Tag Archives: Reverend Joseph S. Cebula

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE! 

What a story we hear in our first reading today from the Book of Maccabees!

It seems incredible that a mother would encourage here seven sons to die rather than taste pork.  But of course there is something greater here, the refusal to eat pork expressed a fearless proclamation of faith in the God of life!

The Maccabee Family accepted death rather than renounce their faith, their religion…

The Maccabee reading today, besides being a saga about heroes, also gives us a glimpse of how the people of Israel developed their ideas about eternal life based on their understanding of God’s goodness and justice.

Sometimes to make a point, we take the extreme and the Maccabees story does this!  The Maccabees sacrificed their lives to proclaim that faithfulness to God and integrity are more important than life itself.

Today’s scriptures, invite us to reflect on the great and small things that might threaten our integrity as people of faith, for we too face challenges daily in living our faith!

For instance, does our living of our faith compare to what God asks of us?  Starting with the Commandments, The Beatitudes, The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy…  When the living of our faith asks for sacrifice, how do we respond?  Do we rationalize why it is OK for me, when the living of our faith does not fit my schedule, my thoughts, my way.

It is so easy to walk away…  How about letting God into our lives…  How about staying and persevering with the grace of God.

Does the life we live daily at home, work, or school, out and about, in word and action say to others that we are people of faith, that God is the center of my life?

Do we talk about our faith, our church, our conviction with others during the week in ways to foster faith, in ways that encourage others to put their faith in God and in ways that proclaim my faith, our faith, in a God who loves us and cares for us now and eternally?

Maybe today and every day we can ask for the prayers of the Maccabees as we try to imitate their conviction and courage each day, as person, family and Parish…

Look around you for the people of faith who remind you and encourage you to let God be your guide in living life and pray that others will see in YOU, in US, people of faith who are convinced that God is our guide always, everywhere & eternally.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

Years ago, there was a communion song we sung in church entitled, “Look Beyond” with the refrain: “Look beyond the bread you eat see your Savior and your Lord; look beyond the cup you drink see His love poured out as blood.”

“Look Beyond” just might be the title for today’s homily.

And “Look Beyond” is exactly what Jesus does in today’s Gospel when He looks up and there in the tree is that short guy, that tax collector that nobody liked, that guy named Zacchaeus.

And of all the people along the road that Jesus could have chosen to call out by name and then have dinner at his home, of all the people… really, Zacchaeus.  That’s what many people were thinking!  Because they knew the man, at least so they thought they did, they did not like the man, and besides he was a tax collector.

But Jesus look’s beyond all this and why we might ask???

Maybe part of the answer is in our first reading today from The Book of Wisdom:

  • The Lord… has mercy on ALL.
  • The Lord… loathes nothing he has created.
  • The Lord… loves us ALL.

Jesus knew the past of Zacchaeus, just as he knows our past.  What Jesus saw in Zacchaeus, was more than what people said about him; Jesus saw his willingness to change his life for the better, to be fair and honest, today and tomorrow.

Zacchaeus says, “I shall give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have extorted anyone I shall repay them 4 times over.”

And today, some 2000 years later, what is it that Jesus asks of us, as people of Faith? What is it that Jesus “Looks Beyond” in each of our lives and in doing so encourages us to be willing to make the effort to be and become better a person of faith, that person of integrity, of caring, of sharing, of life and love and so much more.

Oh, and maybe in the Spirit of Jesus we too might “Look Beyond” what we think we know about another or others, just like Jesus does.  Jesus who has mercy toward ALL and Jesus who loves ALL.

Most certainly something that all people of our world need to know and experience every day: unconditional mercy and love!

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

There are many ways to pray and today, storyteller Jesus shares with us two people who pray in very different ways.  The Pharisee’s prayer is “all about me” I, I, I….  If we would have to guess, his name it might be Narcissus.  The Pharisee, did not seem to ask for or want God’s help.

And then there is the Tax Collector…  He readily admits he needs God’s help and is open to receive what God wants to give.  He stands in the back of church, the temple, and he comes to God as himself, praying for mercy and ready to accept it.

So here we are, Sunday morning, and what is our prayer today?  I am sure our prayers are many, as to be expected.  And, I am sure, much like the Tax Collector, we come with humility before God.  And of course when we come to church, to Mass each weekend, our prayer, it seems to me, that we must come to church (to God) with the prayer for open minds and hearts and souls that are open to receive what God wants to give us for not only our journey of life, but of faith.

Who has not heard or maybe even said that church is boring… translation – God is boring.

God is not boring… Maybe we need to have as they say, “A check up from the neck up…”

Being Christian, being Catholic is a way of life…  Not something we do to get it done. I doubt that Jesus suffered, died and arose (and gifted us with eternal life) not as something on the list to be checked off, but rather it was done with great love.

Often what we see lacking in our world today is zeal, passion, and commitment in many areas of life, including our life of faith.  It is not that we do not have faith… Often we do not even try to live our faith…

I often think if Jesus was preaching today, what would he be saying to us?  (I am not sure we really want to know…)

But he does speak to us every weekend at Mass.  What are we hearing, what should we be hearing, and how much more can we live lives of faith daily?

Our lives speak much about what we believe, what is important.  What are our lives saying about us, including our lives of faith?

