Category Archives: Homilies

Homily from Easter Week 5, Cycle A – Who do you say that I am?

Readings for this homily can be found here.

“Show me a sign, and I will believe.” I hear it all the time, a million different ways. “If God is real, why doesn’t he just show himself to us, and remove all doubt?” “Isn’t it easier to say that there is no point to it all, rather than say that some imaginary God is everywhere, orchestrating everything?” “I’d believe if I saw a miracle, but miracles don’t really happen.”

In some ways, I find this one of the hardest questions to answer in the world. In another, it’s the simplest question to answer of all.

I think we get confused as to what we are looking at as we go through our lives. We live with our eyes closed, and cannot see what is right in front of us. We think that God is some great trickster, hiding himself from us for some grand plan, almost as if he doesn’t want us to know he is even here. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are so used to the world as we see it, that we have no idea just how miraculous everything around us is. We are surrounded by inexpressible beauty, with a depth and complexity that we cannot fathom, and at the same time with a powerful simplicity that we can reach and see. Let me explain for a moment just how magical and miraculous our lives really are.

As I wrote this homily, I was sitting in my living room, just relaxing on the couch. I see how old and worn out my couch is, the room needs painting, and I wish the whole house was just a bit bigger. We feel quite cramped at times, as our house is quite small. Why couldn’t I own an island in the tropics, or why not a mountaintop mansion?

But as I sit here in my little house, a universe sits outside my walls. The sun rises in majestic glory, and in my overgrown backyard, there is a wilderness of growth and life if I look close enough. But alas, I see only the overgrown weeds. We insulate ourselves into our own little worlds, and do not see the obvious that is all around us. I spend more time staring at my phone than studying the magical growth of the trees outside my door, or the crashing of waves on the beach. Let alone marveling at the beauty of my own mind, my own consciousness and identity.

We are like fish in bowls, but our bowls are in the ocean. We could swim out any time we like, but we choose not to, we choose to stay in our little bubble and count what little pebbles we own inside. And then we ask God why? Why won’t you make my little bubble shine brighter? Why won’t you make it more comfortable? Why won’t you just show yourself, and fill my bubble so I don’t have any more doubts?

We get so caught up in our bubble, that even when God tries to break through to us, we still cannot see. “Have I been with you for so long a time, and you still do not know me Phillip?” We become the blind man. Christ came to set us free, to give us new eyes, but we cannot use them. We don’t want new eyes, we want broken eyes, we want to be happy in our bubble, and seem unwilling to recognize that we were made for something much bigger than our little bubble.

Some people live in mansions, some in landfills. Some people drive fancy cars, some are lucky if they own a bike. Some people confine their bubble to their home and work, some people to their church community. God did not confine us, we confine ourselves. God tries to pull us out with all the beauty he can muster, and we keep our eyes downcast.

God knows none of this matters. All this stuff we think is so important, it just doesn’t matter. As Paul alludes, rich or poor, sick or well, dead or alive, it makes no difference, except that it is with Christ. It’s all the same. We count our dollars and toys, but we are not made for dollars and toys, we are made for sunsets and relationships. We are surrounded by God, we live our entire being in God, God swirls around us in the night sky, holds the very atomic structure of the wood that supports our homes, in our own bodies, God has created endless miracles. Yet we only desire “a sign”

How many signs do we think we need? We don’t need a sign at all, we just need to open our eyes and see what is right in front of us. We are all Phillip, looking straight into the eyes of God, blinded by our own bubble. If we don’t believe the Man, we should at least believe the works.

Homily from Easter Week 2, Cycle A, 4-30-17 – The Road to Emmaus

The readings for this homily can be found here.

I’m not a particular fan of change. I like things to be even keeled, I like to know what is coming and be prepared for it. When something unexpected happens, I get all flustered. A little over a week ago, I was coming home from a visit to my family, when I heard that 101 was closed. I was positively mad. My plans had to be changed, I had to drive through Redding. I couldn’t be mad AT anyone, but that made no difference, I was simply agitated. I always feel sorry for my family when I get this way, I am not fun to be around when things don’t go my way!

Change. Sometimes we hate it, sometimes it’s all we dream of. We hate it when we are stalled or inconvenienced, we hate the loss of something or someone we love. We dream of the perfect job, the perfect romance, of winning the lottery. Some change we get to choose, some change is foisted upon us without or even against our will. Change both motivates us, and drives us crazy.

