Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

“Jesus Loves Me” — Funeral Homily for Mabel Klingbeil, 93

January 23, 2023

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Great love is powerfully expressed through great trials. When Mabel was only eleven years old, she experienced a shocking personal loss. Her ten-year-old sister Betty passed away from an appendicitis. And for the rest of Mabel’s life it seems she wanted to help make sure others were safe and well. Mabel would live to be the last-surviving member of the family of her birth. She served as a caregiver to her parents and her adult siblings as they passed on before her.

She was married in this church to her husband George in 1958. They gave life to four sons together, including two, John and Tim, who passed away in infancy. After fourteen years of marriage, Mabel became a widow at age forty-three. She raised her two boys, Michael and George, on her own; doing her best to fill the role of two parents, for instance, taking them out to go fishing. Then, after her retirement, Mabel began raising children anew at age seventy-two. She cared for her grandkids, Katie and Sarah, concerned for both their bodies and souls, for instance often saying, “Remember to pray and brush your teeth!” How did Mabel say she liked raising children? “I had a ball.”

Kindly but firm, Mabel was not swayed by the increasingly straying views of popular culture. She has been a well-known St. Paul’s parishioner for many years volunteering at our school and singing in our church choir. She would take the girls with her up to the balcony for funerals. The other choir members and widowed school teachers were often recipients of Mabel’s care.

I remember Mabel telling me in her room at Dove nursing home, that she had been a teacher for a total of thirty-three years (seven years elsewhere and then twenty-six years here in Bloomer). She loved teaching her students and said she would still like to teach—if she were not ninety-three years old. I saw her Tuesday afternoons when I brought her our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and she always received him with devotion.

Because of circumstances of her upbringing, Mabel had a hard time accepting God’s amazing love for us. She once remarked, “When I [was growing] up, I never knew that God loved me.” At times, she wondered, “How could Christ die just for me?” Yet Jesus Christ has powerfully revealed his great love for us, especially through his trials.

Why else would God become man in Jesus Christ if not from great concern that we would be safe and well? Jesus comes to us as a teacher in a visible life on earth thought to have numbered thirty-three years. Kindly but firm, he possesses and imparts truth in an errant world. He formed young disciples in his charge; sometimes he even took them fishing. He comes as our Good Shepherd, laying down his life for his sheep, desiring none of us to be lost.

Jesus worshiped at his Father’s house and offered himself in sacrifice on the Cross. Now he calls us to worship in his Church and receive the great gift of himself offered in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, now risen, is the first-surviving member of his family. Raised from the dead, he lives forever to help us through this life into the next. He is the faithful, loving caregiver of his spouse and his brothers and sisters; that is, of his Church as a whole and each of us individually.

So you see, Jesus Christ forms faithful Christians to be more and more like himself, and shepherds them to be with him in paradise. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” Despite all these things, we can conquer overwhelmingly through him who loves us. Mabel, in her final recent trial, found comfort in this truth, as she often sang that sweet children’s song: “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Let us be faithful to Christ, so that together with Mabel we may “behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!

The Openness, Obedience, & One Word of St. Joseph

December 18, 2022

4th Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our Gospel this final Sunday of Advent centers on St. Joseph. It recounts how St. Joseph received the stunning revelation of Mary’s pregnancy. We can learn from the great saint’s response — from his openness, his obedience, and his one word.

Mary was already Joseph’s wife when she conceived her child. In their Jewish culture, a newlywed couple would live apart for the first year of marriage. Thereafter, the husband would bring his betrothed into his home to live with him. When Mary conceived a child (whom Joseph knew was not his) why did he decide to divorce her? Was Joseph heartbroken because he believed she had betrayed him? Or was Joseph frightened, because he believed her story of the Annunciation and thought himself unworthy of this holy woman and her holy child? Whatever the case, Joseph was a righteous man and unwilling to expose Mary to shame, so he intended to divorce her quietly.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home because it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Once Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary into his home.

I used to fret very much about precisely discerning God’s will. “What if the Lord wants me to do a specific thing but I can’t figure it out?” During my college and seminary years, I thought I had a vocation to the priesthood but how could I be sure? I worried, “What if I get this discernment terribly, terribly wrong?” Then a holy friend gave me peace of mind by pointing to St. Joseph. When Joseph was about to make a terrible mistake by separating himself from Mary and Jesus, it only took one night’s dream to get him back on the right track because Joseph desired to do whatever God willed. God can easily redirect a willing heart.

People sometimes complain, “I wish God would just tell me what to do!” But unless we are open to doing God’s will, what good would his directions do us? Imitate St. Joseph in his openness. Like with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph’s openness allowed God to do great things through him. So resolve your will and pray for the grace to always be open to God’s will like St. Joseph. Another St. Joseph trait of we can imitate and profit from is his simple obedience.

St. Matthew’s Gospel records, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home… and he named [the boy] Jesus.” On this occasion, like later when told to flee to Egypt or told to return to Israel, Joseph does point-by-point what God commands. Like Moses in the Old Testament, whenever God instructs Joseph to do (A) and (B) and (C), the author notes how Joseph then does (A) and (B) and (C).

Moses and Joseph’s duties were different from ours today. We will not construct an Ark of the Covenant, nor protect and provide for the Holy Family, but each of us has persons and tasks entrusted to us by God; people to care for and works to be done. You already know a great deal of what God has commanded you to do; your own (A) and (B) and (C) according to your state in life. You will not fulfill your missions perfectly—and that’s OK—but imitate St. Joseph in his simple obedience because your basic, God-given duties are more important than you realize.

A third and final feature of St. Joseph reflected in today’s Gospel is his single word. Did you ever hear that in all of Scripture there are no recorded quotes from St. Joseph? It’s true: Jesus has many, Mary has several, but Joseph has none. Now there is no evidence that St. Joseph lacked the ability to speak or ever took a vow of silence.  Joseph probably said many things that were simply not written down. Yet today’s Gospel contains the strongest evidence of his having said any one particular word. What was that word?

