Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9/4/2011 – Homily for Sunday of 23rd week of ordinary time - Cycle A – Ezekiel 33:7-11, Matthew 18:15-20; Romans 13:8-10

          Our readings today don’t warm our hearts with a comfortable, easy-to-understand tale; they don’t provide us a parable of Christ healing the sick; they don’t tell us a story about the compassion he shows to the outcasts and the poor. 
Instead, our readings today challenge us about sin, about how we are to help our brothers and sisters confront the sins they have in their lives, about how we are to help them through a process of reconciliation. 
Confronting the existence of sin in our world, helping our brothers and sisters overcome the sins in their lives: these are not topics that we normally enjoy addressing.  Often, in modern America, we either want to judge or condemn our brothers and sisters for their sins, or we want to brush their sins under the carpet and not deal with them at all.  In seminary, we were encouraged to help our brother seminarians deal with any problems or issues with which they were struggling.  Well, I remember once when a seminarian friend of mine started skipping mass for no apparent reason at all, and I confronted him with it.  Boy was he angry at me – really angry.   He barked back at me: “How dare you talk to me that way.  Who do you think you are?  My guardian?  My watchdog?  Mind your own business.”  I responded to him that as a brother seminarian, as a friend, and as a deacon in the Church at that time, I felt that it was my duty and responsibility to point this out to him and to help him along his journey of faith in that way.  I told him that I wasn’t doing this to be mean or judgmental; I was trying to help along on his journey in trying to discern his vocation to the priesthood. Obviously, he did not have the same perspective.
It is interesting that this seminarian asked me if I thought I was his watchdog, because in a way I was.  We hear the Lord tells the prophet Ezekiel that he is a watchman, he is a lookout -  a sentinel - who is to warn the people of the ways they’ve strayed from their path of faith, to call them out for their wickedness and to bring them back to the straight and narrow.  The Lord tells Ezekiel that it is his responsibility to speak out to his brothers and sisters, to give them warning.  And Ezekiel will be held responsible if he does not fulfill this role. 
Yet, we are not to be a watchman out of arrogance or self-righteousness or out of a mean spirit. We do not do this out of a desire to make ourselves look good or to boost our own egos like the Pharisees did.  We are to do so out of love, out of compassion. Paul tells us that we are to owe nothing to our neighbor, but what we do owe them is love.  This love that is at the heart of our faith is to motivate everything in our lives, just as it was the foundation of Jesus’ ministry and his proclamation of God’s kingdom.
So often we want to solve problems that are far out there, that are not our own backyard, but we don’t want to look at the problems and sins that are right in front of us, those sins that are in our lives or in the lives of our brothers and sisters that are a part of the fabric of our community.  I remember that when I was a missionary working at the soup kitchen in Winnipeg, I tried very hard to get the young adult group at our church to come and volunteer.  Many of the young adults in this group were very altruistic and did so much to reach out to others throughout the world – many had been to Haiti and other poor countries on mission trips.  Yet, to get them to come down to a soup kitchen located in their own community was something they were not comfortable doing.  To be honest, they were very judgmental of the people who went there, and were not comfortable in facing the problems of drug addiction and homelessness and poverty that tore apart their own city.  Yet, I never giving up in asking them. The young adults eventually went down to the soup kitchen, and they even helped organize a food pantry at their own church to address some of these same issues. The food pantry is still operating today almost 20 years later.
Paul and Jesus ask us to help each other out in reconciliation, to help each other look at the sins that exist in our lives. Paul sees the love of God and love of neighbor that we live out in our lives as the fulfillment of God’s law, while Jesus presents us a detailed schematic of how to help our neighbor address the sin in his life, especially when he sins against us.  If we take this commandment to love seriously, that love will not remain disjointed and abstract in the shadows and in muffled whispers, but instead that love will become an integral part of the nitty-gritty of the reality around us.  In our day-to-day reality, in the call we receive from our faith, it’s our responsibility and our calling to decide how we’re going to love our neighbor, and this is a great responsibility indeed.  This may sound simple on the surface, but in the messiness of our daily lives, in the dynamics that exist in our human relationships, this is not easy at all.  Just being nice and politically correct aren’t going to fulfill this responsibility.  Sometimes we will have to be very courageous.  Sometimes we will have to confront our worst fears and those things that make us most uncomfortable in life.  Sometimes the choices are make are very tough; sometimes none of the alternatives are to our liking.  The road of faith is not always easy.  Yet, if we truly proclaim God’s kingdom here on earth, this is what we’re called to do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

