Monday, October 11, 2021

For the Anniversary Mass of the Dedication of Saint Barnabas Parish Church (2021)

Sixty years ago this past week, on October the sixth, 1961, the first holy Mass was celebrated in the basement of the rectory here at Saint Barnabas. The cornerstone to this parish church would be placed in the summer of 1962 and the Dedication Mass would be celebrated in the completed church one year later on June 16, 1963. This weekend, we celebrate the anniversary of that first holy Mass as well as the dedication of this parish church. 

Here, in this place, our savior and our God, Jesus Christ, has chosen to dwell and it is holy. How many have come through those doors, pastors and parishioners, to offer Holy Mass! How many baptisms, confirmations, first communions, anointings, absolutions, weddings—how many graces have been given here in the Father’s house! How many of our beloved dead have been lifted in prayer to God at the funeral Mass! Truly, holiness has been sown into the ground here—and the ground we walk on is holy. To God be all praise, honor, and glory. 

+ 

In these most recent days, many wonder whether there will be another sixty years here. As Jesus passes by, we are like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who say to Jesus, “Mane nobiscum, Domine”—stay with us, Lord. The two disciples had enjoyed the past encounter along the way, but they were worried for the future. 

The enemy, the devil, would have us dwell either in the past or in worry about the future. The enemy does this because it takes us away from the present. Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us not to worry about tomorrow for there is enough evil for one day. Colloquially, therefore, we are often told to live in the “present moment.” He tells us this because the future does not exist and the past is no more. The present in the place where we live under God’s providence. 

But there is something peculiar to the present moment, something more that Our Lord wants to highlight: The present moment is the moment in which God Himself has chosen to dwell. As such, it is right that many saints call the present moment the “Eternal Moment.” It is the Eternal Moment because God has entered into it by His Holy Incarnation. The Eternal has broken into the Present—and thus this is the place, this moment, where contemplations can happen. 

That is why the enemy would have us living in the past or worrying about the future—precisely so that we would not dwell in the place and moment where God dwells. “Zacchaeus,” says our Lord, “make haste and come down for I must stay at your house …”—in two weeks? No: “… I must stay at your house today.” Notice the immediacy: “Make haste, Zacchaeus,” you do not have this moment for long. Open the doors of your heart right now—for it will soon be past; and do not delay for later, because the invitation is not forever! 

And what happened next? The Lord stayed with him to fulfill the Scriptures that have said: “the dwelling of God is with men.” 

And what did He do there? He made “all things new.” Those who dwelled in darkness encountered the light; the feet of sinners were turned around to the path of sainthood. “See,” says our Lord, “I make all things new.” 

You see, in the Eternal Moment, heaven breaks into our existence. What makes heaven, heaven? It is the place where God dwells. In this moment, therefore, there is a foretaste of heaven. In this moment, just as in heaven, God brings with Him His holy angels and saints; they are here too. We prayed the Gloria and will pray the Sanctus with them. Together, the holy angels and saints beckon us to allow Our Lord entry into our hearts—to let heaven dwell in our souls—for at least a moment. And there in our souls, He will dwell and make things new. 

+ 

And should He continue along the way and no longer dwell here in this parish church (for He is passing by, after all), we will certainly ask, as did those first Apostles once asked: “Lord, where are you staying?” And His response will be the same as it was then: “Come and see” and “Follow me.” 

For there will come a time that this place will be no more. Seven minutes—are you prepared?—seven months, seven million years (only the Father knows and not even the Son)—there will come a time that this place, the first heaven and the first earth, this, will pass away. And the Eucharist, the pilgrim’s food, will no longer be needed either: the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven from God and this pilgrimage and its heavenly food will be finished. 

Then we shall see Him face to face, He who was with us here in this moment here on earth, whom we praised and contemplated and adored here. Here, in this present, eternal—beautiful—heavenly moment. 

+

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Health Update

Blessings to you.

First, I thank all who have prayed for me over the past week or so. Your prayers have been wonderfully helpful to me and I am most grateful.

