Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Look and The Gaze - Homily for the 30th Sunday in OT (A)

Do you know about "The Look"? If you have glasses, you can peer over them and easily give... "The Look." Usually, The Look is part of our body language that speaks anger or disappointment or questioning, like "Really, you're really going to do that?" Yeah, The Look.

I mention The Look because many people think that God is constantly giving them The Look: the look that He's always angry with me or disappointment with me or questioning every little decision that I make. And the devil would have us in that fearful relationship just like he did in the Garden when Adam and Eve were afraid of God and so hid themselves.

But, this week, I noticed there is another side of The Look.

I was outside of the church after Wednesday's Mass-- that's the "little kids'" Mass-- and the 1st graders were coming out from the church. I give them high fives and so on, but one of the girls was really eager to get my attention: "Father Gerber! What do you think of my bow?" She had a bight bow in her hair. It was kind of a mess, but it was also kind of cute.

"Oh, my dear, your bow looks marvelous!"

She was thrilled. And immediately she started skipping. She skipped all the way back to school.

I started to wonder: how was this that I, by a look of approval and a few simple words, could cause someone to skip happily from here to there?

The answer came very quickly: I'm a priest. First graders equate me with Jesus. So, my words weren't simply my, Father Gerber's, words. They were Jesus' words. Jesus had approved of that little girl's bow. And of course that meant everything to her.

(Can you imagine had I said, "Honey, that bow looks awful. How dumb." Oy!)

Ok, so there is "The Look"-- that of anger, disappointment, disapproval-- but there's also "The Gaze." The Gaze is the loving eyes of the Father that notices us, that finds us important, and-- even when we are a mess-- says to us, "I still choose you."


In a recent Pew Study, it was noted that roughly 50% of Catholics do not believe they can have a personal relationship with God. I think a big part of this has to do with our thoughts of who we think God is. I am convinced that more people think that God is giving them The Look than showering them with The Gaze of love.

I've been wondering about this. Recently, I came across a book (Devin Schadt, "Show Us The Father") that points out that, when a man converts to the faith, his children are 93% more likely to enter the church whereas, when a mom converts to the faith, her children are only 17% more likely to enter the church. This is not a sleight against women and mothers-- for nothing can replace the affection and love of mom! Rather, it shows us that there is something peculiar about the man.

What is peculiar about the man? Well, just like the priest can reflect Jesus, dad can reflect God the Father. See, God has given to us men the ability to image Him, to bring to our children His voice, to bring to them His touch, His mercy, His generosity, His heart. Where dad is, there is the image of The Father.

50% of Catholics do not believe they can have a personal relationship with God. Could that be because Catholics, just like the rest of the culture, suffer from a 50% divorce rate-- where 50% of our children do not know their fathers?


For us fathers, how we view God the Father is so important. Our image of God the Father inspires our fatherhood and our fatherhood inspires what our children believe of God the Father. 

Yeah, I know: in the Old Testament, God is destroying things. Ok, I get it. But look again at the first reading through the lens of a Father who loves. Do you see it? God the Father is protecting His vulnerable children-- that is, the poor, the foreigner, the orphan, the widow-- these are His children and He is protecting them. I mean, what Father here would not protect their children if they were in danger?

Do you believe that about God in your life-- that He would stand up for you and protect you? And if not, where has that false image of God come from?

Hear Jesus' words: "If you who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God the Father give you who ask Him?"

Or again: "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."

How would things change if, when you walked out of this church, you saw God the Father showering with love upon you, saying to you "You're important to me. I choose you, I want you."


When a person does not believe this, they will search for other things and people to affirm them. 

How many seek the Father's gaze from the boyfriend or from the wife or from the boss or the job or the bank account? None of these things can replace your heavenly Father's gaze.