9/2/2011 – Homily for Friday of 22nd week of ordinary time – Colossians 1:15-20

        Today’s first reading comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, a document that was probably written while Paul was enduring his first period of imprisonment in Rome.  Paul tells us that Christ came to bring reconciliation to all things, to make peace by the blood of his cross.  Yet, we look out at a world that exists almost 2,000 years after Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians with there being so much war, violence, and discord in our own modern American society and in so many other countries throughout the world.  If we are the hands and the eyes and the feet of Christ here on earth, how can we bring about peace in the midst of all this brokenness?  How can we reconcile all things through the blood of Christ that was shed for our salvation?
         Throughout the year of the Eucharist in our diocese, we have been talking about what the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist means to us as Catholic, about what we need to do to truly live out the spirit of the Eucharist.  I look out at our own community in Yazoo City to see so many lives destroyed by addictions to alcohol, drugs, and violence.  I see many of us working toward our own individual goals and not striving toward peace and harmony in our own neighborhoods. And we see what our society’s addiction to drugs is doing to our neighbors in Mexico, how the drug cartels are overtaking that country and terrorizing its citizens.
         Lord, as St. Francis of Assisi asks of you, make us instruments of your peace.  Let us sow the seeds of your Gospel here on earth as we work as your servants to proclaim your kingdom in the here and now.  May our lives truly reflect the true presence of your Son that we receive in the Eucharist.  

8/30/2011 – Homily for Tuesday of the 22nd week in ordinary time – 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-6, 9-11

        I have enjoyed the first readings we’ve been hearing from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians these past two weeks.  Many biblical scholars believe that this is the earliest letter of Paul’s that we have in the New Testament, with this letter dated from around 51 CE.  Thessalonica was an important port city in Greece in the ancient Mediterranean world, and today it is the second largest city in the country of Greece.  Paul had to leave this city abruptly after teaching the converts from pagan religions there, so this letter provides them encouragement and teachings as they travel along their rocky and difficult journey of faith in a world that is still rather hostile to those who follow the Way of Jesus.  
At the end of the passage we hear today, Paul notes that because God did not destine us for wrath, but rather for salvation through his Son, He wants us to encourage one another and to build each other up, as Paul sees the members of the Thessalonian faith community doing.  In my priestly ministry in Yazoo City and throughout our Diocese of Jackson, I am always edified to see the ways the different members of our Church encourage one another and build each other up.  I look at the way Marian, Natalie, and Mary take care of the sick and shut-ins of the parish, how people here rally around each other when a tragedy hits or when someone needs help or lifting up.  I even had Mary Menger and Anna Posey, two of our junior high students, make blueberry cobbler for the prisoners when I brought them their dinner to celebrate Pentecost.  You have no idea how much that lifted them up and encouraged them. Helping each other along our journey is so essential to living out our Catholic faith.  It is what Paul is encouraging us to do in today’s reading.  May we all continue helping each other as we journey together as a community of believers.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

8/28/2011 – Homilia del Vigésimo segundo domingo del Tiempo Ordinario — Ciclo A - Jeremías 20:7-9; Mateo 16, 21-27

