How All Will Know

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily May 19, 2019

“So we continue to celebrate the joy of Easter on this fifth Sunday of Easter and I think the Church is wise to give us a full seven weeks of Easter because we need this extended time to reflect on the Passion, death and resurrection of the Lord on the lessons that he taught, what it means for us, and how that impacts our lives.  We need to spend time basking in the resurrection of Jesus in the glory of his resurrection so that we can absorb all that God wants to communicate to us. Today, we are reminded of the new commandment that Christ gave us the day before he suffered. In our Gospel this weekend we are brought back to the Last Supper when Jesus was gathered with his apostles in the upper room and it was at this gathering that Jesus revealed the distinguishing mark of the Christian.  ‘I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples.’  And this is what attracted some of those early Christians, those who were outside, they would see the Christians, those who call themselves Christians at how they love one another and how they care for one another and how they look out for one another.  You see, being a Christian is more than just being a member of a club, it’s more than being registered at a parish. Being a Christian means being Christ in the world, to be Christ to others, to see Christ in others and to love others as Christ loved. And how did he love?  Well, he loved sacrificially. He loved to the point of laying down his life. He gave his life in order to open the gates of Heaven and win salvation for us. In turn, we are called to imitate Christ in the circumstances of our own lives in the same way, in the same type of sacrificial love and this is especially true when it comes to our vocation.  You know I have an opportunity as a priest to work with a lot of couples who are preparing for marriage. We call it marriage preparation and sometimes I’ll have couples in my office and we’ll be talking and I’ll say, ‘So you must be in love.’ And they’ll kind of look at me, ‘Well yeah Father, of course we’re in love. We’re engaged.’ And I’ll ask them, ‘Well what is love?’ And I get a variety of answers.  ‘Well we have chemistry.’ “Well you know, chemistry can blow up. You put certain chemicals together it can cause an explosion.’ ‘Well you know we have feelings for one another.’ ‘Well okay, but you know feelings can be up and feelings can be down and feelings can be all around. If all you have in feelings, you might be in trouble. How’s this?’ I’ll make this proposal. ‘To love someone, to love your future spouse would be to will the good of that person for his or her sake.  To desire the highest and best thing for that person.’ And I get agreement from that and so I’ll ask them, ‘So what does this mean for you based on that if to love someone is to wish the highest and best thing for them, what is that for you?’ ‘Well, we want to get a house.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘We want to have children.’ ‘Great.’ ‘Provide for one another and our family. Travel places we’ve never been before. Early retirement?’ ‘Okay, what else wat else?’ ‘Well what else is there, Father?’  ‘How about Heaven? If you will the good of your spouse, if you desire the highest and best thing for them, do you desire salvation for him or her? Do you desire Heaven for him or her and are you willing to do whatever it takes to get them there? In other words, will you love your spouse as Christ loves? Are you willing to lay down your life in order to get your spouse to Heaven?’ This is a good question for all married couples to ask themselves. Do you pray with your spouse? Do you pray for your spouse and do you pray, and this isn’t just for married couples, this is really for all of us, do you pray for other people?  You know all throughout scripture we see the importance of prayer. Jesus himself was a man of prayer. We see in James 5:16 ‘Pray for one another that you may be healed.’ St. Paul says in his first letter to Timothy says, ‘First of all, I urge you that prayers be made for all people.’

Today in light of our Gospel is a good day to examine this in our own lives and examine ourselves, am I praying for others?  And if so, am I only praying for my friends and those that I like and those who agree with me or do I pray for those persons who drive me crazy and up the wall and over a clif?  Jesus is very clear. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ He has commanded us to love one another as he loved and part of this love means praying for others and so I want to invite you during Mass today to really be intentional about praying for someone personally.  Maybe it’s a friend or maybe it’s not a friend. Maybe it’s someone you know that needs prayer or maybe it’s someone that you haven’t thought of for a long time and now this person is now in your mind whether it’s during the consecration during the elevation of the host or the chalice or whether it’s after you’ve received our Lord in Holy Communion I want to encourage you to pray for someone very personally and very intentionally.  You see when we do this sort of thing, we take a beautiful step toward loving one another as Christ has loved us.”

New Standard Of Love

Fr. Tom’s Homily May 19, 2019

“This Easter season is one that invites us to a newness of life.  In the second reading today it ends with those words, ‘I make all things new’ and so the Lord wants us to become new people during this Easter season so that we may live our life more fully and find even greater joy and happiness and fulfillment within our lives.  You know if you ask people, ‘What commandments did Jesus give us?’ You know they’ll usually say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Well actually those commandments were not new with Jesus.  They were from the Old Testament, two different places though, but Jesus joined them together and made love of God and love of neighbor so intertwined with each other, but that was not the new commandment Christ gave us. The new commandment there was given at the Last Supper and at the Last Supper Jesus said, ‘Love one another as I love you.’  What Jesus does is give us a new standard for love, a higher standard for love a higher standard for love. It is a love that is self-giving, self-sacrificing. It’s a love that Jesus had expressed to the Apostles there at the Last Supper. The very first thing in John’s account of the Last Supper is that Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. Now washing the feet of guests was the job of the lowest servant of all.  It was the most menial, the most distasteful of tasks there was, but Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and he challenges and he says, ‘As you have seen me do, so also you must do.’ But then even more so, the ultimate sign of Christ’s love, it was his death upon the cross that he was willing to give himself over for our salvation, that total gift of himself and that spirit of love is truly what becomes the new standard for each and every one of us, to love each other in a self-sacrificing, self-giving way.

