Saturday, December 31, 2011

HOMILY Mary, Mother of God January 1, 2012

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption by Jerry Franzen
Numbers 6:22-27  Galations 4:4-7  Luke 2:16-21


“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
Words that are quite familiar to us.
But not the words you would expect
at the beginning of a sermon by a Baptist minister.
Yet, these were the words used at the beginning of a sermon
by the Baptist minister, Rev. Peter Gomes,
delivered to his congregation at the Memorial Church
on the campus of Harvard University.
He used them to help to make the point that Protestants
are not sure what to do with Mary.
To those non-Catholics who do not know her,
she seems to be a Catholic and thus an outsider.
The story is told that when Dean William Ralph Inge,
a dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London,
the center of the Anglican Church in England,
died and went to heaven, Jesus came down
from God’s right hand and said,
“Ah, Dean Inge, welcome to heaven,
I know that you have met my Father,
But I don’t believe you have met my mother.”
There are, however, some signs of change.
There have been some reports of Protestant devotions
now including Mary,and of some Protestant churches
even having statues of Mary.

They may be beginning to realize
that they cannot fully celebrate the incarnation,
the coming of God among us as a human,
without also giving due consideration
to the woman who served as the means of this new creation,
the woman who was the bearer of God to us.

Just one week ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus.
Today we celebrate the woman
who was God’s instrument in that birth
This favored date of just one week after Christmas,
the octave, or the eighth day including Christmas Day
was at one time
the Solemnity of the Circumcision of the Lord.
In 1969, the Catholic Church decided to place
the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
on the octave of Christmas.
We have other Marian feasts such as:
The Immaculate Conception,
The Annunciation,
The Assumption,
all related in some way to Mary
being the Mother of God.
But this is THE FEAST of celebrating Mary
as the Mother of God.
After the change to
the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God,
Pope Paul VI asked that, on this day,
we also pray in a special way for world peace.
This aspect was emphasized for a number of years.
While non-Catholics may be learning “what to do with Mary,”
of course we already know.
But, today, is not the occasion to consider so much
what we or the Protestants “do with Mary,”
but rather what God has done with Mary.


God, having sent the angel Gabriel with a message,
interrupted Mary’s plan to wed the carpenter Joseph.
She was confused and afraid.
The scriptures say that
“She was greatly troubled at the saying or message,
and considered in her mind
what sort of greeting this might be.”
Mary joined a line of others in the Bible that included:
Moses, Jeremiah, Abraham, Isaiah,
All who were called in an unsolicited interruption
of their daily routines.
All, including Mary, wondered, “Why me?”

The angel said, “Hail Mary, full of grace.”
The message came to Mary
not because she had some special quality
of her own doing.
Mary was greeted by Gabriel, NOT JUST as who she was,
a simple peasant girl betrothed to a man named Joseph,
She was greeted as one whom she herself did not yet recognize:
the favored one, the chosen one,
the one full of grace.
The power of God,
moving in ways unknown yet not unseen,
confered on the simple woman of Nazareth
the grace sufficient to her new task as the Mother of God.
And how did Mary respond?
1. She was puzzled at what this visit by the angel might mean.
2. When she finds out that it means a birth, she is practical,
“How can this be, since I have no husband?”
3. She submits to the will of God;
she offers herself to fulfill a purpose that is not hers.
This is what God did with Mary; and what Mary did with God.
Today, we celebrate what God did with Mary;
and what Mary did with God.


And how does this relate to us?
In the second reading we heard that,
through God’s sending his Son, born of a woman,
we become adopted sons and daughters of God.
Mary is the Blessed Mother of Jesus and
our Blessed Mother as adopted sons and daughters.
Just as children look to parents for guidance and example,
we can look to Mary.
So you see, we have come back to the original question of
“What are WE going to do with Mary?” Emulate her.
It’s unlikely that we will be confronted by an angel,
or that any message we might get
will be as earth shattering as Mary’s.
But we must be a people of prayer,
persons who, in prayer, not only thank God
for all his goodness and ask for what we need,
but also in prayer seek to listen to his message for us
and respond to that message,
even when that message might interrupt
the comfortable routine of our lives.

And the question, “Why me?” might be interesting,
but the answer is of no consequence to us or God.
God does not choose us to fulfill his purposes
because of some special quality we have.
God chooses us for reasons known only to him,
and it is the choice that confers on us the special favor:
we call it grace.

We waste our time in seeking out
the special hidden, secret qualities
that determine why God does what he does.
For to be God means never having to explain why.
God does not choose for grace, but when God chooses,
grace surely follows.
To be “full of grace” is to be both disposed to the will of God
and enabled to follow it.

And our response? Often like Mary, we are puzzled.
“What does this mean?
“Lord, what is it that you are telling me?”
Evangelization? I don’t even know what that entails.
A religious vocation? What would that be like?
Teaching? How would I find out more about that?
Nursing? I don’t think that I can deal with blood.
Missionary Work? How would I deal
with being in a different culture?

And in the end Mary gives us that wonderful example of
“No struggle, no argument, do as you are told.”
It suggests that a mindless obedience and submission
to a powerful will
is all that it takes for faithfulness in the Church.

But Mary’s obedience is no more demeaning
than Christ’s obedience in the Garden
when he said, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
Mary has taken the power that God gave her,
and used it to do what God called her to do.
Bach wrote the music
that he was given the power to write.
Rembrandt painted with the gift given to him.
Mother Theresa did the work she was called to
and empowered to do.
Today is a day to ask “What are the graces that God has given
each of us in the coming year?”
I say “God has given” not “God will give,”
because there is no time frame with God.
All that we experience as God giving on our time scale
has been already given by Him.
Like Mary, it is our task to discover what God has given us
and how God can and will use our lives
in fulfillment of his plan of which we are a vital part.
Mary is the mother of our vocation;
we share with her the task of bringing Christ to others.
Such an opportunity and so great a gift we dare not deny.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral – NOVEMBER 6, 2011
Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Joni learned her first lesson in responsibility
the day she came home from school
and found that her guinea pigs were missing.
he rushed to her mother to ask about them.
“I gave them away because you didn’t take care of them,”
explained Joni’s mother.
“But, Mom, I did take care of them.”
“Joni, I gave them away ten days ago.”

Sound familiar? Listen to these;
see if any of them resonate with you.
“The doctor told me to get more exercise;
I think that I can work it into my schedule next month.”
“I’ll visit my homebound aunt
the next time I happen to be in her neighborhood.”
“I need to apologize to my sister;
I’m waiting for the opportunity to present itself.”
“After Christmas is over,
then I can make a New Year’s resolution
that I will be more careful about how I spend my money.”
“I know that I have a problem with anger,
one of these days I’ll talk it over with God.”


Where are we in today’s parable? We are clearly the virgins.
The bad news is that none of us is assured of possessing a full supply
of all that it takes to enter into the kingdom of heaven
like the five wise virgins.
And the good news is that none of us is doomed
to not entering the kingdom of heaven, like the five foolish virgins.
But this parable is not so much about where we are
as it is about where we should be.
We should be aiming for the image of the five wise virgins.
And who is the bridegroom? Jesus.
We must be prepared for our meeting with our “bridegroom.”
Jesus is the bridegroom,
and we, the Church, are his bride to whom he gives his life.
When we carry our lamp to meet Jesus, how will it be burning?
Brightly with our faith in Him?
Brightly with our hope in Him?
Brightly with our love for Him?
Or will our lamps be flickering,
because our faith in Him
has not constantly shown in our actions?
Will our flames be very low,
because we have placed so little hope in His saving power?
Will our flames be out,
because we have not known Him well enough to love Him?


