I Trust You Lord – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily July 27, 2019

“There was a young boy who lived in the South and on one summer day he was by the Mississippi river and he picked up some stones and threw it into the river and he looked down a number of yards on the river’s edge and he saw a dock and on this dock there was an old man who was sitting, so the young boy goes down to talk to the old guy and the young guy has so many questions that he asked this old man, ‘Where did the river begin?  Where will it end? How deep is it? How wide is it? How many fish are in it? What kind of fish?’ And so on and the old man tried to keep up with the young lad and answer his questions as patiently and as best as he could, but their conversation was interrupted by the shrill whistle of the River Queen, a paddle boat that was going down river to New Orleans and the boy saw the boat and he started jumping and saying, ‘I wanna ride!  I wanna ride!’ The old man tried to calm him down, but he the boy kept yelling, ‘I want to ride!’ The old man kept saying to him, ‘You know you can’t ride, I’m sorry. It’s going down to New Orleans. You shouldn’t go there.’ And so on and the old man was amazed when the boat turned toward the dock and after docking put down the gangplank and the young boy scampered up the gangplank, but before he enters the boat he turns to the old man and says, ‘I knew that this boat would stop for me because the captain is my father.’

Jesus teaches that God is our Father and God is someone that we can trust.  The word he uses for Father in Aramaic which is the language that Jesus spoke was ‘Abba and many of you know that that is the very familiar sense, the family sense, the intimate sense of the word.  In English it would probably be better translated ‘papa’ or even ‘daddy’ invoking this trust, this love, this intimacy that happens in families. That’s how we should relate to our father. Our Father in Heaven is not some distant intangible, unapproachable being, but he loves us more than we love ourselves and you know, that’s the hardest thing to believe in.  I think it’s the hardest thing to believe how much we are loved, but that is the whole story of our redemption. Christ came to show us and to demonstrate that love. Jesus uses a parable in our Gospel today to underscore this and he talks about a man who has settled down for the evening with his family. Now we’re talking first century Palestine and those homes for most people because most people were very poor were just one room dwellings, so everything happened in that one room.  You ate, you bathed, you slept, everything happened in that one room dwelling and of course there was no electricity, no lights, so when the sun went down, everybody went to bed and that included all the kids. It included perhaps the family dog, perhaps a couple of chickens as well. So anyway around midnight, this neighbor comes pounding on the door and the guy says, ‘Ssshh! What do you want?’ He says, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived and I have nothing to feed him.’ And you know, hospitality in that culture was so very important and he says, ‘Please give him some bread.  I’ll at least give him that.’ And the man says, ‘You know, we’re all in bed. I don’t want to disturb anybody. Sorry, come back tomorrow.’ But the guy pleads with him and finally the household is awakening and the dog is barking and the chickens are crowing and the kids are getting restless. So the man says, ‘Okay, okay, I’m here. Here’s some bread. Go give it to your friend.’

So what is Jesus teaching us about God here?  Is God like that man who is badgered into giving his friend something?  You know, some of the parables of Jesus about God are not how God is like, but how God is not like and this is one of them in a sense that God is not badgered into giving us things.  It may seem like it sometimes, but that’s not true. He loves us and he won’t give us stuff that’s going to hurt us. He’s going to give us something that is going to help us. Now it may not be exactly what we ask for, but it will be better, it will be better, so we have to trust in God is Jesus’ teaching, trust in our loving Father who’s always with us.

Now also in this Gospel reading we note that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘My Father’ doesn’t say ‘Give ME my daily bread, forgive me MY trespasses’, it’s always plural, ‘forgive us our trespasses, give us our daily bread, OUR Father’.  So when we speak to God, we always keep in mind the community of which we are a part. We are the body of Christ and when we ask for our needs to be met, we should think of the needs of our neighbor. Sometimes those needs are greater than our own, so God is our loving father.  He is more like the man in the story who is carefully protecting his family, doesn’t want them disturbed, wants to keep them at peace, wants to keep them and help him. That’s the way our God is, so we need to trust in God in the good times and in the bad times and the good times and the bad times come to all of us.  Especially trust him in the bad times. It’s hard to do that sometimes. Believe me, I’m an expert in the bad times and I know that trusting in God is our salvation. It is our redemption. Trusting in God is our future happiness. I think when the bad times come, we have a choice to make. We can live in fear, fear of the future or we can live in trust, trust in God and pray to him with affection, with love and with trust.

I have a little prayer, a short prayer that I’d like to share with you today.  I entitled this prayer, ‘I Trust You Lord’.

Loving Father be with me
When things get out of hand
When I hurt so terribly with pain
I cannot stand

Worry, sometimes fills up my life
And my eyes with tears
Be my strength, my hope, my God
And remove all my fears

To live in fear is such a shame
To think that you’re not here
My faith is lacking in your love
When faith gives way to fear

Oh my God, I trust in you
Help me trust you more
Be with me when things go wrong
I trust you, oh my Lord”

Live More Purposefully – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily July 21, 2019

“Not too many years ago a high school was having parent teacher conferences and it happened that this one father came in to visit with the teacher and as they were sitting there talking he became very emotional and just anxious and then he admitted, he said ‘You know I’m very interested in my son and how he’s doing in school, but the fact is my wife and my four kids left me this afternoon.’  And then he broke down further and as he sat there he said really a sad thing. He said, ‘You know I worked so hard for all the things that I could dream I could give me wife and my children. I’m a building contractor. I work 16 hours a day and it’s all because I wanted to give them so much, but I’m a failure because I failed to give them what they really needed, things that money would never buy: The presence of a father, the love and the support that a husband should be.’  He recognized the challenge and obviously it is so easy for us to have misplaced priorities within our lives. It is so easy for us to get so tied up in the day in and day out to fail to realize, what is it really all about? We are so busy living that sometimes we don’t think about the purpose of life itself. We are so busy providing that sometimes we are not sure about what we should really provide. That is a real challenge and I think that’s the challenge that Martha had in the Gospel today.  Martha was very very concerned about Jesus having a wonderful meal. She wanted a fantastic meal for Jesus, but she didn’t realize that Jesus didn’t come for a free meal, he came to be with friends and that’s what Mary realized is that Jesus wanted to spend time with her and with the other ones and that’s what Mary did as she sat there at the feet of Jesus.

