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Homily for July 7

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - C
Scriptures for today's Mass

What a great text I have to work with
on my first weekend in a new assignment!
Here’s Jesus appointing and sending out his 72 disciples
to bring the message of the gospel to people they didn’t know,
in places where they’d never been.

And here am I, assigned by Cardinal O'Malley
to serve in St. Luke and St. Joseph Parishes,
to preach the gospel to people I don’t yet know,
in a new place that’s now my home.

So, for my first greeting to you
I'll offer the one Jesus told his disciples to use:
“Peace to this household!
Peace to St. Luke Parish!  Peace to St. Joseph Parish!
Peace to the New Roads Catholic Community!”

And I'll build my first homily, my first message to you
on just what Jesus told his 72 disciples to preach:
 “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you!”

Now, it’s a lot easier for me to say - and for you to hear -
“Peace to this household!”
than it is for me to declare
and you to take in the meaning of the words:
 “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”  What's that all about?
Well, here’s the deal, folks:
Jesus was born,  
Jesus came into the world as a human being,
precisely to tell the whole of humankind,
throughout all of history,
including every one of us here this morning,
that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Or, to put it more simply, the whole of the message of Jesus
can be summed up in two words:
“GOD'S HERE!”                       

• That's what Jesus came to tell us - GOD'S HERE!

• The reason for the existence of the Church
is to keep alive Jesus' message that - GOD'S HERE!

• My work as a priest is to preach, over and over again,
that GOD'S HERE!
I've been doing that for 46 years now!

• And you're here this morning not just because you believe
that God’s Here in this special, sacred place.
No, you’re here in this sacred space
because you believe,
or maybe because you used to believe,
or because you want to believe,
or you want to believe again,
or you want to begin to believe more deeply that -
- that God's here       
- in the universe, in our world, in this town,
in this sacred place
in our families
- and in your heart and in mine.
And that makes all the difference –
or it has the potential for making all the difference in the world.

• It’s easy to remember that GOD'S HERE
when you walk into church
but maybe not so easy that GOD'S HERE
when you get out of bed in the morning
and before you have your fist cup of coffee.

• It’s easier to trust that GOD'S HERE when you’re praying
than when you’re trying to talk
with that one family member or neighbor or coworker
- whom you absolutely can’t stand!

• It’s easy to remember that GOD'S HERE
when things are going just the way you hoped they would
- but much harder when it seems you just can’t catch a break.

• And certainly, it’s easier to believe that GOD'S HERE
in times of peace and contentment
- and more difficult in times of turmoil and change.

• Like the Chosen People in this morning's first reading,
it's hard for us to believe that GOD'S HERE
when everything’s in pieces, when even the temple, our church,
appears to be falling apart.

• It’s so much easier to believe that GOD'S HERE
when we have reasons to be joyful
and so much harder when we're burdened
with disappointment, worry and grief.

That’s why it’s so critically important
to preach and remember and celebrate that God is here
- in good times and in bad
- in sickness and in health,
- in grief and in joy.

And that's why the number 72 is so important in today's gospel.

We know that Jesus had 12 apostles
but he needed more than a dozen helpers
to spread the Good News of the gospel,
the news that  -  GOD'S HERE!

In the same way,
it's not enough for me and Fr. Mahoney to preach that GOD'S HERE.
Only a small percentage of people registered in our parishes
and an even smaller percentage of people in town
will hear our words this weekend..

So we need,
the Church needs,
your parish needs others-
needs you -
to spread the good news that GOD'S HERE.

We all need to find ways to carry that message
out into our daily lives.

• When I'm interacting with, when I'm speaking to that person
I just can't stand
- I need to remember that God's here!

• When I'm tempted to doubt God's presence in my life,
tempted to think that God has forgotten me
- I need to remember that God is always here!

• When fear or worry or grief or anxiety have a grip on me,
- I need to remember that God's here!

• When I'm faced with hard choices and decisions,
with opportunities:
to be generous or selfish;
to be hard-hearted or forgiving;
to be kind or harsh;
to indulge my flesh or choose to be chaste;
to carry a grudge or let things go;
to speak the truth or tell a lie;
to remain faithful or betray a friend;
when these options are before me,
I need to remember,
I need to pray,
I need to say
-even out loud, even for others to hear:
that God is here!

God's here with me.
God is here this morning with you.
God's here with us.
God is always here.
The Kingdom of God is at hand!

