Monday, February 29, 2016

"Something Extraordinary" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 29

“My father, if the prophet told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it?” - 2 Kings 5:13

Why is it that we tend to think that, in order for God to do something extraordinary for us, we must do something extraordinary for Him?  Is it because we think we have to "earn" His love? Or is it that we want to be thought of as being "special", and unless we are asked to do something extraordinary we're not special enough in His eyes? We often discount the simplest efforts to please God as being unworthy of Him, or of us. But throughout the Bible we hear that God doesn't want great sacrifices on our part, but rather for us to respond simply to His love with a contrite spirit and a humble heart. Humility means taking directions from God, no matter how mundane, how boring, or how simple they may seem. And He gives us how to respond to Him through the teachings of His Church. God isn't asking us to be great, only that we are faithful. And being faithful to the teachings of His Church may be the most extraordinary effort of all.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

In Need of Repentance?

In Need of Repentance? 
Reflection for February 28, 2016    Third Sunday of Lent - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

At first glance, it appears as if today’s Gospel might be about “why do bad things happen to good people?”  The Jews of Jesus’ time believed that bad things that happened to a person were punishment for some sin committed by either the person or by one of his ancestors.  If nothing bad happened to you, especially if you were blessed with material wealth, you must be especially blessed in God’s eyes.  But you couldn’t possibly be without sin if something bad happened to you, and the worse it was, the greater must have been your sin.

Unfortunately, many people still believe that today.

But, while today’s Gospel doesn’t answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Jesus does make clear that “bad things happen” to both good AND bad people.  The two incidents mentioned in this passage from Luke, while they are not mentioned in any of the other Gospels and there’s no other direct historical record of them specifically, it isn’t unreasonable to believe that they happened.  Despite the wishy-washy image we have of Pilate during Jesus’ Passion, he was a cruel tyrant who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, once had Roman soldiers put on disguises in order to get close to and slaughter Jewish civilians involved in an uprising over use of temple funds for building an aqueduct.  As for the collapsed tower at Siloam, one only has to look back to our own local history of recent tornadoes and other disasters to realize that except for those directly affected by the events, it doesn’t take much time for memories to fade.  And they didn’t have the Internet, where nothing ever disappears.

But Jesus was trying to make a point: just because nothing bad has happened to you doesn’t mean that you aren’t in need of repentance.  And, just because you are facing all sorts of troubles and tribulations in your life, it doesn’t mean that God has it in for you, or that you are a particularly bad sinner, or that God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers.  Bad things CAN happen to good people.  And bad people may not face the same trials that others have – at least not yet.  St. Paul tell the Corinthians that they’ve been amply warned by what happened to their ancestors and to not become complacent, for “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”

Every time we see or hear of the evils that occur in this world, they are a wake-up call for us that our own time here is short, and that we need to remain focused on what is important – our life for all eternity.  Are we ready today for when that time comes? No?

Fear Not! If we are not ready at this moment, the parable of the fig tree offers us hope.  

Fig trees were very valuable to the Jewish people.  But it takes time before they will bear fruit.  It takes special skills in cultivation, and it takes patience. By this parable, Jesus lets us know that in the eyes of God, WE are valuable too, and He knows that we need time to grow, to mature – to bear fruit.  And we depend on God’s Mercy to help us.

During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has often reminded us that we are ALL sinners – including himself – and that we are all in constant need of God’s Love and Mercy.  And because God loves us and is forgiving of all our failures, He is always seeking ways to show us that love and mercy.  He’s not looking for an excuse to cut us down; He knows that we are human and that we may fail.  But He’s not looking for us to be perfect, only that we are faithful.  As we hear in Psalm 51, which is said during Morning Prayer every Friday: “A humble, contrite heart, O Lord, you will not spurn.” He cultivates the ground around us, and feeds us with the Body and Blood of His son, Jesus.  

He is waiting patiently for us to bear fruit.

