Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2, 2018 - Apostle of Christ

Around Easter and Passover many are drawn to religious themed movies, The “Ten Commandments” with Charleston Heston, Mel Gibson’s the “Passion of the Christ” or last night’s live performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” with John Legend.

A few days ago, my wife and I went to see “Paul, Apostle of Christ” in the movie theater. The movie depicts the early Church and St. Luke’s visits with St. Paul in prison.  An excellent movie which I highly recommend.

I often find inspiration in new places, in music, in the scriptures and in prayer. Seeing Paul in prison facing death and yet still inspiring the infant Church to the spirit of Christ and the mystery of the “Way” helps me look to a perspective from eternity, or God’s view compared with my own myopic view of any situation today. I am sure Paul struggled with his imprisonment and wondered how his circumstances could fit in with Will of God.

We have the benefit of the look-back in history to see how Paul’s prison time, led to the many epistles which speak to us today, as well as the birth of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

Having a new vocation as a deacon has brought many challenges as well as blessings, as I approach the one-year anniversary of my ordination to the Permanent Diaconate. I love the people of St. Joseph’s in Babylon, as I am hopeful that our good works and ministries will find healing as we look to Jesus to direct our course.

I love to write and explore the many facets of life and the struggle to find deeper meaning and truth. However, recent demands in my “day job” has had me reassess the balancing of work, marriage, family and the Church. Recent decisions outside of my control, closed the window of one public forum. When opportunities to express what is in your heart are stifled at one window, another portal opens up. The Holy Spirit will not be bound up.  

I trust that God will help me find the right platform to continue to express the inspiration I find in the Good News, in the conversations I have with new friends, with fellow parishioners and the good priests and deacons who give me encouragement and strength.

Having lived in my parish for over twenty-five years now. I have seen both the miraculous and the misguided.  I have worked with incredible people, humble people who don’t look for accolades, but who answer the call to action to feed the poor, visit the sick and dying and who testify to the Gospel with their actions
I have seen both devotion and division. Even when it seems most dark before the dawn, I trust always the God will calm the storm and steady the waters. 

Don’t let the last snow of Winter get you down, because we should all hope in the warmth of Spring and the God of all creation who is the Divine Source of Love.

May all of us, receive the grace that sustained St. Paul in his times of trial. May we follow God’s Will and run the race well.

With the knowledge that we have Jesus’ promise of the Resurrection, may we look to this new life, right here and now, and into life eternal.

Easter Homily – Family Mass – April 1, 2018 

On behalf of the clergy, I welcome all, visitors and parishioners alike to the Family Mass and I wish you a most Blessed Happy Easter.

Each Sunday at this Mass we usually invite the children up around the altar, and the priest or deacon would dialog with them on the scriptures and the gospel.  In order not to create more chaos, of which I seem pretty good at I’m going to have children remain seated.
Each Sunday, we look to God’s Word and grapple with meaning and message God has for our lives. I am amazed each time I preach at this Mass on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us though our children.

Today is a Most Special Holy Day, the most important day in the Church, especially with all who believe In Jesus Christ, our Savior, the Son of God who, takes on our sins, and brings us back to right relationship with the Divine Source of Love, the Way back to God and to a life fulfilled.

Today begins the New Season of Easter, did you know Easter is a “Season” in the Church?  From this Easter Sunday we count 50 days, which brings us to Pentecost in June.
And it all can be summed up in two words. Really two words – NEW LIFE

We see signs and symbols of new life all around us, we just need some insight to recognize them.

How many of you colored Easter Eggs? Colored Easter Eggs were given as gifts by the early Christians. They represent the Tomb of Christ and Rebirth –Two Words – NEW LIFE

Now that the snow has melted, and the temperature is warming up what signs to we see on the trees and bushes?  New buds beginning to form, which will become flowers and leaves, what do they represent? – NEW LIFE

Without a Winter there can be no Spring. Without the Crucifixion, (The Passion & Death) there can be no Resurrection. 

We need to awaken hearts and our memory of God’s presence and power in our lives, to look more closely at all the beauty and diverse goodness of God’s creation.

Not only in nature, but Jesus’ presence in our brothers and sisters, in our neighbors, in the stranger, the poor, the immigrant  and the outcast.

The world we live in seems so much a mess. As parents we worry about safety of our children. Places of protection have become vulnerable to attack. People in authority let us down, and so often seem incapable of action; to bring about justice and peace.

There has got to be a better Way. (Pause) And there is. There is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, shall live.

