Deacon Dollars!

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Is 45:1, 4-6; Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10; 1 Thes 1:1-5b; Gospel: Mt 22:15-21

Soundbite Traps
I am sorry to say brothers and sisters that we are not too far from the beginning of yet another presidential campaign cycle, where we will soon be bombarded with endless commercials that for the most part will have some 20 second sound bite telling us what an oaf the President Obama is, or what a goof the Republican candidate is.

Every one of these commercials will be taken out of context from some speech that one of these two contenders will have made and be blown out of proportion in order to scare us into voting for the “other guy”.

Today’s Gospel is a soundbite trap
The reason why today I am the herald of this bad news, is because this is what the Pharisees are doing in today’s Gospel. They want to trap Jesus into making a 20 second sound bite that is either going to get him into trouble with the Romans, or get him in trouble with the Jews. They are so smart that they have an iron-clad mousetrap that is sure to get them the results that they want!

Jesus in the trap - Fiddler on the Roof meets Kung Fu Panda
I would like you to imagine this part of Matthews Gospel like a scene from a movie. If I was directing this movie, I would do this scene like Fiddler on the Roof meets Kung Fu Panda.

Ok, hold on, I know that half of you are thinking – “What is Fiddler on the Roof”, and the other half is thinking “What is Kung Fu Panda?” Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Tevye, a devout Jew who is always talking to God like this:

“Lord – this is my problem. On one hand I could do this… On the Other hand I could do that…

Kung Fu Panda is an animated film about a Panda who becomes this super-powerful kung fu warrior who protects his village from an evil foe. Whenever he fights, the scenes are portrayed in super-slow motion, showing the Panda doing amazing feats while his opponents stand awestruck.

In Deacon Paul’s imagination of this scene…
I would combine the two styles of these movies into this scene, because I would have Jesus caught in a slow motion fight scene with the Pharisees, they spring their trap, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” and then our film transitions to a slow-motion scene, where in Kung Fu Panda, the Panda would be able to hit his opponents 14 ½ times, while they move in slow motion, and he moves at super-panda speed. Except, instead of Jesus doing Kung Fu, he enters into prayer to his Father like Tevye

Father – I don’t know why I have to deal with these guys. If I answer that it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar they will brand me as a supporter of Rome and use that as proof that I don’t love you, and I won’t be able to preach.

On the Other Hand…
If I say that it is not lawful to pay taxes to Caesar then they will report me to the Romans as a revolutionary and I will most likely get killed.

Then, a flash of Divine inspiration, and Jesus gets this slight smile on his face, and the scene transitions back into normal speed for everyone.

What does it mean to give myself to God?
We give ourselves to God when we choose to be free. In a certain way, Jesus is saying it does not matter who is ruling us, the Persians, the Greeks, or the Romans, what is important is that we live our lives as lives of freedom, so that we can give ourselves freely back to God.


Solve the National Debt
Last night I worked hard on my computer and solved the national debt crisis. Here is my solution – Deacon Dollars.

QUESTION: Who created this Money? Deacon Paul

QUESTION: Who do these dollars belong to?
QUESTION: How do you know?
When someone creates something, they are the owner of it, unless they are able to sell it to someone else.

Then it belongs to him, give it back because in truth, the act of giving me this money is truly worthless in the eyes of heaven. It is just a thing.

QUESTION: Who created you? [[GOD]]

In the Gospel today Jesus transforms the trap into an opportunity to teach a truth about the Kingdom of God and our own nature as well. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but to God what is God’s.

What does it mean to be free? - To do what I want?
If I think that Freedom is to do whatever I want then I can go home and print millions of Deacon Dollars. Then I am going to take a sack-load of Deacon Cash and buy my Groceries. This way I will have plenty of food (especially ice cream). They may not like my Deacon Dollars is their problem – it is a free country after all.

What is the Sin here?
What would I be doing if I printed up a bunch of Deacon Dollars and used them to buy my groceries at King Soopers? What crime would I be charged with? Stealing? Yes! Would my action be sinful? Yes!

Doing whatever I want is not freedom, it is license.
Jesus is teaching us that God has given us the gift of Freedom, and He invites us give that gift back to God in return. The Freedom that we have is to choose to do what is good over what is evil.

Choosing Good Frees me
There is a beauty in this gift that God gave us, when I use my freedom to choose good, I become more free, I have a greater ability to choose the good, and that allows even more freedom. This is what the lives of the Saints teach us. When they choose the good, avoiding sin, forgiving their enemies, loving even those who do not love in return, they discover that this is a gift from God, and it helps us to love the world more and more and more. The more we are able to love, the more we are free from sin to love.

Choosing Evil Enslaves me
If on the other hand I choose to do evil, then I become enslaved. The more I sin, the more addicted I become to my sin, and the less free I am, until my sin becomes a compulsion and I sin without even thinking about it. I become less and less a person.

There is only one true freedom, and that is to choose the good. To choose to do evil means that I choose slavery to sin.

How does evil enslave?
By addiction, by making a lesser good seem like the ultimate good. Then we are willing to sacrifice the greater good for the lesser good.

The Cookie Monster
A 2 year old wants a cookie. Mom says you need to eat your vegetables first. The two year old gets upset and throws a riot, trying to wear the mother down. The mother now has to make a choice between two things. 1. Choose the good and teach her child the value of good nutrition, or choose the good and give the kids a cookie so she can have 5 minutes of peace and quiet.

Which is the greater good? Why would we choose a lesser good?

Because we are upset, overwhelmed and our reason isn’t fully working.

The greater good is for the child to eat there vegetables, ultimately their body will be healthier from eating healthy food over junk food. More importantly, their soul is learning to listen to the voice of love (their mom), and the virtue of delayed gratification – earning what you work for.

Choosing the good over evil – telling the truth.
The two year old demanding cookies from his mother is much like us when we are addicted to sin. We struggle to choose the good because we fail to see the greater good. We choose lying over the truth because we think that the benefit of getting caught today is better than the benefit of eternal life. We are so worried about getting caught today that we fail to see the greater good at the end of our life.

To choose the good would be to tell the truth and accept the consequences in order to grow in humility and truthfulness.