"Bearing Fruit" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 28

" may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down." - Luke 13:9

Like the fig tree in today's Gospel, we've had ample opportunities to bear fruit.  Through our baptism, we are "planted" into a ground that is rich with the love of God and fertilized by the His Word and His people.  We are fed through reading the Bible and by participating in educational programs and prayer groups which encourage us to grow in our faith, and every day we are given the opportunity to bear fruit through any of the dozens of ministries that are available to us.  But we are living on borrowed time.  Every day we put off getting involved in our community; every time we fail to provide any of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy to which we are called by our baptism, we are one step closer to the axe.  Don't wait to be cut down.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Welcoming the Sinner" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 27

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” - Luke 15:2

Sounds enticing, doesn't it?  If we want to get close to Jesus, all we have to do is be a sinner?  Or, is it that we HAVE to be a sinner in order to get close to Jesus?  No.  But the Pharisees and scribes who were complaining missed the point.  As Pope Francis points out in his latest book, "The Name of God is Mercy", we are all sinners in need of God's mercy - even himself.  But he also points out that God will always love us and "actually prefers the sinners who repent over self-righteous moralizers who don't."  The key: "repents".  If we do not accept that we are sinners; if we are quick to judge others and condemn them for their sins without acknowledging our own; then we in effect close the doors to God's mercy.  But if we feel ashamed for our sins; if we acknowledge that we need our Father, then like the prodigal son God will welcome us with open arms.  He is there to bring us home.

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Our Own Flesh" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 26

"After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” - Genesis 37:27

We sometimes have a hard time seeing how something that we perceive as "bad" can be "good" in some far-distance future, but the sequence of events that unfold between the sons of Israel (the man) that we read here are the foundation for the future of Israel (the people).  Had Joseph not bragged to his brothers about his dreams, they wouldn't have hated him.  If they hadn't hated him, they wouldn't have plotted to get rid of him.  Had his brother Reuben not stopped them from killing him, they wouldn't have sold him into slavery.  And if he hadn't been made an Egyptian slave, he never would have been in the right place at the right time to save his kinsmen.  And so the foundation of the nation Israel is laid.

We too might find it hard to believe that "everything happens for the best", especially in the face of great tragedy.  Our challenge, however, is to be patient and accept God's will for us, and to be ready to respond when He does call.  We may never know when something that happens to us today may result in greatness for God tomorrow, but we must have faith that it will.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Poor Lazarus" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 25

"Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames." - Luke 16:24

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is about much more than just a metaphor of the dire consequences facing those who refuse to share their good fortune with those less fortunate.  It is a grim reminder that if we choose hell before we die, we cannot "change our minds" afterwards because the blind eye we show to others during our life time doesn't go away when we die.  It's not that we might not regret our choices, but if we deliberately turn away from the opportunities to learn how to love while we live and only focus inward on ourselves, we will remain focused on ourselves for all eternity. The rich man, whose name is not written into the Book of Life and therefore becomes nameless, cannot see beyond his own personal needs in spite of the torment he is experiencing.  To him, Lazarus is still nothing more than a servant, meant to do the bidding of others.  The opportunities he had while alive to "see" and "love" Lazarus are gone, and there's no going back.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Drinking From The Cup" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 24

"Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” - Matthew 20:22

The sons of Zebedee are ambitious. They've seen Jesus in action and know of the Jewish prophecies which foretell of a new Kingdom for Israel, but they've let their vision of earthly glory blind them to admonitions and warnings that Jesus has repeatedly given to the twelve: his kingdom is not of this world; the measure of glory in his new kingdom did not conform to the hierarchy of power of earthly kingdoms; and three times prior to this point in Matthew's Gospel he has told them that soon he himself is going to suffer a particularly gruesome death at the hands of his enemies. Yet James and John seem to be unaware of the price they themselves will soon have to pay as his followers.

How about us?  Willingly or unwillingly, we receive the cup of earthly trials and tribulations.  Can we willingly drink of the cup offered to us by Jesus, in order to embrace the glory of Jesus' eternal kingdom?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Hating Discipline" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 23

“Why do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with your mouth? You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you!"  - Psalm 50:16-17

There's a not-so-complimentary term that is used to describe someone who claims to be Catholic but who picks and chooses among the truths taught by the Church: "cafeteria Catholic". We think we know better or that the Church is just "old-fashioned" and "out of touch with reality." Why do we find it so difficult to embrace the disciplines of the Church - its teachings of the truth behind many of its unpopular stances on abortion, marriage, etc.?  While the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience." (CCC 1800), it also makes it clear that "Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt." (CCC 1801)   It is one thing to follow an "informed conscience", but to be informed means to understand why the Church professes what it does and not depend on opinion polls and popular media representations of misconstrued "facts". If you are struggling with a particular position of the Church, take time to understand why the Church teaches what it does.  You might be surprised at what happens.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Who Is Jesus? (StVdP)

Who is Jesus?
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, February 22, 2016
Dcn. Bob Bonomi

In today’s Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  The initial replies are almost superstitious in their nature and smack of reincarnation:  “Elijah.”  “John the Baptist.”  “Jeremiah.”  Then Jesus asks an even more important question: “But who do YOU say that I am?”

