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