Probably most of us are Martha’s.  We’re more about activity. We’re more about doing things, accomplishing things, of being successful in whatever our undertakings might be, but we also have that Mary side that needs to balance out the Martha.  I think maybe years ago that was more easily done within families than it is today. I was thinking about when I was a teenager if Jesus had been coming to our house, the first thing would have been that my mother would have gone into her Martha overdrive.  She would have had the house cleaned, she would have had the china out, the silver polished. She would have had everything taken care of. She was a true Martha, but also she would have made sure that while Jesus was there that he wasn’t just well fed, but that he was well loved, to take time for people, to take time.  She taught us kids to be more aware of people, of trying to know where they’re coming from and what they’re about and no, that’s not always easy, but the Martha and the Mary balance is so very important and I think probably it was easier for people of my parents generation and maybe even my own generation than it is for families today.  I really in a sense feel some sorrow for families today. There are so many expectations that are out there. There are so many demands. There are so many activities. There’s so much being pulled in this way and that way and expectations are there and they really can cause us to lose a sense of what’s our real priorities? What is this really about?  What type of family life do we have? What choices and decisions do we need to make as a family to be the family we want to be rather than living up to the expectations of our friends or others?

Recently I heard about some parents who were castigated by some other parents because they missed their child’s ballgame.  Gosh, what a terrible sin that was. How stupid, but there are so many pressures, there’s so many expectations and I think it’s really hard to balance out our life and to keep priorotities in line to keep things in perspective of what is really important and lasting and what is temporary.  What is the stuff of life and what is the stuff truly of love? They can be very much two different things.

I remember hearing the story about a young man who was in the service in the second World War.  He was stationed in Saipan and they had some R&R time there and so he and some of his buddies they went out and they went swimming in this one kind of secluded place, that it was beautiful crystal-clear water and you’d walk up to the water he said you’d look down and you could see ten-twelve feet right down to the bottom, but he said when we got in and started swimming around and everything, suddenly all the sand and the dirt and everything came up and the water became very clouded, so you could only see about a foot down, but he said then next day we’d come back and again, crystal-clear, everything could be seen very very clearly and the fact is our minds are a lot like that agitated water.  We have so many things going through our minds, we have so many distractions, we have so many concerns and worries that we begin to lose focus, to lose the clarity that we really need to have within our life of what our life is truly about and what is most important of all and in those cases I think we need to do what Mary did, to take time to be quiet at the feet of Jesus, to take time for the Lord, to take time away from all the business and all the activities and to spend time with the Lord and certainly as Catholics we have many ways of doing that and Sunday Mass is one of those, but it’s in a sense only minimal because we need more personal quiet time and maybe it’s praying the daily Rosary or maybe it is Eucharistic Adoration.  I really wish that every family in this Parish would come to Eucharistic Adoration and yes, someday we will have a larger Eucharist Adoration chapel. Can’t tell you when, but we will have one, but to take time, even if it’s only fifteen minutes to take fifteen, thirty minutes, an hour to spend time in the presence of the Lord, face to face with the Lord who is there 24/7 to share with us in our life, to journey with us, to help us to see greater clarity in what our life and purpose it truly is.

Another thing, and this is a very simple prayer.  It’s for people who maybe have kinda lost that sense of personal prayer within their life, but it’s just a simple thing that will take you three minutes.  Now that is less time than you spend watching TV ads for fifteen minutes of programming. Three minutes and the first minute you take a look at your day and this is an examination of conscious for the night, you take a look at that day and you say, ‘What was good?  What was the high point today? What really was a good time that I had today?’ And to say, ‘Thank you Lord.’ To share that with the Lord. Then the second minute is to take a look at the day and say, ‘Where was the low point of the day? Where was it that I really wasn’t my best self?  Where was it that gossiped about someone or I hurt someone or I yelled at the kids or I talked back to my parents?’ What was the low point of the day and then to talk about that with the Lord and to ask the Lord’s forgiveness and healing and then thirdly to think about tomorrow. What grace, what strength do I need for tomorrow?  What do I need to have from God in order to live this life more purposefully and more beautifully and to take that last moment then to pray for one particular grace or strength or help. Three minutes, but it can transform our life. It can bring us to a much deeper relationship with Christ Jesus. We are all called to develop that Mary that is within us.  We all have that draw to listen to the Lord to go to the deeper part of our life, to live more purposefully, to live with a greater sense of clarity and to realize yes, what are the things that money can buy, but more importantly, what are the things that money can’t buy that I most need to give to those I love?”

The Better Part – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Fr. Charles’ Homily July 21, 2019

“One of the themes of our scripture reading today is the them of hospitality and we see in the first reading from the book of Genesis how Abraham receives three strangers as his guest and he provides for them really rich hospitality, gives them a wonderful banquet and meets all of their needs.  Now the book of Genesis wants us to recognize these three strangers not as just ordinary people, but these three strangers are really God himself, God himself visiting Abraham and Sarah in their tent. Now this may be a foreshadowing for us of the teaching of the Trinity that will come later in Jesus’ life where there are really three persons and one God, but it’s also a teaching that when we provide hospitality to anyone particularly to strangers than we are providing service to our God.