En las palabras del profeta Jeremías que escuchamos hoy, él está buscando un señal de esperanza en su vida en medio de las amenazas de sus enemigos. El se sienta que esta abandonado por su Señor.  Pero, despues de comunicar sus gritos y los lamentos a Dios, Jeramías puede decir: Yavė, tu estas conmigo.  Tu eres mi defensor muy poderoso. Contigo a mi lado, los que me persiguen no me vencerán.  En verdad, en la mitad de nuestra lucha, en los desafíos que tenemos en nuestra vida de fe, podemos gritar a Dios como el profeta Jeremías. Podemos repetir estas mismas palabras, cuado sentimos que las dificultades o los problemas de nuestra realidad nos agobian.
Hay unos miembros de nuestra comunidad que viven constantemente preocupados por los acontecimientos adversos y por los obstáculos que se agarran sin ningun sentido de esperanza en su vida.  Pero, no necesitamos vivir como eso.  Nuestro Señor Jesucristo nos invita a unir nuestros sufrimiento con sus sufrimientos.  El nos invita a comportarnos y a vivir como verdaderos hijos y hijas de Dios. El nos invita a tener confianza en su misericordia, en su amor abundante, en su gracia como un don para nosotros.  Como hijos y hijas de nuestro Señor, podemos confíar en un Dios misericordioso, en un Dios que cuida de nosotros.  El Señor está siempre con nosotros.  Debemos confiar en el, porque el Señor nos da las fuerzas cuando tenemos los sufrimiento y las dificultades.
En la luz del mensaje del profeta Jeremías, esuchamos el Evangelio de San Mateo.  Jesús habla a sus discípulos con mucha sinceridad. El les habla sobre su sufrimiento y su muerte, pero también la presencia de su resurrección. Para muchos de ellos, este asunto puede parecer como un catástrofe o la fatalidad de su destino como el Hijo de Dios. Pero, para nosotros, los cristianos, con la cruz de Jesucristo, con sus sufrimientos, tenemos nuestra salvación, tenemos  nuestra vida nueva.
El reino de Jesucristo no es un reino terrenal que existe solo en este mundo. No es un reino terrenal donde todos sus seguidores iban a conseguir buenos puestos en su gobierno. En sus enseñanzas, nuestro Señor trata de desmontarles que el reino de Dios es algo muy diferente. El reino de Dios no es solamente terrenal - tiene otra dimensión invisible para el momento presente.  Para ser seguidores verdaderos de Cristo necesitamos negarnos a si mismo, tomar nuestra cruz, y seguirle.  Y a veces, necesitamos cambiar nuestras ideas sobre Jesús y sobre su reino.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

8/28/2011 – Homily for the 22nd Sunday of ordinary time - Cycle A – Psalm 63:2-9; Jeremiah 20:7-9

