June 20, 2021
Hear to Serve …
DO YOU NOT CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?
In today's Gospel, we meet the Apostles in the boat when a sudden storm comes up. Waves are crashing over the sides and the Apostles are afraid for their lives. They cry out in terror to Jesus who is sleeping through all of it. What is even worse than the storm for the Apostles is that it seems like Jesus does not care about them. Jesus wakes up and deals with the crisis, but what is worse for Jesus than the storm is that the Apostles do not trust Him.
Whenever we read in Scripture of a boat, we are really reading about the Church itself. The Church today is in the middle of a very huge storm. Winds are blowing from both the left and the right and waves are crashing upon the deck. There is great panic, a lot of fear, utter chaos, and a deep lack of trust.
This is what it looks like to many Catholics who are looking out to sea instead of looking to see who is at the stern of the boat. Here in the midst of the chaos is Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ is the one who has the power to command the winds and the rain. Do we trust Him to deal with the storm?
I am not suggesting that we ignore the storm because it is a big one. There are many problems that are ongoing in our society that we need to address, including the evil of abortion. We are called to be people of action and prayer. I know many of you feel our bishops and priests and yes, even deacons should speak out from the pulpit more about abortion, but have you done everything possible from your end? Have you learned about the No Taxpayer Abortion Initiave? Have you let your government representatives know how you stand? You can go to the Diocese of Green Bay website (gbdioc.org), and you will learn a lot. Have you talked to your children, grandchildren, co-workers, and neighbors about the reasons the Catholic Church is Pro-life? It is our job as members of the Church to help others to learn and to trust the teachings of the Church.
There are many people going through their own personal storms, where the waves are so high that sinking seems inevitable. We wonder why God would allow such suffer-ing. Job lost everyone he loved and everything he owned. He railed against God, over and over, asking WHY? It wasn't until Job learned to completely trust in the Lord that his suffering stopped. Our acts of love and kindness done in Jesus' name can help those who are grieving, facing an unexpected pregnancy, or experiencing family and health problems. Caring actions done in Christ's name can help those in crisis to see that Jesus does care and that they should trust in Him.
Trust is also at the heart of matters like Church teachings on our need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation or believing in the Real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We panic because we don't fully understand the great Mystery, or we decide to ignore Church teachings because Confession requires a humbling of our pride and we won't submit to that. So, we jump ship and want to take our chances on our own or trust in the teachings and norms of society. (Talk about a sinking ship.) These teachings, these sacraments are not the sacraments of any pope or any bishop. These teachings and sacraments came from Jesus the Christ. And once again, we have a lack of trust in Jesus.
No matter how bad the storm is that the Church is facing, no matter how hard something is to experience or understand, we can have a sense of security because the mes-sage of the Gospel is very clear--Trust in the Lord. He is our peace even when the waves are crashing and we are afraid that we are sinking. Know that the Church, with Jesus Christ at the helm, will not perish. It will arrive safely at the other side.
June 13, 2021
Hear to Serve …
By the Grace of God
During a car ride with my grandchildren last weekend, I pointed out to them a field of corn. They were amazed at how tiny the plants were. "How does it grow, Grandpa?" asked my grandson. "The farmer plants seeds," I replied. "I know that," he said. "How does it grow?"
That is the great question of the Gospel today. The farmer plants and then waits in peaceful trust for the crop to grow to harvest. The important work is the planting; the rest is out of his control. Jesus tells us that it is the same with the work of growing the Kingdom of God. We have the task of planting the seed. By the grace of God, the seed will take root and grow.
Every day, you and I are asked to plant the seed. As Jesus tells us in the second parable, even if we only plant a tiny seed, even that seed may grow into something beyond our vision. We are asked to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each person we encounter. Planting these seeds is really a work of faith. The harvest our seeds yield is not always going to be visible for us to see. We have to trust in the Holy Spirit to help the seeds sprout, to level the soil of someone's heart, to drench the furrows and bless its growth. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to someone's life.
As we plant the seeds of the Gospel, we have to remember no one is to be excluded, the poor, the sick, those in prison, the rich, and do not forget ourselves. The Gospel of Christ is meant to be nourishment for everyone. No one should be excluded from the transforming powers of God.
So, go out and start planting seeds for Jesus. Don't worry how big or small the seeds are, just plant the seeds. Share our faith, the love of Jesus Christ, with your children, neighbors, co-workers, and parish. We should not worry if the harvest seems too small or insignificant. We have done what Jesus asked us to do--plant. Trust that the grace of God will allow the seed to grow, flourish, and bear fruit.
June 6, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“LAMB OF GOD, YOU WHO TAKE AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, HAVE MERCY ON US.”
