Monday, December 29, 2008

Feast of the Holy Family

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14
Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
Lk 2:22-40

The family has great power. It is after all the basic building block of our society. The family is where we learn about relationships, where we learn to get along with others. The family is where we learn to share, or not. Our family is where we are formed, where we are shaped. Our family goes a long way in determining what kind of person we become. Hopefully, most of us come from families that are loving and nurturing, which is what a family should be. Our family is where we should be able to go when we need help, when things aren’t going well for us. As those who read this blog often know, this past year has not been one of my best. Yet in my need I was able to turn to my family. My wife, my daughter, mother, sisters, brother, all of my family helped me to get through the trials of this year. I think, however that we need to re-examine our definition of family. During this year I have been supported close friends, people who were present for me and my family. These friends are family. But there is another family that I was able to turn to, the family of this faith community, this parish.
In the Gospel today Mary and Joseph, this newly formed family, this Holy Family, present Jesus in the Temple as the law requires. In the Temple is a man named Simeon, a man who has been promised that he will not die until he sees the Christ. When Jesus is brought into the Temple he immediately recognizes him. Simeon turns to Mary and says, “my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Simeon is letting Mary, Joseph, and all of us know that this child’s family is much larger than just the Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This child’s family reaches out to all of us, and all of us are invited to be a part of this family. Our shared faith in the Christ makes us members of this family. We are called to be a place of love and nurturing care for everyone in this family of faith. We are called to care for one another and then to extend that care beyond our own community to those who do not belong. We are called to live lives of invitation, lives that invite those outside to come in. We are called to open our faith family, so that we serve a larger family, the human family, so we may indeed be a holy family.

Deacon John
Feast of the Holy Family
Dec. 28, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Is 9:1-6
Ti 2:11-14
Lk 2:1-14

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;upon those who dwelt in the land of glooma light has shone.”
We have walked in darkness. We have stumbled about, uncertain of where we are, where we are going, or how to get there. We stumble about in a darkness of our own making. We stumble about in a darkness brought about by our greed, our envy, our lust, our hate. We become ill, and live in the darkness of self-pity. We live in the darkness of our sin, failing to realize that we do not have to. The light of the Son has come, the light that can lead us, guide us out of the darkness we have created, into the light of beauty and freedom and peace. Today we celebrate the arrival of that Light, of the Son-Light that shows us the path. The path illuminated for us leads us to the only place we truly desire. The path illuminated for us by the Light of the Son takes us home, to the one who made us. We celebrate the coming of the Light, the Light that dispels all darkness, the Light that frees us, the Light that makes it possible for us to join the heavenly host in proclaiming,
“Glory to God in the highestand on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”
May this season bring you light and peace
Deacon John
Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday in Advent

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11
1 Thes 5:16-24
Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

You’ve done this, I’ve done this, we have all done this. You see someone walking down the street and you are certain that that is an old friend, so you rush up to them, say their name, only to have then turn and reveal that this is not the person you thought. It’s a complete stranger. Embarrassed, you mutter an apology and turn away. The Levites, priests and Pharisees saw a man, a man crying in the wilderness, and they thought they knew who he was. They were, however, mistaken. John clearly tells them, I am not the Christ. Instead of turning away, however, they ask well then, just who are you? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? Who sent you? John replies that as Isaiah said, he is the voice of one crying, make straight the way of the Lord. He is the forerunner of one those questioning him do not recognize. John plainly tells them there is one among you you do not recognize, one whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie. John’s questioners will fail to recognize Christ in their midst. It’s a failure we all too often share. As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, as we prepare for Christ’s return, do we recognize Christ in our midst? In the single mother, struggling to care for her family, do we recognize Christ? In the person with mental challenges who tests our patience, do we recognize Christ? In that person that for whatever reason we just can’t stand, do we recognize Christ? In our spouses, our children, our parents, our families, doe we recognize Christ? In our friends, do we recognize Christ? Christ is in our midst, in these people. It is here that we must recognize Christ, or we will not recognize him in that infant we celebrate, or the in the one who is coming again.
Deacon John
Third Sunday in Advent
Dec. 14, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent

Is 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Pt 3:8-14
Mk 1:1-8

In 1869 two rails met in Utah, one coming from the east, the other from the west. The meeting of theses rails tied America together by train. This did not just happen. It took much planning, and much preparation. The course of the rails had to be laid out, the route decided upon. Those coming from the west had mountains to contend with. They literally had to make crooked ways straight, fill in the valleys and level the hills. Surveyors had to lead the way, prepare the way, so the rails could meet. They prepared the way, but the work still had to be done. People still had to lay the track, put the ties in place, drive the spikes that held it all together. Only when the work was done could the dream of a transcontinental rail system become a reality.
John the Baptizer served as a surveyor. He cried out in the wilderness, showing the path that we must follow. He showed us the route, but the work still must be done. The way of the Lord must be made ready by us. We are the laborers, we must make straight the crooked paths, we must fill in the valleys and level the mountains and hills, of our souls. We must do the work, the work necessary to make ourselves ready for the coming of the Lord. Our task is often difficult, we have many obstacles, many mountains to contend with. It is, however, work well worth the effort. Advent offers us the time to hear John’s call, to begin following the path he surveyed for us, to make the crooked straight, to fill in the valleys and level the mountains, to make ready in our hearts the way of the One who came, and will come again.

Deacon John
The Second Sunday in Advent
Dec. 7, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
1 Thes 5:1-6
Mt 25:14-30

You may have noticed over the last couple of months that the economy has taken a slight turn for the worse. OK, a big turn for the worse. Many economists claim that this is the worst the economy has been since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I hate looking at the statements I get about my 401K, I don’t think it can lose anymore money, but it always seems to lately. This isn’t exactly an inviting time to try and invest your hard earned money. The mattress is looking better and better all the time. But in some way I suppose we have to continue trying, hoping that eventually our investment will pay off.
In the Gospel today a man going on a journey gives each of his servants an amount of money, each according to their ability. The first seems to have been a wiz as he finds a way to invest his master’s money and double it from 5 talents to ten. Another servant who was given two talents finds a way to double that. The third servant, however, well he is reluctant to entrust his master’s money to the vagaries of the market, so he simply buries it, so he can give back the amount he was given. We, my brothers and sisters, are much like that servant. Our Master has given each of us a talent, a gift, a gift we can share with the world to help bring about the Reign of God. Too often we look at that gift we have received in the same way we look at our money in this time of economic crisis. We are reluctant to invest because we never seem to see any return. So we bury our talent, keeping it to ourselves and maybe, just maybe, a few others. The return on our investment may be small. But it’s better than throwing our gift out there to the world when it seems to accomplish so little. The question we need to ask ourselves is what is too little. I don’t care how wondrous and great your gift may be, you will not change the world. You don’t have to. If your gift touches one person, just one, and makes a difference in that person’s life, that’s enough. That the greatest return on investment you could hope for.

