Archive for January, 2004

January 31, 2004

Homily Ė 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31 – 13:13; Lk4:21-30)

Last week I spoke to you of the dignity of the human person. That is, God has a plan for each and every one of us from all eternity. We have a purpose in life and infinite worth as creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Our first reading from Jeremiah today shows us again this profound truth. God knows us completely. He formed us into who we are deliberately. We have been dedicated and appointed to a purpose for our lives, from the very moment of our conception before we were born. This is what it means when we Catholics speak of the Dignity of the Human person and the persons infinite worth.
Our purpose is unique to each one of us but there are some aspects that are common to all of us. All of us, by virtue of our baptism, are called to holiness. Through baptism we are born again as children of God. We become priests, prophets and kings. We are called to conform every aspect of our lives to Godís law and his image. With Baptism comes not only rights, but also responsibilities. Those responsibilities also include duties toward our neighbor. For the Catholic it is never just Me and Jesus and our relationship. That is a couple, not a family. For Catholics it includes all of Godís children and thus that means our neighbor. One of the duties we have to our neighbor is to speak and share the truth with them. We must share the good news of our Christian faith with them and challenge them if they seem to be wandering from the path.
For many people today this is hard to do. We feel like we should keep our religious beliefs to ourselves. To share our faith is to be a religious fanatic. In the United States we are being convinced, by the powers of the present day, that Freedom of religion means freedom from religion. Who are we, after all, to challenge someone to live a moral life? I answer you with Godís own words. You are a prophet. A prophet is one appointed to speak the word of God to others, and we are all priests, Prophets and Kings by virtue of our baptism. You are appointed and dedicated to this purpose by God himself from all eternity.
I understand the hesitancy to take up this call. I understand the fears. It is nothing new. Jeremiah experienced it himself. Jesus did as well. People can be very hard on prophets. Look to the Gospel today. Jesus stands up to proclaim the word of God and when he does the people all speak highly of him. He goes a little further and challenges them to repent of their lifestyles. This is where they turn on him and try to kill him. In the matter of a few minutes they went from adulation to thoughts of murder and rage? What changed? It wasnít the messenger, but the message. Some people do not like to be challenged to live a better life.
God knows this, and still he asks us to spread the message anyway. Why? Because to speak the truth to someone is to love them. It is not loving to withhold the truth from someone. If someone accidentally puts arsenic in their coffee rather than sugar, you see it but donít tell them, and they die, you are responsible for their death? You can stand before the judge and say you didnít want them to feel bad; you didnít think it was any of your business; maybe they wanted to take arsenicÖ. And in the end you are guilty of withholding information that could have saved their life. In the same way, if we withhold the truth from someone about the poison of sin in their life, and they lose their soul, we will have no excuse on judgment day. We will be guilty of keeping from them information that they needed to save their soul and we will be held accountable for it. Parents, this is why the Church very clearly asks you at the baptism of your children, if you promise to bring them up in the faith. If you do not then you will be held accountable for it.
We are responsible for our neighbor. We are our brothers keeper. We are not responsible for the choices they make of their own free will. But we are responsible if we withhold information from them. In love, we must tell them. Our second reading is clear about this. We are patient, kind, not pompous or inflated. We are not rude when we speak the truth or quick tempered. We do not rejoice over wrongdoing but we rejoice in the truth. Love bears all things, and endures all things, even if it means we are rejected and people hate us for it. We canít control what they do with their choices. We can only control what we do with ours. Fraternal correction is an act of Love, if it is done in love.
In the Gospel and in our first reading we see our models and examples. We speak the truth and put our faith in God. As God says to Jeremiah: ďThey will fight against you, but they will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.Ē We must put our faith in our Lord. We must seek his approval and not others. We must speak the truth in love to those in danger of losing their souls. To not do so is to fail to treat them with the dignity they have as human persons. We must treat them as if they were formed and appointed for a purpose and when they live contrary to that purpose we must try to help them by correcting them.
These two principles: The dignity of the Human person, and the need to correct someone when they are doing wrong are at the heart of some stories in the media recently concerning some Bishops. Catholic Bishops around the country are warning politicians that they cannot vote for Abortion and still consider themselves a faithful Catholic. They have left the Catholic Church and when they do that they cannot receive communion.
To support abortion in any way shape or form is to support murder. It is to deny the dignity of the human person formed, appointed and dedicated by God in their mothers womb before they were born. Yes, Before they were born. The Unborn are people too. Life begins at conception. Either God is right or God is wrong. For a person to proclaim themselves Catholic and vote to allow people to kill unborn children is a lie.
We cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill Jews because they are Jews. We cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill the elderly because they are no longer in their prime. And we cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill the unborn because they are unborn. People are people and they all have dignity no matter how inconvenient for us that seems to be. We cannot kill the innocent and consider ourselves Christians. We cannot set aside our faith in any aspect of our life. We cannot refrain from speaking the truth in any area of our life. We cannot praise an action that is evil nor can we be silent when evil is in our midst. To do so is not Christian; it is not Catholic; and it is not love.
That is why a Catholic politician cannot Vote to gain the approval of his constituents if it means he has to vote for evil. You cannot promise to vote for murder to win and election. To do so, is to use murder as a tool for your victory and that is evil. If Catholic politicians do this and try to call themselves Catholic a Bishop cannot remain silent if he loves them. He must put his faith in God, as Jeremiah and Christ did, and proclaim the truth even if people hate him for it and try to kill him.
A priest also must do the same with his parishioners if he loves them. We cannot ignore the fact that 138 million Children have been murdered since Roe V. Wade was passed. We cannot ignore the fact that some people we vote for want to continue to allow children to be murdered so they can be in power. If we give them the power to do so through our votes then we too will stand accountable. We must choose where we stand and what we stand for. We South Dakotans have many choices to make this year about what we stand for. What will it be? Winning at any cost, even if it means innocent children are slaughtered? Or, truth, life and the dignity of every human person, even the unborn. The choice is yours. Choose well.