As I was looking at the scriptures to prepare this talk for you, change is a resounding theme, and I thought on the nature of just what change IS. At first, I was thinking that change is something that happens over time, slowly, because as I look back on my life, I cannot help but see that I am not the same person I was even a few years ago, let alone decades ago. But as I think more on this, I am certain this is not the case at all. I think change happens quickly, almost in the blink of an eye. Think back to your first day of high school, leaving elementary behind. Of graduating high school, where instantly, everything was different. The day you got married, the day your first child was born. The day you lost someone you loved, the day your parent died. Suddenly, everything was different, and it would never be the same again.

I think now, that change happens very, very fast, and our lives are made of the tension of living through and trying to come to terms with the changes that have already happened. I think this is one reason we look so nostalgically towards the past, the change comes so fast, and changes so much that we cannot help but desire and miss who we were as we leave who we were behind us. There is an excitement in change, but it is also really tough to get used to.

A brief example from my life, the day my first daughter was born, my entire life was different. I was suddenly a different man, a father, even though I didn’t know it yet. I remember leaving the hospital with my daughter in the back seat, honestly confused that the hospital was going to just let me leave with this baby. It was the most terrifying drive of my whole life. It was just as terrifying to let her drive for the first time. Change is instant, it just takes us a while to emotionally catch up.

As we look through the scriptures today, we see something has happened to Peter. Now I have to be honest with you, there are two Peters, the Peter before the Pentecost, and the Peter after. These are two distinctly different people. The old Peter is a bit of a dolt, he really doesn’t get what is going on, he doesn’t speak well, and he really isn’t anything special. He can’t get anything right. Jesus talks about forgiving endlessly, and Peter is like, “You mean like 7 times?” Jesus actually tells Peter to get behind him, because he is thinking like Satan. Peter swears unending loyalty unto death, only to deny Jesus three times the same night. Or my favorite Peter quote of all, he has just seen the resurrected Christ, and the apostles ask him what they should do, and he basically says, “I dunno, let’s go fishing.” Peter and I are cut from the same cloth.

After the Holy Spirit comes upon him though, we see an entirely different man. He is thoughtful, he is a leader. He is well spoken, he is unafraid. He stands proud to proclaim the Gospel fearlessly, enduring humiliation, imprisonment and eventually death with great courage. Christ has changed him, made him a new man. He falls once and a while, still trying to live up to the change that has happened, but he always gets back up to live out his new life. So too with the men walking to Emmaus, they are downtrodden, they are beaten, they are walking AWAY from Jerusalem, they are leaving saddened and broken. Then Christ walks into their lives, and with nothing more than a few words, a sharing of God’s Word and with the breaking of the bread, they are renewed, they are made whole, and they rush back to the holy city to meet with the Church and share the good news. Their lives are transformed in an instant. Now they go forward to live out this new found life.

We are here now in the Easter season. We have re-lived together what Christ has done for us, we have lived out the manner of His death for us, remembered His pain, remembered what our sin has cost. We have remembered that sin has been broken, the world is changed, it is different than it was before. Is your life different? Are you allowing this truth to color your life? Have you a newfound desire to increase your relationship with Jesus who loves you so much as to do all this for you? Do you feel renewed and challenged to be more than you have been?

What I mean is this: When I got married, I could have pretended it didn’t happen, and continued dating people and flirting with random women. But I can promise you there is no joy in pretending I am something I am not, not for my wife, not for me. Living less than the truth only sucks the joy out of my life. I have to live out the truth, live out the change, or my life empties and gets harder and less satisfying. You are called by Christ to life in Him, you are called to holiness, even sainthood. If you are denying that call, you are lying to yourself about something more fundamental than marriage, and you will find life is simply not what you desired it to be. You don’t want to cheat on your spouse, don’t cheat on God. Allow the change of Easter to reach into your reality, to let the Holy Spirit fill your life, to hear the Word of Christ, to eat at His table with open eyes. This is no time to live in the past, this is the time to embrace the truth, that you have been changed, you have been called by the author of Love Himself. Do not live as if nothing has happened.

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 5, Cycle A, 2-5-17

The readings for this homily can be found here.

Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket. It is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to the whole house. Just so, your light should shine before others.

I think Jesus has this one all wrong. You see, I don’t really want to be a light, I want the light to shine on me. I want everyone to notice what a great guy I am, how well I have it all together. I want everyone to think I am a genius when I speak, to marvel at my poise and and to be in awe of my dashing good looks and fantastic hair. I want people to notice me, and so I put on a mask that I think everyone will like. I act cool and calm, but really, I still feel like a kid who can’t get his act together. Sure, I do all the right things, I show up to work on time and make sure I get the job done right, I pay my bills on time and shower every day, but in my mind, where it counts, I’m still just a kid. I’m a whiney brat who wants every toy in the store. I want everything to be about me, me, me. I want my kids to think about me, my parents to think about me, my wife to think about me. I honestly wish when I walked down the sidewalk that people would step out of the way just because I’m such a great guy. I’m annoyed in the grocery store when people won’t get out of my way, when they don’t notice how special I am.

More than this, I want my life to mean something, I want to be important, even if just to those close to me. I am scared of the truth, that I am really nobody at all. 10 years after I die, my children will only think of me once and a while, and the rest of the world will have forgotten I even existed. Soon after, I will simply be gone, it will be as if I were never here. I know, I’m kind depressing, I’m sorry.

I was driving to Santa Rosa last weekend, and I saw they had dedicated road or a bridge to some guy. I bet he was a great guy, loved and cared for by his family and friends, and is now just a name on a road. Buildings and cities named after people who are little remembered or cared for just a few years after their passing. Even as we look through history, little is left of those who have gone before us. I bet many of you have heard of Abraham Lincoln. Who was president before him? Who was president after? Time deletes us all.

But not everyone. Some still stand bright. Some turn their lives into lamps, to bright, shining rays of light that fill the world around them, a light that burns through the centuries. These people are so real, so normal, and yet so extraordinary that they are never forgotten. Real people, ordinary people. Yet they gave their lives to being a light, instead of shining the light on themselves.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, just another noble born, entitled kid, who gave it all up to become a monk. He poured himself out, and became a spiritual advisor to the whole world. I always loved stories of knights and princesses when I was a kid, before him, knights were little more than bloodthirsty mercenaries, but they listened to this humble monk, and with him was born the code of chivalry. Popes and princes would write him for advise, and he would put their letters on the stack with peasants, responding to everyone in turn.

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and he wasn’t even Irish. He was dragged to Ireland as a slave, and forced to work menial labor. After escaping, he decided to come back a preach the Gospel to his captors.

St. Veronica, who’s only claim to fame was that she helped a criminal condemned to death wash his face.

St. Anthony of Padua, was a quiet monk that nobody ever noticed. During an ordination, it was realized no one had planned to give a homily, everyone thinking someone else was going to do it. In a panic, his prior forced Anthony to speak, not wanting to be embarrassed himself. He became a preaching legend, and St Francis put him in charge of teaching his friars.

St. Joseph was nobody. He was a poor refugee, even among his own family, he did not have enough clout to find a room for his pregnant wife. He was completely unknown and unseen his whole life.

St. Mary, a poor woman with the scandal of a unwed pregnancy constantly looming over her. Yet she is so devoted to others, that even when she finds out she is pregnant with God himself, he first thought is not to look after herself, but to trek through the desert to he pregnant cousin to help her out.

They are lights. They shine through the darkness, but they are real, ordinary people. St. Giana Molla, who gave her life for her unborn child, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, shunned by her family and people for her faith, St. Thomas More, just another politician, until he is called to stand for what is right, St. Cecilla, St. Agnes, who’s heroism is not forgotten millennia after their deaths, St Ignatius oaf Antioch, who begged his flock to not defend him so that he could prove his love through death,

And my current favorite, Blessed Chiara Badano, who was a sweet girl playing tennis when she realized her shoulder hurt. It was bone cancer. She refused painkillers, because she wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings. As her hair began to fall out, she would hold it up and say, “For you Jesus”. She would sit with her mother and they would plan her “wedding” together, her funeral. She wanted to be buried in a wedding dress, because she was going to our Lord. Her friends would come to comfort her, and would leave realizing they were the ones comforted, and that they needed her for more than she needed them. Thousands came to her funeral, she will be the first saint from my generation, she died in 1990 at 19 years old.