Deacon John
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 16, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17
Jn 2:13-22

Today we celebrate a moment in history, the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. St. John Lateran is considered the mother church of Christendom. This is the pope’s main church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, an important place, an important sacred space for all Christians. We also celebrate to a lesser extent our own parish church, the sacred space we gather in to celebrate the Eucharist. These sacred spaces are meaningful, and important, as a place for the People of God to gather. But as our second reading from 1 Corinthians reminds us, the Church building, the sacred space, is not the Church. The Church is more than a building, more than a space, the Church, my brothers and sisters is us. You and I, we must remember that we are the Church. The building is important, but without the gathering of the people there, it means little. The Church must go beyond the four walls of the building, the Church must not be limited by mere space. The work of the Church is to envelope the entire world, enfolding everything into the sacred space that is the Church. We gather in the Church building, our sacred space, to worship and celebrate. We leave the Church building to take the Church to the world.
Deacon John
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Nov. 9, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls Day

Wis 3:1-9
Rom 6:3-9
Jn 6:37-40

Death. A subject we would rather not think about. We know it is there, waiting for each of us, but it still isn’t something we like to think about. What happens when we die? That subject has haunted humanity since we were able to think, since we became self-aware and realized that this is our ultimate fate. This entire weekend is centered around death, around what happens to us when we die. Halloween, followed by All Saints Day, followed by today, All Souls Day. We remember those who have gone before us, honoring and asking for prayer from those who are with God, praying for those whose fate is, for us, uncertain. Indeed, we dedicate this entire month to remembrance of those gone before. We think about them, and we are forced to think about our own mortality. I must admit that I have spent a lot of this past year thinking about death. Nothing like being diagnosed with a life-threatening, incurable disease to get your attention. It compels you to think, to wonder and to pray. You hope to hear another word, survivor.
Survivor, one who has faced death and lived. Through the grace of God and the miracles of modern medicine, I can claim that title, survivor. My mortal life has been spared for now, but the ultimate question remains, what happens when this reprieve ends? Not just for me, but for all of us. What happens when our time finally runs out? By God’s grace we can all claim the title survivor. Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading that none of what God has given to Jesus will be lost. We, my sisters and brothers, have been given to Jesus, we belong to him and we will not be lost. Through our baptism in Christ we rise with Christ, We die with Christ, and conquer death with Christ. The risen Christ dies no more, death has no power over Christ. We have been given to Christ, we die with Christ, we rise with Christ, and death has no power over us. In Christ, we are survivors.

Deacon John
The Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed (All Souls Day)
Nov. 2, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 22:20-26
1 Thes 1:5c-10
Mt 22:34-40
St. Augustine once said love God and do what you want. Before we decide we now have a license to do anything, we should examine just what is meant by that statement. How do you act toward someone you love? Let’s look at the relationships in our own lives. If you love your spouse, really love your spouse, how do you act toward them? If you are acting in love, your ultimate goal is to make your spouse happy. You do things to make them happy, sometimes even if you don’t want to. You do things to build them up, you do things to build up the relationship, to make it flourish. You do not do things to hurt your spouse, you do not do things to damage the relationship. When you act in love you try to make the relationship flourish. It is a relationship built not on rules, but on love. Love covers all the rules. Your relationship with you children will involve rules, rules you set. Those rules are, or should be based in love. We set rules, make limits for our children to help them, to help them grow into whole and happy people. Again, this is a relationship built not on rules, but on love. So it is in our relationship with God. God shares love with us, a love we then return to God, and a love we are called on to share with others, spouses, children, family, the world. We are to share what has been given us with everyone. In the first reading we heard how we are to act toward the widow, the orphan, the alien, the stranger. We are to share with them the love that God shares with us. We are called to act in love. When we can do that, when we are acting in love, when we are be-ing in love, then we may begin to understand what St. Augustine meant when he said love God, and do what you want.
Deacon John
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 26, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I finally am back, feeling well enough to begin posting again on a regular basis. So far the cancer seems to be in remission, and over all I am doing fairly well. Thanks for your prayers.

Is 45:1, 4-6
1 Thes 1:1-5b
Mt 22:15-21

In Star Trek lore cadets in Star Fleet Academy were tested with a situation known as the Kobayshi Maru situation. The catch to this test was that there was no way to succeed. The cadet, assuming the role of commander of a star ship, was placed in a no win situation. No choice the cadet made would lead to a good outcome. Only one cadet, a certain James Kirk, defeated the test by reprogramming the scenario, giving him choices that allowed him to win in a no win situation. In today’s Gospel the Pharisees and Herodians seek to put Jesus in just such a no win situation. They approach Jesus with a question, a question they assume has no good answer. They ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not. They believe they have Jesus trapped, because they see only two possible answers, neither of them good, at least not for the person giving the answer. If Jesus says it is lawful to pay the tax, they can condemn him as a tool of the Roman oppressors. If Jesus says that one should not pay the tax, he can be turned over to the authorities and most likely be put to death as an insurrectionist. The question, like the Kobayshi Maru scenario, seemingly had no right answer. Jesus, however, turned the situation upside down, and gave an answer the questioners never expected. Show me the coin for paying the tax. Whose image is on the coin? Caesar’s. Repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Let Caesar have the coin with his image on it, in the end what did it matter? Jesus called on those listening, and on us, to give to God that which has God’s image on it, us. In our lives we may face what appear to be no win situations. No situation is hopeless, however, when we simply give to God that which is God’s that which is in God’s image, ourselves. In my own experience I have been in that situation. Faced with a life threatening, incurable disease, no answer seems good, no answer seems right. In this situation giving up would have seemed to be the only choice. Yet, as I discovered, it was not. I had a better choice, I could, as James Kirk did, as Jesus did, change the situation so I could win. Giving myself to God, giving to God what ultimately belongs to God, was the answer. No matter the eventual outcome, by giving to God what is in God’s image, by giving to God that which is God’s, by giving myself, I win. All of us, in the thousand situations we face, the situations that seem hopeless, that seem to be no win, can win, when we simply give God what is God’s, when we give God ourselves.

Deacon John
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It's a day late but...
Is 56:1, 6-7
Rom 11:13-15, 29-32
Mt 15:21-28

In an episode of the old television series M*A*S*H, Hawkeye pierce and his cronies are involved in a marathon poker game. The ever-present and ever-hungry Radar comes in to deliver a message and sees a tray of sandwiches on a table in the tent. “Are these sandwiches for anybody,” he asks. The weary poker players tell him to take all he wants, so he does. The readings today brought this scene to mind. In the Gospel Jesus and his disciples are followed by a Canaanite woman begging Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter. Jesus, in a seemingly uncharacteristic manner, sharply rebukes her, much to the delight of his followers. They would just as soon this Gentile woman go away and stop bothering them and the Master. Doesn’t she realize that salvation belongs to the Chosen People alone? Jesus seems to agree with his followers when he says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus is however, making a point to his followers. The woman replies, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus then praises her faith and grants her request. Faith has saved her daughter and her as well. Jesus showed his followers that who you are is not what will bring you to God. Believing, having faith that is what one must have. We too often fall into that same trap, the belief that salvation belongs to us, not to anyone else. It is ours because of who we are. It is not possible for us to be any more wrong. We do not have favor with God simply by virtue of ethnicity, social status, denomination, or anything else. Faith is what we need. That faith, which is God’s gift to all of us, is what brings us into the reign of God. We must accept that gift, live it and believe it. We must also rejoice in the fact that that gift of faith is for all people. All people, all people, are the children of God. God excludes no one, how can we? Do we know better than God? No, of course we do not, we cannot. We must simply accept the gift given to us and understand that the sandwiches are indeed for anybody.
Deacon John
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 17, 2008

This may be my last post for a few weeks. I will enter the hospital on Friday August 22 to begin a new phase in the treatment of my cancer, Multiple Myeloma. I will not be able to post, because I won't have access to a computer and I may simply be too sick. I am confident that this treatment will work, and ask that you peay for me as I pray for you.
St. Peregrine, Pray for us
Deacon John
Aug. 18, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a
Rom 9:1-5
Mt 14:22-33