Discernable Progrees

January 30, 2004

In between the appointments, pastoral care and trying to get a grasp on the parish I am making a bit of progress moving in. Traveling takes up a lot of time in the parishes but overall it is good.

I have workstation for parish work but not for personal work. I have yet to unpack my record and checkbooks but need to soon so I can pay my bills.

I have a feel for the “typical day” and will soon be scheduling pastoral visits to nursing homes and regular confessions. Due to the reasons that brought me here, there hasn’t been regular times for confessions. I think the two smaller parishes were by appointment only for a while. That is going to change very soon.

The difficult part is trying to schedule regular times on the weekends. I have Mass at one parish on Saturday night and the other two on Sunday. The early Mass on Sunday precludes me doing confessions before either Mass which means I can either do them after the late mass and before the Saturday Mass or just before the Saturday Mass.

The parishes rotate mass times every three months so that means each parish could get regular Saturday confessions every 3 months.

I guess I will ask around and see what people want and how it has been done in the past. I will be having confessions before daily masses but sometimes people can’t get to those.

It is a challenge. If only I were holier and I had stayed awake in the class where they taught us how to BiLocate. Of course I really need ot TriLocate. This will be a challenge.

Confirmation Group

January 28, 2004

Well I met with the confirmation kids at one of my three parishes and I had a blast. They are a pretty good group and it seems like they are getting some pretty good stuff.

As promised though I told them I would give them the link to my friend Angel Dean’s website so they could buy Cd’s if they watned. Hopefully we will make the concert in Pierre.

Progress

January 27, 2004

Well, I have not been in the parish for a week officially. Lots has been done but moutains remain. The actual family totals of the three parishes is officially less than I was told.

Total families =254 between the three.

You might think that means less work. No way. There is a huge amount. Reflecting on Augustines sermons to Pastors keeps my hand to the plowshare as well.

It is much easier to pray here. My Rectory (which also doubles as an office) is attached to the church via an underground tunnel so the Blessed Sacrament is available 24 hours a day. Speaking of which I need to get my daytime prayer done so enough for now.

Day Off

January 26, 2004

Today is my first day off in a while. I kinda miss it last week by driving and packing the whole time.

I was going to drive to Bismark, ND (about 90 miles) and have a look around. The problem is there is a winter storm warning until 12 and let’s face it: I grew up in Texas. I will wait til then and see how things are and then I might make the trip. It is good to get away even if it is for a few hours.