The angel in Joseph’s dream said of the unborn child: “You are to name him Jesus.” And when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. Joseph named him Jesus. The name of Jesus was St. Joseph’s greatest and most important word. Ever after, the name of Jesus defined his life.

Learn from St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. Imitate his openness to doing God’s will whatever it may be. Benefit from practicing his obedience in your daily duties. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” like St. Joseph did.

On Being Man’s Best Friend

September 25, 2022

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In the 1996 film “Independence Day,” we get introduced to a single-mother named Jasmine, played by Vivica Fox. With alien ships hovering ominously above the world’s major cities, she decides to flee Los Angeles. When the aliens begin their attack, Jasmine is stuck in a traffic jam inside a tunnel with her little boy, Dylan, and their handsome pet Labrador Retriever, named Boomer.

A wall of fire rushes from behind, tossing cars into the air before it and incinerating everyone it catches. Jasmine grabs her son and runs between the cars until she spots the door to a maintenance room. She kicks down the locked door and they huddle inside, but their dog has not followed them. Jasmine cries out, “Boomer! Boomer!” And Boomer sprints toward them, jumping over cars, and leaps safely into the side room at the very last second, just as the inferno passes by. Hundreds and hundreds of people are killed in the tunnel, but Boomer survives.

One commenter on a YouTube clip of this movie scene remarked, “I remember when I first saw this scene in the theater. I got all teary-eyed because, ‘YAY the doggy lives!’” Another commenter wrote, “When I saw this at the cinema, everyone cheered at this bit. It was the only part of the movie they cheered at!

Our culture loves dogs, but Jewish culture was more ambivalent towards them. Scripture does not celebrate dogs as “man’s best friend” like we do today. There are verses pointing to sheepdogs for shepherding or watchdogs for security. And in the Book of Tobit, when young Tobiah leaves home with the angel Raphael, it says “the dog followed Tobiah out and went along with them” on their adventure. However, the mentions of dogs in the Bible are usually negative.

In the Old Testament, for example, Goliath said to David who held a shepherd’s staff, “Am I a dog that you come against me with a stick?” Years later, encountering a different scoffer, one of King David’s soldiers asked, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” And Psalm 22, which Jesus referenced on his Cross, says, “Dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me… [Deliver] my life from the grip of the dog.

In the New Testament, we see more of this dim view of dogs. Jesus teaches, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” St. Paul writes, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers…” And the Book of Revelation, when it describes God’s heavenly city, says, “Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit.” So where does this biblical disdain for dogs come from?

Realize that in those days, most dogs were not pets but wild. Packs of feral dogs were not only a noisy nuisance but also dangerous. This is reflected in Psalm 59, which describes deadly enemies as “growling like dogs and prowling about the city.” If not killing prey, stray dogs would eat whatever dead flesh they found, of beast or man — “they roam about as scavengers; if they are not filled, they howl.” I mention all of this because of details in today’s parable.

In Jesus’ story, a rich man with expensive, comfortable clothing eats plenty of good food at every meal. But outside of his gate, lying on the ground, is Lazarus, a hungry poor man covered with exposed sores. Jesus tells us Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” And Jesus notes that “dogs even used to come [up to Lazarus] and lick his sores.” When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to a place of peace with Abraham. But when the rich man died he descended to a place of torment, in part, for his failure to care for Lazarus.

Those stray dogs did not attack Lazarus but licked his wounds. Perhaps they were drawn to the salty taste, or maybe they had an instinctual impulse towards him. But in either case they were helping him. Like many other animals, including cats, rodents, and primates, dogs lick their wounds to clean them. And certain chemical compounds found in dogs’ saliva help to disinfect, reduce pain, and promote healing. Letting dogs lick your wounds today is not recommended by doctors today; modern disinfectants and treatments are less likely to result in infection. But in the ancient world, for a beggar on the streets covered with sores like Lazarus, such dog licks would be a blessing.

The parable tells us Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” This resembles the remark of the Syrophoenician woman who came to Jesus seeking a miracle for her demon-possessed daughter. Though they were not of the house of Israel, she begged Jesus to help them, saying “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table,” but the rich man never gave him any. So the rich man treated Lazarus worse than a dog. “Dogs even used to come and lick [Lazarus’] sores.” This means even the despised dogs in the streets treated Lazarus better and helped him more than the rich man ever did.

It’s fine to love dogs. They’re one of God’s good creatures and they reflect his goodness. It’s been said that God created dogs to help show us how he loves us (and that he created cats to show us how we love him). But it sadly seems rather common today for people to care more about the well-being of random dogs than of random strangers. Today’s psalm tells us, “Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, [and] gives food to the hungry.” Living in this way makes us more like our Lord ‘who sets captives free, raises up those who are bowed down, and protects strangers,’ and becoming like our Lord is necessary for us to be at home with him in his heavenly city. It’s alright to appreciate our pets, but lest we end up like the rich man in hell let’s make sure we treat and love everyone better than dogs.

God Close to Us

July 11, 2022

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we celebrate the God who is close to us both in His Word and in our neighbor. As the image of the unseen God, and as the Good Samaritan, Christ is close to us in all circumstances of life. So, the church asks us to acknowledge the presence of God both in his Word, and in our neighbor. Jesus teaches us through the parable of the Good Samaritan that God’s grace comes to us in all forms and through all kinds of people.

The first reading taken from the Book of Deuteronomy is one of the most consoling and joyful words given to the people. It was time for Moses to take leave of his people as he could not reach the Promised Land. He says to his people God is our life, hear the voice of God from the Law and to keep His Commandments, He tells them God is very near to them in the neighbors we shall encounter each day. When we act as neighbor to them, we act as neighbor to God Himself.

The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians. It tell us about the divinity of Jesus and that Jesus is the image of invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. All creation was in Him, through Him, and for Him. Since all is created in and through him, Christ is the center of Unity. Jesus is the full revelation of God, it is this Jesus who lives in us and in our neighbors. We love Jesus when we love our neighbors.

In today’s Gospel, a scribe asked Jesus a very basic religious question, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” In answer to the question, Jesus directs the scribe’s attention to the Sacred Scriptures. Love God and express it by loving your neighbor.

