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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Advent - What is it for Christians?

 


Advent - What is it for Christians? (Deacon Pat) (2nd Sunday Advent, Year-C) 

 As you are aware, we are now beginning the second week of Advent. Many people have a difficult time differentiating between the seasons of Advent and Lent, yet they are significantly different. During the season of Lent, our focus as Catholics is on our sins, doing penance, and preparing for Easter. Advent is also a special time to reflect deeply on our lives, but instead of focusing so much on our sins, it is a time to look at the relationships in our lives, initially with Christ, and then with others. 

The readings today speak of: 
• Lowering mountains 
• Filling age-old depths and gorges
• And making the ground level 

As well as: 
• Making the winding roads straight 
• And the rough roads smooth 

But what does this have to do with our current lives and our relationship with others? Well, could the mountains be the huge obstacles that we place between Christ and us: 
• Our Pride 
 • Our Self-Centeredness 
• Our Greed 
 • Our Lust 
 • Our Laziness 
 • And Our Anger? 

And the valleys.... could they be the areas of our lives where we try to hide in our: 
• Addictions 
• Our secretes 
• Our hidden thoughts and agendas? 

Yet, God does not want us to hide, nor does He want us to be “God-Like” in our unwarranted Arrogance. He wants our love of Him and of each other to increase ever more and more and for us to grow in the knowledge of every kind of perception to discern what is of value. The value in life is not what we own, or what status we possess, but rather in what kind of relationships we have established and maintained. 
• Are we loved, and do we Love? 
• Do we serve others, or are we expected to be served? 
• Do we Love God with all of our heart, all of our mind, and with all of our strength? 
• Do we love others as Christ has loved us? 

Advent is a time to reflect upon these relationships in “the light of Christ,” and to initiate change in our lives where change is needed. Advent is also a time to honor and celebrate the gift of God in sending his only son to earth to begin a relationship with us, and to prepare for the time when we will meet Him again. It is a time to put our lives back in order. It is a time to turn away from our habits, our routines, and our ways that seem to lead us away from Christ. It is a time to turn back toward Christ, to rekindle that relationship, to repair the damages, to return to that closeness, that intimacy. And not only with Christ, but also with those special people that God has placed in our lives. If there is hurt and anger in any of your relationships, it is a time for forgiveness and compassion. If there are relationships that over time have dwindled in closeness, grown cold, or maybe even Luke-warm, It is a time to rebuild them. 

• There are very few Men and Women in this world, if any, who would say that their marriage is just TOO intimate! 
• Or Sons and daughters who could say that they couldn’t be any closer to their parents, or their siblings. 
 • Or anyone I know, who could say that they couldn’t be any closer in their relationship with God! 

We all have an opportunity, the real question is will we take this time, this special time, to act in the Spirt of Advent? 

Advent is also a time to make a difference in the world around us. We are living in a peculiar time, not only in The Woodlands, or in Texas, but also in the entire United States. Some might say that there is more a more darkness growing around us and it only takes watching the news for a few minutes to see why one might think so. Yet, even with this growing darkness, there seems to be more and more people choosing to not participate in faith communities, especially the Catholic Church. You might ask why? I have been told by some, that when they observe many Catholics and their behaviors and actions, they don’t really see much difference than that of the “Un-Churched,” or what they do see, can often be described as hypocritical. 

I can remember a few wise words my father gave to me many years ago. He stated: “It’s not our thoughts or words that truly define us, but what our actions say... that does.” When he first mentioned this to me it really did not have much impact, I was a teenager. It was not until a few years later that I began to realize what he trying to teach me. I always knew my dad was a good man. He was liked by everyone, respected as a gifted teacher, and was known as a catholic. However, after one particular night, I began to see him differently. That night I had stayed out much too late, and knowing that I was going to be in trouble, I made my way to my parent's bedroom door to tell them that I was now home and ready to accept my punishment. But when I quietly opened the door, there was my dad, on his knees, praying the rosary. From that night on, I began to take a closer look at my dad. I watched and notice things about him I had never taken the time to notice before. I began to see all the things he secretly did, obscured from the sight of most. 
• I noticed how he never passed by a homeless man without giving him something, even if it was a few kind words. 
• I noticed that a negative word never seemed to come from his mouth. 
• I noticed that he was always the first to forgive. 
• And I noticed that he prayed the rosary every night, on his knees, in private. 

