Saturday, July 27, 2019

Our Father and Our Priests - Homily for the 17th Sunday in OT (C)

Image result for our fatherThis week's homily is only available via audio and can be accessed here.

Let us continue pray for each other!

~Father Gerber

Sunday, July 21, 2019

On His Terms - Homily for the 16th Sunday in OT (C)

What did you take away from the trip?

I was in my doctor’s office and I had returned from hiking with a few friends in Rocky Mountain National Park. My doc, a Methodist, was curious if I derived any spiritual fruit from a week out in God’s creation. Hence, he asked:

What did you take away from the trip?

If you have been on vacation this summer, I ask you that question, too. What did you take away from your trip? What insight did you learn about God or others or yourself?


For me, I learned that one of the reasons why I love the mountains is because you must live on nature’s terms. You wake up when the sun rises (or when two squirrels are fighting outside your tent) and not when you have set your alarm. You go to the restroom when the trail allows it, which may be a few miles—and not simply a few steps down the hallway. And, unless you want to carry a ton of water—water which is the heaviest thing in your pack—you sometimes have to wait for nature to give you a creek. When you are in the mountains, you live in on nature’s terms.

“And that appeals to me,” I told my Methodist doctor, “because that’s closer to the actual way we are supposed to live with Jesus.”

Hear me correctly: I’m not saying we’re all supposed to go to all granola and off-the-grid.

Rather, what I’m saying is, it is so easy to live according to my terms: to do what I want, when I want to, because I want to. But being out in the wild reminds me that, no, I’m not supposed to live on my terms. I’m supposed to live on His terms.


That’s actually the point of the Gospel today. We heard about Martha and Mary. Mary is at home, presumably praying, and Martha is doing all of the work as she plays host.

Most preachers are going to hone in on the whole “one was busy, one was not—and we should avoid being busy” sort of homily. And that’s fine. But that’s not why Jesus takes Martha aside. After all, Martha was doing a good thing by playing host—just like Abraham had done in the first reading. Sometimes work and busy-ness have to be done.

But Jesus takes Martha aside not because of her busy-ness, but because she thinks that this is the best way to love Him. “I’m going to cook and clean for him,” she thinks. “That’s how I can best love Him.” And maybe that’s how Martha always has been. Maybe cooking and cleaning is the sweet spot for her—something comfortable, something that she is used to.

But that’s Martha just loving Jesus on her own terms.

Jesus takes her aside and says, “No. The better way to love me is to be with me. Love me how I want to be loved, not in the way that you think I want to be loved. Love me on my terms.”


Do you love Jesus on His terms? What are His terms?

I could mention the Commandments; for He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Or I could mention our daily sufferings, for He says “If you love me, you will pick up your cross and carry it daily.” Or I could mention your marriage; “Love your [spouse] as Christ loved [us]…”

Those are His terms. “If anyone says that they love Jesus, but hates their brother, they are a liar” says St. John (1 John 4:20). Sure, they may think they are loving Him, but Jesus says otherwise.

For my part, as a priest, I think about the Holy Mass—the very Mass that I was ordained for.

So many people have opinions about what Holy Mass should be. It needs to be this or that; and it can be boring. And do I really need to be here?  And it’s so easy to be a Martha: when it doesn’t go our way and we don’t feel like we are getting anything out of it, we can be like Martha and complain.

Many priests, not wanting to rock the boat, oftentimes cater to Martha. The priest says, “oh, let me make the Mass more entertaining, or shorter, or relaxed. I’ll turn a blind eye to those absences or to those who leave early without an emergency. How can I make it easier for you? We’ll have a Mass for young people and a Mass for old people and a Mass that has contemporary music and a Mass that has no music and –”

When it comes down to it, isn’t that just catering the Mass to our own terms?


When I was at the doctor’s office, he told me that my broken finger wasn’t progressing as much as he would like. So, we had two options: one, continue to exercise it daily or, two, we could do a steroid injection into the joint.

“You mean,” I said to him with open eyes, “I have a choice between daily exercise or a needle being stuck into my finger? Into that little space in my joint?!”


“Exercise for me, please!”

After all, do you realize how painful it is to get a needle into your finger? – into the joint­ of your finger?

Image result for doctor with needle“But, Father Gerber, the needle is actually the best option. We really should do that. Otherwise, you’re not going to get better.”

And he said it with an apologetic look. He knew it would hurt. He wanted an easier way. But he knew this was the better part.

Those were his terms. And he was telling me those terms from years of experience and study. In essence, those weren’t his terms—it was good medicine’s terms.


Priests are spiritual doctors and, unfortunately, many priests struggle with the terms that Jesus has given for the Holy Mass—terms which require a lot of reading, prayer, and the example of good doctor priests.

I see the struggle that people have with Mass, as do many of my brother priests, and—admittedly, we priests struggle to recommend the proverbial needle: those hard decisions about music and attendance and reverence: to come early, and don’t leave after communion (unless its an emergency), and so on. Because such things are challenging, they stretch us beyond our own terms, and we may be perfectly comfortable where we are; and such terms may hurt. Some priests, because of the scandals, worry: will the people believe me anyway?

Such bad thoughts have led a generation of priests to become uncertain and unconfident in their training as spiritual doctors—years of training as numerous as a medical doctor. But here’s the thing: uncertain priests make us as confident as do uncertain doctors—which is to say: not at all.

