Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HOMILY 3rd Sunday of Advent December 15, 2012

Cathedral by Deacon Jerry Franzen
Zephaniah 3:14-18a Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:10-18

A fifth grade student named Howard
was behaving just as a student would
who felt insecure, unloved and pretty angry at life.
He was acting up all the time,
causing all sorts of trouble in school.
His teacher, Miss Simon, must have thought
that he was oblivious to it all,
because she regularly reminded him by declaring,
“Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school.”
Howard thought to himself,
“So tell me something I don’t already know,”
as he proceeded to live up to (or down to)
her opinion of him.

Howard was eventually promoted to the sixth grade
with the words of Miss Simon ringing in his ears,
“Howard, you are the worst behaved child in this school.”
Imagine his expectations as he returned for the sixth grade
with Miss Noe as his new teacher.
On the first day of class, Miss Noe went down the roll,
called out Howard’s name,
and stopped to look him over for a moment.
Then she said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Then she smiled and added,
“But I don’t believe a word of it.”

That moment as a fundamental turning point for Howard,
in his education and in his life.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, someone believed in him.
Someone saw potential in him.
Miss Noe gave him special assignments
and invited him to come by her classroom after school
for extra help on reading and arithmetic.
She challenged him with higher standards.
And Howard had a hard time letting her down,
so much so that he would get so involved
in some assignments that he would stay up late
working on them.
His father wondered whether he might have been sick.
This was unusual behavior.
What made the difference between fifth grade and sixth grade?
Someone was willing to give Howard a chance.
Someone was willing to believe in him.
Someone was willing to challenge him to higher expectations.
It was all very risky,
because there was no guarantee of Miss Noe’s trust.


The first reading was from the third chapter
of the three-chapter-long book of the prophet Zephaniah.
In the first and second chapter
and the first part of the third chapter,
Zephaniah is telling the Israelites about
all of the doom and judgment that will fall on them,
because many of them have been unfaithful to God,
the typical message of a prophet.
It is two-plus chapters of punishment for the unfaithful.
Much like Howard was continually reminded by Miss Simon.
Beginning with the 14th verse of chapter three
Zephaniah tells the faithful remnant of the Israelite people
to “shout for joy,” to “sing joyfully,”
to “be glad and exult with all your heart.”
“The Lord has removed the judgment against you.”
Much like Howard was treated by Miss Noe.
Zephaniah had brought them the message that
God was not happy with them.
And now, Zephaniah was proclaiming God’s mercy toward them,
a reason to shout for joy.
Howard certainly felt joy with his new teacher,
even though he may not have shouted it or sang it aloud.
The judgment of being the school’s worst student
had been lifted from him,
as the judgment had been lifted from Israel.
In the second reading,
Paul tells the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always,”
so that “their kindness should be known to all.”
Miss Noe had found a way to let the true Howard be known.


Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice,”
“Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Emmanuel means “God with us”
Paul was so emphatic about it that he told the Philippians,
“I say it again, rejoice!”
For us, it’s “Rejoice because the Lord is near,”
our celebration of Christmas is almost here.
Rejoice because Jesus is coming.
But Jesus is always with us,
no more so than at every celebration
of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There is always a tension with Advent;
we are anticipating the coming of Jesus
who has already come, who comes to us always
and will come again in glory.
Maybe it will help if we put LESS emphasis
on which coming we are celebrating
and more emphasis on anticipating and celebrating
what we can expect to happen as a result of his coming.
Are we not like Howard, sometimes our anger gets out of control?
We may not be the worst behaved kid in the school,
but we all struggle with our behavior, our sin.

It could be just a
a tailgater “bugging” us on the highway that angers us,
or a telemarketer calling during the dinner hour,
or a coupon clipper slowing the line at the supermarket.
Sometimes we get a little too full of ourselves
and let the situation get the best of our behavior.
It’s easy to show our lack of patience.
We may give in to insecurity
when an employer begins some job reductions,
or we may feel unloved when a teenage son or daughter
avoids giving us an honest answer
or a spouse seems to care too little.
It’s easy to get caught up in yourself and to not understand others.

We may just get angry with life
when situations seem to conspire against us
and we are robbed of enthusiasm and the zest for life.
We may just resign ourselves to acting out our anger
and frustrations like Howard
as a way of our seeming to get some satisfaction
in the form revenge.


But St. Paul says that our behavior is to be different;
we are to rejoice! Why?
Because we all have our Miss Noe,
one who loves us, one who believes in us,
one who will pull us out of whatever hole
we may have dug for ourselves.
God believes in us so fully that he sent his Son to be among us.
He is able to set aside all that he has heard about us,
because his Son is among us.
And, like Miss Noe, he is always there to give us another chance
and to challenge us to higher standards.
God’s infinite mercy is always there for us. All we must do is seek it.
Last week the deanery Penance Service was held here
on Thursday evening.
If you were not able to attend,
the sacrament of Penance will be available next Saturday
from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm here at the Cathedral.
Take advantage of this sacrament during this Advent season.
This is why we are to rejoice,
because God has taken us under his wing
by sending his Son into the world.
Don’t act out of your impatience, out of your frustrations
or out of your insecurities.
Paul said that we should rejoice
so that our kindness might show through.

So, let us rejoice!
For no matter how bad it has been,
no matter whether we have been singled out
as the worst behaved in the world,
in the school, in our place of employment or in our family,
no matter how bad we may think we have been,
there is someone who believes in us, sees the potential in us,
has special projects for each of us,
and will challenge us to higher standards.
If we truly let God’s Son, Jesus, come into our lives,
then we will realize that God has such great faith in us
that he, like Miss Noe, has already said,
“I don’t believe a word of it. Here I’m sending you my Son.”
For that, again, I say, Let us rejoice!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homily Christ the King Year B

By Jerry Franzen Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption 11/25/12
Daniel 7: 13-14  Revelation 1: 5-8  John 18:33b-37

Jesus, also known as the Christ, wanted on charges of sedition,
criminal anarchy, vagrancy
and conspiring to overthrow the established government.
He dresses poorly. Uses carpentry as a cover. Has visionary ideas.
He associates with common people,
the unemployed, the prostitutes, the tax collectors
and other known criminals.
He has a variety of aliases:
Prince of Peace, Son of Man, Light of the World.
He has nasty scars on his hands and his feet and his side,
the results of injuries inflicted by an angry mob
led by so-called respectable citizens and local authorities.
Hardly the portrait one would paint for a king.


When we hear the word king, what image arises?
The power and grandeur of King Arthur and his court.
The arrogance of King Henry VIII.
The charisma of King David, yet an adulterer and murderer.
The wisdom of Solomon with 700 wives and 300 concubines.
The cruelty of King Herod.
The pomp of the Louis Kings of France.

None of these fit CHRIST the King.
Most persons become a king (or a queen) for one of two reasons:
The first is by succession or some other family tie.
Prince Charles will be the King of England
when his mother Queen Elizabeth dies.

The second way is through some political action
such as a treaty or a conquest.
Certainly Jesus is a King, because of a family tie,
The Son with whom the Father was “well pleased.”
He is also a king because of a conquest,
the conquest of three tyrants: Satan, sin and death.
Christ crushed these three,
but they have not vanished from the face of the earth.


We must not dwell too long on what it means for Christ that he is King,
lest we miss what it means for US that Christ is King.
The power of Satan over us has been broken;
we are no longer slaves to Satan and sin.
And death? We do die, but only to live more gloriously still.

As the waters of Baptism are three times poured
over the head of a person to be bapized, the following
words of Baptism are said:
“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.”
Then the priest or deacon prays the following words:
“The God of power and the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ
has freed you from sin and brought you to new life
through water and the Holy Spirit.
He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation,
So that, united with his people,
You may remain forever a member of Christ,
Who is Priest, Prophet and King.
I have told my students that it’s PPK, not punt pass and kick,
but priest, prophet and king.
All of the baptized share in Christ’s three-fold ministry,
as priest, prophet and king.

The kingdom is us, within us, and we are priests,
not just those ordained as priests, but all of the baptized
all of us share in the priesthood of Christ.
A priest is one who helps to make others holy.
A priest is God’s intermediary in sanctifying others,
and we the baptized are to work on our own sanctification
and that of others.

The kingdom is us, within us.
We, the baptized, are also prophets in the kingdom,
the second part of the three-fold ministry.
The prophets are the teachers,
the ones who teach us how to live according to God’s way.
Teachers are to teach their students,
students are to do the same for their teachers,
and parents, the same for their children.
We all share in the prophetic ministry of Christ

And, thanks to the king of Kings, we also share in his kingship.
The kingdom of Jesus is not a place, a castle, a territory.
Jesus does not rule over his people, but he serves his people.
And we all share in this kingship of service.
Husbands are to be of service to their wives,
and wives are to do the same for their husbands.
An infant’s parents will serve the needs of the child
as the child grows up,
and the child will do the same for the parents.
Because Jesus’ kingship is one of service to his subjects,
we all share in His Kingship.
And we cannot share in this threefold ministry,
unless we have the freedom to do so in God’s plan


In a few minutes you will hear the preface for today:
It declares that
“Our Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Priest and King of all creation”
 who “offered himself on the altar of the Cross.”
The kingship of Christ, the priesthood of Christ,
the prophetic roll of Christ, all three are tied up
in his offering his life for us, in his sacrifice.
We are called to share in all of this through our own sacrifice,
and we must be free to do so.
Our founding forefathers certainly recognized
the value of this freedom of religion.
This is the reason the first settlers came to America.