Peter’s response reflects a more theological, Christological approach to the question. Not an echo of a past persona but something new, something promised and yet previously unfulfilled. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus blesses him for his insight.

But there is much more to Jesus than meets the eye, and in Jesus’ own words about himself we find a better reply to the question of who Jesus is today: 

·         From Matthew 15:35-36 on the parable of the sheep and the goats: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

·         From Acts of the Apostles 5:9:  He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

Jesus is still with us, walking with us, living with us.  Vincentians encounter Jesus every day in their ministry to those who are in need.

But there is one more response to the question, “Who am I?”  St. Teresa of Avila, in her poem, “Christ Has No Body”, states:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

When we reach out with compassion to those in need – the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, the hated, the injured, the doubtful, the despairing, the sad and lonely, the inconsolable, the misunderstood, the unloved – we are more than just Vincentians.

WE are Jesus.

"Who Am I" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 22

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  - Matthew 16:15

Can you imagine what it might have been like to be walking along with Jesus, and have Him ask that question of you?

Jesus is walking along with each of us now.  Are we aware of His presence, or is He just another nameless face in the crowd?  There will come a time when each of us will be called upon to answer that question, and it will not be important what others think, but what we think.  Who do YOU think Jesus is?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

"Listen To Him" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 21

“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” - Luke 9:35

"Listen to him."  Depending on who you ask, Jesus gave about 50 commands for his disciples to follow, including how to behave, how to pray, how to treat others, and what not to do.  He spoke in parables to the crowds and directly to individuals.  He spoke words of mercy and words of warning; he spoke words of love and words of compassion.  Jesus still talks to us today.  He speaks through Scriptures; he speaks through our prayers; he speaks through his Church.  But are we willing to listen to him?

(His commands?  Repent, Follow Me, Rejoice, Let Your Light Shine, Honor God’s Law, Be Reconciled, Do Not Lust, Keep Your Word, Go the Second Mile, Love Your Enemies, Be Perfect, Practice Secret Disciplines, Lay Up Treasures, Seek God’s Kingdom, Judge Not, Do Not Cast Pearls, Ask, Seek, Knock, Do Unto Others, Choose the Narrow Way, Beware of False Prophets, Pray for Laborers, Be Wise as Serpents, Fear Not, Hear God’s Voice, Take My Yoke, Honor Your Parents, Beware of Leaven, Deny Yourself, Despise Not Little Ones, Go to Offenders, Beware of Covetousness, Forgive Offenders, Honor Marriage, Be a Servant, Be a House of Prayer, Ask in Faith, Bring In the Poor, Render to Caesar, Love the Lord, Love Your Neighbor, Await My Return, Take, Eat, and Drink, Be Born Again, Keep My Commandments, Watch and Pray, Feed My Sheep, Baptize My Disciples, Receive God’s Power, Make Disciples)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Loving Your Enemies" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 20

"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." - Matthew 5:44-45

Tough words, and not a suggestion.  Love your enemies. Pray for them.  (And that doesn't mean to pray that something bad happen to them, either.)  It seems like an impossible task, especially when you are angry, afraid or in pain.  How do you forgive someone that you hate? Someone who has hurt you deeply?  Jesus showed us how - from the cross.  We are not called to agree with them, to like them, or to condone their actions.  We are called to love them, to be charitable to them in the face of abuse and rejection, and to pray that they will let God into their hearts.  For when we forgive them - when we pray for them - we strip them of their power over us - and our souls - and show that we are indeed children of God.

