Holy Trinity Sunday 2016 (C) May 22nd
Father Powers William Powers was also there; having come down the hill from Sacred Heart Cathedral after he had been alerted about 11 PM. He muscled into the crowd, tossed aside several men, and made his way to the pole where the lynchings were to take place. He climbed the pole. Historian Michael Fedo writes that the crowd “fell uneasily silent.” Powers spoke: “Men, you don’t know this man is guilty. I know this crime is the most horrible one, but let the law take its course. It’s not too late to stop this tragedy, men. In the name of God and the church I represent, I ask you to stop.” The crowd pulled the priest off the pole, and lynched three innocent men, one after another.
Pentecost Sunday 2016 (C)
Pentecost is the fiftieth and final day of the Easter season. And we might profitably ask, “What will the Spirit of God do for us, for all the Church?” Pentecost is the day, the time, the event and the direction promised by Jesus: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (John 14:26). The Spirit will teach us all things: everything we need to know to be in communion with God, with the Church, with one another, that we might see and recognize Christ present among us.
Seventh Sunday of Easter 2016 (C)
Fifth Sunday of Easter 2016 (C)
As you remember, our Parish Leadership (pastor, Parish Council, Finance Council, and Trustees), have made bold movement to ensure our future. We are making every effort to do this in as open and transparent a manner as possible. There are no secrets about our operations, our plans and goals, or our finances. Those who have questions are certainly welcome to ask, and clarification and explanation will be given, as best we can, by parish leadership. It is my firmly held conviction that there is a great level of trust here; we are, in fact, moving forward respectfully and efficiently.
Second Sunday of Easter April 3rd, 2016 (Updated)
We who remain in our imperfect church might have a different reaction to our own doubt. We can still find the church slow in meeting our modern need for guidance on any number of perplexing, threatening issues. And yet we remain. And Thomas, The Doubter in Chief, is our patron: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands / and put my finger into the nailmarks / and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Homily Father Graham wishes he had preached on Easter:
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord! Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
Gathered around the Paschal Candle tonight we have prayed in exultation with the hosts of heaven as the “Angel ministers of God exult,” as the trumpet of salvation/sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph.”
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.
So, this foot washing, what did and does it mean? Well, we observe that Matthew, Mark and Luke, the other three gospel writers, tell of the Last Supper and the sharing of the bread and wine, blessed and given by Jesus as the sacrament of his enduring presence. He remains with the church in every age as food for the journey. In his gospel, John does not report the bread and the wine, but puts his focus here: Jesus “rose from supper and … began to wash the disciples’ feet.”
Fifth Sunday of Lent (C), March 13, 2016
The other son, the older one, is also a piece of work. In him, “the nearness of God is used to shield the distance and separation we have created from God’s will for us.” The father tells him, lost in his anger, “My son, you are here with me always; / everything I have is yours. / But now we must celebrate and rejoice.”
We who wait for our light and our salvation remember the Transfiguration. “Jesus took Peter, John, and James / and went up the mountain to pray. / While he was praying his face changed in appearance / and his clothing became dazzling white.” Jesus appeared in glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah. Peter was awestruck by what he saw, but missed the part where Jesus “spoke of his exodus / that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.”
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) Jan. 30, 2016
“Love is the experience of being intended, wanted, cared for and known. It is not just the prophet Jeremiah whose life was intended by God before he was born and who was called by God as a boy to fulfill a specific vocation.
1-26-16 Fr. Paul J Larson Funeral Homily
On Oct. 17, 2012, Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, shortly after morning Mass ended in Deer River, my phone rang. I knew who was calling, and answered, saying, “Paul J. Larson.” “William C. Graham,” he began, and asked, “Do you write homilies for The Liturgical Press?” I do. ]
In our day, in our own nation, the church is reeling still from the effects of its own crisis, and, locally, it is very clear that our bishop will be spending a lot of time in court in the next years, seeking to settle court cases involving priests and victims who, for the most part, are unknown to him. The number of court cases pending against the Catholic dioceses in Minnesota is staggering, and it seems to me that every Minnesota diocese will likely be in bankruptcy before the cases are resolved.
