are; do we hear Him and do we have the courage to say “Yes” to Him?

Some of us here today are asking the questions “What is a Vocation?” or “How do I discover my vocation?

What is a Vocation?
At the core our vocation is who God created us to be. It is fundamentally who we are. When we discover our vocation our response is “I should have been doing this all my life!” – It radically changes our understanding of who we are and makes us more complete, more whole and more purely who God is creating us to be.

How do we discover our Vocation(s)?
The first step to discovering what our vocation is to enter into a relationship with God. When we take time in our lives to invite God into our relationships and into our work, then we can begin to listen to the directions that our Heavenly Coach is giving us.

Discovering Diakonia in the Colorado Prairie
For me, I discovered my vocation to be a Deacon while I was helping out at a retreat center in North Eastern Colorado called the Peace Huts. I moved to Colorado 22 years ago after I got out of the Navy. I did not know anyone in town except for my immediate family. I was studying in college when I met some young adults at Spirit of Christ Catholic Church. One of them was trying to build a retreat center out near Akron but needed help with organization. God used my skills in organizing to help to get the retreat center built. Along the way I began to share my life with Him and He began to share His dreams for my life with me.

One of the dreams God had for me was to be a Deacon. I told him that he would have to first convince my wife, and I stopped worrying about the problem.

Flying home from Rome
Two years later on a plane flying back from Rome my wife Tina turned to Father George who was accompanying us and asked him if I had spoken to him about the Diaconate. You could have knocked me over with a feather because I realized in an instance how serious God was in his dream for me. Tina and I spent the next three years discussing and discerning what this vocation would mean for us and our family and finally in 2003 I entered the seminary and began to study to be a Deacon.

What have I discovered since being ordained?
Last year I called a friend of mine from Wisconsin. When she picked up the phone she said – “You seem really upbeat today, what have you been doing?” It was Sunday and I had spent the day here at the parish, serving the Mass, baptizing a baby, and visiting the sick in the nursing home. I was excited. The funny thing about being a Deacon for me is that it is not draining but energizing. I think that the reason why is that when I am serving God with all of my heart and my soul I am able to meet people in the most profound moments of their lives and see how God is working with them – what an amazing experience.

What can each one of us do to better understand our own vocation?
But enough about me, how about you? The first thing that each and everyone of us can do is to begin to share our lives with God. When we get up in the morning ask Him what His will is with us. Be open to the idea that God might be coaching us for something we haven’t even dared to dream about. Reflect on the souls of our children. Ask God to provide for them out of his abundant love. Help our children to better understand God’s will for them in their lives.

Pray for the members of our parish who are pursuing their vocation
There are men and women in our parish who are trying to figure out if they are called to be a Priest, or a Deacon or a Sister. They have the courage to consider the God’s call in their lives. There are men and women in our parish who are discerning if God is calling them to be married to one another. Pray for them that God helps them to choose His will. We have three seminarians who are currently preparing for ordained life. Arturo Ariza, one of our own parishioners who used to lead the Hombres para Cristo is studying to be a Deacon. Ryan Tydball and Brother Clarance Wetegrove are preparing for the priesthood and are here. The Franciscans in the Convent have another 3 men who are spending this year asking God if they are called to follow Jesus as Franciscan Brothers. Pray for them.

Do we have the courage to live God’s Dreams? Veni Sancte Spiritus…
In the Gospel today Christ teaches us that God’s dreams for us are greater than we can imagine. If a wicked judge will give a just judgment to a nagging widow then how much more will God give us what is good? Do we have the audacity to live God’s Dreams for our lives? Let us pray for God to give us that courage!



Encountering God

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C

Gn 18:1-10a, Psalm 15:2-3, 3-4, 5, Col 1:24-28, Gospel: Lk 10:38-42

Test Question – Who is Holier?
Are you ready for a test today? Often times when I ask that question it puts people on edge. They quickly get a worried look on their face, because they know that they are about to be put on the spot. Don’t panic today however, because while I have a question for you, I am not going to put you on the spot.

Blessed Mother Teresa – Busybody for Jesus
Who do you think is holier? Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta or St. Joseph? Some of you might answer Blessed Mother Theresa – because she worked tirelessly to provide for the needs of the poor, the sick and the abandoned in the streets of Calcutta and all over the world. She slept very little, some biographers saying only 4 hours a night so that she could devote as much of her life as possible to begging for, caring for and loving the poor and afflicted of the world.

St. Joseph – Sleep is the way to sanctity
On the other hand, we have the model of St. Joseph – who in the early part of St. Matthews Gospel spends a great deal of time sleeping. He was sleeping when the angel came to him and told him not to divorce Mary but to take her as his wife. He was sleeping again when the angel asked him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt to flee Herod, and yes, you guessed it – he was sleeping again when the Angel told him that it was okay to return back to Israel after the death of Herod. So who is holier? Blessed Mother Teresa, or St. Joseph.