Now this theme of hospitality is taken up in the Gospel, the familiar story of Martha and Mary and Jesus and Martha of course is burdened with many many things.  Well after all, Jesus didn’t come alone, he had twelve friends with him too and they can eat a lot and so Martha had a lot to do, so who blames her when she goes to Jesus and asks, ‘Will you tell my sister to help me?  She’s just sitting there doing nothing!’ And Jesus says, ‘Martha, Martha, though you have many worries and many different concerns, but only one thing is really important and Mary has chosen the better part. It shall not be taken from her.’  Now I think most women particularly, but men too who read this think Jesus was a little unfair, but he wasn’t. What he is wanting to say is that in our lives there needs to be a balance, a balance between useful service and activity, but also contemplation that it’s so important that we have this spiritual dimension in our lives otherwise our activities lose their meaning.  And so, what is this spiritual dimension? The first step in becoming a disciple of Jesus is to be open to the word of God, to listen to that word, to take that word in, to make it a part of our hearts, part of our lives, to grow in our study of the scriptures, to grow in our understanding and to making them personal. If you listen to the word of God and don’t take it personally, if you listen to the word of God and don’t see yourself in those scriptures, you’re missing the point.  They were written for you, not just for 2,000 years ago and the people then, they were written for today, for you and for me and I think this Gospel in a particular way has a meaning for modern society because we are so busy, we have so many irons in the fire. We can’t juggle as many places as we used to, but what is Jesus doing? He’s calling us to an open heart, to see that we can grow in our personal relationship with him. A couple of ways of doing it:

  1. Spending a little more time in personal prayer making sure that we have at least some time that we give to God alone in our day, 
  2. to spend a little time reading the scriptures, maybe the scripture for the day, maybe with a commentary to help us understand. 
  3. Maybe going to the Blessed Sacrament chapel and sitting before the Blessed Sacrament or coming into the Church here, the Eucharist is always present in the Tabernacle and the Church is open all day long.

There are many ways for us to grow in the spirit of contemplation that is so important for our lives.  There’s a story about an explorer in the United States who went down to Brazil and he organized an expedition with guides and porters to carry all their stuff, their scientific equipment that they needed and they took off into the jungle and they made really good progress the first day and then the second day they got up, took off into the jungle.  Great progress the second day, but the third day the explorer came out of his tent and everybody was sitting on their haunches. Nobody was getting ready for that day’s journey and so he called one of the guides over that spoke English and he said, “What’s wrong? Why are these porters not getting ready for today’s journey?’ And the guide said, ‘Oh something terrible, terribly wrong.  Our people will not move an inch today until their souls catch up with their bodies.’ My friends that might be good advice for you and me, not to do much until our souls catch up with our bodies.

I have a little prayer I’d like to share with you.  I entitled this prayer, The Better Part.

The better part O Jesus Lord
Is to sit down at your feet
To listen closer within my heart
To your words so true and deep

I am so busy with many things
I have a cluttered soul
With many concerns and many works
But I’m empty, make me whole

Help me focus on you O Lord
Giving you my full attention 
Spending a little time with you
Bring peace to all my tension

Instead of running all the time
Stop me, slow me down
So I may find you in my life
And by You that I be found

Show me what’s important Lord
What’s worthy of my heart
What is real and what is good
Grant me the better part”

Human Do-ers or Beings? – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet’s Homily July 20, 2019

“What are we?  Are we human do-ers or are we human beings? We identify ourselves by what we do or how we can do it or if we can do it or not and I think that comes into play of, even in today’s world with artificial intelligence or even with machines and the development of technology that people worry about what will happen.  There’s been many movies where it shows the machines taking over the world, that they can do it better than we can and maybe they can do tasks better than we can. Our lives are shifting and it will start to shift in these next 10-20 years that jobs will change, but will we change? Does it affect who we are because we aren’t doing it anymore or because a machine can do it better than we can?  So are we human do-ers or human beings?

In today’s Gospel it’s the story about Martha and Mary, about Jesus coming before them and in that culture it is right that both the sisters should prepare for their guest, so Martha isn’t doing anything wrong, but when she says to Jesus, ‘Tell my sister to come help me’ and Jesus says, ‘She has chosen the better half and it will not be taken from her.’  That’s not saying that one is better than the other. You know, they’re both needed, us spending time in silence with the Lord, but also doing things. But Jesus is saying that the most important thing should be our relationship with Christ, should be being with him and that satisfaction of that relationship, so I ask you again, are you more satisfied by what you do or who you are?  Are you more fulfilled by what you do, or who you are? The Lord is telling us that relationship is most important, our relationship with our spouse, our family, the people we serve, but especially Christ. Once we lose the relationship, then what we do really doesn’t matter. In our Catholic Church is always faith and works and it talks about that, that faith and works, works by what we do, but faith without works isn’t really faith at all and works without faith is the same, but the thing is, is our relationship with Christ should really stimulate all of that, that our relationship with Christ, our faith, who we are, should move us to the things we do and how we treat others and how we pray.  If it doesn’t move us or do anything than maybe look at that, maybe work on your faith. What does the Lord move you to do in your life? Sit with him. 

My challenge for you is just to sit with the Lord and try not to do so much.  Often times the hardest things to do is just to sit in silence before the Lord.  I’ve found it easier to busy ourselves with the prayers and I’m not saying the prayers aren’t good, but again it should be rooted in our relationship with God.  So is your life rooted in your relationship with God, are you a human doer, or are you a human being? God calls us as human beings to be with Him for eternity, so as you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before us, let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and courage to be with him, to sit with him and if we can’t, then bring those struggles to him so that he can lift that burden from our hearts.  Amen.”

