Saturday, August 30, 2014

9/4/2014 – Thursday of 22nd week in Ordinary Time – 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, Psalm 24:1-6

      I found an interesting contrast in two of the readings we have in our daily mass today.  Our first reading from Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth states that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”  But, in contrast, the psalmist declares: “To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.”  I remember that I was with Father Albeen registering him for surgery at the hospital.   The lady taking down his information asked him if he was married, and I responded: “No, he is a Catholic priest.”  She went on with the other questions, and then she said she wanted to verified something that we had said earlier.  She asked why we mentioned that Father Albeen was a Catholic priest when we stated that he was not married.  She just couldn’t believe that priests cannot marry.  She had never heard that before.  She asked: You can  never marry?  Never?  Never ever ever ever?  I said, yes, never ever ever ever.  Her response was:  Well ok.  That’s pretty strange.  But I guess it is what it is. Sometimes our faith calls us to do something that the world doesn’t understand.  Sometime what we do for our faith might seem foolish to the wisdom of the world.  But, sometimes, that is what we are called to do. May we take joy in our faith, even in the ways we are mocked or treated as being foolish according to the ways of the world.

9/1/2014 – Labor Day – Matthew 6:31-34

       In the ground breaking encyclical Rerum novarum , the first major papal address on modern labor, Pope Leo XIII wrote: “According to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to someone, since it enables that person to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse people as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers—that is truly shameful and inhuman.” Pope Leo XIII wrote this encyclical back in 1891 when the working conditions for much of the world were not very humane.  Pope Leo felt that the Church needed to address the reality of the world that was present, and to interpret that reality through the values of our Catholic faith.  What is so striking is that the words of Rerum Novarum are so fresh and relevant today.  The address conditions that unfortunately still exist in the world, even though this encyclical was written 123 years ago. 
        Today, we celebrate Labor Day.  I mentioned the comments that Pope Leo XIII made about the dignity of work more than a century ago.  What is Pope Francis saying today?  He adds to what has been said in our tradition of Catholic Social teaching by stating that work "is fundamental to the dignity of a person.... Our work 'anoints' us with dignity, (it) fills us with dignity, (it) makes us similar to God... (It) gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, [and] to contribute to the growth of one's own nation."  The Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, the Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adds to Pope Francis' comments by stating that: “Work helps us realize our humanity and is necessary for human flourishing. Work is not a punishment for sin but rather a means by which we make a gift of ourselves to each other and our communities.”
      Our Gospel today from Matthew states the Christian perspective that should be central to our life of faith, in which we sees everything in light of the reign of God: to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .” Yes, Labor Day is more than a vacation day for us.  It is more than the end to the summer and a signpost that show that we are indeed back to the beginning of the school year.  Labor gives us the chance to see how work in America matches up to the lofty ideals of our Catholic tradition. Catholic Social Teaching is to challenge us and to make us think.   Hopefully our reflection today during mass on Labor day is doing just that. 

9/5/2014 – Friday of 22nd week in Ordinary Time – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

