Sunday, September 24, 2017

Workers in the Vineyard

Workers in the Vineyard
Homily for September 24, 2017    25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Jesus today compares our participation in the Kingdom of Heaven to working for a landowner in his vineyard.  It reminds me of the day-workers that gather at a local landscaping nursery. I see them almost every morning on my way to work.  They arrive around dawn and hope that they will be called upon to join a work crew.  If they don’t get picked, they don’t get paid that day.  And I’m pretty sure that they get paid by the hour so if someone comes by at noon to employ them, they’ll only get a partial day’s pay for the time they do work.  It’s a hard way to make a living, but better than no job at all.

Did you know that unemployment is one of the top 5 stressful situations a person can face, along with Divorce, Moving, Major Illness, and Death of a loved one?

Financial problems doesn’t crack the top 5, although financial woes are often related to them.

And of all of the social problems we face in this country – whether it be discrimination, marginalization or any other type of inequality – they are almost always intertwined with employment or lack of it.  The dignity of the worker and fair treatment in employment is in the foundation of Catholic Social Justice teaching.

I think we all know of someone looking for a job – maybe we’re even unemployed or underemployed ourselves.  The average person spends almost 1/3rd of their adult life working, at least if they’re given the opportunity.  And nothing shatters a person’s self-worth, their sense of dignity, than to be out of work, especially if they have been fired. 

So, why do we work?  So we can afford to eat?  Put a roof over our heads?  Earn enough so we can retire and not have to work anymore?

No.  We are made for it.

From the very beginning, in the 2nd chapter of Genesis, we hear that:  “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed.  … The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”  We were made to work – to care for God’s creation – and each other.

We might not be happy at the work we currently do, but if we don’t find suitable work for ourselves according to God’s purpose for us, we definitely won’t be happy.  Think about how you’ve felt at the end of a “job well done.”  The satisfaction we feel – that warmth and peace in our hearts – that’s God smiling on us.

Pope Francis said a few years ago, on the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker: "We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work." He noted: "Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, 'anoints' with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God who has worked and still works, who always acts."

And so we have today’s Gospel about workers in the vineyard.  We can look at this Gospel from two perspectives:  the earthly “Here-and-Now” and the spiritually “Eternal Kingdom”.

First, the Here-and-Now.  On the face of it, it seems unfair – those “who bore the day's burden and the heat” earned the same as those who only worked an hour before sunset. Where’s the sense of justice?  Where’s the indignation?  He made those who didn’t work “equal” to those who did – what did they do to deserve that?

It is an almost socialistic attitude. 

But Jesus wasn’t talking about an earthly kingdom – he was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.  And his comparison of the various workers and how they were hired reflects God’s desire for us to enjoy the eternal rewards He has prepared for us.

It starts with the landowner going out to hire the workers.  He doesn’t send an underling to do it – he goes himself and hires a crew.  He goes out again, and again, and again – each time finding more workers.  Where were they when he first went out?  Doesn’t matter.  For whatever reason, they weren’t in the first group.  He sought them out anyway. 

Jesus is telling the Jews that they were indeed called first by God as His Chosen People. But Jesus is also telling them that God is calling everyone, even those who are sinners or Gentiles – all are called.

Second, he agrees to pay each group the daily wage.  When you think about it, that is what we ask of God every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer:  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  There’s an implicit recognition that we are dependent upon God for every day of our existence, and in turn God will give us what we need – today.

And there is an underlying understanding that anything more than our “Daily Bread” can cause us to sin.  We see that in the 7 Deadly Sins:
Pride (I earned more than you), Lust (I want this for my pleasure),
Envy (I want what others have too), Greed (This isn’t enough for me),
Sloth (If this is all I get, I don’t need to do more),
Gluttony (I’ll take it all), or Anger (Give me more – or else.)

Third, he calls those he first called, “friends”.  There is an intimacy between the landowner and his workers that is beyond just an “employee” – a relationship that is based on trust, or, in our case, faith, that he will do as he promised.  The Jewish people were privileged to have an intimate relationship with God and God made promises to them that He had – and would – continue to fill.

Finally, why not treat the first group “special” and give them more?  Because in God’s eyes, we are created equal and receive an equal portion of His Love – and that is infinite for each and every one of us.  Even if we are “called” late to the game due to our sins, as we heard in our first reading he is “generous in forgiving” and is out there still looking for us.

You know, we too are called each and every day to work in God’s vineyard.  We as Christians are now the “Chosen”, called at our baptism.  And we should be willing and able to do the “heavy lifting” of tending the vineyard by spreading the faith – a responsibility we must not take lightly.

But while God continues to seek us out as long as we live, we must be ever vigilant and answer His call to work, even in our twilight years.

Paul said in his second letter to the Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  If we want to dine in the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to do our part.

Are you hungry for the Kingdom of Heaven? Are you ready to work for it?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Homily for August 27, 2017    21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Who do people say that YOU are?  If you asked a group of your friends what others thought of you, what do you think they would say?  Would it be the same thing that those closest to you would say?

There are usually three types of people that we encounter:
•    Strangers: those that don’t know us or only know us by name;
•    Acquaintances: those that know OF us or who have met us briefly; and
•    Friends:  those who THINK they know us.

And, there could be a 4th group – those who indeed know us.  The REAL us.  Maybe.

Do YOU know who you are?  That can be a tough question.

We live in a world of false images and aliases; of secret identities and masks – sometimes with good reason.  We fight fiercely to hide our identity so that others won’t steal it.  We want our privacy so we build both physical and emotional walls to protect us.  Often we don’t want people to know us too well simply because we know that there are aspects about us that they might not like – that WE don’t like about ourselves.  We can develop dual personalities – one visible to the world, and one hidden within ourselves which hides the pains and scars caused by the physical and emotional traumas of our life.  We live so long behind our masks that we can forget who we are.

But God knows who we are, even when we don’t.

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus asking his disciples what others say about him.  These are the people who would be strangers, per se – not quite to the level of acquaintances, although they may have heard about Jesus or saw him in passing – maybe even sat at table with him somewhere.  But these are the people who can only relate to Jesus through rumor and gossip; they DON’T know him at all.

Then Jesus asks his group, “What about you?  Who do YOU think I am?”  Now, these guys – and a few gals, I’m sure – have been with Jesus going on a couple of years now and so have seen him in action more than once, and so have an understanding of WHAT he’s capable of.  But is that enough to KNOW who he is?

Simon Peter thinks he does.  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" 

But there is a difference between knowing ABOUT someone and KNOWING someone.  When he tells Simon Peter that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”, Jesus doesn’t mean that God the Father whispered it into his ear or even tattooed it on his heart.  Jesus refers to the knowledge gained as a witness to his works, which reveal his divine nature.  And, as we will see next week, despite his “knowing” who Jesus is here; he still doesn’t fully understand WHAT he thinks he knows – and none of them will fully understand THAT until after the Resurrection.

Simon Peter’s statement does show a certain level of knowledge, even if he doesn’t fully understand what it means.  And Jesus, in turn, does something that is extraordinary, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first, when he tells Peter that he will “give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” 

What did Jesus mean when he says that he would give the keys to Simon Peter?  As Catholics we see in this the office of the Pope, but what else do the keys symbolize? 

Well, think about what keys are used for?  To unlock something.  And why is something locked?  To protect it.  So to be entrusted with keys is to be entrusted with the responsibility of protecting something; or in this case, someone.  Us.  Keys are less about authority than they are about responsibility.  And we will see Jesus give the responsibility of the keys for protecting the fledgling Christians to Simon Peter in the last chapter of John’s Gospel.

Finally why would Jesus command his disciples to not tell anyone he was the Christ?  Two reasons.  First, the disciples do not yet fully understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ. They might think they know him, but they still only know about him.  He isn’t done teaching them yet and since the image of the Christ in Jewish eyes was one of an earthly kingdom, he needs for them to get to know him better before they will understand what the Kingdom of God is.

Secondly and maybe more importantly, he wants others to figure it out themselves.  When we look throughout all of Scripture, we see God reveal himself to His chosen people a variety of ways – through His prophets; through the signs and wonders of Nature; and most importantly, through the words and actions of His Son.   

You see, in the eyes of God, we are not only individuals, but a people.  Not “people”, but “A People”.  Why is that important?  Because we experience immortality as a people, as Christians.  The Body of Christ needs to KNOW who it is.