Today’s preface goes on:
that he (Christ) might present to his almighty Father,
“an eternal and universal kingdom:
A kingdom of truth and life,
A kingdom of holiness and grace,
A kingdom of justice, love and peace.”
Are these seven qualities,
truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace
within this world
within this country
within us, the Cathedral parish part of the kingdom?
Are we free to use our gifts to contribute to building this kingdom
of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace here on earth?

Once again the seven nouns as characteristics of Christ’s kingdom are:
truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace.
Today these characteristics of the kingdom
are under attack in our country.

TRUTH The government is in the process of requiring us
to support the lie that artificial contraception is permissible,
because it is a part of needed women’s health care,
rather than the truth of God’s plan for us.

LIFE We are being forced to support the lie of the Culture of Death
brought on by abortifacient agents
rather than the truth of the sanctity of life.

HOLINESS We are being forced to go against God’s will in these items
rather than being allowed to follow God’s will -
the very path to holiness.

GRACE We are being told that the government is the source of
what is right or wrong,
rather than our relying on God’s freely given gift of grace
to help us to form our own consciences.

JUSTICE We are being being forced to accept that justice
does not include freedom from attack upon our religion,
even though we have been endowed by our Creator
with the inalienable rights of “life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.”

LOVE We are being forced to accept
the government’s definition of marriage, rather than the truth
that marriage is the expression of God’s love
between a man and a woman.

And finally PEACE, the peace of God’s kingdom.
Where is it in the world; where is it in our country,
when race is set against race and one class is set against another?
Pope Pius XI who instituted the feast of Christ the King
in an encyclical (Quas Primas) in 1925 said that
“as long as individuals and states refused to submit
to the rule of our Savior,
there would be no really hopeful prospect
of a lasting peace among nations.”

We seem to have an uphill battle – trying to bring about God’s kingdom
 of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace here on earth.
On Thursday evening I watched the movie, “For Greater Glory”
about the Mexican fight for religious freedom in 1929.
The dictator in Mexico had decided to forbid all Catholic worship
and to kill all who promoted Catholic worship in any way.
Those who fought to regain their religious freedom
were called “Cristeros.”
Many died on both sides in the conflict. In the end, the dictator relented.
The battle cry of the Cristeros was “Viva Cristo Rey.”
“Long Live Christ the King.”

We must pray, pray that the attacks will cease,
that our freedom to follow our faith and own conscience
will not be hindered.
When election time rolls around, Fr. Jerry Twaddell,
a priest of this diocese can be seen wearing his campaign button,
a silver colored one about the size of a quarter.
It reads simply: “Jesus for King”

It may be an uphill battle,
but we must do all that we can in our ministry as the baptized
to support Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Homily 30th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

By Jerry Franzen Cathedral 10/27/12
Jerimiah 31: 7-9  Hebrews 5: 1-6  Mark 10:46-52

We are prone to take for granted our ability to see.
It’s one of those many things for which I should thank God daily.
I had a blind student in one of my classes at Thomas More College.
I caught myself introducing new terminology,
writing new words on the board without spelling them,
making drawings without describing them.
And saying things like, “As you can see.......” I would think,
“No, Jennifer can’t see.
I’ve got to spell it out so she can understand.”
This is what we try to do with God’s word,
spell it out so we can see into it with a clearer vision.
Let’s look at today’s Gospel, a short simple story,
a series of six verses that prompt some significant questions
that should help us to see more clearly what we are doing here today.


Jesus was leaving Jericho.
“Leaving Jericho” meant the final leg on the journey to Jerusalem.
Up to Jerusalem, and there, Jesus will be led to the Cross.
From Jericho, Jesus could have turned back to Galilee;
but he did not turn back.
According to the author of St. Mark’s Gospel,
it is now certain what the Lord’s destination will be.
The “way” of the Lord will lead to the Cross.
1. First Question: By our coming here today,
by our not turning back,
do we recognize that we are also indicating our willingness
to be led to the cross?

A blind beggar, “Bartimeus,” upon hearing that Jesus was passing by,
began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”
His cry is interesting because he calls Jesus, “Son of David.”
The Jewish people were well aware that it was expected
that the Messiah would be a descendent of King David.
This blind beggar already had more insight
than many of the sighted in Jesus’ presence.
Many of Jesus’ the disciples, those close to Him,
didn’t recognize Him as the Messiah, the “Son of David.”
You have to wonder, don’t you,…
how did this blind man come to such an insight?
Might there have been some followers of Jesus
who had already spread the good news about the “Son of David”
to the people of Jericho, going out ahead of the Lord?
We come to Mass much like this beggar.
We, too, have already heard of the Son of David.
2. That prompts another question:
Do our words and, more importantly, our presence here,
really and truly proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah?


 If what the blind beggar shouted was something of a surprise,
what follows is pretty much to be expected.
The good folks in the crowd tried to hush him up.
Jesus’ fame was growing and his disciples were basking in the glow,
when this shout shatters the glory of the moment in Jerico.
Apparently, blind beggars were to be seen and not heard;
but no, Bartimaeus shouts at the top of his voice,
“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”
The response was to silence the beggar
so the disciples could get back to their focus on Jesus
and have him focus on them.
But Bartimaeus would not be silenced and he would not go away.
This big day in Jericho was going sour fast.
Just imagine the sanctimonious editorial in the Jericho paper
-- fretting about the problem of beggars in the city,
proposing that the city council enact some law
that will prevent such embarrassments in the future.

Of course, if we really think about it,
what Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus is neither shocking nor unusual.
He pled, “have pity on me,” “have mercy on me!”
No different than what we have already pled as this Mass began:
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
I find it rather interesting that a precedent for our plea of “Lord, have mercy”
was a similar shout from a beggar that received a rebuke
from the “proper” people of Jericho.
3. So, would we still voice our plea for mercy,
if it meant rebuke from the “proper” people of this world?
Would we still raise our voices, asking Christ for mercy
in the face of the world’s ridicule and shaming?
Interesting question. Apparently Bartimeus had nothing to lose.
What do we have to lose?


And then the scene focused on Jesus,
who stopped and directed those in the crowd to “Call him.”
So they called to Bartimeus, “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.”
How fortunate for Batimeus, to hear those words:
“Take heart, arise, Jesus is calling you.”
For some of us,
we heard similar words during a Cursillo or Christ Renews His Parish,
or a Retreat, or a Parish Mission.
Some have heard these words in the course of their daily work,
or in prayer
and others while taking in the grandeur of nature.
4. Is this not the essence of every Sunday’s readings and homily,
the search for what God has in mind when he calls to us,
a deeper sense of purpose in our family life and work,
an invitation to share in the ministry of Christ in a special way?
Every Sunday we continue the search for what God has in mind for us, our call.
A new vocation. A healing. Certainly salvation.

Jesus then gave Bartimaeus the opportunity to say for himself
what rested most deeply within his soul:
 “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied, “Master, I want to see.”
Notice that the miracle of fresh sight for this man
is not only about to happen, it has been happening!
He already “sees” who Jesus is
and has such courage in Jesus’ presence to call him, “Master.”
We might be prone to shout, “Bartimaeus, you already have such vision!”
I wish to God that everyone baptized into Christ’s Body
had that much insight and devotion to the Lord!
Bartimaeus wants to see, to see more of his Master.
5. Is that not what we want also?
We want to see more of Jesus in the bread and wine.
Like Bartimeus, we expect a miracle,
that what we see as bread and wine is really Jesus.
But we want to see Jesus more than just with our eyes;
there is yet another miracle we want: we expect more.

There is a song that expresses very well what we further expect.
The song is “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.”
I think that title captures quite well the “more” that we are after.
It’s not enough that we just have the image carried by the light to our retina
which sends the impulses corresponding to the image to our brain.
Although we say “Seeing is believing,” it can’t stop there.
We want the eyes of our heart to be opened,
so that we not only see with our eyes,
but that we also see the Lord with our hearts.


The response from Jesus was both a dismissal and a pronouncement.
“Go your way,” says the Lord, “your faith has saved you.”
“Immediately,” Mark tells us, “he received his sight.”
He was saved and healed and dismissed.
6. Like Bartimaeus, will we not know more deeply our salvation
and our healing at this Eucharist?
“...but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,”
is the last thing we say before receiving communion.
And what did Bartimaeus do after being dismissed.
Was it back to the business of his old life
as if nothing had happened in this meeting with Jesus?
No, “he followed Jesus on the way.”
Up to Jerusalem. Up to Calvary. Up to Easter.
The words of dismissal Bartimeus received were for him
the invitation to be a witness to the Good News in the world.
7. What will be our response in action to the dismissal
we will hear as this Mass is completed?
Which way will we go: back to our old ways or more on God’s path?

