Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homily for Thanksgiving By Jerry Franzen Cathedral 11/23/06

Sirach 50: 22-24  1 Corinthians 1: 3-9  Luke 17: 11-19

A boy was standing on a pier when a huge wave came crashing in
and swept him off into the water, deep water.
A man on shore saw what had happened and rushed out on to the pier,
dove into the water and saved the boy.
Several days later the boy and his mother came to the pier,
looking for the man.
When they found the man, the mother said,
“Are you the one who saved my boy?”
The man replied, “Yes, I dove into the water and pulled him ashore.”
The mother said. “Then, where’s his hat.”


It seems that the mother forgot something,
the same something that nine of the ten lepers forgot.
She forgot to say, “Thanks.”

If I may be allowed to use the term “lesson”
for what I am about to do, then,
I would say that today’s lesson is
on not forgetting to say “Thanks”, on how we say “Thanks,”
and on why we say thanks.

When I was in grade school,
I learned that Thanksgiving was a time to recelebrate
the religious and political freedom
that the Pilgrims celebrated at the first Thanksgiving.

We did that by getting together for a big meal,
and it did mean two days off from school.
Someone probably told me
that this was a time for ME to give thanks,
but that probably went in one ear and right out the other.
I treated Thanksgiving in the same as way
that we treat the celebration of the Fourth of July.
We recelebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence
with picnics, parades and fireworks.
We don’t have to declare again our independence each July 4th.

Thanksgiving is a time for each of us to give thanks -
Thanks to those who help us everyday -
family members, friends, employers, doctors, nurses, priests
and most importantly God, who is the source of all the help we get.
Sirach thanked God for
fostering “people’s growth from their mother’s womb,”
and for fashioning “them according to his will.”
Paul thanked God for all of the grace-filled gifts
God had bestowed on the Corinthians.
Today is a day for each of us to give thanks to God
for all the ordinary things he provides for us each day,
most of which we take for granted,
and for the special gifts he has given each of us.
We can say, “Thanks,” so easily and readily
to another person who does something for us.
We must not forget God.
We might do this in the form of a prayer that says “thanks.”
It’s the way we should start and finish each day,
thanking God for the gift of life at the beginning of the day,
and for all that he provided for us throughout the day
at the end of our day.

In the last 20-30 years something new has been added to Thanksgiving.
There is an emphasis on contributions, mainly food,
to those in need.
This has grown out of a realization
that there are some who cannot afford food everyday,
while there are others of us who have plenty for a big meal.

It’s easy to just say, “Thanks”.
But our generous actions speak a much louder “Thanks.”
These donations are also our prayers of thanks in return to God.
What we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for God.


So, I have come to understand that Thanksgiving
not only reminds me of the Pilgrims
and their giving thanks to God,
but it also reminds me to give thanks to God.
Our prayers of thanks are made in words and in actions.

But, why do we give thanks?
We give thanks as a way of recognizing
that someone else has done something good for us.
It helps to build our relationship with the other person.
Whether we thank God directly or through another person,
giving thanks, it helps us to build our relationship with God.


For me,
the best description of how this builds our relationship with God
goes something like this:
God does something for us. It happens every minute of every day.
God gives something to us, the air we breathe, the food we eat.
We give thanks to God in return.
We may just say, “Thank you, God.”

Many times we do something in thanksgiving,
For example: donating food for the poor
Or using our gifts in service to God.
We might describe this relationship with God by a circle,
the most nearly perfect figure.
God gives to us in a semicircular path, half of the circle;
rarely do we receive gifts directly from God.
They often come indirectly through others.
God’s gifts to us often to do not come directly;
they often come indirectly.
We return our “thanks” in the form of something we do,
not something done directly for God,
but again in a semicircular path,
something done for our neighbor.
It’s natural that we would return thanks
for something God has done for us by doing something for God.
We complete the circle, our relationship with God.

I would like to add one further aspect to this description.
The completion of the circle seems to lead us back to where we started.
But as our relationship with God progresses around the circle,
I see the path rising
so that a completion of one cycle
brings us back to a point higher than we started.

Our relationship with God is brought to a new level
by our giving thanks.
This is exactly what happened between Jesus and the leper.
In the first semicircle, Jesus healed the leper;
the relationship between Jesus, the “Master,” and the leper
changed to Jesus, the “healer,” and “former leper”; a step up.

Through the thanks of the one leper, the cycle was completed,
the relationship between Jesus and that leper
went from Jesus, the physical “healer,” and “former leper”
To Jesus, the “savior” and “saved former leper”
Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”
That was a further step up in their relationship.

We must not take for granted all that God does for each of us each day.
Don’t forget to thank God every day.
Give thanks to God in verbal prayer.
Let all your actions also be prayers of thanks to God.
As you do all these things,
your relationship with God will spiral to new heights.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

HOMILY – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Henry Parish 11/7/04

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 2 Thess. 2:16 – 3:5 Luke 20: 27-38

My sixth grade teacher, Sr. Catherine David,
told my mother that I was lazy
and that sending me to the Latin School would be good for me.
And I think that during each of my years at the Latin School
the headmaster, Msgr. Mielech, read to us
the parable of the talents
from the 25th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
That’s the one about the man going on a journey,
who leaves his assets in the hands of three servants.
A unit of coinage of the day was called a “talent.”
Two servants invested their shares of the talents
and were able to double their shares of the assets.
One servant buried his share of talents.
He was afraid to use the assets given to him.
The master was not pleased with this last servant.

Msgr. Mielech would then go on to say that some of us,
after we graduated, would find ourselves
“pumping gas,” at a gas station.
In those days that job was equivalent
to today’s well known position of “flippin’ burgers.”
The Msgr. would continue by saying
that surely one of our classmates
would drive into the gas station in a nice big shiny new Cadillac.
That was a sign in those days that one had made it.
The “pump jockey” would then say, “Oh, he was lucky.”
Msgr. Mielech would then tell us that
it wouldn’t be a matter of luck at all.
It would all come down to whether we each used those gifts
that God had given each of us.


Sr. Catherine David knew that God had given me certain gifts,
gifts that would allow me to excel academically.
She didn’t want to see those abilities wasted;
she wanted to be sure that I didn’t bury those talents.
I thank God that Mom and Dad said,
“You’re off to the Latin School,
no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it.”
Msgr. Mielech emphasized the belief that
these gifts were precious, that they were from God,
and it wasn’t just that we had to use them to better ourselves,
but that we had a responsibility to God
to develop and use the gifts that he had given each of us.

We are each in danger of becoming lazy,
of burying our gifts, our talents.
It’s easier to just not work to use our gifts,
because it does take work to develop our talents;
it takes practice to play a musical instrument;
it takes work to become a master gardener;
it takes lots of experience to become a skilled office manager.
Oh, it’s less risky if we just bury our talents.
No one will laugh at me, if I never speak in public.
No one can shun me, if I never show that I care.
No one can disagree with me, if I never try to understand.
If I start testing the waters of my talents,
I may expose some of my faults.
God has given each of us special gifts, special talents,
and it is our responsibility, not a choice,
a responsibility, to use the gifts God has given us.
Each of us must use our talents to help
to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.
This is how we are good stewards of God’s gifts.
It means using our gifts to do what we can
to improve our own relationship to God.
AND to help others grow closer to God.


But God has done more than just given us the gifts.
In today’s second reading,
Paul prayed in his letter to the Thessalonians:
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement
and good hope through his grace,
encourage your hearts and strengthen them
in every good deed and word.”

That prayer has been answered.
God has backed up these gifts with his love,
his everlasting encouragement,and good hope through grace.
He encourages and strengthens us in all we say and do.

So it’s not like God gives us the talents,
tells us to develop and use them
and then says “Good luck”
and then steps back to watch us fall flat on our face.
God is right there next to us, in the person of the Holy Spirit,
to support us,and if we do fall flat,
to encourage and strengthen us to pick ourselves up
and take another shot at what we have tried.

Today, as the second part of the series of talks on stewardship,
I am asking each of you to consider
how you have been the good stewardof the talents God has given to you.

Have you been lazy, preferring not to use your gifts?
God is urging you to get moving.
Have you been fearful of using your gifts?
God is right there ready to support you.
Do you think that you have no gifts to contribute?
Do a little exploring to find out what your gifts might be.
Maybe no one has ever asked you to use your gifts?

Being asked is important.
When I was in college, either my junior or senior year,
the Sisters of Noter Dame asked me
and several of my college classmates
to come to the convent at St. Joseph heights
to be servers for the Easter Vigil.
I didn’t know much about the Easter Vigil in those days,
but I did know that you just can’t say “No” to the sisters.
I had been an altar server in grade school
and had sung in choirs in grade and high school,
but my participation in these ministries
was largely the decision of my parents.
The instance with the sisters was probably the first time
that, as an adult,
I was asked to use my gifts in service to the Church,
and I made the decision to respond in the affirmative.


Being asked to contribute one’s talents is important.
It lets those asked know that they are needed.

Today, I am asking each of you to give consideration
to how you will be able to contribute your talents
to various ministries and projects here at the parish.