Choosing the lesser of two goods, food vs fast.
We choose gluttony today, because we don’t clearly see the true cost of being overweight, getting diabetes, loosing limbs in the future. We choose the lesser good (a full tummy) over the greater good (a longer healthier life). More importantly, when we choose gluttony, our stomach becomes greater than our brothers and sisters who are hungry, who are starving, who we can really help.

To choose the good would be to eat a simpler meal and to give some of our excess to the poor.

Blessed John Paul II
Blessed John Paul II used to give himself to God each time he met someone in his day. His interior prayer was always to the Holy Spirit saying “Father, help me to open myself up to your will at this moment. Help me to give myself to you, so that you might use me as your humble instrument.” It was in that John Paul gave his heart back to God.

How are we going to give our hearts back to God this week?



27th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Is 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; 2 Phil 4:6-9; Gospel: Mt 21:33-43

In our last episode from Matthews Gospel…
In last weeks Gospel Jesus asked the people to choose which son was better, one who said he would do His Fathers work, and then did not, or one who said he would not do his Father’s work and then did.

[[QUESTION: Which is the better son?]]

Seeing Right and Wrong in others, in ourselves.
Jesus uses parables to help us to see right and wrong. Then he shows us how His parable applies to our lives and asks us to look again. Jesus does this because it is easy for us to see right and wrong in others, and more difficult to see right and wrong in ourselves. He knows that we are trapped in our sin, so in the Gospel today he is trying to free us from the path of destruction and get us onto the path of life.

God is Isaiah’s Friend
Isaiah says that his friend has a vineyard. Who is Isaiah’s friend? It is God. Who is his vineyard? It is us, the ones whom he loves.

The Stones are our sins
God shows how much he loves his vineyard, because the first thing he does is he moves through his Church and clears it of any stones.

The Stones are our hard hearts. When we have a hard heart it is difficult for us to change, to be open to Gods love and to produce good fruit. God cleansed our hearts of stones when we were Baptized.

When we are brought low we reach out to God – we open up to his grace.
God wants our hearts to be fertile sources of his love, and so he spades the vineyard over, opening the soil so that it will be more receptive to his love. For us, we are spaded over in our lives when we go through hard times and trials. We can respond in one of two ways to these times – either we can blame God – in which case our hearts become hard and stony; or we can thank God for our trials, in which case our hearts open themselves up to God’s love, like freshly turned soil receiving the autumn rains.

Choice Vines – The Sacraments – Windows of God’s love.
The choice vines that God plants in the vineyard are the sacraments that we receive. Christ nourishes us with his Body and Blood, and empowers us with the gifts of Confirmation. He calls us to service in Holy Orders and in the witness of Christian Marriage. He heals our wounds in Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. God gives us Himself in these sacraments so we can show the world His love.

The Hedge – The 10 Commandments = The boundary.
The hedge around the edge of the vineyard is the boundary that protects us. Within the vineyard there is life and abundant fruit, outside there is a wilderness where jackals, lions and robbers lurk. These predators want to break into the vineyard and spoil the fruit. The hedge is the Commandments that protect us from becoming victims of sin and destruction. They are like a man who lived with his family on a rocky island with cliffs all around it that plunged hundreds of feet into the sea. The man built walls along the edges of the cliff so his children could play in safety without falling down a cliff. In the same way the Commandments keep us from falling into evil.

Watchtower – Our Conscience
The watchtower represents our conscience. When our conscience is well formed, it recognizes the truth and leads us to live a life that is in harmony with God’s law. Our conscience alerts us when sin is trying to break through the hedge, and encourages us to chase away the temptation.

Winepress - Heaven
The winepress represents heaven – the place where we are working towards – a heavenly banquette filled with love and peace and joy. It is here that we will enjoy the fruits of our labors, with God, the Blessed Mother, and all the Saints.

We are the workers in the vineyard
In the Gospel today we learn that the workers in the vineyard are not doing the right thing. Instead of working to produce good fruit, they are plotting to kill the owner and to take the vineyard for themselves. The workers today have chosen sin over the heavenly feast. In short they are headed for self-destruction.


The example of Anger
If my sin is anger at some person – maybe they hurt me, or robbed me, or hurt a member of my family. I stop thinking about the work Christ has called me to do and I plot my revenge. I imagine how I will hurt them, how I will trap them and how they will suffer at my hands. When anger becomes the dominant thought in my life, it twists and distorts me. Finally, because my life is consumed with the fire of anger I have no time, and no desire to do the work of God. I begin to resent the prophets and the servants who are demanding good fruit – they become annoying and get in the way of my revenge. I am blinded to all of the gifts that God has given me and I am consumed in my sin.

The example of Lying
Similarly, if I tell a lie, I become very cautious. I spend more and more time trying to remember who I told what part of the lie to. Then, as time goes on it takes more and more energy for me to keep on telling the lies and keeping them straight. Soon, I become so busy thinking about fooling everyone that I lose touch with the truth and I am lost myself. I don’t work in the vineyard because I am too busy telling the lie.

The example of adultery
If I am trapped in adultery, either in an affair or through pornography, then my mind fills up with images of someone who is not my spouse. The more I am unfaithful the more I criticize my spouse and think poorly of them. I become cold and angry and jealous. Finally, I am so lost that I throw away the beautiful gift that God gave me for an imitation, a fake.

Wake Up!
This is what will happen to us if we are poor workers in the vineyard. This is the warning of the Gospel, and it is meant to wake us up to take some action.

What do we do when we see that we are poor workers?
The first thing we need to do is to listen to the voice of the watchman in the tower when he yells – “Look out!” Our conscience knows that what we are doing is wrong, and it leads us to conversion and repentance. Go to confession, be absolved of your sins and work to sin no more.

What is the secret of living in the vineyard?
In the second reading St. Paul gives us the secret to living in the vineyard. He tells us how to gather in the fruit to prepare for the heavenly banquette. The secret to living in the vineyard is that we can’t buy our way to heaven with good deeds because heaven is God’s gift and it can’t be bought.

The secret to living in the vineyard is to allow God’s love to transform our lives. If God’s love is transforming our lives then our work in the vineyard becomes a great joy because we want to share that love with as many people as possible.

The secret to living in the vineyard is to depend only on God; in both good times and bad we are to have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.



