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.


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


Holy Land Pilgrimage for Catholic Leaders

Feb 13 – Feb 23, 2014

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



Kitty McGilly MRE, L.S.S.

Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv.


< 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



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.


Funniest line ever heard at a rest stop shop:

Lady: “How do you say bagel in English?”
Cashier: ” Bagel”
Lady: “Oh, because it’s also bagel in Hebrew. ”

Love the interactions at these rest stops.

BTW I love the healthy selections that the OnRoute Markets provide. My usually are either Turkey sandwich on multigrain with low fat mayo and cheese or two hard boiled eggs. Easy for the car.

Something strange is happening!


This morning I was awakened by a text message on my phone that read: Something Strange is happening! Immediately I knew who sent the message; it was from my friend Michael. Ever since we were friars together in formation we would relish the Liturgy of the Hours of Easter Saturday morning which includes a powerful ancient homily about Christ’s descent into Hell to free Adam. It is so powerful and poignant. I hope you enjoy it.

Christ the Saviour of Chora

The Risen Christ liberates Adam and Eve from Hell - Church of the Saviour, Chora, near Istanbul, Turkey.

      Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

  He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

  I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

  See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

  I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

  Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.