Heaven and Fairy Tales

5th Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018) Year A

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

Death can be a very scary thing to talk about. But first, let me clarify. As Christians, there are two types of death we often refer to. The first is dying to sin and being reborn in Christ. This is what happens in the sacrament of Baptism. It’s exciting to know that there are several among us at St. Andrew’s that will be born again in the waters of Baptism at the Easter Vigil this year. They will be further strengthened in their new Christian life that same night when they also receive the sacrament of Confirmation AND receive our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time ever. This is the fun type of death that we can talk about all day long and get those warm and fuzzy feelings because the people who “die to sin” are still with us afterwards.

The second type of death… well…let’s just say… there are not so many warm and fuzzy feelings. I’m obviously referring to the type of death where we lose a loved one, have a funeral and then mourn for days, weeks, even years after their passing.

But the question I’m posing today for your consideration is… WHY? Why do we get so excited to see someone die to sin and be born again into God’s family through Baptism… but so sad when a faithful Christian dies to this world and is granted eternal life with God?

In a way, I believe this is the question Jesus is asking us through today’s Gospel from John. It’s a long passage so I won’t read it again to you. But basically, Lazarus has died and everyone is in mourning. Many of the people blame Jesus for not being around to save him from death. You see… they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but they still don’t yet understand the resurrection since Jesus hasn’t been crucified yet. But Jesus knows. He fully knows what’s to come and has been preaching to His followers that they will have new life in God in this life AND the next.

But still, the people blame Him while they mourn the death of Lazarus. One of my favorite parts of this passage is where Jesus shows us His human side. We read two times that Jesus is “perturbed.” Yes, even Jesus got upset and irritated at people! He is perturbed because people’s faith in His teaching on heaven and the afterlife is very weak. Rather than celebrating Lazarus’ new life with God, they mourned his death and blamed Jesus for not saving him. I can see Jesus’ eyes roll, hand on his forehead, as he gets perturbed and says, “Fine, I’ll give you one more sign but then that’s it! You really need to start believing in what I’m telling you!” Then he turns to the tomb and cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did.

Now, I acknowledge that we mourn over someone’s death because we won’t see them anymore. I get that. It stings greatly. Trust me, I know. But I think we struggle with death and mourn so intensely after losing a loved one because, deep down, our faith might be a little weak when it comes to heaven.

I can see someone get baptized. I can see someone receive the Lord’s Supper. I can see someone get confirmed. But I can’t “see” what happens to someone’s soul after they die.

Death is that one moment where our faith is put to the ultimate test. We are told that we will stand before God right after our bodily death. So death is the moment that we as Christians realize if this whole “Jesus, Church, Bible” thing is true or just a nice sounding fairy tale. And I think that scares us. I know I’ve struggled with this concept for a long time. I would like to think I’m a faithful Christian who tries my best to follow Christian teachings. But I still wonder if at the moment of my death, I’ll be confident in my faith or “hold my breath” (so to speak) as I wait to see what REALLY happens after I die.

I had a very real, very concrete experience that happened to me recently that has strengthened my faith regarding heaven that I wanted to share. We Catholics pray for the “repose of the soul” of someone after his or her death. It’s a very common practice that dates back to the early Church. It’s based on the teaching that people sometimes need to go to purgatory after death, before entering heaven. Purgatory being a final purification stop on the way to heaven. Think of it as a car wash. When we pray for the repose of the soul of someone, we’re asking God to speed up the process, if possible, so they can enjoy life in heaven sooner. After my mom’s death in October 2017, I’ve been praying for the repose of her soul often.

Well… I was at Mass at the Christ the King Cathedral in Lexington this past February. Angie and I were there assisting with the next class of future Deacons. I had just received communion and returned to my pew to kneel in prayer. With eyes closed and hands folded, I prayer, “Lord, I offer up this Eucharist for the repose of the soul of my mother, Joan Wentz.” And then I froze for a few moments. After that feeling passed, I picked up the hymnal and started to sing the communion hymn… but only got 3 or 4 words out and then I froze up again. Still on my knees, I put the hymnal down and closed my eyes again. I couldn’t move… I couldn’t speak. It was at that moment that I felt my mother’s arms around me. It’s as if she was kneeling to my left, giving me a side hug with her head on my shoulder. It was very real and I just kneeled there… enjoying the hug… as I cried silently. A few minutes later, she was gone. I’m not sure if that’s the moment she left purgatory and entered heaven or if God just knew I needed a hug from my mom that day.