23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Holy Friendship
Over the last few weeks the Gospel has taught us about faith – our relationship with God. This week the Gospel teaches us about holy friendship – how we live with one another.

Holy Friendship is founded in love.
A holy friendship is one that is founded in God. It is a friendship that is centered first in a love for God, and then love for one another. In a holy friendship we are able to walk together through good times and bad. When people witness our friendship – they see the presence of Christ in our love.

Standing Watch
In the first reading today God tells us that we are “the watchmen of the house of Israel”. Part of being a good friend is that we watch out for each other. When I was in the Navy from time to time I had to “Stand Watch”.

Be Alert
When I was standing watch, it was my job to be alert for anything that might endanger the lives of all of my shipmates. If there was a fire, I had to sound the alarm. If the ship ran aground on a reef, I had to wake the crew to save the ship. I was usually ordered to stand watch at night. When I was standing watch I had a flashlight to help me see into the dark places. This allowed me to see if there was a leaky pipe that was causing a flood, or a smoldering rag that was starting a fire. Without my flashlight I was not a good watchman.

Adoration – A Spiritual Flashlight
Being alert in our spiritual life means that we have the light of Christ in our hearts. He is the flashlight that helps us to see into the dark areas. One way we can allow Christ to illuminate our lives is to spend time with Him in Adoration. On the first weekend of each month a group of families from our parish meet for an all-night vigil starting Saturday evening. This group is called Adoracion Nocturnal. They spend the night in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. When we pray in Christ’s presence He helps us to become aware of both the good and the bad in our lives. Allowing Christ to shine the light of his love on the sinful areas of our lives helps us to be alert to the danger that our soul is in.

Be Aware
The second part of standing watch is to be aware. Being aware means that we know what will happen if we let something continue. If we ignore that smoldering rag it will start a fire. If we ignore that leaky pipe it will burst and start a flood. Spiritual awareness is an understanding of the consequences of temptation and sin.

Lead us not into temptation
One way that we can become spiritually aware is to start our day by praying the “Our Father”. This prayer helps us to become aware because we ask God to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. When we start our day with the Lord’s Prayer, we are bringing into our awareness of the fact that today the devil will try to lead me down an evil path. When we ask God to help us avoid evil, then we become open to God’s help when he sends someone point out our sin.

Sin is like cancer to the soul
Recently a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer; her whole life changed. Everything that she was doing was put on hold so she can fight this disease. The reason she did this is because she understands that if she does not fight the cancer then it will kill her.

In the same way, Sin is like cancer to our soul. If we recognize that our sin is a cancer then we will radically re-orient our lives to get rid of the sin. If, we think that our sin is only a little cold, then we will ignore it and let it eat away at our soul.

Judge not lest ye be judged… (remember the whole verse)
In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches us how to act if someone has sinned against us. Jesus tells us to talk with those who hurt us. Living out this Gospel is hard because we don’t like being judged. Some times when we confront a friend with their sin they accuse us of judging them and will quote the scripture “judge not lest ye be judged”. As Christians we should never be afraid of scripture, but we should always read the whole verse, in this case Matthew, chapter 7, verse 2, says “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Jesus does not tell us to stop judging, rather that we should judge as He judges. Jesus judges us out of a desire to heal our souls by killing the cancer of sin with his love and forgiveness.

I would be mad at a doctor for not talking about my cancer
If I don’t tell my friend about the way that their sin is killing our friendship then I am like a Doctor who knows that his patient has cancer but he won’t speak about it for fear of hurting their feelings. Who wants that kind of Doctor? If I had cancer that was eating up my lungs, and crushing my heart, and my doctor would not talk to me about it then I would find a new Doctor who could really help me.

In the same way brothers and sisters God is calling us to talk about the cancer that we see in each other’s lives. When we see that there is sin, we need to confront it and to seek healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. We do this first by talking privately about how the sin is hurting us. This requires humility because we often don’t want to admit that we have been hurt. If we are heard then we have great joy because our friendship has become more holy.

How to tell your friend is not your friend
The next part of the Gospel seems harsh but it really isn’t, it is simply recognition of human freedom. If your friend hurt you, and you told them about it and they would not listen to you, or to your mutual friends, or even to the Church, then they really aren’t your friends. This is Jesus’ way of telling us that it is time to find another doctor.

Two ways of being a good friend.
The Gospel today teaches us about how to be a good friend in two different ways.

Be open to our friends holding us accountable to a holy life.
  • If our friends need to talk to us about Cancer (sin) then listen to them.
  • If our sin (or cancer) is serious, then go to confession (the Doctor).
  • Otherwise, our sins will destroy our souls.

Likewise we can help our help friends grow in holiness
  • If they sin against us, then we need to tell them.
  • If they don’t listen to us, then we need to try to help them to see it.
  • If they won’t listen to us, our friends or even the Church, then they are not our friends.

Why should we model our friendships in this way?
If we can have holy friendships like these, then whenever we are together as friends, everyone will see that Christ is truly present in our midst.


Dogs with Faith!

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Rom 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33

Faith is the gift we receive at Baptism.
At the beginning of the baptismal rite, the Priest or Deacon asks those who are going to be baptized – “What do you ask of the Church?” The response to this question is – “Faith”. In baptism God gives the gift of his forgiveness that he poured out on the cross for us.

The gift of faith at Baptism is the gift of God’s love.
Jesus came as a man to open heaven for us. In a practical way, He came to invite us into relationship with God by removing the obstacles that we have placed between us by our sin. Jesus paid the price for sin to invite us into a loving relationship with God. This is what it means to ask for faith – we are asking to share our lives with God, and to be one of his beloved children.

Today’s Gospel humbles Christians – St. Peter vs Pagan Woman.
It is humbling then to be confronted with today’s Gospel. When those who ought to know (i.e. St. Peter, the first Pope) are rebuked for their weak faith, and those who are ignorant (The pagan woman in today’s Gospel) are extolled for her great faith.

Our lives of faith are a work in progress
At the same time, Jesus did not abandon Peter to the waves, but rather he continued to work with Peter to help him to see the totality of Gods’ love for him. He does the same with us. If we thought that we have done our part in loving God last week, that is good, because today Christ calls us to walk with Him in a deeper way, He calls us to deepen our faith and our love for Him.