It is a trick question
They both are – it is a trick question. The important part to remember is that both St. Joseph and Blessed Mother Teresa encountered God in their lives. For Blessed Mother Teresa, she encountered Christ in each one of the people that she knelt down to care for. For St. Joseph, he was prepared, and open to encounter God, and to respond to God even during his rest times.

The readings today describe how four different people encountered God, and there are four different spiritualities that we can learn from in these encounters.

Abraham – the model of generosity
Christian Scripture scholars have understood that the three men that Abraham encounters in the first reading to be the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. When Abraham encounters God, he encounters Him from a heart filled with gratitude. Abraham understands that all that he has is a great gift from God, that he is rich thanks to God, and that God gave him these gifts so that he could share them with Others.

When the Blessed Trinity encounters Abraham, he goes out of his way to invite them to share in his blessings. First, he offers them a place in the shade, then some water to cool their feet. Then he scampers off behind his tent, picks out the finest calf, and asks Sarah to make some fresh bread from the finest flour – to share with his guests. Abraham delights in sharing his blessings with others – this is his spirituality of encounter that maybe we can learn from today, a spirituality that is rooted in that profound understanding that everything that we have is a gift given to us by God to be shared with the world. Where in your life do you practice the spirituality of gratitude so that you can encounter Christ?

Martha – Encountering Christ in the work of service
In the Gospel today we see the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Throughout the ages, Martha gets a bad rap because she whines a little to Jesus. Let us look again at the Gospel – It is Martha who welcomes Jesus into her house. It is Martha who dives into the busy-ness of caring for Jesus and his disciples who descended upon his house. Her downfall (which is slight) is that she gets a little distracted and overwhelmed with all the work of taking care of the guests. How many of us are Martha’s helping around our parish – like the women in the Altar and Rosary society, or the various Mens groups here who are always busy about the work of caring for the needs of the parish. Perhaps we live this spirituality the best when we are preparing for and carrying out our Fiesta – busy as bees. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was like St. Martha in the sense that she worked tirelessly for the Gospel, even though for 40 years she did not enjoy the consolation of Gods presence as a tangible experience in her life. She knew who God was, and he had revealed to her who she would become, so it was this experience that kept her faithful to the path that she knew God had called her to encounter him through.

Mary – A Eucharistic spirituality
Another form of encounter spirituality is that practiced by Martha’s sister Mary. When Jesus comes into her house, Mary drops everything to pay attention to him, to be with him, to listen to him and learn from him. She recognizes that the Word made Flesh – God become Man, the Truth of the Love of God had come into her home, and she was so captivated, rapt with love for him that she was transfixed. It was as if she were a dry sponge soaking up the moisture. Mary’s spirituality is a spirituality of presence. She recognized the goodness of the Lord’s presence and chose to rest in it. This is why Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better portion – because he knows that she is encountering his eternal being. We too have the opportunity to practice Mary’s spirituality of presence here at St. Anthony’s on Tuesday nights at 6PM when we have a couple of hours of Eucharistic Adoration. St. John Vianney once spoke with a Farmer who spent some time in Adoration each day – he asked him – what do you do when you are with the Lord and the Farmer replied “I look at him, and he looks at me.” This farmer witnessed to St. John his practice of presence with God.

St. Paul – Encountering Christ in Suffering
We now turn to the second reading for perhaps the most difficult spirituality of encountering Christ. St. Paul says in this reading “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church”. How do we encounter Christ in the saddest moments of our lives, when we are sick, or suffering loss or grief. Even there in the depths of our despair and struggle Christ is with us, and walks with us. St. Paul was able to find Joy in these moments because he understood the true meaning and triumph of the Cross. The witness of God’s love and action in his life – that it could take him in such a wretched state and free him, transform him from a persecutor of the Church to a Martyr, a witness in his blood of the Love of Jesus. We have many people here who are struggling with sin and sadness, sickness and death. St. Paul’s witness to us is that even here God is present, and God can be encountered.

God provides us with many ways and opportunities to encounter him this week. The question is, will our hearts be open to him when he comes to us?



11th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C

2 Sm 12:7-10, 13; Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11; Gal 2:16, 19-21; Gospel: Lk 7:36—8:3

How many people here today wear glasses or contact lenses? [[RAISE YOUR HAND]].

Glasses have the power to transform
I know that seems like an odd question to start out a homily with, but it is a subject that I think can help us to reflect on today’s readings. For me, glasses are something that is so minor and trivial that I don’t really ever think about them much, and yet, at the same time, they have transformed my life and my world.

Going to the eye doctor
When I was 12 years old my Dad took me to the eye-doctors for an examination along with my older brother David. The eye doctor had me sit in a chair and put that funky perscription machine in front of my face and try to read the letters off of a chart.