I’ve reflected back on that incident a lot since it happened. I have even kneeled down at Mass after communion and tried to “re-create” the incident to see if it was just in my mind. But I’ve had no luck. I truly feel that God allowed my mom to visit me that day for a brief moment. Since then, I’ve had a better sense of peace that my mom is with God in heaven. I decided to tell all of you about it today because, honestly, I think we all could use a little encouragement when it comes to death and the afterlife. Many of us have lost loved ones this past year.

So yes, don’t be afraid to mourn for those that have passed away. But as we approach Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday… really pay attention and allow all of your senses to be flooded with LOVE. Because it is with LOVE that Jesus offered His body to us on Holy Thursday. It is with LOVE that he died for us on Good Friday. It is with LOVE that He overcame death and opened the gates of heaven for all of us on Easter Sunday. And if you can see with open eyes what Jesus did for us on those Holy Days… then you will absolutely realize just how much He loves YOU. And that love WILL continue into the next life because it is NOT just a fairy tale.


Put Down Your Smart Phone

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 17, 2016)

Genesis 18:1-10a

Psalm 15:2-5

Colossians 1:24-28

Luke 10:38-42

I recently heard on the radio that, on average, people touch their phone between 2,000-3,000 times per day. Adults between the ages of 35-49 watch on average 33 hours of television each week. One article I found claimed that children average 13 hours of video games each week. My point? We live in a very busy world filled with distractions. In the above statements, I didn’t even mention the hours people spend each week at work or at school.

As I am getting older I’m learning that time is precious. We can waste money, but earn it back. We can waste food, but make more. But time wasted can’t be recovered. There is no “do over” when it comes to “yesterday.” We can try to make tomorrow better, but yesterday is spent. So we have to always be conscious of how we are spending our time.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that we need to balance the busyness of our lives and spending time with God. And quite often, we have it backwards. The story of Martha and Mary is very relevant to us today. Martha and Mary are sisters who had Jesus over to their house for a visit. During the visit, Martha was running around the house trying to make sure it was clean and everyone had enough food and drinks. Most would claim that she was being a good hostess. Meanwhile, her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, hanging on His every word. Martha got irritated because Mary was not helping her and voiced her frustration. Jesus replies to her as follows (allow me to modernize it here), “Martha, put down your iPhone, turn off the television, walk away from the xbox controller, stop worrying about when the next soccer practice is and we have plenty of food…. I need you to take a breath, sit down and spend some time with me.” And in this case, who is “me?” None other… then the Son of God.

Now, the devil wants nothing better than for us to get so busy and distracted with worldly things, that we put God on the back burner. Smart phones, movies, video games, sports and so forth can be good things… but we need to be careful to not put these things before God.

I, like most of you, have a very busy life. I work a full time job, my wife Angie and I have 5 kids (4 of which will be playing soccer this fall), I coach and referee soccer, work with the youth group and I’m obviously a Deacon which entails a lot of behind the scenes things here at church. So I feel very fortunate that I was able to take time out of my schedule to be a chaperone, along with my wife, at the Ignite Your Torch youth retreat in Louisville last weekend. I got to “escape from the world” and surround myself with God for four days.

My wife and I along with our youth group members who attended Ignite Your Torch 2016

My wife and I along with our youth group members who attended Ignite Your Torch 2016

It. Was. Incredible. I can testify first hand that the future of our church is in good hands with our youth. These high school kids had their faith strengthened in ways that brought me to tears on more than one occasion at the retreat. The youth got to attend workshops, listen to speakers, attend daily Mass, participate in Eucharistic Adoration and interact with priests, sisters and other religious from over 15 different orders. Not to mention we saw a dodge ball game between priests and seminarians, watch a break dancing-beat boxing priest, watch nuns from Nigeria do traditional dance from their county and many, many other things you just don’t see everyday.

The guy in the middle of the circle dressed in black... yup, a break dancing priest!

The guy in the middle of the circle dressed in black… yup, a break dancing priest!

