Wednesday, March 18, 2020

HOMILY for March 15, 2020: 3rd Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

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3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
Mercy Ridge Hermitage
March 15, 2020

The Long Way Around
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato 


Imagine that someone is in Towson and wants to drive out here to Parkton.

I think the easy way would be to take I-83 or York Road and go through Hunt Valley to get here. But, this person so dislikes Hunt Valley and the people who live there that they won’t even drive through the area.

So, they head east, far out of the way, and take Dulaney Valley Road and the Jarrettsville Pike up into Harford County. And only then do they turn west to get to Parkton.

Now, that’s all make-believe and it is ridiculous, but it helps us to appreciate the impact of Jesus going through Samaria in today’s gospel. He is traveling, maybe walking from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north.

The area between Judea and Galilee was called Samaria. Most Jews of Jesus’ day would have gone out of their way to avoid passing through this area. 

Why? Because they had negative feelings and prejudice against the Samaritans and refused to have anything to do with them. 
A Samaritan Woman

So, here is Jesus traveling through Samaria.

Even more dramatic, he stops at a well to get some water and a Samaritan woman also comes up to the well. Jesus starts talking with her. 

I mean, this is like three strikes and you’re out in baseball. This person is 1) a different ethnic background, 2) a different religion, and to top it all off, 3) a woman. 

Jews in Jesus’ day would have nothing to do with these Samaritans because of their ethnic background and religious differences. And, in that culture, women were treated in such a diminished way that a man was not to even talk with a woman in public. 

So, Jesus crashes through these three barriers or prejudices. He is showing that God’s love reaches out to all persons – regardless of who they are. 

And here is the first lesson on faith that we are given in this story. If we are going to live a life of faith, and if we are going to draw others to a genuine faith, we need to get beyond differences and barriers and prejudices.

We need to see and treat others as human beings like ourselves, no matter who they are. In our day and age, I suggest that this relates especially to our attitudes – and that’s where it starts, with our attitudes.

We need to examine our attitudes toward minorities in our own country, and toward refugees and migrants from wherever. Living faith in Jesus Christ and attracting others to this faith demands that we do this.      

The Samaritan Woman’s Background

And then, notice this.

In their conversation, Jesus says that he knows this Samaritan woman’s personal background – and it’s a doozie! She has had five husbands and the man she is now living with is not her husband.

From the wording, it is clear that Jesus is not scolding or shaming or condemning her. He just states what he knows and leaves it for the woman to think about.

Jesus must sense that within herself, this woman, like all human beings, is really thirsty for a water that satisfies us completely – a spiritual water. She’s looked for this in the wrong ways and just hasn’t found it yet.

Jesus’ approach is how I see our Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession. It is not to be a time for heavy guilt trips or judging.

Instead, it is more of an experience for us to look at ourselves and come to healing. It’s a time to quench our thirst for living water, as Jesus says today, water that gives us divine, eternal life.

And here is the second faith lesson in this passage. Because of Jesus’ respectful approach to this woman, she comes to see him as more than ordinary – maybe as the Messiah.

And she even goes and tells others about Jesus. So, living a life of faith and attracting others to that faith demands respect for others as persons – no matter what they have done. 


So, 1) the importance of our attitude toward others no matter who they are, and 2) the importance of respecting others as persons no matter what they have done – two important lessons today for living faith and attracting others to faith.  

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

HOMILY for March 1, 2020: 1st Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

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1st Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
Mercy Ridge Hermitage
March 1, 2020

Universal Paths into Sin

By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

The Temptation to Sin

So, Jesus is tempted to sin.

This is a very dramatic event. If Jesus can be tempted to sin, by all means, we can also be tempted.

I am thinking that the three ways Jesus is tempted are very fundamental ways that we can also be led to sin. These may be very common, even universal challenges. 
First: Hunger for More 

We are first told that Jesus is hungry and that the devil tempts him to change stone into bread.

The deeper issue I see here is the hunger itself. We all have hunger – and I don’t mean just physical hunger – we all have hunger and desire within us.

We want more, more of what we have, or more by getting something we don’t have. It is so easy to get lured by advertising into thinking that this hunger or desire can be satisfied by more and more things.

Better food or more of it, a new car, nicer furniture, a bigger home, the latest-styled clothes, the most up-to-date i-Phone, a glamorous cruise to the Caribbean, and on it goes. All of these things are good in themselves, but they never really satisfy us.

And they don’t because God in the act of creation planted this hunger within us and it can only be satisfied by God. It can only be satisfied as we grow in our relationship with God and become more compassionate, understanding, patient, and life-giving persons – more God-like.

So, Jesus’ temptation is a very real temptation for us. And we too need to say: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”     

Second: Expect No Pain

Then, Jesus is led to the roof of the temple and the devil tempts him to jump off.

Surely God will protect him from getting hurt. The deeper issue I see here is expecting God to protect us from all pain.