On this Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are asked to focus on two things. First of all, we are to see the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and secondly, we are to see the True Presence of Christ in His Church. If you are connected to the internet at all, then you know there has been a tidal wave of controversy lately on whether or not some of our political leaders (Biden and Pelosi) who are baptized Catholics should be allowed to receive Holy Communion or not, because of their political stance on favoring abortion. There are many voices saying that the bishops should deny these politicians the right to receive Holy Communion because of their sinful stance on abortion.
Because Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that to receive the Eucharist, we should be in a “State of Grace.” This means we should be free of “Mortal Sin.” Mortal sins include knowingly participating in any way in things like murder, abortion, racism, sex outside of marriage, hatred, theft, not fulfilling the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days, to name a few. If we have committed a mortal sin, we are to go to confession post haste, so we can once again be in a State of Grace, before receiving Communion.
So, to those who want to deny these politicians Holy Communion, “right on!” But after some deep retrospect, and getting hit on the back of the head by the Holy Spirit, I have to wonder what my role is in all of this. Even as an ordained deacon, is it my job to publicly call out our bishops on their decisions in running the Church? Is it my job to decide who receives Communion? Is it my job to tell people they are destined for Hell?
Well, in answer to the first question, when I was ordained I promised obedience to my Bishop and his successors, just as priests do at their ordination. I truly believe by the power of the Holy Spirit that my Bishop, David Ricken, is a successor of the Apostles, and the salvation of everyone’s souls is his number one priority. By the world’s standards, the Catholic Church is slow moving and decisions are not made according to public opinion. Much of their deliberation goes on outside of the public eye. The USCCB is meeting in June to decide on what course of action to take on our Catholic politicians receiving Communion.
In answer to who should be able to receive Holy Communion, I first have to look at my own sinfulness. While I will agree that some sin seems to be worse than others, like abortion, it is dangerous to start ranking sin. None of us are worthy, for Christ came to die for all of our sins. In Pope Francis' encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, he called Communion "not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak." Every one of us needs the Eucharist.
It's alright to point out the error of someone's ways. It's okay to tell someone their actions are not taking them on the road to heaven. It's okay to say their actions are sinful, but it's not our job to condemn anyone to hell. If you look back over time, even the Church has never officially condemned anyone to hell, not Judas, not even Hitler. The final judgment of every human soul belongs to Jesus the Christ. Christ left the authority to forgive or bind sins to our bishops, and through ordination to our priests. They are to follow the example of Jesus, who pointed out sin, but always in a way that brought about conversion and reconciliation.
As we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, let us follow the advice of Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego and not turn the Body and Blood of Christ into a weapon to be deployed in political warfare, for that would truly be a sin. Instead, pray, pray that the leaders of the Church will make wise decisions based on the Gospel of Christ. Take positive action to end abortion, and pray for our nation’s leaders that they see abortion as the evil it is. Return to a state of grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And above all, let us ask our Lord, Jesus Christ to unite us to Himself and to each other in His gift of His Body and Blood.
May 30, 2021
Hear to Serve …
ROW THE BOAT
"The Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship, but to keep her on her course." -St. Boniface
A few weeks ago I was asked to be part of the Confirmation Retreat. During one of the sessions, the young people listened to their catechist explain how the Church is like a great ship, and she told them that part of their mission is to be active members of their parish. She pointed out that it costs money to maintain the church building, to keep the lights on, to pay the staff, and to provide education and other services. When it comes to finances, they need to help "row the boat." She went on to tell them that our mission to worship God requires a priest, but it also requires servers, lectors, choir members, musicians, ushers, and greeters. When it comes to liturgy, they need to help "row the boat." She went on to talk about the larger mission field and about how the Church provides help for the poor, the grieving, the lonely, the ignorant, the sick, and all people in need. When it comes to ministry, they need to help "row the boat." Her final point was one we all need to hear, she said, "There are many people in our parishes who have been 'rowing the boat' for a long time. They are tired. They need help."
Through our Baptism we have the responsibility to participate fully in liturgy, our parish, and the greater Church. All of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation have received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which are meant to be used in mission and service. This brings me to my big question, "Are we all doing our part to row the boat?"
Our parishes are blessed with many generous financial givers. It is wonderful that our parishes are still financially afloat and have met our obligations, like the Bishop's Appeal, when so many other parishes have struggled. However, we all need to prayerfully consider how we will meet the financial challenges of the coming year. We must also address the issue of our major fundraising activities that are in need of people who are willing to take on the responsibility of chairing these events that are vital for us meeting our parish budgets.
