Starting Today – Fr. Michael Guastello

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 30, 2019

“So the Devil calls this meeting of some of his top advisers.  Business is kind of bad down there. There are too many souls that are getting into Heaven and so he wants to brainstorm some ideas about what they should do about it and so one of the demons stands up and says, ‘Well let’s tell the people that there’s no Heaven and that they need to get as much enjoyment and pleasure out of life as possible right now.’  And the Devil says, ‘No, we’ve been using that line for thousands of years now and statistically people still believe in an afterlife. They still believe in Heaven and there really are still too many people who are reading scripture and so they won’t buy that one.’ Another demon steps up and says, ‘Well let’s tell the people that there’s no Hell that everyone is just magically forgiven at the time of death and that there are no consequences to doing evil in the world.’  And the Devil says, ‘No, we’ve tried that one too, especially with some of the dictatorships and regimes of the twentieth century and it worked to some degree, but in some respects it really back fired on us, you know there were a lot of Saints that rose up during that time like Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein.  No, we need something that is more broad and appealing.’  Another demon steps up and says, ‘Well let’s tell the people there’s no hurry that they have plenty of time to change their lives that there’s no hurry to get to Mass this weekend that they can always go to Mass next weekend that there’s always tomorrow to get serious about their own conversion and that they’ll never run out of tomorrows.’  And the Devil smiled and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’

This is a lie that the Devil tries to sell to us that we will never run out of time that we will always have tomorrow that we don’t need to work on growing holiness today or grow in virtue today or get rid of that favorite little sin of ours today.  We can always start to work on all this stuff tomorrow that there will always be tomorrow and maybe there won’t and this is what Jesus is getting at in our Gospel today. His remarks to these would be follows seem a bit cold and callous at first glance I mean these folks just seem as if they want to bury their dead and say goodbye to their families and there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but Jesus sees beyond what they’re telling him.  ‘Well Lord let me just go bury my Father first and then I’ll follow you.’ ‘Let me just say goodbye to my family and then I’ll come follow you.’ What they’re really saying is, ‘Jesus I want to follow you, but later. I want to do this first. I want to do that first and then I’ll come follow you.’ To what Jesus responds in essence, ‘That’s not gonna work. That’s not going to cut it. If you want to follow me, if you really want to be my disciple, the time to start is now, today, not tomorrow, not next week, not after you’ve taken care of this thing or that thing, the time is now.’  And so Jesus is telling these would be followers and us that there will come a time when we will run out of tomorrows when we will run out of time. When a person is young it seems like tomorrows are never ending. When we’re young we can get this false sense that we are immortal even though we know intellectually that this isn’t the case, but we can still act and behave as though we are never going to die, but as we get older we experience more aches and pains, we become more aware that this is not the case and we get more of a sense of our own mortality. Jesus knew that his days were numbered so much so that he predicts it several times in the Gospels.  It was his suffering and cross that he knew were coming, but he also knew that this would lead him to eternal glory with his Father in Heaven. Of course Jesus never says anywhere in scripture that if we follow him we will avoid suffering. He doesn’t say, ‘Follow me and your life will be pain free. Follow me for an easy road, no it’s quite the opposite.’ In fact, he predicts that his followers will suffer, will be persecuted and he exhorts us to take up our cross and follow him because by following him he will help us to handle our suffering more gracefully and graciously.  
To know God, to love God, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with him in the next sums up the purpose of our lives.  Each and every one of us today is called to conversion now. That is to say we are called to imitate our Lord more closely with each passing day of our lives.  It is a lifelong process to be sure and it is a process that all of us are hopefully eager to work toward starting today.”

The Sacrifice of Calvary – Fr. Michael Guastello

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 23, 2019

“Since the sixth Sunday of Easter the Church has given us a variety of feasts and solemnities to celebrate for the Sunday Liturgies.  Four weeks ago you’ll recall that we celebrate the Ascension, the namesake of our parish, followed by Pentecost where the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the Church.  Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and this Sunday we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. I think that the Church is wise to give us these as opportunities to pray and reflect on these themes of our Catholic faith.  The words corpus christi translated from the Latin means, ‘the body of Christ’ or ‘the body of the anointed one’ of course when we think of the Body of Christ we think of the Eucharist.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the body of Christ, the Eucharist, is the source, center and summit of the Church’s life. It is the sacrament in and through which all of the other sacraments flow.  St. Thomas Aquinas said that, ‘Though all the sacraments contain the power of Jesus, only the Eucharist contains Jesus himself.’ When we receive the Eucharist we receive the whole Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity becoming thereby conformed to him in a very real way.  The word eucharist means thanksgiving and it comes from the word eukharistia which is a Greek verb which means to give thanks.  What is the only acceptable thanksgiving to the Father absolutely speaking?  The sacrifice of the Son, the sacrifice of Calvary. Jesus Christ offers his body to the Father as a sacrifice to atone for all sin from the original sin to all the sins of the world and Jesus did this for one reason: redemption.  Now when we hear the word redemption we often associate it with a type of a commercial transaction. We can redeem shares of stock, or we can redeem airline miles things like that, but Jesus came not to redeem stock or airline miles, but for us, to redeem us, to purchase our freedom from sin, Satan, and death and he did it by the sacrifice of his body and blood.  At the heart of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Calvary.  The sacrifice of Calvary is where all the spiritual power in the universe lies, the power for forgiveness of sins, the power for forgiveness of sins, the power of reconciliation of humankind to God, the power of eternal life.