So too, if our children do not receive the father's gaze, to know that they are cherished and important and good in their Father's sight-- if they do not receive this from you (and I am speaking to myself, the priest, and to all dads and grand-dads), then they will seek others-- another boy, another girl, another group or gang or drink or addiction-- they will seek another of whom we often won't approve to give it to them. And what will happen when they are hurt that this "other" fails to satisfy the longing for the gaze?

Yes: true Fatherhood is like oxygen for your children. They need it to survive.

Indeed, we all need it.


This morning, we heard Jesus tell us, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, ... soul... strength..."

If we think that God is absent, or if we think that God is mean, this commandment is nearly impossible. But if God loves us with all His heart, with all His mind, with all His soul, and with all His strength-- it's easier.

I am more moved to love God if I think that my love matters to Him. I am more moved to love Him if I know that my coldness would hurt him. I am more moved to come humbly to Him, saying that I am sorry if I know that I won't get yelled at.

And that's the thing: sometimes I doubt that: I doubt my love matters, or that I hurt Him, or that I won't be yelled at for doing wrong.

But then, I think: what if my parishioners thought that I was cold; what if they thought that I would yell at them if they did wrong; what if they thought that their love didn't matter to me? It would hurt.

Parents, I'm sure you would feel the same way about your children: you would be hurt if they thought you didn't love them.

Because, after all, that's at the heart of us being parents: we love our children.

How much more is the case, then, for God the heavenly Father! You're His child. And He loves you.


And here's the really cool thing: our heavenly Father loves you so much that He will actually give you the very power to Gaze, to love, in the way that we are seeking to do.

St. Therese of Lisieux would make this prayer: "Jesus, please give me your love so that I may love with your love." Therese recognized that her human love wasn't enough-- she needed a more powerful love. And she believed that God the Father, who is a good Father, would give precisely that higher, divine love if only she would ask: "Jesus, give me your love so that I can love God and neighbor as I ought." Please, help me to live under your gaze.

St. Augustine put it this way: "Amemus Deum de Deo": let us love God from God-- let us love Him from the very love with which He loves us, which He will give us in order to love Him. In other words, ask for the Gaze. Ask to know it, to walk in it-- and then you'll be able to give it.

Let's pray: Heal us, heavenly Father, of any ideas of you that aren't you. Strengthen us by your love. Help us to live under your gaze. Pour your love into our hearts, that we may in turn say to our children with your very gaze of love: "I choose you. You are important to me. I love you."

And I like your bow.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Whose Image Is This? - Homily for the 29th Sunday in OT

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

When I hear those words, I hear a moral exhortation: I am supposed to pay my taxes and, also, I am to tithe to God. I am to give to each what is just and due to them.

And that would be a fine homily, I think.

But I'm fascinated by how we got here in the first place. And my fascination isn't about the Pharisees setting traps for Jesus (although their brazenness is amazing). I'm fascinated by the question Jesus asks them.

He says to them: "Whose image is this?"

Now, Jesus knew the answer. He knows it's Caesar. So why is Jesus playing innocent?

Because Jesus is going to do something brilliant with this question. He is going to tie the image to the owner. So, in the case of the coin, Jesus asks: "Whose image is this?" They reply: "Caesar's." And Jesus says, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar."

Since the image of Caesar is on the coin, the coin belongs to Caesar.

Here's why this is brilliant-- and it comes with the second part: "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

The natural question is: "Well, what belongs to God?"

The answer is found in the question: "Whose image is this?" Or, another way of putting it: Is there anything with the image of God on it?

You know the answer. The thing that has the image of God on it is you.

If the coin with Caesar's image belongs to Caesar, then the person with God's image belongs to God. So this isn't simply about money-- that doesn't have God's image. It's about you. You have God's image.


So what does Jesus say? "Repay... to God what belongs to God." Notice: Jesus didn't say "Give to God...." He said, "Repay..."

There's a difference.

Giving is like charity-- something we do out of the goodness of our heart. I don't have to do it. But, I'm a nice guy, so ok, I'll give it to you.

