Sunday, September 22, 2019

25th Sunday in OT 2019 - "You cannot serve both God and Mammon"

“You cannot serve both God and mammon." Last week, a parishioner, perhaps looking ahead to this week’s reading, asked me before Mass, “Father, what does the Bible mean when it refers to mammon?”

Just from the context of today’s Gospel, we can surmise that mammon has something to do with money or wealth or earthly possessions.  After all, this teaching about mammon follows a parable about steward who squandered his master’s property, certainly recalling from last week, the parable of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance on his earthly appetites.

This dishonest steward, instead of serving his master’s interests, has squandered his office, and only after getting caught, does he scramble to make some amends. Instead of serving his master, he has served an idol, a false master, himself.

The word mammon comes from the Aramaic word for “trust”. So “mammon” is something, anything that you trust in, other than God. It could mean money, it could mean power, it could mean your own ego.

So, Jesus isn’t calling money, evil, here, per se. Most people use money for very good reasons, like providing for their family.  But some people sell out their family, their country, their integrity . . . for money.  Money becomes a false idol, money becomes mammon when it is pursued at the expense of one’s soul. But again, not just money can become mammon; I read an article this week in which a Hollywood actress was boasting that it was her multiple abortions which enabled her to grow in fame—she willingly sacrificed the lives of her children for personal fame and wealth. Mammon is a relentless unholy god that demands sacrifice for short-term gain at the expense of others.

Last week, the prodigal son, having squandered his inheritance, was symbolic of sinful humanity, guilty of a squandered relationship with God resulting in the spiritual death of sin. But the good news was that the father in the parable, was symbolic of God, who runs to embrace his repentant son in mercy. Each of us, falling into sin, over and over, is pursued by God who longs to embrace us in his mercy.

Well, the dishonest steward, this week is symbolic as well, but of who? Well, Jesus is certainly addressing the Pharisees, who have squandered their holy office, their sacred duty, for their own sordid gain. They were supposed to be true spiritual leaders in Israel, helping people to be faithful to God and helping people to recognize how God was working in their lives. Jesus equates the Pharisees with the unfaithful, dishonest, steward, for their failure to help people recognize Jesus as Son of God and follow Him.

But this parable is also addressed again, just like last week, to every Christian of every age, to all of us. The parable challenges us to ensure that we do not squander the time we have been given, the treasure with which we’ve been entrusted, and to be vigilant against becoming a slave to mammon, and to serve God in even the smallest of matters.

So, what does it mean to serve God? Our first reading defines this service as care for the poor, honesty in our business transactions. Speaking through the prophet Amos, the Lord God, has some pretty harsh words for those who would take advantage of the poor and whose priorities are not aligned with God’s. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.. Never will I forget a thing they have done!” Lest we think we are off the hook as long as we are not cheating the poor outright, the Lord condemns just as strongly those who are anxious for the Sabbath to be over in order to pursue the things of the earth.

Rather, we are to live for God all week, by placing Christ at the center of everything we do, and to remember our responsibility to the poor in our midst, the materially poor and spiritually poor, to ensure that we are setting good example for young people, to ensure that our time, talent, and treasure is entirely at the service of God.

Time, talent, and treasure. That’s a phrase this parish is pretty familiar with. Over the last five years, our former pastor Fr. Troha was very vigilant in calling the parish to commit their time, talent, and treasure to the Lord’s service. And though, we know longer will have the month long stewardship renewal, we do well to make an examination of our personal stewardship with questions like: am I reasonably supporting the Church and the work of the Church with my time, talent, and treasure? Am I setting aside time every day for some form of service to God? Am I setting aside a reasonable amount of treasure every week that will go to help someone else-- that will lift someone else’s burdens? What is an appropriate percentage of my income to give to God? 1% 5% 10%? Am I using my talents to make the world more beautiful, to glorify God so that strangers and neighbors and family may believe in Him? Could I get to daily mass during the week, or could I do spiritual reading, if I spent less time on social media, if I didn’t stay up so late watching television?

At the end of every day, we do well to make an examination of conscience—an account of how we have spent our time, talent, and treasure—to repent of our selfishness and to seek God’s help in being more generous the next day.

Just like last week, this week’s parable contains challenge, warning and promise. Yes, we are challenged to ensure we are honest and prudent before God, and we are warned, that we will, at the end of life, be required to give a full account of our stewardship before God. But we also hear God’s promise: those who are faithful shall be known as children of the light; a “tranquil life of devotion and dignity”, as St. Paul, describes in our second reading, “is pleasing to God.” And shall be rewarded in eternity.

For to the extent which we have given ourselves away in this life, in imitation and in union with Christ Our savior, we will be blessed in eternity. So may we be generous for the glory of God and salvation of souls.



Friday, September 20, 2019

Sept 20 2019 - St. Andrew Kim, St Paul Chong Hasang, and companions - Blood of Martyrs, Seed of Christians

St. Andrew Kim, the first native-born Korean priest, risked his life smuggling missionaries into Korea, so that his native countrymen might have the Word of God preached to them. For this he was arrested, tortured and killed.

Andrew Kim was canonized in 1984 by Pope St. John Paul II, along with a very heroic seminarian, Paul Chong Hasang, and 103 other martyrs who died for the faith in Korea. When Seminarian Paul Hasang was captured, he gave a written statement to the judge who would decide his fate defending Catholicism. The judge, after reading it, said, "You are right in what you have written; but the king forbids this religion, it is your duty to renounce it” to which the seminarian replied, "I have told you that I am a Christian, and will be one until my death." For this, he too, was tortured and killed.

St. Andrew Kim Parish in Cleveland is named in honor of this courageous martyr, and is home to many Korean Catholics in our diocese. In fact, the diocese has had a long relationship with the South Korean Archdiocese of Daegu which has sent their seminarians to our seminary to complete their formation. They are ordained here in Cleveland, and serve in our parishes for a number of years before returning home. We, in a very real sense, are beneficiaries of the heroic martyrdom of the saints we celebrate today.

For centuries, Catholicism was seen as a threat to Korean customs and traditions, so Christianity took root in Korea only after much struggle and effort. But when it did begin to take root, those roots were strong.

At their 1984 canonization, Saint John Paul II called Saint Andrew Kim, Saint Paul and their 111 companions “the leaven” that lead to the splendid flowering of the Church in Korea.

How are we called to be “leaven” today—the leaven that will lead to the flowering of the Church in our own land? What will we do today that will lead souls to Christ? What will our Christian witness look like today in our own limited capacity?

The blood of the martyrs is the most powerful leaven in the Church, inspired by the heroic sacrifices of the martyrs, may the Holy Spirit teach us to pour ourselves out in faithful service this day, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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For all Christians facing persecution for the faith, that their sufferings may bring about the conversion of hardened souls to Christ.

For the good Korean Catholics of our diocese, that they may continue to be a blessing to our local Church.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests, deacons and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.

Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

24th Week in OT 2019 - Wednesday - Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth

I came across a small booklet at my home parish in Madison, many years ago. It was titled, “Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth”, those two epithets in reference, of course, to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

As God guided the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt by giving them a pillar of fire to light their way across the dark wilderness  (Exod. 13:21), today God guides us through his Catholic Church.

And in this age of countless competing religions, each clamoring for attention, one voice rises above the din: the Catholic Church, which St. Paul calls “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) in our first reading today.

“Great is Artemis of Ephesus” cried the rioting crowd of Ephesus when Paul challenged their idolatry with the Gospel. The pagan peoples throughout the centuries have all claimed greatness for their various gods. But Paul counters the pagan cries with “Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion”, that is Christ. For the Christian God does not remain hidden in some unreachable realm, but he has “manifested in the flesh”. He is visible.

So too, his Church, the pillar of fire, the pillar of truth is visible. The power of her holiness can be seen in the saints, the power to transform lives of dissipation into lives of heroic sanctity.

And as pillar of truth, the Church clearly teaches the truth of the Gospel without compromise with the errors of the world. And she has clear, visible structures to oversee and govern this teaching mission: her hierarchical structure, the teaching magisterium, the pope, and the Apostles who order and lead with authority coming from Christ Himself.

Any merely human organization with such members would have collapsed early on. And her vigor, with over a billion members, one sixth of the human race, is not simply a testimony to the cleverness of the Church’s leaders, but to the presence of the Holy Spirit, guiding her and protecting her.
As a pillar of truth, she is often in conflict to those who belong to the world, as the Lord describes in the Gospel today, the people of this generation who, like children in the marketplace yell out calls of mockery and disdain.

But we know that through Holy Church, we have union with God Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, our assurance of eternal life, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That our Holy Father, all the bishops, priests, and deacons of the Church will courageously preach the Truth of the Gospel in its fullness.
For the purification of Holy Church from all error and heresy, especially among those who preach and teach.
That the fire of the Holy Spirit may be evident in all members of the Church, and in this parish community.
For mercy and peace for all those who suffer: for the sick and diseased, for those undergoing surgery this week, for the destitute and despairing, for all victims of war, violence, and abuse, and for those who will die today and the consolation of their families.
For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, and for N., for whom this mass is offered.
O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

September 17 2019 - St. Robert Bellarmine - Adorned with learning and virtue


St. Robert Bellarmine was a brilliant man.  He was a promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, and was devoted to studying Church History, the Fathers of the Church, and Scripture.  He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1570, a time when the Church was being attacked by Protestant “Reformers.”

He became a professor at what is now the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome and his lectures there became the basis of his most famous work, his three-volume Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus hujus temporis Haereticos—“Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of This Time” containing the lucid and uncompromising explanation of Catholic doctrine in light of errors of his day.

When he was made a Cardinal by Pope Clement VIII, St. Robert insisted on living a simple life rather than embracing the privileges he could have had.  He abstained from luxurious meals, and gave away many of his possession to clothe the poor.   He served as a theologian to the pope and published two important catechisms.  St. Robert Bellarmine’s long delayed canonization took place in 1930 and he was declared a doctor of the Church one year later.

Here was a man totally dedicated to Christ and His Church.  He devoted his life to the study of Scripture and Catholic doctrine.  His writings, intelligence, and character served the church at a time that was most needed.  God gave Robert Bellarmine wisdom and goodness to defend the faith of His church and to help others understand it.

We are reminded of the need to learn and understand our faith in order to defend it when it is under attack and also to spread it when the time is right.  St. Bellarmine wrote: “if you are wise, then know that you have been created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation.  This is your goal; this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart.  If you reach this goal, you will find happiness.  If you fail to reach it, you will find misery.”

In the Gospel today for the memorial of Robert Bellarmine, the Lord himself teaches the danger of giving God lip-service, rather than seeking to conform your life to the Holy Will of God. “Not everyone who calls out, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.” This warning certainly keeps us vigilant, to consider all as loss, as St. Paul says, which keeps us from gaining Christ.

May we, like St. Robert Bellarmine, count all as loss, which does not help us to know and love Christ, to be adorned like him with learning and virtue, so to live the faith with joy for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That Robert Bellarmine, patron saint of Catechists, may assist with his prayers all those who teach the faith to be free of error and for the conversion of the heretics of our time.

That God’s wisdom may order our life, to pursue the treasures of heaven above all.

That the uninitiated who seek God may answer the call to Christian conversion and for the success of our parish RCIA programs.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.
For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests, deacons and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.
Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord.


Monday, September 16, 2019

September 16 2019 - Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian - The medicine of repentance

In yesterday’s Sunday Gospel, we heard three parables of rejoicing when the lost are found. There was joy and a celebration when the lost sheep was found. There was joy and a celebration when the lost coin was found after a time of diligent searching. And there was joy and a celebration when the lost son, the prodigal son, came to his senses, and returned home: he was dead and has come back to life, he was lost, and now is found.

Our Lord told these parables in response to the pharisees criticism that he dined with sinners. He tells these parables to signify that he has come precisely for sinners, and that the pharisees should be rejoicing over this fact. They should be rejoicing that he has come as the instrument of God’s mercy, that sinners may repent and be reconciled to God.

The saints we honor today, a martyred Pope and a martyred bishop from the 3rd century were church leaders who were concerned with the reconciliation of sinners.

During the persecution of Decius, many Christians had offered incense to the gods to save their lives. Others had bribed the authorities and had obtained a document which stated that they had offered such sacrifices.

The question arose of whether it was possible for these apostates to be reconciled to the Church. In the year 251, Pope Cornelius called a synod in Rome, and declared Catholics could be restored to the Church with what he called, “the usual medicines of repentance”.  That through penance and firm purpose of amendment, a sinner could be readmitted to Communion again. He was supported in this by many bishops, but especially St. Cyprian, the most important bishop in North Africa, who was one of the most important theologians and writers of the time.

There is no sin so great that it cannot be absolved in the Sacrament of Confession. . God reaches out to the sinner, those who have publicly denied him, those living as if he did not exist. I think of many atheists who have publicly claimed to not believe in God, some of them were raised Catholic. For whatever reason, anger at God, pride, public pressure, they renounced their faith. God is even reaching out to them.

We pray for apostates: as long as they breath it is not too late for them to repent. The Lord might even be preparing some of us to witness to the faith to them, preparing us to be apostles of mercy, instruments for the conversion of sinners. The angels of heaven who rejoice over the conversion of sinners, are waiting for us, to do our part in the reconciliation of those who have fallen away. Unlike the joyless second son in yesterday's Gospel, we welcome sinners home with great celebration

Through the intercession of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian may we faithfully bear God’s mercy to all those in need of it, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That the Pope and all the clergy may be courageous and kind instruments of mercy, and for the grace and strength to seek out the lost, last, and least.

That through the intercession of the martyrs Cornelius and Cyprian, lapsed Catholics will be moved to return to the Sacraments.

For all the needs of the sick and the suffering, the homebound, those in nursing homes and hospitals, the underemployed and unemployed, victims of natural disaster, war, and terrorism, for all those who grieve the loss of a loved one, and those who will die today, for their comfort, and the consolation of their families.

For the repose of the souls of our beloved dead, for all of the poor souls in purgatory, for the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased priests, deacons and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom.


Incline your merciful ear to our prayers, we ask, O Lord, and listen in kindness to the supplications of those who call on you. Through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

24th Sunday in OT 2019 - God is at work to find the lost

In the three parables of Luke chapter 15, we hear of three lost objects: A lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

What do they have in common? Well, they are lost. The sheep becomes lost because he strays from the flock. The coin is lost in the darkness of a windowless home perhaps due to the negligence of its owner. “My son was lost” the father said, lost in selfishness, lost in his stubbornness, lost to his passions, lost to the consequences of his imprudent actions, lost in a ruptured relationship with his family, with his father.

Now, of course, the first two objects, you can’t really blame for becoming lost. The dumb sheep really doesn’t know any better than to wander off; inanimate coins can’t be blamed for becoming lost. But the son, he made some choices, didn’t he? His alienation from family, his separation from his father’s house, was due to his own free will; he chose to demand his inheritance before the proper time; he chose to squander his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

His prodigality, reminds us of Eve in the garden. No doubt he began to entertain some really bad ideas even before the demand of the inheritance, without thinking of their consequences. He allowed himself to become enraptured in temptation.

And like Adam and Eve, his sin involved a father. Adam and Eve ignored the commands of the Heavenly Father, to not eat from the forbidden tree. And the prodigal son treated his father, as if he was meaningless to him.

The prodigal son, squandering his inheritance in sin, is representative of humanity, become separated from God in sin. And much of humanity still, living their life as if God did not exist. We, like Him, can become so lost, we don’t even realize it.

It makes us think of those who seem lost to addiction. The addict often denies the damage being done in their lives. They see their bodies wasting away and continue to drink; they see the damage they are doing to their families and continue to gamble or overspend; they see the broken relationships and broken dreams and continue to head down the path of self-destruction. The addict minimizes the most important things, like family and health, and over values the high, the pleasure, the indulgence.
So too the prodigal son overvalues his independence, his pleasure, and undervalues the relationship with his father.

This parable is often read as analogy, where again, we are the prodigals. God the father, runs to embrace us with his mercy, an embrace of love and forgiveness and welcome when we have sinned. Yet before the father saw his son form a distance and ran to him, God was also at work mysteriously behind the scenes, in the son’s decision to return home.  It’s really a sort of miracle that he even recognized how lost he was, how close he was to death. For often, addicts push themselves to the brink of destruction. The sinful soul often denies its loss of grace, the danger of hell, and fails to repent.

When I celebrate the sacrament of confession, especially for a soul in mortal sin, it is a joy. We rejoice with the angels of God who rejoice when a sinner repents. And as a priest, it is a joy to be that instrument of mercy. But I also recognize that before that soul walks into the confessional, God was at work to wake them up, to help them to realize their sinful state, to bring about the repentance, which is so often the fruit of the prayers and sufferings of the Church, your prayers, and the sufferings offered up in union with the Lord.

It also makes me think of those with whom we work in the RCIA. Yes, RCIA prepares souls for the Sacraments of New Life, baptism, confirmation, and eucharist. But, God was already at work, behind the scenes, before these souls even show up to that first RCIA session. Again, the fruit of prayers and penances.

Everyone I’ve worked with in the RCIA has always shown up to that first session, because whatever has been going on in their life, perhaps they were protestant, perhaps they were raised with no religion, perhaps they lived a life of dissipation, like the prodigal son, and recognized the damage of their self-destructive behavior, perhaps, like St. Paul describes himself in the second reading, they were a persecutor of Catholics, arrogantly convinced of their own self-righteousness. In all these cases, they always show up to that first session because God has been working, and they have this holy desire for something more.

We are happy to announce that RCIA will be starting in just a few weeks. If you are unbaptized or a member of another faith tradition and are seeking something more, RCIA is for you. God has placed that desire for something more in your heart, and it’s time to make the journey home.

The parable of Son is an invitation for all of us to seek that something more. If you are not a fully initiated Catholic, seek that something more in the RCIA. If you are a Catholic who has fallen into mortal sin, seek that something more in the Sacrament of Confession, the merciful embrace of the Father. If your spiritual life has become arid, dry, seek something more through prayer and service. If you know of someone who has fallen into a life of dissipation, invite them to something more. Be the instrument of God in their life, that helps them home. Pray, pray, pray for those who are lost, that they may be found. They may appear lost to us, but they are not lost to God.

God is at work in each of our lives, urging us to seek that something more, that union with Him through faith, hope, and love, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.



Friday, September 13, 2019

September 13 2019 - St. John Chrysostom - Preach in and out of season

St. John Chrysostom was born in Antioch, about 250 years after our parish patron, the bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch went to his martyrdom. Perhaps the seed of our patron’s martyrdom yielded the fruit of St. John’s great faith.

The Gospel reading for his feast day is the parable of the sower of the seeds, for St. John sewed the seeds of the Gospel through his eloquent preaching and teaching. His name “Chrysostom” means golden tongued, about 600 hundred of his sermons and commentaries on scripture have been preserved, as well as many treatises on the moral and spiritual life, and a very famous book on the priesthood.

He explains that priests, as preachers must never simply preach what people want to hear, but preach the fullness of the Word of God. “A preacher must have a noble disposition to be able to check the inordinate and useless passion of the people, and to direct their attention to what is more profitable, and so to lead and direct them without being himself the slave of their fancies.”

Our Lord, we know from the Gospels, faced much hostility for the content of his preaching. He did not compromise the truth in order to appease the fancies of his audience.

In an age of moral relativism, when even many Christians turn away from authentic doctrine and sound moral teaching, each of us has the duty to remaining faithful to the truth of Christ despite pressures from the world and the worldly. Priests and bishops are under great pressure to compromise, to deviate from the truth, to preach to appease those "itching ears that turn away from sound doctrine" as Paul say, just as faithful Christians are labeled as “intolerant” by those who reject Church teaching, even by members of our family.

Rather, we seek to develop our skill in preaching, in sharing the truth of the Gospel clearly and eloquently, like St. John the Golden-Tongued, “to preach the word; in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction” as St. Paul writes to Timothy; for we were not made Christian to win the adulation of men, but for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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That the bishops and priests may be men of sound doctrine, and courageously preach the Gospel in its fullness. We pray to the Lord.
That government leaders around the world may carry out their duties with justice, honesty, and respect for freedom and the dignity of human life.  We pray to the Lord.
For the grace to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love our neighbors and enemies and those who persecute us, and to share the truth of the Gospel with all.  We pray to the Lord.
For all those who share in the sufferings of Christ—the sick, the sorrowful, and those who are afflicted or burdened in any way, especially those effected by hurricanes and storms.  We pray to the Lord.
For the deceased members of our families, friends, and parish, for the deceased clergy and religious of the diocese of Cleveland, for the poor souls in purgatory, and for those who have fought and died for our freedom. We pray to the Lord.
O God, who know that our life in this present age is subject to suffering and need, hear the prayers of those who cry to you and receive the prayers of those who believe in you. Through Christ our Lord.