News From the Pastor
Sophie was sitting on her Grandpa’s lap as he read her a bedtime story. From time to time she would take her eyes off the book and reach up and touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally, she spoke up, “Grandpa, did God make you?” “Yes, sweetie,” he answered, “God made me a long time ago.” “Oh,” Sophie paused, “Grandpa, did God make me too?” “Yes, indeed, honey,” he said, “God made you just a little while ago.” Feeling their respective faces again, Sophie observed, “God’s getting better at it, isn’t he?”
As we celebrate First Communion this weekend and next, our collective response might be, “God can’t get any better at it. These young children reflect God’s creative genius and God’s image and likeness so wonderfully, it just can’t get any better than that.” Of course, wrinkles and blotches notwithstanding, God did a pretty good job with us too, wouldn’t you say? It is that goodness that has called us into being, that goodness that sustains us on the journey, and that goodness that marches us right through those pearly gates into eternity.
Celebrating first communions so soon after Easter just adds to the miracle of it all. Having just gotten together for lavish Easter feasts and clever Easter egg hunts, our hearts are primed for feasting around God’s table and for the fun it is to uncover the new life of Christ in places and people where we would look first and/or last. May our receiving the Eucharist this weekend, whether for the first, one hundred first, or too many firsts to count, bring great joy into our hearts and our homes. Congratulations to our First Communicants and know how excited we are to have you at the table with us!
Love, Fr. Dave
Fr. O’Malley rose from his bed one morning to a fine spring day in his new west Texas mission parish. He walked to a window of his bedroom to get a deep breath of the beautiful day outside. He then noticed there was a donkey lying dead in the middle of his front lawn. He promptly called the police station. The conversation went like this: “Good morning. This is Sergeant Jones. How might I help you?” “And the best of the day te yerself. This is Fr. O’Malley at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. There’s a donkey lying dead in me front lawn and would ye be so kind as to send a couple o’yer lads over to take care of the matter?” SSgt. Jones, considering himself to be quite a wit and recognizing the Irish accent, thought he would have a little fun with the good father, replied, “Well now Father, it was always my impression that you people were the ones who took care of the last rites.” There was dead silence on the line for a long moment; Fr. O’Malley then replied, “Aye, ‘tis certainly true, but I thought I would notify the next of kin first, which is the reason fer me call.”
Who do you think was the first one Jesus’ friends and family notified about the resurrection? Who will you and I notify? Will we tell anyone at all, “Hey. Jesus rose from the dead!”? Or will we assume that people know Easter is not about chocolate, but the risen Christ. Truth be told, it may be better to demonstrate our faith through acts of kindness and deep joy than to talk nonstop about our faith or what happened in church this weekend or how the kids got chocolate bunnies at the early Mass (we thank the Knights of Columbus for doing that by the way).
Living Easter joy is the pre-eminent sign that resurrection is real. Pope Francis says that over and over again: “Joy is the principal tool of evangelization!” And he shows it in his smile, his hugs, and only then in his message. May we follow his example and show the joy—loving even those who are hard to embrace. Have a wonderful Easter (season) and may the joy fill the lakeshore with grace and peace!
Happy Easter, Fr. Dave
Alan and Sandra lived on a cove at Gull Lake, Alberta. It was spring, but the lower portion of the cove was still frozen over. Sandra asked Alan if he would walk across the frozen part of the cove to the general store and get her some cleaning supplies. He asked her for some money but she told him, “Nah, just put it on our tab. Old man Stacey won’t mind.” So Alan, being the dutiful husband, walked across the ice, got the supplies at the store (along with a few smokes and some beer), and then walked back home across the cove. When he got home, he said, “Sandra, you always tell me not to run up the tab at Stacey’s store. Why didn’t you just give me some money?” Sandra replied. “Well, Alan, I didn’t want to send you out there with cash when I wasn’t sure how thick the ice was!” A love story like this almost brings tears to your eyes…
The Palm Sunday entry of Jesus into Jerusalem turned out to be, for him, walking on thin ice. And the rest of the story, a true love story, does bring tears to the eyes of a believer. As we celebrate this weekend with the waving of palms, and as we listen anew to the story of our salvation, we are moved by the tremendous love Christ has for each of us and all humanity. May we respond to that love with renewed commitment to live as his disciples, not running away, not denying that we know him, but embracing all that our faith in him has to offer.
In that spirit, I would invite you to join us for each of our Triduum celebrations this week. Thursday evening we wash feet as part of our Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, thereby growing in humble service of each other; Friday, called Good because of the great gift the cross is in our lives, we walk with Jesus to Calvary, thereby demonstrating that we, too, are willing to lay down our lives for each other; Saturday night invites us to visit the empty tomb, thereby embracing the new life Jesus’ resurrection has won for us. To miss out on any of these sacred liturgies is to cheapen the meaning of who Jesus is and what our faith is all about. Let us make the journey together, sharing love and hope and faith with one another all along the way!
Holy Week Blessings, Fr. Dave
A man was driving down the street in a panic because he had a very important meeting to get to and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up to heaven, he said, “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place, I will go to church every Sunday and start tithing.” Just then, a parking place appeared—the closest one possible. The man looked up again and said, “Never mind, Lord. I just found one.”
Jesus is often portrayed as looking up when talking to the Father. He does so in this weekend’s Gospel before he calls Lazarus forth from the grave. The idea of heaven/God being “up” is common to most religions, yet we understand that we are not so much talking geography or cosmology as we are talking philosophy or theology. In other words, God is beyond us, greater than us, and to find that God, I need to get over myself. Thus, I look outward rather than inward, and in that glance, I may see the face of God in all of creation, especially in all those who journey with me on the path of life.
One can only imagine what Lazarus experienced when called forth by Jesus. Did he feel awkward, nervous about having to answer questions from friends and family? Did he feel special, loved by his friend more than any others? Did he internally pledge to live life even more fully now that he was given a second go-around? Exactly what happened to him and what his experience truly was will forever escape us, but this Lenten season is all about dying and rising. Thus, whenever you and I die to ourselves, we rise to new heights of graced living; whenever you and I lift our minds and hearts from everyday tasks and spend time in prayer, we come to a greater recognition of God among us. Whenever I fast, I hunger for justice; whenever I give alms, I am enriched by God’s providence; whenever I pray, I am filled with new life. So while Lazarus’ experience may remain enigmatic, I do know what being raised up is all about in my own life.
Easter is two weeks away. Let us do all we can to make it an event that breathes new life into each of us as much as it did Lazarus!
Happy Lent, Fr. Dave
A man walked into a Washington D.C. church to go to confession. He entered the reconciliation room and began, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Last night I was walking down the street, bumped into a congressman, and I couldn’t help myself. I punched him right in the mouth. In fact I wanted to do much more than that.” The saintly priest responded, “That’s all well and good, but we are here this afternoon to discuss your sins, not your community service work.”
Oh, how easy it is to see the sins of others! In this weekend’s Gospel, the townsfolk are desperate to figure out for whose sin the blind man is paying—his own, his parents, someone else? Oh, how hard it is to see my own! How often has any priest not heard, “Well, I would go to confession but I just can’t really think of anything to confess.” The townsfolk in the Gospel are to be commended, however, for pointing out the community nature of sin—what I do has an impact on the world around me and, even without a conscious awareness, I participate in the broad sinfulness of humanity.
So I ask myself, “Am I blind to how my choices affect others?” For example, every dollar I spend lessens the amount I have to feed the hungry. Do I spend too much on myself? If yes, do I ever confess that? Do I ever consider how my use of aerosols, Styrofoam, and other products damages the environment, thereby leaving the world a less pristine place that when I entered it? Do I ever confess that? Or what about the money I pay for on-line entertainment and information? Do I become less a person because of what I do on-line, thereby making my family less filled with grace because I am? Do I ever confess that?
