Archive for the ‘Homily’ Category

The Kingdom in his Garage — Funeral Homily for John Schwartz, 81

December 2, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

Many stories could be shared about John; as a friend or neighbor, as a father to six children, or as a husband to Vernetta, whom he married sixty-one years ago today. He did interesting work for both multinational businesses and local organizations throughout the years. And even after his final job concluded, his kids tell me “he never retired.” I wish to tell you today about one of the ways John kept himself busy.

Whenever he drove a load to the Bloomer Recycling Center he might return home with more stuff than he had left with. In what others had rejected as trash, John saw value. He often said, “Everything is fixable.” John took his found-treasures back to a four-car garage in the backyard of his home. His kids tell me, “When he wasn’t working, he was there…” working.

The interior of John’s garage featured cupboard cabinets; each one painted to match and labeled to indicate the tools, parts, or materials stocked inside. John’s garage was a warm place—in both senses of the word. Throughout the colder months, John used his wood stove to keep the inside temperatures around 75 or 80 degrees. And once hotter weather came, John would open up his garage doors, sit in the doorway with a toothpick between his teeth, drinking coffee and waiting for people to stop-by to visit.

He was happy to share his time and talents with them, generous in sharing his tools or efforts whenever asked. His children tell me John loved that garage, saying, “His garage is his kingdom.” All good things in this world reflect the goodness of our Creator and our Redeemer. The beautiful realities we see are icons of invisible realities. And so, John’s garage is a partial glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Because of humanity’s sins and corruption, we were rightly condemned. But we were not to be rejected, left to be abandoned, forever. God continued to value us. He saw treasure in our trash. And Jesus came down to redeem us, intending to take us home. Christ is always working, and everything is fixable, because “all things are possible for God.”
Jesus prepares a special place for each of us. Enthroned in heaven, he opens the doors to receive us. His Father’s house is a very warm place—in both senses of the word. We must be prepared to stand in the intense fire of God’s all-holy presence and infinite love for us. Thankfully, Christ is generous in sharing with us his tools and helping graces, so that we may become perfect (truly “good enough”) through faith in him. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, about whom countless stories could be told, John and you and I can all be together in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Keep Watch!”

November 27, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Today we begin the season of Advent. The Church invites us to be ready and prepared to receive the Lord. The word Advent means waiting. The 1st Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting, and prepared.

The Titanic was the world’s largest ship when it was built. It was considered unsinkable. During the night of April 14–15, 1912 it struck an iceberg, ripping a three–hundred-foot hole in the ship. The crew received many warnings that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. The crew was preoccupied with dinner menus and other unimportant matters. They disregarded the danger of the weather and there were not enough lifeboats on board. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Sometimes we believe that our ‘ship’ is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to pay attention to the warning signals.

Jesus is coming again and He is coming whether we are ready or not. Today’s Gospel tells the story of what happened in the time of Noah. In the days leading up to the flood, people were very naughty, not keeping the commandments and they did not care. They did not heed the warnings of God. God sent the flood. Only Noah and his family were safe inside the Ark. Everyone else was destroyed by the flood. No one knows when the end will come, ONLY GOD KNOWS!

Jesus gives us another example “Two men will be in a field; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding their meal; one will be taken and the other will be left behind.” Jesus then says to his listeners: “Stay awake! You do not know the day your Lord is coming. Be sure of this, if the owner of a house knew when a thief was coming, he would be watchful and prepared. You also must be prepared. The Son of Man is coming when you least expect it.

To be ready means to be awake. It means that we live in the present moment with God. Always be aware of His presence in our life. Everything we do, work, rest, eat and drink, we give glory to God. Today we celebrate the Sunday of Hope in God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem us.

What is the pattern of your life? Do you share your time, talents and love with your family, your neighbor or even people you do not know? if we choose to do these things, we are preparing to welcome Christ. Shouldn’t we pray every day Lord, Show me someone today with whom I am to share your love, mercy, and forgiveness. St. Mother Teresa said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.” Every night let’s ask ourselves, where have I found Christ today? The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we will be getting an extra gift: Christ Himself.

Ready for Christ’s Coming? Then & Now

November 26, 2022

1st Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Our season of Advent has now begun — a season of Christian preparation. Throughout Advent, we the Church are getting ready in two different respects: we are preparing to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas and, at the same time, we are preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory. In today’s Gospel, Jesus recalls the story of the days of Noah’s Ark, in which a few were prepared for the flood and saved while most were unprepared and swept away. “So too, you also must be prepared,” Jesus tells us, “for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Will we be prepared for the day of Jesus’ return? How well prepared and open were people for Christ’s first arrival and what can their examples teach us?