For us here, while our parish is not involved in any of the pending cases (thanks be to God!), we share the devastating effects with all other Catholics and all people of good will. First, we mourn with all of those who have suffered as victims. Of course we want to see justice done, healing be promoted, and charity fulfilled.
In our conflicted age, the sacrament of marriage assumes more and more importance. In married love, the wife and husband seek to cooperate with God; they open themselves to the possibility that the love they have one for another may issue forth in the gift of children. In this way, they become co-creators with God. This rich relationship is sacramental not just at the moment they exchange their vows in the presence of the assembled Church, but their love remains sacramental day-by-day, year-by-year, and decade-by-decade. In their transforming love, we are to see and experience the love of God, the love that Christ has for the Church. Marriage then has both a private face and a public importance.
Raphael’s vision is of a disputatious church, a church in conflict, a church that would soon suffer the divisive effects of the Reformation. But note that it is still the church, not a loose collective of disputatious souls, but the one Church of Christ gathered around the table; the church above and the church below, the right and the left, the orthodox and the challengers, the correct and the mistaken, the ignorant and the learned, the holy and the sinful. All still there. Together. At one table. One loaf. One cup. One Body. One Church.
But one thing ought to be very clear: everyone deserves something. No one deserves to be hungry. There is enough in creation for everyone to have something. In fact, when we pay attention to the scriptures, we discover that not only is there enough for everyone to have something, there is also enough that there will be leftovers. People of faith and people of good will understand that there does not have to be a food crisis in our nation or in our world.
Our Church is a church for all God’s people; the Church is committed to accompanying all people on life’ journey. We extend support to all families and recognize that we are all relatives, together on life’s journey under the careful watch of our loving God.
We live in a time of great social change. In these challenging times, we are called to deep reflection on questions that are not yet answered in ways that call all good people to agree: What does it mean and what will it looks like to have and enjoy equal rights? What does true diversity look like? How can we live peaceably with those who hold differing views? How can we be sure that our efforts and ideas are based on a reasonable approach to justice and a true understanding of morality? How can we remain charitable even when differing with another’s position?
Our Catholic Church is an evangelical church, a missionary church; our task is to open our hearts and our lives to the kiss of God’s Holy Spirit, and then, ourselves inspired, to bring that message of peace to all the world. We get that idea of commission very clearly in the dismissal at the end of Mass. Two of the dismissal formulas make that especially clear; the priest either says, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Or, “Go in Peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
I hope that glorifying God with our lives will never be a lost art for any of us. We do run the risk of losing sight of our mission and our goal, confusing ourselves about who we are and what we ought to do.
Well, people seek happiness; that is natural to us human beings. Personally, I find it perplexing when people fail to recognize that the task of the church is to lead us to God together, as a Body, as a community, as the Body of Christ; this is the task of the church, in fact: to help us discover happiness.
So: we who are the Body of Christ are nourished with the Body of Christ so that we might become more perfectly that which we already are: The Body of Christ. That may sound like circular logic, but it makes perfect Christian sense. We who are fed by Christ are to become day by day more like him in our pursuit of justice, peace and charity.
We might pray today at these twin tables of word and eucharist that God’s gifts be enjoyed by all God’s people. Oppression and inequality are very certain kinds of violence, and those who suffer from oppression and inequality “tend to be undereducated, impoverished, malnourished, un- or under-employed, or underpaid and working three jobs.”
When this happens, “their lives are diminished, as are their opportunities. As are the opportunities of their children. This is unjust and intolerable. … As long as these things are true, this is not the country we say it is or the country we want it to be.”
The concerns that we continue to share, you and I, include re-membering the Parish, seeking new members, or the return of members who have been inactive. Together, we seek salvation; together we announce the Reign of God that is already present among us.
We will remain committed to worshiping as best we can in noble simplicity, to the promotion of ministry among all of us as the people of God, to praying and working for social justice, to ongoing formation through appropriate education offered for all age groups.