But to repay. ... Repay implies that we owe. That we have borrowed. That we are in debt.

And that's the point.

You see, when Jesus holds up the coin and asks "Whose image is this," He is really holding up the Pharisees and asking about them: whose image is this, in whose image my dear Pharisees are you asking such questions?

And, by extension, to whom do you belong? Do you belong to me or do you belong to the world? And if you belong to me, do you not know the price I paid to purchase you?
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet 1:19)

It's hitting your heart, isn't it?-- because you know those questions aren't just about the Pharisees. They're about us. Whose image is this? To whom do you belong?


My grandfather had a penny collection and some of those pennies went back to the civil war. Those really old pennies were faded; the image was nearly worn off or covered in years of dirt and wear. I would hold up the coin and squint my eyes and I would ask: Whose image is this?

Let us be honest: such may be the case of our souls. Maybe we don't know whose image is in us. Or maybe we know, but it's been too caked over by sin and wear.

God forbid our Lord ever hold you up and wonder about whose you are!

So let's come to Him in confession. There, Jesus will clean us up and restore that faded image of God's glory-- like a shiny new penny. There will be no doubt about whose image we bear and about whose we are.

Let us turn to Him now in prayer and contrition; with our lives let us "Repay to God what belongs to God."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Fantastical and The Bored - Extended Homily Notes for the 28th Sunday in OT (A)

[In full disclosure, I have once again borrowed heavily from Peter Kreeft's lecture on Imagination.]

Children really have an amazing imagination. A few weeks ago, I saw some of the kiddos circling up once again by one of the trees at recess. I went over and asked them what they were doing. "We're building a hospital for the bugs. We're going to save them." It was really cute.

Typically, when we think of the imagination, we think of that God-given intellectual faculty which helps us to make-believe; to create fantasy. 

But what is really cool is when our imagination gives rise to reality. Take, for example, the person who imagines making something that was heavy into something light-- so light that it will "fly like a bird." This would typically be the stuff of fantasy, but then the man wields the technology to make it happen and the Wright Brothers fly an airplane.

So, the imagination has to do not only with make-believe, but also with the very real.


I mention the imagination because Jesus uses images-- that is, His parables-- in order to explain to us deep realities. So, today, Jesus talks about heaven and He uses the image of the wedding feast.

From the outset, we must admit that this doesn't seem like too exciting an image. And, after all, it often happens that our image of heaven is boring: I often hear how we will be like angels in the clouds with harps and the light of God will be on us and so on. But, really, I'm bored by that; after an hour of playing the harp on my own personal cloud, I would wonder if there is anything else to do with eternity. (Billy Joel encapsulated this boredom with heaven when he said that he would "rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints-- the sinners are much more fun.")

So, what are we to do with Jesus' image of heaven as a wedding feast? Well, let's explore it.


When we are at a wedding reception, we eat and drink. That's the first thing about heaven: we're going to be able to eat and drink. Admittedly, not all that exciting. But it does reveal to us that there's some connection with some of the things that we did here on earth. Heaven isn't going to be totally foreign and simply harps on clouds. We will actually eat and drink and it's going to be enjoyable.

But let's go deeper. At a wedding reception, we dance. For those who are older or with arthritis, maybe it has been a while. This tells us that in heaven, our ailments will be healed. We will be able to run and jump and dance again. There will be no more suffering or cancer or arthritis!

What else do we do at wedding receptions? We meet and greet with others. We talk with people. In heaven, this means that we will recognize people: we will see our families and friends and even our lost children. We will know them and get to talk with them-- some of them for the very first time! And the saints--! You're going to be able to talk with St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Theodore-- all of those saints that we have read about, we're going to be able to hang out with them. I can't wait to meet my namesake: St. Anthony and St. Joseph-- and to talk with them too.

By the way: this means, too, that you are going to actually hear their voice. 

(Spoiler alert: you are actually going to be able to hear the voice of Mary. Think about that for a moment.)