          My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.   You are whom I seek.  My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.  What our psalmist expresses today is what most of us want to proclaim as followers of Christ.  We want to find our joy in our relationship with the Lord, a joy that surpasses all else in our lives.  We want to feel God’s love and mercy in the deepest recesses of our hearts.  Yet there are times in life when these sentiments feel so distant, when we wonder where God is.  When we struggle, when we don’t have the answers to our questions, we have to trust our faith, to trust the call we’ve received from God.
         Here in Mississippi, we’ve had hurricanes, and tornadoes, and the flooding of the Mississippi River.  We’ve had many people here in Yazoo City and in our own parishes whose lives were forever changed by the floods and tornados that struck us with power and violence.  For me, my will was tested in the midst of the El Niño storm system that hit while I was working as a missionary in Ecuador.  I was traveling to our mission site in the jungle after having been in the hospital in the capital city of Quito for the treatment of malaria, pneumonia, and Dengue fever.  I was still very sick and very weak, but I had a day-long bus journey to return to the mission site.  Our bus had only been a half an hour out of the station, we had just left the city and had entered the jungle, when we came to a complete stop.  I looked outside to see nothing but mud; the road had been completely wiped out from the El Niño storm.  Everyone from the bus started getting out, deciding to walk down the mud-filled road in the middle of the jungle as far as possible with the hope that we could continue until we reached our mission site, a 4-hour journey by bus.  We walked for more than an hour, with the mud higher than my knees.  I had my hiking boots tied around my neck by the laces.  Finally, when we came to a clearing in the road, we caught a ride with a road crew on a rickety old truck after begging them for a ride, as I pleaded with them that I was a missionary.  After a while, the road gave out again, and we continued walking through the mud.  I tried to keep up with a group of villagers I knew for the mission site.  At this point the sun had set, and it got dark very quickly.  After walking for more than an hour, fatigue really set in.  Walking in the mud barefoot was starting to get to me.  I slowed down considerably and got separated from the rest of the group.  I fell in the mud and didn’t know if I had the strength to get up.  It was so dark I could barely see anything.  I started to cry, and wondered how I would get out of this predicament.  Finally, I heard the others in the group crying out to me; they realized I had gotten separated.  I found the strength to continue.  Finally, when we got to a stretch of clear road, we found someone in a truck who brought us back home; we arrived the next morning.  I couldn’t believe all that we had been through.
         Our faith calls out to us at all times, not just when everything is going great.  Let’s look at Jeremiah, how he was called to be God’s prophet at a time when Israel was straying from its covenant with God and getting into ill-advised alliances with the nations around them.  This all ended with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and with the exile of many of its citizens to Babylon. From the beginning, Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet.  Yet, he agreed to go where God called him, but then saw the people and the leaders turn against him when he had to deliver God’s very harsh prophecies to them in this turbulent era, messages that were very hard to hear because they were so truthful.  Jeremiah cries out to God in the midst of his pain and anger: You tricked me! You seduced me!  You lured me into a situation where I am now despised by everyone, even my family and friends. 
Who did Jeremiah blame for his misery?  He put the blame on God.  Jeremiah even wished he was never born.  Yet, we all need to understand, no matter who we are, we are going to have our ups and downs, our joys and struggles, in our journey through life.  Even though Jeremiah lashed out at God, later on, just a few verses after today’s reading ends, he is able to say to God: You know, God, you are at my side like a mighty hero.  With you beside me, my opponents will stumble, they will be vanquished, they will be confounded with their failure.  Jeremiah is able to say: Lord, I sing praises to you, for you have delivered the soul of one in need from the clutches of the evil doers. 
There will be times in our lives when we lose sight of our calling, when all seems to be a struggle or a failure, when we question our faith.  And we will need to be honest with ourselves and with God, taking our anger, our struggles, and our despair to him, working through those emotions and the situations that confront us in life. 
When we begin using the new translation of the mass on November 27th, the priest will greet the people as always: “The Lord be with you.”  And you, the people will respond: “And with your spirit.”  The Lord is always with us, he is touching our spirit, even in those times when we feel abandoned or angry or when we’ve had enough and can’t take it any more. 
Jeremiah’s journey today reminded me about Sister Paulinus’ closing words when she was with us earlier in the week for our grief workshop.   Sister told us that if our prayers just included three things, then we are covering all of our bases with God.  As we go through our day, we cry out to God, “Help me, help me, help me,” for we need the Lord's help in all things.  For the blessings we receive throughout our day, and for those things that may not seem to be blessings, we say to God, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  And at the end of the day, for those times we’ve strayed or have given into temptation, we say, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”  In all things, the Lord is with us.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

All Saints parish - Belzoni

Paper mache statue of Jesus at the entrance of our church, done 
by the wonderful artist Rita Halbrook, who is a member of 
our parish in Belzoni. 

 Altar and crucifix at our church in Belzoni. 
Dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lincoln Street - Yazoo City

My friend Glen from Jackson took this photo of me
in front of the sign for Lincoln Street located just down the 
block from St Francis of Assisi parish here in Yazoo City. 
It was taken after our 8:00 Sunday morning mass there. 

Photos from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - St Mary Catholic Church - Yazoo City

This is the Pachamama, the Mother Earth.  
I acquired this from a native person in Argentina 
when I studied there in the summer of 2002.  
It is made out of seed pods and other natural materials. 
I have it hanging in my office at St. Mary parish. 
For the many of the native people of South America, 
the Pachamama represents their mother just as the
Virgin Mary does for us Catholics.  

Flowers that members of the Hispanic community brought 
in order to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin 
Mary on August 15, 2011.  

