Every Person Decides – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily August 25, 2019

“Certainly our scripture readings this evening are somewhat challenging because the words of Jesus there that not everyone will enter the kingdom of God.  It seems that sometimes in our day and age we think Heaven is a given that all of us necessarily go to Heaven because God loves each and every one of us and because God loves us, he will make sure that we go to Heaven.  Well certainly salvation is for all people as our readings indicate today, that universal call to salvation is there for each and every human being. Christ died for each and everyone of us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is gonna be saved because it has to do with the question of response and Jesus says that you have to enter through the narrow gate.  The narrow gate is Jesus himself in knowledge and relationship with Christ Jesus and it is only as we enter into that spirit as we enter into deeper union with Christ that we truly know the power of salvation, the power of eternal life and so the challenge for every one of us is to enter through the narrow gate, but that gate is always there for us and always open and beckoning us.

Some time ago a young man sent a letter to a priest and he said the priest could use this letter in any way he wished and so I share this letter with you.  It was not sent to me. It was sent to another priest, but here’s what the young men wrote. He says, ‘I was one of the top swimmers in my category in Canada, then one day I let my friends talk me into experimenting with drugs.  I got hooked and soon my mental, physical and spiritual health deteriorated badly. I knew I was all messed up. I became lonely and terribly frightened and there was no one I could talk to. To make matters worse I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000.  I figured my only way out was suicide so I went home and wrote this note to my parents:

Dear Mom, and Dad,

I’m sorry to cause you this pain.  Please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive I would have caused you a lot more grief than by what I just did.

I love you and all the family.

Christopher

And then I began to drink to overcome fear as I began to take my own life.  Then at the last moment something made me stop. I grabbed the phone and called a crisis center.  I didn’t know it then, but my mother was praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehab program and soon I regained my physical and psychological health.  It was then that I started reading the Bible and the more I read it the more peace and joy I felt and this led me to put all my trust in God. Meanwhile there developed in me this growing desire to learn more about Jesus and to get to know him better.  It’s kind of funny, I must have prayed on my knees at least ten times asking Jesus to come into my life. That was before I realized that he was already in my life. All this happened about five years ago. Since then God has blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic High School.  I’m active in a parish community. I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself more and more to the love and mercy of God our Father.’

To me, that’s a beautiful statement about an individual entering through the narrow door.  He tried the wide path, the wide of self-pleasure, satisfaction, but he realized that that was a dead end street and he began then to enter in to the narrow door, to make that choice of entering in to his own self-worth as revealed in Christ Jesus and that’s the call for each and every one of us.  That’s the challenge that we have and I think that one of the more important points of that letter is when he said, ‘I prayed over and over again for Jesus to come into my life and then I discovered that he was already there. That’s true for all of us. Jesus is already there. He’s already present to us.  He is already dynamically in love with each and every one of us, but it is for us to open ourselves to His grace, to His strength, to that power of the Holy Spirit.

Some time ago I read about someone who described Christians as boats and it’s kind of an interesting image for Christians, but he said, ‘Some Christians are sailboats.  They’re like the sailboat because they’re out there in the midst of the water. They have a sense for where they want to go in the boat. They’re sitting at the rudder. They keep an eye on their goal.  They play with the wind and allow the wind to fill their sails and allow them to move forward to their destination and that’s really that power of the Holy Spirit represented by the wind, but people in sailboats are the ones who are actively engaged who really want to work towards that goal of eternal salvation and in doing so they know it’s not a question of the minimum, but rather a question of how much I can do?  How can I love greater? How can I be more faithful? The next people were cruise boats and cruise boats have a different quality to them. I recently was on a cruise, so I know this first hand. When you’re on a cruise you’re kinda disengaged. You’re kinda just there. You’re along for the ride. You hope that somebody is going to get you to the goal. You hope you’re going to get to your final destination, but in the meantime you’re just kinda treading water and with that disengagement comes a certain attitude, kind of a laissez faire, well we’ll get there someday, you know the driver of this boat is gonna get me there.  But being on a cruise is a lot like people who are just kinda along fir the ride in the Church. ‘What’s the minimum I need to do? What’s the least I can get by with? And if I’m not too faithful this week, maybe next week.’ But it’s that complacency, that indifference and the third ones are the life raft Christians. The life raft Christians are ones who have little regard for Christ or the Church or God until the challenge comes, until the difficulties come and then it’s ‘God where are you? Come on, save me! Why aren’t you here right now when I need you? Why aren’t you my life raft?’ The life raft Christians are trying to live their life without an awareness of what the real purpose of life is or what relationship with God is truly about.  Those three images can speak to us in our own way and we need to stop and think about ourselves, ‘Am I a sailboat Christian, am I a cruise boat Christian or am I a life raft Christian?’ And all of us are called to enter by the narrow gate, to enter by the narrow gate, to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ and to realize that yes, Christ is always there with us. It is but for us to follow his way, to walk in his steps, to enter more deeply into intimacy with him, to acknowledge him truly as our Lord and savior for truly Christ is with us and so each of us as Jesus is reminds us is called to enter by the narrow gate, to choose that direction for our own lives and what direction we will go and I’d like to close just by paraphrasing a poem by an English poet by the name of John Oxenham.