We must be prepared at all times.
We are made painfully aware of examples of “untimely “deaths.
The parable is reminding us that we cannot put off our preparation.
We can’t let it go.
We can’t ignore it for days like the guinea pigs.
We must be working constantly, because we meet Jesus constantly.
We prepare for our final meeting with Him
by how we meet Him on a daily basis.
The bridegroom that will meet us on that fatal day
is the same bridegroom we meet every day.
We must do our best to be carrying the light of Jesus Christ
throughout our lives.
We bear the light of Christ
when the homebound, the sick or and the lonely
are illuminated by our visits.
We bear the light of Christ to those in our families
who are warmed by our contrition and our forgiveness.
We bear the light of Christ to those in need in our community
who benefit from our generous use of our resources.
We bear the light of Christ to those who work with us
when we let them know that we stand ready to help them.
Remember what Jesus had to say:
“When you do these things for the least of my brethren,
you do them for me.”
We must celebrate all those everyday instances
when we, like the five wise virgins,
meet Jesus in those around us
with the light of Jesus burning brightly in us.
We prepare for that final meeting
by practicing consistently and constantly
how we meet Jesus in the everyday situations.


Several weeks ago my homily was about
some of the changes in wording that we will use in
the new Edition of the Roman Missal beginning on Nov. 27.
I would like to look at one other example today.
Just after the singing of the “Lamb of God”
the priest holds up the host and CURRENTLY says
“This is the Lamb of God
who takes a way the sins of the world.
Happy are those who are called to His supper.”
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word and I shall be healed”
In the new translation, the words said by the priest
as he holds up the host are changed slightly.
The subsequent words, said by the priest AND the people,
are changed more significantly. They are:
“Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof;
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
The new version is a more literal translation
of the Latin in the Roman Missal.
The Latin word “tectum” for “roof” is there in the Latin
and the words “anima mea”, meaning “my soul” are there.
So the translation is more literal.
Secondly, this prayer has a biblical origin.
In St. Luke’s Gospel we read that
Jesus received a message that a centurion, a Roman soldier,
whose servant was seriously ill at the centurion’s house,
wanted Jesus to cure his servant.
This was a Roman, a pagan, who had come to know Jesus.
Jesus started off to the house with the messengers.
But, when Jesus was near the house,
the centurion sent the following message:
“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy
to have you enter under my roof. ………….
but say the word and let my servant be healed.”
So the prayer is now more faithful to its biblical origin.
But what does the Church want us to understand with these words?

These are the last words said by all before receiving Communion.
We are preparing for a very special meeting with Jesus,
not the meeting of Jesus in another person,
but a meeting with Jesus himself, in his own Body and Blood.
Whether we use the current words or the new words,
they begin with our recognition of our unworthiness,
as the centurion recognized his unworthiness.
Though we are unworthy,
Jesus does come to us in Holy Communion.
Though the centurion had been a pagan,
he displayed tremendous faith and hope in Jesus
as well as a genuine love for Jesus.
And we must come to our meeting with Jesus in Holy Communion
with the same light of faith, hope and love
that was evident in the centurion’s request
sent in his messages to Jesus.
The new words of Jesus entering “under our roof” are
not only more literal in translation and
closer to their biblical origin,
but they also give us a clearer image of how
we should understand our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.
receive Jesus not as an item of food or drink but as a person.
We receive Him “under our roof”,
which covers our whole person,
to be a part of all that we think, say, and do,
just as some new person would be welcomed
into one of our households
and would become a part of all aspects of the household.
This type of welcoming of Jesus “under our roof”
expresses a much deeper sense of encounter,
and encounter of Jesus in faith, hope and love.
It is an encounter that should change the character,
the very heart, of that household.
It is an encounter that should change all that occurs
under the roof which is US.

Jesus’ entering “under our roof”
should effect us to the very depth of our being,
not just that WE be healed in some nonspecific manner,
but that we be healed to the depth of our souls.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homily on “The Changes in the Mass” 10/9/11

Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
Diocese of Covington, KY

Many of you know that during the week,
I teach Chemistry at Newport Central Catholic High School.
A couple weeks ago in my Chemistry 1 class
one of the students raised his hand and said,
“Can I ask a religion question?” I said, “Sure, go ahead.”
His question was,
“What is this I hear about their changing the Mass?”
So we spent about 20 minutes talking about the changes.
Some wanted to know if the Mass would be longer.
One asked, I think hopefully, if the homily would be dropped.
There are changes coming, but they are not major.
The changes will come into play
with the Masses on the weekend of November 27.
The order of the elements of the Mass will not change:
No new parts will be added, no parts will be dropped out,
all the same parts in the same order.


The changes are in words,
because we now have a new translation into English
of the Church’s official Roman Missal which is in Latin.
Some of us can remember how the Mass changed
as a result of the Second Vatican Council.
The pre-Vatican II Mass was in Latin throughout the world.
With the Second Vatican Council there were two areas of change:
First, the order of the Mass,
the set of actions that take place in the Mass, was changed.
Some new parts were added, some were deleted
some were rearranged and some were modified.
That all required a new Latin text, a new book, a new Missal.

If the post-Vatican II changes had stopped there,
the Mass would still be in Latin throughout the world,
with the current order of the elements.
In fact, the post-Vatican II Mass is still in Latin
for all to use if so desired.
However, translation of the post-Vatican II Mass
into the vernacular was permitted.
That meant that the Latin form of the new order of the Mass
could then be translated into
and used in each individual language.
That was done in English rather hastily about 1970.
A second English edition of the translation came out about 1975.
That is the edition we are currently using.
To get to our present point, there have been many, many changes
in the Mass over many, many years.

Some years ago, it was decided that a more careful translation,
using a greater variety of translation strategies was needed.
The third look at the translation was begun years ago,
And it has taken a good number of years to develop
and have it approved as the new third edition.
Once again let me emphasize that the Latin version
of the post-Vatican II Mass is not being changed.
It is SOME of the words of the translation that are being changed
and it is only for the English speaking countries.
The changes are widespread throughout the Mass.
They are in the words said by the priest,
the deacon and the assembly.
Some are in the private prayers said by the priest and the deacon.
You will not even hear these.
Many are in the prayers said out loud by the priest and deacon.
And some, not many, are in the words said by you or by all.
There will be cards in the pews for all parts of the Mass
that the people either sing or say with the new wordings.

While this may be an ideal time to review all the parts of the Mass,
I cannot do that in a homily.
Neither you or I could endure that.


But I would like to cover one important item
of background information: Jesus’s presence in the Mass.
We are in the midst of celebrating the Mass.
And who is the chief celebrant of the Mass,
Msgr. Neuhaus, Fr. Bach, Bishop Foys?
Jesus is the chief celebrant at each Mass;
it is his Mass, His Meal, His sacrifice
and Jesus is present in the Mass in four ways:
1.Jesus is present sacramentally in the consecrated species
of His Body and His Precious Blood, which we receive.
This is the presence of Jesus par excellance.
2.Jesus is present in the Word as proclaimed and preached,
which we hear.
3.Jesus is present in the priest,
who is the person who represents Jesus, in human form.
4.And Jesus is present in the assembly gathered here,
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst.”

All of that, Jesus’ Body and Blood, the Word of God,
the priest and deacon doing their parts
and YOU, the asembly, doing your parts,
all of that is aimed at our salvation.
It is critical and essential
that in order to have the fullest celebration of the Mass,
you do your parts well.


The reasons for the changes in words are several:
In some cases the aim is to be more faithful to the Latin.
In some cases the aim is to be more
faithful to the biblical origin
of many of the texts of the Mass.
In some cases the aim is to be more poetic
and pleasing to the ear.
I must say that I certainly would be a poor judge
of what is poetic.
I expect that most of the changes for poetic reasons
are in the prayers said by the priest
IN ALL CASES the aim is to make
all that is said more sacred and more beautiful
AND to make what we say
conform better to what we believe as Catholics,
because how we pray shows what we believe.