Whose sin is it? It is so easy to cast stones at another sinner, but so difficult to admit that my own sin may have something to do with the kind of person he/she has become. Maybe the other’s sin is a result of mine. Hmmm! So before we write off the understanding of the Gospel’s townsfolk as off-base, maybe they are on to something—the communal nature of sin. We are, after all, an interconnected humanity and the good side of that is, of course, that Jesus came to save us all. And if our sin has an impact on others’ lives, then so does the grace within us. Let us, then, replace any sinfulness with grace. Our parish mission this week may be a good venue for that to happen. See you there!
Lenten blessings, Fr. Dave
She hurried to the pharmacy to get her medication, got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys inside. The woman found an old rusty coat hanger on the ground near the dumpster. She looked at it and said, “I don’t know how to use this.” She bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within a minute, an old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag. He got off the cycle and asked if he could help. She said, “Yes, my daughter is sick. I’ve locked my keys in the car. I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?” He said, “Sure. I can do that.” He walked over to the car and, in less than a minute, the car was open. She hugged the man and through tears, said, “Thank you so much. You are a very wonderful man.” The man replied, “Lady, I’m not wonderful at all. I just got out of prison yesterday for car theft.” The woman hugged the man again and said, “Oh thank you God. You even sent a professional!”
God also sent a professional to the woman at the well in the Gospel story this weekend. And what a difference it made in her life! And, by the ripple effect, what a difference it made in the life of everyone in town. And it happens over and over throughout our Christian history. Once someone truly believes that Jesus was sent by God to change his/her life, there is no stopping that rolling ball. But, first things first! Do I believe that Jesus was sent into my life? Not just into the world, but into my life? All that I have ever learned about God and salvation and all the rest will have no real impact on myself or others until I personally accept that Christ was sent to me. Once it is personalized, the energy of that grace within cannot be contained.
Let’s move in that direction. Let’s take a step or two toward that well where Jesus is waiting for me. The woman went alone—each of us needs to take those same steps alone as well. I have to encounter Christ in person first; then the community of faith comes all the more alive. Our parish is only as alive in Christ as each member is. Let’s make journeying to the well our assignment for this third week of Lent!
On the way, Fr. Dave
A man walks out into a Dublin street and catches a taxi going by. He gets into the taxi and the cabbie says, “Perfect timing. You’re just like John L.” The passenger says, “Who?” The cabbie says, “John L Sullivan. He’s a guy who did everything right all the time. Like my coming along just when you needed a cab, things like that happened to John Sullivan all the time.” The passenger replies, “Well, there are always a few clouds over everybody from time to time.” The cabbie responds, “Not John Sullivan. He was a terrific athlete. He could’ve won the grand slam at tennis. He could golf with the pros. He sang with a tenor voice like an angel and danced like a Broadway star. And you should have heard him play the fiddle! He was an amazing guy.” The passenger, although skeptical, says, “Sounds like he was something really special.” The cabbie goes on, “Oh, there’s more. He had a memory like a computer. He remembered everyone’s birthday. He knew all about wine, which foods to order, and which fork to eat them with. He could fix anything—not like me. I change a fuse and the whole street blacks out. But John Sullivan, he could do everything right.” The passenger again exclaims, “Wow. What a guy!” The cabbie presses on, “He always knew the quickest way to go in traffic and avoid the traffic jams—not like me. I always seem to get stuck in them. But John, he never made mistakes. He really knew how to treat a woman and make her feel good. He would never argue back, even if she were wrong; and his clothing was always immaculate, shoes polished too. He was the perfect man. I never knew him to make a mistake. No one could ever measure up to John L. Sullivan.” Finally the passenger asks, “An amazing chap, how did you meet him?” at which the cabbie admits, “Well…I never actually met John. He died and I married his widow!”
On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is transformed into the perfect, most fun-loving, entertaining Irish lad or lass for at least a day (plus for many, it’s a day off from Lent). In the Gospel reading this weekend, there is transformation happening as well. It isn’t really so much that Jesus is transfigured, but that the disciples are—as they see Him for the first time as he really is. When the non-Irish turn into leprechauns for a day, we revert back to our old selves on the 18th. But for Jesus, there was no going back—he would remain the Messiah that he was and not the one that most expected. And the disciples couldn’t even share their experience because they were in no way ready to challenge the popular expectations of what the Christ was supposed to be. But they, too, were forever changed, embracing the real person of Jesus Christ, just as he was. There was no going back for them either.
And therein lies the challenge for us. Am I a disciple who accepts Jesus for who he is or do I only accept the parts of him that fit my views, my likes, my opinions? Do I water down the hard teachings and embrace only the easier ones? Do I want the Easter joy without the Lenten sacrifice? If so, then some transformation needs to still take place, and these sacred forty days are just the right opportunity for that to happen. Of course, if you count all the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, including Sundays, there are a few “snow days” in the Lenten schedule. For some, St. Patrick’s Day may be one of the snow days!
Happy St. Paddy’s Day, Fr. Dave
A teacher was giving a lesson on the circulation of blood. Trying to make the matter clearer, she said, “Now class, if I stood on my head, the blood, as you know, would run into it and I would turn red in the face.” “Yes,” the class nodded. “And why is it,” she continued, “that when I’m standing upright in the ordinary position, the blood doesn’t run into my feet?” Someone in the back of the room shouted, “’Cause your feet aren’t empty!”
By sharing this little joke, I am not trying to make fun of teachers, just like last week’s one about putting the corn flakes back into the box was not meant to ridicule people with dementia. Nearly every week I get at least one or two calls or notes from people who are hurt by my sense of humor or the story I put in the bulletin. I guess I grew up in a teasing household and I remember well the first joke my Grandpa told me (or at least the first one I “got”). He said, “Why do Hollanders wear wooden shoes?” “I don’t know,” I replied. He answered, “to keep the woodpeckers off their heads!” We were a Dutch family and I learned at an early age that to laugh at one’s self goes a long way in helping to stay humble. Or, as the poster says, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
In previous parishes, there were always some folks who asked (some politely, some not so much) to give up the jokes and the humor for Lent, to be more serious and sacred. I declined, recognizing that the very first weekend of Lent, Jesus and the devil are squaring off in the desert and there are some great lines shared between the two of them. It’s quite a funny scene, actually, to picture Satan dancing around the rocks and the sand and getting nowhere in his attempt to derail Jesus from his call to be Savior. Plus, the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and sharing are meant to deepen our joy quotient, not make us sour and dour. Does that mean that Jesus’ suffering does not bring tears to our eyes? Of course not, but Easter joy is the ultimate focus and victory is always a celebration.
So please know that I am never trying to insult anyone or to be disrespectful toward the depth of what our sacred liturgy commemorates. But, I am happy to see everyone at Mass and while that can often mean some loud laughter, it’s the way I’m wired. And, as for Lent, may these forty days bring us all to a deeper joy at the level of God’s love for us, so that any tears may be those of joy, not those of suffering.
Happy Lent! Fr. Dave
A grey-haired lady calls her neighbor and says, “Would you have time to please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle and I can’t figure out how to get started.” Her neighbor asks, “What is it supposed to be when it is finished?” The lady says, “According to the picture on the box, it’s a rooster.” So the neighbor decides to go over and give her some help with the puzzle. She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table. He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, and finally turns to her and says. “First of all, no matter what we do, we’re not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything that resembles a rooster.” He then takes her hand and says, “And secondly, my dear, I want you to relax. Let’s have a nice cup of tea and then,” he said with a deep sigh, “let’s put all the corn flakes back in the box!”
