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Sunday Homily (Full Text)

Sunday Homily

Entries for 'jgatesconover@aol.com'

22

She left her water jar there at the well.  Nothing else mattered once she got to know Jesus. 

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16

We are having so much discussion about immigrants coming and going in this country and around the world. I remember when several years ago I made a trip to New York City and I took the boat out to Ellis Island and to the Statue of Liberty. There are different levels you can climb and I went all the way up into the crown.  When I got up there I looked out over the ocean, I thought of my great-grandparents coming over from Germany and going to Ellis island not knowing what was going to happen to them.  They had left everything — but they didn’t leave God.  They left their families, their friends and they came to a land and found their way to the bluffs of the Mississippi to a little town called Quincy. There was not much here — just some factories — but they saw a life and a future full of hope.

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20

The interesting thing about the Sequoia trees is that when they go underground instead of going deep, they reach out and they mingle with the roots of the other trees, and under that entire forest is a connection from one Sequoia to the other Sequoia tree.  As I shared with the children, that really is an experience of God’s kingdom.  You and I are the children of God and our roots reach out and touch each other and they intertwine and they are all connected.  When we feel the strength and the roots and the love of each other, then you and I rise to the occasion and our lives are beyond the ordinary.  That’s why we can face cancer, we can face death, we can face someone being cruel to his or her children.  

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18

You and I, most of the time, want to be in control. And if we want to be in control then we determine what we are going to follow and what we are not going to follow.  But when we let go and let God enter into our hearts and give us the Spirit, we realize there is only one choice and that is to say, “Yes.”  Because we know that if we turn against what God is asking us to do, more than likely our day is not going to go well, our lives are not going to be smooth.  Most of the time it is the little things.  But the little things, when we are selfish, can be expanded to something severe.

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01

We never know how God works in any of our lives. But I think that all of us here can realize that we have experiences day in and day out.  Some of the experiences are very powerful.  Some we take for granted.  Sometimes we walk away from happiness and it takes us awhile to find it, to come back and know that “God is calling me to be someone today who I have never been before.”

 


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25

It’s humbling to say that I should be preaching twenty-four seven with my life, not just standing up here for a few minutes on Sunday.  I need to be in the mixture of the darkness.  I need to be that light and you need to be that light.  And we all need to support each other so we all become followers.  And when Jesus says, “Come. Put your nets aside.  Whatever you are doing is not that busy.  I have something else planned for you.  All I need is for you to say, ‘Yes.’ ” 

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05

So for us to take this Christmas season and remember Jesus being born on this day — he was born to bring us peace and the only way you can live in peace is to live without fear.  And we bring fears into our own life.  The Eskimo never had to worry.  It was just one day at a time.  But you and I worry about everything.  Jesus says, “That fear is going to get you nowhere. It may give you a heart attack, it may give you ulcers, it may give you diabetes, and it may give you a cough.  But it doesn’t mean anything to me.  The only thing that means anything to me is ‘almost.’ ”

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29

These past few weeks of Advent, and now on Christmas Day, there has been a thread where God has used an angel to speak to many people and change their lives forever.  

So I want you to think of one experience when someone touched your life, and it was so meaningful to you.  That person might not have known he touched your life, but you have never forgotten.  It could have been an action or a word.   A total stranger could have come up to you and said, “You look like someone I know.”  The conversation started and you walked away and thought, “That was strange.”  But however God has chosen the angel to speak to you — it is not that you are hearing voices because God speaks to the heart.  So he sends us out to speak to others.  

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08

The Gospel is always challenging us, saying, “What’s going on in your life?” And so today it is all about the voice, the voice within us.  It’s the voice that keeps stirring you and inviting you to help other people.  Jesus says, “When you were baptized I gave you a voice and I am asking you to use that voice.”  So the question is:  How well are you and I using our voice?”  And a voice is done in different ways.  It doesn’t mean that someone is always talking as I am doing now.  It means the actions, how we live our lives, and how we care for each other to make the world a better and safer place to live. The voice leads us to look at someone we don’t know but say,  “You are my brother or sister.”  It’s that voice that God wants to feel. 