Let’s look at some examples of changes:
When the priest or deacon says, “The Lord be with you.”
The people currently say “And also with you.”
The changed response will be “And with your spirit.”
The priest’s “The Lord be with you.”
is a greeting from the book of Ruth of the Old Testament.
The Latin for the people’s response has always been,
“Et cum spiritu tuo.”
“Et” - “and”, “cum” – “with”, “spiritu tou” - “your spirit.”
The Latin word “spiritu” has always been there,
but our current translation does not include the word “spirit.”
I do not know why it was not included in the translation of 1975.
The word for “spirit” has always been included
in the vernacular translations in other languages,
such as Spanish – espiritu, French - esprit,
German - Geiste and Italian - spirito.
So the change makes what we say conform better to the Latin,
but there is a further dimension.
Why is “spiritu” there at all?
It is biblical.
In two of his letters, St. Paul wrote that the Lord
would be with the spirit of those to whom he was writing.
What is important about the concept of “spirit?”
Those who are ordained, deacons, priests and bishops,
receive by their ordination a special “spirit”,
a gift of the Holy Spirit by which they stand in for Christ.
They represent Christ in a special way by virtue
of the “spirit” they received at ordination.
So when “The Lord be with you” is said to the people,
the wish is for the presence of the Lord
in the assembly,
gathered as two or three in the Lord’s name.
Responding with “And with your spirit”
then recognizes and better expresses what we believe
in regards to the presence of the Lord in the ordained.

Now for some examples of changes in the Profession of Faith:
We now use the Nicene Creed.
With the new edition of the Missal,
the Apostles Creed can be used in place of the Nicene Creed.
Don’t worry, both will be on the cards.
At the beginning of the Nicene Creed, we say “We believe…”
That has been changed to “I believe…..”,
which is the correct translation for the word “Credo,”
the first word in the Latin version.
Because the Creed originated as a baptismal profession of faith
recited by the person (or sponsor of the person )
to be baptized, we have returned to the “I believe”,
which is more of a “speak for yourself” attitude,
that recalls the profession of faith at our baptism.

In the Nicene Creed we currently say,
“…..all things seen and unseen.”
We believe that God created all parts of creation
as visible and invisible by their very nature
and not tied to what some person has seen or not seen.
The new words are “…….all things visible and invisible,”
which states more clearly what we believe about God’s creation.

In the creed we now say,
“and by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
During those words ALL are to bow from the waist.
This bow is part of what all of the assembly currently should do,
not just those of us in the sanctuary,
but all gathered together bow during these words.
The wording change is, “and by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
Again, during these words ALL are to bow;
the action has not changed.
The direction to bow will be on the cards.
The former wording seems to imply
that God became man at the moment of the birth of Jesus.
By using the word incarnate, meaning “in the flesh,”
“in” – “in” and “carnate” – “flesh” Latin, “incarnatus,”
we better express the fact that
God did not become man just at Jesus’ birth,
but that God became man when he first took on flesh
at the moment of conception
“by power of the Holy Spirit.”

Personally, I think that the most important reason for the changes
that involve what the assembly says
(at least the ones I have chosen here today,)
is that they help us to better pray in words that express
what the Catholic Church believes and teaches
about the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

These certainly are not all of the changes,
but I hope that what I have said will give you
an introduction to the flavor of the changes and
provide some concrete examples
of why the changes have been made.
Remember all of the changes will be on a card
available for you to read, as needed at Mass,
and they do not begin until the Sunday Masses
of the weekend of November 27.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pro Life Mass Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption 10/4/11

Jonah 3:1-10 Luke 10: 38-42

Most Reverend Bishop Foys, I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts this evening. I am blessed and truly honored.

The first reading began with the following:
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”
That should prompt us to ask, “What happened the first time?”
What we just heard was the middle of the story of Jonah.
Jonah was a prophet,
one who brought God’s messages to the people,
messages designed to help the people to follow God’s will.
God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver such a message.
Nineveh was a large town, the capital of Assyria.
in what is now Iraq.
The Assyrians were the pagan enemies of the Israelites.
The evil of Nineveh had come before God,
and Jonah was to go there and preach against the evil.
Jonah didn’t really want to go to Nineveh.
After all, he was going into enemy territory
and he probably knew that the fate of many prophets
was death at the hand of those to whom they were sent.
So Jonah got on a boat going in the opposite direction,
was thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish,
the famous “whale,” and deposited back on land.
God was telling Jonah, “Not so fast! I’m in control here.”
Sometimes people do not get the message the first time.
I can understand that, I am a teacher.


So “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”
This time Jonah recognized God’s insistence and went to Nineveh.
His assignment was to tell the Ninevites
that they had 40 days to clean up their act
and if they didn’t, God would destroy the town.
Certainly, Jonah thought that he had a big task before him.
He expected three days of opposition or outright hostility.
But it turned out to be a one day job
and the message was heard.
The message was so clear and so effective, apparently,
that the pagan king ordered all in Nineveh to repent,
to wear sackcloth, even the animals, and to observe a Fast.
The evil of Nineveh was turned around, all the people repented,
and, God, therefore did not exert his wrath on the city.
End of today’s story, but there is the rest of the story.

After the conversion of the Ninevites, Jonah went into a funk.
He was angry with God that he let the Ninevites off too easily.
He thought that they should have had some punishment
for all the evil that they had embraced.
Apparently he wanted the pleasure
of seeing the Ninevites get their “comeuppance.”
He was envious of the mercy that God had shown to them.
Jonah was thinking his own need for vengeance
and his envy of God’s love and mercy for the evil Ninevites.
God explained to Jonah that forgiving the destruction of the city
and the people was not his, Jonah’s, responsibility,
but that it was God’s responsibility.
God elected not to kill the Ninevites and destroy their city.
After all, we know that God is Pro Life.

I see three elements in the story of Jonah that can be applied to us:
1. How do we answer God’s call?
2. What then are our expectations about our service to God?
3. What is our response to seeing God’s mercy in others
as we go about doing our work as a result of God’s call?


How many of us might react as Jonah did
when WE first feel God’s call to some action?
Is our response, “Oh! That’s not something I WANT to do?”
“And besides I don’t have the time or the energy for it.”
Or is it, “It does not fit MY gifts and talents?”
“I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to do something
for God and the Church, and FOUL IT UP.”
Does that ring true about any of us?
It is not about what we want.
It is clearly about what God wants.
Sometimes it takes a lot of discernment to get
the feel for what God wants.
But, God is persistent; God will keep after us.
Faith in God is the answer to
“Oh, I don’t have the time or the talents.
I could really make a mess of things if I got involved.”
If God is calling you to do something,
he will make the time for you
AND he will be sure that you are qualified.
There is a saying,
“It is not that God calls just those qualified,
it’s that he qualifies those he calls.”
God calls each of us to serve Him and
and he has already given us the qualifications we need.
Faith in God provides us with the confidence to answer God’s call.
As I look back, God had been calling me to become a deacon
for about ten years, before I finally opened myself
to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
and decided that I wanted to enter the formation program.
I had to get past what I wanted
and have the faith to accept what God wants.
The Holy Spirit was persistent,
and now I THINK that I have found what God wants.
This first part of the story of Jonah
should prompt us to ask ourselves:
“Are we open to the plan God has for each of us?”

The second point is that, as we carry out God’s call,
we may see that it is not always what we have expected.
Jonah found his task to be much easier
than he thought it would be.
In the end I have found that my vocation in the diaconate
is much more enjoyable and fulfilling
than I could have ever predicted it would be.
Again it requires faith, faith that
whatever God has called us to
will be joyful service to his people.

And thirdly, as we carry out our call, whatever that might be,
we should be experiencing God’s love and His mercy
and take great joy in that love and mercy.