As the season of Lent begins this week, which foods are you and I going to put back in the box? Candy and chips? Olives and maraschino cherries (and the drinks that marinate them)? Drive-thru fare? Whatever it is, the purpose of self-denial is not only to grow in self-discipline, but to grow me into a better person. If the money I save from eating and drinking less gets put into the Rice Bowl box, then it is having a positive impact on those less fortunate. If the strength I get from saying “no” to certain foods also helps me to say “no” to nasty remarks and angry retorts, then others will be less hurt by my comments. Fasting is different than dieting; almsgiving is different than tax write-offs; and prayer is not the same as asking for favors. All of the time-honored Lenten disciplines are designed to help us become less focused on one’s self and more directed toward God and others. May that truly happen for each of us during these sacred forty days!
And Lent means Springtime! May that happen for each of us as well!
Blessings, Fr. Dave
The Pope met with his cardinals to discuss a proposal from Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel. “Your Holiness,” said one of the cardinals, Mr. Netanyahu wants to challenge you to a round of golf to show the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Jewish and Catholic faiths.” The Pope thought this was a great idea, but he had never held a golf club in his hand. “Don’t we have a cardinal that could represent me?” he asked. “None that plays very well,” one of them replied, “but there is a man named Jack Nicklaus, an American golfer who is a very good golfer and a devout Catholic. We can offer to make him a cardinal and then ask him to play the round with Mr. Netanyahu as your personal representative. And in addition to showing our spirit of cooperation, we’ll also win the match.” Everyone agreed and the call was made. Of course, Nicklaus was honored to be made a cardinal and agreed to play.
The day after the match, Cardinal Nicklaus reported to the Vatican to inform the pope of the result. “I have some good news and some bad news, your Holiness,” said the golfer. “Tell me the good news first,” said the Pope. “Well, Your Holiness, I don’t like to brag. Even though I’ve played some pretty terrific rounds of golf in my day, this was the best I have ever played, by far. I must have been inspired from above. My drives were long and true, my irons were accurate and purposeful, and my putting was perfect. I played like I was thirty years old again. With all due respect, my play was truly miraculous.” “And what’s the bad news?” the Pope inquired. Nicklaus sighed, “I lost to Rabbi Phil Mickelson by three strokes.”
Don’t you think sometimes that if world or religious leaders could get together and play a round of golf, or show pictures of their grandchildren, or work side by side in a soup kitchen, enemies could become friends? When Jesus talks in this weekend’s Gospel about loving your enemies, he wouldn’t have brought it up if he didn’t think it were possible. Somehow we have to find a way for it to happen. Life is too short and the world is too small for us to not get along together. Of course, it isn’t just leaders who foment the anger and violence; many of us ordinary folks have deep-seated resentments toward certain people in our lives and we, too, could use a round of golf, a picture-sharing, or a soup kitchen experience.
The Winter Olympics being held in Russia has brought out some long-held animosities, and while the media may have fueled them to a certain degree, comments from us who are watching from the sidelines and the comfort of our own homes are not always very positive and constructive. It’s hard to let go of some past hurts and judgments and even harder to keep trying new ways of improving relationships, but try we must, for ultimately love is the only answer. While President Putin is seen by many throughout the world as a kind of ruthless despot, he, too, golfs, and has grandchildren, and eats soup. Let us find, then, the common ground—among neighbors and nations—and start there. Then, maybe in time, Jesus command to turn the other cheek and love our enemies may truly become a reality, at least in the lives of his disciples.
Peace and all good things, Fr. Dave
Government surveyors came to Ole’s farm in the fall and asked if they could do some surveying. Ole agreed and Lena even served them a nice meal at noon time. The next February, the two surveyors came back and told Ole, “Because you were so good to us, we wanted to give you the bad news in person rather than by mail.” Ole replied, “What’s the bad news?” The surveyors stated, “Well, after our work here, we discovered that your farm is not in Minnesota, but is actually in Wisconsin!” Ole looked at Lena and said, “That’s the best news I have heard in a long time,” and then, turning to the surveyors, “Why I was just telling Lena this morning that I don’t think I can take another winter in Minnesota!”
Now if you think the story is a groaner, wait till you hear the application. Someone just remarked to me after Mass last weekend, “I told a friend the other day, ‘If you think winter has been long, just listen to one of his homilies!’” And with the Bishop’s Appeal video this weekend, some might be thinking, “I can’t take one more appeal!” And, if winter is all but smothering your spirit, you could always “bear” it by hibernating and snuggling under a “blankie” and allowing the love of God to warm your heart.
All that being said, many in our area are smothered by the realities and complexities of life and this year’s Bishop’s Appeal reminds us that, whether we give $10 or $1,000, we are sharing the light of Christ, inviting those who are hurting to come out from under the coldness of life and know the warmth of our love. Let us give generously, then, because we know, that winter, whether in Minnesota or Wisconsin, is not forever.
We will also be celebrating a communal Anointing of the Sick this week (1:30 Wednesday at the Grand site), another opportunity to know the healing grace of God’s touch for those who are suffering the effects of aging and/or illness. Let us rejoice in God’s ever-present care for us, even in those moments when winter is long.
Warmly, Fr. Dave
A little ol’ lady answered a knock on the door one day, only to be confronted by a well-dressed young man carrying a vacuum cleaner. “Good morning,” said the young man. “If I could just take a few minutes of your time, I would like to demonstrate the very latest high-powered vacuum cleaner.” “Go away!” said the woman. “I’m broke and I haven’t got any money,” as she proceeded to close the door. Quick as a flash, the young man wedged his foot in the door and pushed it wide open. “Don’t be too hasty,” he said. “Not until you have at least seen my demonstration.” And with that, he emptied a bucket of horse manure onto her hallway carpet. “Now, if this vacuum cleaner does not remove every trace of this manure from your carpet, Ma’am, I will personally eat the remainder.” The old lady stepped back, aghast, and said, “Well, let me get you a fork ‘cause they just shut off my electricity this morning!”
That must be an old story because I don’t think there are too many door-to-door salespeople these days. Nevertheless, she is the stereotypical salt-of-the-earth personality, mixing a little saltiness in her conversation with the starry-eyed salesman. When Jesus invites us to be salt of the earth, he, too, is challenging us to be crafty in our methods of spreading the kingdom, recognizing that the “same ‘ol, same ‘ol” often doesn’t touch hearts. Pope Francis has called for that same creativity in witnessing to the Gospel as we rub shoulders with the poor and the rich, with those who are committed to Christ and those seeking him out. Let us speak the truth boldly, but gently; honestly, but compassionately. And let us draw others to the joy of faith through a light that is undimmed by our transparency in living what we believe!
All that being said, if anyone reading this has a creative insight as to how we can better proclaim the Good News, don’t let it die. Rather, share it with us and we can talk it over. Now, the operative word here is creative, meaning something new that has not been tried before. I’m not talking about going back to the way things used to be, but the way things might be with a whole new approach to an event, a schedule, a décor, or a liturgical celebration. Let us be a little salty in our thinking, adding spice where we have gone flat! The vacuum cleaner won’t work without that spark of electricity; we won’t work without it either—the spark of grace that comes from the Spirit of God. Varoom! Let’s get plugged in!
With love, during Valentine’s Week, Fr. Dave
An elderly man, 88, just returned from the doctor only to find that he didn’t have long to live, so he summoned the three most important people in his life to discuss his future: his doctor, his priest, and his lawyer. “Well, today I found out that I do not have long to live so I called you here because you are important to me and I want to ask you a favor. Today I am going to give each of you an envelope with $50,000 inside. When I die, I want all three of you to throw the money into my grave.” After the man passed on, the three friends bumped into each other at the funeral. After the rites were completed, they were chatting at the luncheon and the doctor said, “I have to admit I kept $10,000 of the money since he had unpaid medical bills, but I did throw in the remaining $40,000 like he requested.” The priest said, “And I have to admit that I kept $25,000 to give to the poor in our community, but I did throw the other half into the grave with him, as he had asked.” “Well,” the lawyer said, “I just can’t believe what I a hearing! I am shocked at your taking advantage of him like that. I wrote a check for the entire $50,000 and tossed it all in the grave with the poor fellow.”