He said – “Cover your eye and read the smallest line on the chart”. I did – I said [[COVERING ONE EYE]] “I…M…B…L…I…N…D…”. [[PAUSE]] “Good”, he said, “and now the other eye and read the smallest line on this chart.” So, I did, I said – “I…O…U…50…BUCKS…” [[PAUSE]]

“Very good he replied”, and he told me that I needed glasses and gave my Dad the bill for $50.


Glasses transformed my world – but I take them for granted
When I put on my new glasses my life was transformed. I could see the world clearly, and ever since then I have always worn glasses day in and day out.

God sends the Eye Doctor (Nathan) to King David so he can see the hurt
In the first reading God sends Nathan the prophet to be an eye doctor for King David. David is blind to his sin, and he does not see the damage he has done to his relationship with God. Nathan shows David that he has sinned, and once David is able to see the hurt that he has caused and the wrong that he has done he is filled with sorrow and repentance. To repent means that we see what Sin has done to our relationship with God.

Just wearing glasses is not enough.
In the second reading St. Paul teaches us the difference between obedience to the Law and the value of faith. For St. Paul, the Law is the ability to know right from wrong – it is essential to our relationship with God, but it is not complete. If the law is a pair of glasses then just wearing glasses is not enough to save us. St. Paul says that it is faith that saves us – by faith, St. Paul means our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus helps us to see the hurt our sin does to our relationship with God.
St. Paul teaches that the reason why Christ came in the flesh was to be out brother and save us from our sin. When St. Paul encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus he came face to face with the effects of his Sin. St Paul understood that it was his relationship (faith) with Jesus that saved him from death to Sin and allowed him to live in the light of God’s love. St. Paul sees the effects of his sin in the skin, flesh and blood of Christ hanging on the cross. The glasses of the Law helped St. Paul to lead a good life, but it is in his relationship with Christ that St. Paul experiences the reality of forgiveness that frees him and transforms his life from one of suffering and misery to one of joy and peace.

Law and Faith; Sin, Repentance and Forgiveness
The Gospel today ties together both of these two themes – The Law and Faith (that is relationship with Christ), and the process of Sin, Repentance and Forgiveness.

Simon wears his glasses but takes them for granted.
There are three people in the Gospel, Simon the Pharisee, the Sinful woman and Jesus. Simon is basically a good man - he is a man who has lived his life with his glasses on. Part of Simon’s sin is that he takes his faith for granted – and he does not allow his relationship with God to transform his heart. Jesus reprimands him for failing to wash his feet or anoint his head. Simon has a false sense of security in his salvation because his focus is on the fact that he wears glasses and not on what he see’s through the glasses.

The Sinful Woman is blind and knows that she needs salvation.
The Sinful Woman on the other hand is blind, her life has been spent in the darkness of sin. What we don’t know from the scriptures is if she had an encounter with Jesus earlier that day that led to this radical display of love and gratitude. Something happened in her relationship with Christ that made her aware of him – perhaps he met her earlier in the day and showed her the truth of her life wrapped in love. Whatever it was, her encounter with Jesus is trans-formative because it makes her aware of how empty her life has been, and of her need for salvation. She becomes painfully aware of Jesus’ ability to bring her from darkness to light, from despair and sin into joy and peace and life. Jesus offers her a way out of the trap of Sin that has destroyed her life. She is first and foremost painfully aware of her sin, and that allows her to be profoundly grateful for the forgiveness that Jesus offers her.

Another angle – The physics of a swing-set or the reality of a swing-set.
Another way of thinking about Simon and the sinful Woman is that Simon understands the physics and mathematics of a person on a swing, but is unable to see where Sin is in his life. Simon could describe the mathematics of a person on a swing but he has never taken the time to examine his own life to see where he is in sin. Simon thinks that because he lives by the law (or for us because we go to Mass) he is immune to Sin and its effects.

On the other hand, the Sinful woman has swung on the swing-set and she is painfully aware of it. She wants to escape from the evil life and knows that it is her relationship with Jesus that can get her out of her life of Sin that is killing her.

Where are we in the story?
Where do we find ourselves in this story? How aware are we of the effects of sin in our life. Do we know the math and lack the personal awareness of our own sinfulness? Who are you in this story? Are you more like Simon, who has fallen become complacent in his faith and stopped examining his relationship with God? [[PAUSE]] If we are then we are more like the person forgiven the debt of 50 days wages rather than 500. Or are we like the sinful Woman – painfully aware of our sin, but perhaps trapped in the effects of our sin, we might feel powerless and a victim of our sin? In either case the Gospel today is good news for us because Christ invites us to his forgiveness, so that we can be free to live a life filled with the presence of God.

Psychologists say that when you want to make a change in your life for the better, then you are 70% more likely to follow through on your commitment to change if you speak to a person about your commitment. As Catholics, this statement is icing on the cake because when we have the sacrament of Confession so that we can hear the words of Christ in our hearts. When we take advantage of the sacrament we have the opportunity to speak with Jesus and hear his healing words – that is the grace of the sacrament – your sins are forgiven. That frees us to live a life of conversion.

