All posts for the month July, 2020

August 1, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

Isaiah 55, 1-3 + Psalm 145 + Roman 8, 35, 37-39 + Matthew 14, 13-21

4:30pm Saturday at St.William Parish in Naples, FL

Anyone who is tuned in to Biblical Literature would know before this story ends what is going to happen. What is being counted does not matter. The number is the clue. Five and Two equals Seven, that number in the bible means perfection or fulfillment. It signals completion. Whether it is seven days in creation, or forgiving seventy times seven, the message is clear. There is enough. So, when the disciples tell Jesus what they have: five loaves and two fish, Jesus knows that they have enough. After a prayer, he tells them to give away what they have because Jesus knows that it is enough.

This is the most repeated story in all the Gospels. It is retold twice in Matthew, twice in Mark, once in Luke, and once in John’s Gospel. It was and still is important to the church, but not once does it say in all those versions that Jesus multiplied the bread. What it does say is that he took, blessed, broke, and gave to the disciples. It was the disciples who shared with the crowd. Then, they all ate and were satisfied. Take, Bless, Break, Share. What is important here is those verbs. What Matthew reveals to us is what happens when we do what Jesus asks. He said: Give me what you have, and they did what he asked. After he prayed what was probably a prayer of thanksgiving for what they had, he returned the gifts to the disciples and told them to feed the people.

This is then a story of what happens when disciples do what Jesus does and what Jesus asks. The disciples saw a need, but they expected the people to go away and fend for themselves, while they had something to eat. Like many in this world today, they probably thought, “We took care of ourselves. They should do the same.” There is a lot of that thinking around these days. Nonetheless, the loving generosity of God always being revealed in Jesus will not allow those people to be hungry. The miracle here is not about loaves and fish or some divine action taken by Jesus to suddenly produce more food. This is a miracle of generosity. It is the kind of generosity that is more than giving away the extra change in our pocket or something that we won’t miss because we already have several. It is the kind of generosity that springs from knowing and believing that everything we have comes from God. Everything.  All of this is framed for us in the context of the Holy Eucharist. Take, Bless, Break, Share are words describing the action of Jesus at the Last Supper carried over into every celebration of the Eucharist. This is the story of what happens when disciples do what Jesus asks and what Jesus does, and he asked us to more than celebrate Mass.

What Matthew reveals for us in Jesus Christ is the very image of a God of endless generosity. This is a God who gave his only son, not an extra one or a spare. This is a God who not only fed, but made certain that each one got as much as they wanted, and even so there were left overs. This is why I call this a miracle of generosity, because generosity is not always about giving things. More often it is about giving one’s self which is exactly what happens at this altar. Christ Jesus gives us himself. Yet, nothing could have happened that day in the wilderness had it not been for what the disciples had and were willing to give. A hungry world still waits to be fed, and we to whom enough has been given, must bring it back to God and then bless, brake, and share. What we hear today is the same command and the same words that those disciples heard: “Give them some food yourselves.”  They looked at that crowd and no doubt felt overwhelmed by so many in the face of so little, but they did what he asked and ended with more than they could have imaged; and everyone not only had enough, they were more than satisfied.

July 26, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle and St William Parishes in Naples, FL

1 Kings 3, 5, 7-12 + Psalm 119 + Roman 8, 28-30 + Matthew 13, 44-52

9:00am Sunday at St William Church in Naples, FL

We have been treated to a whole string of parables in the last several weeks. They call us back to the basics with images of soil, seeds, yeast, weeds, and finally there comes these final images about treasures, pearls, and a net. All of these should have excited our imaginations about the Kingdom of Heaven. The images are simple, and so is the Kingdom of Heaven. It simply means knowing that we are children of God with a divine dignity and an eternal destiny. The Kingdom of Heaven opens for us when we discover the meaning of life and how to live it. Today’s parables touch on these very points: life’s meaning and how to live it.

Disciples of Jesus Christ are a people willing to sacrifice anything at all to live with the nobility and the dignity that comes with being God’s children. If that is you and me, then there is nothing created that can satisfy our search and our longing other than the creator himself. We can never be satisfied with something that makes us happy, because happiness comes and goes. When we have discovered who we are and why, we have discovered the greatest of treasures the gift of God himself in Jesus Christ. That discovery is the meaning of life, and it brings Joy which is very different from happiness.