The Gospel this weekend has two elderly holy people, with little time to live, witnessing the presentation of Jesus in the temple. They had waited their whole lives for the Messiah, whom they trusted they would see before they died. And when they did indeed come upon him in the temple, their lives were fulfilled and they were ready to move on. What a glorious moment for them! What a glorious moment for us when we trust that Jesus will fulfill our every dream!
At a baptism recently, a loving godmother was whispering to her godchild, “You are going to make a difference in the world!” I was struck by the broadness of her scope—the child would touch not only the lives of family and friends, but would be a gift to the whole world. How similar to Simeon and Anna’s comments about the baby Jesus. Perhaps, at our baptisms, someone thought that about us. How are we doing? Have I made a difference? Is the world a better place because I am journeying through it on my path of life? Let us take a step in that direction this week by doing something significant for those we love; for a stranger passing by; for someone in need halfway around the world. Let us surprise someone with an extraordinary act of charity and perhaps surprise ourselves in the process that we, too, are making a difference!
Surprise! Fr. Dave
From the mouths of our children…
The teacher was describing how Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt when Jason interrupted and said, “My mommy looked back once while she was driving,” he announced triumphantly, “and she turned into a telephone pole!”
The teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan. She asked the class, “If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?” A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, “I think I’d throw up!”
The teacher asked Johnny, “Do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark?” “No,” Johnny replied, “How could he, with just two worms!”
The teacher said to her class, “We have been learning how powerful kings and queens were in the times of the Bible, but there is a Higher Power. Can anybody tell me what it is?” One child blurted out, “Aces!”
As we celebrate another national Catholic Schools Week, we recognize once again that our focus is on the children. It is their formation in the faith that is our highest responsibility as a parish community. For two hundred years, our ancestors in the Church (and we ourselves) have seen Catholic Schools as a graced way to do just that. Moreover, those who administer and teach and cook and sweep the floors in our schools have heard the call to follow Christ in the spreading of his kingdom, very much like Peter and Andrew on this weekend’s Gospel. It is so much more than a job--it is a vocation--and we thank them for saying “yes.”
I regret that I will not be a part of the Catholic Schools Week festivities this year, as I will be on vacation (many would say, “again?”) with some friends who invited me to join them on a warm beach (I’ll be the one looking for the umbrella), but I will be thinking of you, as you know that I am a strong supporter of both St. Francis School and Roncalli. I will be back in the saddle February 5.
Blessings to all, Fr. Dave
A minister was winding up his fiery sermon on temperance when, with great emphasis, he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” Then, with even greater emphasis, he said, “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” And then, finally, shaking his fist in the air, he said, “And if I had all the whisky in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.” Sermon complete, he sat down. The song leader then stood and, very cautiously, announced with a grin, “For our closing hymn, let us sing #365, ‘Shall We Gather at the River!’
As we return to Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical calendar, we gather with John the Baptist and Jesus at the River Jordan. John had witnessed to the Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism, and now he comes to the river again to begin his public ministry. The next day he will return once again, this time to call his first disciples, recognizing, from the very beginning, that if he is to proclaim the kingdom of God, he will need help in doing that.
Jesus’ baptism must have been one of those “God-moments” people often talk about, for it changed his life. No longer a behind-the-scenes carpenter and fisherman, he would now assume a more public and passionate role in spreading the love of God. I trust that you and I have had one or more of those “moments” as well, events in our lives that have significantly changed us, altering our direction, and bonding us with others on a much deeper level. This weekend may be a good time to call those experiences to mind, checking out whether we have lost some of the resulting fervor and focus, and doing what we can to recapture the moment, not to live in the past, but to re-awaken within us the call to holiness.
Sadly, some folks seem to have never experienced a“God-moment.” Rather, their relationship with God (or lack thereof) has always been exactly the same—no peaks and no dark nights of the soul. And while that may be the way God had intended for them to know his love, I think we can gently invite them to look more intently at a sunrise over the lake, to see their reflection in the eyes of a child, to pray with us at meals or family celebrations, to go on a retreat, to make a donation or work at a pantry… In that way, they, too, may come to know on a deeper level, the love God has for them, just as Jesus did at his baptism, leading him to go back to the Jordan River often, almost as if to renew himself as he revisited that moment and place in time.
Let us be free about embracing those graced times ourselves, sharing them with others, and inviting others to discover them on their own. After all, Jesus needed help to proclaim the kingdom of God then and needs it now.
Happy Proclaiming! Fr. Dave
A little boy was waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store and, as he waited, he was approached by a man who asked, “Can you tell me where the Post Office is?” The little boy replied, “Sure! Just go down this street a few blocks and turn to your right.” The man thanked the boy kindly and said, “I’m the new pastor in town. I’d like you to come to church on Sunday. If you do, I’ll show you how to get to heaven.” The little boy replied with a chuckle, “You’re kidding me, right? You don’t even know the way to the Post Office!”
As we celebrate the occasion of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, we acknowledge that, for us, baptism is the “way” to heaven. We also believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the way for all people of good will—the baptized as well as those who never heard of Jesus. For us, as disciples of Christ who were, through baptism, incorporated into the Church, being part of the faith community keeps us on the way to heaven and models for us the joy along the way. In other words, we don’t have to wait till eternity dawns to know the joy of being one with Christ; we experience already through the Eucharist, through our living the Gospel, and through our being good stewards of God’s many gifts. Thus, we don’t baptize infants in order to “get” God to love them (God already loves them more than we can imagine); we baptize them in order for them to know the joy of being part of the Church along the way to salvation.
With that in mind, our call is to make sure that all those we do baptize (and other visitors as well) feel that joy the minute they enter our churches, whenever they encounter any one of us “out in the world,” and if and when they are ever in need of care or comfort. As we renew our baptismal promises this weekend, may be re-inspire ourselves to be the most joyful, compassionate, and welcoming people we can be, for no one who is baptized should have to wait till heaven to see the face of Christ and feel the joy!
Joyfully, Fr. Dave
A grandfather was taking his grandchildren to their home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian. The children started discussing what the dog was for. “They use him to keep crowds back,” one of the kids conjectured. “No,” said another, “he’s just for good luck.” The oldest of the three brought the argument to a close when she stated authoritatively, “They use the dogs to find the fire hydrants!”
And the astrologers used a star to find what they were searching for. What do you and I use? What, or who, guides us? The first question, of course, that needs to be asked is, “What am I looking for? What is the treasure I hope to find?” And then, “Did I find it this Christmas?” All kinds of answers come to mind: Jesus, inner peace, better health, loved ones at home. If any of those were what I was looking for, who or what helped me find them? If I didn’t find them, do I keep searching? Do I find another guide? Have I given up on the Dalmatian and the star?
I found great joy in so many Christmas moments this year: the liturgies; the gifts, cards, and prayers; the people I visited and who visited me; the opening of my own wallet to help those so much poorer than I; and even a few moments of quiet time just taking in the miracle of it all. Even as I say this, I am also cognizant of those who spent Christmas without a loved one, those who sense this Christmas may be their last, those who just can’t get past some anger or bitterness, those who didn’t experience the joy of giving or were disappointed in what Santa never brought. All of us, though, no matter what our states of mind or levels of love in our hearts, are part of the extended family of the Christ-child and, like the astrologers, journeyed to Bethlehem. Once we arrived there, we may have been overwhelmed or underwhelmed by what we encountered, but that Child, destined to become the risen Christ and Lord of all, smiled at us. May we take that smile with us into a new year of grace!
