Monday, October 12, 2015

Funeral Homily – Kenneth Corpstein – St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, New Albany, Mississippi – 10/12/2015 – Wisdom 3:1-6, 9, John 11:21-27

    The family and friends of Ken Corpstein are gathered together today to celebrate his mass of the resurrection, his mass of Christian burial. We remember him today, we remember his life of faith, and we commemorate his entry into eternal life with God.  The Word of God speaks to us today about Kenneth, as his family selected these reading to reflect him and his life of faith. 
     The Book of Wisdom tell us in our first reading that the souls of the just are in the hands of God where no torment shall touch them – what a comforting image this is in this time of grieving   Many in the world think that all life ends when our earthly life ends.  But through our faith, we have our belief in eternal life. We put our trust in the Lord. With the suffering Kenneth endured while in the nursing home, he was able unite these sufferings with the sufferings J endured in his passion and journey to the cross. Thru that connection, Kenneth found significance and meaning in what he went through.
      I did not know Kenneth personally, but in talking to his family and friend and fellow parishioners here at St Francis of Assisi parish in New Albany, I heard stories about the example he gave in the way he lived out his faith.  His wife Karen and his children recounted how devotedly he lived out his faith as a dedicated and loving husband, father and grandfather.  From his days as a freshman at the Jesuit run Creighton University in Omaha, Kenneth learned to have a great devotion to the Eucharist.  Pretty much his whole life, Ken served on various parish and finance councils at the parishes he attended.  He was very active at the Good Samaritan center here in New Albany, and spent many years helping with Habitat for Humanity and caring for the church grounds here in New Albany.  He was a member for more than 50 years in the Knights of Columbus, for which he was recently recognized by Bishop Kopacz.  As I thought about Kenneth while driving over to our parish of St Francis in New Albany this morning from my parish in Tupelo, I thought about a famous saying from St Francis of Assisi: Preach the Gospel always and only when necessary use words.  Ken seemed to reflect the heart of this saying in the way he lived out his life.  He helped and served in so many ways, but it was often under the radar; he did not do it for any type of recognition or praise.   Ken showed thru actions that Christ was his Lord and savior, that Christ was the center of his life, that he believed in the resurrection and the eternal life to come.
      It is now the middle of October. In just a few weeks, we will celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day in our Church.  Kenneth is a part of that community of saints that we celebrate each time we gather for mass.  He will remain a real presence in the life of his family and friends.   As we pray for the souls in heaven, they in turn accompany us with their prayers.  In one of the prayers we had in our wake service last night, it stated that the ties and bonds of love and affection that unite us here on earth, do not end or unravel with our earthly death. Kenneth’s spirit will live in eternal life – and his presence with all of you will continue to be real as well.  

10/14/2015 – Wednesday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time – Luke 11:37-41

      We welcome everyone to our youth mass today. Jesus is very hard on the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. In fact, in a lot of our Gospel readings this week, he is very critical of them.  He tells them that they invent all of these external things for themselves to follow, yet in their words and their actions, charity of heart and justice are nowhere to be seen. It is a tough balance, isn’t it, living our faith in our modern world.  As a priest, I am called to a life of prayer, I am called to practice social justice, I am called to celebrate the sacraments with my congregation and to minister to them in different ways – and it is a hard balance a lot of the time.  I cannot devote myself to just one of those things and ignore the rest.  I am sure it is a big challenge for all of you as well, balancing your life of faith.
      And then we look at what we are confronted with in the world in which we live.  I am sure a lot of you teenagers get questions and comments from some of your friends and teachers at school about your Catholic faith, from those who really don’t understand what our faith is all about.  You look at news programs on the TV – it seems like everyone is yelling at other and not trying to find a compromise or to understand the other person’s tradition or point of view.  It is a lot easier to criticize someone that to reconcile with someone or to gain understanding, isn’t it? In today’s polarized climate, it seems like you are labeled on thing or another. If you drive around Tupelo and Lee County, you see churches on just about every street corner, don’t you?  Yet, I went to the ministerial association meeting last week, which is supposed to be a meeting of all the churches in Tupelo and Lee County working together, and there were only 4 churches represented there.  In fact, some of the other churches take pride in not being a part of that group and not trying to work together – they mock and criticize the other churches and think that their way of doing things is the only right way.  Some of them will go on mission trips to another country, but they don’t want to work together for Christian unity in their own community.  Seems a little strange, doesn’t it? 
      I remember when I was in seminary during my last year, I was taking a class on the spirituality of the priesthood.  Our instructor asked us: What type of priest are you going to be?  He explained that we cannot be everything as a priest, and so we priests have to choose how we are going to live out our priesthood.  It is funny, at the time I naively thought that I could be everything I wanted to be as a priest.  As I am running around all over northeast Mississippi in my duties as a priest and sometimes being busy from early morning to late at night, I know now what our instructor was saying was true.   That is the challenge for all of us as Catholics.  How are we going to live out our lives of discipleship?  How are we going to live out our faith?  We can always make excuses to say we are too busy to go to mass on Sunday or too busy to pray or too tired to get up for religious education on Sunday morning when we’ve been out late the night before.  No one is going to decide for us – each one of us is accountable to God and accountable to the commitment we make to him.
      I want to say this to all of you – we as a Church are committed to everyone – to young and old, rich and poor, to anyone who wants to become a part of our community of faith.  I hope that you youth feel welcome at our parish and feel like you are an important part of our community – because you are.  Thank you all for taking time out of your busy week to celebrate around the table of the Lord with us.  May today’s Gospel challenge each one of us to think about the ways we live out our faith. 