Many people would argue that we, as human beings, are very much afraid of failure. We hate to fail, no doubt about it. Fear of failing can indeed keep us from trying things. I believe, however, that there is one thing we fear even more. Mare than being afraid of failure, we are afraid of success. If we succeed at something, anything, we suddenly find ourselves bearing the burden of expectation. We start to succeed, and suddenly people start to expect things from us. There’s no hiding, no running away, so our best defense against these expectations is to either fail, or not try at all. Jesus, having sent his disciples on ahead of him, begins to approach them walking on the water. Terrified, the disciples are sure it is a ghost. Jesus reassures them, saying it’s me, don’t be afraid. Peter calls to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk to Jesus on the wave tops. Peter is fine until he realizes what he is doing, until he realizes he can’t walk on water, no one can. As sinks into the waves Jesus saves him and takes him to the boat. Jesus says to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter was succeeding, doing well, until fear took over. His success ended when he forgot why he was succeeding at all. It was only in Jesus, in the help that Jesus gave, in the reliance on faith in Jesus, that Peter was successful. Jesus asks each of us to do but one thing, love. Love God, love our fellow human beings. This is not an easy task. We can, when we choose to be quite unlovable, and quite willing to not love. It can seem to be a lot like walking on water. We step out of the boat, start of pretty well, then realize what we are doing. I can’t do this. Why should I? Hardly anyone else seems to. So we start to sink, sink into the abyss of separation, of loneliness, of not loving or being loved, until we remember, remember that like Peter we can’t walk on this water alone. Faith in Jesus, reliance on God, these lift us up out of the swirling depths, into the boat, safe and secure in the love of Christ. Then, and only then, do we have a chance to overcome our fear of success.
Deacon John
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 10, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 55:1-3
Rom 8:35, 37-39
Mt 14:13-21

If you have ever seriously cooked, you have come across the concept of developing a foundation of flavors. This is done by putting together small amounts of various ingredients, which together provide a deep, rich flavor for the dish you are preparing. The dish would most likely be fine if one of these ingredients was missing, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. The depth of flavor, the richness would be compromised. Take something as simple as an omelet. A lot of different things can be added, each changing the dish just a bit, each adding to the depth of the flavor, each giving the dish a richness it would otherwise lack. You could add onions to the omelet, giving the omelet a certain depth and richness. Without the onions it is still a fine omelet, but it is a better omelet with them.
Jesus went off in a futile attempt to be alone when he heard of the death of John the Baptizer. Crowds followed him, and stayed until it was late, too late for them to find food. The disciples of Jesus asked him to dismiss the crowds, send them off to find food. Jesus tells them to give them some food yourselves. I am sure they were a bit flabbergasted. Give them what food? All they had were five loaves of bread and two fish, barely enough to feed themselves. Jesus instructed them to bring him the loaves and the fish, and to have the crowd sit. Jesus blessed and broke the bread, then gave it to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. All ate and were satisfied, and there were twelve wicker baskets of food left over. Five loaves and two fish were more than enough to feed the crowd.
All of us, each one, has a gift that God has given us, a gift that we can share with the world, a gift that in some way makes the world a better place. Too often we are reluctant to share that gift, certain that we are inadequate, the gift is so small that it can’t matter. No one will notice if our gift is missing. The world will almost undoubtedly continue, with or without the contribution we can make. Yet like the onions in the omelet, it won’t be quite as good as it could have been. Our gift may seem to be small and inconsequential to us, but it is indispensable. Our gift adds to the depth and the richness of life, of the world. It doesn’t matter how small we think it is. It is enough to make a difference. How do I know? Jesus said give them some food yourselves. They gave him five loaves and two fish. He blessed them and gave them to the people, and there were twelve baskets of fragments left over.

Deacon John
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 3, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 12:13, 16-19
Rom 8:26-27
Mt 13:24-43

A man has his fields planted with what he is sure is good wheat. Yet as the wheat begins to grow his servants see that weeds are growing among the wheat. Rather that trying to pull the weeds out, he chooses to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat, separating them at harvest time. This is a risky choice. Yes, pulling the weeds could damage the wheat should it unintentionally be pulled up as well. Allowing the weeds to grow runs the risk of having the wheat crop overwhelmed by the weeds. The weeds could suck the nutrients out of the soil, leaving little or nothing for the wheat. The weeds could proliferate to the point that the wheat is crowded out. The weeds could win, leaving the man with nothing for the weeds have no purpose. I am not a biologist and I am not an expert on the environment. I am certain that somewhere, in some context, these weeds have a purpose, a reason for being. In this context, however, the weeds have no purpose. They serve only to destroy the crop that was intended in the planting of the wheat. The world is much like this field. We are sown, and we are meant to flourish. We are meant to grow, to learn, to reach out to God, but we find ourselves surrounded by weeds. Weeds are all around us, and they can drain our life away, distracting us from our original purpose, overwhelming us, preventing us from flourishing as we are intended. The truly sad part is that too often, we begin to side with the weeds. We begin to see as acceptable that which is unacceptable. So, I fudged a little on my taxes, everybody does it. Why get married, it’s just a societal ritual, it doesn’t prove we love one another. Why should I help them, I got mine, go get your own. We rationalize our behavior, we find ways to justify our choices, we begin to become the weeds. We let the weeds steal our nutrition, we become overwhelmed by what is around us. It does not have to be this way. The weeds can pull us away, overwhelm us, only if we fail to remember who we are and who is with us. God provides us with the sustenance we need, God makes it possible for us to avoid being overwhelmed, but only if we turn to God, depend on God, realize that we will only find life in God. The weeds do not give life, they take it. God gives us life, protecting us from the weeds. But we must choose. Will we turn to God, or be pulled in by the weeds? Will we accept the eternal life that God offers us, or go with the weeds, a way that takes our life? Will we lead others by word and example to turn to life, to turn to God, or will we lead them into the weeds? Are we wheat, or are we weed?

Deacon John
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 20, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zec 9:9-10
Rom 8:9, 11-13
Mt 11:25-30

I believe in education. I believe that everyone should get all the education they possibly can. Education can open doors that otherwise stay shut. Certainly education can open doors to employment possibilities that otherwise would be unavailable to someone, but education is, or should be, more than that. Education should, hopefully, open doors in the mind, doors that can lead to a better understanding of the world, of the people who inhabit the world, and, most importantly, a better understanding of yourself. I believe in education. I have an advanced degree myself. I believe in education. Yet, I have to admit that education is not, in and of itself, the most important thing. Those of us with education have a tendency to make things complicated. Some things are complicated, not easily explained or understood. Some things, however, are not. We make them complicated even though they are actually quite simple. We make our faith complex, with all manner of theological ideas, explanations, theories, and rules based on them. If we stand back and look, our faith is really quite simple. The most basic statement of our faith is Jesus Christ is Lord. As Lord the Christ calls on us to do one thing, love. Love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and being, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That’s it. It really is that simple. It doesn’t require a PhD to understand these (I hesitate to use this word, but) fundamentals of our faith. I think that sometimes the education can even get in the way. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” We are called to believe, and because of that belief, we are called to love. That is why the Christ also tells us “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Believe and love. It really is that simple.