Our Gospel today is a familiar story to many of us where Jesus takes five loaves and two fish and he multiplies them in order to feed 5,000 of his followers.  Now just to be clear, just so that we are all on the same page here, this was a miracle that happened. It was an event and Jesus multiplied loaves and fish for his followers.  It is true. Now there are some who will try to say, ‘Well it’s not so much about a miracle, this story of the feeding of 5,000, but it’s really Jesus teaching his disciples how to share.’  This is not correct. This is an inaccurate theological position. The multiplication of the loaves and fish was real and it was a true miracle and it was affected by Jesus Christ who was God and it is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist itself.  Listen to what Luke says here, (Jesus) ‘He took the loaves and fish, said the blessing, broke them, and gave them to his disciples.’ Does this language sound familiar to anyone? These are the words that the priest prays as part of the prayer of consecration.  We say, ‘He took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples.’ Friends this is not a coincidence. This is very intentional. This event that we read about in our Gospel today really prefigures the first Mass that was the Last Supper.  It was at the last supper that Jesus instituted the sacrament of his body and blood. On the night before he died Jesus celebrate the passover feast with his apostles and instituted the Holy Eucharist. The same body and blood that the apostles received at that Last Supper is the same body and blood that we will receive here at this Mass in about 20 minutes or so.  Think about that for just a moment. Let that reality sink in, that the body and blood of our Lord that we receive at Holy Communion every time we attend Mass is the same body and blood that the apostles received 2,000 years ago. Now I’m going to attempt to explain how this is possible. I’m going to try to explain our Catholic theology behind this. Every Mass that is celebrated throughout the world is a commemoration of the Last Supper which was in essence the first Mass and like I said at that Mass Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist.  Now the Eucharist is bonded to what we call the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, death & resurrection of Christ and our theology is that the Paschal Mystery is an event that happened outside of time and space. Now it is an event that happened in history for sure, but it exists eternally. It exists outside of time and space. What this means for us is that whenever we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass, we don’t repeat the sacrifice. Christ died once for all and so we don’t recreate the sacrifice, we enter into it and make it present. You see at Mass during the consecration time stands aside and we are at the Last Supper.  We are on Calvary. Now you might ask, ‘Well how is this possible? How does the Eucharist which is tied to the Paschal Mystery exist outside of time and space? Well you have to remember that Jesus was a divine person and in his divinity he was not constrained by time and space. As human persons, we live, we move, we operate in and through time and space, but Jesus was a divine person and while he had a divine nature he also had a human nature and in his human nature Jesus moved and lived and operated in time and space, but in his divine nature he was not limited to time and space. In his divine nature he could operate outside of time and space and so it was through his divine nature that Jesus instituted the Eucharist and it is Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit who uses the priest as his instrument to affect the Holy Eucharist at Mass.  Now a follow up question might be, well how could Jesus offer the sacrifice of the Mass on Holy Thursday when the sacrifice didn’t take place until the next day? And again the answer is the same. Jesus who was a divine person not constrained by time and space had the ability to reach into the future and make the sacrifice present on Holy Thursday even though the sacrifice would not take place until the next day. Most Catholics don’t know this. Most Catholics have not ever heard this and I believe if Catholics knew this, if we could just interiorize it, Catholics would never miss Mass on Sunday and those who have left our beautiful Catholic faith would have never left knowing the beauty that we have in this miracle that we have in the Holy Eucharist.

St. John Vianney said that, ‘If the priest really knew what he was doing when he elevated the host and chalice at Mass he would just die.’  And I think he’s right. I do. I shared this quote with Fr. Tom to which he said to me, ‘Well you know you’re not dead yet.’ And that’s true I’m not.  I’m not dead yet, but I reminded him that he’s not dead yet either, but I think that that’s true and you know sometimes I think about that when I’m elevating the host or chalice during the consecration.  I should be dead if I really knew what I was doing. A number of people have asked me what it is I am doing and what kind of prayers that I’m saying when I elevate the host and chalice during the consecration.  Well I want to start by saying this: when we attend Mass, when you attend Mass on Sunday, the elevation of the host and chalice is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of your week. I can say that with 100% certainty and without any fear of error.  The elevation of the host and chalice during the consecration is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of your week. Period. Exclamation point and so what I’m doing during the consecration as I’m elevating the host and chalice, first of all I’m offering up the Mass intention for the Mass because as you all know every Mass has a specific Mass intention.  I’m offering up the petitions that are read from the pulpit. I’m offering up my own personal intentions. I’m offering up all the prayers and petitions of everyone who is present at that particular Mass. Now hopefully this is something that all of you are doing and it’s something that I encourage you to do, offer your prayer and petitions, whatever they are whatever is on your heart during the elevation of the host and chalice, but for those who are not, I’m doing it for them and so I want to encourage you to do that, to offer your prayers and petitions at the time of consecration at the elevation of the host and chalice.  If you remember nothing else from this homily here this afternoon please remember this, for those of us who attend Mass on Sundays it is the most spiritually efficacious and powerful moment of the week and the Church has given us this beautiful feast, the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord to ponder this great mystery, to pray about it, to reflect on this miracle that has been given to us by Jesus Christ the gift of his body and blood to nourish us, to let us know that he is with us so that we may be with him one day in Heaven for all eternity.”

The Greatest Mystery – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily June 23, 2019

“Today we celebrate this wonderful feast of Corpus Christi and it is a time of deep reflection and meditation upon the Eucharist.  A priest friend of mine who likes to send out jokes and little stories sent me one just a couple days ago and it really in a sense has nothing to do, but may have everything to do with this little homily today.  It seems that there was a Mass and the sermon was kind of dull and it was going on and on and this little 5 year old was looking around the church kind of bored and finally nudges his dad and saw the red sanctuary light that reminds us of the presence of Christ, so he saw the red light and he said, ‘Dad, when the light turns green, can we go home?’  Hope springs eternal that the light will turn green.

