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Sunday, February 14, 2021

God's Healing Touch (Mark 1:40-45)

 Homily – Deacon Pat - Mark 1:40-45


God’s Healing Touch

In today’s gospel, we heard that a leper approached Jesus with strong faith and with a humble heart asked for healing.

Seeing his faith and humility, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him with love and mercy.

That touch to the leper bridged the gap between what is clean and what was unclean, and in that connection he purified the man and he was healed.

We all need healing from some kind of leprosy that separates us from our true selves, from others, and from God.

But what is this so-called Leprosy that I speak of?

·       Is our leprosy a pervasive selfishness?

·       Is it an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, excessive internet shopping, gambling, or pornography?

· It is a chronic expression of anger, rudeness, hostility, self-centeredness, or righteousness?

·       Is it gossip, or an unhealth addiction to the internet and social media?

The list could go on and on….

Weakness in many ways goes hand in hand with being human does it not?

We all know our weaknesses, don’t we?

Especially if we are practicing the Catholic practice of examining our conscience on a daily basis, reflecting each night during our prayers on not only the blessing from the day but also on our failures, our sins, and our short comings.

Those who have kept the discipline of the daily examine are well aware of their spiritual leprosy.

And those that are aware have three choices:

·       They can try to rationalize away their weakness. The devil loves that!

·       They can live in a sense of personal shame while doing nothing about it. The devil likes that too!

·       Or, they can turn to Christ and ask for healing. You can image how the devil feels about that.

I think most of us here would agree that to be human is to battle against inclinations and temptations that often are contrary to a Godly choice or what we would consider a virtue.

I would bet that many of us here would also agree that even the most fervent and devout Catholic will slip and fall to temptation from time to time.

But what separates those who are actually embracing the faith and God’s Sacraments from those who are not, are those who run toward Christ when they sin.

Running to Christ means running to the Church and her Sacraments as in the Sacrament of healing, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.

This is where we reach out to God with a contrite spirit and humbly ask for forgiveness and our soul is washed clean by God’s touch of grace.

Yes, it takes humility and faith to go to confession.

Just as the Leper in the gospel surely showed humility and faith as he approached and spoke to Jesus, and asked to be healed.

Isn’t it remarkable how these Gospel passages can speak to us directly if we allow them to?

·       Ask, and God shall hear.

·       Ask and God can heal.

And when we are healed, we can then be an agent of further healing to others.

Yes, it takes faith and courage, but Jesus calls each one of us to destroy the walls that separate us from Him, and from others, and to welcome the outcasts and the untouchables of society.

Those outcasts and those untouchables might just be some that we can call family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, or even co-workers.

God’s loving hand must reach out to the poor, the sick, and lepers — this often can be done through us — and Jesus wants us to touch their lives.

And how we touch their lives does not need to be great missionary feats or enormous acts.

They can be very simple as Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us through her motto: “Do small things with great love,” her “small things” left a big impact on the lives of so many of the poor and outcast.

Yet Mother Teresa’s lived wisdom taught us even more as she said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy, but rather the feeling of being lonely and unwanted.”

I know this personally to be true after spending over three decades serving those in the mental health system.

The pain of loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is a greater sorrow, a deeper ache, than any other disease I am aware of.

And yet, this pain and sorrow at times can be so easily relived.

All it might take is for someone to be willing to be Christ-like to them.

 

I recall a story I once heard of St. Francis of Assisi encountering and kissed a leper on the road.

The leper soon disappeared and then Francis realized that he had embraced and kissed Christ.

 

I wonder how many opportunities we have had to meet Christ on the road of our daily lives and missed those opportunities due to being too distracted, too self-focused, or just too unbothered?

Our Pope Francis very often says that, “Our Church community should be seen as a hospital for sinners, not as a hotel for saints.”

 

Lets us begin today seeing our own faults first.

This will keep us humble.

Let us also pledge that we will run toward Christ when we sin and ask for His forgiveness.

 

And Finally, as we prepare ourselves to receive in just a short time the Most Holy Eucharist, Christ himself in body, blood, soul, and divinity, that we accept his healing touch.

That He will open our hearts to see those in our families and in our community who are hurting.

And that we will share God’s love and mercy with them as we would share with Christ himself.

Praise be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Thanksgiving Message


Thanksgiving Day

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. (Lk 17:11-19)

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

“The Gospel of the Lord”

 


 

In Luke’s gospel, we start with ten men who have the worst disease of their day.

The physical ramifications are horrendous.

Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, missing fingers, missing toes, damaged limbs.