In a few moments we'll gather at the Lord's Table
and through the power of the Holy Spirit,
we'll pray and find in the bread and wine we offer
the Body and Blood of Jesus.

In the sacrifice of the altar,
in the Supper of the Lord, in the Eucharist,
we will find and we will know, once again: 


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 7/7

Photo by Dupont Media World

My first weekend Mass at St. Luke's, Lord!

A new parish, a new church, new customs,
new music, new minsters by my side
and new people in the pew...

For a moment I felt that everything was new -
but I was mistaken...

A new parish but the same Church:
the Body of Christ enfleshed
in the lives of the people of God...

A new church building
but a familiar table
laden with familiar food and drink
and blessed by well known prayers...

New customs, new ways of doing things
but that's just the small stuff
and all the important things
were all in place...

Some new music, some well-known,
all drawing me and God's people
into praise and thanksgiving...

New folks all around me, Lord,
but like those I've known and loved so well,
each one here came with a heart
inscribed with a story of sin and grace,
a story edited, gently,
by your mercy and your peace...

And at the center of everything
there was you, Lord:
the Ancient of Days, forever new,
as old as the everlasting hills,
older than the universe
and yet forever new, forever young...

At the heart of our prayer at St. Luke's
was the breath of your Spirit,
opening us to your voice in the scriptures,
to your presence among us, the food of your life,
given up for us on the Cross
and revealed now in the Bread and Cup of Communion...

For all the ways you bless and keep me, Lord,
for all the ways you smooth my path and steady my step
and for all the ways your Spirit guides through changes,
for all the ways you're ever old, ever new
and ever present,
I give you thanks and praise...



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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 7/6

Disturb us, Lord,
when we are too well pleased with ourselves;
when our dreams have come true
because we have dreamed too little;
when we arrive safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord,
when with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
when having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity;
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,
to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
where storms will show your mastery;
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes,
and to push us into the future
in strength, courage, hope, and love.

- attributed to Sir Francis Drake


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Pause for Prayer: the day after the Fourth

Photo: CP

This prayer is from my archives and this backyard is no longer mine
- but the sentiment of this prayer will stay with me wherever I live...

Yesterday, after the band concert in the park,
I walked home and decided to grill myself a burger
with slices of tomato and onion
and a sliver of cheddar...

Waiting in my back yard for the grill to warm,
I turned and caught the setting sun
blowing a kiss to the Fourth of July,
a farewell caress, aglow with grace,
tenderly capping a beautiful day
with affection decidedly divine...

You were there, Lord, I'm sure,
fine-tuning the light til it pierced the trees,
not everywhere, but here...  and here...
 - and yes over there!

Your rays pierced the trees
til the shadows served only
to highlight the sun's gentle touch,
wherever it fell,
as you infused my back yard
with your presence...

Lord, pierce me with your light.
soft, aglow, tenderly capping my day,
til my own soul's shadows serve only
to highlight your gentle mercy
shining through my heart and hands,
into my life...

Be my light, Lord:
let the warmth of your grace illumine my path,
my mind, my heart and my soul...

And when my steps falter
or my sense of direction fails me,
be my light here... and here...
- and yes, over there,
wherever I need you the most, Lord,
wherever I need you the most...



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Christ and Lady Liberty: their words, a song, and a prayer for the Fourth of July

Image source

Between the barbecues and fireworks on this national holiday, let's take some time to recall Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, offering a haven, a refuge, for the burdened and battered.  In the video below (scroll to the bottom of the post), Irving Berlin provides a musical setting for these beautiful words from Lazarus' poem:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Do these words remind you, as they do me, of a more ancient text?
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)
 At least at this one point, Christ and Lady Liberty share a common, open heart.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Let's pause and pray...

Lord, open wide my heart
   to welcome any and all
who've been turned out,
   turned aside and turned away:
in my family, in my neighborhood
   where I work and 'round the world...

May the light of my words and deeds

   lift high a lamp of welcome
and my heart provide a home
   for the weary, heavy burdened...

Let my heart open wide for others, Lord,
   as your heart opens wide for me...



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Pause for Prayer: JULY 4TH

Keep me hungry for what's real
   and independent of my fantasies...

Keep me honest in my speech
   and independent of the easy lie...

Keep me loyal to your word
   and independent of my willfulness...