Friday, February 19, 2016

"Turn Away" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 19

But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die! - Ezekiel 18:21

If there is any doubt in your mind that God offers hope to those who feel hopeless, read this passage.  Again.  And again.  God does not wish us to be separated from Him.  He does not want us to suffer and die.  He loves us! And during this Jubilee of Mercy, we will hear again and again that God's Mercy is limitless - there is nothing that He will not forgive, if we just turn to Him whenever we stumble.  God forgives us as much as "seventy times seven", as Jesus told Peter.  If you feel burdened by your sins, go to Confession.  Be reconciled with God.  And remember, as St. Paul said to the Romans, "(nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Do To Others" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 18

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” - Matthew 7:12

Even those who profess to not believe in God will often quote the Golden Rule as a standard for ethical behavior, and various forms of it can be found in almost every religion or philosophy on Earth. (For example: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." – Confucius.)  But it is more than just a balance of action; it defines a relationship between individuals  that reflects equality and is founded upon God's greatest commandments: "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself."  And rather than a demand for justice for perceived harms, it is a demand for mercy for those who may not deserve it, including ourselves.  During this Jubilee of Mercy, let our actions reflect the mercy we seek from God for ourselves by showing mercy to others.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Repenting From Evil" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 17

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them.  - Jonah 3:10

Most Christians would agree that there is great evil in the world today.  But we fail to understand or accept that it is by our own actions and inaction that much of that evil has been brought upon us.  Unless we change our ways, it will lead to our destruction.  It won't be God who destroys us; but God won't step in to save us either, if we do not change our ways. Can you picture a single city, or even a single church congregation, giving up all food and water and truly humbling itself before God with the hope that the evil would end as did the Ninevites?  Oh, once a year we trace little crosses of ashes on our foreheads, and we grumble about giving up our favorite treats for Lent. But if we are to face the evil of this world and triumph over it, we must do more than just halfheartedly implore God to intervene.  Are you willing to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel?”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Your Father Knows" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 16

"Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." - Matthew 6:8

If God our Father knows our needs before we ask him, then why do we need to pray for anything?  God indeed knows our needs, and He knows our wants - and He knows the difference.  But we don't, and it is presumptuous of us to think we know our own needs best. That is why that, while we do not need to babble on and on to God about what we need, we do need to humbly pray to seek His will in our needs and wants.  So, the next time you think you "need" something,  pray the "Our Father" slowly, humbly bringing your desires before Him.  Then listen for him to respond. You may be surprised by the answer.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sheep or Goat? (StVdP)

Sheep or Goat?
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, February 15, 2016  
Dcn. Bob Bonomi 

Today’s Gospel passage from Matthew (chapter 25:31-46) about the sheep and the goats should be disturbing to Christians, for it makes it clear that not everyone will make it to heaven. In the Church today, I think we sometimes become complacent and presume that since God is a merciful god, He will not allow anyone to go to hell. But while it is true that God is a god of infinite mercy, Jesus points out that we must look beyond ourselves in order to accept His mercy, for without it we cannot find our way to heaven.  In effect, those who fail to see those in need or who refuse to show mercy to them, and who insist on looking only to themselves and their own wants, reject God’s mercy and condemn themselves.

Interestingly, Jesus also points out that it is Christ himself who is present in those around us that guides us, even if we don’t even realize that it is Christ that we see.  In the cases of both the “sheep” and the “goats”, the people ask “when did we see YOU in need?”  Neither group seems to realize that Christ is present in every single person that we encounter and our actions, more than our words, reflects our acknowledgment of that holiness. That is what is important to our salvation.

As Vincentians, we strive to recognize Christ in our clients.  We may not always “see” Christ in the people we serve, but by our actions we unconsciously acknowledge His presence in them. He is there, and when we serve them with love we fulfill the command that God gave the Israelites (and to us) as seen in our first reading today from Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our goal in serving others is not just to make life a little better for them.  As Vincentians, our primary goal must be to seek our own holiness, for God has commanded us to “be holy, for I, the Lord, am holy.”  And while we are given many commandments on how to reach holiness, they all ultimately can be summed up by loving God and loving our neighbor. May we continue to see Christ in those we serve – and love.

