Deacon's Corner

Homilies By Our Parish Deacons

 

Corpus Christi Sunday * June 18, 2017 * 9:30am Mass
Deacon Steve McMahan

 

 

Corpus Christi Sunday * June 18, 2017 * 8:00am Mass
Deacon John Collins


 

 

"Remember and do not forget: Fathers, God & Corpus Christi"

Deacon Serge Dube'

To access readings - usccb.org, click on Bible tab and then Today's reading tab, then click on Calendar for June 18
Happy Father's Day to our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, blood relations, step and adopted, single moms, and those who have fathered and mentored us. 
We have special days of remembrance like Father's Day and Mother's Day so that we may step out of our busyness, acknowledge the fact that we may have taken our fathers or mother's for granted, or have become indifferent to their presence in our lives.
In our first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses is kind of celebrating a Father's Day when he says remember and do not forget our God. The Hebrews had time and again taken for granted how God has freed them from slavery, provided them manna and water, protected them, and was now leading them to the Promised Land. 
Moses reminded the people that God, "fed [them] with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show [them] that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord" (cf. Dt 8:16). He was reminding his followers, those who grumbled and complained time and again that they would rather return to the security of slavery and bondage in Egypt, to remember and not forget that God is their source and security, that he will provide for them.
St Paul, likewise in our second reading, reminded the Church of Corinth that they participated in the Body and Blood of Christ. Reminding them that they are one in the Body of Christ. 
God sent his Son, who became one with us so that we could be one with him. Jesus gave his life for us, Jesus conquered death for us, and Jesus promised not to leave us orphans: Let us remember that Jesus is present to us every day and at every Mass in his very Real Presence in the Eucharist, which he explains in our Gospel reading for today.
John 6 is known as his Bread of Life Discourse. As Jesus spoke to his followers he explained that he was the living bread that came down from heaven and those that ate his body and drank his blood would have eternal life. Most of his disciples missed the ultimate gift of eternal life because they were blocked by the horror of Jesus' pronouncement that they would need to eat his body and drink his blood. Certainly, a strange enough claim for us today, but for an ancient Jew, the prospect of eating flesh with blood was abhorrent. Jews did not eat meat with blood still in it. They considered blood sacred and any animal they consumed first had to have the blood exsanguinated, the throat of the animal would be slit and the blood drained out.
When the people reacted strongly to Jesus' offer, he not only did not attempt to calm them by saying he was only speaking metaphorically, he doubled down on his claim. In the original Greek of the Gospel of John, phagein means to eat, and this is the word used initially. But as Jesus continued he used the word trogein, meaning to gnaw or chew as an animal would. Jesus graphically makes his point that he is not speaking symbolically. We find reading further in the Gospel of John to verses 66-68:
“As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life."
Jesus did not chase those that left to bring them back, he let them go, and asked Peter and the Apostles if they also wanted to leave. I am sure Peter was just as bewildered as those who left, but he trusted in the words of Jesus and so because he and the Apostles chose to stay and pass on the Gospel, and the words of institution they would receive at the last supper, Jesus is still present to us today during our Mass through our priests, in persona Christi, who will say the same words of institution passed on from the Apostles, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be truly present on our altars again. 
But just as there were doubts of the many gathered around Jesus, so through the time of Church history doubts have arisen. In the thirteenth century, many doubted the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. St Juliana of Mont Cornillon, Belgium, though was not one of them. She held a great devotion to the Eucharist, and received a series of visions, starting when she was only 16, of the moon representing the liturgical calendar, yet, having one dark void or "dark stripe" (cf St Benedict, General Audience, 17 Nov. 2012). St Juliana surmised that this imperfection represented that a feast dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament was needed to be present during the Church calendar year. Initially, she held this vision and other visions like it in her heart for about twenty years, before she would confide in a few of her sisters and later the local bishop. She called for a remembrance to help people reconnect with the truth of the Eucharist. Before her death, Jacques Pantaleon, Archdeacon of Liege, Belgium, heard of her vision.
In 1263, a German priest, Peter of Prague, was on his way to Rome. He doubted the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He stopped to say Mass at a church in Bolsena. When he elevated the host, blood began to drip down his hand and fell on the linen corporal. He knew Pope Urban IV was in the nearby town of Orvieto. He left Mass without finishing the service and went to explain what happened to Pope Urban. Pope Urban sent bishops to investigate the event, and concluded this was a miracle. The blood stained corporal is still kept in the Cathedral of Orvieto and can be viewed today.
Pope Urban IV, known prior to his papacy as Jacques Pantaleon, Arch Deacon of Liege, instituted that the universal Church would celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, September of 1264. 
There are many Eucharistic miracle stories, Jesus himself clearly shared his intention to be with us in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist, and yet many still doubt that Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. In a 2013 article, "Knowing is Believing--and sometimes not knowing is believing, too" (uscatholic.org, by Scott Alexis), the author sites these statistics regarding US Catholics: 
33% are unaware of the Church teaching of the Real Presence and do not believe in the Real Presence, 
4% are aware of the Church teaching and do not believe in the Real Presence
17% are unaware of the Church teaching of the Real Presence, yet believe in the Real Presence
46% are aware of the Church teaching of Real Presence and believe in Real Presence
These statistics help to echo the words of the Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen: "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”
Those of us reading this post, are in the same position of his followers over 2,000 years ago. Sunday we celebrated the feast to commemorate the "Source and summit of our faith" - that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. To remember the special gift of himself that Jesus gave us.
My last point comes from my own experience. My wife and children moved to Palm Beach Gardens, FL, in the summer of 1997. We were looking for a church home. We ended up at Jupiter First Church across the street, not St Peter. Why that choice is a story for another time. We attended there for five years. We were very active, going to service each Sunday, courses during week nights, and I taught Sunday School, was involved in youth ministry, and was teaching a Bible study to high school students. The last few years there, I had a series of conversations in which I was clarifying and defending the Catholic Church's teachings. I also found that I was leaving the Sunday services feeling empty and some days depressed, even though the sermons and services were inspiring. With these feelings of lack and defending the Church, I decided it might be a good idea to cross the street and return to Mass.
I remember doing so and sitting in the back row. Within a few minutes I was brought to tears. This would again happen the next Sunday. Soon I came to understand what I was missing, came to remember what I was missing: Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. I felt I had come home from a long journey away. 
Let us remember and not forget who we receive in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, really and truly present.
“He welcomes us even if he does not find in our eyes radiant joy at his presence.” – Karl Rahner
For those who receive Jesus each week, or have not in some time or ever at all, I would invite you to read and meditate on the Gospel of John, chapter 6, this week. Go to the source, Jesus Christ in prayer, to understand this truth. As you read the text prayerfully and meditatively, imagine yourself in the crowd through the discourse and especially as he asks, "Do you also want to leave?" What is your answer?