Local shepherds of Bethlehem were the first to hear of Christ’s birth on Christmas. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “[B]ehold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy… a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord!” Now these shepherds were working, keeping night watch over their flock. They could have claimed they were too busy to accommodate Christ into their schedules. Instead they said, “Let us go… to see this thing… which the Lord has made known to us!” They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and their Lord lying in the manger.

Sometime later, word of Christ’s birth came to King Herod in Jerusalem, but he did not welcome this good news into his heart. This man loved to reign in his own domain and did not wish to share control. So the king sent soldiers to kill the children who could be Jesus. King Herod refused to change for Christ.

Where had Herod learned of Christ’s birth? Through Magi from the east who came to Jerusalem in good faith expecting to find the newborn king of the Jews. “We saw his star at its rising,” they said. They came with their gifts to honor him. Now most had missed the important sign from heaven (they were focused on other things) but the Magis’ attentions were not distracted, and based on what they saw, they acted. They too found the Lord amidst his Holy Family.

The examples of the shepherds, King Herod, and the Magi show us ways of either being ready and open for Christ or not. So ask yourself this Advent, will I allow work and responsibilities to crowd out my time for Jesus, or will I be like the shepherds who came to him and his Holy Family with joy? Will I cling to my own control, my wealth and my sinful pleasures like King Herod did, or will I offer and sacrifice these things to Christ? Will be distracted by the many diversions of this world and overlook what really matters, or will I be attentive like the Magi to act for the Lord?

At the start of this Advent season, St. Paul tells us, “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” Let us prepare to celebrate and commemorate the historical birth of Christ at Christmas, while at the same time preparing for the day Jesus will return to this world in unveiled glory.

David’s Kingdom Prefigures Christ’s Kingdom

November 20, 2022

Solemnity of Christ the King
By Fr. Victor Feltes

When the ancient Romans would crucify someone they displayed upon the cross the person’s name and the reason they were punished. For the Holy Cross on Good Friday, Governor Pilate had a sign inscribed in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek with Christ’s identity and the why he was condemned. It read: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” (The famous first letters of this phrase in Latin were “I.N.R.I.”) The Jewish chief priests told Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” But Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.” Pilate did not have faith in Jesus — he wrote what he did to troll the Jewish leaders — but what he had written was true. Jesus was condemned, suffered, and rose again as the King of the Jews and King of the Universe. This Sunday, we celebrate Christ the King, but where is Christ’s Kingdom today?

During his public ministry, Jesus preached, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is among you!” And at the Last Supper, Jesus prophesied, “Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” The next time Jesus drinks “the fruit of the vine,” (that is to say, wine) is on his Cross, when he drinks it from a sponge held up to his lips. From these passages, we can gather that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Yet we can also see that his Kingdom has not yet reached every place and every heart in every way. This is why the world was able to hand Jesus over to death and why Christians still pray to our Father above: “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” So where are we to find Christ’s Kingdom on earth? There are clues for us present in Sacred Scripture and history.

In our first reading, all the tribes of Israel become joined to David as their king. The Jews believed that the coming Messiah, their Christ, would be the King of Israel. And Jesus in the Gospels is repeatedly called the Son of David (that is, King David’s descendant, the heir to David’s throne). As St. Augustine taught, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The old foreshadows and points to the new. And though imperfect, the Old Testament Kingdom of David and his successors prefigures Jesus’ New Testament Kingdom. Several aspects of the old Davidic Kingdom help us to identify Jesus’ Kingdom in our midst; in particular, the Queen Mother, the Chief Steward, and the royal eunuchs.

One flawed feature of the old Davidic dynasty was that the kings each had multiple wives. From the beginning, God intended marriage to be a union of one man and one woman, but the kings of Israel — believing blood is thicker than water — used multiple marriages to seal their peace treaties and alliances with other lands. However, this creates a problem: when the king has many wives, who is the queen? You can imagine the rivalry and discord this question could cause. The Davidic dynasty’s solution to this problem was for the mother of the king to hold that prominent place as Queen Mother. The Queen Mother had a throne of honor at the king’s right hand and she served as an intercessor for the kingdom. If people had a request, they might bring it to her to present to the king. And if her request were pleasing to her son and served the kingdom’s good, the king would happily grant it to please his beloved mother.

Like in other kingdoms of past and present, the Davidic Kingdom had many royal ministers serving the king. But there was one prime minister among them: the king’s chief steward, the master of the royal household. The Davidic king’s chief steward bore on his shoulders a large wooden key as a sign of his office and authority. Today we honor citizens by giving them a symbolic key to the city; but this chief steward carried a symbolic key to the kingdom. His power was that of the king, on whose authority and with whose authority he acted, to open or to close, to permit or to forbid. However, any chief steward acting contrary to the king’s will would soon find himself replaced by another.

In the courts of ancient kingdoms like Israel’s, one would find royal eunuchs. A eunuch is a male who is either born or made physically incapable of marrying and having children. Kings preferred eunuchs for practical reasons: first, these men were safe to be around the king’s harem; and second, since they had no wife or children of their own, these eunuchs were fully-focused on the work of the kingdom.

The trusted eunuch’s mission, personal success, and legacy were wedded to that of the king and his kingdom. Perhaps you may already realize how the old Davidic kingdom foreshadows the Kingdom of God among us now. Jesus calls disciples who are willing and able to be “eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Today, in his Church, celibate clergy and consecrated religious are dedicated to serving Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus told St. Peter, “I give you the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” Jesus made Peter his prime minister, the first Pope, his chief steward and master of his household on earth Pope Francis is St. Peter’s successor in that office today.

Jesus has sealed his peace treaty and alliance with peoples of all lands through a single marriage: his marriage to his bride, the Church, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. But among the Church’s many members, is anyone the queen? As before, our queen is the mother of our King. Christ the King has raised up his Blessed Mother Mary to a throne at his right hand where she intercedes for his Church. We can ask her to present any request to her Son, and if it is pleasing to him and serves his Kingdom’s good, Christ our King will happily grant it, because he loves his mother and us so much.

The beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth is the one Church of Jesus Christ. Let us remain loyal to Christ our King, and remain loyal to his Kingdom, a Kingdom that is among us now, his Holy Catholic Church.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 20, 2022

By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Many years ago, Mohandas Gandhi the great Hindu religious leader in India wanted to overthrow the British Empire through love not violence. Christianity has not failed. It’s never been tried. As we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, we need to follow Jesus peacefully.

What’s wrong with calling Jesus the King? A king is identified three ways: power, wealth, and force. With Jesus none of this is true. The power of kings is to control people and be the boss over them. His apostles James and John wanted the honor to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus. Jesus was upset and rebuked them saying that the power of Jesus is to love and be a servant to all people.

The kings of this world are identified with wealth, they have more than they could possibly ever need. They draw money from everyone even the poor and build up their own prosperity. There is an incident in the Gospel where a young man asks Jesus “what must I do to gain everlasting life?” Jesus says, “Keep my commandments.” He replies, “I have done that from my youth.” And Jesus says if you want to truly be perfect to follow me now, go sell everything you have. Give it to the poor then come and follow me. The wealth of Jesus is His people especially the poor. He loves all of us and wants best of everything for us.

The kings of this world want to have superior dominance and control in this world. They will even go to war to get their ways. Jesus rejected all violence. While Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, the soldiers came to arrest Him. One of the disciples drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus said put away your sword. Jesus healed the servants’ ear. Jesus rejected violence. Those who want to live by the sword die by the sword.

Human kings follow the ways of the world, not the ways of Jesus. So it’s really a contradiction to think of Jesus as a king of this world. We think of the aspects of earthly kings: power, wealth and force and try to make that the way of Jesus. If we are going to follow the way of Jesus, live Christianity, don’t talk about it. Gandhi says “it has never been tried, it has not failed, it just has not been tried.” Each of us is called now to try to live the way of Jesus, really change according to his ways and his thoughts.

Is not this one of the reasons why we and the church and everyone throughout the world are fascinated with Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. When he was elected the first thing he did was bow and seek the blessing of the people. He wants to be our servant. In a short time after he was elected, he went to visit the prison, knelt down and washed the feet of the prisoners. He’s showing time after time how he reaches out to the poor, the vulnerable, the way Jesus did. We rejoice in it because it’s clearly the way of Jesus and that’s what we are called to do.

The kings and rules of this world want to dictate and control everyone. The kingship of Jesus is different from the kings of this world. He loves, forgives, accepts, and He rules over us with mercy and compassion. We are all equally important to him.

Re-Presenting His Mysteries — Funeral Homily for Sara Caron, 59

November 19, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

When Sara was first diagnosed with breast cancer, her two boys (Mick and Jake) were just twelve and seven years old. She thought of how hard it could be for them to have to grow up as children without her. She did not know how much time she had left, but one of her goals was to be around for them, to raise them throughout their high school years. Today, thirteen years later, her sons are twenty and twenty-five years old. She successfully brought them both to adulthood.

Her family tells me Sara has worked at fifteen different places over the course of her career, and even with cancer, she never stopped working. They say she went “above and beyond” at work and would never take time-off for herself, but she would take days away from work to care for her family; for instance, keeping vigil with Mick in the hospital. Sara also kept on working for another reason: to preserve her continued health insurance coverage. You can imagine how much out-of-pocket cancer treatments would have cost. Sara did not wish to burden her beloved husband, John, and their household with terrible medical debts.