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23

So this kingdom that we are celebrating today, it is often not a comfortable kingdom. Jesus says,  “If you look at my life, for 33 years if was not comfortable for me either.   But it was all God’s plan and the Father gave me the grace to go through this.  Always remember, this is only part of it.  I died on the cross. They thought they got rid of me.  They put me in a tomb.  And I surprised them all.  The tomb was rolled back and I went to the Father.”

 


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06

What does it mean to be alive?  Are you and I alive this morning?  We can go through the motions here.  We can sing and we can listen.  But are we alive?  Do we know that God lives within us and nothing can separate us from God.  But the real questions is:  How do you and I stay alive?  How do we let the world around us, and the people around us, encourage us to make the most of every moment?  

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25

The one thing about life is we all experience humility.  I did a few minutes ago, and other times.  If any of you have ever been in the hospital and had to be on the bedpan and had somebody help you, you know what humility is.  If you have children, if you haven’t been humbled — you will be — more than once.  If we are married, we will be humbled as well.  The bottom line is, we all have gifts from God that we need to cultivate and use.  Yes, we need to be thankful, and, no, we shouldn’t say, “Oh, poor me” or put ourselves down.  The point is: We need to be appreciative of everything that we have and realize that it isn’t just me, but it is God who has given everything to us.

 


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13

Praying is not me saying a Hail Mary every hour on the hour.  Prayer just means, “God, you know me better than I know myself, so maybe what I am praying for I really shouldn’t have.  So I am just asking you to bless me in the way I need to be blessed.”  That’s faith.  But you and I want so much to be in charge of ourselves, of the world, of everything.  And God says, “It’s my world.”  

 


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05

I goggled faith and found some pretty good and interesting definitions of faith.  One is:  Faith is seeing life with your heart, when all your eyes see is darkness.  Another is:  “Faith is all about believing.  You don’t know how it will happen, but you know it will.”  One said: “Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.”  One of my favorites, and I am going to ask you to repeat it in a minute, is: “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.”   Now, if you can, please say it with me:  “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.  And who does hold the future? — God."

 


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28

Right now in our country we are going through a lot of turmoil — not being able to respect people for the color of their skin, or whether they have money or don’t have money, where they live, where they work or what they do.  It is probably one of the most non-Christian environments we will live through during our lifetime.   But that is always part of how God gives.


 

 

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22

We are not to glorify the economic system which encourages people to be in poverty whether it is through an unjust use of the welfare system, a welfare system that is necessary at this point in our lives, at this moment in our history, whether it is because people cannot work legitimately, or it is because they are the working poor. There are people who are in poverty who have two jobs or more who are looking to make their way in the world who still need the welfare system, who still need the charity of other people.  And when we are charitable to the poor, anybody but particularly the poor, our hearts are open.  One thing that the Lord says in the first reading today is:  “I will not forget what they did to the poor.”  

 


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09

More often than not you do not have a choice as to crosses that happen.  But you do have a choice as to how you respond to those crosses.  If you are sick, or find out you have cancer, those are very devastating things in our lives.  How do you deal with that?  We deal with it by making Christ part of who we are and saying, “God, help me though this.I know you are with me.”  


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01

And so it comes back to that whole experience of being humble.  It’s not easy but when it happens to us, you and I become a much better person.  So this week may we look at our lives and realize that there are days we have done something very well and we know that, but more than likely it was because other people supported us.  Humble also means that we not be envious of anyone, and not try to keep up with someone — but just to be the person that God has created us to be.  So, it’s tricky.  When I ask you, “Are you humble?” You might answer, “Well, I try to be.”  But when someone puts us down, or indirectly draws us to be humble — that is when you and I become the Christian.  Sometimes we don’t even know it, but someone else is affected by it.

 



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23

I am a Sister of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. My hometown is Effingham, Illinois, where I was a member of St. Anthony Parish. Now I live at the Motherhouse in St. Louis.  For almost twenty years I was a missionary in Africa.  I was a teacher.  I loved it, but I also knew when it was time to leave and come home to the United States.  We have missions in five African countries:  Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Kenya.  In each of these countries our main focus is in education, but we also have medical clinics and provide social work.  Whatever we do, we do it in a spirit of giving where there is a great need.  