You will, in the next couple of weeks,
be receiving in the mail a commitment form
that will ask you to consider how
you may be able to help in the various aspects
of parish life here at St. Henry.

I ask you to give prayerful consideration
to how you may volunteer.
Give prayerful consideration to the time you have to volunteer.
God doesn’t want us to be overcommitted.
If you know that you have a particular talent that you enjoy,
consider volunteering for something in that realm.
If you are unsure of your talents,
try something that you think that you might like.

And above all, remember God is right there
to love you, to encourage you,
to give you hope through his grace,
to encourage your heart and strengthen you
in each of your deeds and words.
BUT, don’t do it JUST because I have said we need your help,
or JUST because Fr. Ryan
or Fr. George says that we need your gifts,
or JUST because the Parish Council
or the Stewardship Committee
says that we need your talents.

Do it because God has placed his gifts within each of us
for an expressed purpose.
Do it because God needs each of us
to help to build his kingdom here at St. Henry Parish.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Paul Parish 11/04/01
Wisdom 11:22-12:2 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 Luke 19:1-10


*Like other little boys and girls
who were born to unwed mothers
in the foot hills of East Tennessee,
Ben Hooper was ostracized.
Parents did not allow their children to play with him.
They would say idiotic things like,
“What’s s boy like that doing playing with our children?”
as if he had anything to do with his being born
to an unwed mother.
On Saturdays when Ben’s mother took him to town
to buy the week’s supplies,
the people would loudly ask,
“ Did you ever figure out who his daddy is?”
When Ben started the first grade,
he spent recess at his desk
and ate his sack lunch alone in the corner,
because none of the other children
would associate with him.

Now, it was a big event when anything changed
in the foothills of East Tennessee.
When Ben was twelve years old,
a new preacher came to the little church in town.
Ben had heard that this man was so loving
and non-judgmental,
that he accepted people just as they were
and made them feel like
the most important people in the world.
He had the power to change the complexion of a group,
to broaden smiles, to increase laughter, to lift spirits.

Though he had never been to church,
Ben decided to go to church to hear the preacher.
He decided that he would sneak in late and leave early
in order to not draw attention to his presence.
He liked what he heard;
there was a glimmer of hope in the Good News.
After about six or seven inspiring hopeful Sundays,
on one particular Sunday,
Ben became so enthralled with the message
that he failed to notice the time
or the fact that he had been hemmed in a pew
from both sides by late arrivals.
Suddenly the service was over
and he could not quickly sneak out
through the aisles crowded with people.
As he was making his way through,
he felt a hand on his shoulder.
He turned around, looked up and saw the preacher,
who said, “Whose boy are you?”
Instantly the church grew very quiet and Ben thought,
“Here we go again.”
A smile came over the face of the preacher and he said,
“ Oh, I know whose boy you are.
Why, the family resemblance is unmistakable.
You are a child of God.”

In today’s Gospel, Zacchaeus is the outcast,
not because of his birthright,
but because he was a tax collector,
one who collected taxes from the Jews
for their Roman oppressors
and often profited from overcharging on the taxes.
Like Ben, he wanted to see the preacher, Jesus.
Maybe he thought that he would have been
more conspicuous by trying to fight his way
to the front of the crowd.
He decided to sneak ahead and climb a tree.
Imagine what Zacchaeus thought when Jesus said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly.”
“Oh, no! He’s going to let me have it, because I’m a tax collector, a sinner.” But Jesus didn’t let him have it. He said, “Today, I must stay at your house.”

What Good News! What very Good News!
Our God is not a God who shuns us because we are sinners. Our God does not look at us
and wonder where we came from.
Our God reaches out to us, calls out to us, the sinners.
God wants to dwell within us –
to come to be with us,
to be the Father in our house,
and we, then, are to be the children of God.
When the ravages of sin throughout the week
have cut us down to the smallest size,
we return here each Sunday to get a glimpse of Jesus,
and what do we hear?
“Come down this aisle,
today I must stay at your house;
I must be within each of you.”
And we, like Zacchaeus, come down quickly
and receive him with joy.”


But it must go beyond what we do here each Sunday.
How does this Gospel passage make a difference
in what we do during the week?
Jesus is not here bodily to sit in the homes of those
who must endure personal or family problems.
He is not here to accompany those in the workplace
who seem to be unable to live out his teachings in their jobs. He is not present in the flesh to counsel
those who struggle with the continual onslaught
of worldly attractions.

We are prompted to ask,
“How can Jesus be present to these people;
how can he stay in their houses?”
Or rather the question should be:
“Who will make Jesus present
for the modern-day Zaccheuses?”
And the answer?
“We must be Jesus for each other,
we must stay in each other’s houses.”

“When they saw this, they began to grumble,
saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner!’”

For most of our lives,
we have tried to avoid people like Zacchaeus.
We have worked to leave Zacchaeus
and everyone like him far behind us.
We would look for a “Zacchaeus-free” neighborhood.
It’s far easier to pray for sinners
and to pity them than to eat with them.
It’s far easier to tell a sinner how to repent
or to write a check to some social service agency
than to live next to a Zaccheus.

Our being called by Jesus
does not put us in an exclusive club,
or give us the keys to a gated community.
Our faith journey, like Jesus’ journey into Jericho,
offers us a challenge.
The challenge to keep our eyes open,
to see beyond the comfortable friends at our sides,
to see those whose needs may make us uncomfortable. Walking with Jesus means
that we can no longer just pass through the crowd
to find a safe place.

We must see and reach out to those in need of healing:
Be a source of strength for a parent
who has been weakened by his sin of neglect for his children. Be a source of change for a child
whose life is guided by her hate for a parent.
Be a source of comfort for a friend
unsettled by his own anger in the workplace.
Be a means of conversion for a young adult
focused on the pleasures of the flesh.
Look up into that sycamore tree
and see our friends and ourselves longing to be healed.

If we follow Jesus on his journey,
truly make it our journey,
if we are Jesus for others on that journey,
the family resemblance will truly be unmistakable.
We will be easily recognized as children of God

* “Do You Know Who His Daddy Is?” by Zig Ziglar in “Stories from the Heart” compiled by Alice Gray , Questar Publishers, Inc. Sisters, Oregon 1996 p 230

Monday, October 25, 2010

Homily for Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral - October 24, 2010
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14

The Pharisee and the tax collector both prayed to God.
Jesus said,
“I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former.”
“Justified” as the late Fr. Jerry Britt put it, “means
put in line with God, just like our print is lined up
or justified at the left margin on a page.”
The tax collector’s prayer served to put him in line with God,
The Pharisee’s prayer did not.
Why was the tax collector's prayer
better than the Pharisee's prayer?
Because the tax collector actually made a connection with God,
but the Pharisee was only making a connection with himself.
You can’t put yourself in line with God,
unless you have made that connection.
The Pharisee’s prayer only served to put him in line with himself.

Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish community in Palestine.
They were Jews who collaborated with the occupying Roman forces
by collecting taxes from fellow Jews.
They often collected more than the law required,
pocketing the extra and further angering their countrymen.
They were openly sinful.

The Pharisees were just the opposite.
They were the most respected members of the Jewish community,
the elite, THE undisputed religious leaders of the nation,
never being openly sinful or admitting their sinfulness.
And yet, Jesus praises the tax collector's prayer
and criticizes the Pharisee's prayer,
the prayer of the religious leader.


Throughout the centuries, in fact, the tax collector's simple prayer,
"O God, be merciful to me, a sinner," has been taken up
as a complete summary of Christian spirituality.
"O God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
There are even cases of monks who made this prayer
the only words that they spoke,
and they reached heights of sanctity by means of it.
This prayer makes a connection with God
because it recognizes two things.

First, it acknowledges God's greatest quality
in relation to fallen mankind, his mercy.
The Latin word for "mercy" is “misericors” which comes from
the Latin "miseria” meaning “wretched” or “miserable”
and “cor” meaning “heart".
Literally, “mercy” means to take someone else's wretchedness
into one's heart. That's what God does with us.
He takes our most wretched part to his heart.

Second, the tax collector's prayer
recognizes his need for that mercy.
There is the important connection his prayer made to God.
The tax collector accuses himself of being a sinner,
someone who has selfishly abused God's gifts
and has used, instead of loved, his neighbor.
The Pharisee’s prayer begins with “O God, I thank you ….”
But it is an empty “thanks” because it doesn’t thank God
for anything God has done.
The Pharisee thanks God for what he, the Pharisee, has done –
that he has not been like the rest of humanity,
certainly not like the tax collector.
The Pharisee's prayer shows no knowledge either of God's mercy
or of his need for God;
rather, it is an exercise in narcissism, in self-admiration.

God wants to connect with us, but he can only do so if we let him,
and we can't let him if we don't think we need him.


We can tell that we are falling into the Pharisee's trap
when we are over-concerned about being recognized
for the good things we do.
A true story about two youth groups illustrates this point.
St. Mary's Parish was located a couple streets down
from St. Joseph's Parish.
Since they were so close to each other,
the two youth groups from the two churches
were often competing with each other.
They played sports against each other,
tried to outdo each other in food drives,
and had become intense rivals in just about everything.