The single most moving experience for me was during Eucharistic Adoration at the school gymnasium. All of the kids kneeled down in prayer as one priest came around and gave an individual blessing with our Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance over each kid. A band was playing Christian music in the background and priests were scattered throughout the gym to hear confessions. What moved me the most was that I looked around the gym and noticed the confession lines were full. And when the kids came back from confession, they would kneel back down and wait as the monstrance was processed around to them. When it was their turn, they would then gaze up at our Eucharistic Lord from their knees and receive a blessing. Many of them were moved to tears from this encounter.

A high school student receiving a blessing

A high school student receiving a blessing

The beauty of it all was that there were no cell phones, no TV, no video games, no pressure from sports and no school…. Just time with Jesus Christ. If you ever have the opportunity to go on a spiritual retreat, please do it. It has the potential to change your life.

In reality, many of us don’t have the ability to go on a retreat or at least not that often. So I wanted to leave you with three simple things you can do to strengthen your faith and your relationship with Jesus Christ. However, there’s one caveat. All three things will require you to put down your phone, turn off the TV, unplug the video game, and step away from the busyness of the world… at least temporarily.

  1. Go to confession. Frequent confession will bring you more grace and allow you to feel God’s love in super abundance.
  2. Read the Gospels. These four books are first hand accounts of the life and teaching’s of Jesus Christ. Listen to His words and act on them.
  3. Receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Allow Him to be the food that satisfies your body and soul.

We are all meant for great things. But we can’t reach our spiritual potential if we keep putting other things before God. So, use your time wisely and don’t be afraid to step away from the world from time to time and focus on the only one that can give you lasting peace…. Jesus Christ.

Don’t Be A Zombie

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 13, 2016)

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

I’ve noticed a certain fascination that people have had over the past few years. It has developed a cult-like following and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. From “Night of the Living Dead” to “The Walking Dead,” from “Zombieland” to “World War Z,” our country has an infatuation with zombies. I’ve even seen sincere interviews with families regarding how they are getting ready for the eventual “zombie apocalypse.” In case you never heard of this phrase, the “zombie apocalypse” is when zombies are going to try to take over the world. And apparently if one bites you, you’ll turn into a zombie. So obviously you need to start stocking up on supplies now because one can only imagine the chaos that will result from such an event. Sadly, not a single presidential candidate has put forth a plan on how they are going to combat this impending doom!


I bring this up because people read the Scriptures through the lens of their own reality. And if your reality is “zombies,” I didn’t want you to get confused with today’s readings. The first reading from Ezekiel states, “Thus says the LORD God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” The Gospel of John recounts the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. So just to make this absolutely clear…we are NOT talking about zombies here!

I actually did some internet research on the ever so reliable Wikipedia to find a definition of zombie so we can distinguish them from what the Scriptures are describing. It turns out that, “zombie is a FICTIONAL undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. The term comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as radiation, mental diseases, viruses, scientific accidents, etc.” Thank you Wikipedia! Zombies are fictional, soul-less beings that used to be humans. And apparently, these humans-turned-zombies only have one purpose in their lives, only one basic urge to satisfy, to eat. To fulfill this hunger they eat any living flesh they can find. And if they can’t find any, they just keep wandering around aimlessly.

I’m sure this is all fascinating, but why is this Catholic Deacon going on and on about zombies? Because I’m here to warn you! Although I have said twice so far that zombies are FICTIONAL, I truly think the zombie apocalypse has already begun…but not in the way you may think! Think back 10-15 years ago. When people walked around, they made eye contact and said hello to people they passed on the street. Now, we have our heads buried in our smart phones and avoid eye contact. Instead of having an actual face-to-face conversation, we send a text. Instead of watching our kids play sports, we are updating our Facebook statuses on the sidelines. We don’t go outside, we go online. It seems the more we plug into technology, the more we unplug and disconnect from reality.


Granted, technology can be a good thing, but I’m afraid it has turned us into mindless zombies, wondering around aimlessly through life. And if we keep feeding on what the world is offering, our hunger will never be satisfied and the “zombie apocalypse” will continue to get worse.