God could be found in his Word which is close to him. To love God therefore is to love his Word. The Word of God is personified in the Good Samaritan in today’s gospel. The word of God is Jesus himself, who speaks to us, and Jesus who is ever close to us like the Good Samaritan.

The Gospel also presents to us another way through which God is close to us. That is, in our neighbor. As a humble master, he is always available to us in simple ways and things. He is close to us in the scriptures, in the poor, in the just, in the pious, in the marginalized, in the sick, and in the weak. Like the Good Samaritan, if we search for God in these, we will find Him. The Good Samaritan saw God in the victim, and so was moved to help him.

The Good Samaritan represents those who seek Christ in the weak, wounded, and the poor. He represents those who are mindful of their neighbors and those who are wounded. Also, he represents Christ who is always quick to come to our help when we are weak, despised, and abandoned. He is ever ready to help us to recover from our injuries, and He is so close to take care, and to heal us.

We have one life and we do not get another one. So live your life praising God and if you fall astray, always run back to Him because He will always welcome you with open arms. Use the gifts He has blessed you with to serve others. Do not live your life wasting away with the temporary happiness of life, find permanent happiness in living out the virtues and serving others. God loves us so much that He gave us this life.

Transforming Love

May 1, 2022

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we have another account of Jesus appearing to his disciples on Easter Sunday wherein he prepares a meal for them and gives them support. He comes constantly to the disciples to be with them, guide them and encourage them. All the three readings of today tell us of our vocation and our mission to be at the service of the word and not to hesitate to proclaim our closeness to Jesus. We admire the courage of the Disciples of Jesus who preach with boldness and are ready to face sufferings happily for His sake.

John the Evangelist tells us that God is love. God’s love is unconditional, unmerited, and without limit. It lasts forever. It’s the beginning and end. And it’s the essence of what it means to be a Christian – one who knows God’s love and forgiveness and who loves God in return with all one’s heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. God’s love heals and transforms our lives and frees us from fear, selfishness, and greed. It draws us to the very heart of God and it compels us to give to him the best we have and all we possess – our gifts, our time, our resources, and our very lives. St. Paul the Apostle tells us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us.

Why did Jesus question Peter’s love and fidelity three times in front of the other apostles? It must have caused Peter pain and sorrow since he had publicly denied Jesus three times. Now Peter, full of remorse and humility, stated that he loved his master and was willing to serve him whatever it might cost. Jesus asks him “do you love me more than these?

Jesus may have pointed to the boats, nets, and catch of fish. Do you love me more than these things? He may have challenged Peter to abandon his work as a fisherman for the task of shepherding God’s people. Jesus also may have pointed to the other disciples and to Peter’s previous boast: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33) Peter now makes no boast or comparison but humbly responds: “You know I love you.”

The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our weakness, sin, and failings, to love him above all else. Saint Augustine in his Confessions wrote: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! …You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me… and in astonishment I drew my breath…now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! – and I burn to live within your peace.” (Confessions 10:27) Nothing but our sinful pride and willfulness can keep us from the love of God. It is a free gift, unmerited and beyond payment. We can never outmatch God in giving love. He loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding graciousness and mercy towards us. Do you allow God’s love to change and transform your heart? “Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and remove everything that is unloving, unkind, ungrateful, unholy, and not in accord with your will.”

“Do You Love Me?”

April 30, 2022

3rd Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Victor Feltes

At the Last Supper, Simon Peter assures Jesus, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” But Jesus replies, “Peter, before the rooster crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.” Later that night, during Jesus’ trial before the Jewish high priest, Peter stands with the servants and soldiers outside. It’s a cold night, so they warm themselves around a charcoal fire in the middle of the courtyard. This is where Peter denies three times that he is in any way connected to Jesus. A rooster crows, Jesus turns and makes eye-contact with Peter, and Peter breaks down and weeps.

In our gospel, the risen Jesus appears to seven of his disciples at the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberius). He invites them to breakfast with him around another charcoal fire. This is the context for the conversation between Jesus and Peter today. After Peter’s three denials, Jesus provides him an opportunity to thrice-reaffirm his love. Jesus meets Peter by that charcoal fire like he mercifully encounters you and me in the confessional.

Now there is more going on in the original Greek of this gospel text than can be seen in our English translation. In English, the word “love” does a lot of heavy lifting. We say: “I love my family,” “I love my car,” “I love my country,” “I love pizza,” and “I love God.” But in Greek, there are multiple words for “love.” For example, “Phileo” refers to friendship or brotherly love, “Eros” refers to romantic love, and “Agape” refers to self-sacrificial, unconditional love. Agape is the way God actively loves us and how we are called to love too. “This is my commandment,” says the Lord, “that you (apage) one another, just as I have (agaped) you.

In today’s gospel, Jesus first asks: “Simon, son of John, do you love me (do you agape me) more than these?” And Simon Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I (phileo) you.” Simon loves Jesus as a dear brother and friend, but Peter, now humbled, recognizes that he does not love Jesus perfectly. Then Jesus asks again, “Simon, son of John, do you (agape) me?” Simon Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I (phileo) you.” But the third and final time, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you (phileo) me?

Peter is distressed that Jesus switches this time to asking, “Do you (phileo) me?” Peter may be wondering, “Is Jesus questioning whether I even love him that much?” He says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I (phileo) you.” Jesus is not doubting Peter’s phileo love for him, but rather meeting him where he’s at, allowing him to answer with an unqualified “yes.” Peter’s love is not yet perfect, they both recognize that, but Jesus tells him to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and feed his sheep as the chief shepherd of Christ’s flock on earth as the first pope. Jesus reveals to Peter that his faithful service will lead him to the perfection of self-sacrificial, agape love in end.

Amen, amen,” Jesus tells him, “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this signifying by what kind of death Peter would glorify God; that is, a martyr’s death. Peter would go on to be crucified upside-down and buried on Vatican Hill. Our gospel concludes with Jesus telling St. Peter and us: “Follow me.”