And that brings us back to the question, “Who Am I?”  We are, first and foremost, children of God. Second, we are members of the Body of Christ and one – in unity with Christians everywhere – in the Lord.  Just as we need to know and care for our physical body for our well-being, we must know and care for the rest of the entire Body of Christ for our - and its - spiritual well-being.

Pope Francis said that in order to know Jesus,  “what is needed is not a study of notions but rather a life as a disciple.” 

Can I say that I am a disciple?

Who do you say that YOU are?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions
Homily for August 15, 2017    Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

How often are we offered a “free sample” as an enticement for something that is to come?  We see movie trailers months before a movie comes out;  we receive discount and other promotional things in the mail – especially email; and we’re offered samples of food at grocery stores – you can almost get a full meal at Sam’s or Costco on the weekends. 

I see the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary like that.  Not like unwanted email or advertising, but it is a sample of the promise made to us all of everlasting.

Why is the Assumption important to us today?  Those who are not Catholic point out that the dogma expressing her Assumption and Queenship in heaven was only put forth by Pope Pius the 12th in 1950.  Yet celebrations honoring the Assumption go back well over 1000 years before that – around the 5th or 6th century – and the understanding of Mary’s role as the Mother of God goes back even farther, to the earliest days of the Church. It has been a fundamental truth of the Church.

And so we honor Mary, and we see in her Assumption what we can one day expect ourselves.  More importantly, Mary’s life was and continues to be an example to us all of what it means to be a disciple of her Son. 

We see that in today’s Gospel.  It begins with Mary serving as the first evangelizer for Jesus.  How?  By seeking out her cousin Elizabeth and bringing Jesus to her.  The mere presence of Jesus in Mary was enough to fill Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit and caused John in her womb to leap for joy.  And after Elizabeth exclaims her blessing to Mary, Mary responds with her Magnificat.

Interestingly enough, the Magnificat is prayed every night by clergy and religious during vespers, or evening prayer.  And the prayer isn’t one of Mary bragging, but one in which she points out the glory of God.  It reminds me of Hannah’s prayer in the first Book of Samuel where she prays with the prophet Eli after the birth and consecration of her son Samuel to the Lord.  She begins with, “My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted by my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory.”  It goes on further to say, “The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry no longer have to toil.”  Hannah gives glory to God as she brings her son to Eli to serve God; Mary gives glory to God as she brings Jesus to Elizabeth in service of God.

We as Catholics believe in life after life; we have a mission now as well as one in the future.

Mary had a mission then, and she still does today.  It can be seen in the single line from John’s Gospel at the wedding at Cana: “His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” That is Mary’s message to us today, and she continues to convey that message as seen in the dozens, if not hundreds, of her apparitions around the world.  Fatima, Portugal.  Lourdes, France.  Tepeyac, Mexico.  Knock, Ireland.  The list goes on and on.  And each time Mary appears, she takes the appearance of the people she visits, as a living creature, a promise to us of our future as well. 

All of the apparitions have something in common:  Mary points us to Jesus; she calls us to prayer (usually the Rosary); and she encourages us to pray for peace.  Today, members of the Knights of Columbus and their families around the world are praying for their respective countries as they an Order-wide Day of Prayer for Peace and Reconciliation.  Join with them today – and every day – in praying for world peace.

In the Book of Revelation, we hear of the Queenship of Mary:  “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

As our Queen Mother, Mary doesn’t replace Jesus – she guides us to Him and encourages us to bring Him to others, like she did with Elizabeth.  And so, let us bring Jesus to all we meet, and – take time tonight to pray the rosary for peace.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What's In Your Hotdog?

What's In Your Hotdog?
Homily for July 23, 2017    16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Today’s Gospel got me to thinking: what might Jesus liken the Kingdom of Heaven to today?  More specifically, what kind of food?  After all, Jesus often talked about food and eating in his parables.

I’ve decided that if Jesus was talking to us today, he might compare the Kingdom of Heaven to a – hotdog.  Seriously!  Just look at the three different metaphors he used to describe members of the Kingdom in today’s Gospel: as seeds of wheat, as mustard seeds, and as yeast.  All of them are ingredients in a good hotdog.

But before I go into details about a “good” hotdog, let’s look a little closer as to why Jesus used these three metaphors for members of the Kingdom.   And to do that, we need to understand a little about St. Matthew’s Gospel and the people that he was writing it for.  Many scholars believe that it was written sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and it was probably written in Antioch where the Church, initially strongly Jewish Christian, had become one in which Gentile Christians were predominant.  The persecutions they suffered for their faith were beginning to get serious, challenging their faith.  So Matthew reminds them that their persecutions should not be unexpected, and in fact he writes to strengthen them – to let them know not only what it meant to be a Christian but to give them hope.

Let’s begin with the wheat.  As wheat begins to grow, it is often hard to differentiate between it and the weeds that would grow up beside it.  Further, the plants could be so closely intertwined that if you tried to remove the weeds, you could end up hurting or destroying the wheat.  While it would have been common practice to “weed” the garden as the plants grew, it was better to nurture the wheat and then deal with the weeds at harvest time than risk losing the very crops you were trying to protect. 

So it was in the early Church.  The familiar relationships that the disciples had were changing, and they would be facing opposition from those closest to them – their business associates, their friends and even family members.  And they would have to make a choice – listen to those who would lead them astray, or to follow Jesus. 

But Jesus emphasized how valuable every person was to God his Father.  The first parable, then, is not only about the challenge of following Jesus in a society of conflicting values, but it is a lesson in tolerance of those who disagree with us and a warning about being judgmental, for it is for God to decide what are weeds as only He knows the true potential of every one of His children.

Next, we have the mustard seed.  According to early Roman scholars, it was estimated that Jerusalem had a population of between 600,000 and 1.1 million – roughly the size the of Dallas.  At Pentecost we hear about how a few thousand people joined the movement, but compared to the overall population it would be a drop in the bucket.  But Jesus was pointing out that even from such a small beginning, the Kingdom would continue to grow and expand until people from all parts of the world and from every walk of life – Jews and Gentiles – would find it desirable and seek it.  It was a promise that despite the smallness of their movement, if they persevered in faith the Kingdom would continue to grow and draw others to its shelter and comfort.

Finally, the yeast and the flour.  Three measures of flour is a LOT – according to the Bread Monk, it would make about 75 pounds of bread, or 52 standard loaves.  But bread, without yeast, is flat and relatively hard, and it is in the action of the yeast which causes it to rise and have the texture that we bread lovers come to appreciate. 

So it is in the Kingdom.  Just as yeast works to enlarge the dough, we too have a responsibility to work to expand the Kingdom – and even our smallest efforts can be used by God.  It is the 30, 60 or a hundredfold yield that we heard of in last week’s Gospel.

And so, the wheat, the yeast, and even the mustard all contribute to the nature of the hotdog.  But, to echo an old, old Wendy’s advertisement:  Where’s the Beef? After all, we all know that you cannot have a hotdog without meat, and the best hotdogs are made with beef.  So, what is at the heart of our hotdog?

It is Jesus himself.  For, just as you cannot have a hotdog without the meat, you cannot have the Kingdom of Heaven without Jesus.  Without Jesus, we’re just a hollow bun.

So, we need to ask ourselves – am I everything I need to be to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Am I Wheat, growing in my faith beside the weeds of the world, reaching up for the Son? Can others recognize that I am different than the weeds of the world?

Am I the Mustard which, through the color and aroma of my life, makes the Kingdom appear desirable to others? Or am I like salt that has lost its taste?

And, am I the Yeast, working to expand the Kingdom for others? Am I active in my faith every day and not just a spectator on weekends?

I’ve been called a “hotdog” before, but I’m not, not really.  There’s only one hotdog in my life.  It’s Jesus.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Fear No One

Fear No One
Homily for June 25, 2017    12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks to his disciples about fear.  What are YOU afraid of?

I’m afraid of heights – and cruise ships.  When it comes to heights, I’ll do things to face the fear and overcome it – I’ll go up in tall buildings and lean over rails to look down, as long as I have something I can hold onto.  I know that some of the most spectacular views of God’s creation can only be seen from great heights.