Now, I can’t leave you in a state of despair and without hope! I mean, I pretty much just labeled all of us zombies. However, you are in luck… I have found the antidote! It boils down to two words, a name really… Jesus Christ. From today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said, “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.” This is also what the LORD God was speaking of in Ezekiel when He said, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” Our God was NOT talking about reanimating corpses but instilling LIFE into our lifeless bodies! It’s about dying to sin and our selfish ways and rising to a new life in Christ. Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to be a zombie; He raised him from the dead to give him new life!

lazarus art

And unlike zombies who feed on any flesh they can find, we Catholics need to feed our souls and sustain our lives by eating the flesh of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. He is the food that sustains us, which is why it is so very important to receive Him in the Eucharist frequently.

This time of year, the upcoming Easter season, gives us the best example of how Jesus can give new life by looking at the RCIA process. This Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process where non-Catholics convert to or come into full communion with the Catholic Church. At St. Andrew’s we have 6 people who, at the Easter Vigil, will die to their old selves and be given new life through the waters of baptism. We also have 4 candidates who have already been baptized in other faith traditions. These 4 will renew their baptismal promises along with all of us. And then these 10 “new” Catholics will receive the Bread of Life for the first time, the Holy Eucharist, to feed that hunger that is deep inside all of them.


So my question for you is this… do you want to continue down the path of the “zombie apocalypse” or do you want to have new life in Christ?

One pathway leads to death and wandering aimlessly. The other pathway gives you life and satisfies your hunger.

So if you’re tired of being a zombie and you want to have new life in Christ, I suggest you frequent this altar as often as possible and receive the only food, the only flesh, that satisfies.

Jesus gives us new life and then feeds us through His Body in the Eucharist. It’s that simple. Now it’s up to us to choose the right path and be faithful!

God Feeds Us

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 26, 2015)

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11,15-16,17-18

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 6:1-15

Today’s first reading, the Psalm and the Gospel from John all have the same theme: We are hungry…God feeds us. Obviously this can be referencing actual food, but it can also speak to our spiritual hunger that only God can satisfy. With that theme in mind, I want to tell you about a youth retreat I attended with some of the high school students from St. Andrew’s and St. William’s a few weeks ago at St. Catharine’s College in Springfield, KY called Ignite Your Torch. It was a four-day event and was attended by over 300 high school youth and between 20-30 priests and religious all wearing clerics or full habits. And before you picture a bunch of boring old men or mean nuns carrying rulers right out of the 1950’s, realize that most of the priests and sisters were young. Let me tell you…you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed cassock and habit wearing priests take on high school boys in a game of dodge ball. It was epic!

Many of the priests, religious and some laity gave various Catholic related talks of which the students were allowed to pick and choose which one they wanted to hear. There were over 30 different talks to choose from throughout the conference. One of the talks I attended was by Sr. Maria Francesca, a very young Dominican sister. Her talk was called, “Souls on Fire.” She discussed how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and did it with such love and enthusiasm that I could have listened to her all day long. I also listened to Br. Matthias, a Carmelite with a big ‘ol beard, give a talk called, “Prayer that ROCKS your world.” He told us about St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer life and also explained the significance of wearing the Brown Scapular (my personal favorite devotion as you may remember from my last homily). Br. Matthias said that every time we kiss Mary’s Brown Scapular, it was like we were kissing Mary’s face. How beautiful! Fr. Benedict, another Dominican, gave a talk explaining how to withdraw from the distractions of the world and enter into the sacred shrine of the soul to be alone with God. It was high quality Catholic teaching presented in a way that engaged teenagers. I know from experience that this is not an easy task! The retreat was intensely faith filled and truly rekindled the fire of my faith. I can only imagine the impact it will have shaping the young faith of the students that attended.

There were a few very specific events that occurred during Ignite Your Torch that touched my faith on a very deep level. I wanted to share with you one that happened Friday night during Eucharistic adoration. Traditionally, Eucharistic adoration consists of having the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar in a monstrance while people sit or kneel in silent prayer. This is how we do it at St. Andrew’s every Wednesday in our day chapel. The adoration at Ignite was very different. Instead of leaving the Eucharist on the altar, Fr. Tony (a Fathers of Mercy priest) walked around to each of the 300+ people kneeling and, one by one, blessed them with the Eucharist. It was intense to kneel down before our Lord in the Eucharist, look up and receive His blessing. For that brief moment in time, it was a very personal, intimate moment with our Lord.