Saints respond to Gods love and are beautified.
Recently Pope John Paul II was beatified, which is one of the steps on the way to becoming a saint. A saint is a man or woman who chose to allow Gods love to transform their lives. When we beatified Pope John Paul II we recognized that his life was beautiful because his life was filled with faith. One of our desires as humans is to want to become more beautiful, and accepting our faith is a certain path to beauty. It is through living out our faith completely that we become beautiful.

Embracing the fullness of the faith exposes our entire life to the light of God’s love.
A characteristic of saints is that they embrace the fullness of the faith. They do not pick and choose the easy parts, but they embrace the teachings of the Church in its entirety. When we have the courage to do this we bring the fullness of who we are into contact with the gift of faith that God has given us. This allows us to be purified because our selfishness is illuminated by Christ’s selfless love. When this happens have the opportunity to make a decision, to see good and evil in the light of Gods love and to choose the good and to reject the evil – which is the grace of our baptism.

We say “I believe” by responding to the trial of faith with love.
When we recognize the love that God has shown us we need to make a decision – will I love God in return? The way that I love God in return is to imitate his love for me. This is why Christian’s are called to love those who hurt them rather than to hate them by seeking revenge. When we choose to love then we are free because we are not allowing our persecutors to control our behavior.

Saints know the love of God because they are humble.
Another way that the saints see the greatness of God’s love is through the gift and their own powerlessness. They are all beggars because they recognize the truth of their own weakness, how easy it is to allow sin to rule their lives rather than to depend on God’s mercy and grace. In this sense they too became more loving and forgiving of those around them, while at the same time encouraging those trapped in sin to seek the grace and forgiveness of God. If we find that we are trapped by sin, a way of live that is contrary to the Gospel, then we are encouraged to seek forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. To be cleansed of our sin and purified so we can experience God’s love more fully.

What are we going to do about it?
In the Gospel today a pagan woman comes to Christ as an annoying beggar and says “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” At first Jesus simply ignores her, but because she is so annoying he finally says “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Pause a moment and think about what Jesus just said. He was rude, he called this poor women a dog. This woman has determination because she sees in Christ the abundance of God’s love and knows that it must overflow beyond the Jews. She knows that God’s love is so great that it must overflow to all people and so she responds. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds to her witness of God’s love by saying “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

Is our life of faith recognizable?
Do we recognize Gods love for us in our lives? More importantly – are we living lives that allow our faith to form us so that our family, friends and co-workers can see the greatness of Gods love in our lives, and share in this great blessing that God has given us?


Lord Save Me!

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Rom 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33

Elijah on the run from the Queen
In the first reading today, the prophet Elijah is in the midst of a crisis. He is in trouble with Queen Jezebel because God asked him to oppose her pagan worship and she has sent her men to kill him. Elijah knows that he will most likely die. His response is to take time out to pray.

Prayer – the answer to every crisis!
When we find ourselves in moments of crisis one of the best things that we can do is to pray to God. It is important that when we pray that we pray from our hearts. This means that we honestly and openly share our hearts and our lives with God. Then we listen to what God has to say to us in reply.

Distractions in Prayer – Wind, Earthquake and Fire
When Elijah tries to pray he finds that his prayer is distracted by a wind that is crushing the rocks, an earthquake and a fire. When these things happen Elijah checks to see if God is present, and when he does not find God he returns to his prayer.

Wind, Earthquake and Fire = Distractions of the Crisis
Time in prayer is time that we set aside to listen to God. We listen to God so that we can hear him and encounter him in our hearts. One of the difficulties of prayer, and especially with prayer of those in crisis is that we are often filled with many distractions, when we sit down to pray our mind is attacked by our worries, fears and anxieties. These are like the Wind, the Earthquake and the Fire that Elijah encountered on the mountain. When we are distracted in prayer we gently set the distractions aside and return to listening for God to speak to our hearts with his small, still voice.

St. Therese of Lisieux is a good teacher of prayer
She was born in France in 1873, the youngest of four girls. Therese grew up with an intense love for Jesus, and for the Eucharist. At 15 she became a Camelite nun, entered the convent and spent the rest of her life trying to listen to the still, small voice of God in her heart.

Like Elijah, Therese had distractions in her prayer
Like Elijah the prophet, St. Therese encountered many distractions in her prayer, She had to deal with living in community with her sisters, dealing with envy, injustice, pettiness and all of the other distractions that are part life. Therese was able to take all of this with her into her times of prayer, to listen to God and to hear his voice speaking into her heart.

From her prayer, Therese understood the path to holiness
It was through her listening to God that Therese discovered her “Little Way” to holiness.

1. Therese learned that God’s way of loving her was through mercy and forgiveness. He was always showing her His mercy and His love.

2. Therese discovered the best way to approach God was to be like a little child.

Like a little kid on his Fathers lap
Whenever little kids get to sit in their Dad’s lap they start with a lot of talk about what is going on in their lives, but then at the end, they just want to snuggle and to be in the presence of their Dad. This is the deepest type of Prayer. When Therese would pray, she would pray as God’s little girl and curl up in her Daddy’s lap to share her heart with him.

Kids copy their parents
Kids also learn to copy their parents. As Therese lived in the convent she started to copy God by showing love and forgiveness to her sisters. Whenever someone insulted or persecuted her she responded with compassion and forgiveness. Therese chose to love them by responding to their pain rather than their insults. She chose to copy the love that God showed her.

The Little Way transforms the world
We too can do the same when we allow God into our hearts. When God is with us, he transforms our hurt into love and so we too can follow the little way of St. Therese and help to transform the world.

The symbolism of the Gospel
Today’s Gospel is rich in symbolism. We heard about the first symbol last Sunday in the feeding of the 5000. This is a symbol for the Mass.

The Boat = The Church, the Storm = the World
After the Mass, the disciples take their boat across the sea, and while at sea the boat gets caught up in a storm. The boat represents the Church, and the stormy seas represent the world, filled with sin and strife that so easily distracts us.

Jesus says to us – Do not be afraid!
Often times when the troubles of the world surround us, we are overwhelmed by fear. We doubt God’s love and think we are going to die. Jesus says to us “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!