8/26/2011 – Homily for Friday of 21st week of ordinary time – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

        In today’s reading, we continue to hear excerpts from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  Today’s message from Paul is a call to holiness, asking us to remain true to our Christian values, asking us to live out the values of our faith in the way will live out the reality of our lives.
         I remember Brother Francisco at the mission site I served at in the village of Borbon in the rain forest jungles of Ecuador.  He used to tell the youth there in our mission site that their lives at that present moment were a fruit of how they lived out their lives in the past, how they needed to make decisions that would bring forth the fruits of their faith in the future.  In our modern world, so many people do what feels good and make choices based upon short-term pleasures.  Yet, today, Paul is calling us to a life of holiness.  We are not called to make decisions because they are the politically correct thing to do, or because we just go with the flow with what everyone else is doing in our society.  We need to remember that the Thessalonians were not coming out of a strong Jewish background, but rather had been idol worshippers and had followed other practices that were contrary to the values that Jesus teaches us.  The Thessalonians also fought against so much of what was going on in the secular world around them just as we also do.
         We are all called to lives of holiness.  We are called to follow the values of our faith with courage, integrity, and sincerity.  May we feel that call to holiness that will help us follow that straight and narrow path.   

8/25/2011 – Homily for Thursday of 21st week of ordinary time – 1 Thessalonians 3: 7-13

       Today, we hear an excerpt from Paul’s first letter to the Church at Thessalonica.  Paul was worried that this community he founded had turned its back on him and had started to abandon the faith.  He sent Timothy to this community to check on them and to report back to him.  In this part of the letter that we hear today, Paul offers the Thessalonians encouragement, telling them that he is praying for them day and night, that he longs to see them in person once again.
         We, too, need encouragement in our journey of faith.  Sometimes the road can be very rocky.  Sometimes it seems like we are just trying to make it from one day to the next.  Just as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, there are many people praying for us as well.  And we have the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the community of saints uniting their prayers with ours along this journey of faith.
         I remember one of the prisoners I minister to told me that he had a bad nightmare that really terrified him one night.  He woke up very panicked, but then he looked down at his hand and he saw a glow-in-the dark rosary that I had given him glowing in the midst of the dark night.  It gave him encouragement and he saw it as a reassurance of faith.
         There can be little signs we get along the way that can help us and that can give us encouragement.  No matter what, we need to rest assured that we are never alone, that we have others that are helping us along our journey. 

8/23/2011 – Homily for Tuesday of 21st week of ordinary time - 1Thessalonians 2:1-8

        Most of the time, our first readings come from the Hebrew Scriptures, but today we hear from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  Sometimes the thoughts contained in Paul’s letters might seem to be a bit disjointed, covering many different topics, but today’s letter contains some thoughts that could edify us and encourage us along our own journeys of faith.  Paul explains to the Thessalonians that he and his cohorts brought them the Gospel not to please man, but rather to please God.  And not only did they share the Gospel with them, but they shared themselves as well. 
         That’s important for us to remember.  The Gospel is not some academic theory that we learn in the abstract apart from what is going on in our lives.  The Gospel enters into our reality and transforms us, it is passed down to us by our family and by members of our community of faith.  I know that all of us can think of the people who have passed down the faith to us, who have touched our hearts and transformed our lives, which is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. Recently, I wrote one of my favorite high school teachers, Mrs. Barbara Johannes, telling her the influence she had on me when I was a student, how I remembered the devotion with which she lived out her Catholic faith and shared her faith with her students in so many ways.  Sharing ourselves with others can make a difference in ways we could not even imagine.  
         Today we have the example of Paul, of how he and his associates changed the face of Christianity and brought the Gospel to many people, to the people of Thessalonica and to many other Gentiles who had not previously known the Lord.  May we give thanks today to all those who passed down the faith to us.  And may that inspire us to help pass down that faith to others as well. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

21 de agosto de 2011 - el vigésimo primer domingo del Tiempo Ordinario — Ciclo A – Mateo 16, 13-21

