Father's Homilies


Homily for Pentecost Sunday, Cycle A

posted May 28, 2020, 5:50 AM by Michelle Massung   [ updated May 28, 2020, 5:50 AM ]


Gospel                                    JN 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

 

 

Homily for Pentecost, Cycle A

 

            Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes down upon the Apostles after Jesus ascended into heaven.  But we that have been confirmed have also received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Who is the Holy Spirit and what are these gifts that we and the Apostles received?  The Holy Spirit is the love shared between the Father and the son.  It is very similar to the love shared between a parent and child.  We also must take into consideration that conformation completes the sacraments of initiation, especially Baptism. 

            The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are Wisdom, Knowledge, Courage or Fortitude, Counsel, Piety or reverence, and Fear of the Lord.  I am going to try and explain them in terms of how they have made a difference in my life.  Wisdom is the first and highest gift of the Holy Spirit because it perfects in us the gift of faith that we received when we were baptized.  It is when we accept this gift of faith that we believed that we are saved and Wisdom, turns that faith into love of God.  It also allows us to more fully understand the beliefs we profess in the creeds that we can more deeply love God.  Wisdom also helps us to prioritize things in our life according to our relationship with God.  I used the gift of Wisdom to see that I was living a sinful life of earthly pleasure rather than focusing on things of heavenly importance; knowing and serving God. 

            Understanding is slightly different that wisdom.  While Wisdom allows us to see God and all his goodness, understanding gives us the desire to pursue a more personal relationship with Jesus; to know and to understand his teachings and to desire to follow him as a disciple.  I rely on understanding to gain a deeper meaning of the messages of Jesus in the Scriptures and then try and pass that knowledge onto you in my homilies. 

            Counsel is the perfection of Prudence, making the right decision at the right time.  It is conscience that helps to direct us in our lives.  Our consciences are constantly being formed as our life experiences grow and develop.  I am constantly being tempted and use my conscience to try my best to resist these temptations. 

            Fortitude or courage gives us the strength the act on our decisions that we made using the gift of counsel.  It is one thing to decide what to do, but another to act upon that decision.  For instance, my brothers and I decided that my mother had suffered enough and that we needed to take her off the respirator.  Although it was a difficult decision, it was even a greater act of courage to actually remove the tubes and unplug the machine that was keeping her alive. 

            Knowledge allows us to see God and the world from the perspective of God so that we can make decisions and be guided in pursuing our vocation in life and Gods will for us in our lives.  I used knowledge when I was trying to decide whether to get remarried again or to become a priest or to stay single. 

            Piety allows us to love God and our neighbor, not out of obligation, but out of true love.  The Holy Spirit is God’s love dwelling in us and piety allows us to return that love to God by praising him and by loving our neighbors.  This is much like how we love our parents. 

            Fear of the Lord perfects the gift of hope in us.  We love him and want to serve him because he is so much greater than we are.  It is the idea that God is the Holy Other.  He is our creator, redeemer and sanctifier.  He loves us so much, forgives us our sins and gives us the grace we need to love him and our neighbor.  It is not a fear of the Lord based on a fear of being punished by God, but a sense of reverence.  We should not come to mass for fear of hell if we do not come to mass.  Rather, we should come to mass to give praise and thanksgiving to God. 

            Hopefully, today I have helped you to have a better understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how we constantly use them to grow closer to God and to love and serve our neighbor.  These gifts allow us to do this out of love and not obligation.  Our spiritual progress comes from allowing these gifts to be used in our lives.  Today, what gift did you find most helpful in your life? Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life and allow the Spirit to guide you to grow closer to God through a more deeper and profound relationship with his son, Jesus Christ.  And then you can show your love by loving your neighbor.

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

posted May 16, 2020, 11:58 AM by Michelle Massung

Gospel     JN 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

 

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

 

Last week I talked about faith over fear. Faith is one of the three theological virtues along with hope and love. Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Faith is a strong belief in God and to the doctrine of our Catholic religion., especially without apprehensions of existence

 

Hope is a feeling of expectation and/or a desire for a certain thing to happen. For example, I hope this pandemic ends soon. Or I hope we can all gather for mass again soon. Or I hope we can get back to a more open society. Hope is also an optimist. The opposite of hope is despair. Despair is to lose the desire for something to end or to lose the expectation of something to come.  Judas is the greatest example of the sin of despair. He had no hope that Christ would be able to forgive him for betraying him. Judas thought that his sin was greater than Christ’s mercy. This is never the case!!  Nothing is greater than God.

