Easter Homily 2014

I was recently on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
It was my fourth time there and my third as a leader.
One of the things you learn early about the Holy Land
is that there is a difference between a pilgrim and a tourist.

Tourists invariable come in very large groups,
are always trying to cram way too much into a day
and are usually more concerned
about the camera shot
and checking another place off their “bucket list”.

Pilgrims on the other hand
tend to journey with smaller groups of people,
are often found praying at sacred places
and are there to not only see the site,
but to experience it’s meaning in their lives.

A striking example of this difference
was recounted to me by a friend of mine
who leads pilgrimages on a regular basis.

She was waiting in line with her group of pilgrims
to gain access into the Holy Sepluchre in Jerusalem.
This is the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest.
A group of tourist came by and they seemed unsure
whether it was worth waiting in line to go in.

The tourists asked my friend:
“Is there anything to worth seeing in there?”
to which she responded
“No, there’s nothing to see in there. It’s empty!”

That is the essence of what we celebrate this evening
a tomb that is empty!
Jesus has been raised by,
transformed
and now reigns as the Risen Christ!

Where he has gone
we hope to follow.
The question remains… will we, Follow him?

Are we truly pilgrims on this journey to Resurrection
Or are we mere tourists,
spectators watching the events unfold
from the bleachers.

Just because we are here in church
is not enough
even tourists do as much.

To follow Jesus from the Cross
to the empty tomb
means to allow ourselves
to honestly acknowledge our sins,
our pain, our struggles and doubts.

ImageIt also means that like Jesus
we must remain open and trusting
and allow God to raise us up…
up to heaven on the last days…
but also here on earth right now!

For example
when we realize
that we have been selfish and mean
and find ourselves asking forgiveness of a friend
it is the power of Christ’s resurrection
lifting us up and out of death
to a place of healing.

When we look at our miserable neighbour
who is a pain to all who know her
and we suddenly find ourselves
driving her to do her shopping
it is the power of Christ’s Resurrection
lifting us up out of our smugness
into a place of gentle service.

Whenever we find ourselves,
stretching,
reaching out
becoming more gentle, more compassionate, more forgiving, more loving
it is the power of Christ’s Resurrection
lifting us
up and out of the tombs of our broken lives
and drawing us to himself.

“Tourists pass quickly through sacred places
Sacred Places pass slowly through pilgrims, leaving them changed forever.”*
At the empty tomb,
are you a tourist or a pilgrim?

 

* Father Thomas Rosica, csb

Good Friday Homily

Image

One of the most challenging part of my job
as director of FrancisCorps
is also the most inspiring part of my ministry.
Over time I really get to know our FrancisCorps volunteers
and they share with me
the stories of the people they meet
at their various places where they serve the poor.

Sometimes the stories are sweet tales
of children causing chaos
or others of their frustration with people
not being grateful for what they get.

And then there are times,
very special times
when the volunteers
get to touch the wood of the Cross.

Carolyn was a volunteer a couple of years ago
and she worked with disabled children.
One of her classrooms
was for children who are deaf, blind
and developmentally challenged.
What Carolyn didn’t fully grasp at first
was that every one of the kids in her class
was blind, deaf and developmentally challenged.

I can still see the look on her face
as Carolyn talked about these children.
It was a look of shame and confusion
wondering why the children were alive.
It was a look of anger and frustration
at a God who allows this to happen.
What’s the point of all this suffering?

As time went on though,
Carolyn began to get to know the kids
and her love for them grew
and she recognized in them
the wonderful persons that they are.
Carolyn’s heart grew.

Carolyn is not alone in her experience.
So many of our FrancisCorps volunteers
face situations of pain and injustice;
whether it be a women beaten by an abusive husband,
a child infested with lice
because of a mother’s negligence,
or a teen mom, raped by an uncle
they see it first hand,
up close and personal.
But sometimes it’s just too much to bear.

These stories of pain and injustice
speak to us
because they are not foreign.
Each one of us has confronted
the reality of evil in our own lives.
Whether it be cancer, or divorce,
unemployment or grief
we’ve all had moments of pain
when we’ve felt alone
and wondered where is God in all this.
It’s too much to bear.

The answer is in the wood of the Cross.
What started off as a sapling
that become the Christmas tree
lighting up the winter night with the joy
Has been cut down
and been made into the instrument of our salvation.

Emmanuel, God-made-flesh at Christmas,
because of his love for us
now bears the weight of our pain
along side of us.