It takes an external stimulus to trigger happiness. It’s all about things or other people, places or events. Joy however, comes when you are at peace with who you are, why you are and how you are. The extraordinary thing about Joy is that it can exist whether you are happy or not. When we get the two confused, we end up trying to force the feeling of happiness into the place intended for joy. It never works. Happy cannot replace Joy, and Joy is what we all long for. I once read that happiness is an inch deep and a mile wide. Joy is a mile deep and an inch wide. Happiness has a self-centered piece in it. Not so with Joy. It comes from relationship and the exciting discovery that we are loved, and that the love we find has nothing to do with what we look like, feel like, or act like, for that matter. It has to do with knowing and believing with all our mind, our heart, and our soul that God loves us and will not turn his back upon us. Joyful is how we live it.

That is the discovery hinted at in these first two parables. The treasure and pearl are God’s love that draws us into the Kingdom of Heaven. The final parable that brings some closure to this whole series encourages us to sort through our lives, our values, maybe even our relationships and possessions to discover what really matters. What does not should be thrown away. Joy is what marks those who can sell everything for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

July 19, 2020

St. Peter the Apostle and St. William Parishes in Naples, FL

Wisdom 12, 13, 16-19 + Psalm 86 + Roman 8, 26-27 + Matthew 13, 24-43

8:00am Sunday at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples,FL

We are still right where we left off last week. Jesus has come out of the house and gone down to the lake. We are on the shore of the lake. Jesus, on a boat is teaching. Last week he gave the “Parable of the Soil” that some people call the parable of the Sower, but it’s really more about us, the soil. Still thinking in terms of farming Jesus now comes up with these three parables today. The first is serious, the other two are silly. We get a little hint with them that Jesus could use humor to teach a lesson. Sowing mustard seeds is ridiculous! It’s a weed. What is that guy thinking, we ought to ask. Who sows crab grass or dandelions in their flower bed? The last parable is so exaggerated that Jesus must have had those people roaring with laughter. Every time I read it, I recall an “I Love Lucy” episode when she has gone to work at a bakery, and messed up the recipe. The oven door flies open, and dough starts oozing out. Three measures of flour is about 40 pounds in our system! Imagine what 40 pounds of flour would do with yeast in it.

All of these parables are about the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s how he started last week and today: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….” So, these parables ought to awaken our imagination about the Kingdom of Heaven. That phrase (Kingdom of Heaven) is used 51 times in Matthew’s Gospel. If that doesn’t tell you to pay attention and think about it, nothing will. We have to be receptive to the Word of God we learned last week, like good soil. Once our minds, our hearts, our imaginations, our souls are open, we can begin, with the help of these parables, to imagine the Kingdom of Heaven.

If our imagination is inspired by these parables, we should get the point that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not territorial or geographic; and while the other Gospels write about the “Kingdom of God” as some future event, Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven” begins with the Incarnation. It’s already begun. God is already with us in Jesus Christ. This “Kingdom of Heaven” embraces souls, not land possessions. God’s rule transcends the boundaries of time and space. The power and authority of God is not centered on domination, but in compassion and forgiveness. This is what Pilot could not grasp. This “King” Jesus was no threat to the Romans. He was not interested in land or power. This “King” Jesus was interested in souls, in love, and compassion.

So, the Kingdom these parables reveal is already here. It is now. We’re in it, and when you look around, you begin to get the point of this week’s parables. There are weeds here. It does not matter where they came from, but there are weeds. This world, this church, our lives are not perfect. What do we do about? Jesus says, don’t be upset or angry. You know, that was the problem that the Scribes and Pharisees had. They wanted everything perfect, and they thought they could make it so. They threw people out who were not perfect, and Jesus didn’t like that. He kept putting them back. In their eyes, even Jesus was imperfect. He kept on eating with sinners and tax collectors, touching lepers and the sick they had thrown out. He talked with respect and patience with people like that woman at the well. Everyone knew about her! My friends, we belong here, in this place, in the Kingdom of Heaven imperfect as we are. There is grace, there is a little time, there is a patient God revealed by Jesus who waits for us to listen to his Son and work hard at getting ourselves in shape, preparing for the harvest. It is then that the weeds and the wheat will be separated, not now. Perhaps most importantly of all, we need to realize that we are not the ones to do the separating. That’s not our job. We will have enough to do simply making sure that we are fruitful like the wheat.

