Ramblings from us as we strive to live a holy life in the world, not of the world.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Deacon Joe's homily for the 2nd Ordinary Sunday, 1/15/17

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test.

Believe it or not those lyrics were pretty much where I found myself as a young man in my late twenties.  I was chasing my career thinking that the goal of life was to die with the most toys.  But every time I achieved, or got that “toy”, the victory seemed hollow.  My thinking at the time that the answer was that I needed more and more and more.  A “crowning achievement” of mine, or so I thought, was when I got a big raise and a promotion and got to work and live in the mega-metropolis of Philadelphia.  I was going big and my future was so bright I had to wear shades.  But things don’t always go as planned do they.  I thought so much of myself that my arrogance took over and I wasn’t treating people very well.  In reality, most of the people I met while working I was really using to further my own ends.  I wound up not having very many friends and quite a few enemies.  I fell.  Not a rock bottom kind of thing, but my pride took a big hit.  In fact, I was falling for quite some time, I just didn’t know it.  A very wise man once said to me, “While we’re falling, our faces are pointed downward, but finally when we hit, we can change our direction and find God.”  That’s exactly what happened to me.  When I finally took a big hit, my direction changed, and behold, there was God.  That trip to Philadelphia very much served as an Exodus for me, Joanne, and our family, because it really was our journey through a spiritual desert, where we could see things differently and come to truth of our faith in God.
Today’s Gospel is that same kind of wakeup call.  (Btw Christmas and Easter) John the Baptist is telling his followers “Hey!  Him!  Over there!  That’s the guy I was talking about!  Now it begins!”  But there’s really something interesting here in our Gospel as John the Baptist says “I did not know Him”.  At this point you may be saying “Wait a minute Deacon, I remember from my CCD classes that Jesus and John the Baptist were related, so how can John say he didn’t know Him?”  Some scholars believe John says that he did not know Jesus because his father and mother (Zachariah and Elizabeth) were advanced in years and couldn’t travel much.  It was around 90 miles between Judea, where John the Baptist lived and Galilee, where the Holy Family lived and things back then weren’t like they are now, travel was very difficult.  Other scholars suggest that John the Baptist didn’t quite grow up like a typical young Jewish man, as the Gospels suggest John grew up in the desert and scholars trace him to living in the community of the Essenes, kind of like a monk (certainly not like a Benedictine though).  Those theories may hold some truth, but it begs the question why St. John (the author of this Gospel) would mention it.  The more theological scholars contend that St. John brings this up in the Gospel because it was more of a case where John the Baptist was surprised to find that it was his cousin, Jesus, who was the Messiah.  Some of the Bible translations actually use the word “recognize.”  To translate into modern day English, John probably would’ve said something like “we used to hang out together at family picnics and all kinds of other things, I had no clue that Jesus was going to become the Messiah.”  Things changed for John the Baptist.  The reason they changed is because John fully devoted himself to living a life of faith, to living a life in a communal relationship with God.  It was through that relationship that God was able to help John the Baptist change, see through the eyes of faith, see God in the unexpected, and recognize his own cousin as the Messiah.  This Gospel is very much a continuation of the same theme we heard over Advent and Christmas.  Jesus has come, the world, our world, has been changed.
Collectively as a Diocese we’re about to embark on a program of change in the On Mission For The Church Alive.  A little over a year from now, we will be members of a new and different parish.  One possibility is that we may be attending Mass in another location.  Then the changes will be obvious.  But another possibility is that in the summer of 2018 we’re still sitting right here, I may very well be preaching (so you’ve been warned) and nothing will necessarily seem different on the surface.  But it will be.  And even if our surroundings don’t change, we’ll still need to have faith and see beyond and embrace and welcome those whose worlds have been changed.  A subtle message of our Gospel today is to open our hearts and minds in love and to welcome change, because we understand it as coming from God and being an integral part of our journey home to Him.
We may not like it and maybe we try not to think about it, but things are constantly changing for us whether we’re conscious of it or not.  When we stop and think about it, we’ll come to the realization that we change to get better, to become that “Best Version of Ourselves,” we certainly don’t change with the goal of getting worse.  You’ll leave this Church this morning a different person.  Hopefully this liturgy will move you closer to God.  Hopefully this homily didn’t totally confuse you and move you further away from God.  But, we never stay in the same place.  We’ll also be different tomorrow, it never stops.  This year, I’ll hit some milestone changes.  I’ll turn 50 and I’ll have worked 30 years for the federal government.  Please don’t congratulate me, I’m just getting older.  By no means are either of those things an achievement, I’ve mostly just shown up.  But, to be really honest, if it weren’t for my faith in God, I’d probably be going nuts and having a crazy midlife crisis of some sort.  Because without God, this just ends.  What a hopeless thought.  But with God, and with a relationship with the Lord and Savior of the World, there’s always a future, there’s always hope and we know that the best day we’ve had here on earth doesn’t even scratch the surface of what heaven will be like.  But to get there, we need to change.  I’d like to leave you with a little saying I came across:  “There are 3 C’s of life; Choices, Chances, Changes.  You must make a choice, to take a chance, to make a better life through change.”