10/12/2015 – Monday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time – Luke 11:29-32

      Jesus gives a stern warning to the crowds that are gathered, as a sign is demanded from him.  Throughout the history of the prophets in ancient Israel, signs were provided in order to show that they were authentically speaking God's message.  In Jesus' response, he tells them that he is sign enough, that they need no further evidence from heaven.    
       The people of Ninevah recognized the warning that God gave them through the prophet Jonah, and they repented.  The Queen of Sheeba recognized God's wisdom that was communicated by Solomon.  Jesus notes this to the crowds.  Yet, the religious leaders of Jesus' day were not so quick to recognize the sign that was right before their very eyes, how Jesus was that sign for them. 
        Jesus called the people of his day “an evil generation”.  What do you think he would say to us if he joined us for mass on a Sunday here at St James in Tupelo?  What about us. How would we respond to that message? Would we listen to his message with open hearts, or would we demand all sorts of signs and proof to authenticate his teachings and ministry?  Do we listen to the prophetic messages that are delivered in our own day, or do we scoff at them, thinking that we already know the truth? 

       In a little while in our mass, after our prayer intentions, we will celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus present among us, which is truly a sign for us and for our generation.  May we thank God for the gift of the Eucharist.  May it feed our souls and our spirits.  May it help us be open to the wisdom of God as it enters our lives through his word and through the sacraments of our Church. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

10/9/2015 – Friday of the 28th week in Ordinary Time – Luke 11:15-26

      This is the time of the year when we get ready for Halloween, for haunted houses and haunted forests. I remember as a child how movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist enthralled movie audiences  And it seems like in recent years there are vampires and zombies and evil spirits all over the place in TV shows and in movies.   Are these demons and monsters just make believe creatures we amuse ourselves with?  Can we take at face value the healing today Jesus undertakes of the man possessed by a demon?
       With all of our education, with our confidence in our technology and our scientific methods finding a rational and logical explanation for everything, with the drugs that modern medicine gives us to cure our ills and treat our mental illness, we might think that believing that demons can actually exist would be for the uneducated and the superstitious.  Indeed, when I lived in South American and Africa, belief in the existence of spirits both good or bad was a belief held by most of the population, whether that person had no education at all or held a PhD.  I remember telling one of my teachers in seminary that I think we have lost something by thinking that these good and evil spirits are not a reality in our world.  She said she agreed with me.  In some ways, I saw how their belief in the spirit world here on earth enhanced their view of their faith.  
       In the Gospel today, the people don’t understand how Jesus can cast out demons, so they claim that he must have that power from the Devil himself.  Jesus casts out these demons because he has authority over them, an authority that can only come from God the Father.    
        We are uncomfortable with things that we don’t understand.  But, in some ways, all of us have our own demons we wrestle with, don’t we?   And we just have to look to the way that addictions have become so pervasive in our modern world, to the lives they have destroyed.  We look to the mass shootings and acts of terrorism that baffle us and horrify us.  In the end, I would have to say that language of demons and spirits has a place in our world today in naming the spiritual and moral issues we wrestle with.  That language helps us talk about the real dangers that confront us in our lives here on earth.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