Happy New Year, Fr. Dave
On a bitterly cold winter morning, a husband and wife in Fargo were listening to the radio during breakfast. They heard the announcer say, “Another 8-10 inches of snow today so please park your cars on the even-numbered side of the street so the plows can do their work.” So, the obedient wife went out and moved her car. A week later they were eating breakfast again when the radio announcer said, “10-12 inches of snow today. Please park your cars on the odd-numbered side of the street so the plows can get through.” So, the subservient wife went out and moved her car again. The next week they were again having breakfast when the radio broadcaster said, “We are expecting 12-14 inches of snow today. You must park…” and then, at that very moment, the power went out. The good wife was very upset and, with a worried look on her face, said, “I don’t know what to do. Which side of the street do I need to park on so the plows can get through?” Then, with the love and understanding only a husband can muster, he says, “Why don’t you just leave the car in the garage this time?”
Undoubtedly she “obeyed” her husband once again. The obedience factor in family life, which is brought to mind this Holy Family weekend, is founded on the root meaning of the word—to listen on account of who is speaking. In the Latin language, ob means on account of and audire means to listen. Jesus was obedient to his parents in this world, meaning he listened to them because of the respect and relationship he had with them. In this weekend’s Gospel, Joseph listens to the angel because of who the angel is and represents. In Paul’s letter, he suggests that wives and husbands listen to and serve one another because of the relationship they have and how they represent the Church. And even the ancient book of Sirach reminds us that honoring and respecting parents is a noble calling to which we all should aspire.
As a family of faith still in the midst of Christmas hustle and bustle, to spend time listening to each other might be of paramount importance as we visit with college kids home on break, friends and neighbors doing round robins, and elderly grandparents who aren’t as mobile as they used to be and have a hard time hearing what is being said. And, of course, the better listeners we are to each other, the more likely we are to hear the voice of God that is spoken to our hearts, often times at moments we least expect. So, the next time you and I say, “Pardon me. What were you saying?” let’s really mean it!
Huh? Fr. Dave
“Oh, I sure am happy to see you,” the little boy said to his maternal grandmother. “Now maybe Daddy will do the trick he’s been promising us.” Grandma was curious so she asked, “What trick is that?” “Well, I heard him tell Mommy that he would climb the walls if you came to visit!”
And visiting we will do and climb the walls we will do—for all kinds of reasons. This season of great joy is also fraught with many challenges. This last Gospel of Advent has Joseph needing an angel coming to him in a dream to tell him that Mary’s pregnancy is a joy, not a worry. Think of the challenges he would face—telling his parents, finding a place to live, wondering what people would say, not to mention trying to comprehend what was really going on beneath the surface of the events that would unfold.
We don’t understand all that is going on in the lives of all our loved ones either, those we will visit and those visiting us. And we may not have the advantage of an angelic dream, but we can still trust that the God who sends his Son into the chaos of the world will be able to pacify the anxiety of celebrating His birth these many years later. So let us focus on the joy of our faith, not the eccentricities of our relatives.
Now, back to the Grandma and the wall-climbing son-in-law. The four year-old grandson opens the gift she brought and it was a water-machine gun. He squealed with delight and headed for the nearest sink. Mommy noticed that Daddy was not very happy, but before he could ruin the moment, she said to her mother, “I’m surprised at your gift, Mom. Don’t you remember how we used to drive you crazy with our much smaller water guns?” Grandma just smiled and yes, “I remember!”
Apples don’t fall far from the tree and paybacks are sometimes disguised as presents. Joseph trusted completely that God was in charge and growing up in that environment undoubtedly made it easier for Jesus to, later on, have that same trust. And the greatest gift God ever gave to us is disguised as a tiny baby in a feed-box. Let us enjoy this wonder-full week of celebration with patience and acceptance, with compassion and humor, with giving freely and receiving humbly…and let us know once more that God loves us with a wink and a smile as he gives us the greatest gift of all time. Not everyone will receive his gift with grateful joy; let us make sure that we will!
Merry Christmas, Fr. Dave
Two puns for the highly intelligent…
King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of wars with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan. Croesus said, “I’ll give you 100,000 dinars for it.” “But I paid a million dinars for it,” the King protested. “Don’t you know who I am? I am the king!” Croesus replied, “When you wish to pawn a star, makes no difference who you are!” (if you don’t get it, ask someone my age.)
There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy, while the one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that…the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaw of the other two hides. (if you don’t get this one, ask an algebra student.)
Now, if you got both of these, you are ready to be inducted into the Mensa organization.
At the time of John the Baptist, there were many a learned man and woman who didn’t understand what Jesus was all about. And there were many who didn’t have much “book learnin’” who understood his message and embraced it completely. Jesus’ response to those who questioned his veracity was simple, “Look around and see the proof in the changed lives of so many people.” And therein lies the crux of the new evangelization the Church is abuzz about—are those who accept Jesus and his message onto their lives making a difference in the world around them? Can people at school, work, and play recognize that we believe? Or as St. Paul would put it, “I can comprehend the mysteries of the universe, but if I don’t love, what difference does it make?” (paraphrased 1Cor. 14)
There’s lots of chatter about the secularization of Christmas—Santa edging out Jesus for the meaning of Christmas (even though both are Givers of good gifts). If that is truly happening, it’s not because stores are open and homes decorated on Thanksgiving, but because those who understand the real meaning of Christmas aren’t loving and serving others enough to make a difference. So let us, in these final days of Advent, make a difference, so much so that when Christmas dawns, many lives have been touched with our goodness and grace.
Gratefully, Fr. Dave
From the annals of a Chicago bagpiper…
As a bag piper I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a local funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless Irishman. He had no family or friends and the service was to be held in a paupers’ cemetery in rural Wisconsin. As I was not familiar with the area, I got lost and, being a typical male, I didn’t stop for directions. I finally arrived half an hour late and saw that the funeral guy had apparently given up on me and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only two diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went o the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do so I started to play my bagpipe. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played my heart and soul out for this man who had no family or friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless fellow and, as I played Amazing Grace, the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I’ve never seen anything like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for over twenty years.” Apparently I’m still lost—it’s a man thing!
Every year on the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist appears in the desert trying to give directions—to the people of his time and to us. Truth be told, not too many listened—then and now. But being a prophetic herald, he kept on directing, even those who had not asked. How would we have responded if we were in that crowd? How do we respond today to his call to repent, his challenge to embrace the kingdom, to his example of simplified living? It’s especially hard during Advent, when we are pulled in so many directions to be ready for Christmas. His voice is still heard, however, even in the midst of hectic lives and for most of us, even a glimpse of what is the reality beneath the madness is soothing and comforting. So let us listen with a new heart and respond with a new energy that John’s message of repentance, simplicity, and humble acknowledgment of Jesus’ coming can grip us all and change our world!
Advent blessings, Fr. Dave
A housewife was having several couples over for dinner that night, so she wanted to cook something special. She slaved for hours that afternoon and finally created a masterpiece—Salmon mousse. Just before her guests arrived, she caught her cat nibbling away at the dish on the dining room table. She had worked so hard that she couldn’t bear to throw the mousse away, so she smoothed it over and served it anyway.
The mousse was a real hit. Everyone took seconds and thirds. Proudly she stood to bring the empty plate back into the kitchen and looked out the window. There, next to the house, lay her cat. Dead. She had to then confess to her guests that she’d served mousse eaten by the cat and now the cat was dead. The entire dinner party rushed to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. The housewife, who hadn’t eaten any because she knew her cat had, lay in bed mourning the passing of her cat and fearing that the same fate could befall her guests. Then, the phone rang. It was her next door neighbor who said, “I have a confession to make. I am so sorry about your cat. I ran over her with the car last evening but I was just so ashamed and saw that you were having a dinner party so I didn’t know what to do and I just put her on your lawn.”