Take the Evangelical Eye Exam!
The Gospel this week invites us to take an eye exam – look at our lives and ask ourselves the question. Where am I sinning? Then to really take to heart these readings and consider if we understand our sin like King David, St. Paul, the Pharisee or the Sinful Woman. We are invited to repent and confess our sins so that we can live our life in freedom like a person who has been forgiven a great debt. The day when we can meet that challenge is a day when our entire world will be transformed.


Party On!

Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34, 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13, Gospel Jn 20:19-23

What is God’s favorite thing to do? Party!
Have you ever stopped to wonder – what is God’s favorite past-time? Well your presence here today gives us a hint as to what that might be. The most favorite thing that God loves to do is to party! That is what the Mass is – it is our worship and celebration of the true and living God who desires to be with us!

A true party is a celebration of the life of the one you love
Some of us might have a vision of partying that is a little askew from what I am speaking about today. When I refer to partying, I mean spending time with those that you love the most. We have read from the book of Revelation about how all of those who love God are gathered around him in heaven spending eternity in communion with those whom they love. This is what true partying is about – it is about enjoying one another's presence. Often times we have a distorted view of celebration – that it takes drugs or alcohol to have a good time. The truth is, when we are honestly ourselves, when we are as God has created us to be we discover that those crutches get in the way of a true, honest and loving relationship with one another.

Pentecost is the Birthday Party of the Church
In today’s readings we hear about the birth of the Church, which is the great feast that we celebrate today. Pentecost is in a very real way the birthday of the Church. Let me be the first to wish you “Happy Birthday!” The Holy Spirit sent out the invitations for the Feast of Pentecost by empowering the disciples to go out and speak to the world about God’s love and action in their lives. The disciples (that’s you and me) are the ones who have been commissioned to invite people to the banquet of the Lord – to this great celebration that we share in today.

When we receive gifts we know we are loved
When we want to show someone how much they are loved, we make it a point to give them a gift. When we are choosing gifts, we want them to be something that reminds them of our love for them, and at the same time, that is useful, practical and helpful to them. Sometimes we might give a gift that is a picture, something beautiful to look at. Or maybe it is something to help them in their hobby like fishing gear or perhaps a book to read.

God gives gifts at Pentecost – to the Church and at Confirmation to us.
God is the same way, when we come to his party, he brings us Gifts. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit poured out his gifts on the Church. For those of us who have been confirmed we have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God has given us these gifts as an expression of his love for us. He wants his gifts to be beautiful, practical and useful to us. He knows each one of us intimately in the depths of His heart and he knows how his gifts will benefit us. The question is – are we open to his gifts and do we allow God to work in our lives by using his gifts?

We should not practice “Gift Envy”.
Each one of us has different gifts in different ways. This is part of the beauty of the Holy Spirit. He gives gifts to each one of us according to our need. This is never a case for “Gift Envy” – because the gifts that God has given each one of us is uniquely tailored to our situation in life and in the world. It does not mean that God loves some of us more than others, but rather that God understands each one of us intimately and provides for our needs with practical, useful and beautiful gifts – custom fit for our lives.

How do we identify the gifts of God?
The question is how do we identify the gifts that God has given us, and more importantly how do we begin to use those gifts?

· Wisdom – The ability to make right judgments according to the way that God would judge, rather then as we would judge.
· Understanding – An ability to understand, comprehend, to hold in our mind the deeper truths of our faith. To see that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. To understand how God is calling us to live out our lives of faith.
· Counsel – God gives us the gift to provide good counsel, good advice to those who are in need or who are struggling with a situation.
· Fortitude (Courage) – a time when we know that we need to stand up for what is right and the Truth.
· Knowledge – Is the ability to know ourselves. (To Know – in Hebrew Yada – means to know a person intimately. To have a clear understanding of who God has created with all of our gifts, and our faults. To know our heart as God knows our heart.
· Peity – To have a clear vision of our relationship of God, his holiness and our unworthiness for his love, coupled with a true acceptance of that gift of love that he gives us.
· Fear of the Lord – An understanding of the awesomeness of God – an understanding of the Truth of who God is – how immense, vast, beautiful, powerful and overwhelming his love truly is.

When we use God’s gifts we are like Birthday Candles
When we live our lives open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit our lives are filled with an awareness of the fire of the Holy Spirit. We become like candles on a birthday cake, where the light of God’s presence in our lives becomes a source of joy for all around us. Yet we become more than just little birthday candles, rather like those special candles that parents sometimes put on birthday cakes – the ones that will burn no matter how hard you try to blow them out.

Be a Birthday Candle this week.
When we ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts and we use them our life becomes like a birthday candle that never goes out – our fire; our relationship with God grows brighter and brighter. The brighter it grows, the more it fascinates and draws people to God. When we live out our lives open and using the gifts of God then He uses us to invite more people to the party! This week the Gospel is calling us to go out and be birthday candles for God – to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that the Church can be recognized for what she is – the light of the world!


