Homily: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 2017

As I was preparing for this homily, I did some background reading about the labor practices of those in today’s parable. In those days, it was normal for a landowner to hire additional help at 9 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. Those already working in the vineyard would have been familiar with “extra help” arriving throughout the day. It was the normal practice to pay the late workers a lesser amount, but nothing obligated the landowner to adhere to that practice. In this parable, he did promise fair restitution, though, when he told the workers that he would be just to them. In the same way, we experience the generosity of God not because we have merited it or because we deserve it, but because he is generous and loves us more than we can understand.

The negative response of the grumbling workers was because they mistook divine generosity for divine injustice. They felt as if they were being cheated. But, the landowner responded by telling those workers that it was they who were being unjust. It was not for them to decide the limits of the landowner’s generosity, just as it is not ours to decide God’s.

An excellent way to read Scripture is to imagine ourselves as being in the story. In this case, I think most of us would try to see ourselves in the same position as that of the landowner. At first, this could come across as self-defeating. It does not do us much good to dwell on what we cannot do. In the first reading, God reassures us that we should not expect that. He reminds us that our thoughts are not His and neither are our ways. So, it is okay if we struggle to offer unmerited mercy and justice. In some ways, it almost seems as if he expects it.

There are many messages for us in today’s Scripture passages. I will not try to exhaust them all – I could not if I tried. But, I do want to speak about another idea. Conversion. Today’s Gospel also reminds us that it is never too late to seek God. Right now, our parish is offering myriad opportunities for formation and spiritual growth. Yes, it is true that some of these programs have already started, but I can guarantee that you will not be turned away if you arrive “late.” Perhaps your place in the field of our parish is on the third Monday, at the discussion group. Or, maybe it is on October 1 at the Life Chain. Or, it is through watching online videos from formed.org, or listening to a CD from Lighthouse. Or, perhaps it is in our program for new Catholics, our RCIA program. Regardless of what you do, God is waiting for you with open and loving arms.

In the second reading, we see the classic refutation of the claim that Christians are unconcerned about this life and only intent upon achieving a “pie in the sky.” Paul states it with elegant succinctness: “life means Christ; hence dying is so much gain.” Life and death are the same for one who has been incorporated into Christ by Baptism. Life in the flesh hasn’t been devalued by the revelation in Christ but elevated to the level of a participation in the glory of Christ—even now.

No one lives so fully as a committed Christian. No one values time so much as one who measures it against the aspect of eternity in heaven. That was the way Paul lived, and he challenges us to do the same.

 

 

 

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Homily: Catechetical Sunday

Today (Sept. 17, 2017), the universal Church is celebrating the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. But, we are also taking time to recognize our catechists and educators.

Something you will learn about me is that I love to read. And, in some of the books I have read, I have come across the term: “Divine Pedagogy.” This idea is known more simply as “the way God teaches,” and it is given to us through Scripture, the tradition of our Church, and it’s teaching office. It is a communication of and by God to us; to humanity. St. Augustine tells us that “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible.” Since obtaining eternal life in Heaven should be our goal, it seems that learning the divine pedagogy is worthy of our time.

The theme for this year’s catechetical Sunday is “Living as Missionary Disciples.” This theme is a commision for those who serve as catechists, but can also help us to better understand how we can learn from the divine pedagogy. For me, it brought me back to the words of Pope Francis’ first general audience when he said: we must “move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others as to bring them to light and the joy of our faith in Christ.”

Jesus did not come to the earth and distribute handbooks and tests with Church teaching. Instead, he gathered disciples who he commissioned to be him in the world and to make other disciples.

In the same way, there is not a heaven.com website or a manual that all Catholics must complete. That is not to say that there is not a great amount of value to be gained from the resources around us, but we need more. We cannot do this alone. We need people. We need catechists.

I did not attend St. Monica school, but my wife and I have made sure my children have. Our oldest daughter is now in high school at Hackett (I am not sure when that happened…). We did not solely make the decision to send them because we are so impressed with how the students exceed the standards set by the state, with the innate goodness of their friends and families, or with the rich and varied curriculum that is offered. We considered all of those reasons, but also realized that Catholic schools were an important part of making our children missionary disciples and helping them get closer to reaching Heaven.

Through St. Monica school, my children have also learned to live the Heavenly virtues, which are reflected in today’s readings. In the first reading, we are reminded to practice patience, temperance, and charity. In the Gospel, we are reminded to be humble and kind. And the second reading, Paul’s letter to the Romans, reminds us to be chaste in our actions and diligent in responses.

If my children did not have the privilege to attend St. Monica Catholic school, they would certainly be in the religious education programs that are offered. To have two outstanding opportunities for formation through one parish is truly amazing.

I would like to close by sharing the special prayer, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, for catechists:

O God, our Heavenly Father, you have

given us the gift of these catechists to be

heralds of the Gospel to our parish family.

We lift them up to you in thanksgiving

and intercede for them concerning their

hopes and needs.

May we be attentive to the presence

of your Word in them, a Word that lifts up

and affirms, calls forth and challenges, is

compassionate and consoles.

We pray that our parish family will always

be blessed with those who have responded to

the call to share in Christ’s prophetic mission

as catechists. May we too be open to the

universal call to service that Christ addresses

to all of his disciples, contributing our gifts to

the communion of faith, the Church.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 

 

Homily: Thanksgiving for Ordination

When I began the Diaconate formation program, I was a parishioner here, at St. Monica. Because of a job change, I found myself at St. Joseph, but now I have returned because of yet another change. This June I began work as the Director of Faith Formation for Holy Family Healthcare.  And, it seems that Bishop Bradley agrees that this is a great place for me to be, because yesterday he handed me a letter that read: “I am happy to appoint you to provide diaconal ministry to the People of God at St. Monica Parish in Kalamazo.”

My discernment of the Diaconate began when I was in middle school. I met a man, who was a permanent Deacon, who embodied everything I hoped to someday be as a husband, a father, and a man of faith. Although my life included many twists and turns to arrive where I am today, I truly feel God’s will for me was Ordination for myriad reasons and because, well, here I am today.

If I tried to name everyone I am thankful to for being with me and praying for me during this time, we would be here until Christmas. But, rest assured when I say that all of who have been a part of my life, which includes you, are on that list.

There are, however, two thank-yous I would like to share. First, I am grateful to God. It is because of him that I am the man I am today, and I cannot even imagine what my life would be like if I followed my plans and not his will.

I would also like to thank my family. My wife, Nicky, put many parts of her life on hold during my formation, and a great deal was asked of her to help me prepare. I am also grateful to my children. There were many days when I was worn-out or lacked motivation to keep going, but they always reminded me why what I was doing was important. They were never upset when I had to miss their concert or games, and never made me feel bad for taking so much time to do the work the classes required of me.

My Ordination was one of the most meaningful and significant moments of my life. And, just like moments of a similar importance, it was one I did reach on my own. I am forever grateful for all of the people who helped me reach that day.