Jesus suffered and died on the Cross
so that no one on earth
would ever suffer alone.
Jesus always goes before us,
no matter what we face.

My friend Carolyn’s heart grew huge
out of love for the kids which she served.

Jesus’ Sacred Heart grows ever greater
out of love for the people he saves.

 

Holy Thursday Homily 2014

I was never really convincedImage
about the value of 3-D glasses
until I went to see the movie Avatar.
It’s then that I really experienced its full impact.
Sure you could watch the film without the glasses,
but how much richer with them on!

 

In a similar way
it is helpful to wear spiritual 3-D glasses
while celebrating Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Of course you don’t have to.
You could just watch the events unfold
like a simple story of things that happened long ago in a far distant land.
You could just feel sad and embarrassed for the disciples
who don’t really get what Jesus is up to.
You could, like the disciples,
sit in awe at Jesus’ humility.
You could also remember what Jesus did at the altar
when he took bread and wine and blessed it
and gave it to his friends.
It’s a beautiful and moving scene from the past
like an old painting we dust off and put up on the wall,
a picture of the Last Supper we look at during these Holy Days.

But if you put on the spiritual 3-D glasses
the same story, the same events explode with richness
beyond a mere retelling of an ancient story.
Suddenly you can see the added dimension of Holy Thursday.
These events we recall are all about the Cross of Christ.Image
Holy Thursday is the key to understanding the Cross,
and Easter Sunday is the fulfillment of what happens on the Cross.
It’s with the 3-D glasses
that you can see that the washing of the feet
and the breaking of bread at the altar
are all about what happens on the Cross.
Good Friday is about Jesus
pouring his life out in love
like the water pours out of the basin to wash our feet.
When Jesus shows us the bread and says “This is my body”
(actually more like “this is all of who I am” in the original language”)
we understand that on the Cross he is giving us all that he’s got.
He’s breaking open his life
like the bread is broken to feed his disciples.
On the Cross his body is broken to feed us in love.

 

The most amazing part of watching Avatar with 3-D glasses
was not just the richness and depth of what happened on the movie screen.
What really got my attention
was when the characters and objects
jumped off the screen and entered into MY space!
I felt like they were part of my own experience… up close and personal.

In a similar way with our spiritual 3-D glasses
we can see the 3rd dimension of the Holy Thursday experience…
it leaves the sphere of a nostalgic re-telling of an old story
and enters into our lives here and now.

Image

Pope Francis, Holy Thursday, 2014

When Jesus says “do this in memory of me”
he does not mean “remembering” in the traditional sense
but rather to make present again in this day and age.
The washing of the feet
is no longer something “He” did for “them” back then
but an act of love he does for “me” right now
and which I am commanded to imitate
in service of my brothers and sisters.

He instructs me
about what it means to be a leader in my own life; a humble servant.
His giving of himself is present today in the Eucharist
and in the Body of Christ I encounter around me
in the pews and on the street.

Seen in its full dimension,
Holy Thursday is a retelling of an ancient story
that helps us uncover the meaning of Good Friday
and enters our world today
as His conditional loving presence
and as a command to humbly serve our sisters and brothers.

 

Given on April 17, 2014, Holy Thursday,  for the communities of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Bridgeport NY and St. Mary’s Parish, Minoa, NY

Encountering Christ in the obnoxious

After the mass today a man told me he was deeply distressed by my homily. I had just finished presiding at the 10:30 AM liturgy at the Alibrandi Catholic of Syracuse University and was saying goodbye to people.

I listened to the gentleman’s point of view. He was an older guy, clearly not a student and was an immigrant to the US. He came to the country legally and was distressed that I was promoting illegal immigration. I think he missed the point of the homily.

There was no reasoning with him. Then it switched into how I was disrespecting the Lord by having abandoned him while spending time greeting people… in other words, I hadn’t purified the vessels of mass yet.

At that point I told him that it was strange that he was more concerned about the possible speck of Eucharist on the paten than about his brother in Christ who was facing a family tragedy. Strange. He argued some more until I told him he was just being obnoxious and left. This happens more than you think. It’s sometimes hard to keep people on target with the point of a homily. I guess he was probably deeply hurt by the Church or a priest or something and was just looking for an excuse to vent or complain. I guess I should pray for him, eh. Read the homily for yourself. What do you think?alibrandi

On Columbus day I joined a small group of people who walked from the Franciscan Church of the Assumption on the NorthSide to the offices of Congressman Dan Maffei.

