Monday, December 17, 2018

HOMILY 3rd Sunday of Advent December 16, 2018

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption             by Deacon Jerry Franzen

Zephaniah 3:14-18a            Philippians 4:4-7         Luke 3:10-18

"Praised Be Jesus Christ.  Good Morning."
Thursday evening I attended a Christmas band and choral concert
 at Scott High School in Taylor Mill.
The performers were a mixture of students
 from Woodland Middle School and Scott High School.
Two of my grandchildren were performing in the band portion.
The second to last selection was entitled “Adventum”,
 an instrumental composition by Jared Barnes.
That name, “Adventum” piqued my interest;
 it sounded like a Latin term connected to Advent.
Before beginning that selection, the conductor mentioned
that it would eventually be a bit loud; that made me wonder.
It started softly with the melody of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
played on flutes and woodwinds;
the volume grew as it transitioned
into the Carol of the Bells played by the whole band
with lots of percussion,
It was loud by the end.
I thought: ”What a metaphor for Advent?” –
a somber beginning of asking for Christ to come
leading to the bell-ringing joy of His arrival.
Today is Gaudete Sunday – Gaudete, a Latin word for “Rejoice!
Rejoice, the day of Christ Jesus is coming.”
Why are we rejoicing, when for the last two Sundays
we have heard that Advent is not just about the birth of Jesus,
but more so also about the final Day of Judgement
when he will come as Christ the King?
Rejoice about the end of the world?  Come now.
The simple answer is that we are to rejoice that
we are past the halfway point of this season of preparation.


In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah was telling the Israelites
that even though God had let them suffer in exile
because of their unfaithfulness,
God had removed his judgement against them.
Zephaniah also reminded the Israelites that God was with them
to renew them in his love.
They were to sing joyfully, as one sings at festivals.

For us the same is true.
We may feel exiled from God by our sins.
To shout with joy is difficult in times of struggle with our sinfulness;
it goes against our feelings and our perceptions.
We cannot forget that God is with us and comes to us every day
in many ways, but especially in the Eucharist.
We are not stuck in the bog of sinfulness.
Every time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
we come away with our sins forgiven,
ready for the end of our life to join God in heaven.
Jesus came to earth to accomplish that forgiveness.
Let us Rejoice and sing joyfully.


This is all enhanced in the second reading.
St. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always,
not every now and then, but always.
How can we rejoice always unless we are ready always?
Regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
will do the trick.
It removes the anxiety of where will I be at the final judgement,
on the left or the right, with the goats or the sheep,
wheat in the barn or chaff to be burned, in heaven or hell?

We can aim to be free from serious sin at our death,
to be all set to be with God for eternity
by regular reception of the Sacrament.
That is the Peace of Christ.
Jesus came to earth to bring us that Peace, the Peace of Christmas.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully    


We heard from Zephaniah, who spoke to the Israelites
six hundred years before the birth of Christ.
He spoke of God’s presence within them and
his forgiveness for their sinfulness.
God was present within us in human form as His Son, Jesus,
and remains with us and within us in the Eucharist.
We also heard from St. Paul years after Jesus left this earth.
The Philippians were told to not have anxiety,
to make their requests to God
in prayer, petition and thanksgiving.
Jesus came to bring the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully.

And then St. Luke, also years after Jesus left this earth,
gave us words about what happened among the people
shortly before the beginning of Christ’s ministry.
They were expecting the Messiah,
whom they thought would free them from Roman oppression.
John told them to prepare by acts of love, sharing with others,
treating others justly and rightly with respect.
He said that one mightier than he would come,
the long-awaited Messiah.
Then he told them something that they would not understand
until the day of Pentecost
about three years in the future for them.
They would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
They would rejoice in the Lord’s presence among them
and they would follow the Spirit
in preaching God’s love and His plan for us.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully

In this season of Advent, we can get off focus and
miss the point of the season.
We get so overwhelmed with all of the parties,
gifts to buy and wrap, cards to address and send,
that we may miss the person of Christmas.