Good News(papers)

4th Sunday of Easter – Cycle C
Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5; Rev 7:9, 14b-17; Gospel: Jn 10:27-30

Newspaper Headlines for Easter Sunday
If newspapers existed during the time of the first Easter what would the headlines have been? Here are some of my ideas:

Devil Looses
Must spend eternity in a lake of buring sulfur. “You get used to the smell and the heat” says Satan.

God Wins!
Untold multitudes spend eternity in heaven experiencing the joy and love of God!

The purpose of a newspaper is to share the relevant events of the world with those that we live with.

Christians – God’s Newspapers
The word “Gospel” is an old-english word that means “Good News” – In that sense we Christians are called to be “Good” newspapers because we need to share the impact of the Good News on our lives. We do this by our actions of caring for the poor and the sick, of standing up for the weak and the innocent, of speaking the Truth with Love to our world today.

Christians – the Everlasting News papers
In another way, Christian’s are nothing like a newspaper. We are not just a piece of paper that is here today and gone tomorrow. Our Good News is always relevant, always fresh, always compelling. If it isn’t then it is a testament to our own faith, and calls us to re-examine our relationship with God. We don’t just report the facts, but rather we are called to share the Gospel, to share our experience of the transforming love of Jesus Christ with the world.

Surely you aren’t talking to me – Don’t call me Shirley!
When we share the good news the first stumbling block that we have is ourselves. We say to God – “You can’t possibly mean me”. How many times do we allow excuses to stop us from sharing the joy that we have in our hearts. What is the excuse that you or I might use? Well one way to find out is to look at the excuses that various saints and prophets have used in scripture.
- I would be embarrassed,
- I am not a good speaker
- they won’t listen,
- they will laugh at me,
- they will think that I am stupid, or naive?

Christ calls us to proclaim our Joy in knowing Him!
The truth is Brothers and Sisters that Christ is calling on each one of us here today to proclaim the Good News to our friends and family that we live with this week. Jesus chose each one of us to be witnesses to the Resurrected Christ not in spite of our weaknesses and fears but because of them. St. Paul recognized this when he said – “Where I am weak, God is strong”.

St. Paul – the unworthy witnesses to Christ
If ever there was a more unlikely witness to the Good News it was St. Paul.
- St. Paul was a short and homely man – not useful when you need to be a public speaker.
- His career highlights included sending Christians to jail and witnessing the stoning of Stephen.
- He was absolutely dedicated himself to destroying Christianity wherever he found it.

What transformed Paul’s life was his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. When he encountered Jesus, his whole life changed. He no longer persecuted Christians, but rather he proclaimed Christ, and him Crucified.

St. Paul’s Cable TV Show
St. Paul was always getting into fights. We might think that God could have picked a better person to be his “Apostle to the Gentiles”. Paul was not a quiet, peaceful and gentle man who was preaching the Love and Reconciliation of God. Paul was a scrappy little fighter, who seemed to start riots in every town he visited. If St. Paul had his own cable TV show it would be at the top of the ratings. Today’s first reading could be like a classic episode of Paul’s show. Whenever he came to town, he would share his love for God, and within two weeks there would be a riot which would usually end with Paul getting beat, and heading off to the next town to do it all over again. The beatings and abuse did not seem to matter to Paul, so powerful was his encounter with the resurrected Christ.

Serve the Lord with Gladness
Given this kind of encouragement, what can stop us from being witnesses to the “Good News”. The challenge for those of us here who are still on the fence about our faith is to climb down from the fence and get into the game. Christianity is not a spectator sport; it is a contact sport. Get into the game. We can do this in many different ways. Here are some examples

1. Encounter Christ – Read the Gospel. Go home tonight and take out your bible. Turn to the back where the Gospels are (“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”) and read a little section each night. Use your imagination and get involved with the story. Allow Christ to enter into your heart and your life.
2. Pray daily. Pray for your families, pray for your co-workers. Pay attention to the needs of those around you and bring them before God. Say a rosary for them, or come here on Tuesday night for a period of adoration.
3. Get involved with the life of our parish. There are plenty of ways to get involved here at the parish. Help out with the fiesta in June. Volunteer to visit the elderly or the sick. Get involved with Mass, become a Lector, Server, Musician, Usher, or Extra-ordinary minister of Holy Communion. Help us to visit the sick or to teach catechism. Get involved.

Christ allays our fears – My sheep hear my voice…
In the Gospel today Christ allays our fears. He tells us that “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” He knows us in a personal and intimate way, and he gives us the gift of eternal life, we cannot be separated from the Love of Christ. If we know – really know in the depths of our hearts, then we have nothing to fear from this world.

God’s Newspaper – written in Flesh and Blood
God’s Newspaper is not something you can buy at King Soopers or Safeway. His Newspaper is made of flesh and blood, it is those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, those who are sitting here today in this Church. You and I sisters and brothers are called to be the Good News to the world.


