18th S. 2021: Food That Endures

Today’s homily is for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 1, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “If you desire many things, many things will seem few.” I think we certainly live in a society that encourages “desiring many things.” I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to surfing Amazon Prime’s Deal of the Day! You know, I don’t really need anything, but maybe I’ll just look around a bit–invariably, I end up finding and buying something that I want, but if I’m being honest, probably don’t really need. Have you ever bought something you thought would be pretty good, only to never have taken it out of the package!?

Jesus tells us today, too many of us are spinning our wheels! Too many of us are working for food that does not satisfy! Too many of us are wanting things, and buying things, and are addicted to things that promise happiness, that promise fulfillment, but invariably leave us empty and wanting more. It’s like junk food! I mean, you can buy it, and chew it, and eat it, and it tastes pretty good, but they are empty calories. We pollute our body with sugars and fats and it does not satisfy. It always leaves us wanting more! Because the only thing better than one donut is two…and some donut holes maybe.

Too many of us reach for the donut instead of the apple, and we’re teaching our children to do the same. According to the Journal, Appetite, “Among children in the US, more than 27 percent of calories each day come from snacks, including salted snacks, candy, desserts, and sweetened beverages.” But this homily isn’t about donuts, it’s about everything that this world is offering us (donuts) to satisfy a need that only Jesus can fill (apple). 

Today’s Gospel is almost comical in the way people are acting, and Jesus just calls them out straight away. These guys were actually looking for Jesus, got into a boat, and stalked him paparazzi style. And then acted surprised when they saw him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus says I know why you’re here…you think I’m the taco truck! You got a free lunch and now you want a free dinner too! Jesus says, you saw a miracle when I fed 5,000, but you’re still only looking for food! I like that you’re here, but you’re here for the wrong reason! It’s not about following the food, it’s about following the savior! 

Do we really believe that Jesus is the savior? Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist? Do we really believe that when we receive the Eucharist, we receive the food of eternal life? The Church teaches, “In the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” Do we believe it? Do we receive it in that way? Adore Him in that way? 

Too often, I admit, that I have not made Eucharist – Jesus – first in my life. I have reached for donuts instead of apples, the Bread of Life. What are those donuts? We have sports so we don’t go to Mass. We are on vacation so no Mass. We have to work–no Mass. I’m tired, no Mass. I’m hung over, no Mass. My team is playing, no Mass. Of course, I know I’m preaching to the choir–you’re here! But how about other areas of our life?

Do we read romance novels or the news instead of Scripture? Do we spend time watching t.v. instead of saying our evening prayers? Do we purchase for ourselves instead of being generous with others? Do we supporting ministries and ministers or are we focused only on ourselves?Jesus admonishes us today, do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. Whoever comes to him will never hunger, and whoever believes in him will never thirst. Choose apples not donuts. Choose Jesus. He alone endures for eternal life.

Please Click HERE for The Catholic Deacon YouTube.

Please click HERE for The Catholic Deacon Podcast.

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.

Please Click HERE for The Catholic Deacon YouTube.

Please click HERE for The Catholic Deacon Podcast.

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.