Because there were so many people, it took awhile to get to everyone so people had the opportunity to go to confession or pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while waiting. I didn’t go to confession in the beginning because the lines were filling up and I wanted to allow time for the kids to go. So during this time of waiting I did my normal prayers, I asked God to help me with a few issues and also to keep watch over some people I knew who were struggling in their lives. However, I had a deep sense of stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out. So I just kneeled and waited all the while wrestling with an uneasiness that I couldn’t pinpoint. It was then that Fr. Tony stood in front of me holding our Eucharistic Lord. I lifted my eyes upwards and gazed at the Eucharist as I received Christ’s blessing. It took all of a few seconds and then Fr. Tony moved on to the next person.

During the blessing I was fine. But as soon as it was over I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak. It seemed like forever but probably didn’t last more then 10 seconds. On the outside, I experienced a type of paralysis but on the inside, I experienced pure joy and love. It was as if I was one with the Trinity. As Fr. Benedict explained in his talk earlier, I was able to enter the sacred shrine of my soul to be alone with God. Shortly after, I bent forward and started weeping. I wept because as soon as I experienced that intense love from God, He helped me see clear as day where I have not shown that kind of love to others. Specifically, God pointed out to me a sin that I’ve been clinging onto for a long time now. That was the stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out earlier. I continued to pray and cry in thanksgiving to God. I then pulled out my brown scapular and, as Br. Matthias described so beautifully, kiss the face of Mary. That 15-20 minute window was one of the most emotionally intense moments I’ve ever experienced while praying.

As the night was winding down, I knew I had to go to confession. I mean, when God clearly points out your sin, you better pay attention and act immediately! But I knew if I didn’t go to confession right then, I’d make up an excuse and not get around to it for a while. So I looked around and saw a priest in the corner of the room with a smile on his face and nobody in line. I approached him…sat down…and began, ”Forgive me father for I have sinned.” That night, I was able to go to confession and rid my soul of a sin that was eating at me for years.

Remember the theme from today’s reading? My soul hungered for healing…God fed me.

You know, it’s easy to hear today’s Gospel reading about the multiplication of loaves and say, “Yup, that’s a pretty cool miracle. Jesus sure fed a lot of people.” But what we need to do it really mediate on it’s meaning.

We are sinners. We ache for love. We have a void in our souls. If we turn that over to God in faithful prayer, God can heal us. God will love us. God will fill the void in our souls.

Not just a little bit…He will multiple it so that we are satisfied. This is not just for some people…God’s love is infinite and extends to ALL of us. But we have to do our part. We have to be willing to ask for help and forgiveness. We have to spend time in prayer to enter the sacred shrine of our souls. We have to remain faithful to God no matter what trials we are facing.

If we do this, God will answer all our needs…He will satisfy our hunger. He will feed us with the only food that satisfies…the Bread of Life…His Son…Jesus Christ.

Take My Breath Away

Corpus Christi (June 22, 2014)

Dt 8:2-3,14b-1a

Psalm 147

1 Cor 10:16-17

John 6:51

There have been a few moments in my life when I have had my “breath taken away.” When I stood in front of the altar at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in 1999 and first saw my bride in her white wedding dress walking down the aisle towards me; When I looked into the eyes of my newborn sons for the first time; On September 11, 2001 when I saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center in New York on the morning news; When I saw white smoke come out of the small chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating the election of who we all have come to know and love as Pope Francis. These are just some of the bigger moments that I can recall.

Well, it happened again last week while driving to Lexington in my car. I was listening to a CD by Vinny Flynn titled, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist.” He was talking about St. Mary Faustina.

St. Faustina

St. Faustina

For those that don’t know, St. Faustina reportedly had a number of apparitions, conversations and visions with Jesus Christ and wrote them down in her diary, which later was published as a book. Before I read you the quote that “took my breath away,” I want to give you a little background as to why it was so powerful for me to hear…plus this way I can build suspense and you won’t fall asleep during my homily!

Today on the Church calendar we celebrate the solemnity of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ” or more commonly known as “Corpus Christi.”