To echo the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, only with difficulty does a person give their life for others, though a good person might have the courage to lay down their life for those they love. St. Paul speaks of how “God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” When we witness someone, despite their flaws, give their life not just once but year after year for those they love, it is that much easier to believe that our perfect, holy, loving Lord has lived, and died, and risen for us.

Recall Christ’s words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” Our Lord, to whom Sara prayed every day, dwells within his faithful Christians, re-presenting his mysteries in their lives. “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.”

Jesus prays in St. John’s Gospel, “Father, those whom you gave me are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me.” Christ’s longing within us makes the psalmist’s words resonate with us: “There is one thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple.

Christ who has called us, who dwells in us, who re-presents his mysteries in our lives, who inspires eternal longings within us, desires us to be with him forever where “he will wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order [will have] passed away.” This is our cause for our firm and happy hope, for Sara and for every Christian.

Faithful Through the End

November 14, 2022

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

A devout, Catholic man came to a priest for advice. He had been coming to the church for some thirty years. He estimated he had listened to over three thousand sermons but couldn’t remember any of them. He felt that he was wasting his time and also the priest’s time. The priest thought about it for a short while and then asked the man. “How long have you been married?” the man responded he had been married forty-two years. The priest then asked what were his memorable meals during his marriage? The man replied that he couldn’t remember any specific meals that his wife prepared, but they certainly nourished him or he wouldn’t be healthy. The priest then replied that definitely all those sermons he had listened to were nourishing his soul because he keeps coming back to the Church.

Today’s first reading from the Prophet Malachi addresses the problem of why evildoers prosper and just people suffer. What is the value of living a just and pious life when the irreligious people look down on the observance of the Law? The prophet tells them that the end of the world and the judgment will be terrible for the evildoer but joyful for the faithful. For those who have based their lives on being loyal to the Truth and have spent their lives in the service of God, and sought the well – being of their brothers and sisters, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

In the second reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, we hear that those people unwilling to work, should not eat. Here St. Paul commands and exhorts in the Lord to do their work quietly and earn their living. St. Paul gives them his own example to show how he toiled day and night to earn his livelihood and never to expect anyone to take care of him. Even though he ministered and worked for the people of God, he lived by his own hard work.

The Gospel today begins with Jesus commenting on the Temple of Jerusalem, a temple which was one of the great wonders of the ancient world. It was the heart and center of all Jewish life; the very symbol of God’s presence among them. Yet Jesus tells his hearers, “All these things you are starting now, the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another, everything will be destroyed.”

Jesus warns his followers not to be deceived. The Christian life is to focus on the here and now and that will require strength and faith. The world will continue with wars and insurrections and there will continue to be natural disasters. The teaching of Jesus must help us not to live in fear and anxiety regarding the future. Rather, we are to focus on the present time, today, here and now. Jesus promises his followers if they bear sufferings for Christ’s name they will earn true life, the eternal life of Heaven.

During life we need to continue to listen to sermons, read the Bible, pray the Rosary, and read the lives of the saints to help us to nourish our souls. We know that we need to work hard in this life for ourselves and others. The sufferings in this life will help us to gain eternal life with God. We must have faith that God is always with us. In our life we go through lots of problems and difficulties, but we also have joy. But our joy will not end here. It will go on forever with God in Heaven.

Minutes from a Demonic Meeting

November 13, 2022

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Once upon a time, an unknown number of years ago, there was an important meeting of demons. Amidst hell’s fires and shadows, with putrid smoke hanging in the air, the demonic hierarchy plotted their next strategy for how to mislead humanity. Since the rebel angels cannot hurt God directly, they tempt and attack those he loves, hoping to corrupt and dominate us. When the Lord Jesus comes again to rule the earth with justice, the demons do not want us to experience his healing rays; they want us to burn and suffer like themselves.

As the demons met and brainstormed schemes, one of them suggested, “What if we try deceiving them that there’s no such thing as evil?” The chairman, after pouring out a stream of insults, said, “The humans will never believe that! Do you think that we can pit person against person, nation against nation, souls against our Enemy above, without them noticing the sadness, sufferings, envies, jealousies, impurities, rivalries, hatreds, resentments, injustices, murders, and cruelties which follow? Humans see proof of evil in nearly every headline! They are reminded something is wrong with their world whenever their alarm clocks ring, their toes get stubbed, or their weather is less than perfect! You’ll have to do better than that!

Then another demon dared to suggest, “What if we deceive them that there is no such thing as goodness?” The chairman spewed abuse at that one and said, “The humans will never believe that either! Our Enemy above has littered their world with too many beauties and blessings to count! They have this inherent desire for happiness that our Enemy has built into them! Everything they do is in pursuit of something they perceive as somehow good! Is anyone here not a useless fool?