But I don’t think you’ll ever get me on a cruise ship.  I remember being in Hawaii and walking along the shore with Rene’ and saw two of those monster ships docked side-by-side.  Just looking at them almost gave me a full-blown anxiety attack.  I can get sea-sick just watching a travelogue of a cruise – seriously.  And I know that it is all in my head.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an “irrational and excessive fear” of an object or situation. In most cases, phobias involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm.  And depending on where you look on the Internet, 8 of the top 10 most common phobias include the fear of: Spiders, Snakes, Heights, Dogs, Thunderstorms, Flying, Germs, and Open Spaces which, ironically to me, includes Crowds. The remaining phobias would include either the fear of Small Spaces and of Holes, or the fear of needles or injections (which some would say is the same as “holes”), and social phobia, which includes the fear of public speaking.  (That’s not one of my phobias, by the way.)

My fear of cruise ships, however, didn’t make the top ten of either of the lists I checked. I wonder why?

In any case, the thing about phobias is not that someone is afraid of something, but that the fear becomes “excessive or irrational”.  So, is fear healthy for us?  What makes it irrational? 

Everyone is afraid of something – if you say you’re not afraid of anything, then you are either deluding yourself, or you are not living life rationally.  Fear is, or can be, a healthy emotion. We need to have fear in order to survive.  It is in how we face our fears that is important. If we allow them to paralyze us, to keep us from doing what is right, then they become irrational.

And there are two components to fear: being “scared” and being “afraid”.  I know it may seem like I may be splitting hairs, but in my mind there’s a difference between being “afraid”, and being “scared”. 

Being scared is the direct, involuntary emotional response to an unexpected event or situation that is imminent or has just occurred.  It triggers a rush of adrenalin resulting in physiological responses like a quickened heartbeat and rapid breathing, and which wears off once the situation has passed and the adrenalin has worn off.  We cannot directly control being scared.

Being afraid, on the other hand, usually concerns the anticipation of a known event or situation that is yet to come.  We know – or think we know – that something is coming, and we don’t want to deal with it when it does.  But we don’t know for sure.  Where there is an immediacy associated with being scared, being afraid often begins long before anything has happened. 

And the biggest component of fear is being afraid.  But unlike being scared, we can manage and control how we handle being afraid.  How?

H.P. Lovecraft once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”  The secret to controlling fear then is to control the unknown.  Or, at least to know and understand what it is about it that causes us to fear. 

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.  It’s not about “what” we fear, but “who” we fear.  And that reaches beyond our earthly fears and phobias.

Jesus said, “Fear No One.” … “(D)o not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”  Today’s Gospel is about fulfilling the mission of the Church – our Mission – to proclaim the Good News to all, despite whatever dangers may make us afraid.   In a sense, we could say that today’s Gospel is about overcoming our “social phobia”, our fear of speaking out in public about our faith.

Are you afraid of proclaiming the Good News?  Jesus said to “speak in the light; proclaim on the housetops.” If you’re looking for a way to start, there’s a national group on Facebook called the “St. Paul Street Evangelization” – no relation our parish or our wonderful St. Paul Evangelists ministry – that goes out in various cities, including Dallas, and who proclaim the Gospel message in a non-confrontational way every week.  If they can do it, why not you?

If not on the streets, do you at least proclaim your faith to those closest to you?  No?  Who are you afraid of?  A co-worker?  A neighbor?  A member of your family?

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”.  If we are truly Christians; if we truly trust in God and the promises that His Son, Jesus, made to us, then why should we be afraid?

FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

Do not be afraid.  Trust in God, and share His Good News.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Believe in One God...

I Believe in One God...
Homily for June 11, 2017   The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Every religion has difficult theological concepts associated with them, and that can be especially true for us Catholics.  At least we usually identify them with often large and cryptic words – like “consubstantial” and “trans-substantiation”, – to show that we know that they are hard to understand.  But we also use simple words sometimes to describe difficult or complex concepts.  Take the word: TRINITY.

Trinity seems like a simple word – by definition it’s a group of three closely-related things.  And yet, when we use it in reference to God, it becomes – mysterious.  We use the word TRINITY to show that we believe in a Triune God – One God, Three Persons.  Most non-Christian religions say that we are either poly-theistic – we believe in multiple gods – or that we’re a bit schizophrenic and out of touch with reality.  It can be a hard concept to fully grasp.

So let’s see how many of you remember your Baltimore Catechism?

Q: What do you mean by the Blessed Trinity? 
A: By the Blessed Trinity we mean One (1) God in Three (3) Divine Persons.

Q: Are the Three Divine Persons equal in all things? 
A: The Three (3) Divine Persons are equal in all things.

Q: Can we fully understand how the Three Divine Persons are One and the Same God?
A: We CANNOT fully understand how the Three Divine Persons are One and the Same God, because this is a Mystery. 

It reminds me of the story of the Bishop who was questioning a bunch of kids for confirmation. He kept asking the class, “What is the Trinity? Does anyone here know what the Trinity is?”  Finally, a little girl went over to him and whispered in his ear, “It’s OK, Bishop, if you don’t know.  It’s supposed to be a mystery.”

So, let’s see how others have tried to explain this “mystery”. 

Let’s start with Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century.  He said, “And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. … And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite.”  This was part of his “Creed”, which was later used to fight the 6th century heresy of Arianism.  Clear? No?

Then how about St. Augustine?  He spent over 30 years around the beginning of the 5th century working his treatise, De Trinitate, about the Holy Trinity. (I’m afraid I don’t have that much time today.)  There’s a story told about his encounter with boy on a beach: He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.  Augustine approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”  “I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.  “But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water,” said Augustine. The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

Then there’s St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of all time.  He wrote the “Summa Theologica”, better known as simply, “The Summa”, which is still one of the most important theological texts in use today.  He held that the truths of the Trinity cannot be demonstrated by any means in metaphysics as they are purely truth of God’s revelations.  It is said that just before the end of his life, while he was celebrating Mass, he received a revelation from God that caused him to quit working on the Summa.  When asked why, he simply stated that, what he had seen in the revelation made his “writings like so much straw.”

I understand his feelings.  Reading his stuff makes my head hurt, too.

But just as Jesus used parables to explain difficult ideas, I like to use analogies.

In his book “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis devotes a complete section to the Trinity.  In it he uses geometry as a model for understanding, comparing how a three-dimensional object, with sides that are distinct from each other, are still one object.

St. John Maria Vianney used to explain Holy Trinity using lighted candles and roses on the altar and water in the cruets. “The flame has color, warmth and shape. But these are expressions of one flame. Similarly, the rose has color, fragrance and shape. But these are expressions of one reality, namely, rose. Water, steam and ice are three distinct expressions of one reality. In the same way one God revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.”

I personally like the analogy of the water, ice and steam – even if some apologists on Catholic Radio tend to look upon it with disdain.

And there is always St. Patrick and the legends of his use of the Shamrock to explain the Trinity to pagan warlords of Ireland.

The Trinity IS a mystery.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith".

I think that the doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructs the apostles to: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Not in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and the name of the Holy Spirit.  Not three gods.  One God, Three Persons.

And this was so important to the Early Church that it was the core of the Sacrament of Baptism as described in the Didache, one of the earliest known liturgical documents, written some 30 years after the Resurrection: "After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of Community, as we heard Father David tell us last week.  “Then God said: Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness.” 

C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity”, states:  “All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that "God is love," But they seem not to notice that the words "God is love" have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean "Love is God."

Today’s Gospel begins with what may be the most-quoted verse from the Bible – John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  God gave Himself to us as the Son, and continues to give us Himself as the Holy Spirit.

I will end with this final quote of C.S. Lewis:  “If you think of the Father as something "out there," in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you.”

The Trinity IS a mystery.  But it is also a REALITY.  Don’t hurt your head trying to fully understand it – have faith.  Last week, we celebrated Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit into us.  God is present to us today – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Come, let us adore HIM.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Look Up!

Look Up!
Homily for May 28, 2017    The Ascension of the Lord - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Ever try standing in the street or a public place and just stare up into the sky or at the ceiling while people walked by?  Maybe shade your eyes with your hands?  Sooner or later you’ll get others to stop and look up, trying to see what it is that you find so interesting.  That’s when as kids we’d laugh and say, “Ha, ha – made you look.”