Been a long time...

When I started writing this blog, I had the intention of writing fairly frequently. However, life got in the way.

The last post that I wrote was an emotional one and I truly didn't have the energy or the desire to write again. I was going to delete the blog, but for some reason, I couldn't, although I had no intention of reviving it.

Last year brought a busy year of homeschooling my boys and very little time. This year, I found myself in the midst of extensive remodeling and updating of our house. We're still in the process of that and will be for quite some time. Also with parish commitments as baptism coordinator, Pre-Cana coordinator, and serving on the core team of the ChristLife program at our parish as the Evangelism and Registration coordinator, facilitator, and prayer team member, the thought of writing here was the absolute furthest thing on my mind.

Enter the husband. After the election which startled us as to how divided our nation is and witnessing how some people have used Twitter and Facebook as a sounding board to spew hatred and criticizing anyone who disagrees with them while professing that they are tolerant and loving, Deacon Joe decided to start using Facebook the way it should be used: to keep in touch, to offer love and prayers, and to share inspiration. So, he's returned to Facebook and has been posting regularly. Wanting to share some of his homilies, I suggested that he post here or start a blog and post the link to Facebook. Well, this was easier than creating new, so I changed the name of the blog to reflect the both of us and he can post his homilies and if I feel like it, I'll post on occasion.

Here's hoping that we can offer love and hope in this turbulent world.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A month of sorrow and loss

Last month as I flipped the calendar to view May, I experienced a little trepidation. May is always a busy month for us with birthdays, end of year events, baseball, and a host of other late spring events. But this year seemed especially busy with an added First Holy Communion, meetings and other commitments. What I wasn't banking on, and who does, is having the unexpected events...like death.

Two days after my son's First Communion, I attended the funeral of my uncle and godfather. Although his death wasn't a surprise, the realization that he was the last of my parent's siblings made the event that much more somber.

A week and a half later, my sister's nephew was killed in a car crash. Knowing the family for 40 years, my heart ached for them and what they were going through.

Fast forward to several days ago, I realized that I was experiencing a miscarriage. At my age, people hardly view pregnancy as a positive thing and so my husband and I chose not to tell anyone, thinking that miscarriage was a very real possibility. In truth, when I found out that I was pregnant, I was a little frustrated thinking about carrying another child to term and knowing how hard the last pregnancy was on me. But, I also know that all life is a precious gift from God and I choose to embrace that beautiful life that God had given me, understanding that it may be for the remainder of my life or for a considerably shorter time period. But miscarriage is never easy even when you know that it is very probable. Experiencing a miscarriage is a very painful experience both physically and emotionally but I thank God for entrusting that life to me for even that short period.

The hardest part about miscarriage is society's lack of understanding. In a culture that embraces abortion, there is very little understanding for couples whose child has died before birth. Unfortunately, society also embraces the notion that if you want the baby, it's real and if you don't, it's not real, an indication of a dysfunctional society to be sure. But, since society can't see the baby, then it couldn't have been too real, so you should just get over it and certainly don't talk about it.

As I was dealing with the physical and emotional effects of this on Monday, my daughter and her boyfriend came home to tell me that one of their friends was in a motorcycle accident and not long after they informed me that he died. This young man was set to graduate high school next week. He came from a large family who I've known for the past 12 years and saw regularly as their mother and I often worked on church projects together. So for the second time this month, my heart aches for a family as they endure the unimaginable.

I can't imagine enduring any of these events without faith. Faith is what sustains us. It strengthens and upholds us through all of life's trials.Our understanding of God's love and mercy should comfort us through dark times and give us hope in the eternal.

Please pray for the families that have endured the losses this month.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

He is Risen!

I'm a little late in saying this (although not really, because Easter last 50 days!), but Easter Sunday was quite hectic. Although we stayed home on that day, dear husband still had to assist with Masses in the morning and we had company for dinner. But just keeping up with the house and preparing food seemed to take the whole day.

Yesterday, I was back to the grindstone with necessary shopping, laundry, and other activities. But this is such a special time of the year that I wanted to stop and reflect on this beautiful season. Our Lord Jesus has conquered death. Love is more powerful than death! Love wins and evil loses. What could be more special than that?

We attended the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and the littles did wonderful. I didn't have to leave the church once. It was also a wonderful evening because my son's girlfriend of a year-and-a-half came into the Church! She is such a sweetheart and we were very moved to be a part of her special day. This picture was taken at the conclusion of Mass. We were missing our oldest daughter who unfortunately had to work.

May you have a truly Blessed Easter Season!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Unless you acquire the heart of a child...

Okay, I admit it, we don't recite the Rosary every night together as a family. Fact is if we say it together once or twice a week, I'm thrilled. So it must be because we don't say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together, except for the novena that began yesterday, that my five year old took pause at the different order of prayers. As I said the Apostles Creed, he interrupted me at the 'descended into hell to say, "No! Jesus didn't go to hell, he went to Heaven. That's not right." At my Rosary group, we say 'descended to the dead,' now I know why with all the young children.

Ah, the heart of a child...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Passion Play Performance

This Lent my 16 year-old daughter is participating in a traveling company Passion Play production. She participated last year, but this year the company is staging the performance significantly more. She's had a crazy hectic spring finishing up in the school musical then plunging right into practices and performances for this.

Last night she had someone film her singing on her phone. The quality is terrible but she sings a beautiful solo Last Night as Pilate's wife, who had a dream about Jesus, an innocent man who is to be put to death.

Truthfully, I had just wanted to send the video to family via email, but it's too long and I figured it was just easier to post it here.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Grandmother's Catechism

I'm very fortunate to have my grandmother's catechism.

My grandmother was born in 1900 and was the youngest of 11 children. The copyright of the book is 1882!

I'm sure that my great-grandparents bought the book to teach their children the faith. Their oldest child was born in 1878, so I can almost imagine my great-grandparents as parents of young children wanting to share the faith with their family and purchasing this book to instruct them, in much the same way that I buy books to teach my children about their faith.

My grandmother didn't have much of an education. She was raised on a farm in the north hills of Pittsburgh, but she was a very devout Catholic who instilled the faith in her own six children, despite being widowed at the age of 32 during the depression.

When I look at this catechism, I'm struck by how 'no frills' the book is.

And yet, it's as straight forward as it gets.

I love the Baltimore Catechism. Questions and answers. No fluff.

In the 15 years that I was a catechist and the 22 years that I've been a parent, I've seen some really BAD religion textbooks and have dealt with some DREs who have pushed for texts that were visually entertaining at the expense of substance. "Faith must be caught, not taught," a few would say. Yes, but religious education should be about teaching the faith and 'catching the faith' should happen when children see how we live our lives. Children should see how their parents, catechists, and peers live out their Christian faith in love and catch the faith, if you will, from those experiences. If they have to catch it from a textbook, it ain't gonna happen.

Those fluff religious texts? If it lacks substance, then we're just setting up our children to be entertained and not educated and the result will be adults who don't come to Mass because they "don't get anything out of it." What they are saying, without realizing it, is that they aren't being entertained at Mass and they don't understand what is really taking place.

I've taught using textbooks that instructed students to make dream catchers every year and Native American beliefs were emphasized. I've heard about high school kids who spend their class time rewriting the Beatitudes or Psalms in modern language and youth group classes where students aren't learning the faith but are asked touchy feely questions like, "Would you die for God?" Our children aren't dumb, why do we treat them like they are?

I was a catechist for a while in a different diocese than I live now. We had a good textbook, but we also were required to review the Baltimore Catechism. Just my opinion, but the children there seemed to know their faith better. Of course, more was expected of the parents as well, but parish life was very vibrant. Coincidence? I don't know but children who don't properly learn the faith become adults who don't know the faith and probably won't practice the faith.

I've used quite a few resources with my children including textbooks, but I still like the question and answers catechism. Both of these are part of a series and are great:

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Catholic picture books, picture Bibles, websites, magazines and whatever else gets children excited about their faith. But, for learning and reinforcing the faith, you really can't go wrong with the basics. I'm sure that Grandma would agree.