Next to Easter and Christmas, this is probably my next favorite feast day on the calendar. I love it because today we celebrate a uniquely Catholic teaching that comes straight from the mouth of Christ in the 6th chapter from the Gospel of John. “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.” “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

Today we celebrate the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (Holy Communion). Today we are reminded that when we approach this altar, we receive a LIVING God into our very bodies. Nine times in today’s Gospel, Jesus uses a derivative of the word “living” to describe Himself. This is not just some ordinary bread or cheap wine. I fully realize the Catholic belief that ordinary looking bread and wine are actually the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of a living God is hard to grasp and accept.


Even the Jews who heard Jesus speak the actual words from John 6 “quarreled among themselves” asking how this could be possible. But notice what Jesus did NOT say after the Jews questioned Him in the Gospel. He did NOT say, “Hold on people, I didn’t mean that literally. You don’t have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. It was just a figure of speech.” No, Jesus intensifies his speech by saying, “Amen, amen” (which is code word for “listen up people, this is important”) and then He goes on for seven more sentences reaffirming that He really meant what He said. This should be mind-blowing stuff for us…especially if you’ve never contemplated what you are TRULY receiving when you come up for communion. This is what we are celebrating on the feast of Corpus Christi today. The Living God comes down from Heaven and gives us Himself every time we receive Holy Communion at Mass.


Ok…so are you ready to hear the quote from St. Faustina that took my breath away last week? In her diary, she wrote that Jesus appeared to her and said, “When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion my hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul, but souls don’t even pay attention to me. They leave me to myself and busy themselves with other things. They treat me as a dead object.

When I first heard it I got a little defensive actually. I’m an ordained Catholic Deacon for crying out loud! I know Church teaching! I understand the Eucharist and the true presence! I never miss a Sunday Mass, I go to Eucharistic adoration every week and I pray daily! But I kept wrestling with these words and finally I remained quiet enough to let them really sink in. I then asked myself, if I really did believe that Jesus Christ is alive and present in the consecrated bread and wine at Mass, why don’t I show Him more reverence? Why do I become so easily distracted sometimes when I am up here next to the priest assisting at the altar? I realized that I was getting defensive because I knew, deep down, these words were true. That’s when it hit me. Jesus wasn’t talking to “that Catholic over there,” He was talking to me. And if you humble yourself enough to let those words He spoke to St. Faustina really sink in, I think you’ll find He’s talking to each and every one of us. I don’t doubt one bit that everyone here loves God. I just have a feeling that we can all do better, myself included.

Ever hear the phrase, “You are what you eat?” If we claim to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we should be acting more like Him in our actions. He is the real food and the real drink that nourishes and strengthens our very souls. Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you how you can better love Him. If you are patient and quiet enough, He will show you the answer.

But until that happens, I think it’s time we acknowledge that we are eating from the heavenly banquet. I think it’s time we eat the best of wheat, the bread of angels, food for the pilgrim journey. I think it’s time we start being more Christ-like as we “become what we eat.” I think it’s time to reclaim the sacredness of the Eucharist and our reverence for Him. I think it’s time we allow Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist to “take our breath away” every time we approach His altar.

My Heart Is Restless

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 4, 2013)

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23

Ps 90: 3-6, 12-14, 17

Col 3:1-5, 9-11

Luke 12:13-21

When I was in middle school, I developed an expensive hobby. Collecting baseball cards. I started off buying a pack or two at a time from the local grocery store when I could save up enough money. They were the cards that had the stick of pink gum that was hard as a rock, lost its flavor after about 30 seconds and made your jaws hurt. If I got duplicate cards, I would trade them with my neighborhood friends. Eventually my mom and I would go to these large conventions and walk from table to table searching for just the right card. My baseball hero was Philadelphia Phillies 3rd baseman Mike Schmidt. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1995 and considered by most to have been the best at his position in the history of baseball. It was my goal to collect every single Mike Schmidt card, coin, button, photograph, magazine cover and figurine available. We would spend hours at the conventions looking for those really rare collectibles and act like we just won the lottery when a hidden gem was located. I ended up with a pretty large collection of Mike Schmidt stuff and got to the point when I could no longer find anything new. However, there was still one card that eluded me: His 1973 rookie card.