We might ask ourselves a few questions:
Is there joy in our hearts, because this is the celebration
of the remembrance of the birth of the Son of God,
who has provided for us the way back to the Father?
Are we seeking, like the people in today’s readings,
more ways to welcome Him into our lives every day?
Do we realize that for Jesus’ mission to be complete in us,
we must cleanse our hearts of sin?
Do we celebrate the birth of the person who is the King of our lives.
Do we see Christ in others?
Will love or just obligation be the reason we do things for others.

I find peace in the notes of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”,
the comfort of the peace of Christ,
because I know that He HAS come to me, to us.
I also found joy in the “Carol of the Bells” as the musicians rang out
the joy that God has provided me and all of us
with a path to salvation.

May each of you find peace AND joy
as we move closer to Christmas.     

Come, Lord Jesus, come!
And let us rejoice and sing joyfully!             

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Homily – 33rd Sunday – Year B November 18, 2018

By Deacon Jerry Franzen at  the Cathedral
Daniel 12: 1-3             Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18        Mark 13:24-32

Praised Be Jesus Christ.  Good Morning.

Let’s review three quotes from today’s readings:
From the Book of the Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament:
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.
Some shall live forever,
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
At the second coming of Jesus in all his power and glory
there will be the final judgment in which some souls will join
their glorified risen bodies in eternity with God
and other souls will join their hideous bodies
in the horror and disgrace of not being with God.

From the Gospel of St. Mark:
“Then he will send out the angels
to gather his elect from the four winds
from the end of the earth to the end of the  sky.”
God’s messengers will be sent
to gather those elected to spend eternity with God.
From the Letter to the Hebrews:
“Where there is forgiveness of these
there is no longer offering for sin.”
Christ has won the forgiveness for everybody’s sins.

Three readings – three selections;
         1. We have a choice to live body and soul with God forever
              or face the horror of not doing so – the state of Hell.
         2. Those gathered by the angels will be those elected.
         3. And what are the qualifications to be among the elect?
             It seems somehow to be all about forgiveness.


Today is a kind of preparation day, a prelude, for next Sunday,
the solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Then we will celebrate the future day of Christ coming,
 not as Savior but as the King of the Universe
 when His enemies will be “made His footstool.”

Today we set the stage for this celebration,
 the celebration of those chosen to be united with God,
 body and soul for all eternity.
We do not celebrate those not so elected,
but we are reminded that this possibility exists.
This is what we sometimes call the final judgment,
 the event at which the each of us will be judged
 as to which group we belong to.
*Pope Benedict XVI calls the final judgment a "place of hope,"
          and a "setting for learning and practicing hope."

The final judgment is a “place of hope.”
This judgment has simply two possible outcomes.
Every judgment requires 2 or more possible outcomes:
Innocent or guilty, fair or foul, a catch or not, a goal or not.
The prophet Daniel in the first reading
makes the possible outcomes of our lives very clear:
live forever with Christ the King
or be separated from Him for all eternity. 
Hope is a desire for a particular outcome.
The hitter hopes that the ball drops fair,
The fielder hopes that the ball drops in foul territory.
The final judgment spawns hope in us; we hope for heaven.


Judgments usually involve rules by which decisions are made,
Which side of the third base line, in the net or not,
behind the three-point line or on it.
When the criteria are very clear and explicit,
judgments can be easily made.
What are the criteria for the final judgment?
Are they clear and explicit?

Everyone of us has been given all that we need
to be among the elect to spend eternity with Christ.
God gave His Son for our salvation,
for each of us to be among the elect.
We have just gone through
what has been termed the “mid-term,” elections.
Ideally everyone who wanted to
was given the opportunity to run for elective office.
The judgment about who was elected to an office
was based on who got the most votes.
And ideally each voter chose a candidate,
because the voter considered that candidate
to have the best qualifications for the office.
God will make the decision on the day of judgment.
Our election to the eternal presence of God,
will be based on our qualifications and there is but one voter.


The qualifications for our hope for salvation are simple.
Have we lived our lives to show our love for God and our neighbor?
Has that been a Godly love,
a relationship which involves true sacrifice in our lives for God
and our neighbor?
AND, in cases when we have not shown that love,
but have seriously offended God and our neighbor,
have we expressed our true sorrow for our transgressions
to God in the sacrament of Reconciliation?
Remember, every time we offend our neighbor, we offend God.

The criteria are that simple; it’s not a difficult decision for God.
The criteria are simple, not a mystery for us.
Because of the sacrifice of Jesus,
whether we attain our hope for salvation,
depends solely on us.  God has done His part.
 “Where there is forgiveness of these
there is no longer offering for sin.”
It is not in physical sacrifices that we atone for our sins;
it is through the graces of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Recall the rest of the quote from Pope Benedict XVI,
“Judgment is a ‘setting for learning and practicing hope.’"
With our keeping the final judgment in firm view,
and what we must do to be among the elect
we can learn about and practice hope.
**To better understand how we learn and practice,
we can go to the very last word in the chapter
from which our Gospel reading was taken,
Chapter 13 of Mark's Gospel.
That last word is a one-word sentence: “Watch.”

We must watch for and learn from
the continuing coming of Christ into our lives.
He is there every time we gather,
each time His word is proclaimed,
each time His Body rests in your hands or on your tongue,
each time His Precious Blood quenches our thirst.
Christ comes to us in each man, woman and child
whose eyes meet ours, all who seek our love.
We must keep our eyes of the goal and be always prepared
so that when our earthly life ends,
we will then be qualified to be among the elect
at the final judgment.
BUT, keeping our attention on the power and the glory
of the final coming must not blind us
to Christ’s daily comings
                             in the rags and tatters of the poor
                             in the lonely,
                             the frightened,
                             the joyless
                             in the sick
                             and in those lost in this strange world
                                    that does not seem to care about them.
There are everyday occasions for each of us
to support the hopes of others by our love,
and in this way to learn more about
and gain more practice in our hope for salvation.

*  Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, #41 as quoted in:

**  Patterned after parts of “With Great Power and Glory” in “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” by Walter J Burghardt, S.J., Paulist Press 1984 New York pp 149-154.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Homily – 28th Sunday – Year B October 14, 2018

By Deacon Jerry Franzen at the Cathedral
Wisdom 7: 7-11  `      Hebrews 4: 12-13  `   Mark 10: 17-30

Praised Be Jesus Christ!   Good Morning!
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
There are interesting explanations of just what is meant by “the eye of a needle” but the bottom line is that
this statement should make us squirm.
As the disciples said, “Then who can be saved?”
It should make us think about what is in our wallets,
about the size of our bank accounts,
and the size of the collection of all that we possess.
To be sure, we must face the issue head-on.
What is Jesus saying that we must do to enter the kingdom?
I suggest we do three things to help ease our concerns:
1. We must put the passage in the context of the times;
2. We must uncover what Jesus had in mind
    when he spoke this way about riches;
3. We must look at how this might speak to us today.


It’s little wonder that “the disciples were amazed”
at Jesus’ words and they were “exceedingly astonished.”
Jesus had seemingly told them that
NO ONE could enter the kingdom of heaven.
A powerful  Jewish tradition,
a part of the very air the disciples breathed,
deemed that wealth was a sign of God’s grace.
The Lord blessed Job in his latter days not only with grace
but also with abundances of sheep, cattle and oxen.
God enriched those he loved,
as was the case with Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
In the old Testament,
wealth was a part of life’s peace and fullness.
Moses promised the people that, if they obeyed God,
they would prosper mightily in a land
where they would “lack nothing.”

But it wasn’t that God blessed all that were financially rich.
Isaiah warned, “cursed are those who add house to house
and join field to field, till they snatch up the whole area
and become the sole inhabitants of the land.”
And woe to those who forgot
that the source of their wealth was God.
The understanding in Jesus’ day was that,
if you feared God and you truly loved him,
you would be blessed with the good things of the earth.
It is understandable that the disciples said,
“Then who can be saved?’
Either you did not fear and love God,
received none of His graces and were doomed, or
you feared God, loved God and then were doomed
by the riches you received.