In other words, do we see a life of faith as something like a quid pro quo with God? If I have faith, and if I come to Mass, and if I obey the commandments, then surely God will take care of me.

I will be protected from sickness and losing my job and automobile accidents and family upsets and all the rest. But, as Jesus responds here, we are not to expect God to exempt us from all struggle and suffering.  

Sadly, some of this is part of being human. Still, the good news is that God will help us to deal with all of this and even to grow through all of this to be more like Jesus – who also suffered. 

So, Jesus’ temptation is again a very real temptation for us. And we too need to say: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Third: Get My Own Way

Finally, we are told that the devil takes Jesus up on a high mountain and offers him power over all the kingdoms of the world.

The deeper issue I see here is our use of power. We are tempted sometimes to want things our way at all costs.

We are tempted to use our strong personality to muscle others. Or we are tempted to manipulate others with guilt or half-truths.  

And when we do this, we are in effect worshipping ourselves and making ourselves the center of everything. In contrast, Jesus is humble and shows the power of a certain vulnerability with others.  

His way is one of respect for others, regardless of who they are or what they have done. His way is one of conversation and not coercion.

So, Jesus’ temptation is again a very real temptation for us. And we too need to say: “The Lord your God shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve.”


So, these three temptations of Jesus are probably universal human temptations. Maybe they can provide some good focus for our examination of conscience during these six weeks of Lent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

HOMILY for February 23, 2020: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Church of the Nativity
February 23, 2020

Disarming Enemies
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

Life with Family – Week 4

We are in the final week of a series all about family – your family and mine – and how they impact our faith.

Throughout this series we have been seeking to engage and equip you to shape your experience of family with your commitment to faith. Yes, shape how you experience family with your faith as a resource, as a firm foundation on which to stand. 

God wants to use our families to come to know him and learn to love and serve him. Leading with our faith can deepen the way we can know, love, and serve God.  

And our family can be that place, and in the process we can experience greater love, harmony, and peace.

Defensive Posture

For most of us, ‘peace’ is not the word we think of when we think of our family.  Conflict is inevitable in family life.  And conflict often escalates and builds on itself. 

It’s the “yeah/yeah, YEAH/YEAH,” syndrome that I learned growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, NY and being part of a street gang. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe, but no less true! I was an Imperial Spade. (Snap fingers)

When we feel attacked, it’s very natural to respond in kind. “yeah/yeah, YEAH/YEAH”  

When our family members accuse us of something, our first instinct is to bring up something worse than they did.  

In this escalating, even petty things can suddenly turn into contentious stand-offs.   


In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us a different response when others hurt us.  

Rather than responding in kind or just merely capitulating to it, we’re called actually to treat our aggressors better than they deserve. 

For us who follow Jesus it’s no longer an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. It’s no longer the escalating “yeah/yeah, YEAH/YEAH!”

Rather than retaliation or escalation, it’s to be: offer no resistance, right cheek/left cheek, give to the one who asks.

Then Jesus pushes it even further: love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you. Prayer opens up the flow of grace and empowers you to love where love is difficult and this prayerful openness strengthens the practice of your faith within your family.    

This response can be incredibly disarming and can completely change the way your family deals with conflict. It’s worked in my family, particularly with my older brother. It can work in yours.  

Join us after communion to hear Tom Corcoran dive deeper into this powerful message.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

HOMILY for February 2, 2020: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Cycle A

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Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Cycle A
Mercy Ridge Hermitage
February 2, 2020   

Forming Good Habits
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato


This morning, I want to reflect with you on habits.

Habits! If we think about it for just a second, all of us can easily see that we have habits in our lives.

When I get out of bed in the morning, I brush my teeth and shave and shower and get dressed. And all of this is habit.

When we go to bed at night, we make sure that the doors are locked and the lights are out. Habits.

We get in the car and automatically buckle our seatbelts. Habit.

We may drive to work or to the grocery store and not even think about which roads to take or which turns to make. Habit.

There is an expression that we human beings are creatures of habit – creatures of habit! I’ve heard an estimate that 40 to 50% of the things we do in everyday life are out of habit – amazing!

Definition of Habit 

A habit can be defined as any practice that we do regularly and routinely with little or no effort of the mind or the will.

So, any practice that we do maybe every day, maybe even at the same time every day. And we do it without having to think about it or having to decide whether to do it or not.

We just do it automatically – something that has become automatic probably from just doing it over and over again. So, A habit is any practice that we do regularly and routinely with little or no effort of the mind or the will.

Habits: Simeon and Anna

In today’s gospel, we see these two older persons: Simeon and Anna.

They are like warm, wise, loving grandparents. And what strikes me is that Simeon and Anna have habits of faithfulness.

They come to the temple regularly. They pray every day.

And these habits of faithfulness to God give them hope and peace. Simeon has the hope that he will see the savior of God before he dies.

His habits of faithfulness sustain this hope. And this in turn makes him so peaceful that he is ready to die after he has seen the Christ Child.