We are gathered this evening for a unified purpose,
to celebrate life in the context of celebrating
God’s sending of His only begotten Son,
to live with us, to die for us,
and to live again with us in the Eucharist,
all for our salvation.
And, like Jonah, we have been called to a special purpose
by he Holy Spirit.
Some of us may have tried to turn away
from that call thinking that marching for life,
in Washington or in Mt. Auburn,
that questioning a woman’s right to choose
that volunteering at a pregnancy center
and other activities like that, are for others.

I wasn’t sure that I was equipped
to deal with the Pro Life issues.
My introduction was more than thirty years ago
at a meeting of More Life,
the student Pro Life group at Thomas More College.
I checked out one of their meetings
and decided that it was not for me at that time,
but that it was a fine cause for the students to pursue.
I understood and agreed with the Church’s teachings,
but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge.
It seemed to be an uphill battle
that I didn’t want to engage in.
0That all changed when I went on my first march in Washington.

I have found that working in the Pro Life arena
is so much more than marching in Washington
or at the abortion clinic.
If you are not sure whether God is calling you
to become more active in Pro Life work, parish or beyond,
you have taken the first step by being here this evening.
God will keep after you,
but probably not in the form of that big fish.

And, Oh, don’t we wish that our prophetic efforts
to convert the Pro Choice environment around us
would be as quickly successful as Jonah’s efforts were
in converting the Ninevites.
Ours, in the Pro Life Movement, is a much slower conversion.
While Jonah did not expect success in his prophetic work,
many, in the early Pro Life days,
may have expected a quick reversal
of the Roe vs Wade decision.
After all, we have a very clear message – the sanctity of life.
Ultimately, our success is assured, there is no doubt.
But, the opposition is strong and defiant,
even from some who profess to be Catholics.
Yet, we must have faith that we will succeed,
and know that it will be on God’s plan and not ours.
And let us not forget that what we do here this evening,
that the power of our prayer
is so very important in our role in God’s plan.
Lastly, whatever we do we must do it in light of God’s mercy
not envious that God’s mercy is for all, us and the opposition.
God’s mercy comes from God’s infinite love for all.

Whatever we do we must do it in love and mercy.
First, in love for all human life from conception to natural death,

but also in love and mercy for all who support abortion,
euthanasia and capital punishment,

in love and mercy for the victims of abortion,
men, women and children,

in love and mercy for those medical personnel
who have cooperated in performing an abortion,

in love and mercy for those who have assisted suicide,

and in love and mercy for those
who have carried out the death penalty.

All that we do must be done in charity,
especially charity for all who disagree with us.
That may be the most important part of our ministry,
for how we treat others speaks volumes.
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi,
who is known for his concern for all life,
especially his concerns for the quality of life of the poor.

There a is a story told about St. Francis
that I’m sure many of you have heard it,
but it bears repeating for everyone.
St. Francis told a companion that he was going out to preach
and he invited the companion to come along.
They went among the poor ministering to their needs.
When they had finished their work of the day,
the companion asked St. Francis
about the fact that during their day together
he had not heard Francis mention scripture once
or give any discourse on some theological topic.
Where was the preaching? asked the companion.
Francis’ answer was, “Preach always, use words when necessary.”

May we always preach the Pro Life message
in all that we say and in all that we do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12 Romans 8: 28-30 Matthew 13: 44-52

The kingdom of heaven.
There have been many attempts to describe it.
Articles and books have been written.
in the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples and us
about a person who finds a buried treasure.
on land that he does not own.
The person decides to keep the treasure safe by reburying it.
He is so happy with his find
that he sells all his possessions
to purchase the field and, therefore, the treasure.
And Jesus says that the treasure is like the kingdom of heaven.

The parable tells us that we are to find the same treasure,
keep it secure and joyfully do all that we can to possess it.
Notice that nothing is said
about the character of the person making the discovery.
It could be a person who has led a terribly wicked life,
not caring for others, even taking advantage of others.
Or it could be a righteous person
who was able to gather enough money
through the sale of his property to buy the field.
Since Jesus gives no information on the person,
one must presume that it makes no difference
whether the person seeking the kingdom is righteous or wicked.

I think that is a key element of the parable.
The treasure of the kingdom of heaven is available to all.

* But just what is the kingdom of heaven ?
Many have tried to describe it.
Clearly it is not a place somewhere “out there,”
some geographic area.
Elsewhere in sacred scripture,
Jesus has told us that the kingdom of heaven
is in our midst and in our hearts.
While the fullness of the kingdom
may be light years away (or maybe tomorrow;
after all, we know not the day nor the hour)
it is already planted within us
by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
It may be just a seed or a growing sapling,
but it is nonetheless rooted within us.
The kingdom of heaven has been likened to God’ grace
because God’s grace is within us
and our cooperation with his grace
is our participation in the kingdom.
Just as the values of the treasure hunter
led that person to “go for broke” for the treasure,
so also must our values, as the citizens of the kingdom,
lead us to seek the truest treasure,
the fullness of this kingdom
at the expense of all of our other desires.
We must take every opportunity to accept God’s grace,
to help us to become more like His Son, Jesus.


The treasure of the kingdom is there to be found by us,
undeserving sinners though we are.
God’s grace has been planted within each of us
for us to discover and nourish.
It is there, within us, God’s free gift.
We do not earn God’s grace by a certain lifestyle,
nor do we lose it by a certain lifestyle;
it’s a gift to all.

The Church speaks of two types of grace,
actual grace and sacramental grace.
The actual graces are those graces present to aid us
in every situation in our lives.
It is by God’s grace that we are able to deal with situations,
to forgive our enemies,
to heal others of their illnesses and their sorrows,
to care for those who cannot care for themselves,
to guide those who may be lost,
to defend life at all stages.
to ward off temptations.
For every situation God puts us in,
he also gives us the actual grace to deal with it.
It is by sacramental grace,
which we receive through the sacraments,
that we become members of God’s family,
that we come here each Sunday to receive the Lord,
that the married are able to give themselves to each other,
that the clergy are able to serve the Lord as ministers,
that we are strengthened in the face of sin and illness.
All of these graces help us to be more Christ-like
and to bring Christ more into our lives.
They are a gift for us to find, not something we earn.
Just as we would be joyful if we found a buried treasure,
so also we are joyful when we experience God’s grace.
But our joy is not complete in finding a treasure
that we possess for ourselves alone,
for our own exclusive benefit.
Our joy and God’s joy are complete in our receiving a gift
that we share.

In the kingdom of heaven,
parents forgive their children,
because they themselves have found
the treasure of forgiveness in our Maker.

In the kingdom of heaven
a friend helps to heal an angry heart in another,
because the friend has experienced
the gift of the healing presence of Christ
in himself.

In the kingdom of heaven
a nurse cares for the sick,
not so that she might be worthy of some earthly treasure,
but because she has experienced the gift
of the caring of Jesus on the cross.

A teacher helps his students,
not to merit an earthly treasure,
but because he has experienced the gift
of guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A priest prepares a couple for marriage,
because he has experienced the gift
of the marriage of Christ to the Church.

The field of the parable is composed of all of us;
the kingdom of God is truly in the field.
And we didn’t have to buy the field,
the field was bought for us by Christ on the cross.

Just who are we that God should provide us with this gift,
the gift of the kingdom,
the gift of grace,
the gift of however else we choose
to describe the kingdom?

What is it about us
that would prompt God to offer us such a gift?
This past week I heard the story of a psychology professor
who was doing a research project
wherein he gave some test subjects
a 3" x 5" card and a pencil.
He asked them to write on the card
their description of themselves.

