Sunday, June 03, 2018

HOMILY for June 3, 2018: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle B

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Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle B
Terranova Hermitage
June 3, 2018           

What We Speak Matters…Big Time!
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato


Our Language 


Today I want to reflect with you about the words that we use when we speak.

Our words are very important. They have an effect on us and to some extent, they form us as persons.

Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel good or to feel lousy about themselves, or to become angry or compassionate.

And because of this, our words have an effect on our relationship with God. So, my concern is that we need to be more intentional about our use of words.

As the saying goes, “We need to think before we speak.”For the past three or four months, I have been thinking about some basic rules for our use of words.

I’ve got six, quick, positive rules for the kinds of words we are to speak, and, corresponding negatives for the kinds of words we are to avoid. So, here goes!

Six Rules on Words 


Number 1. Use words that are affirming and not belittling.

Affirm the good qualities of others or at least be respectful of them as persons. Don’t belittle others and make them appear as no good.

Number 2. Use words that are unitive and not divisive.

Emphasize the things that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide yourself from others, as if there is no common ground between you. 

Number 3. Use words that are reconciling and not distancing. 

Ask for forgiveness or be forgiving, or at least speak in a way that leaves the door open to reconciling. Don’t distance yourself from others especially by holding yourself as absolutely right and them as absolutely wrong.

Number 4. Use words that are protecting and not bullying.

Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully them by taking advantage of their weakness or inferior position.
                                                                                                                               
Number 5. Use words that are persuasive and not coercive.

Treat others as reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the issue is. Don’t try to coerce others into seeing or doing things your way.

Number 6. Use words that are truthful and not untruthful.

Say things that you know or believe to be true, even if they are not in yourbest interest. Don’t say things that are untrue, as a way of making yourself look better.

The Body of Christ


Okay! I see these as six basic, but important rules on our use of words.

I think they are a timely refresher for us at this time. And I am moved to talk about this by today’s celebration in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus gives us bread and wine, his body and blood as our spiritual food. Jesus also intends that his sacramental body would make us into his living body on this earth. 

The result is that we need to live like the living body of Christ that we are. One very important way of doing this is in our use of words. 

And so, my idea is that when we use words that are affirming, unitive reconciling, protecting, persuasive, and truthful – when we speak this language, we are being Eucharistic people. We are building up the living body of Christ on this earth.

But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, coercive, and untruthful – when we speak this language, we are not being Eucharistic people. 

We are tearing down the living body of Christ on this earth – and we saw an unfortunate public example of this in the Roseanne Barr incident this past week!

Conclusion

So, I end as I began: our use of words is very important. 

The words we speak to your spouse, your parents or children, to our classmates or co-workers, to our neighbors or friends, to people in this church or in this community – these are important and they have effects.

The words may be about those with whom we are speaking. Or they may be about other persons or groups – maybe persons of other nationalities, races, religions, or cultures.

Let’s you and I be an example of how to speak and what words to use and not to use. 

Then we and our words will have a positive effect on our community and our entire American society.

HOMILY for May 27, 2018: Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Cycle B

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Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Cycle B

Terranova Hermitage

May 27, 2018

Diversity: Portal to the Trinity

By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato 

 


The Trinity and Diversity 


Today is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. 

If we look back over our entire Christian history, theologians have written many, many things about this central mystery of our faith – one God, three persons. We keep trying to understand more fully the mystery of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today, I want to share one insight that is proposed by Father Richard Rohr. Father Rohr is a Franciscan, a theologian, and a leader of spirituality.

He says this: “The mystery that we’re talking about here is clearly diversity on display! The Three [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] are diverse, different, and distinct – and yet they are one.”

In other words, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. As Father Rohr says,“The Three are diverse, different, and distinct – and yet they are one.” 

Creation and Diversity


From this, Richard Rohr draws an important conclusion.

He says that this insight means that there is diversity at the very heart or core of reality for God is being itself. God is the origin of all life and all that exists.

It follows that if there is diversity in God, there must also be diversity in all of creation: plants, animals and minerals.

And because human beings are made in God’s image and likeness there surely must be diversity among us as well. 
Richard Rohr also states it this way. He says that God is goodness, goodness itself. 