It didn’t take long watching this quiet and humble man to realize that he was not only a good and just man but a holy man. I often wonder what people would see if they decided to watch me as close as I watched my father... seeing the things that God sees every day. Have you ever wondered what people would see if they could see you as God sees you? None of us are perfect, that is for sure. And it takes true humility to look at ourselves and see where we have failed, faulted, strayed, and to admit that we have, in our actions, turned away from God. However.... the good news is! That.... is what.... Advent is all about! It is about looking at our lives, our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others, and changing our ways. It is about returning to Christ and becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be, especially in the light of Christ. This decision to repent, to turn back toward Christ, to put our lives back in order, is the first step in preparing the way of the Lord, initially in our hearts, then in our actions, then in our relationships, and then... in the world around us. This is.... the Gospel, the Good News of the Lord.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Cost of being a Christian (Homily from 28th Sunday Ordinary Time - Year B)

 

Twenty-Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time – Deacon Pat

One of the many struggles of sharing the gospels, the good news of becoming a Christian with someone, is getting them to see that there is a cost of making the decision to become a disciple of Christ.

So often, the focus is more on the reward that awaits them, and they never stop to think about what this decision will cost.

When someone does not understand the price to be paid when choosing to become a Christian, difficulties will arise when they find themselves in situations that are demanding, situations that can eventually cost them a great deal.

It is in such times that one’s faith is put to the test.

In these circumstances, some disciples turn from the path of righteousness and head back into the world from which they had escaped.

In the Gospel today, we can see just such a situation when Jesus is approached by a young man who seems to be interested in doing what is right in regards to salvation.

Jesus tells the young man that there is a price to be paid if he chooses to take the path he is seeking, and in the end, we see that the young man was not willing to make the sacrifice necessary to inherit eternal life.

In this story, we learn that being a disciple of Christ will cost us everything that keeps God from being first in our lives.

We also learn a lot about the man who approached Christ.

We learn that he was following the rules, but that he probably did not truly understand what was beneath the rules, the reason for the rule.

He runs up to Jesus and says, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

He did not say, “Who must I become to inherit eternal life?”

Perhaps, this young man already felt that he was doing all that was required of him by following the rules, and he only wanted Jesus to confirm what he was already doing.

He did not actually expect Jesus to tell him to do anything beyond the law, beyond the rules.

In addition, when Jesus asked more of him, he refused because that was not what he wanted to hear.

How many of us are just like this young man?

We do what we think is expected of us, we follow the rules, or maybe most of them, but don’t let Jesus ask anything more of us, or we too might refuse.

Didn’t Christ tell us that to be a Christian we cannot serve two masters, we serve either God or mammon, but we can’t serve both.

In the Gospel, the young man had two masters speaking to him:

·       God in the flesh told him to sell everything;

·       Mammon (The World) told him to hold onto what he had.

He couldn’t do both, so he chose to submit to the one he valued the most.

The man went away grieved.

As far as he was concerned, the choice to follow Christ was just too costly.

 

Many of us come to Mass to hear the word of God and focus on the promises of eternal life.

Most of us see ourselves as basically good people, believing our lives are morally good, and when we pray to God, we often ask for guidance and direction to make our lives better.

Yet, we are often caught off guard when we find that Jesus desires more than we are giving, that he desires all that we have, all that would stand in the way of serving God.

So, what do we do?

Some of us, many of us, turn away from what He is asking.

In other words, is it not true that many of us really are not seeking to change much in our lives at all?

We seek God to only confirm what we are already doing, maybe only to have Him acknowledge the rules that we have followed.

Are not many of us just like the young man in the gospel message?

 

But what is Christ trying to teach us?

What is the message for us today?

Isn’t he trying to say that our faith is much more than just following a set of rules?

Being a Christian will actually cost us everything that keeps God from being first in our lives.

As with the young man, it was not his wealth that was the problem, but rather the value he placed on it.

Jesus never said it was sinful to be wealthy, but he did warn us of what riches, or the pursuit of, might do.

What Jesus did, was simply state that there was one thing this young man lacked:

Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing, Go, sell what you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven: then come, follow me.

Consider this, to lack something means something is missing, but Jesus tells him to get rid of something.

Yet, it is in the getting rid of something that Jesus says he will find the means to get something.

What this young man needed was to love God above all other things.

It was here that he would find eternal life.

How many of us need to get rid of something to get something?