That’s Everyone – Fr. Anthony Williams

Fr. Anthony Williams’ Homily July 14, 2019

“Without law, laws rather in one sense civil law we would have chaos, but rising one step above that we enter into divine law which brings about a sense of peace and order in God’s universe and often times that divine law in our humanity is ascertained, discovered, understood and sought after with reason, lucidity, rationality and there with the mind and the heart operating together, we can discern moral truths that keep us in right relationship with God and with one another and so we need laws to help provide order.  In the book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah we have the emphasis and certainly with Deuteronomy as well and Leviticus that’s why those are the five books of the law what God ask of us as the chosen people: to love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul is God’s desire for humanity, human beings and that’s what Genesis and the other five books have passed on to the rest of the human race, Jewish, Christian and so on to provide order in relationships, but to do so we are aware that God is a jealous God and wants the whole heart and because we are human, what distinguishes us from the animal Kingdom or those species in the animal kingdom, the lower animal Kingdom is our ability to reason and to reflect back on who we are and why we are here.  The animals can not do that. They are guided by instinct which removes them from having to make those kinds of rational decisions because they don’t have the faculties. That sets us apart from them and that’s why in the New Testament our Lord said, ‘with your whole heart, mind and strength’ and so the Shemah, ‘here O Israel the Lord our God is Lord alone’ that is the greatest of the commandments which the young lawyer knew and of course our Lord himself a Jew as with every Jew prayed that prayer every day and so we have a connection here between what is in the New Testament and what is in the Old Testament, the law, Deuteronomy, so there is that connection. Our Lord did not come to break the commandments, but to fulfill them. He’s a rabbi and he is a Jew and so we hear this today and perhaps we must look more closely at the parable of what’s going on between the lawyer and Jesus and the question, ‘What is the greatest commandment?’ but then the second part comes from the book of Leviticus, chapter 19 ‘and love your neighbor’ and here is where the lawyer asks the question, ‘Well who then is my neighbor?’  The first thought would be that the neighbor is the one next door, geographically near you, one house away, two houses away or three for that matter on the same block or maybe the same classmate in the same school or maybe where you work, those are your neighbors, but 3,000 miles away, 2,000 miles away, those are strangers. They are not my neighbor. I don’t love them. How could I love those whom I don’t know and we get into that line of thinking when we look at the lawyer who’s searching and seeking and now being challenged and so our Lord, always one step ahead, shares the story of the Good Samaritan who stopped. The priest on the other side of the road kept going. The Levite on the other side of the road kept going, but the Samaritan stopped, went over to him, touched him, put him on his own beast after he had poured on wine, oil to nurture the wounds. Took him to the Inn and offered to pay more if more was due. That’s an act of kindness, an act of charity, but before getting to the heart of the matter, the statement needs to be made that somehow in the old testament is the mention of an alien in an alien land and we know that Abraham was an immigrant from the land of Ur to Cana, buried his wife at Bak pala, land which he bought from the hitites, but he was an alien and yet they lived okay in peace and I metion that because we have problems in our world today with immigrants wether they are documented or undocumented there are problems.  There are attitudes. There are feelings. There are emotions, some entrenched, some out of anger, some out of greed. Whatever the reason and I’m not judging I’m just saying that’s the reality that my reason and rationality tells me that our faith is trying to move us beyond that entrenchment, that hardness of heart and remember that anger is one of the seven capital sins. It’s deadly and it’s lethal. One of the examinations of conscience I did, of course we priests go to reconciliation often too, and it had in quotation marks ‘anger with zeal can become dangerous’. So when the mere word undomcumented or the word immigrant becomes concrete in conversation it arouses all of this in the background and so what do we do with all of that? Do we carry it around? Do we ignore it? Are we to remain silent? Let somebody else speak up and take care of it? Maybe that moment in which we find ourselves is the moment to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God and maybe that is exactly what the Samaritan did who was not Jewish, who was regarded as unclean, but yet who helped the stranger, the victim, the one who was suffering? The question is asked, ‘and who is my neighbor?’ to the lawyer and the lawyer didn’t even say the Samaritan because he responded with compassion. He didn’t acknowledge his race, he simply said, ‘The one who responded with compassion.’ And then our Lord Jesus said, ‘Well then you go and do the same.’

There was a statement that was made in one of the documentaries that I was listening to several years ago on Judaism and the profound statement which I often share when we get into the understanding of what compassion is and it was said in a profound way, ‘It’s not Jewish if it’s not compassion.’  And we see that in our Lord’s response to the lawyer and the activity performed by the Samaritan and then that becomes I think a prophetic invitation to us today. ‘Who is my neighbor? Who is my neighbor?’ And reading between the lines in that parable, it’s not the one who lives next door to you in a geographical sense of the term or in the apartment or in the same college or speaks the same language or class or whatever it might be.  It’s the one who acts in right conduct towards the other wherever that other wherever that person may be in the world and that conduct can be defined by compassion. When the nails went into our Lord’s hands on the cross, he uttered a plea of forgiveness with compassion, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ And many times we don’t know what we do, but we hope someone else is praying for us. Forgive them for they know not what they do and that opens the door into our heart which God wants for that love to come in and bring about a sense of order and reconciliation and reunification and forgiveness and letting go so that we can be compassionate people.  So who is my neighbor? Everyone I am called to conduct myself with compassion. That’s Everyone.  If the Father loves them, then we must be compassionate, so may we go and do the same.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Final Judgement – Dcn. John Stanley

Deacon John Stanley’s Homily July 14, 2019

“We are all familiar with this beautiful parable.  The term Good Samaritan has even become popular in the culture.  We all love to read and hear about inspiring and heroic stories. Allow me to tell you about a Good Samaritan.  As many of you know, I am involved in prison ministry. It began about 8 years ago at the invitation of my uncle, who is a retired teacher and football coach.  I accompanied him to visit a former student who was in prison in Missouri. Scott has given me permission to tell this story and use his name. Scott, in prison, has experienced the healing graces of Jesus.  He has turned his life around and this has not gone unnoticed by the prison authorities and a few years back, Scott was asked if he would accept a cellmate who was handicapped. He had special needs. This inmate was elderly and had developed a condition where he could not use his upper extremities.  He needed assistance in eating, in dressing, in bathing, in all aspects of personal hygiene. Scott gladly welcomed him and took good care of him. Scott told me that he never felt closer to God than when he had the privilege of helping this man, let’s call him Joe. One day, Joe became weak and short of breath and Scott eventually was able to convince the guards that Joe needed to go to the infirmary for Joe had a heart and a lung condition and he was actually near death.  Scott asked and amazingly received permission to visit him in the infirmary. This type of permission of an inmate visiting another inmate in a prison was strictly forbidden. Scott told me that when Joe looked up and saw him at his bedside he said, ‘What are you doing?’ And Scott said, ‘Well I came to visit you.’ And Joe looked at him maybe a little suspiciously and said, ‘Why?’ And Scott replied, ‘Because I love you.’ Joe had likely never heard those words before and this old, hardened, grizzled, inmate would later die in prison and he began to cry.