Jesus teaches us to be in the world but not of the world
Then we notice that Jesus is walking across the water – He is teaching us to be in the world, but not of the world. Jesus shows us how to face temptation and sin, but not to get trapped by them and to drown.

Peter gets out of the boat
Peter responds to Jesus’ call and gets out of the boat and is walking across the water. As soon as he realizes what he is doing, he gets distracted by the wind and the waves and starts to drown. When this happens he calls to Jesus for help, and Christ saves him.

How do we put these readings into practice?
- Listen to the small still voice
After Holy Communion today, it is our time to be like Elijah and Peter, to listen to God as he speaks to our hearts with the still, small voice.

Ask Jesus to call you out of the Boat
Then, ask the Lord, “if that is you then command me to get out of the boat”. God is sending us out of the boat onto the waves of the world this week. But we are being sent out to walk on water, to live lives that witness the love of God to our friends and family.

Remember to call on him this week when you get distracted!
Finally, when we are out there this week and we see the wind and the waves and we want to panic let us remember the prayer of St. Peter – “Lord Save Me!” And he will.


Faith on Fire

5th Sunday of Easter – Cycle A
5th Sunday of Easter
Acts 6:1-7, Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19, 1 Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12

Three questions about Faith.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles today describes how the first seven Deacons were called to serve the Church. Because I am a Deacon, this reading is especially precious to me.

Three Questions, Three Symbols and Three Deacons
To help us dig into these readings I want to propose three questions on our faith, three symbols that illustrate faith and three deacons who lived as witnesses to our faith. The three questions are; “Are you and I men and women filled with Faith and the Holy Spirit”, “Do we have faith in God?” and “Do we have faith in Christ?” The three symbols of faith are; Faith is a fire, Faith is a coral reef and Faith is a Bridge. Finally the three Deacons are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Phillip.

Is our Faith on Fire? Does it illuminate, attract and purify?
Fire is such a wonderful symbol for faith because it has three characteristics that are true of both fire and faith. Faith that is on fire illuminates our lives – it helps us to know where God is leading us. Faith that is on fire draws others to bask in its light – they come to us for advice and to know what to do. Faith that is on fire purifies us and leads us to holiness.

Francis rebuild my Church
St. Francis of Assisi lived in Italy in the twelfth century. When he was in his twenties he had three goals in life – wine, women and song. These are not bad things when pursued in balance, but Francis pursued them recklessly! One day he stopped by a ruined field chapel to pray before the crucifix, and Jesus touched his heart with his love. “Francis,” he said, “rebuild my church which you see is falling down around you.” This encounter with the risen Christ transformed his life. His faith was set on fire and he let the world know about it by telling everyone he met about the magnificence of God’s love.

Instead of chasing after wine, St. Francis fell in love with Christ in the Eucharist, where he encountered Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Instead of chasing after women, St. Francis fell in love with Lady Poverty because he learned that chasing after wealth did not fill him with happiness. Francis discovered that true friendship with God is both satisfying and eternal. Francis did continue to sing, but his songs were filled with the mercy that God had shown him.

Francis’ faith is a beacon of the middle ages. His conversion was so profound that even today, eight hundred years after his death people are still drawn to his radical way of simply living the Gospel.

Fire fascinates – It draws others to take advantage of its light
When we live out our lives of faith others are drawn to stand in the light. As Francis lived out his faith men and women came to join him because he was a guidepost for them. His faith helped them to know how to live a life full of love for God. Is our faith attractive? Does our faith witness a holy life to those who live with us?

Fire purifies – Faith purifies us.
The third characteristic of both faith and fire is that it purifies. One of the consequences of being able to see is that we can tell right from wrong, good from evil. Does our faith illuminate the actions of our lives that are sinful and impure? Does our faith show us where we need to repent and change so that we can grow in holiness?

Is our faith like fire?
Francis’ faith let him see the ugliness of his own sin and so he led a life of profound repentance. He was renowned for his fasting, his humility and his great desire that everyone to live in peace and in the love of God. Francis was able to allow his faith to lead him to conversion. Is our faith purifying us? Are we allowing it to lead us to conversion?

St. Ephrem the Syrian
Another Deacon who had profound faith in God was St. Ephrem the Syrian. Ephrem lived in the fourth century in northern western Syria near the border with Iraq. He was ordained a Deacon and spent the first fifty years of his life teaching. The Persians besieged his hometown time after time until they finally succeeded in capturing it. St. Ephrem was exiled along with the entire Christian community and so as a refugee he finally settled in the town of Edessa, a place filled with pagan and heretical cults. For the last ten years of his life he helped to establish a school where he wrote songs praising God and taught Christianity until his death in three hundred and seventy three AD.

St. Ephrem was like a coral reef in the ocean
The image of faith that St. Ephrem brings to mind is that of a coral reef. Coral reefs grow up in barren patches of the ocean and they are filled with life. If you ever swum out over a reef, or watched Jacques Cousteau on television you know that reefs are full of life and splendor. At the same time when the seas are stormy, the reefs protect the creatures living on them from the violence of the storms.

St. Ephrem was like a coral reef for his church. At times of peace, his faith brought abundant life to his community. Similarly, when storms struck his faith was a safe harbor for them, as he helped his people to find shelter and safety.

We too can have reef-like faith
Here too at St. Anthony’s we have people who have reef-like faith. How we sit in the Church is a bit like reefs in the sea. If you are a regular here, you know where the reefs of faith are in our congregation. Look around and see those men and women of our parish whose faith is anchored in God. When our faith is anchored in God it inspires our families and friends. One of the blessings of my ministry as a Deacon is to witness your faith, watching it blossom as your love for God grows and you become holy.

Faith is like a Bridge
In the Gospel today Jesus says “Have faith in God, have faith in me also”. Jesus came to reveal the love of the Father to the world. Jesus would not allow any barrier stand in his way, not even death. As Christians we are called to bridge the gap between God and man by imitating Christ.