‘To every person there opens a way, a highway, a middle way and a low way and the high soul takes the highway and the low soul takes the low way and in between in the misty flats the rest drift to and fro, but to every person there opens a way, a highway, a middle way and a low way and every person decides the way his soul will go.’”

How Well We Have Loved – Dcn. John Stanley

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily August 25, 2019

It seems that we rarely speak of Hell these days yet throughout the Gospels Jesus was not shy about preaching about Hell.  He describes the face of the damned in various metaphors: everlasting fire, outer darkness, tormenting thirst, a gnawing worm and wailing and gnashing of teeth so it’s not surprising that one of his followers stops and ask him, ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved?’  It’s Natural Curiosity. What is the population of Hell? But Jesus did not come down from Heaven to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, he came down from Heaven to Earth to save us, so he wasn’t going to give us a number, so he responded not by answering how many are saved, but rather how we are to be saved.  Jesus turns to them and tells them and us that we are to strive and that word in Greek is the root word for agony.  We are to agonize to enter through the narrow gate and Jesus goes on and says, ‘Many of you will not be strong enough.’  You won’t be strong enough because you will not fit through that narrow gate because of all of the things you are carrying, all of your attachments and we will knock and call out, ‘widen the door!’ but the master of the house will say, ‘I don’t know where you are from.’  And we will say, ‘We ate and we drank with you, Jesus, hey we went to Mass! We put money in the basket. Here’s my baptism certificate.’ And he will say, ‘I don’t know where you are from. Depart from me you evil-doer.’ Jesus is looking for not an external relationship with us.  He cares nothing for our memberships or our titles. Jesus wants a personal relationship with us. It’s not our association it is our transformation that Jesus cares about.

So, what is the context for this Gospel?  Well, Jesus we are told is traveling on his way to Jerusalem where he would suffer an agonizing death on the cross.  He’s telling us that we too are to take up our cross and follow him and that’s going to involve suffering, even agony and depending on our love of Jesus, suffering will either make us bitter or better.  For it’s hard, it’s humanly impossible for anyone in their own strength to enter through that narrow gate, but it is made possible through the blood of the lamb. Jesus Christ shed his blood on the cross for us and by it he opens up the gates of heaven for it is through his grace and Mercy freely given to us that we can do all things.  The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is not an automatic ticket to Heaven. If it were, Jesus would not have told us to strive, to agonize to go through the narrow door and if it did, Paul who agonized until the end and famously said, ‘I have fought the good fight and I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.’ And he would not have written to the people of Philippi and admonished them ‘to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.’  If it were simply a matter of our willpower without the grace of God, there would be reason to despair, but St. Paul tells us that God responds, even when we are weak, God responds to our weakness for he sends the Holy Spirit to pray as we ought. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray not by putting words on our lips, but by changing who we are as we pray that we may be beloved sons and daughters of God crying out, ‘Abba Father!’

So, going back to the question of ‘Lord will only a few be saved?’  I think it’s good that we don’t know the population of Hell for if we knew that virtually everyone would be damned we would despair and if we knew that nearly all people would be saved we might become presumptuous and if we knew that there was a fixed percent, say 50% would be saved then we would be caught up in some sort of holy rivalry for like Jesus in the Gospel, we too are on the path to the new Jerusalem, to Heaven and through his passion and death he has conquered sin.  He has opened the gates of Heaven. We are created in the image and the likeness of God.

Thanks be to God he has given us free will and the capacity to love him and it is our destination to return to God in Heaven for our life is a participation in God’s love and as such our journey is always going to involve the cross.  Jesus tells us that we are to strive to enter the narrow gate, but what is the criteria for our ultimate judgement? For a devout Jew and perhaps this Jew that asked the question, they tried their best to obey all of the commandments and decrees and there were some 600 at the time, but Jesus tells us that we don’t have to cram for the finals for there are two commandments, two commandments that sum up all of the law and the prophets.  We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and in the parable of the last judgement, you remember that one chapter 25 of Matthew, the parable of the separation of the sheep and goats, Jesus tells us that those two commandments of love are actually reduced down to one for whatsoever we do for the least of our brother or sister we do for Jesus. So? Striving for the narrow gate boils down to how well have we loved.  After our journey here on Earth as we approach that narrow gate in the twilight of our lives won’t we want to hear those consoling words, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.”