Today, may the Lord grant us the grace to go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homily – 19th Sunday Year B August 12, 2012

By Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption

1 Kngs 19:4-8 Ephesians 4:30-5:2 John 6: 41-51

For a recent meeting of the permanent deacons
of the diocese of Covington,
an email went to all stating that we would begin
with Morning Prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
We had often met beginning with Morning Prayer
in the Blessed Sacrament chapel here in the Cathedral.
We then adjourned to Howard Hall, when it was standing,
for our light breakfast and meeting:
and lately we have been able to use the Latin School cafeteria
for the meeting and light breakfast.

On this particular occasion, the adjournment to Latin School
was not mentioned, but it was presumed
as part of our usual breakfast and meeting procedure.
As it turned out,
some of my brother deacons went to Blessed Sacrament parish
in Ft. Mitchell looking for the chapel there.
Now, we have met at some other parishes in the recent past,
but for me there is only one Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
I tell you this because I want to be sure that you know that,
in my subsequent remarks, when I refer to the chapel,
I will be referring to THE Blessed Sacrament Chapel
in this Cathedral.
It is a special place where you and God can meet in a special way.


There are words in Latin inscribed on vertical panels
on either side of the base of the tabernacle in the chapel.
To the left it reads, “Ecce Panis Angelorum.”
To the right “Factus Cibus Viatorum.”
Those are the Church Latin pronunciations,
not the classical Latin pronunciations.
“Ecce” is Latin for “Behold.”
What does the business named “Panera” specialize in?
“Bread” – “Panis” is Latin for “Bread.”
The famous hymn “Panis Angelicus” – Angelic Bread
“Angelorum” sounds like the word “Angel” with a special ending.
The ending signifies a plural form for persons

and includes the meaning of the word “of”
before the name of the persons.
So “Angelorum” means “of Angels.”
“Ecce Panis Angelorum” – “Behold, the Bread of Angels.”
“Factus” means “Made” – things are made in a ‘factory.’
“Cibus” is the Latin word for “Food.”
The vessel we use to contain the hosts of Holy Communion
is called a ciborium – literally a “food bowl.”
The last word is “Viatorum.”
We say that we can travel to Newport via the 12th St. Bridge.
“Via” means “by way of.”
Again, the ending orum indicates a plural form
for persons of some type and
the inclusion of the word “of” in front of the plural.
So “Viatorum” would mean “of those on the way”,
“of wayfarers” or “of travelers.”
So, “Ecce Panic Angelorum Factus Cibus Viatorum”
Is translated:
“Behold the Bread of Angels Made Food for Wayfarers.”
You might go over to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel after Mass
and check out those words. Now you know what they mean!
Today we continue in the Gospel reading
Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life.


The episode of Elijah and the angel,
which we heard in the first reading,
occurred after Elijah had won a little contest
with the pagan prophets of Baal.
He had challenged the pagan prophets to a test,
their pagan god, Baal,
vs the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
The god of the false prophets failed the test miserably
and the God of Elijah came through spectacularly.
Many of the pagans who witnessed the test fell prostrate and said,
“The Lord is God. The Lord is God.” They were converted.
This is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament,
and I recommend it to your reading.
It’s near the end of the 18th Chapter in the First Book of Kings.

Eventually Elijah had all of the false prophets killed,
and God brought on a miraculously heavy rain
just as Elijah had predicted to the pagan king, Ahab.
When Ahab then told Queen Jezebel all that Elijah had done,
she became concerned that she might lose
her influence over the king,
so she threatened to do to Elijah
what he had done to her false prophets.

Elijah fled for his life,
and we find him today in the desert under the broom tree
praying for death,
because he is so disgruntled:
he had done the work of the Lord,
defeated the false prophets, impressed the pagan king
and what was his reward?
His life was threatened.
The angel tells him he has to eat and drink,
because his work is not finished.
God has more plans for him.


We are like Elijah.
We are the “viatorum.” We are the travelers. We are on the way.
Like Elijah, we have served the Lord in our lives,
and we may have been, at times,
discouraged with the outcome for us.
We may have wanted to quit like Elijah,
but, if our faith is strong, we know that God will provide
all that we need to continue our work, our journey.
He provided the hearth cakes and water for Elijah.
He provided water from the rock
and manna from the heavens for the Israelites.
He has gone beyond hearth cakes, manna and water for us.
God has provided the Bread of Angels, the Bread of Heaven,
His Son, as the food for us who are on the path of life.

This is who Jesus is; he is the Bread of Life,
not food to sustain our physical life,
not food to get us from one day to the next,
alough there are documented miraculous cases of saints’
lives being sustained
by just the daily reception of Holy Communion
and no other food.
Jesus is the spiritual food that nourishes our souls
and sustains our faith.
It is not the nourishment that gets us from day to day
in our physical lives;
it is the spiritual nourishment
that directs each of us to eternal life,
that keeps us focused on our salvation.

You may have heard me say this before:
it is easy to maintain our faith in God,
when things are going well.
But what about when things are not going well?
Some turn to alcohol, some turn to drugs, some even turn to food.
They try to eat themselves out of sadness,
bitterness and failure.
The message from Jesus is “I am the Bread of Life.
The bread that came down from the angels,
not the bread to sustain our life on the way,
but the bread that nourishes our faith
that keeps us aimed in the right direction.

Jesus said that in order to attain eternal life,
we must believe
that Holy Communion is really him,
flesh and blood, AND
that, when we receive Holy Communion
we are thus taking the flesh and blood of Jesus within us,
by eating and drinking.
And it is that Jesus within us
that we take out into the world each week to share with others.
It is just that simple.

In recent days we have learned of the death of Msgr. Ralph Beiting.
a priest from the Lexington Diocese,
who was a native of this diocese
and formerly a priest of this diocese
before the formation of the Diocese of Lexington.
He worked most of his life to bring the Gospel message
and relief from abject poverty
to the people of eastern Kentucky.
He was a giant laborer in the workforce of the Lord;
he brought the Bread of Life to many,
many who had never been fed at the Lord’s banquet.
This is what we are all called to do.
I don’t think I can make it any clearer
than it is written on the altar in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
For in that tabernacle is kept
“The Bread of Angels Made Food of Wayfarers.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homily – 15th Sunday Year B July 15, 2012

Amos 7: 12-15 Ephesians 1: 3-14 Mark 6:7-13

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the twelve the commission
to go out, two by two, and, like him,
to drive out "unclean" spirits.
What are these "unclean" spirits?
In those days there were many manifestations,
which people did not understand fully.
These manifestations, for want of a better explanation,
were attributed to demonic influences and possession.

For instance,
there were some sicknesses which people thought
were due to the influence an “unclean” spirit.
A clear example is the story of the epileptic boy healed by Jesus.
In an epileptic seizure, a seemingly normal person
suddenly begins to act in a bizarre way
as if controlled by an outside force.
It was a long time before people began to understand
physiological and neurological malfunctions in the brain.

There would be similar misunderstandings of people
who were mentally disturbed, e.g. with schizophrenia,
or, of people who had some brain damage,
e.g. people with cerebral palsy.
Probably, most of us have never seen
a person genuinely possessed by the devil,
the greatest of the “unclean” spirits,
although one does hear of cases
where an exorcist has worked with people
who have been possessed by the devil.
Fr. Bob Roetgers of this diocese is in the process
of gaining the experience he needs to function as an exorcist.


While the devil is the ultimate demon or “unclean spirit”,
there are a variety of ways that demonic behavior can be expressed.
Let’s look at some of the “so-called” demons of our time.
What are the “demons” of today that seem to control people,
that can enslave us.
There is the demon of nicotine,
the demon of alcohol and
the demons of heroine, cocaine and other drugs,
the demon of gambling, the demon of promiscuous sex,
the demons of materialism and consumerism,
the demon of spending too much time in front of the TV
the demon of spending to much time with the electronic media
or, in fact, any other activity
which somehow can take control of our lives.
We can become addicted to them and lose control of our lives.
All of these, or any one of them,
can turn us into slaves to the “unclean spirit”, to the devil.
It is the freedom from such demons,
the freedom from the sin that results from these demons
that is at the heart of today’s Gospel.
First, let us consider how we might free ourselves from “demons.”

In our hearing of the commissioning of the twelve,
Jesus today is inviting us also to cooperate with him,
to be his disciples.
The word “disciple” is from the Latin discipulus,
from the verb discere, to learn.
A disciple is one who hears, who accepts and
who carries out the teaching of Jesus in his/her life.
A disciple follows Jesus, imitates Jesus, becomes a second Christ.

