Monthly Archives: May 2016

Homily for May 29 2016


It’s really nothing short of astounding when you consider that the Protestant Reformation took the central act of Christian worship, something that Christ’s followers had all been doing regularly since Jesus told us, “Do this in memory of me” — and threw it out.  Fifteen hundred years of Christian worship, rejected in the course of a very few years!  One could better understand if the reformers had clamored for a deeper popular UNDERSTANDING of the Eucharist, if they had demanded that priests be better instructed how to reverently celebrate the Mass, if the Church had addressed the abuses of the Mass that were rampant at the time.  And, as a matter of fact, the Church DID respond to the Reformation by seeing to ALL those things!  But by the time it happened, several decades had passed, the seeds of division had produced trees of hatred rooted in the cement of anger and bitterness.  And, even more deadly, the politics of Europe had fostered the divisions of Christianity for political advantage, actively encouraging false teachings as emperors had done with the Arian heresies over a thousand years earlier.

This is certainly not to imply that the Catholic Church was without fault.  As we said, abuses had been rampant for a long time.  Disgracefully hurried and irreverent celebrations of the Mass were commonplace.  It took the ghastly divisions of the Reformation to call the Church to a sobriety for which it had been unwilling to aim without first hitting rock bottom.  As the years turned into decades, and decades into centuries, divisions hardened.  All manner of accusations were leveled at a Catholic Church which did not and does not resemble the descriptions of its accusers.  “CHRISTIANS believe in the Bible,” some will proclaim, “while CATHOLICS do not.”  All one need do is scan the texts of the Mass to see that virtually every prayer in our liturgy is thoroughly grounded in Scripture and composed of verses from both the Old and New Testaments.

Moreover, our worship has all the long-standing elements of the worship which God divinely ordained for his people, both in the Old and New Testaments.  The first reading today tells us about Melchizedek, the king and priest of Jerusalem who greeted Abraham and brought out offerings of bread and wine to offer in sacrifice to God.  Bread and wine!  Does that remind you of anything?  Eight hundred years after that happened, King David would sing in Psalm 110 of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, who would be a king and a priest forever, “in the line of Melchizedek.”  And a thousand years after that, Jesus Christ would fulfill all those Old Testament passages by BEING HIMSELF the King and Eternal High Priest.  We do what he told us to do, in remembrance of him, as we bring BREAD AND WINE and he returns the gift to us, having become truly present as our food and drink.

When we are about to receive Holy Communion, the Church confronts us with the words of John the Baptist:  “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  This has no meaning unless we understand the reference to the Paschal or Passover Lamb, which God through Moses ordered his people to take and eat.  Doing so, they could be rescued from Egypt as the angel of death PASSED OVER their homes, whose vertical and horizontal doorposts were to be marked with the blood of the slaughtered lamb.  We, the disciples of Jesus, are similarly marked with HIS Precious Blood, shed on the vertical and horizontal beams of his Cross, through which we are freed from the slavery of our sins.  And when God led his people out of Egypt, their continuing stubbornness led them to wander aimlessly in the desert for 40 years before they could enter the Promised Land.  But God never abandoned them, and fed them with manna from heaven to sustain them.  Christ never abandons US, and in the course of our worship feeds us with the true Bread from heaven, his own Body, to sustain us all through our pilgrimage in the desert of this world.

So you see, the connections between what we do here in the Eucharist and what God’s people have done in our worship even before the coming of Christ are very plain and obvious.  To say that we only need to read the menu (that is, to believe solely in the Bible) and to forget about the meal (that is, to neglect doing what Jesus clearly told us to do) is to act contrary to the worship which God himself has prescribed for his people.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take God at HIS word than listen to one or another of those who have EDITED his word according to their own liking.  This is not to blame all those who hold to incomplete versions of the Christian faith.  By now, many of these churches and traditions are hundreds of years old, and old prejudices die hard.  We who are blessed to have the faith as Christ directed are the ones who must be on guard to never drive a further wedge against the unity of all Christians.  We do that best when we are faithful to the marvelous gift of the Eucharist, and when we long for and pray for the day when we shall all be one around the altar and table of the Lord.