"When Did We See You?" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 15

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ - Matthew 25:44

In this year of mercy, it can be easy to forget that as part of seeking mercy for ourselves, we must also show mercy to those around us.  It is also easy to overlook those who are most in need of that mercy, especially if we focus only on our own needs.  Look around you.  Who do you see that you should be ministering to?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"For A Time" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 14

When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. - Luke 4:13

Out lives are at best a roller-coaster of events that carry us to great heights only to plummet us to breath-taking lows, and we have little choice but to hang on for the ride.  Today's Gospel reminds us that the temptations Jesus faced are symbolic of the ones we face daily - power, wealth, personal needs - and while we may overcome them for a while, they will return again in other, maybe more subtle forms.  Let us use our time in the "desert" of Lent to help us recognize and prepare for the ones that we face today, and for the ones that are yet to come.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Call To Repentence" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 13

"I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." - Luke 5:32

How often do we, when we go before the priest for confession, suddenly draw a blank as to all of the sins we have committed since the last time we were there?  Or worse, assume that we don't need to go to confession because we really haven't done anything that bad?  Pope Francis reminds us that we are indeed all sinners in need of God's Mercy.  Even when we can't remember the evil that we have been part of, God does - and He still forgives us. Listen; God is calling us.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"An Acceptable Day" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 12

Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? - Isaiah 58:5c

Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD tells us that merely making a personal sacrifice without showing mercy to another isn't the kind of fast that He seeks.  Self-affliction or self-abasement does nothing to improve the Body of Christ; fasting isn't penance for something we have done or failed to do but rather it is a sacrifice that brings justice to our oppressed brothers.  Reflect on the fasting you are doing or planning on doing this Lent - does it somehow improve life for the Body of Christ?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Self-Denial" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 11

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. - Luke 9:23

Included in the Spiritual Works of Mercy is: "Bear Wrongs Patiently".  Following Jesus is not an easy road, and we shouldn't be surprised that it often puts us at odds with those who fight the Good News that Jesus represents.  But we cannot shrink away from our responsibilities, even when we may be unfairly persecuted for our beliefs.  Let us remember that the Cross is not a grave-marker, but a ladder that leads to heaven.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Ambassadors For Christ" - A Lenten Minute for Feb. 10 - Ash Wednesday

"Brothers and Sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." - 2 Cor 5:20

An ambassador is a person who represents his or her own country while living in another.  So, as ambassadors for Christ, we belong to and represent the Kingdom of God, and not the earthly world that we are passing through.  Through the ashes with which we have been marked today, we tell others that we are Christians and we assume the responsibility to evangelize our faith to others as they look to us to learn about Christ.  Let us reflect on what it truly means to be an ambassador for Christ.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Lenten Challenge (StVdP)

A Lenten Challenge
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, February 8, 2016  
Dcn. Bob Bonomi 

Lent is upon us, and the first thing we usually associate with Lent is fasting.  As a kid, I remember having to “give up” something for Lent, and it usually was candy.  Once I became a responsible adult (more-or-less) , I added alcohol and soft drinks to the list.  Of course, there’s always the ban on meat on Fridays, but fish sticks and macaroni and cheese were quickly replaced with salmon or other fancy fish meals.  The toughest fasting came when I began to give up television.

But as tough as giving up these things might be (depending on how old I was) I always knew that once Easter came I could return to the things I loved most. 

The last several years, however, the Church has emphasized a more comprehensive approach, focusing on all three three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

First, prayer.  During Lent one is encouraged to spend time in prayer, meditation and reflection.  To aid in these endeavors, parishes often offer Lenten missions, provide Lenten prayer books, or some other type of opportunity for spiritual growth.  You might find presentations on the Stations of the Cross and opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration.  All are meant to help you grow spiritually.

Second, fasting.  Fasting was the primary focus of Lent for many centuries, based upon Jesus in the desert.  Often it became an excuse to lose weight or to try and break a bad habit, but more and more it has come to help us identify with those who do not have the luxuries of life that we do, and serve as a reminder to us to think of God and His Son’s sacrifices for us.

Finally, Almsgiving.  This is more than just putting money into the Rice Bowl for Catholic Relief Services, although that is indeed a worthy cause.  But in addition to money, almsgiving includes the participation in charitable acts, especially addressing those needs defined in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  It is as important to give of ourselves as it is to give of our resources.  As Vincentians, you are intimately familiar with the first four of the Corporal Works: Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Shelter the Homeless. But almsgiving includes the other works as well.

Although we often look at these three pillars as being independent of each other, for this Lent I’m going to suggest a change in emphasis in your approach to all three, combining them into a personal program for a lasting change in your life.   