Jesus was first telling the apostles how to be good disciples,
how to be good followers,
how to make their lives conform more to his example.
He first showed them how to be confident in their discipleship;
They were to use the buddy system – two by two,
each knowing that they were not alone in their work.
They were not to focus on the material things:
money, food or extra clothes.
He told them the journey would be long and difficult,
So take along a walking stick and don’t be barefoot.
Wear your sandals.
Our journey to free ourselves from the demons of sin
is also difficult and long.
Jesus is also telling us to go through our lives
with the maximum of freedom
and the minimum of burdens.
I can imagine that the apostles were making their mental lists
of what they would need to take with them.
Snacks, a week’s worth of clothing, traveler’s checks.
But Jesus’ directions were:
No food, no backpack, no money, no extra clothes.
We must focus on the bare essentials
and not get tied up in the worldly things.
A life free from demons should reflect the simple life of Jesus.

But there is a second further dimension to our commission.
Jesus wants us to be his instruments of liberation,
to work with him.
This is not just to free ourselves from the slavery to sin,
but also to help others to recover their freedom
from the demons of sin that enslave them.
Can we do that? Most certainly we can.
We help people to be healed from their sicknesses
- not only bodily sicknesses
but psychological and emotional illnesses as well.
It is not only doctors and nurses who can bring healing.

Let there be no doubt about it:
a family member, a friend, or a colleague,
can truly have a healing influence.
We must remember that,
if we are to help people recover their freedom,
we, ourselves, must be free from whatever might inhibit us
from being disciples.

It is significant that in this reading, Jesus sent the Twelve,
the apostles.
Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple
but also to be an apostle, an imitator of one of the Twelve.
An apostle (in Greek, apostolos) is not only a follower
but also an evangelizer.
The word apostolos comes from a Greek verb
which means to be sent on a mission
with a message from a superior,
to be an ambassador, an envoy, and evangelizer.
All who have been baptized have this mission,
this calling, to actively share their faith with others.
We are to share with others our EXPERIENCE of knowing God,
through Jesus.
Paul shared his experience of God through Jesus
with the Ephesians in the second reading.
And we are to do the same –
bring to others the message of our experience of God
through Jesus Christ.
But first the message has to be assimilated
and made totally our own.
We must live the life of freedom from “unclean spirits” –
freedom that has come through our experiences of God.

We are sharing not just words, or ideas, or doctrines
but an experience, our experience of God through Jesus.
The evangelizer invites people –
be they Christians or the non-baptized –
to share this wonderful experience of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Everyone of us is here today because someone,
perhaps many people,
introduced us to know and love God, through Jesus.
That person, those persons, were evangelizers.
We are expected to do the same for others. The apostles were told to go out bringing with them
only the message they had received from Jesus.
We can go through our lives so laden down with things,
with property and possessions
which are an endless source of worry and anxiety.
We become their slaves.
Worries and anxieties can paralyze us
and prevent us from living rich and enriching lives.
It would be worth reflecting today on how free our lives are
and where real wealth is to be found.
We must be rich in all the things which really matter,
in order to be able to enrich those
who come in contact with us.

Like Amos in the first reading, we might protest.

I am "only" a housewife, or a clerk, or an accountant,
or a mechanic, or an electrician, or a teacher...
BUT, because we have been baptized,
Jesus is calling each of us
in our working and living environments to evangelize,
to invite people to know Jesus, to love Jesus,
to serve Jesus, to follow Jesus.
If I want Christ to be thoroughly IN me
he has to COME into me, go completely THROUGH me
and OUT OF me to others.
There is no other way.

Currently we are facing an very serious “unclean spirit”,
one that is attempting to restrict our freedom,
attempting to force us to violate our conscience.
The “unclean spirit” is the demon of conveience,
the demon of pleasure, the demon of wanting to be God.
It is the demon that says
“I am not satisfied with being made
in the image and likeness of God; I want to be God.”
It is the “unclean spirit” that says
people should be able to interfere with
the natural Godly process of conception
and even use drugs to kill a newly conceived God-given life
for the sake of convenience and pleasure
and justify it all as a woman’s right to health care.

It will force us, if we follow it,
to lose our freedom to support the natural process
which God has designed for the beginning of new life
and to lose our freedom to support life at all stages
from conception to natural death.
It is a very serious “unclean spirit”
that has already taken up residence in many,
but it must not become a part of our lives.
We must do all that we can in our prayer,
in our words and in our actions
to expose this demon for what it truly is
and to keep it from taking root
in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homily – Corpus Christi Year B June 10, 2012

By Deacon Jerry Franzen at the Cathedral

Exodus 24: 3-8 Hebrews 9: 11-15 Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

Today’s first reading might just make us a little squeamish:
Moses collecting blood in bowls,
splashing it around on the altar, splashing it on people.
In these days of concern for the transmission of diseases,
an athlete cannot have even a small spot of blood on his uniform,
for fear that it might be transferred to another athlete.
The Israelites realized the importance of blood,
and that is why they used it in their rituals.
They recognized blood as the source of life.
If a part of the body is deprived of blood, it dies.
The more we learn about blood,
the more I am in awe of the One who created it.
Just my incomplete understanding of how hemoglobin in blood

captures oxygen in the lungs
and transports it all the way down to my toes,
makes me think, “Wow, isn’t that amazing?”
The full story on blood has not been written; we continue to learn.
The more we learn, the greater is our sense of wonder,
wonder about how marvelous blood and its Creator are.
But whatever the full story on blood might be,
the capstone of that story is the fact that
Jesus shed his Blood for us.
The wonder of it all – we are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb.

*Today, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
provides for us a splendid moment to reflect
on one of God’s most striking gifts to us: the gift of wonder.
There are three stages for our reflection:
The feast itself,
our Christian response to the feast
and our response to Christian living.


This feast seems to come out of nowhere,
and yet it seems to come out of everywhere.
Why do we celebrate this feast now?
Didn’t we celebrate the Eucharist on Holy Thursday?
Don’t we celebrate this feast each time we gather for Mass?
In the early 1200’s an Augustinian nun,
Juliana of Liege reported a vision.
She had seen a full moon with a dark area to one side,
probably one of the so-called lunar “seas.”
Her interpretation was that the moon was the Church
and the dark area represented the fact
that in the church, at that time,
there was no feast of the Blessed Sacrament.
Juliana must have been one persuasive woman;
fifty-five years later there began this feast of the Eucharist.
The feast came about because of Juliana’s sense of wonder,
wonder that God has built into all of his creation

Though from very humble beginnings, this is a very welcome feast.
We can too easily take the Eucharist for granted,
especially if we are regular guests at the Lord’s Supper.
Repetition dulls excitement; routine creates a rut.
There is a sameness that surrounds our Eucharist;
you always know what is coming:
same consecration, same communion, same real presence,
often the same words, much the same gestures,
stand, sit, kneel, answer “Amen,”
exchange the sign of peace.
True, we do have the recently introduced new words
of the Roman Missal,
but by now they may be becoming routine.
The place where imagination interrupts the routine at each Mass
is in the Word of God.
Here Christ speaks to us in a way unique to this feast.

Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that God made a covenant with the Israelites.
God would take care of them, lead them through dangers
feed them and provide them with water.

Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that the covenant was consummated “not by the blood of bulls and goats

…. but by His own Blood” on the cross.

Today Christ, in the Word, reminds us
that the covenant is renewed at every Mass:
what was bread truly becomes His Body
and what was wine truly becomes His Blood.


All well and good, we are reminded.
But what should our reaction be?
Our act of faith, our response, must be the foundation;
we believe that what we eat and drink here today
is truly of the Body and Blood of Christ.
But it must go beyond that.
Listen to a stanza from a hymn of Thomas Aquinas:
translated by Gerrard Manley Hopkins:

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low here lies a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

“All lost in wonder…….” “All lost in wonder…….”

“Wonder”; that is our response
Not curiosity like “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”
Not doubt like “I wonder if life is really worth living.”
Not uncertainty like
"I wonder when our troops will leave Afghanistan.”
No, “all lost in wonder” means in the grasp of wonder.
I’m surprised, I’m amazed, I marvel, I’m delighted,
I’m enraptured, I’m in awe.
It’s the Israelites being surprised at getting drink from a rock
and food from the heavens.
It’s Mary, the bearer of God’s Son saying,
“My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”
It’s Galileo looking at the heavens through his telescope.
It’s Teresa of Avila struck by the beauty of a rose,
or Mother Teresa seeing the face of Christ in the poor,
A child sending his kite up into the wind.
It’s the light bulb of understanding seen in the face of a student.
It’s a clever magic trick.
It’s a mother looking with love on her newborn infant.
It’s the wonder of a first kiss.

This should be our reaction to the Body and Blood of Jesus.
I‘m surprised, amazed, delighted, enraptured. I marvel, I’m in awe.
Because something surprising, amazing, delightful, marvelous

and awesome has broken into our commonplace world.
God in the second Person of the Blessed Trinity
gives to us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.”
I don’t understand how God is in me and I am in him any more
than I understand three persons in one God
or the two natures of Jesus.
I simply welcome this hidden God in me and I in him
with awe and delight.