You know that word love is so common within our society, there’s a lot of things in our culture, there’s music about love and everything, but unfortunately so often it’s treated just as a nice feeling that love is a wonderful feeling that you have and when you have that feeling that then you’re in love and if you don’t have that feeling then you’re not in love.  That’s a huge mistake for love is not primarily a feeling. Infatuation is based upon feelings and infatuation is good and healthy within a relationship and so feelings are very good and positive because they help with emotional bonding, but that’s not love. Love is not an act of the emotions, but rather an act of the will. It is a choice. It is a decision and any of us who have lived a life to any degree know that that is the true meaning of love, that is that choice to will and to work for the good of the other person and that’s what Jesus exemplifies so totally up through his own death and resurrection and it’s the call that all of us have within our own lives to love each other in that spirit.  No matter what our way of life, a celibate, a single, a separated, a married person, a young person, we’re all called to live that commandment to love. It was interesting to me that just about a week or so ago in Time magazine there was an article about self-giving love. It’s about the last place I thought I’d find that article, but I did and it was a reflection on a book that’s coming out on marriage and it really is an interesting presentation because it basically talks about the fact that for most parents, their greatest gift of self-giving love is towards their children and how much they will do for children. Sometimes in meeting with couples in preparation for marriage I say, ‘Once you have children, you’ll really know what love is about because they will bring more out of you than you ever thought you would do.  You do things you never thought you would do, but you’ll do them for children. That’s self-giving, self-sacrificing love, but what this article says is interesting. It says it’s wonderful that parents will do that for their children, but it says the weirdest thing that they do is that they love their children more than their spouses and that is truly a challenge because sometimes it is easier to love the children than it is to love the spouse and we can sometimes devote our lives so much to children because of their neediness, because of how cute and cuddly they are that we fail to realize that the greatest opportunity that we have to even love our children is by loving their other parent that that is the tremendous calling that is there and that people truly need to develop an ever more self-giving love within our adult relationships whether that is within marriage or if that is within our own individual, celibate life, whatever it may be, to truly learn that lesson of love.  It’s a challenging thing for us to do because sometimes it’s easier to love those who need us rather than those with whom we are needed. It’s so easy for us to become preoccupied with those who need to be needed rather than those with whom we need to be needed rather than those with whom we share the task of truly loving in the spirit of Christ Jesus and so we’re all challenged by this new standard of love to love with whole-heartedly, to love with a spirit of genuine sacrifice, to love truly in the spirit of Jesus who gave his life totally for us and so we are called to truly give our lives in service and in love of each other, particularly those who are closest within our lives.”

Prayer for Vocations

Lord Jesus, we ask You to bless our parish life and all those who are living their commitment to You as singles, married couples, sisters, brothers, deacons and priests.

We pray for the young people of our parish that they may know their vocation and respond with enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.

Increase the faith life of our parish and strengthen our family life.

Bless our parish with many vocations to single life, sacramental marriage, religious life and priesthood.

We pray especially for those among us called to service as sisters, brothers, deacons and priests.

May they be responsive to Your invitation to serve Your people.

Grant Lord, that faithfully sharing in Your mission in this life, we may all come together to share Your eternal life in heaven.

Amen

Uncategorized

Pentecost Multicultural Festival

Save the date for the annual Pentecost Multicultural Potluck Lunch and Festival!

Sunday June 9, 2019 1:00pm (Immediately Following 11:45am Mass)
Parish Hall

Foods from various cultures from our very own Parishioners!  With American cuisine, of course, as well.  Peruvian dancers will be performing.  All are welcome and encouraged to join us.

If you’d like to bring a dish, fill out our sign up online, but you are welcome to just come and enjoy!

Signup To Bring A Dish Or Host A Table

Unique And Unrepeatable Messages

Fr. Dan Morris’ Homily May 12, 2019

“Well once again, good evening everyone.  As I said at the beginning of Mass my name is Fr. Dan Morris and I am the vocation director for the Archdiocese.  You know, when Archbishop Naumann invited me into this role a little less than a year ago now I was genuinely excited about it because it’s not hard for me to look back on my time as a seminarian and my time in my first three years of priesthood and see that I’ve always had a heart or a passion for work in vocations, part of which was here at Church of the Ascension as a seminarian for 6 months about 6 years ago when Msgr. Tank asked me if I would help develop a vocations curriculum for then the 7th grade class in Mrs. Reed’s class so I worked with her on that project, but I’ve always had a heart or a passion for helping people, especially young people, find and discover their vocations that is, come to know God’s voice and learn to trust God enough to finally say yes to that.  It’s why I want to take this opportunity to thank Msgr. Tank for inviting me here this weekend to do just that, to talk to you about vocations and not just about vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, no especially during this difficult period of time in our church I think it’s important to take this opportunity to talk about the vocation that each and everyone of us here has as a baptized Christian and I’m referring to our vocation in Jesus Christ to live a life of holiness and to become saints because I’m convinced that if all of us, myself and my brother priests included, focus on and recommit ourselves to this calling, to live our life of faith, to live our life in Jesus Christ every day to the full, to truly put God above all things, then vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, to sacramental married life and to heroic single life, all of those vocations will take care of themselves.

And so with this in mind I want to begin by sharing with you something that I came across as I was preparing to move into this new role as vocations director and it comes from a document given to us by the Church on the importance of each of us answering our own call to holiness and in it there is one idea that continues to strike me in a very deep way and it has to do with the role that each of us are called to play when it comes to our commitment to daily answering this call, so in the section titled, ‘Your Mission in Christ, My Mission Too’ after reminding us that we need to see our entire life as a mission this document makes the following claim.  It says, ‘God the Father’s plan is Jesus Christ and our collective and individual lives in Him. In the end it’s Christ who loves in us for holiness and sanctity is nothing less than charity lived to the full.’ And then it goes on to say this and here’s the line that continues to strike me in a very deep way. It says, ‘Every saint needs to see themselves as a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives as a gift to the world.’ Let that truth and claim on your life settle into your bones for a moment when you think about your own vocation and calling. Every saint, every person here, that means you that means me no matter how young or how old we are, every single one of us IS is message.  Notice how it doesn’t say that every single one of us has a message to communicate from time to time, no every single one of us is always communicating some message for good or for ill and each of us is a unique and unrepeatable message in the history of the world that will never be repeated or created like us again, set apart and called to communicate God’s love in a particular way at each and every moment of our lives and to the extent that we choose not to say yes to communicating this message well then not only do we miss out on the fullness of life that we’ve been created for, but the body of Christ the Church. Think now of your spouse sitting right next to you, your children, your parents, your siblings, your family, your friends, your classmates, your teammates, your co-workers, well they miss out on experiencing that particular communication of Christ’s love as well.  In a word, that’s vocation.  More fully, our calling to share in a unique and unrepeatable way in the life and love of Jesus Christ.