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10

Faith in God is a belief in someone we do not necessarily see, we don’t necessarily feel, but yet we believe in Him.  There is a story that tells about a house that caught on fire.  Mom and Dad got out and their little boy was still in the house.  The boy climbed up to the rooftop and the dad called out, “Joy, jump I’ll catch you.  Joy, joy, please jump I’ll catch you.”  No. The boy shook his head.  He was afraid and would not jump.  His dad knows if he doesn’t jump he is going to die.  The little boy cries out,  “I don’t see you, Daddy.  All I see are the flames and the smoke.  I can’t see you.”  The dad says,  “You don’t need to see me, because I see you.  Jump!”  And the boy did jump, and the dad caught him in his arms.  This is the way it is with God.  We don’t always necessarily see him, but he sees us very clearly.  He’s always there to help us if only we ask.  So how do we deepen that faith, how do we deepen the faith that we have?

 


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01

So the question today is: When you and I leave, are we going to make a difference in Quincy?  Are we going to notice someone we hadn’t noticed before?  Are we going to say hello to someone when we usually walk right by?  Are we going to invite someone to know our name?  Or are we just going to live in our little glass cage ignoring the whole world until someone comes up, takes us by the hand and says, “Will you please join us?”   Then put a smile on your face and watch everyone dance together.  Jesus is the Lord of the dance.  



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27

When she was a young woman, her sister died and she moved into her sister’s home with her brother-in-law and their four children, and she raised their four children.  She never married, but those four kids never forgot her.  And raising those kids, like all you do with your children — that is your prayer.  Changing a diaper is prayer.  Fixing supper is prayer.  Mowing the grass is prayer.  It’s not just coming here for an hour.  



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19

For years my Mom and Dad had the meal for the entire family at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.  They prepared everything, we would all go over to their house to eat and be together.  After they became older, we children took on the responsibility and the dinners rotated.  So, when it was our turn to prepare the dinner, my wife, who did most of the work, prepared the whole meal and everybody came to our house to enjoy it.  After a number of years she came to me and said, “This is silly.”

 


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11

We all know what has been going on this past week.  We know from the national news that two men were shot by police.  We also know that there were 11 police officers shot in Dallas.  Each and every person involved was a human person.  The two men that were shot, whether they had criminal records or not, and the five police officers and the rest who were injured, they were human persons.  It should break our hearts to know that there are persons out there, including ourselves, who view any person less than human and less than deserving of the love of God.

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11

We all know what has been going on this past week.  We know from the national news that two men were shot by police.  We also know that there were 11 police officers shot in Dallas.  Each and every person involved was a human person.  The two men that were shot, whether they had criminal records or not, and the five police officers and the rest who were injured, they were human persons.  It should break our hearts to know that there are persons out there, including ourselves, who view any person less than human and less than deserving of the love of God.

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11

We all know what has been going on this past week.  We know from the national news that two men were shot by police.  We also know that there were 11 police officers shot in Dallas.  Each and every person involved was a human person.  The two men that were shot, whether they had criminal records or not, and the five police officers and the rest who were injured, they were human persons.  It should break our hearts to know that there are persons out there, including ourselves, who view any person less than human and less than deserving of the love of God.

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07

It may humble you, but I am asking all of you to think of some experience in your life in which you sense that God put you there at that moment.  Maybe it was an experience in which you encountered someone you knew, or maybe you did not know that person —  but you were put there at a moment that changed that person’s life. That person may never know your name but will never stop praying.  And if he or she does know your name, that person will keep reminding you of that moment.



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26

We are all called to love.  The formation process to be ordained a permanent deacon is 5 years. It takes place in Springfield at the Villa Maria. Classes begin Friday evening and conclude usually before noon on Sunday. Prayers, Holy Hour, Mass, and Liturgical preparation all are part of the weekend. A candidate must leave his home parish for the purpose of gaining new experiences and knowledge. I was allowed to spend my last year with my family here at Blessed Sacrament. Our Bishop has reassigned me to Saint Peter Parish effective July 1st. My journey did not begin just 5 years ago. Before this I needed a desire, the desire to follow Jesus. 


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14

So this morning may we allow God’s extravagance to overwhelm us during the week. Let us stop and think every night when we go to bed,  “How did God show his extravagance to me?  I am certainly not perfect.  I had a good day, but it wasn’t the best — but yet God loves me. And when I begin to think of the good things that happen, the little things that irritate me just gradually disappear.”  The body and blood of Christ is the most extravagant gift God gives us.  May we receive it with joy, may we celebrate it by giving it away, and may all of us change ourselves and each other through the extravagance of the one who loves us most. 