10/10/2015 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mark 10:17-30

     We see this young man so open and eager and enthusiastic as he approaches Jesus in the Gospel, asking Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life in God's kingdom. Yet, by the conclusion of today’s Gospel, his joy and enthusiasm are gone as he walks away in sadness.  What exactly is the point of this Gospel that brings up issues of wealth and poverty, of where we place our confidence and our priorities in life?
      As Christians, we're called to see the world through the lens of faith.  We also see life through the lens of our modern American world, which is very different indeed.  Our perspective influences everything.   Jesus told the young man that even though he follows God's commandments, he lacks one thing.  This rich young man has many possessions that he does not want to part with.   We hear this Gospel from our own perspective, but think of a person living in extreme poverty in rural Latin America or Africa, with a difficult time putting food on the table and supporting a family.   That person would hear this Gospel message very differently. 
       We can get so accustomed to the comforts and possessions of our modern American lifestyle.  As an accountant and as a priest, someone who is responsible for the budget and money flow of our parish, and all of you who have to manage your work and household budgets, we know that it is not easy.  In recent years, you have heard Pope Francis scold his priests, telling us that he doesn’t want to see priests driving facing cars or living in luxurious rectories, or living in a lifestyle that is beyond that of the people.  I believe the reason the Pope has taken such a stance is that he wants us priests to model Gospel simplicity and to model a lifestyle that identifies us as followers of Christ.   In my 8 years as a lay missionary, I did not own a car.  Try going a day or a week or a month without a car, and you’ll know what a challenge that is.  It is something we all take for granted.  As most of you know, on long trip, I would take the bus, and often across the country.  I was recently looking at a journal entry I wrote while taking the Greyhound bus from Jackson to Winnipeg, Canada round trip – not a short trip to be sure.  And while the average middle class American would not dream of taking a long trip on the Greyhound bus, I wrote in my journal entry about who I saw with me on the bus – an Amish family traveling to a wedding in Canada from their home in Pennsylvania, soldiers going home on leave, college students traveling back to school, immigrant laborers traveling to another part of the country to find work, and the man who sat next to me on the bus who had just found out that he was the father of a 9-year old son up in Canada whom he was traveling to meet for the very first time. Rather than looking at the negative and frustrating aspects of going on such a long bus journey, I let what I saw touch my heart and tried to take it all in.  And perhaps our emphasis on possessions and comfort would keep us from benefiting from such experiences in our lives.  In a similar way, our 2nd reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that God's word will go to the very depths of our hearts to change us only if we allow his word to work within us.   If we invite God’s word into our lives, it will bring change, conversion, and renewal in ways we could not imagine. 
       We are called to keep God's commandments, but the heart of our spiritual lives isn't just about keeping rules, just as our salvation is not the result of something we do on our own.  A. Today's Gospel tells us that we come closer to God's kingdom not by anything we do, but by who we are.  By not wanting to give away his riches to the poor, the young man in the Gospel is unwilling to place his trust in God, unwilling to be dependent upon God.  
        Pope Paul VI saw the increased materialism of the modern world, declaring in his encyclical Populorum Progressio that increased possessions certainly should not be the ultimate goal of nations or individuals.   Growth is essential in our development as human beings and as a society, but it imprisons us and restricts our vision if we see growth and economic development for their own sake as the supreme good.  If we're completely dependent upon possessions and wealth, our hearts can easily become hardened and our minds can easily become closed.  Exclusively pursuing our possessions above the love of God and not looking at how we can use them according to God’s will can form obstacles to our individual fulfillment and to humanity’s true greatness.  It takes imagination and passion to follow God's vision for us – and that was what the young man in the Gospel lacked.  But in the end, Jesus looked upon the young man with fraternal love and compassion.  God looks at us in love, too, as we struggle with the things that keep us from God, as we try to implement his will in our lives. 
        Today, we hear the Gospel story about the rich young man who walked away from Jesus in sadness.  We had our time and talent survey last spring, and we have implemented a lot of new programs here in our parish, and a lot of parishioners are involved in a lot of things.  It amazes me to see all the activity here at St James on a given night or weekend.  Now it is time to start thinking about financial stewardship as well – and the Gospel today gives us a good context in which we can approach it.  We are very, very blessed in our parish to have a lot of people who give very generously in a lot of ways.  But we all need to think about how God wants us to give of our gifts and our financial resources to support our church.  We will soon give out an annual report of where we are financially at St James, and I ask all of you to prayerful consider the contributions that you make to us.  Like this young man in today’s Gospel, let us all ask Jesus what we can to do to fully live out the Kingdom of God in our lives.