 

Divine Mercy Sunday * April 23, 2017 * 11:00am Mass

Deacon Steve McMahon

 

Divine Mercy Sunday * April 23, 2017 * 9:30am Mass

Deacon Don Battiston

 

"This Easter Season"

Deacon Serge Dube'

This Easter Season, let us make a firmer commitment to be kind to one another with our words, our faces and our actions. Even to those who act toward us in any way that is unkind, in person or through social media, may we meet them with kindness. Resist the default, defensive posture of reacting. Instead, take a deep breath and act by seeking to be understanding, for we are unaware of the struggles, pains, and wounds that others may be experiencing.

Paul encouraged the Church in Ephesus to never let evil talk pass their lips and to only say the good things people needed to hear, “only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear” as well as: "Be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ” (cf Ephesians 4;29-32). We can see that what we are experiencing in our country and world today is nothing new!

Here are a few concrete practices I came across a few weeks back when listening to a podcast (The Art of Catholic with Matthew Leornard, episode 062: The Power of Kindness) on the way in to school.

When making the intention to be kind, decide each day to:

RESIST: thinking unkindly of anyone, speaking unkindly to anyone, and acting unkindly to anyone.

DO COMMIT: at least once per day, to speak kindly of someone, think kindly about someone, and act kindly toward someone.

WHEN WE FALL, as we all will, let us then: make a brief act of contrition - recognize the unkindness we have done immediately and ask God to forgive us, offer an apology to the one we have been unkind to if possible, and third, offer a prayer of blessing for the person we have thought unkindly about, spoken about or to in an unkind manner, or acted unkindly to.

I invite you to sow some of these seeds of kindness with those to whom you interact with in person, online, while driving, and in our homes, through our faces, words and actions. EACH PERSON we encounter is created in the image and likeness of God and is deserving of respect and is to be treated with dignity. There is a lot of vitriol, poison and darkness being expressed from many. We have a choice to meet discord with understanding, darkness with light, hatred with love, to, as Jesus did, meet people where they are, listen instead of react, and then be bearers of his understanding and mercy. To be able to disagree but not be disagreeable, to accept the dignity of the person offering a differing view, to stand for what we believe in through dialogue not monologue, meaning being able to listen and talk with, not just talk over the other. We cannot do this alone, we need to support one another, draw strength from one another and smile at one another. If we invite Jesus to help us we will also have the infinite power of our loving God and Father to fill us with that peace that surpasses all understanding.

With our Amen, our yes, let us be conformed to the Body of Jesus the Christ, that we may be bearers of his love, his mercy and his grace to a people in need of healing. I invite you to forgive someone today, to let go of a grudge, to pray for someone who has offended or hurt you in any way. I invite you to direct a smile to someone today, to discern the words you let loose vocally or in print. May we be present to one another and mindful of what we say, to speak so as to bring healing, to speak so as to empower, to speak so as to inspire, and to speak so as to be kind.

Being that it is Earth Day, may we also make a commitment to extend our kindness to all of God’s Creation, especially our Mother Earth:

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs" (Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 1).

Peace and all God’s good,
Deacon Serge Dube’

 

Third Sunday of Lent * March 19, 2017 * 5:30pm Mass

Deacon Stephen Scienzo

Click HERE to read Deacon Stephen's Homily.

 

Third Sunday of Lent * March 18, 2017 * 4:30pm Mass

Deacon Serge Dube'

Click HERE to read Deacon Serge's Blog.

 

“Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

Deacon Serge Dube'

Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours have the option of reading this verse each day of Lent up until the Fifth Saturday of Lent. You may have also heard it said or sung this past Sunday as: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” It was the antiphon for the Responsorial Psalm during the Third Sunday of Lent in this year.

The verse comes from Psalm 95:6-8: “Enter, let us bow down and worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For this is our God, whose people we are, God’s well-tended flock. Oh that today you would hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.”

This verse and Psalm 95 also echoes Exodus 17. The Israelite community made camp at Rephidim and are quarreling with Moses because they have no water. Instead of trusting in God to provide for their need, the people are contentious with and put the Lord to the test when they say to Moses: “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and livestock” (Exodus 17:3)? The people would appear to rather seek a return to slavery in Egypt and have their basic needs met rather than to journey onward as a free people toward the Promised Land.

The real concern is: “Is the Lord in our midst or not” (Exodus 17:3).

The people certainly had a valid concern, there was no water and they were in the midst of the desert. Yet in their suffering and fear they chose not to trust, they instead hardened their hearts questioning the presence of God in their midst. They focused solely on the challenge before them instead of reaching out to the one who had parted the waters, who had fed them with manna and quail. Time and again God remained faithful and time and again the people grumbled and complained to Moses. Yet time and again the people did not invite God into their situation, did not reach out to him in their need, instead they turned their back to him, they hardened their hearts toward him.

Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts! This is a call for us to be a people of prayer, not just when trials and tribulations arise, but as St Paul invites us: “Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians 5:17-18). A key way to repent, to turn back to God and recognize him in our midst, is to give thanks for what we have been given. Many times if we are sad, frustrated, angry, we are, like the Israelites, focusing on what we do not have rather than what we do have. In this way, we can, with the Israelites wonder if God is in our midst or in our contemporary version wonder in fact, is God dead?

If we are not spending time with God in prayer, meditation, the liturgy of the Mass, or examining how he is interacting with us every day, we can wonder if he is in our midst or if he even does exist, or worse, believe God does, but live our life as if he does not, not taking time to consult God in the making of our decisions, not making time to read the Bible, to pray to attend Mass. God only exists as one to complain to when things go wrong. This does not have to be. If you do not believe in God, if you are not sure, or you do but you are estranged from him, or feel he is distant. Lent is a time, today is an opportunity to encounter Jesus in your midst.

Each day is a new beginning, a new invitation to take the hand of Jesus that is held out to us. No matter if you have never prayed or haven’t for some time, have wanted to and do not know how, or have made attempts to pray and felt you have failed. I invite you today to spend some time in prayer. Sit somewhere comfortable and imagine Jesus sitting there with you. Quietly take five minutes with Jesus in silence, call to mind, even just one thing you are thankful for, and thank him. A heart that is thankful is soft. If after five minutes you can think of nothing to be thankful for, thank him for spending time with you. Thank him for five minutes to rest in him. God our loving Father seeks to speak with us, to build a relationship with us. He sends his Son to be present through the love of the Holy Spirit. Even when we feel nothing or do not experience anything, even when we feel alone, we have not failed at prayer. We may be tempted to think nothing is happening, or we may ask “Is the Lord in our midst or not”. Know and trust that Jesus is with us, he will not forsake us.

When we open our heart to him he hears our prayers and is present. When we call on his name he is in our midst, because just as with the woman at the well, whom I mentioned in my last post, Jesus is already waiting for us. As Karl Rahner (1904-1984) wrote, “to be human persons is essentially always already to be those who listen for a possible revelation of God. Since at the same time and for the same reason that we stand before God, we stand before the God of a possible revelation, there always occurs something like a revelation, namely the speaking or the silence of God”

We are created to be in communion with God. Prayer is one of the means of that communion; one of the ways God reveals himself to us. Let us resist the hardness of heart that keeps God and others at arm’s length, let us resist the fear of being still and quiet, instead embracing an opportunity to unplug and enter into the silence with hearts open, let us say yes to his invitation to love!

If today you hear the voice or silence of God, harden not your hearts!

Rahner, Karl. Hearer of the Word. (New York: Continuum, 1994), 72.