Monday, December 04, 2017

HOMILY for December 3, 2017: 1st Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

1st Sunday of Advent
Cycle B
December 3, 2017


The Preciousness of Time

From my ministry as a priest, and from my family and personal life, I have heard some very good wisdom.

I have heard statements from persons who have lived with cancer or other life-threatening diseases.  And I have heard statements from those who have survived a coronary infarction or a stroke.

Their illnesses have taught them an invaluable lesson.  They say that every second that flashes on your watch and every hour of the day is precious. 

These persons explain how you learn to prize people.  They explain how you come to understand that others can be as fragile and as fearful as you have been.

Every walk in the woods becomes an encounter with the sacred.  Every hour spent with your spouse and children and friends becomes special.

Every moment spent with another person becomes too important to waste on put-downs and pettiness, or on judgment and rejection.  You don’t quarrel anymore; you discuss.

Joy, peace, and reconciliation are the driving forces in your life.  Paradoxically, even though you have had the life-threatening illness and deserve compassion, you develop compassion and empathy for others. 

So, many of those who have had these illnesses can help the rest of us to realize that our time is finite and limited, that “later” is “now” and that “tomorrow” is “today.”  They can lead us to cherish every moment we have.

Advent: Watch

Advent, the season that we begin this weekend, presents the same theme.

Advent alerts us to how finite and limited our time is.  It confronts us with the reality that our lives are precious and fragile. 

I find it interesting that in today’s brief gospel parable, Jesus uses the word “watch” or “watchful” four times.  I guess he doesn’t want us to miss the point.


I am seeing four ways of watching or being watchful in response to Jesus using that word four times.

First, we are to watch out for the long term of life. 

We are not to lose ourselves in any one season, including this Christmas season, or in any one comfort or problem.  Instead, we are to watch out for the long term of life and the kind of person we will want to be when the last chapter of our life on this earth has arrived.

Then we are to watch out for the big picture, the broad perspective of things. 

We are not to get boxed in by a narrow vision of life and of the world.  Instead, we are to watch out for the big picture, the broad perspective –God’s own perspective – of the well-being of my family and my community and also of others whom I only know from the news. 

We are to watch for how God comes to us each day. 

We are not to be insensitive to the truth that God comes to us in everyday ways.  Instead, we are to be watchful for how God comes to us in an affirming comment from your employer or simply in the starkness of winter.

And finally, we are to watch for how I can bring God to others. 

We are not to miss opportunities to do good and then be guilty of what we call sins of omission.  Instead, we are to be watchful for opportunities to attend Mass on an extra day or maybe to lend a helping hand at a local soup kitchen.


So, this watchfulness is our Advent calling and our way to be prepared and ready for the second coming of Christ. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

HOMILY for November 26, 2017: The Feast of Christ the King, Cycle A

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen 

The Feast of Christ the King, Cycle A
St. Mary Church, Laurinburg, NC
November 26, 2017

There Will Be an Ultimate Audit
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

The Ultimate Audit

I have never been audited by the IRS. Actually, the very idea strikes fear in me. Why?

Perhaps I wonder if my deductions were correct; if my income amounts were accurate; if I filled out the tax forms properly. The auditor’s job is to analyze and judge me.

This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin a new Liturgical year with the 1st Sunday of Advent. The readings give the same feel of being told that you’re going to be audited by the IRS.

Jesus instructs us that upon his return, each of us will be called to “render an accounting of ourselves” as to how well or how poorly we have made use of our gifts.

Yes, we shall all one day be faced with life’s “ultimate audit.”


I would like to suggest that we face that possibility today with a sense of calm and see how things stack up “for” or “against” us.

Last week’s Gospel about the three servants and how each of them used their gifts is helpful as a frame of reference for appreciating this week’s “audit” of our lives, which gets into how, what we have received, is used in the service of others.

Each of the three servants last week received a gift and each was responsible for making the best use of that gift for his master.

I would like to suggest an image to better understand what I mean by making the best use of the gift we’ve been given.

A Bar of Iron

Take a long 1-inch bar of iron worth about $5. (Demonstrate with hands)

This very same bar of iron, in the hands of one person could be used to make $50 worth of horseshoes. In the hands of another, $500 worth of sewing machine needles, and in the hands of a third person, $5,000 worth of watch springs.

Yes, one bar of iron in the hands of three different people, doing different things to it, could create different products and different profits.

God has blessed each of us with a share of this world’s goods. So also, each of us has been challenged to make the best use of these goods by furthering the interests of our master.

From our Master we learn that what we do with our bar of iron isn’t to be based on making the most money from it but on what is needed and what our talents are.

We need to acknowledge 1st that we each have our bar of iron and 2nd that our life has called us into relationships with others in our family, workplace, school, and church where there are real needs to be satisfied.

