Monday, June 30, 2014

Three Missionary Loves -- Homily for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and Glenmary Mission Appeal

There is a very well kept secret in the church today that I think needs to be shared with you all:  every Christian is called to be a missioner.  That is right, each one of you sitting here right now, myself included, is called to be a missioner.  God has called all of us by our baptisms to bring the love of Jesus to the world around us.

But what in the world does that mean? We all understand that the church has had missioners for many years.  People who would go to the far ends of the world: places like Africa or South America.  And this is still taking place today.  But what this sometimes keeps us from recognizing is that all of us are called to the mission field:  it might be far and distant, but it might be right in your home, your work place, or in your state.  All people are called to be missioners. 

That is why I think the church invites us today to reflect on two of the churches first missioners:  Peter and Paul. 

We know that Peter was our first pope.  His mission field was mainly in Jerusalem and then in Rome where he went to die.  For Paul, his mission field was basically the entire known world at the time.  But both were missioners, and both knew they were missioners.  In fact, their very beings moved towards mission.  They shine to us as examples reminding each of us that we too, no matter where we are, are called to be missioners.

But what does it take to be a missioner today?  I would simply highlight three basic things.  These are what I call the three missionary loves.

First, it takes what I call a teenage missionary love.  I know this sounds weird, but I think this is necessary.  It is the love that we all probably felt in some way when we were young and met the right person.  We were infatuated.  And we would do anything for this person.  We wouldn’t even necessarily think through the consequences.  We would just follow and go wherever this person went. 

Peter and Paul had this love for Christ.  When they could finally accept that he was their savior nothing could stop them.   They were like crazy teenagers willing to follow wherever he called them to go. 

The same must be true for us.  We oftentimes become hardened by love and stop believing in its power to motivate us.  That’s what’s so neat about teenagers.  They haven’t been hardened yet.  They still believe.  To be missioners we still have to be willing to follow Christ with that teenage love.

The second missionary love is what I like to call the parental missionary love.  This is the kind of love where one pours themselves out in service and care to the mission of Jesus.  It is the kind of love that parents must sacrifice for the children.  We all know how life changed instantly as soon as that first baby is born.  From that moment on they pour out their lives in caring and sacrificing for them. More than their kids will ever know.  And they put their hearts on the line to be let down and hurt so bad.  But they do it out of love.

One of my good friends and his wife just had a very scary experience with their son.  He was playing basketball in a gym and somehow hit his head.  Hours later he was going in and out of consciousness.  He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a bleed inside of his skull.  It did not look good.  Emergency surgery took place.  Hours passed while the parents waited.  Everything was on the line.  They hearts were being poured out.  Somehow, Gabriel their son, made it through.

To be missioners we have to be willing to pour hour hearts out in service and love for others.  Peter and Paul did this.  They talked about it today in the readings.  They poured their hearts out in service of the Good News.  They did so that all people might know the love of Christ. 

The final missionary love I think we need is the grandparent missionary love.  This would be the love that slowly lets go as they prepare themselves for the end of life.  For the elderly see many things.  They see much death.  They see loved ones come and go.  And they see their own time coming to an end.  Yet they face all of this with tremendous courage. With a confidence that can only be given from God.  For they can let it all go knowing that in the end all things, including their lives, are God’s.

Peter and Paul had this love, too.  They willingly walked towards death and imprisonment.  They left their missions in the hands of others.  They were willing to let things go.  They knew that it was all in the hands of God.

This is important for us too.  For unless we are willing to let go of comfort, success, money, and having the answers, we can never be missioners.  We will never be able to go where God wants us to go.

Right now God is calling each person in this church to leave and enter his or her own mission field.  If we are to be faithful just as Peter and Paul, then we should try to embrace these three missionary loves:  the teenage love, the love of a parent, and the love of a grandparent.  If we can do these things, God will reward us abundantly.

For the last 75 years the Glenmary Home Missioners has been trying to live these three missionary loves.

First of all, we have tried to embrace the teenage missionary love.  For we have had members get up and leave everything they knew to serve in a land that is foreign to them.  We go areas in the south and southeast that are pretty much non-Catholic and even non-Christian.  In the areas where we serve the Catholic population is less than 1 percent.  Still more, the number of unchurched people is around 50 percent.  The areas are filled with poverty, broken homes, drug addictions, and poor education.  It is not a place where people are flocking to go. But for us Glenmarians, we here the call, and we leave with that teenage love in our heart.