I bet that even now, if I just stopped and stared hard at the ceiling and said nothing, some of you would get the irresistible urge to look.  In fact, I mentioned this during Mass a couple of years ago and shortly after Mass I received a photo from a family showing their three kids staring at the ceiling in a restaurant.  They were surprised at the number of people who would stop and stare with the kids.  The kids thought it hilarious.

Why do we do that? We can’t help it - we are curious creatures.  We are just dying to see what others see – we don’t want to be left out.  In fact, we can get so caught up in trying to see something that we miss what else is going on around us.

That’s the image I get of the Ascension from our first reading from Acts – all of the disciples are standing around, staring at the sky, and they don’t even notice when two men dressed in white come up to them. “Uh, whatcha staring at?  There’s nothing there anymore.”

But have you noticed that although we as Church celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, the Gospels themselves say very little about the event itself.  Take today’s Gospel from Matthew.  It doesn’t say that Jesus ascended; it only says that the disciples go to the mountain to which Jesus ordered them to go, and he gives them their marching orders to continue his work. 

St. Mark mentions the Ascension almost as an afterthought: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” 

St. John’s Gospel doesn’t even include the Ascension directly, although he refers to it in depth:  first in his Bread of Life discourse, when he tells his disciples that, if they have trouble accepting that one has to eat of the flesh of the Son of Man for eternal life, then “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”.  And later, during his Last Supper Discourse, he talks about having to leave them in order to send the Advocate to be with them:  “it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you”, which sets the stage for Pentecost next week.

And although we get the most detail about the Ascension from St. Luke’s description in the Acts of the Apostles, his Gospel account makes it sound as if Jesus ascended shortly after his Resurrection. 

So why don’t we hear more about the Ascension in the Gospels?  Because the Early Church didn’t need it – they already knew it.  It was part of the fundamental teaching to those being introduced to Jesus and it was never a question in their minds.  We see that in St. Paul’s letters, like the one from Ephesians that we just heard:  “[I]n accord with the exercise of [God’s] great might, which He worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens” It was then, and still is, integral to our profession of faith in the Apostles’ Creed:  “He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”.  It has always been core to our beliefs.

But the Ascension is more than just an event where Jesus sails away from us into the clouds.  The Ascension is a turning point for our lives today, just as it was for Jesus’ disciples 2000 years ago.  It was the signal to prepare for action.  For three years prior to His death and Resurrection, Jesus did the heavy lifting of proclaiming the Good News; with the Ascension it became time for his disciples to take over.  In today’s readings we just heard St. Mark say that the disciples went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them; St. Paul talked about the different roles that were assigned to the disciples by the Lord; and St. Luke told them that they would be witnesses to the ends of the earth.  Marching orders for His disciples.

That’s US.  WE’RE His disciples today.  It is up to us, as the master composer Puccini said to his students as he was dying, to “complete the opera” that he was working on.  We must pick up where Jesus left off, for it is in us and through us that Jesus continues to live.

Now, next week we will celebrate Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit.  We each have received the Holy Spirit through our baptisms and in Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit continues to work through us.  We will be reminded of that next week, as will all those who, in the various parishes around the world, receive the sacrament of Confirmation.  We have received our marching orders, now we must act.

One final thought.  When Jesus “left” the disciples the first time at his crucifixion, they were left afraid and sad, uncertain about their future.  But when Jesus “left” the second time through his Ascension, they were no longer afraid or sad, but joyous and celebratory, even though they had not received the Holy Spirit at that point and, as we hear today, still had their doubts, just like many of us. 

The difference?  With the Resurrection, they saw that they did not need to fear death, they knew the love of Jesus and it was through that love that their joy was complete.  At Pentecost, they were ready for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit then gave them the tools, the skills – the graces – they needed to proclaim the Gospel.

So between now and next Sunday, I encourage you to pray to the Holy Spirit for the gifts and graces that the Spirit, dwelling in you, has already given to you, and for the strength to allow the Spirit to work through you, drawing others to God.

And remember: The secret of evangelization isn’t to tell others that they need to change; it is in living a life that gets them to “look up”.

(based on a homily published May 2015)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Miracle-Worker

The Miracle-Worker
Homily for May 14, 2017    5th Sunday Easter - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

First, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mothers, Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, Soon-To-Be Mothers, Single Mothers, Mother Figures who care for the children of others, and Mother Surrogates – that’s single men who are both Father and Mother to their children.

And let’s not forget to include our Heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We often hear that Jesus gave his mother to us when he said to John as he stood at the foot of the cross, “Here is your mother”, but Jesus also made his mother responsible for us, when he told Mary, “Woman, behold, your son.” 

The various Marian apparitions which have occurred over the centuries show us a mother’s love and care for her children.  She comes, not because she was invited by us to come, but because as our mother she is watching over us and she comes to us, uninvited, out of love; to instruct us, to guide us – to warn us – as only a mother can.

This weekend marks the 100th Anniversary of the first appearance of our Heavenly Mother to three children at Fatima: LĂșcia Santos, Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto.  In his homily for the canonization of Jacinta and Francisco, Pope Francis said, “Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.” 

How many times have we heard our earthly mothers warn us of the consequences of bad choices in our own lives?

So this Mother’s Day, let us all say a Rosary to the Blessed Virgin for her intercession on behalf of all the mothers in our lives.  And, remember, Our Lady of Fatima asked for daily recitation of the rosary for peace and the conversion of the godless.  Saying the Rosary has brought about miracles in the past; Our Lady’s message was a call to action then and is still a call to action now.  Which brings us to today’s Gospel.

It ends with Jesus telling his disciples, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these..."

Jesus’ works – what made them “great”?  Jesus said we’d do greater things than he did - what could be “greater” than the miracles he did?

The Gospels list 35 specific miracles, or “great works” of Jesus, and they indirectly refer to others.  These “works” can be divided into 4 main categories:

    Healing Miracles
    Restoration Miracles
    Nature Miracles
    Exorcisms

There are also many instances of “miracles” performed by his disciples.

Do we believe that we too can perform miracles?  Why not?  Do we think that those who followed Jesus back then were somehow “better” than us in some way?  Maybe we just need to change our focus a little.  In order to be a “miracle-worker”, we need to have faith.  And if we have faith, then we should make serving God a priority in our life.

Our first reading shows that things today aren’t really so different than the very beginnings of the Church.  They had issues in caring for one another.  “As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”

The Church’s response?  “Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men.

How often do we joke and say that we are not reputable people, therefore it can’t be us that are being called.  When Stephen and the others were selected, do you think any of them said, “I’m too busy right now, pick someone else”?

How do I know what God is calling me to do?  By listening with your heart to those who call upon you – beginning with your Church community.  The Church cannot do it alone – and neither can you.  Last week, Arnold Schwarzenegger said while delivering a commencement speech at the University of Houston:

“This is so important for you to understand. I didn’t make it that far on my own. I mean, to accept that credit or that mantle would discount every single person that has helped me to get here today — that gave me advice, that made an effort, that gave me time, that lifted me when I fell. It gives the wrong impression that we can do it alone. None of us can. The whole concept of self-made man, or woman, is a myth.” … “You’ve got to help others. Don’t just think about yourself.”

The last several Sundays we have been short ushers, EM’s, even altar servers.  And within the last couple of weeks, you should have received a list of other volunteer opportunities at St. Paul’s and a request for participation in our upcoming stewardship drive.  These are not low-priority might-do’s – these are "must-do's" - the things that are necessary from you in order that we, as Church, can continue to bring God’s message of love and mercy to the world – and especially to each other.

And, when you tell yourself that you are too busy or too poor or too overwhelmed to give any more of yourself, remember that God can work miracles through you.  In the words of the Reverend Phillips Brooks (and quoted by both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Donald J. Trump):

“O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.”

You can be a miracle-worker. Be one!  Do not be afraid.  Ask God for Strength, for Courage, for Wisdom.  And let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother – Pray for Us.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Faith and Mercy


Faith and Mercy
Homily for April 23, 2017    Sunday of Divine Mercy Sunday / 2nd Sunday Easter - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Would those of you who are NOT sinners, please stand up?  I’d sit down but there isn’t a chair up here.  Just as I thought.

I don’t think that any of us got up this morning thinking, “I think I’ll go out and sin today – I wonder which one I should pick?”  And those of you who have seen Bishop Robert Barron’s video series on the Seven Deadly Sins  knows there’s plenty to choose from.