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09

We probably need to be more attentive to those in our own family.  In one sense, we probably listen less to our family than we listen to those people at work because we live with our family everyday and it becomes common and ordinary.  But sometimes it is our family members who are the ones we need to listen to more, and respond to more than anyone else.

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30

So today in the first reading you hear about Melchizedek. We don’t hear a lot about Melchizedek, but we understand that he was a priest of God.  Now this is before Abram was renamed Abraham and it was after Abram and his people defeated a few armies of kings.  Melchizedek came to Abram and gave him bread and wine and, thanks to God, of course Abram gave a tenth of the bread and wine back to Melchizedek. One of the things we have to remember is that Melchizedek lived before Moses and so he lived before the tribes of Levites, who were the priests of the Lord. So when Melchizedek comes to Abram, what we hear is that he gives bread and wine to the Lord our God.  He doesn’t bring a sacrifice of bulls or lambs, what he brings is a foreshadowing, what we ourselves bring before the Lord during Mass. 

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28

Don’t keep going back on things that went wrong, don’t worry about the things that you have no control of happening or even how to help.  Just live so that God’s love, that comes from the Father and through his Son and into each of our hearts, is so mysterious.  And so you shouldn’t have to apologize if the microphone is shoved in your face.  The right answer should be — “If you don’t know about the Holy Trinity, you better find out for yourself what it is.”



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18

What I told the children today during the Children’s Liturgy of the Word is still true for us:  We are called to celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost Sunday, and we are called to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So let us will celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives as each of us remembers the gifts that God has given and shared with us.  And let us celebrate the gifts of two teachers who have shared with us their love of children and their love of teaching. We give thanks to God for these two teachers and their gifts of teaching.  And we give thanks to God for the gift of baptism. We give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of sleep and the gift of holy time. 


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10

This morning, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, there is no better example to understand the Easter message than to look at our own mothers and to remember that today sitting here there are grandmothers, and mothers, and daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters.  In another hundred years there will be another whole group of daughters, and mothers, and granddaughters — it’s never going to stop.  And God says, “If you want this world to understand who I am you have to learn how to love.” 

 


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11

So this morning I know that all of you would do anything to help one another.  If one of you needed my kidney I would give it to you if it were a match.  If someone needs another person to hold her hand, would you be there to hold that hand?  If someone you know is driving you up the wall, will you still listen to him?  Will you step out of your box and know that you have enough faith to move mountains because when you come up here in a few minutes and you say “Amen” to the body of Christ, and you say “Amen” to the blood of Christ — that is Jesus saying to each one of us, “I still want to know, do you really love me?” 

 



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27

Tonight we went out into the darkness and we gathered around the fire and Jesus said, “I am going to set the world ablaze.”  Our lit candle was our participation in that.  “I want it.  I want that light.  I want that flame in me.  I want that Spirit in me.”



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17

You and I, every week, almost everyday, we have to say,  “Lord, untie me. I am tied up in knots today.  I can’t take one more thing.” Or, we ask, “Why am I suffering?  Can you untie me?”  Suffering means everything but the greatest suffering that you and I experience is if we do not have God in our lives.  So this morning, as we come closer and closer to the joy of Easter, Jesus is saying, “Just let me awaken you.  Let me take away and untie the things that are holding you down.  Let me take the sadness and put on a smile.  There’s no treatment for it, it just comes when people reach out to other people.  It comes when people love and reach out and know what mercy is.”  That’s the real healing.  And we all need that day by day by day. 

 


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10

Our readings today talk to us about light and darkness.  Our Gospel talks to us about physical and spiritual sight, and our Gospel talks to us about faith.  What I want you to do is close your eyes.  Pretend that you are that blind man, but realize that you have an advantage.  Because when you close your eyes and I mention a bird, in your mind you can see a bird.  If you were born blind, you don’t see anything but darkness.  The only thing that you might be able to see is if someone describes something to you, you can imagine an image.  But other than that you cannot see anything.