The Narrow Gate – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily August 24, 2019

“I have a friend who told me about a childhood incident that happened in his life and apparently his mother was a real cleaning freak and this young man was not so much interested in that, so his mother ordered him to clean his room one day, so he went in and picked his stuff up off the floor and put it on the hangers or in the laundry bag and made his bed (had not been made for a long time) and even vacuumed the floor.  Well his mother came in and said, ‘That’s not good enough. Do it again!’ So the boy was really kind of frustrated. He had some other things to do that afternoon and so he picked up a broom and he said, ‘Mother, can I use this broom or are you planning on going somewhere?’ He didn’t tell me what happened next, but some parents are very strict with their children and some are a little more lenient, but all, most all really love their children and want the best for them don they?  We want the best for our kids. We want them to grow up happy, fulfilled. We want them to be joyful. We really do want the best for our children and that’s the way God is for us! He is our loving parent. He wants the best for you and for me. He wants the best for you and for me. He wants your happiness in this world, your fulfillment, your joyfulness, he wants that and he wants your salvation as well. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I have come in to this world that you might have life and that you might live it to the fullest!’  He wants the best for us. He wants us to live full and happy lives in this world and to be with him in the world to come. That’s why he came in to this world. That’s why he gave his life in agony on the cross to take away our sins, to purify us so that we might enter into that Kingdom of Heaven, to be with him forever. That is our ultimate destiny, our ultimate goal and we must keep that always in mind in living our mundane lives in this world. This is not our home. We are just here for awhile. Our true home is in Heaven and that’s where we are called, but you know, it’s not automatic is it?  Jesus gave us the gift of salvation, but it doesn’t automatically apply to us. He said to us today, ‘there is a narrow gate through which we must go.’ What is that narrow gate? That narrow gate is a life of love to love God to put him first in our lives and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s the narrow gate. It’s not the gate of self-indulgence. It’s not the gate of selfishness. It’s the gate of love and we are called to do that in our homes and in our families especially to show one another our love for them and to help them to love, to know how to love and it extends to our work place, our community, our school, we are to take care of one another and give glory to God.  Remember Jesus’ words about the last judgement. They’re found in Matthew, Matthew 25:31 where he says, ‘The King will come and he will separate the world into goats and sheep. The sheep he will place on his right, the goats on his left and he will say to them on his right come you beloved of my Father, accept the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world because I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and in prison and you visited me.’ And they will say to him, ‘When did we do this to you Lord? I don’t remember that.’ And he will say, ‘As long as you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters you did it to me.’  To those on his left he will say, ‘Depart from me because i was hungry and you did not feed me. I was thirsty and you did not give me drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ And we will say, ‘When Lord did we not do this to you?’ And he will say, ‘as long as you didn’t do it to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you neglected to do it to me.’ So my friends, that’s the criterion for life. That’s the narrow gate. It’s compassion. It’s putting ourselves out in self sacrifice for one another. It’s learning how to love, that’s the narrow gate. Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth and the light.’ Jesus is the narrow gate. Let us follow him.

I have a prayer I would like to share.  I entitled this prayer ‘The Narrow Gate’.

Your gate is narrow
Difficult, hard to get inside
While the gate is selfishness
And sin is very wide

Because your entrance means that
We must give compassionately 
And serve each other well each day
With loving generosity

It’s so easy to be selfish
and full of arrogance
But living egotistically
is really ignorance

Ignorance of the truth of life
The truth that makes us whole
Bringing us such happiness
Healing the hurting soul

The narrow gate means loving, Lord
Not giving in to hate
It means being one with you
You are the narrow gate”

It’s Out Of Love – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 18, 2019

“It doesn’t seem like the most joyful of Gospels.  I think I saw people cringing when I was reading it, but you know have you ever heard the phrase, ‘The truth will set you free’?  The truth will set you free. In some ways it’s true. If Jesus is the way the truth and the life, then Christ will set you free, but here the truth will set you free and it’s true, but it’s not painless.  It won’t be easy and I think sometimes in our lives we think that things should be easy, but often times the things worth having are the things worth fighting for. 

In today’s first reading of Jeremiah it’s the prophet Jeremiah and he’s a prophet and people might think that the prophet of God might be someone who has it easy for him right?  Wrong. The prophets usually are the one’s criticized. People in the world would think they’re crazy. There’ll always be opposition towards them and the same thing should be true for us.  If we’re truly living our Christian life, often times it will be counter-cultural. It will go against the grain. You know, there’s a phrase, ‘If you don’t stand for anything, if you don’t believe in anything, if you don’t have passion for anything then really you will fall into what ever comes around.  The wind will take you as you go. That’s why there’s the phrase, you know, fair weather fans, they just kind of flip flop, but here in Jeremiah, he’s a prophet of God and what happens? See in Jeremiah, really it’s God telling him to surrender to the Babylonians and everyone else thinks he’s crazy. Why would we do that?  We’re the great people of God, but he’s telling them that they should surrender. So what do they do? In the reading it says, ‘You’re demoralizing our troops. There’s nothing good that can come from you so we’ll just get rid of you or throw you in a cistern.’ How that sounds like our culture today where if you don’t agree with someone then you’re automatically against them.  They’re trying to get rid of you to not hear you at all.