July 12, 2020

At the Churches of St. Peter the Apostle and St. William in Naples, FL

Isaiah 55, 10-11 + Psalm 65 + Roman 8, 18-23 + Matthew 13, 1-23

3:30pm Saturday at St Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL

All the parables are about God. Jesus uses them to reveal something about his Father. While that is true of this parable revealing a generous God, whose is not particularly fussy about how much and where “seeds” are sown, God is not really the focus in this parable. Comfortably sitting back gratefully over a God who is so generous isn’t going to help us or lead us anywhere. While it is sometimes called, “The parable of the Sower”, it really ought to be called, “The Parable of the soil.” What the farmer is doing is not remarkable at the time. First, they plowed the field, to loosen the top soil, and then the farmer would simply walk along a path and throw seed out along the way. There were no neat rows or machines to measure out just enough seed in just the right place to get a good cop.

As always with the Living Word of God, something new pops up every time we proclaim the Gospel. That’s just the way it is for people who continue to live and internalize the Word of God which is exactly what Isaiah is proclaiming in the first reading. So, for me, what I heard this week had not caught my attention before. There is a movement here. I hope you caught it. Jesus moves out of the house and sat down by the sea. He is no longer speaking “in the house” to the apostles. Now he speaks to crowds, and he concludes with a statement that makes clear the meaning and the purpose of this parable. Those who have ears, those who are open and listen to the Word of God are Blessed because they understand.

Jesus calls our attention to the privilege that is ours. We have been given the opportunity to see and hear (to understand) what those in the past and some still around us have longed to see and hear. In the second part of the parable, the word “Hear” is used five times, and when spoken in this parable it is not about an audio sensation, but about receptivity. This is what it takes. This is what God requires. This is what discipleship is about, Receptivity. We have to be open to the Word of God. We have to be loosened as was the dry top-soil in that arid climate. The rigid, the smug no-it-all who has made up their mind about everything is not receptive.

I believe what this “Parable of the Soil” asks of us today is to examine and reconsider our receptivity. We must ask and wonder how receptive we are to change, to growth, to conversion of heart. The receptive good soil allows faith to take root, and that faith to produce a harvest which Matthew calls: “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The work of the Holy Spirit in us makes a church that changes, a life that is full of wonder and curious about the unknown. A church and a people who are unafraid of something different or new, but able to see good in all things and all people because, God can’t make anything bad. We rejoice today in the promise that as long as we remain open and receptive to what the Gospel asks of us, we shall be among the Blessed.

At the 9:00am Mass in St William Church, this homily continues.

Among us today are several children whose parents are bringing them into the fullness of our faith. What we have to give these children today is not just Holy Communion in consecrated bread, but Communion among the Holy, a place among God’s people made holy by the sacrificed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. My dear parents: on the day you brought these children to the Church and to Jesus Christ, you traced the sign of the cross on their forehead, and you promised that you would bring them up in the practice of the faith. You have done so in a beautiful and faithful way, and we recognize that today. For an old priest like me I see your great desire and love for your children, and I share your hope that the seed you have planted in their hearts will grow and bear fruit for countless generations. You have done what you can, and there is more yet for you to do, but the seed is planted, and now it will do only what the seed can do. In years to come, you may grow impatient and perhaps even feel guilty if the seed does not produce the way you wanted. There will come a time when you must simply wait to see what comes up. The waiting is hard, imagining what comes needs some openness and receptivity. Teach that to your children. Help them to remain open and hear the Word of God. The more they are open and receptive, the more they will be Blessed. Please step forward now with your children.

To the children: When you drive home today, I want you to ask your parents to tell you the story of the day you were Baptized. Have them tell you about your God-parents, about what you were wearing, who was there, maybe the name of the priest, and where it all happened. Have them tell you about the name they gave you that day. Then, I want you to ask them what they were feeling like and what they hoped for you that day and what they wanted to give you.  Whoever that priest was, he made the sign of the cross on your forehead. It’s like a mark that makes you different. It’s almost like a scar that shows something about you, something that happened. Then he asked your parents and godparents to do the same, and I want them to do it once more right now. We claim you today as children of God, and as members of this Church family, and I want everyone here to welcome you today into God’s holy family. Now be seated while we prepare and pray over the gift that God has for you, the Body and Blood of his only Son.