January 24, 2004

Homily Ė 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today I stand before you on my first Sunday as your pastor and I have an important message you need to hear. If you donít listen to another thing I say for the next few years I am with you, please hear this. Each and everyone of us here today was created for a Divine purpose and has infinite worth.
That is not some pithy phrase I toss out. It is not some warm fuzzy ďJesus Loves youĒ thing that I say to make you like me or because I want you to ďfeel goodĒ or because I donít have anything else to say. It is at the very heart of our existence. The devil doesnít want you to hear it, but He doesnít have the microphone and I donít work for him.
Lets walk through it. God is all powerful, all knowing, and all good. Hopefully everyone agrees with me up until this point, if not see me afterwards. God is all powerful. That means nothing happens that he canít control. That means when you were created you were not an accident. I donít care who tells you were; they are wrong or they are lying. You are a deliberate act of a God who could have done anything he wanted, but from all eternity he chose to create you. You have a purpose.
God is all knowing. That means that he knows why he made you. It wasnít a random act but a deliberate one. And he made you the way you are which means he didnít make a mistake. All of your strengths, all of your weaknesses, all of your gifts were planed by an infinite wisdom from all Eternity. If you donít like who you are, you either think God is wrong or you donít know who you really are. I can tell you right now God isnít wrong.
God is all Good. He does not create evil. He does not create bad things. He creates perfection. We are the ones that mess it up. He created you and that means that his perfect, infallible and deliberate plan includes you. If you choose to work according to Godís plan then you are a part of that perfection. If you choose not to, then you are a part of messing perfection up.
An Infinitely powerful, infinitely loving and good, infallible God, from all eternity had a perfect plan and that plan includes you. You are not a mistake. You are not a random act and you were created for truth, goodness, beauty and love. That is what you are worth as a person. That is what it means to have the dignity of a human person. Anybody who tells you different is a liar.
So Father Todd, what does this have to do with the readings? We look first to the second reading. Very clearly we see here that in Godís plan we each have a part to play. A unique part, but one that works together with every other part of Godís plan to form the perfect Body of Christ. It is much more than a simple analogy St. Paul uses. It is a profound truth. It is also a truth that is hard to accept for many modern ears.
We live in the age of cookie cutter houses, mass production and culture constantly telling us we need to conform to societies expectations and values. We Americans are especially sensitive to differences among people. We donít like to say someone is different. We think all men were created equal. It is true that all of us have equal dignity in the eyes of God. Every single one of us is a part of perfection. But it isnít true that we all have the same gifts. It isnít true that we all have the same callings. It isnít true that we all play the same role in Godís plan. It isnít true that we all get to pick the role that we play. Our role has been chosen for us by an All powerful, all knowing, all good and all loving God. We have different but complementary roles. As St. Paul says if we were all an eye, where would the hearing be.
God in His wisdom has called each of us from all eternity to play a role in his plan. We can choose to answer that call or we can refuse. But the call is still there and that call is our Vocation. Vocation comes from the Latin verb Vocare which means to call. Each and everyone one of us has a vocation, that is, a call from God. If we choose to answer that vocation, then we become a part of perfection.
Many people, however are tempted to dictate to God what their vocation is. Rather than ask God what he would like of them, what part they have to play in perfection, they would rather tell him. They say: I am going to be this; I am going to do that; I want to develop this gift; I donít like this about myself; I should be playing this role in his plan; I should lead, not serve. This last one is the same answer that Satan gave when he fell from grace. I will not serve, I will command.
Godís plan for us is for our happiness and our perfection. If we want perfection and happiness then we need to answer our call. Each one of us has a part to play. If we are an ear we shouldnít try to be an eye. The way that God made us is the only way we can be happy. We shouldnít fight against it, rather we should surrender to it. The only way we can do that is if we ask God what he wants, we listen for the answer, and we do what he asks. This is the key to our happiness.
The realization of this truth is what causes the Israelites to weep when the law is read to them. After a long exile from the promised land they were freed from the captivity and the Word of God was proclaimed to them again. They wept at its beauty. The wept because they had experienced first hand the fruits of breaking a covenant with God. They had disobeyed Godís word and experienced the fruit of their choice. When we refuse Godís plan for our happiness then we to become captives to our sin. Our lives are impoverished and we are blinded to the only Eternal truth that can make us free.
These are the truths proclaimed in the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these promises. It is he who frees us from our slavery to sin. It is he who will open our eyes blinded by sin. He will end our captivity and poverty. He is the Word made flesh that came to dwell among us. He is the Word that calls us to our true vocation. He is our perfection and happiness, if, we choose to surrender our lives to his will and let them be transformed. If, we choose to listen to that word. Not a passive listening, but a listening like that of the Israelites. That is an active listening, anxious for Godís law, and anxious to obey it.
Every Sunday we come here and hear the Word of God proclaimed to us. Do we listen attentively, or do we daydream. Do we try to hear Godís call for us in the scriptures, or do we let them go in one ear and out the other. Every time the Gospel is proclaimed we should listen as if God is speaking just to us. Why? Because he is. He is speaking to us individually but we can only hear is voice if we are attentive and seek to know what he asks of us. Do we ask him what he wants of us or do we tell him what we want of him? Who is the King and who is the servant? Perhaps we refuse to serve.
Every Sunday we come to church and we receive in the Eucharist the true Word of God made flesh. We receive his very flesh and blood that gives us the life he promised. Do we receive it casually or are we aware of what we are receiving and do we show proper reverence?
If we want perfection and happiness we must answer Godís call and not our own. If we want to do that we must know what that vocation is. To know Godís call we must actively seek it everyday of our lives but especially in the Mass. The Giver is God and he never gives less than perfection. We just need to choose whether or not we will receive it from him. We choose whether we weep with grief or whether we weep with joy at the law. We choose whether we respond to what God calls us to or if we choose to ignore him and pass the hour thinking of other things. Ultimately the call is there. I know what my choice is. I choose to answer the call and to attentively seek Godís will for my life. The Question I lay before you is what will your choice be? The choice is yours. Choose well.