Lights, all of them, and never forgotten.

Don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t be afraid to stand with them for Christ who is love itself. I know you will get home and not feel like praying tonight, pray anyways. I know someone will tick you off or be cruel to you, be holy anyways. I know there is work to do and the tasks of everyday life are piling up around you, make time anyways. I know you are busy, and I know what you are doing is important.

But it’s not THE important thing, and you know it.

Don’t be afraid to make our Lord the point of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray before going to work and at work, to share your faith with your friends and colleagues, don’t be afraid to as the Lord’s help when you go fishing, or when you clean your house. Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in to you whole life.

For in the end, if we are really be a light to the world, not only can we not cover ourselves up with fear, selfishness and insecurity, but we must also always remember that we are not, in fact, the light at all, but that we only truly shine bright when it is Christ that is shining through us.

Homily from the 4th Week of Advent, Cycle A, 12-18-2016

One thing I was taught in my homiletics courses was “Good homilists borrow, great homilists steal.” I can’t tell you how true this is. There are so many great saints, theologians and thinkers who have gone before us, that we would be crazy not to use their wisdom, even their words.

This homily is a great example. I freely stole from Chris Stephanick of Real life Catholic. You should check this guy out, he is an amazing catechist. The section I borrowed can be found at this youtube link, A Child is Born.

Earlier this month, our president, as he lit the national Christmas tree, had this to say:

“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago — a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other.  To let the light of our good deeds shine for all.  To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden.  And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves.” (-Barak Obama)

I am not a very political man, and these comments have nothing to do with my opinions of Mr. Obama, but I cannot help but see that for most of the world, Christmas has lost it’s meaning. Sure, our good deeds should shine for all, and yes, social justice issues like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and lifting the downtrodden is important. Yes, we should smile at people we meet and wish them a Merry Christmas, but Jesus did not become man to tell us to behave ourselves and treat one another the way we would want to be treated. These are all good things, and Jesus does indeed call us to good behavior, but morality is NOT the reason for the season. God did not become man so we would be nicer during the holidays.

Instead, Christmas is about God revealing who he really is. In our relativistic culture, everyone seems to want to make up who God is for themselves, as if he were some figment of our imagination instead of a real truth, a real person. We want to give him some attributes, and ignore others. God does not give us this option. In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, we see exactly who God is, we see him face to face. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict,

“God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding. When we talk of the living God, it means this: This God shows Himself to us. He looks out from eternity into time and puts Himself into a relationship with us. We cannot define Him in whatever way we like. He has defined Himself and now stands before us as our Lord, over us and in our midst.” (-Pope Benedict)

So who exactly IS Jesus then?

“Prophetic writings several hundred years before his birth called him Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Father Forever, God with us. He referred to himself as The Way The Truth and The Life. He said I am the resurrection and the life, and he called himself the bread of life.

St. Paul said of him, “In him we live we move and we have our being.” The central claim of Christianity is that God, the maker of the universe, became one of us two millennia ago, not myth, historic fact, that God at one point would fit in one seat in a taxicab, that he would actually in one point of his life fit in a baby seat in that taxicab.

That’s insane, that’s crazy, that is the most radical claim of any faith in human history. At first glance it makes no sense that God would do that. It would make no sense that God would do that, if God were into power like us. It would make absolutely no sense for God to become like one of us, to become poor, helpless, like a little baby if he valued all the same things that fallen humanity values.

You see, when man creates god, we tend to create deities like in ancient Greece, in our image and likeness. We tend to create gods who are into lust and vanity and power. When God revealed himself, he revealed himself to be more than we could have ever hoped for, and yet everything we’re made for. He revealed that he was love. And not just this warm fuzzy feeling love, but a love that’s powerful enough to create space and time. A love we could never be worthy of, but who lays down his life for us anyway.

And if God is love, than God made flesh makes perfect sense. Love would do nothing less than enter our frail humanity with us, as one of us. He didn’t come as some great spirit in the sky, because his goal wasn’t to wow us. His goal was to woo us. He didn’t come as some mighty conquering king who’s going to force us to bow down to him, because he came looking for more than our submission, he came looking for our hearts. When you really think about it, could God be anything less radical, less absurd, less beautiful than the love that we Christians say He is? When you think about it in this light, what we celebrate at Christmas makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.” (-Chris Stephanick)

This last week of Advent, I encourage you to fill yourself with the holiday spirit. I encourage you to care for those around you, say hello to strangers and to open your hearts in love to all those who touch your life.