For those who are looking for more information "from the horse's mouth," here it is.

On Sunday, September 19th, during the morning and then continuing through Holy Mass, I experienced palpitations of the heart and shortness of breath. Thankfully, two amazing nurses were in the pews when I was struggling through the consecration. And at their kind recommendation, I went to the hospital.

Tests at the hospital came back pretty good and never was I told this was the result a "panic attack." However, a CT scan of my lungs showed some "stuff" in my lungs. ... And thus I am being treated for pneumonia. I never thought I'd be saying "I have pneumonia" at age 40, but here we are.

 Hopefully, treatment will clear up whatever is going on in there.

(And no, it's not Covid. I've been tested, gosh, like five times in the past three weeks!)

Ultimately, I'm back at the rectory and feeling fine and have resumed all my usual duties -- I simply become short of breath a little easier. But I trust that will improve in the days ahead.

The past week or so has been a blessing for me and it has really been because of your prayers. God is faithful and He delivers us from evil. Thank you for your prayers and may God bless you for your kindness.

May you continue to find strength in Him during these days.

With Mary Our Mother,
Father Gerber


Monday, August 23, 2021

Abandoned or Claimed? - Homily for the 21st Sunday in OT (2021)

I’ve been on many flights and I’ve done the whole thing of checking the bag at the ticket counter. I say goodbye to my bag and then pray: Lord, please bring it back to me at my destination. And I get to my destination and head to baggage claim. And you know how it goes: there is the carousel and everyone is waiting; and the buzzer goes off and an alarm light and the bags start coming down the chute. People see their bags and it doesn’t matter whether the bags are full of clean clothes or dirty clothes: they run to their bags and are happy that their bags aren’t lost. Because that would be the worst, right?—when all the bags are claimed and everyone has left the carousel and your bag never showed up. It’s lost. 

But that’s not actually the worst. I mean, you could get a call—and will likely get a call—a day later saying that the airline found your bag. It was lost in Sheboygan or something but now it’s found. So, that’s not the worst. 

The worst is when days pass, weeks pass—and you realize that you are never getting your bag back. You have to give it up forever and give up hope of ever getting it back. Losing luggage is not the worst—having to abandon it is. -- 

Abandonment. 

We swim in that word these days, we feel it, even if we don’t know it by its name. Abandonment: a sense of hopelessness, connected to giving up, and being rejected. I’m not talking about luggage anymore. I’m talking about you and me. We can so easily feel abandoned and operate from that. And maybe for good reason: maybe one of our parents left the family when we were younger; or maybe you have felt abandoned by your spouse who chooses the drink or maybe your spouse left you; maybe you feel abandoned by your kids—rejected; abandoned. And maybe we felt it this past year; maybe we felt abandoned by our priests and bishops. 

We know it’s the worst because it pulls on our heart strings when we see others abandoned, like in the pictures coming from Afghanistan.  And our family and friends who have served over there—many of them and their families have been forgotten in this news cycle. Yes, abandonment is the worst. – 

Which is why I was totally devastated by Jesus’ question today. He asks: “Do you also want to leave?”

 (He had just taught on the Eucharist and its says because of this, many of his disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. That is, many of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him. And Jesus is God and He is strong and you’d think it wouldn’t matter to Him, really. But then He turns to the remaining Twelve, the Apostles, and asks Do you also want to abandon me as well?) 

And that’s devastating to me because it means that Jesus cares if He is abandoned. God cares if we leave Him. – 

And how many people have left Him today! And not only about the Eucharist, but that second reading! You heard the line: wives, be subordinate to your husbands. How many today echo the crowds as they say, This saying is hard. -- wives, be subordinate to your husbands?! -- Who can bear it? And they grumbled against Him. 

Each year, there is someone who elbows their spouse during that second reading. 

But what was the first line of that passage? Do you remember the first line? – Look, brothers and sisters, you need to know the first line. Everyone knows the second line about the wives. But you must know the first line. If you don’t get the first line, you will mess it all up. The first line says: 

Be subordinate to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ. 