Mark Shea

January 24, 2004

Just caught Mark Shea’s talk in Mobridge, SD. He did a great job and he is a lot of fun. I wish I had more time to talk to him but that is how it goes. I had to return to my parish before we got socked with winter weather. I caught the second talk on the way back on the radio. I didn’t realize that radio time was so cheap up here. It gives me a host of ideas that I might solicit your help with one day.

We have a PotLuck tonight to welcome me and then we have the important meal after at Mass. All this and I am not thrilled with my homily. Sometimes I just can’t put on paper what God speaks to me in my heart. How do you find the words. Like the Israelites in the first reading I my eyes were watering thinking about the magnificence of what we have been given in our relationship with Christ. It’s times like this that Mother Teresa’s quote helps me a lot: “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”

Off to tidy up and maybe rest a bit. Life is a gift.

Trying to Settle

January 23, 2004

Well I am not making that great of progress on settling in. Things always take more time than you plan. I already have a couple of appointments today and I have to write my homily tonight. If all goes well with that then maybe I will be able to move a few things.

We had a finance council meeting at St. Michaels in Herreid. The group works well together. That is good because we will have a lot to do in the new few months.

Sunday should be a time to get a few more things organized. I probably shouldn’t be too hard. I can’t expect to have everything in place right away and still work. It will be nice to settle my things so I can get busy organizing the Sacristy’s and other things that need a little attention. Then pastoral planning can begin.

I think I almost have the mass schedule worked out. I am still trying to figure out travel times between parishes.

plink

January 23, 2004

plink

Progress

January 21, 2004

I am getting the stuff out of the boxes and some things are starting to come together. I just had my first Mass at St. Anthony’s in Selby. I think I will get along pretty well there. They are a neat group of friendly people.

I am going to have to go through a lot of stuff in all three parishes I bet. Right now I have been to two of them and there will be a need for some major organization as well as some stocking of items they don’t have. I just dropped off a baptsim book today and I noticed a couple of others were missing.

I will probably need to schedule a day at each parish for a while to get things organized and inventoried.

First I need to get the rectory organized a bit. I have got my computer up and running so I can do work. Books are our of the boxes and on shelves but not organized. The desk here is pretty ancient and it will be hard to get it organized but I will work something out.

I am pretty excited but there is a huge amount of work to do. The appointments are already starting as well.

My treadmill arrives on Friday so I am looking forward to getting that up and running (pun intended).

That’s it for now. Off to hear confessions.