How do we live lost in wonder? How does this play out in our lives?
Fr. Walter Burghardt says that we are born
with our sense of wonder it, and as we age we may tend to lose it.
We become blazé, worldly-wise and sophisticated.
We don’t marvel that ice floats, though we should;
or that leaves seem to magically change colors in the fall;
or that we can put a space shuttle in orbit and bring it back,
or that Saturn has rings and Jupiter has several moons.
New things can amaze us, but only until some tomorrow,
when yesterday’s wonder is discarded and taken for granted.

This feast reminds us
that we must not take the Eucharist for granted.
It is the same Body and Blood of Christ each time we receive it.
But just receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is not enough.
When we first realize what we receive,
we may be amazed, surprised, delighted, awed.
We may be truly lost in wonder.
But the sense of wonder must continue.
The continuing wonder,
the sense of continually being lost in wonder
at what God has provided for us in the Eucharist,
comes in how it affects our lives.
It comes in how we participate in the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Paul says, “The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ;
the bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?”

We must be continually lost in the wonder of how
we each become the Body and Blood of Christ,
of how we each, through our reception of this sacrament,
share in the three-fold mission of Christ
to sanctify, to teach and to serve.

Are we not always surprised that even though we are sinners,
we are able to assist in making our children, our parents,
our spouses and our friends more holy?

Are we not amazed that we are able to teach others about God
through our seemingly feeble words and actions?

Are we not daily in awe of the countless ways
we are able to serve others and thus serve God?

As we cradle the Body of Christ in our hand and on our tongues,
and as we sip from the cup of Christ’s Blood
we might ask God for the grace of wonder,
wonder at the fact that the reception of this sacrament today
will play out in our lives all this week.

*Based on a homily “I Asked for Wonder” by Fr. Walter Burghardt in “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders”, Paulist Press, New York 1984 pp 168-173

Monday, May 14, 2012

Homily – 6th Sunday of Easter Year B May 13, 2012

By Deacon Jerry Franzen at the Cathedral
Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48 1 John 4: 7-10 John 15: 9-17

As sometimes happens with scripture selections that have been chosen
for our celebrations of the Mass, we may enter in the midst of a story
and get only certain chosen parts of the whole picture.
I think that we need a little more information for the story of Cornelius
in the first reading.

Cornelius was a Roman centurion, a pagan.
He and his family might have been described as “devout” pagans
for they worshipped their gods
and regularly gave alms to the poor, even the poor Jews.
Cornelius had experienced a vision in which an angel told him
to send some men to the town of Joppa, where Peter was.
They were to bring Peter back to Cornelius’ home.
In the meantime Peter also had a vision –
a vision of all of the animals of the earth.
In the vision God told Peter to slaughter and eat from the animals.
Peter protested three times that he would not eat of the profane animals,
because of the Jewish dietary restrictions.
God’s response each time was, “What God has made clean,
you are not to call profane.”
It seems that with Peter, once or twice is just not enough!
God had to beat him over the head with three admonitions.
Cornelius’ friends arrived in Joppa and explained to Peter
that he was to accompany them back to Cornelius’ house.
And Peter invited them into his house for hospitality.
But, Jews did not share hospitality with Gentiles.
Maybe that vision of the animals and God’s admonitionhad
begun to take effect.

Eventually Peter and some of his companions
went to Cornelius’ house,and this is where today’s first reading
enters the story.
The reading began with, “When Peter entered,…….”
It was Cornelius’ home that they were entering.
We then heard that Cornelius fell at Peter’s feetand Peter raised him up,
explaining that he himself was just a simple human beinglike Cornelius.
Wow! A Jew as low as a Gentile.
What we did not hear is that Peter explained at this point
that, though it was unlawful for a Jewto associate with or visit a Gentile,
God had shown him, in the vision with the animals,
that he should not call any person profane or unclean.
How could something God had made be profane or unclean?


This was a defining moment in the early Church.
The leader of the early Church, the first Pope,
had come to understand that God’s love is for all,
not just the Jewish people.
God’s love expressed in giving his only Son to suffer,
to die a horrible death and then to rise from the dead
was not just for the Jewish people.
Peter said,“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”
Then God emphasized the acceptance of the Gentiles
with an event similar to the one that happened at Pentecost.
He sent the Holy Spirit down upon all who were listening to Peter
and they began to speak in tongues.
Peter’s response was,“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people (Gentiles) who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?”
And the first Gentiles were baptized.


It is evident that God loved Cornelius.
He certainly went to a lot of trouble for his conversion.
God really wanted Cornelius and his family,
and companions to be his children.
In the same way,God will spare nothing to have each of us be his children.
This story is all about God’s love for his children,
even though the word “love”does not appear in the First Reading.
But, I counted at least 18 occurrences of the noun “love”
or one of its verb forms in the other two readings.
In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples,
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”
The Father sent his Son to be the Savior of all.
Yes, he did suffer and die,but he also rose to return to the Father.
That is how the Father loved his Son.
Jesus loves us in the same way.
By our baptism,we too are sent to share in the ministry of Christ.
We too will suffer and die,but we can also rise to return to the Father,
if we follow Jesus and truly say,
"Not my will, but thy will be done.”
And later in the Gospel Jesus commanded,
"Love one another, as I have loved you.”
Jesus gave up his will, what he might have wanted in his life,
for God’s will, what God wanted for Jesus’ life.
And we are commanded to do the same:
Give up what we want in our life
for what God wants in our life.


*True love gives us a way to see our relationships
from God's perspective.
From a merely human perspective,
we tend to look at our relationshipsin terms of what we get out of them.
This person is enjoyable to be around;
This person rubs me the wrong way;
This person is always asking favors...
Imagine Peter saying, “That Cornelius, he’s a Gentile.
What would I look like if I associated with him?”
But when we understandthat the path to true wisdom and lasting joy
is Christ-like love,self-forgetful, self-giving love,
those self-serving considerations then begin to take a back seat.
When we are self-centered,we tend to be passive and reactive.
But when we are Christ-centered,we tend to be proactive.
We see relationships in terms of what we can give to others,
and that's much more dynamic and energizing.

Certainly, Peter realized
that he could do something really important for Cornelius.
Imagine starting the week by making a list of things you want to do for people.
It would change the whole tone of our week;
we would be lighting lights instead of dodging shadows.
This week:
You might think of one small thing
you can do to ease the burdens of your spouse;
or one small thing you can do to make your boss's or coworker's job
just a little bit easier;
or one small thing you can do to bring some encouragement and joy
into your parents' lives;
You might think of a friend or relative who is suffering,
and think of one small thing you can do to help support them.
This is what self-giving looks like in real life.

If you want a vision that is nearer to you look to your mother;
she certainly gave of herself for you.
If your mother is living, hopefully you have already done
or will yet do something for her this weekend.
If she is not living, say a prayer for the repose of her soul.
Is it really so simple? Yes.
It is within all of our reach,
if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones.

Jesus did it for us on the wood of the cross.
Today, this week, let's promise to do it for him
on the pavement of our daily lives.

* Last part taken and modified from: www.epriest.com for the 6th Sunday of Easter (B

Monday, March 26, 2012


By Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral 3/25/12

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Hebrews 5:7-9 John 12: 20-33

*- An Old testament reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah
describing the new covenant
that God would make with the Israelite nation.
- Simply three verses from the letter to the Hebrews
about Jesus praying to the Father
and about how his prayers were heard.
- A gospel reading in which some Greeks want to meet up with Jesus
and Jesus decides instead to set about telling his disciples about
what would be happening to him in the near future.

Three readings; we will look at them in reverse order:


Today’s reading from the 12th Chapter of the Gospel
according to St. John serves to set the scene
for Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
In Chapter 11 Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead
and the Pharisees became very concerned.
Their plot against Jesus began to materialize,
because Jesus has been working all of these signs
and gathering a good number of followers.
Something had to be done.

In Chapter 12, in today’s Gospel reading,
Jesus explains that his hour is about to come.
The section just before today’s reading
describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Apparently the commotion caused by Jesus’ entry was so great
that it drew the attention of some “Greeks”, some Gentiles.
They wanted to “see” Jesus, probably see some of the signs
and miracles that they had heard about.
They had asked Philip for information on Jesus’ whereabouts,
so Philip and Andrew went to Jesus.
There is no indication whether the Greeks ever “saw” Jesus.
Jesus took this occasion to tell Philip and Andrew the following:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

That some non-Jews might wanted to “see” Jesus and his signs
was not nearly as important to Him
as having His own disciples
“see” the deeper inner meaning of the Son of Man’s
presence here on earth.
It was more important that their faith in Him be strengthened,
because Jesus knew what was coming.
The Pharisees were becoming more militant.