Since there is diversity in God, this means that goodness is not sameness or uniformity. And so, God did not make us to be uniform, that is, everyone and everything the same or alike.

Instead, God made us diverse, different, and distinct, and, as Genesis says, God looked upon all that he had made and saw that it was good. So, to be good or like God, we are to be who we are. 

The more we welcome and embrace this diversity, the more we are in the flow of the divine life. And the more we welcome and embrace this diversity, the more we are participating in the divine goodness. 

 

We and Diversity 


A few weeks ago, I noticed a poster hanging on the wall in a sacristy where I’ve helped out on weekends. 

It had the word diversityspelled out in a column with each letter beginning a phrase. The first line read, “D is for Different.” The second “I is for Individuals,” etc.

D – is for Different.
I – is for Individuals.
V – is for Valuing.
E – is for Each Other
R – is for Regardless of 
S – is for Skin
I – is for Intelligence
T – is for Talents and 
Y – is for Years.

That poster stuck in my mind and helped me understand what the word “diversity” really means. 

Putting it all together it read: Diversity: Different – Individuals – Valuing – Each other – Regardless of – Skin – Intelligence – Talents – or Years.

We could, of course, include other differences like language, nationality, religion, culture and on it goes. Diversity includes all the differences, the rich differences within the human family. 

Respect Diversity 

Perhaps before I began it would have sounded strange, to say that Trinity Sunday calls us to embrace diversity.

That very fact tells me I have to take note of my tendency for uniformity. I have to refrain from the temptation to make others into being like myself if they are to be acceptable. 

It also tells me that I have to note the prejudices or stereotypes I have and be more open to accepting individuals as they are.

Finally, I have to keep in check my fears of those who are different from me, and instead see diversity for what it is –a richness, an opening us up more fully to the richness of humanity, and as leading us closer to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There’s a real challenge for us in today’s celebration, for there is much diversity in our lives that we are called to embrace.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

HOMILY for May 20, 2018: The Feast of Pentecost, Cycle B

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Feast of Pentecost, Cycle B

Terranova Hermitage

May 20, 2018

 

The Language of Pentecost and Our Language

By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato 

 

 

Our Language


Today on this great feast Pentecost which is about language, I want to reflect with you about ourlanguage – the the words we use when we speak.

Our words are very important. They have an effect on us and to some extent shape and form us as persons.

Our words also have an effect on others. They may lead others to feel esteemed or worthless, to feel angry or compassionate.

And our words have an effect on our relationship with God. My concern is that we need to be intentional about our use of words.

As the saying goes, we need to think before we speak. For the past three or four months, I have been thinking about some basic rules on our use of words.

I have identified five positive rules for the kinds of words we are to say, and, there is a corresponding negative for each of these about the kinds of words we are to avoid. So, here goes!

Five Rules on Words 


First, use words that are affirming and not belittling.

Affirm the good qualities of others or else just say nothing. Don’t belittle them and make them appear as less or as no good.

Second,use words that are unitive and not divisive.

Speak about the traits or values or practices that you share in common with others and that unite you. Don’t divide or separate yourself from others as if there is no common ground between you. 

Third, use words that are reconciling and not distancing. 

Ask for forgiveness and apologize, or be forgiving and at least try to be reconciled with the others. Don’t distance yourself from them especially by forever holding yourself as right and them as wrong.

Fourth, use words that are protecting and not bullying.

Be protective of others who are vulnerable. Don’t bully them by taking advantage of their weakness or inferior position.

And fifth, use words that are persuasive and not coercive.

Treat others as rational and reasonable persons and try to respectfully persuade them about whatever the topic or issue is. Don’t try to coerce or manipulate others into seeing or doing things your way.

Many Languages…One Understanding 


Okay! I see these as five very basic, but important rules on language – on our choice and use of words.

I share these today more as a refresher. And I am moved to do this especially by our first reading.

The passage says that the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus’ first disciples and there is a miracle of language. People from many different nations, speaking all different languages, hear and understand what the disciples are saying.

Apparently, each language group hears the disciples speaking in their own language. That was the effect of God, the Holy Spirit.

So, my idea is that when we use words that are affirming, unitive reconciling, protecting, and persuasive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is flowing through us. This is a language that everyone can hear and receive and understand, regardless of their native tongue.