Now, let’s turn to this beloved Gospel reading.  In response to this scholar of the law, this lawyer’s question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus tells the story of this unlikely hero, this despised Samaritan, today I would like us to reflect on this parable from perhaps a different perspective, through a different lens for when we read and take in the scriptures prayerfully, the Saints instruct us to practice this technique of placing ourselves into the scene in which we are reading and when we think of this parable, I think we like to identify ourselves with that Good Samaritan, but today I would like us all to contemplate ourselves as the victim who was beaten and left for dead, for that is who we are.  We are all sinners, we are all created in the image of God, but through the sin of Adam we have fallen and just like the victim we are wounded and unable to help ourselves. We hear of this priest and Levite that passed by, but it is the Samaritan, this hated outcast of the Jews, he comes along and sees the victim left for dead and he is moved with compassion. He stoops down, he cleanses the wounds with oil and wine. He bandages him and he places him on his beast of burden and takes him to the Inn for recovery. Jesus Christ is the Samaritan. God who humbled himself to be born of a woman, who suffered and died a terrible death, he stoops down from the cross and saves us.  It is Jesus Christ who pours oil on us in baptism and confirmation and it is through the bread and wine that becomes the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that we will receive in a matter of minutes that saves our souls from death and gives us eternal life for like the good Samaritan, Jesus was hated and despised by the Jewish leaders and this is the same Jesus who bandages our wounds and heals us and saves us through the sacraments. And what about this Inn where the Samaritan takes the half-dead victim. We are in it. It is the Church. Pope Francis called the Church the ‘field hospital for sinners.’ The Samaritan pays the innkeeper to care for the victim. Jesus paid the price for all of us.  He redeemed us and ransomed us from sin by his blood on the cross.

Now I would like to return to my friend, Scott.  Did he receive anything for this act of compassion for bringing in this handicapped person?  One would think that it would be a good thing to set before the parole board when it comes to Scott’s eventual release from prison, but you see Scott committed a heinous crime some thirty years ago.  He is serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole, at least in this world in this mortal life. Scott will have his parole hearing, it’s known as the final judgement. Brothers and sisters we are all sinners.  Without the redeeming blood of Jesus shed on the cross for the redemption of our sins, we would all have a sentence of life without death without the possibility of parole, but Jesus Christ has paid the price of our salvation and opened the gates of prison for our eternal life.  It is not the priest or Levite who are neighbor to the Samaritan, this unlikely neighbor. Did you notice that the story really does not end? Jesus tells the lawyer who answers correctly about who his neighbor is, Jesus tells him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Who is our neighbor? We will all be called to answer that question at our own final parole hearing in the final judgement.”

Sharing These Graces – Fr. Jared Loehr

Fr. Jared Loehr’s Homily July 13, 2019

“It’s a huge joy for me to see all of your faces and to be able to celebrate this Mass for you after twelve years of formation and a lot of adventures on the way, so thank you for being here and bringing it to fulfillment in a certain way and also kicking off the adventure in another way.

The normal colors would be green, but I am wearing white because this was the chasuble that I wore at my first Mass in Rome, so I’m trying to bring a little piece of Rome to Kansas here and the other little bonus I’m bringing from Rome is I asked the Vatican for a special plenary indulgence so everybody here if you receive communion, confession, pray for the Pope and reject sin in your life, then you can either have your time in Purgatory or someone who has passed away, a loved one there, it’s like a get out of jail free pass, so you’ve got one of those.  Don’t waste it. Think of somebody and offer it up. It’s a special bonus just to be here.

So the big question I’ve been pondering these days and preparing for these words is looking at the parable of the Samaritan.  It’s a great buzz word, ‘Oh a Samaritan, be a Good Samaritan!’ But I think the real core question in the whole story and that weaves through my life as well is ‘Am I lovable?  Can I be loved?’ The flip side as well is ‘Am I able to let myself be loved?’ Because we can create more obstacles for anybody even God to love us and so that’s a reality that if we don’t get into that, that lovability, then everything else is kind of circumstance like, ‘oh why am I suffering this, or why did it happen to me?’  So, the story of the Good Samaritan begins with this man, right? This person going down toward the sin of Jericho. Jericho was not a virtuous place and so he was looking and in one sense he must have given up on happiness where he was and he was looking for a quick fix and a cheap imitation of the deep vastness of the desires that our hearts can only be satisfied in infinite love, so he’s looking for those little gimmicks going down to Jericho and on the way these robbers, they beat him up and they prevent him from getting all the way to Jericho and it’s interesting, I call it the rock bottom principal like when we hit the rock bottom we realize that we can’t dig any deeper that we have to look up we have to see, hey there must be something bigger, bigger than all of this and so it took this guy who was totally beat up, left for dead, no clothes, no anything and it was in that moment that he was vulnerable enough to be helped by an enemy, right?  The Samaritans were not good buddies with the Jewish people and so we can tie that in a way to God that God can seem like an enemy and maybe it’s our own past or different circumstances, maybe it’s something we’ve suffered, maybe a loved one whose passed away, some abuse, some suffering, something that we can’t forgive others or to forgive ourselves, so there’s a lot of things that can be those robbers along the way. Many things can destroy that relationship, so that’s what we’re called to, to have that moment and that opportunity to look toward someone to help us. So it’s when this guy is down and out that he’s able to accept love and another interesting thing about this Samaritan is that he doesn’t just pick him up, carry him along, fix him up himself, he entrusts him to another. He uses an instrument in others so that he doesn’t impose. I heard this great phrase from Pope Benedict. He said that, ‘God doesn’t impose, He always proposes.’ So he doesn’t want to get in our face and rub it in you know, ‘Hey what were you doing going down to Jericho?  What were you up to?’ He doesn’t impose himself on us and so the question in our own lives is, ‘Who are those people, those instruments that have helped to pick us up and to be that face of God for us when things are tough? So, that’s a challenge: to let ourselves be loved, to not accept the lie that we’re not worth it, that we’re not lovable, or that God gave up on us or forgot about us, so that’s when we have to get rid of those little securities, the things that try to ‘okay maybe I’m not lovable, but I’m going to at least have these little tiny hopes’ and that’s not what we’re made for. When I look back and I look at each of you, helping me to be who I am today I think about all of those little messengers, those instruments of God’s love to be able to help see his face and also to know who I am and help me to be who I am.