   ¿Para nosotros, quién es Jesús?  Podemos contestar esta pregunta para nosotros mismos cuando escuchamos la pregunta de Jesús que El tiene para los discípulos en el Evangelio de San Mateo: “¿Quién dice la gente que es el Hijo del hombre?”  Y había mucha gente quien rodeaba a Jesus, quien le había visto actuar muchos Milagros en los pueblos y las aldeas de Israel. La respuesta que las personas dieron los discípulos fue variada: Jesús era Juan el Bautista, o Elías o Jeremías, o alguno de los profetas antiguos de Israel que había resucitado.                          
En nuestro mundo hoy día, la figura de Jesucristo produce muchas opiniones tambien.  Para unos, el es el liberador, el gran maestro, un profeta de Dios, un sabio, un buen psicólogo, o un líder revolucionario.  Pero, para nosotros como seguidores de Jesucristo, El es más, mucho más que todo eso… 
Jesús quiere escuchar a nuestra opinión tambien.  Entonces, El nos pregunta: “Y ustedes, ¿quién dicen que soy yo?” Pedro responde con mucho entusiasmo.  El hace una confesión de fe: “Tú eres el Mesías, el Hijo de Dios viviente”. Inmediatamente, Jesús le llama bienaventurado y feliz, porque Pedro sabía perfectamente quién es el Señor.
      Pedro es bienaventurado porque él tenía fe en nuestro Señor. Y esta fe sólo la da Dios. La fe es un don de El.  Y este don de fe siempre precede nuestras acciones de fe. ¿Qué ha hecho Pedro en sus palabras?  Pedro ha cooperado, el se ha abierto a la gracia de Dios.
Podemos reconocer que este vigésimo primer domingo del Tiempo Ordinario nos da una buena ocasión para escuchar la sagrada palabra de Dios y para reflexionar sobe la importancia de nuestra fe y de nuestra vida de fe en la Iglesia. Esta tarde, tenemos una oportunidad para agradecer los dones que nuestro Señor nos da en abundancia. 

8/21/2011 – homily for the 21st Sunday in ordinary time – Matthew 16:13-20

        Who am I?  Who do people say that I am?  Who do YOU say that I am?  What do you believe in your life of faith?  This gets to the heart of the questions that Jesus asks his followers today. 
         When we see Jesus in today’s Gospel, he’s in the midst of his ministry here on earth.  He and his disciples are going all over the countryside proclaiming the kingdom of God.  In our Gospel readings in recent weeks, we’ve seen Jesus speak to great crowds, performing the miracle of multiplying the loaves and the fish.  People have come to him for healing and change in their lives.  At this point, Jesus is wondering what the people have learned, how they perceive him.  So he asks the disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
         Put that question in the context of our own day.  When we meet someone for the first time, we wonder: “Who are you?”  And if you ask someone to tell you about himself, what that person says and does not say can be very revealing.  We can answer a question based on profession: I’m a teacher, a farmer, a lawyer, a prison guard.  We can answer based upon religion: I’m Catholic or I’m Jewish.  We can focus on relationships: I’m a father or a brother, a wife or a daughter.  We can focus on our geographic identity or ethic group: I’m from Benton, or I’m Irish-American.  There are so many way we can identify ourselves – the list is endless. 
         Well, Jesus got a lot of answers about how the crowds identify him.  Some say he’s John the Baptist, while others see him as Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. 
         After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his followers spent centuries debating Jesus’ identity and what they really believed about him.  These followers struggled to understand how Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, a concept that is indeed difficult to comprehend.  They struggled to understand how God manifests himself in our world as a God of three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The beliefs of the early Church that developed after Jesus’ death and resurrection are reflected in the Apostles’ Creed.  Later, out the Council of Nicea that was called by the Emperor Constantine in 325, the early Church started writing the Nicene Creed, which we still profess today.  Professing this creed as what we believe as Catholics reflects our roots in the early Church, the faith passed down by the apostles and the early Church fathers and mothers.
         When Jesus asks the disciples bluntly and directly about what they believe about him, Simon Peter takes the lead, proclaiming with great enthusiasm: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.  We are called to profess that same belief in our lives of faith here in the modern world, that Jesus is indeed the Savior of all the world who redeems us through his death and resurrection. 
         You know, in a few months, we’re to receive the new English translation of the Roman missal at our masses.  Just this month, one of my good friends at St Richard asked me: “Father Lincoln, about that new translation of the mass in English, are the differences really going to be that big, are we even going to notice them?”  Oh, the differences will be many indeed, both big and small.  In fact, the translation we use now is more of a paraphrase of the original Latin, whereas the new one is a more literal translation of each word, keeping the original Latin word structure and images.  The Church is hoping that this new translation will be a way to strengthen the spiritual connection we have in our mass, to really feel it as the “source and summit” of what we believe as Catholics.  In our current translation, we start the Nicene Creed, “We believe,” but in the new translation it will be “I believe.”  The Creed is indeed the faith of the entire Catholic Church, but in proclaiming “I believe,” each believer is able to assert and profess his own personal faith together with other believers.  The words “I believe” reflect a more literal translation of the Latin word Credo that begins the Nicene Creed.  Currently in the Creed, we state our belief in Jesus as “one in being with the Father.”  In the new translation, we will say that Jesus is “consubstantial” with the Father, not a word that we use in everyday conversation in the Mississippi Delta. The question of how Jesus relates to the Father is fundamental to our faith, as Peter declared Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of the Father.  There was much debate about Jesus’ identity and his relationship to the Father in his day and in the early Church, so the early Church councils developed new words and a new vocabulary in order to express precisely what we believe about Jesus.  “Consubstantialis” in Latin, or “consubstantial” in English means “having the same substance,” which goes beyond how we currently describe Jesus as “one in being with the Father.” 
         It is important to think about how we identify and name Jesus not only as individuals, but also as a community of faith.  Indeed, how does our belief in Jesus and our identity with him affect the way we live out our lives and live out our faith?  As we continue to celebrate the year of the Eucharist in our diocese, as we look forward to the new translation of the mass which we will receive on November 27th on the first Sunday of Advent, may the ways we identify Christ in our lives help change us and transform us.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