You know when I felt the seeds of this calling in my own life?  Well in hindsight it was already at the age of 5 or 6. So, just a little background I’m not 44 years old, born and raised Catholic in Topeka, KS I’m the youngest of two and it was at my home parish already at the age of 5 or 6 that I can honestly say that I first felt the seeds of this calling.  It was nothing more than finding myself sitting in the first five rows at Mass every Saturday night with my family looking over time at the priest and recognizing at least two things. First, that this man’s life was obviously about something greater than himself. You know I joke with people, any guy who is willing to stand up in front of a bunch of people and put on what basically amounts to a dress week in, week out, that man’s life has to be about something greater than himself and second, that people were looking to him week in and week out for leadership, for guidance, especially when it came to spiritual things.  Now could I say at that young age that I knew then that I wanted to be a Catholic priest? Absolutely not, but I did know at that young age that I wanted to be like him. I wanted my life to be about something greater than myself and I wanted to be a leader. Only later in life and through a series of events would God reveal to me that this desire of mine would find its fulfillment in leading other people to Jesus Christ specifically as a Catholic priest. Well that was around age 5 or 6. Apparently something happened over the course of the next 3-4 years that when I was around the age of 9 or 10 and my aunt asked me if I’d ever thought about being a priest my answer to her was, ‘Nope.  I think I’d rather get a real job.’ I don’t recall this conversation, but everybody in my family certainly does. The reality behind my answer, although I grew up in a family that was devout in practicing our Catholic faith, what I would say I did not grow up in back in the 80’s and 90’s was what I would call a culture of vocation that is one that actually encouraged and taught me how to discern my vocation in Jesus Christ. Parents, when you’re talking to your kids about their future, it’s not enough to ask them what they want to be when they grow up. It’s not even enough to tell them what you think they should be when they grow up, no you’ve got to ask them what they think GOD is calling them to be when they grow up.  First of all, it makes them realize that God is real and they need to be in communication with this God if they’re ever gonna find the answer to that question. Now much like today, the majority of the voices telling me how to live my life and promising me what would make me happy were just like they are for our young people today and for all of us were coming from our culture and from our world, so when it came to sports I played nearly all of them growing up and I was deceptively good enough at them that they consumed most of my energy and time and sadly they became my identity. If you go out to T-Bones stadium this summer for the Pitching with Priests, you’ll see that I haven’t completely let go of that identity. When it came to relationships as I grew older so too did my interest naturally in dating and because of this like so many young people I think I just kind of defaulted into thinking that one day or someday I would marry some beautiful woman and have an amazing family.  Well how easy it is for me now to look back on my life and realize that that was obviously a time that I was delusional. As to what it meant to be an authentic father, husband and man, well let’s just say that I too found myself influenced and formed in a lot of negative ways by the same lies that our world and culture continue to throw at us today and because of this for the longest time like so many men and so many young men I was never really growing up at all nor was I growing in a life of virtue that would free me to say yes to any vocation that God would one day call me to, let alone detach myself enough from the many worldly pleasures and pursuits that I could actually communicate God’s love to another and finally when it came to my faith even though as I said earlier my family was devout and even though I myself never stopped going to Mass even throughout my collegiate years at the end of the day I never really engaged my faith or took ownership of it either. That’s to say that I never really engaged in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Well two really big events happened in my life that would begin to change the direction or lack of direction that I was heading in both of which took place shortly after I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1998 with a degree in Graphic Design.  That first event was my mom’s sudden and unexpected death on the morning of February 11th, 1999 just two months after I had graduated college when she was in a car accident on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Suffice it to say at a time when I was just transitioning into the ‘real world’ her death caused me to step back and ask myself at least two questions: First, what is life all about in general, but second, what is my life and my faith all about specifically in relationship to what my mom’s life and faith had been all about.  As you might imagine through this event I came to realize in a very personal way just how short and how precious life is and second, through my mom’s life and faith just how much one person’s faith lived well holds the power to impact the lives of so many others.  So it kind of makes this weekend beautiful as I share my vocation story, it gives me the opportunity to reflect upon the gift of my mom’s life, faith and vocation and how that continues to impact my vocation even to this day, but also to take this opportunity to thank every woman and mother here both biological and spiritual for the gift of your vocation and the gift of your vocation and the gift of your motherhood.  We know that the women in our lives are often the ones who most devoutly become the heralds of the faith in our family.

You know parents, never underestimate the influence that you hold in the lives of your children.  Trust me when I tell you they’re listening to your every word, they’re watching your every action and for better or worse, there is no replacement for you as primary educators of your children in all things, but especially when it comes to the faith.