One Saturday, the youth minister at St. Mary's
organized the kids into "disciple teams" and challenged them
to go out and serve others in the community.
The theme for the activity was: "Do what Jesus would do."
So St. Mary's youth group fanned out into the neighborhood
and started serving.
One team washed cars for free.
Another team visited and performed for
the residents of a convalescent home.
At day's end, all the teams reported back at the parish.
One team described how they had gone to serve an old widow
who lived close to St. Joseph's parish.
When St. Joseph’s parish,
their rival, was mentioned, everyone groaned.

"We mowed grass, raked leaves and did yard work for her,"
said one of the students.
"And after we finished, she invited us in for lemonade
and we all prayed the Rosary together.
And then she said to us,
‘You young people from St. Joseph's
are always doing such nice things for us old folks.'"
"Oh no!" said the youth minister.
"She thought you were from St. Joseph's?
Well, I hope you set her straight and told her
that you weren't from St. Joseph's, but from St. Mary's!"
"Well, no we didn't," said the team leader.
"You told us to do what Jesus would do, didn't you?
We decided that Jesus would just keep his mouth shut."

What matters to a Christian
is not being considered better than everyone else,
as the Pharisee thought,
but being close to Christ, as the tax-collector discovered.
It's remembering our need for God,
not acting as if we could do just fine without him.

[Illustration adapted from "Hot Illustrations"
copyright 2001, Youth Specialties Inc.]


Today's Gospel passage is actually the second time
in Luke's Gospel that Jesus says,
"whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus must really want us to get that message.
But it is not an easy message to get.
The Pharisee in Jesus' parable thought he was doing great.
Others did also.
He went to the Synagogue every Saturday.
He prayed his prayers.
He didn't commit any big, scandalous sins.
He really thought he was on track for a gold medal from God.
But he wasn't.
In fact, he was heading in the completely wrong direction.
He thought that he was so good
that he was doing all the right things on HIS OWN.
In fact, in his eyes, that is what made him SO GOOD.
But he was blinded to the invisible sins of arrogance
and vanity, sins that are not overt and thus easily seen.

The tax collector's sins were more obvious, easier to recognize.
He cheated and extorted and bribed.
Those were sins you could see.

So, how can we recognize our sins that aren’t easily seen,
the invisible sins of how we regard others?
Christ's parable tells us exactly how:
by looking squarely at our thoughts about other people.
Do we see every person in the world as loved by God?
Do we see that this means
that His Son died to offer salvation to every single person?
Do we really understand that His love and His mercy
have no limits.

As Christians, followers of Christ,
those trying to be more Christ-like,
we are called to that same universal respect and love –
even for the people who get on our nerves,
even for those that let us down,
for those who make our lives miserable.

If we look into our hearts and discover
that we don't have that universal respect and love,
that we do entertain vindictive, self-righteous thoughts,
and if we look at our actions and discover that we play favorites,
that we take pleasure in criticizing others,
if we see these problems as our being unlike Christ –
then we can say thanks be to God!

Because then we will know
that we haven't been blinded to these sins.
We will then be able to pray like the tax collector,
aware of our need for God's mercy,
and confident that his mercy will never run out.

Patterned after material take from the website for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Friday, October 15, 2010

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Ttime – Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Henry Parish - October 17, 2004
Exodus 17:8-13 - 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 - Luke 18:1-8

Jesus was a master story-teller.
Sometimes the parables he used were easy to understand.
Their truth was apparent, the treasure of insight obvious,
like coins lying out in plain view on the sidewalk.
At other times Jesus left not only his enemies scratching their heads,
but also his friends and disciples.
There are parables that leave us confused and bewildered,
wondering if we heard Jesus correctly.
There have been a string of parables on recent Sundays.
On the surface, today’s parable seems to be easy to understand.
Jesus said that it was about prayer.
At first glance, the story could be about our prayers of petition
about what we ask for,
about how we should be like the widow,
persistent in our prayer to God.
AND then, we ask the standard questions:
“Where is God in this parable?
Where are we in this parable?”
The easy answers are that God is the Judge and we are the widow.
But is it really that easy? I don’t think so.
The treasure of insight in this Gospel passage requires
that we dig below the surface.
There are no coins out on the sidewalk today;
We must get out the shovel and the metal detector.


I suggest that we enter into the Gospel story,
and take a good look at the characters
of whom Jesus is speaking.
If we were Israelites of those days, we’d have certain expectations.
And neither the judge nor the widow,
as Jesus describes them, would fit these expectations very well.
The judge is a far cry from what was expected of a judge
as chronicled in the Hebrew Scriptures.
In those times, judges acted on behalf of God.
Standing in God’s stead,
they were to seek justice, show no partiality, take no bribes.
This judge has no fear of God, let alone human beings.
Initially, he is unmoved by the widow’s pleas.
It appears that this seemingly powerful, stern judge is then afraid
that the poor defenseless widow will come
and give him a black eye.

No less startling is the portrayal of the widow.
Widows were grouped with orphans and aliens
—that is, those most vulnerable,
those most likely to be outcasts.
Widows were without finances and without social status
and were at the mercy of their closest male relative.
Jesus’ widow is far from this description.
She boldly faces the judge,
demanding justice on her own behalf.
There is no male relative doing her bidding.
She is relentless in her pursuit.
The judge has no change of heart;
he gives the widow what she wants,
only because he wants to be rid of her.
The final comment that the judge is afraid she will strike him
turns the story inside out, upside down.
This is what Jesus intends.
God is consistently at work to shake us out of our complacencies.
Jesus intends to jolt us into a new way of seeing.


Let’s begin with considering
who best comes closest to imaging God in this parable.
Certainly not the judge!
This judge neither fears God nor respects people.
He does not hear and respond to the cries of the poor.
He acts totally contrary
to what the psalms and the prophets say of God.
In Sirach Chapter 35, God is not deaf to the cry of the poor;
God judges justly and affirms what is right without delay.
If the judge were the God figure,
then the story would suggest that,
if one were to badger God enough,
one could eventually wear God down and get what one wants,
that God would be fearful that we would harm him.
God is not like that at all.
We do not need to wear down God.
God is ever aware of our worries and our needs AND
sympathetic toward them.

Let’s consider that Jesus has cast the widow as the God figure.
God is the one who is in relentless pursuit of justice,
who desires only the right and the good for his people.
Seen in this light, the message of the parable is
that when a person doggedly resists injustice,
faces it, names it, and denounces it until right is achieved,
then one is acting as God does.
The persistence of one apparently weak widow
achieves the victory for justice.
God is persistent, and
for us to be more like God, we too must be persistent.

And where do we find a lack of the fear of God,
a lack of respect for human beings,
those who are slow to act against injustice?
In the world around us – there’s the image of the corrupt judge.
So the images are not God and us, but us and the world around us.
And where does prayer come in?
Recall that Jesus did say that the parable was about prayer.

The word pray is from the French word
meaning to entreat, to implore.
These words have a sense urgency about them.
Urgency means no time wasted—time is short.
Yes Jesus is saying that our prayer, like God, like the widow,
must carry this urgency to act,
to press forward, to endure, to be persistent.
And about what are we to be persistent?
Persistent in bringing about the reign of God,
persistent in naming injustice,
persistent in confronting injustice.
And we are to persist no matter the enormity of the challenge.
The powerful systems of injustice in the world,
like discrimination in all its forms,
like militarism that serves only the powerful
and economic injustice can be dismantled.
Not all at once.
The judge, remember,
was not converted from his egotistical hard heartedness.
However, the widow won a small victory.
Powerful systems of injustice are dismantled step by little step.
God asks for our faithfulness.
Our job is persistence and trusting in God.
The parable represents God asking us to persevere in God’s ways.
That is how the world will be transformed,
that is how we have made the progress we have made
in the area of racial discrimination,
that is how we will make progress in the pro-life movement.
That is how we will make progress toward world peace,
That is how we will make progress in the war on drugs,
poverty and abuse in its various forms.
It’s not about prayer alone, but about praying and acting.


It’s not just our perseverance in asking God to change the world.
Our perseverance in prayer does not change God;
our perseverance in prayer must change us,
cause us to act differently.
It will not come easily;
there is danger that we will grow weary.
Prayer must lead to action on behalf of God
for the good of our sisters and brothers,
actions that seek to make the reign of God visible.
Jesus demonstrated what the reign of God looked like by
defending poor people,
raising the status of women,
raising the status of aliens,
performing healings and exorcisms,
preaching the reign of God.
His mission was to make the reign of God present
in the world, in his person and in his teaching,
and to invite people to experience the liberation it presented.
Such is our mission as well, our prayer in action.
We are to persistently make the reign of God visible
by all that we do and say in our daily activities,
whether that be making a business deal,
answering the telephone,eating dinner with our families,
taking an evening of recreation.
We must evaluate everything we do by asking,
“How does this preach the Word of salvation,
the word of freedom and justice?

