Monday, December 15, 2014


Deacon Jerry Franzen           Cathedral – DECEMBER 15, 2014

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11;       1 Thess 5:16-20;      John 1:6-8, 19-28

Good Morning
“The Lord be with you.”
R: “And with your spirit.”
That response is almost automatic.
This happens four times during each Mass,
          The Greeting, at the beginning of Mass.
          Before the proclamation of the Gospel,(we just did this)
          At the beginning of the dialogue before the Preface
          And before the final blessing.  
Most people probably say it without thinking about it.
In that response we pray that
the Lord will guide the spirit of the priest
or in my case the deacon.

An Episcopal priest once began the Sunday liturgy
by stepping to the microphone
in the sanctuary of a large church
and greeting the people by saying, “The Lord be with you.”
The microphone, although turned on, was not working,
because two wires were touching causing a short.
Because the sanctuary was somewhat removed from area
of the church where the people were seated,
they did not hear ”The Lord be with you.”
The priest, looking at one of the other ministers next to him
and realizing that he had not been herd,
tapped the microphone with his hand
and spoke to the other minister.
He did not realize that his tapping the microphone
had separated the crossed wires,
and all in the church heard his statement
 to the other minister loud and clear.
 He had angrily said,
“There must be something wrong with the microphone.”
The people gave their patterned response,
 “And with your spirit.”

We are fast approaching Christmas;
it’s time to inquire into the nature of our spirit.


What should our spirit be at this time in this Advent?
Today is “Gaudete Sunday”.
 “Gaudete” is Latin, meaning “Rejoice.”
It’s the first word of the Entrance Chant for today.
The whole Entrance Chant, which could be sung,
if we had no gathering hymn is:
“Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say, Rejoice! The Lord is near.”
We are to rejoice
because we have passed the half-way point of Advent.
(Today even gets a special color of vestments.
Our rose-colored vestments are meant to lift our spirits,
even if they haven’t been lifted enough
by all of the commercial anticipation of Christmas.)

All of that should set the tone for our spirit
for this, the Third Sunday of Advent.
The first two readings have the message that
should help to mold our spirits.
There is little doubt that Isaiah is happy to be a prophet.
He has been chosen to bring a message of salvation
to his people.
You can tell that St. Paul is likewise very upbeat
with a similar message for the Thessalonians.


 St. Paul says: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul says that it is God’s will that we always be happy,
that we always pray and that we always give thanks.
Three parts: happiness, prayer and thanks
 – separate yet connected.
What determines whether we are happy?
Is it just a matter of feeling good, feeling comfortable?
“I’m happy, if I feel happy.”
I feel happy that I’m retired
and don’t have to go to school anymore.
No more work to bring home.
Some feel happy that their Christmas shopping is finished.
Not I!
It’s a time to enjoy the food and drink of the season.
Not I again, if I want to continue to lose weight!
Many feel happy because it’s getting closer to Christmas.
Ah, just thinking about those much-wanted gifts.
“I’m happy, if I feel happy.”

But I can feel happy, and not be really happy,
just like I might feel healthy, and not really be healthy.
I may have some health problem that has not manifested itself.
Happiness is not to be confused with pleasure.
Pleasure is a transitory delight;
happiness is a more enduring peace.

For me, in the past the pleasure of freedom
during the Christmas break was always tempered
with the reminder of a spring semester to come.
Holiday parties end abruptly on January 1.
Those much wanted gifts are soon just ordinary possessions.
Many truly happy people have limited pleasures;
many with the most pleasurable lifestyles are grossly unhappy.

Remember, Paul connected “rejoicing always”
to prayer and giving thanks.
True biblical happiness, worthy of true rejoicing,
is rooted in our relationship with God.
On our part that relationship is prayer, joyful prayer
which includes worship as we do here each Sunday,
personal prayer
and all the actions of our lives which we offer in prayer.
Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Make all that we do our prayer.

God’s part in that relationship is redemption,
sending his Son to be among us.
And it is for this that we must always rejoice in thanksgiving.
Paul says, “In all circumstance give thanks.”