In other words, there is no power-play here; it isn’t as though men are way up here and women are way down here. No. We are equals in dignity and we are both called to lay down our lives. Hence Jesus says: Husbands, love your wives AS CHRIST loved the Church. How did Jesus do that? By dying for her. He washed her feet. Spouses, have you washed each other’s feet? Do you not know that you are both to be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ? 

And how many people have left Jesus and His Church because they didn’t understand that. They gave up. They lost hope because they didn't hear the first line. They only focused on the second. And they abandoned Him. And Jesus cares about that. – 

But, there’s more. That question that Jesus asks Peter and the Apostles (do you also want to go), none of us understands the gravity of that question. I need to walk you though this. 

Because, what if Peter and the Apostles say “yeah, we’re out”? 

After all, Jesus had been with them for almost two years at this point. He had called them, claimed them as His own; He has taught them the parables and the mysteries behind the parables; He has given them authority over spirits and revealed His glory at the Transfiguration. If the Apostles leave now, there is no time to form a new batch. They are it. All of Jesus’ eggs are in one basket. 

Because, if they go, there will be no Apostles at the Last Supper, no ordination of priests there. And at the Resurrection, sure, you’ll still have Mary Magdalene there and she’ll see the Resurrection—but who will believe her? After all, during that era in history there was an actual patriarchal system—nobody would have believed a former prostitute who was raving about a man she loved as being raised from the dead. Mary Magdalene needed the Apostles because they confirmed what would have otherwise been dismissed.

That is all to say: without the Apostles, we may have experienced graces of salvation because of the Cross, but we would be on soft ground when it came to the Resurrection; and, more, we would not have the grace of union that comes from the Eucharist—because we wouldn’t have the priests to do it. 

That’s the gravity of this question. If the Apostles say no, it’s over. No Eucharist—which is precisely what Jesus had just taught on. 

And if we think Jesus wouldn’t do this, remember: He did the very same thing when He sent Gabriel the Archangel to Mary and asked Mary if she would say yes to the Father’s plan. If Mary says no, it’s over. – 

So let's boil all of this down to a single point. And that point is: what is Jesus really asking Peter in this moment? Jesus is asking: Do you claim me as your Savior and Messiah? Do you claim me or abandonment. Because to claim is the opposite of to abandon.

And what does Peter do? He says: Master, we’ve left everything. Where else would we go? 

Peter claims Him. And I love the honesty, too. Peter is honest that is claiming is weak. It is weak claim because Peter says, Yeah, you’re my Messiah, but it’s really because I have nothing else. 

And that’s true. Peter has nothing else. And you would think that Jesus would be upset by such a weak claim. But it is enough for Him. And He blesses Peter and the Apostles. 

And notice what Peter says next. He says, We are convinced that you have the words of everlasting life. 

In other words, Peter is admitting, when it comes to this hard teaching on the Eucharist and, really, on Jesus as the Messiah-- Peter is freely admitting: Lord, I don’t know how you are going to do it. I don’t know how you are going to turn bread and wine into your flesh and blood. And I don’t know how we are going to eat that. And, more, how eating that would bring us to eternal life in the Father. But, Jesus, I saw you walk on water last night. And multiply loaves and fishes the evening prior. I believe that you can do this… 

That's beautiful to me. --

And it's beautiful, too, because Jesus is also claiming Peter. They stay together. They are in this together. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.

That second reading comes full circle: I speak of a great mystery; I speak in reference to Christ [the husband] and the Church [His bride]. 

And the two become one flesh.

How does Jesus become one flesh with us? In the Eucharist, His body and blood enters our body and blood. And the two become one flesh. 

See? Jesus is present here. He has not abandoned us! And the fact that Jesus is present even now in this tabernacle—it is proof that Jesus has not abandoned us. It is proof that when Peter claimed Jesus, Jesus blessed that and claimed him, too.