Today we are invited to reflect more deeply upon the wondrous mystery of the Eucharist, that mystery of Christ’s presence among us.  Obviously we celebrated this on Holy Thursday when we had the Mass of the Lord’s Supper when the institution of the Eucharist took place where Jesus shared with those apostles in that very first Mass and invited all of us to continue to remember to make him present within the Eucharist itself and what a wonderful gift the Eucharist is.  It’s one of those gifts that we probably have a tendency to take for granted because we share in it so often. It is so readily available to us. I remember one of the times that I came to a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist is when I read a book by a priest who was in a concentration camp in Russia and he was not allowed of course to celebrate the Mass, but every once in awhile he was able to get a little bit of wine and then he was able to take some bread and he had to sit out on one of the benches out in the yard there of the concentration camp and he had to smoke a cigarette as he was celebrating Mass because if he was caught of course he would be severely punished if not killed and so he celebrated the Eucharist there in that simplicity and then he kept some of the consecrated species, the body of Christ and would distribute to some of his fellow prisoners, but it made me appreciate as a young man what a tremendous gift the Eucharist is and how often people have sacrificed and been willing to jeopardize all in order to celebrate the Eucharist and yet it is something unfortunately that we can take for granted.  There’s a great mystery within the Eucharist and for a lot of us it’s the mystery of how God can take bread and wine and transform them into a sacramental real presence that the bread and wine truly through the words of consecration become the body and the blood of Christ. For many that is the mystery of the Eucharist, but I would think that maybe that’s not the point. Yes, there’s something that we don’t understand about that. Yes, we know that there’s a mystery in the fact of transubstantiation of the change of what appears as bread and wine truly into the body and the blood of Christ as promised in John 6 and if you want to think about the transformation read the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel it illustrates it so clearly what Jesus intended and then we sometimes can get bogged down with the how of that transformation, but I think ultimately it’s an act of faith. It’s a realization that God who created this whole universe, God who put all of this together, if he wants to make himself present under the very humble forms of what would appear as bread and wine, but truly as he tells us his own body and his blood that we are invited to accept that reality because of who God is and the power that God has, but the greatest mystery of the Eucharist is not the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but rather it’s the mystery of God’s love.  It’s a mystery of how God loves us so intensely, so personally that he wants to come to each and every one of us in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Communion that he wants to be intimately sharing in our life.  That is the true mystery. That’s the miracle of the Eucharist that you and I are that loved by God himself that God truly wants to reside within us that he wants to have that moment of not just face to face, but heart to heart contact.  We are invited to enter into that mystery of how much God loves us not only in Jesus dying upon the cross and rising for us, but his promise to abide with us always that we might experience his presence every time we celebrate the Eucharist and we welcome his body and his blood into our own lives into our own hearts.  Obviously none of us is worthy to receive Holy Communion. None of us is worthy to receive Holy Communion and yet we need to be properly disposed obviously. If we’re aware of serious sin we need to go to reconciliation first we need to physically prepare ourselves maybe from a little bit of abstinence from food beforehand.  We need to mainly prepare our hearts to make sure that our heart, our life is receptive to that presence of Christ that we can approach Christ truly in faith with an openness to the wondrous gift that he shares with us to open our minds and our hearts to experience God face to face, heart to heart, to allow God to touch us deeply to allow his love to soak into our own hearts.

This coming Friday we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sacred Heart is that reminder of the passionate love that God has for each and every one of us that heart that is on fire with love that is on fire with divine life that heart of Christ that comes to us in every experience of the Eucharist that we share.  How tremendously blessed we are. We are invited to reflect upon the mystery of God’s love how tremendously he loves you, and me and all this world. How blessed we are.”

A Relationship Of Love – Fr. Michael Guastello

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 16, 2019

“Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Trinity.  The Trinity is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Our theology tells us that we have three persons in one God and so it is reasonable for us to ask, ‘How are we to make sense of this?’  Well, like any mystery, while we can’t fully understand it, we can know something about it and it is Jesus Christ himself who is our point of reference. It is Jesus who gives us a window into the Holy Trinity.  Now the first step for us to recognize is that the Trinity is a relationship of love.  English writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote that, ‘The basis of the Holy Trinity is relationship and at the heart of this relationship is love.’  In his first letter, John the evangelist tells us that God is love that this is who God is that he doesn’t just have love. He doesn’t just show love or give love, but God is love itself.  What this means is that God is at the same time a lover, the Father, a beloved Son and the shared love that is between them is the Holy Spirit. In another part of scripture Jesus’ disciples ask him to tell them about his father and he says to them, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’  Our Catholic theology has interpreted this statement and others to mean that while the persons of the Trinity are distinct, wherever one person of the Trinity is, there the entire Trinity is present and when one person of the Trinity is acting the other two persons are acting as well. They do not operate independent of one another, so when we take a look at a crucifix we see only the Son.  We see only the second person of the Trinity, but the entire Trinity is present. ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’

Now let’s take a look at our Gospel for today.  Jesus tells us, ‘everything that belongs to the Father belongs to him (Jesus)’  And what belongs to Jesus he will declare to his disciples. That’s us. What Jesus is doing here is he is giving us even more insight into this relationship he has with his Heavenly Father.  He’s outlining for us an estate plan, if you will, and that we will receive an inheritance. This inheritance of course is Heaven. It is eternal life with the Holy Trinity. Jesus also promises us in our gospel today that we will be led, that we will be guided by the Spirit of Truth.  He says, ‘When he comes, The Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to all truth. He does not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears.’ In other words, he will lead and guide and speak truth in union with the Father and the Son. Now this idea of truth, things being objectively true, is sometimes lost in our 21st century American culture.  The notion that there is objective truth is not always popular in our society today. Some in our society think that truth is relative. They’ll say, ‘Well if that’s true for you, fine but that’s not true for me and what’s true for me is true for me, but it doesn’t have to be true for you.’ Some people think that we can even vote on the truth. Well I’ll tell you this, God never intended for eternal truth to be determined by democratic vote.  It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t work that way. The truth is what it is eternally.