When our prayer truly brings us around to this view,
rather than the one of acting only out of fear or discomfort,
then the world’s answer to God’s call for justice
will not be slow.
The justice of the kingdom will come speedily.

Must we persevere in prayer? Yes, for sure.

Perseverance because God has not given us the justice
we think we deserve. NO!
Perseverance because we have yet to give to God
the justice he deserves.
Perseverence because we have not yet been transformed
by our prayer into the agents
that will help to bring about the kingdom of justice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral Parish October 7, 2007
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 Luke 17:5-10

Let’s have a little review; it’s part of my teacher mode.
Last week we heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel.
It described just how difficult it is for the rich to get to heaven.
Did it make you decide to give away all you had to become poor?
I doubt it.
The week before, it was praise for the squandering and dishonest servant.
Would you now applaud when you learned that your neighbor
had to pay back only 50% of his mortgage,
while you were held responsible for the full amount of yours?
I don’t think I would. I’d probably complain.
The week before that it was the father forgiving his prodigal son.
Would you be able to forgive a son or daughter who
deserted you and wasted his or her inheritance
on a lifestyle of unworthy acts. Not very easily.
And from the week before that:
Have you been working on being last, so that you can become first?
Jesus said that the last will be first and the first last.

This section in Luke’s Gospel contains a string of difficult teachings
that the apostles were having to deal with
as they were traveling with Jesus.
Is it any wonder that they said, “Increase our faith?”
They were asking for help to follow the teachings.
We, too, often find the same difficulties with following Jesus.
Like the apostles, we might also plead with the Lord,
“Increase our faith. Help us to follow your teachings.”


And what did we hear today as the response from Jesus?
It seems to be a put down,
Jesus seems to be very critical of the apostles’ faith.
It is as though Jesus is saying,
“If only you had just the least little bit of faith, you’d be fine.”
The apostles plead with the Lord for help,
and he seems to give a sarcastic answer.

There are people who are rich, like the rich man last week.
Their riches can be a roadblock to heaven,
but they just can’t take that leap of faith
that says that they will be alright
if they divest themselves of a major portion
of their riches for the good of others.
They cling to the roadblock; they may not even recognize it.
Some have difficulty with going out on the limb
that sees the good in what someone else has done.
It’s a limb that might darken their self image.
Some can’t let go of a grudge in true forgiveness of another;
letting go would be interpreted as a sign of weakness.
Some always have to be first; it seems necessary for survival.
We, like the apostles, plead, “Help us to follow your teachings.”

It is not always something within us.
It’s “out there” around us also.
We have seen the ruin of the lives of many
at the hands of those with guns, knives or other lethal weapons.
We are well aware of the destruction and violence of war.
October is Respect Life Month.
We are reminded that we have witnessed the ruin of the lives of many
at the hands of abortionists, at the hands of executioners
and at the hands of those who promote assisted suicide or euthanasia.
We have experienced the misery
of post-abortion mothers and fathers,
the misery of the friends and family of victims of capital punishment,
and the strife among families of the victims of euthanasia.
We have witnessed the clamorous discord
brought on by street crime, war, abortion, capital punishment
and by assisted suicide and euthanasia.
We question why God could allow such violence to happen.
Like the apostles, we pray, no we beg, for an increase of faith.
And we, like the apostles, hear the response that seems to say,
“Y’know, if you had just a little bit of faith, you would be fine.”
How do we understand Jesus’ response?
Let me illustrate with a story.


*It was a Sunday morning in a little chapel in South America.
As Mass was beginning, a not uncommon occurrence took place:
a band of men armed with machine guns came out of the jungle
and forced their way into the chapel.
The priest and the congregation were very afraid.
The men dragged the priest outside to be executed.
Then the leader of the group
came back into the chapel and demanded,
“Anyone else who believes in this God stuff, come forward!”
Everyone was petrified. They were frozen. There was a long silence.
Finally, one man came forward
and stood in front of the leader and said,
“I love Jesus.” He was roughly taken outside to be executed.
Several others came forward and said the same thing.
When no one else stood to be identified,
those standing were escorted out by the leader.
After the sound of machine gun fire, the leader came back in
and told the remaining congregation to get out.
“You have no right to be here!” he said,
and with that he herded all of them out,
where they were astonished
to see their pastor and the others standing.
The priest and those who stood up
were ordered back in the chapel to continue with Mass,
while the others were angrily warned to stay out.
“Until,” said the leader, “you have the courage
to stand up for your beliefs!”
and with that, the gunmen went back into the jungle.


The apostles were asking for an increase in faith;
it was as though they wanted more.
And Jesus’ response about the mustard seed was
that the amount of faith is not the important issue.
Jesus was saying that even the smallest amount of faith
is very powerful.
It is the character of the faith that is important.
Even the smallest amount of faith
put into action is very powerful.
The apostles had the right amount of faith;
they just had to put it into action.
That is what the last part of the gospel is all about,
the part about plowing, tending sheep and serving at table.
Faith gets its character by how it is put into action.
Faith must include standing up and taking action based on beliefs.
Instead of asking for more faith,
the apostles should have been asking for help, for the courage,
to put their faith into action.
This should be our petition also.
God is always there for us with the help to put our faith into action.
We all have that small seed of faith. We must use it.

If you are rich, give of your riches to those who are poor.
You will be amazed at what you can accomplish with your generosity.
Recognize the good in others, even though they may not be perfect
like you may think you are.
You will be amazed how it will help to clarify your own self image.
Open yourself to forgive those who hurt you.
Make it a win – win situation of rebuilding a relationship.
Check out being last.
It’s never a struggle to be last;
it’s a struggle always trying to stay on top.
Stand up against violence in its many forms,
especially violence that threatens innocent life.
Remember, God is standing also, right there next to you.
This is how we plow the field,
tend the sheep and serve at the table.
Faith is not a list of rules or beliefs that can be expanded.
Faith is a virtue, and, like any other virtue,
it must be put into action
A teacher once told me that faith was our response to God
who is ever inviting us into a relationship with him.
Our response to this invitation is action,
our action supported by the grace of God.

*Story taken from W.J. Bausch, “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers” Twenty Third Publications Mystic , CT 1998 #121 p 271

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral - September 26, 2010
Amos 6: 1a, 4-7 1 Timothy 6:11-16 Luke 16:19-31

Amos brought God’s word to the Israelites:
“Woe to the complacent of Zion,” the couch potatoes on beds of ivory,
dining on the finest of the lambs and the calves,
drinking wine by the bowl,
anointing themselves with expensive oils,
and not caring about the collapse of Joseph.
They would be the first in exile
and their comforts and excesses would be done away with.
This was a rather discouraging message for the listener.
And Luke tells us of the parable Jesus presented to the Pharisees:
The rich man was oblivious to the poor man, Lazarus,at his door;
Lazarus was poor, covered with sores
and starving for the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
The rich man did nothing for Lazarus and was condemned to hell.
In hell, he couldn’t even get a drop of water to cool his tongue;
He couldn’t get any extra help for his sinful brothers either .
I can’t imagine that the Pharisees were thrilled to hear this parable.
Another discouraging message.
Just the other evening,
I was meeting with the seven deacons
ordained this past April in this diocese.
Msgr. Neuhaus and I are conducting
a practicum in preaching for them.
We were having our first meeting
and I was going over some general principles.
One of them was: “Preach the Good News.”
As deacons we should never loose sight of our charge
to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Today’s readings present quite a challenge for this deacon!
Where is the Good News?


Woe to the complacent, those with all of the comforts,
those who are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph.
“Joseph” here is a word used to represent the Israelite nation.
Some did not care about what was happening to their nation,
as long as they could revel in their own comforts.
Amos was presenting a stern warning from God:
Straighten up or your revelry will come to a swift end
as you will be the first taken into exile.
Could this have been the exile of hell? Maybe.
Jesus aimed his parable directly at the Pharisees,
And he did that for a reason.

They were like the rich man only caring about themselves.
The rich man didn’t even see Lazarus at his door.
The Pharisees didn’t acknowledge those who were not like them.
The Pharisees only saw themselves.
Jesus was showing them that if they continued
in their self-righteous practices,
they would meet the same fate as the rich man;
they would be condemned to hell for all eternity.
There would be no way back.

The self-righteousness, the better than thou attitude, of the Pharisees,
would lead to the finality of hell,
for the divide between heaven and hell is to large to be crossed.
When the rich man did finally see Lazarus,
he was in heaven, in the arms of Abraham, but it was too late.
Jesus did not want the Pharisees
to meet the same fate as the rich man in the parable.
I’m sure he hoped that they would change after hearing the parable.