We have encountered the connection between “seeing” and “faith”
at other places in scripture.
In John’s Gospel from Year A for the fourth Sunday in Lent,
we hear the story of the man born blind,
whose faith was increased when his blindness was cured.
He saw and he believed.
Jesus wanted his disciples to “see” or better understand
what was going to happen to him so that their faith in him
would not be shaken by the events of his passion and death,
but rather strengthened by what would happen.
He was telling them, in a short parable,
that He had to die, like the grain of wheat dies,
and then rise like the plant rises to
produce the fruit of our salvation.
He told them that they, as his followers, had to do the same.
Hold on to your life in this world, and you will lose eternal life.
Give up your worldly life, and gain eternal life.
Your hour will come also.
He told them that to be one of His followers, if they were with Him,
this is what they must do.
And those who followed Him will be honored by the Father
with eternal life.
He had come to this hour, this point in his life, for our salvation
and this is what he now had to do.
What a glorious God we have
who would sacrifice his only begotten Son for us.


In the second reading, we heard that Jesus
“offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death
and he was heard because of his reverence.”
He was heard?
He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not have to suffer and die and he was heard?
Wait a minute. He asked that the bitter cup be taken from him,
that he not be subjected to the terrible suffering
and slow agonizing death and God heard his prayers?
Doesn’t sound like that’s the way things turned out.

Remember he also prayed that “not my will but thy will be done.”
He was praying that the bitter cup of weakness,
the weakness that he was feeling
would be replaced with the strength to be obedient,
to say “Yes” to the Father’s will.
And through his suffering in the garden,
through his prayer to and reverence for the Father,
he became obedient to the Father.
It is not the physical suffering and death of Jesus
that leads to our salvation.
It is Jesus’ free-will obedience to the Father’s plan
that is our salvation.


I have brought you through two readings,
told you about Jesus and what he was about to go through,
and how he prayed that it would not happen,
but what does all of this mean for us?

Does it mean that we will all have to suffer?
Most of us know that we too must suffer.
Most of us have felt the suffering in some way.
All of the suffering from terminal cancer
to adolescent acne
should become our sharing in the suffering of Christ.
This is fearfully and wonderfully true,
but to join our suffering to that of Christ,
our suffering must be Christ-like, linked to obedience.
Our Salvation is not just about Jesus’ obedience,
It’s also about our obedience.
Obedience is the key.
When God calls, we must answer “Yes,” freely.
In the old testament covenant,
God spoke to the leaders of the Israelite nation,
and they passed the words and laws down to the people
for them to obey.
In today’s Old testament reading Jeremiah was telling the Israelites
that there would be a new covenant,
not the law handed down to the leaders, then to all,
but a law that would enter their hearts.
“I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.”
Jesus is that New Covenant.
He came to earth to take our nature, he came within us
to show us the way back to the father.
The New Covenant is not a set of written laws
that we must memorize or continually be reminded of
by our leaders, so that we can do God’s will.
The New Covenant is a person, Jesus, a perfect model, one of us,
to show us what to do,
to help us to understand what to do,
to write on our hearts what we are to do when God calls.

I cannot trace out what your path of obedience will be:
what God will ask of you and how he will ask it.
But I dare to make two predictions with confidence:
“FIRST, you will hear God speaking to you,
and you will answer “Yes”
in the measure that your covenant,
your commitment to Christ,
to his Church,
to your brothers and sisters,
is interiorized, is written on your heart.
God never stops speaking,
but the cold mind, the locked heart,
those for whom Jesus is just a Sunday phenomenon,
will not hear his voice.
The SECOND prediction is a warning.
The more deeply the covenant is etched on your heart,
the more likely you will learn obedience as Jesus did:
through suffering.
May we learn to pray as Jesus did,
not for things to be changed to conform God’s plan to our will,
but for a warming of our minds
and an unlocking of our hearts,
for the will to make Jesus #1 on our list every day,
for the strength to be obedient to God’s plan,
so as to be able to say “Yes” to God’s will
and to endure any suffering.
Holy Week is fast approaching.
May we become more involved each day this week
and every day for the rest of our lives
in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.

*Parts based on “Through What He Suffered He Learned to Obey” from “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” by Walter J. Burghardt, S.J. Paulist Press 1984 NJ pp 39-44

HOMILY 5th Sunday of Lent - Year A

Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral - March 25, 2012

A missionary came to serve a tribe in the jungles of South America.
He noticed that many of the tribe were ill.
He knew that there was a clinic across the river.
Simple, take the sick to the clinic.
But he found that there was a great resistance to going to the clinic.

At first he thought they were afraid of the clinic,
but he found out that the real problem was the river.
They believed that it harbored evil spirits,
that would attack them as they crossed.
How would he convince the natives that the river was safe?
First, he brought them to the river’s edge,
and tried to explain that there was no danger,
no evil spirits.
A few took his word, but most would have none of his explanation.
He then bent over and splashed his hand in the water.
Certainly that would convince them; a few more went along.
Water on their hands, no problem.
Being in the water or being in a situation
that might put them into the water like from a boat,
that was a major problem.

The missionary waded into the water up to his waist;
surely the natives would see that he was safe
even though they could not see him below the waist.
But most remained afraid of the deeper water.

So the missionary took his last shot, he dove into the river
and swam underwater
and emerged alive and well on the other side.
The natives could see him.
They could see that he had survived the underwater trip.
Many more were now convinced
that the river was not filled with evil spirits
and many were finally encouraged to risk the crossing.


The missionary used a series of increasingly more pronounced signs.
He tried explanation, then touching the water,
then standing in the water
and finally submerging himself to get the point across.

The readings at Mass are on a three-year cycle: Year A, B and C.
We have been in the midst of Year B
since the first Sunday in Advent,
but today you heard the readings from year A.
That is because we use the readings from Year A,
when we celebrate the scrutinies with the elect.
Today we are celebrating the third scrutiny with the elect.
The A Gospel readings for the three scrutinies,
include the following stories:
First Scrutiny – Jesus meets the woman at the well.
Second Scrutiny – Jesus cured the man born blind.
Third Scrutiny – Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
In this series of Gospel readings,
Jesus can be seen as doing much the same as the missionary,
using a series of signs to get across a message,
signs that become ever-more pronounced.

First there was the minor miracle of reading the mind
of the woman at the well.
You might recall that she told Jesus that she had no husband,
And Jesus told her that in fact she had had five husbands
and the man she was living with now was indeed
not her husband.
Last week
we heard about the more miraculous cure of the blind man,
and today the ultimate miracle
of raising Lazarus from the dead.

In each instance the faith of the person or persons
interacting with Jesus was affected.
The woman at the well accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
Her faith was so strengthened,
that she went back to her village
to spread the Good News about the man,
Jesus, the Messiah, she had met at the well.
When Jesus identified himself to the man born blind,
the man said, "I do believe, Lord."
His faith was strengthened.
In Today’s Gospel, there was little doubt that Lazarus was dead.
He had been dead for four days.
And again faith was tested.
The disciples wondered how Jesus,
the one who claimed to be the Messiah
could lead them back to Judea,
a place where there could be trouble?
Martha and Mary did not understand how Jesus,
the Christ, could let their brother die
and be buried for four days,
when He could have saved Lazarus had he been there.
The Jews might have wondered:
Could this really be the Son of Man, the Messiah,
who is perturbed by a few non-believers
and who breaks down and cries at the loss of a friend?
Would the Son of God endure the stench of the tomb
of a person dead for four days?
We have had three consecutive weeks of signs,
of testing, probing, examining,
three weeks of scrutiny in order to test faith
and to strengthen faith.

On each of these three consecutive Sundays
we have celebrated this process of scrutiny
with the elect of our parish.
Yes, I say "WE celebrate",
because by this process our faith in Jesus Christ
is also being examined and strengthened.


Today our scrutiny might take the following form:
Are we ready to follow Jesus
to those spots which are comfortable?
Jesus befriended a woman
who could have been stoned to death for her immoral behavior.
He befriended a blind man who was considered to be a sinner.
And today, Jesus took on death.
We won't be "stoned" to death or labeled a sinner
because we may hold views counter to the accepted culture,
but we might be insulted, ignored or shunned,
because we hold to Christian principles.
It could mean speaking out against violence and war
or working to abolish abortion.
In Lent we must be about the business of finding out
just where we are spiritually.

Since this is the time for scrutiny,
each of us must check up on where we stand
in our relationship with the Lord.
Following Jesus might mean
volunteering at an agency that aids the poor and homeless,
or reaching out to an alienated family member,
or digging deeper to support the Diocesan \ Parish Annual Appeal,
or working to remove from our life that one sin that plagues us.

God has endured the stench of our sin.
He is calling us, like Lazarus, from the tomb of our death in sin.
Let us roll away the stones that trap us.
Where do we stand?
How are we responding to the call to continuing conversion?


The missionary went to the point of standing in the river;
with the raising of Lazarus, Jesus did the equivalent.
The missionary found it necessary go further,
to endure the depths of the river.
In today's gospel, Jesus is preparing to take the next step,
to endure the depths of our death.

