17th S. 2021: The Whole Person

Today’s homily is for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 25, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The Homily can be viewed by clicking here. And listened to by clicking here.

I was at the Farmer’s market in Turlock yesterday, and was talking to a friend and parishioner about church, youth groups, and festas nowadays—and even our upcoming festa that so many are working so hard to make amazing. We talked for a little bit about the teachings of the church, the truth that it teaches, and how festas, youth groups, and church gatherings were such great ways to share the beauty of the Church, it’s traditions, and its teachings. We agreed that when the Church gather’s there must be some intentionality about what we do—we must pass on the faith. It’s not JUST about the festa you know! We have the festa because (in this case) we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and if that is missed, then our gathering was nothing more than a party or fundraiser. 

But we also agreed that we cannot be focused ONLY on the Church, its tradition, and the truths of faith. There is more to being a Christian than theology and liturgy, and in the Gospel today Jesus teaches us how to do it right. He gives us the secret. Jesus ministers to the whole person. John chapter six begins with the feeding of five thousand, but it comes on the heels of chapter five where Jesus heals a paralytic on the Sabbath and has to explain himself to the Jews who accused him of violating the Sabbath Law. Jesus then goes on to teach them about the relationship between himself and the father, and how he is there to do the father’s work, and how to honor the son is to honor the father. He teaches them about the resurrection, eternal life, judgement and condemnation, and about Moses. 

Jesus heals a man and then gives them the catechism class of their life! He challenges them with what they think they know and authoritatively invites them to go deeper—to understand at a deeper level. This is serious stuff! And that brings us to today’s Gospel where in the midst of all of that healing and teaching (which many Catholics rightfully love and focus on), he sees that they are hungry and need to rest (which many Catholics rightfully love and focus on). 

Jesus teaches us that being a Catholic means that we nurture the whole person. Jesus teaches us that learning our faith is important and must be done—not just by children in CCD, but also by adults who read their Bible and books, who attend retreats and who continue to take advantage of learning opportunities in their parish and elsewhere. 

Jesus also teaches us that we must be healed. He teaches us that we need to approach the throne of God’s grace and receive mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receive the anointing of the sick, and be healed in the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist. That’s what it means to be Catholic. 

And Jesus teaches us that we need to party—I mean festa. We need to sit down, relax, enjoy family and friends, laugh and find rest. My avo always looked forward to going to the bullfight that ended the festa—I don’t think he ever actually saw the bullfight—he never left the bar area! He ate pork sandwiches and linguica, drank a glass of wine or two, and visited with friends. That’s what it means to be Catholic too—specifically, a Portuguese Catholic—that’s how we roll.  

Jesus ministered to the whole person. It wasn’t just about the head. It wasn’t just about the healing. It wasn’t just about the feeding. It was about the whole thing. We must be about the whole thing. Jesus cared about the body and the soul. He cared about the head and the heart. He cared about God’s presence, right here in our midst, and in eternity. So should we. So be healed, learn a lot, and don’t forget the festa, Jesus didn’t.

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16th S. 2021: Work & Retreat

Today’s homily is for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 18, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here

How exciting it must have been for the apostles, after casting out demons, curing the sick, and proclaiming the good news to come back and report all they had done. I always enjoy hearing my sons report to me all the good they have done throughout the day, whether fishing, or working, or working out. With excitement and zeal they share the day’s events. I imagine how I feel hearing all this good news from my sons must have been a bit like how Jesus felt hearing his disciples–unlearned fishermen–tell of the good work they had done. There are three points I want to make here.

The first point is the apostles were nothing special in the eyes of the world, but with God’s power and faith in Jesus, they were able to do good work. The number one reason I hear for people NOT to be courageous enough to live their faith, start a Bible study, lead a catechism study, teach CCD or RCIA, or be a minister at Mass, is “I don’t know how,” or “I don’t think I know enough.” God does not call the qualified–he never has!–He qualifies those He calls. The disciples gave their “yes” to God and he did great things through them. God wants to do great things through us too. We need to say “yes” too.

The second point is there is as much or more work to do today than there was then, and the world needs our help. The apostles were sent out, and today, our Bishop is sent out too. And he has some priests, and he has some deacons, but that is NOT enough. Our bishop and our parish need every member to step up! One of my favorite sayings is that many hands make light work. Today we have Mass; we need lectors, communion ministers, musicians, sacristens, ushers, altar servers and greeters. That’s just for one Mass. Yesterday Silvia and Sam, our family and others made almost 500 meals for the VBS drive-thru pork sandwich fundraiser. At the same time floats were being built for our parish celebration coming up in August. The Knights of Columbus are always in the mix, serving whenever and wherever possible. We need more Knights. We need more hands. We need more ministers. We need more help. The Church is not, nor has it ever been, a place to come and get something. The Church, the Ekklesia are the people of God called by God, out of darkness into light. The Church are those who gather to give something–their time, their talent, their treasure–for the good of the community and of the world. Each of us must ask ourselves, “How am I supporting and serving the community to which I belong?” If you’re not…why not?

Finally, my third point is like the apostles, some of us get so busy, we don’t even have time to eat! Those who are serving MUST get away by yourself to a deserted place to rest a while. Get in your boat and get away from time to time. Get something to eat and relax; be recreated. You know, that’s where we get the world, “recreation.” Engaging in recreation is to be about the business of being re-created, made new and whole again. Getting right with God, with family, and friends, and trusting that although we participate in the saving work of God–we are not the Savior. 

I want to thank Fr. Manuel for coming back…but also for going away. More than any priest I know, our pastor is always present to his flock. Fr. Manuel is at most every meeting, every activity, every retreat or talk. Mostly just to say hi and give a blessing, to say a prayer and eat some food, but forever the working priest, and I appreciate him for that. I also appreciate that he rests on retreat and stays connected to God. 

St. Paul of the Cross said, “Withdraw often into the depths of your being, and there, with living faith, rest on the breast of God, like a child, in the sacred silence of faith and holy love.” And so, my brothers, I encourage your retreat as well, but first your work. We must each step up and answer the call that the Lord places in front of us for us to do. He will qualify you, but he needs your “yes,” then your work, and then your rest. Call your parish office for opportunities to serve as ministers at Mass or CCD, to join the Knights of Columbus, to make some rice pudding, and maybe just to see how you can serve the Lord, his Church, and the world.

15th S. 2021: Boxers and a Tire Iron

Today’s homily is for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 11, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The YouTube link is here.

My son, Mark, turned fourteen and has started working and saving up some money for a car when he turns sixteen. The good news is that he has a job selling fruit at markets and is saving up for a car; the bad news is that until he has a car, I’ll be driving him to work! From our house in Denair it’s an easy trip. I did it just this morning. We get up at 4:15am, leave at 4:45am, and I drop him off to leave Cipponari’s at 5am. I always take the same route: Gratton to MonteVista to Quincy, to Taylor, to Geer. This morning though, I stayed on MonteVista all the way to Geer. Even my sleepy-eyed son noticed and made a comment that we never go this way. On the block between Johnson and Colorado there was a car on the side of the road with hazard lights on and the trunk open. I drove right past, dropped Mark off, and thought to return the same way to make sure some sort of help was on the way. 

The car was still there, hazard lights flashing, and I pulled up to see three high school boys complaining that in four years of high school they never learned to change a tire! I asked if they could use some help and they said they would gladly accept any help I would offer. It’s funny, before I left the house, I thought, I better grab my phone in case there are any problems on the way. What I didn’t think was, I should probably put some shoes on, and put something on over my boxers in case there are any problems on the way! Quite a sight, I’m sure. Just me, my boxers, and a tire iron in my hand! To their credit, not a single boy made a comment as I put my bare foot on the iron to get some leverage! 

I often hear good people talk about what good they are going to do when the time is right. When they’ve got more free time, they’ll coach, or volunteer in some other way. Good people say that when they’re more financially secure, they’ll begin to support their church or other worthwhile causes. Good people with all the right intentions talk about being a mentor for an at-risk youth, volunteering some time at an after-school program, lending their skills or talents in some way for a worthwhile cause, or investing in a non-profit, in the church, or another worthwhile organization. For these good people, the time is never quite right, the finances are never quite enough, and the situation just doesn’t seem secure enough. 

These are not bad people, these are good people! They know the good that God is calling them to do and they plan to do it…when the time is right, when the situation offers no danger, and when they’ve got adequate resources both to help others in need and ensure their own comfort.

Our Lord called his disciples and sent them out two by two–few are ready to go out and serve alone, and going into the unknown alone to serve and come to the aid of others in need can be quite dangerous, after all. Best to take a friend. How much gear would they need? Jesus may in fact have been a Marine! Our motto was pack light and freeze at night! We had no place in our pack for “snivel gear.” Jesus said just take their walking stick, one tunic, and some good shoes! No food, no sack, no money. Jesus calls his disciples to trust in him and in his father to supply all that they need. They just need to have a heart to help others…

Is there less need today than there was then? Are there no opportunities to serve now? Of course there are! Jesus said we would always have the poor, and we do. There are children with no foster placement, families with no food, children with no school supplies, men and women with no work, and high school boys who don’t know how to change a tire. 

Those boys must have thanked me a hundred times–one even called me his savior. I shook each of their hands and said it was no trouble at all. I’m pretty sure that I had even less than Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel today! At least they had shoes to wear–though I did have a tire iron. 

My brothers and sisters, the Lord has already gifted us to serve those who need help today–right now. What we have is not for our own use, but for ourselves and others in need, that the Lord has called us to serve. I think too many good people continue to gather for when the time is right…but, my friends, the time is always right to come to the aid of others. And if we fail to act today, with what we have today, then we have let pass by us the opportunity that the Lord has given us. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman said, “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.” You have been given authority by God. You have all that you need. Grab a partner for the journey and serve. Do not wait! What definite service is the Lord calling you to do? There are tires that need to be changed–even if you’re barefoot and in nothing more than your boxer shorts. Grab your tire iron, there’s work to do. Good people don’t just plan to do good…they do it.