Finally, one of the chairman’s most cunning underlings proposed another strategy, an idea which was immediately welcomed with cruel smiles by the malevolent assembly. This dangerous demon said, “Let us deceive the humans that there is no need to hurry.

In every generation, there has been Christians who believed that their generation would be the last. In his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul admonishes some idlers, freeloaders, and busybodies living there who have quit their labors because they assumed the Lord was returning very soon. Personally, I do not expect the second coming of Christ to happen in the very near future since it remains legal to be a Christian throughout so many regions of the world. There are grave evils on this earth, including in our country, but the final attack of hell against Christ’s Church in the final days should be far worse than this. Yet whether or not Christ’s return is imminent, we must always ready to go to him. We do not know when he will return, nor do we know when any of us will die. But the certainty of our coming encounter with Christ should not make us afraid but motivate us to prepare.

Rather than being idlers and busybodies, neglecting our spiritual growth and enthralled by our distractions, let us get busy treating the most important things as the most important things. If you knew with certainty that you would die three months from today, how would you begin living differently? Would you pray more every day? Would you go to confession and Mass more often? Would you crush your lingering vices? Would you work harder to do good works? Would you forgive your enemies? Would you show more love toward God and the people around you? Thinking seriously about what you should you do differently knowing you are going to die is a good place to start in living more intentionally for Christ, with your eternal goal in mind. Do not believe the demonic deception that there is no need to hurry, for your last day is closer than it was yesterday, and it may be much closer than you think.

God Cares for His Children — Funeral Homily for Andrew Bohl, 28

November 11, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

More than twenty-eight years ago, God blessed Andrew’s parents, Cletus and Amy, to conceive another child. In the midst of their pregnancy, prenatal screening revealed that their unborn son had a nervous system disorder called spina bifida. Their doctor said this meant their child would have a low quality of life and be a constant burden. He strongly recommended that they choose the Culture of Death’s solution, its final solution to every problem. But Andrew’s parents adamantly refused. They would love and care for their child in spite of any malady.

When Andrew was six years old, he spent two months in a children’s hospital. And while he was being treated there, this ailing boy came very close to dying. His mother cannot forget one episode at that hospital when she heard an emergency announced over the PA system. She ran back upstairs to Andrew’s room and, as she had feared, found that her son was the patient who was coding. But his care team, gathered around him, resuscitated Andrew from the edge of death.

After he returned home from the hospital, Andrew insisted on visiting his beloved maternal grandmother. Upon arriving at Grandma Lelah’s house, he crawled out of his wheelchair, laid down on the grass, and gazed up at the sky. He called his grandma over and asked her, “Did you see Jesus, too?” “No,” she replied, “When did you?” “When there was lots of people in the room and mom was crying. [Jesus] said it would be O.K. because he takes care of the sick children.” Grandma offered Andrew her explanation that “only special people get to see Jesus.” But Andrew, ever the debater, argued with her saying that she was such a special person that she should get to see Jesus, too.

Later that same year, the Children’s Wish Foundation sponsored a Florida vacation for Andrew and his family. On the jet flight, looking out the window at the white, puffy clouds, Andrew excitedly told his brother, Matthew, “This is what it looked like when I saw Jesus!

In our lives, we all experience both glorious mountaintop moments and difficult days in dark valleys. We can see this in Andrew’s life. He has experiencing both strength and weakness, such as being able to do more push-ups than all his peers from having propelled himself everywhere in his wheelchair. Andrew has lived through sorrows and joys. He never wanted others to think of him as different, and truly indeed, we are the same.

Do we not share the same heavenly father, God, and the same spiritual mother, Mary, who love us dearly? Is not our Lord Jesus Christ every Christian’s brother? Are not we all, each and every one of us, ailing and weak in various ways? Yet God the Father loves and cares for all of his children in spite of any malady. And Jesus assures us that things will be O.K. because he takes care of the sick children — that is to say, you and me. Christ desires for everyone to see him, because all of us are so special to him. Our Lord blessed Andrew in this life and accompanied him through his trials. Today we pray our brother Andrew may behold Jesus Christ again, in his full glory and forever.

Be Not Afraid, Be Well-Prepared

November 5, 2022

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Today we see the Sadducees come forward and put a question to Jesus, but who were the Sadducees? They were a Jewish religious group less popular than the Pharisees but in some ways more powerful. The Sadducees were the party of high priests, aristocratic families, and wealthy merchants, and they were well-represented among the members of the Jewish high council, the Sanhedrin. Theologically, unlike Pharisees, the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the Bible as scripture: that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books are called the Torah (the Law) or the Pentateuch. The Sadducees denied the inspiration of all the other Old Testament books and only accepted religious beliefs which they thought were contained in those first five books.