Well the second event in my life happened two years later and to this day I describe it as the event which made me realize the eternal importance of my saying yes to my own personal vocation.  So about two years after graduating college I began dating a woman who no more than three weeks into our relationship revealed to me that she was agnostic. Now for those of you who don’t know what it means to be agnostic, it simply means that this person has arrived at a point in their life when they no longer think it is even possible to know whether God exists or not and so they choose to live their life as if God does not exist.  You see this girl had lost her fiance several years earlier just a few months prior to the scheduled date of their wedding when he unexpectedly collapsed and died from a heart attack while playing tennis. Needless to say it was easy to see how this even cause her to lose faith in God. Well after finding out that I had experienced a similar loss in my own life and discovering that losing my mom actually led to a deeper faith in God, one night with a sincere heart as if wanting to be able to believe again herself she turned to me and she asked me the following question.  She simply said, ‘Why do you believe in God?’ That’s a really good question to ask yourself. Young people you have every right on the way home from church today to turn to your parents and say, ‘Mom, Dad, can you answer that question for me? Why do you believe in God’ But then realize that they have every right to turn back to you and say, ‘Well why do you believe in God?’ What would your answer be at this point in your life if someone that you truly cared about who was struggling with their faith came to you with that question? Do you think you would have a good answer?  Well I can tell you from my own experience at least on that night and at that point in my life the answer that I had for this young woman was not and let me jsut say that her question coupled with my inability to answer it convincingly became the lowest and most grace filled moment of my life because I felt like I had let both her and God down. I tell people it was like I wasn’t able to tell her why my best friend, Jesus Christ, was my best friend and of course therein lied the problem. Even though I was going to church on a regular basis and going through the motions of my Catholic faith, it was obvious that what I was doing Monday through Saturday that Jesus Christ was not truly my best friend, so from that moment on the search for an answer to her question became a very personal one to me.  I tell people that in that moment, boom, my life became about something bigger than myself. I can honestly say that my sole motivation became leading her within that relationship no longer to myself, but back to God and Jesus Christ which if you think about it makes perfect sense because that’s what’s going to be at the heart of any and every vocation that God calls us to. Here’s the rude awakening, your vocation is not about you.  Your vocation is about dying to self and rising in Christ in a way that you lead the people that he’s put in your life back to him and ultimately to Heaven.  

So I began reading countless apologetics titles and meeting with my parish priest on a regular basis hoping to find what I thought would be the answer to her next question, but here’s the really cool thing that happened over the course of that search which lasted for the better part of two years, the more I came to learn about the beauty, the depth, the richness and the truth found within our Catholic faith, there soon existed a motivation far outside that hope.  I tell people I went into that friendship seeking a relationship with a woman and I came out of it having fallen in love with and desiring to enter more fully each day into a relationship with both Jesus Christ and His Church and it was through this search which is life long and still very much going on for me today, but I now understood better why I believed why I believe and the rest as they say is HIS story. In hindsight I’m able to see how God used this one encounter as a means to reawaken and deepen my desire to answer a calling that He had placed on my heart already at the age of 5 or 6 and over the next eight years God would use this momentum as a means to help the seed continue to grow and to my understanding and desire to lead people to Jesus Christ specifically as a Catholic priest.  As I continued to study and learn more about my faith, if you’re not already doing this now, sign up for one faith formation program every year here at Church of the Ascension. It’s a six week to ten week commitment, a bible study, a young adult prayer group, whatever that is. As I grew in virtue through a life of prayer and more frequently receiving the sacraments, you know the grace of God is real, but it’s only real for us to the extent that we avail ourselves to that grace. It’s not out of reach to say everyone here should be going to confession at least once a month to remain in right relationship with God and to continue to have the grace to live a life in virtue. As our Gospel reminds us on this Good Shepherd Sunday the voice of Christ is real as well so that means prayer. Jesus Christ’s voice is real, but we have to make and take the time to create the silence within our lives so that we can come to know that voice, hear that voice, trust that voice, and follow it daily in our lives especially in Eucharistic Adoration.  The next thing I did was I surrounded myself or was surrounded by other young adults who were striving to live the same kind of life of holiness. You know I don’t hesitate to tell young people, but really the message could be for all of us, if you’re currently surrounding yourself with people who are not leading you to Jesus Christ, it’s time to get new friends because it’s not a stretch to say that they’re leading you to Hell and as I became more and more involved in the Church by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy until finally in the fall of 2009 I found myself not only free, but now actually wanting to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to enter the seminary and discern a call to the priesthood something that when I was younger because I did not know God because I never trusted God in a way that I was actually open and willing to pursuing His plan for my life I never could imagine would be a life that would make me happy. Well how happy I now am to stand before you four years as a priest and admit how wrong I then was.

So I began reading countless apologetics titles and meeting with my parish priest on a regular basis hoping to find what I thought would be the answer to her next question, but here’s the really cool thing that happened over the course of that search which lasted for the better part of two years, the more I came to learn about the beauty, the depth, the richness and the truth found within our Catholic faith, there soon existed a motivation far outside that hope.  I tell people I went into that friendship seeking a relationship with a woman and I came out of it having fallen in love with and desiring to enter more fully each day into a relationship with both Jesus Christ and His Church and it was through this search which is life long and still very much going on for me today, but I now understood better why I believed why I believe and the rest as they say is HIS story. In hindsight I’m able to see how God used this one encounter as a means to reawaken and deepen my desire to answer a calling that He had placed on my heart already at the age of 5 or 6 and over the next eight years God would use this momentum as a means to help the seed continue to grow and to my understanding and desire to lead people to Jesus Christ specifically as a Catholic priest.  As I continued to study and learn more about my faith, if you’re not already doing this now, sign up for one faith formation program every year here at Church of the Ascension. It’s a six week to ten week commitment, a bible study, a young adult prayer group, whatever that is. As I grew in virtue through a life of prayer and more frequently receiving the sacraments, you know the grace of God is real, but it’s only real for us to the extent that we avail ourselves to that grace. It’s not out of reach to say everyone here should be going to confession at least once a month to remain in right relationship with God and to continue to have the grace to live a life in virtue. As our Gospel reminds us on this Good Shepherd Sunday the voice of Christ is real as well so that means prayer. Jesus Christ’s voice is real, but we have to make and take the time to create the silence within our lives so that we can come to know that voice, hear that voice, trust that voice, and follow it daily in our lives especially in Eucharistic Adoration.  The next thing I did was I surrounded myself or was surrounded by other young adults who were striving to live the same kind of life of holiness. You know I don’t hesitate to tell young people, but really the message could be for all of us, if you’re currently surrounding yourself with people who are not leading you to Jesus Christ, it’s time to get new friends because it’s not a stretch to say that they’re leading you to Hell and as I became more and more involved in the Church by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy until finally in the fall of 2009 I found myself not only free, but now actually wanting to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to enter the seminary and discern a call to the priesthood something that when I was younger because I did not know God because I never trusted God in a way that I was actually open and willing to pursuing His plan for my life I never could imagine would be a life that would make me happy. Well how happy I now am to stand before you four years as a priest and admit how wrong I then was.