Like Peter there on the seashore, we probably realize that our love for God is real though imperfect. Jesus knows this too, of course, but he still loves us here and now. He meets us where we’re at, he loves us as we are, but he will not settle for that. He intends to call us, lead us, press us forward to more perfect love. His providence will lead us to places we may not want to go, to experience trials we would not choose for ourselves. But his purpose is to make us into a person, a person who loves, like Jesus Christ himself.

A final story…
In C.S. Lewis’ Christian fantasy novel, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” a little girl named Lucy is told about a great lion named Aslan. Aslan is the Christ figure in the world of Narnia. Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” Lucy asks, “Is he—quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? [Of] course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Because He Loves You

April 17, 2022

Easter Vigil
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our human knowledge and human awareness are limited and finite. Jesus Christ, however, is both fully human and fully divine. As the eternal, Second Person of the Trinity, his understanding and consciousness are unlimited. And so, amazingly and truly, he knew us and loved us even before time began.

At the beginning of creation, he foreknew you and loved you. He called Father Abraham in ancient times, in part, because he loves you. He freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt because he loves you. He settled his people in the Promised Land because he loves you. He established King David’s dynasty because he loves you. He commissioned all the prophets because he loves you. He brought his people back from exile because he loves you.

In the fullness of time, he became man because he loves you. He preached and ministered on earth because he loves you. He tolerated rejection and betrayal because he loves you. He endured whipping and mockery because he loves you. He accepted the Holy Cross because he loves you. He suffered and died because he loves you. But during this night upon the third day, he conquered death and rose again because he loves you.

In more recent days, he gave you life in your mother’s womb because he loves you. He encounters you in his Catholic Church because he loves you. He baptizes you to be his Father’s child because he loves you. He confirms you as the Holy Spirit’s temple and instrument because he loves you. He incorporates you into being a member of his mystical Body and Bride because he loves you. And he fills your life with more blessings than you can count because he loves you.

Each of us rightly celebrates this night because of Jesus Christ. You are here at Easter Vigil because you love him. But more importantly, you are here tonight because he loves you.

“Do This in Memory of Me”

April 14, 2022

Holy Thursday
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Did you know that a homily is different from a sermon? A sermon may be about whatever topic the preacher chooses, but a homily must be based upon the liturgy’s readings or prayers, or the particular feast celebrated that day. Rather than a sermon, the Catholic Church directs the preacher to give a homily at Mass, though she usually leaves it up to him to decide which specific theme or themes to highlight from the day’s readings, prayers, or celebration. The Mass of Holy Thursday is one rare exception.

For this evening, the Church requires in the current Third Edition of the Roman Missal: “after the proclamation of the Gospel, the priest gives a homily in which light is shed on the principal mysteries that are commemorated in this Mass, namely, the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priestly Order, and the commandment of the Lord concerning fraternal charity.” In other words, tonight’s homily must be about Jesus beginning our celebration of the Holy Eucharist, his founding of the New Testament priesthood, and his commandment that we love one another. All three of these themes are reflected in Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance (or do this in memory) of me.

On the first Holy Thursday, the night before he died for us, Jesus gathered his disciples for a meal, the Last Supper. While at table, he “took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you.’” After that, he took a chalice and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Before being betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus hands himself over to his disciples. Before suffering his Passion, Jesus’ Body is broken and his Blood is poured. Before his death on the Cross, Jesus offers a sharing in his self-sacrifice. And Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.

Ever since, this “Breaking of the Bread,” this consecrating of the Holy Eucharist, this celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, has continued to our day. Read St. Justin Martyr’s Apology, an account from the 150’s A.D. describing how Christians worshipped together on Sundays. You will clearly recognize the elements and structure of the Mass. We have done this ‘in memory of him‘ from the era of the Acts of the Apostles to this very evening.

In commissioning his apostles to “do this in memory of me,” Jesus was ordaining them ministers of this new, Christian Sacrifice. He made them priests of the New Covenant, to lead, and teach, and sanctify his people. Without appointing clear shepherds for his Church on earth, Jesus knew his flock would inevitably scatter. Without priests, there would be no Eucharist to make us one in Christ. Please pray for your priests, please pray for more priests, and if Jesus may be calling you to ordination please do not ignore his call. The priesthood is that important for the salvation of souls.

Finally, in saying “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus was not only telling his Church “do this sacrament until I come again.” And Jesus was not just telling his apostles “do this as my priests.” In saying “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus was telling each of us to love like he does.

Did you know there are no words of consecration to be found in St. John’s Gospel? Jesus saying, ‘This is my body‘ and ‘This is my Blood‘ at the Last Supper is recounted by the other three gospel writers and by St. Paul in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians (as we heard tonight). So why does St. John leave this out? Perhaps, being the last gospel writer, he saw no need to repeat details others had already made well-known. Instead, John’s is the only gospel book which features the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

This humble, beautiful act of Jesus helps reveal more fully the meaning of his Eucharist Sacrifice. He, the Master and Teacher, washes feet. He, our God and Creator, gives himself as food. He, the King and Holy One, dies on a cross. Jesus does these things for us because he loves us. He says, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do… Love one another as I have loved you… Do this… do this… in memory of me.

God’s Universal & Personal Love

March 27, 2022

4th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran 

God’s love is universal and at the same time, it is personal. Our God is concerned for each person individually yet at the same time he loves us the whole community. God loved the world so much that He sent only Son to gather us together so that we may have new life in Him. God also sends us to carry his divine love into the world and to share this message of life and light.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Rejoice (Laetare) Sunday anticipating Easter joy. Today’s readings invite us to rejoice by being reconciled with God through repentance and the confession of our sins and celebrating our coming home to be with our loving and forgiving God.

The First Reading tells us that Israel had reached the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Their arrival was made possible by a miracle of the Lord. Just as the Red sea opened up for them as they escaped Egypt, the Israelites could live freely in their own country. The reading tells us that they happily ate the produce of the land. The manna which was their food for forty years ceased to come from heaven. The people could now enjoy the abundance of the Promised Land.