You're going to know her embrace. And the voice of Jesus too-- like Aslan the Lion: deep, powerful, yet perfectly pleasing in every way. You're going to see Him, His beautiful face and you're going to hear Him speak His words that until that time you have only heard in your heart and seen on the Sacred Page.

And this isn't just going to be in some stuffy reception hall or baseball stadium. This is going to be in the "new heaven and the new earth"-- which means that there will be some connection to the current earth. This likely means that there will be new mountains and new beaches and new fields in heaven-- so beautiful, so ready for discovery! There will be more of them and more glorious than we have ever known here on this earth. There will be animals and more of them and our relation with them will be like St. Francis: you will be able to cuddle with a lion and speak with the birds.

Everything will be in right relationship. There will be no grudges; all will be friends. You will see how your prayers were answered and the effects they had on the world. You will see how when it seemed that your prayers were left unanswered, how God really did do something great with them. You will see how other people-- even perfect strangers-- sacrificed for you, even when they didn't know they would be helping you. We will all rejoice at this.

Some think that, when all is in its proper order, even the laws of physics (and therefore gravity) will be subject to you-- which means that you could fly. And another philosopher (Peter Kreeft) has suggested that your good creations here on earth-- like JRR Tolkien's hobbits and elves and Middle Earth-- will no longer be merely fantasy, but will be really real: yes, there may actually be a Frodo, a Sam, a Gimli, and a Gandalf awaiting us in heaven.

Isn't that wonderful?

Friends, heaven will be wilder and more beautiful than our wildest and most beautiful dreams. It will be more than enough to last us eternity.


Atheists, for their part, believe this is all too fantastical to be true. But, here's the thing: I dare say that such atheists are closer to believing than are The Bored.

When I hear an atheist saying that this is too fantastical to be true-- you see, he has actually grasped the depth of heaven. (This is one of the things that imagination does, remember? It helps us to grasp deep meanings). The Bored, for their part, haven't grasped the meaning of heaven. They are farther from it than that atheist.

The same can be said about Holy Mass. The Bored haven't grasped the depth of what goes on here, partly because what goes on here requires the engagement of one's imagination: to think that we are actually at the Last Supper, that we are standing at the Cross on that first Good Friday, that Jesus Himself is actually present in the little host.... 


But there are other reasons for this than simply non-engagement. We could talk about music and preaching and the loss of sacred art and so on. But I want to present to you another major reason, one that isn't based in religion at all.

Over the past couple of years, there have been multiple scientific studies that are showing that our imagination is being destroyed-- particularly in the young. Again, this is not a religious claim-- I am simply relaying what many mainstream scientific schools and journals are pointing out.

They are pointing out that we possess in us an active and a passive imagination. The passive imagination receives images; the active imagination produces images. 

Children typically have a strong active imagination: they gather around trees and build hospitals for insects. That's the active imagination.

But scientists have noted that the more a child uses iPads, computers, TVs, and iPhones, the more the child loses that ability to actively imagine and, subsequently, to be creative.

The reason for this is that all of those iPads, computers, and so on-- those things are the ones that produce the images for the child. The images are given; the child does not have to do the "work" to create them. As a result, the child's passive imagination grows strong (that is, it's dependence on receiving images), but it's active imagination becomes disabled.

We are seeing this play out in they way our youth converse. (And what I am about to say has been confirmed to me by a speech pathologist and special ed teachers that I have presented this to in another class). 

So, for example, in the teenage years, it used to be simple awkwardness, lack of experience, or plain ol' shyness that made conversation difficult. Today, however, the task is doubly difficult because they have gone years where they have never exercised their active imagination. I say it is "doubly difficult" because one of the key components to having a good conversation is creativity: that is, we have to imagine what that other person does, what goes on at their work, and so on-- only then can we come up with questions that will carry the conversation further.