Deacon John
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 6, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Acts 12:1-11
2 Tm 4:6-8, 17-18
Mt 16:13-19

Ordinary people called to do the extraordinary. That is what all of us are. Ordinary people called to do the extraordinary. Just look at the example of the two men whose lives we celebrate today, St. Peter and St. Paul. Ordinary men. Unexceptional in many ways. Peter was a simple fishermen. I doubt that he was highly educated, just a rough, unsophisticated working man. Yet look at the work that God accomplished through this simple man. When Jesus asked who do people say that I am, this simple fisherman had the answer. When facing persecution he did not flinch or back away from the truth, he stood by the Christ, spreading the Gospel, despite the cost. An ordinary man doing the extraordinary. St. Paul, on the other hand was educated, a Pharisee, familiar with the law. Yet even this Pharisee was an ordinary working man, a tentmaker by trade, a trade he continued to practice even as he worked fearlessly to spread the Good News throughout the world, even to the Gentiles. St. Peter and St. Paul, giants among the earliest followers of Jesus. Together they did much to make the name of Christ known to the world. As extraordinary as they were, as extraordinary as their lives were, the single most exceptional thing they did was to love. They accepted the love of Christ, then shared that infinite love with the world around them. Love is what made them extraordinary. Ordinary people called to do the extraordinary, in and through love. And that my brothers and sisters is what we are called to as well. We are called to accept the infinite love of God and in turn give that love to the world. In that sharing of God’s love we become ordinary people doing the extraordinary.

Deacon John
Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles
June 29, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 20:10-13
Rom 5:12-15
Mt 10:26-33

Why is it that we seem to like to hide so much? Things are kept concealed, hidden away from others, sometimes even from ourselves. What are we so afraid of? Being open does make us vulnerable, but is that necessarily a bad thing, something to be frightened of? Are we so afraid of the possibility of being hurt because of our openness that we shut down, that we hide, that we compartmentalize our lives? We do compartmentalize, everything has a place, work, home, family, friends, faith. All kept separate, all apart, none having much if anything to do with the other, particularly faith. The very thing that should inform our lives, that should have the greatest impact on us, is the part we too often bury the deepest. We leave faith to Church on Sunday. Maybe we feel safer in a group, the anonymity of the crowd. We’re around people who agree with us, so far as we know, so we have no reason to fear. The truth is we have no reason to fear anyway. Christ tells us, fear no one. What is hidden will be revealed. There’s no point in hiding our faith. Since there’s no point in hiding it, let’s shout it from the rooftops, bring it into the light. The worst consequence we seem to fear turns out to be …nothing. Proclaiming our faith in Christ is not something to hide or fear, or put into a compartment separate from the rest of our lives. Rather it is a privilege, even a joy, for as we proclaim our faith, we just may help someone else find theirs.
Deacon John
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time
June 22, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hos 6:3-6
Rom 4:18-25
Mt 9:9-13

“Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’”
“for it is love that I desire, not sacrifice”
Perhaps we do need to learn the meaning of sacrifice. What does it mean to sacrifice? A sacrifice can be an offering, something given up for the sake of something else. We sacrifice things all of the time. We give up that piece of cake for the sake of our weight. We sacrifice buying that new car to save the money it would cost. These are certainly sacrifices, but in some way selfish sacrifices. In the Gospel Jesus calls Matthew, and Matthew follows. This is certainly a sacrifice on Matthew’s part, and not a selfish one. Matthew’s sacrifice is a sacrifice given up for something else. Yet later, in Matthew’s house, Jesus tells the Pharisees to learn the meaning of the words I desire mercy, not sacrifice, much as Hosea told the people God desires love, not sacrifice. Ah, love. There is the key. Love, love that leads to mercy, love that leads to sacrifice for the sake of another, for the sake of love. We “sacrifice” all of the time, but do we sacrifice for the sake of love? What are we willing to sacrifice to show love, for love, for another? It is only in love that sacrifice has any meaning, any value. After all we are gathered here today for a sacrifice. But it is not our sacrifice. We sacrifice nothing, yet we gain everything. The sacrifice we celebrate is given for us, given through God’s mercy, given because of infinite love. The word sacrifice can be interpreted as doing something sacred, to offer something to God. The sacrifice we celebrate today certainly is a sacred act, an act that makes us holy, an act that is possible only because of infinite love. Love that is given to us, love that we now are called upon to give to the world, “for it is love that I desire…”
Deacon John
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 8, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 11:18, 26-28, 32
Rom 3:21-25, 28
Mt 7:21-27

Tefillin, or phylacteries, are leather boxes containing particular passages from Scripture that some devout Jewish people strap to their foreheads and arms during morning prayer. The purpose of the phylacteries are to serve as a reminder that they are to be dedicated to God in whatever they do, feel or think. The phylacteries, in and of themselves, have no power, they cannot save the person wearing them, they simply serve as a reminder, a reminder of the rock of God on which the house of faith is built.

They may appear strange to us, but as Catholics we have our own version of these devotional items, things we refer to as Sacramentals. Scapulars, medals, other items we may wear, some we use but do not carry, like Holy Water. Again, these items are meant to simply serve as a reminder of who we are, of what we believe. They are designed to draw us to God, to assist us in our devotions, to be, hopefully, a constant reminder of who we are, of what we believe. In and of themselves these items have no power to save us. We may carry the words of God close to our minds and hearts, we may wear our scapulars and medals, but they are just reminders. They exist to draw us to the Rock, the rock of safety, the Rock of faith, the Rock that is our God. We must do more than carry these devotions on our bodies, we must carry them in our hearts and in our souls. We must hear the words and act on them. Only then have we set the foundation of our house of faith on rock, on solid ground. Only then have we placed our faith in the Rock, built our faith on the Rock, safe from wind and storm.

Deacon John
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 1, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a
1 Cor 10:16-17
Jn 6:51-58

Manna from heaven. Over time that phrase has been adopted into our language, used in ordinary speech to describe a gift, an unexpected gift, and perhaps even an undeserved gift. Good fortune falls upon you, things break your way, what you needed to have happen happens, all are at times in popular culture described as manna from heaven. In the first reading today the original manna was indeed just such a fortuitous gift. Wandering and starving in the desert, the children of God are saved by God’s gift of bread, manna from heaven. A life saving gift, a life giving gift, God’s grace poured out upon God’s people. Yet, as Moses reminded the people, life requires more than bread alone, one needs the word of God. More than bread saved them, bread from heaven saved them.
“Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’”
Manna gave the people of Israel physical sustenance. Food necessary for the survival of the body. A gift from God, a gift that gave life. More than bread is needed to live, however, and that gift comes to us from God as well, the gift of God’s Word. The Word comes to us, bringing the gift of life, the gift of eternal life, if we but partake of the gift that the Word gives us. The Word comes to us as the true bread from heaven. The Word comes to us as food, true food, that gives physical life. The Word comes to us as food, true food, that gives life to our souls. Through the Word we have life, full life, physical life, spiritual life, human life. We are after all both, physical and spiritual, flesh and spirit, body and soul. It is what makes us human, and that human life is sustained by the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Word given to us as food, feeding our bodies, feeding our souls, our true manna from heaven.