We are hearing this,
because God doesn’t want us to meet that same fate.
We must not be so tied up in our possessions and comforts
that we lose sight of those in need around us.
It is very easy to lose sight of our responsibilities
to our brothers and sisters.
We think that we need every penny that we own;
we worked hard for every cent.
We can’t afford to contribute to the DPAA, to Catholic Charities,
to Care Net, to the New Hope Center
or other agencies that serve the needy.
At times we may be too preoccupied with ourselves,
too possessive of what we have
to share what we have with those in need.
And the parable tells us that this can be a very serious matter.
The parable tells us that it can lead to hell.
Some may have decided that there really is not a hell,
that “hell” is an outdated concept.
I think that the words of the Gospel are pretty clear.

Furthermore,our care for others
can clearly extend beyond the monetary.
It could be: “Oh! I’m too busy to care
about helping my daughter with her homework.” or
“I don’t need to hear your sad stories, I have enough of my own.”
Yes, these readings are about our caring for others,
about our giving of ourselves for others.
And it is clearly a serious matter, directly related to our salvation.


I am especially intrigued by the latter part of the Gospel,
when the rich man asks Abraham
to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers
that they might not commit this same sin.
Abraham told the rich man that the brothers
had all the information they needed
in the Word of God, the law and the prophets.
All the brothers had to do was open their ears
to really listen to God’s Word.

The Pharisees had that same Word of God,
but their ears were closed to those parts about really caring
about others rather than themselves.
The reply of the rich man was,
“Abraham, you don’t understand, the brothers will listen
to someone who has returned from the dead.”
And Abraham’s response was,
“If the brothers will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
they will not be persuaded, if someone should rise from the dead.”

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they also
would not be persuaded by God’s own Word,
which they highly regarded and
which they used selectively to justify their own self-righteousness.
The Pharisees took a blind eye
to those parts of the law and the prophets
which taught that they were to be charitable to others.
The Pharisees were so entrenched in their self-righteousness
that they would not even recognize
that a person had miraculously returned from the dead,
let alone be persuaded to change their thinking by such a person.
Here Jesus was predicting that the Pharisees
would not recognize His own resurrection.

And we? Are we like the Pharisees? In some ways, yes.
Because of original sin, we tend to focus on ourselves.
That is what Adam and Eve did;
they were convinced that they could be god (small “g”)
better than God could be God (capital “G”).
We enter the world with the same tendency.
But we are not condemned to hell immediately
for our self-centered sins of commission or omission.
Our redemption is at hand.

We too have the law and the prophets to guide us;
we must listen to them.
We also have the words, the advice, the counsel,
of a person who came to fulfill the law and the prophets,
a person who did in fact rise from the dead.
Therein lies the Good News of today and every day.
We may at times have the attitude of the Pharisees,
that we are better than others,
that we have the final word and it’s our way,
that we have it all figured out on their own.
This is the very type of attitude can lead us to hell,
but we are not condemned to that. We can rise above it.

By our baptism we receive the graces to overcome that attitude.
We become followers of him who rose from the dead.
If we truly follow Him,
if we love God with all our hearts, our minds and our souls,
if we follow the second commandment
to love our neighbors as ourselves,
and if we recognize our own sinfulness
and express our sorrow for our sins,
we will avoid the horrors of hell,
the torment of being forever separated from God.
We will then enjoy the everlasting life of heaven with God.
That is the Best News.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

9/19/04 – St. Henry Church - Deacon Jerry Franzen
Amos 8: 4-7 1 Timothy 2: 1-8 Luke 16: 1-13

*Donna McLean tells the story of shopping with her eight-year-old son who
spotted a toy that he wanted but did not have enough money to buy it.
He lacked a dollar.
Of course he asked his mother for the extra money.
Wanting to teach him some fiscal responsibility, she explained that
she couldn’t just give him the needed dollar.
He would have to wait until he had saved it.
In a brilliant display of resourcefulness, the boy reached in his mouth,
and to the astonishment of the onlookers,
he pulled out a loose baby tooth and gave it to his mother.
The tooth fairy is generous these days. He got the toy.


Today’s Gospel, the so-called parable of the unjust servant
and the associated collection of sayings,
is one that poses many questions to those who attempt to interpret it.
Chief among them is the question,
“Why does Jesus make the point that the master praised the squandering steward
after the steward has curried the favor of the debtors by reducing their debt?”
“And the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently.”
It would seem that the steward was further shirking his duty
by not collecting the full measure of the debts,
and thus continuing to squander the master’s money.

Allow me to add a bit of information to the story
that might help to make some more sense of it.
One interpretation maintains that stewards
functioned somewhat like tax collectors in those days.
Tax collectors collected the debt of taxes
owed by the Jews to their Roman masters.
Tax collectors regularly added their fee to the tax bill;
this is how they made their salary.
Sometimes they added excessively large amounts to increase their salaries
and to thus unfairly tax the Jews.
Tax collectors were despised by the Jews,
not only because they collected tax for the Roman Emperor,
but also because they often cheated their fellow Jews.

Most probably the steward, who was squandering the master’s money,
was likewise looking out for himself.
The amounts owed by the debtors were probably inflated
by the steward, so that he could be sure to get his cut.
And, he might not have always been returning the master’s full cut to him.
This may be why he had been reported as squandering.

In this light, we can see the prudence in what the steward did.
It wasn’t just a matter of his resourcefulness
that he wanted to make some friends that might be able to help him later in life,
but it might also have been his resourcefulness
that led him to relinquish his fee by reducing the debts.
Maybe, just maybe, he truly deserved the acclamation that he was now prudent,
because he decided that he valued the love and compassion
he should have for the servants AND THEIR LOVE AND COMPASSION FOR HIM,
more than he valued his own desire for wealth.


Prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues of the Church.
The four are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
The term cardinal comes from the Latin “cardo” meaning “hinge.”
On these virtues hinge all the other lesser virtues.
And prudence is called the “rudder” virtue, because it “steers” all the others.
To live a moral life one must know what is good AND
have the intelligent discernmentto translate
the general demands of morality into concrete actions.
That intelligent discernment and its translation to action is prudence.
Prudence requires really good thinking, darn good thinking.
St. Thomas Aquinas said that prudence is the virtue
which enables us to do the right thing at the right time.
The steward did the right thing at the right time,
both for the debtors and himself.

Because we squander the gifts God has given us, when we sin,
Jesus is teaching us that we must be prudent
like the steward who reduced the debts.
We must seek to do the right thing at the right time.


Fr, Lou Guntzelman of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,
in a recent article listed some practices that can help us
to become more prudent.
I will mention four of them.

1. We must have the facts; we must inquire,
look at all sides of a situation.
The steward realized that there was more
than just his relationship with his master.
He knew he needed friends;he saw the bigger picture.

2. We must think. Reason deeply.
While emotion may play a part,
acting solely out of emotion can be dangerous.
We may not be accustomed to the level of deep thinking required for prudence.
We may be used to making decisions based on slogans,
impressions and “gut feelings.”
We must determine with good reasoning
what would be good for ourselves and for others.
We must discover what love demands, what authentically expresses love,
love of self and love of the other.
I believe the steward was not just looking out for himself,
acting out of the emotion of self preservation.
I believe that as he thought the situation through,
he found a way that his actions could also benefit others.

If we are faced with what to do after we have been hurt by another,
we must listen to reason not emotion.
Emotion leads us to retaliation.
Retaliation adulterates love. Forgiveness authenticates love,
love of the other person in our forgiveness of them,
and love of ourselves in removing that burden of the need for retaliation.
When we take this view, it becomes simply prudent to forgive.

3. Don’t let fear be your enemy.
Some act impulsively without deeply thinking something through
for fear that they will be mired in complexity.
“Just make the decision and get it over with.”
Or, some do not follow a reasoned approach,
for fear of being out of step with others.
I believe that most couples who decide to live together before marriage
make that decision without much serious thinking,
because they are fearful of what will happen to their relationship,
if they actually tried to deal with all of the complex issues
that are raised by seriously considering
all the implications of their cohabitation.
On the other hand some couples make this decision,
because they fear that other couples will wonder what is wrong with them.

4. When in doubt, seek advice.
When we are unsure about our capacity to make a decision,
we must be open to seeking out someone we can trust,
not to make the decision for us, but to give input AND
to provide the confidence that will help to validate our decision.

In summary:
We must know the facts of the situation,
and the teachings of Jesus related to the situation,
and the teachings of the Church.
We must do some deep thinking;
take the reasoned approach, not the emotional approach.
This is how Jesus operated.
We might measure what we are about to do
against the question, “What would Jesus do?”
We must not let fear keep us from a decision, based on right reasoning.
Our faith in Jesus must be stronger than those fears.
If we need help, we must be open to seeking it,
either from those around us who can advise us, or from the Lord in prayer.

God wants us to be prudent,to make decisions that will ensure
that we do the right thing at the right time.
We cannot serve two masters: God and the world.
Some know only one master, the world.
It controls their decisions
and sadly they are often not the right decisions.
We know another master: God.
He has given each of us gifts, among them our intellect,
which we must use to make prudent decisions.
Each of us must look within ourselves,
know where those “little loose teeth” are so that we can pull them out
and use them at the right time.

A former Yale University chaplain once said,
“Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds.”