Our group was part of a movement called: Franciscan Action Network which is Franciscan Friars, Sisters and regular folks working for social justice. In this case we were walking to promote support immigration reform in congress.

During our walk to the congressional office I met a man named Trinidad. He was a short older gentleman from Columbia. He shared with us his journey to this country and how he faces tremendous poverty and gang violence back home in his country. He vowed to make his family safe.

He like many other Columbians surmounted tremendous odds to get to the US including dangerous gangs, organized crime, extreme hunger and thirst to get through the desert and into the safety the USA provides.

In the US he worked as a farmer and over many years got married had children and was able to regularize his status in the US.

Unfortunately one day it was discovered there was a problem with his wife’s documents and she was arrested, detained and ordered deported from the country back to Columbia.

Trinidad’s entire world is caving in around him. He doesn’t know what to do. He can’t live without his wife and young children. But he also knows there is no work or safety or future for him in Columbia. What is he supposed to do?
He reaches out for help!

Although our lives may not always be as dramatic and tragic as Trinidad’s, we too can face situations that feel overwhelming, when we don’t know what to do and we feel we have no way out. Whether it’s the pressure of school building up, problems with relationships, financial worries or family issues the future can sometimes scare us and we feel tired of carrying it all.

The readings of mass give us a glimpse today of what we might do.
First of all the reading from Exodus describes how Moses who is supporting Amalek in battle grows tired of keepingh is arms extended out in blessing. He literally has the world on his shoulders. But Moses has friends with him… they help him. Get him to sit down and Aaron and Hur help him keep his arms up in blessing.

God does not only create us as individuals, he also creates us for community. We are meant to reach out to our friends in our need and to ask for support. As friends we are called to literally be our brother or sisters keeper and notice when they are in need and help them.

Helping, serving and caring for others is at the heart of the Gospel. As Pope Francis has been telling us the Church does not need any more frozen statues. The Church needs people who joyfully put their faith in service of others. That’s what it means to be a Catholic. That’s what it means to be Church.

It also means that when we need help, we should never be afraid to reach out to help. To ask our friends to be there for us. To tell others what we need. That’s also what it means to be Church.

As we continue with this Mass we are reminded that in the Eucharist, God gives himself totally to us to feed us and strengthen us for the journey ahead. God is like that persistent woman who never gives up. God never gives up on us. God never gives up caring for us.

Let us ask the Lord to help us ask for help when we need it and also be that helping friend to those in need… to people like Trinidad seeking safety for his family, to the homeless woman on the street or the person sitting next to us in Church today who just might need a smile.

Join me in the Holy Land

pizap.com13674386805111

Holy Land Pilgrimage for Catholic Leaders

Feb 13 – Feb 23, 2014

Cost $2,350 + tax (approximately $650)
Deposit $350 payable to Gideon Travel

 

Leaders:

Kitty McGilly MRE, L.S.S.

Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv.


Program

< Return airfare (direct flight Toronto-Tel Aviv)

< 8 Nights accommodation with buffet breakfast and dinner daily
< Full biblical, sacramental and music program

< 4 nights in Bethlehem/Jerusalem

 

For further information contact: Kitty McGilly

P: 416-201-7375 / Email: kmcgilly@rogers.com

www.faithjourneys.ca

 

Day 1:             Toronto/Tel Aviv

“Leave your country…for the land I will show you” Ger 12:1

Today is taken up with our physical journey to the Bible lands.  This pilgrimage reminds us of our own continuous journey towards God.  Today we step forward with the same kind of faith lived by Abraham and Sarah as they set our on their journey.  The road to Jerusalem is in the heart – every place is holy ground.

Day 2:             Israel – Nazareth

Peter said, “Teacher, where do you live?  Come and see” John 1:39 . Shalom! Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport and travel via the Plain of Sharon and Caesarea with its theatre and aqueducts to overnight in Nazareth, the home town of the Holy Family.

Day 3:             Lower Galilee

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” Isaiah 9:2

Our first day in Galilee begins in Nazareth, Jesus’ home.  We celebrate Eucharist in the Church of the Annunciation and visit Cana, place of Jesus’ first public ministry.  Then we renew our Baptismal promises at Yardenit on the River Jordan before going to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee.

Day 4:             The Sea of Galilee

“Jesus left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea” Matt 4:13.  We cross the Sea of Galilee by boat and arrive in Capernaum, where Jesus began his ministry of healing and teaching.  We spend some reflective time sitting on the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus taught the qualities of the Kingdom of God.  Then we visit Bethsaida, the home of many of the first disciples of Jesus and drive to Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration.