Confusing, isn’t it?

How many of us completely understand Christ and his teachings for us?

Can we rightly say that we understand our faith as well as we should?

How many of us know not only what the church teaches, but also why it teaches what it does?

I believe that if more of us knew the “why” of what our church taught, and not just the “what”, our catholic church especially here in America would look much different.

So where do we begin to grow in our understanding of the faith?

Well, we have many options.

We can read the church documents, such as the documents from Vatican II, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

We can visit trusted internet sites, listen to podcasts, or we can attend classes.

Our parish offers a variety of opportunities just look in the bulletin or listen to the invitations shared in the announcements.

There is also ACTS for men and women.

And for the men especially of the parish, we have “That Man is You” which has been life-changing for thousands across our nation.

 

In closing, I have two final questions for all of us to prayerfully consider. They are:

·       What must I do to inherit eternal life?

·       And Who must I become to inherit eternal life?

I challenge you as I challenge myself to honestly and humbly ask Christ these two important questions and then to listen to his response in the quiet of our hearts?

Once the response is heard, we will then have a choice to make.

·       To act with all of our heart and soul?

·       Or to be like the young man in the gospel message today, ask the question but find Christ’s response to be too costly, and just walk away?

The Choice is ours..... It’s called, “OUR FREE-WILL.”

 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Laying you life down for a friend

 


Deacon Pat Homily (Saint Joseph – Mother’s Day)

John 15; 9-17 Love One Another-the Supreme Commandment

·        If you were going on a long trip, what would you say to your family and friends before you left?

·        If your children were moving away from home, what would you say to them?

·       If you knew that you were going to see someone for the last time, what would you say?

In each case you would probably remind them of your love and care for them, as well as give them some instructions or words of advice.

Well, not unlike us, knowing that He was soon to leave, Jesus gave us and his disciples His final instructions and words of advice.

Today’s Gospel passage is part of the final instructions that Jesus gave to the disciples the night before he was crucified.

Jesus knew that the disciples would not easily find love in the world.

He knew that the world would largely hate them and His message.

In fact, much of the world still hates His message today.

How often are Christians belittled, ignored, or even attacked?

Nevertheless, we, like the disciples, are called to love each other and our fellow man in spite of opposition.

When we love each other, we will experience the joy of obeying God.

When we love one another, we also allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and grow in us.

But how it grows will depend on our connection to each other, to God, and to His Church.

The stronger our faith the more we will do, and it is the things that we do for God and for others that brings glory to God and strengthens the Holy Spirit within us.

Love for others means being willing to die for others.

Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross for our sins.

The men and women who serve in our armed forces also show this same type of love.

·         They and countless others who served were willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of others.

·         They were willing to go out of their way for others by dying to save their lives.

·         They came to the aid of those who were in need even at their own personal expense, and they are still willing and ready to do so today.

Mothers show this same type of love for their children.

·         More mothers than not would willingly lay down their lives for their children rather than see them suffer.

·         Their love is freely given and given without compromise or cost.

·         That is why we honor them so much, especially on Mother’s Day.

·         They reflect in a powerful and mystical way, God’s love.

Thank you, Mothers, for who you are

and for being that special light and comfort in our lives.

 

Jesus also showed how far that type of love can take someone when he died for us.

If Jesus could lay down his own life for us, isn’t there a part of our lives that we are willing to lay down or surrender as well?

Maybe it has to do with a pride, or an unwillingness to help, envy, greed, hatred, an act of forgiveness, or even something else?

This message that speaks of love is intimately connected to relationships.

God wants us to have relationships that are more than superficial.

But relationship building takes time and requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness.

When we love one another, we act as God’s hands and feet to those that he puts in our lives.

Serving others does take time, effort, and sometimes even a little money but the blessings outweigh the costs.

We must not forget that loving others as God loved us is the heart of Christian discipleship.

Christian life can only exist through these human relationships, especially when they are based on mutual respect and humane values.

The apostle Peter showed the same type of love in the first reading.

His love for others, combined with the visions he and the Roman centurion Cornelius had led Peter to minister to Cornelius and his family.

When Peter proclaimed the Good News, the Holy Spirit moved within his audience, and it marked both a second Pentecost and the spreading of the Good News to all people (not just the Jews).

If the Holy Spirit could move in the hearts of Peter’s audience, it can also move in the hearts of the people in our world today.

Yet, these people will need to be open to hearing it, and more especially we need to be open and willing to share it.

If we are to be fruitful for Christ, we must seek His will for our lives and let Him lead us to what He wants us to do for others and for Him, even if it seems a little uncomfortable.

Because when we love one another, we fulfill the second of Jesus’ two Great Commandments, to love thy neighbor as thyself.

When we love Jesus, He also becomes our true best friend.

·         Friends have our best interests in mind, just like Jesus does.

·         Friends will be with us in good times and bad times just like Jesus is.

·          They help us to expand our world, expose us to new and creative possibilities, and sustain us when we are in need.

God has chosen all of us for the purpose of bearing much eternal fruit in such personal characteristics as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These characteristics will grow within us and help us when we tell others about Jesus and lead them into a fruitful and personal relationship with him.

Let’s take a moment and reflect upon our lives, our lives as Christians.

·         We can say that Jesus is our friend, but can we say that we are His friends?

·         Do we listen to Him when he speaks to us, or do we only want Him to listen to us?

·         Do we want to know what’s on His heart and mind, or do we only want to tell Him what’s on ours?

Being a true friend of Jesus means listening to what He wants to tell us and then using that information to do His work in our world and in our lives.

So, with all that has been shared, what is the true message for us here today?

Simply, the message is:

·         Christ is love, and we are to love as He has loved, even to the point of willingly laying down our lives for our friends.

·         And, even if the world shall hate us, we are to love, and in that love, and service of love, we will be… eternally… united.. with God.

Amen

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday – Deacon Pat Kearns

In the gospel proclaimed today we have followed Jesus from the praises of Palm Sunday, through His passion, His suffering, and ultimately His death. For us Catholics, this week, Holy Week, continues the story of what we are, and who we are as a people. This week is the most Holy Week of the year. And beginning this week, today is Palm Sunday; where we celebrate that “First Joy” of the Lenten Season. We celebrate our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves in the street before him. 

In a few days, we will arrive at Holy Thursday – The most complex and profound of all religious observances, with the exception only to Easter. Holy Thursday celebrates, as instituted by Christ himself, that of the Holy Eucharist and of the priesthood. His last supper with the disciples, and the celebration of Passover, He is the Self-offered Passover victim. Every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice by Christ’s authority and command in exactly the same way. The last supper was also Christ’s farewell to his disciples, some of whom would betray, desert, and deny him, all before the sun would rise again. 

Then, following Holy Thursday is Good Friday, when the entire Church fixes her gaze on the cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Good Friday:
 • in the adoration of the cross, 
 • in the chanting of the “Reproaches,”
 • in the proclamation of the passion, 
 • and in receiving the pre-consecrated Host, we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the death of our Lord. 

Then…. The Easter Vigil. The vigil, held at night, signifies Christ’s passage from the dead-to-the-living by the liturgy that begins in darkness, representing Sin and Death, and is enlightened by the fire and the Easter candle, the light of Christ. The Church, the mystical Body of Christ and the community of believers, is led from spiritual darkness to the light of His truth. We rejoice in Christ’s bodily resurrection from the darkness of the tomb: 
• we pray for our passage from death into eternal life, 
• from sin into grace, 
• from the weariness and infirmity of old age to the freshness and vigor of youth,  
• from the anguish of the cross to peace and unity with God, 
• and from this sinful world unto the Father in heaven. 

As we now begin Holy Week, it is a time for deep and sincere reflection on who we are, on our current relationship with Christ, and a time to embrace Christ’s passion. Everything we are as Catholics rest upon this week. The week that includes Christ’s Passion, His Death, and ultimately His resurrection. It is a time for us to embrace our own passion, our own sorrows, our own troubles, our own crosses, and to die to the sinfulness of our lives. The sinfulness that all too often is rooted in Greed, Pride, Lust, and Envy. If not done already this Lent, it is time for Confession, a time to be freed from the shackles of sin. It is a time to unite our lives with Christ. It is a time to be resurrected with Christ. To be spiritually resurrected anew, awakened to His joy, His freedom, His power, and His love. Pause His life is to become our life… His life is to become our life…….

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Kearns Boys - Life Stories from Six Brothers


The paperback version of the book was released a few months ago and has been well received.

We are currently recording the audio version with each brother personally recording their own stories.

Here is a sample from the end of the book where each brother shares their reflection on writing the book.

This is from Pat (Number 4 brother).



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.