I’ll give you an example of earthy truth.  So this here that’s in front of me, this is a microphone.  So, I observe this. My mind comes into conformity with the object under consideration and my mind says, ‘Ah, microphone.’  This is a pulpit. This is a watch that I’m wearing, okay these things all have truths in and of themselves, so I look at this and my mind says, ‘club sandwich.’  This is not a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter if I think that it’s a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter if I hope that it’s a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter that I pray that it’s a club sandwich.  It is a microphone, so this is an earthy truth, so I’m going to try to make the conversion to eternal truth. Here’s some examples of eternal truths from God:

  • Marriage is between one man and one woman.
  • Human persons are all made in the image and likeness of God whether they are born or unborn whether they are citizens of the United States or whether they are citizens of another country, it doesn’t matter.  All persons are loved by God. They are ordered toward God and have an inherent dignity as a result of it and when that dignity is violated in any way shape or form, God is violated because we’re made in his image and likeness.

These eternal truths are laid down by God and are given to us out of love from God and in my mind that’s the key to accepting some of these things even when we might disagree, even when we might disagree even when we might not fully understand them, that our God is a loving God and he wants what’s best for all of us.  If there is something in your own life that you’re struggling with such as one of the Church’s teachings I invite you to take it to prayer. Pray about it. Talk to God about it in very real and stark terms. Ask for clarity. Ask for help. Ask for the Spirit of Truth that we read about in our Gospel today. Spend time with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament talking to him about whatever it is, whatever it is.  Research the Church’s position. Study the Church’s position. Look at the history behind it. Look at the theology behind it and try to get a sense of the reasoning that goes into the Church’s teaching. If there is a Church teaching that you’re struggling with that you disagree with, I invite you, no I encourage you to do those things.

Pope Benedict in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est translated from the Latin, God is Love, reminds us that our faith first and foremost is not about a set of moral teachings or rules, it is about a relationship with God.  Our God desires a real relationship with you personally and invites all of us to share in the relationship of the Trinity, a relationship that is love itself.”

A Dynamic Dimension – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily June 15, 2019

“This evening we are invited to enter into a reflection upon that inner-life of God that God is not an impersonal force, but rather within God is community and life and in one God there are those three persons:

  • The Father to whom has ascribed creation.
  • The Son, the word who is the truth of the Father the perfect reflection of the Father himself who is our redeemer, our savior.
  • The Holy Spirit generated through the love of the Father and Son that personification of love it’s very self.

And so we are invited to recognize that there is a dynamic dimension into the life of God and it’s done not so that we’ll have a mathematical problem to think about, but rather that we will be in some way insightful into the mystery of a God that goes way beyond our ability to understand, our ability to comprehend, but God does give us these insights so that we may know something about God’s dignity in our relationship with God himself for God reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit so that we may truly know God as God the Father that we will know God as the Word, the truth become flesh in Jesus that we will know God as the gift of love that power of the Holy Spirit and that we enter into a relationship with each person of the Trinity.  Again it’s a question that is not there to baffle the mind, but rather to inspire the heart to call us to something deeper in an appreciation of who we are in relationship to God for the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes about for our salvation. It comes about so that we may know how we share in that very life of the Trinity that we are baptised into relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit that that’s what the word baptism means is to be immersed into relationship. We were baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We were immersed into a relationship in which we can know God truly as our Father, the Son truly as our saviour, our redeemer, our truth, the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of love who transforms our own minds and hearts and so it is that question for each of us, ‘Am I really growing in a relationship with each person of the Trinity?’

Sometimes when I ask people about their prayer life, I find that it’s pretty truncated.  A lot of people will say, ‘Well I just pray to God. That’s it. I just pray to God.’ Now it’s not bad to pray to God.  I’m not against that, so don’t misunderstand me here, but just praying to God as God really neglects the deeper relationships to which we are called and some people will say, ‘Well I just pray to God the Father’ or ‘I pray to the Holy Spirit’ or ‘I pray to God the Son, but I kinda leave the other ones out.’  Once again we are truncating our relationship with God. If we want to have a full relationship with God it means that we grow in relationship with each one of the persons of the Trinity that yes, we come to know Jesus who is truth that absolute truth of the Father that we come to know the gift of the Spirit that spirit of love that spirit that transforms our lives that we come to know God the Father as the creator as the one who truly brings about our life and is the ultimate destiny of what we are about and the journey of this life and so I encourage you to kinda think about your own prayer life.  You know, the Mass is the greatest prayer that we offer and the Mass is very, very trinitarian. I’m not sure how often we avert to this, but you know it begins with the sign of the cross. It ends with the sign of the cross, so our profession of faith in the Trinity are kind of the bookends for the whole Mass and then the prayers of the Mass are very much Trinitarian. The Gloria that we just sung a few minutes ago is first of all, God the Father, then God the Son, then God the Holy Spirit. The Creed that we will profess in a few minutes is Trinitarian. It speaks about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  The prayers, the opening prayers of the Mass are usually addressed to God the Father through God the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. The great prayer, the Eucharistic prayer is a prayer of praise addressed to God the Father through God the Son in union with the Holy Spirit as the priest raises up the body and the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ. It’s very Trinitarian and we are invited to enter more deeply into that relationship through Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Holy Communion and then we are sent forth in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit so our prayer is truly called to be Trinitarian.  It is called to be reflective of that mystery of God’s love. God gives us this beautiful insight into his own being into who He is, what He is about and how that can bring about our salvation and our eternal happiness and so we are invited to truly reflect upon this and maybe to expand our prayer life a bit maybe to reflect on how we can pray to one or other persons of the Trinity that maybe we don’t pray to that much but we are called to truly appreciate the fullness of the mystery of God in which we participate.