 

So why should we have hope rather than despair doing during this pandemic? All hope comes from the life and message of Christ. Even though Christ felt abandoned by God when He hung upon the cross,  he did the fathers will  and so should we. Saints Peter and Paul is a physical church. As a people of faith, form the mystical body of Christ.  We may not be able to join together for mass yet you and hundreds of others are watching this mass video. In fact I have had several comments about how enjoyable it is to watch mass in the comfort of your home, sitting on the couch drinking coffee. Now you can watch mass and come to the church and pray, receive a Eucharistic blessing, pick up a bulletin and drop off your offertory envelopes. We need to look at these small steps rather than worry about the weeks and months ahead.  I have been praying the serenity prayer a lot lately:  God grant me the serenity to except the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Compare this pandemic to the apostles trying to cross in the sea in the boat. They see Jesus walking on the water in the midst of the storm. Peter wanted to join Jesus so he started walking on the water. He was successful as long as he focused on Jesus. Once he lost his focus and let the waves and the storm take his eyes from Jesus, he sank.

 

So how do we keep our focus on Jesus throughout this storm and not focus on the waves? We do so by coming to the church and to pray. We can read the Bible, we can pray the rosary, go to confession, etc. We will overcome this pandemic if we focus on Christ and not on the waves.

Homily for 3rd Sunday in Easter - Cycle A

posted Apr 25, 2020, 12:33 PM by Michelle Massung

Homily for 3rd Sunday in Easter- Road to Emmaus

 

            During my synoptic Gospel class in the seminary, I chose this passage to write my final paper.  It is a long detailed explanation of this passage.  If you would like a copy of this paper, I can email it to you.  Please send me an email at frjohngibbons@gmail.com and I would be happy to send you a copy.

            One of my goals is writing this paper was to prove that the disciple walking with Cleopas, the unnamed disciple was actually his wife Mary.  She was one of the women at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified.  My theory was that they were having an argument as happens sometimes between husbands and wives. She was mad at Cleopas for abandoning Jesus when he was being crucified.  He was trying to defend himself, etc., when Jesus appeared on the scene.  Although a few Scripture scholars agreed with my theory, most felt that Luke left the disciple unnamed because he represents all of mankind.  He wanted to make his point that all of us have trouble recognizing Jesus in our own lives if we are too focused on ourselves and our problems in the world. 

            I learned this lesson the hard way from my Spiritual Director, Fr. Ed.  He was my advisor before I entered the seminary.  We would meet often and discuss how my discernment was coming.  He asked me to go to mass daily.  Since I worked in downtown Houston, it was easy for me to walk about a mile to church.  Along the way to mass, I would see many homeless people sitting by the various stores and shopping areas I would pass along the way.  Often, I would ignore them or even cross to the other side of the street to avoid contact with them.  They were dirty and smelled terrible, especially in the warm, Houston climate.  As I explained this to Fr. Ed, he became a little upset with me and my attitude towards these people.  He gave me very strict instructions that if I didn’t see the face of Jesus in these people, I would never be able to be a priest. 

As a priest, I have to be able to see that all people, regardless of their place in society or health, or any other condition are children of God and are to treated with dignity and respect.  This was a valuable lesson for me. We are all created equally and we all have the same opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus and Mary in heaven.  Once I realized this lesson, rather than ignore the homeless people, I started to greet them and offer them a smile or a word of comfort.  Sometimes they ignored me but most times that smiled back at me. 

            In today’s Gospel, Jesus joins the disciples while they were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They were so caught up in their own little world, all the worries about what life was going to be like with Jesus gone.  They had truly believed that he was the Messiah.  Now, their world was shattered.  They were so consumed with their own grief and problems that they did not even recognize Jesus in their lives.  He tried to help them by explaining the scriptures to them.  He tried the show them how their lives would be Ok.  It was only after they had received the Eucharist that their eyes were opened and they could recognize Jesus.

            If you look at the progression of this Gospel, it reminds me of our celebration of the mass.  Jesus joins the congregation, and then there are scriptures read and explained in detail.  Once this has been completed, the bread and wine at the table are changed into the body and blood of Christ and distributed to the people.  But one part is missing.  Once we have received his body and blood, are our eyes opened and so we see the face of Jesus in others that we come in contact with? Do we treat others as children of God?  Are we kind and forgiving like Jesus?  Or do we take the reception of his body and blood for granted? Do we truly miss receiving this most precious gift of Christ himself? Even though we cannot receive the Eucharist at this time, we can still see the face of Christ in others, especially in our family members.  We need to continue to reach out to others that are in need of a word of encouragement or a greeting during these most difficult times.  Take time to reach out to some people this week as a way of bringing Christ to them.  In this way, our own eyes will be open like the disciples in today’s Gospel.

Homily for 2nd Sunday in Easter, Cycle A – Divine Mercy Sunday

posted Apr 15, 2020, 7:22 AM by Michelle Massung   [ updated Apr 15, 2020, 1:08 PM ]

Homily for 2nd Sunday in Easter, Cycle A – Divine Mercy Sunday

 

            Today, Jesus offers his peace to us when he appears to the Disciples after his resurrection.  His appearances are a reminder to us all that Jesus is with us always in our lives.  The peace He offers is also meant for us. 