There’s a lot of confessing going on in that little incident and there will be a lot of confessing during this season of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. But there is an even more fundamental confession that needs to take place before I confess my sins and that is—confessing that Jesus is Lord. And he is Lord not only of history, but of my own life. To have a personal and real relationship with the One who comes to save us is foundational for my faith and the vitality of the Church. Let us focus on that during this holy time of waiting; let us get closer to Christ and to each other as we strive to be the chosen people of God that we are. When that happens, confessing my sins takes on a whole new meaning.
Happy Advent, Fr. Dave
Ole is the pastor of the local Norwegian Lutheran Church and Pastor Sven is the minister of the Swedish Covenant Church across the road. One day, they were pounding a sign into the ground which said: THE END IS NEAR! TURN YOURSELF AROUND NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!
As a car speeds past them, the driver leans out his window and yells, “Leave people alone, you Skandihoovian religious nuts!” From the curve, they hear tires screeching and a big splash. Shaking his head, Rev. Ole says, “You know, dat’s da terd one dis mornin’.” “Yaa,” Pastor Sven agrees and then asks, “Do ya tink maybe da sign should jest say, BRIDGE OUT!?”
As we come to the end of another Church year, we leave Luke’s Gospel with Jesus on the cross. His end, of course, becomes a new beginning. All endings morph into beginnings, certainly, but the end of life has an importance and significance about it that others do not share. Believing in the resurrection is one of the hallmarks of our faith and, while the reality of it is shrouded in some mystery, we embrace it and hope for it nonetheless.
Our liturgical cycle mimics the realities of dying and rising, daily ones and final ones, so as we bid this year of grace a fond farewell, we look forward in hope to the proclamation of Matthew’s Gospel in this coming year. We eagerly anticipate what he has to say, for we know that our final farewell to life and hello to eternity is conditioned by how we have lived out the daily dyings/risings on our life’s journey. Let us open our hearts to Christ the King on the way to His Kingdom and let us live our lives in such a way that all we meet know, in an instant, that we are believers in the Good News of Jesus Christ! Then they, too, may deepen their faith and come to know the joy of being companions on the journey.
In kingdom joy, Fr. Dave
Do you know what the Stella Awards are? They are awarded for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts handed down by the court system in the U.S. They are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who successfully sued a McDonald’s in New Mexico a few years back where she had purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Anyway, here’s the first-place Stella Award for 2012.
Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home from an OU football game, driving on the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the motor home and make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the Winnebago left the freeway, crashed, and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her $1.75 million plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their owner’s manuals as a result of this suit (methinks because she may have a relative who buys a motor home).
Now, what if there were a Stewardship Award? After whom should it be named? Someone like Bill and Melinda Gates for establishing their world-wide foundation? Someone like our parents who sacrificed everything while living through the Depression to make sure we have enough food on the table and clothes on our backs? Or how about those who take vows of poverty and spend their lives in prayerful service to the Church and the world? Would anyone nominate you or me?
As we mark our parish’s annual Stewardship Sunday, let us ask ourselves the real question? Am I grateful enough for all God has given me that I am willing to give back? The average Catholic gift/household to the Church last year throughout the country was .08% of their income. Where do you and I rank? Are we anywhere close to the tithing mark of 10%? If not, could I inch up a little closer this year? And where am I in the areas of prayer and service? Do I say “yes” when asked to help? Do I spend at least some time in prayer each day? Stewardship questions are difficult to ask because we could probably all do better and even if I am a most gracious steward, I could possibly give more cheerfully.
Nearing the feast of Thanksgiving, our gratitude should be heightened. With grateful hearts, then, let us be open to the promptings of the Spirit!
With a thankful heart, Fr. Dave
A woman awakens during the night to find that her husband is not in bed. She puts on her robe and goes downstairs to look for him. She finds him sitting at the kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee in front of him. He appears to be in deep thought, just staring at the wall. She watches as he wipes a tear from his eye and takes a sip of his coffee. “What’s the matter, dear?” she whispers as she steps into the room. “Why are you down here at this hour of the night?” The husband looks up from his coffee and says, “It’s the 20th anniversary of the day we met.” She can’t believe he has remembered and starts to tear up herself. The husband continues, “Do you remember 20 years ago when we started dating? I was 18 and you were only 16,” he says solemnly. Once again, the wife is touched to tears. “Yes, I do,” she replies. The husband pauses; the words were not coming easily. “Do you remember when your father caught us in the back seat of my car?” “Yes, I remember,” says the wife, lowering herself into the chair beside him. The husband continues, “Do you remember when he shoved the shotgun in my face and said, “Either you marry my daughter or I will send you to prison for 20 years?” “I remember that, too,” she says softly. He wiped another tear from his cheek and says, “I would have gotten out today.”
Don’t you wonder what relationships will be like in heaven? Will we know everything about everyone else? Will it feel good to be reunited with each friend and foe that we have encountered on our journey there? In the Gospel today, those who are wondering the same things ask it as, “Whose spouse will I be if I’ve been married seven times?” The answer Jesus gives leaves plenty of room for interpretation and wonder. However it all turns out, it will have to be wonderful—perhaps a whole new way of relating—soul to soul! And if the total transformation has not already taken place for everyone when I arrive, I hope it’s only the ones who like me that recognize me in my new and heavenly form.
But, while we’re wondering as we’re wandering on our journey there, we are in relationships now, and it would behoove us all to treat everyone with the respect and love they deserve—even those we have judged to be not deserving of that love and respect. Or, as Jesus would put it…especially those we think are unworthy. For that is the true measure of discipleship—loving enemies as friends, turning the other cheek to those who have hurt us, and seeing the goodness in those so very different from ourselves. If we do that on our way to the kingdom, once we arrive, there will be nothing to worry about, for everyone (all the wives and husbands, all the friends and enemies, all the faithful and unfaithful) will be happy to see us. It’s going to be amazing, and that’s probably all we know for sure!
Happy Days, Fr. Dave
Two Minnesota mechanical engineers were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking up. A woman walks by and asks what they’re doing. “We’re supposed to find the height of the flagpole,” said Sven, “but we don’t have a ladder.” The woman took a wrench from her purse, loosened a few bolts, and laid the pole down. Then she took a tape measure from her pocketbook, took a measurement, and announced, “Eighteen feet, six inches,” and walked away. Ole shook his head and laughed, “Ain’t that just like a woman! We ask for the height and she gives us the length!”
Zacchaeus had some issues with height as well, but the lengths to which he went to see Jesus was most admirable. He grew tall in Jesus’ admiration of him and in climbing the tree to see, he got more than he bargained for—a dinner guest who was none other than the Son of God.
To what lengths are you and I willing to go to truly encounter Jesus? We have a women’s CEW here next weekend and there is still room around the table for YOU! With the shortened hours of daylight, there is more and more time to light a candle rather than curse the darkness and, while the candles are burning, maybe we could say a prayer or two. Friends and family members are wondering just why we go to church every Sunday. Perhaps we could invite them to join us, even if it means promising breakfast afterwards.
And speaking of church attendance, the first two weekends of November are the annual “attendance count” throughout the diocese. One of the uses of this information is to determine how many Masses a parish needs on a weekend (the old policy was always, if a Mass is not at least half-full in relation to the seating capacity, the Mass is cancelled). That may no longer be the rule of thumb, but if our attendance goes down much more, they may decide we have way too many Masses and don’t really need three priests. I say this not as a scare tactic but simply to recognize the reality of what we are dealing with. Numbers of Masses and priests is not the issue, of course. What is truly important is determining where people are encountering Christ if it’s not in the Eucharist. Why aren’t they willing to climb the tree to see the Lord? (I know what you’re thinking—they are climbing a tree to their deer stands and finding God there).
Let us all be a little more like Zacchaeus this week—going to great lengths to grow tall in the sight of our God. And in the process, may we invite him to the table in our hearts!