Without an active imagination, questions are not asked and conversations fail. This is one of the reasons why teens are constantly on their phones-- even in social situations. When you see them at a table with their phone, not talking, don't simply shake your head. See that intellectually they are on crutches.


This provides us insight into why secularism is so rampant and why they are so bored at Mass.

This makes sense: if a person lacks the active imagination to understand the depth of life's meaning, how heaven and hell depend on it-- and, more, if they can't imagine heaven as we have or hell and its eternity-- they, yeah, it's easy to see how it's just another step to dismiss the importance of God. That's secularism in a nutshell.

Likewise, when a person has only received years of training in the passive imagination, they will expect that Mass is a place only to receive, to consume, and to be entertained. And when it doesn't, they are bored. To challenge them to actively participate by doing the "work" of reflection and prayer and imagining is very, very difficult for them. As a result, they literally do not know what to do at Mass.

It is worth noting that, since the release of the iPhone, among the youth there has been a 50% increase of those who report depression, loneliness, feelings of being lost, and suicide. And at the same time, the majority of our youth do not believe that they can have a personal relationship with God.


What are we to do? Well, first, let's start with this present moment: let's take a moment to strengthen our imagination for this Mass.

St. Padre Pio once said that if you want to get more out of Mass, imagine being at the foot of the Cross with Mary. Imagine Jesus, imagine the blood.... But then imagine Mary's reaction. What would she be doing? Is she on her knees? Is she praying? Is she weeping? Can you imagine what she may say to you? This is Mary's Son. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? Reflect on this and I can guarantee you will get more out of Mass.

Another image: Jesus called heaven the "wedding feast." What do we celebrate at wedding feasts? We celebrate that the bride and groom are now one. Ok, so at the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said "This is my Body." At Mass, the priest gives you communion and says "The Body of Christ." You then take Jesus' body and ... then Jesus' body is now mingling with your body. "And the two become one flesh." That's what we say at weddings! But I tell you it's "a great mystery, I speak of Christ and the Church." This Eucharist is the foretaste of the wedding feast. Which means it is the foretaste of heaven. That's why we say, "with all the angels and saints we acclaim, Holy..." The are angels here. And saints.

For his part, the priest also must engage his imagination. It's one of the reasons why he wears this rope, called a cincture. It goes back to the Old Testament priesthood. In those days, the priest would wear a long rope that was several feet long. He wore this rope as he entered the holiest part of the temple, a room that no one except the priest could enter. There, he would find the Ark of the Covenant and an angel would stand guard over it. If the priest were not holy as he offered sacrifice-- do you know what the angel would do? The angel would strike him dead! Hence the rope: since the people could not go in to retrieve him, they would pull on the rope. For us New Testament priests, this is to be a reminder for us: do you not know where you are? do you not know how holy you are to be?


Ok, let's wrap this up with some practical suggestions.

First, when we are coming to Mass or coming down the aisle at communion time, perhaps we should have a couple "helps" to activate and strengthen our imagination: maybe a holy card, or a saint's brief words on what happens at Mass. Have something to remind you and engage your imagination to grasp the actual depth of these real and great mysteries.

Second, I think we need to really consider scaling back our use of the phones and computers-- and especially among our youth. I cannot tell you how many kids I know that are addicted to their phones-- seriously, compulsively addicted. This is the New Drug and we need a new war on drugs. And not just for those under 12, but also for us adults. We know our minds have become a little mushy these past years. We once did without all of these gadgets. We once knew a better life.

Third, we need to start being creative: paint again (why does it just have to be for kindergartners?). Learn music, play an instrument again. I had a discussion with a college student, great pianist, who said had didn't have time for it anymore. "No!" I said, now's exactly the time that you must continue playing, else you will lose that creativity in you!

Fourth and finally: we need to start reading again. I'm in the middle of The Brothers Karamazov. Won't lie, it's tough. But you don't need to read 900 pages. Just read stories again. I mean, have you ever noticed how so many of our stories are a re-telling of the Gospel? "Beauty and the Beast"-- the sinful, cold-hearted Beast is converted by love and is transformed into a better man; Rapunzel in Tangled is enslaved to evil, escapes, discovers she is a daughter of a king and has a loving family in the kingdom; Pinocchio-- he becomes a real boy. Aren't these all the essence of the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Our Lord once said, "Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." Part of that is the ability to imagine and create. If we cannot, then we will not aspire to the glory of heaven nor possess the hope to endure life's trials. We should, therefore, be very concerned not only when we lose this, but all the more especially when children themselves lose the ability to create-- it bespeaks a great attack on our very joy and heaven.

Let us pray that Jesus renews and strengthens our intellect at this Mass. That we may be healed of any images that we may have seen that have hurt our souls and have kept us from Him. Let us pray that we may have the strength to push back against our culture and to take the steps necessary to reclaim the depths of our faith, our imagination, and our God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Instruments of His Peace - Homily for the 27th Sunday in OT

On Wednesday of this past week, we celebrated the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. Most children love him because of his love for animals. But my love for him is found in something he said-- he said, "We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way."

That's lovely, isn't it?

Throughout this week, that word "healing" has been on my heart. The last time I had this on my heart, I preached about marriage and divorce. And as I started that homily, people thought I was going to preach about how divorce is bad and so on. But, instead, I simply acknowledged that there have been many people who have been hurt. Whoever's fault-- it hurt. And the point was to let everyone know that Jesus is here for them. And He doesn't condemn them; no, He still loves them and His mercy-- His mercy is going to see us through. And so I invited any divorced person who felt like they didn't belong to come and see me because Jesus' healing is for you.

That week, a woman in her 20s took me up on that offer. She was divorced. She had been through hell. She had left and she wondered whether God still loved her. She had pretty much given up. But we talked. And we cried. There was a remedy for her and there was great healing. It was beautiful.

So, I just want to say: if you are divorced and feel lost or that you don't have a place here, come to me and we can talk about it. Jesus is here to bring you healing.


Now, this healing, I know, is not only for the divorced.

My thoughts turned to the events in Las Vegas. We need healing here, too. Because we're scandalized at how a person could have done this. For the past week, we have heard and seen the stories, often grotesque, and they hurt us. We lose faith in humanity and sometimes we lose faith in God.

The words of our second reading immediately came to my mind:
Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ... Then the God of peace will be with you.
It is easy to focus on what is bad in the world, but we need to think about what is true and honorable and pure and lovely-- not because it puts our heads in the sand. No, it's because these things heal us.

Truth heals us. Thinking of what is honorable heals us. They are instruments of God's peace.

So, here's the truth: "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." That's the truth. And what that means is, as horrible as those events were last week, there was more grace than there was evil. Indeed, there was one or two men doing horrible things, but there were tens if not hundreds of people who were doing honorable things: people covering others and in effect sacrificing themselves for their friends. Nurses, doctors, officers, numerous Good Samaritans -- yes, dear friends, there were more saints made that day than there were devils.

Think about these things. Then the God of peace will be with you. He will heal us.


I think this is so important, because as we are healed, we can then turn and do what St. Francis said: that "We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way." We become instruments of His peace.

And so I think of one more person. And I think this is the reason why the word "healing" has been on my heart this week. It's those who have been hurt by abortion.

Immediately, we may think of the woman. But I think of both parents. Both are affected. And maybe you felt trapped or were pressured or didn't know or were afraid. Jesus is here to bring you healing. Here's the thing: when Jesus was in the Garden at Gethsemane, He saw all of our sins. All of them. He saw all of them and He loved us anyway.

That's the truth. And do you know what is pure and gracious? That if we believe Him and receive His mercy, we will be reunited with our children. And they will forgive us too, because there are no grudges in heaven. Isn't that lovely?