So, you are not abandoned, my friends! You have been claimed! 

Jesus invites you to claim Him, now, too. Claim Him as your Savior! Say to Him, Lord, I don’t know how you are going to solve the pandemic; I don’t know how you are going to care for my checkbook or my marriage or my family – and the million other worries that I have in this life. But, Jesus, Master,  you are my Messiah. And I believe that you can do it. 

This is a moment of decision. And don’t think for a second that it isn’t important. Peter’s moment was crucial! Mary’s moment was paramount! Your moment—generations in your family are affected by this decision to abandon or to claim.

And if not for them, then for you. Because when we live from a place of abandonment, we totally get stressed out and burned out. And we get that way because we’re carrying it all ourselves, we are trying to do everything ourselves. And we try to do that because we feel abandoned and we’re operating from that. And then we become irritable—and who wants to be around that? 

But if we claim Jesus and let Him claim us—if we really are convinced that He is my Savior and yours—then we can give Him control. We can say, Lord, I know you can do it. I believe you will do it. You will help me in a radical and beautiful way. Because you are my Messiah. 

And when we operate from that position, we are much more at peace—because it’s no longer entirely on our shoulders. HE is helping us carry this Cross. And from that comes a greater patience, and more energy, and more generosity. And a kindness that people like to be around. 

So claim Him, brothers and sisters. 

For He has not abandoned you. You have been claimed!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Fairy Tale - Homily for the 18th Sunday in OT (2021)

One of the universals that still continues to this day is the fairy tale. Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast. James and the Giant Peach. Jack and the Beanstalk. We grew up on these. Disney made a fortune retelling them. 

GK Chesterton, in his amazing book Orthodoxy (a book that truly blows my hair back), talks about fairy tales and he observes a few universals about them—universals, I think, that you will see as important to our readings today. And to your life. 

The first thing Chesterton notes is that fairy tales are much different than modern novels. Fairy tales have ordinary people embarking upon extraordinary world. Modern novels often have sickly people in dull worlds. A child yawns at the modern novel, but is excitedly engaged in the fairy tale.

Second, he notes that many people think that fairy tales are simply “make believe,” which is to imply that they are not real or have no connection to reality. But such people are wrong. After all: have you never seen an elephant? Become a child for a moment and remember seeing an elephant for the first time and with fresh eyes. That long trunk! The huge feet. And a short tail, unkempt like a donkey. Why, an elephant is straight out of a fairy tale! (Which is why children awe and laugh when they see one: they see that the fairy tale is true and real!). And elephants are not the exception. Duck-billed platypuses; zebras striped like tigers and tigers striped like zebras; the Milky Way; Monsignor’s bald head; my nose – the stuff of fairy tales and yet all very real. 

Third, Chesterton notes that fairy tales speak universal and ancient truths. Beauty and the Beast teaches that you must love a person before you can discover that they are loveable; Tangled teaches that you have a dignity greater than you are often aware. 

And fourth, Chesterton observes that fairy tales often have laws. The Beast must find love before the last petal falls. Cinderella must be home before midnight. And why? Or, to put it another way, what if Cinderella were to protest to her fairy godmother? The fairy godmother could say: “well, why even a magical carriage or a beautiful dress or the glass slippers? Being home by midnight is part of the magic.” 

If there is a problem with the modern world and, also, with the modern Church, it is that we have lost the fairy-tale worldview—not that we are supposed to believe in a fairy tale. Rather, what we have forgotten is that we live in a fairy tale. 

More than simply elephants and the duck-billed platypus, isn’t it odd that we not only believe in but live in a world where a virgin has conceived and given birth to a son; where a man has died and then risen from the dead (to say nothing of walking on water); where angels dwell among us; and where demons can be driven out by men; where God waits for the command of a priest to change bread into Jesus; where ordinary men can become saints; and where the most extraordinary of men, Jesus, had a nose. And was God. 

That’s the stuff of fairy tales. And what is most magical of all is that it is real. 