You know I mentioned earlier that I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Kansas in 1998 and so for ten years God blessed me with the opportunity to use my gifts and talents as a designer to work on some pretty amazing projects in the context of an albeit short, but pretty amazing career.  My job as a graphic designer was to communicate and tell a story within the context of designing museums, visitor centers, and hall of fames all across the country. The first project that I was blessed to work on was the Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery Alabama and I actually was blessed to meet Rosa Parks at the opening of that museum in 2001.  The last project that I was blessed to work on, as many of you already know, was to be the lead designer for the Kansas City Royals Baseball Hall of Fame out at Kauffman Stadium. Well prior to completing this project I found myself alongside the director to the hall of fame walking around an empty Kauffman Stadium just a few weeks prior to opening day and as we looked around all the renovations and in the words of the Book of Genesis ‘saw that it was all very good’ my attention was quickly drawn to the new scoreboard now located in center field.  For those of you who have been out to a ballgame you know that the top of that new scoreboard was and still is a gold crown. Who wears a crown but a king? So in the silence of that stadium while looking at that scoreboard God placed the following question on my heart. He said, ‘Danny’ because that’s what he calls me as his son, he said ‘who is your king?’ And as he turned my attention to look around at the newly renovated stadium as well as thinking about a lifetime of being able to use those gifts that He himself had given me to work on such projects he said, ‘Is it all of this or is it me?  Will you finally say yes and trust that the life that I have planned for you in leading others to Jesus Christ as a Catholic priest will bring you the greatest fulfillment, happiness, and peace?’ I remember handing in my letter of resignation to the firm I was working for at the time and after thanking them there were only a few lines which read just as this, ‘For the past ten years I’ve been blessed to work on many amazing projects that have allowed me to use my gifts as a graphic designer to communicate many different stories to the world. At this point in my life I truly do not feel like I am changing what God is calling me to do.  I feel God still calling me to use those same talents passions and gifts to tell a story. The only difference, I will now be telling His story, the Gospel story with my whole life God willing as a Catholic priest and ironically that has become and still is my lifelong answer to that young woman’s question then ten years earlier. It’s what the Church calls evangelization, witness to Jesus Christ with the entirety of our lives is the most convincing answer we can ever give to anyone as to what we believe, why we believe and why we continue to put our faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ in His Church especially in the midst of difficult times.  In fact this is what the whole season of Easter that we now find ourselves in is all about. It’s why our first reading all throughout this season of Easter all comes from ACTS of the Apostles. Like Paul and Barnabas in our first reading today, our initial and ever deepening encounter with the risen Christ can not but result in our finally coming to act upon that relationship and become that light and instrument of salvation that our world so desperately needs today.
So, I’ll end with this funny story which means you have to laugh at the end of it, so after my boss who thank God was Catholic read my letter of resignation he slid it back across his desk, he looked up at me and he had this little smile on his face and he simply said, ‘We wish you the best.  We have no counter-offer for that.’ You know we laugh and it’s funny, but he could not have said truer words in that moment because there is no counter-offer that can ever come close to matching the offer and life that Jesus Christ has prepared for both you and me. Brothers and sisters in Christ, especially all the young people gathered here, this is our vocation, this is our calling.  Would that all of us come to see ourselves as the unique and unrepeatable messages that we are in Christ Jesus and together as the Body of Christ to unapologetically go forth to communicate this message to the world by the way that we live our lives each day as saints.  I promise, as your new vocation director, if all of us commit ourselves to doing this, then we will have all the vocations to the priesthood, consecrated religious life, sacramental married life and heroic single life that the Church and the world will ever need.”

The One Condition

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily May 5, 2019

“So it was the year 1798, this was during the French Revolution and Napoleon had taken Pope Pius VI prisoner for refusing to relinquish his power.  Napoleon had a meeting with the Pope and in this meeting he told Pope Pius VI his intention to destroy the Catholic Church. He said this was a goal that he had in mind that he wanted to destroy the Catholic Church.  Holy Father responded, ‘Well how are you gonna do that? The priests have been trying to destroy the Church for over 1,000 years!’ The Church is divinely instituted. If you want any proof, it’s still around. We’re still here.  If we think about it, what country or company or organization is around for 2,000 years? And so we were instituted by Christ at the very beginning when he instituted the Church. We are still around today and we ain’t going anywhere because it is a divinely instituted organization instituted by Jesus Christ himself.