Now, I know, as soon as the topic of abortion comes up, there are some who make arguments against the Church, about how we can't legislate morality, or about how our teaching burdens humanity with children born into poverty and is unfeeling to victims, as of rape, for example.

And I thought about addressing each one of these in one homily and perhaps some day in the near future I will. But, for now, I simply wish to offer the words of someone wiser and more loving than me: Mother Theresa. She who knew about healing and burdens and poverty, she who was deep in the trenches of it all. Here's what she says:
"I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child... And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? ... As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also [learn]" ... [But in abortion], the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all. ... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
In short: Abortion is not pure. It is not lovely. And this is the truth.

Think about these things and the God of peace will be with you.


"We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way."

Therefore, whenever we speak of any of these issues-- divorce, current events, abortion-- let us "have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, ... make your requests known to God." Let us ask for His healing and then, in those words of St. Francis, become "instruments of His peace."

May this Sacrament of Charity so strengthen us. And may His peace be with us.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

To Say and to Do - Homily for the 26th Sunday in OT (A)

We just heard the parable of the two sons. What does it mean? The key is to see that the Father is God and the two sons represent all of humanity. For His immediate purpose, Jesus specifically connects the two sons to two particular groups of humanity: those who change their ways and those who don't. On the one side you have the prostitutes and tax-collectors; on the other side, you have the Pharisees.

So, the first son, when he was called to do the Father's will in the vineyard-- that is, in the world-- the son refused, but then he changed his mind and did his father's will. This is the group of prostitutes and tax-collectors who, like the first son, were not doing the Father's will. They were sinning. But then they heard the preaching of John the Baptist. (You remember what he said, right? "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" and "One is coming who is greater than I.") At this, the tax-collectors and prostitutes, like that first son, changed their ways and actually started to do the Father's will.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, like the second son, say that they will do the father's will, but do not. They say they love the laws and that they love God, but they do not. Jesus points it out to them that they heard the same words of John the Baptist as the prostitutes did; they have seen the miraculous conversion of sinners; He even points out that these prostitutes are going to heaven before they are ... And still they will not change?


All of us are in need of conversion. One of the major conversions is to realize when our actions don't match up with what we say. That's what Jesus is dinging the Pharisees for: what they are doing isn't matching what they are saying.

For example, I know that I say that I trust God. It's a very easy phrase to say: "I trust God." But to do it? To actually trust?-- well, that's much harder. I take my office as parochial administrator quite seriously and I worry about finances and I worry about how what I say up here will affect who is in the pews and who leaves and so on-- I worry about these things. And I start to think that it's all up to me; that I have to do everything and that the success of this parish is entirely up to me.

But Jesus is over there. And He convicted me this past week. He said, "Anthony, you're not trusting me." "Oh, yes I am, Jesus." "No, you're not."

(And it's never good to be arguing against Jesus.)

And so I thought. ... And, as usual, He was right. I was saying that I trusted Him, but my doing-- my actions-- were not reflecting that. There was a disconnect between my words and my actions. I needed to place my worries at His feet; to actually trust Him with my preaching and my financial accounting and my schedule and, well, everything. Like that son in the parable.


I think this should be our point of prayer for the next week. Sometime this week, sit with Jesus and ask Him: "Jesus, are there any places in my life where I say something, but do another?" We all have oversights and blindspots. We say we love Jesus or we say we love our spouse or our parents, but maybe our actions don't match that. So, we kneel before Jesus and ask Him: "Jesus, please enlighten me. Help me to see." And He will.

And I know that there are some who are here in the pews who may be thinking: "Well, that's nice, Father Gerber, but it's already too late for me. I'm never going to be able to do this." It is worth noting that, after the Resurrection, in addition to the tax-collectors and prostitutes, many of the Pharisees converted and began to follow the Apostles. So, it doesn't matter how late in the game it was when they turned back to Jesus. The point is that they turned around. Today's a new day. We say that we trust God. So let us trust Him with this. He is God, after all.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.