Keep me just in all my dealings
   and independent of deceit...

Keep me loyal to what's true
   and independent of the counterfeit...

Keep me constant in compassion
   and independent of self-interest...

Keep me loyal to my friends
   and independent of my jealousy... 

Keep me strong in self-awareness
   and independent of denial...

Keep me humble and forgiving
   and independent of conceit... 

Keep me positive and hopeful
   and independent of my fears...

 Keep me steadfast in my hope
   and independent of my worries...

Keep me faithful to my prayer
   and independent of distractions...

Keep me steadfast in my faith
   and independent of my doubt...

Help me lean upon your love,
   on your grace and on your mercy,
free my heart to live for you, Lord,
   independent of all else...


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 7/3


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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 7/2

Image source

While I was away on vacation
I spent some time with my friend M
who's living with a rare terminal illness...

There are days, many days in a row,
when M's not even up for having someone stop by to visit
and I wasn't even sure I'd get to see him
but then he called to say he was having a good day
and wanted to meet for dinner...

In many ways our getting together was like "old times"
except that I know our times together are numbered,
that the progression of M's illness is outpacing
these momentary rallies on his "better" days...

Sometimes, Lord, I'm fairly certain
that I fear M's passing more than he:
his faith is strong, his trust runs deep,
his acceptance of his circumstances is pure grace...

He worries not for himself, not at all,
but rather for his parents, his caregivers,
and his young niece and nephew who are much too young
to lose someone who loves them as much as M does...

My talks with M never fail to help me, Lord,
no matter how great my desire, my intention, to help him...

Truth is, Lord, I'm afraid of losing my friend,
my friend who's not afraid of dying,
my friend who seems to have no fear at all...

M's faith in you runs deep
and he absolutely trusts that one day
your mercy and love will gather us all together
in the joy of your company
where there will be no more pain, illness or loss
but only your peace
for ever...

Thank you, Lord, for all I see and find in M's faith
and open me to the grace spilling from his heart
into the hearts of all around him...

M is not afraid, Lord,
help me to not be afraid...

M believes that in the end all shall be well,
that all manner of things shall be well...

Give me the courage, Lord,
to share M's faith in you and his hope, his trust,
that all, indeed, shall be well...



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Monday Morning Offering: 7/1

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

It's just a month now, Lord, 
since I ended the longest chapter in my life:
25 years in ministry in Concord...

These last four weeks off have been restful,
peaceful, restorative, joyful
and filled with so many blessings and graces,
some large, some small - and all in all,
too many to count...

And this morning, Lord, 
I begin a new chapter in my life, 
serving the people of St. Luke and St. Joseph Parishes...

I bring 46 years of ministry to my new post
so I'm not a beginner - but this is a new beginning:
new people, new faces and new names  - in a new place 
where I don't yet know my way around the sacristies
let alone the streets of these two parishes! 

So this morning, Lord, I offer my prayer, my plea,
for the grace I'll need, for all the grace I'll need,
to make a good beginning of this new chapter
in my life and ministry with and for your people
whom you've called me to serve...

Open me, Lord, to all the new roads ahead:
new paths for growing in faith;
new reasons to deepen my trust in you;
new ways for serving you and the gospel;
new opportunities to grow in your grace;
and new relationships born of Jesus' love...

And I offer a prayer for patience, Lord,
that the people I'm called to serve 
will be patient with me and I with them 
as we come to know each other
and learn to live and share 
and grow and work together...

And I offer a prayer for wisdom, Lord:
the wisdom to discern and accept 
how this new experience
will grow and shape and bless me
- and the wisdom to know when to speak
and when to be silent 
and how to find my way and my place
in this new assignment...

Finally, Lord, I lift up a prayer for fidelity:
I pray I'll be faithful to you, your Word,
your Spirit and your voice
calling me anew to serve your people,
in the grace that calls all of us
to love one another 
as you have loved us...


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 6/30

My baby broc holding on to yesterday's raindrop...
Photo by MDR

Which is more beautiful Lord?
   your broccoli, its image or the caption?

Nature's raw beauty refracted
   in the eye of the beholder
then rendered in poetry:
  leafy flesh becoming word for word
a revelation disclosing in simple high relief
   your artistry and power...

How often, today, Lord,
   will you uncover your glory growing
in my garden, in my imagination
   or in just a word or two or three or more...?


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