8/18/2011 – Homily for Thursday of the 20th week of ordinary time – Matthew 22:1-14

       We are invited to a banquet, yet, incredibly, so many of the invited guests will not come.  Some are too busy to fit the banquet into their busy schedules.  Others cannot be bothered.  Others think that there are more interesting things to do, that there are other things to occupy their time.  Yes, even though this is a wonderful banquet that is incomparable to anything else, many will choose not to come.
         Jesus is present here in our Church, his real presence is with us, yet so many choose not to come.  Some have what they think are legitimate excuses.  Some have busy schedules – they would rather sleep in or spend time with their families.  Some have had their feelings hurt by the Church or by a priest, or they don’t feel welcome when they go to mass.  As a priest, I am always trying to find ways to make Jesus present in our community, and that is the duty and responsibility of all of us.  We are the Body of Christ – we are to truly reflect Jesus and his teaching in the way we live, in the way were are community.  Lord Jesus, please lead us and guide us to truly be your Body here on earth.  May we extend the invitation to your banquet to all. 

8/19/2011 – Homily for Friday of the 20th week of ordinary time – Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

A famine has struck the land of Israel, so Naomi and her husband Elimelech go to the land of Moab to live.  Their two sons marry Moabite women, one of these women being Ruth.  We realize that as a Moabite, Ruth would have been prohibited by Jewish law from marrying her Jewish husband. 
Yet, when Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi are both made widows in the midst of this famine, Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi to help take care of her.  Ruth chooses to embrace the God of Israel, to return to the land of Israel at the start of the barley harvest.  Perhaps they are hoping to find food in these dire circumstances. Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, Orpah, goes back to her Moabite family.  There is no condemnation for this action.   And Ruth does not seem to be bound by any specific religious law to stick around and care for her mother-in-law.
Ruth takes an oath: “Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God."  This oath significantly describes her relationship with both Naomi and God, as she uses language that is similar to a covenantal relationship, as she goes beyond what the law and the morality of the ancient Mediterranean world require of her.  Ruth risk starvation and risks the rejection of her own people in deciding to return to the land of Israel with Naomi, in embracing the God of Israel as her own. 
We live in a society where so many people decide that they don’t have time to go to church one hour a week because of their busy schedules.  Thus, perhaps Ruth’s sacrifice and declaration speaks to us very strongly today.  We might ask ourselves: What sacrifice, big or small, is God asking of us today, to follow him with our hearts on our journey of faith?  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

8/17/2010 – Mass of the Anointing of the Sick – Tuesday of the 20th week in ordinary time - Matthew 19:23-30