My talents and those needs must be served best with a bar of iron God has given me.

And, yes, those relationships might include, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless.

The three factors – namely, my bar of iron, my talents, and the needs in my relationships – are the criteria that will determine how well I will fare at my ultimate audit before God.

Reaching Out

I downloaded last week’s bulletin of the parish I belong to in order to see how my bar of iron might get shaped to serve my relationship to the parish where I help out from time-to-time.

So what did I find? For starters, a gal named Marge who heads up “Thoughtful Wishes” which is a Card Ministry that sends monthly cards to folks in area nursing homes is in need of volunteers to help write 25 cards a month to the shut-in and homebound.

What might I do with my gift as I become aware of this need? Make horseshoes, needles, or watch springs? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the sick are getting cared for!

Then I read that a fellow named Jerry needed volunteers to deliver Thanksgiving baskets to needy families.

What might I do with my gift as I become aware of this need? Make horseshoes, needles, or watch springs? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a hungry family is fed!

Finally, I read that our parish Ministry of Consolation held its last drop-in Bereavement Group session this past week until January. Are there people in my life who have suffered the loss of a loved one and who are not being compassionately supported in their need to mourn?

What might I do with my gift as I become aware of this need? Make horseshoes, needles, or watch springs? Yes, by now you know, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that those who mourn are being consoled!


One bar of iron many uses. Based on my skills and talents, and others need on that will rest our final audit.

The question that remains is would you be ready if you had to report today?

HOMILY for November 19, 2017: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen 

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

St. Mark, Fallston
November 19, 2017

Fostering the Gifts of One Another
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato



The Giftedness of Children

There is a story about a young man named Brian.

Brian always loved to tinker with mechanical devices.  As a 6-year old, he took apart a remote control toy car.

At age 9, Brian helped his dad fix the lawn mower.  In high school, he spent hours rebuilding computer equipment.

And as a young adult, Brian had already become a sound technician for a theatre company.  His parents steadily encouraged him from a very young age.

But, Brian, in his school years, was never labeled as “gifted.”  The definition of the “gifted child” was traditionally limited to the top 5 to 10% of children who achieved high test scores and excelled in school.

No question, these children are gifted, but, there may be hundreds of other ways for children to be gifted.  Today, educators and psychologists tell us that nearly all children have special gifts.

Children may display their giftedness through words, numbers, music, sports, technical skill, social interaction, intuitive insight, creativity, a quick wit, and on it goes.  Many professionals now say that all children have gifts and they just vary from one child to another.

Our Gifts and the Gospel

I first came across these insights in an article that is entitled Fifty Ways to Bring Out Your Child’s Best. 

Well, I am seeing today’s gospel parable today from a slightly different perspective.  Instead of reflecting on our use of our own gifts, I am thinking about how we can encourage others, especially children, grandchildren, and godchildren in using their gifts.

The article that I cited gives 50 ways to bring out the best, to bring out the gifts in our children.  This morning I want to share just 5 of these with you.

Five Ways to Bring Out the Gifts

First, pay attention to what really interests your child.  Be attentive to what captures your children’s attention in a positive way.

These interests will say a lot about where their gifts lay.  By being attentive to this, you are in effect letting that special child of yours discover their own giftedness. 

In today’s gospel parable, the number of talents – 5, 2 or 1 – does not just mean having more or less talent than others.  Instead, these numbers can represent different kinds of gifts and our task is to help our children – and even other adults – identify their own unique gifts.

Second, encourage your children, but do not push or pressure them too much.  If we do that, they may become too stressed or even not work to develop their gifts.

The master in today’s parable does not pressure.  He simply gives his servants the gifts and the opportunities to use them.

Third, allow your children to make some mistakes.  If they have to do everything perfectly, they may never take the risks necessary to discover and develop their gifts.

It’s good to assist a child in realizing a mistake and learning from it.  But first, we need to allow some appropriate freedom to make mistakes.

And the fourth rule is connected with this: don’t criticize your children in a way that puts them down.  Instead, give them encouragement and constructive criticism.

These two rules – 1) allowing your children to make some mistakes and 2) not putting them down – are borne out in the third servant in the gospel parable.  He feels afraid and intimidated and the result is that he does not use and develop his gifts.

And the fifth rule: accept your child as he or she is.  Maybe your son is musically inclined and does not have a lot of athletic ability.

Or maybe your daughter is more into computers than dance. 

The important thing is to take our children as they are, because that will be the best environment for using the gifts they have been given and for becoming the persons God intended them to be.       


So, these simple, but important rules:
Ø  Pay attention to interests
Ø  Encourage them in their interests
Ø  Allow mistakes
Ø  Don’t criticize
Ø  Accept them as they are

Within such an environment, children — and even adults — will thrive with the talents God has given each of them.