Deacon John
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9
2 Cor 13:11-13
Jn 3:16-18

“God so loved the world…” God indeed so loves the world, with a love that we creatures cannot even begin to comprehend. The love that God has for us is so overwhelmingly vast that our poor minds aren’t able to even begin to wrap around it. It is a love that brings us into existence, a love that sustains us, a love that saves us from ourselves. God’s love is so powerful, so vast, it cannot be contained. At the end of the day God’s love for us is a mystery, a mystery we can never comprehend. The expression of that love to us is made manifest in the Trinity, the love of God expressed as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Three divine Persons, yet only One God. How can this be? How can this be, how is it possible that there be one God, yet three persons? Ah, another mystery. We search for ways to grasp this mystery, but anything we can conceive of by definition falls short. The most famous attempt at explanation, I suppose, is the one attributed to St. Patrick, the shamrock, a plant with three leaves, yet only one plant. A nice enough try, but not quite enough. I have heard water used, water in different states, ocean, river, lake, all different, yet all water. Or water as solid ice, liquid or gaseous steam. All different, yet all still water. Nothing can bring us to understanding. Our only recourse is faith. God loves us with a love so vast that we see that love expressed in the Trinity, in a divine community of love, the community of Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. The love emanating from this Divine Community, calls to us, calls to us with invitation, a call for us to join, to share, to be a part of that Community of total love. This is perhaps the greatest mystery of all. No matter who we are, no matter what we may think we have done to escape God’s vast and glorious love, God still calls us, still wants us, still desires that we be a part of this glorious love. God creates us, saves us, makes us holy, all so we may be a part of God’s love, a member of that Community of Unity, because, “God so loved the world…”

Deacon John
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
May 18, 2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11
Eph 1:17-23
Mt 28:16-20

Confused. They had to be confused. The followers of Jesus must have stood there on that mountain, thoroughly and completely perplexed. Jesus gives them their instructions, to go forth and make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Then he leaves! He ascends into the heavens until the clouds remove him from sight. They must have wondered, as they stared into the sky, how can he be with them always, he just left! I’m just not sure if they got what Jesus meant when he told them the Holy Spirit would come to them. I’m not sure they understood that the Spirit would enable them to be Christ’s witnesses to the world. I’m not sure they realized that Christ would indeed be with them, through the Spirit sent to guide them, to give them understanding, and strength. They did as Jesus asked and returned to Jerusalem to wait. I’m just not sure they got it. I’m sure they much would have preferred that Jesus not leave at all. They simply didn’t understand. I’m not sure we understand either, and we really don’t have any excuses. For the first followers of Jesus, at least this was all new. It is not for us. We know what we are called to do. We know that we are to be Christ’s witnesses in the world. We know that we are called to love, everyone, the lovable and the unlovable alike. We have the Spirit those early followers were waiting for, yet we hide, as they did, as though we have no help available to us to follow our call. Perhaps we are frightened, or too much concerned with what the world will think of us. The world beckons, calling us to return evil for evil, not good for evil as we are called to do. We are indeed called to be counter-cultural, to go against the popular wisdom, to instead listen to the call of Christ. Following Christ is a way of life, a way of being. It is not a popularity contest. Yet when we struggle to really live our faith, we find that we may attract more people than we think. One of the most popular, and well-loved people of our time is Mother Teresa, a person who was certainly not in line with modern culture. Yet people are fascinated by her. For some it is mere curiosity, but for others it is a demonstration that life can be different. Can we all be Mother Teresa? Perhaps not. But we can all listen to the one who called her, for we all have that same Spirit that guided her. It’s time to get ready and leave the room.

Deacon John
The Ascension of the Lord
May 4, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Pt 3:15-18
Jn 14:15-21

Most things in life, in order to be done well, require preparation. In order to construct a building, you must first have a plan. You have to know what the building will look like, and how it will be constructed. Materials must be gathered, put in place, and made ready so construction can proceed smoothly. There is a similar concept in cooking it is called mis en place, a French term meaning everything in its place. All the ingredients for a dish are gathered, chopped, measured, and laid out so that when you begin to cook, the process will go smoothly. In the Gospel reading today we find Jesus engaging in a bit of mis en place. Jesus is planning, setting the groundwork for the coming of a new Advocate, the Spirit of truth, who will remain with the followers of Jesus, guiding them, assuring them that they are not, and never will be alone. Jesus is laying the foundation for the Church, a Church asked to follow the commandment of Jesus, to love God and neighbor, a Church that will always have help in living that commandment. In the first reading we see this plan in action. Phillip proclaims Christ to the Samaritans, doing great works and bringing many to Christ. The people of Samaria had been baptized, but had yet to receive the Spirit. Peter and John go to Samaria, pray for these new ingredients of the Church, and the Spirit comes to them. Just as Jesus had planned, the Spirit, the Advocate, came to these new members of the Body of Christ, so they too would never be alone. This plan worked then, and has worked throughout time. We hear the call of Jesus, we turn to Christ, we believe in Christ’s message of love, and that same Spirit, that same Advocate, comes to us, to teach, to guide, to strengthen, to help us live the commandment of love. We are not ever alone, we are not orphans, abandoned to our fate. There is for us an Advocate, who dwells with us, teaches us, and loves us, so we may love.

Deacon John
Sixth Sunday of Easter
April 27, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 6:1-7
1 Pt 2:4-9
Jn 14:1-12

We tend to think that divisions in the Church are something new, a product of our own time. Yet in reading the First Reading from Acts we discover that divisions in the Church go back to the very beginning, to the very first followers of Christ. The Hellenists complained that their widows were being slighted by the Hebrews in the daily distribution of food. The Twelve were compelled to remedy this situation. Their solution was to appoint seven men of good character to oversee this distribution and ensure that it was done fairly. These seven, Stephen, Phillip, Timon, Nicanor, Parmenas, Prochorus, and Nicholas of Antioch have come to be known to us as the first deacons of the Church, devoted to service of the People of God. This order, recently revived, exists to serve the needs of the Church. It is not, however, the sole province of this Order of Deacons to serve the Church. All the baptized are called to this service. Each Christian is called to service, for it is in service that we live our faith. I find it quite interesting that the Twelve chose seven men to serve. Why seven? Why not five or eight, or twelve? The number seven keeps coming up in different places, a number of significance. Seven seals, seven sacraments, forgive your brother’s offenses 70 times seven, all very meaningful, all involving seven. Seven was once thought to be the number of spiritual perfection. So the choice of seven men to serve was certainly not accidental. The seven chosen then, and those today are called to demonstrate to all members of the Church the importance of service. These seven were called to serve, to show that the Church reaches toward perfection in serving. As each of us comes to follow their example, as each of us serves others, we bring the Church just that much closer to where it should be. We serve and bring the reign of God closer to reality.
Deacon John
Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 20, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Pt 2:20b-25
Jn 10:1-10

I have to tell you, I’m not so sure that I like idea of being a sheep. After all if the Lord is my Shepherd that means that I must be a sheep. Now I must admit up front, being a 21st century, urban-dwelling American, I don’t know a lot about sheep. But the popular impression that is out there, the impression that most of us have, is that sheep are, well that they are dumb, not real bright, dim, mindless. You get the picture. I don’t want to be considered any of those things. I am, after all, a reasonably intelligent human being, capable of thought, capable of reasoning, capable of making decisions for myself. Why would I want to be a sheep? After reading today’s Gospel, however, I wonder if the popular perception of sheep is a misperception. Jesus says to the Pharisees I am the gate, I am the way for the sheep to enter and to find pasture. The sheep did not listen to those who came before, rather they heard the voice of Jesus and followed, and in following found life more abundantly. These sheep aren’t dumb, they learned. They listened, and they recognized and they learned the way to go, the way that led to life. They weren’t mindless at all. For us to follow Jesus is not an exercise in mindlessness. We are not the popular perception of sheep, bleating and following without thought. We must listen, we must learn, we must hear the voice of Jesus, we must study what Jesus says so that we can make an informed decision to follow. Believing in God, following the Christ isn’t about closing your eyes and your mind and following blindly. Believing is about learning, learning the voice of the Christ. Believing is about understanding, finding the way, finding the gate, the gate that leads to what Jesus brings us, life, life more abundant than we can know.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
April 13, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33
1 Pt 1:17-21
Lk 24:13-35