The Sadducees did not believe in life-after-death nor in eternal punishments or eternal rewards hereafter; and they saw no scriptural evidence for the idea of a resurrection of the dead. Therefore, to challenge Jesus, they pose a hypothetical question about the resurrection involving a woman who had multiple husbands, a question they think will lead him to a ridiculous conclusion. In response, Jesus explains that life and love in the coming age are far more mystical than they imagine. But today I want to highlight the end of Jesus’ answer.

The Sadducees were hobbled by having accepted a truncated faith less than the fulness of all God had revealed (as is the case with most Christians today). Jesus desired to show them that life-after-death is proclaimed by God, but he had to do so using evidence they would acknowledge. So Jesus cites an event from their own accepted Book of Exodus. Jesus says: “That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Jesus highlights how at the Burning Bush the Lord did not identify himself to Moses by saying, “I was the God of Abraham, I was the God of Isaac, and I was the God of Jacob.” The Lord declares, “I AM the God of your fathers,” because even though their bodies had perished long before their souls remained alive to God. Jesus teaches that those who have died still live and that the dead will rise again, just like the Christ rises from his tomb in both his soul and body.

This time of year, throughout November, we remember in a special way those who have died. On November 1st, we celebrate all saints now in heaven. On November 2nd, we pray for all those who have died and whose souls continue being purified in Purgatory so as to be made perfect for heaven’s glory. In this fall season, as our trees’ leaves fade and fall and our farmers’ fields are harvested, the Church is nearing the end of our liturgical year (which begins anew with Advent). And the focus of our readings at Mass in these final weeks turn toward the last things, including death.

Unless Jesus Christ returns in glory first, each of us will die one day. And if we die, our bodies will one day rise again. In light of these facts, how should we live and prepare to die? Many people avoid thinking about death because it makes them feel so uncomfortable. Like a child who closes their eyes in order to be invisible, some choose not to consider their own death all. However, this strategy does not change reality and creates a grave risk of dying ill-unprepared.

Do not be spiritually unready; you probably have less time left than you think. So believe in our Lord and be converted, do what is right and reject your sins. For instance, stop skipping Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation. If we do not wish to worship and obey God he will honor that decision… forever. So repent and do his will.

Do not neglect or postpone receiving Christ’s sacraments, Confession, the Eucharist, and the Anointing of the Sick. Even if it is possible to reach heaven without the Last Rites (including the Apostolic Pardon, Viaticum, and Extreme Unction) why would you risk foregoing these graces? Be well-prepared to die.

Throughout this month of November pray for the souls of the dead, befriend and ask help of the saints above, and grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ through his sacraments. Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. So do not be afraid of death; instead, be well-prepared.

He is not God of the Dead, but of the Living

November 5, 2022

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

My first funeral as a priest was for a baby who was two weeks out of the womb. How does one talk to the family? They are a devout, Catholic family, but they asked, why is God allowing this? I listened to them and cried with them. I later responded to them by saying that when I ask why I look at a crucifix. Why did God allow His own son to die? Our salvation and redemption come from the cross. Through the death of that baby, God wants to say something to us; resurrection is what comes out of Christ’s death.

When God revealed Himself to Moses in preparation for bringing His people out of Egypt, He called Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) When God told this to Moses, centuries had passed after these forefathers had died. However, God acknowledged their existence even after their death. Though the verse did not specify the resurrection of the dead, it implied their survival after death.

Today’s first reading describes a Jewish family, consisting of a mother and her seven sons, who refuse their king’s command to eat pork, forbidden as “unclean” by Jewish Law. Because of their obedient Faith in God, they endure suffering and accept martyrdom. During their torture, three of the brothers speak, and each of them finds strength in the belief that he will eventually be raised and rewarded by God.

The second reading encourages the Thessalonians, who were waiting for the second coming of Christ, to trust in the fidelity of God who would strengthen their hearts in every good work and word.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged by a group of Sadducees concerning the resurrection of the dead. Just before this, Jesus had been challenged by Pharisees and Scribes, whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Jesus had dealt effectively with them and reduced them to silence. Again they raised a question this time about the imaginary story of seven brothers marrying one woman, and their relationship with each other in the next life. Their question in the Gospel is certainly an insincere and impossible example, they want to ridicule a belief in the resurrection.

Three Strengths of Saint Zacchaeus

October 30, 2022

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

The Jews in Jericho looked down on Zacchaeus (and not just because he was short). He was a tax collector regarded as a sinner. When Zacchaeus chose his occupation he knew his neighbors would despise him. Even if he had never extorted or cheated anybody, he still would be resented for serving the unpopular political powers ruling over Israel. It’s easy to imagine him being insulted and shunned by the Jews in his territory. He needed a thick skin to do his job, caring little about what others thought of him. He was not only a tax collector but a chief tax collector, and this made him a very wealthy man. Yet his riches did not fulfill him. He was searching for something more than money and this led him to Jesus.