And of course this weekend we celebrate Father’s Day.  It’s an appropriate time for us to celebrate Father’s Day in union with the Trinity because the Trinity truly begins with God the Father and God the Father’s fatherhood is reflected in human fatherhood and so we honor all fathers today.  We thank you for the reflection of that creative life and love of God that is brought about in your relationships with your children, being creative and nurturing that gift of life. What a tremendous blessing fathers are as fathers and mothers join together in sharing that gift of life and of nurturing that life.  What a tremendous blessing that is and so we are grateful for you who are fathers for your call and your response to that call to be reflective of the love of God himself and to teach your children the truth of Jesus to teach your children the love of the Holy Spirit to share with them that beautiful relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.”

Liberation Of Pentecost – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily June 9, 2019

“Today we celebrate the conclusion of the Easter season, but a whole opening up to a new phase in the liturgical and our spiritual life as we are invited to truly welcome the Holy Spirit, that Spirit that descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost that Spirit that continues to live within us and among us that we are called to truly recognize and cooperate with the workings of the Holy Spirit and so this Pentecost Sunday is an opportunity for us to come to a deeper awareness to the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit within our lives and within our world.  There are many images of the Holy Spirit and I’m always reminded on Pentecost and I’ll admit that this is an old story, but of a particular pastor who one time wanted to be more dramatic on Pentecost and he wanted to really emphasize to his congregation the presence of the Holy Spirit and so he got his custodian the day before and he showed the custodian this dove and there was a dove there in this little cage and the dove was there and he said, ‘Now Jack what I want you to do is tomorrow during my sermon when I say, The Lord sent down the Holy Spirit, I want you to release the dove and then the dove is gonna fly all over the congregation and the people will really be impressed with the reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit.’  He said, ‘Ok Reverend, ok.’ So the next day the pastor gets up and he’s preaching and he comes to that dramatic moment in his sermon and he says, ‘And the Lord sent down his Holy Spirit!’ Nothing happened and he said, ‘And at that time the Lord sent down his Holy Spirit.’ Nothing happened so he looks up in the choir loft and there’s the poor custodian and he says, ‘Sorry Reverend, the cat done ate the Holy Spirit.’ That is a reminder never to use props in church, but also it’s a reminder that yes, one of the images of the Holy Spirit is the dove and the dove can be that symbol of peace and certainly the work of the Spirit is that of peace of bringing about a wholeness to our hearts. There’s many images though of the Holy Spirit.  Another one is the word dunamis in Greek which means dynamite, power. The Holy Spirit is truly power it’s the power of God bringing about transformation and new life. Another is pneuma. Pneuma means breath and pneuma reminds us that the Holy Spirit is as close to us as our own breath is that through our baptism our confirmation, the Holy Spirit has been poured into our bodies into our very lives and that we should be aware of that and just as the breath is so important and purifying as we exhale carbon dioxide also it is crucial that we bring oxygen into our bodies and that Holy Spirit truly enlivens the whole body for truly the soul is the life principal for this physical body of our so the Holy Spirit is the life principal for the body of Christ that was referred to in our second reading today that we are all part of the body of Christ because we share in the very life of the Holy Spirit.

Another image in scripture for the Holy Spirit is ruach and ruach means wind, a loud rushing wind and that’s an appropriate symbol for the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is like the wind.  You know you never see the wind. If anybody here has ever seen the wind, let me know afterwards, but we never see the wind, we see the effects of the wind. We see the leaves, the branches swaying, we see the grass waving, we see the grass waving, we see something blowing across the parking lot so we see the effects of the wind, but we really don’t see the wind and so we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is known more by its results than by particularly direct insight or seen and the Holy Spirit truly wants to enter in and to transform our lives to transform our minds and our hearts to transform us and to make us into new people and that is the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit.  St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and these are signs of the Holy Spirit within our own lives and as we are growing in these qualities we are truly growing spiritually we are experiencing the effects of the Holy Spirit transforming us and hopefully we are all growing in these, but he says, ‘The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generocity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Those are the fruits of the Holy Spirit and we are all challenged to be open to that Spirit that can transform us to make those things ever more alive within our own lives that fidelity to Christ Jesus that openness to that life that Christ brings us.

This past week someone sent me something, a little piece on the Holy Spirit and I thought it had some nice insights so I’ll share it with you.

‘The Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to his followers is the great gift of God.  Without the Holy Spirit of Jesus we can do nothing, but in and through his Spirit we can live free, joyful, and courageous lives.We cannot pray, but the Spirit of Christ can pray in us.
We cannot create peace and joy, but the Spirit of Christ can fill us with a peace and joy that is not of this world.We cannot break through the many barriers that divides races, sexes, and nations, but the Spirit of Christ unites all people in an all embracing love of God.
The spirit of Christ burns away our many fears and anxieties and sets us free to move wherever we are sent.  This is the great liberation of Pentecost.’

This feast of Pentecost invites us to a deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit within our lives and a deeper openness to the Holy Spirit in prayer.  I hope that we pray daily to the Holy Spirit. My experience though is that for most of us the Spirit is the neglected person of the trinity. We pray to God the Father, we pray to Jesus, but we don’t pray as much to the Holy Spirit and yet we live in the age of the Holy Spirit for the Spirit has been sent forth.  The Spirit dwells within us and among us bringing about new life.