When we gather at Mass, we bring our unique personalities and our different gifts and talents. Servers, lectors, and ushers are needed in our mission to worship God. So, why are we having difficulty filling these ministries at our Masses? Please come forward to help "row the boat."
Our parishes are called upon to do great things. We are to serve those who are in our pews and those who are not. It is our responsibility to bring back the people who no longer participate in our parish life. We are called to go out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those in our mission field who do not know what it means to be part of the Church. We need people who are able to steer the ship through the storm of our modern culture with creative and life-giving ministries. We need people to lead on our Parish and Finance Councils.
Take up an oar! Call your parish office today and let us know how you are going to do your part to row the boat. You are not too young, you are not too old. The more people that row, the easier it is for us to fulfill our mission to bring all people to Christ.
May 23, 2021
Hear to Serve …
THE GIFTS KEEP COMING
On Pentecost, the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, the personification of the love between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit poured forth upon the Apostles all of the gifts that they needed to fulfill the command of Christ to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
This gift of the Holy Spirit is the same gift given to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The mission given to the Apostles is the same mission that Christ has for us. We are to spread the faith and defend the faith in a faithless world. Our world is rich in material goods and superficial desires but suffers from extreme spiritual poverty. In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit sends us His grace. He sends us seven gifts that will strengthen us to spread the faith, to defend the faith, and to satisfy our spiritual hunger.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are named in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 11:2-3). Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding are gifts that help us to fill the spiritual void and teach the truth of Christ. These three gifts are developed through spiritual reading, study, and prayer.
Fortitude, or Courage, is the gift we need in order to speak the truth of Christ. Speaking the truth is not always popular. It may cause the loss of friendship or family. When the Christ’s teachings of life and truth are attacked, Christ Himself is attacked. We need the gift of Fortitude to stay in the fight to defend the Church.
Piety and Fear of the Lord connect us to our duty to the God of all creation. These gifts allow us to keep God as the center of our lives. They help us to show our deep abiding respect for God through praise and worship.
In order for us to evangelize, we need to have a well-ordered life. This is where the gift of Right Judgment comes in. It allows us to determine what is right and to do the correct thing even in difficult situations.
These Seven Gifts are more than enough, but there are bonus gifts. The Sacrament of Confirmation is the final Sacrament of Initiation. It is through Confirmation that we become full members of the Body of Christ, the Church. We take the name of a saint who will inspire us to become who we were created to be. We are able to call upon the entire army of the Church Triumphant to intercede for us. We also are given the gift of our fellow parish members. We support each other and work together to spread and defend the faith.
The Sacrament of Confirmation leaves a permanent impression upon our soul. Even though we cannot see the grace of the Holy Spirit and even though we may not feel any different, the gifts have been showered upon us. It is up to us to cooperate with them and to develop them so that like the Apostles we can go out to fulfill the command of Christ. Come, Holy Spirit!
May 16, 2021
Hear to Serve …
WHERE IS YOUR HEAD AT?
On this Feast of Ascension, it would be so easy for me to imagine the apostles 2,000 years ago, looking up at the sky, watching Jesus leave. It would be so easy just to think of Jesus sitting up in heaven waiting for the end of time. I could live my life, trying to do good things so that I can someday go to heaven and see Him. To think like this would be missing the entire beauty of the Feast of the Ascension. To think like this is to miss what it means to be the Church.
Before Jesus ascended, He spent 40 days reminding the disciples of all that He had taught them about how to love God and to love each other. He reminded them about how He healed the sick and restored sight to the blind. Jesus proved to them over and over again that He was truly alive and that His love for them was greater than any of their doubts and failings.
Jesus went on to give them a great commission. They were to share the Good News with all the world. They were to go out and to teach and to baptize so that all might be saved. In short, Jesus gave the apostles a mission. Even more, Jesus gave them the way this mission is to be carried out; He gave them the Church.
The Church is the Body of Christ. It is the living, breathing Jesus Christ. By our Baptism, we are given the same mission as the Apostles. We are to love God through our worship and the sacraments. We are to love God through our service of each other. We are to love God by bringing all the world to Him by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Sharing the Good News of Jesus means we put actions behind our preaching, behind our prayers. Our actions must provide for the physical well-being of others as well as their spiritual needs.
Jesus is truly seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is the King of Heaven and of Earth. He commands that the Father’s “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” It is through Jesus Christ, the King, the Head of the Church, that all of us can have our feet firmly planted on earth while our hearts and minds are focused on the higher things of Heaven. As members of the Body of Christ, where the head is, we are, and where we are, there is Jesus Christ. Though the living body of Jesus ascended into Heaven, His love and Spirit remain with us, His Church.
Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia!