What did Jesus say to this revered tradition?
He reversed it rudely in his own life style.
He had by his own admission “nowhere to lay his head.”
He lived off the hospitality of some women of Galilee,
the hospitality of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany,
the hospitaliy of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethia
and Zacheus, even some of the Pharisees.
He also reversed this revered tradition in his teachings:
“Woe to you who are rich,
for you have your consolation.”
The fool who “lays up treasure for himself
and is not rich towards God.”

The rich man who died and went to hell,
as the poor Lazarus was carried by angels to heaven.
Jesus called riches “unjust mammon” and said
“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
“Any of you who does not bid farewell to all he has
cannot be my disciple.”
That is tough language indeed.
But there is another side of Jesus to keep us
from reaching a conclusion too quickly.
He did not tell Lazarus, Martha and Mary to sell all;
He didn’t admonish Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethia
for their riches.
Zacheus proclaimed that he gave only half of his goods
to the poor, just half, and still Jesus told him
that salvation had come to his house.

Will the real Jesus please stand up?
Will it be no riches or some?
There seems to be the radical Jesus of no riches
and the moderate Jesus of some wealth,
the Jesus who links wealth with evil
and Jesus the who advises sharing wealth.  
Jesus told the young man in today’s Gospel reading,
“Sell what you have and give to the poor.”

Contrary to what we often unconsciously hear, in this reading
Jesus did not tell the young man to sell everything.
There is the Jesus who tells some to give it all away AND
the Jesus who advises others to share what they have.
The Jesus who stresses
how selfish and godless the rich can become
AND the Jesus who experiences how generous
and God-fearing his well-to-do friends can be.

What might this say to us today?
How do both the radical Jesus – give it all away -
and the moderate Jesus – share it - speak to us?
1. The radical Jesus reminds us that nothing,
    absolutely nothing, can take precedence over Christ
    in our lives, over his right to rule over our hearts.
    He reminds us that there is a peril in any possession,
    be it a preferred stock or a video game,
    be it the position of vice president of marketing
    or the position of RCIA coordinator,
    be it the knowledge of the practice of courtroom law
    or the power of being a parent,
    be it health, wealth, family or home.

And what is the peril?
It’s simply that the possession is mine,
and it can be the center of my existence,
to constrain my life,
to manipulate me, to strangle me.
When that happens, Christ takes second place and we don’t listen.
We don’t hear Jesus’ continual invitation
into an ever-deepening and more personal
relationship with him.
We don’t hear his call to give it up, to let go.
The radical Jesus poses the question:
What is the camel in your life
that will keep you from passing
through the eye of the needle
into the kingdom of heaven?
What rules your life, the camel or the kingdom?

2. The moderate Jesus reminds us
of something more splendidly positive.
Whatever is mine, whatever I own, is a gift from God -
even if it stems from my talent.
That talent owes its origin to God.
A gift from God is not a gift to be clutched;
it’s a gift to be given.
The science I have learned over fifty-plus years
is not just to be stored away in my gray matter
for my own intellectual delight.
It’s meant to be shared, sometimes even questioned.
Each of you is a gifted man or woman, more gifted, perhaps,
than our modesty may allow us to admit.
It matters not whether it is millions or a widow’s mite,
intelligence or power, beauty or wisdom,
gentleness or compassion or faith, hope or love.
The moderate Jesus tells us to share our gifts.

To some, such as Mother Therese,
He says give all that you have to the poor,
and follow Him without any possessions.
To others He says share what you possess:
give to your brothers and sisters,
use your gift of knowledge to open new horizons,
      exert your power for peace,
      offer your wisdom for reconcilation,
               your compassion for healing,
               your hope to destroy despair,
               your very weakness to give strength.
Remember, your most precious possession is yourself.
Give it away.  At least share it.

To be able to share the gifts God has given each of us,
our vision cannot be fixed on the “eye of the needle,”
the obstacles ahead.
It must be fixed on the beyond.