You know the cat doesn’t eat the Holy Spirit, but there are things that can destroy the life of the Spirit within us and those things we can really need to be careful of:

  • That complacency that may enter into our spirituality
  • That sense of embracing one or other sin and not striving to overcome it
  • There’s divisions that may be there that we hold on to rather than allow healing to take place
  • The Spirit of this world that is so often in contrast to the truth and the love that God has revealed to us

Those are the things that can destroy our own life in the Spirit, but through the gift of the Spirit we are called to new life, to greater holiness, to truly continue to grow in that Spirit of Jesus, truly the Spirit of truth, the spirit of love. The spirit that gives us already that gift of everlasting life.”

Accepting The Gift – Fr. Michael Guastello

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 9, 2019

“Sometimes when we describe a person with great talents we refer to them as being ‘gifted’.  He is a gifted athlete. She is a gifted musician, but to use the word gift implies that their talents are not solely based on their own merit.  Someone had to give them the gift. The person received the gift from someone. Our lives ourselves are gifts from God. We have received life from God and from our parents.  Without them, we would not be there. Of course a gift implies that there is a relationship between the gift giver and the person who has received the gift. A gift implies affection, appreciation, acknowledgement.  If a gift is given with the expectation of something in return then it is not really a gift. Today, on this feast of Pentecost, the Easter season comes to a close and we celebrate the gift of the Church being born when the Father and Son poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles giving them their mission to proclaim the Gospel to the rest of the world.  Since that time, the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the rest of the Church so that it may be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, the books of the Bible themselves are inspired works of the Holy spirit.

In our second reading from St. Paul today, we are reminded that the mere presence and actions of the Holy Spirit are often perceived as gifts.  When we think of our Trinitarian God we associate creation with the Father and redemption of humanity with the Son, but it is the Holy Spirit who continues to animate the Church to sanctify us, to inspire us, to guide us.  Now to be theologically precise, when one person of the Trinity acts, the other two persons are acting in concert, yet we do attribute these things, sanctification, inspiration, bringing unity to being works of the Holy Spirit.  I’ll give you some examples. During the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass when the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine, we call this the epiclesis, this is a calling down of the Holy Spirit and so I’ll invite you when we get to that part in the Mass today to listen when I have my hands over the bread and wine and then there is a part in the Mass called the doxology when the priest raises the chalice and the patton of the body and blood of Christ and he prays, ‘Through him and with him and in him Oh God almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.’  Unity of the Holy Spirit and then finally as part of the prayer of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation the priest says that ‘Jesus has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. This brings us to our Gospel today in which we are reminded of one of the Holy Spirit’s greatest gifts of all and this is the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness. So, our Gospel brings us back to Easter Sunday night and the Apostles have locked themselves in a room for fear of the authorities so remember Jesus has just been crucified and as his followers they think that they might be next in line and so they are locked up they are held up in this room and Jesus, the risen Jesus comes through the locked doors and he stands in front of them and he says to them, ‘Where were you guys?  What happened to you? You guys left me for dead. I can’t depend on you for anything! What’s wrong with you people?!?’ He doesn’t say any of this does he? Quite the opposite. He says, ‘Peace be with you.’ And he says this two ties if you go back and reread the text he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Why? Because he wants to emphasize his love and forgiveness for them not their mistakes. He wants them not to dwell on their sins, but to dwell on his mercy, to dwell on his compassion and to dwell on his desire for reconciliation with him. Friends, the same thing goes for us as well. When we make mistakes, when we mess up, when we turn our backs on God through sin, he doesn’t want us to dwell on any of this. He wants to forgive us. He wants us to be reconciled with him. All we have to do is ask. All we have to do is approach him with a sincere and contrite heart.  Jesus says to his apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.’ This by the way is the primary text that the Church points to for Jesus having instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. You see, forgiveness is one of the main reasons Christ instituted the Church. Forgiveness is one of the major business segments that the Church is involved in if I could use that line of terminology. Yes we are involved in social justice works to be sure. We run food pantries and soup kitchens, the Church has run hospitals to take care of the sick. We run schools to educate our children, but long before the Church ran hospitals or schools or soup kitchens, the church was in the business of forgiveness and reconciliation. These are gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and not just reconciliation with us and God, but reconciliation with one another.  In our Gospel today Jesus connects reconciliation with himself and reconciliation with others. This is a great gift. If there are relationships in our lives that are in need of reconciliation, the Holy Spirit is prepared to breathe new life into them. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a son or daughter. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a brother or a sister or a parent or a neighbor or a former spouse or a coworker or a fellow student. I invite you to ponder that question today. Who do I need to be reconciled to? Who do I need to pray for? Maybe, who do I need to reach out to? As we come to the end of the Easter season today as we celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may well be prompting us to take advantage of the gift of reconciliation with someone, a gift that the Spirit is willing to help us with in that reconciliation if we are open to receiving it, if we are open to accepting the gift.

Richer Existence

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June, 2, 2019

“So today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, the namesake of our parish and I think it’s special when a parish has the opportunity to celebrate the feast of its namesake because this is how we identify ourselves to the rest of the Christian Community.  We are Church of the Ascension. These celebrations only happen once a year and so it provides us with an opportunity to pray and reflect upon all that it means for us and our faith. Today, the Church has given us readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke.  Now Luke is actually the author of both of these books The Acts and the Gospel that bears his name, but it’s worth noting that he treats the ascension of our Lord differently in each of his two books. If you go back and look at the readings our first reading today from Acts, Luke tells us the Ascension occurred 40 days after Easter, but in his Gospel Luke describes how Jesus appeared to his apostles on Easter Sunday night, spoke to them, ate with them and then on Easter Sunday night, led them out to Bethany where he Ascended into Heaven.  So this begs the question, which of these events is the real ascension? Did it happen 40 days after the resurrection as we are told in Acts of the Apostles or did it happen on Easter Sunday night as we are told in Luke’s Gospel? Well I don’t think we know for sure, but I also don’t think that we necessarily need to know either.  What is important for us is what the Ascension means for us in our lives.  There’s a scripture scholar who tried to deal with this discrepancy, there’s probably been multiple ones, but one that I ran across as I was looking at the readings and preparing for this weekend and he distinguishes between two different lines of thought on the Ascension in the early days of the Church: one he calls the visible ascension, the other he calls the essential ascension and so I’m going to try to outline these for you as best I can.