In the Second Reading, St Paul tells the Corinthians that if anyone is in Christ, there is already a new creation everything old has passed away, and everything has become new! Paul tells them that everything is from God, who reconciled them to himself through Christ and has given them the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus is the mediator in the process and our part is to accept God’s gift of Reconciliation. He invites them to remember that God for our sake made Christ be sin who was sinless so that in Him might become the righteousness of God. In other words, our sins are forgiven so we can share in the very holiness of God.

In today’s gospel, we have the story of the Prodigal Son which presents us with a picture of God is Love, care, and forgiveness. In the parable, we are given a most beautiful description of our heavenly Father. He is outside of the house waiting for the younger son to return. He is certain that he will return to him. When the son returns, his father runs to him, clasped him in his arms, kisses him tenderly and he brings him in and throws a party for him. When we return to God, He throws a party for us too.

The Father immediately readmits him as part of the family and gives the order to bring the robe, the ring, the sandals, and to kill the fatted calf for a celebration. The son had no understanding of what mercy really meant. Now he learns the depth of the love of the Father. In this parable, Jesus teaches us the depth of the generosity of God and His mercy. God, our heavenly Father, is always waiting at the door for us to come to Him. At every Mass, we receive the same invitation from Jesus, to share his body and blood and, hence, his forgiveness.

The lost son realized that in his father’s house there was sustenance for him. So he humbled himself, willing, if necessary, to be his father’s servant, and started back home. This turning away from sin and toward God is the first indication of His love for us.

This parable says that God is at work. That he is able to see the younger son when he was still a long way off means that the father has been watching for his son, waiting for him, longing for him. The father runs to him, embraces him, loves him, and gives him gifts. This is a wonderful picture of the great love of God towards us. He seeks after us, reaches out to us. When we come to Him, He washes away all our evil deeds of the past, not holding them against us. The road back to God is sometimes long, but easy.

A Labor of Love — Funeral Homily for Alice Karr, 91

August 31, 2021

No funeral homily can present the complete fullness of a Christian’s life. At best, I think a funeral homily can focus on aspects of a person’s life, and through this, help reveal the beautiful, saving mysteries of God. In the brief, less than 200-word obituary which Alice wrote for herself, she noted that she taught and was the principal of schools in Gary, Indiana; Milwaukee, Marshfield, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and in Littleton and Denver, Colorado. Today, I would like to reflect upon these years of Alice as an educator/administrator.

In 1984, she became principal of Good Shepherd Catholic School in Denver, Colorado. The school’s prospects at the time were very bleak, having a registered enrollment of just 34 students. But “during her first two years on the job, [she] put herself on a 78-hour week, organized a recruitment program, showed maintenance men how to clean bathrooms and mop floors, opened the first middle school in the Archdiocese, organized many elective classes, and involved parents in maintenance.” Her pastor at the time praised her “exceptional leadership and organizational abilities” and observed how her “relationship with faculty, students, and parents has been unusually successful; and all are supportive of her administration.” By her third year on the job, the total student enrollment was 280 and still growing. As one parent recalled, Alice “made a personal commitment to each child by providing the best possible educational environment … I remember the dire warnings we all received about the lack of future our school faced. Without [her] loving, dedicated, and wise guidance—not to mention the 12-hour days she puts in—we would be without our school. She is truly a remarkable person.” This story of Alice’s faithful fruitfulness was featured in a 1987 article of Today’s Catholic Teacher Magazine when they named her their November “principal of the month.”

This was not this first time Alice had made the press. She was also profiled in the summer of 1970, within the pages of The School Sisters of Notre Dame Magazine, in a piece entitled “Educator for the Special Child.” It describes her work at the Lorenz Institute, a private, non-sectarian, residential treatment center in Eau Claire for emotionally-disturbed children. When Alice accepted the invitation to become the principal at a facility such as this, the article recalls “she knew what she could expect—anything, at any time.” The author notes how “hours of duress, frustration, and Excedrin strain [would take] their toll” on Alice and her teaching staff, but Alice would buoy them with her seemingly constant smile, ready humor, and practical wisdom. One man interviewed said he saw Alice’s work with the staff as even more valuable than that with the children. She was a dynamo of productive energy back in those days, too. The staff affectionately dubbed her “the black and white tornado.” Why did Alice labor so incessantly? 12-hour days, six-and-a-half days a week, quite possibly until she had eventually burnt herself out. Why did she so dedicate herself to her work like this? The answer, the reason, is love.

At The Lorenz Institute, the magazine author records, the staff didn’t know what to make of Alice at first, but “evidence of [her] concern for the boys and girls unfolded day by day.” For example, “An upset boy expecting a scolding was taken off guard by the firm hand [she] laid on his shoulder, by the penetrating gaze of her steady eyes, and—once the lad’s defenses were lowered—a teasing word and/or serious directive reached its mark.” The article includes a photo of one corner of her office at that facility. The caption describes “a unique conference setting: a plain folding chair for her, a brightly decorated milk-can stool for the child. This arrangement puts the child higher than the adult, and, immeasurably, the child grows.” Alice believed love to be the very best behavior modifier. “It is not enough to teach children how to read and write,” she said, “we must show them how to live with each other.” Alice believed we must teach others to love through loving them, by loving them like God loves us.

Jesus has a great love for children. Once, calling a child over and putting his arms around it, he said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” When children in the Gospels knew Jesus’ love towards them they were being shown God the Father’s love as well. And when children experienced Alice’s love for them they were being shown a partial reflection of God’s love for them.

Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them,” Jesus says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, realize that we are God’s children now. The Father has adopted us as his own sons and daughters because he loves us. Today we pray for Alice’s soul, as is right and just, for who among us is perfect? But if you have ever witnessed Alice’s love for you, then realize that you have seen a small reflection of God’s love for you.

Beyond “Mercenary Love”

July 31, 2021

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Alongside other security personnel, the Holy Father and the Vatican City State are protected by one hundred and thirty-five men who have been called “the world’s smallest army.” Pilgrims and tourists to St. Peter’s Basilica may see them on duty wearing uniforms inspired by the Renaissance era – in garments comprised of yellow, blue, and red stripes and helmets topped with colored ostrich feathers. Yet these soldiers are not merely there for ceremonial decoration. Each of them takes a solemn vow to, if necessary, lay down their lives in defense of the pope. All of them are Roman Catholics, citizens of Switzerland, and have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces. They are known as the Swiss Guard and have served the Holy Father semi-continuously for more than 500 years. But why Swiss guards, rather than Italian, Spanish, or French?