With that context we read today’s Gospel that Jesus comes to set the world on fire and how he wished it was already ablaze and if we didn’t know quite what Jesus was saying, he makes it quite clear for us.  ‘I did not come to bring peace, but division on Earth.’ And I know that might sound confusing because don’t we call Christ the ‘Prince of Peace’? Isn’t he supposed to bring love to all of us? Maybe not in the way we thought and especially not in the way the Jews thought when he was there.  You see, Jesus when he came is really flipping everything upside down, all their beliefs, all they thought. That’s why there’s always, ‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The humble not the proud.’ It’s always those paradoxes, but let’s take the image of a flame, he says he’s come to set the world on fire and how he wished it was already ablaze.  Sometimes we think of fire as something destructive and it can be, but fire often times is used as a way to clear away kind of the dead. If you think of farmers, if you know farmers often times have to burn off all the old roots and sew or the California fires. The great lands they have often times it’s a cycle of burning off the brush and clearing the way for something new, but so too is Christ, the flame of the Holy Spirit is to enflame in us, but to help purify our hearts, our true desires.  It can be painful, again there’s always that tension there, but if you remember Moses going to the burning bush in Exodus. What was distinct about that bush? It was on flame, but it wasn’t being engulfed meaning it was on fire, but it wasn’t being consumed and often times in the pain of our lives, the worst thing we are thinking is that we’ll die, we won’t be able to handle it, but the flame of the Holy Spirit, the true desire burning in our hearts will never engulf us, will bring a passion to our hearts, the true desires of our hearts.  Imagine your relationships with your family, parents with your children, often times you aren’t the most popular of people and I think I can speak for parents with their children, you have to discipline them, tell them no, but it’s for their greater good. You see, it’s out of love that you do that. Often times we need to distinguish between acceptance and love. Acceptance isn’t true love. Love is willing the good of the other, to will the good of the other not to accept everything before them, but to will the good of the other and that’s clearly seen with parents.  You’re always looking at the good of your children even if they don’t agree with you, but you do it out of love, true love and with true love, willing the good of the other, then you do stand for something and that means that you’re in direct opposition against whatever is against the good of that person. So to love, that’s what Christ is truly calling us to, true love, true love, but you know St. John Paul II said that the battle between good and evil is not really out there. We might think that we’re church goers and so it’s out there that we need to battle, but St. John Paul II said that ‘the battle between good and evil is battled between every single one of our hearts.’  That’s why you feel that tension in your heart day after day in certain decisions, certain people. That’s why St. Paul says, ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Because there’s times when we draw to sin, the comfort of life, but there is that spirit that’s always willing and that’s the very flame that Christ is talking about, how he wished it was already ablaze. The thing is that we don’t need to find it, will we accept it? It’s a letting go that we truly receive the Holy Spirit in our life. So as you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and courage to come to Him with our pains and our struggles to let in Christ into our hearts so that the flame of the Holy Spirit may purify our desires.  Amen.”

With Eyes Fixed On Jesus – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily August 18, 2019

“A number of years ago in Maryknoll Magazine there was an article about a gentleman his name was Kim Chi-ha.  He was a poet in South Korea during the dictatorship of the 1970’s and his mother wrote this article. Kim Chi was arrested by the government and sentenced to life imprisonment because he wrote against the corruption of the government and their exploitation of the poor.  His mother said he did this especially because Jesus was always in defense of the poor. He was always toward uplifting the poor from their suffering and he wanted to follow Jesus. She said that Kim Chi also had the awareness that there is a great struggle going on in the world, a struggle between good and evil and that we all must make a choice: which one will we follow?  Where will we be? The mother said that she was going to follow her son who was following after Jesus. Well Jesus says today, ‘Do you think that I have come for peace? No, I have come for division.’ That may be shocking to us, but it is true. It has been true through the centuries that if we commit ourselves to Jesus in every way we will find opposition in this world and sometimes even from our own families.  It was true for Jeremiah in our first reading who suffered persecution because he was saying that Jarusalem would be destroyed because it had sinned against God and refused to repent and it was also found in the second reading to the Hebrews today where the author likens our life as Christians to running a race and that we need to persevere, especially against the opposition that we will encounter and we persevere by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and in our gospel Jesus explicitly says that many will experience division in their own home and household among their own family when they find out that one is truly, truly committed to Christ.  So there are many issues that we experience and this was one of the reasons why Ancient Rome hated Christianity because it tore families apart. For instance, if a son became a Christian then he would no longer be able to go to the pagan worship ceremonies and he would no longer be able to go to the Coliseum to cheer two slaves who were fighting each other to the death. He could no longer cheer his sister on with others to leave her handicapped child to die to the elements rather than grow up in society being handicapped. It meant no longer could he take part in the Roman orgies which were so immoral and other immoral activities that were such a part of the life of Rome, so I think that in many ways ancient Roman culture is like modern Western Culture, our culture.  Ancient Roman culture was very materialistic. Everything had a value and the materials of this world were the supreme values to run after. Ancient Roman culture was Hedonistic seeking to indulge itself in every form and shape. Ancient Roman culture was very violent and our culture is also very violent. Perhaps the greatest similarity though was in how Ancient Rome viewed life and how we view life that life is cheap, human life is cheap was then and is now in many ways and that is evil, that’s evil when we see millions of babies being aborted in our country every year. It’s the meaning of evil. Also what is evil is how we treat our immigrants who seek only to escape from the extreme violence and hunger and misery of their own country to give their children a chance at life.  There are many other issues I think that we could talk about where by being a Christian today means being in opposition to our culture, elements of our culture and maybe even members of our own families, but Jesus is with us in the struggle. Jesus is with us in the race and as Hebrews says, ‘Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and you will persevere to the end.’ He is our hope. He is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our strength. He is our reason for living. He is our destiny. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

I have a prayer I’d like to share with you.  I entitled this prayer, ‘With Eyes Fixed On Jesus.’

Help us keep our eyes on you
Fixed unflinchingly
Jesus Lord you are the Lord
Strength for our fragility
Source of our stability

When life’s conflicts overwhelm
When we feel the pain
Help us to understand
With us you remain
In sunshine and in rain

In time of doubt or weakness Lord
When tempted to pursue
What is evil, sinful, wrong
Show us what is true
Keep our eyes fixed on you!

When I divert my gaze from you
And seek some lesser goal
Risking all for worthless things
Writing for a fall
Give me Wisdom, self control

Give me courage to speak out
When injustice threatens to
Hurt and harm your purpose Lord
Show me what to do
Keep my eyes fixed on you”

There Will Be Division – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily August 18, 2019

In today’s Gospel we have some words from Jesus that are not characteristic of him when he says he has come to ‘cast a fire upon the earth that there will be not peace, but division.’  Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. So often in the Gospel he talked about the gift that I will give is my peace. When he appeared to the Apostles he said, ‘Peace be with you.’ And so there’s a message of peace there and yet today we see where Jesus is saying, ‘I have come not to establish peace but division.’  And those words that I have come is not a sense of purpose but a sense of reality and that that is really the point of this that Jesus is saying my words will cause division, not that I want that division, not that I want that separation because his whole mission is that of reconciliation of bringing about unity, of bringing about true peace and harmony between ourselves and God and therefore among ourselves, but he knows the reality is that there will be division that those who choose to follow God, those who choose to be faithful to God’s word to God’s truth will experience division within their lives and that’s the challenge, that’s the reality that we all face.  Unfortunately, there are those times in which people experience that rejection. I know I’ve talked to more than one person in the RCIA who has said that by exploring becoming a Catholic and making that commitment to becoming a Catholic, how difficult that was because of the divisions that that created within the family and yet Jesus predicted that and certainly the people in the time in which Luke’s Gospel was written was very much aware that there would be divisions because fidelity to God is always gonna be at cast purposes to the sinfulness of humanity.  There’s always gonna be those challenges. There’s always gonna be those difficulties. The people in the time of Luke’s Gospel were experiencing persecution that had already taken place in Jarusalem, in Rome. Peter and Paul had already been martyred. They were experiencing the rejection and the divisions and Luke in his Gospel wanted to recognize, yes that’s part of the reality. The cross is part of the reality. To be faithful to Christ, to be faithful to the word of God does not mean that we will be politically correct. Yes, there are many things in which we are challenged to become better in political correctness, but there’s other things in political correctness that are diametrically opposed to the word of God and to the truth that Jesus reveals and we are called and challenged to be faithful to that truth.

One of the things that we say to young people or to anyone we are trying to teach a sport, it’s one of the reasons I don’t play golf because I could never do this, but the rule is to keep your eye on the ball.  Keep your eye on the ball that that is so very important not in some athletic venture, but it’s important in all of our life and that’s the message in that second reading today. Keep your eyes on Christ Jesus. In the midst of the challenges, in the midst of the temptations, in the midst of the divisions that may be there and yes, sometimes those divisions are even within our own hearts.  It’s a division not between ourselves and others, but the divisions that we experience by our unruly passions that may challenge and tear at each other, but the message is keep your eye upon Jesus, keep your eye upon his truth and his love. It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. It doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties. It doesn’t mean we won’t be rejected and misunderstood, but it is important because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and the challenge for each of us is to keep our eye faithfully and to follow Jesus.”

Missionary Institute – Fr. Mariano Varela

Fr. Mariano Varela’s Homily August 11, 2019

“I’m so happy, so excited to be here this weekend in this beautiful Parish to be able to preach.  I am amazed of how big, how well organized, how welcoming are all of you here in this Parish, so congratulations and also for the wonderful priests that you have especially Fr. Tank for receiving me and for the hospitality also of Fr. Viet and Msgr. Charles.  Thank you very much, but also I am surprised and so happy that today we celebrate there are two persons who are coming today to give thanks. I read in the bulletin about Sam and Teresa who are celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary. Wow! That’s just a good gift and so important you are for all of us especially the young families, the young generation.  Thank you. Both of us, Fr. Viet and I are praying for you both and all your family.

I belong to the institute of the Incarnate Word, a missionary institute.  We were born 35 years ago in Argentina, South America and we do mission work.  We go to different places, very poor areas and very difficult ones. That is our specific, the purpose of this congregation and also the charism is to evangelize the culture.  We bring the incarnation of Christ to this particular culture so that people will be Christianized in all the aspects of their lives. When I was a little boy, I was 8 years old, just before my 1st communion, I wanted to be a priest.  I have a great desire because my pastor was a very nice, very pious and very good teacher, so I wanted to be like him. And then, when I was a teenager I continued with this decision to be a priest, but now something else: I wanted to be a missionary one, a priest who goes all over the world.  I don’t know if it was because I wanted to communicate Jesus or just to go traveling all over the world, but however the Lord has granted me this great to go to different parts and then I had this great desire. I entered into the seminary and I found this congregation. My pastor was from my order and then when I became a priest the general superior said, ‘Fr. Mariano, you are young priest now and you have a great desire to go on a mission, so they request priests in the jungle in the interior of Guyana in South America.  Guyana is a very small country between Brazil and Venezuela. There are 3 little countries, French Guyana, Dutch Guyana and the British Guyana, so I was there and then I spent 10 years in that beautiful place, my second house and when I reached there the bishop said, ‘yes you will go to the interior to work with the Amerindian people because you are a young person.’ So I went there and we had no church, a lot of children a lot of vast camp to do a lot of things filled with people and so on and we were 3 priests and we started to evangelize, but to teach the faith, but also we wanted to teach them.  We wanted the children to go to school because there was no school in the interior and you could imagine children would grow without an education. We build this beautiful dormitory especially for boys. The sister would go later to open this half for the girls and we open this dormitory so that boys can go from different part to study in this particular place to do the primary school at least to read and write so then we set up 4 feeding programs feeding so many children, families. We built houses for very poor areas and I remember that we had no place to build our church and the people say, ‘Fr. why we don’t build the church?  We build our house.’ Ok, let’s do this and then they built a little chapel, just a roof with the coconut tree leaves just as they have in their homes without walls. I said, ‘What about the walls?’ They said, ‘Father in our homes we don’t have walls.’ ‘Ok.’ I said, so that was the church. We the IVE, this institute, we are working in different areas, very difficult areas. Our most challenges, missions right now are in the Middle East. We are in Syria, in the city of Aleppo. We are in Iraq, in Baghdad, we are on the strip of Gaza and in Egypt and many other little countries in the Middle East, but I said this is the most challenge because they are Muslim countries and we are not allowed to preach the Gospel verbally as I am doing right now.  So the government said, ‘You can not preach the Gospel here.’ But they said, ‘Okay, but what you can do is maybe you can take care of our people. You can take care of our hospital or orphanage because we have a lot.’ And we said, ‘Fine’ because they don’t realize that that is one of the best ways for us to preach the Gospel through work of charity. Then therefore we have orphanages for children, handicapped children and elderly people especially in Egypt and from Egypt we have young people who have followed us in order to be religious sisters and brothers. In Syria, in the city of Aleppo you know that not there is this civil war and the bishop said to us, ‘Fathers, sisters you may leave because your life is at risk here.’ And the Catholic people, they stayed keeping their church and our brother priests said, ‘Bishop, if one person stays here we will stay with them’  So our ministry over there is to accompany them, to support them in little houses, in little chapels to keep the faith of the people. We are also in Gaza in the strip of Gaza where our main concern is to give the people their basic needs like to help them for water, food because those immediate things, needs are not reaching in Gaza. Many people do not know those things. They are very poor.

That is why today I am coming here and I ask you 2 things.  First, the Gospel that we heard today Jesus said how we had to be prepared.  We have to be prepared because we don’t know when the son of man will come, so I think that one of the best ways, Jesus mentioned many times in the Gospels is to be with our light, with our lamp alight full of oil, the oil of charity and we can do this today by being a good missionary because this is the nature of the church, missionary.  And we can be, I wanted to invite you to this great adventure of being missionary first by your prayer because our brothers, sisters being in the fields of battle of the faith through your prayer. Your prayer because of you rsupport and also by as Fulton Sheen would say, ‘We had to support our mission materially.’ Ok? It’s very important that doing this you fulfill what Jesus wants of us, to be in the service of others, but also to be prepared with our lamp light so that when we come he will say, ‘Oh Mary, oh Sam, oh John, you have served me, come I will sit down, recline at table and I will wait on you because you have been generous with me.’  So that is today’s Gospel and remember the 3rd reading. Everything is through faith and this is what we had to work as you will hear today in the song, we are walking by faith not by sight, so I invite you to be with me, with all the Missionary with your support.”

Primary Focus – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 4, 2019

“What do you value most in your life?  What are you most proud of in your life?  And if you were to die tonight, you know to meet God, would there be something you would be proud of to show him, to tell him?  You know, maybe this is something we should always do throughout or lives, to think of this because the things we value really should be things of God.  In today’s readings, all three readings are really about detachment of Earthly things, a healthy detachment of Earthly things, but especially in this gospel reading where this man tears down his barns to make new ones.  It makes me think of what we have in our world today. We have storage units and I’ve seen them come up more and more throughout the years, these storage units and I wonder how this came to be? Now they’ve even become very high-tech, there are temperature controlled storage units, but when I think of storage units, I think of the image that I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.  You can’t take it with you when you die. They Egyptians tried it and they got robbed, so we can really learn from that. You can’t really take it with you. All the things that we accumulate in our lives, we can’t take it with us, so it makes you reflect. Is it all that important? Are we grasping at things in our lives, just that thing, possessions? Is a thing we’re excited about or working in our lives just another possession?  When I think of grasping or the things that we want to gain, the image that comes to mind is of grabbing sand. Have you ever been on a beach and try to grab sand? The very act of grasping for, really the sand slips from your fingers when you grasp for it and the only way to have it is to truly be able to receive it in a cupped hand, but that is a spiritual lesson in life that the very things you grasp at, you end up losing. So what are the things in our lives we’re grasping at?  Is it really what we value, really what we want?

Today’s first reading, the reading from Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth, is a wise man given the wisdom of Solomon and he’s lived a great life and he’s not one who regrets or didn’t like the material things of life.  He lived a fantastic life of pleasures and materials, but in the reading of the first reading, what does he say? He says, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ And really the translation, the original word they use, the meaning kinda meant something like vapor, like bubbles.  It just comes and it goes, so someone who had experienced it all and the lesson they have for us is that it’s just like vapor. It goes. I think if you met people in a nursing home and I have myself, they would tell you the same thing, they worked all their lives and now they realize that it was for nothing, that the one thing they wanted it wasn’t really it, so today in the Gospel Jesus reminds us to stay away from greed.  Do not be greedy. Do not grasp for more, but how do we do this? Sometimes even for us maybe it’s not an intentional thing that we want to do in our lives where we just kind of fall into it, we’re just following others and just end up being there. Well it’s times like this where we really reflect on our lives, take time in prayer to really see our lives as Christ does and that’s what in the second reading St. Paul tells us to do that if we’re truly Christians, believers of Christ, that we believe he rose from the dead and that we will one day as well, but if we believe then we should look not of the Earthly things of our world, but look up to Heaven and that’s not to say that Earthly things are bad, so I’m not saying that the Earthly material things are bad and we should only do spiritual things.  That’s a very dualistic point of view and that’s not biblical, but the point is to have a healthy detachment of Earthly things, to keep it in right relationship with us, to keep others in right relationship with us. The point is in greed is that when an object becomes our primary focus in our life instead of a relationship. So I ask you, what is the primary focus of your life? Is it your job? Is it school? Is it something in the future or is it a relationship? Is it a relationship with God, a relationship of growing within yourself, or a relationship with your family? These are the things we have to look at to reflect often, so as you come to receive the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you, let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and courage to look at our lives honestly, to see it hopefully as he does so that we can change if we need to and if we need to sometimes it might be painful, but to bring it to him, to bring it to Christ and ask him to help purify our hearts and our very values and intentions in our lives.  Amen.”

Just Passing Through – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily August 3, 2019

“A barber was very impressed with the Pastor’s Sunday sermon and it was about witnessing to your faith and he said, ‘You know I could be a better witness to my faith and I’m gonna do it.’  So, the next day, Monday, he went to work and went into the Barber Shop and there was a person who came in and he said, ‘I would like to have a shave.’ And so the barber seated him in the barber chair and then he said, ‘Excuse me a moment.’  So the barber went into the back room and he knelt down and he said a little prayer. ‘Oh Lord God, I want to witness my faith to this customer. Please give me the words to say. Amen.’ So he comes back out and in one hand he has the Bible and in the other hand he has a straight razor and he says, ‘Are you ready to meet your maker?’

That is the question that is asked in all three readings today, one about vanity in life, Paul says, ‘Think of things that are above and not the things of Earth.’  And Jesus, Jesus also has a wonderful message for us today. Someone in the crowd says, “Master, my brother didn’t give me my share of the inheritance. Make him do so.  Jesus take care of him.’ Rather than responding directly to that request, Jesus goes as he often does to the deeper underlying value and he says, ‘Life does not consist in our possessions.’  That’s a message that we all have to hear once in awhile and think about, ruminate how it relates to us in our life. Life does not consist in our possessions and so we are sometimes that way, seeking to acquire more and more.  You know we can really become greedy and Jesus’ words are not just for the wealthy, they’re for all of us, for each one of us because we all can become greedy whether we have stuff or not. We can want stuff that we don’t have, we can be jealous of stuff that other people have.  We can become greedy and greed is like a fire. The more wood you throw on the fire, the hungrier it gets and it’s never satisfied nor is greed ever satisfied in our lives, but Jesus says to us, ‘Think of the things above.’ We need to put God first in our lives, not second, third, and certainly not last.  Put God first. If we put God first and our loved ones second, ourselves third, then I think we’re gonna find what happiness is all about in this world as well as in the next.