When you go out into the world this week to live your life – what will be your headline?


Do knot sin!

4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle C
Jos 5:9a,10-12, Psalm Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, 2 Cor 5:17-21, Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Rope – a tool for preaching
When I was about 12 years old one of my favorite toys was a 30’ piece of rope that we found in the woods near our house. We used that rope for everything! It was great for hauling wood to make forts, for swinging like Tarzan through the trees, and tieing up prisoners when we played cops and robbers.

This week I have discovered a new use for my favorite old toy – preaching homilies!


Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving
For Lent, Father Dan asked all of us homilists to reflect on the Lenten Disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving and how they permeate our Catholic lives. I would like to reflect together with you about today's Gospel from the perspective of Alms-giving.

Why do we give Alms?
Have you ever wondered why Alms-giving is at the heart of our spiritual life? Why does it rate right up there with Prayer and Fasting? [[PAUSE]] The book of Genesis says that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that giving is at the heart of who we are created to be. We know this because when Christ came to earth he was completely self-giving. We become more fully human when we become more like-Christ; when we give selflessly for the benefit of others. This self-sacrifice is at the heart of Marriage, Religious and Family life. Relationships where we need to become self-giving help us to to grow in holiness.

Look at the Prodigal Son in terms of the relationships
This piece of rope that I have can be used to help us to think about what is going on in the parable today. Imagine that this piece of rope is the relationship between the Sons and their Father in the Gospel today. How do the Sons relate to their Father?

The Younger Son [[TIE THE FIRST KNOT]]
The younger son thinks that his Dad is just a bank – the Bank of Dad.
  • He uses his Father to get some money.
  • He says – Dad you might as well be dead, so fork over the dough – I gotta go!
  • He then uses his Father’s money to use other people
  • He throws outlandish parties
  • He uses women for sex
  • What is ironic, is that all of the people who come and enjoy his Father’s money are using him because he has money.
  • As soon as the money dries up – they stop using him because he is no longer useful.
  • His sin here is that he treats things as more important than people. He treats people as if they were things.

The older Son shares the younger son’s outlook on people – they are to be used to get what you want. He simply goes about using them in a different way. While he obeys his Father, his heart is hardened. He does not see that his brother has come back to life – he says to his Dad “Your Son…” rather than “My Brother…” and he refuses to join the celebration because he is disgusted with how his brother has wasted the things – (the inheritance). It is this hardness of heart that keeps the older son from being open to reconciliation.

How are we like these two sons? [[TIE THE THIRD KNOT]]
Some of us here are like the younger son – we are trapped in dissolute living. We have tied our lives into knots of Sin – Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, Lies, Stealing. We value things rather than people. Others of us are more like the older son, we have been externally faithful to the Gospel while inside we are just getting our tickets punched, and our actions during the week do not agree with what we profess to believe here in the Church. We listen to the Gospel with our ears, but we do not allow it to penetrate our hearts.

The Father is the key to everything
It is in the Father of today’s Gospel where we find the key to freeing ourselves from these knots that we have made of our lives. If we think about what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God then we realize that this has huge implications in our lives.
  • If we are created in God’s image and likeness then we will find that our lives are most happy and peaceful when we are living in a way that God has created us, designed us to live.
  • This means that we are called to live in a love relationship with one another.
  • We express this love in three ways
  • We love God. When we come to Mass we have an opportunity to express our love for God when we share him in the Eucharist. Take a moment and converse with Him in your soul today when you receive Him.
  • We love our families. God designed us to have families because families are the school of love. It is here that we learn to love our spouses, children and parents.
  • We love our neighbors. When we recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, then we love our extended family.
  • In order for us to live happy lives we need to learn how to love in all three of these areas of our lives.

Alms-giving – The Antidote to Selfishness!
The Father’s relationship with his Sons teaches us selfless love. He does not value his Sons as things, but as people. He practices selfless love, giving himself in relationship to care for their needs.

If we find that we are mired in sin, like either of these two sons, then there are two things that we can do about this.

1. Be like the younger son and recognize our Sin, confess and strive to live a more selfless life.
2. Practice Alms-giving as an anti-dote to selfishness. One of the ways the Church has done this for centuries is to practice the corporal works of mercy (love).
a. Clothe the Naked – Go though your closets and bring your extra clothes here. We run a clothing bank for the homeless.
b. Feed the Hungry – Go through your pantry and bring some extra food here. We also run a food bank for the hungry.
c. Educate the Ignorant – Speak with Tina and Marina and volunteer some time to help out our religious education program. If you are like me you will find that the more you teach, the more you learn!
d. Shelter the Homeless – Call Avalina and volunteer to help with our outreach to the poor in this community. Just visit with those in need.
e. Bury the Dead – Come to a funeral mass for one of our parishioners. Pray with their family, or visit with some of those who have lost loved ones this year.
f. Visit the Sick – We have an active ministry here of caring for the sick and elderly in our parish. Speak with me after Mass to visit the nursing homes.