 Then, what is the true reason for rejoicing
 at this time of year?
True happiness is not something we seek
so much as it is a gift from God.
We may rest joyfully in the assurance of God’s care.
Isaiah rejoiced heartily in the Lord.
Christ is the spirit of God that was upon Isaiah.
Christ is the glad tidings,
the healing , the freedom, the salvation.

Christ is the gift we receive in the Word, in the priest,
in the assembly and in the sacrament at each Mass.
Jesus stood up in the temple
and read that very prophecy from Isaiah.
After he finished reading he said,
“Today that prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So, what is the character of your spirit this Advent?
Are you puzzled because you haven’t found the right gift
for Aunt Mary?
Are you annoyed because there is not enough time
 for all the usual holiday activities?
Are you worried about whether
 you will get everything you want for Christmas?

We must accept the happiness that God has given us as a free gift.
We must prayerfully share that gift of Christ with others.
Quit grabbing for happiness through pleasure; you can’t hold it.
It will escape you.
Thank God for it.
Paul says, “Do not quench the spirit.”
Our continual search for pleasure quenches the spirit.
Allow God’s gift of his Son to reign in your heart.

The happiness of this gift from God began for us with Christ’s birth.
Go back to that entrance antiphon,
 which incidentally is taken from
 St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians;
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say,
                   Rejoice!  The Lord is near.”
Rejoice because the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled today
in your hearing.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Homily for First Sunday of Advent - Year B

Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral 11/30/14
Is 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7 1 Cor 1: 3-9       Mk 13: 33-37

*Once upon a time there was a teenage girl named Belinda.
She thought that she might be interested in a boy named Randolph,
a nice boy, a smart boy, a respectful boy, a good Catholic boy
AND a good dancer.
Do you know how many teenage boys are good dancers?
Randolph hadn't paid any attention to Belinda,
but she didn't care, because she wasn't really sure
that she wanted to let on that she might like him.
Eventually, Randolph called her.
He tried to reach her every evening for a week,
but she didn't answer when he called,
and she didn't return his calls.

Belinda's mother asked, "Why don't you call that nice boy back;
he's so polite and respectful?"
Apparently Mom had been taking the messages;
This must have been prior to the invention
of cell phones, text messaging and voice mail.
You know, there really was such a time!
"He's a creep." Belinda insisted. "He's BORING."
Some do consider nice people to be BORING.
"I hear he's a good dancer and very sweet." her mother said.
"BORING.", argued Belinda.
Of course Belinda had every intention of calling him back,
but she didn't want to appear too eager, because
HE really hadn't paid any other attention to her for months.
Finally on a Saturday afternoon,
she called him back and HE wasn't in.
She tried again on Sunday afternoon, and he still wasn't in.
Furious, she tried again on Sunday evening, and he answered.
"Randolph, I hear you have been calling me,"
Belinda said in a snippy tone of voice.
"I'm sorry you didn't call me back sooner, Belinda.", he said sadly.
"I was going to invite you to the Christmas Dance.
But I figured you didn't want to go, so I asked someone else."

"I'm a total space cadet, I blew it" admitted Belinda.
"Maybe some other time," replied Randolph.
You never know when Mr. Right is going to call
with an invitation to a Christmas Dance.


Today's reading from the prophet Isaiah is a lament of the Israelites.
They had spent time away from their homeland in exile,
and away from God among the pagans and their idols.
Now that they were returning to their homeland,
they asked God why he had let them "wander from His ways,"
and "harden their hearts" against Him.
They longed for the God who tore open the heavens
and caused the mountains to quake,
the God who did "awesome" things,
greater than those "from of old."

They wanted their God back among them,
AND how nice it would be
if God would find them "doing right."
But, they sensed that God would be angry with them as sinners.
Their sins had made them unclean like polluted rags,
they were like withered leaves carried away
by the winds of guilt.
None of them had called upon God's name,
no one had rushed to cling to Him.
Had he hidden his face from them, let them stew in their guilt?      Abandoned them?
But, whether God had turned his face from them,
whether they could see God's face, wasn't important.
They knew something more important;
that they were in God's hands - like the clay of the potter.
God was there to take care of them, if they returned to Him


Like the Israelites, we too wander from the ways of the Lord. 
Our wandering usually shows up
as our lack of respect and love for another.
If we find support for our sinfulness, it will be easier to continue.
Our hearts will grow harder.
We may not respond to someone's need for help,
and instead focus on the laziness of others.
We wander farther and our hearts get even harder.
We might use another person
for our own satisfaction or advancement.
After all, according to prevailing attitudes our needs for money,
 power and physical satisfaction certainly come first.
We wander farther from the ways of the Lord.

This is what Belinda was doing to Randolph,
trying to build herself up at his expense
by making him continue to phone her.
After all, he was BORING.
We must ask ourselves, "Just how hard have our hearts become?
Are they so hard that God is BORING,
that there is no need to return his call.”
Advent is a yearly reminder for us to check ourselves,
to touch our hearts to see how hard they are becoming.
Have we been hearing that call but not answering like Belinda?
Is God too BORING for us to return the call?
Have we not heard a call from God in a while?
He calls every day, every minute.
Maybe it's time for us to give him a call, to seek the Lord.

If we have not heard from God in a while,
it is not because God has turned His face from us.
We have turned from God.
It may be time for us to remake the connection,
To turn to God in prayer:
- prayer that gives thanks for all that God provides for us,
- prayer that asks that our needs be fulfilled,
- prayer that listens, listens with the heart.

And Mark tells us to "Be watchful, be alert"-
to keep an open heart that seizes the opportunities
for God, through Christ, to be more fully in our lives,
a heart that is ready to help to build the Kingdom of God
as it explodes into our lives.
Be watchful for opportunities to build the Kingdom of God’s love,
brought here to earth by the birth of Jesus.
We can build the kingdom of God's sweeping love in many ways:
our helping a confused child,
our comforting a sick friend,
our consoling a discouraged spouse,
our listening to a troublesome person on the phone,
our satisfying a demand that seems unfair,
but will lead to much good with little sacrifice on our part.

"Be watchful, be alert."
You never know when Mr. Right is going to call
with an invitation to a Christmas Dance.
Be alert!
The Advent season reminds us that God is always calling
with His invitation to the Christmas event.


You may have seen information
in recent Bulletins about "Come Home."
"Come Home" is the Cathedral’s attempt
to reach out to inactive Catholics,
those who, for a variety of reasons,
have left the practices of the Catholic faith
and are not members of another religion.
They may consider God to be BORING
or the practice of the Catholic faith to be BORING.
They may be angry with God
or angry with someone or something about the Church.
They may feel rejected by the Church. 
Through "Come Home,"
a series of the first three Tuesday evenings in December,
we hope to meet with inactive Catholics
and to listen to their stories.

With the grace of God,
we hope to overcome their boredom,
their anger or whatever the problem might be
and to invite them back to the Church,
to help them to put in that return call
to invite God back into their lives through the Church.
We will need your help in bringing these people back.
If you know of someone who is an inactive Catholic,
invite them to come to meet with the “Come Home” team
led by Sr. Barbara, our pastoral associate,
on THIS Tuesday evening at the Parish Offices.
For now, we ask that you pray for the success of this effort
and pray that God will inspire you
to lead just one inactive Catholic to the “Come Home” team.
More information on “Come Home”can be found in the Bulletin.

*Story taken in 1999 from website of Andrew Greeley:

Monday, November 3, 2014

HOMILY Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral  11/02/2014
Wisdom 3:1–9   1 Thessalonians 4:13–18      John 17:24-26

The following was found written on a tombstone:

          "Remember me as you pass by.
           As you are now, so once was I.
           As I am now, one day you'll be.
           So stop and say a prayer for me."  

That little poem reminds us of two things about All Souls Day:      Today is a call to pray for our deceased loved ones
AND a reminder of our continuing relationship with those,
who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.


The Church has always taught
that it is good and wonderful to pray for the deceased.
As we heard in the first reading, we pray that,
“Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.”
We pray that they had presented themselves
“as sacrificial offerings” during their lives
and that God has taken “them to himself.”
We pray in joy that
some are with the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
They too are saints, though they may not have been formally
proclaimed as such by the Church.
We believe that they can help us by interceding for us.
May we not forget that those loved ones who helped us in life,
who are now with God in heaven, can continue to help us.

We pray also for those souls in purgatory,
that somehow our prayers for them
will aid in their movement to heaven. 
We can’t understand exactly how God
receives our prayers of petition.
We certainly can’t be so arrogant as to think
that our prayers change God’s plan.
But, in faith, we know that God hears our prayers
and answers them.
It’s just that God is not on our time frame;
there is no past, present or future for God.
God is eternal and all knowing.
He has known forever the substance of our prayers.
He has already answered our prayers according to His will
with the answer that He knows is best for us.
Our prayers have been answered before we offer them.

While our prayers don’t change God, they must change us.
We pray that the souls in purgatory
soon will be in the everlasting peace of God’s presence.
Our remembrance of our deceased beloved ones
through our prayers for them serves to remind us
that we must not allow our grief to continue,
that we must have hope,
for there is that great hope that
they are with God, or soon will be,
AND that we will some day also be with them.


My father died in 1982.
Certainly, I wish he were still here bodily.
But he is with me often,
whenever I am assisting at the altar,
because he was an altar server and a choir member                                   when he was young.
He is with me whenever I water or prune a houseplant,
because he was an avid grower of houseplants.
He is with me whenever I work in the yard or paint a wall.
He was with me whenever I taught students how soap is made,
because I watched him make soap, when I was young.

Today (11/2) is the anniversary of my mother’s death in 2007.
I especially remember my parents whenever I say the rosary,
because we said it together at the kitchen table
on many evenings after dinner.
They are with me when I play with my grandchildren,
because I remember their playing with my children.
I keep in communion with them this way.
This communication serves to remind me of my mortality,
not that I should fear my mortality,
but that through this communication
I must know that if I accept God’s love
as they did,
my death will be conquered.

In the gospel, Jesus’ teaching was a clear description
of His mission for conquering that death.
God the Father gave Jesus the responsibility
of the salvation of all souls.
Jesus will not reject anyone who comes to Him,
even the greatest sinner, because Jesus’ mission
was the salvation of ALL souls.
It is the will of the Father that we all should be with Him.
Jesus emphasized that this meant everybody who came to Him,
and that all of these would be glorified in His final coming.

Those who we remember today
responded to the love of Jesus and believed in Him.
They were welcomed by Jesus in heaven,
or will soon be welcomed,
and we have the hope of joining them “on the last day.”



Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls,
all those who have departed this earth.
On Wednesday, at a 10:00 AM Mass
we will place special emphasis on those
whose funerals were in this parish,
since last year at this time.

Each of us has relatives and friends who have died.
I pray that the Lord comfort you
as you continue to deal with your loss.
We are all reminded today of those special friends
and loved ones who have gone before us.
May we celebrate our continuing communion with them,
and praise God for revealing to us his love through them.

If you make a couple of changes in that little poem
I included at the beginning, you get the following:

           "Remember those who have passed your way.
           As you are now, so once were they.
           As they are now, one day you'll be,
           Together with God for all eternity"  

Friday, October 3, 2014


Isaiah 5:1-7        Philippians 4:6-9         Matthew 21:33-43

*In the version of the Roman Missal that we used
after the Second Vatican Council up to a few years ago,
the following prayer was said by the priest
after we all prayed the Lord’s Prayer together:
“Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Occasionally I would hear some priests substitute the words,
“unnecessary worry” for the word “anxiety.”
I suppose that it was thought that some people
might not have the proper understanding
of the word “anxiety”
and that the words “unnecessary worry”
better expressed the meaning in the prayer.
In the current edition of the Roman Missal
the text is:
“Deliver us, O Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may always be free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

My point is: There seemed to be some concern
associated with the use of the word “anxiety.”


For me, the word “anxiety” just means “worry,”
worry about what will happen
in some situation where the outcome is not known.
Today’s second reading is about anxiety.
Apparently St. Paul was in prison
and facing death for his continuing to preach Jesus Christ
when he wrote this letter to the people of Phillipi.
So he might have been dealing with his own anxiety.

Worry is a natural emotion.
Martha worried about how Jesus would be fed and comforted
when He visited her and her sister Mary.
I feel sure that Peter worried about what would happen to him
when Jesus revealed to him that
he, Jesus, would have to suffer, die
and rise from the dead.
The chief priests and the elders worried
about what would happen to them
if Jesus continued his ministry.
We all worry about things, past, present and future:
the results of the set of tests ordered by our physician,
the health and well-being of a lost relative.
the health of a baby in the womb,
our ability to pay the monthly bills,
the spread of the ebola virus,
the threat of terrorism in our country,
an impending test in a difficult school subject.

Worry can drag us down;
it can sap our strength to move forward;
it can stop us in our tracks, if we let it.
Generally we worry about things that are important to us,
high priority items.


Here is a story, apparently true (New York Times):
**There is a substance, called trichloroethane,
which has been used as a propellant in spray cans
of some household cleaners.
The propellant is toxic when the product is used improperly.
In the 1980’s, teenagers discovered that they could get high
by spraying the material in a plastic bag
and inhaling the fumes of trichloroethane in the bag.
I remember that this process was called “huffing.”
Even though the label on the can clearly warned
of death or serious injury,
some young people ignored the warning
and at least one death resulted from that use.

The company wanted to make the warning more emphatic
by printing it on the can in larger letters.
The company lawyer argued that larger letters
might only indicate to the teenagers that
the product contained more of the inhalant.
The lawyer asked the rhetorical question,
“What do the kids worry about more than death?”
His answer was “their appearance.”
So they rewrote the warning to include that the product could
cause hair loss and facial disfigurement.
That addition may not have been true,
but there were no more reported deaths
from inhaling that substance.

What we fear and worry about controls us, and
 what we fear results from our values.


St. Paul has given us the way to avoid anxiety.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.”
Have the right set of values and your fears will be eliminated.
Making your needs known to God is primary;
bring God into the picture.
Take your worries to God in prayer,
in an intimate conversation between you and Him.
That means that you have to be close enough to God,
familiar enough with God,
in a regular relationship with God,
in order to have that conversation.
Make that type of relationship with God
a high priority value in your life.

Then ask God for what you need; don’t demand it.
A petition is a request for help with our needs,
always understanding that God will grant our requests,
if that is what is best for us according to His will.
Make faith in God’s providence
a high priority value in your life.

And St. Paul says that we must do this with thanksgiving.
Sounds odd doesn’t it?
How can we ask for a gift and at the same time give thanks.
If we have true faith in God’s providence,
then we should be immediately thankful for the outcome,
whatever it might be.
At the very least, we should be thankful with the outcome,
when it comes.
Make giving regular thanks to God a high priority.

This was St. Paul’s attitude as he wrote from prison,
this is the attitude he wanted for the Philippians
and this is the attitude we need
to help us to avoid or at least deal with anxiety.
And if we follow St. Paul’s direction, what will we have?

I don’t mean the lack of war or armed conflict.
Not the lack of department in-fighting in a company.
Not the lack of petty family squabbles.
I mean an inner peace, the lack of anxiety,
the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
We do not understand God’s plan for us.
It is not for us to understand; it is for us to follow.
Paul goes on to tell us how to follow God’s plan.
We can’t be at peace if we lie and do other dishonorable deeds,
if we are unjust and impure in our actions,
if we act in an ugly or rude manner.

We must strive for excellence and things that are praiseworthy.
“Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Peace be with you! Sound familiar?
It’s the peace referred to in that prayer at Mass
right after the Lord’s Prayer; listen for it again:
“Deliver us, O Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,…”
It’s the peace that we are to wish for each other
at the exchange of the sign of peace:
not a freedom from the conflicts and arguments
of everyday life--that would be nice too--,
but a freedom from anxiety in knowing
that God is there for us.
That is the same peace in which I will dismiss you
at the end of Mass, when I sing, “Go in Peace.”
I choose that form of the dismissal, because
for me, that means that we all have grown in our faith in God,
as we have celebrated this Mass,
that the worries that we have brought to this Mass
have been eliminated or at least reduced,
so that we can truly leave here in peace.

*Overall idea for this homily came from “Sunday Seeds” by Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, Columbia Press 2002, Dublin, Ireland p 63

**Story taken from “750 Engaging Illustrations…” by Craig Brian Larson et al, Baker Books, Grand Rapids 2002 p 171 #214