Deacon St. Phillip – Cross-Cultural Bridge
The first Deacons were called to heal the divisions of a bi-cultural church. Phillip was a Greek, and he lived in Jerusalem where there was division and injustice between the Greek and Jewish Christians. He was ordained a Deacon to bridge that gap between the communities. At St. Anthony’s we have a bi-cultural community, and all of us are called to imitate Christ and seek ways to bridge the gaps between the Spanish and English communities. How does our faith help us to do this? It allows us to see first that we are children of the same God, rather than seeing where we were born or what language we speak.

St. Phillip and the Ethiopian
Later in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Phillip encountered an Ethiopian Jew who was reading scripture and not understanding it. Phillip reached by explaining his faith in Christ to his new-found Ethiopian friend. Phillip did not worry about the cultural norms, he reached out and shared his faith, and the Ethiopian was baptized. This is one of the earliest accounts of how the faith came to Africa.

In the Gospel today Jesus declares that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. As his disciples we are called to shape our lives by imitating him. We too are called to be bridges of faith, signs of Gods love in our own communities, in our families, our jobs, our schools and with our friends.

Let your faith be fire, a reef and a bridge
Where this week will we let the fire of our faith shine with the love of God?
Where this week will we provide shelter for those who are battered by the storms of life?
Where this week will we build bridges to meet those in need of true relationship with God?


The Way

Easter Sunday – Cycle A
Gospel: Mt 28:1-10

Pilgrim Church, Pilgrim People
In the Gospel there are two disciples who are walking on the way to Emmaus. St. Luke chooses this word “Way” intentionally. In ancient times Christians were known as the “People of the Way”. This is because in the early Church the Christians were often on the road, as pilgrims or as missionaries. For this reason, St. Luke knows that the “Way” is a symbol for the Church – which is us, God’s Holy People. We have been called a pilgrim church because we are on a journey through life to heaven.

The disciples had lost all hope
In the beginning of the Gospel the two disciples have lost all hope. They knew that Christ was God’s chosen one. They knew that Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit and they knew that Jesus was the one whom God had sent to save them from their sins; but their experience of Good Friday showed them that they were wrong. God’s plan was wrecked, in shambles. How could they have been so wrong about Jesus? They couldn’t stand the pain and they just had to get away.

So they were walking away from it all – time to start over.
The two disciples in the Gospel today are walking away from the greatest disaster of their entire lives. Their hopes have been crushed so completely, that they were abandoning their community, the Church and leaving.

We too were walking away until God called us to be here today
How many of us here today know that we are not walking on the path that Christ has called us to? How many of us here are downcast? Not every road we take is the journey that God called us too. Sometimes our sin, our actions that hurt God and our brothers and sisters lead us to walk this way alone, downcast, lacking all hope. It is at these times that Christ comes to walk with us as he did those two disciples on the way to Emmaus.

How are we going to respond to his invitation to dialog?
Will we ignore him? Will we engage him? Will we be real with him or lie to him?
It does not matter what road we took to get here this morning. At the heart of Christ’s message is the fact that “God loves you!” When Jesus met the two disciples in the Gospel today he did not judge them, he did not condemn them, he began to speak with them. Jesus took his time to speak to them about their problems, their fears and their failures. He listened to them first, and then slowly and gently began to teach them what had really happened during these last three days. How he offered himself up to God as a sacrifice for their sins, how he had died, and yet had risen from the dead.

Emmaus was not an accident
It was not by accident that Christ met these two disciples on the road. He knew that they were in the depths of despair, and that they needed his companionship.

We are not here by accident either
It is not by accident that we are here today. Some of us haven’t been here for a while, some have been here regularly for many decades. The truth is each of us is seeking a deeper friendship with Christ. We are all need his friendship because he is able to embrace our suffering and pour into our wounds His healing love.

How can we meet Jesus on the Way?
The Gospel today teaches us that there are three steps to this daily encounter with the resurrected Christ; Prayer, Scripture and the Eucharist.

1. Prayer – When Jesus met the two disciples on the road, he first listened to them explain their problems. We can do this by taking time to pray with Christ each morning this Easter. We can start our days with a short time (maybe five or ten minutes) before getting out of bed to share our needs and worries of the day with Christ in prayer. This needs to be an honest sharing of what is on our hearts for the day, our plans and worries. Just a short note, hitting the snooze alarm and then falling back to sleep does not count as prayer. If that is a struggle for you, then pray over a hot cup of coffee!

2. Scripture. After Jesus heard their concerns he spoke with them, using Scripture. He went through all of scripture and pointed out to the disciples how the Word of God spoke about him. The secret to scripture is to listen to God. We can’t live our lives by always telling God what we need if we don’t also take time to listen to him. Set aside some time (at lunch, or after work, or in the evening) to be present to Jesus in the scriptures. If you are looking for a place to begin then consider the Acts of the Apostles; it is the story of the early Church. After reading a little part of scripture then take time to pray in order to give God thanks for all of his gifts that he has given to you.

3. Eucharist. After speaking and listening to God the disciples in the Gospel encountered Christ in the Breaking of the Bread. They became aware of His presence and grace when He gave them Himself – His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Some of us might not be able to receive Holy Communion. If we are living in a state of sin then it is easy to rejoin the Lord’s table, all we need to do is to repent (that means to see that we are on the wrong road and change our lives), confess, and invite Christ more deeply into our lives! Jesus died on the Cross to share His Body and Blood with us. When we receive Him in Holy Communion we enter into the heart of God.

Which way will we choose?
Brothers and Sisters, it does not matter what road we were on this morning when we came to celebrate Easter. What matters is the road that we choose when we leave here. Will we just return to our old ways of sin and death, or will we choose a new way – the way that sets our hearts on fire with the love of God?



Easter Vigil – Cycle A
Gospel: Mt 28:1-10

What is the most incredible sight you have ever seen?
Take a moment and pause and think – what has been the most awe-inspiring, beautiful, powerful overwhelming thing you have ever seen?


Watching the Birth of my kids
Watching the birth of each of my children has been one of the awe-inspiring events of my life. I remember how each of them was born, some naturally, others by cesarean section. Yet every time I was amazed with the beauty of new life that God creates.

The truly awe-inspiring events are celebrated with ritual
We like to remember awe-inspiring events like these. We celebrate our birthdays with parties, our anniversaries with a special dinner. For each of us these are days we remember the magnificence of God’s gifts. We use ritual, a birthday party, an anniversary dinner to celebrate the significant events of our lives.