Take a few seconds to think about what you would write,
if I asked you to do the same.
What would you write to describe yourself? (PAUSE)

When the professor asked this question of street people,
most of the responses were along the line of
“1’m a failure; I’m a terrible mother; I’m irresponsible.”
When he asked the same of his class of college students,
the descriptions on the cards were much the same:
failures, inadequacies, negative qualities.
What would you have you written on your imaginary card?
Would it also be much the same?

Too often we tend to characterize ourselves by our failures,
by our sins.
It makes me wonder
if we have forgotten our most important quality?
We are adopted children of God.
We are made in the image and likeness of God!
That is what God would write on each of our cards,
Made in my Image and Likeness! My Child!
It is our most important quality.
That is why God has presented to us
the gift of the kingdom of heaven.
We are the heirs to that treasure.

So it is not just a matter for the “old” law
of living a good life before God.
Now, we must bring from the storeroom the “new” law
of God’s gift of His saving grace.
May we figuratively sell all that we have
to make room for God’s grace.
And may we allow it to be our guide to the kingdom.

* This section partly based on Homily for 17th Sunday - Year A July 24, 2011 by Rev. Jeffrey M. Kemper The Pastoral Preaching Web Site, Athenaeum of Ohio,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Homily – Pentecost Year A June 12, 2011

Acts 2: 1-11 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 John 20: 19-23

The images of Pentecost:
the disciples gathered in the upper room in fear;
the frightening wind; the ominous tongues of fire.
Meanwhile there was the hustle and bustle
of the crowd outside; it was the feast of Pentecost,
the Jewish celebration of the first fruits of the year’s planting.
There were many different cultures, some enemies and
the chaos of many languages simultaneously;
In among all of this the disciples were speaking in tongues,
telling of the mighty acts of God
AND yet everyone was hearing of these mighty acts of God
in his or her own language.

This is how the Church, our Church, was born;
So today we wish “Happy Birthday” to all Christian Churches.
But today represents much more than just an anniversary.

I’ll explore two points:
What was the real essence of that day, Pentecost,
AND what does it mean for us?


The wonder of wonders, the miracles of miracles, was not
the wind and the tongues of fire.
The miracle of that day was understanding.
This is the essence of Pentecost;
we celebrate the fact that the many and diverse peoples
could all understand the message.
The salvation taught by and bought by Jesus,
which was in the process of being understood by his disciples,
could now be understood by all.

The gift of Pentecost overcame the curse of Babel.
At Babel,
the people were unified in their earthly ambition and pride.
There was a unity of purpose to frustrate God’s plan for salvation.
God’s plan was that the people should follow him.
But the people at Babel decided that the way to get to heaven
was to build a tower to reach heaven,
so that they could get to heaven by themselves,
without the help of God.
And they were determined to do so.
Their unity of purpose was broken by God
as the people were made captives of their own languages.
God made it so that each person spoke in a tongue
not understood by any others,
and the project of the construction of the tower failed.

At Pentecost, a diversity of culture was brought to unity of purpose
by the power to understanding
in one’s own language, accent, dialect, whatever,
the mighty works of God.
This unity of understanding did not diminish the diversity.
The people were still Medes, Parthians or Elamites.
They did not become less than they were,
but rather more than they were.
They heard that God was alive and active in the world,
and that God was eager that they, all of them,
should participate in His work of salvation.
The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
brought them together in a fellowship, a COMMUNITY.

God’s plan that all might be one,
one with him and one with each other,
was being carried out on Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of community,
the community of all Christians, all Catholics,
all of the Cathedral Parish.


What does that mean for us?
We, the Catholic Church, are also diverse.
Our ancestors could be German, Irish, French, Polish, Lebanese, Hispanic, Ukrainian, Philipino, African American, Vietnamese.
We might be lawyers, accountants, pilots, plumbers, electricians
doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists.
We are lay, clergy, religious, senior citizens, middle aged,
adolescents, infants, single, engaged, married, widowed.

We are a diverse parish, a microcosm of a diverse Church.
As Americans we occasionally celebrate our diversity,
Italian Fest in Newport, the Greek Festival in Cincinnati,
OctoberFest in Covington.
Yet this diversity, which we celebrate, can also be a curse,
a curse to maintain differences,
a curse that erects walls to hide behind,
walls we use to “protect” us from others.
We are diverse,
but we must remember that we are also brothers and sisters,
who share and hear in our own tongues
the mighty works of God.
It is BY the power of the Holy Spirit,
the spirit of understanding, fellowship and grace,
that we gather around the Lord’s table.
We are the modern Pentecost community!

This diversity and unity is taken up
in the familiar image of the Church
as St. Paul described in the Second reading of today
to the Corinthians.

We are each members of the Body of Christ, the Church.
We each hear God’s call in our own way.
We are each given our special part, to play,
just as each member of the human body
has a unique part to play,
the legs carry us along, the arms reach out,
the heart pumps the blood, the eyes send visual signals to the brain.
We are each equipped to carry out our particular form of service,
because we have each received,
the graces to do so at Baptism.
Those graces are made manifest in
what we know as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and these gifts were further strengthened in us
by the graces of the sacrament of confirmation.

The gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, council,
fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
Wisdom is a sense of what things are and what things are not.
By wisdom we can discern our TRUE abilities,
what we can and cannot do.

Understanding can enlighten us about the consequences
of our uses of our abilities,
especially consequences as related to others.

Knowledge assists us in determining what it is that we are to do,
just how we are to use our abilities.

Council assists the intellect in pondering,
in weighing different possibilities, in making decisions.

These first four gifts help our intellect to determine
what we might contribute to the Body of Christ,
how our contributions might affect others in the Body of Christ
what our role will be
and how that role might change in the face of different
modes of action.

Fortitude is the gift of strength,
the strength of a steady conscience in the face of evil,
and the strength of recovery when we fall into sin.

Piety encourages us to prayerfully listen to God
and live out what we hear.

Fear of the Lord helps us to have the proper respect
for the Great Giver and the Creator of all
and for all his handiwork in creation.

These last three gifts of the Holy Spirit describe the proper manner
in which we each carry out our roles in the Body of Christ


Several Sundays ago we heard Jesus say
that he came to be the Good Shepherd for us, his flock.
The next week he said that he was leaving us
to prepare a place for us.
But the Good Shepherd does not leave his flock.
On the week after that he told the disciples
that, where he was going, they knew the way.
They protested that they did not know the way.
Then he said that he would ask the Father to send an Advocate.
And last week we heard Jesus say
that he would be with us until the end of the age.
It seems a bit confusing.
How do we bring this all together?

Jesus is truly the faithful Good Shepherd,
always with us, his flock, the Body of Christ.
Yes, he bodily left us,
but still is with us as the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ.
He invites us to follow him
to become members of His Mystical Body,
and, yes, we should know the way.
In recent weeks, we have heard the path to salvation
laid out for us.
But,just in case the disciples may not have been paying attention,
and just in case we also might find difficulty
in following the path of Jesus,
He said that the Father would send an Advocate,
one who is called to stand by us to support us.
That Advocate is the Holy Spirit.
God is true to his word and unfailing in his love.
Through the power of the graces of the Holy Spirit,
God has given us the gifts whereby we can fruitfully
occupy that place reserved for each of us
in the community of the Body of Christ.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Acts 2:14a, 36-41 1 Peter 2:20b-25 John 10:1-10

Pat Livingston was spending an afternoon
with her four-year-old niece Claire.
Claire introduced Aunt Pat to all her stuffed animals and dolls.
She called each by name and described just when each one was born.
She told what each one had done,
times when they had been good and
times when she had to spank them.
She even pointed out the ones who never went to bed on time.

The next day, while Pat was at her home,
she received a call from her sister, Claire’s mother.
She said that Claire had drawn a picture
with four stick figure persons.
In one of the stick figures
there was a small circle on each side of its head.
Claire said that the four figures were her mother,
her father, her older brother and Aunt Pat.
The one with the extra circles was Aunt Pat.
Claire’s mother asked,
“What are those circles on either side of Aunt Pat’s head?”
Claire responded, “They’re ears. Aunt Pat really listens.
That makes me feel special.”