The first he calls the visible ascension this is the ascension in which Jesus went around appearing to his disciples for forty days and when the forty days were up, these appearances pretty much stopped.  This visible ascension that took place gave the apostles the certainty and assurance that Jesus was in fact taken up into Heaven and then the other ascension, this ascension he calls the essential ascension, this was not visible to anyone and he compares this to when someone dies for example and their soul is separated from their body and enters into eternal life.  No one sees this. This is what he calls the essential ascension. The ascension that no one sees, but in the case of our Lord however, he was taken up, body and soul, to be with his father in Heaven. He calls this the essential ascension in which Jesus was lifted up beyond this world into Heaven. This return to the Father would take place on Easter Sunday night in which Jesus entered into a fuller, richer existence and it was his death and resurrection that led him there.  Jesus passed from life in this world to life with the Father.  So, what does this mean for all of us? Well as Jesus was on his way to the father in Heaven so are we.  What we celebrate today in the Ascension of our Lord body and soul into Heaven is what God has planned for each and everyone of us today.  God’s invitation extends to all of us. Now in other parts of the Gospel, Jesus is clear that not everyone will accept this invitation. In fact, there will be some who will reject this invitation, but those who accept it will share life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Heaven for all eternity and this is made possible by virtue of our baptism.  When we are baptized we are made sons and daughters of our heavenly father. Now at the moment of our conception, at the very time we come into existence we are creatures of God. We are human persons. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are loved by God and we are ordered toward God, but we are not yet his sons and daughters. Before our baptism we are simply creatures of God.  Now remember that Jesus, we talk of Jesus as being the Father’s only son and he is the Father’s only natural son. See we are not his natural children. We are not his natural children. We are not his natural sons and daughters if you’re familiar with this terminology, so it is our baptism that makes us sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. It is through our baptism that we are incorporated into Christ and when we are baptized we share life in Christ.  We are united to him and therefore we share in his risen life. Of course, Jesus’ life continues to flow through us when we receive the Eucharist when we receive the other sacraments, through prayer, through good works. Sometimes the risen life of Christ that is in us is something that we are able to sense. We call these God moments, these moments when we are able to see God working in our lives, but very often we miss it. We go through our day, we go through our week and we miss what God is trying to tell us or reveal to us, but even in these times when we miss these things, the risen life if Jesus Christ is still in us so long as we remain united to him and so today as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, the namesake of our community, let us ask God to help us to recognize those moments throughout the day and week when he is communicating to us or trying to reveal something to us always remembering that we are loved by God, that we are His sons and daughters and that we share life with the risen Christ who we celebrate his ascension into Heaven today.”

Eternity Over Time

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily June 2, 2019

“This feast of the Ascension of the Lord is certainly one that is personal for us since this is our patronal feast and as people of the Ascension we are called to reflect upon the real meaning of this feast as one of completion, finality, and hope.  You know the feast of the ascension really celebrates the fulfillment of the whole mystery of Christ’s incarnation. Just a few months ago we celebrated Christmas, the fact of the word become flesh in Christ Jesus as that humble babe of Bethlehem, but the whole purpose of the incarnation of God becoming flesh in that humble child was in order that we might know the gift of eternal salvation.  We reflected upon not just the infancy, but more importantly the public ministry of Jesus and how through his death and resurrection the paschal mystery he’s brought about the redemption, the forgiveness of our sins and a whole new life of grace and now we come to this completion time where Jesus physically leaves this earth. He’s ascended. He’s taken up into the fullness of the glory of the right hand of the father.  It is the summation, the completion of his life, for Christ entered into our humanity so that we might enter into his divinity, that we are called to be adopted sons and daughters of God through our identification with Christ Jesus. This is a feast in which we celebrate the fact that in a sense, all of us are already in Heaven because of our union with Christ. One of the best and greatest images for me for the ascension is one that you younger folks will not remember that well, but some of us older ones will and that was when the first man walked on the moon.  There was that lunar module that landed on the moon and that dramatic moment when there was that step down from the module onto the moon and really it was a transfiguring moment for people who were able to watch that on television. It was one of those dramatic moments and the words of that astronaut, ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Because all of us felt that somehow we were on the moon. Humanity was there therefore we were all there. Well as we celebrate this ascension of Jesus into Heaven, we celebrate the fact that Jesus truly has taken us into Heaven as well that there is that promise there already of humanity is in God’s glory.  Humanity is truly sharing in the joy of Heaven and we ourselves already are beginning to share in that life. No, we have a long way to go before we enjoy it fully, but we know that this is our destiny that this is our purpose is that ultimately it is that we will share in God’s life ternally and that’s one of the things that we keep in mind as we live each day, the dignity that we have, but also that call that we have to eternal joy, to eternal union with Christ in the presence in the Father and the Spirit as well, but in the meantime there’s a challenge for us. We have this beautiful stained glass of the Ascension right behind me and that particular piece came from the Church of the Annunciation in Kansas City, MO and certainly it is a masterful work of art, but it reminds us there of Jesus ascending into Heaven and it’s interesting that the apostles and Mary for the most part are looking up, following with their eyes Jesus ascending into Heaven and then we have those words in the first reading today where it says that two Angels came and they said, ‘Why are you looking up to Heaven?  He’s going to come back, don’t worry about that, but you go do your job.’ That’s basically what the angels were saying and for all of us we have that job of being witnesses of being witnesses to the love of Christ, to the love of God manifested in Jesus in the word become flesh in the act of salvation, his love for us in dying and rising that we are called to be witnesses to that, but we don’t do it just on our own power for just like the early disciples they were told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and to be with them. Well we have received that gift of the Spirit and so we are challenged to truly be people of the Holy Spirit. We look up to Heaven, but we also have our feet on the ground. We are called to live each day with an awareness of our dignity and the ultimate call of our lives, but we are aware that we are called to witness by our daily lives to be witnesses of hope to others. This feast of the Ascension is a great feast of hope because it helps us to realize that no matter what we may experience in this life whatever disappointments or challenges that we may have, even the reality of illness and death will never overcome us, but rather it is life over death, it is eternity over time, it is that call to the wondrous vocation, the goal that each of us has within our life to share in the life of the ascended Christ Jesus.  How blessed we are for we are a people who truly know the love of God for we know the purpose and the meaning, the direction of our lives. We are but challenged to follow it.”