Also, we try to embrace that parental missionary love.  We do so in creating faith communities or families.  Basically we go into an area and begin advertising in the local paper that the Catholic community is going to be in the area.  We gather what few Catholics are there together, and we start having mass in a person’s home or in our rectory.  We reach out to the poor, we work with local churches, and we go door to door.  And as the group grows, we then move into a store front and make that into our church.  The hope in the future is to finally build a church to worship in.  All the while we pour ourselves out into the people, sacrificing how we can, but receiving so much in return.

Finally, we practice the love of a grandparent.  When our work seems to be done, we either accept a new assignment and move to a different mission area, or we simply hand the entire mission over to the diocese and move on to a new area.  This is one of the more challenging aspects of our ministry.  For we pour our hearts into these missions.  We bleed and sweat and cry into these missions.  But ultimately it is not ours.  Ultimately it is God’s. 

The missionary life is amazing.  But it is not just Glenmarians who are called to live this life.  It is all of us.  We may go to rural America.  But you all have your own mission land, too. 

So I close with simply asking that you would support our ministry in any way that you are able.  Please pray for us.  If you are able, you can support us economically during this Mass’s second collection.  Thank you very much.  Peace.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homilia para la Fiesta de Corpus Christi--Cuerpo y Sangre de Jesus

Muchas gracias por esta oportunidad para hablar con ustedes y compartir la palabra y algunas cosas de mi servicio y trabajo en la iglesia Católica.  

Yo he sido un sacerdote por solamente dos anos.  Posiblemente yo soy un Padre joven!!  Pero en este tiempo, yo he tenido muchas experiencias con los hispanos.  En el área donde yo hago mi trabajo como sacerdote hay dos comunidades de los hispanos.  Los dos grupos son diferentes: con diferente trabajo, familias, y lugares de nacimiento.  Pero yo he visto una cosa en común de los dos grupos.  Los dos grupos, y posiblemente todos los hispanos, les gusta comer!!  Claro que si todo de ellos les gusta comer.  La comida es parte de la cultura.  Ellos le gustan fiestas, fiestas, y fiestas, y cada fiesta tiene mucha comida:

Hay pozole, menudo, carne asada, pollo a la parilla, tómales, chicharrones, sopa de pollo, enchiladas, y quesadillas.  Hay guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, y chilis.  Y siempre hay suficiente tortillas y arroz.  Si es la verdad, parte de la vida de los hispanos es comer.  Y gracias a dios, porque a mi me gusta comer también, especialmente la comida mexicana.   Mi comida favorita es los tómales!!

Pero yo di un cuenta algo de mi trabajo con los hispanos: ellos les gustan comer, pero siempre, en dos o tres horas después de comiendo, ellos tendría hambre.  Es la realidad.  Comemos, pero después, nosotros vamos a tener hambre.  No hay comida que satisface suficiente.

Este domingo nosotros celebremos la fiesta del cuerpo y la sangre del señor.  Este es uno de las fiestas más importantes en la iglesia.  Es una fiesta sobre comida.  Pero esta comida es diferente.  No es sobre comida física. Es sobre comida espiritual.  Es una comida que aliméntanos para siempre.  Es una comida que cuando nosotros comemos, no vamos a tener más hambre.  Vamos a tener vida eterna.  Es una comida que satisface nuestras almas, corazones, y vidas.   

En la palabra de dios hoy, nosotros escuchamos a las palabras de Jesús.  Él dice que su cuerpo y su sangre es comida real.  Y cuando una persona come de esa comida, no va a tener hambre.  No va a morir.  Va a vivir para siempre.  Entonces, cuando nosotros comemos de esa comida,  la eucaristía, dios va a vivir a dentro de nuestros corazones.  Él va a vivir en nuestras almas.  Es un regalo muy grande y precioso para nosotros. 

Pero hay un problema.  Desafortunadamente, mucha gente no cree en esta comida.  Mucha gente no quiere comer de esa comida.  Y mucha gente no sabe ni conoce que esa comida es Jesús.  Él quiere darnos esa comida, pero mucha gente no quiere aceptar su regalo.  Es muy triste.