*Story taken from “Humor for Preaching and Teaching”
E. K. Rowell and B. L. Steffen Eds. Baker Books, Grand rapids MI, 1998 p 145

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral - 9/9/07
Wisdom 9: 13-18b - Philemon 9b-10, 12-17 - Luke 14: 25-23

In the Gospel of several weeks ago,
Jesus explained that as a result of his coming into the world there would be division of households father against son, mother against daughter,
not peace, but division.
That was a challenge for the reader, listener and the preacher.
And now we hear Jesus say that, in order to be a disciple,
a person must hate father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life.
Imagine you were one of the listeners in the crowd around Jesus.
You might be thinking: “How does he expect to gather a group of followers,
when he sets out such hateful requirements?”


We know that being a disciple of Jesus is not easy.
There are some Churches that seem to have no requirements,
nothing need be denounced or set aside,
just come and everything will be rosy.
Not the Catholic Faith; there are requirements in the Catholic faith.
Some things must be denounced; Jesus must take priority over everything.
All Christian religions, if they are truly Christian, must require
that Jesus be given priority over all possessions
and all other wants and desires.
But in today’s Gospel
Jesus is telling us just how difficult it might be,
if one chooses to be his follower.

He is saying that it might even come down to choosing
between Him and family.
Following Jesus might even require rejecting family.
The love we must have for Jesus,
the degree to which we must give ourselves to Him
must be absolute, taking priority over
giving ourselves to others in our family.
At times, others, their wants and needs, must be rejected
and this will be interpreted by them
as contempt for them or hatred for them.
We, ourselves, may even interpret our setting them aside
in favor of Jesus as our hatred for them.
And it’s not just anybody, Jesus was speaking of, it is family.
You might say that in applying his requirement to family,
Jesus was citing the worst case scenario.
We are often reminded that being a disciple of Jesus is costly.


Following Jesus would require that a wife denounce
her husband who is addicted to drugs.
If she intervenes, turns him in, in order that he get help,
he may interpret this as her lack of love for him,
as her hating him, and she may also have to deal with the question
of her love or hate for him in the process.
Such instances of so-called “tough love” are seen as hate.
“You hate me and want to see me punished?”
Discipleship requires that parents reject and correct
inappropriate behavior of their children.
Children, especially teenagers,
often characterize the correction meted out by parents,
usually the denial of privileges,
as an indication of their not being loved, or as their parents hating them.
Some parents shy away from such corrective actions,
because of the fear that their children will hate them.

Discipleship requires us to take a stand for the protection of all life
from conception to natural death.
Those who protest against abortion are seen as “hating”
the women and men who seek the convenience of an abortion.
Not helping them to be rid of the “inconvenience” of a pregnancy
is interpreted as a type of hatred toward them.
And even if it be a brother or a sister who is involved,
we must take the same action –
turn away from those who would have an abortion
and from those who promote abortion.
As disciples we must keep turned toward God.

And the result of our rejecting others
in favor of our faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus
may be that they will feel rejection.
Our “hatred” of them will result in their “hatred” for us.

The more I worked on this homily, the more I realized
I could list many more “hateful” situations.
And it was depressing, because “hate” is such a strong word.
Yes, Jesus used the word “hate;”
yet he tells us to love others as he has loved us,“unconditionally,”
to love others, our family, our friends
even those who have hurt us, our enemies.
And here he is saying that, if one comes to him
without hating those closest family members, that person cannot be a disciple.
How do we resolve this?


I believe that the resolution comes in recognizing that
we have a problem with what we mean when we say
that we “hate” a person.
The same is true with regard to the word “love.”

When we say that we love a person,
are we saying that we love what that person does
or do we mean that we love that person for who that person is?
When Jesus was saying that we must hate family members,
was he really saying that we should hate some things
that family members might do
or did he mean that we should hate family members for who they are?

I will just bet, that the people of Jesus’ times
had that same problem of expressing their love and hate.

We say that we hate the 9/11 terrorists.
But Jesus tells us to love your enemies.
The Jewish people hate Hitler.
But Jesus tells us to love those who persecute you.
Many hate those who killed little Marcus Feisel .
But Jesus tells us to love those who would kill you.
Some hate the mother who had a sexual relationship with her son’s friend.
But Jesus tells us to love those who would do such terrible things.

We hate what the terrorists of 9/11 did, but we must love them.
What Hitler did is to be hated, not the man.
What people did to Marcus Feisel is to be hated, rejected,
but the killers are to be loved.
The immorality of extra marital sex is to be hated, not the people involved.

A wife can love her husband and hate his addiction.
A parent can love a child and hate some behaviors.
We can hate abortion and love those who have suffered one.
We often find that making the distinction between the person
and what the person does is very difficult.

To be a follower of Jesus you must reject sin, reject the act of sinning,
even if it is the act of a family member.
We must reject the sinful acts of others,
no matter how close to us they might be.
It is certainly more difficult to reject the sinful acts
of a brother, a sister, a parent, a child, a spouse.

It is most difficult for us to reject the sinful acts of ourselves,
to hate what we may have done.
Jesus said the disciples would even have to hate their own lives,
hate the sin in their own lives, turn away from themselves in favor of Him.
That may actually be the worst case scenario.

The cost of discipleship is high; we who have committed to it,
must recognize sin in all of its forms and turn away from it,
reject it even if this causes problems with family members,
reject it even if it involves rejecting things that we have done.

Mahatma Gandhi was a political and spiritual leader in India,
a promoter of peace and non-violence, who was assassinated in 1948.
He was not a Christian, but a Hindu.
Yet he knew how a follower of Jesus can both hate and love.
He put it this way: “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homily for the 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral – August 29, 2010

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 Hebrews12:18-19, 22-24a Luke 14:1, 7-14

For each Sunday,
the first reading and the Gospel are somehow connected.
It is said that listening to the first reading should prepare us
to hear the message of the Gospel reading.
These readings for today are exemplary of this trait.
The first reading told us:“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.”
You can be great and humble at the same time.
And in the Gospel we heard Jesus’ words:
“Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted”
If you are humble you will be lifted up;
you can be humble and have your spirits lifted too.
So today we are to hear God’s message on humility.

As I was preparing this homily, an item from my youth ministry days came to mind.
At our meetings with the high school youth,
we always had a time for praise and worship,
a time for a mixture of charismatic prayer and song.
One of the popular items we sang was called
“Humble Thyself”. It was short and to the point.
The words are:
“Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
and He, and He,
will lift, will lift
you up higher and higher.
And He, and He,
will lift, will lift you up.”
that was repeated that several times in succession.
If you want to hear it sung you can find it on “You Tube,”
Singing that simple mantra always put me in a very prayerful mood.


It has also helped to make me more comfortable with the concept of humility.
Not all are comfortable with this word.
One might suspect that there is something phony about it,
striking a pose, pretending to be less than we consider ourselves to be.
Jesus was telling those who sought the higher places,
those who fancied themselves better than the rest and took the higher seats
to be careful that they might be put in their place,in a lower seat.
And it might seem that Jesus was telling the guests that,
if they really wanted to look good,they should take the lower seats,
so they COULD look good by being asked to move up.

But by all of this,
Jesus was actually making fun of the whole process of snobbery
that determined who sat where.
He was pointing out the two possibilities for error:
either make a mistake by thinking too highly of oneself
and taking a seat too high,
OR by thinking too lowly of oneself and taking a seat too low.
It was a no win situation of trying to figure out where one should sit.
Jesus’ comment of
“You know you might just be better off if you underestimated your place”
was not a direction for the guests to underestimate their places,
but a way for Jesus to make light of the whole
“who is better than whom” thing.
He was saying
“If you want to play this silly game of being ranked
and then seating by status,
you might play it safe and underestimate your status.
At least you won’t be embarrassed.”
Notice also Jesus’ tongue-in-cheek comment,
“Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
Like that would be important. Right!
It was a silly game.
Do you think that Jesus cared where he sat
or was concerned about the esteem of the others at the table?

This whole business of how we rank ourselves,
how we see ourselves is the root of the problem of understanding humility.
Humility is not tied up in how we see ourselves
and how we then portray ourselves.
Humility is all tied up in what God sees in us -
how our lives play out in God’s eyes.
Remember the first line of the youth meeting song:
“Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.”
In the sight of the Lord.

Certainly humility is not trying to inflate our image,
trying to make ourselves seem to be better than we actually are,
always seeking the best seats at the table, so to speak.
But what Jesus also wanted us to understand is that
humility is not the other extreme either.
It is also not always being subservient to others,
not always acting in a subdued manner.
It is not always being glum and never accepting a compliment
and portraying an image of ourselves as having low self esteem.
That is not humility either.
Being humble is not foregoing your own achievements
and always doing the wishes of others.


In this parable,
Jesus didn't condemn the desire to do and achieve great things.
He actually encouraged his host to seek a reward:
"... the one who humbles himself will be exalted...
For you will be repaid at the resurrection..."
Humility is a matter of being just who you should be
using the gifts that God has given you.