Repent and receive God’s Mercy – so that you can be free to proclaim the Gospel
When we come to our senses, and recognize our sin, then we are ready to reconcile with God. This is what the younger son does. He recognizes that he is not happy, not fulfilled, and has made the biggest mistake of his life. When the Father see’s him coming a long way off, he has mercy, and rushes to embrace him. Why, because the Father is now rich in relationship. He does not count the cost of things, but he counts the cost of relationship. His Son who was dead to him in sin is now alive in truth!

God’s Sacrificial love – it unties our knots!
When we find that our lives are filled with knots of sin we too can come to our senses. The Good News of the Gospel is that we can go and be reconciled to the Father. He is waiting for us so that he can untie the knots that sin has made in our lives through the sacrificial love of his Son. [[UNTIE THE KNOTS]]


Ice Hockey Catholics

2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle C
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18, Psalm 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14, Phil 3:17—4:1, Gospel: Lk 9:28b-36

Ice Hockey
This past year I have come to appreciate Ice Hockey. Part of the reason why is my brother and his neighbor built an ice rink in their front yards. It stretches from driveway to driveway and is truly a marvel to behold. Recently, I had the opportunity to play some hockey with my nieces and nephews in my hiking boots (I don’t have ice-skates – they would be too big and I would be too tall). I have come to admire the skill of the that the athletes have in the Vancouver Olympics. In fact, today the players are playing to see who will win the Gold or Silver medals in the Winter Olympics.

Gold Medal Hockey Player
What does it take to be a Gold Medal Hockey player? You need to be able to skate well, use a Hockey stick to move the puck, to work as a team and to practice, practice, practice. Being part of a Hockey team means that you need to live a life of practice, sacrifice and gratitude. Being on an Olympic Hockey team means that you need to live, practice and play with the team, you listen to the coach and try to follow his directions and encouragement.

The Church is the Hockey Team
The Church is a lot like a Hockey Team, we have adopted a similar way of life – Practice, Sacrifice, and Gratitude. I know you didn’t imagine yourselves as Holy Hockey Players, but that is indeed what we are, and Lent is our time for practice.

Listen Up!
During Lent we practice the core spiritual disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving. We do this so that we can become better Christians, and grow closer in our relationship with God. Today I want to reflect with you about the spiritual discipline of Prayer, think of ourselves as members of the St. Anthony’s Avalanche, and I’m the assistant coach – so listen up!

Time to get serious about the Game
One of the ways that the Church and the Hockey team is alike is that we both have there is a coach and a team. Jesus is the coach and we are all on the team. We come to Mass on Sunday to hear what the Coach has to say, to be encouraged and to pray with one another so that when we get into the game [[Out there]] we can play hard and score goals. Lent is a time where we are called to get a little more serious about our game.

Love the Game – Guard the Puck
The first thing you will notice about hockey players is that they love the game, they love skating on the ice, competing and playing well. In order to do that they need to know the game, study it and become good at it. In order to win at the game of Hockey you need to be able to move the puck down the ice and slip it speedily past the goal keeper at the right moment.

Share the Love of Christ
For Christians, the puck is sharing the love of Christ. We treasure it and guard it as we skate through life in relationship with our family and friends, and when the moment is right, we take a shot to sneak it past the devil and into their hearts. When God sees a person falling in love with Him he is very happy – we scored a goal.

Move the Puck down the Ice
But how do we move the puck down the ice? I want you to imagine that this hockey puck is your love for God, that he gave you in Baptism. He also gave you this hockey stick, to guard the puck from the opposing team, and to shoot goals with. In our lives, this puck and stick are represented by our life of prayer. If we don’t make it a point to pray in our lives, then how can we be ready to shoot when the goal is open? How will we see that the goal is open, and hear the coach yelling at us – “Shoot!”?

Time for Prayer
For most of us talking to God is easy, but making time to do it requries a little bit of discipline. I would encourage you to set aside a little extra time this Lent for prayer, either in the morning or the evening – whenever you are most awake and alert. Set your timer for 10 minutes and spend that time sharing your day with God and listening to what he has to say.

Sharing your life with Christ
Talking to God is the easy part, Listening is a little more challenging. If we have the habit of sharing our day with God in prayer, then we can spend some time each day quietly thinking over what has happened. Imagine yourself sitting down at the kitchen table with Him at the end of a busy day and sharing with Him what went on. Begin with a simple sign of the Cross, and a short prayer to call yourself into God’s presence. After that just talk over your day with Jesus and ask Him to point out where in your life He helped you – to avoid temptation, or he used you to show someone his love.

How to handle the tough days
Sometimes we struggle to see that God was working in our life at all on a particular day – often times those can be the worst of days. Maybe you are drawing a blank on this right now. We can find some encouragement in the first reading today. In the First Reading God makes his first covenant with Abram – who become Abraham – the Father of Faith.