Jesus’ gift is His presence in the Scriptures, His presence in you, the Body of Christ, and his Presence in Holy Eucharist. When we have Christ within us, we become transformed, resurrected

St. Peter speaks to us as a friend testifying to the risen Jesus. Anointed by God, with Spirit and power, healing. God raised him on the third day… all the prophets witnessed to Him.
What does the Resurrection mean to you, what does it mean to your loved ones, these children?
There is the Resurrection when we pass from this life to the next…but what about a Resurrection, here and now?

God’s joy is for us to live a life fulfilled, today here and now and into life eternal.
Let us be intent on the Life Christ offers us.

We should not surrender to the notion that “This is as good as it’s going to be.  I want a life fulfilled. I know there will be hardships, but I also trust in the Truth of Jesus’ promise to each one of us at our Baptism. As we die to sin, we also rise in Christ.

Christ conquers death and gives us the hope of a new life. 
The children who are here are our hope. Our parents and God-parents at our baptism, promised to instruct us on the mysteries of our Faith and to encourage our participation in the sacraments.

When we look to the Resurrection, when we fully participate in the Holy Mass, when we accept Christ’s invitation, our hearts will be transformed.

Despair becomes hope. Sorrow becomes joy. Struggles transform into opportunities for holiness. Two Words – NEW LIFE  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday Reflection – Morning Prayer – March 31, 2018

Hosea 5:15b-6:2  

As we reflect on today’s morning prayer and the reading from Hosea, we hear of a lament and anguish over suffering. 

One line jumped out at me. “Hear my voice Lord, as I complain.”
We all complain to one degree or another. I believe I have it down to artform… one of which I am not proud.

Our complaints and laments can seem like “Singing the Blues” – Lord are you out there, do you hear me? Why am I going through this pain, what have I done to deserve this?
We never know how long our life will be here on earth, “my life is like a tent, you have folded up, like a weaver who severs the last thread.”

Lent is a time, for prayer, fasting and alms-giving.  A season for us to change our posture of heart, with a course correction to follow the Way… His Way … the Way of the Cross.
“In their affliction, they shall look for me.”

Last night I had a wonderful blessing to hold the cross during the Veneration of the Cross as last night’s liturgy.

At first, I held the cross out for many of you to venerate in your own way. Some embraced the cross, knelt before the cross, kissed the wood of the cross, others simply held the cross or blessed themselves before the cross.

I continue to grapple with Christ’s words in Luke 9:23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”

Jesus who had no sin, takes on our sin’s and suffers for us on the Cross. During his road to Calvary Jesus embraces His cross and asks us to do the same.

Knowing Jesus’ promise to us through Baptism that he has prepared a place for us in Eternal life, we need to look beyond our moments of suffering and anguish and embrace the perspective of Life Eternal. Our sufferings here and now are but a moment, but how we embrace our cross today places us on the road to salvation.

The question of personal suffering or suffering in this world cannot be answered. At times of testing and pain, we should know Christ draws ever closer to us.  We lament, we complain, we are called to pick up our cross and follow the Way.

There’s a great scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, where Jesus falls on the way to Calvary and Simon of Cyrene is begrudgingly called into service to help Jesus carry His cross.

As good disciples, we are called to do the same. As we continue to pray our prayers of lament, we are also called to recognize the pain and suffering of our brother’s and sisters, in our family with our neighbors right here in Babylon.

Like Simon of Cyrene, Christ is calling us to service. As His good graces strengthen us to bear our cross, we too, are called to bear one another’s cross.

A practical way to help others is in the “ministry of presence” – it’s time to go to the Assisted Living Facility to be with the lonely, the sick and infirmed” Not only to visit the people we know, but to reach out to those who don’t get visits.

The inertia to pick up this cross, may seem overwhelming…”Well that’s not my thing!” "What do I say, I’m not comfortable with that."

Cast your worries away… have trust that God will guide your actions and provide the healing words you need to say in his name.

We all may very well be the eyes, the ears, the hands and voice of Christ for those who suffer.

Before the weaver severs the last thread.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Deacon’s Corner Unbound – Palm Sunday 2018

The Paradox of the Cross, Bob Dylan and “Make You Feel My Love”

As i journey through middle-age, I’m reminded of the reminders I need to get me through the week and to be diligent to draw ever closer to God, the Divine Source of Love.  I’m looking forward to my first Easter Homily at the Family Mass.

Then I realize this grey-haired fifty-something deacon, shares the need to be reminded, just as the children with whom I’m preparing to share God’s Word.

I am called to remember the effects of sin, and my redeemer who walks beside me, calling me to the right path.

I ever endeavor to peel back the layers of the mysteries with which we believe, and the paradox of the cross. God’s plan through His Only Son to redeem us and bring us all to salvation and experience a fulfilled life here and now, and to life eternal.