May 9, 2021
Hear to Serve …
MARY AND MOTHER’S DAY
And Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word.” This is Mary’s fiat. Mary’s giving up of herself, for God. Do you think Mary realized the magnitude of the chain of events that were about to unfold for humanity when she said “yes” to God? Mary had a lot to ponder, but do you think Mary thought about the confusion, the anxiety, the heartache, the dirty diapers and sleepless nights that were to come when she uttered those few simple words? Saying “yes” to God never takes us on an easy path, just an eternal one.
During the month of May, the Church honors Mary, Mother of God. Without Mary’s “yes” where would our salvation have ended up? But Mary is even more than the mother of Jesus. Mary is our mother, our spiritual mother. Mary is a mother we can turn to and ask for intercession in our times of need. We know this to be true since the day Jesus gave us the gift of His mother from the cross when he said, “Behold your mother.” That wasn’t just meant for Jesus’ most loved disciple but for all of humanity that was to come.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. We honor the women who have answered “yes” to God’s vocation of Motherhood. I wonder if the countless women through the centuries who have said “yes” to this call, thought of all dirty diapers, the sleepless nights, the anxiety, the juggling of work, and the endless sacrifice and self-giving that is part of this vocation. I wonder if they have pondered how their vocation has and will change the world.
eing a mother is not easy and our modern society has added even more pressures. Moms, when you find yourself stressed to the point of breaking, I urge you to turn to our Mother in Heaven. Ask for Mary’s intercession because I haven’t ever heard of Jesus refusing His mother anything. Mary travelled the path of motherhood before any of you. She had those sleepless nights, was filled with worry and anxiety, and she followed her Son so she knows and understands your worries, and your pain. And just as you share your worries with Mary, take the time to share your joys with her, too.
Women who have answered God’s call to motherhood are special people. As husbands, we are to treat the mothers of our children with respect. We are to love them, support them in their holy vocation, pray for them daily, and help them get to heaven. Let us thank our grandmothers, our mothers, and even our mothers- in-law, for saying “yes” to God’s call of motherhood and let them know that we appreciate their love, patience, guid-ance, and sacrifice.
We must also pray for all women who are facing unexpected pregnancies, that they receive the support they need so that they can respond “yes” to the gift of life. We also remember those women who are praying to be mothers, that God fills their lives with His love and life. We pray for mothers who have lost children that they find strength and healing.
Let’s commit all mothers to the care of our Blessed Mother. We ask her Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to grant them every blessing, give them courage, and lead them in the path of eternal life.
May 2, 2021
Hear to Serve …
As I was gathering material for this week’s column, I came across a reflection about the painful process of being pruned in order to bear more fruit. This reflection really did prune close to home. You see, this reflection talked about the need for us to give up our power and our sense of superiority. It talked about the sin of pride and how we often think we do not need anyone’s help.
I think back to the time when my children were growing up and they had tasks assigned to them and the times I lost patience with their efforts and just did the job myself. I remember when I had positions of authority and so many things had to get done. So often, I had the attitude that I could do it quicker and better than anyone else. Sometimes, I would wonder why other people couldn’t see the standards I held and I would feel the need to fix what I thought were im-perfections.
It was a wise spiritual director who pointed out to me that I was lacking in patience and humility. (Ouch, that pruning hurt!) It was pointed out to me how my behavior could cause damage to myself and others. I learned that if we become so self-absorbed that we can’t delegate to others, ask for help, or believe that others can do a good job, then we develop what is called, “The Savior Complex.” Well, I hate to tell you there’s only one Savior and it’s not any of us. We can eventually drive ourselves into such a dark place within ourselves, that others won’t want to be around us. Even worse, if we do not allow others to develop skills by working through the task it can cause them to lose confidence in themselves or to develop bitterness.
Whether at work, at home, at church, or in our ministries, and when we have positions of authority, we need to do what Jesus did. Jesus called people, He met people where they were, and He developed them to become better than they were. Yes, Jesus could have done everything by Himself, and He could have done it better. However, He gave the Apostles responsibility and trusted them even though they continually messed up. Jesus didn’t lord the Savior Complex over others, why should we?
In the first reading today from The Acts of the Apostles, Saul is coming to join the Apostles. How much pruning do you think the Apostles had to do to trust Saul, to let him in, and help develop him? (Don’t forget Saul was a persecutor of Christians.) They gave him time and instruction to find out what Jesus was calling him to do. In the end, I would say that turned out pretty well for the Church.
Let us pray and do some soul searching on how we can prune our own branches. Don’t let the branches of self-importance, impatience, and pride keep yourself and others from developing to their full potential. We need to prune back the branches that block our vision or keep us from hearing of what Christ is calling us to do.