       I remember that back on a Sunday morning in 1997, when I was a missionary in Ecuador, I was traveling home to my mission site by canoe, and upon arrival back home, turned on the short-wave radio, where on the BBC they were talking extensively about Princess Diana.  It took me a while to figure out that she had been killed that day in an automobile crash.  The world was shock and horrified when the details of what had happened came to light.  Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, and just a few days later, her friend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, would pass away.  Mother Teresa and Diana were two very different people – a humble Catholic religious sister working with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India, compared to the glamorous Princess of Wales of England in line to become Queen. However, they indeed were friends and they indeed admired each other.  Mother Teresa said this of Princess Diana: “"She felt very sorry for the poor. She wanted to do something for them. That's why she stood so close to me. Diana helped me to help the poor. She was very anxious with the lot of the poorest. That's why she is so beloved to me."
      Paul states in his letter to the Church at Corinth that as followers of Christ, they should consider themselves servants of Christ and stewards of the mystery of God.  The way Mother Teresa lived her life as a servant of the Lord and a servant to those most oppressed and most vulnerable in the world – that witness has spoken to some many, to both Christians and non-Christians alike. Mother Teresa was already working in the field of education as she served God as a religious Sister of Loreto when she heard God calling her to serve the poor of India in a special way, to found a new religious order to be a witness to the poor called the Missionaries of Charity.   It was not easy founding a new order, but Mother Teresa’s perseverance and determination drove her to be loyal to the calling she heard from God.  In the years since her death in 1997, the legacy of the Missionaries of Charity has only grown; the witness Mother Teresa gives the world continues today.   I recently saw a quote by Mother Teresa that got me to thinking.  She said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  Yes, not many of us have a position like Princess Diana did, but with our daily interactions, some of which are very small, we can certainly touch lives in great ways.  May the prayers and intercessions of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta inspire us all to be servants of the Lord in the special way God calls each one of us.

9/3/2014 – Wednesday of 22nd week in Ordinary Time – St Gregory the Great – Pope and Doctor of the Church – 1 Corinthians 3:

       Paul speaks directly to the problems going on in the Christian community in Corinth in the our first reading.  This community was divided into factions.  Members of the community were convinced of their own self-righteousness.  They judged others.  There was jealousy, bitterness, and rivalry.   A lot of those same things plague our communities of faith and our society today, so the wisdom of Paul still has so much relevance today.
      Indeed, throughout the history of Christianity, we have had bold, courageous individuals who have be called to directly confront the problems that exist in our Church and in the world. As you know, we only have 35 Doctors of the Church, and of those 35, only two are popes – Pope Leo the Great from the 5th century, and Pope Gregory the Great from the 6th century, the saint whom we celebrate today.  Gregory the Great was a leader during a time that was turbulent not only for the Church, but for the world as well. James Barmby, a Church historian writes:  “It is impossible to conceive what would have been the confusion, the lawlessness, the chaotic state of the Middle Ages without the medieval papacy; and of the medieval papacy, the real father is Gregory the Great.” At the time, it must have felt like Christianity was being attacked on just about every front, including the Goths who were invading Rome.  With regards to the Church, his liturgical reforms and the strengthening of Church Doctrine helped Christianity survive and pass down the faith to future generations.  Yet, in all that he had to address as Pope, Gregory the Great never forgot the love and mercy of God.  He is quoted as saying:  “The proof of love is in the works.  Where love exists, it works great things.  But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.”   We might despair sometimes at what we see going on in the world, at how we see our faith under attack.  Yet I heard one priest say in response to this: “Don’t despair.  The world and the Church have been under attack for generations, and we still are!”  St Gregory the Great, St Paul, and the community of saints – pray for us!

9/2/2014 – Tuesday of 22nd week in Ordinary Time – Psalm 145 –

       “The Lord is just in all his ways.  The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.”  This is what the psalmist declares today about the Lord.  That is true about God, but we know that throughout history, governments have lashed out at Christians at different times.   We can think of the Roman Empire until the proclamation made by the Emperor Constantine, or England during the time of Henry VIII or the Communist regimes in Europe during the 20th century until the fall of the Iron Curtain.  There is a group of martyrs from the French Revolution who were massacred in 1792.  This group included priests, bishops, seminarians, deacon, a brother, and an acolyte.  In particular, September 2 of that year, an enraged mob stored a Carmelite church that held a group of 150 priests and bishops that were scheduled for deportation.  All of them were killed by the mob.  We human beings can be anything but kind, merciful, and slow to anger.   The examples of faith that we have in the community of saints show us the courage that we Christians can have to live out our faith in the midst of oppression and persecution.   The French martyrs were beatified in 1926.  May their courage give us inspiration and strength on our own journey.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Homilía - Quinceañera - 8/30/2014 – Lucilena Acosta