Now in today’s Gospel our risen Lord appears to seven of his disciples on the Sea of Tiberius, but have you ever wondered why Jesus appeared to only a few of his disciples a handful of times after his resurrected?  Why didn’t he make himself more available? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to make multiple appearances to more people in an effort to strengthen this divine institution of his? Well Cardinal John Henry Newman actually commented on this.  He said that, ‘If Jesus had appeared publicly and indiscriminately to all, the power of the resurrection would have been lessened. Some would believe, others wouldn’t. Some would get it, others wouldn’t. Some would be fascinated, others indifferent.  Cardinal Newman went on to say, ‘Instead he chose to appear to a small group of his dedicated disciples who knew him, who loved him, and who understood him confident that they would be effective bearers of his message. Friends, you and I are those disciples today who now eat with him and drink with him after his resurrection at his table of plenty and so we have been called.  We have been called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. It’s also interesting to look at our Gospel today in that John gives us a series of flashbacks to before Jesus’ crucifixion. Today we read that peter and the other apostles are fishing. This is reminiscent of when Jesus called his first apostles to put down their fishing nets in order to follow him.  Today we read that the apostles climbed on to the shore to see Jesus with a charcoal fire. The last time we read about a fire in the Gospel it was Peter who was warming himself by the fire during Jesus’ interrogation after he’d been arrested from the garden of Gethsemane and then finally we have Jesus inviting them to share in this meal of fish and bread, a flashback to Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish in order to feed the 5,000.  What is the author trying to tell us in all this? Why these flashbacks? What’s the point? Remember that there’s nothing in John’s Gospel that is coincidence or there by accident or mistake. Well I think it’s simple. It’s to point out to us that Jesus is faithful. It is an illustration to his fidelity. He was faithful to his disciples before his death and crucifixion and he is faithful to them in the glory of his resurrection and so he continues the same pattern of behavior even though they were not faithful to him.  Even though they messed up, they abandoned him, they denied him, they literally left him for dead. The same thing goes for us as well. He is faithful to us and he doesn’t love us any less when we mess up. His love for us is constant. His love for us is pure and I think this is evident in his conversation with Peter at the end of our Gospel today. Jesus takes Peter aside to talk to him. Now remember their last encounter prior to Jesus’ death Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. Today, Jesus gives Peter a chance to affirm his love and renew the commissioning of Peter as his Vicar.  The one condition for this is love and so he asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Love. this is the one condition for all of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ and note here that Jesus doesn’t criticize Peter.  He doesn’t lay into him. You know, ‘What happened to you? Where were you? Why did you do that in my hour of need?’  He doesn’t say any of this, just simply asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ And Jesus asks us this same question as well and so a point for us to take home is that God loves us even when we mess up.  God loves us even when we mess up royally, even when we fail, even when we turn our back on God through sin he doesn’t give up on us. He doesn’t stop loving us. He continues to pursue us no matter what and he is always, always, ready and willing to forgive us just as he was with those first disciples, those who were called in the very beginning to spread the Good News in those very early first days of Christianity and those of us he calls his disciples today, to spread the Good News of the victory of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.”

Wherever We Are

Fr. Tom’s Homily May 4, 2019

“That rather long Gospel today has so many different messages and symbols within it that remind of us the presence of the risen Lord.  You know, Peter and the disciples were back up in Galilee and they had already experienced the risen Lord, but they didn’t know what it meant and so they went back to what they did know and that was their old job and Peter says, ‘I’m gonna go out and fish.’  And the other Apostles say, ‘Ok well we’ll come fishing with you.’ Of course Simon Peter being the expert fisherman that he is, he catches nothing all night long and then Jesus is there on the shore and he says, ‘Oh put the net on the other side.’ And then they draw in this huge draft of fish and they have to drag it in to shore and when they open it up they have 153 fish.  Now that’s interesting that they put the number there 153. Now you can be sure that the Apostles did not sit there and say 1-2-3-4-5. That was not it. 153 was the number of species of fish that at that time they believed existed in the world and so that 153 fish means that all people would be gathered together into the net of the Kingdom of God that that’s truly what it is about is that great diversity of people being brought into the Kingdom of God and of living in that relationship.  And then Jesus invites them, he already has fish on the coals, but he invites them to bring some of their own and remember the word for fish in Greek also stood for Jesus. Among the early Christians the symbol of the fish was symbolic of Christ and the reason for that in Greek its ichthus and ichthus would be Jesus Christ, Song of God, Savior if you take the first letter of each of those words that spells ichthus and so the fish itself already there is a symbol of Christ and the bread is there reminding us of the Eucharist that its through the Eucharist that Christ reveals himself to the Apostles there and it’s also through the Eucharist that Christ reveals himself to us and then we have that whole story of Peter going back and forth and to be honest with you, the English doesn’t do it justice because in Greek there’s three words for love.  There’s eros or passionate love. There is philos or friendship, brotherly love or there is agape which is self-sacrificing, truly serving love. Now Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you agape me? Do you love me with a self-giving love? And Peter’s response is, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you philos, as a friend.’ I love you as a friend and Jesus asked him again, ‘Do you love me with the love of agape, of truly self-sacrificing love?’ And Peter said, ‘You know Lord, I love you philos, as a friend.’ And then the third time, Jesus says, ‘Ok Peter I will take you where you’re at.’ And so he says to Peter, ‘Do you philos me?’ And Peter says, ‘Yes, I love you as a friend.’ Peter was being very honest there and Jesus accepted Peter where he was at, but then he also goes on and says, ‘Ultimately you will love me with agape love.’ And after the power of the Holy Spirit had come upon Peter he was transformed.  He was made truly a new person through that gift of the Holy Spirit and he loved the Lord with agape love, stood up in front of the Sanhedrin today in the first reading, stood up before the Romans in Rome, gave his life for Christ. He truly learned agape love, but Jesus led him along slowly through that infusion of the Holy Spirit and so we too are challenged. We’ve already been gifted by the Spirit, but Jesus does ask us, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Do I love Jesus just as a friend as somebody that I just kinda like or do I love Jesus agape, self-sacrificing, self-giving? And Jesus takes us wherever we are at, but he just invites us as the final words of the Gospel say today, ‘Follow me.’  If we follow Jesus we will truly discover the fullness of his risen life, the fullness of eternal love.”