Today's readings warn us how the excessive attachment to riches can lead us away from the Gospel message, as Jesus speaks about how our attachment to the earthly goods of this world can be an obstacle to us in attaining eternal life.  For all of as Catholics, in our lives of faith, participating in charitable works of mercy as fruits out of our journeys of faith can really helped us realize what is most important in life.  Whether we volunteer at the Manna House Soup Kitchen here in Yazoo City, whether we help someone whose home was damaged in either the tornado or in the floods, whether we visit the sick or the shut-ins of our parish community or the prisoners behind bars, works of mercy will help us experience God in a very real way in our lives, giving us the means to live out the values of the Gospel in our lives. 
         As you all know, I was up at the Benedictine Archabbey in St Meinrad, Indiana last week at a training course for new pastors last week.  I always enjoy going to a monastery to pray with the monks, to be in their presence, to experience their spirituality.  They have such a special vocation in our Church, devoting their lives to prayer and manual labor, living in community, and being an example of faith for the world.  It is good for us to look outside of ourselves, to see how others lives out their faith, to see the different ways that God calls people to follow the Gospel values and to truly live them out in their lives.  Just like giving of ourselves in Christian charity, going on a retreat or being exposed to other ways of living out the Gospel are all ways that can draw us closer to God and away from excessive attachment to the ways of our world.
         So, as we come to God today for healing in our lives, for healing not only physically, but also spiritually and psychologically, perhaps we are asked to look at our lives in a special way.  Perhaps we need to examine ourselves, to see who is really the God we worship in the reality of our lives.  Do we place our trust in God the Father, or do our worldly goods or let other treasures rule our lives?  It gives us a lot to think about.  May we feel Christ’s healing presence with us in the sacraments we are about to receive.  

8/14/2011 – homilia - Vigésimo domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Mateo 15, 21-28

Jesús se fue hacia las fronteras de Israel en el territorio de Tiro y Sidón. En este lugar, Jesús encontró a la mujer cananea. En verdad, los cananeos eran los adversarios más detestados de Israel.  El pueblo de Israel estaba incluido en el papel de Jesucristo para anunciar la palabra de Dios, pero no a los pueblos paganos.  Entonces, el mensaje de Cristo se dirigió a Israel; él no tenía interés en ir más allá de las fronteras israelitas. En verdad, había muchas tensiones y dificultades entre los judíos y las personas del territorio de Tiro y Sidón. Con esta mentalidad, Jesús, por eso, no manifestaba compasión por las súplicas de la mujer cananea en el Evangelio de hoy. Jesús la rechazó con una dureza.  Pero, esta mujer no retiró.  Ella continuaba con sus respuestas y sus súplicas con humildad, con fe y con tenacidad. Esta mujer cananea tenía la creencía profunda que Jesús podía darle lo que ella deseaba para su hija. Jesús miró la fe de esta mujer para curar a su hija.  Jesús no estaba pensando sobre una misión a los paganos, sobre su salvación, en un mensaje solo destinado al pueblo de Israel. Jesús hizo este milgro de curación con la hija de esta mujer en una acción pragmática de su problema.  Para Jesús, la fe de esta mujer tenía un poder y una fuerza más profundo que los prejuicios de Israel.  En los ojos de Dios, la fe y el corazón puro salvan.
La fe es fundamento de todo, es una gracia de Dios, un don de Dios.  Donde hay fe, Jesús actúa. Para esta mujer cananea, y para nosotros como discípulos de Jesucristo, Jesús es la vida y el camino; necesitamos tener confianza en él.  A veces, Jesús no tiene una presencia muy fuerte en nuestras vidas si nos fiamos de él.  A veces, queremos confiar demasiado en otras cosas en nuestra vida.  Mire bien el dialogo que la mujer cananea tenía con Jesús.  Ella tenía muy fijada en su corazón el papel que Jesús tenía en su vida, y ella lo expresó claramente en su dialogo con Él – en sus súplicas, en su confianza, en su adulación, en su tenacidad, en su sinceridad.  Y nosotros, tambien, debemos tener la misma intensidad y humildad en nuestro trato personal con Jesús.  Si podemos tener lo mismo deseo de fe en Él como la mujer cananea, si podemos confiar a Él sin vergüenza ni miedos, podemos tener un milagro en nuestra vida de fe tambien.