But I think we can agree that, even if we’ve been to Confession recently, it doesn’t change the fact that sooner or later, we’ll find ourselves at the wrong end of the spectrum of holiness.  Jesus warned of this, as we heard last week when he told Peter in the garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest:  “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Mt 26:41)

It’s not that we don’t want to be good; even those of us who battle addictions or other compulsive behaviors don’t want to sin, per se, but we know it is a daily battle to resist temptations and we will often fail.  St. Paul, the patron of our parish, tells us in his letter to the Romans:  “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. ... The willingness is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."  (Rom 7:17-20)

So, what are we to do?  If Jesus says that by my nature I’m weak in the face of temptation and Paul tells me that I’m prone to sin even when I don’t want to, then am I doomed?  It seems that every time I fail to overcome the temptations I face, I crawl deeper and deeper into a hole of depression and despair – that sense that nobody loves me, even God.  Especially God.

I hear that cynical little inner voice of Satan say to me: “You’re hopeless.  You’re worthless.  Why bother?  God won’t forgive you this time.”

It’s a lie.


The words and actions of Jesus during the three years of His ministry – His compassion toward those who suffered or were rejected, who thought that they were cursed by God – and His admonition to others to care for the least of their neighbors – show just how much God loved us.  For “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

God Loves Us.  All of Us.  Even those of us who fail in our efforts to avoid sin.  God Loves Us.  We celebrated the ultimate proof of that love during Holy Week and Easter, as we were witnesses once again to Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.  St. John says that the disciples have locked themselves away out of fear of the world and, I’m sure, because they are ashamed of their lack of faith in Jesus.  They’ve heard that he’s alive.  Mary Magdalene told them.  Cleopas and the other traveler who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus told them. 

It reminds me of the story of what Mary Magdalene said to Peter after the Resurrection:  “I have some good news, and some bad news.  The good news is that Jesus is Alive!  The bad news is – he wants to talk to you.”

Isn’t that how we feel when we’ve done something wrong?  Aren’t we afraid to “face the music”?  We hide and avoid others because, when we meet those we’ve hurt, we have to face our sin; share their pain – the pain which we may have directly or indirectly caused by our own actions or inactions.  We’re afraid because we are human and they are human and we know how we might react when someone hurts us.

But God isn’t like that.  Jesus isn’t like that.  Today we celebrate the Sunday of Divine Mercy, a day to remember that God is Love and God is Infinite Mercy.  By the way, the story of Sr. Faustina and her encounters with Jesus as the source of Divine Mercy is fascinating and I encourage you to explore her story.

For it is through God’s Mercy, promised through Christ’s resurrection, that we can find the strength to start each day in faith, knowing that despite our weaknesses and failings, He is there to forgive us and to give us strength to, as St. Peter said, to suffer through various trials we must endure.  We should not be presumptuous in our expectations; but we should be humbled in knowing that God is there for us. 

And we have been given the ultimate gift of healing for whenever we do fail – the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  For even if we sin seventy times seven times – in other words, almost daily – as long as we strive to follow in faith our Lord Jesus, God will be there to heal us.  He waits for us to overcome our fears and to turn to Him so that He can heal us of the injuries we have caused ourselves. 

Both Peter and Judas showed remorse at what they did to Jesus; Peter’s sin really was no less serious than Judas because Peter SWORE to Jesus that he would always be there for him, and then betrayed him 3 times.  But Judas allowed his fear – his lack of faith – to drive him into despair to the point of suicide. 

Peter, on the other hand, rushed to inspect the empty tomb; although afraid, he waited with his fellow Apostles for Jesus to come to them, and he even jumped out of the boat AGAIN when he heard that it was Jesus on the shore calling to them.

Today’s Gospel ends with Thomas exclaiming, “My Lord and My God!”  Jesus’ reply, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."   All we have to do is to have faith.


And just because we acknowledge that we are sinners doesn’t mean that we can’t strive to be saints.  St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians said, “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”  God doesn’t ask us to be perfect; only that we be faithful. 

So, if we remember only one thing today, let it be that God’s Mercy is Infinite – that there is no sin too great that God will not forgive, if we will only ask Him in faith.  And whenever we are overcome by fears, doubts, or lack of faith, let us echo the prayer taught to us by Sr. Faustina:

Jesus, I Trust in You.






Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Uncertainty of Death

The Uncertainty of Death
Homily for April 2, 2017    5th Sunday Lent - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

There’s an old saying that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes.  And while, if you’re poor enough or clever enough, you might be able to avoid paying some taxes, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re rich or poor, you’re going to die someday.  And sadly, the ones we love will eventually die too.

But while death and the pain caused by it are inevitable, with faith we can find strength to continue on with our life.  And today’s Gospel gives us some pointers on the reality of our future, if we trust in God.

It begins simply enough.  Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that his good friend, their brother Lazarus, is seriously ill.   They know about Jesus; more importantly, they KNOW him and WHO he is – the Son of God.  So they reach out to him to intercede on behalf of Lazarus.

Don’t we do the same thing whenever a family member or one of our dear friends is sick and in need of healing?  Reach out to our prayer groups and prayer warriors and ask them to storm heaven to intercede for us? 

But instead of going immediately to see Lazarus, Jesus stays on the other side of the Jordan.  His statement that Lazarus wasn’t going to die, that there was a purpose to his illness, may have seemed a little strange but, as he had cured many people, maybe they thought he’d do the same thing remotely. After all, Lazarus lived near Jerusalem and the Jews there wanted to stone him.  Who’d blame him for staying where he was?

But Lazarus died. 

It can be hard to imagine the pain and grief that Mary and Martha was going through unless you have experienced that kind of loss yourself – and most of us have.  Not just death of a loved one, although that is the ultimate loss, but the loss of a job; the loss of house and home through a natural disaster or other catastrophic event; a break-up in our relationship with another.  We pray and pray and may even experience a glimmer of hope:  interviews for a better job; insurance payments or help from friends and family; the discovery of a miraculous cure or the word that the cancer is in remission. And then the other shoe drops.

Mary and Martha probably felt that glimmer of hope as they sent word to Jesus, hoping that he would get there in time to heal Lazarus.  And when he didn’t; when their brother died and still Jesus didn’t show up right away, their grief must have been tremendous – along with frustration, despair and maybe even anger. 

We see that in the responses from Mary, Martha and their friends:

"Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died."
"Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?"

Their sobbing reflects the intensity of their grief and mourning.

And Jesus wept.

Why did Jesus cry?  After all, Jesus knew that Lazarus wasn’t going to remain in the tomb.  He knew that, despite being buried for 4 days, Lazarus was going to rise and be with his family and friends, and that there would be great joy and celebration.  So why did Jesus weep?

Empathy.  Empathy is more than just witnessing another person's pain or joy; it is the ability to understand and SHARE their feelings, especially the feelings of sorrow and pain.  Jesus FELT their grief; their pain was real and no amount of knowledge that “everything will be all right” can take that pain away from them. It was more than Jesus “knowing” that they were in pain; he FELT a pain that was so intense it made people cry.  And so He Wept.

In his book, “A Grief Observed”, well-known author C.S. Lewis records his personal observations on how he dealt with the many issues associated with the sudden death of his wife to cancer: his grief, including the pain; the depression; the awkwardness of dealing with well-meaning friends who didn’t always know the right words to say; the loneliness; the anger he had towards God; and how he ultimately returned to his faith.  I recommend the book to anyone who has experienced a sudden loss of a loved one or to those who know someone who has.

Now, if all that this Gospel was about was Jesus performing a miraculous cure for Mary and Martha because Lazarus was a friend, then it would be a wonderful story but it wouldn’t tell us much about God the Father or Jesus his Son.  After all, Lazarus eventually died again and that time wasn’t raised from the dead.  So what is Jesus telling us?

1.    God loves us and understands our pain in loss.
2.    Grief is natural and expected.
3.    There’s a purpose to our life – and death – which we may never fully understand.
4.    Even in death, there’s hope for those of faith.
5.    Jesus is calling us to come to him, even if we’re bound up in sin.
6.    No matter how tightly our sins bind us, they are not enough to keep God from freeing us. 
7.    Death is not the end of life – merely a prelude to something better.

As we approach Easter, we will witness Jesus’ Passion and Death next Sunday and throughout Holy Week.  As we reflect on what we hear and see, let us remember that all of the scriptures which we heard today are meant to remind us of God’s love for us and His promise that death isn’t an end for us.