Being humble means having the only solid
and lasting foundation for real self-esteem that we can have:
knowledge that our lives and our happiness are gifts
from a God who knows us through and through and loves us unconditionally.
If we base our self-esteem on anything else –
such as our own achievements or other people's praise –
sooner or later our self esteem will collapse.

Humility is all about having a realistic image of ourselves,
just as Jesus had a realistic image of himself.
Was he humble? Most certainly!
Was he always subdued, subservient and glum
and acting like he had no self esteem? Definitely not!
It’s not about how we might unrealistically see ourselves;
It is about how God sees us in accordance with the gifts he has given to us.
It’s all about who we are and what we are as God has made us.

If we recognize that all the gifts we have are from God,
that God is responsible for all that we can do
and that these gifts are not of our own doing,
then we can’t very well be thinking
that we deserve a particular place or rank.
True humility rests in what we do with what we have been given.
This is what God wants to see in each of us.

SO, if we understand that God has been so good to us
to give us the most precious gifts he has given to us,
then we really cannot be glum, walking around like a “zombie”
with a “Woe is me.” attitude
and trying to convince others and ourselves
that we have no place or only the lowest place at the banquet.
Once again, that is not humility.

Truly humble persons see themselves as God sees them:
1.They recognize that they can do nothing without God’s gracious gifts,
2.They know that they each have been each abundantly gifted by God,
3.These gifts are cause for great joy within them and
4.They use their gifts to glorify God, for their own salvation
and in service to their brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homily - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Henry Parish - August 22, 2004

Isaiah 66:18-21 Hebrews12:5-7, 11-13 Luke 13:22-30


Last weekend, my wife, Tena, my daughter,Dawn,and I
went to a reunion of a portion of my wife’s family in Wisconsin.
Several parts of today’s readings remind me of my wife’s birthstate.
The diversity of peoples expressed in the first reading prompts me
to recall that Wisconsin was settled by a variety of nationalities
and social classes, although the greater part were German farmers.
The focus in the second reading on discipline
certainly speaks to the classic picture of the staunch,frugal,
hard working German heritage.

And in the Gospel, Jesus told his followers that they had to do more
than just claim that they ate and drank in his company.
Wisconsin is well known for good food,especially cheese and brats
and for all manner of good things to drink.
Some have said that the Badger State is like the kingdom
of which Jesus spoke.
They proudly proclaim Wisconsin as “God’s Country”

But there is another aspect of the dairy state that came to my mind
as I read today’s Gospel.
One of the more famous attractions in Wisconsin is an area
known as the Wisconsin Dells,an area along the Wisconsin River.
In this area, rock formations rise steeply along the banks of the river.
In some places the formations rise up right in the middle of the river.
These formations resulted from layers of sediment
that were deposited by the glaciers that once traversed this area.
The differently colored strata of rock can be clearly seen
as the formations rise out of the water.
I understand that the word “Dells” comes from a French word “dalles”
which means layers.

On a boat trip along the river one can see the rock up close.
At some places on the trip,the boat will pull into a cove
in the rock,and people can disembark and literally walk back
into the rock formation along a narrow pathway in a vertical crevice.
The crack is only 2-3 feet wide at some points on the path;
the rock walls along the crevice are 30 to 50 feet high.
Of course, there is gift shop at the end of the path.
Walking this path brings into focus Jesus’ command to
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”


In the 11th, 12th and, this, the 13th chapter of Luke’s Gospel,
people bring questions to Jesus as he is on his journey to Jerusalem.
In response to these questions,Jesus taught the people
about what was necessary to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
He taught them how to pray.
He taught them about true blessedness
– hearing God’s word and acting upon it.
He taught them to beware of the leaven
of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
He taught them how to be faithful and prudent stewards.
He taught them about the dangers of storing up riches.
He taught about repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
He used parables to teach about the kingdom of God,
All in the course of three chapters.

And now in today’s reading Jesus is asked
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
“With all of these restrictions, how can we do it;
How can we enter into the kingdom?”

And Jesus response is that the gate is narrow:
many will not have the strength to enter.
And the people say, “Why won’t the master let us in?
We have been taught by you; we have eaten with you.”
And Jesus replied that the master will say
that he doesn’t even know where the people are from.

There are three items:
1. Why is the gate so narrow?
2. What strength is required to enter this narrow gate?
3. And why did the master say that he did not know
where they were from?
Not that he didn’t know them,
but that he did not know where they came from.


The gate to salvation is narrow; it is along a very narrow path,
that of a follower of Jesus.
It can’t accommodate a person who carries a lot of worldly baggage.
If I had tried to carry a large backpack and a big suitcase
through that crevice in the rock at the Dells,
I would not have made it.
I would have been stuck at the narrowest points.
If we are attempting to follow the path of Jesus
and carrying along a lot of worldly baggage,
baggage like greed, pleasure and power seeking,vengeance and hate,
this baggage will impede us in our journey.

If we have become so inflated with our own self image,
so taken by ourselves at the expense of our neighbor,
we won’t make it through that narrow gate.
But Jesus says that we must strive to enter.
Jesus was implying that we can do it,
but only if we have the strength.

Maybe I could have been strong enough
to lift my hypothetical suitcase and backpack
and to somehow squeeze through the rocks.
But Jesus is not talking about physical strength,
he is talking about spiritual strength,
the strength of will to make the commitment
to untie that worldly baggage,
to let loose of it and leave it behind.
It’s the strength by which we know that we can make it
in this life and into eternal life without our continuing
to seek to fulfill our every worldly desire.
In a sense, it’s the strength by which we seek to become weak.

It reminds us of what Jesus said:
“Unless you become like little children, …”
Little children can get through the narrow gate easily;
they don’t have all the extra baggage.
For us it takes strength.
And just being taught by Jesus and eating with him
were not enough.
God has to know where you are from.
Just coming here and being taught by the Word
and being nourished with the Eucharist
at the table are not enough for our salvation.
When we come to the final accounting,
it will be a matter of whether God knows us.
True, God knows everything,
but here Jesus was talking about knowing as humans know.

We really get to know someone by how they act,
by what they do on a regular basis,
by what they do in special situations.
How one acts is based on one’s mindset,
one’s principles and values and one’s upbringing.
We say, “I know where you are coming from.”

It’s not the number of classes, workshops, retreats
or Bible studies we have attended,
not the number of festivals,
committee meetings or celebrations one has attended;
it’s how we have shed the baggage of ourselves and our sin,
how we have trimmed away those things
we think we need for strength
so that we can walk the narrow path
that leads to that narrow gate.
God will know us by how we have walked that path.
He will know us by where we are from,
by the path we have taken.

This week our school started;
the theme of the opening Mass was that this beginning
of the school year was the beginning of a journey,
a journey through teaching and learning,
a journey through gatherings,
some of which will be meals,
truly a journey of actions that follow the pathway
in preparation for the narrow gate.

This is an occasion for all of us,
especially parents who can be examples
of that strength of will to follow Christ
to be examples of the lifestyle that says,
“God, this is how you will know me.”

We hear the teaching voice of God each Sunday;
we are fed at his table each Sunday.
May we all today resolve to begin again that journey,
to leave here today on this week’s segment of the path,
to trim our worldly baggage
to act in such a way that God will say
“I know you,
your actions show that you are one of my children”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – St. Paul Parish  August 12, 2001
Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews11:1-2, 8-19 Luke 12:32-48


An atheist was fishing from a boat
in the middle of a large very peaceful lake.
All of a sudden the Loch Ness monster rose out of the water,
flipped the boat up in the air
and was poised with mouth open
to eat both the boat and the atheist.
As the atheist flipped through the air, he yelled,
“Oh my God, help!”
Just then the scene froze with the atheist in mid-air.
In a loud deep voice God said,
“I thought you didn’t believe in me.”
The stunned atheist replied, “God, give me a break.
Until seconds ago,
I didn’t believe in the Loch Ness monster either.”

We say that we belong to the Catholic religion.
Some might say that we are of the Catholic faith.
Others might say that they follow Catholic beliefs.
The words “religion”, “faith” and “beliefs”
are sometime used interchangeably,
to the point that one might ask
whether there is any difference between them.
One of my teachers offered his distinctions between the three.
He seemed to present them as separate levels of development.

Our beliefs are those things to which we give assent.
Things we say “yes” to.
Yes, there is an all-powerful and all-loving God.
Yes, Jesus is the Son of God.
Yes, we have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Examples of what we believe.
It seems that our atheist just about got to this level.

Religion is the set of practices
within the surrounding organization of a community
by which persons worship God
and seek a closer relationship with God.
The Mass, the seven sacraments, the rosary, the sign of the cross,
the Liturgy of the Hours, Bible study;
these are some of the elements that make up our religion.
It is doubtful that our atheist was at this level.
I don’t think his “Oh my God, help!” was actually a prayer.

It seems that faith is more of a process –
the process whereby items of belief and religion determine
the way that we live our lives.
An example:
God is such a loving God that he will never ask me
to do something for which he has not
given me the necessary gifts and talents.
I believe this; I agree that it is true.
To the extent that I have faith in it,
I am then open to whatever God calls me to do.