Were not our hearts burning within us? Two disciples of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, when they encounter a man who seems to be oblivious to the events of the past three days, of the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet this stranger admonishes these two disciples for being slow to believe what the prophets spoke. He then recounts all the prophecies regarding the Messiah, explaining all of it to them. On reaching their destination this stranger remains with them, and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. They rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others what had occurred. They rushed back because their hearts were burning within them. They heard the word of God, from the Word of God, and their hearts burned with in them with the need to tell someone what they now understood. But they didn’t understand or recognize the Word until Christ broke the bread, the bread that is Christ. Once they saw, and heard, and recognized, their hearts burned with the need to tell someone, to make known what they now knew. Do our hearts burn with in us? We hear the word of God, and we recognize the Word of God in the Scriptures we hear. We know that the Word is present in those words. We see the breaking of the bread. Do we see, do we recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread? Christ is here, present in the word, made manifest to us in the breaking of the bread. Do we recognize Christ, do we hear the words of Scripture? If we truly hear the Word, if we see Christ in the breaking of the bread, how can we remain silent? How can we not burn with the need to tell everyone of the Christ, and what Christ has done for us. Should not our hearts burn within us?

Deacon John
Third Sunday of Easter
April 6, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47
1 Pt 1:3-9
Jn 20:19-31

I will not believe. Unless I put my finger in the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. Thus declared Thomas after being told by the others that hey had seen Jesus and he was alive. Thomas simply stated I will not believe. So the next week as the disciples of the Lord were gathered Jesus appeared to them again. This time Thomas was among therm. Jesus called to Thomas and said here, look at the nail marks, place your finger in them, place your hand in my side and do not be unbelieving, but believe. Thomas looked at Jesus and simply said, “My Lord and My God!” If we read the scripture carefully, Thomas looks at Jesus and believes, he never actually touches him. Seeing, apparently, proved to be enough. Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen and believe. That would seem to include you and I, but in many ways we have seen Christ. When we see a person in need of our help, we are seeing Christ. When we see a person mourning, we see Christ. When we a person filled with joy, we see Christ. Everywhere we look, Christ is there. We can see Jesus, if we open our eyes, if we have faith. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we see Christ, in the assembly, in the words scripture, and most especially in the bread broken for us, in the cup shared by us. We see Christ and we touch Christ, in a more profound way than we can ever comprehend. We see Christ here, in this sacrament, we touch Christ here in this sacrament, so that we may see Christ there, touch Christ there, in the world around us. We see Christ here, we touch Christ here, so we may look around and proclaim My Lord and My God.

Deacon John
The Second Sunday of Easter
March 30, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Christ is Risen! Alleluia!!
Mt 28:1-10

He is not here. What an astonishing thing to hear. Come and see the place where he lay. To see the tomb, empty, must have been an awe-filling, frightening experience. How would any of us have reacted to this? I’m, not certain, but running away in total fear seems like a good idea. Yet Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did not run in fear. They ran, and they were certainly fearful, but they ran joyfully to tell the others what had just happened. On their way they met Christ, the Risen Christ, whose first words to them were, “Do not be afraid.” He sent them to tell the others to meet in Galilee.
He is not here. In a great many ways it would have been easier if he were there. That would have conformed to what was expected, they would have known how to react. Everyone has lost someone, everyone can mourn. But Christ wasn’t there, the tomb was empty, and they weren’t sure how to react. The world as they understood it no longer existed. They needed reassurance, they needed to hear those words, do not be afraid. Jesus wasn’t where he was supposed to be, he was where he needed to be.
As we go about, living our lives, we do the things we must, and often we take our faith, we take Christ, and place him inside a nice little box with a very secure lid. Once in a while, maybe on Sunday, we open the box to peek in, to make sure that he is still there, and that all is right with the world as we think it should be. Until we come to today. We open the box to check in and discover he’s gone, he is not there. How can this be? We had everything arranged perfectly, each part of our lives in its own box, everything where it should be, and now this. Looking again, we realize that someone has been moving things around in the other boxes. What is going on here? I had it all the way I wanted it, and now it’s all confused. Not sure where to turn, not sure what to do we look again at the boxes and realize that maybe some of these changes aren’t that bad, they may even be an improvement. Then we see him, we hear the assuring words, do not be afraid. Slowly we come to understand that he is not there, in that box. Christ is not where we want him to be, Christ is where we need him to be.

Deacon John
March 23, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Is 52:13—53:12
Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Jn 18:1—19:42
A man is betrayed by a friend, a trusted companion. He is taken away and put before the religious authorities and then the civil authorities. His situation is without much hope. The authorities are determined to find a way to execute this man. His friends run away in fear, and this man is left alone to face his fate. No one is willing to help as he is given up to an excruciating death. A story that is indeed the stuff of tragedy. Yet this story, as we listen to it, doesn’t seem tragic at all. This man faces his fate with uncommon dignity, indeed, with a touch of triumph. The Christ is not a tragic figure here. As the mob comes to seize him in the Garden, and they ask for Jesus of Nazareth, he replies, I AM. A bold statement, a claim to the name given to Moses when he asked the identity of the power behind the burning bush. A statement that Christ will not turn away, but accept the fate he knows awaits him. At each turn, in front of the high priest, in front of Pilate, Jesus faces what is coming. His seemingly inexorable movement toward death is not a tragedy, but more a triumphal procession. Christ knows where he is going and goes there willingly. This is not to diminish the pain that lay before him. He knew what was to come, he lived under Roman rule, he had undoubtedly seen crucifixions before. He knew what awaited him, a horrific, painful death. In any circumstances, a tragic end. But my brothers and sisters this is not tragedy. Indeed it is triumph of the highest order. Despite knowing what was to come, despite the suffering he faced, despite the horrible death, he went forward. He went forward to triumph, for you and for me. He triumphed that we might triumph. This story is not about death, but life, life given for us, life given to us. This is a story of life, triumph and glory. Do you want life? Look to the top of the Hill. Do you want to see real triumph, true glory? Look, there it is on that cross.
Deacon John
Good Friday
March 21, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Passion Sunday

Is 50:4-7
Phil 2:6-11
Mt 26:14—27:66 or 27:11-54

The Passion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. How are you supposed to follow that? I suppose it can be seen in one of two ways. After hearing the Passion, what’s left to say? Or, there is so much to say where can one possibly begin or end? What I choose to do is look at two specific areas. First, when Pilate realizes he is getting nowhere with the crowd and must give Jesus up to crucifixion, he washes his hands of the blood of Jesus, whom he regards as innocent. The people reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” For too many years this has been used as an indictment of certain people, blaming them for the death of Christ. How foolish of anyone to see this in that way. The passage says the whole people cried out “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” That whole people, and those children to come later are us, every single person who ever has or ever will live. The Christ died for our sins, yours, mine, everyone’s. As sinners we are responsible for the death of the Christ, our sins put Jesus on that cross. We all share in the death of Christ. We are all responsible.
Second, just before dying, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It sounds like a cry of utter despair, but it is not. This cry is the beginning of Psalm 22, which, in my Bible at least, is titled The Prayer of An Innocent Person. The beginning sounds like despair, but the Psalm ends in great hope. Verse 25 says, “For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” The final verse says, “The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.” Hope, the Psalm ends with hope. Jesus was undoubtedly familiar with this Psalm. He spoke the beginning, but he knew the end. Surely many who heard him knew what he was quoting, and they also realized how the Psalm ends, not in despair or anguish, but in hope, that those to come would know of the deliverance that was theirs, brought through Christ.