Homily for May 22 2016


Sometime when you’re stopped in traffic and can safely do so, take a moment to look quickly at the faces of other drivers as they’re driving toward you or making a turn in front of you.  You’ll be surprised at how angry and sour so many of them look.  Scowling, frowning, grimacing, all seem to be the order of the day.  We would probably all agree that driving in traffic is not always the most pleasant thing to do, but if you know it, and you still stay and look MAD when you do it – hey, can that be healthy?  Is it any wonder there’s so much road rage, and so many accidents caused by it?

I say this only because the real challenge of Trinity Sunday is to strive to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect:  and that means striving to be a perfect community.  Most of us would probably be prone to say, “I COULD be perfect if it weren’t for all the PEOPLE I have to put up with!”  Well, be assured, the feeling’s mutual!  So where does that get us?

We are made in God’s image.  God is at once perfectly one and perfectly three.  That means that we are made as part of a community, in fact, of MANY communities.  And our common task is to work at making those communities as perfect as possible, because it is precisely in doing that, that we each grow in perfection.  Graduates, you have not gone through high school, and you’re not going off to college or jobs or service, just so you can keep all your knowledge and gifts to yourself.  One way or another, we are here for OTHERS.  We are here to present what we each have, in the best way we can, to do the most good.  THAT’S how we give God the greater glory and manifest his image within us.

So, are you going to head out from these graduation days to conquer the world?  Don’t.  Christ has already done that.  All YOU have to do is find your place in the program.  You’ll keep on finding new facets and aspects of that role of discipleship nearly every day of your life.  Keep looking for opportunities to do your best for others, and you’ll never get bored.  And remember that one of the greatest services you can perform, and one of the greatest favors you can do yourself, is to slap a smile on your face while you’re doing whatever it is:  mopping a floor, programming a computer, taking out the garbage, delivering a homily, or – why not? – driving in traffic.  People might think you’re nuts, but they won’t know for sure.  And that’s how you convey to them a little bit of the mystery of God himself.

God is perfectly three and perfectly one, always and forever.  It’s a mystery, but as soon as you think you’ve solved it or reasoned it out, you’re wrong, because it’s a mystery to be ENJOYED, not solved.  That smile on your face is a bit of a reflection of the divine happiness of the One in whose image you are made.  That smile will keep people wondering what you’re up to, like they’ve been asking about the Mona Lisa for 500 years.  You see, there is something about our God that is just too great to reveal in all its fullness to us while we are still on earth.  The people of the Old Testament believed that you could not see the face of God and live, because it would bowl you over.  Why?  Because of his WRATH?  No, my friends, like the great British writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton, I have to believe that it’s because of God’s MIRTH.  And we’ll have to wait till we are one with him in heaven to find out all that he’s been up to.  And those who choose to be in hell will be forever kicking themselves with remorse that they freely decided to miss out on all the fun.

Homily for May 8 2016



Suppose your last name was Arnold, or Booth, or Oswald.  Do you think your parents might have made sure not to name you Benedict, or John Wilkes, or Lee Harvey?  They more than likely would have decided not to saddle their child with a name that was already held in great disrepute.  A Saginaw doctor spent years trying to clear his family name, with only minimal success.  One of his ancestors unwittingly set John Wilkes Booth’s leg after Lincoln’s assassination, and for a century and a half, the saying “His name is Mudd” was a negative reference to that physician ancestor, Dr. Mudd.

Today is Mother’s Day, and we all know our mothers have warned us in a host of ways not to disgrace the family name — or at least to wear clean underwear.  After all, what if you’re in an accident?  Seriously though, far more important than the family name you were born into is the family name you acquired at baptism, the name of Christian.  THAT name identifies you as a member of GOD’S family, with the lifelong mission to invite and welcome as many other people as you can INTO that family.  And that is really the only name that will have eternal implications for you.

Our moms have passed on to us many things which they learned from THEIR moms, dads, sisters and brothers, older relatives, teachers, pastors, and special friends and neighbors.  We have had those life lessons drilled into us for as long as we can remember, many of them subconscious.  We don’t even realize it until one day we stop ourselves short and say, “Omigosh, I sound just like my mother!”  Or, “I’m acting just like my mother!”  That can be very complimentary, very funny, or very annoying; but those around us who have known both us and our mothers would probably say it’s true.