We Want Proof

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily April 28, 2019

“For approximately 8 years between 1930 to 1938, Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina, a simple cloistered nun from Poland and he asked her to write down what he said to her.  Jesus told her that he desired that the Church add a feast day to the church calendar and Jesus was very specific about the purpose of this feast day and he was specific about where he wanted it to be placed on the Liturgical calendar.  Listen to the words of Jesus recorded by Faustina. ‘My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the feast of mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open.  I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the font of my mercy. The feast of mercy emerged from my very depths of tenderness. It is my desire that it be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the fount of my mercy.’  On April 30th, 2000 at the canonization of St. Faustina, Pope St. John Paul II declared that this Sunday be known as Divine Mercy Sunday

In today’s Gospel on that evening of the day of the resurrection, Jesus suddenly appears to his apostles.  They are fearfully huddled behind locked doors in the upper room. No doubt they are thinking that the Roman soldiers will next come after them.  They are not feeling peace. They’re full of angst and fear and then they hear those words of mercy, ‘Peace be with you.’ In this Gospel and in the words of St. Faustina, Jesus tells us that we will never experience true peace until it becomes the fount of his own mercy and mercy is not merely an attribute of God for mercy is the essence of God for God is love and mercy is what flows from the font of God’s love.  In our Gospel we read that Thomas refused to believe for he was a skeptic, Doubting Thomas. Unless he probed the nail marks with his fingers and placed his hand into the side where blood and water gushed forth from Jesus, he would not believe. This is exactly what many of us suffer from, this inability to have that genuine faith in God, in His love and in His mercy. Today we are locked in our own private upper room constructed with walls of our angst and our fear and like Thomas, we are not present to hear those soothing words of compassion granting us his peace for we have no room for the grace of God to enter in to us because we are already full, full of ourselves.  What caused Thomas to doubt? Was he more intelligent than his gullible colleagues? Today, the term Doubting Thomas is not really seen as a criticism for we take pride in being from the ‘Show Me State’. We want proof.  We want certainty and wasn’t it just a healthy dose of skepticism that prevented Thomas from acknowledging the truth and the reality of the Lord’s resurrection?  No. Thomas doubted because of his ego and his pride for pride is the root cause of all sinfulness. Pride prevents us from admitting our weaknesses, our mistakes, our shortcomings and we are all like Thomas.  We tell ourselves that we have faith, but we doubt. We’re fickle. In the Gospel we hear that beautiful prayer of exhortation, ‘Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.’ One week after the resurrection again on the first day of the week, Jesus invited Thomas to take on his doubts, to humble himself, to acknowledge that he, Thomas, is a sinner and he invites him to believe.  Thomas was able to confront his sinful pride and acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. Doubting Thomas became St. Thomas. He makes this beautiful profession of faith that’s been recited throughout the millennia, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Today on this second Sunday of Easter, Jesus asks the same thing of you and me. He wants to free us from our anxiety and our fear which leads to doubt and doubt results in cynicism.  He wants to give us his true peace, to respond and Thomas did, we must humble ourselves and acknowledge our sinfulness and trust in his mercy for our world is troubled, our Church is wounded, Bishops and priests have committed grievous sins and we wonder why the Church reacts so slowly. Churches are being bombed. Christians are violently attacked and killed. Non-believers now outnumber believers and many of us are luke-warm.  We allow God’s mercy to pass over our exterior, but we do not allow God’s mercy to enter into our hearts. When his mercy enters into our hearts then we too can become merciful as God is merciful. ‘For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.’”

To Come Around

Fr. Cullen’s Homily From Sunday Morning Mass April 28, 2019

“As we live in this age where a lot of people write everything down on all kinds of instruments, paper, tablets, machines, this that and the other, we’re very locked into what was said.  ‘Where was that written down? What paper is that in? What section? And there’s a time for that, but there’s also a time for oral tradition and just because it’s not written down does not mean it’s not true or doesn’t carry authority.  I can remember when I was young, some of you kids here are pretty young, you start to go out and your parents say, ‘I want you home by ten o’clock.’ Well you look at your watch or your phone and it’s about a quarter to eleven and you say, ‘Oh my God.’  So, you get home and your parents say, ‘It’s after eleven. I told you to be here at ten.’ And you say to your parents, ‘Now where is that written down?’ Written down or not, it carries the same authority and so it is in The Church. A lot of things are written down, but a lot of them are not, but they have the same authority and that’s why The Church and The Bible go hand in hand.  Much like those of us who maybe have written a journal in our lifetime, you write everything down in there and then after awhile you put it in order. ‘Well I thought of this later, but this should come first chronologically and so on.’ And then you get the journal and diary put together and maybe somebody picks it up and reads it. The reason it has authority is because you wrote it.  The reason the Bible has authority, the Church, the Apostles wrote it after God breathed on them the Holy Spirit and just like you didn’t put everything about your life in your diary, so not everything about Christ is in that book. That’s why we need both of them to go together. Some people just pick up the book and run with it. That would be like me picking up your diary and run with it and say, ‘I have everything in that book that I need to know about that person.’  Well, I don’t. I don’t.

So that’s one thing, the second thing, Thomas today.  Today we honor in the Church the feast of the first fallen away Catholic.  Thomas was a fallen away Catholic. We’ve got a lot of them in the Church and our families.  I was one in college, fallen away Catholic where we drift away and we think we can handle it on our own or sometimes it’s because of the scandal or the clergy or the lay people in the Church.  We say, ‘I’m not going to buy into all of that.’ Well whenever we think about it it’s always important to come around and back there is the tabernacle and burning up to the left hand side is the red tabernacle candle.  That has been there for 2,000 years. In the early days, they didn’t have churches, but the tabernacle was in somebody’s home, a prominent person where they would host and house the Blessed Sacrament and so that’s been going on and our dear Lord breathed on the Apostles his authority, his spirit and said he would be with them until the end of time.  So it crossed my mind when I finally came back to the Church in college is ‘Why am I out of the Church and Christ is in the Church?’ I could not explain that. Why? Because of you and me. He loves us. He promises that he would be with us until the end of time and that’s why when you go to Church, the Sacraments, everything you can sense his presence and his love for you and me and what leads up to that and follows away from it is that word that he used in the Gospel story today, ‘My peace I give to you.’  A lot of people in the world have problems. I visit jails, hospitals, nursing homes, people’s homes. I come out and people ask, ‘How ya doin’ Father?’ ‘Fine, I’m doing fine.’ You get some people, they’re unemployed, they’re blind and a lot of times I go there and they’ll say, ‘Father, would you say a prayer for me? Would you remember me in your next Mass or in your Rosary?’ And I think, ‘My God, if there’s someone that should give up, it should be them and they don’t. So that’s why we have all of this and why we read the scriptures today and the week after Easter we celebrate the resurrection because someday they’re going to bury us, put our ashes our body in some kind of container.  People will stand around and cry and do this, that and the other, but then when that’s over, just wait for that voice to come through from our Dear Lord, ‘Harry, Salley, Fred, Mary, get out of that grave and come home to be with me forever.’ That’s worth stayin’ if for no other reason. May our dear Lord bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!”