Before answering that, here is another small mystery of history. During the Revolutionary War, on the night of December 25th, 1776, General George Washington led his men in boats across the icy Delaware River to attack 1,500 enemy troops garrisoned in Trenton, New Jersey the next day. This daring tactic found their opponents unprepared. Our Continental Army suffered only two dead and five wounded in the mission but captured about nine hundred German soldiers. Yes that’s right, Germans. What were Germans doing in America during the Revolutionary War?

The reason why German soldiers fought for Great Britain in 1776 and why the pope began having Swiss guards in 1506 is that these troops were mercenaries, third-party soldiers-for-hire. In an era of conflict between Italian factions and his Papal States, the pope hired soldiers from friendly Switzerland five hundred miles away. It’s been the tradition to have Swiss guards ever since. And when the Revolutionary War broke out, the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, saw an opportunity. He leased his German soldiers (nicknamed Hessians) to the British Empire to fight for them overseas.

Those serving in Swiss Guard today are remarkable and devout young men. And even if the pope were unable to continue paying their salaries I would not be surprised if almost all of them would faithfully complete their terms of service. The classic, mercenary soldier-for-hire, however, does not serve because he loves the king, country, or people he sides with, he does not risk his life because he believes in some just and noble purpose. The mercenary’s motivation is the money he is paid or promised. Deny him that payment and his loyalty and services will disappear with him. Similarly, the saints throughout the centuries have observed that many Christians have a “mercenary love” for God. That is, they love the Lord when times are easy, so as long as he “pays” them with many graces, consolations, and good things. But when those sensible blessings dry up, their loyal service and devotion disappear. Though God’s love does not depart from them, but they abandon him.

The Hebrews in the desert had witnessed God’s care for them. They saw the mighty deeds he wrought in the Exodus. But when they became hungry, the whole Israelite community grumbled. “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” God knew they needed food, he fully intended to meet their need, but he wanted them to trust in him and rely on him as a good Father. The Lord Jesus likewise desires a closer personal relationship with each one of us.

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls out the crowds at Capernaum on their mercenary motives. They love the gifts, but not yet the Giver. “Amen, amen,” he says to them, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. …Believe in [me,] the one [the Father] sent.” Jesus calls them higher, to a devoted love for himself, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. … I am the bread of life.” When we look at ourselves, what is the quality of our love for God?

St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century: “If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, …we resemble mercenaries. Finally, if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands… we are in the position of [devoted] children.” The Doctor of the Church, St. Bernard Clairvaux observed in the twelfth century: “Whosoever praises God for his essential goodness, and not merely because of the benefits he has bestowed, does really love God for God’s sake, and not selfishly.” So how can we develop a more perfect love for God, and how can we be more faithful when our next dry time of trial comes?

One way to a purer, more personal love for God is to realize that when you come to the sacraments, Jesus Christ meets you there. The Eucharistic Host you receive is him. It is he who forgives your sins through the priest in Confession. And when you receive the Anointing of the Sick, Jesus is uniting your suffering to his and his strength to your weakness. So do not avoid encountering him and do not meet him on autopilot. Recognize whom you are approaching, appreciate the Gift and appreciate the Giver, and your relationship with Jesus will grow.

This personal relationship with the Lord is also cultivated through daily prayer. Memorized prayers can be very good. Our Fathers, Hail Marys, litanies, and chaplets are great. But they can also become routine and impersonal, like chores. Regularly speak to our heavenly friends in your own words as well. When you boil it down, there are basically four things we can say whenever we pray: “I’m sorry, please, I love you, and thank you.” That is, there are prayers of Sorrow, Asking, Loving, and Thanking. (That’s S-A-L-T or SALT.) Many people spend their prayer times focused on the first two: Sorrow and Asking: “I’m sorry, Lord, please forgive me. Please Lord, grant this good thing for me and for them.” Jesus wants to pray for such things, but be mindful that your prayers are properly seasoned with expressions of Loving and Thanking as well. “I love you, Lord, and I praise you. You are holy and worthy and good. I thank you for your blessings all around me.” Focus more on rejoicing in who he is and what he’s done, not just on the things you want, and your love for him will deepen.

And when you find yourself in your next dry desert, tried and hungering like the Hebrews, or fighting on your next battlefield, serving without appearing payment, do not spurn or abandon the Lord. Go to him with your needs, recognizing how much you need him. Realize that even when the pleasant, warm fuzzies of consolation are withdrawn for a time, the Lord’s love for you remains and he offers you his sufficient grace to keep going in his will. And be patient knowing, that sooner or later, felt consolations and peace will return. With a more personal, more pure, and more perfect love for God, you can persevere as far more than a slave or mercenary, but as a devoted child of the Father and a true friend of Christ, as you are meant to be.

Lovingly Received — Funeral Homily for Allen Pietz, 62

June 22, 2021

Allen is a dear acquaintance of mine. Unlike many of the persons I offer funerals for, I know him really well. But today I’m going to begin by telling you about another warm acquaintance of mine and the story he once told me. I went to seminary with a fellow who is now a diocesan priest in South Carolina named Fr. Andrew Trapp. Fr. Andrew looks a lot like the actor Tobey Maguire (who starred in the Spider-Man movie franchise) and Andrew also has a Peter-Parker-like friendly goodness. Fr. Andrew got a little famous back around 2010 when he beat the champion poker player Daniel Negreanu on a TV game show. He won $100,000 and donated his whole prize (after taxes) to his parish’s renovation project. Before he was ordained, Andrew spent a summer in Paris, France improving his French and helping out at a Catholic church.