There will be the dawn of an Easter morning for each of us.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Eyes of our Heart

The Eyes of our Heart
Homily for March 26, 2017    4th Sunday Lent - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Today’s Gospel, the 2nd Scrutiny for catechumens seeking entry into the Church through Baptism at Easter, is the familiar story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  Physically, we are all born blind, at least in the legal sense.  It takes time for our vision to develop.  At first, everything is blurry, like a camera that’s out of focus.  It takes about a week before a baby begins to learn how to see, and then it’s only objects within a foot or so of its face – which just so happens to be about the distance between a mother and her nursing child.  And while the infant’s visual abilities continue to improve, it takes about 4 months for the child to start developing hand-eye coordination and to understand depth perception.  After about 6 months a child should see with 20/20 vision. 

Understanding what they see, however, takes a lifetime.  It is said that we are born with only two innate fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  The rest are learned responses.  Various tests like those using the “Visual Cliff” experiment with infants have shown that a child who instinctively hesitates to cross a solid glass floor when it looks like there’s a drop under it, will look to a trusted adult for reassurance in attempting something new and will act somewhat fearlessly “going over the cliff” if given positive encouragement by them. 

(By the way, it’s not until they’re about 2 years old before they begin to do dangerous things without encouragement, especially when they’re told not to.)

Now, a person who becomes blind at some point in their life can remember what it was like to see, and so they can create images in their mind from their memories of what they can no longer witness.  But what about a person who was born blind? 

While they can use their other senses – touch, sound, smell, taste – to build an “image” of the world around them, they have no way to recognize something that’s “beyond their senses” without the help of someone who can help them understand what they cannot see.  How do you describe “blue” to someone who has never seen color?  Or “clouds” to someone who cannot see the shadows cast by a blocked sun? 

And so, I wonder what the man born blind thought when his eyes were opened by Jesus for the first time? 

For Jews, blindness was more than just a physical ailment – it was a sign that God was displeased with you.  They believed that physical infirmities were linked to sin and if you suffered from some sort of illness or calamity it must be because you or your parents had sinned. This comes from the 10 Commandments:

…For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation.  (Exodus 20:4)

So it would seem obvious that the man’s parents must have done something particularly wicked for him to have been born blind, since it would be pretty difficult for him to have done something BEFORE he was born.  And I wonder, did he accuse his parents of doing something evil that caused him to be born blind? Or was it his grandparents?  Or did he think there was something “wrong” with him spiritually, since he must have been rejected by God because he was born blind? 

Just as we are born physically blind, we are also born spiritually blind.  While we “see” physically through the eyes in our head; we “see” spiritually through the eyes of our heart. 
And just as we are born with an innate sense of fear for falling and loud noises, we are born with an innate spiritual longing for God.  But just like learning to see with our eyes, it takes time for us to open the eyes of our hearts to God. 

We begin like infants, by listening from those we trust most – our parents and godparents.  The Second Vatican Council’s document, “Lumen Gentium”, states that “In what might be regarded as the domestic Church, the parents, by word and example are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.”  It is this initial exposure to faith by our parents that helps us to understand what it is that we “see” – and to help us avoid spiritual dangers through experience and teachings.

But often our blindness remains – and not just because our parents were evil or we are evil.  God doesn’t work that way.  He wants us to see, to be able to draw close to Him.  And so in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to see spiritually with our hearts through the healing of a man born blind. 

He begins simple enough – he points out to his disciples that the evils that we experience in life are not because we are evil, but often it is in how we deal with the evils we encounter that we can make the works of God visible to others.  Physical blindness is temporary and limited to the short time we are on Earth; but we must overcome our spiritual blindness if we are to be able to “see” the Glory of God.  In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul is commissioned by Jesus to remove the spiritual blindness of others when Jesus tells him:

I shall deliver you from this people and from the Gentiles to whom I send you, to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may obtain forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been consecrated by faith in me.’  (Acts 26:17)

So Jesus begins with “healing” the physical blindness of the man born blind.  Note that the man doesn’t ask to be healed.  Why? Maybe it was because he didn’t think he was worthy to be healed; after all, he was born blind and like most Jews he probably believed that he didn’t deserve to be healed. 

But he must have had some hope – some spiritual desire – in his heart since he followed Jesus’ directions and allowed mud made from spit to be put upon his eyes, and then allowed himself to be led – remember, as yet he still couldn’t see – to the Pool of Siloam to wash.  He had some faith, without even fully understanding what he believed.  He washes at the Pool of Siloam, and the Church sees that washing as a symbol of the waters of Baptism and the beginning of his faith journey, just as our baptism is a beginning step in ours.  And he experiences God’s mercy through both a physical and a spiritual healing.

Now, he probably didn’t know who Jesus was at first.  Oh, he may have known his name, hearing it from those around him, but he didn’t know who Jesus WAS. He testifies before the Pharisees and then questions them about how this man Jesus could do what he did for him, but the Pharisees cannot answer him.  They reject his testimony and throw him out.  But the eyes of his heart have been opened and so, when Jesus seeks him out, he is ready to see Jesus for who he is, the Son of God.

One final thought.  In both this Gospel and last Sunday’s about the woman at the well, after Jesus reveals his divinity through word and action the eyes of their hearts are opened and the people come to believe in him.  The Pharisees however, whose physical eyes are open, refuse to allow the eyes of their hearts to see the wonders of God at work around them.  And so we must ask ourselves – do we close our eyes to God at work in our lives?  Are we blind to God and the wonders of His mercy?

And so we pray:  Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord – we want to see you.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Witness of the Transfiguration

Witness of the Transfiguration
Homily for March 12, 2017    2nd Sunday Lent - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Today’s Gospel is about the Transfiguration of Jesus, and it is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels – that’s Matthew, Mark and Luke.  (John’s Gospel doesn’t include it.)  St. Matthew’s version of the Transfiguration seems to me to be rather anti-climactic:

•    Jesus takes three of His disciples up a high mountain.
•    His appearance “changes” and begins to glow before them.
•    Two other people appear and talk with Him.
•    Peter wants to set up three booths.
•    Something scary happens – God the Father speaks.
•    Then it is all over.  Jesus returns to normal and down the mountain they go, with orders not to tell anyone about what happened.

All three Gospels contain the above brief series of events.  It’s only in St. Luke’s version that we get a few more details, such as:

•    Jesus went up the mountain to pray.
•    Peter, James and John fell asleep.  (Ever notice how these same three guys, the leadership of the 12, usually seem to fall asleep just before something significant happens?), and
•    How the discussion between Jesus, Moses and Elijah was about what would happen to Jesus in Jerusalem.

Since, the overall story of the Transfiguration is pretty brief compared to the significance of the event, so let’s look at it a little more closely.

First, what do we mean by “transfiguration”?  A dictionary definition would say that to transfigure something is to “give it a new and typically exalted or spiritual appearance”, or to “transform something outwardly and usually for the better”. 

St. Luke doesn’t even use the word “transfigure”.  Instead he only describes what happens to Jesus - His face changes and His clothes glow white. 

But in both  Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels the Greek word that they use is “metamorphoo”, which is where we get the word “metamorphosis”. 

It means a more fundamental change, as in what happens when a caterpillar changes into a beautiful butterfly. It’s still the same creature – but the transformation is more – structural? – as the caterpillar reaches its intended, ultimate destiny – a butterfly.  And although Jesus’ Transfiguration is a temporary change here, it is a prelude to the change He will go through at the Resurrection – and the ultimate destiny we will one day experience. I'll come back to that in a minute.

As Jesus’ appearance changes, two additional people, identified as Moses and Elijah, appear.  How did Peter, James and John know for certain that it was those two?  As one person said to me last week, “It wasn’t as if they could look up their pictures in a high school annual or a picture directory.”  I’d say that Jesus told them.

But, in Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah we see a second “transfiguration” – the metamorphosis of the Old Covenant – the Law, represented by Moses, and Prophetic visions represented by Elijah – into the New Covenant of Grace, Love and Mercy represented by Jesus.  Jesus came to fulfill the law, not eliminate it; it is transfigured from the old into the new through Jesus.

So, if the Transfiguration event here reflected a temporary change in the appearance of Jesus in front of His disciples and the future change in God’s covenant with His people - both historical events from our perspective - why do we reflect on the Transfiguration today?

Because it is through that momentary glimpse of Jesus’ future glory that we see the promise of our own future.  We see this in the letters of the New Testament:

•    In the first letter of St. John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:2)
•    St. Paul to the Philippians: “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3:21),
•    And to the Corinthians: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.” (1 Cor 15:44) and “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.” (1 Cor 15:49)

We are destined for our own ultimate Transfiguration, the metamorphosis of our earthly bodies into something exalted; something better than we are now – heavenly beings with spiritual bodies.  Oh yes, we are corporal beings and so we will have bodies – just ones that have been through a metamorphosis.

One last thought.  Most of the time, whenever we read about the Transfiguration, we reflect on how we need to change our lives or be transfigured today, especially during this time of Lent.  But do we pay any attention to the transfiguration events of those who are around us?  We witness them through those people who live holy and exemplary lives; we see them in the “aha!” moments of those who experience a sudden encounter with the Risen Christ at a retreat or in the sacraments; and we witness them in the many miracles of life that we encounter daily.  Like Peter, James and John, God allows us to witness these moments of His Glory to prepare ourselves and to help sustain us as we continue on our own road to Jerusalem, for we too have our crosses to bear.  And like the disciples in the Gospel, we should be aware of how quickly the “flash bulb” effect of such an event can wear off, returning us to our daily routine.

The Transfiguration and the other signs Jesus did were meant to help prepare His disciples for the uncertainty they would face during Jesus’ passion and death, and to give them the hope needed to carry them through to His Resurrection, His Ascension, and beyond.  Let Jesus' transfiguration and the transfigurations that we witness in our own lives strengthen us for our own trials, knowing that despite whatever flaws or ills we suffer now, we too will one day, like the caterpillar and the butterfly, experience an ultimate metamorphosis of our own – a Transfiguration to become something spiritually exalted.

That is our hope. That is our faith.  That is God's promise.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Slaves of Christ

Slaves of Christ
Homily for February 26, 2017    8th Sunday Ordinary - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

Do you consider yourself a servant of Christ?  Or more importantly, do others see you as a servant of Christ and, as St. Paul put it in his first letter to the Corinthians, “stewards of the mysteries of God”?

When we think of servants today, we often think of the “hired help” – employees who work for pay and whose service is often limited by a    job description and a set number of hours worked per week, controlled by labor laws.  But the image of servitude during the time of Jesus was quite different – servitude was more of a master / slave relationship – a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week thing – a total commitment to your master.  Often you see the word “servant” and “slave” used interchangeably in scriptures.

So, if being a servant was more akin to being a slave, what’s a “slave”, and why would anyone want to be one for Jesus Christ?  Today, if we hear the word “slave”, we might think of:

•    a person held in servitude as the property of another
•    one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence, or
•    someone who works long and hard at something that has little or no meaning to them.

We have a very negative image of this type of servitude, and rightfully so, since it represented an involuntary condition imposed on people that deprived them of their human rights and which was used to oppress people in the past, and sadly still exists today and continues to oppress people around the world – even here. 

And yet, throughout the New Testament we hear the followers of Jesus calling themselves slaves:

•    In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
•    From Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”
•    From his letter to the Galatians: “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.”
•    From his letter to Titus: “Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth”

And not just St. Paul.  St. James begins his epistle with, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.”  Even St. Peter, in his 2nd letter begins with “Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ”

So why did the early disciples consider themselves “slaves” of Christ? 

To understand, we need to differentiate between “voluntary servitude” and “involuntary” servitude.  If our master is someone or something we really love, we are happy to do whatever we can to nurture our relationship with that master – we voluntarily serve that love. But, if it is something that we think we need or must have and it becomes a burden that we resent, our service becomes involuntary. 

In this country, the freedoms we have allow us to choose whether or not we will be in service to another – sometimes. And God has given us the gift of free will, so that we can make choices within our hearts.  But whether in our mind or our heart, we must make a choice on who or what we are to serve.

For the followers of Christ, there was nothing more important than Jesus.  They wanted to serve Him because they loved Him – and they knew that He loved them too.  Being a slave of Christ wasn’t a burden – it was a JOY. And in allowing Christ to be their master allowed them to deal with everything else that they faced in their lives with the strength and wisdom that comes from God alone.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all slaves to someone or something – by our own choosing.  We fool ourselves into believing that we are our own “master”; that we own things in our lives and can control how we deal with them.  But a quick look at just some of the things we own or control shows us just how much of a lie that can be:

•    If we own a house or car or other expensive item, we are required to maintain it, pay taxes on it, and care for it if we want it to remain of value to us.
•    If we are part of a family, we have a responsibility to serve and support that family to the best of our abilities.
•    Even our pets can be very needy and demanding – how many times have you heard that dogs (and especially cats) own their humans?

In fact, we have many, many masters in our lives, and we spend much of our time in prioritizing which one will get our attention today.  But ultimately, in case of a conflict between choices, we can only pick one.  That one becomes our true “Master” – it controls how we manage our relationship with the other things in our life.  And our lives become full of conflict and worry and anxiety if we choose the wrong master.  We can only be fully at peace if we have Christ as our Lord and master.

We have a choice to make.  St. Catherine of Siena said: “For our soul cannot be clothed in two different loves at the same time.  If our soul is clothed in the world, it cannot be clothed in God; the two are quite opposed to one another.” We must choose either God or the world to be our master.  With one comes the peace and joy that knows no end; with the other comes the worries and anxieties of the world.  As for me, I choose God, for “Only in God is my soul at rest . . . from Him comes my salvation.”

Are you a Slave of Christ Jesus?  Would others say you are?

You have a choice. Choose well.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hatred and Revenge

Hatred and Revenge
Homily for February 19, 2017    7th Sunday Ordinary - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from last week discussing six commands taken from the Mosaic Law which were examples of the conduct Jesus demanded from his disciples.  If you remember, last week Jesus began by addressing those who thought that, because of his actions and teachings, he was going to abolish the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets.  He stated that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law and the prophecies made about Him. 

He then clarified the six commands, beginning each of them with “You have heard that it was said…” and then stating the law.  Then, with a “But I say to you…”  he proceeded to either expand or deepen the command to make it even more all-encompassing, or replaced it with something more important as a standard of conduct that his disciples were to follow.  These six commands are all relational, dealing with how we are to treat each other – commands about anger, desire, divorce, honesty, revenge and hatred. 

Today’s Gospel addresses the last two commands, which address very common but deadly attitudes for today’s Christians: Revenge and Hatred.  I think Jesus is very clear about God’s position on these two points, and I’m not sure I like what He had to say. Of the six commands that he taught about, these two are the hardest for me personally to deal with. Sure, anger is tough and often leads to revenge and hatred, but it is these last two which can be the hardest for people to overcome, since their emotional intensity can totally blind us to the need for God’s mercy.  I used to tell people when I was pranked in my younger days, “I don’t get angry, I get even.  And I hold a grudge until I do”.  And I was ruthless.

Take Revenge.  Despite all of our talk about mercy, how often do we want “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” when dealing with someone who has wronged us personally or has done something that offends our sense of right and wrong?  Do we really believe in the value of reconciliation and rehabilitation?  How often do we see or hear in the news about the protests and riots which demand action against someone even before they’ve received a fair trial?  And if it something that is or seems to be terribly evil, we really want to punish them – hurt them – beyond just an “eye for an eye”.  

And Hatred of Enemies.  How can I not hate my enemy?  I’m assuming that there must be some reason that I call them “my enemy” – usually it is because they are some sort of threat to me or to those I love.  Embracing someone who has expressed a desire to harm me in some way just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do, does it?

I don’t think so.  Yet that is exactly what Jesus is calling us to do.

So what motivates us to hatred and revenge?  While anger probably and usually plays a significant part, I think it is mostly fear that causes us to hate others, or to seek retribution from another so that we don’t have to face the situation that harmed us again.  Fear does more harm to us than any other emotion, which is why Jesus so often said, “Do not be afraid.” 

We can become impulsive or irrational when we are afraid, and the evil that results from our failure to recognize Jesus’ wisdom in teaching about these two commands challenges our Christian faith more than anything else we face.  Fear blinds us to the command to “Love God and Love our Neighbor”, and we risk losing our eternal soul if we allow our fear to prevent us doing as Jesus commanded, especially seen through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy which are demanded of us for those who we fear or hate.