A Sign Of Hope

“This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Certainly this Easter Sunday is a day of the Lord in a most unique and special way as we celebrate the power of God to bring out of death New Life.  We gathered on Good Friday remembering the power of evil that nailed Jesus to the Cross. We walked with Jesus, we stood at the foot of the cross. We watched as he was placed in the Tomb and we remember that historical fact of Jesus’ death upon the cross and his burial, but today we come to to celebrate the resurrection and it’s interesting that our scripture reading today does not really talk directly about the resurrection.  It talks about the about the fact that when the women went there the stone had been rolled back and they found there was no one there. The body was not there and so they went and told the others and Peter and John came and they too, witnessed the fact that the tomb was empty. The empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. An empty tomb just means there’s no body there. The proof of the resurrection came as those Apostles and the other followers of Jesus experienced Jesus personally that they had a personal encounter with Christ Jesus that they came to know the gift of that Risen Lord.  They experienced the resurrected Christ and it was only when they experienced the resurrected Christ that they knew resurrection themselves. That they knew new life through the power of the Holy spirit. Those 40 days in which Christ appeared to them manifested himself in his risen body but then he sent the Holy Spirit when and it was finally on Pentecost is when the apostles came to a deeper understanding but it was always because of a personal encounter with the risen Christ Jesus. We remember the reality of death. We know that there is death within our world, within our lives. We know the power that there is disintegration.  We know that there is the power of evil that kills not the body but the spirit and we are reminded though that the power of Jesus is one to overcome that of evil to bring about new life, eternal life.
As I was thinking about an image for today’s homily with the resurrection I couldn’t help but think about the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral this past week.  I’m sure we all witnessed at least glimpses of that on television and certainly that was a tragedy for particularly the French people and they mourn that for many different reasons, some because it was the house of God, some because it was a national monument almost a museum or an art gallery, but they mourn the fact of that burning and recognize that there was a need to rebuild but I really as I looked at those images on television I couldn’t help but think of how maybe that is kind of emblematic, symbol of the unfortunate state of faith within the Western Civilization where secularization and where over concern just about the moment about the pleasure of the time has really eclipsed the act of faith, but there is a small and powerful group of remnant among all of those in Western Europe that continues to be a sign of Hope but we know that the collapse of that roof took place partly because of the fire but also because the building had been neglected.  There was rot within the building. There was that disintegration and maybe that’s a reminder of what can happen to faith life, that faith life can become weakened if it is not attended to, that our faith can become very much just a passing thing of a day or two rather than really permeating our lives, but it is only if our faith is strong, if it is nurtured will it be able to sustain itself in the midst of the perils in the midst of the problems of our life.  One of the things that was interesting to me was that the walls are still standing as well as the main bell towers, but inside the church there was a statue of the Blessed Mother a piera, holding the dead body of Christ and right behind was a large gold crucifix, a reminder of Jesus’ suffering but also his resurrection. What a beautiful symbol that those survived in the midst of that terrible destruction and Fire. To me, glimmers of hope. Hope not just for the rebuilding of that church but hope for rebuilding of faith because it truly is the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that will bring about new faith, new life, new vitality for Christ enters into the ashes of life in order to bring forth his resurrection and it’s the same within our lives.  It’s the same within our church. I’m convinced that the unfortunate things within our church the devastation that we have seen because of the abuse of power and the abuse of others yes, it’s terrible in itself and must be rejected totally but I also believe that Jesus will use that also as the moment of grace to bring about deeper spirituality deeper commitment deeper relationship in a greater life in Christ Jesus and Jesus wants to enter into our own personal lives where we experience disaster where we experience disintegration where we experience all the conflicts that accompany us in life to allow Jesus in because Jesus will transform. He will bring about new life. It’s only though for us if we encountered the risen Christ ourselves that we will truly come to faith.  Each of us needs to have that deep awareness of Christ living today. We don’t come today just to celebrate a historical fact yes, it’s a historical fact, Jesus rose from the dead but we come to celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive today and that we can encounter Christ today and the power of his resurrection, the power of his eternal life and that we are called to encounter him in so many ways in other people, in his word, in baptism but I would also say most of in the eucharist that every Eucharist is an experience of the Risen Christ yes, it is the body of Christ given over it’s the blood of Christ poured out but in every Eucharist it is to glorify Christ it is the Christ living in glory who becomes present on our altar, who comes into our own body as he shares with us his very self and so we are called to truly experience the resurrection of the Lord not just to celebrated it as a remembrance but as a reality for our life today.  Many of you know that is one of my favorite dialogues around the Resurrection comes from the Eastern Church where the one person says ‘Christ is risen’, ‘Christ is truly risen!’ is the response. Christ is risen. That’s the reality that’s the historical fact. Yes, Christ rose from the dead. The apostles, others experienced him and he transformed their lives. Christ is truly risen means that Christ is risen in my life that I have experienced the risen Lord Jesus that I know the power of the Resurrection that I know the power of forgiveness and of healing and of growing in new life that I truly experience the Risen Christ. That is the call for each and every one of us to open our mind our heart in faith to allow in the risen Christ Christ. Yes, Christ is risen and hopefully we can say, ‘Christ is truly risen in my life and in yours.’ Alleluia!”