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.