Deacon John
Palm Sunday
March 16, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ez 37:12-14
Rom 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45

Darkness, stillness, quiet. Everything is peaceful, but everything is dark. Shrouded in darkness he lay there, serene, quiet, but dark. Suddenly there’s a blinding flash of light. The darkness is cleaved by a light that he had never seen before, brilliant, blinding, filling all space. Then he hears a call in the distance, breaking the still and quiet that he was growing accustomed to. He hears the call again then realizes that someone is calling his name. He struggles into the light, hearing a voice, the voice, cry, “Lazarus, come out.” He struggles farther into the light until he hears the voice say, “untie him and let him go.” Suddenly Lazarus finds himself free from the bonds of death, free to live again, free of the tomb. How disorienting for him must this have been! Pulled into the light by Christ, pulled into the light of Christ, Lazarus once again walks among the living. I wonder how he approached this new life, surely he was grateful, hopefully he appreciated not only being alive again, but life itself. He must have seen things differently. He must have appreciated the light.
We share much in common with Lazarus, for we too find ourselves shrouded in darkness, a darkness of our own making. We find ourselves entombed by our selfishness. We find ourselves entombed by our sinfulness. We find ourselves entombed by our failure to love. We live in the darkness, a darkness that we have grown accustomed to. We stumble along, shrouded in the dark, not really living. We remain in the tomb of our own construction, a tomb built from our failure to love as God has asked us to love. We hide in that dark sanctuary, fearful of what may be outside. It does not have to be this way. We too, have a chance at a new life, a life more full and more meaningful than we have known before. All we need do is look up, see the blinding flash of light, the brilliance that fills all space. There is no need for fear. Move into the light and hear a voice, the voice, calling to you, “Lazarus, come out.”

Deacon John
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Lent

1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Eph 5:8-14
Jn 9:1-41

Blind, unable to see. Trapped in darkness. How difficult must it be now to be blind, how much more so in the time that Jesus walked the earth. The man born blind that Jesus encountered must have had a difficult life indeed. Not only did he carry the burden of blindness, he carried the presumption by others that he was this way because of some sin. He was born in sin, so God punished him by allowing him to be born blind. He lived in a world of darkness, darkness that other saw as doubly dark, the physical darkness of blindness, and the spiritual darkness of the sin that caused his blindness. Yet through this blind man the works of God would be made manifest to the world. Jesus puts a paste of clay and saliva on his eyes, sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and gives him the gift of sight. This man who lived in darkness suddenly lives in light, light made possible by the grace of the Christ. This change is hard for some to grasp, even unacceptable to some. Some refused to see the light given to this man by Christ, some found it unacceptable. Who was more blind?
Blind, unable to see. Trapped in darkness. That is a fairly good description of you and I. We sin, yet we do not see. We cannot, will not, believe that we are in darkness, we fail to understand that we do indeed live in the dark. Yet there is no reason for us to live in this darkness. The grace of the Christ is for us eye opening. Through Christ we can suddenly see, finding light where once all was dark. We cannot see until we allow the grace of Christ Jesus to touch our lives, to open our eyes, to bring us into the light. Too often we seem to prefer the dark, to prefer the blindness of our sin. We have the ability to see, to cease being blind, if only we accept God’s gift. We could see, but we turn away. Embrace the light, escape the dark, accept the gift of light granted by Christ. Too often we refuse to see the light granted us by Christ. Who could be more blind?

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 2, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent

Gn 12:1-4a
2 Tm 1:8b-10
Mt 17:1-9

To come face to face with the Glory of God. To see God as God is. How awe-full, how frightening. Seeing God as God is, this just isn’t something that we mere mortals are ready for. We simply are not ready to handle such glory, yet. But is that not our ultimate goal? To see God face to face? To see God as God truly is? Some will teach that Heaven is sharing in that beatific vision. Peter, James and John get the opportunity to catch just the merest glimpse of that vision and find themselves terrified, prostrate on the ground. Jesus takes them to the mountain top, and there Jesus is changed, transfigured before their undoubtedly amazed eyes. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. As if all of this weren’t frightening enough, Moses and Elijah appear and speak to the transfigured Christ. To top everything off and really do in our intrepid trio, a bright cloud overshadows them from which comes a voice proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” They fall to the ground, no longer looking at anything, I am sure. Then the Christ touches them, and assures them, rise, and do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Easier said than done, perhaps. But, in all honesty, why should they have been afraid, and why should we? This is our goal, this is what we seek, to be with God, to see God as God is, to see the real glory that is our salvation. Seeing God as God is not reason to fear, but reason to celebrate! This is what we want, it is that we just aren’t quite ready yet. We need first to do what is asked by the voice coming from the cloud, listen to Him, listen to the Christ. Listening, then acting on what we hear, that will make us ready, one day, ready to bask in the transfigured glory of the Christ, ready to see God as God is, and know that we are home.

Deacon John
Second Sunday of Lent
Feb. 17, 2007

Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Sunday of Lent

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19
Mt 4:1-11

Temptation. Today we are presented with two tales of temptation. Today we are presented with two responses to temptation. In the first reading we learn of the existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of all the trees in the garden only the fruit of this tree is not to be eaten. Anything else they wanted was theirs, just not this tree’s fruit. I don’t know how many times you have been told that you can’t do something. Unfortunately our response to that statement is often a defiant decision to do exactly what we have been told not to do. So when our intrepid couple encounters the serpent, they are already at the tree. They failed to do what we used to call in the old days avoiding the occasion of sin. Getting them to take the fruit isn’t a tough sell. That they fail to understand the command given them is demonstrated when the woman replies that they are not to eat of or even touch the fruit of the tree lest they die. They are easily convinced that they will not die, surely! They were ready to jump, with both feet. So they did. You know the rest.
The Christ is led into the wilderness by the Spirit in order to prepare for public ministry through fasting and prayer. At the end of the fast, Jesus was hungry. So the temptations begin. Hungry? Just turn that rock into bread, after all if any one is going to benefit from who you are, why shouldn’t it be you? Jump off that building, God won’t let anything bad happen to you. Just worship me, and all the wealth, all the power, all the things of the world are yours. The temptations escalate, getting harder and harder to resist. Yet resist them Christ does. Not because the Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ has, after all a human nature, as subject to temptation as we are. No, Christ resists because of reliance on the Spirit. The Spirit gives strength, guidance, assistance to Christ as Christ faces these temptations.
Our response to temptation all too often mirrors that of our intrepid couple in the Garden. We didn’t really work hard enough to avoid it in the first place, so when we give in it really isn’t much of as surprise. We have a tendency to want to do the very things we know we shouldn’t. So how can we, weak mortal beings that we are, resist these impulses? Just as the Christ did. We can rely on the Spirit. The same Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness, the same Spirit that aided Christ in resisting temptation, is there for us. It is the same Spirit that dwells in each of us, the same Spirit that we receive in Baptism. It is in the power of the Spirit that we find the power to resist. On our own, maybe we can fight off these impulses, sometimes, occasionally, maybe. It is in the power of the Spirit that we are able to say, “get away,” that we are able to turn from that occasion of sin and walk away.