If there should be any balking by modern man it is that the story-teller, God, who wrote this story, should include such a law akin to “be home by midnight”—as we see Him say in keep one day a week holy. 

Should there be a protest against His laws, is it not enough for Him to say to us: well, why should there be elephants? Or men on two legs? Or stars? Or even Existence at all? – it all goes with the magic. 

And that is what we live in: a magical world. 

But that is what the world has forgotten. We pull up the weather forecast and subconsciously flatten the weather into percentages and predictability—instead of the wild reality of angels enacting the providence of God to give man food in the proper season. 

“Give us a sign,” the people tell Moses. But had they not just seen a sign? Had they not seen several? The Red Sea had just parted and the waters had covered Pharaoh's chariots and charioteers; the pillar of fire was still burning. And yet they grumbled. Because providing food in the desert is the stuff of fairy tales and this was real life, not a fairy tale, Moses! 

“Give us a sign,” the people commanded Jesus. But literally the evening before, Jesus not only fed them with miraculous bread, multiplied from five loaves and two fish, but He had also walked on water. Give us a sign, because You couldn’t possibly turn bread and wine into your flesh and blood, Jesus, that would be magic, the stuff of fairy tales—like Beast transforming into a man; or Eugene in Tangled being healed by Rapunzel’s tears. 

Here, we arrive at St. Paul’s words. He says there are many who live “in the futility of their minds.” What is the futility of the mind? It is to make a very real, magical world flat. To reject what God has made and instead to concoct a world of make-believe—a fakeness where a day is just a day, a storm is just a storm, a person is just a person, a job is just a job; where Holy Mass is just a meeting; where confession is just psychology; where pandemics are simply accidents and problems to be solved like a math equation—instead of another engagement on a cosmic battlefield where the ordinary man is armed with the supernatural powers of prayer, the intercession of the saints in glory, and the Divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

Futility is grayness. A flatness and dreariness that cannot laugh at an elephant nor praise the God who made it. 

Thus, Saint Paul cries out: “Put away the old self of your former way of life… and be renewed in the spirit of your minds”! 

To see that not only is the fairy tale real, but that you dwell in The Fairy Tale—that is the renewal of your mind! To believe that you and I, ordinary men and women, dwell in extraordinary lands and in extraordinary circumstances. We are Belle, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack – facing the Giant, like David did Goliath—and all of us, you and me both, are facing a decision and that decision determines our greatness or our baseness, our heroism or our cowardice, our sanctity or our condemnation. 

To put it all succinctly and in the words of our Savior: “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” 

Jesus could have said those words are the beginning of this, His Bread of Life Discourse, His teaching that inaugurates the Eucharist—which we find here at this Holy Mass. 

“Unless you become like children!”—and what is the hallmark of the child? That it believes that the fairy tale is real. Indeed, more than belief, the child lives in that world-- it could be no other way-- and so it swims in the splendor of God with wonder and with gratitude—the very things from which happiness springs and which, to quote our fairy tales, lead us to “Happily ever after.” 

This is the Catholic worldview. And it is wonderfully, magically real.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Saint Joseph the Worker - Homily for Day 8 of the Carmelite Novena (2021)

 This evening, on the penultimate night of our holy novena, in this holy year of Saint Joseph, the heavenly Father gathers us together once more to contemplate the depths of His mercy and the beautiful wisdom of His divine plan. Particularly, He desires we reflect upon Saint Joseph as the Model of Workers. 

One of the constants of human life is the cooperation in the creative impulse of God. From the first days of caring for the Garden to these recent days marked by industrialization and new technologies, man has be invited to unite his intellect and will to that of the heavenly Father—for the praise of His glory—in the opus Dei: that is, the work of God. 

One of the oddities about human labor is that its fruits often remain through the years. We do not simply build imaginary castles in the sky; some of our labors impact the created, material world. From the brickwork here at Carmel to the Pieta of Michelangelo from centuries ago—this work still remains. Indeed, those who were most skilled at their labors often see the greatest longevity of their labors. Many of the aqueducts of the Roman Empire still exist today. 