First, instead of fasting from food or drink, I would suggest that you fast from something related to the time you spend somewhere.  It may be from television or the computer, or it may be from one of your other favorite activities. But rather than fasting 100% of your time from that activity, pick a specific time every day and give up whatever it is that you might be doing at that time.  One day it might be TV, the next day it might be gardening – or it might be sleep.  But it should be for at least an hour every day.  

Then, spend that time in prayer.  You might consider spending that time every day in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in front of a home shrine or even a religious statue or icon.  As part of your prayers, use that time to pray that God reveal to you His special mission for you.  As Vincentians, you already have a mission, but if you are not feeling joy in your calling, ask God to show you why.  You might find there is something more you can or should do.

Finally, once you begin to feel a deeper sense of calling, then as part of your almsgiving, spend your resources in pursuing that call.  It might require attending a class, or going somewhere to see something being done, or investing in reading materials – or it may be in giving directly to assist someone else to do it.

Use your Lent in discovery, not in just doing.  Then, when Lent has ended and the Easter Season of new life begins, BEGIN.  Begin to implement what you discovered about God's call to you during Lent.  Let it be the start of something new for you.  Let it be the start of something great.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Deep Waters

Deep Waters

Homily for February 7, 2016      Fifth Sunday of Ordinary - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

I have a confession to make.  I’m afraid of deep water.

When I was in grade school, I couldn’t swim.  I tried to learn but never did – in fact, I had a swim instructor who got so frustrated with my not being willing to dive in that he’d throw me back in every time I’d get out of the pool.  After several times of this, I waded across to the other side of the pool and crawled out, and I never went back.  As a result, I never really learned to swim and to this day I am still deathly afraid of deep water.

But I didn’t want to be afraid and I most certainly didn’t want other kids to know that I was afraid.  So after a while, I learned to jump into the deep end of the pool with them, but I’d always jump toward the edge so that I would only have to swim a couple of strokes to reach the ladder and pull myself out. 

As I grew older, I continued to “jump into the deep end”, figuratively speaking, even though my swimming hadn’t improved much – I learned to scuba dive and snorkel, and I’d go on float trips.  But I can’t float, and have almost drowned several times. I’m still afraid of deep water, but I still do not want to be left behind.

Today’s readings are all about being called into deeper waters. 

In our first reading, Isaiah sees the depths of the glory of God.  He has this vision of the LORD sitting on a throne, surrounded by celestial beings singing praises to him.  By the way, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” that we sing during the preparation of the Eucharist comes from this passage.  He knows his limitations and failures and believes he is unworthy to be in God’s presence.  He is afraid. But God sends one of the seraphim with a burning ember and touches his lips with it, signifying that Isaiah has been cleansed of his sins and is now ready to accept God’s call.

“Here I am,” Isaiah says. “Send me.”

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, talks about how, because he persecuted the Church, he was unworthy to enter the depths of Jesus’ mission for him, but the grace of God within him carries him and makes him effective in proclaiming the Good News.

And then we have Simon Peter.  He also experiences the depths of God’s call when Jesus first asks him to help him with his mission of preaching to the people. Peter helps him with the easy task; then Jesus puts him on the spot – “Put out into deep water.”

Peter isn’t afraid of deep water; after all, he’s a fisherman.  But he’s tired and too caught up with his own problems to be able to fully embrace the glory of God before him.  He’s heard Jesus’ message and it has had enough of an impact on him to respond to Jesus’ command to continue fishing, but his heart wasn’t in it. It’s only after experiencing the miraculous catch of fish that awakens him to who really is before him – and he is afraid.

Isn’t that a little like where we are in our faith?  We come to Church and receive Jesus through the Eucharist, but we’re a little afraid to put out into the deep waters of our faith.  When we do jump, we still jump close to the edge where we can pull ourselves up the ladder to safety.

There’s a song by TobyMac called “Beyond Me”.  Don’t worry, I won’t torture you by singing it.  It opens with:
Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe?
That You gave me the stars put them out of my reach.  Called me to waters a little too deep.  Oh, I've never been so aware of my need.  You keep on making me see.  It's way beyond me. 

All three readings today point out to us that we are called, and we are called to do things that are beyond our own ability to succeed on our own.  And we’re afraid.  But we do not need to be. Jesus commands Simon Peter to “Put out into deep water” and tells him: “Do not be afraid.” 

He is telling us the same thing.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called.”