Tonight we remember the most awe-inspiring event in the history of the world. That is why tonight we participate in this special celebration. We do this because the truly incredible things of this life cannot be remembered, they must be experienced, they must be lived.

The heart of Christ must be experienced – it must be breathed!
Christ’s victory over sin and death is so great, so profound that it cannot be described, it must be experienced. That is why tonight we celebrate with great ritual – with fire and incense, with story and song, water and perfumed oil, and the bread and wine that become Christ’s Body and Blood.

We experience God’s love tonight with all of our senses:

- When the Easter Candle entered the Church, we saw with our eyes that Christ is the Light of the World, and the light of our hearts.

- When the Church filled with incense we could smell the beauty of our prayer rising up to God.

- When the story of our sin and salvation was read, we heard with our ears the greatness of God’s love.

- Kimberly, Marnila, Yajaira, Divine, Anjelina, Evelyn and Arath will feel the cleansing power of Christ’s cross as water is poured over them and God enters into their souls through Baptism.

- We will experience Christ when we eat His Body and drink His Blood as He shares His life with us in the Holy Eucharist.

Walking in the garden
Let’s use our imaginations to plunge back through time to that first Easter morning. Imagine that we are walking early on that morning the first day of the week with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of St. James the Less). It is dark, with just the briefest glimmer of the pre-dawn as we walk through the garden. The grass is damp with dew, and the morning air is a little brisk. The world is quiet, but we are filled with fear. Who will roll away the stone? Will the soldiers allow us to anoint Christ’s body? Will they interfere with us? All of our fears are mingled with grief and sadness and despair – God’s chosen one has been slain, God’s plan is ruined. Will He ever save His people? Will He ever save you and I?

The Garden is a cemetery, filled with those dead because of sin.
The garden that we are walking in is a graveyard, it is a place filled with tombs. All around us the dead lie in their graves. We can relate to their perspective as well. We are not dead, but all of us are trapped in some way by our sin. We find ourselves paralyzed with fear, trapped in the cold hardness of our heart in some relationship or addiction. The Devil has us trapped in here, with the weight of a heavy stone rolled across the entrance and guards outside to prevent us from ever escaping from our tombs of sin.

In a flash the obstacles are gone
Then there is a flash of lightning, the earth shakes. When the Mary’s recover they see the work of God – The soldiers are paralyzed with fear, the stone is moved aside and they see the angel of God who points to the empty tomb and he says “Do not be afraid”. In a flash God sends His angel to remove all obstacles for us.

Experiencing God’s love is the reason for our joy!
If we are like those trapped in the grave then we can leap up with joy! God comes to judge us with Love, with mercy and with grace to bring us out of the grave. Brothers and Sisters, for the last six weeks we have prayed and fasted and given alms to help us to battle these sins. Tonight we rejoice because God has answered our prayers and sent His Son to free us from the death of our sin!

Go and spread the good news!
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary left “very quickly” and began to make the angels words reality. As soon as they acted on the angels words they encountered Jesus. When we go out to spread the Good News we encounter the Risen Christ. The Good News that they carried with them is that Death is not the end, and that there is freedom from sin, freedom from death. They ran with swiftness and joy to share the liberation of us all.

Christ is Risen from the Dead, go and tell the world, for He goes ahead of you and will meet you on the way. Christ is risen from the dead – go and live the Gospel so that our lives give witness to the most incredible thing!


Birds, Lilies and Grass

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Is 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Gospel Mt 6:24-34

St. Anthony of Padua was a great preacher, recently I discovered a book with his homilies in it, and I have been studying his preaching. I thought that it would be good for us as a parish to learn about how he thought about God and the Sacred Scriptures.

When St. Anthony reflected on this Gospel he had three insights to help us put this Gospel in the action. At the heart of this Gospel Christ is trying to teach his disciples (that is us) that God loves us, we only need to trust in him. It is really that simple. God loves you.

Birds, Lilies and Grass
In the Gospel Christ uses three different parts of nature to teach us about God’s love and the spiritual life. the Birds, the Lilies and the Grass. Each one of these examples is a lesson for us to grow in holiness.

The Birds
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” St. Anthony taught that the birds are the saints who are able to soar quickly to God in their prayer. They soar to the spiritual heights readily and are easily able to be in the presence of God. St. Dominic was known to experience quiet moments of contemplation when he was out walking with his brothers. His friends said that they saw him stealing a quiet moment here or there when he was rapt in ecstasy, filled with the love of God.

Stealing quiet moments of praise
We too are called to live saintly lives; to live lives like Jesus. One way that we can walk a little further on the road to sanctity is to find a way to steal a quiet moment of praise and thanksgiving with God during the daily hustle bustle of life. For example when we have the opportunity to speak to one of our children and we know that we are touching their hearts, or when we get a new job, or our relative is healed. Take a few moments and sit down in a quiet corner of your house and offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God. In this way we can be a little more like the birds in the sky that fly readily to God with praise and thanksgiving.

Lilies of the Field
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.” St. Anthony compared the lilies of the field to those faithful Christians who attend mass regularly and try their best to live a faithful life in the world. One way that the lilies represent the members of the Church is that they are in the field that represents the world. God finds us to be most beautiful when we persevere in our Christian life away from the Church, because it is in the world that we are the witness to God’s love.

Medicinal roots, white flower, beautiful fragrance
St. Anthony taught that we are like the lilies of the field when we are serious about our repentance in three ways. First of all, repentance for our own wrongs helps us to stay focused on our goal – which is eternal life in heaven. The root of the lily is a medicine for our body, just as a life of penance is medicine for our soul. Secondly, we give witness to the fact that God loves us when we love one another chastely – that is purely. Our pure love for one another is like the white flower of the lily as it reminds everyone of the beauty of chaste love. Lastly, a lily has a very beautiful smell. St. Anthony says that when we are grounded in our penance and live a good example of selfless love then our lives give off the fragrance of a good reputation, and people enjoy being in our presence.