And the results will be much like what Saint Paul describes in the second reading. We will be one, one body, in one Spirit – one, regardless of differences.

But when we use words that are belittling, divisive, distancing, bullying, and coercive – when we speak this language, then God the Holy Spirit is not flowing through us. Then we are blocking the flow of the Spirit.

This is a language that others will not be able to hear and receive and understand. And the results will be unrest, fragmentation and probably hostility.

Conclusion 

So, to go back to where I began, our language, our use of words is very important.

It has consequences. The words we speak to your husband or wife, to your parents or children, to our classmates or co-workers, to our neighbors or friends – these are important and they have effects.

The words may be about those with whom we are speaking. Or they may be about other persons or groups – maybe persons of other nationalities or races or religions or cultures.

The Scripture today calls us to let the Holy Spirit flow through us in our words. Then our language or words will be able to be heard and received and understood by all and have real life-giving effects. 

HOMILY for May 13, 2018: The Ascension, Cycle B

PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

The Ascension and Mother’s Day
Our Lady of Grace (9:00 & 11:30) 
May 13, 2018

Being a Good Mother 
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato 


A Mother’s Raising a Child

Around this time of the year, when I was a teenager, I’d ask my mother, “Mom, what can I get you for Mother’s Day?”And her reply was always the say, “Honey, don’t get me anything, just behave and do as I ask?”To which I’d respond,“But I’d rather just get you a gift!”


You can probably guess, I wasn’t always the perfect child, actually I was pretty mischievous. 

Mothers raise their children so they can go out into the world and succeed. To accomplish this daunting task, they teach them from their earliest years, things like sharing their toys, delaying gratification by saving the candy bar till after dinner, applying themselves to schoolwork, being good team members, working hard, beginning a family, and ultimately contributing to society.

You might say their love is “missional,” that is, there is a bond of love between them and their child, and they work hard at being a mother in order to influence their initial little “bundle of joy” to go out one day, as someone who is happy and has a mission to make the world a better place.

The Heart of Being a Good Mother 

In honor of our mothers, I’d like to suggest that being a good mother is about providing3 things for a son or daughter that will equip them well for whatever comes their way.

THE FIRST is to give their child STABLE CENTER. By that I mean to give them an anchor that will get them through any storm, any fear, any mishap. 

I remember well the day my mother did that for me.

My dad had just lost his job and the future looked dim. I learned the news that evening, when I was supposed to be asleep upstairs, but instead I was listening through the grate in the floor between the 1stand 2ndfloor of our home and I could hear him.

Through tears, he was saying that he didn’t know what to do or where to turn and he was failing our family. 

My mother was sitting across from him at the kitchen table holding his hands and saying, “We’ll get through this. We’ll spend less; eat simpler meals. We’ll get through this.”

That incident of love and commitment and my mother’s words, against the impending doom of no income for several months gave me a firsthand experience of a stable center that would serve me well in my own future storms.

SECOND,mothers are important for providing a safe place where sins are forgiven. One of my many bad choices as a kid in high school was to join a New York street gang. We were called the Imperial Spades. 

I remember the day I came home from high school wearing my new black leather jacket with a big white spade on the back and the words “Imperial Spades” emblazoned over the spade. 

My mother was devastated. She began to cry and, of course, I kept trying to console her repeating, “Mom, I’ll be all right; honest.” Fast forward six months, and I began to get into serious trouble with my so-called “new buddies.” 

With the repeated revelations of my “gang activities,” my mother was so understanding, so forgiving. It was clear that she abhorred my sins, but she loved the sinner.

FINALLY, mothers are able to help their son or daughter realize that they have a bigger purpose in life. They are sent to serve others.

When I finally gave up the gang and spent two years rebuilding my high school academic life if I was to graduate, I realized I wanted very much to become a teacher. However, it wasn’t something I was getting support for from outside my immediate family.

Neighbors, relatives and friends spoke of teaching disparagingly, as not being a real paying job and lacking glamor or notoriety. And who would want to teach kids like us! 

Yet, is was my mother who kept assuring me that if it was something that made me happy and would help others, it was worth doing, no matter what the salary would be.

So after years and years of college and graduate school, I went from teacher to preacher to author, and here I am today.