A thread I found woven through each of today’s readings
is “listening.”
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles
the people heard Peter say,
“Jesus, whom you crucified, is the Lord and the Messiah.”
The people must have listened, because their response was,
“What are we to do?”
Then Peter told them to repent and to be baptized,
to save themselves from this corrupt generation.
Many listened, accepted the message, and were baptized.

In the letter of the second reading,
Peter told those who where listening
that they were called to suffer for doing what is good.
When he further explained
that Jesus had suffered for the good of our salvation,
some who heard this and had gone astray
returned to the Lord, the Shepherd,
the Guardian of their souls.

And in a similar vein,
Jesus talked about the sheep following the shepherd
because they recognized his voice, listened and followed.
Three clear instances in sacred scripture
where the importance of listening is recorded.


We don’t know how Claire could tell that Aunt Pat was listening.
Possibly Aunt Pat nodded her head periodically.
Maybe Aunt Pat asked a question here or there.
Maybe she repeated back to Claire
a few things that Claire said.
These types of actvities, nodding, asking and repeating
can be the immediate indicators of good listening.
Somehow Claire just knew that Aunt Pat was listening.

In each of the instances from sacred scripture,
the listening was made evident by a response,
an action taken by the one listening.
In the first reading, the listeners asked a question:
“What should we do?”
The response was “Repent and be baptized.” and many did that.
Some returned to the Lord
when they listened in Peter’s letter
to his explanation of how Jesus suffered and died for us.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that we can follow him
only if we recognize his voice, listen to him and follow him.
The indicator of true listening seems to be is the action that results.

When Tena and I are working with a couple
preparing for marriage,
we use an assessment method called FOCCUS.
In that assessment,
each member of the couple is asked to agree or disagree
with a large number of statements
that cover a wide variety of issues.
One statement goes something like this
“My future spouse is a good listener.”
Of course in the ideal couple preparing for the ideal marriage
both parties should agree with that statement.
But we are real fallible people in real relationships.
When Tena and I find that one party, or both parties, of the couple
are in disagreement with this statement,
we usually ask what the evidence is
that the other person is not a good listener.
It’s usually some behavior that involves no action, no response.
“He doesn’t say anything when I want to talk.”
OR “She just clams up, when I want to clear the air.”
The evidence for the listening comes in the response,
the action that follows.

So, today we might at first blush be prompted to ask ourselves,
“What evidence is there that I listen to my spouse,
to my friends, to my children, to my parents?
How do my actions indicate that I have truly listened?”

But God’s message should take us deeper than that:
“What have I done lately that indicates
that I have listened to God,
the creator and provider of all?
What actions have I taken
as a result of my listening to Jesus’ words in scripture?
How have I responded to what I have heard
as the promptings of the Holy Spirit?”
This is what I have found as the focus of today’s readings.


In the first reading it was God’s call to be baptized and to repent.
We have been baptized,
but have we then really listened to our baptismal call
and lived out that call.
Are we working to make the lives of our children or our parents
more holy, or have we just left that as God’s work.
Have we helped those around us in the work place
to learn more about God by our example,
or have we just gone along with the crowd
leaving the spiritual development of others as God’s work?
Have we reached out to our needy neighbors as Jesus did,
or have we just left that to others with more money
and what we might consider more expertise.?
By our Baptism, we are qualified to step in for the Shepherd,
to be the shepherd for others.
We may have heard the message, but have we responded?
Have we truly repented of our sins;
have we heard the message of forgiveness
and taken the action of coming to the Lord
in the sacrament of penance to seek forgiveness?
If we haven’t, then we have not been listening.
After all, how could anyone
who has heard the message of unconditional forgiveness
not act on it?

Have we heard Jesus’ call to do what is good,
even though it may require our suffering?
Yes Jesus calls us as he called those around him
while he was here on earth.
Just hearing the voice of Jesus can be easy;
the apostles experienced it first-hand.
It’s the follow-up that is hard.
Even though the apostles heard the message first hand,
all but John deserted him
in the violence of his passion and death.
What evidence is there
that we have actually heard the message
and made the commitment to stand by Jesus
in those suffering around us?

The bottom line is:
Have we heard the voice of our Shepherd and followed him?
Or are we letting the voice of Jesus go in one ear
and out the other while we actually hear
and follow the voices of strangers
- strangers like
anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony?
It is more that just listening with our ears,
taking in information and storing it away in our brain.
It’s listening with our heart so that we can be changed,
so that we are prompted to take action accordingly.

So I wonder, how would Jesus draw a picture of us?
Would he put those circles on either side of our heads?
Would he see us “with our ears on?”
Would he be able to say
“Oh, those people in the drawing,
they are the flock from Mass at the Cathedral,
and they really listen
to the message of the Good Shepherd?”
Would Jesus continue by saying,
“I know that they really listen,
NOT because they nod in agreement a lot
NOT because they repeat the message back to me
NOT because they question the message,
but because they take the message to heart
and act accordingly?”
Like Claire, Jesus really feels special when we really listen.

Monday, February 28, 2011


By Deacon Jerry Franzen February 27, 2011 Cathedral
Isaiah 29: 14-15 1 Corinthians 4: 1 - 5 Matthew 6: 24-346

There was once a rich man who knew he was about to die.
He had worked hard,
but he rarely thought about eternal life and Christ's Kingdom.
All he remembered from childhood religion classes was
that there was fire in hell and streets paved with gold in heaven.
He had accepted the fact that he was going to die,
but he didn't like the idea of leaving behind
all his hard-earned wealth.
So he converted all his assets into gold bars,
put them in a big bag on his bed,
and lay down on top of it to die.
He had decided that maybe if it was so close to him when he died,
it might just have a chance of going along.
Soon afterwards, he breathed his last.
When he woke up,
he was at the gate of Heaven, bag in hand.
Saint Peter met him and with a concerned look on his face said,
"Well, I see you actually managed to get here
with something from earth!
But unfortunately, you can't bring in that bag.
Remember, you can’t take it with you."
"Oh please, sir," said the man.
"I must have it. It means everything to me."
"Sorry, my friend," said Saint Peter.
"If you want to keep that bag,
then I'm afraid you'll have to go to, you know, the other place.
You don't want to go there, believe me."
"Well, I won't part with this bag."
"Have it your way," returned Peter.
"But before you go, would you mind if I looked in the bag
to see what it is that you're willing to trade eternal life for?"
"Sure," said the man. "You'll see. I could never part with this."
Saint Peter looked in the bag and then, astonished,
said to the man, "You're willing to go to hell for...pavement?”


Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah
tells us of God’s love for the Israelites,
who were in exile in Babylon as slaves to the pagans .
Their lives were miserable.
They were sure that God had forsaken them,
that he had totally forgotten them.
Isaiah was telling them that God had not forsaken them,
that he loved them.
He used the image of the most powerful force of love,
that of a mother’s love for her child,
to describe God’s love for his people.
“Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child in her womb?”
Isaiah likened God’s people to children in God’s womb.
“Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
The message is that
God’s love is more powerful that a mother’s love for her child.

The second reading and the Gospel reading give some direction
on how God’s people should respond to God’s love.
St. Paul told the Corinthians
that they should be trustworthy servants.
Being a trustworthy servant meant that
they were not to be concerned about how others judged them,
only about how God would judge them.
They were not to be swayed in their behavior by how others,
the non-Christians,
might look upon them and ridicule their practices.
They were to be concerned only about how God would judge them,
because only God knew the whole picture
of the circumstances and motives
that controlled their actions as God’s servants.
In this passage St. Paul focused on what they should not do;
they should not be swayed
from their faithfulness as Christians
or worry what the non-Christians might think of their actions.