Not To Be Afraid

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily May 26, 2019

“For the last few weeks we have read from the Gospel of John and in particular from the last supper discourse of Jesus.  Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter and the Gospel readings keep circling back to that night before Jesus died and why is this?  Why is it that the Church keeps bringing us back to that farewell address of Jesus? Well it’s because of the depth of the theology and the summation of the Christian life.

You know, the Last Supper discourse is five chapters long in John’s Gospel.  His entire Gospel is twenty one chapters long so almost 25% of all the Gospel of John is devoted to that two or three hour discourse on the night before Jesus died.  Jesus was taking this time this very solemn time on this evening where he knew that the next day his Passion would begin. Immediately after he would leave this solemnity, this solemn night, his Passion would begin so it was important to him to bring it all together.  The apostles had been with him for three years. They’d followed him, they’d listen to him. He taught them. They witnessed his miracles and now Jesus would lay it all out the night before he died. He tries to prepare them for him not being around for his death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven.  That night he intimately shares with them his body and blood. He washes their feet. The master washes the feet of the servants. He shares his heart with them. He tells them that he’s going to his father’s house where he will prepare a room for them. He gives them a new commandment, ‘You are to love one another as I have loved you.’  He speaks eloquently the need to stay connected to him. He uses the metaphor of the vine and the branches. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He tells them that the Father and he are one and he is the way and the truth and the life and he tells that that there’s no greater love that one can have than to lay down one’s life for a friend and then he looks at them and he tells them, ‘You are my friends.’  He prays for them and he prays for those who will follow them. That’s us. He prays for us. He prays for the world. He prays for the Church. He prays that it always be one and yet, the apostles don’t seem to get it. They seem to be clueless. Peter asks, Lord where are you going? Thomas asks, ‘How will we know the way?’ And Phillip asks him, ‘Lord show us the father and that will be enough.’ Jesus tells Phillip, ‘Have you not been with me all this time?’  It doesn’t seem to be sinking in and now we come to our Gospel reading. In the verse just preceding our Gospel reading we hear another question. This time it’s from Judas, not Judas the betrayer, but the other Judas known as Jude. He asks Jesus immediately before this gospel reading, ‘Why just reveal yourself to us? Why don’t you reveal yourself to the whole world?’ I think he spoke these words that the other apostles were also thinking that if you are who you say you are then do something spectacular.  Squash this tyranny of the Romans. Use your powers to subdue these tyrants and we hear these words in the Gospel today, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.’ Jesus tells them that it is only through love that he will reveal himself to them and it’s love that he reveals himself to us and then he tells them very intimately that he has come not just to pass by but he has come to dwell with them to abide with them. Jesus then goes on realizing that they’re not really getting it.  Knowing their limited understanding, their weak human nature, he makes a promise that the Father will send an advocate, a helper, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will teach them and remind them of everything that he told them. Think of the love Jesus had for those apostles. Think of his love for you and I. He loves us so much. He knows our nature for he was born of a woman. He lived a human life. He knew temptation. He knew sorrow and pain and he promised his apostles and he promises us that he has come not to be a figure head, a CEO if you will. He is not a distant person to look at and look up to, no he dwells with us, he abides with us, Jesus is alive.  He is with us in the gift of the Eucharist.

Easter Season is winding down.  Jesus will soon ascend to Heaven and sit at the right hand of his father yet he promised in his last will and testament of that night before he died that he would not leave us orphans for he has given us the Holy Spirit and he’s given us those consoling words, ‘Do not be afraid.’

You know yesterday here at the Church of the Ascension, six young men were ordained into the priesthood.  Some of you may have been here. It was a joyous occasion. I didn’t count them but there were 70 or 80 priests right up here around the altar.  It was too crowded for an old deacon to be up here so I was sitting over there taking it all in and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing and there was one person that came to my mind and I was glad that there was one person who didn’t show up and that would be the state fire marshal.  As beautiful as all of it was I was especially moved to see how many young people were in attendance, how many families brought their young children to this, 2 ½ hours. I think it was the best 2 ½ hours that could happen in the world yesterday. It was a beautiful thing. It gave me hope for the future of the church and it all goes back to God’s love for us and his desire to dwell within us.  His love for those twelve bewildered men who he did not give up on 2,000 years ago, those men who changed, the Holy Spirit came to them and they gave us the Church, the Church that we know today. Jesus gave himself in the Eucharist. He sent us the Holy Spirit. This is a Gospel of hope. He continues to guide the Church. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Holy Church in this very treacherous world in this very treacherous time.  Yes, it is a time not to be afraid.”