Day 5:             Around the Lake

He took pity on them and healed their sick” Mathew 14:14.  We begin our final morning in Galilee with Mass on the seashore at Tabgha, site of the feeding of the 5,000 and complete the morning at the church of the Primacy.  Here the Risen Christ cooked breakfast for his disciples and reinstated Peter as leader of the group.

Day 6:             Galilee/Jerusalem via Jericho

“I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart” Hos 2:14

We drive by Qumran along the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea.  We enjoy time there before setting out for Jericho, the oldest known city.  After lunch we drive to Jerusalem.  Turning eastward into the Judean wilderness.   We celebrate mass in the desert, overlooking the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  We enter Jerusalem by the Mount of Olives. .  “I rejoiced when I heard them say: Let us go the house of the Lord” Psalm 122.

Day 7:             Bethlehem and the Old City

Let’s go to Bethlehem” Luke 2:15.  We celebrate Mass at Shepherd’s Field, then visit Bethlehem and the basilica of the Nativity.  We lunch in Manger Square and visit the orphanage of the Sisters of Charity before our return to Jerusalem.

Day 8:                         The Old City

Walk around the Old City with visit to the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of Saint Anne.  In the evening we begin our journey in the last days of Jesus with mass in the Upper Room and evening vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Day 9:             From the Upper Room to Calvary

“Having loved his own who were in the world, Jesus loved them to the end” John 13:1

We begin the day in the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu and then carry the Cross up the Via Dolorosa finishing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  After lunch we visit Ein Karem, birthplace of St John the Baptist and site of the Visitation.

Day 10:           Emmaus/Ein Karem

“They told what had happened on the road” Luke 24:35

Morning free.  Then we celebrate mass in Emmaus before our return to Jerusalem and our final celebration of Pentecost in the Upper Room.

 

Day 11:           Tel Aviv/Toronto

We take an early morning flight back home returning filled with the Holy Spirit – renewed and recharged to tell everyone “all the things that happened on the road and how we recognized him in the breaking of the Bread”.

My Transitus Homily

Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi
October 3, 2012

FrancisCorps is a one year young-adult Franciscan volunteer service experience in Syracuse, NY and Costa Rica. The experience of FrancisCorps begins with an Orientation retreat in August. During the retreat the directors of the program read the account of the last supper from the Gospel of John and then proceed to wash the volunteers’ feet. It’s a surprise for the volunteers and quite humbling for them.

One of the curious things about this washing of feet is what’s left in the water after the footwashing – sock lint, dirt from the floor, grass from the fields.* It’s all in there. The water is dirty.

The dirty water at FrancisCorps is similar to that which was found in the upper room at the Last Supper. The water Jesus found in the basin tells the story of where he and the disciples had been; the dirt from the roads, the sweat from anxious moments confronting religious officials, the bits of callouses from the long hours waiting for Jesus while he was feeding and healing and teaching. This dirty water is the water of all of us who are disciples.

In the dirty water we find the story of our journey.
In the dirty water we remember how we got here.
In the dirty water we embrace our humanity.

In the washing of the feet, Jesus pauses and ackowledges and embraces the humanity of his disciples and then he invites them into the intimacy of the Eucharist, the passion of the Cross and the Glory of the Resurrection.
This transition, this pause, this Transitus, is what we do tonight as well. We pause this evening to embrace the humanity of Francis. We pause to remember his dirty feet. We pause to celebrate how he embraced all of his humanity, including Sister Death. It is only then that he could pass from this life to the next.

As we prepare to smear the walls with fat, line tables with hors d’oeuvres and our glasses with wine for the feast tomorrow it’s good for us as well to pause and wash our feet and look into the water.

How has this year been for us as we have followed in the footsteps of the poor man of Assisi?
Whose traces do we find in the dirty water of our life?
Who has touched us? Changed us? Frustrated us? Angered us? Comforted us? Healed us?
Does the water show signs of having gone “off road” to take a risk or dream, or does the water tell the tale of a life lived safely along a clean and easy path?

Whatever story the dirty water may tell; it is ours and it is the past. Let us embrace it and begin tomorrow with a feast, celebrating our brother Francis and our renewed committment to live the Franciscan journey.

*Based on an original idea by Friar Tom Purcell, OFM Conv.