There were plenty out there, but I couldn’t afford one on my middle school salary. One day my mom and I were browsing the vendor’s tables at a card convention when she saw a reasonably priced Mike Schmidt rookie card. It was in good condition but was printed off-centered, which lowered its value considerably. After much debate, we purchased it for around $100 and my collection was complete. Since there was nothing more to collect, I eventually lost interest and stopped going to the baseball card conventions. 20 some years later I am now the proud owner of four very large bins of baseball memorabilia that just sit in a closet. What once consumed my life now collects dust.


I think a lot of people can relate to my story. We tend to want to collect things we don’t really need or do things that distract us from what is really important on life’s journey. Maybe instead of baseball cards, you like to accumulate electronics, tools or money. Maybe your time is overly consumed with watching TV, playing video games or gossiping. Speaking as a parent, one thing that consumes a lot of our family’s time is shuttling the kids to sporting events like practices and games. taxiSome days it’s even hard to make time for a family dinner because of juggling three different soccer schedules. It can be down right exhausting to do all of the day-to-day activities required in a 24-hour period. And yet somehow, in all of the chaos, we are supposed to find time for God….

Even as a Catholic Deacon, sometimes my prayer life struggles. It’s hard to pencil God in when I can barely catch my breath some days because of making certain deadlines and finishing projects that need my attention. This adds more stress to my life and, according to my beautiful wife, I tend to get a little grumpy when this happens. So no, wearing these vestments does not mean that I am perfect!

So here’ s my question…Why do we do it? Why do we let ourselves get overbooked and overburdened with things that aren’t leading us to God? I truly think it’s because we are trying to fill a void. Our hearts have an aching that causes us to search for that special something to fill it with. But the sad truth is that we all too often turn to worldly things to try and fill the void. In the end, these things fall short and we are left searching for the next temporary thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could somehow satisfy our heart’s desires with something that will never fade!


Many may not realize this but I don’t get paid to be a Catholic Deacon. I jokingly tell people that I get paid in grace and I hope God takes that into consideration on my judgment day! I do, however, get to do some really cool stuff.  Fr. Noel, Deacon Richard and I take turns doing Benediction just before midnight on Wednesdays to close out Eucharistic Adoration. About two weeks ago it was my turn. benedictionSo I got dressed up in my white alb, deacon stole and cope (that’s the thing that looks like a cape) and after certain prayers, give a blessing with the Eucharist while it’s in the monstrance. After the blessing, I take the luna (which is the glass container holding the Eucharist) out of the monstrance and slowly walk it back and place it in the tabernacle. As I’m walking back, I take our Eucharistic Lord and hold Him against my heart. When I do this, my heart starts pounding and speeds up like I just ran a marathon. It’s almost like my heart is trying to leap out of my body and be united with that of Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist. My heart innately knows that the only thing that can satisfy it completely is a mere two inches away. To quote St. Augustine, ‘my heart is restless until it rests in you.”

This is what we need to focus on. This is how we are to permanently fill the void in our heart left by original sin. Only God can fulfill our every desire. But it will take effort. It will take sacrifice. It takes studying and actively practicing your faith on a daily basis. And I know you can do it! I’ve seen the love and passion some of you parents have teaching your children sports. Can you imagine how strong of a faith your child will have if you put that same effort into teaching them our faith?

That’s the message Jesus was trying to get across in Luke’s Gospel concerning the parable of the rich man. We can accumulate all the stuff in the world, but one day, we will all die and that stuff is not coming with us. Everything in this world…our money, house, spouse, children, job, even my 1973 Mike Schmidt rookie card…EVERYTHING…can be taken away in a moment’s notice…but our faith can’t.  So focus on what matters to God. Unite your heart with His and you will find rest.

this IS my body

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi (June 2, 2013)

Gn: 14:18-20

Ps 110

1 Cor 11:23-26

Lk 9:11b-17

I wanted to share with you a story about a married couple that my wife and I met back in 2006. Their names are Mike and Angie. It’s their story of how they went from their Protestant faith into full communion with the Catholic Church. The following is in Mike’s own words:

“I had been on the journey for several years, moving from curiosity to attraction, whereas Angie had come along rather late (but rapidly). When we began to feel that our journey was going to lead us to become Catholic, I began to get cold feet, thinking we could just “appreciate” Catholicism from a distance while remaining safely Protestant. Angie and I had been in the habit, each of us individually, sneaking over to an occasional daily Mass at Christ the King, which was just a couple blocks from our house. One day Angie was going out the door to a Mass, and I said to her as she was walking out the door, “Angie, maybe we don’t have to do this…you know, become Catholic. Maybe we can just have an appreciation for the Catholic Church.” She immediately stopped at the front door, with her back to me, and was completely silent for a number of seconds. When she turned around, I noticed tears running down her cheeks, and she said, “All my life, I’ve wanted it to be true, that it really is the body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol. But I never allowed myself to believe it. I can’t not do this.” And the rest, so they say, is history.”

What a powerful witness to the Catholic teaching on the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. What makes it even more powerful is one little detail that I left out at the beginning of the story. You see…Mike was the head pastor of a United Methodist Church in Lexington at the time that he and Angie were sneaking off to attend Mass at Christ the King Cathedral.

Let that sink in for a second.

The Methodist Church where he was the pastor was paying his salary and providing housing for Mike, Angie and their 6 children. Can you see why Mike was a little timid and started getting cold feet??? They knew they were heading down a path that would ultimately leave them unemployed and without housing.

Our Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is stunning, shocking and beautiful all at the same time. It sets us apart from other Christian churches without a doubt. The origins of this teaching can readily be traced back to the Apostles and the early Church.  For example, St. Ignatius in 110 AD and St. Justin Martyr in 150 AD both wrote letters describing Christ being truly present in the bread and wine.  We even read about it in today’s reading from 1st Corinthians where Christ took bread, gave thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.” And then he took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”

last supper

This IS my body. This IS my blood. It’s not a symbol; it’s flesh and blood under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine. Sure, look at it under a microscope and you’ll see bread and wine (with the exception of documented Eucharistic miracles like the one Deacon Richard preached about a few weeks ago). But to quote the song we chant at Benediction at the end of Eucharistic adoration on Wednesday nights, “Faith will tell us Christ is present, when our human senses fail.”  It’s not an easy teaching to grasp, but it’s an authentic teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church that we need to keep reflecting on so that we can try to better wrap our imperfect minds around it.  But once this teaching has been planted in your mind, it’s hard to ignore the awesomeness of it…if given the chance.

That’s what Mike and Angie struggled with. The seeds were planted. They knew where they were heading but also knew the consequences it would bring with their job security. Trusting is God (and pregnant with baby #7) they announced to their congregation their plans of joining the Catholic Church. They then left the United Methodist Church in June 2005 and gave birth to their baby girl the next month.  They officially joined the Catholic Church on August 13, 2005 at Mary Queen in Lexington, which was also the same day their newest baby was baptized.

Mike and Angie with their children

Mike and Angie with their children

Mike is now the director of the Marriage and Family Life Office for our Diocese and has his own Catholic talk radio show on Real Life Radio out of Lexington called the “Mike Allen Show.” Trusting in God can be so very difficult, especially when the outcome seems clouded by our human eyes. But it can be extremely rewarding if you are brave enough to prayerfully take that first step.

Mike and Angie took that first step. They were invited to the Eucharistic banquet and decided to show up to the party. You and I are given that same invitation every weekend at Mass. jesus_communionJesus is the Host. We are the guests.  Please take this invitation seriously. There are so many people in our society, maybe even some in this church that are aching from a lack of something. I’m not talking about material goods, but of companionship, love, mercy or forgiveness. Jesus wants to fill this void and be present to us in a profound way at this banquet. His most Holy Body and Blood is the only food that can satisfy the very desires of our soul.

Cling to the teaching on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Study it. Internalize it. Come to Mass frequently and when you come up for communion know in your heart that you are approaching the Almighty God of the Universe. Go to confession before Mass so you can receive Christ with a pure heart and clean body. Come to Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesdays and reflect on this mystery. Pray for God to open your heart to Him. If you can achieve this, peace will enter you and fill every void.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a banquet table to help set up…

Deacon Richard, Fr. Noel and myself celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist

Deacon Richard, Fr. Noel and myself celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist