Fr. Gary's Homilies
Did you hear something that resonated with you? Are you looking to reflect on the weekend homily?
No need to worry! The homily will be made available here in both written and audio form by 8 AM on the following Tuesday. Click on the links below to take you to a specific homily.
No need to worry! The homily will be made available here in both written and audio form by 8 AM on the following Tuesday. Click on the links below to take you to a specific homily.
solemnity of our lord jesus christ, king of the universe
Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 22, 2020
I’m a terrible poker player. Which is why I don’t play poker. It’s not that I don’t know the game or that I’m particularly unlucky, it’s because I have no poker face. Some of my friends have suggested that with the mask requirement I might stand a chance - but I doubt it. You can read my face even with half of it covered. I might as well just put all my cards face up on the table when they are dealt. Which really is a good image for me as we celebrate the Feast today, the Feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Imagine yourself right now, sitting across the table from Jesus, thinking you or I could play poker with him. The stakes are high; we’re all in. But the thing we have to remember is that Christ has already won this game – and every game. Now and forever. That’s why we call him Kind of the Universe. What he asks of us is simply to come to the table and play the game. Cards up. Because that’s how we can win, too.
To keep the analogy alive: All Christ asks of us is to play the hand we were dealt in life according to the rules of the game. And the game is played out every day of our lives with the decisions we make every day - in every relationship, every decision, every moment of our lives.
In how we spend out money and how we spend our time. How we talk to and about one another. How willing we are to forgive and how strong we are to defend his creation. Decisions we make in what we are willing to sacrifice and for whom, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. For the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, those in prison.
Our cards are played in politics and around family tables, how we put our kids to bed and how we go to bed. In the jokes we tell, and who we laugh at and whom we laugh with. What we say about others to their face and what we say behind their backs. Our cards are played out every day at work and at play, in whom we regard as worthy and on whom we shut doors.
And we should also remember this: the game we play is not for our pride or our short-term benefit; it is not for a small win that could be taken away the next hand. The game we play today is an eternal game. And the one we sit across the table from, Jesus Christ, is the King. It’s not only his deal, it’s his game, his rules, not ours.
Today’s feast of Christ the King challenges us to live God’s goodness and love without reservation, without rationalization, without hesitation, without exception. Just like he did. It’s the only way to share in the Win.
33RD Sunday in ordinary time november 15, 2020
Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
November 15, 2020
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
What your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it will become your destiny.
These words are attributed to Lau-Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. What we think becomes our destiny.
The ending place of all the scriptures as the liturgical year comes to an end is our final destiny, the end of time, but the starting place, very simply, begins with what we are thinking today.
The book of Proverbs is a compilation of different authors, but all the proverbial verses contained in the writing had the same intention: to change our thinking. In the chapter from which we heard today King Lemuel is quoting what he learned from his mother. In his culture a wife was thought of as property and was treated and traded as such; Mom taught her son to change his thinking. “Her value is far beyond pearls (and) her husband, entrusting his heart to her has an unfailing prize. (So) give her a reward for her labors and let her works praise her at the city gates.” It all starts with what we think.
Paul reminds his people that they are children of the light and children of the day. It’s important to remember that, he says, because being surrounded by darkness and by people that did not believe and in a culture that had not been transformed by Christ and a community where the values of the believer would not be encouraged - it would be easy to be sucked back into darkness, to think like the others think and do like they do and become what they become. Paul reminds them to get their minds in the light and remain in the light. Watch your thinking.
And then of course, the gospel parable: Each man in the story was given “talents”, a measure of wealth far beyond anything they could have earned, clearly a share of the master’s possessions, not simply a payment of services rendered. Even one talent would be considered a lavish and extravagant measure of generosity. The normal thing to do would be to take the money and run; keep it safe and count your blessings. But, instead, he rewards the two that took the risk of investment and punishes the one that played it safe. It was an unexpected way of thinking about blessings received. It calls us to take a good look of how we think about our gifts.
You and I have been invited to be a part of a kingdom that has no end. We have been gifted with the extraordinary gift of God’s loves, a love that was great enough that God would choose to humble himself to become one with us, to be a part of our joys and part of our sufferings. We have been welcomed into a community of faith where normal thinking has been turned upside down and worldly-acceptable ways of responding have been turned inside out. We have been embraced by a God whose love does not have to be earned and whose mercy is without end. We have been offered a path to happiness and joy that this world, even at its best, cannot begin to offer. And we have been called to share those gifts, to take the risk of investing them not simply for our benefit but for the common good and for people we have not met and for the benefit of generations to come.
We should think about those things. Because…
…our words are very telling of what we are thinking.
And before we know it - our words become our actions.
And once we do it or don’t do it often enough - we have a habit.
And when our habits become our norm - they become who we are.
And who we become now (the Gospel teaches us) - is our destiny.
32nd Sunday in ordinary time november 8, 2020
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 8, 2020
Did you know that scientists have now invented a clock that keeps time more precisely than any clocks that have come before, so accurate that it won’t gain or lose more than one second in 14 billion years. (Not even Timex can claim that!) And yet, even with that kind of accuracy, we still can’t predict the end of time.
St. Paul was certain that it would happen in his lifetime. It didn’t. Many people thought it would happen when the millennium calendar turned 20 years ago. Not then, either. Others thought it would end on Tuesday after the election. (Some of you might think it did.) But, no.
Maybe the point is that we don’t need to know, that we aren’t supposed to know. Maybe the point of it all, God’s point, is that we should live, not worrying about when that moment will come, but live every moment as it comes. Spiritual writers call that “living in the primacy of grace,” or living mindfully. To live in awareness. To live as if every moment is a moment that God has already come, is here and will come again.
That known presence of God has been described in many ways in our Judeo-Christina tradition: as fire or wind or a voice from the cloud. In our scriptures this morning God’s presence is described as Wisdom. Not wisdom (with a small w), the kind of wisdom gained with age and experience, the kind of wisdom that (hopefully) accompanies gray hair. But the Wisdom (with a capital-W), the gift of Wisdom that is an awareness that God is with us. Because we might, as the psalmist sings, be “thirsting for God,” but in truth, She comes searching for us. The scriptures tell us that, “She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of [our] desire. She makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to [us…meeting us] with all solicitude.” It is God who comes to find us, not we who somehow find God.
Isn’t that the point of the parable? It is not about somehow predicting the end of time, it is about living in this time in such a way that we are always ready to open the door to God! Every blessed second of our lives that we breathe and our hearts beat and our minds function, God is coming to rest with us, in us, about us.
If we spend our life doing spiritual gymnastics as if somehow, if we do it just right, we will convince God to come to us, that God will reward us with his presence. No. We’ve missed the point. God is knocking at our door, now!
Are we ready to let God enter? Or are we preoccupied with earthly treasures; how many friends we have on Facebook or how many people follow our twitter account - that we miss the one knocking at our door that we don’t want to miss? Are we quiet enough to hear the voice of God speak through the clamor of our politics and complaints and fears? Do we stop our busy lives to let God find a place to land? Can we clear aside our worries and concerns and anxieties so that God can find a place at our table?
It is true, science allows us to measure time with unfathomable accuracy. What is harder to quantify, harder to measure and far more important is how we are using the time that God has given us.
Solemnity of All SAints November 1, 2020
Solemnity of All Saints
November 1, 2020
“Help us to work together for the coming of your Kingdom, until the hour when we stand before you, Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven…” Those are the words taken from one of our Eucharistic Prayers. I always like praying those words. They give me hope that I still have a chance; that one day I might join those that have made it, that I might be one of those saints among the Saints.
With our well-known biblical saints: Mary and Joseph, of course, but also Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (We hear from one of them every weekend.) And Paul, Peter, John, Timothy; Mary and Elizabeth, James, Jude and Martha and Sarah; Thaddeus, Bartholomew, Andrew, Joseph, Barnabas, Thomas. And others what reflect the history of our faith story: Sts. Teresa of Avila and Dominic, Agnes and Benedict, Gregory and Norbert and Anthony and Rose and Monica. There are also those saints known in one country or community but remain mostly unknown in others: Ansgar (from Germany) and Kateri Tekakwitha (our first Native American saint); Boniface, Florian and Otto and Philomena.
And then there are Saints that are remembered mostly by historians and scholars: Polycarp and Urban, Scholastica and Innocent, Leo and Perpetua and Felicity. And those that have been all but forgotten: Sts. Placid and Cloud and Hyacinth and Virgil and Hedwig and Odelia. I always remember Hedwig and Odelia because I have an Anut Heddy and Dilly.) Others have familiar names but their legends far exceed any known truth: like St. Christopher and St. Nicholas. And of course, more recently named saints like Damien and Mary Ann Cope, John Paul II, John XXIII and Paul IV, Padre Pio and Mother Theresa. And the recently named St. Carlo Acutis, a fifteen-year old boy from Italy who died from leukemia in 2006, now the considered the patron saint of the internet. (I ask for his intercession on a daily basis!)
And there are other saints in the halls of heaven that we know as well, our “saints,” friends and relatives and neighbors who shared these very pews and sat at our tables and walked this earth in our time. People we can’t imagine anywhere else but face-to-face with God.
But male or female, accounted for by history or by legend, none could claim perfection. And that, too, gives us hope. Like us, they struggled and doubted, feared and sinned. They were at times poor of spirit and other times proud of heart, righteous and other times self-righteous. They were merciful and they mourned and thirsted for what was right, but they also wondered aloud about the ways of God and questioned the awesome mystery of God’s love. They prayed and they hoped and they loved and they got hurt. They lived on this earth, accepting the human condition, and were often undistinguishable by special virtues or miracles, absent of any halos. And like all humans, they died; their bodies lie buried or inurned or scattered in the rich earth.
But as Christians we believe they now live. They are our Saints. And as Catholics we honor them on this great Feast. They are filled with an eternal joy that this earth cannot give and a peace that this world cannot produce. They are, in the best of ways, blessed. By faith and sacred tradition, we believe that they stand before the face of God and they intercede in endless prayer for us - we who are their fragile and holy, sinful and blessed brothers and sisters.
It is impossible for us to imitate their lives because they lived and died in their own times and circumstances. But we can honor them by becoming what God calls us to be in our time and in the circumstances of life in which we find ourselves. We also honor them by uniting with them in this holy sacrifice at the altar…“until the hour when we stand [with them] Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven.”
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 25, 2020
I always look forward to this weekend, the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time in the A cycle of readings -because I get to talk about our love lives. Now don’t get nervous; I said our love life – not our sex lives. Don’t need to know about that right now. But our love life – that part of our life is a critically important and too often a neglected part of our Christian conversation.
Let’s start here: in the beginning of time God created the world and all that exists and all that lives, out of love. God could do nothing else. God, who is love, could not possibly create anything outside of absolute love. That’s where we start.
Everything that exists, by its very nature, returns that love to God by existing in the very best form, in the very best possible nature of its existence. It is why stars shine and offer their brilliance in the night sky, why the earth rotates and revolves to provide day and night and seasons; why the pull of the moon creates tides and the comforting sound of waves in the oceans. It is why countless species of every animal and plant exist, and in mostly secret ways sustain the life of other plants and animals. And it is why we were created: to return that love to God by being the very best version of what we can be and by sustaining life of others by loving them.
It was a simple plan. That is, until God gave human beings free will. That kind of complicated things. Nothing else that exists has that. A deer cannot choose to become a better deer. A mountain cannot choose to become a more loving mountain. Everything else simply exists by the very nature of how it was created. We, on the other hand, have a choice.
So, for centuries, God helped us along the way to make good choices. God sent prophets and wise women and men among us, leaders and teachers and philosophers. They gave us rules and laws and directions and precepts so that we would remember to welcome the aliens, take care of the widows and orphans, help the poor, not take advantage of anyone.
But we just didn’t get it, or at least we didn’t get it right, at least not all the time. Ego and selfishness and greed and fear and jealousy and short-sightedness got in the way. We got all worried about things that we didn’t need to get worried about, all hung up on rules that God could have cared less, or at least a lot less, than we did. How to wash pots and pans, and what clothes we could wear and what food we should eat and not eat; and who belonged and who didn’t; circumcision and length of hair and a hundred other things that didn’t seem to help all that much. All the while, we forgot about widows and orphans and people from other countries seeking a better life, the poor and children and the outsiders. We turned out back on our own brothers and sisters.
So, not so much out of desperation, but out of love, God said, “Fine. I just come myself and show you how this is done.” And he did. He made it pretty simple, really. “Love God; love each other.” That’s what he told us. In fact, he not only told us, he showed us how to do it. As if to say: “If you won’t listen, at least watch. I’ll show you what I want.”
What else do we need? What else can God do to get us to listen? To watch? To learn? To understand? To imitate? To just do it?
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 18, 2020
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 18, 2020
We hear a lot these days leading up to Election Day about civil discourse or the lack of it. As Catholics, we have a long tradition of engagement in the political process as a way of putting our faith into action. We are called to bring the best of ourselves and our faith to the public square. But so much of what we hear these days is clearly not our best. When personal attacks replace honest conversation even among friends and neighbors and within families, no one wins. It only serves to further divide us. As Catholics, I think we can model a better way.
The four readings from sacred scriptures we heard today can lead us in that way, a way of more civil discourse, more honest and helpful conversation, a better way to live with and work with people with whom we might disagree.
Take Cyrus, for example. He was the king of Persia. God took by the hand and led him to conqueror Babylon. It was Babylon who had conquered Israel and forced them into exile and destroyed their temple. The thing is, Cyrus was a pagan who didn’t even recognize God, yet he was called upon by God to restore the life and future of Israel, to welcome the Israelites back home and rebuild the temple. God even gave him the title of “messiah,” of savior. Isn’t it amazing how God finds a way? Isn’t it amazing whom God uses to help restore his Kingdom?! Doesn’t it just stop you in your tracks to see how God sometimes is working through the most unlikely people?
And when we sometimes think that there is the perfect “someone” that will lead our nation, serve our school districts, legislate and judge our laws – there is no perfect “someone;” there is no perfect party; there is no perfect candidate who is worthy of that kind of glory and honor. God, alone, alone (the psalmist reminds us) deserves that glory, God who governs all people with equity.
And we, who hold the power of the Holy Spirit and dare to call upon the name of our God – we (St. Paul reminded the people of Thessalonica and us) were chosen to work in faith and labor in love. Work in faith. Labor in love. Just that would be enough, wouldn’t it?
And finally, when Jesus was confronted by the Herodians in a philosophical trap, he rose above their hypocrisy, rose above their divisive rhetoric and simply said: Give the money to Caesar; it’s his. But give back to God what God has given to you: a kingdom of love and justice and compassion; a kingdom where life is honored and all his children -all of them- are reverenced. Where all of creation -all of it- is seen as sacred.
My brothers and sisters: We’re better than what we have seen, lately. We must make room in our heart for those with whom we disagree and yet whose work might be known by God. We are called to recognize that each one of us is a beloved child of God and to respond in love to that reality. We must focus on the dignity of all people, even when we disagree, and put our faith into action not by tearing each other apart, but by bearing witness to a better way.
If we don’t, then who will? If not now, then when?
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 11, 2020
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 11, 2020
How many times have you said it and how many times have you heard: “I just don’t have an option?” Or, “I really don’t have a choice?” ---Well, actually, we do. In everything. We have a choice.
The greatest gift God gave us and the greatest burden God put upon us is free will; God gave us the freedom to make choices. Some of our choices in life are simple, almost automatic. We make them out of ritual or habit; little thought has to go into it. I don’t have to put a lot of thought into whether or not to have that cup of coffee every morning. But, still, it is a choice I make.