So in this moment during that Mass we can pray about, maybe identify more with the robber?  Maybe I’ve been hurting others or maybe I could be one of those passers by walking along, rubbernecking at the suffering of others?  Maybe I could be one of those or maybe I’m that guy there that is just beat up and kinda lost, looking for a cheap fix, an imitation happiness or maybe I’m being challenged to go out and to reach out to someone who wouldn’t on face value be lovable or be someone that I’m attracted to help out with all of that bad blood of the past?  Which character might I be in that story? It’s pretty powerful to be able to get into those moments.

So really, that feels like the mission that I’ve been given now as a priest, I keep thinking of it like a giant hot potato that if I hold onto it I’ll get burned because it’s too much for myself so I gotta try to pass it around and share as much as possible and also to be creative because certain people pass it in certain ways, so the priesthood feels like a giant gift in that way that’s not for myself, it’s for others and that’s what I hope to share in this mission that I’ve received, this huge opportunity to be able to keep sharing these graces  and so I ask for your prayers that I can be faithful unto death and as well that we all pray for each other that we can either accept God’s love, realize we’re lovable and also be willing to be that instrument to be able to show his face to all those who are walking wounded who are suffering in our lives that we pass on our way to eternity.”

Love Is Excessive – Fr. Nicholas Ashmore

Fr. Nicholas Ashmore’s Homily July 13, 2019

“I left home when I was 18 and entered Seminary immediately at that age and so I would only come back home once or twice a year and at that my week long trips were generally filled with trips with my friends, coffee with acquaintances, dinners with other people and so I would often feel like I would go home to see my family and yet I didn’t actually get to spend much time with them, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t feel loved because every morning on that first day back I’d wake up, rub the sand out of my eyes, walk down to the kitchen and open the fridge and there it was, a container of Greek yogurt.  Now my mom doesn’t like Greek yogurt, but she knows that I do and so this was her little way on that first morning back of making an extra gesture to say, ‘I love you Nicholas. I’m glad you’re back.’ Was it necessary? No, she was going to feed me throughout the whole week. I wasn’t starving. No, she was going to spend time with me occasionally, but it was that little extra that her love moved her to make. One could say it was the two extra coins of her love.

In our Gospel today we see the parable that is so familiar to us, the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Now this Samaritan should impress each and every one of us because seeing this man he goes out of his way and has incredible mercy upon him.  He spends time with him. He heals and pours oil and wine over his wounds. He is with him in his suffering. That is incredible in and of itself and nobody would say that by that point when he had brought him to the inn and spent time with him that he hadn’t done enough.  The Good Samaritan by that point probably could feel pretty good about himself. ‘I’d done what the Lord asked me to do.’ Yet there was something extra that love moved him to do. Something within him knew that merely caring for this other man whom he didn’t know was not nearly enough.  He would also give him two extra coins and these two extra coins were totally unnecessary. All justice had been fulfilled. These were two extra coins of love and why does love demand two extra coins? Well simple, because love is excessive.  Consider that with me for a moment.  Consider a young man about ready to propose to his fiance.  Now he’s looking through the ring catalog and does he want some little tiny diamond stud that someone can barely see if they squint at it just right?  No, he wants the biggest baddest ring he can get? Or think about a daughter who is making a Christmas gift for her parents. Does she just two or three extra little dots of glitter on it?  Oh no, every parent knows that she wants to pour the whole bottle. Why? Because she wants to make it pretty for mommy and daddy? Or consider and Grandpa who is taking his children out for ice cream.  Does he make them only get the little tiny kiddie cone? No, he lets them get a big one! Why? Because his love is excessive and this is true on the natural level, but it’s also true on the divine level.  Think about this for a moment, God the Father loves Jesus Christ, God the Son so much and Jesus, the Son, loves God the Father so much that from this love, this bond of union between the two comes forth, proceeds we say in theology, a third person, the Holy Spirit.  Why? Not because of justice, but because of love. Love is excessive and their love is so excessive, their love is so complete that from that union comes forth life and this is true also in the act of redemption for when we were like the man left on the side of the road, ravaged by original sin, kicked down, hit, left bruised and bloody by the snare of the evil one, what did Jesus do?  Jesus came down and took human form and if that wasn’t enough he went into his mother’s womb and if that wasn’t enough he was born in a stable and if that wasn’t enough he lived obediently to his parents for thirty years. That itself would be sufficient, right? Everybody would say at that point that God had done enough, but God’s love is excessive for each and every one of us and so he went and died on the cross for each and every one of our sins.  God’s love gave the two extra coins and because of that we are here today.

This is a call for each and every Christian.  We are called to have excessive love. We are called to first of all, as it says in the first part of the Gospel, to love God excessively which means to do more than what is expected of us.  ‘Yeah the Church requires that we go to Mass every week, go to confession every year…lots of other things…fasts, give, provide for the Church’s needs, but we should want to do so much more for God.  We should want to spend time with him in prayer. We should want to spend time with him in sacred scripture, pray the Rosary as a family, whatever it may be. Why? Because our love for God should be excessive and further we’re also called to love our neighbor in an excessive way.  We shouldn’t only just put up with them, but also genuinely love them in their need. When they’re difficult to bear with, do we choose to just turn our shoulder or do we turn towards them and look them in the eye and show them your excessive love? Does the world see the excessive love of Christians or does it see a community that’s sufficient, a community that does enough?  My brothers and sisters, the Gospel today preaches to us that we ought to have an excessive love and we do that by the little things. We do that by giving our two extra coins whatever that may be, whatever that day, each one of us knows what that two extra coins, if we give that little extra we will fall in love with God even more and we will discover the path to eternal life that that man who wished to justify himself was seeking.  We will find Jesus in every moment of our day.”

Tensions Of Our Hearts – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily July 7, 2019

“Who am I and what am I here to do?  Who am I and what am I here to do? You know, those are two questions that were posed to me when I was in high school, but they’re really two fundamental questions that we all ask ourselves throughout our lives.  Who am I and what am I here to do?