La pregunta para nosotros es muy simple: creemos nosotros en la eucaristía?  ¿Creemos que en la misa que el pan y el vino transforman para ser el cuerpo y la sangre de Jesús.  Y si nosotros creemos en esta realidad, tengamos que vivir nuestras vidas alrededor a Jesús y su iglesia.  Tengamos que compartir ese milagro a todo el mundo, también.  Porque hay mucha gente que tiene hambre espiritual, y ellos necesitan esa comida de dios. 

Yo soy un misionero que trabaja aquí en los estados unidos.  Mi comunidad llamada Glenmary Home Missioners.  Somos misioneros aquí en los estados unidos.  Nosotros vamos a partes muy rurales y pobres donde la mayoridad de la gente no cree en la eucaristía.  Mucho de la gente no conoce la iglesia católica, ni los padres, ni la misa, ni la eucaristía.  En estas áreas, antes el trabajo de mi comunidad, la gente tiene un gran hambre espiritual, pero no tiene la cosas que puede satisfacerlo.  No tiene la eucaristía ni todos los sacramentos. 

Entonces, mi comunidad, Glenmary, va a estas áreas para compartir el evangelio con la gente.  Pero más importante, compartimos el milagro del cuerpo y la sangre de Jesús con la gente.   Y estos milagros, entre el espíritu santo, cambian las vidas de la gente. 

Empezamos con una invitación a la gente del área.  Reunimos para la misa en una casa de uno de los católicos en el área, o en una tienda.  Porque nosotros no tenemos un templo.  Y después, nosotros trabajamos con la gente en el área e invitamos la gente para aprender mas sobre de la iglesia católica.

A veces, hay muchos hispanos que regresan a la iglesia católica.  También, hay mucha gente que se conviertan para ser católica.  Por ejemplo, nosotros tuvimos doce personas que se convirtieron para ser católicos en este ano pasado.  Era un milagro. 

Y después de más tiempo, nosotros tenemos procesiones de fe, tenemos fiestas de la virgen de Guadalupe.  Y tenemos un templo también para adorar y alabar a dios.  Y la eucaristía es la cosa más importante para la gente.

Si ustedes creemos en la eucaristía, y si Jesús es importante en su vida, imagínese una situación donde no hay iglesia católica, no hay una misa, no hay la eucaristía.  Este es la situación en las áreas donde yo trabajo. 

Entonces, si ustedes pueden ayudarnos con nuestra misión, sería muy especial para nosotros.  Por favor, recen por nosotros.  Y si pueden ustedes, comparten dinero con nuestro grupo.  Vamos a tener una colecta para mi grupo durante esta misa.

La fiesta del cuerpo y sangre de cristo es un momento cuando nosotros podemos reflexionar en la importancia de la eucaristía en nuestras vidas.  Pero hay muchas personas que no saben ni conocen Jesús en la eucaristía.  Por favor, ayude nuestra comunidad para compartir ese regalo a las personas.

Gracias. Dios les bendiga ahora y siempre. 

Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ--Corpus Christi

Do we know of the food that the Lord gives to us?

My siblings and I were very picky eaters when I was growing up.  My mom can attest to that.  She would work her tail off preparing wonderful suppers for us.  But we would complain.  We would gripe.  All we wanted was hotdogs and mac and cheese.  Then of course we went off to college.  And as all kids do in college, we became the experts on everything. We especially became the experts on food.  So now when we came together as a family one of us siblings would do the cooking.  And we would add all of these ingredients and try all of this new food and talk about how great it was.  And we would say: Mom, why didn’t we eat this when we were growing up.  My mom would have to hold off on strangling us.  She would say: “I tried to get you all to eat this, but you didn’t want it.”  We missed out on so much great food, because we simply weren’t open to it. 

One of the things that we as Glenmary members do in our ministry is support our brothers and sisters in Christ from other Christian denominations.  This last week I was up in Baltimore for the Southern Baptist Convention.  I am sure you all have many Baptists here in Owatonna.  Well I was really, really impressed with the Baptists.  They are mission driven.  They have tremendous faith.  They really love Jesus.  And they know their Bible really well.  But one question that came up in my mind, and it was also a question that I asked many people who were there:  do you know of the food that the Lord gives you to eat?  Do you know of the Eucharist? For so many of them, though they love Jesus probably even more than I do, they did not know Jesus in his body and in his blood: in the Eucharistic. 

But we are Catholics.  And I wonder how we would respond to this question:  Do we know the food that the Lord gives to us?  The scriptures today are inviting us to remain open to a new kind of food and to think about this question.