In many cases, the initial pain of leprosy gives way to something more terrible than that - a loss of sensation in nerve endings, leading to more damage to more body parts.

The disease can take 30 years to run its course, and in that time span, entire limbs can simply fall off. It is, assuredly, a most horrible disease.

We have nearly an impossible task in trying to fathom what it was like 2,000 years ago when medical treatment as we know it today was almost non-existent.

I recalled reading in a book a few years back while being on a pilgrimage, a Christian woman was near a modern-day leper colony.

Something within her had always wanted to minister in a leper colony and her trip overseas had given her the first opportunity to be near such a place.

She walked by the entrance three times.

She saw those who were suffering.

She begged herself for a chance to go inside. But she could not.

The reason? The smell overwhelmed her.

She could not work up the stomach to go inside the colony.

She could not bear the thought of missing the opportunity to personally serve the Lord and the Lepers, but at the same time becoming violently ill at what she was faced with seemed to be too much.

The trip passed, and she was not able to go inside.

And, I think, we gained a new appreciation of how bad this disease must have been in the days of Christ.

It wasn't just the grotesque damage, or the attack to our sight.

It wasn't just the loud cries, the attack to our hearing.

It was also the smell of rotting, decaying flesh, overwhelming even our sense of smell.

The emotional pain of a leper, however, must have been even worse than the physical pain.

He was removed from his family, from his community.

There could be no contact, whatsoever, with his children or grandchildren.

None. Immediately removed. His wife would not be allowed to kiss him goodbye.

He would not have allowed it anyway, for fear that she, too, would become afflicted.

Lepers tended to roam together, looking for food, begging for assistance from a great distance, learning to yell in loud voices, both from the need to warn others, and to beg for help from across the way.

What would it have been like to have been removed from friends and family for a lifetime, and to have been forced to announce that removal on a daily basis? It must have been horrible.

And yet, in this account, ten men encounter Jesus, and hear him say the most unusual thing.

"We want to be well!" they scream at Jesus.

And the great teacher responds, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."

The local priest had duties other than leading the worship on each Sabbath.

He was also something of a health official.

If a person was miraculously healed of leprosy, it was up to the priest to inspect the body, to test for a complete removal of the disease, and to announce the person healed.

In such cases, the person would have been cleansed, and at that point, it would be fine for the leper to see his wife again, to hold his daughter again, to look for work again.

If the priest gave him the OK, he would be healed!

Now, Jesus says to these lepers, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."

They look down at their bodies.

The hands of one man are still mangled.

Another man looks at his leg, which ends with a filthy rag at the knee.

Another looks at his skin, and finds it as repulsive as ever.

In other words, all of these men were no better off than they had been ten minutes earlier, when they had first spotted the famous teacher.

And yet, they headed off in search of the priests.

And on their way, they were healed.

On their way, a hand reappeared and tingled with life.

A crutch tripped on a filthy rag, as it fell to the ground.

The leg was back, healthy, whole, complete.

The skin cleared, and the tiny hairs on a forearm turned from snow white to a healthy brown.

One looked at the other, another looked at the rest, and the screaming started.

The smiles broke into cheering and a sweet madness.

They raced off in the distance, not believing that the nightmare was finally over.

But in order for the miracle to happen, these men had to start walking in faith before their circumstances had changed one tiny bit.

Is there a more potent lesson for us, on this Thanksgiving Day?

We cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith.

We cannot put conditions on our holy God.

We cannot say, "Lord, as soon as there's enough money, I will follow your instructions."

We cannot pray, "Lord, if you'll just solve this issue in my family, I'll start going to church regularly."

We cannot put conditions on God!

Instead, God places a demand for faith on us, before anything at all has changed.

God might say, "Love me despite the disease.

Obey me despite the lack of talent, or the lack of resources.

Follow me now, despite the depression.

Say no to the temptation, while it still is difficult.

Praise me in the darkest of nights, and in the worst of circumstances."

This is the nature of God, a God who loves us so much.

He gives us the opportunity to be thankful when nothing about our circumstances gives us motivation.

My friends, that is the very definition of faith.

If we praised God only on the good days, only in the best of circumstances, it would not be faith at all.

That would be more like a business arrangement - and this is not about business!

Some of you might be in horrible circumstances, right now.

This year has been one of the most difficult years for so many of us.

With the COVID pandemic and all its effects, it has created so much turmoil; financial, emotional, a sense of overwhelming fear and anxiety.

Many have lost jobs, and lost their homes.

For many of us, our lives have been permanently affected and the way of life we had known and were comfortable with is no longer in sight.

Yet, we are Catholic, we are to believe. We are to have faith.

We are to know that God’s ways are not our ways and that He uses everything to create a greater good and to give an opportunity for us to grow in virtue, especially trust, love, patience, perseverance, forgiveness, and hope.

So, the question on this Day of Thanksgiving is:

Will we be thankful despite the difficult circumstances?

Will we, like the Lepers, believe and have faith in the promises of Christ?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Kearns Boys - Our Newest Book

Available on Amazon (Click here)

When our brother Pat suggested the six brothers collaborate and write a book based on random recollections of our experiences growing up, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And certainly didn’t anticipate learning anything new about my brothers. When it was suggested that we each write 10 stories, I thought that might be a stretch. 

I wondered what the theme of the book would become. Stories that poked fun at each other? Stories that revealed a crazy sense of humor? Confessions of deeds better-kept secret? And could we even come up with ten stories each? I assumed some of the stories would include our parents but didn’t expect the level of respect and love for them each brother went to great lengths to share. The book, and our lives, are a true testament for just how special they were. Is it rare that we six are all still friends and good friends at that? I may be biased but I think we are genuinely good people. Our morals are solid. Our respect for God, family, and country are unshakable. These attributes can be traced directly to how we were raised by mom and dad.

Going into this project we each thought we knew our brothers. I know I didn’t expect to learn anything new.  After all, being the oldest, I was the only one who could claim that I was there for each of their entire lives…… As is often the case, how wrong I was. The ten-story goal did turn out to be a challenge, but only because it was hard to decide which ten stories to share. We have lived full lives for sure. And, admittedly, some stories are probably not appropriate for a “family” book – those will have to wait for volume two. We have led different lives and that is apparent in our writings, both style, and content. But I think there is a commonality in our sharings, it's clear we each have a love for family and each other.

One unexpected outcome from this effort is a newfound desire to learn more about my brothers. I know there is so much I missed, and these stories reveal glimpses of some pretty entertaining guys. Unlike our friends, we don’t choose our brothers. In our case though, I can’t imagine not having any of the five as my brothers. And I would also choose each one of them as my friends. Sure, we still argue, and at times a disagreement might create some distance, but it never lasts and that is the beauty of being family.

I hope as you read through this compilation of happy, sad, embarrassing, thankful, blessed times of our lives, you will also get a glimpse of just what a great job Tom and Betty, our parents, did to set us on the right course. God truly blessed us.

Kevin


2021 - Thinking Ahead as a Catholic/Chrsistian

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wise like a Virgin

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 
Originally written by Fr. Roger J. Landry (Adapted by Deacon Pat Kearns)
 Wis 6:12-16, Ps 63:2-8, 1Thes 4:13-14, Mt 25:1-13 


 In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses an image that might seem a little strange about the practices involving a wedding, but the details would have been easily understood by the people of the time and by those living in Palestine. There were two main stages in a marriage. The first would be the exchange of vows. When this took place, the couple was considered married, but they would continue to live apart for a while, even up to a year, while the husband prepared everything to welcome his new wife into his home. It was during this time, for example, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary; she was already wedded to Joseph but they had not started to live under the same roof. The second stage was when the bridegroom, the husband, would come to the house of the bride to pick her up and take her to his home. He would be accompanied by all the guests from his side of the family as he went to her home. There he would meet her and all the guests from her side of the family, her bridesmaids and others. Both groups would process back together to his home and when they arrived, they would celebrate for eight days with all their friends and family. The bridegroom could come at any time to pick up his bride and so people needed to be ready. But before he would come, he would send out a herald who would announce along the path, “Behold the Bridegroom is coming,” but the Husband himself could come within hours, days, or even up to a week later. He could also come in the middle of the night. Additionally, there was a law at the time that said that if one were out at night, one had to have a lamp, which was not only common sense but prevented any ambushes. As soon as the Bridegroom took his Bride into his house, the doors would be shut, to prevent latecomers from crashing their party. This wedding tradition, which was universal at Jesus’ time, is still found today in certain parts of the Holy Land and the Middle East. 

Jesus used that image as the background to communicate to us how we should be living our life in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, at the end of our life or at the end of the world, whichever comes first. And in His message Jesus contrasts five wise bridesmaids versus five foolish ones, wanting us to imitate the lessons we see in the five wise ones. Corresponding to this message, it isn’t a coincidence that November is the month in which the whole Church reflects on the four last things — death, judgment, heaven and hell. And By this image contained in the parable Jesus tries to help us prepare well for the first two: Death and Judgment, so that we may experience the third (Heaven) and avoid the fourth (Hell). But for this to happen, we need to learn three crucial lessons from the wise virgins. 

The first lesson is VIGILANCE for the Bridegroom’s coming. The heralds have already gone out to announce that Jesus is coming. He is already married to his bride the Church, but he’s awaiting the time in which he will be able to celebrate with the wedding banquet that will last not just eight days, but be an eternal eighth day (the day of resurrection, the new and eternal “first day of the week”). All of us have been given invitations and are members of the wedding party. Jesus wants us there. But we have to be ready to go with him whenever he arrives. And the best way for us to stay alert for the return of the Bridegroom is for us to be ready, with hearts burning with love, for the presence of the Bridegroom. 
 • The more we long for Jesus in the Eucharist, the more we will long to share eternal communion with him. 
 • The more we attentively listen to his Word in Sacred Scripture, the more prepared we will be to hear even the softest footsteps of his advent. 
 • The more we seek to recognize him in the persons and events of each day, and love and embrace them as we would love and embrace Christ, the more ready we will be to embrace Christ when he appears without disguise. 

The second thing Jesus teaches us in the image of the ten bridesmaids is that THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS WE CANNOT BORROW. Just as the unwise virgins didn’t have enough oil for their own lamps — and the image of oil stands for expectant love for the Lord — so we can’t borrow anyone else’s faith, hope or love. We need to have our own, otherwise we’ll be caught unready and be left outside. I can’t count how many times people who aren’t faithful to the practice of the faith say when I am trying to encourage them into greater fidelity, “I don’t come to Mass, but my wife comes all the time.” On other occasions, people who are ineligible to become a godparent because they don’t practice the faith, have said, “But my grandmother is one of the most active parishioners in the parish.” Sometimes they will try to name-drop, by saying, “But my cousin is a priest.” To all of them, I explain that there are certain things we cannot borrow, and one of them is another’s relationship with the Lord. 
 • We can’t borrow another’s faith. 
 • We can’t borrow another’s expectant hope. 
 • We can’t borrow another’s soul or spiritual life. 
 And for those who are faithful to Christ, there’s a lesson here, too, that there are certain things we cannot lend. While Jesus wants us to give of ourselves to others, to share with others freely the gifts He has so lavishly shared with us, there are certain things that we cannot give even to those we love. There are certain things that they must do for themselves. One is to develop this relationship with the Lord, this eager, expectant, vigilant, faithful love for God. Those who think that they can borrow other’s relationships with the Lord when the Lord comes, are indeed foolish, as Jesus says about the unwise bridesmaids. 

And finally, there is the third lesson that THERE IS A TIME THAT CAN BE TOO LATE. The unwise virgins were caught off guard. They couldn’t borrow oil, so they had to try to obtain some on their own, but they missed the bridegroom and were locked out. They knocked on the door saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But then he replied with the words that I think are the saddest and most frightening in all of Sacred Scripture: “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” For the Lord to know us, for us to be on time for the wedding banquet, we have to spend our time here getting to know him intimately, as a friend, as a savior, as God. Many of us often put off the most important thing in life, which is to make God number one in our lives. We allow the devil to deceive us by saying, “No hurry, There’s always time.” We allow the devil to insinuate that we can behave like the Good Thief, commit our sins, do our own thing in this life, and that the Lord Jesus will give us the chance at the end to say one prayer and everything we will work out. If we were to think that, though, we would be as foolish as the foolish virgins in the parable. Jesus tells us that there will be a time when there will be no time left. There will be a time when the door will be shut. All of us have known people who have died unexpectedly, even young people. Even the healthiest person is this Church could die today. The Lord in today’s Gospel tells us that the wise among us will always be prepared. The moral he gives at the end of today’s parable is crystal clear: “Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” To be awake means never to be asleep to God, but always to be alert, full of love, waiting for his return. 

Three important lessons: 
 • Be Vigilant. 
• Develop your own relationship with Christ. 
 • And do not procrastinate 

 This Mass is meant to help us with each of the three. If we’re truly ready to meet the Lord each week here, 
 • with our souls cleansed from serious sin by the use of regular confession, 
 • with our hearts hungering for Him, 
 • and with the Lord himself, the Light of the World, burning inside of us, we’ll never be caught off guard, whether He comes today, tomorrow, or ninety years from now. 

 Our reaction to what we have heard today, and to the tremendous gift that is the Mass, will determine whether in the final analysis we are deemed to be foolish or wise? (Repeat) 

Lets us all heed Christ’s warning and ensure through our actions that we will be considered the wise. Thanks be to God…. Amen