And what happens when we are not confident in a doctor? We go to WebMD. And we think we  don’t need a doctor and that we can cure ourselves: “Physician, heal yourself.” The same happens when we lose confidence in a priest. We start to believe in weird things and weird spiritual cures; we do religion on our own terms; we may even think that that we don’t need the Mass. We start to become Martha instead of Mary.

And that temptation is so real. Shoot: I would have chosen exercise over the needle every day—and twice on Sunday. But I wanted healing. I wanted the better part.

So, I’m sorry that there is an entire generation that has grown up with the mentality that Mass is supposed to cater to our desires and that Christianity is just about feeling good. Christianity is not about just feeling good—it’s about being healed.

And Mass isn’t about what we get out of it.. It’s about giving God the bare-minimum of an hour of our love.

And that’s why Mass is difficult: because when it forces us to love God on His terms for just one hour, we oftentimes see that the whole rest of the week we have been living on our terms.


Let me draw this all to a conclusion…

For doctors, the terms of their art and science is found in the principles of medicine. Good doctors give patients not what they want, but what they need—and in accordance with good medicine.

For priests, the terms of their art and science is found in the documents of the Church and the sacred books of the Roman Rite. Good priests give their people not what they want, but what they need—and in accordance with the documents of the Church and these sacred books.

Please pray for priests, that they will be good spiritual doctors. Pray, too, that we may be open, that when a priest must change something in the Mass or call us on to a higher way of life, that we may have confidence that he is doing so not simply on his own terms, but because the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ, is calling the priest to do so.

Yes, some may complain, like Martha. All the more reason for us to pray that we may always be like Mary.

(I chose the needle, by the way. I’m glad I did. But I won’t ever forget it.)

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Your Name is Written - Homily for the 14th Sunday in OT (C)

One of the great blessings we have seen here at Saint Theodore is the new springtime of new families with new babies. Each week, I see in the back pews a mom or a dad with their little one, mom or dad holding them, taking caring of them, loving them. It has given me a spiritual reflection; for, as I see them take care of their little one, one who is so totally dependent and vulnerable, I see the Father taking care of me. Indeed, for that little one’s name is written on her parents’ hearts. So, too, our names are written on God our Father’s heart. He loves us.

This is the opening theme of our reading today. God says to us: do you see how much that mother loves her child? I love you even more than that. Therefore, “Rejoice, Jerusalem,” rejoice—know that you are cared for.


But, Father—I know some of you may be thinking—Father, that sounds all nice and good. But I don’t think God really cares for me. I don’t feel His love. Things feel pretty empty right now and I’m struggling and I’m suffering.

Yes, I know. In such times, it feels as though God is not a loving Father. This is part of the paradox in the Gospel today. We hear that God loves us, but then Jesus sends His seventy-two disciples out into the world—with nothing. No money, no extra clothes, nothing. And it would seem that Jesus is not caring for them. (The disciples could have said: Jesus, aren’t you going to help us? Aren’t you going to provide us with things that will help us? We are totally… vulnerable…)

But what happens in the end? They come back rejoicing. Rejoicing because God showed up. He really did take care of them.

Of course, we don’t know how long they were vulnerable—how long it took them to get that first meal or that first night of shelter. They may have been cold and hungry for a while—and wondering: “What has Jesus done, sending us out here like this? I’m hungry….”

But then the food came. And the shelter. And even the power to pray and to heal.


The obvious challenge is to trust God, therefore. But, I think God is calling us in a different direction today.

When I was in high school, I heard of a religious order that did something amazing. When a man would enter their order, there would come a point where that man would be sent hundreds of miles away and with twenty dollars—and the mission: “you have one month. Come back home after a month.”

The man only had $20. For one month.

During that time, I heard stories of what the men went through during that time. The vulnerability, the trust, the surprises in others’ generosity. And the discovery that some people believe that God loves them—and some people doubt that God is a Father who loves them.

That month would turn the man into a more grateful soul. And, because of his gratefulness, he would be more generous—and especially to those who doubted the Father’s love. It was as though the man would say, “You doubt the Father’s generosity? Let me show you.”

After all, the man had been in such a state. He, having been sent out with only $20, likely asked with his first footsteps: “Is God going to take care of me? Does God… love me?”


I think the first step towards trust and to generosity—and to helping others experience the Father’s love—is to first take a moment and reflect on how God has blessed us.

This week, I was driving through a part of town where there was a coin laundry on the street corner.

I had totally forgotten about coin laundries.

But I remember them. I remember, when I was younger and our dryer went out, having to load up the laundry in the car, then riding in the car with mom, then finding quarters for the machines, then folding the laundry there. And I even remember it raining once and having to load up the laundry into the car in the rain.

I begged God to fix our dryer.

Years later, woefully forgetful of those days, I enjoy a dryer. But when have I ever thanked God for the dryer?

Maybe I’m awash (sorry, puns!)—maybe, I’m awash in God’s love and I’m just simply not aware.


That’s the challenge for this week. What are the things you have been taking for granted? It may be something simple like being able to walk. Maybe it’s a child you had hoped would come years ago. But what do you take for granted? That "daily bread" that God gives you each day...

Take a moment and thank God. Let His love enter your mind and heart.

And then hear the words of the Gospel:

do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.

In other words: do not rejoice simply because of the stuff you have. Rejoice because your name is written on the Father’s heart.

You are that little one in His arms. And He is caring for you. He loves you. Your name is on His heart. In heaven. Forever.

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