There he met a former satanic worshipper who had repented, reconciled to God, and became a member of that parish. Andrew knew that Satanists were known to steal the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ, for use and abuse in their rituals. (I’ve heard elsewhere that Satanists are interested in stealing only the Catholic Church’s Communion Hosts to perform Black Masses and other sacrileges.) Andrew asked the man whether it was true that Satanists test their followers using these stolen Hosts, placing a Consecrated Host in a line-up of identical, unconsecrated wafers to see if the person could identify which one it is. The man responded that he had undergone this test and successfully passed it. Andrew asked him, “How did you know which host was the Lord?” And the man replied, “It was the one that I felt hatred towards.”

No brief funeral homily can tell the whole story of a person’s life, but sometimes a particular aspect of a Christian’s life can proclaim the most important things. Allen did not grow up Catholic. He started attending Mass at St. Paul’s in the front row with Sylvia. And it was here that he fell in love with the Holy Eucharist. Sylvia remembers Allen pointing to the altar and saying, “I want that Bread.” This desire was the main reason Allen became Catholic, got Confirmed, and received his First Holy Communion here in 2020, exactly a year and one week before his death. Allen was always eager to receive the Holy Eucharist on Sundays. And whenever he couldn’t come, he missed it profoundly. Sometimes he could barely walk and he still came to Mass. What fueled this intense longing and devotion in Allen? It was the love he felt for Jesus in the Eucharist.

It was Jesus, who said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world.” When those in the crowd murmured at this, objecting, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you… [M]y Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus says, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

In truth, Allen’s great love for Jesus in the Eucharist was only a weak reflection of Jesus’ love for Allen. And what will separate friends of Jesus Christ from the love of Christ? Neither death nor life, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, neither angels nor powers, nor any other created thing will be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is right that we pray today for the perfection and glory of our friend Allen’s soul, but we do so with great peace and confidence that Allen, who was so eager to receive our Lord in the Eucharist, will himself be eagerly received by our loving Lord.

Allen Pietz after his 1st Communion

Allen Pietz on the day of his First Communion, June 7, 2020

Hearts Like His — The Nathan & Cassandra Hagenbrock Wedding

June 12, 2021

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of JesusNathan and Cassie’s wedding day lands upon this, the third Friday after the Feast of Pentecost, the eleventh day of June. God’s providence has arranged it that they be married on this special day – a feast day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during a month especially dedicated to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. You can see depictions of the Sacred Heart inside this church. There is the statue of Jesus behind me, here in the sanctuary, and presently another statue in our devotional corner in the back. In artistic depictions, you may see Jesus’ Sacred Heart resting upon his chest, or maybe he holds it in his hand offering it to you, and sometimes his heart is depicted by all itself. In every depiction it is a human heart, crowned with thorns, pierced on the side, with flames and a cross emerging from the top. What is the meaning of these things? What do they reveal about Jesus? And what do they mean for Nathan and Cassie and us?

The heart is the organ within every human being which is most associated symbolically with emotion, devotion, and love. Since becoming man through his Incarnation two thousand years ago, the Eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has possessed a literal human heart in himself. And Jesus has personally experienced human feelings as well. But Jesus and his heart are not merely human, but divine. This reality is symbolized by the flames. As at the burning bush in Exodus, these flames do not consume his heart, but coexist with it and glorify it. Jesus feels and loves with a divine intensity, and this love leads him to sacrifice for love. This love gives rise to the Cross, upon which he suffered for us. This love occasions the crown of thorns, which he wore for us. And this love led to Jesus’ heart being pierced, the event we hear about in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ Sacred Heart is human and compassionate, divine and loving, long-suffering and glorious. And it is the will of Jesus, meek and humble of heart, to make our hearts like unto his, that you may endure suffering, be loving, and be made glorious.

You can see that this world is broken. Other people are broken. And you know, Nathan and Cassie, that though there is a great deal to like about you both, neither of you is yet perfect. Know that in your marriage, you will inevitably encounter suffering; sufferings caused by the world, sufferings caused by other people, and sometimes sufferings caused by each other. But when these thorns and small cuts come, do not let the fire of your love go out. Choose to keep loving, willing the good of each other. This is how Jesus loves us, and how he calls us to love.

This persistent decision to love is essential, but it is not enough. To love beyond human strength requires God’s strength; divine fire burning in your heart. You must love with Jesus’ love by connecting with him; praying daily, worshipping weekly, and communing with him constantly (spiritually or sacramentally) as you are able. Love each other by the love with which he loves you.

Choosing to love with the love of Christ in marriage is now your calling. This vocation together is to be for your joy, fruitfulness, and glory in the likeness of Christ. May Jesus Christ make your our hearts like unto his Sacred Heart, so that you may endure suffering, be loving, and be made glorious, like Jesus Christ himself.

“I Believe in Jesus Christ”

February 27, 2021

2nd Sunday of Lent

In the words of The Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

At the heart of our Christian Faith is a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Word become flesh, “the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus comes to us as “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and Christian living consists in following him. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord

Jesus’ name in Hebrew means: “God saves.” And this name, first announced by the archangel Gabriel, expresses his identity and mission. Through the incarnation, God made man “will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the “name which is above every name” and “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He is called the Christ or the Messiah. These are Greek and Hebrew titles which mean “anointed one.” In Israel, those consecrated for a God-given mission were anointed in his name; kings, priests, and sometimes prophets had precious, shining olive oil poured upon them. Jesus Christ fulfills the messianic hope of Israel by coming anointed in the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet, and king, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. They are one God but two persons. This is why Jesus can say, “The Father and I are one,” and, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” while he prays to, honors, and loves his Father as another Person. The Jews in holy reverence for God’s divine name Yahweh would substitute the word Adonai in Hebrew or Kyrios in Greek, both of which mean “Lord.” So when the early Christians professed “Jesus Christ is Lord” they were not merely announcing him as a king above Caesar but proclaiming him as God from God.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.

God becomes man not as a full-grown adult descending from the clouds; nor as an infant, delivered in a blanket by the Holy Spirit stork. Jesus Christ is conceived as a tiny embryo because that is how human life begins. Jesus Christ is not part God and part man, or some mixture of the two. He’s not half-and-half, or like 99.44% divine. The Son became truly man while remaining truly God; two natures united in one person, true God and true man. He is born among us, as one of us, to die for us as our saving sacrifice.