At the Easter Vigil,
the elect will enter into the water of Baptism
and come out on the other side,
having been freed of the grip of evil.
Tonya, our elect, is in the final stages of preparing for this next step.
We must all be preparing to do the same,
to take the final step - to rise
like Lazarus and with Jesus from the tomb.

Friday, February 24, 2012


By Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral February 27, 2012
Genesis 9: 8-15 1 Peter 3: 18-22 Mark 1: 12-15

The preface is the prayer said by the priest
right after the Holy, Holy Holy.
There are special prefaces for certain feasts and seasons.
In the first of the choices for the preface for Lent,
in the new translation,
the priest prays to God with these words
regarding the Lenten season:
“for by your gracious gift each year
your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts
with the joy of minds made pure……”
That gracious gift is the season of Lent.
Some would rather God not provide that gift.
One year, when I served at St. Paul parish in Florence,
there were very sparce decorations
in church on the first Sunday of Advent.
A parishioner asked me,
“What are we trying to do around here,
make Advent as gloomy as Lent?
The words of the preface were “joy of minds,”
yet it seems that everybody is trying to give up something.
Candy? Snacks? Adult beverages?
Joy? We can’t eat meat on Fridays; Oh! We are so fragile.

We start Lent by wearing ashes. Glad it’s not sackcloth too.
Imagine having to wear clothes made from burlap.
What would be joyful about that?
It would seem that we Christians
have certainly given Lent a bad name.


I tell people that Lent is my favorite time of the year,
and they look at me like I’m crazy.
For years, I couldn’t explain it.
That’s just the way it was, the way I felt.
I now know that it’s because Lent points to Easter.
Easter has always been most important to me,
And, thus, the season leading up to Easter
has been my favorite.
Lent ends with the beginning of the Holy Thursday liturgy,
and the absolute best time of the Church’s year begins.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil,
aka Holy Saturday, and then Easter Sunday,

But I do realize that Lent in not everybody’s favorite time.
It’s because there is a tension.
How do we reconcile our spending Lent
with a “joy of mind”
and still deal with ashes, sackcloth, denial,
and our feelings of gloom and doom?
Why is it that every year we hear the story
of the encounter of Jesus with the Devil
on the first Sunday of Lent?
That sounds pretty gloomy.
Why does Jesus seem to warn us:
“The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Sounds like a warning of impending doom to me.
It would seem that the joy mentioned in the preface
should be connected to “Rejoice” instead of “Repent?”


On the surface, repentance is a feeling of sorrow, regret.
David regretted his actions with Bathsheba,
and his killing of her husband, Uriah.
The prodigal son regretted how he squandered his inheritance.
Peter regretted that he denied Jesus three times.
Each was repentant;
each felt sorrow for having done wrong.
But the word “repent” carries a more basic idea;
it has a positive thrust that comes from the prophets.
When the prophets pointed out the sins of the Israelites,
the sinners wore sackcloth and ashes,
they shrieked and sobbed publicly,
they cut themselves,
they confessed their faults out loud.
But the prophets were not impressed.
They saw the external symbols of repentance,
but they saw that nothing was happening inside.
True repentance involves a change of mind and heart,
new attitudes, fresh patterns of behavior, a new start.

We just heard from the prophet Joel on Ash Wednesday,
“Rend your hearts, not your garments.”
Change what is inside.
Sharing in the community ritual of ashes
means nothing, unless hardened habits change
and there is a new attitude toward God.

In the early church,
when an adult Christian sinned greviously,
the repentant person went to the bishop for confession.
A popular penance was the wearing of sackcloth and ashes
for an extended period of time.
This was not so much done to mark a person as a sinner,
as it was to mark the person as one
who is seeking to change those old habits,
one that is looking forward to a new start.
We wore the ashes of Wednesday,
not just to remind us of our sin,
not just to show the whole world that we are sinners.
We wore the ashes of Wednesday
to remind us that this is again our chance,
our time to change,
that there is a new beginning.
The ashes were applied in the form of a cross
to indicate that the new beginning is made possible
by Jesus’ Good Friday death on the cross
and His Easter resurrection.
We are not Christians, entombed in sin,
pretending that Christ has not risen.
We’ve heard the Good News.
We must rejoice because we can repent.
On Wednesday when the ashes were applied,
we probably heard:
“Remember that you are dust
and to dust you shall return.‘‘
The alternate words are: “Repent and believe in the Gospel,”
the same words we heard today at the end of the Gospel:
Jesus had been baptized in Jordan by John;
he then spent 40 days in the desert
in preparation for his ministry.
When he began his ministry,
his first declaration of the Good News was
“The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.”


So, how do we do it? How do we repent?
We must refuse to live in yesterday.
We must refuse the evil of yesterday by confronting yesterday,
as Jesus confronted Satan.
Jesus did not have to take that trip to the desert
for his benefit.
He took that trip for our benefit.
Jesus chose to meet up with Satan,
to make it clear to us that we must confront temptation.

Realizing we have done wrong is the first step.
Feeling sorrow and regret is the second step.
Turning away from evil is the third step, and that takes work.
It requires that we, like Jesus, confront the source of evil.
Deal with it; root it out; proceed to avoid it .

If the abuse of alcohol
has caused you to have some interpersonal problems,
make Lent the time to express your regrets
to those you hurt – and to confess those sins.
BUT, also make this Lent the time to go further:
during this Lent define that abuse as yesterday,
celebrate this Lent as the tomorrow of change.
Confront the reasons for the abuse and defeat them.
Am I using alcohol to try to improve my image,
an image that is already baptized in the likeness of God?
Avoid the companions that support your abuse.
This might even be a good reason
for giving up alcohol for Lent.

Who have we hurt by our greed,
that insatiable appetite for money or power?
Lent is the time to be sorrowful, to make amends,
but today’s preface says that we must not stop there.
Celebrate Lent with the “joy of the mind”
that recognizes the tomorrow of generosity
and service to others.
Confront the reasons for greed.
Ask yourself how they line up with a God that is Love?
This might be a good reason
to increase your gifts to the needy during Lent.
How have I not brought God’s love to those around me?
Tell God that you regret
that you may have shunned Him, ignored Him,
abandoned Him in others.
Tell him that pride, selfishness, hatred and lust
are on the way out of your life.
Celebrate the fact that you can reform your life.

Don’t put on the sackcloth and ashes of doom and gloom
because of this season.
Put on the sackcloth and ashes of celebration
because of this season,
and say “Rejoice, I am repenting,
I am turning my life around,
I am doing something new with great joy.
I am trying to follow the teachings of the Gospel.”
The words of the preface were, “the joy of minds made pure.”
That purity comes from our belief in the Gospel.
Put on the sackcloth and ashes of the season
because you TRULY DO
believe in the Good News of salvation.

Funeral Homily – Ray Foster

By Jerry Franzen St. Henry, Elsmere, KY 2/23/12
Isaiah 58: 6-11  Romans 8: 28-35, 37-39  Matthew 25: 31-46

Fr. Ryan and Helen, I am honored to have this opportunity
to share some thoughts with all of you,
thoughts about the Good News of Jesus Christ
at this time of sorrow. I thank you.

Helen, daughters Marian and Susan, son David, brother Pete,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren
and all the members of the extended Foster family,
I join you in your sorrow;
there now is a void, a place once occupied by Ray.
On behalf of Fr. Ryan, Fr. Nibi, Fr. Barth,
the staff and members of this parish,
I offer you our consolation,
a consolation that, I hope, will help you to know
that Ray’s presence will continue among us.

And how will that happen? Only through God’s love for us.
God can continue to make Ray present to us in many ways,
And He will.
For we believe that our God is a loving God.
God found ways to show his love for us through Ray
while he was among us.
We each have the task of bringing God’s love to each other,
Ray did this when he was alive, whether he knew it or not,
and I believe
that we will continue to bring God’s love to others,
because we knew Ray as an example of how to do God’s will.

When I was asked to preach at this funeral,
of course, my first thought was “What will I say?”
“How can anything I say be the right thing on this sad occasion?”
The answer to those questions
comes from the answer to a further question:
“What will God have to say on this occasion?”
We have just heard God speak
and I had a preview of what God’s wprds would be .
Today’s readings, what God had to say, are powerful;
they are filled with hope.


In the second reading, St. Paul wrote to the Romans that,
“all things work for the good for those who love God,
those who are called for his purpose.”
God, in his infinite love for us, gave us His Son for our salvation.
If we have someone like that on our side,
how can we possibly be afraid of those against us?
Nothing can separate us from the love of God,
not death, life, angels, principalities, or really any other obstacle.
Notice death was at the head of the list.
When we die, God’s love for us continues,
In death there is a separation from other humans,
but we must be sure to know
that death does not separate one from God’s love.
That there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God
gives us all hope for eternal life with God.