      Estamos aquí en nuestra parroquia – en la Iglesia de Santiago el Apóstol -  para celebrar la misa de acción de gracias para nuestra Quinceañera Lucilena. Lucilena - sus padres, sus padrinos, sus amigos, y su familia están aquí para celebrar contigo.  Tenemos mucho gozo esta tarde.   Este día significa que sus padrinos y sus padres estaban fieles a las promesas que hicieron en su bautismo cuando era niña muy chiquita.  Sus padres son los primeros maestros de su fe en su formación espiritual y en su formación humana y en los valores de nuestra fe. En esta misa, damos gracias por los dones de Dios que tienes en su vida  - el don de su vida y en el don de su fe.  El motivo de esta misa y esta celebración es para decir a Dios que tu quieres consagrar tu vida a tu fe, que quieres seguir los mandamientos de Dios por toda tu vida, que quieres ser una mujer católica y responsable, que quieres servir a Dios y a su prójimo como discípulo de Cristo.  Como parte de esta misa, Lucilena, vas a hacer un ofrecimiento a la Virgen María, Nuestra Madre y la Madre de Dios.  María conoce tus desafíos y tus deseos.  Nuestra madre, conoce la realidad de nuestra vida.  Ella va a ayudarte y guiarte en tu camino de fe. 
      Las lecturas de hoy nos dan mucha sabiduría.  Dios nos habla en su palabra esta tarde.  En la primera lectura, escuchamos una comunicación entre Dios y Jeremías.   Dios dijo a Jeremías: “Antes de formarte en el seno de tu madre, ya te conocía.  Antes de que tu nacieras, yo te consagré y te destiné como a ser profeta a las naciones.”   Dios tiene un plan para ti como El tenía para Jeremías.  Dios te conoce.  En tu fe, en tus oraciones, y tu discernimiento, conocerás la vocación que Dios tiene para ti.   Dios va a ayudarte siempre con tus palabras y tus acciones para ser testigo al mundo.   Como Simón Pedro y Andrés en el Evangelio, necesitas tener animo para conocer a Jesús y para seguir en tu camino de fe.   Jesús vio a estos dos jóvenes – Simón Pedro y Andrés  -  y les preguntó – “¿Qué quieren?”  Lucilena – Hoy, también, Jesús te pregunta: ¿Qué quieres?  Necesitas contestar esta pregunta cada día en tu camino de fe con tus palabras y con tus acciones también.
      Hoy, tienes la bendición de Dios en esta celebración y tienes la bendición de toda de esta comunidad de fe.   Oramos que puedas seguir creciendo y madurando en su fe y en su amor de Dios, que sigas viviendo como mujer de fe, y que sigas escuchar la llamada de Dios sobre la vocación que Dios tiene para ti.   Es importante para celebrar contigo en esta misa de Quince Años hoy – pero igualmente es importante para ir a la misa cada domingo, para celebrar en los sacramentos de Cristo nos da, para ir a las clases de la doctrina.  Hoy es una celebración – pero es mas – es un momento especial que tenemos con Dios.   Por todos de nosotros aquí – nunca podemos olvidar la importancia de nuestra fe – la importancia de la Iglesia y la importancia de nuestros hermanos en la fe.  Lucilena - nunca olvida que los sueños y las esperanzas que tienes hoy en su Quinceañera pueden ayudarte en la aplicación de tus dones de fe.

C. Que Dios te bendiga siempre.

8/24/2014 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 16:13-20

I waited a while to post this homily on the internet.  I wrote it with a lot of emotion and a lot of feeling.  I originally was not going to post it to the internet, but with the positive responses I received regarding this homily, I thought I would post it.  This is probably one of the most difficult homilies I have ever written.  And it was written with compassion and with love for my parish.  A lot of love.  