Your life is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham
Abraham is the Father of Faith because he believed that God would do as he promised. But Abraham’s faith is not a blind faith, but rather a faith that is rooted in his daily relationship with Christ. It is also a reasoned faith. When God promises Abraham to have more descendants than the stars, Abraham’s response isn’t “Ok – if you say so” – but “How does that work out?” He has the response of reason. We too would do well to imitate Abraham’s relationship with God. How do we know that God fulfilled Abraham’s promise. Today there are about 2 billion Christians, and all of us trace our spiritual roots to Abraham. We are proof that God has fulfilled his blessing to Abraham. Take that as the first step towards sharing with God how he has used you to share his blessing with someone else this evening when you sit down to evaluate your faith. Our lives are not just the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, but much more, we just need to open our eyes to see the many ways that he blesses us.

The Lord is my LIGHT and my SALVATION
The Psalm today says that “The Lord is my light and my Salvation – In Him I trust”. When we come to the end of our day today we will have the opportunity to sit down with Christ and ask the question – How did God illumine my life today? How did he open my eyes to see the world a little bit more through his eyes? Who did I meet that Christ called me to love? To care for? To Listen to. The other half of this expression also applies. The Lord is my salvation in whom I trust. When did I recognize my need for God to save me? To help me? Did I put my trust in Him or did I try to solve it all myself?

The Saints – Hockey Hero’s
Every hockey player has hero’s guys they look up to and aspire to be like. St. Paul reminds us of that when he says – “Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ”. If we want to be good players on the St. Anthony’s Avalanche we will need to set for ourselves good role models of players who know how to skate well, and listen to the coach.

Know what it will be like on the medal stand
Finally, we come to the Gospel, where Christ, knowing that there are difficult times ahead takes his closest friends, Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain to share with them the Glory that he had with the Father before he was born. Jesus is taking us to the medal stands, so we can see and know what a Gold Medal is like – he want’s to inspire us to keep on skating hard, so that we can be with him when the match is over.

Will we hear the Lord when he says – Take the shot!
The readings today encourage us to get on our game and play for the goal. This week Christ will show us an opportunity to score a goal – We don’t know when, or where, or who, but someone this week will need us to be a Christian, and to share with them the Love that God has shared with us. When that moment comes this week will your “spiritual ears” be open to hear Jesus encouraging us “Shoot for the goal!”?


Right Way / Wrong Way

Feast of St. Scholastica
1 Kgs 10:1-10; Psalm: 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40; Gospel: Mk 7:14-23

Right Way
In the first reading today we hear from the queen of Sheba as she extols the fruit of wisdom that she sees growing in Solomon’s kingdom. All of this fruit comes from a kingdom that is clearly going the right way - towards God. The Church gives this reading to us today to encourage us as we battle sin and deceit in our own lives.

Wrong Way
In the Gospel Christ points out the wrong way that many of us follow. We like to blame our actions on external things. Christ reminds us that we often choose to live the wrong-way which is why there is so much suffering in this world. Christ challenges us to grow in wisdom by examining our own lives, and asking ourselves the question – what is broken? Where do I need to change? What is it in my belief, my actions that gives strength to my sin? Where do I need to repent?


St. Scholastica and St. Benedict
Today is the feast of St. Scholastica who is the twin sister of St. Benedict. Scholastica and Benedict are credited with bringing the monastic life to the Western Church in the 5th century. Benedict learned monasticism from the Monks in the desert in Egypt and brought it West. He led a Monastery and his Sister Scholastica lived in a convent across the valley. Both lived simple lives centered in prayer and rounded out with work and community life.

Monastic Life = life of prayer
The goal of the Monastic life is to surrender ourselves to a simple life of work and prayer, in Latin “Ora et Labora”. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit with some Benedictine nuns at Walberga Abbey near Laramie, Wyoming. We began our day with prayer at 4:50, and then throughout the day we would obey the Abbey bell calling us to pray together with and for the world. At the heart of Monastic life is introspection on the Gospel. In allowing the light of Christ to penetrate my heart and cast its brightness into the dark recesses of my soul, so that you and I can see the roots of the sin in our lives, and then, with the grace of God make amends and seek to be healed.

If we pursue prayer seriously then our sin comes to light
The reason for Prayer, Work and Community is that these three fundamentals of human existence provide us with the opportunity to encounter Christ in prayer, to reflect with Christ in our work, and to share Christ in our community. It is in these three settings – centered on Christ, that we come to understand more and more deeply the source of sin and grace in our lives. It is the constant relationship with Christ in prayer that allows us to be healed, and allows our life to become progressively more and more fruitful.

But Deacon – We’re not Nun’s (for the most part) or Monks either!
The reason why I bring this up is not that we all run off to the Abbey or the Monastery and become Monks and Nuns (unless God is calling us to that) – but that we take a moment and reflect on our own lives of prayer, work and community. Take this next moment and ask the Lord to show you how to better structure your life.