The first reading, in the words of the prophet Isaiah,
tells us what God wants in return.
It specifically mentions fasting,
but while fasting, depriving ourselves of some food, is a good thing,
and we do deal with that during this, the Lenten season,
what God really wants is the fasting that occurs
when we deprive of ourselves
by sharing our time to free those oppressed,
by sharing our bread with the hungry,
by sharing our shelter with the homeless,
by sharing our clothing with the needy.
God designed us to be able to do these things;
That, too, supports our hope in life eternal

And the Gospel passage explains
that when we do these things out of love for our neighbors,
we do them for God.
What we do in charity for others, we actually do for God.
We don’t do things for God directly;
that would be difficult, trying to deal with God directly.
So He gave us an easy way:
we look to our neighbors and meet their needs.

These three pieces of scripture were beautifully chosen for this Mass:
1. to tell us of the infinite love God has for us,
and that all we have to do is to love Him in return.
2. to tell us what God expects in that love for Him.
3. to tell us that we actually love God
when we show our love for our neighbors.
That is my take on what God just spoke to us in the readings.

But how do these readings apply to us who are grieving the loss of Ray, our friend, our family member.
I mentioned earlier the beauty of these readings.
I see that beauty in the composite image we get
of our relationship with God.
They give us hope that Ray is at the eternal banquet with God,
and that our present sorrow
will eventually be turned to joy for Ray.

The readings give us the true guide to how we should live,
if we expect to be at that same eternal banquet,
if we expect to be with God in heaven.
It may seem simple, because the guide is written down in God’s word.
That’s a start, but not good enough.
Someone can write down how to play the violin;
a book of instructions may be good and even necessary,
but alone, such a book will not be sufficient
for our learning to play that instrument.
We need someone to show us how – a teacher.
We recognize Jesus as the ultimate teacher,
as he has showed us so many ways that we can serve each other.

But Jesus is not bodily here
to show us by his actions how to love God
through loving others.
We know that we are here for each other;
each of us has the responsibility to provide that instruction
to others by our example.
Each of us has the responsibility of the teacher.


In Ray Foster, I saw a man
who was a wonderful example to others of all ages.
If you really wanted to know how to get to heaven,
Ray was one to emulate.
I met Ray through “Workcamp”
which was a joint St. Paul – St. Henry youth ministry
summer mission trip to Appalacia.

I saw Ray as a person who loved his neighbors,
whether they lived in a trailer on the side of a hill in Floyd County,
whether they were chaperones who weren’t exactly sure
why they were in Appalacia building a sturdy porch
onto a house that was about to fall down,
whether they were youth ministers
who didn’t quite do things the way
Ray thought they should be done,
or whether they were teenagers who didn’t have a clue
about where to find that left-handed hammer
in the toolbox.
Ray loved us all; he was a quiet and patient teacher for all of us.
He was an example for me of how
I should act in patience as a part of that group.
It was evident to me that Ray loved us all,
because he knew of the great love God had for him.

At the beginning of this homily, I said that there is the consolation that,
though there is now a void once filled by Ray
Ray will always remain with us.
That might immediately call to mind memories.
But, it actually goes beyond our memories.
He will remain with us in the ways that he has helped each of us
to better show our love for God
though our love for our neighbors.
I am sad that Ray has died,
but I am so happy that our paths crossed enough
that some of his quite patience
and his desire to give OF his life for the youth
has rubbed off on me.
That’s exactly the way that God worked through Ray
and wants to work through each of us.

Homily for Ash Wednesday Year B

By Jerry Franzen NCC 2/22/12
Joel 2:12-18  2 Corinthians 5: 20-6:2  Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

What is Ash Wednesday and Lent all about?
Jesus talks about our not drawing attention to the good things we do;
about giving to the poor without drawing attention to what we do;
about praying without letting others see what we do;
about fasting without letting others see what we do.
Giving to the poor, praying, and fasting,
probably not the things we most like to do, but good things.
But what’s the sense in doing good things,
if you cannot get a little credit for doing these good things?

The prophet Joel brings us God’s words and they include:
“fasting”, “weeping” and “mourning”
“rend your hearts not your garments” – tear your hearts.
That sounds really painful.
“Blow the trumpet to proclaim a fast.”
Usually we would blow the trumpet to celebrate a happy occasion,
maybe a special dinner not to stop eating or to just eat less.
And this was not for just a few people;
get everybody together for the fast,
the elders, the children, the infants,
even bridegrooms and brides,
who should be celebrating their weddings.
Joel goes on - Let the priests cry out to the Lord,
to beg the Lord to let his presence be known.
So, we need to beg the Lord to let his presence known?
With these images from Sacred Scripture to begin the Lenten season,
it’s no wonder that Lent is such a downer for many people.

On top of this, we begin the season by putting dirt on our foreheads.
Dirt that says, “Hey! Look at me, I’m a sinner.”


A lot of negatives!
And yet I’m here to tell you that this is my favorite time of the year,
even better than Christmas.
You may be thinking, “This guy is really strange.”
Most of you know that already,
after all I teach Chemistry and I really like the subject.

Let’s talk about the ashes.
In the very early Church, only adults were baptized.
They were sinners, and all of their sins were “washed away”
by their baptism.
Some thought that the newly baptized would be such good Christians
that they would not sin again, not ever.
Ha! When the new Christians did commit serious sin,
the bishops realized that something had to be done.
So the sinners were brought to the bishops and they confessed their sins,
originally in public to the community.
Can you imagine your standing up in public
and confessing all of your sins?
After the confession, the bishop assigned each of the sinners a penance.
It was a public penance which began about 40 days before Easter.
It often involved the person wearing ragged clothes
and having dirt on his or her face.
This set them apart from the community, identified them as sinners
and helped them to better recognize
and deal with their own sinfulness.
After they had endured their penance,
they were returned to full status in the community by the bishop
at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
This was the beginning of our current sacrament of Penance.
And the period of penance, 40 days,
just happens to correspond to our season of Lent.
That period of penance and our Lent both point to Easter;
Lent is all about Easter.
And Yes, our ashes do remind us of the dirt on the face of the penitents.


So, you still might ask, “Why is this your favorite time of the year?”
Fasting, praying, giving away money, sin, penance, confession-
These do not sound like anybody’s favorite things to do.
It’s because, for me, and for all of us, Lent is all about Easter.

When I was in the sixth grade,
the teacher split the class down the middle
and told us that we would have a debate.
One side would defend the premise
that Christmas is the greatest feast in the Church.
The other side would defend the premise
that Easter is the greatest feast in the Church.
I was on the Easter side, and as far as I am concerned,
we won the debate.
For me, Easter has always been the greater feast.
And Lent is all about Easter.
If there would have been no Easter, there would be no Lent.
Lent is all about Jesus’ resurrection,
our resurrection, our salvation.

We don’t have ashes rubbed all over our faces;
They are applied to our foreheads in a special way,
in the sign of the cross.
They are applied to us as a sign of our salvation in the cross.
Words are said with the application of the ashes.
One form is:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”
Most people equate the word “dust” with the ashes, just dirt.
“Remember you are nothing but dirt
and your dead body will return to the dirt.”
Another downer!
Many prefer the alternate form:
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
However, remember in the second creation story
in the second chapter of Genesis
that man was made from the clay of the ground.
That clay would have been dust in the dry region of the Middle East.
From the first creation story in the first chapter of Genisis
we know that man was made in the image and likeness of God.
Could “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”
really be:
“Remember you were made from dust in the image and likeness of God,
and you will return to that image and likeness of God
when you are victorous over your sinfulness.”
Yes the ashes do represent our sinfuless, the bad news,
but the cross is the cross of our salvation, our Easter,
our resurrection from sin – the VERY GOOD NEWS.
You see Lent is all about Easter.
There is a similar sentiment of our salvation in the alternate sentence:
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”


Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical year.
It is a time when we are called to return to the Lord,
when I know that the Lord is calling me back.
We are all sinners;
we have each distanced ourselves somewhat from God.
But that is just the beginning.
Lent doesn’t end in sin.
Lent can be viewed in a much more positive manner.
It is a time for us to follow the urgings of the prophet Joel:
“Return to the Lord your God.”
Joel goes on in one of my favorites lines in the Bible,
one of the most positive verses in the Bible:
“For gracious and merciful is (the Lord),
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.”
This is why Lent is my favorite time of the year,
because it reminds me that no matter what we have done,
God is not harsh with us, he treats us with grace,
He is ready with mercy that is without end,
He can deal with our many, many sins and not get very angry,
He is kind and helpful in our return to Him,
And he removes any punishment
as soon as we ask for forgiveness.
That is all such Good News and it is right here at the beginning of Lent.
God sent his Son into the world for our salvation.
St. Paul put it this way in the second reading;
‘For our sake he made him to be sin,
who did not know sin
so that we might become the righteousness
of God in him.”
For our sake, God sent his Son, who was not a sinner,
to die for us, to take the punishment for us,
so that we might become what God wants us to be,
with Him.
Can there be a better god than that?
Yes, Lent is the time for us to consider our sinfulness,
but it does not end there.
It is also the time for us to better understand our God,
to immerse ourselves in the Good News of salvation,
to concentrate on the ways back to the Lord.
Yes, Lent is all about Easter and it is my favorite season of the year.