In the Gospel, we heard more of the same, not to worry.
Don’t focus on the things of the world.
But Jesus also gives his followers the positive side:
He told them what they should be doing:
they were to “Seek first the kingdom of God
and his righteousness”,
and, while they are doing that,
all things will be given to them.


God loves us also as his chosen people.
He will never forget us or forsake us.
Our lives must be built on our trust that God will always love us,
truly as a mother loves her child, for we are God’s children.
Our trust in God must be coupled with our own trustworthiness,
that God knows that he can trust us.
It’s a covenant.

Our response to God’s love should be the same
as Paul prescribed for the Corinthians –
be trustworthy servants
not worrying about how others judge us,
but only being concerned about how God judges us.
We as followers of Jesus cannot serve two masters,
both God and the world.

God must know
that He can count on us to be focused on the kingdom.


There are three aspects of our seeking the kingdom
that I would like to explore with you.

1. Seeking to be a trustworthy servant
and to become a member of the kingdom
means obeying God's commandments.
We usually think about the commandments on
stealing, killing, lying, adultery.
They are important.
We may often forget the one about keeping holy the Lord’s Day.
We may be prone to take it for granted.
Sure we all “go to church.”
If Christ is our King, and we are seeking his kingdom,
giving one day of the week to Him isn’t much.
Sunday Mass is the closest we can come
to the kingdom here on earth.
In giving us the Mass, God has shown his love for us.
Not only did He send his only Son to suffer, die and rise
for ous sins,
but he also continues to provide the same sacrificial act,
again and again at each Mass.
Our active participation at Sunday Mass is one way to show
that we truly are God’s trustworthy servants.
In what better way can we be seeking the kingdom?

2. Seeking Christ's Kingdom also means constantly striving
to get know Jesus Christ better and better
through prayer and Christian meditation.
Jesus is a unique King, because he longs for his subjects' friendship.
He wants to be part of our lives, to walk with us.
As Pope Benedict told the youth in New York in 2008,
"What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship
with God in Jesus Christ.
That relationship is expressed in prayer."
Is not the Mass the greatest Prayer?
It’s the prayer by which we learn more about Jesus,
through the readings from Sacred Scripture ,
through the homily and
through receiving him into ourselves.
What better time can we have each week
to get to know more fully our King and his kingdom?

3. Those who truly seek the kingdom of God
will want to help others to seek that same gift.
We need to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities
to help bring others closer to God.
This isn't as hard as we may think.
All we have to do is remember
that God is the real source of happiness.
Since we want those around us to find the path to happiness,
it will be natural to work positively
to bring those around us closer to God.
We do this for each other at Sunday Mass.
When we gather for Mass,
it is not just about our individual salvation,
it is about our salvation as a community,
a community of people all seeking the same end,
the kingdom of God.
Our salvation, our reaching the final end of God’s kingdom,
is something we must work on continually.
We must come together every week to do our part for ourselves,
and for others in the community.
This working together, bringing each other to the kingdom,
is considered so important for our salvation,
both individually and collectively
that the Church considers it a grave sin,
if we choose to skip the celebration of Sunday Mass
without a good reason.
We must actively be here in the pew each Sunday,
because it is vital to our salvation and to that of others
in the community of believers.
None of us can do it alone.
I recently heard it said
that we can manage to get to hell all on our own,
but we all need help to get to heaven, the kingdom.

So leave behind whatever bags of whatever your “gold” might be.
It might be wealth as in the introductory story.
It might be fame and accomplishments that are your kingdom.
It might be pleasure that rules you.
It might be power and authority that governs your actions.
Yes, in that introductory story,
the streets in the kingdom were paved with gold,
BUT the road to hell is very smoothly paved
with the desires for wealth, fame, pleasure and power,
the kingdom of this world.

Today Jesus will renew his commitment of love for us
in the sacrifice of his Son at this Mass.
When we receive him in Holy Communion,
may we renew our commitment to him
as trustworthy servants,
and promise to make a special effort this week
and every week to seek his Kingdom first,
by beginning each week with our participation
in the celebration of Mass.

Friday, January 28, 2011

HOMILY – 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral 1/30/11
Zeph. 2:3,3:12–13 I Corinth. 1:26–31 Matthew 5:1-12a

*Emily Dickinson began one of her poems with the following lines:
“I’m nobody.
Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Good there are two of us.”

In the second reading,
St. Paul is telling the Corinthians of their calling.
Most of them were common ordinary people,
not the wisest, by human standards
not many were very powerful,
not many were noble by birth.
Many were foolish, and they were being called
to put the wise to shame.
Many were weak, and they were to put the powerful to shame.
Many were lowly and despised, those who count for nothing,
the “nobodies” of Corinth.
Their call was to reduce the “somebodies” to “nobodies”,
So that no one could boast that they were better before God.

Paul went on the tell the Corinthians,
that it is through Jesus, the common criminal,
another who was seemingly good for nothing,
that they were now together as the Body of Christ,
sharing in the wisdom, the righteousness,
the sanctification and the redemption of God.
The call of those deemed to be worth nothing - the “nobodies.”


**Ben Hoper was born in the foot hills of East Tennessee
to an unwed mother
as were some other little boys and girls in that area.
Such children were often ostracized and treated badly.
By the time Ben was three years old,
the parents of other children would not allow their children
to play with Ben.
“We don’t want a boy like that playing with our children.”
On Saturday,
when Ben’s mother would take him to the grocery store,
other parents in the store would ask her
if she ever found out who Ben’s father was.
Ben had a tough childhood;
he and his mother certainly were “nobodies.”
There were the “somebodies,” the other parents,
who were sure that they were better.
In school no one associated with Ben;
At recess time, weak little Ben stayed at his desk
when the other “powerful somebodies” in his class
went out to play but not with him.
At lunch time Ben also remained at his desk
to eat his sack lunch by himself.
He was despised by the other students.

When Ben was twelve years old,
a new young preacher came to pastor
the little church in town.
Ben heard exciting things about this new pastor.
He was friendly, accepting of people where they were.
He had chrisma.
He caused peoples smiles to broaden, laughter to increase
and spirits to soar.
This new preacher had been sent by God.
Remind you of anyone? Initials J.C.?

Ben had never been to church,
but he decided to go on Sunday to hear the new preacher.
He came late and left early so as to not be exposed
to the crowd gathering at the beginning
and the crowd leaving at the end.
He liked what he heard in the sermon; it gave him hope –
hope that he would find peace in his dealings with others,
hope that he was not a “noboby”, worth nothing.

He went back on several consecutive Sundays
and his hope was strengthened.
On one Sunday people sat in his pew on either side of him
and he became so enthralled with the message of the sermon,
that he forgot to get up to leave early.
He was trapped in the crowd in the church at the end of the service.

As he was making his way through the crowd,
A hand grabbed his shoulder and he heard a voice say,
“Who’s boy are you?”
He thought, “Here we go again;
I’m about to be reminded that I am a ‘nobody’.”

It was the preacher who had asked the question.
The church crowd, all those wise and powerful people
grew very quiet, waiting for the answer they expexted.

A wide grin grew on the face of the young preacher and he said,
“Oh! I know whose boy you are.
Why the family resemblance is unmistakable!
You are a child of God.
That’s quite a heritage you’ve got there.
Now, go and see to it that you live up to it.”


“I’m nobody.
Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Good there are two of us.”
The question is “Do we want to be the weak, foolish, lowly
and despised “nobody”
or the wise, powerful and noble “somebody.”
It was clear that the Christians in Corinth
were being called to be the “nobodies.”

And so are we,
although it seems to be the American way to strive
to be “somebody,” to be self-sufficient and independent,
to be wise and powerful.
We want the biographies of our lives to be success stories.
We are at our proudest and our best
when we have overcome the challenges on our own
with no help.
“I did it for myself, I did it my way!” Hey! I’m somebody!