 


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02

How often does God come into each of our lives?  He meets us where we are.  He meets us in pain or joy.  Maybe something neat has happened to you and you feel that you are on top of the world and you have achieved something that no one has ever achieved.  Jesus would say,  “You know, you wouldn’t be there without me.”  Or, the reverse can happen and you can be down and out and if five things had to go wrong they all went wrong in your life. And no one really cares.  Jesus walks up and says, “I understand.”

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24

As we continue to celebrate this Lent we look forward to the crucifixion because of what was accomplished with it — the ability to enter heaven, the gift to share eternal life with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We are called to live changed lives because when we face the resurrection with courage and with the faith that God gives us, we are also given hope through the resurrection because we know that life does not end when we die on earth.  So we pray for the grace and the ability to serve one another, to live in accordance to what Christ calls us to, and to live our lives as an offering that we may share with the Holy Trinity for eternal life.

 

 

 



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11

When we put our trust in God amazing things happen that we can never regret.  So as we go throughout our days, as we go throughout our lives, let us strive to “Let It Go,” and let it go so we can serve one another and serve God with absolute trust in him.  So share the Gospel and share his love and mercy with all the people whom we encounter.

 

                                                                                        

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01

As your pastor, I, too, am involved in stewardship.  Obviously, my life is to serve you and so it is my job.  It is also my job to give a portion of my income. So I place this envelope in front of you into this basket.  We all need to do this.  There is no exception to be a part of God’s family.  So as we do this may we pray and realize the power and the strength that comes into each of us from being a part of this parish.



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27

Each of us is unique.  All of us have special gifts.  There are no two people in here alike. For us to be the most thriving parish we can be, we need everyone to be a part of the parish; if not we are functioning without a hand, or functioning without a foot.  So the challenge we ask ourselves today is: What are the gifts we have and what are the gifts we can share with one another? 



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18

I have shared stories about where and when I’ve been different places.  When I went to my first assignment it was the wealthiest parish in the diocese, and it still is the wealthiest parish in the diocese.  At that particular time, if you were a black-skinned person you were not allowed to purchase a house within the boundaries of that parish.  Every Realtor knew that — it was a secret bond.  That barrier was being broken little by little.


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11

If you’ve ever been a godmother or a godfather, you might wonder why we have godparents? There is a very simple reason and that is because in the past the mothers could not get to church that soon after giving birth at home.  And so the godmother and godfather were chosen, they would come to the house, pick up the child, bring the child to church and after the baptism bring the child back home.  My mother did not witness my baptism or my brother’s baptism.  Today it’s a rare experience that the parents, grandparents, and the entire family are not in church celebrating that moment.  It doesn’t make any difference how or when it takes place, the important thing is that it takes place.

 


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05

So what is Epiphany all about?  An “epiphany” is an awareness of something.  It is a manifestation of something we don’t know.  When we hear the story in Matthew today of the three kings and — what is the epiphany they made known?  Well, the greatest epiphany that is made known is that Jesus came for everyone.  When Christ was born, and even afterwards, the Jewish people believed that the Messiah was still to come.  But the Messiah was going to come to the Jewish people and no one else.  So here we look at Jesus being born and who’s there?  The angels, shepherds, and three Gentile kings. So the manifestation or epiphany is that this baby Jesus, this God, man, came for everyone.  He came for the Taliban as well as the Christians — he has come for all of us.


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28

Today we are called to celebrate the feast of “The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” and we are all called by God to be like the Holy Family.  At the end of the Gospel it says that “Mary kept all these things in her heart,” and, she remembered that Jesus said, “Did you not know that I was in my Father’s house?”  Even so, after he had been found, he went back with Mary and Joseph to their home, and he was obedient to them, and he grew in wisdom and knowledge.

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26

The Christmas season started at midnight and will go until January 10. And so tonight, while we are celebrating the joy of the Christmas season, when we leave church we need to remember we have a few days to live out this joy.  God is saying to us, “Always remember what is given to you.  I gave you my son so that you could have love.  I am asking you now to receive my son so that you, too, will have love.  And love is what will change the hearts of the entire world. No one will be forgotten, no one will be thirsty, no one will be hungry, no one will be alone, and everyone will know how to appreciate all they have.” 



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22

We all need to realize the power of love, the power of life.  So 2,000 years later this is what Christmas is all about.  That’s why we have parties and families gather and we share gifts and we send cards and we travel to be with our families.  It’s during these moments when we come together that we realize how beautiful it is that we all heard the voice — and we all said, “Yes.”