Pope Benedict XVI wisely observes that in the Trinity, we encounter “The intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit—lover, beloved and love.” Our God, moving among us day by day, quickening the hearts of believers, reveals the relational nature of God, God as communion of love revealed in creation, in the incarnation, and guided everywhere and always by the Holy Spirit.
The Contardos reinforced a lesson I had learned as a boy at home; we were not allowed to put our books on the table after school; the table was a sacred spot reserved for holy activity. I have been a priest for many years, and have gone off to college to study theology four different times; but my credentials as pastor and as a theologian have roots in that moment when the beer bottle was sidelined in favor of the more civilized beer glass. We were invited to an event that afternoon; we are invited to a similar event today; Rocky and Betty’s table pointed toward the Eucharistic table; the Eucharistic table points to and connects us with the banquet table set for us in the Reign of God. At Rocky and Betty’s table, just as at the altar, we have been offered and we have received a foretaste and promise of the paschal feast of heaven.
With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles then and we today seek to advance God’s Reign until the day we see Christ face to face. The task is to see, consider and finally understand how the Jesus event informs our task as church. We are called to fashion a culture in which the examples of Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day will prompt us all to work to see that no one, no group, is marginalized, pushed to the edges. In seeking the Reign of God, we can never deny the dignity of any human person, or any group of people. To violate human dignity is a great sin against the Gospel; violations of human dignity are repugnant to God.
The forces that threaten the future of my young friends are the same challenges that threaten to bear us down, to diminish our joy and extinguish our peace. Demographers chart these forces and cultural changes, and we ourselves see changing social and cultural values not just in the distressed city of Baltimore and other large urban areas, but in smaller cities and rural areas too. Human and social problems come to us not because we are Caucasian or African American, but because all of us are vulnerable when the traditional moral agenda collapses.
We continue to pursue the vision that the scriptures and our church’s life of prayer hold out for us, recognizing that in the big net, in the big tent, in the big church, there is room for all of us: all “brothers and sisters / and those of every race and tongue,” all called to the new world where the fullness of God’s peace will be revealed, gathered people of every race, language and way of life, sharing in the one eternal banquet with Jesus Christ the Lord. We, all of us, are called to be “Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven” (Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I). This very Catholic understanding seemed to come naturally to Mandy. For that, we thank her and, at the same time, give thanks and praise to God.
It has been quite a year for us here at St. Michael’s; one of tumult, and grieving, and change and rapid movement. We have, I think, made ourselves very aware that grace is everywhere. We have used the year since Father Tom’s death and burial to mourn our loss, to remind ourselves that life is fleeting and precious, and that we who belong to each other in the saving waters of baptism are joined together in the communion of saints that makes the divide between our life of earth and the heavenly banquet a very porous divide; the veil that separates us from those who have gone before us allows us to see, though dimly, what we wait for in joyful hope.
The Vigil is celebrated “during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection,” and “only after the solemn vigil … does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.” This Vigil is not the usual Mass of anticipation. It is inconvenient, as is much of religious life, and may well not be suited to the elderly or infirm for whom nocturnal activities are difficult or even impossible. It is the conclusion of the liturgy begun on Thursday evening (though the Triduum itself ends after evening prayer on Sunday), and an extraordinary time to invite Catholics into fuller, deeper participation in the life of the Church.
God’s grace and the Church’s assistance are offered freely to us tonight: By God’s gift, through water and the Holy Spirit, we have been reborn to everlasting life. In divine goodness, may he continue to pour out blessings upon us, sons and daughters of the Most High. May he make us always, wherever we may be, faithful members of his holy people.
Some students get to attend their first choice among colleges. Others were land elsewhere because circumstances led them there. But wherever they or we are: God is there, human dignity is there, hope is there. Diligent study, eager socialization, friendly smiles and warm encounters are all human evidence of divine presence: God is attentive to us, and works in and through us to transform the face of the earth.
Here is the issue in our age: we have lost, I’m afraid, the understanding of Church as both mother and teacher, mater et magistra. If the Church’s voice is just one more voice among many, than the easiest, or the first, or the least challenging opinion can point the path I will take. The college student I mention was raised up, apparently, to think that whatever she thought is either best, or good enough. She felt no need to examine issues or ideas that might cause her some difficulty, agitation or conflict.
“It is unlikely that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai bearing the tablets of the commandments that the folks awaiting him below found any of the laws novel in any way. No one could have said, “Look, Martha, we can’t murder anymore! It is against the law now!” These commandments which define social order are much the same in any society which seeks civility and the common good. What was new when Moses descended with his holy burden was that now these laws defined not just human relationships, but God’s covenant within human activity. Our relationship to God is reflected in the way we attend to these laws. God commands us to keep these laws if we wish ever to see him face to face.”
“Jesus’ perfecting goodness reminds us that sin enters the world as a consequence of our human free will; we can choose to do good or evil; to obey God’s commands or follow our own desires. We think that when we do just as we please, we will be happy, and all will be well. We think that we will have what Satan offers Jesus: ‘all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.'”
“I want him to know the touch of Jesus in the same way as the man did in today’s gospel story. Touching and healing the man, Jesus then instructs him: ‘See that you tell no one anything.’ There are a number of times in Mark’s gospel where Jesus asks that folks say nothing of what they have seen or experienced. Scholars refer to this as the Messianic secret, and however scholars seek to explain why Mark uses this technique, we know that Jesus asks something that cannot be done; once the saving work of God is revealed, we cannot help but spread it abroad to everyone who will listen.”
“We sometimes hear evangelical Christians preach a prosperity gospel, suggesting that God will bless the faithful with money and health. This is not a Catholic approach; we do not believe that God works in that way; ours is not that kind of a feel‐good religion. Some folks think they might prefer that prosperity approach; many folks who want a prosperity gospel leave Catholicism and experiment with other communities. We should be clear, though: the prosperity gospel is not real Christianity, but rather a misunderstanding of Christianity.”
“Perhaps the New York Times columnist David Brooks was writing in response to these scriptural challenges recently when, inviting life stories from those over 70, he observed that many senior citizens viewed their lives as boring. Others lamented that they wished they had taken more risks. Those who reported having made life-changing choices did not regret those choices even when they ended in failure. Those who sensed a calling, a vocation, told of being filled both with passion and conviction.”
“Some people think they have these problems all figured out, and the church should change to teach what they think because they are infallible in their new opinions. Folks, it doesn’t work like that. The mysteries of human sexuality have not been solved; there is much we do not yet understand. Lots of us want the church to be a microwave and get everything worked out in 90 seconds or 90 days. The church, however, is not a microwave; it is instead a crock pot, and we are years away from solving these issues in our society and in our church.”
“This Easter mandate to follow in the footsteps of Jesus is our mandate too here at St. Michael’s; we are the Church of God in a developing world, and we are, all of us, called to holiness. We follow in his footsteps, walking in our own shoes! As we set out to walk this path together in the coming years, I am both delighted and alarmed to come home again and continue the pastorate here at St. Michael’s. I was sent here as pastor by Bishop Anderson 32 years ago when I was 32 years old. Who would have thought, I certainly didn’t, that one can come home again.”
“I want to see Father Tom reflected in the gospel we heard today. When Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore, I want to see Father Tom as the guy who observed the disciples in the boat who were not able to pull the net in because of the number of fish. He was the guy who said, ‘We better count them.’ And so they did. The found the net full: one, two, three, one hundred, one 4 hundred fifty-one, fifty-two, ‘one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.’ This is such an odd fact that it must be important. So then, he ran to the branch library on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, because google and iPhones had not yet been invented, and there he discovered that, according to Origen, priest and theologian in the second century, the total number of species of fish, as they believed then, totaled exactly 153! Because, as Andrew Greeley says, Catholicism is a verdant rainforest of metaphors, we know that the boat is a symbol of the church, the apostles in the boat are the foundation of the church, the disciples are the early church, the net is a symbol of the church.”