The Heart of Jesus Preparing His Apostles 

Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to his Father’s right hand. And I remember well the day I stood on the very Mount of the Ascension just outside of Jerusalem. 

There before his followers Jesus was missioning them in the same way many of our mothers missioned us, to go forth and make a difference in the lives of others.

And over the three years he had spent with them, it was obvious that he too had provided his followers with (1) a stable center, (2) a place where their sins were forgiven, and (3) and now a sending them forth to mission, to serve, to make disciples of others.

The STABLE CENTERcame in their experience of God their Father and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus had shared with them.

In our first lesson from Acts we read, “He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for ‘the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

SINS FORGIVENseemed to be a way of life in their relationship with the Lord. There were infidelities, bad choices, and missed opportunities throughout the years of their walking with the Jesus.

Those missteps and failures can be seen in James and John pushing to be first, in Matthew’s extorting extra taxes from his own people to send to Rome, in Peter’s 3-time denial, Thomas’ unbelief, Judas’ betrayal, and the entire lot abandoning Jesus at the end. And those are only the missteps we know about. 

It seemed that each of the Apostles had fallen short of the mark in some way and yet, they remained his beloved and chosen ones. Yes, it was this band of imperfect, rough, and ragtag bunch of guys that he had chosen. There IShope for us! 

SENT TO SERVEbrings us back to today on the Mount of the Ascension and Jesus’ final assurance before he leaves them.

Again, in Acts we were assured, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus’ love for the Apostles was “missional” inasmuch as it was missioning or sending them out into the world — to the very ends of the earth — to serve by making disciples of others.

Conclusion

And from today’s Gospel the charge is unequivocal: We’re to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature and whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”

So whether it is the experience of our leaving home and our mothers, or whether it is Jesus on this Mount of the Ascension, the words of the first reading ring true.

 “As they were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men [and women] of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Yes, perhaps it’s time to stop looking at the sky; perhaps it’s time to come down off the mountain, for it time to be assured that we do have a STABLE CENTER,that we havebeen FORGIVEN OUR SINS, and that we are ready to SERVE OTHERS by making disciples. 

Today is not only about the women we honor as mothers, nor is only Jesus’ missioning his disciples.

It is perhaps more about you and me and this community of Our Lady of Grace missioned to go forth and take the Good News to others. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Daily HOMILY for May 2, 2018: Wednesday in the 5th Week of Easter

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Wednesday 5thWeek of Easter
Retreat and Conference Center at Bon Secours
May 2, 2018
WORLD’S “PRODUCTIVITY” ++++++++++++++++++++++
Ø Productivity is a big & important word in our world
Ø Its only other rival in the commercial world may be the “bottom line”
Ø Pursuit of productivity results in too much stress for many people
Ø The world’s productivity is the kind that can be measured, weighed, and evaluated
Ø Think of the many human tasks that aren’t included: homemakers, raising children, volunteers, worship, caring for aging parents 
GOSPEL “PRODUCTIVITY” +++++++++++++++++++++++
Ø The comforting and beautiful words of today’s Gospel are about a more profound kind of productivity
Ø We hear Jesus say that he is “the vine and we the branches”
Ø And that “the Father is the vinedresser who prunes the vines to make them more fruitful”
Ø Moreover, he reminds us that “we can only be productive if we remain united with him”
Ø And if the branches continue to receive the nourishment coming from the vine itself and its roots, then, Jesus says,
Ø “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing?” 
COMPARING “PRODUCTIVITIES” +++++++++++++++++
Ø Putting commercial activity alongside that fruit spoken of by Jesus makes us question ourselves:
1.    In what way am I productive in the Lord?
2.    What are the signs of my union with him?
Ø From the teaching of Jesus elsewhere in the Gospels, we pretty well know what the signs of our union with the life of the risen Christ are:
1.    Genuine, practical love of making a home
2.    Effective care of children
3.    Concern for others in our volunteering
4.    Patience with aging parents
5.    Perseverance in worship
CONCLUSION +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Ø Paradoxically, those of us who come to celebrate Mass today may be in more need of warning about this than those who come only occasionally
Ø Why? Because our productivity doesn’t appear as part of any financial or productive bottom line
Ø Yet, these are the more important qualities that make for a good life.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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