 


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16

Are you and I ready for Christmas? The question is:  Do we get the message?  And that is why each year we go through this experience of Advent. As we are busy with many things, Jesus asks, “How do you intend to live your life for the next twelve months?  Are you going to be open to joy and happiness, or are you to be open to the difficulties of life?  But more important, “Do you know that I love you and that I will be with you?”

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09

As we listen to the readings for these four weeks of Advent, the Scriptures are to excite in us that we can’t do it alone.  So the question is, how do we make the crooked way straight and the rough smooth?  How do we create all that God wants us to enjoy?  It probably comes down to a phrase that I read not too long ago in an article.  It said,  “It’s all about Sunday, stupid.”  Think about that.  It’s all about Sunday.

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03

There are some people who argue that there is a “war on Christmas” and I suppose in some ways that is true — whether it is the removal of nativity scenes from some public squares in towns and cities, or whether it is the attempt to try and rename the Christmas tree a holiday tree — and, to some extent these changes are of no consequence.  However, if we are not willing to celebrate Christmas in our homes and in our lives, then of course the public, the secular life, is not going to care about Christmas aside from the presents and Christmas music.  But the preparing ourselves for Christmas and to win the war of Christmas in our own hearts and in our own homes is to start celebrating when Advent begins. Advent is preparing ourselves so we can be ready for Jesus both when we celebrate his birth, when we receive the Eucharist, and when, whichever happens first, we die, or when the Second Coming occurs. There is only so much we can do in our lives because we have a relatively short lifespan. But we are called throughout our lives to live in relationship with God.  We are called to love him and we are called to serve him.  



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23

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the Quincy Symphony for one of their evenings of music.  Ben Bumbry was honored for his many years of service to our community, and he and his band performed with the orchestra.  A symphony orchestra is a very good example of what the Kingdom is all about.  You have 50 or 60 people performing together, but they need one person, the conductor, who knows when to call them and when to lead them.

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16

Someone is always talking about the end of the world, and putting fear in people.  Today we might just ask:  How do we conquer fear?   There is one simple answer to that, and it is to know how to love.  When you love and you realize you have God’s love within you, there is nothing that can create any fear that can destroy you.  Sometimes things happen in life and we become very frustrated. We may ask, “God, where are you?”  In the secret of our hearts God will say, “I’m still here. I’ll never forsake you. 


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28

If Jesus really wanted to make an impression he could walk in and say,  “I’m the Speaker of the House.  If you don’t follow me you will immediately lose your eyesight and your ability to hear.”  Wouldn’t that be the breaking news!  But if he did that it might wake up the entire country to ask,  “Who is this man?  He says he’s Jesus and he is the Son of God and he walks in, and all of a sudden, those in Congress are not going to see or hear unless they work for the common good?”

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14

We need to remember, as we heard in the second reading, that God knows what we think, what we say and what we do.  We need to remember that all things are possible with God.  One of the weaknesses we have in our world is that we do not give God enough credit and do not go to him when we have problems — because God can do anything and Scripture says,  “All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.”

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08

We are called to go to Christ.  That doesn’t mean that our life is going to be easy.  It doesn’t mean that once we obey everything our life will be perfect.  Because we sin, we fall, but Christ always has his hand out for us.  So even when faced with a difficult teaching of the church, or a difficult teaching like we have today about what the expectation of marriage is supposed to be, we are all called to go to Christ.



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28

When I first began at Quincy Catholic Charities and I had some time as I was building my client list, I was working in the Food Pantry one Wednesday and a young woman came to use the service.  She had three small children with her.  As we walked around the counters to gather her supplies she placed her hand on mine and remarked,  “You are so kind!”  My reply came without much thinking,  “It is easy to be kind to you.  I know how much God loves you!”  We continued our gathering of her supplies.



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13

f you and I were being interviewed this morning by someone from the Herald-Whig and the reporter said, “We’re doing a series on suffering. Would you tell me: What does it really mean to suffer?” I am not sure what all of our answers would be.  Some would say, “If I have a headache, I’m suffering. Or, if I lost a child, I’m suffering. If I found out I had cancer, I’m suffering.”  And Jesus would say,  “No.  You missed the point. What I’m really asking is: What in your life is pulling you away from me?  Because when you pull away from me, that’s when you really suffer.”

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09

Probably all of us have done the Catholic thing for one reason or another at some point in our lives.  But ultimately those reasons fall away.  The good feeling, it fades away.  The guilt we might feel for doing good things, that fades away, too.  And the award, eventually that will also fade away.  We still may have the plaque or trophy, but would that be enough?  So what’s left?  The reason that is left is our relationship with Jesus Christ.  

 


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01

The problem is that everybody really thought they were holy, the Pharisees in particular, because they followed the 607 laws.  But they missed the spirit of the Ten Commandments.  They would walk by someone lying in the street in need — because if they touched that person, they would be unclean.  My goodness, they missed the point.  If someone needed help, he needed help and if one of the Pharisees stopped and helped that person he would have to touch him, and that would make him unclean.   So that is why Jesus said,  “You are hypocrites.  You talk with your lips about what you do, but you fail to remember the important thing and that is  — you are to love God, and because of that love from God, we show that love by caring for each other.”



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17

This morning I would like us to think about the example we set for each other — because when the body and blood of Jesus enters into our lives, then you and I become a community.  And if we are in the community we have the right to expect from one another what is good for us. We also expect the gift that someone may come to us and say, “I don’t think this is doing you much good, you might think about it.”  When we do that, everybody’s life changes because we are striving to let the whole world experience Jesus living in us.  We do that as parents and teachers. 

 


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10

Don’t we go throughout our lives and ask, “Why can’t we be youthful forever. Why do we have to die?”   Well, the Gospel is our fountain of youth.  In the Gospel Jesus says, “I am the bread of from Heaven who has come down for you.  If you eat this and believe in me, what will happen?  You will have everlasting life.”  So if we really think about it, true, our bodies are going to die.  But are we going to die?  Absolutely not.  And if we do what God has told us to do and follow Christ, we will have everlasting life with him — it is that promise of everlasting life.



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05

The question I have for you this morning is:  Are you grateful for all that God has done for you, and are you grateful for all that God has given you?

There are lots of examples about being grateful. But here is an important one for you to think about — those who are in the Special Olympics.

For those participating in the Special Olympics, and it is true for the regular Olympics as well — it really comes down to God’s grace. Each one of them found a special gift, and then matured that gift.  But those in the Special Olympics needed to have that extra push, and love, to hear, “We believe in you.”  

 



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27

Jesus says,  “The food is just a sign.  What I am trying to get across to these five thousand people is that I am the bread of life.  I am the savior of the world and if you have me in your life, and I accept everybody, you will always mingle with one another.”  So we might just think this week where God might put us and it just might click,  “Oh, yes.  I remember:  The bread of life, the five thousand, the sign — I think God is giving me a sign.  Maybe I’m supposed to do something. And when I do it, it’s not about me, or what I do.  It is just that I let God work in my life.” 

 


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20

I am sure that most of us this past week felt, at times, like sheep without a shepherd. Water, winds, no power, trees falling on the house — but in the midst of all of that children were born, people died.  Did you ever stop to think that sometimes you and I live with passing fancies?  We look back and people say, “The power is on now, the remote is working, food is in the refrigerator, and I am ready to go.”  So Jesus says, “Think about this.  When you begin to lose things in your life and lose control — are you a sheep without a shepherd, or do you know that the shepherd is in your midst?  Do you know that whatever comes your way — I am always with you?”

 


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12

In the Gospel we learn how Jesus sent out the apostles, two by two, to teach repentance and to anoint those who were sick, cure them and drive out evil spirits.  But there were requirements for this journey.  The disciples were not to take much of anything, not a change of clothes or money.  They were allowed to bring sandals and a walking stick, and they were to entrust themselves to the Lord when they went out on this mission.  

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07

Is God’s grace enough for us?  Have you ever thought, “I’m not so sure that God’s grace is so wonderful, because if God’s grace is so wonderful he wouldn’t let this happen.”  God simply says, “Do you ever think that I am letting this happen so that in your weakness you will become strong, and when you pass through that moment you will realize I was with you through it all.”