As Holy Week approaches, Catholics prepare for the Easter Tridium (Easter Triduum begins with the Vigil of Holy Thursday. It marks the end of the forty days of Lent and the beginning of the three-day celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Last night we did a rehearsal for Good Friday, pacing out our steps along with the reading of the Passion, and the role of Priest, Deacon, lector and the faithful.  We use a crude cross, which is basically two 2X4 pieces of dark stained wood, so we can venerate the cross.

It just so happened I got a good chunk of the wood as a splinter in my left index finger.  The reminder of the removed splinter is refreshed with every keystroke. This splinter is my reminder of this week’s three-day liturgy and our participation in Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Justice seems to be an inherited drive in most people. Whether we experience the brunt of injustice or simply wonder why so much evil that we experience on a day-to-day basis seems to go on consequence free. Who pays the price?

The paradox of the crucifixion reminds me of an unchanging loving God, who also seeks justice. And with sin, which is the choice we make to separate ourselves from the Divine Source needs a Savior, for as we are all slaves to sin, and cannot free ourselves, we need the hand of God to free us from this trap.

Our God of Love is also a just God, and we all know too well the consequences of sin. So, if there is justice, and there are consequences, someone must pay the price. The paradox of the cross is that the sin we commit separates us from Love, God, and yet it is God the Father who sends His Son in our place. He who was without sin, takes on our sin, calls us off the path of perdition to the path of salvation.  We are called to participate in this Passion, we are called to pray and peel back the layers the mysteries of our faith to a deeper relationship, with our brothers and sisters and with the Creator who loved each and everyone of us into existence.

Music has always been a great mind and emotion trigger for my heart. Holy Week practices help remind us the amazing love and pain, Jesus endured for us. Bishop Robert Barron and his YouTube series “Word on Fire” has help me gain insight into the pearls and potholes of popular culture, movies and music.

We recently adopted Bob Dylan’s song “Make You Feel My Love” into our Contemporary Music repertoire at the noon Mass on Sunday’s. 

Bob’s song may help you dig into the mystery of the Passion if you can imagine Jesus singing Dylan’s song to you.  

Who but Jesus, could love you for a million years. Who but Jesus, crawled the road of the cross.  Who but Jesus, could calm the turbulent seas in our lives. Who but Jesus, would search the end of the earth for us?

Make You Feel My Love – by Bob Dylan

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

As we listen closely to our Lord’s Passion this weekend, let always recall His love for us and His call: “To Make You Feel My Love”.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Called to Wonder

Called to Wonder

As a child is born, we are all called to wonder
As a child is born, we see the light
As a child is born, it begins to wonder
Wondering how to return to the Light

Echoes of voices, as we grow in this life
Correction, inspection, as authority pushes down
The enduring Whisper calls out
Questions and wonder drives us on
Direct us always to Your path

We seek the Word from above
Avoiding ladders perched against a crooked wall
Admonishments make us pause
Thinking deeper, always wondering
Considering the action of our Call

We see the wonder in God’s creation
Glimmers of light in the darkest mind
Creator of all, speak to us
Show us Your Way through troubled time

Remove the fear of questions
From hearts asunder
Help us seek Your truth
Called to light, as You call us to wonder

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Deacon’s Corner – March 4, 2018

Springtime and Lent, the perfect seasons for cleaning windows!

In John’s Gospel this weekend we hear of Jesus’ cleansing the temple and announcing its destruction, Jesus shows that he himself is the new temple, the authentic dwelling place of God on earth. In the measure that we are joined onto him, we too become temples of the Holy Spirit.

Bishop Robert Barron states in part: “At first blush, Jesus seems out of character. But as we clear way the layers we see the heart of the Gospel message.” To give us perspective we need to understand what the temple meant to the people of Israel. It meant everything. It was the center of religiosity. economic, political and cultural happenings. For the ancient Jews, the temple in Jerusalem was the center of the nation, a place where God dwelled.

Enter Jesus, seen as the prophet of Nazareth, a nobody from a Podunk town comes in and makes a ruckus, shouting, making a scene in the center of the whole nation. Turning things over, knocking things down, stirring things up. In fact, these actions sealed his fate. And then Jesus pushes it even further, “… I will destroy this temple.”

Last week at the Family Mass in Msgr. Nolan Hall, I asked the congregation to do some homework and contemplate this Sunday’s Gospel.

Jesus’ actions point to who He is. He speaks with authority, admonishes the storm at sea. He moves with authority, cleaning, destroying and rebuilding!  Who has this authority, but God alone?