As Christians, we are all called to Evangelize to share our faith with others and today in the Gospel, Christ is sending out the 72 in pairs to go out in the wilderness, to go out in their lives to share the Gospel to share their lives with others, but that can be difficult, can’t it?  It can be scary. There’s a lot of unknowns there. Where will I go? What will I say? What will I run into? But the key there isn’t first that we have to find out what we need, but who we are. First always comes identity, who we are. The culture tells us that you find your identity in what you do.  Haven’t you heard the phrase, ‘I’m gonna go try to find myself. Maybe in college or maybe I’ll travel the world to try to find myself.’ As if finding yourself, you can do it outside of yourself, but as Christians, really it’s the other way around. First, you find your identity and through that foundation you will find your mission.  It will flow from your very identity, so who are you and what are you here to do?

My name is Fr. Viet Nguyen and I am the new associate here, so you know that I am a priest and my mission here is to help serve the people here at Ascension, but let me tell you a little bit about myself.  Often times when I start my story of my faith I always talk about the years in the 1950’s and no, that’s not when I was alive even though people say that Asians age very well…not that well! But you know, in the 1950’s that’s when my grandparents were in Vietnam.  They were actually in the north of Vietnam, but in the late 1950’s was when the Communists came to really persecute the Christians in the north. Many were killed, but many fled, fled south to South Vietnam and that’s when the country was split in two, the Communist North and the Democratic South kind of like what Korea is right now and then April 30th, 1975 was the fall of Saigon, the end of the Vietnam war and that’s when my parents fled Vietnam.  They were refugees from the war and I always wondered, how could you just pick up and leave? We really have no concept of what that might be, but my parents always told me that they left with nothing but their family and their faith in God that everything would be okay and so they got on a boat and left and in some sense the rest is history.

I was born here in Kansas City, MO at Menorah Hospital.  I grew up at Cure of Ars Parish from 3 year old preschool through 8th grade and then Rockhurst High School from 2004-2008 and so in some ways I’m a homegrown vocation really here, but then I left for college, but really I ran away.  You know we often leave expecting to come back but I say I ran away because I didn’t really expect to come back to Kansas City to live. I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago and that’s really where I found my faith. It was challenged, my very identity, but also my faith and I found my vocation there at that Newman Center.  After that I entered Seminary in 2012, but as I said I ran away from home, so I didn’t start studying for the Archdiocese of Kansas, but I started studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago. After my first year in Seminary, I asked the Archdiocese to send me to Vietnam to continue learning how to read and write, so they sent me there for the summer for three months.  But you know it’s interesting, when I got there to that country, a country I had never been before, a country I’ve only heard about in stories and pictures and movies, but when I landed in Vietnam it felt like home, the sounds, the smells, the language, the food, the people, it all felt like home, so familiar and for the first time in my life I had to really think about how I was raised it started to make sense.  I started to get a glimpse about how my parents raised me or why they did. I started to understand my parents just a little bit better and for that reason I decided to switch diocese and come back home to my family, but you know, it was always a struggle of identity. That’s why I left. All my life it was always, ‘Am I Vietnamese or am I American?’ You see my parents always told me that one culture is not better than another and you have an opportunity as a first generation to really take the best of both cultures and make it your own, but didn’t really give me a handbook for that so the struggle there of identity was very real.  At some time in my life I appreciated being more Vietnamese than American and I hated the other and vice versa, but most of my time in America I was more proud to be Vietnamese because I appreciated the values of the Asian culture of family and respect for your elders, but then I came into a contradiction. When I was in Vietnam, I was proud to be American. I realized that I was very much an American and I appreciated the values of the American culture, the individual. So there was always this tension, this tension in my heart, but really it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was in Jarusalem where I really I guess found the answer to this longing of who am I?  I met this Vietnamese priest in Jarusalem. He was a scripture scholar there and he was about 75, so he was of my grandparents generation. He was in prison after the war and then he came to Rome to study so he was very much Vietnamese, but he knew the Western culture very well and it was the first time in my life where I could fully express myself to someone my grandparents generation. So I had a conversation with him and really asked him many questions, but the key one was, how do I reconcile this tension in my life of who I am? Am I Vietnamese or am I American? And you know what he told me was very simple. It was almost obvious, but it was true. He said, ‘You don’t find your identity in your culture or what you do, you find your identity in your faith.  You find your identity in Christ Jesus.’ He says that, ‘The beautiful thing about the Christian faith is that it doesn’t come into a culture and destroy it and replace it’, but he says that, ‘the Christian faith can go into any culture and go into it and help purify it from the inside out.’ And so he told me, ‘Your identity lies solely as a child of God and anything else is really secondary to that.’ It made so much sense and that’s when I had peace in my heart I guess to continue on in my vocation, but the question doesn’t just lie with me, it lies in all of us. Who are you and what are you here to do? If I were to ask you who you are, what would you say? Would you identify yourself by your job and what you do? Maybe you identify yourself by what sport you play or hobby you have.  Maybe you identify yourself by your sexual orientation or your gender, but who are you? Because it’s really a fundamental question that will always get tested in your life. You see, our identity should be the foundation of who we are and then through that, you figure out what you are called to do and what you want to do, but if you don’t answer the first question, the difficulties will always come and they will and they will eat away at yourself, your very identity, so who are you and what are you here to do?

You see in the Gospel today, Jesus calls the 72 to go out and evangelize to preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand and so it is, but so it is with all of us.  We are to do the same, but he calls us in pairs for the very reason that it will be difficult, but at least there’s someone there with you in the difficulties to remind you who you are in those difficult times.  Maybe that’s why in marriage there’s two of you, but also in the Gospel he tells us to leave your moneybags, no moneybags, no extra sandals, no sack cloth for the very reason that he doesn’t want us to find things outside of us to rely on those things, but to rely solely on our very identity as children of God, to rely on our relationship our faith in Him.  That’s why he calls us to leave all those things, so who are you and what are you here to do? As you come to receive the Eucharist today where Christ is truly present before you, let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and courage to ask these hard questions to bring the struggles the pains, the very tensions of our hearts to Him to help purify our hearts so that one day we can rely on the very foundation that we are children of God, Amen.