But more than all this, I encourage you to open your heart to our Lord Jesus the Christ. I encourage you to look into the manger of the poorest of the poor, and there find the king and creator of the universe. I encourage you to see the risen Lord, present for you now in the Eucharist. Open your hearts to the reality of his presence, and let him transform you into Himself.

His Name is Emmanuel, which means, God with us. Is he with you? Have you room in your heart for Him, or will you send Him to the stable of your life?

Homily from Ordinary Time, Christ the King, Cycle C, 11-20-16

This homily was my first real challenge, as I wanted to marry the ideas of Thanksgiving with the feast of Christ the King. How well did I do?

You can find the readings for this homily here.

I love cranberry sauce. I don’t want to offend anyone here, I am sure many of you make great cranberry sauce, but I am partial to the jellied stuff that comes in a can. For me, that can shaped glob of red, sitting in a fine crystal bowl is the very symbol of Thanksgiving. This holiday has many meanings to many people, and I have noticed there is only one thing that seems to be held in common. For some this is a day of family, for some this is a day to celebrate veterans and our national ancestry, for many, this day is a day to sit and watch the game. But for everyone, it’s about turkey.

Turkey, that’s the main thing. No ribs on thanksgiving, no steaks, no crab, turkey. Turkey the symbol for all this holiday means to all those traditions and things we live out on this day.

What I love about this holiday, is we aren’t just talking about what we are thankful for, we actually live out what we are thankful for. Watching the grandkids run in the yard, the laughter and jokes rolling through the halls, and everyone filled to the brim with delicious food that has been lovingly prepared. It’s the best kind of holiday.

Today, we celebrate the end of the Christian year, next weekend we begin anew with Advent. We take time to remember not only the end of year, but the end of life, the last things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We pray for our beloved dead. We ponder what our own deaths may bring. We renew our goals of becoming a heavenly people.  We look into our futures, and see what lies beyond the veil, from our illusions and into the reality of eternity. And what we see is a King, and a Kingdom.

I am glad we celebrate thanksgiving now, because it is in my mind, the perfect view of the essence of what heaven is. The great banquet, where everyone is free to be their true selves, where everyone is known and loved, where the game is always on, our smiles are always bright and laughing, and our bellies are always full. Jesus often talked about the kingdom as this kind of banquet.

At the same time, it won’t be the same at all. Because at the head of this thanksgiving table sits our Lord himself, clothed in his own unending light. As we get to see him as he really is, the very look of him is so bright that it will take our breath away. We will be full, because we will be full of Him.

This King, and this Kingdom are not at all like anything we have ever experienced. A Kingdom built not on politics and backbiting, but on the washing of feet. A Kingdom of paupers who are royalty. A kingdom where love is the only currency. A King who’s greatness lies in His Cross, a King who does not put on airs, but who’s light cannot be denied. A King of humility higher and stronger than fires of the sun. A king who is not served, but instead who serves his people.

The best way we can become a people of this Kingdom, is by living the values of this Kingdom now, by becoming a heavenly people now. Tomorrow morning, the Knights of Columbus will be working at the Betty Chinn Center, preparing tons and tons of food so that the homeless in our community will have a thanksgiving too. Across town, people work tirelessly at the pregnancy care center to help women with unplanned pregnancies. An army of volunteers who bring communion to the homebound. Nurses and doctors at rest homes, prison chaplains, the men and women who defend our nation in the armed services, police and firemen, this is all holy work, pointed at this new Kingdom.

Let us not be afraid to join them, to help build up this kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s not stand idly by while others step forth to serve. We must join our voices to the heavenly choir, our labor to the heavenly work, and join our hearts to the heavenly King. For in the end, it is not the poor, the lost and the forgotten that we serve, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. If there is anything we should be thankful for this thanksgiving, it should not be the turkey, but instead we should be thankful, for being able to give something of real value to the King, to love and care for his children.

We should be thankful, that we can partake in the giving.