[Zacchaeus] was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.” Now apart from tree trimmers and deer hunters, when was the last time you saw a grown man sitting in a tree? It’s something children do, and Zacchaeus likely looked ridiculous in the eyes of the unfriendly crowd below. But “when [Jesus] reached the place, [he] looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

When the crowd saw this they began to grumble, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner!” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to Jesus, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” As a wealthy man, Zacchaeus came to know how great wealth disappoints. He had developed significant detachment from his wealth, which allowed him to give up half (and perhaps much more than half) of everything he owned. And Jesus declared to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus had these three strengths helping him to find and follow Jesus: firstly, his honest acknowledgement of his dissatisfaction in this world; secondly, his indifference towards what others thought of him; and thirdly, his healthy detachment towards his riches. Why was he “seeking to see who Jesus was?” Why was he so joyfully eager to host Jesus at his house? Because Zacchaeus could admit that he was dissatisfied, with himself and what this sinful world offers, and he believed that Jesus could help him find salvation. Zacchaeus had developed a thick skin as a tax collector. He did not care about others’ mockery, gossip, and dim opinions about him. This allowed him to climb that tree to see Jesus even if others might laugh at him as a fool. And Zacchaeus’ healthy detachment concerning riches allowed him to be generous and fulfill justice with his wealth, as our Lord wished him to do.

Let us take stock of ourselves from the example of St. Zacchaeus. Can you admit where you are not yet fully the Christian you are called to be and then present yourself to Jesus? Are you dissatisfied enough with this unjust world to hope and act for more than the status quo, to sacrifice for this world’s betterment while longing for a world to come? Are you willing to be unapologetically Catholic before others; a person, for example, willing to pray before a meal at a restaurant even if someone might see you; a Christian who does not allow others’ opinions prevent you from being openly faithful to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church? And are you detached enough from your wealth to generously share it and serve justice with it boldly, as our Lord would have you do? In what ways is Jesus calling you to go out on a limb for him?

A Trimmer of Trees — Funeral Homily for Gordon “Gordy” Weyers, 90

October 27, 2022

By Fr. Victor Feltes

For several decades, Gordy has loved trimming trees. Of course, there is much more to the man as a Catholic, a husband, a father, and a friend, but this is one of his curious quirks. Whenever Gordy saw outside his house a tree branch which was not right, he was highly-motivated to intervene. He would pull out his ladder and tree-cutting tool to go take care of that errant branch. Dot (that is, Dorothy) his wife of sixty-seven years would tell him, “Don’t climb the ladder,” but he would do it anyway.

Gordy began saying he wanted a new ladder but his kids kept trying to talk him out of this desire, hoping he would stop climbing at his age entirely. Yet by all accounts, his old ladder was very rickety, so eventually Dot said, “Get him a new ladder, because he’ll fall off the old one.” Dot would periodically look out the window to check on Gordy tree trimming on his ladder. Years later, she told him, “Good thing you never fell off!” He replied, “Oh, I fell off a few times, I just didn’t tell you.”

But here’s the thing: after Gordy’s trimming—however daring or reckless it may have been—his trees looked really good. Dot reports that “he never did anything that made them look bad.” Those trees became more perfect, more healthy and strong, more handsome and beautiful, by having been cared for and pruned by Gordy.

We often recall “the Lord is my shepherd,” but we less often reflect on how our God is a gardener. In the beginning, God created a perfect garden. And when St. Mary Magdalene first encountered Christ resurrected on Easter Sunday she thought he was the gardener. Jesus teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches… and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” And the Letter to the Galatians tells us that the fruits which the Holy Spirit grows in us include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We are like trees which God prunes to make us more perfect.

Now I imagine if gold were alive and aware it may not feel eager be purified in a furnace’s fire, and the pruning process might not be a lot fun for a tree. But the Book of Wisdom tells us, ‘as gold in the furnace, God proves us… before taking us to himself.’ And though parts of our trees (of ourselves) must die and some of our unsightly branches must be trimmed away, the Lord makes our souls more perfect, more healthy and strong, more handsome and beautiful, through his care and pruning.

Like Gordy with his trees, Jesus saw us outside of his Father’s house. He saw our branches were not right. And he was highly-motivated to intervene. Call it daring or reckless, but our Lord put his life on the line. Christ went up the tree of the Cross to trim our flaws and perfect us. And after death felled him, Jesus rose again.