While that may be the way things work
in the realm of human affairs,
it is not the way things work in the realm of God’s affairs.
In God’s realm, we are all called to give up the earthly wisdom,
that may lead to fame,
the earthly power that may lead to our accomplishments,
the earthly nobility that may lead to fortune,
and to learn the foolishness of God’s love for us,
the weakness we must have to accept God’s love
and the poverty that requires us to lean on God.
We are a sinful people,
and our sinfulness comes from a tendency
toward selfishness and pride.
Try as we might, alone we cannot overcome this tendency.

We must recognize that we are the "nobodies"
who can overcome sin only with God’s help.
The fact of the matter is
the type of the wisdom, nobility and power,
that we should be seeking,
reside with God.
We grasp for wisdom, power and nobility,
because we want to be a “somebody” in the worldly realm.
We want to be important.

For us, it doesn't make much sense that God is interested in us.
Yes, God reaching out to us, the weak and foolish sinners,
just doesn’t make sense, unless we truly know God.
Our loving God does reach out to us;
and all he asks in return is that we shrug off our desires
to be somebody in the world,
and that we embrace the love and self-sacrifice
of the dead criminal, Jesus, who died for our sins.
And all of this is true,
because each of us is truly “somebody” in God’s eyes.

“I’m nobody.
Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Good there are two of us.”
“Oh! I know who you belong to.
Why the family resemblance is unmistakable!
You are a child of God.
That’s quite a heritage you’ve got there.
Now, go and see to it that you live up to it.”

*Emily Dickinson poem #288 as found in "Lift Up Your Hearts", J. Wallace, R. Waznak, G. DeBona, Paulist Press, New York 2004 p 155
** Story by Zig Ziglar in “Stories for the Heart” compiled by Alice Gray, Questar Publishers, Sisters, OR 1971 pp 230-232
*** Some material in sections II and III based on “Live Letters” by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, St Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, OH, 2002 pp 209-211.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homily – Baptism of the Lord Year A January 9, 2005

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 Acts 10:34-38 Matthew 3: 13-17

“Why was Jesus baptized?”
That question was posed to me some time ago.
I didn’t have a quick answer; I had to do a little research.
That question is now the beginning of a homily I have used
at many of the baptisms at which I have presided.
Some families have heard that homily more than once.
I have tweaked it but not changed the basic material.
I keep coming back to this same beginning,
because it is an effective way
to get to the heart of the matter about baptism.
Today’s homily will not be that homily,
But we will begin with the same question:
“Why was Jesus baptized?”


I see three aspects of Jesus’ baptism:
1. This is the time when Jesus is publicly proclaimed as the One,
the beloved Son of the Father.
2. Jesus begins his public ministry at this point.
3. This is the point at which the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus
to empower him for his ministry.
So in answer to the question, “Why was Jesus baptized?”
one might answer, “So that these three things could happen.”:
so that Jesus could be clearly identified as the Son of God,
so that the beginning of his ministry could be marked,
and so that the power of the Holy Spirit,
the third person of the Trinity, could be revealed.
Let’s look a bit deeper at each of these three.

1. First, Jesus is indeed the beloved Son of the Father,
but how do we understand the Father's declaration:
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."?
The Father "gives up" his most beloved Son
in order that he may gain us as his beloved sons and daughters.
The Father sent the Son
so that we might accept the forgiveness of the Father.
God is now well pleased that there is a way to heal the chasm
we have created by our attempts to make ourselves gods.
It pleases God that now there is a way to bring you and me
to become God’s sons and daughters,
with whom God is ALSO well pleased.
It pleases God that now there is a way for healing, restoring,
and transforming the lives of those
with foolish minds and fickle hearts.

2. Jesus’ baptism is indeed the beginning of his public ministry,
a ministry not of his own making,
but one he received from the Father.
Jesus responds to the call to save us on his Father's terms,
not on his own terms.
The Son of God comes to us out of love for us,
but also out of love for his Father.
If his ministry was of his own design,
Jesus could have opted to avoid Calvary.
Because he was dedicated to doing the will of his Father,
he drank from the cup his Father did not take away.
This was the character of the ministry that began
with Jesus’ baptism.

3. The Holy Spirit indeed empowers Jesus for ministry.
The Holy Spirit is often seen as the silent partner of the Trinity.
We often think that the Father sends, Jesus saves,
and, oh yes, the Holy Spirit is there too.
But the Holy Spirit is not a silent partner
who lets the Father and the Son act.
The Holy Spirit is the silent worker.


What do these three aspects of Jesus’ baptism mean for us?
How might they answer the question, “Why were we baptized?”

1. The declaration of the Father’s love for Jesus, “my beloved Son,”
is also a declaration of the Father's special love for us.
It is a love that we first experience at our Baptism.
Does this mean that God does not love the unbaptized? NO!
It just means that we are loved in a special way
as sons and daughters are loved by a forgiving parent.
We may be of the mind set that we obey God,
because we fear divine punishment.
We may come to church on Sunday
only out of fear of the pain of mortal sin.
We may remain chaste because we don’t want God to punish us.
We may drive carefully because we fear God and the police.
May our baptism be a reminder that,
instead of focusing on the punishment,
we are meant to revel in the love of God.

As children of God, we gather for Mass to love God
and the others in our community.
As children of God, we avoid sexual immorality,
because promiscuity truly shows our lack of love
for our God-given bodies and those of others.
An children of God, we drive carefully because our love for life,
our own and that of others, is God-like.
Acts performed out of love have about them a dignity
that acts performed out of fear do not.

2. Jesus’ ministry, which began with his Baptism,
is the model for our service as his sons and daughters.
The example that Jesus sets is one
that we all probably need to take to heart.
How often do we live our lives in such a way
that we try very hard to make the will of God fit
into our plans for life
instead of trying to determine
how our lives are to conform to the will of God?
How often are we resentful
because life (or God) has not dealt us the hand we want,
instead of asking what God wants us to do
with the hand we have been dealt?
We may wonder:
It would be so much better, if I had a higher paying job.
Why must I deal with a child with a behavioral problem?
What would it be like to live in a better neighborhood?

Jesus, who is the Son of God, was also the faithful servant,
the servant who prayed that not his will,
but rather his Father's will be done.
As sons and daughters of God,
we, in our ministry, in our service to the Father,
must do the same.
We must seek to know how God wants to use us in our jobs,
in our families and in our neighborhoods.

3. And where has the Holy Spirit descended into our lives?
Rarely is the Spirit overtly manifest to us,
yet the results of his work are splashed throughout our lives.
The Spirit is at work
when understanding puts an end to strife,
when vengeance gives way to forgiveness,
when those who were estranged join hands in friendship,
and when the work of justice and righteousness is performed.
When it seems we are doing quite well on our own,
we need to remember
that the Spirit is silently at work through us;
when it appears that God is not around,
we need to remember the Spirit is silently at work.


After an infant has been baptized with water,
the presider says to the newly baptized,
“The God of power and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
has freed you from sin and brought you to new life
by water and the Holy Spirit.
He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation so that,
united with his people,
you may remain for ever a member of Christ,
who is Priest, Prophet and King.”

As sons and daughters of God, we share in the divine life,
the life of Christ, the ministry of Christ,
the ministry that includes, priest, prophet and king.
We share as priest, one who makes holy
as prophet, one who teaches
as king, one who governs, who organizes, who serves.
So, why were we baptized?
We were baptized to share, with all other Christians,
in Christ in these three ways.
But we can do it only
if we know that no matter how badly we fail,
forgiveness is there for us;
we can do it only
if we emulate Christ in subordinating our will to God’s will;
and we can do it only
if we allow the Holy Spirit to be at work within us.