Freedom of Religion – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily June 30, 2019

“Those scripture readings that we have this evening are certainly challenging ones and it’s important to put those within the context.  It’s a question about decisively following the Lord. It says that Jesus was on his way to Jarusalem, but Jarusalem was certainly a physical place, but more importantly it says Jesus was on his way to his Passion, his death, his resurrection and ascension and so it really refers to that final journey of Jesus that Paschal Mystery and so Jesus as he’s on his way there encounters those individuals who say, ‘No I’ll follow you.’  And Jesus said, ‘You gotta know the price of following me and it’s also that you’ve got to be decisive in this.’ And you know it’s almost extreme is what it said there, ‘Let me bury my Father.’ I mean that’s a very human thing. Of course there’s a question of whether the father was even dead yet, but nevertheless it was that decisive following that was so important because Jesus is there on his way to his Passion, death, resurrection and ascension and therefore it is that call for us to realize that there needs to be some decisiveness in our willingness to follow Christ and sometimes that will be at a price that may seem contradictory that may seem extravagant and yet nevertheless may be the price of fidelity and so there is that challenge that is given that we need to be decisive about our faith in living that faith out in fidelity of life.

In the second reading today, St. Paul reminds us about the fact of freedom and he says, ‘make sure you use your freedom well for Christ truly died in order that you may be free.’  And obviously the freedom that was spoken about that was not freedom from the Romans even though that’s the primary freedom that many of the Jews wanted but rather it was a freedom from the oppression of sin and even a freedom from the Mosaic Law and the burden of the Mosaic Law and Paul proclaims that freedom that comes to us in Christ Jesus that we have that freedom of the Spirit by which we truly are delivered from sin and we can live that whole new life of Grace and that calls us to use our freedom well.  St. Paul warns there ‘Yes you’re no longer subject to the Mosaic Law, but don’t misuse your freedom as license.’ And that’s always the problem with regard to freedom. We think freedom means to do whatever I want to do and that’s what freedom is about. Well that really is not freedom and that type of abuse of freedom ultimately leads to another slavery and even to addictions and to so much negativity in life and so we are called to use our freedom well to make good choices to use our freedom to a noble and to enhance to truly fulfill that law of love is what St. Paul is reminding us to do and obviously this week as we reflect upon freedom, it’s important for us as a nation to think about our own freedoms as a country.  This Thursday we celebrate July fourth, Independence Day. We celebrate the freedoms that we have as a nation and how important those freedoms are to us and how those have been acquired for us as a gift from God, but also at the sacrifice of many individuals who have made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms that we experience today. It’s a reminder first of all to be appreciative of all of the blessings that our nation has, but I would also venture to say that it’s important for us not to take those freedoms for granted, not to think that those things are so secure that we will never have the danger of losing those freedoms and I particularly refer to the freedom of religion which is in the very first part of the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion and how important and fundamental that is that we have no establishment of a religion and we have the freedom to live out our religion without interference unless it is oppressive and unjust towards others and so we are challenged in so many ways today.

You know, when the First Amendment was implemented along with the other 9 amendments in the Bill of Rights it was really to protect the people, to protect the religion from the state because at that time the civil governments were very used to established religions.  They had their established churches and as established churches they had a certain power and influence over the whole of society and that’s what was rejected when it said that there would be no establishment of a church within this nation and how important that is and that has been a benefit for us no question about it and then it goes on and says, ‘Nor should there be any law to hinder the free practice of religion.’  And so, that amendment was really there to protect the church and individuals from the state, but now in the last 75 years, we’ve seen that almost turned upside down where there is a lot of talk out there that that amendment is really about freeing the state from any influence of religion that it is to negate religion in terms of the public sector and that’s not what it was about. There’s no wall of separation between church and state that is referred to in the Bill of Rights.  That was only written in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Christian community in Connecticut because they were afraid that they were going to establish the Episcopal Church as the national church for the United States and Thomas Jefferson in that letter wrote back and said no way will that happen because through the Bill of Rights there is that wall of separation between church and state, but that was never part of our constitution or the Amendments and it was only engaged legally in the 1940’s in a Supreme Court decision, but ever since then there’s been that over-emphasis not just on separation of church and state, but separation of religion and state and that’s a whole different thing and we need to be clear about that.  They’ll even refer today about we have freedom of worship. Freedom of worship means that we can come together in this church in order to live our faith and certainly that is a value in itself, but freedom of religion is much broader than freedom of worship. It means that we can live our public life according to our faith. We can live and bring our faith into the daily dealings and into our public life and service. In fact, that was assumed by our founding fathers who said that, ‘Our rights came not from the state or the will of the majority, but rather from the will of God.’ That’s the Declaration of Independence and how important that is because it’s very significant. Where do our rights come from? What are they founded on?  We as a nation were very unique in saying that our rights are not given by the government and our rights are not given by the majority opinion, but rather our rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness come from almighty God and the real danger is the more we remove God from public discourse, the more we remove any recognition of religion as having any influence within our public society, what then becomes the foundation for our rights? They become completely eroded so that there is no foundation other than the will of the government or the will of the majority and that is a tremendous danger for us as we see this erosion of this right of freedom of religion.  I say this not to alarm you, but just to recognize that this is part of the battle that is going on right now.  There’s a real movement towards secularism within our culture, our society and that movement is not just about keeping church in its place which we need to keep church in its place, but rather it’s the move to remove God to remove religious values from our public life and our public discourse and that will really be to our detriment, that may ultimately lead to our downfall because once we no longer have rights given to us from above, then any right can be changed by the will of the powerful.  That’s a challenge and so as we celebrate the 4th of July this week we celebrate the gift of our freedom and how important it is that we appreciate the freedom that we have, but it also is a call for us to defend our rights to defend our freedoms to not allow them to be eroded, but rather that they may be built up to the good of all of us, to the good of our nation for those are the principles upon which we were founded and those are the principles that give us a solid foundation as a nation. We all have the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.  We are endowed with those rights by the gift of our creator.