 


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03

What do we really want in our life as Christians?  We want a relationship with God to be forever, and that is why we know that eventually God sent Jesus into the world to die, to suffer, to rise and to ascend so that we can renew that relationship with him and that friendship so that we no longer have death — but we have life.  Do we still have people who die?  Absolutely.  But the death doesn’t end when we die because we have eternal life because of the Pascal mystery and the resurrection.

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23

Why do things get us so upset and we ask, “God, where are you?” And God answers, “Let me turn that around. I know who I am, and I know where I am.  But what I want to know is, “Where are you?  Why are you so frightened about things?”

So today I want you to think about when you had chaos in your life.  I don’t mean when you went to the store and you forgot something and wondered what you needed for a recipe.  I’m talking about things in your life.  Something that really touched you in your life and you thought, “Wow.  I don’t know why God is letting this happen to me.”

 


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22

Sometimes we think of life as the blessing and death as a curse.  Jesus says,  “Neither one is correct. Life is a gift, and death is a gift.”  That’s what he’s telling us today.  “I’m going home to the Father and I am putting you in charge.  I want to see whether or not you are going to let the Spirit work in your life.” ...  May you and I have that desire to be let go as free as a bird, and also to have the faith that the Spirit of God is going to draw us right back home.  He doesn’t tell us how long we have to be a Christian, he just says,  “Just remember — I am the one in control.  And when I need you back home, I will bring you back home.  There will be no argument because I will be in control. “



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11

I am going to share a couple of stories with you.  Right down the street here on Adams used to be a tavern called the Silver Dollar.  My grandparents only lived a couple of blocks away so the tavern was in the neighborhood. In the summertime, Sunday afternoon and evenings were often spent there at their house. Often the whole family would go down to the Silver Dollar Tavern.  The place was packed with kids.  The bartender probably went straight to heaven..... So may you and I just realize that as we leave church today, we are doing something and we do it all the time — and that it is that experience of coming together and sharing each other’s love.  When we go out those doors, that love is going to stay with us.  The memories are going to stay with us.  Then you and I will have the Easter joy for the rest of our lives.


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09

“So I am the vine, you are the branches.  If you remain in me, and I in you, we will produce good fruit.”  What I want us all to think about this week:  How close to the vine is our branch?  How close are we to Christ?  And what do we need to do to get closer to him so that we can produce more fruit?



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22

When we have a bad day — take it only as a bad day.  A day only lasts for 24 hours so then move on to the next day.  When somebody gets depressed you can hand them food, money, anything, and that person might respond, “I don’t want anything.  I don’t want to go anywhere.”  Jesus would just walk in and say, “Peace be with you.  Let go of all this stress in your life, and just free yourself up and, accept the gifts and the love of life.  And now show it to others.”

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14
2nd Sunday of Easter   Reading I      Acts 4:32-35 Psalm            ...

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14

It’s seems odd to rejoice in the death of someone, let alone their method of death.  But sometimes that is what we are accused of, or we are misunderstood when we pray the Stations of the Cross, or venerate the Cross, or when we wear a crucifix around our neck.  They themselves are signs and ways of entering into an understanding of what Jesus Christ did for us, how God humbled himself, came down to earth and united his Godhood with his manhood — how he lived our life and died our death — dying a gruesome death.  



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31

Suffering means different things for everyone sitting here.  We suffer in different ways.  And when you suffer you can feel very alone.  This gives you a sense  of how Jesus felt when he was hanging on the cross. 

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26

One of the things we are being asked today is to look at the world as we always do but to look at it through a different lens — to look at it through the lens of Jesus, and through the lens of the spirit.  If so, then we truly do have full life, and we truly do have hope.



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12

So at the time of Christ we have Jesus taking a shortcut through Samaria, he stops at the well, and here comes the Samaritan woman.  Now, did Jesus always obey the rules?  No.  He obeyed most of the rules.  But if the rules ever interfered with a relationship between people, he didn’t follow them.  If someone needed healing on the Sabbath, it didn’t make any difference to Jesus.  If someone needed healing, he healed that person.



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09

A mother came downstairs in the morning and, as normal, started making  breakfast. Her husband was there and her children were playing.  The sun was beaming in the window and she was spreading jelly on the toast for her daughter.  All of a sudden she had this strange feeling, this wonderful feeling — a feeling of peace, a feeling of comfort, a feeling of being close to God.  Abraham Maslow would call that a peak moment, a peak experience.


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