For looking too long at the needle’s eye and
worrying about how you will get your personal camel
 through it, can lead to despair.
We may ask:
“How can I reconcile my riches with God’s kingdom,
all my possessions with the command to let go?”
We can’t do it alone; but all things are possible with God.

My brothers and sisters, we must listen to God.
Some are told to give their all totally, all for God.
The rest must share their time, talent and treasures with others.
It is only through our acceptance of His invitation,
through His commands, through His plan
that each of us in our own way
will be able to pare down what we have
in order to focus on the kingdom here on earth and in heaven.

*Based on “Easier for a Camel” in “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” by Walter J. Burghardt S.J. Paulist Press New York 1984 pp 134-138

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Homily for the Wedding of Dawn Franzen and Daniel Fletcher

Deacon Jerry Franzen 9/15/18       Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
Sirach 26:1-4, 13-16      Ephesians 5: 2a, 21-33       John 2:1-11 

Praised be Jesus Christ.  Good afternoon.
Welcome to the wedding of Dawn Franzen and Daniel Fletcher.

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor for his physical.
After the doctor finished the various procedures,
he asked the wife for a private conference with her
before they left the office.
“Your husband,” the doctor said, “is under a great deal of stress 
and you must devote your life to sheltering and comforting him.
Don’t argue or disagree with him.
Get up early each morning and fix his favorite breakfast.
Spend the morning cleaning house,
but have a nice lunch ready at noon,
if he happens to come home.
You can spend the afternoon on chores outside the house,
but make sure that a special dinner is waiting for him
when he returns.
The evening hours may be spent watching sports with him on TV.
This must be your schedule to help him through this.”
The wife left the office, picked up her husband and drove him home.
“Well,” asked the husband,”what did the doctor say?”
“He said,” replied the wife, “that you’re going to die.”

That story requires that we reflect on the proper relationship
between a husband and wife.
That relationship is not the one expressed in the doctor’s directions
nor the one exhibited by the attitude of the wife.
Dawn and Daniel, your relationship is the heart of the matter
this afternoon.
The story presents the self-centered extremes of a husband and wife,
the very antithesis of love.
It prompts the question, “What makes a good spouse?”

*A Protestant minister once described a religious person
as a strange mixture of three persons:
a poet, a lunatic and a lover.
I think we can apply this analogy to a couple who is about to
embark on the great adventure of married life.


By poet I do not mean that you must compose cute little verses
for each other.
“How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and the height that my soul can reach.” Etc.
Maybe you would do that, but not just that.
Poets are people of profound faith.
They see beneath appearances with new eyes and
then put the essence of what they sense into words.      
The Blessed Virgin Mary noticed that the wine supply was low
and her Son was present.
She knew that Jesus COULD take care of the problem.
Her words were simply, “They have no wine.” –
no motherly direction to her Son on what to do. Faith.
She had faith that He WOULD take care of it,
despite his questioning, “What does this have to do with me?”
There was no need for motherly advice; her words were simply
to the waiters, ”Do whatever he tells you.”

Dawn and Daniel, without faith in each other and God, you risk
seeing only as far as the eye can see,
and losing the wonder, the miracle, in the other person.
That other was made by God, in His image, for you.
Without faith, you see only what grows old, gray and feeble.
Pray for the poet within you to see in the other what God sees.  