And yet, as a people, a nation, we are responding to the events around us in fear, and that fear has led us to anger, hatred and revenge.  All we have to do is look at the current headlines in the news and how we respond to any of the many issues facing our country today to see the hatred and the anger that permeates our society.  We say we seek “justice”, but that’s just another word for revenge. We are about as far from the model of discipleship outlined by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as the pagans were from the first Christians.

St. Paul said to the Romans, “Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”

Can you respond in love to the neighbor you struggle with? Are you caring for those that you hate?  Do you pray for those you are afraid of?  Really pray for them and not against them?  Are you allowing the good in your life to conquer the evil that you face?

You must, if you are a Christian.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Who Do You Follow?

Who Do You Follow?
Homily for January 22, 2017    3rd Sunday Ordinary - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

500 Years ago this year, in 1517, the Reverend Martin Luther published his “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” more commonly known as “The 95 Theses”.  Most historians consider this the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  They were most likely not NAILED to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church as an act of radical defiance, but were hung on the door of the church to encourage debate on what Luther considered abuses in indulgences and related issues within the Church.  In fact, much of what he included were abuses within the Church associated with indulgences and which were already being discussed as problems within the Church hierarchy.  Unfortunately, some of the issues were divisive and, after several attempts at reconciliation, when Luther refused to recant his position on these issues, in 1521 he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X.  The subsequent division and scandal caused to the Church has continued ever since.

But it does not have to be so. 

In John’s Gospel, chapter 17, verses 20 to 21, Jesus prays, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.”  One in God.  One in Life.  One in Faith.

This week, from January 18th through the 25th, we celebrate the “International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”.  During this week, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (the USCCB) asks that all Catholics join with those of other Christian denominations to pray for Christian Unity. This “week of prayer for unity” isn’t anything new, but is part of a effort that is over 100 years old, when the first Octave of Prayer was celebrated in 1908.  Pope Benedict the 15th extended its observance to the universal Church in 1916.  It has been celebrated during this week in January ever since.

In 1964, the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio was proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council, which included in its opening remarks that “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only; division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalises the world and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel”. “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Sacred Ecumenical Second Vatican Council.”

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity continues to work with representatives of the World Council of Churches and other Christian communities to resolve our differences so that we all may be one in the eyes of God.  This week of prayer and ecumenical activities are meant to help heal the divisions which keep us apart.

But overcoming division isn’t easy.  We are a very competitive people, whether it be in sports, politics or faith.  And while competition in itself isn’t bad, for it helps us strive to be better than we are; we only have to look around us to see how we allow our competitive nature to become destructive: we use antagonistic or insulting language to put others down; we exercise prejudicial judgment against some and preferential treatment for others; we even justify violence as a statement against those we disagree with.  Just look at the recent news of the protests and riots this last week. 

It must stop.

In his letter to the Corinthians today, St. Paul admonishes the Corinthians over the divisions in their fledgling community.  He points out to them that they are losing their focus on the only one they were to follow – Christ.  Not Peter; not Apollos;,not even Paul himself. No matter who they “liked” or “disliked”, they had only one purpose – to witness to Christ, to follow the command of Christ to Love God and to Love their Neighbor.  The same is true for us today - it isn't our political leaders, our sports favorites, or even our friends that we are called to follow, but Christ.

Where are we as a community, as Christians?  Are we divisive, finding fault with those we disagree with? We're called to remain firm and strong in our faith and not compromise our values, but can we do so without hatred?  Can we say that we love each other, and treat each other with respect, even if we disagree with them?  Or do we harbor hatred in our hearts for those that we disagree with – whether it be because of their faith, their politics, or even their sports affiliation?  (OK, maybe we don’t HATE them because of their favorite teams.)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him.  They leave everything behind to follow Him.  We’re called to do the same thing – leave all our hatred and animosity behind and follow Him.  We are called to be one in Christ.

I follow Christ.  I belong to Him.

Who do you belong to?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Following Our Star

Following Our Star
Homily for January 8, 2017    The Epiphany of the Lord - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi   

 “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2). 

With these words from today’s Gospel, Pope Francis opened his homily last Friday for the Feast of the Epiphany, during which he spoke of a holy longing which all true believers have and how that longing should guide us in where and how we choose to seek and follow Jesus.  

First, a little background.  Although it may not get as much attention as Christmas, did you know that the Feast of the Epiphany is actually one of the oldest of our Christian feasts, being celebrated by the Church since the end of the second century? The date for celebrating Christmas wouldn’t even be established for another 200 years.  And like other Christian celebrations, the Church appropriated Epiphany from an old pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice.  Back then, the shortest day of the year fell on January 6th, before various calendar revisions over the centuries resulted in the solstice now occurring on December 21st. 

And although most of the world still celebrates the Epiphany on January 6th, here in the US the bishops have chosen to celebrate it on the Sunday that falls between January 2nd and 8th. I personally think that this was to ensure that people celebrated it liturgically, I guess.

So what is an “Epiphany”?

Well, it is a Greek word that one dictionary describes as:
(1)    The manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something;
(2)    An intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking; or
(3)    An illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. 

I’d prefer to say that the word itself usually means the moment when a sudden and clear understanding of something comes through intuition or insight, or which is revealed through some event that makes understanding clear.  I like to think of it as an “AHA!” moment.

For the Greeks, it came to be used to refer to an appearance or manifestation of a divine being, and so, for Christians, the Epiphany is the revelation and recognition the divinity of Jesus as God. 

Now there are many instances in the Gospel where Jesus reveals His divinity such as through the many signs He worked and through the witness of others of His interactions with His Father – at His Baptism and at the Transfiguration, for example. But the two primary biblical events that are referred to as the first time that Gentiles were made aware of the divinity of Jesus, His Epiphany, are the visit by the Magi described in today’s Gospel and Jesus’ baptism by John. Interestingly, the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant church communities usually use the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany, while the Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.

Do we recognize the divinity of Jesus today?  More importantly, have we had our own moment of Epiphany with Him?  Our faith tells us that He is present in His Word and in the Eucharist, but do we see Him at other times in our daily lives?  Where do we look for Him?  More importantly, do we know what is leading us to Him?

In today’s Gospel, the Magi followed a star which led them to Jesus.  They were learned men, most likely astrologers, and they knew that what they saw was a sign of something great was about to happen – even though they were not Jews. It signified the birth of a King, and they had come to see for themselves this newborn King and to worship Him.  The star was for them the guiding light that beckoned to them. The Magi came because the light offered them HOPE.

What is the “star” – the light – which beckons to us?  Again, in his homily on Friday, Pope Francis said: “In our life, there are several stars, and it’s up to us to choose which to follow. There are many “flashing lights” in our lives, like success and money, which come and go, which may be good, but are not enough, because they do not give lasting peace.”

Do we see the star – the guiding light – which leads us to Jesus? If not, are we looking in the right place?  Do we see the light as a sign of hope, like the Magi?

Or, like Herod, do we see the light of Christ but are unwilling to accept it or follow it because we’re afraid of where it will lead us? Even if the status quo of our life isn’t ideal, we may prefer it to the unknown consequences of giving our all to Jesus.  Herod was so afraid that he had all of the baby boys –  the Holy Innocents – murdered to prevent the coming of Jesus, rather than risk the change that Jesus represented. He tried to stop Jesus from coming, and we all know how effective he was at that.  God always prevails.

Are we afraid of following the light of Christ?  Haven’t we acted like Herod, as we approach the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision next weekend that has resulted in the murder of over 55 million babies? Isn’t it fear that prevents us from embracing the demands that the respect for life places on us, and drives us to pass laws in support of abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment?

The Magi came to see and worship this newborn child who would be king, and they willingly left behind the comfort of their lives to seek something that was greater than what they had.  They brought their gifts – more than gifts, their treasures – and laid them at the feet of the newborn child, with no expectation of personal gain.  They chose to follow the guiding light – the Star – which came from God.

As we proceed into this new year, we need to ask ourselves: what is my Star?  Can I see clearly where God is leading me? Am I prepared to have an AHA moment – an Epiphany – where I encounter the risen Christ?  Can I overcome the fear of the change that encounter may require of me?

You can.  Do not be afraid.