Blessings, Fr. Dave
Morris Schwartz is on his deathbed, knows the end is near, and is with his nurse, his daughter, and his two sons. “So,” he says to them, “Bernie, I want you to take the Beverly Hills houses; Sybil, take the apartments in Los Angeles Plaza; Hymie, I want you to take the office over in City Center; and Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings downtown.” The nurse is just blown away by all this and, as Morrie slips away, she says, “Oh Mrs. Schwartz, your husband must have been such a hardworking man to have accumulated all this property.” Sarah replies, “Property? The schmuck has a paper route!”
Sometimes we try to lay it on thick and pretend we’re somebody we’re not. Sometimes, people just get the wrong impression of us and how we come across to them is not really the way we are at all. And sometimes, we just tell it like it is and live in the philosophy of “what you see is what you get.” The Gospel parable this weekend portrays two very different personalities. Jesus prefers the one who is honest about who he really is (a sinner) rather than the one who is the pretending to be perfect. Coming to grips with the reality of who I am is often a long and arduous process, but God’s grace and the sacrament of Reconciliation are great helps. To look into the mirror of one’s soul (and the mirror never lies) and to hear God say, while I gaze there, “Everything you see I see, and more, I can love you into the person you truly want to become,” truly transforms us and replaces pride with humility.
God has gifted me in so many ways and with so many wonderful people that, when I sin and become aware of who I really am, I know that God’s blessings will not cease, but will come in an even greater avalanche of goodness into my heart. Let us all, then, do a little reality check and accept ourselves with both our virtues and flaws, knowing that God’s love is omnipresent. And, by being real, others will come to love us more deeply as well.
In a related vein, this is a busy week of honoring saints (All Saints Day is Friday) and those striving to become saints (All Souls Day is Saturday). Let us pray with them and for them by gathering for Mass. And then let us celebrate our efforts in forming our children in the ways of authentic holiness by gathering for our Food Fair, our major school fun and fundraiser, on Saturday evening at Roncalli High School. What a joyful week of festivity!
P.S. Don’t forget Halloween too!
Love, Fr. Dave
The judge says to a double-homicide defendant, “You are charged with beating your wife to death with a hammer.” A voice in the back of the courtroom yells out, “You jerk!” The judge continues, “You are also charged with beating your mother-in-law to death with a hammer.” Again, the voice in the back of the courtroom yells out, “You rotten slime ball!” the judge stops and says to Paddy in the back of the courtroom, “Sir, I understand your anger and frustration at these crimes, but no more outbursts from you or I’ll charge you with contempt. Is that understood?” Paddy stands up and says, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, but for fifteen years I’ve lived next door to that idiot and every time I asked to borrow a hammer he said he didn’t have one.”
The Gospel reminds us this weekend that our persistence in asking God for favors never goes unnoticed. In fact, Luke has Jesus telling us, in parable form, that God’s answer is always one of justice. And therein lies considerable confusion. We tend to define justice as fairness. Incorporating our experience with our legal system and watching Law and Order reruns for years, we lean toward the Old Testament definition of justice—“an eye for an eye…” But Jesus defines God’s justice as ultimate love and mercy. And that may not always be what you and I judge to be fair. So when we are asking God for favors and assistance and he gives us his love instead of what we want, we may give up asking. And when our enemies are judged in the eternal courtroom, and their sentence is forgiveness and compassion, we, who may be watching the proceedings, might very well hope that they would have been sentenced to hell and damnation instead…and won’t it be interesting to see how we react when that doesn’t happen! Hopefully, however, by the time it is our turn to stand before the Eternal Judge, we will be so thrilled that love and mercy prevails for us that we will rejoice that others, too, receive the same sentence. For some it may take longer than others to embrace that attitude, but the Church has always said that we will have all the time we need to get there (purgatory?). After all, “what’s fair is fair;” it just depends on who’s defining it!
In the beauty of autumn and all God’s gifts, Fr. Dave
A 54 year-old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table, she had a near-death experience. Seeing God face-to-face, she asked, “Is my time up?” God said, “No, you have another 42 years, 2 months, and 8 days to live.” Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, implants, and a tummy tuck. She even had her hair color changed and her teeth whitened. Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it. After her last procedure, she was finally released from the hospital and, while crossing the street on her way to her car, she was killed by an ambulance. Arriving in front of God, she demanded, “I thought you said I had another 42 years. Why didn’t you pull me out from the path of that ambulance?” God replied, “I didn’t recognize you!”
I wonder if, perhaps, the reason only one leper came back to thank God in today’s Gospel was because he was the only one who recognized Jesus for who he really was. The others experienced the same good fortune, but it never really hit home with them. They never fully understood that Jesus wanted a relationship with them; he didn’t draw them from the isolation in which they were living back to their community just so they could go back to their previous lives; he wanted to be part of their lives. And apparently for nine of them that never happened. We don’t really know about the tenth one either, but chances are, he became a disciple of the One who healed him. The reason I suspect that is because gratitude is the foundation and well-spring of discipleship.
Even the word Eucharist means thanksgiving; thus, when we gather for worship each Sunday it is primarily because we wish to thank God for the gifts and blessings of our lives. And when we say yes to an invitation to help a neighbor in need or serve on a committee, it is primarily because we are grateful for the blessings in our own lives. And when we commit ourselves to tithing, it is primarily because we are so thankful for all that God has given us that it just seems right to give 10% back to him. Bishop Morneau always says that “gratitude and generosity are first cousins.” The one leper in the Gospel had a grateful heart; thus it is only logical to assume that he gave glory to God through a lifetime of generous service. It’s just how it is!
Let us be a thankful people, never taking God and his blessings for granted, and let us always and everywhere serve the Lord in all we do! Fr. Dave
When everybody on earth was dead and waiting to enter heaven, God appeared and said, “I want the men to make two lines--one line for the men who were true heads of their household, and the other line for the men who were dominated by their women. I want all the women to report to St. Peter.” Soon the women were gone and there were two lines of men. The line of the men who were dominated by their wives was ten miles long and in the line of men who were truly heads of their household, there was only one man. God said to the long line, “You men should be ashamed of yourselves; I created you to be the head of your household! You have been disobedient and have not fulfilled your purpose! Of all of you, only one obeyed. Learn from him.” God then turned to the one man, “How did you manage to be the only one in this line?” The man replied, “My wife told me to stand here.”
The Gospel this weekend points out the singular command of God—to serve joyfully. St. Francis of Assisi was one of those who obeyed that command to the nth degree. As we celebrate Francis Fest this weekend, we recommit ourselves to both the service and the love of life that our patron modeled for us. His simplicity of life enabled him to focus more fully, with fewer distractions, on self-giving; his awareness of the presence of God enabled him to see the splendid work of the Master Painter in all of creation. May the celebration of his feast bring us all closer together as disciples of the Lord!
Most appropriately, this feast comes at the beginning of October, designated for many years as Respect Life Month. One of the ways we will be celebrating the gift of life will be to share the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick with all those who wish to receive it. Besides trying the cover all those parishioners in care centers and who are homebound, we will participate in a communal celebration on Wednesday, October 16, at 1:30 at the Waldo site. If there is anyone you know that might benefit from the grace of this sacrament, please invite them or let us know if they need a visit at home. Respecting life sacramentally, in the way of St. Francis, bridges the gap between this life and eternity. Let us live life, today and forever, to the fullest!
Happy Feast Day! Fr. Dave
Moshe was shocked when his son announced that he was going to convert from Judaism to Christianity. Distraught, he went to his friend Herschel. “Funny you should mention it,” said Herschel, “but my son too just told me he was converting from Judaism to Christianity. Come, let’s go see the rabbi and ask for advice.” Hurrying to the synagogue, they told the rabbi the problem. “Funny you should mention it,” the rabbi told the men, “but even my son announced that he’s converting from Judaism to Christianity. You know, I’ll bet there’s something going on here. We’d best talk to God.” Hastening to the sanctuary, the three men bowed their heads and the rabbi spoke, “Lord God, all of our sons have forsaken Judaism for Christianity. Tell us what we should do.” There was a rumbling, just then, in the heavens and a voice echoed through the temple…”Funny you should mention it.”
