Sunday, August 18, 2019


Deacon Jerry Franzen  Cathedral 8/19/07

Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10     Hebrews 12: 1-4            Luke 12: 49-53

Praised Be Jesus Christ  Good Morning (Afternoon, Evening)

Today we heard Jesus say that he came to set a fire
which he wished were already blazing.
Fire is a vehicle for change, among other things.
That change came in the form of his being baptized in,
being immersed in, his suffering and death,
which he wished had already been accomplished.
His coming to earth would not bring peace to the people,
the freedom from their struggles
that they thought a Messiah would bring. 
And then he predicted that his immersion in the fire of the cross
would cause significant division.
And, yes, that has come to be the case; we do have division.

We hear a lot of rhetoric about division in the political realm.
The suffering , death and resurrection of Jesus
did not cause that rhetoric.
Jesus was probably referring to the division
between those who believed Him to be the promised Messiah
and those who did not believe that someone
who would suffer that horrible death could be the Messiah.
Also, in St. John’s Gospel we hear Jesus say to His followers:
           “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
           and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
Many walked away declaring, “That is a hard saying.”
(John 6: 53, 60, 66)
In effect, they were saying how can this man be the Messiah?
In scripture we see many instances of division
between the Pharisees and the teachings of Jesus
Today there remains division among  the world’s religions,
even those that worship the same God of the Old Testament.
There is even division among the Christian religions.
The Catholic faith has much in common
with other Christian faiths, but there is one very fundamental element
that yet divides us from the others.
Jesus is really present in the Eucharist which we receive.
Non-Catholic Christians believe that what they do
when they have a Communion Service is a symbol of
what Jesus did at the Last Supper.
Our Mass IS what Jesus did at the Last Supper and on the cross.
He makes Himself present and sacrifices Himself to the Father.
We believe that validly ordained Catholic priests receive the gift,
the Church uses the word “faculty”, to stand in for Christ
as He, Christ, brings about the change of bread and wine
into His Body and Blood and then offers
them in sacrifice to the Father in the Mass.
Our bishops and priests can trace their ministerial lineage
back through a succession of ordinations
back to the apostles who ordained bishops who ordained more bishops
and so on to the present ordinations of bishops.
And, of course, the bishops have ordained all priests.
Ministers ordained outside of the Catholic Church
cannot claim this Apostolic succession to have the faculty
to be the earthly instrument by which the miracle
of the Eucharist occurs.
So yes, Christ offering himself in sacrifice to the Father
and the subsequent human disagreements of  the Reformation
have brought about division among Christians.
How do we support our belief in the real presence of Jesus
in the Eucharist?
In  both St. Mark’s (14:22-24) and St. Matthew’s Gospels (26:26-29)
Jesus at the Last Supper  gave the apostles bread
and said “Take it; this is MY Body.”
They shared the cup and Jesus said “This is MY Blood
of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Jesus did not say this is a symbol of my Body or a symbol of my Blood.
The account in Luke’s Gospel is virtually the same using the terms
"MY Body” and “MY Blood,”
with the added command, “ this in memory of me.”
How could the apostles do this, see to it that this would continue,
that they would be able to do this in remembrance of Him
unless He granted them that power to do this
and the power to pass it on through ordination?
St. Paul’s description of what he received from the Lord
in I Corinthians 11:23-26 combines these other accounts
and is the main source of the words of consecration
used in the Mass today
We believe that the bread and wine become
the Body and Blood of Christ when the priest says,
“This is my Body…” and then “This is the Cup of my Blood…


Furthermore, there are divisions within the Catholic faith also.
You may have heard the bishop decry the polls
that show that only about 20 percent of those self- identifying
as Catholics actually attend the Sunday Mass regularly.
Wow, an opportunity to receive Jesus and they do not attend!
I would think that if they believed in the real presence,
they would figuratively move heaven and hell to get to Mass.
My guess is that most of them do not believe
in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
In a recent video, Bishop Robert Barron
quoted an even more disappointing statistic from a poll.
Only about 23% of those attending Mass regularly
believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The remaining 77% say that the Eucharist is only a symbol of Jesus.
I was told that the percentage of believers in the real presence
may actually be somewhat higher than 23% due to the way
the questions were worded in the survey.
Still I was appalled; why is it not 100%?
 I makes me wonder: “What are people learning?”

TheCatechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1376
states the following from the Council of Trent in the year 1551:

“Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His Body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and his holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ our Lord and the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His Blood.”

So yes, there is division within the Church today,
division within the Body of Christ.
It is a division which disheartens me.
We have, first of all, Catholics who come to Mass regularly
and those who do not.
Some do not attend because they don’t get anything out of it.”
They received Jesus within their bodies when they came
and didn’t get anything out of it?
People should be eager to “get Jesus”
to welcome Him within their bodies, within their hearts.
And then there are those who receive Jesus regularly,
and don’t really know that they are receiving Him.
They think that what looks like a disc of unleavened bread
is just a symbol of Christ’s’ body.
And what still looks like and tastes like wine
is just a symbol of Christ’s blood.
I don’t know just where the Church has failed to teach
about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,
or where parents have failed to pass along
this very important element of our faith.
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “symbol” as:

“something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance especially : a visible sign of something invisible
a lion (something visible) as a symbol for courage (something invisible).”

Could it be that some think that what appears as bread and wine are just visible signs of the invisible Body and Blood of Jesus,
because they still look like bread and wine?”
Maybe this is the problem!
We, however,  believe that by the miracle of the Eucharist,
the Body and Blood of Christ are right there clearly visible.
The change in substance without a change in physical properties cannot be explained;
it is a miracle; it is a mystery.
It is something we must believe.
Remember Jesus said. “ This IS my Body.”
not “This is a symbol of my Body” and likewise for His Blood.
Remember also Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh
of the Son of Man and drink his blood…”
So if you are coming to Holy Communion and thinking that
what you are receiving is just a symbol of Jesus,
please know that Jesus wants you to have the faith
to believe that He really offers himself,
not a symbol of Himself in Holy Communion.
Please pray for strengthening of your belief in the real presence.
Can there be anything greater than
such an intimate meeting with Lord himself?
St John Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass,
we would die of joy.”


By Deacon Jerry Franzen,  Cathedral     July 10, 2016
Deuteronomy 30: 10-14    Colossians 1: 15-20    Luke 10:25-37

Praised Be Jesus Christ  Good (Morning, Afternoon, Evening)
Today’s parable from St. Luke’s 10th Chapter
should be very familiar to all of us.
This scholar asks Jesus some questions.
Jesus recognizes that the scholar can quote the law,
but there is this part about “neighbor.”
Jesus tells him the story about the Good Samaritan
to enlighten him on just who is his neighbor AND
to show him just what it means to “love you neighbor as yourself.”
Whatever he is called to do for himself out of self-love
he must, in the same way, do out of love for others.
Knowing the letter of the law is one thing.
What we actually do shows how we follow the spirit of the Law.
The love we are always talking about when speak of Godly love
is that love for another rooted in what we do in sacrifice for another.
Jesus was telling the scholar what he must do
to follow the spirit of the Law, and we must do the same.


I would imagine that this is the usual focus
of most homilies on this reading.
But, let’s review what the scholar quoted:
          “You shall love the Lord, your God,
          with all your heart,
          with all your being,
          with all your strength,
          and with all your mind,
          and you neighbor as yourself.”
How do we approach the teachings of the Church?
Do we parse the words, as we suspect the scholar did,
looking for loopholes in the letter of the law?
Do we worry MORE about,
           “What is the letter of the law?” than
           “What does the spirit of the law demand that we do?”