Monday, October 5, 2015

10/7/2015 – Our Lady of the Rosary – Luke 11:1-4

       Today's Gospel reading from Luke has Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray the Lord's prayer, which is fitting on the day when we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary, since the rosary is a popular prayer devotion within our Catholic faith.  The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was established by Saint Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto over the Ottoman empire on October 7, 1571. The victory was attributed to the help of the holy Mother of God whose aid was invoked through praying the Rosary.  The celebration of this day invites all of us to reflect upon the mysteries of Christ, following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was so uniquely associated with her son's incarnation, passion, and glorious resurrection. 
         The celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary takes place in the month of October, a month dedicated to Mary and to an awareness of the respect for life.  A respect for life and the Virgin Mary are so appropriate to celebrate and honor at the same time.  Mary never receives honor for her own sake, as she always points to her son and always leads us closer to him. 
         The rosary is a symbol of our Catholic faith that speaks so strongly in our society.  When I was associate pastor at St Richard Catholic Church in Jackson, a group of us would go out to the abortion clinic in Jackson every Thursday morning to pray the rosary for an end to abortion and for a greater respect for life in our society.  This action of praying the rosary in front of the clinic really is a powerful and prophetic sign. When we visit the prisons through our prison ministry program, we meet so many inmates who realize that they need to find Christ in their lives in their moment of crisis and isolation from the rest of our society.  These prisoners are always asking us for rosaries when we visit them.  They pray the rosary with great devotion and see the rosary as a symbol of their faith that will accompany them during this difficult time, a symbol that will always minister to the other inmates as to what they believe.  In fact, I remember one prisoner telling me that he prayed the rosary every day for months on his fingers when he did not have any beads. 

         As we pray the Lord's prayer during mass today as Jesus instructed us to do, as we celebrate the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of our Lord and the Mother of our Church, let us always remember the Gospel of Life that is foundational to the Catholic faith which we profess. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

4 de octubre de 2015 - San Francisco de Asís - Lucas 10: 13-16

      Hoy, celebramos el patrón de nuestra parroquia - San Francisco de Asís - en nuestra parroquia en New Albany, Mississippi.  El es uno de los santos más populares en la historia de nuestra Iglesia.  El Papa Francisco tomó su nombre como Papa de San Francisco de Asís.
       La historia de San Francisco es muy conocida y muy interesante. Vivía como niño y joven con muchas riquezas, una vida con muchas fiesta y no mucho tiempo con Dios, pero luego, encontró un leproso, y le dio su túnica en una acción de compasión.   Después de este encuentro, miraba a Dios en una manera diferente y tenía una conversión en su corazón.   Renunciaba sus riquezas y proclamaba un mensaje cristiano muy radical al mundo.  San Francisco miraba la presencia de Dios en toda la creación - en los sufrimientos de los pobres, en los animales y la naturaleza.  Para Francisco, tenía el sol y el viento como sus hermanos, la luna y el agua como sus hermanas.  Mucha gente de nuestro mundo moderno puede relacionarse con esta espiritualidad franciscana.  En 1986, cuando el Papa Juan Pablo II llamó a una conferencia de paz de líderes de las religiones del mundo, tenía esta conferencia en Asís, la ciudad natal de Francisco.  En verdad, los santos son una parte muy importante de nuestra vida de fe como católicos. Y San Francisco de Asís es un santo muy querido en nuestra fe.  Como el Evangelio dice, hay mucho que los sabios y los ricos no pueden comprender, pero el corazón de los niños y la gente sencilla puede comprenderlo.   Jesucristo está con nosotros en nuestro camino de fe.  Y San Francisco de Asís y los santos están con nosotros también.  Tenemos mucho que podemos aprender de Francisco de Asís.  Mucho que puede ayudarnos en nuestro camino de fe.