Roughly 3,800 years ago, God put Abraham to the test. “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust [a sacrifice] on a height that I will point out to you.” Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day, Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance. He said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.

We‘ will come back to you? Why lie to the servants? Why not just say, “Wait here”? You see, Abraham was in fact neither lying nor trying to deceive. As the Letter to the Hebrews teaches, God had promised him “through Isaac descendants shall bear your name,” so Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol, a foreshadowing sign of things to come. God provides the sheep for the sacrifice upon Mount Moriah. There the city of Jerusalem would be established. There the Jewish Temple would be built, destroyed, and raised up again. And there Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, would be sacrificed on the Cross. God the Father offers his own beloved Son in our place.

Born of the virgin Mary,
he suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

Holy Mary of Nazareth and Governor Pontius Pilate of Judea stand for the two types of people in this world in regards to Jesus: those who receive him, love him, and serve him like Mary, and those like Pilate who would prefer to ignore him but who will reject and destroy the Christ if he stands in the way of their desires. But Mary who bore him and Pilate who killed him are not merely types, symbols, or metaphors – they are real people who ground Jesus’ life in real history. Jesus’ public ministry, his Passion, death, and Resurrection were not “once upon a time,” but in the early 30’s AD. As the 2nd Letter of St. Peter testifies:

“We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

He speaks here of the Transfiguration, recounted in today’s gospel. Jesus, “after he had told the disciples of his coming death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.” His disciples Peter, James, and John “were so terrified” at this experience, but then “Jesus came and touched them saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’

Brothers and sisters, we must take God seriously, but we need not be afraid. “Perfect love drives out fear.” The Word became flesh so that we might know God’s love. As Scripture says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” – “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” – “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  – And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” If the Father has given us his Son, “how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Jesus Christ, who died and was raised, sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us.

So during this Lent, cultivate your personal relationship with Jesus, which is so very important. Yes, he is your Lord God and King, but you can personally relate to him in other true ways as well. He is your brother, for you share the same heavenly Father and blessed mother. He is your friend, for “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and he has laid down his life for you. He is your teacher who said, “You call me ‘teacher’… and rightly so, for indeed I am.” He is your hero, champion, and star who by his excellence wins glory throughout the world. And he is your bridegroom, in whom his beloved bride and his best man rejoice. At the heart of our Christian Faith is a Person, Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh who died for you, and Christian life consists in knowing, and loving, and following him.

The Church – The Body of Christ

February 13, 2021

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Valentine’s Day
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Thanks to Clint Berge who shared with me a YouTube talk, my thoughts this last month has moved to “What If’s?” The talk’s objective was to plant in our minds that maybe things won’t ever get back to “normal,” followed by “maybe that’s good!” I think God is trying to teach us the importance of thinking new for His Church. Coming up with new ideas to foster the Kingdom of God through our vocation to love and serve others which will gain us the keys to Heaven.

Our scripture readings this weekend come during the Church’s calendar of “Ordinary Time.” Remember Scripture is divinely-inspired, meaning God is the primary author. Our readings talk about suffering people who were experiencing the disease of leprosy over two thousand years ago. This disease literally ate up their skin and was highly contagious so that these people were ostracized from family and friends for their lifetime. It was thought that God was punishing them for either their sins or the sins of their family, so their only way out was if a priest certified that they had been made clean.

Sounds kind of familiar and “ordinary” doesn’t it? In our gospel, Jesus cures a person who begs him for help which he receives, which allows him to rejoin family and friends and continue on with his life after a priest certifies he has been made clean. So two thousand years later, here we are praying to God for relief from another disease which is dramatically changing the way we are used to. Bottom line is that God is constantly trying to have us focus and redirect our lives not to the present but rather to the future. God is trying to teach us that we are in boot camp with our lives here on earth to prepare us for our next life where the Body of Christ will come together without the crosses of life, as our reward for having lived through and learned from boot camp. Our scriptures tell us that history will always repeat itself here on earth. Where one disease is cured another will be born but we are to adjust and continue on with our training. Although boot camp is tough it also will gives us great pleasure and happiness when tasks are accomplished.

A few weeks ago, some friends of mine were sharing an experience that had occurred in their life. While shopping for groceries they noticed a man picking up and then returning food several time from the shelves. They asked him what was wrong and he confessed he only had so much money left and he was trying to decide what to buy. My friends offered to buy them for him but he refused. But they did not give up and they picked up the items he had looked at, paid for them and caught him on his way out with their gift of love. The man broke down but not without blessing them for their good deed. I never witnessed two happier people then those friends who knew that they were representing the Body of Christ in helping another get through a tough time. They were fulfilling their Christian vocation to love as Jesus has loved us. I ask you to ask yourself: “What if I did something like this when I spotted someone having a bad day? How would this make me feel knowing Jesus is smiling at me? How might this simple act of kindness change the world?

I will end with another revelation I received about the same time which I ask you to reflect upon. When we receive Holy Communion the minister begins by saying to the person receiving: “The Body of Christ.” I just realized that these words carry a two-fold meaning. First it is announcing that we are being fed divine food to give us strength for the tasks at hand. The second is that Jesus, through the minister of Communion, is directing and identifying us as being a part of His divine body for all the world to see in good times and in bad. When someone is being the body of Christ to us during a bad or good time remember to bless and thank them for being there for us and then go out and be the “Body of Christ” for another. The reward: happiness in this life and a key to Heaven to get us into the next. So get your boots on for Christ.

After I had just written this homily, I went to complete my morning prayers and one of them from the Book of Tobit said this:

Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. Seek counsel from every wise man. At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.” (Tobit 4:15a, 16a, 18a, 19)

I ask you, isn’t that a coincidence? Guess you know who helped me write this homily.

Have a happy and blessed Valentine’s Day and “What if” you gave to Jesus for this Valentine’s Day, a pledge saying you will be happy to put on the boots of Christ and carry out the wisdom words proclaimed above from God’s Book of Tobit? I am sure that would make His Day a very special day!