It starts out with the Israelites in the desert.  They were wandering around without anything to eat. And so God gave them food.  It was a different kind of food.  They did not know it.  But it sustained.  It prepared them for the food that later on Jesus would give them.

In the Gospel we have Jesus speaking.  He is speaking to the Israelites again. But he is also speaking to us.  He says to them:  Do you know the food that God wants to give to you.  It will sustain you.  In fact, it is my own Body and Blood.   But the people really wrestled with that. 

In fact the Church came to wrestle with this for ages.  Paul had to go around and ask the young churches:  do you know of the food that God gives to us?  He writes this question when he is in correspondence with the Corinthians.  Struggling with this teaching is not new.  It is a hard teaching.  It is a challenging teaching. 

And so the question comes down to us too, today.  Do we know the food that God gives to us?  Do we know of the life changing sacrament that in just a few moments God gives to us around this altar?  I would be willing to bet that many of us do. But perhaps there are some of us who do not.

When you are traveling around and speaking to different parishes you can often say things that you maybe wouldn’t say to your own people because you have to live with them.  And, well, I am going to be leaving here after this weekend so it is a little safer.  But however, I am asking for money so maybe that constricts me a bit.

But I would say that by in large the world does not know the food that God gives to them.  But we, too, as Catholics do not know the food that God has given us.  For if we knew the food, we might act a little different:

We would never miss Mass.  If we knew the food, we would be the first ones to come and the last ones to leave.  For this food is God.

No one would leave the Catholic Church.  Yeah it’s full of sin and it’s full of boring priests and sometimes the music isn’t so good and on and on and on:  but we would look around and realize that no other group has this food.  No other group knows of the food that God gives to us.  And so no one would leave.  And the excuses would simply fall to the side.

We would impart this teaching on our kids.  Going to mass wouldn’t be an option for our kids.  Because if we truly love them, and we know how hard it can be for our kids, we would not want them to miss one single time to take in the food from God.

We would invite new people every week to come to Mass.  We would knock on doors.  Our week would center around this food and not on a ball game.  And we wouldn’t stop talking about this food.

But it’s a hard thing to believe.  It’s a hard teaching to accept.  That’s why over and over the Bible reminds us of this food.  And over and over again we need to celebrate the Feast we celebrate today:  the Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are blessed today, because we get to hear about this food and at least ponder the question.  And perhaps we will change our lives just a little more.  But there still exist areas in the United States where people have never been given the chance to know of this food.  And many who know of it simply do not have access to it. 

I just finished my first assignment with the Glenmary Home Missioners.  I served in East Tennessee in the mountains in two different counties.  Three years ago before Glenmary went to these counties there never existed a Catholic presence in the entire county.  The entire county.  So thousands of people had never heard of the gifts of the Catholic church.  No Mass had been celebrated.  No Sacraments.  Many people had never met a priest before.  And people certainly did not have access to or even know of the Eucharist. 

But as is typical in Glenmary, we went into these towns.  We began to advertise that we will have sessions on the church.  We knocked on doors.  We met people.  We invited.  And we prayed.  We centered our prayer around the Eucharist.  And we waited. Amazingly the people started coming.  They came from the mountains and from the lakes.  They came from the hollers and the hills.  They came because they started to believe in the gifts of the church.  They started to believe in the Eucharist.  And their lives changed.

The people longed for the Eucharist, too.  Kids would pester me because they were not yet old enough to receive the Eucharist.  Little babies would reach their hands out to grab the Host in the line.  People would reconcile their marriages so they could receive the Eucharist.  And we went from just 6 or 8 people, to now close to two hundred at both places.  This includes around 15 converts between the two places.  We have bought land and we are in stages thinking about building. 

But this change was not on my account.  It was not on the other priests and brother’s account.  It was because people started to honestly address the question:  do you know the food that God gives to us.

I am convinced my brothers and sisters, that if we just get to know this food a little more each and every day, then our lives, and the world, will start to make more sense.  Our world will start to reflect that divine majesty that we consume in the Eucharist.   The young girls in Nigeria will come home. The bombs will stop over Baghdad.  Our politicians will actually listen and speak to each other.  Our families will stay more united.  And our hearts will find peace.

I close simply in asking you all to support our ministry as best as you can. Please pray for us.  And know we are praying for you.  Consider coming to one of our volunteer programs.  And if you are able, please assist us finically. There will be a second collection today to do so.

Thanks for your time and for allowing me to be with you all here.  Peace.