The one who acts in the very person of God, points to His identity.
Jesus institutes a new temple, destroys what becomes corrupt. Replace it with a new temple. Though is Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus is the new Temple, raised in three days!  We are joined and grafted to the Mystical Body as we become the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus moves against the corrupt forms of religiosity.  

The Church as we know it is not beyond all criticism.  The divine aspect of the Church with Jesus as the head is perfect. However, the human aspect of the church must always be attend to. The human aspect of the Church is tainted by the sins of human beings.  In the human dimension it must always be reformed. We are aware in recent times of sexual abuse scandal within the Church along with actions and inaction which test the metal of the faithful.  We trust that Jesus moves through the institutional church shouting out God’s judgement at what is corrupt, always acting to clean and raise up, to die and rise.

Through our baptism we are grafted to the Mystical Body of Christ and become Temples of the Holy Spirit. Our temples must be of prayer and a place where God dwells. Is your temple, a place of holiness and prayer? What thieves need to be driven out. What deadly sins need to be removed, pride, greed, lust or envy?  

Lent is a time prepare our temples, clean the window, overturn the tables and make room for the Holy Spirit.  Who it the person of Jesus? I’m reminded in the Van Morrison song, he’s working to help us clean the windows.

“What’s my line? I’m a working man cleaning windows.  I see you when my love grows, cleaning windows. – Van Morrison, Cleaning Windows - 

Here's a link to the song:

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Praise the Lord, who heals those who sing the blues!

Deacon's Corner for February 2, 2018 

In Sunday’s scripture readings we see how Job “sings the blues” (JB 7: 1-4,6-7). The great lament on the drudgery of life. My mind wanders to early mornings on the Babylon LIRR platform as commuters face another cold Winter’s trek into the “city” and what could be just another day of toil. The hope of an eventless train ride is dashed, as the announcement crackles over the platform speakers and cries out yet another train delay.

Job speaks to our lament of today, “Is this as good as it gets”? We often feel the longing for something more!

Parish life can be the center of activity for us, whether in our Sunday worship, bringing the kids to religious education or tending to our prayer life and spiritual well-being.  For others, particularly the millennials, being drawn to have the Parish of St. Joseph as a central place in their lives can be chalked up to wishful thinking.

Bishop John Barres calls us all toward Dramatic Missionary Growth and as a Deacon on the altar I see the missing faces in the pews. The path to engagement seems to be less clear. I long to understand God’s plan for us as a missionaries in our own community.  I pray for those disenfranchised, the missing, who can teach me a thing or two about their needs, and their spiritual longing. 

The new “Great Lament” is the diminishing attendance in the pews and the hope of a future as a vibrant parish is held in the balance. Diminishing participation and church attendance is shared by other faith traditions, as we grapple to engage all the faithful.  We are invited to encounter Jesus. We are called to spread the Gospel of Christ, first by our actions and then through intimate conversations.
I have a desire to move beyond our parish campus and into the community. If our young adults don’t see a parish centered existence, then maybe God is calling us as missionaries to reach out to them and our local community!  We need to be open to change and be emboldened with a broader understanding of what it means to encounter Jesus.

One definition of insanity, is to continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes. If we focus on the same tactics without a deeper understanding of the needs of the community, we risk diminishing returns and the return to a vibrant parish.

We need a new playbook, a new spirit, one which is unafraid and life-giving. We need to follow Jesus’ example by reaching out, by engaging through community service and purposeful ecumenical partnerships.

In Ezekiel, as the Lord commission’s him, it is written: “Son of man, eat what you find here: eat this scroll, then go, speak ...feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.  

What was on the scroll...?  A song of lament, “The Blues”, in a word.

When all seems to fail us, we should swallow the words of our lament and our Lord Jesus will commission us, and then redirect our paths. The Divine Source of Love dwells in us, He who provides all that we need to rise into action. Take the first step and the Lord will multiply all that is good.

When hope seems to be stolen away, when action is displaced by silence, when lines of division are draw, we need to draw ourselves closer to Jesus. Closer to Him in prayer, closer to Him in charity, closer to Him in finding ways to bridge the divide we find with each other, and the separation of those we need to welcome back.

My mind muses on musical snippets and lyrics which seem to play as an ongoing loop during my moments of contemplation and prayer. We recently sang a new song at the twelve noon Sunday Mass, “All My Hope” by Crowder. (
 The line, “All my hope is in Jesus, thank God, my yesterday’s gone”, seems to tie in well with our struggles.

We are called to be missionaries, with the very gifts our Lord has given us, and we need to begin right here and right now.

Sometimes it feels good to sing the blues, but now its time to rock and roll!