Which makes Saint Joseph an interesting choice for the Model of Workers. Sure, we know him to be a carpenter. But, on closer examination, it appears as though nothing of his labor remains. Save but the legend of the miraculous staircase in Santa Fe, nothing of Saint Joseph’s carpentry shop remains. No table or chairs, no armoire cabinet or desk with inlay. In a way, it would seem that having Saint Joseph as the Patron of Workers would simply remind workers that their labors pass away. 

But there is one work of Saint Joseph’s that will never pass away. It wasn’t a work with wood or ruler and hammer. It was the work found in the home. 

At the heart of God’s divine plan for Saint Joseph was the work of forming a family. Of building a home on the foundation of prayer and of virtue. And of protecting the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus when forces much larger than Saint Jospeh threatened the Holy Family. 

This is the work of Saint Joseph’s that remains: not a table or chairs, but the blessed Mother and our Savior. Indeed, without Saint Joseph laboring for the salvation of His Family against Herod, we would have no Holy Eucharist. In a very real way, the Eucharist is the greatest fruit of Saint Joseph’s labors. 

When Pope Pius XII instituted the Memorial of Saint Joseph the worker in 1955, he did so as a direct refutation of the atheistic communism of the time. The “irreligious reds” had divorced work from holiness; indeed, they had tried to make man a machine, a cog in the body politick; and to inculcate the false idea that the family—and especially God—were obstacles to the greatest good which was productivity. 

Pope Pius reminded the world that the ultimate purpose of labor is not simply productivity, but of God’s glory wherein man realizes his dignity as a cooperator in the creative impulse of God. In a word, labor is forever married to holiness. And holiness cannot be had unless it is intimately tied to the Creator and His transcendent plan for our salvation. That is to say, at the heart of Saint Joseph’s work in the carpentry shop was literally Jesus—in flesh and in mission. Jesus inspired the work of Saint Joseph and brought Saint Joseph’s work to fulfillment. 

Do you have Saint Joseph working for you? Not only have Popes exhorted the faithful to a greater devotion to the foster-father of the Redeemer, but so many saints have as well. Saint Andre Bessette, the miracle-worker of Montreal, had a profound devotion to Saint Joseph. Always encouraging people to turn to Saint Joseph, Andre—who himself was merely a porter, one who opens doors—Andre had Saint Joseph opening the doors of faith and healing to all who entrusted themselves to the pure heart of Joseph. This was Saint Andre’s greatest work and it was a work of holiness that is remembered in Montreal and throughout the world to this day.

 *** 

In these most recent days, we have seen a resurgence of communism and its errors and evils. Concurrently, we have also seen the rise of automation and a generation that sees labor as a drudgery ultimately to be avoided. The absence and the end of labor—which is idolized today as “retirement”—is quite wrongly seen as the ultimate good. Long forgotten is that rich tradition and treasury of social encyclicals of our Holy Catholic Church that harken not only to man’s rights concerning labor, but also to man’s responsibility to develop and use our talents for the glory of God and the good of others. Why should our labor for holiness and the kingdom of God end when we hit “retirement age”? 

May these present evils, through the intercession of our Holy Patron, be conquered! 

For it is Saint Joseph who renews our focus and our mission in our work. Even his hiddenness reminds us that, while most of our labors may seem inconsequential and far from something glorious—that while most of what we do remains unseen by the world—God sees. And God will reward the laborer for his work. 

In a particular way, in these days, we lift up to our heavenly Father those who are unemployed or underemployed. We lift up to Him those, too, who labor under societal structures that keep them from enjoying the fruits of their labors. We lift up to Him those who do not know rest. We lift up to Him our very selves, that we may once again find Jesus in our places of work; that we may find our mission of holiness there, and Jesus and Mary who were the ultimate labor of Joseph’s pure heart. 

Saint Joseph, model of workers. Pray for us.