Sometimes the choices are easy because the consequences are so drastically different; we don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have a degree in moral theology to get it right. At other times, circumstances place us in the position that severely limit our options, and we find ourselves between a “rock and a hard place.” But choices remain, nonetheless. And every once in a while, we get to make a choice between equally wonderful options.
Some of our choices are limited or expanded by other choices we’ve made in the past. I chose to be a priest; that limits some other choices in my life. We choose to have kids or to take a particular job or to live in a certain neighborhood. We choose to own a gun or to drink alcohol or to super-size our meals or to smoke. We choose to sign the kids up for sports, to save money or to spend it, to take the vacation or to stay home. And when we do, those choices limit or explode into other choices.
It’s important for us to capture this truth because ultimately, we also choose to be a part of the Kingdom of God or not. We make the choice to come to the mountain of the Lord or not.
What is clear, what is without question, is that we have been invited to be a part of that Kingdom. We are on the guest list. Every person is given that invitation. We don’t earn the invitation by our goodness or kindness; we don’t have to score points or pay a fee or kiss somebody’s cheek; we don’t have to plead or bargain or beg our way in. We are invited. Now, God says, “You choose. Do you want to be a part of it or not?”
By our choices we will build a world of justice where every person, every life and every voice of experience is honored and respected, or we build a world where the rich rule over the poor and the powerful rule over the weak. We choose to seek forgiveness and to forgive others, or we choose to hold on to anger and revenge. We have the freedom to create homes and communities of charity and compassion, or we can form our family and community under the umbrella of fear and bias.
It’s not easy. The choices we need to make will call for courage and strength. The choices that are set before us will demand honesty and integrity. But, as St. Paul reminds us, we can do all things in the one who strengthens us because God will fully supply whatever we need.
But it would be a mistake for us to live in the illusion that somehow, we go through life and then at the end of our time God will be standing at the Gates of Heaven making a last-minute decision of who is admitted and who is not. The truth is, when that day comes, it is not God who makes that decision; we already have.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 4, 2020
Respect Life Sunday
October 4, 2020
Immigrants and refugees from other countries, street people, the mentally ill, the unborn, those who live in poverty, victims of war and crime, men and women in prisons and those on death row, the physically handicapped, the mentally disabled, those who are dying, gay and lesbian and those searching for their identity, the elderly and shut-ins, those living with HIV or dying from AIDS, migrant workers, the unemployed or underemployed, those who live with depression.
Children that are stolen away from their homes in sex trafficking and children who run away from homes in fear, women and men and children that are physically and emotionally abused, the divorced and the unmarried, single parents and mothers far too young to be mothers, children abandoned to the streets, people addicted to drugs and alcohol, victims of violence and prejudice and discrimination.
Tell me: which of these lives do not deserve our respect? Whose life is worth more or less?
Rainforests and land stripped from mining, waters that are polluted by chemicals and oil spills, wet lands disrupted by development, air that is polluted by exhaust and artic ice melting at unprecedented rates, and Mother Earth that is being stomped out by a carbon footprint. Animals that are poached and hunted to extinction, wildlife that are permanently forced from their natural habitats by encroaching human activity, animals that are abandoned or abused or neglected.
Choose: What part of God’s creation is not worthy of our reverence? What part of this amazing universe is of less or more value than another? If Christ is present in all that has been created and in all that has life (and that is what our faith teaches us) we must ask ourselves: What are we doing with this vineyard that God has planted? Who have we thrown out of the vineyard? Whom do we reject? What part of creation do we turn away or kill?
Pope Francis, the Bishops of the United States, our own Bishop and countless other faith leaders have all said that "The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives it destroys." (And I agree; it is.) The question that is before us is this: Is it a preeminent issue because until we get that right, we will not get the rest of it right? Or is it a preeminent issue because until we get all of it right we won’t get that right, either? Can we truly reverence one life, one part of God’s creation and not reverence all the others - and really have it right?
What is the good fruit that God wants from his vineyard? St Paul tells us:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Then the God of peace will be with you.