He declares, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” To enter into heaven, we must be perfected in Christ’s love. So if any imperfections still remain in Gordy’s soul, we ask Jesus today to prune them away. And we welcome our Lord to continue trimming any errant branches within our souls as well.

Our Divine Physician

October 22, 2022

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Jesus tells us a story of two men who go up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, a group with a reputation for holiness. The other is a tax collector, a profession associated with injustice. The Pharisee, entering the temple courtyard, walks to a more prominent place and speaks this prayer to himself: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.” Jesus presents this Pharisee as an example of someone convinced of his own righteousness and despising of everyone else.

The tax collector, in contrast, stands at the distant edge of the temple court, keeps his eyes cast down, and beats his breast (an ancient sign of contrition) praying, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The Pharisee exults himself while the tax collector humbles himself before God. And Jesus tells us the tax collector went home justified, reconciled with God, while the Pharisee did not.

Imagine going to the hospital clinic for your annual check-up. Sitting there in the waiting area, you glance discretely at the other people around the room. Your secret thoughts become filled with observations and guesses at what ailments brought them there. “I’m in much better health than these people,” you think to yourself with pride. Then your name gets called. The doctor greets you, you sit down, and asks if you are having any issues with your health. “No, nothing’s wrong” you say, but that’s not true.

Awhile back, you cut your hip on an exposed piece of jagged metal, and your concealed wound is not healing. It’s been oozing a smelly, yellow fluid and the skin all around the wound is swollen, red, and painful to touch, but you’ve been mostly able to ignore it. Either embarrassed at your injury or oblivious to the danger, you say, “I’m fine,” and leave without presenting this infection to your physician who has the ability to heal you.

In a sermon about Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, St. Augustine once preached:

How useful and necessary a medicine is repentance! People who remember that they are only human will readily understand this. It is written, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ The Pharisee was not rejoicing so much in his own clean bill of health as in comparing it with the diseases of others. He came to the doctor. It would have been more worthwhile to inform him by confession of the things that were wrong with himself instead of keeping his wounds secret and having the nerve to crow over the scars of others. It is not surprising that the tax collector went away cured, since he had not been ashamed of showing where he felt pain.

Do the sins of others bother you more than your own? Do you know what your sins are? Are you contrite for them? When was the last time you went to Confession? Will you present your infected wounds to our Divine Physician and then follow his prescription for your good health?

The Lord is With Us

October 16, 2022

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Prayer is our means of communication with God and it is the means to experience our closeness to him. At the same time, prayer is personal because it comes from our heart. It is a means to express our feelings and emotions, placing them before God. It is also a way to show our faith in God in whom we believe. We place ourselves humbly before our Lord and totally submit ourselves to him.

Today’s first reading from the book of Exodus tells us that Amalek fought with Israel at Rephidim; why? The previous verse leaves the open question, ‘Is the Lord with us or not?’ (Exodus 17: 7) I think the war answers that question. God will be with Israel and give them victory. Israel will see the hand of God at work during the prayer of Moses. Moses sent Joshua to fight with Amalek while he, accompanied by Aaron and Hur, stood on the top of the hill with the staff in his hand. As long as Moses kept his hands up, Israel was victorious. When he lowered his hands, Amalek was victorious. When Moses became tired of keeping his hands up in the air, Aaron and Hur put a stone under Moses so he could sit on it. Then they went on each of his sides, each one holding Moses’ hands up until the sunset. Finally, Joshua defeated Amalek because Moses was able to keep his hands up raised in prayer.

Today’s second reading from St. Paul reminds us of the importance of the scriptures in our Christian journey of faith. As an inspired word of God, the scriptures must be the guiding principle of our daily lives. If we remain faithful to God in continuous prayer, God will come to our assistance.

In the Gospel account, Jesus explains the importance of continuous prayer. He told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually without becoming weary. The Gospel tells us not to be discouraged if we do not receive an immediate response to our prayers.

This particular judge, Jesus says, was a “dishonest” person who cared for no one, neither God nor man. The widow, on the other hand, was a helpless person looking for justice with regard to her own property. God is her only protector. She has one powerful weapon which is prayer. Her persistence takes away the judge’s peace. Finally, the unjust judge is forced to give judgment.

The judge in the parable does not represent God. The judge is unjust and doesn’t care about what this widow needs. Jesus tells this parable to his disciples to help them to understand that if this judge who is unjust finally listens to the woman’s request and grants her justice, how much more will a loving and just God answer the petitions of his own children who cry out for help.

Life has its ups and downs. When we are down, especially as we prepare for cold, wintry weather, it doesn’t mean we should become weary. It means it is time to come closer to our Father in heaven and to trust Him even more. We often hear the words that there is a reason for everything. Even in our darkest moments, God will come to redeem us and to let us see His glory. How true it is that those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.