            On May 23, 2000, Pope John Paul II declared the Second Sunday in Easter Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a celebration of God’s infinite mercy and love.  It originated when Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina in 1938 and he revealed to her his need for a devotion to his infinite mercy and love.  He appeared in the image that is shown in the image here.


  The red rays flowing out represent his blood and the blue rays represent the water of baptism.  Each forgives us our sins and allows us to experience the infinite love and mercy that Jesus extends to us.  Pope John Paul II wanted us all to be prepared for the second coming of Christ.

            But how does this feast correspond to the offer that Jesus makes to us today for peace? In our Catholic faith, we believe that if we are sorrowful for our sins and go to confession, all our sins are forgiven.  Regardless of how serious a sin we commit, God forgives us.  This is truly great news.  Yet, how many of us have had our sins forgiven by God and are still not able to forgive ourselves?  I had this problem after the death of my mother.  In 1995, I was living in Houston, TX, and doing very well financially and living the good life as some would say.  However, my mother, who was living in the Philadelphia area at the time, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I would visit my family during Thanksgiving or maybe for a week in the summer to play in a golf tournament with my brother or father.  However, I never went out of my way to visit my dad and mom and to give him a break as my mother’s care-giver.  I figured I would do so when her condition got worse and he really needed the help.  Well, as she continued to get worse, I didn’t visit any more often.  In February, 1998, she suffered a massive stroke and never recovered.  I never got a chance to tell her one last time that I loved her.  I felt so guilty for not helping my father take care of her and for not spending time with her.  I carried this guilt around for a several years.  I had several conversations with priests and spiritual directors to discuss this guilt.  They assured me that I have been forgiven by God. I also asked my father for his forgiveness and graciously gave it to me.  Finally, I sat down and wrote my mother a letter and asked her for her forgiveness and she forgave me.  It was then that I realized that I was the only one that felt guilty about this situation.  I finally accepted the peace of Christ in my life by letting go of the guilt I felt.  This is the promise of peace he gives to us today.  If we let go of our guilt and forgive ourselves, his peace will fill our hearts and we will be free from the burden of our sins.  This is truly the gift of his mercy and love in our lives.

            Why is it so hard for us to forgive ourselves?  The first thing is, do we truly believe that God forgives us?  In our head we know that he has but do we really believe it in our hearts?  We tend to compare God to other humans in our lives and believe that no human could ever forgive us for our sins.  Yet God is infinitely more merciful and forgiving than any human.  We have to trust in his mercy and love.  The second is that our offense is so grievous that no one could possibly ever forgive us.  Lastly, we cannot let go of the hurt we have caused others.  I had trouble letting go of the hurt I caused my mother and my father when I did not visit them.  Like Thomas in the Gospel today, I doubted in the message of Jesus.  It is quite common to do so because we are skeptical by nature. 

            In the Gospel, Jesus empowers the Disciples to forgive the sins of others, in essence, the institution of the Sacrament of reconciliation.  Yet, there are still some people that doubt that when they confess their sins to a priest and receive pardon and absolution, that their sins have not really been forgiven.  Again, they doubt the message of Jesus like Thomas did.  The words of Jesus need to be listened to and believed.  If the priest forgives you your sins, they are forgiven forever. Today, what are you holding onto from your past?  What sins have you been forgiven of that you are still holding onto?  Today, Jesus tells us that his peace is with us if we are willing to let these sins go free and believe and trust in his mercy and love.  In doing so, we will have the peace he offers to us today.

Gospel and Homily for 5th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

posted Mar 27, 2020, 10:58 AM by Michelle Massung

Gospel      JN 11:1-45

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
 
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
 
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
 
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

 

Homily for 5th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A, Raising of Lazarus

 

            With this being the 5th week in Lent, we all need one final word of encouragement to help us get us through these final days of Lent and Holy week.  So John gives us a long story to give us this encouragement.  A first glance, it is a story about the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but actually, it is a story about faith, hope and love, especially God’s love for us. 

            One of the first questions to be addressed is why did Jesus wait two days to go to Bethany when he heard that Lazarus was near death?  From the story, we hear that Jesus wanted to wait until Lazarus was dead, I mean really dead.  You see, the Jews believed that a person was not truly dead until after 4 days had passed.  They believed that a person’s soul left them after three days so on the fourth day, they believed the person was truly dead.  Jesus had cured many sick people but never raised anyone from the dead.  In our times of need and we need the healing power of Jesus or need his help in our lives, how strong is our faith? Do we truly trust in God and are willing to accept God’s will in our lives? We see such faith in the example of Martha and Mary.  They prayed that Jesus would heal their brother Lazarus.  Once Jesus shows up, they are very upset that Jesus was not there to heal their brother.  Yet Jesus still restores Lazarus to life.  They had the faith and trust that God would somehow answer their prayers and Jesus does.  He just does it in a way that they had not anticipated.  

            We too need to die to self like Lazarus did so we can rise again in glory on Easter.  This takes not only faith, but hope in the message that if we die to our own selfish ways of life here on earth, we will rise again when Jesus returns.  We need this hope to give us the courage to know that all our efforts are not in vain.  We have the hope that in our own death, we will share in the resurrection on Easter. 

            Jesus also shows a great deal of love.  This passage contains the shortest verse in the Bible, “And Jesus wept.”  This show of emotion gives us a clear indication of the human side of Jesus.  Don’t we weep at the death of a loved one? I know I do.  Why, because we love them and are going to miss having them around in our lives.  Jesus felt the same way.  He used to spend a lot of time at the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.  They were like family to Jesus.  Now Jesus was sad that his friend had died.  However, we know that Jesus loves us all equally.  We are all his friends and he weeps when we die as well. Yet he weeps even more when we are sinful.  Jesus shows us that his love will overcome not only that death of Lazarus, but also the death of our sinfulness.  That is why we celebrate Easter, because Jesus had done for us what we can’t do for ourselves, overcoming our own sinfulness. 

            But that is not the only thing that may be dead inside of us.  Do we truly believe that God loves us as much as he does? This is a very difficult concept for us to fully grasp.  The closest I can think of is a parent’s love for a child.  At some point in our lives, when we are old enough to know better, we realize that our parents love us.  If we fully realized this love that Jesus has for us, chances are, we would not turn our backs to God so often and sin as often as we do.  This love by God inside of us also needs to be resurrected for others to see, just like the Jews saw when Jesus raised Lazarus.  This is the true miracle of this story.  The love of God overcomes sin and death and God is glorified as a result.  The new life in Christ needs to be on display for others to see.

            Today, we may have heard the story of the raising of Lazarus by Jesus. Yet, it can also be our story of our own death to self and our sins and our resurrection in a new life of love in God.  This new life in the love of Christ should be bright enough for all others to see.  In this way, more will learn to believe in Christ, in the same way that many Jews came to believe in Christ After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  This week, let the light of the risen Christ shine brightly for all others to see.

 

 

 

 

Sincerely in Christ,

 

Fr. John Gibbons

814-935-3349

 

'Life is not a race - but indeed a journey. Be Honest. Work Hard. Be Choosy. Say 'thank you', and 'great job' to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental ~ search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you inspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself ~ Plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you've been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment.

Bonnie Mohr

Gospel and Homily for 4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

posted Mar 21, 2020, 7:15 AM by Michelle Massung   [ updated Mar 21, 2020, 7:15 AM ]

Gospel Jn 9:1-41 Or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38


As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, 
that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered,
"Neither he nor his parents sinned; 
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When he had said this, he spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him, 
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" —which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, 
"Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?"
Some said, "It is, "
but others said, "No, he just looks like him."
He said, "I am."
So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?"
He replied,
"The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.'
So I went there and washed and was able to see."
And they said to him, "Where is he?"
He said, "I don't know."

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
"He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see."
So some of the Pharisees said,
"This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said,
"How can a sinful man do such signs?"
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again, 
"What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?"
He said, "He is a prophet."

Now the Jews did not believe 
that he had been blind and gained his sight 
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
"Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?"
His parents answered and said, 
"We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself."
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed 
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
"He is of age; question him."

So a second time they called the man who had been blind 
and said to him, "Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner."
He replied,
"If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see."
So they said to him,
"What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?"
He answered them,
"I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
They ridiculed him and said, 
"You are that man's disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses, 
but we do not know where this one is from."
The man answered and said to them,
"This is what is so amazing, 
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, 
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything."
They answered and said to him,
"You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?"
Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
He answered and said, 
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"
Jesus said to him,
"You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he."
He said,
"I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
"I came into this world for judgment, 
so that those who do not see might see, 
and those who do see might become blind."

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this 
and said to him, "Surely we are not also blind, are we?"
Jesus said to them,
"If you were blind, you would have no sin; 
but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

            As a way of getting started today, I want each of you to close your eyes and picture in your mind a beautiful scene that you have experienced sometime during your life.  Maybe it is a sunset on the beach, or snow capped mountains, a beautiful field of flowers, or a gorgeous young lady that you care for very much.   Whatever the image, I want you to really see the beauty of that picture in your mind and how the hand of God helped to make that possible.  Ok, now you can open your eyes.  What did it take for you to see that image or picture?  First, it took your ability to see, the gift of eyesight God gave to you when you were born.  You also had to be in a position to see the sight.  What I mean is that in order for you to see the beautiful sunset at the beach, you had to be at the beach during the time the sun was setting. Or to see the snowcapped mountains, you needed to be at the base of the mountain range. Or the field of flowers, you had to be near that field.  My point is that not only do you need to be able to physically see, you have to put yourself in a position to observe the beautiful scenery or the person.  It is not enough for us to be able to physically able to see, we have to stop and observe the beauty of God’s creative glory. 

            In a similar way, the blind man that is being cured today also had to be in position for Jesus to heal him.  Whether or not he wanted to be cured is not really important to the story.  What is important is that he was given the ability to see just like we are.  However, in his new found vision, he uses this gift as a way of becoming a disciple of Jesus and not just for his own benefit and glory.  Let me explain in more detail. In the Jewish tradition, the man born blind is believed to be born blind because of either his sins or the sins of his parents.  We as Catholics believe that we are born in the state of sin from the sins of Adam and Eve and that these sins have been wiped away during our Baptism.  As a result, we can see that Christ as our savior in the same manner that the blind man can now see Jesus as the Son of God. 

            The clay that Jesus makes to cure the blind man is a reminder that God created mankind out of clay.  We hear this in the creation story and John wants to remind us that once we have encountered Christ in our lives and make him the focus of our spiritual vision, we too are recreated in a life in Christ.  The blind man’s parents are questioned because the Pharisees accuse them of being sinful in their own lives and as a result, their son is born blind.  Also, since the blind man agreed to be cured on the Sabbath, he is going to be expelled from the Jewish Temple.  His parents do not want to be expelled so they claim that he is old enough to make his own decisions. 

            The Pharisees are blinded by their own righteousness and do not see the love that Jesus is extending to the blind man.  They are more focused on obeying the laws of the Temple to see the act of charity that Jesus extends to the blind man.  Also, as the story progresses, the man starts to see Jesus more clearly as the Son of God.  He first calls him Jesus, then a prophet, and then a man of God and then the Son of God. Is not our procession in our own faith journey similar to this man’s short journey in his belief in Jesus as the Son of God? He sees Jesus, not just as a human, but rather, as God does, His beloved Son. 

            So how can we see the world, not as a human would, but as God does?  Let me use the example of seeing a beautiful young lady. If I see her as a human, my tendency is to focus on her outer beauty. As much as I would delight in this image of her, God focuses more on her inner beauty; how she loves and cares for others, her kindness and compassion, her true ability to bring joy to others just by her presence in their midst. If I truly want to "see" her, I need to focus on these attributes and not just her outer beauty. By doing so, I can appreciate her in a deeper and more profound way than if I only focused on her outer beauty. 

            So who are we in this story, the blind man or the Pharisees? When we were born, we were born into a state of spiritual blindness because of the stain of original sin.  It is only after we are baptized that our eyes are open to the truth about God and Jesus. It is this gift of sight that we are most thankful for in our lives.  Yet, as we go through life, at times we are like the Pharisees in the story and lose our sight by our sinfulness.  For example, we are blinded by the sins of pride, greed, envy, jealousy and many other sins in our lives.  It is then that we need to encounter Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation.  It is there that our spiritual sight is restored and we can see clearly the Lord and our neighbor.  But how can we prevent ourselves from going blind by sin?  By letting Jesus guide us throughout our lives and not try to go through life on our own.  Left to our devices, we stumble and fall like someone blind.  By praying, reading the scriptures, and helping others in need, we follow the lead of Jesus and can navigate through the world much easier than if we do it on our own.  When was the last time you sat down and read the Bible?  It is a great source of peace and consolation.  When I feel stressed or really overcome by temptation, I sit quietly and read from the Gospel passages.  There was a popular movement many years ago that coined the phrase WWJD, what would Jesus do?  Well in order to know what Jesus would do, you have to know what he did by reading the scriptures.  This week, we continue our Lenten journey.  Bring Jesus along to guide us along the way by spending time reading about his life in the Gospels.  This way, you will not be blinded by sin and will avoid the temptations of sin.  May God continue to bless you on your journey.

 

 

 

Sincerely in Christ,

 

Fr. John Gibbons

814-935-3349

 

'Life is not a race - but indeed a journey. Be Honest. Work Hard. Be Choosy. Say 'thank you', and 'great job' to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental ~ search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you inspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself ~ Plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you've been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment.

Bonnie Mohr

Homily for 3rd Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

posted Mar 18, 2020, 3:52 PM by Michelle Massung   [ updated Mar 18, 2020, 3:52 PM ]



Gospel                        JN 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly 
the savior of the world.”

 

 

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, the Woman at the Well

 

            Those of you that see me walking around the rectory or attend various meetings with me notice that I carry with me a very large mug.  Here it is.  It allows me to fill it up with plenty of ice and water.  As a diabetic, I need to drink a lot of water and I drink about 3-4 of these each day.  Yet, regardless of how many of these I drink in one day, I still wake up thirsty and start the whole process over again.  The Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel brings her bucket to Jacob’s well to fill it with water.  Because she is doing this at noon, scripture scholars believe that she is an outcast from society because she is living with a man that is not her husband.  In essence, she is a public sinner.  It is at this point, at the very brightest part of the day that she comes out of her darkness and into the light of Jesus.  She is thirsty and needs water to quench her thirst. He tells her that she, just like me and my large mug, will continue to be thirsty if we continue to seek water from this well rather than the living water of Jesus.  Also please note that even as an outcast, she runs into town to spread the good news to those that persecuted her.  The gift that Jesus gives to her is not only the water of everlasting life, but his unconditional love and acceptance, even her, a sinner.  She also has a hard time recognizing Jesus because the Messiah was to be a great warrior to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land and conquer the Romans who had been oppressing the Jews.  Jesus is the exact opposite of what they had expected to see when the Messiah came.  Don’t we also encounter Jesus in ways and in people that we do not expect? 

            What is Jesus saying here, that we should not drink any water? No, what Jesus is saying is that the well represents earthly desires and pleasures.  If we keep coming to that well, we will never be satisfied.  I found this out first hand when I was living a life of dissipation, of eating and drinking to excess and seeking worldly pleasures.  It was only after I had been welcomed back by Jesus that I have true happiness in my life.

            Jesus tells us that he has the gift of everlasting water.  What does he mean by this? He is referring to our Baptism in not only water but in the Holy Spirit.  It is up to each of us to accept this gift or to reject it and focus our lives, not on the well of earthly pleasures, but rather, on the spiritual water he gives us and the spiritual food he gives to us in the Eucharist.  During Lent, we are called to fast, give alms, and to pray.  Normally when we think of fasting, we think of food or drink.  For me, it is giving up sweets. But what about fasting from other earthly pleasures such as shopping, watching TV, or being on the internet, or looking at pornography, or any other of things that bring us temporal pleasure in our lives?  By fasting from these items, we will be more open to receive the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Our hearts will not be too full to accept His love for us.  This is the whole purpose for fasting, to empty ourselves so we can be filled by the love of God.  This is the true purpose of Lent; that as we empty ourselves of our earthly pleasures, Jesus can fill us with his everlasting happiness in the Eucharist and with the living water he offers us today, the water that will quench our thirst now and forever.  This week, examine what you need to fast from in your lives that are preventing you from being open to the love of Christ in your life.  In this way, you will be more open to receive the graces and living water that quench your spiritual thirst now and forever.

CHRISTMAS SEASON FOOD AND BEVERAGE TRADITIONS

posted Dec 22, 2018, 6:53 AM by Church Office   [ updated Dec 22, 2018, 6:53 AM by Michelle Massung ]

EGGNOG - Eggnog has a festive history as a staple for the British aristocracy. It’s based on a medieval drink called posse, which consisted of milk, often eggs, and some form of alcohol like sherry or Madeira. Since all the ingredients were expensive at the time, it became a drink of the wealthy. In the winter, the wealthy would drink warm milk and egg drinks with exclusive spices and liquors. Eventually, people in the American colonies were able to harvest the ingredients from their own farms and the drink caught on again. In fact, the drink you sip around the holidays today is uniquely American thanks to the rum—a critical component of American 'nog which never really caught on with the British upper classes.

CHRISTMAS COOKIES - In the more recent history of Christmas cookies, cut-out cookies are now almost universally associated with the holidays in the US. We can trace these cookies back to mumming, a Christmas tradition in colonial areas where the Church of England was influential. In mumming, Christmas stories were acted out and food was used to help depict the stories. Yule doughs were cut-outs made in this tradition, often in the shape of the baby Jesus. In the 1800s, Pennsylvania Dutch children created large cut out cookies as window decorations. Around this same time, Yule doughs became popular again and were called Yule dollies. They were made with tin cutters and shaped like people, elaborately decorated with icing (like today’s gingerbread men). The face was always made out of a scrap of paper cut out of magazines, which had to be removed before the cookie was eaten. They were controversial because some factions felt the cookies were not religious enough (i.e., not depicting Jesus).In the 1840s, Santa became associated with Christmas and dollies representing him, with a scrap face, were made. Some of these cookies were so beautifully decorated that they weren’t actually meant to be eaten (like today’s gingerbread houses). Yet another connection to Santa comes from the Dutch, who believed that pepernotencookies were thrown around on Christmas by Black Peter, Saint Nicholas’s helper.

GINGERBREAD - Cookies became associated with Christmas in Europe in the 1500s. Gingerbread was a similar food, but laws restricted its baking to guildsman, however at the holidays these regulations were relaxed and people were allowed to bake their own at home, making a very special once a year treat.

Gingerbread originated in the Crusades and was originally made using breadcrumbs, boiled with honey and seasoned heavily with spices. It was pressed onto cookie boards (carved slabs of wood with religious designs) and dried. Gingerbread evolved to become more secular and to use more modern ingredients. Eventually it became associated with Christmas when speculaas (gingerbread cookies) were made into animal and people shapes and used as holiday decorations.

COOKIES and Milk FOR SANTA - Ever wondered why size-challenged Santa is left cookies to fuel him on his one-night journey? Historians believe the tradition began during the Great Depression, as a way for parents to encourage generosity in their children. The tradition stuck, and Santa isn’t in danger of needing a smaller suit any time soon.

APPLE CIDER - It’s said that Julius Caesar and friends found the British drinking cider in 55 BCE. Europeans brought the tradition to the New World, where cider was such an important beverage that the trees Johnny Appleseed was planting were actually for cider making. In the early 20th century, the combination of improved refrigeration technology and the teetotalism movement allowed humans to drink the unfermented juice of apples, which led to Americans calling an unfiltered juice cider (the rest of the English-speaking world continued to use "cider" to mean an alcoholic beverage, though).

 

FRUITCAKE - Fruitcakes are just cakes with candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices. The modern version of the much-maligned dish was likely whipped up in the Middle Ages, when dried fruits and nuts were really expensive. Because of the price of ingredients and the time and effort that went into making the dessert, it's assumed December festivities were felt to be the time most worthy of the hassle.

 

CRANBERRY SAUCE - Cranberries are harvested mid-September to mid-November, making them perfect to consume during holiday times. Marcus L. Urann first canned the berries in 1912 as a way to extend the short selling season, creating a jellied treat that acted as a sauce when warm.

 

CANDY CANES - They didn’t always have their stripes! According to legend, the original candy cane, made some 350 years ago, was an all-white sugar stick that was completely straight. In 1670, a choirmaster at a German cathedral bent the sticks to represent a shepherd's staff. The canes were given out to children during a nativity scene. The candy arrived in America sometime during the 19th century, and around that time the refining process for sugar had gotten to the point where it could be pure white and the development of better food dyes could create that strong red for the stripe.

 

OPLATKI - The tradition of the Oplatki originated in Poland during Early Christian times. This Christmas Custom began with a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water. The wafers are wonderfully designed to display Christmas images, such as the Nativity. 

            How to Celebrate the Oplatki Tradition - The Oplatki are enjoyed by families, typically right before the Christmas Eve meal. The entire family will gather around the table with the Oplatki.  Generally the eldest member of the family will begin the ritual by breaking off a piece of the wafer and passing it to another family member with a blessing.  This blessing can simply consist of what you desire for your loved one in the upcoming year – whether it be good health, success, or happiness. The purpose of this act is primarily to express ones unconditional love and forgiveness for each member of his or her family.

            The Symbolism - The significance of the Oplatki Christmas wafer is in that it shadows the Eucharistic meal that Catholics participate in at each Mass.  Just as we share in the Eucharist as one family in Christ and receive Christ’s love through the Eucharist, the Oplatki allows for one’s immediate family to come together and share the love they have for one another.  This symbolism is deepened by the fact that the name of the town where Jesus Christ was born, Bethlehem, means "House of Bread," which makes the Oplatki tradition an especially beautiful way to celebrate the charity and unity so characteristic of the Christmas season.

Catholic Terms - As talked about Nov. 17-18

posted Nov 18, 2018, 1:56 PM by Church Office   [ updated Nov 18, 2018, 1:56 PM by Michelle Massung ]

Catholic Terms

 

1.              Disciple vs Apostle

 

Disciple - A pupil, a student; name sometimes applied to one of the early followers of Jesus, one of the seventy-two.

 

Apostle- One sent to spread the Gospel or the name often given to a missionary to a country.

 

 

2.              Son of God vs Son of Man

 

Son of God – Jesus is fully Divine

 

Son of Man – Jesus is fully human

 

When did Jesus use them?  He used Son of Man when he talked about how He came into the world to suffer and die for our salvation. He used the Son of God when He talked about how He came to do the will of his Father. He will come again as the Son of Man to bring us back to the Father on judgment day.

 

3.              Mercy vs Pity

 

Mercy - Compassion for the sufferings, whether bodily or spiritual. When we ask for God’s mercy, we are essentially asking him to relieve us of a heart that is in misery.

 

Pity –The desire to feel sorrow or compassion towards the misfortunes of others. Grief or pain aroused by the suffering or misfortune of another. To have pity on someone is to feel the same suffering they do.

 

They asked Christ to have pity on them so that He would alleviate their suffering.  They asked Jesus to have mercy on them to restore their sinful hearts and physical ailments.  Mercy is something that can be given right away.  If they ask for pity, you first need to see their pain and feel sorry for them, then you can extend mercy.

 

4.              Three types of Love

 

Eros – Sexual love; the love expressed between a husband and wife.

 

Philla – Brotherly love; Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love.  Love between close members of a family. is expressed variously as loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity.

 

Agape – We love everyone equally and unconditionally, in the same way that God loves us.  We have no favorites or any enemies, just like God.  It is the perfect love because is the greatest expression of this type of love.

 

5.              Law vs Commandment

Law - The rule of reason by which a person is moved to act or restrained from acting. In the Church this has the meaning of an action which ought to follow upon recognition of a precept or an order. Catholic Church laws that are binding under conscience, which the Church by lawful authority has made and imposed on the faithful. The laws: usually six in number, for the spiritual good of the faithful impose obligations under pain of sin They are: (1) To hear Mass on Sundays and Holydays of obligation; (2) to fast and abstain on all days appointed; (3) to receive holy Communion during the Easter season; (4) to receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year (5) to contribute toward the support of our priests; (6) to refrain from marrying within the fourth degree of kindred, or to solemnize marriage during the forbidden times.

Commandment - The commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai; the ten commandments. These have a higher place in our moral conscience because these were given to us by God.  Laws are given to us by humans.

 

 

6.               Meek vs Humble

Meek -  Docile, overly submissive, compliant, tame, spiritless

Humble -  Humility - The moral virtue which prompts us to recognize that of ourselves we are nothing and can do nothing without divine assistance; the reasonable evaluation of ourselves and recognition of our dependence upon God, It is a virtue which is joined to the virtue of temperance in that it moderates the desire for honor, self-glorification, and the esteem of others.

We should be humble and not meek.  We need to stand up for what we believe and not let others take advantage of us or allow ourselves to be put down.

7.              Love vs Charity

Love – Willing the good of the other for the sake of the other

Charity - A divinely infused virtue by which we prefer God as the sovereign good before all else and by which we do His will and are united with Him. The virtue that disposes us to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors for the sake of God and not for our own glory. Charity is also love that we put into action.

Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted Sep 30, 2018, 2:17 PM by Church Office   [ updated Sep 30, 2018, 2:17 PM by Michelle Massung ]


            In today's first reading from the book of Numbers and from the Gospel from St. Mark, we hear about being a part of an in-group and about how this may cause some problems. At the time of Jesus, an in-group consisted primarily of your immediate and extended family, plus your close friends. This close knit group worked together for the common purpose of survival. For example food had to be procured every day; it was difficult to store food and the group’s first priority was to ensure that everyone would be fed. This was also true with water and other basic necessities like clothing and shelter. Families often times shared the same dwelling place to save on heating. Work was divided up among members of the in-group. There was also a leader of the in-group; it could have been the oldest male, or a teacher, or religious leader but there was always somebody in charge.

            In the reading from the book of Numbers, Moses is clearly the leader of his in-group, the Israelites. Yet he is being totally overburdened by the needs of the people. He needs help and to do this he wants to break up this large group into 70 different but related smaller groups. Yet this break up causes some infighting, jealousy, and envy. Rather than focus on the task at hand, getting to the Promised Land, they are worried about their own positions within the structure. Moses has to take corrective actions by redirecting their focus to that of the Promised Land.

            In the Gospel, Jesus is faced with the same problem. He has moved out of Nazareth when he started his public ministry and established a residence in Capernaum. He recruited many of his own group. It is made up of his 12 apostles, and their related families and friends. Although the 12 apostles formed his closest group, Jesus and the disciples were very dependent upon the others in the group, especially the women to help provide them with some of the basics such as food and clothing. Other followers of Jesus that were unable to accompany Jesus as he traveled the countryside established their own groups and spread the good news about Jesus. However the closest followers of Jesus felt they had the privilege of being in the only real in-group of followers of Jesus. When John tried to suppress the other followers of Jesus, Jesus corrects John. Jesus’ message is of love and fellowship not separation and division.

            Now let me discuss another in-group, the Catholic Church. We as a church came out of the in-group of Jesus. He designated that Peter be the head of this church and over the past 2,000 years this church has grown and evolved, but it's primary mission is to provide us a way to truly love God, especially in the holy sacrifice of the mass and to provide a means for us to love our neighbors by helping those in need. There are more Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, and other organizations that meet the needs of others then any other organization on the world. However we are not the only church that follows the teaching of Christ. We all know many other Christian denominations and at times we may be in disagreements with them over the singular message of the Bible compared to our beliefs of scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium, or the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, or the authority of the pope. Although we may have these differences, we are still all followers of Christ and all have the same goal of spreading the good news of Jesus to others. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “for whoever is not against us is for us”, meaning those that spread the message of salvation are related to us and our mission.

When I attended Catholic school in the early 60’s I was taught that only Catholics went to Heaven. Fortunately, Vatican II changed all that teaching and we now teach that many others besides Catholics can be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. Those at the council more than likely used this passage from Mark’s Gospel to change the position and teaching of the Catholic Church.

            We too in this local parish can get caught up with petty jealousy or get into some infighting with other Christian denominations or even members of our own parish regarding the true mission of our parish and the Catholic Church. However, as Jesus says whoever is for us can't be against us regarding the overall mission of following Christ. We are all called to love God and our neighbor and that needs to be the focus of our efforts. Just think of how much more good we can do here in Altoona for the needs of others if all the Christian churches in this city worked together for the betterment of the needy rather than focusing on our differences. We should focus on what makes us the same since we are all followers of Christ. This week pray for more unity among Christian churches so that we can turn our focus to loving God and helping others rather than focusing on our differences. In this way, we will truly be united in our efforts to be followers of Christ.

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