In the later chapters of both Matthew and Luke, Jesus cries out over Jerusalem, “How I wish I could have gathered you like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings!”  What a divine, motherly instinct the Son of God shows toward the Holy City, and by extension, to his New Jerusalem, our Holy Mother the Church, the Family of God.  And just like part of a mother’s role is to teach her children how to leave the nest and go out into the world and make something of themselves, Jesus at his Ascension promises the Holy Spirit and his abiding presence with his Church, our Holy Mother, so that WE can go out into the world and continue HIS work.

When it’s about something which was very endearing about our mother, we might blush a bit when we realize that we are sounding or acting just like her.  We truly honor her memory by doing so.  Would that in a similar way, we could often catch ourselves and say, “Omigosh, I’m sounding just like Jesus,” or “I’m acting just like my Lord and Savior.”  Now, we might think that quite presumptuous, and to dwell on it is really the very opposite of holiness;  but certainly OTHERS should find us speaking and acting like that!  After all, Jesus himself tells us, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and then, to Philip at the Last Supper, “Philip, he who sees me sees the Father!”  We’d BETTER be speaking and acting like Jesus, not so others will notice or honor US, but so they will also be drawn to the One who is our Lord and Savior.  The Apostles weren’t the only ones Jesus sent out into the world on that Ascension Day long ago.  In his human nature, Jesus had learned from his own Mother what it means to show a motherly concern for the salvation of all people.  What a joy to be part of the Family, and to have our own significant role to be the spitting image of Jesus in the lives of those to whom he sends us!

Homily for May 1 2016


Most of us here in church this morning have never made our own butter.  You couldn’t say that in this parish 60, or 80, or 100 years ago.  Making butter at home 100 years ago was as common as taking a bath — in fact, even MORE common than that!  Both required a whole lot more work than either one does today.  Now we can buy butter at the store, and it gives us a lot more time to binge-watch Blue Bloods or play video games — you know, the IMPORTANT stuff!

We’re honoring our fire fighters who are here for the St. Florian Mass and breakfast this morning.  They know all about not having to do certain things anymore.  They don’t spend one minute of time in recruit class practicing how to operate a piston or a rotary-gear pumper.  No need.  There haven’t been any of those in service here for 40 years.  It might be a point of historical interest to know that there WERE other types of pumps than what are in use today, but no time need be wasted on learning how to work with them.  There are ‘way more important things to learn and do.

So, if we know that things like homemade butter and rotary gear pumpers are no longer matters of urgency for us, we have a good idea of how the observance of the Mosaic Law had become for the disciples of Jesus.  We heard about it in the Acts of the Apostles this morning.  The Law of Moses was a necessary and valuable tool while God’s people were in a certain stage of formation; but once the Messiah came, its importance was both fulfilled and superseded by the supreme law of love revealed by Christ.  And Christ didn’t reveal a law of love just so we would be nice and pleasant with one another.  When he said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” it was a call to self-sacrificing love, for “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but might have everlasting life.”  The supreme example of self-sacrificing love is not a sweet, intimate, romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day.  It’s the stark, harsh, loving reality of the cross.  It’s fingers swollen with arthritis after years of caring for others.  It’s standing guard on a corner twice a day near a school, in blizzard conditions, driving rain, and blistering heat, helping kids cross the street safely.  It’s dirt and grime and plaster dust after putting out a nasty house fire and pulling ceiling looking for hot spots.  It’s faithfulness to vows of marriage and to bonds of friendship, even when they’re not reciprocated as we’d hoped or expected.  Yes, it’s the cross.

Our life with God in heaven begins here on earth.  It begins in baptism, it’s strengthened by the Holy Spirit, it’s nourished by the Eucharist.  God’s people are his dwelling, his temple on earth.  Wherever YOU go, God is there, because you are identified with him by baptism.  God dwells in the fire stations, the police cruisers, the emergency rooms, the factories, the schools, and the homes of our community, wherever we who are nourished with his Word and Sacrament live and work.  Whether in monotonous routine or in heroic excitement, in marriage or in celibacy, in large families or in small, in good times or in bad, in sickness or in health, in age or in youth, we are at every moment ON THE MISSION, for Christ.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas and the other Apostles came to know that.  They came to know that they had to be free, not from the natural moral laws of God’s commands, but from the more fussy preoccupations of the Mosaic Law.  That freedom allowed them and us to concentrate on bringing the true and full revelation of Jesus Christ into a world which is always longing, groaning, for a new way of life, and sound guidance in pursuing it.