Conversion, or any kind of change for that matter, is difficult. It may be a new shift at work or a new Mass time, a new house or neighbor, a new boss or elected official, a new health issue or memory concern. But all these “changes” are the tip of the iceberg compared to the inner change that is requested of us when we accept Jesus as Lord. The Gospel today points that out very graphically, especially to those in Jesus’ audience (and some of us as well) who see material possessions as a sign of God’s favor. Granted, God is the giver of all good gifts, but God’s gifts are not material; rather, they are intangibles like life and love, faith and friendship, mercy and salvation. The rich man’s prayers reflected a misunderstanding of that for which God should be praised; Lazarus, on the other hand, got the message. Only once they both had completed their earthly journeys, did both of them understand what Jesus was all about. Our challenge, of course, is to embrace him and his good news before we end the journey here.
Next weekend, our parish community will gather together to celebrate Francis Fest with a Saturday afternoon Mass (similar to the parish picnic) to thank God for the blessings of our rich heritage in faith and to recommit to imitating our parish patron, St. Francis of Assisi, in living that faith. There have been many changes in these past eight years since we have become one parish, and those changes required lots of inner conversion on the part of all of us. For some, that process has gone better than for others, as will be demonstrated by some staying away from the celebration because it would be a “change” in their regular routine or for other deeper reasons. Nevertheless, the grace of God is always stronger than our wills, and conversion will happen in each of us, either on the journey here or beyond (purgatory) or probably for most of us—both. So here’s to the joy of being one and to the promise of Jesus that the entire journey, with him at the helm, is one of joy, too!
Autumn blessings, Fr. Dave
Tim decided to tie the knot with his longtime girlfriend. One evening, after the honeymoon, he was organizing his golfing equipment while his wife was standing nearby watching him. After a long period of silence, she finally speaks, “Honey, I’ve been thinking. Now that we’re married, I think it’s time you quit golfing. Maybe you should sell your clubs.” Tim gets this horrified look on his face. She says, “Darling, what’s wrong?” He replies, “There for a minute you were sounding like my ex-wife.” “Ex-wife!” she screams, “I didn’t know you were married before!” “I wasn’t,” he calmly replies.
Despite the ability of most of us to multi-task, arranging priorities in our lives is truly a challenge. Am I married to my wife or my job? What comes first, my children or my hobbies? How do I unwind, the computer or the local establishment or prayer time? And the list could go on and on. For some, it may even include the Church. It is for that reason that we, in leadership here at St. Francis, are always looking for signs of burn-out, for new volunteers, for making sure we are not taking advantage of those who always say “yes.”
The Gospel says that one cannot serve God and money, even though they are, in some ways, related. That reminds me of the story about a well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill that arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation. The twenty-dollar bill reminisced about traveling all over the country and beyond. “I’ve had a great life,” the twenty proclaimed, “Why I’ve been to Vegas and Atlantic City, to fine restaurants and Broadway plays, on cruises and at resorts…” “Wow!” said the one-dollar bill, “You have had one exciting life!” “So, tell me,” said the twenty, “where have you all been in your life?” The one dollar replies, “Well, I have spent most of my life in church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church…” Which comes first, God or money? Each of us can only answer that for him/herself. And for me, just having returned from a marvelous vacation, that question is even more timely!
Arranging priorities…a real challenge for all of us!
Blessings, Fr. Dave
A wife asks her husband, “Could you please run to the store for me and buy a gallon of milk and if they have avocados, get six. A short time later the husband comes back with six gallons of milk. The wife asks him, “Why do have six gallons of milk?” He replied, “They had avocados.” (If you’re a woman, I’m sure you’ll go back and read it again. Men will get it the first time).
It’s like this weekend’s Gospel—how many times do I go back to reread it and try to understand? I mean…really…leaving ninety-nine good sheep in a wasteland to find one that was lost? Or having a party with friends and neighbors because you found a lost penny? And then there’s the prodigal son…what’s the older brother’s problem, and where’s the mother in the story? The quick answer found in the reread would be that those things which make God happy are not always the same as those things that make us happy. Forgiveness is apparently much easier for God than it is for us. That being said, most of us have known the joy of reconciliation with someone who has hurt us or a re-connection with someone after a long absence or St. Anthony coming through in the clutch when we have found what was lost. It’s just that the Gospel makes God seem like he gets carried away.
And maybe he does. Maybe God is so into mercy and forgiveness that he loses his entire calm and cool demeanor and becomes simply ecstatic whenever one that is lost is found, something which each of us might find hard to fully appreciate or comprehend. But once I do, once I sense how excited he gets when I get my act together and let him find me, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him on finding the sheep or the coin or the lost son. I guess, if I think hard enough and reread the Gospel yet again, I’ll finally understand.
Time to celebrate…Fr. Dave
Once upon a time there was a very handsome camel with two huge camel humps. He fell in love and married a beautiful female camel who had one perfect camel hump. As time progressed, they became the proud parents of a wonderful baby camel who had no humps. They contemplated long and hard on what to call their beautiful little boy. They finally decided on…are you ready for this?...Humphrey.
Okay, stop your groaning. There are a lot of humps on the path of life and Jesus, and the Gospel this weekend, adds yet another one—the Cross. We are to take it with us on the path of discipleship and if we do, we will live in glory forever. Only in the infinite wisdom of God does that make any sense. But to follow in the footsteps of Jesus means to stop off at Calvary first and then experience the new life that awaits us. It is simply how the Creator designed the reality of life.
Fortunately, like Jesus, we have help to carry our Cross. We have God’s grace; we have the Church; we have the love of family and friends; we have our own inner strength. In that way the cross becomes lighter and we become people who are not only helped, but help others carry theirs. Let us, this week, look for ways to lighten the load of those around us, freeing them from the humps on their backs and rejoicing in the hope that, in the end, we will all walk hump-free into the kingdom of heaven.
This ol’ bald hump in your life will be gone on vacation from the 8th to the 20th. See you when I return. Until then, miss me lots.
Blessings, Fr. Dave
A first-grade teacher had 26 students in her class. She presented each child in her room the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of it. Keep in mind that these are first-graders.
Don’t change horses…until they stop running. Strike while the…bug is close. It’s always the darkest before…Daylight Savings Time. Never underestimate the power of…termites. You can lead a horse to water but…how? Don’t bite the hand that…looks dirty. No news is…impossible. A miss is as good as a…Mr. You can’t teach an old dog new…math. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…stink in the morning. Love all, trust…me. The pen is mightier than the…pigs. An idle mind is…the best way to relax. Where there’s smoke there’s…pollution. Happy the bride who…gets all the presents. A penny saved is…not much. Two’s company, three’s…the Musketeers. Don’t put off till tomorrow what…you put on to go to bed. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you; cry and…you have to blow your nose. There are none so blind as…Stevie Wonder. Children should be seen and not…grounded. If at first you don’t succeed…get new batteries. You get out of something only what you…see in the picture on the box. When the blind lead the blind…move over. A bird in the hand…is going to poop on you. Better late than…pregnant.
And all of our first graders (not to mention all the other graders) go to school this week. Their creativity and insights will astound us; their life-stories and concerns will challenge us; their very presence will enrich us. May all of us—staffs, parents and grandparents, boards and concerned neighbors—support them in every way we can!
As Labor Day is ticked off the calendar this week, we cling to the memories of summer (most of them good, I trust) and embrace the colors of fall—those in our trees and those in our souls. Let us appreciate the moments as we engage the first-grader within each of us!
Happy Days!! Fr. Dave