Simeon offers that beautiful prayer that we hear today: “Now, master, you can let your servant go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” The same thing is true for Anna.

She is eighty-four years-old and gives thanks to God upon seeing the Christ Child. Her habits of faithfulness have also sustained her hope and brought her inner peace.

Our Habits 

Today, I want to recommend three habits of faithfulness for us to consider. 

If we don’t have any of these in our lives right now, please consider trying to develop one of them. If we already have one of these in our lives, maybe we are ready to adopt a second.

So, maybe a habit of pre-set prayer – a habit of praying the Our Father or the Hail Mary, a decade of the rosary, a novena, an Act of Contrition, a psalm from the Old Testament. Some habit of pre-set prayer, a prayer composed by someone else and that we may have learned by heart, praying a prayer like this we each day and, if possible, at a set time each day.

Or maybe a habit of meditative prayer – a habit of reading a short passage of a gospel – one parable or teaching or action of Jesus – and reflecting to see what God is saying to me and wants me to do here. A habit of meditative prayer each day and again, if possible, at a set time each day.

Or maybe a habit of thankful prayer – a habit of looking back on the day and thanking God for both the simple and the special blessings of that day. A habit of thankful prayer, maybe at the end of each day, sometime in the evening or right before going to bed.

So, pick one or two of these habits of faithfulness.

Make this part of your everyday life. Let this practice become a habit – an automatic.

And see if it doesn’t do for you what habits of faithfulness did for Simeon and Anna. See if it doesn’t sustain you with hope and give you 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Funeral HOMILY for Kathy Shimkaveg on January 20, 2020

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Funeral Mass for Kathy Shimkaveg
10:00am Church of the Nativity
January 20, 2020

Resilience: A Godly Virtue
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato 


We gather to honor Kathy Shimkaveg’s passing from this life to one of fullness and joy, and we begin by offering our heartfelt condolences to:
ØAl, Kathy’s dear husband of almost 50 years
ØTo her three sons: Brian, Mike, and Scott
ØTo her sisters: Eileen, Mary Kay, and Maureen
ØHer very dear grandchildren: Grant (14), Lilly (12), Isabell (8), Wyatt (6), Alison (5), and Olivia (2) 

We stand with you in your loss and gather to honor a loving friend and fellow parishioner here at Nativity

Give Me an Adjective!

It’s been a long haul for Kathy. Some would say she was a fighter, but those who knew her well would not agree. 

So what would be an appropriate adjective to describe her? When we gathered with her family the resounding response was “Resilient.” Kathy over the long haul was resilient.

The dictionary gives us two definitions that get us to the heart of the description. Quote: (1)  A person or animal able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. As in “Babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize” or “fish are resilient to most infections. (2) A substance or object able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed as in: “A shoe with resilient cushioning.

Yet, Kathy was neither an animal, a baby, a fish, or a shoe, but boy, she was resilient!
ØAble to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
ØResilient to most infections.
ØAble to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed
… and we who have gathered this morning can testify to that. Amen? Amen, indeed!

I find it interesting that a dictionary definition could pinpoint what is for us a profound experience of someone close to our hearts. 

And now I’d ask, “How did Kathy acquire that resilience?”Well, for starters, her center, her ground, was her deep trust and faith in God. It was (1) the bedrock on which she stood or you could say it was (2) the compass that kept her pointed in the right direction, or even it was (3) her gyroscope that kept her balanced no matter what the twists or turns. 

Enough with images that speak of how her trust and faith got played out in real time and let us look instead to the Gospel for what gave rise to that profound sense of trust and faith. 

John’s Gospel

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking to folks who are troubled for whatever reason: serious illness, sadness, loss, disillusionment, failure, or sinfulness.

His word to them is, “Believe in God and believe in me.” He’s saying that there’s an answer beneath your struggles and yes, it’s within your grasp. Beneath your struggles there is relationship.

Through daily reception of the Eucharist Kathy came to have a close relationship with Jesus himself and in the midst of an assembled community of faith and it was thus that she could take him at his word: “Believe in God and believe in me.”

Her faith and fidelity flowed from such assembling and such sacred eating. 

Jesus quickly adds, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.”  

By “Many rooms” he seems to mean,“Trust me that there are many levels — or rooms — and no one may be at the same level, but that there are rooms for everyone — churchgoers, non-churchgoers, faith-filled and faithless — where you can find comfort, solace, fulfillment. 

Kathy had found her room where she could abide with Jesus himself one-on-one. 

She did that with daily prayer. In the silence of her heart she was one with the Lord, Jesus regularly.


At first blush her life seems to be an example for us, but from Kathy’s side of it, it was relationship and her relating to this faith community that made the difference.

It gave her the resources to grow, to ground her, to point her in a direction, and ultimately to keeping her balanced.

And it’s her life that tells us today, that if we continue assembling for Eucharist, if we remain faithful to prayer and silence, we too can reap the same fruits she did.

What a gift she has been to us. It’s time for us to live out her legacy in our own lives!