       Who am I?  Who do YOU say that I am?  Jesus asks his followers this question in our Gospel today. 
        Every Christian must answer this question in the reality of his life.  We answer this question in both our words and our actions.  Every mass we celebrate together on Sunday, we profess the Nicene creed.  The Early Church started writing this creed at the Council of Nicea, convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 325.  We start our profession of the Creed with the words “I believe.”  We profess the faith of the entire Catholic Church, a faith we share in unity and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In starting the creed “I believe,” each believer asserts and professes his own personal faith with other believers.  But it goes beyond that.  Way beyond that. 
       We answer the question of who Jesus is by the way we live our lives.  Last Wednesday, I attended a workshop at the First Presbyterian Church here in Tupelo about ministering in the midst of our recovery from the tornadoes that hit our city on April 29.  The presenter from Presbyterian Relief Services asked if any of us remembered a quote about proclaiming the Gospel in actions not only in words.   Of course, as the lone Catholic at the workshop I was able to identify the quote as being from St Francis of Assisi, who stated: “Preach the Gospel always, and only when necessary, use words.”
     We as Catholic profess who Jesus is both in our actions and our words.  We are diverse community here in Tupelo, and in our diversity there is a lot of richness.  This weekend, our Hispanic community is having a retreat for our Hispanic children and youth.  The idea started as providing a retreat opportunity for our altar servers here at St James.  We thought we would have about 20 or 30 attending.  Then several other parishes in the area wanted to collaborate with us.  And we expanded it to include all youth and children from age 8 to age 15.  There ended up being more than 150 children and youth at the retreat.   We have one the most active and vibrant Hispanic ministries in our diocese, something we at St James can be very proud of.  It is the fruit of the vision that Father Henry, Father Gus, and Father Tom had of reaching out to the Hispanics here in Tupelo.  I am trying my best to follow in their footsteps and to follow through with the ministry that they did here at St James in Tupelo. 
      But with the diversity we have in our parish, there can be tension as well.  There can be conflict.  There can be misunderstandings.  But we are called to grow together as disciples of Christ.  To learn from each other.  To be the Body of Christ.  To really show what we believe about Jesus, about what we see in him.
        This is an exciting, busy time at our parish.  Religious education for children and youth has started up again.  So has the youth group.  Our adult faith formation and RCIA will start in a few weeks.  And in a couple of weeks we will have Father Burke Masters come and give our mission on Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel.  This has always been a vibrant, alive parish – and with all we have going on we continue in that tradition.
     I was recently reading comments that Pope Francis, the wonderful leader of our Church, directed to his priests.  And I use the phrase "his priests" because that is indeed what we are.  He said that we who are called to the priesthood, who answer that call and are ordained, we priests are called to serve God’s people. As being anointed and ordained into the priestly ministry, the Pope see us priests are being chosen by God for the purpose of helping to pass down the faith to the people, in celebrating God’s holy sacraments with the people of God.   And I, as the appointed pastor of St James, am called to serve all of you.  The pope said that we called to serve God’s people in the anonymity of our daily lives as priests.  It is very humbling for me to be up here, preaching to you as your pastor.   I pray for our parish every day – I give thanks for all of you.  I give thanks for the opportunity and privilege to serve you as your pastor.  And as your pastor, sometimes I have to make very tough decisions.  I have to apply the laws of the Church to the reality of our lives, which not always clear-cut and easy to do.  Know that my heart is with all of you.  Know that I take my role as pastor very seriously.  Know that I take my promise of obedience to Bishop Kopacz and to the Roman Catholic Church very seriously as well – very, very seriously.  Know that I will be the pastor to all of you and to give it all I have got. 
      Pope Francis, when he chose his name as pope after St Francis of Assisi – the first pope to do so – he sent a powerful message to the world.  He chose the name of a saint who is not only beloved in our Church, who not only represents in a very strong witness Christ’s mission and ministry, but that name also represents a saint that transcends the Catholic Church and is loved by all the people of the world, a saint who reached out for simplicity, to those in poverty, and who cared for the poor.”  I want to end with the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, because these words are the wish I have for myself as your pastor, and the wish I have for our parish:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.