Lent starts next week.  As you ponder what it is that you should “give up” for Lent, I challenge you to give up things that will allow you to spend more time with God – quiet time to listen to Him.  He is calling you into deeper waters.  The graces that you will find there will fill your boat – your life – to excess with the Joy of Jesus.

Are you willing to jump into the deep end – knowing that Jesus is there to lift you up?  Jump in – the water’s fine.

Three Short Years - My Ordination Anniversary

Three Short Years
Homily for February 2, 2016    Feast of the Presentation of the LORD
Third Anniversary Ordination to Diaconate
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

February 2nd is a day well-known to most people, made famous by Punxsutawney Phil and immortalized by Bill Murray. It’s Groundhog Day, and it is one of the few dates most people remember that doesn’t have a day off from work associated with it, or which isn’t associated with a Christian anniversary of sorts.

But the date IS special to the Church, for it is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – the day that the infant Jesus is brought to the Temple and presented before God.  It isn’t a holy day of obligation, but it is an important feast day, and it will forever be special to me, for I celebrate the 3rd anniversary of my ordination as a deacon. 

When I think back over the last three years, I am somewhat amazed at how fast they have gone by. It seems like only yesterday that I was presented to the Bishop at the Cathedral for ordination as a deacon.

And in thinking about it, I realized that in the same amount of time, Jesus, through His ministry, forever changed the world.  Think about that.  We tend to gloss over the amount of time Jesus spent in ministry, preparing his disciples – the Apostles – to continue his mission when he left. But it was only THREE YEARS.  The same amount of time I have been ordained.

I have to ask myself, am I being effective in my ministry?  Am I helping others to draw closer to Jesus – to God – and am I helping them to continue Jesus’ ministry when I am gone?

Yes – and no.  No, but I am not Jesus.  I don’t have that single-minded focus on the will of my Father in heaven that Jesus had.  No, because I have a tendency to veer off of the path to which I am called, and I sometimes have to stumble in the brush to find my way back.

But, yes, I do believe that I’m fulfilling God’s will for me.  With His help and His mercy, I have received glimpses of God’s work in others through me, and I continue to experience the joy of serving God even when I’m tired or distracted or have wandered a bit off course.  God draws me back, like a parent with a wayward child.  I am not Jesus, but I am a Child of God.

Think back over your own last three years.  Some of you have been with St. Vincent de Paul for more than three years; some less.  But all you have to do is look at your annual summary of service to know that together you are continuing to carry out Jesus’ mission. 

You continue to carry out Jesus’ mission of mercy every time you share His love with one of your clients.  You continue to carry out Jesus’ mission of Love whenever you show mercy to your clients – and to each other.

Three years into my ministry. Three short years.  But I don’t think God is done with me yet, nor is He done with you.  As you reflect on your own ministries, may you find the grace to continue bring mercy to others.  And may you re-present yourself tomorrow to the Lord, and may He continue to bless you in your ministry.

Are You a Lug Nut? (StVdP)

Are You a Lug Nut?
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, January 25, 2016
Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

The Word of the Lord.

Once upon a time, there was a car.  It was a pretty car, as cars go.  But one day, the various parts of the car began to argue about which of them were the most important. 

First, the engine spoke up. “I’m the most important part of this car.  I’m powerful; when people hear me roar, they take notice!”

Then the body of the car spoke up.  “I’m more important.  People look at me; my colors are bright and attractive and I’m what people notice when we go by.”

The headlights jumped in, “What about us?  You wouldn’t be able to see where you are going if it wasn’t for us, and in the dark others wouldn’t know to get out of the way unless they saw us.”

The tires chimed in, “Hey, we’re the big wheels around here.  You wouldn’t be able to anywhere without us.”

Finally, all the little lug nuts protested.  “But what about us?”

The rest of the car just laughed at the little lug nuts.  “What about you?  You’re so small and there’s a lot of you – one of you wouldn’t even be missed.”

The lugnuts were all sad and one by one they dropped off of the car.  Pretty soon the wheels fell off, and the car sat all by itself, unable to move.

The moral?  You don’t have to be a big wheel to be important, for it is the little lug nuts that hold everything together.

As Vincentians, always remember that you do not have to be pretty, or powerful, or bright, or a big wheel to help keep the world running.  You only have to be a lug nut, willing to hold on for the ride.