The following may illustrate this:
One might ask”
“Is it really a serious, i.e. mortal, sin to miss Mass on Sunday?”
Is turning my back on God and rejecting his salvation
really that serious?
Many Catholics don’t bother to get to Mass every Sunday.
It obviously is not a serious matter for them.
What does the Law say?
The Canon Law of the Church says that it is a serious sin
to deliberately miss the Sunday Mass.
So, if I were sick in bed and couldn’t go to Mass,
is that still a mortal sin?  Of course not.
The letter of the Law says that one must deliberately miss
a reasonable opportunity to get to Mass.
It is easy to play the part of the probing, testing scholar
to see how the law can be interpreted to our advantage.
But what about the spirit of the Law?
Must I be present at the very beginning;
how late can I come and still have it “count?”
How early can I leave and still have it “count?”
It use to be that you were OK,
if you got to Mass before the beginning of the part
called the Offertory and didn’t leave until
after you received Holy Communion.
We can even go further:
“Is it sufficient that I just attend or ‘hear’ Mass
from beginning to end, just be there?”
“Do I have to sing the congregational hymns,
say the responses when required, profess the creed?”
“Do I have to be attentive to the Sacred Scriptures and the homily?”
Do I have to mentally pray along with the priest
as he says the various prayers of the Mass?
“Do I have to receive Holy Communion?”

Those answers are not found in the letter of the Law,
But what about the spirit of the Law.
The Mass is the most important thing we do each week.
It is the weekly chance we have to gather with others
in our faith community in order to grow closer to God.
The Mass is the source and summit of all Christian life;
it is the most important means to our salvation.
We might very well ask the same question as the scholar,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus ended his answer with a question for the scholar.
Let me pose a few more questions here for our consideration
in relation to the Mosaic Law as the scholar presented it.


I know that I am preaching to the choir, as they say,
but I think that these questions bear asking.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our heart
and then give it the half-hearted approach
of not leaving home in time to be here
at the beginning and not caring enough
to stay till the very end?” (pause)

“with all your being”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our being
and miss the most important thing we do as Church,
this weekly nurturing of our relationship with God,
the joining of our being with our Savior
in Word and Communion?” (pause)

“with all your strength”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our strength and not make the effort
to sing the hymns or speak the responses?” (pause)

“with all your mind”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our mind
and not pay attention to the Word of God
or to the homily, and to not pray along with the priest
as he says the prayers of the Mass?” (pause)

We are here for ourselves, for our salvation, for eternal life.
But, let us not forget the last part of the law quoted:
How must I love my neighbor in all of this?
The Law said: As myself.
Everything I do for myself, I must do for my neighbor.
We are here today to fulfill an obligation,
an obligation for ourselves AND for our neighbor.
We must care enough about those around us
to be here to make them feel welcome at the beginning,
to extend the peace of Christ to them
and to not skip out on them early.
We must affirm and support one another
in our attention to Word and prayer, in our singing, in our responses
and in our profession of faith.
We must remember that we become
the collective Body of Christ with our neighbors
as we receive the Body of Christ.

Would it be a mortal sin to turn our back on these
opportunities that God has granted for our salvation?
Yes that’s serious.
Would it then also be a mortal sin to not do the best we can
to aid in the salvation of our neighbor? I think so.
The answer to how we must follow God’s directions
is not far removed from us far up in the shy,
not removed from us way across the sea
as Moses explained to the Israelites.
It cannot be found in fine-tuned dissertations of the learned.
It is already in our mouths and in our hearts.

Homily for the Funeral of Rebecca Brockman 7/12/19

Deacon Jerry Franzen        Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
                                      Luke 24:13-35

Praised Be Jesus Christ.  Good Morning everyone.
On behalf of Fr. Ryan Maher, Fr, Michael Norton,
Bishop Roger Foys, Sr. Barbara Woeste, the rest of the Cathedral Staff,
the parishioners of the Cathedral and myself,
I extend to you, family and friends of Rebecca, our deepest sympathies.
Over the years, I became a friend of Rebecca
and so I, too, feel an emptiness, a void, in my life,
a void in that I can no longer visit with her, share scripture with her
or bring Jesus to her  in Holy Communion.
She has now gone to meet him.