Deacon John
First Sunday of Lent
Feb. 10, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Jl 2:12-18
2 Cor 5:20—6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We’ve always been taught to look at Lent as a time of penitence, a time of self-denial and sacrifice, designed to make us ready for Easter. There is nothing wrong with that, indeed being aware of and sorry for our sins is something we should do all the time. Being human, however, we have a hard time doing that, keeping something in the forefront of our thoughts all the time is nearly impossible for us. So we have a time like Lent. I want us to look at Lent just a bit differently this year. Beyond being a time of penance I want us to look at Lent as a time of invitation. Lent is a time when we are being invited to recommit ourselves to what we believe in, to turn once again to God with our whole heart. This Ash Wednesday we mark ourselves with dust, a reminder of the times we have been selfish, the times we fail to love. The ashes mark us in the sign of our salvation, the ashes are an invitation for us to embrace that sign, to embrace that salvation. Ash Wednesday invites us to do as the prophet Joel proclaimed, “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart.” This Ash Wednesday, this Lent, seize that invitation and turn to the Lord who waits for your return.

Deacon John
Ash Wednesday
Feb. 6, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zep 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Cor 1:26-31
Mt 5:1-12a

“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth,” cries out the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah calls out to the people to seek justice and humility in so that they may be a remnant left by the Lord, those who were protected on the day of the Lord’s anger. Do no wrong, speak no lies, be humble and be that remnant. Well, all of that is easy to say, yet difficult to do. How does one remain humble? How does one consistently avoid being deceitful? It sounds simple and straightforward, but is it really that simple? If we examine our own lives, honestly, I don’t believe that there is any doubt we would find instances when we failed to be humble, when we were deceitful. Unfortunately, those things seem to come to us all too easily. We need guidance, a map, a way to follow that helps us avoid these pitfalls. We need a way to live. In the Gospel Jesus provides the very map we need. People who mourn, who are meek, who hunger for righteousness, who are merciful, who are clean of heart, who are peacemakers, who are persecuted, all are blessed by God. Should we strive to be all of those things? Of course we should. Will we always succeed? Of course we won’t. That does not mean that we should not try. This is not, however, about rules. It is about living, seeking to live out the love that Christ calls us to live. It is about being working at being humble, working at not being deceitful. It is about being that remnant. It is about seeking the Lord.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 3, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 8:23—9:3
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17
Mt 4:12-17

Darkness. It’s something we live in about half the time. That’s not surprising since it is the way the world is made. The sun rises, the sun sets, so we live part of our lives in darkness. In this part of the world, at least, that averages out over the year to about a 50-50 split, half of the time we spend in darkness. We don’t like that very much, being in the dark. We tell children not to be afraid of the dark, there’s nothing there that isn’t there in the light, but deep inside of us there is something visceral that just doesn’t like being in the dark. That’s why we work so hard at mitigating the dark, coming up with all forms of artificial light, so we won’t be in the dark. We don’t like not being able to see what is around us, not knowing what is there. Yes, we get past our fear of the dark, we know that the sun will come up, that the light will return. There is another kind of darkness that we live in, a darkness that isn’t so easily escaped. Some people live in darkness brought about by illness and disease, physical illness and mental illness. Illness works to draw us into the dark, it chases away our peace, our joy, our happiness. It seeks to put us in darkness and keep us there. Then there is the darkness of sin, the darkness we all live in when we fail to love as we are called to love, when we act selfishly rather than selflessly. When we hate, when we are angry, when we choose to not love, we are pulled into darkness that, on our own, we cannot escape. Yet there is hope. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. The Son had risen, the light of Christ illuminates the world, calling us from the darkness into the light. The Light is comfort for those who suffer, bringing solace and peace. The Light is peace, love, forgiveness for all of us who live in the darkness of sin. This Light, unlike the light of the sun, never sets. The Light of Christ is there for us always, calling us away from the darkness of pain and sin, into the light of peace, comfort, forgiveness, and love. All we need do is heed the call of Christ, come into the Light, the reign of God is at hand.

Deacon John
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jan. 27, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 49:3, 5-6
1 Cor 1:1-3
Jn 1:29-34

John the Baptizer, a voice crying in the wilderness, opening the way for someone he did not know. John wasn’t sure who was coming, he just knew someone was. “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” Many who came to John for Baptism believed that he, John was the Messiah, the one to come. Indeed, there are groups of people in the Middle East to this day who still believe that John is the Messiah. The Baptist, however, knew differently. He knew that he was the one sent to prepare the way, the way for one he did not know, but the one he would recognize. That is why he was able to cry out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus and knew, this is the one, this is the one I have waited for, and then proceeded to tell all who would listen.
Many days in our prayers we make this same cry, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” We say it, but how often do we recognize the Lamb? All too easily we say the words, and all too easily we fail to hear them. To recognize the Lamb of God requires action on our part. First, the painful acknowledgement that there is sin in the world and we a we a big part of it. Second, while it is imperative that we recognize the Lamb, our responsibility does not end there. The sin of the world, that is our responsibility. We are a part of the greed, the lust, the hate, the anger and the violence that is the sin of the world. We hate to admit it, we don’t want to recognize it, but that sin is ours. We have a choice, a choice made clear to us by the Baptizer many years ago. We can wallow in the sin, remaining mired in the depths of depravity, or we can looks up and cry out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Deacon John
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jan. 20, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mt 3:13-17

It’s ridiculous. That’s all it can be, simply ridiculous. The Christ, the Messiah, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word made Flesh, seeks to be baptized by a mere human being. The one through whom all things were made seeks baptism from one who was made. The Messiah seeks a baptism of repentance. Repentance for what? The spotless Lamb has nothing to repent! It seems absolutely ridiculous. Even John looks at the Christ and says, don’t you have this backwards? You should baptize me, not the other way round. But the Christ says to him, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” So John relents and does as Jesus asks. Jesus sought baptism for one reason. Yes Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is divine, but Jesus is also human. Jesus is one of us, like us in every way but sin. So why baptism? To demonstrate to us that Jesus is indeed one of us. God and human. In baptism Jesus takes on our burden in preparation for ministering to the people. Jesus is baptized as he prepares to face temptation, as he prepares to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God. For us baptism is our preparation, our entry into the Body of Christ. Jesus was baptized to show solidarity with us. We are baptized to become one in Christ. At Jesus baptism the Spirit descends like a dove and God says this is my beloved in whom I am well pleased. At our baptism we are recognized as well, as God takes us in making us children of God, one Body, united in Christ. Perhaps then this baptism is not so ridiculous a notion after all.

Deacon John
The Baptism of the Lord
Jan. 13, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6
Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Mt 2:1-12
An obscure Jewish cult. That is, after all what Christianity could well have been, just an obscure Jewish cult, save for the rising of a star. I am not an expert on religions of the Ancient Near East, but the concept of the messiah appears to have been a Jewish concept. A Jewish Messiah, come to the Jewish people. A Messiah come to lead Israel, to establish the place of Israel in the world. The idea did not seem to apply to outsiders, and certainly some of the early followers of the Christ wanted to keep it that way. Conversion to Judaism had to precede, or at least be a part of, following the Christ. Then, there is the story of the Magi, wise ones who come from the east, following a star. This star rose and was seen by them as the sign of the birth of a great ruler, a new ruler of the Jews, but more than that. These Wise Ones, three or three hundred, we really don’t know, come from, somewhere else. They are not Jews, they are Gentiles, yet they come to pay homage to the newborn Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one who comes for all. They come drawn by a star. The Word made flesh is made manifest to the world. Thus Paul says, “It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The Christ has come, the Christ has come for all humanity. That my sisters and brothers, is us, we are humanity, we are the People of God, we are who the Christ came to save. Let us rejoice today in the Word made flesh, made manifest to the world.
An obscure Jewish cult, that is what Christianity could have been, save for the rising of a star.

Deacon John
The Epiphany of the Lord
Jan. 6, 2008