One of the things we need to think about today is that life is so fragile.  It is so fragile! I mean we can go in a minute, so we have to really look at our lives and spend our lives as best we can, so to put God first and the things of God in our life and I think that means first of all, to look at our relationship with Jesus.  When we die, the only thing that we take with us from this life to the next is our relationships. Our relationship first of all with God, with Jesus and if we don’t have a good relationship there, then what do we take with us? And secondly, our relationships with one another and how much more loving can they be.  So we need to spend our time well. We need to think of the things of God and put up treasure in Heaven.

There’s a story about the American traveler who went to Europe and he heard about this famous Rabbi, so he gets the address and goes to visit him.  The Rabbi welcomes him into his home which is just a one room shack and the visitor is just amazed at how meager the possessions were of this Rabbi.  All he had was a small table and a chair, some books and a lamp and a bed and that was it and he said, ‘Rabbi, where’s all your furniture?’ And the Rabbi said, ‘Where’s my furniture?  Sir, where is your furniture?’ And the guy says, ‘Well it’s at home. I’m travelin’. I’m traveling through, I’m just passing through.’ And the Rabbi says, ‘So am I. I’m just passing through.’  Which leads me to a poem that I entitled this poem ‘Just Passing Through.’

Lord, I get caught up in material things
I want things old and new
I have so many worldly thoughts
but I know I’m passing through
I’m just passing through

Why do things obsess me Lord
When my greatest thing is you
Material matters make me forget
That I’m just passing through
I’m just passing through

A lot of stuff clutters up my life
My heart and mind renew
Remind me Lord, help me to see
That I’m just passing through
I’m just passing through

It’s my relationships that matter most
With others and with you
Love is the most important thing
‘Cuz I’m just passing through
I’m just passing through”

Relationship With God – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet’s Homily July 28, 2019

“You know all this scripture is talking today about persistence and being persistent reminds me of kind of my niece.  She is about two and a half, almost three and if anyone has children or know children know that they can be quite persistent on asking why.  Why this or why that? The curiosity almost eagers them on. It was actually today when I was having breakfast with my parents and my brother and my niece where after I was leaving, I was coming back to do 11:45 Mass and she says, ‘Where are you goin?’  and I say, ‘I’m going back to Church.’ She said, ‘why?’ and I said, ‘Because I have to say Mass’. She says, ‘Why?’ So finally I just told her, ‘When there is a need, it has to be fulfilled.’ And she says, ‘okay.’ You know, she probably didn’t understand anything I said, but she accepted it not really knowing what it meant, but it was okay to move on.  Today in the Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus about his relationship with God. They always see him going off to pray either before or after miracles, so finally they ask him, ‘Jesus teach us how to pray. Teach us to have the relationship you have with the Father.’ And so he gives us this prayer, the Our Father and I could talk quite a bit about this one perfect prayer and all the parts to it, but the one thing I want to focus on is the beginning words.  The beginning words is how you address God. How does Jesus have us address God as our Father. Father. In the language that he spoke it would have been Abba as in father, but you know it’s more of an intimate address to God. In our language today it might be something like daddy or dad, so it has a very affectionate address to the Father and I think that’s very key when we pray because it’s a relationship. Our prayer to God first and foremost should be a relationship, so if I were to ask you, ‘how do you address God?’  What would it be? Do you address God as God? Do you address God as your savior or your Father or maybe your higher power? How do you address God when you pray because the way you address him is how the relationship really is lived out and our relationship with God should be an intimate one. I always compare our relationship to a child and their parents and just as much as times in our life where we’re learning and kids always learn. They learn by example, but you know the key to a parent’s job for their children is to teach them how to stay in relationship with the world, how to live within the world, how to act within the world, society, so that when they grow up and the parents aren’t there they can survive and they can make friends, but you know often times you might have to discipline your kid or tell them they’re doing it wrong and correct them and maybe they might not like it, but you know as I matured in my own life I look back now with fresh eyes to see my upbringing and really my parents were doing it all out of love.  They could see something in my life that I couldn’t see, but really that’s how our prayer with God should be as well that he’s teaching us and as our spiritual life grows in prayer, we’re hoping to see the world through his eyes, to hear through his ears and wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing if we could, but that takes time doesn’t it? It takes trust just like any relationship, so how is your relationship with God?  Where is it?  Is it non-existent?  Well maybe it’s time to start.

As you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you, the very same Christ who taught us how to pray in today’s Gospel, let us continue to have the strength and the courage to bring our struggles to Him, to be vulnerable like a child is to their parents, to address Him however you might address Him so that you can continue to grow in your relationship so that one day we can see as God sees and hear as God hears.  Amen.”