Another example:
Bible study is an important element of my religion;
I strive to learn more about the Scriptures.
To the extent that I have faith in what
the scriptures speak to me,
my study causes me to live my life
in a more Christ-like manner.


In the reading from the book of Wisdom,
we heard that the Israelite nation
not only knew of and believed in their covenant with God,
but also that their faith in it
allowed then to wait in courage
for the promised salvation.
Their faith determined how they lived their lives.
Of course, there were times
when they were out of touch with their faith,
and they acted accordingly then as well.

In the reading from the letter to the Hebrews, we heard that
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence for things unseen.”
Abraham’s faith is realized in his obedience to God’s call
to move to an unknown country.
Abraham’s faith is evidenced by his ability to father a son
at an age when he and Sarah
were seen as being incapable of conceiving a child.
Abraham’s faith is realized in offering up Issac
in the hope that he,Abraham,
would continue to receive God’s promises of salvation.
Abraham’s faith determined how he lived his life.

And in the Gospel Jesus instructs us on how to be faithful.
Like the faithful steward,
we must be continually about the tasks given us by the master.
We must be doing God’s will.
God’s will must determine how we live our lives.

This must be the central question –
How does our relationship with our God
determine what we do on a daily basis?


This week stem cell research has been the important topic.
The sanctity of life is at issue.
Some agree with the President Bush’s decision
to respect the sanctity of life by not providing support
for research that would involve
the future killing of embryos.
Others would have liked a broader stance
that includes not supporting research on cell lines
obtained from the previous killing of embryos.
In either case,
the fundamental belief in the sanctity of life is at issue.
Where this leads us as a nation in stem cell research
is of the utmost importance,
but we should also see this
as an opportunity to look inwardly:

How does my fundamental belief in the sanctity of life
affect the way I live out each day?
We must each respect our own lives as being holy.
Are there practices of eating, drinking, smoking and inactivity
that are harming our bodies and are a drain on our lives?

We must not forget that respect for the sanctity of life
begins at home.
We must treat others lives with the sanctity we believe in.
Where are our efforts to nurture the lives of those around us?
We must go beyond the family, to reach out to the poor,
the marginalized,
those whose lives must be blessed
by our presence and our assistance.

Mother Theresa was one of the most outspoken
on the sanctity of life.
And it wasn’t just beginning of life issues.
Much of her efforts were spent on increasing
the length and quality of life of children and adults.
She was once asked by a reporter
how she was able to deal with the fact that,
in spite of all her work
and the work of her order in India,
there remained right in Calcutta a high level of poverty,
terrible living conditions
and a high mortality rate among the population.
The reporter questioned just how she could consider herself
to have been successful in her efforts.
Her reply has become quite famous and is often quoted.
It went something like this:
“The Lord doesn’t require me to be successful, only to be faithful.”

For us, being faithful means that our beliefs,
our religious practices,
our very relationship with the Lord
must determine how we live out each day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

St. HENRY CHURCH 7/25/04

Genesis 18: 20-32 Colossians 2: 12-14 Luke 11: 1-13

Prayer! Abraham had a direct, forward, no-holds-barred
conversation with God.
And Jesus teaches those of us who have trouble
striking up a conversation with God
a more formal way to pray in a monologue.

Jesus’ formula goes something like this:
We pray that God’s name be hallowed,
In this we express our own reverence for God.
We also include our own subservience to God,
that we wish to be in his kingdom,
not that we demand that God be in our kingdom,
This is what might be called the praise part
of Jesus’ formula for prayer.
Abraham included this element of subservience in his prayer:
“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord,
though I am but dust and ashes.”

Then we get to the petition part, the asking part.
We ask that we be given our daily bread
that we be forgiven our sins, as we forgive others,
and that we not be put to the final test.
Abraham petitioned;
he asked for mercy for the innocent of Sodom.

There is third segment to prayer: our listening for the answer.
Certainly Abraham listened to God’s answers;
One can tell that from the progression of Abraham’s petitions:
First 50? Yes. Then 45? Yes. Then 35? And so on.

Listening for the answer to our prayers!
That begs the question, “Does God answer our prayers?”
It seems that Abraham had it pretty easy,
He heard God’s voice directly with the answers.
We are not so lucky to hear God’s voice
with immediate answers to our prayers of petition.

I dare to say that each of us can recall an instance
where we have prayed for something
and not found our prayer answered with what we wanted.
It may have been something major
like a new job that didn’t come through,
or a cure for an illness
that eventually took the life of a loved one.
I had prayed that my mother’s
Parkinson’s Disease would be cured.
It only progressed further.
Or it may have been something minor that we prayed for:
a victory in a basketball game,
a new car,
a date for the prom,
times when we knocked and that door seemed to remain closed,
prayer without an answer.

The latter part of today’s Gospel is Jesus’ teaching
on how God answers our prayers.
Understanding this latter part can help us
to tune our ears to hear God’s answers to our prayers.
During a previous assignment at a parish with a school
at one of the school Masses, the passage that states:
“Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find.
Knock and it shall be opened to you”
was in the Gospel, probably Matthew’s version.
After reading the Gospel,
I walked down in the aisle among the 5th through 8th graders
and said, “It sounds pretty simple.
Whatever you want just ask God for it,
and it will be given to you. That’s what it said.”
I looked over at one of the fifth graders;
she had this disagreeing look on her face,
and was shaking her head.
I said, “You mean it’s not that simple?”
She just nodded her head in agreement.
It’s not that simple; and yet it is that simple.


*In today’s Gospel passage “God” is always referred to as “Father.”
Our God is there for us not as a power-figure,
but as One who loves us as a father loves his children.
as One who has our greatest well-being in mind,
One who seeks to have us become
all that we are meant to become.

Many of us as parents and all of us as children
have experienced “No”
to requests for things WANTED most,
for things we perceive as being NEEDED to live –
that new bike, car, dress, or computer.
And so it is also that God, at times,
says “no” to what we WANT,
even when it seems we NEED it to survive.
I really WANTED my mother to get better;
it would have meant a lot less trial and tribulation for me.
It would have made my life simpler; I NEEDED that.

Jesus states that a father would never give his children scorpions when they ask for eggs;
neither would a father give his child a scorpion
when the child asks for a scorpion.
You might say that our getting the answer we want,
is all in what we ask for.
Jesus tells us what to ask for:
our daily bread
(which actually means enough bread to get us through this day)
the forgiveness of sins,
and strength in the hour of temptation.

Basically, Jesus is teaching us to pray for those things
we really NEED in life –
what we NEED for life in this world and for the world to come.

It is not that the Lord is saying
that the WANTS of life are not important;
but the Lord is saying that the NEEDS of life
have a greater precedence over the WANTS of life.
God is always faithful
in making sure we have what we need -
what we need in order to share in divine life, in eternal life.
God will give us anything and everything we need
to become what we are meant to become, one with him.
The answer to my prayer was whatever it was that I need
to be able to deal with my mother’s Parkinson’s Disease
in a Christ-like manner.
Each of us in our own lives, if we reflect long enough,
should be able to see that,
when it appeared that God did not answer our prayer,
he in fact did answer it, and the answer was
“No, but I will give you what you really need
in the big picture of things.”


How God answers our prayers can be found in the statement,
“your kingdom come.”
To pray for God’s kingdom to come
is to pray that each of us will live according to the will of God.
God answers our prayers through our submitting to God’s will
AND through others who submit themselves to his will.
It didn’t read, “Give ME each day MY daily bread.”
“Forgive ME MY sins.
as I forgive everyone in debt to ME.”
It’s not just about me and God;
it is also about me and my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Could it be that God intends to answer our prayers
through the actions of other people?
What if THEY choose not to cooperate?
Could it be that God is answering other people’s prayers
through us and our actions?
What if WE choose not to cooperate?
Is it then a case of God not answering our prayers,
or a case of our not responding to God’s answer?

God is always answering with what we need,
seeking to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
It is only through the Holy Spirit
that we are able to respond to God’s answer to our prayers.

Here’s a little treatise I found on God’s answers to prayers
and some of his expected responses:

**I asked God to take away my pride, and God said no.
He said it was not for him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to make a handicapped child whole, and God said no.
He said her spirit is whole. Her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience, and God said no.
He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted. It’s earned.

I asked God to give me happiness, and God said no.
He said he gives blessings. Happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain, and God said no.
He said suffering draws you away from worldly care
and brings you closer to him.

I asked God to make my spirit grow, and God said no.
He said that I must grow on my own.
But I will be in heaven someday because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others as much as he loves me.
God said, “Ah, at last. You finally have the idea.”

I now pray that I can do in love for Christ
and for my brothers and sisters
whatever is needed for them.

May we each seek God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit,
accept the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives
and grow in God’s love for us
and our love for each other.

* Middle portion adapted from Homily by Jeffrey Kemper at the Athenaeum Preaching Website for 17th Sunday in OT Year C, July 25,2004

** Taken form “A World of Stories for Teachers and Preachers” by Willima J. Bausch #68 P 213.