Grass of the field
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” Unfortunately each and every one of us also has a little bit of the grass of the fields growing up between our toes. St. Anthony likens the grass of the field to sinners who are unaware of where their sin is leading them. Jesus says that the grass grows up today, but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. Let us take a moment together and think back over the last week looking for those occasions where we fell into sin? Ultimately what happens when we choose to sin is that we think that the consequence of our sin is not as bad as the reward we get by sinning. When we view internet pornography, we don’t think about how that is damaging our marriage or our relationship with women, we are only thinking about our own selfish pleasure. When we cut down a friend or spouse with our words it is our need for vengeance that outweighs the reality of the hurt that we are inflicting. Whenever we choose to sin we are blind to the reality of the hurt that we cause to others and to God, we are blind to how we are hurting ourselves by separating ourselves from God’s peace and joy.

It’s time to do some weeding.
In the second reading St. Paul says that when Christ comes “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” Let us take heed of his warning and this week live like the lilies rather than the grass. Let us pay attention when the Holy Spirit convicts us of some area in our life that is wrapped in the darkness of sin. When we find those areas let us bring them to the sacrament of confession, which we have here at St. Anthony’s every Saturday afternoon. If we can do this we become more like the lilies in the field that are clothed by God with finer garments than that of Solomon. Then when our time here on earth is finished, we will soar like the birds of the sky into the presence of our heavenly Father who will praise us for fighting the good fight against sin.


Verso L'alto!

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13; Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; 1 Cor 1:26-31; Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a

Over the past couple of weeks we have been talking about the various parts of the Mass in an effort to help us enter more deeply into our worship of God.

Today we are going to take a guided tour of the Communion Rite, and to help us out I have had guide books printed up and placed in all of the pews. If you don’t already have your guidebook with you then please locate one, they are labeled missalettes and we are on page 154.

I also thought that an experienced guide would help as well. Today, our guide is none other than Blessed Pier Frassati, a university student from Turin, Italy.

Pier was born in 1901, to rich parents. His father was an ardent agnostic and his mother a devout Catholic. Pier loved the outdoors and is often pictured climbing mountains and skiing. When he was beatified in 1990 Pope John Paul II described him as “The man of the Beatitudes”, so Pier works well with our Gospel today as well.

Pier had a great love for the Eucharist. When he would go skiing in the Alps he would begin his day with Mass, spend all day on the slopes and then return in the evening to visit Jesus in adoration. Sometimes he would spend all night adoring Christ in his parish church.

In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches us the Beatitudes from atop a mountain. So equipped with our guidebooks, and our guide let us go though the Communion Rite of the Mass and pause along the way to take in some of the beautiful views and awesome vista’s that we can see when we get to the height of the Mass.

The first place that I would like to visit is the Our Father. We begin the communion rite by praying the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. This is a good prayer for us to say on a daily basis.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray these words: “Thy Kingdom Come…”. In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

If we want God’s Kingdom to come then we need to be poor in spirit. The reason why this is the first of the beatitudes is that true humility is the foundation for a healthy spiritual life. When we ask God for his Kingdom to come we need to get out of the way and let him work through us. God can’t do this if we are too busy saying to Him – “It’s ok Lord, I’ll handle this one…” Blessed Pier used to ride 3rd class on the train and run rather than take buses so he could spend the money he saved in bus fare to help the poor of his community. When asked by a friend why he rode in the third class he answered “Well, they don’t have a fourth class!”

Later on in the Lord’s prayer we pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”. In the Gospel, Christ says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

To be merciful means that we build our relationships around our ability to forgive others their faults. When was the last time you hurt someone and had to ask for their forgiveness? [[PAUSE]] How did it affect your relationship? [[PAUSE]] When was the last time someone asked you for forgiveness? [[PAUSE]] Did you respond with vengeance or mercy? [[PAUSE]]

Moving on up higher still in our climb, we come to the Sign of Peace. Later on in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says “If you bring your gift to the altar and there realize that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

This readiness to seek peace is built on the humility to see our own fault in the troubles of our relationships. It also requires us to be merciful. When we can humbly show mercy then seeking after peace becomes easy.

Pier discovered that it was his own sin that disturbed his peace, and so he became acutely aware of the need to reconcile those relationships that were hurt in his life. Sometimes this was with his Dad, whose political views he did not agree with.

After the sign of Peace we pray the “Lamb of God” – asking Christ for his mercy, which we know he will gladly give because he teaches us “Blessed are the Merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. This is similar to the centurions prayer “Lord I am not worthy..” – because we recognize that we are all beggars before God. We are like the good thief who while he was being crucified with Christ asked Jesus “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

Now we arrive at the moment of Communion. This is when we approach God and invite him into our hearts and souls. We approach God it is with reverence, with a bow of our head.

I invite you to make this moment of communion an intensely personal moment. When you see Christ, welcome him into your life. When we receive Holy Communion, either on our tongue or the hand, the Minister says “The Body of Christ”, and we respond: “Amen” – which means “I believe”. Then afterwards as you return to your pew, invite Jesus into your heart. Let your heart share its depths with the heart of Christ.

Blessed Pier said this about Holy Communion:

I exhort you with all the strength of my soul to approach to the Eucharistic Table as often as possible. Nourished with the Bread of the angels from which you draw the strength to vanquish in the battles against the passions and all adversity, because Jesus Christ promised eternal life and the graces to obtain it, to those who nourish themselves with the Holy Eucharist.

And when you are consumed by the Eucharistic fire, you will be able to thank the Lord God with even more recognition, you who are called to be a member of His flock; will receive a peace that those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because real happiness, my friends; does not consist of the pleasures of the world and the realities of the earth, but in the peace of conscience that we have only if we have a heart that is pure and in the spirit."

In June of 1925 one of Pier’s friends took a picture of him climbing a cliff, Pier wrote his motto on it; “Verso l’alto!” this is Italian for “To the Top!” On month later he contracted polio and died in five days. He never stopped climbing towards heaven, when he was dying he gave a list of names to his sister, these were the poor people that he spent his saved bus fare on. He asked her to make sure that they were cared for.

When mass ends today, and we are sent forth, let us remember why we came here – to gain the strength we need to get “To the Top!” – to heaven with God and Blessed Pier. Then let us live out the Beatitudes this week with Humility, Mercy seeking Peace and Forgiveness in our communities. Brothers and Sisters – “Verso l’alto!