You must have some degree of lunacy, and
by that I do not mean “off your rocker” lunacy
I mean a “wild ideas” lunacy,
A lunacy that fully understands what others might see
as foolishness, like the foolishness of the cross,
believing in the seeming foolishness of the Messiah
suffering and dying as a criminal.
It means the wild idea of persons
who are ready to give all of themselves for God.
and for each other in this era of the “me” generation.
Many in these times would class this self giving as foolishness
when we are constantly being told to grab for all that we can.
In the second reading some focus on the line containing
“wives should be subordinate to their husbands”
and somehow lose sight of the rest of the reading
St. Paul does not mean a wife is not equal to her husband.
In fact, he is expressing just the opposite.
In that reading from the letter to the Ephesians
St. Paul clearly states:
“Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ”
BEFORE he gets specific about wives or husbands.
Wives and husbands are to be subordinate to each other.
that certainly sounds like lunacy, doesn’t it?  How can that be?
Each subordinate to the other?
It sounds like a general out-ranking a major
while the major outranks the general.  Lunacy.
Well, it is all tied up in the meaning of the word “subordinate.”
St. Paul is saying that the relationship between husband and wife
should be the same as the relationship
between Christ and the Church.
The reading in two places described that relationship:
The Church must be subordinate to Christ
by giving itself to Christ.
And Christ made himself subordinate to the Church
by giving His life for the Church.
Dawn and Daniel, you are embarking on a life together
with this premise of  being subordinate to each other,
and that may sound like lunacy to many.
Near the end of that second reading,
St. Paul did admit that it is a great mystery.


That giving of self, the being “subordinate”
is the definition of true love, of God-like love.
St. Paul says that it is great mystery,
but we have ample evidence in the married present here
that St. Paul’s great mystery can be lived out.
Dawn and Daniel, you may be wondering
just how YOU will be able to live that mystery.
Mysteries can be lived, but only with the grace of God,
the wisdom expressed in the words of His Son
and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In Greek there are four words
used to show different nuances of “love.”
One of them, “agape,” represents the love
that is rooted in the sacrifice one makes for another.
That is the God-like love of which I speak.
It is the complete antithesis of the relationship
the doctor expressed in the introductory story
and the attitude of the wife in that story.
It is the essence of the covenant God has made with each of us;
This is what Paul was getting at in the second reading.
It is also what Sirach was saying in the first reading.
That reading was heavily skewed
toward the effort and the sacrifices of the wife.
One could just as easily write a counterpart to it for the husband.
That would be a good homework assignment for someone.

Dawn and Daniel, your relationship must be structured
as described by St. Paul as giving your lives for each other,
as in that great mystery.
Remember that such a great mystery can only be lived out
with the help of God.
May a request for that help be your constant prayer. 
**Now I would like to direct some remarks particularly to you,
dear friends.
You have come together in this glorious Cathedral
not just to ooh and aah at the beauty of this ceremony.
You are here because each of you has played a role in this love story.
You are here to celebrate with Dawn and Daniel
that their love has culminated in this sacrament.
But when they walk down the aisle at the recessional,
and you follow, your task is not done.
For Daniel and Dawn will live their love not on some fantasy island,
but in a world where love mingles with hate,
belief struggles against cynicism,
hope all too often ends in despair,
and death never takes a holiday.
They must live their love
when the wonder of each other gives way to the routine,
when the joy of their journey is confronted with
what we now call “reality.”
Wedded love cannot subsist without support.
It needs the solid foundation of God’s love.
If Daniel and Dawn are truly to recognize the Lord as their helper
they need to know how to welcome God into their marriage.
They need men and women,
who, have lived the love that has endured good times and bad,
poverty and plenty, sickness and health.
They need men and women who can tell them without words,
but by their sheer presence, that, Yes, it can be done;
that, with God, all things are possible.
I know many of you married couples
and I know that you have the experience of which I speak.
My dear friends, you are not mere spectators;
you are an integral part of this event.
You are here to indicate your willingness to be those examples.

For this reason,
when Dawn and Daniel join their hands and hearts
a few moments from now,
I invite the wedded among you to join your hands,
and to murmur softly or just express silently in your soul
those awesome words that gave you to each other,
for as long as life pulses within you.

I can think of no greater gift –
not Wedgewood china or Tiffany crystal –
that you can offer this afternoon to Dawn and Daniel.
For in this gift, in your daily example of sacrificial love,
you are giving this dear couple the best possible gift.
You are giving them yourselves.

 *Frederick Buechner, The Magnificient Defeat (New York: Seabury, 1966) p 23
** Based on  Rev Walter Burghardt, Speak the Word with Boldness (New York: Paulist Press, 1994) p 135