The Gospel selection which I just read is one that
I find rich in its teachings.
It is a reading that I find reflective of Rebecca’s encounter
with the Lord, as I knew her.
The encounter on the road to Emmaus happened on Easter day.
Apparently the two disciples were the second and third persons
to encounter the risen Lord.
Mary Magdalen had encountered him in the garden
near the tomb early on Easter morning.
Peter encountered the risen Lord at some point during that day,
and most of the rest of the apostles encountered Him
in the upper room later that evening.
The two disciples had quite an experience.
There are three points on which I would like to focus:
How the disciples met Jesus, how He shared Sacred Scripture
with them and how they shared a meal with Him.


1.  “… while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

No matter what we are doing, God is with us, by our side;
and we don’t recognize Him.
Most of the time God is with us just in Spirit, the Holy Spirit,
but at many times in our lives Jesus, because he was human,
is made manifest to us in another person.
It might be a priest or a minister;
it might be a parent, a daughter, a son, a friend;
it might be a complete stranger – someone who treats us,
maybe helps us - as Jesus would treat us.
Jesus often works through persons to help us in times of need,
to help us to a stronger personal relationship with him.
We are all called to a personal relationship with Jesus.
And as Christians, we are all called, at times, to take on the role
of being Jesus for others.
Rebecca was one of those persons who stood in for Jesus for me.
By her willingness to let me come into her home, to visit with her,
to share the word of God with her
and to bring her the Lord in Holy Communion,
she helped me to fulfill my calling as a deacon.
All Christians are called to be open to those opportunities
to be Jesus for someone else.


2.  “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets
he interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures.”

Jesus explained to the disciples that He was the Messiah
that God had promised for the Israelite people and for everyone.
There are many indications of this in the Old Testament.
The books of the Old testament are the Good News
of the promise of salvation for the Israelite people.
The New Testament tells us of the fulfillment of that promise
in Jesus Christ.
It is this fulfillment of the promise that made the disciples hearts
to be “burning within them.”
We must read the Sacred Scriptures, study them, understand them
and do our best to live by them.
They tell us what we must KNOW about God:
Father, Son and Spirit.
But more importantly the scriptures tell us what we must DO
to attain everlasting life, to be with God forever when we die.
That is what made their hearts burn within them. 
When a preacher preaches,
that person is not only trying to help others
to understand what the Word of God says,
that person is also trying to help others to
apply that understanding to situations of their everyday lives.
When I would bring communion to Rebecca,
I would always read the Gospel of the day
and offer my thoughts on how it applies to us.
She would always be very attentive,
despite her difficulties with breathing.
So attentive in fact, that she would often ask questions
about the reading.
She wanted to know more, and that gave me a feeling of joy.
I am not sure whether her heart was “burning within her,”
but she definitely recognized the value of God’s Word.
All of us must be attentive to God’s Word in Scripture
and must follow God’s direction in order to attain eternal life.


3. “…while he was with them at table, he took bread, blessed it,
broke it and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened…”

They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread,
in the meal that they shared.
That is our challenge also – to recognize Jesus in Holy Communion.
Because of several things that Jesus said in Scripture,
we Catholics believe that what we receive as Holy Communion
at Mass is truly the Body of Christ.
This is another way that Jesus is present to us –
not just as a symbol, but really present.
In the Mass what continues to look like a wafer of unleavened bread
becomes the actual Body of Christ.
Our receiving the Body of Jesus as food, a physical nourishment,
helps us to realize that what we are receiving
is more importantly for our spiritual nourishment.
Rebecca truly believed that Holy Communion was Jesus.
We talked about that.
She was always so glad to be able to receive it each week.
Although during the time I knew her, she never had the opportunity
to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion,
she watched our televised Mass at every chance she had.
In this Gospel Jesus was teaching his disciples and us
that, for each of us to develop the personal relationship
with our Savior for our salvation,
we must recognize Jesus in those around us,
we must know Jesus from what is recorded in the Bible
and we must receive Jesus within our bodies
and take him to our hearts.
What I saw in Rebecca was a sincere love for the Lord,
a need to know Him better
and a desire to take Him into her heart.       
We should all be so devoted to the Lord.