Let me end with this quote as something to consider, “the way you live your life will be affecting people for generations to come until the end of time.”

What story are you telling with your life?

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

One person in reflecting upon today’s Gospel about the judge has shared that, “often we can be the answer to the prayers of another if we stop, listen and realize we have the means to help and heal.”

Put another way, we have the power to serve others; to advocate for mercy, justice, fairness and all that is good and of God…

In our society today, there often seems to be a rush to judgement.  For instance, our society says one is innocent, until proven guilty.  Yet, sad to say, it seems the opposite thought prevails.

Or take the brouhaha of a few weeks ago when Ellen DeGeneres was criticized for having a “good time” with former President Bush while attending Packers vs. Cowboys football game in Texas.

Maybe it would be best to hear how Ellen responded about this: “When we were invited, I was aware I was going to be surrounded with people from very different views and beliefs — I’m not talking about politics. I was rooting for the Packers and get this — everybody in the Cowboys suite was rooting for the cowboys. I had to hide my cheese hat,” the comedian joked.  “During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together and, so, people were upset.  They thought, ‘why is this Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?’  Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand new iPhone 11.”

“I’m friends with George Bush.  In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.  We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s ok that we’re all different,” she told her audience.  “I wish people wouldn’t wear fur.  I don’t like it, but I’m friends with people who wear fur.  Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna be friends with them.”

The host continued, “when I say, ‘be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do.  I mean be kind to everyone, doesn’t matter.”

As she concluded her heartfelt message, DeGeneres thanked the former commander-in-chief. “Thanks President Bush and Laura for a Sunday afternoon that was so fun… by the way, you owe me $6 for the nachos.”

So Father Joe… what’s the point…

If we look to Jesus, we know that He too was criticized for being around people who were sinners, tax collectors, poor and sick.

But the bottom line was that even with their differences he respected people as sons and daughters of God.  He loved them.  He was kind to them.

So what is the message we are being asked to think about, to incorporate into our lives?

Might it be, being fair and just with all people…  Being kind to everyone…  Being quick to listen and realize we have the means to HELP and to HEAL.

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

If I were to ask what thought did you take away from the scripture readings today, we might rightly say that in the Book of Kings today, when Naaman is healed of leprosy, he immediately returns to Elisha with a gift and a sincere desire to worship the God of Israel.

In Gospel of Luke, we heard the familiar story of 10 lepers cured, but only one returns to thank Jesus and glorify God.

We might say we need to be resolved to live with thankful hearts, finding joy in the good things that have been done for us, and taking the time to thank God and each other for these blessings.

And such a take away is fine and hopefully we do… but let me suggest another thought we might take with us as this weekend.

Yes, all 10 lepers were healed but only one of ten came back to thank Jesus.  The other nine most certainly did as they were asked, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  But this one person realized that Jesus not only healed him, but also knew his life would never be the same because of his encounter with Jesus.

And so he went back to Jesus while the others went their way after being helped by Jesus.

This one person GOT IT!  He knew that now he had a whole new relationship with Jesus, the Master – with Jesus, the Son of God.

You know every time we share in the Sacraments, we encounter Jesus, who prays that we will get it.  That He, Jesus, continues to offer us something more than what we are asking for at the moment; be it Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick…

God continues to give us life and gives it in abundance!

Our faith life is not meant to be a grocery store approach to faith, where we come only when we need or want something…

Hopefully we come to see that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, has more to offer us than just what we need or want at the moment. There is more available to us, more to come, because Jesus not just touched our life once or twice, but that Jesus wishes to touch our lives in ways that are abundant throughout our journey of life and faith…

What more is Jesus offering us as person, family and Parish as we turn to him in prayer today, in receiving the Eucharist every weekend, who touches our lives in so many ways that can absolutely change us for the better.

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

Recently, FBI Agent Troy Sowers retired after 22 years of service.  He expected nothing more than some doughnuts and coffee at his retirement party.  But his colleagues arranged something much bigger.

Seems when Sowers a Rookie Agent working in Seattle, he and police were called when a baby was kidnapped from a Washington Hospital by a woman impersonating a nurse.  The kidnapper was soon apprehended, and Sowers managed to convince her to lead him to the baby.  She had left the infant in a box next to a restaurant dumpster.  Sowers rushed to the restaurant hoping the baby was still alive when he found him.  When Sowers picked up the infant, he was not crying, but just nuzzled right into his neck and he knew he was fine.  The medical crew arrived shortly and took the baby away.

A senior agent told Rookie Sowers, “Troy, I’ve got to tell you, something like that… You’ll never do anything better than that.”

The case stuck with Sowers and over the years, he wondered what had happened to the child he rescued.  At this retirement party, he found out.  His fellow agents tracked down the baby – now 22 years old – and invited him to the retirement party.  And so FBI Agent Troy Sowers was reunited with Stewart Rembert, now a corporal in the US Marine Corps.

“My parents wanted me to give you a big hug,” Rembert told the stunned FBI Agent. “Thank you for giving me an opportunity to have a life…  It’s crazy to think that without his efforts, I would not even be here today.  I would not be a Marine.  My family would not be the same. I am just super excited and honored to meet this man today,” said Corporal Rembert.

Agent Sower said the reunion was “probably one of the best surprises I have ever had.”

“I am glad to see what you have done with your life,” he told Rembert.  “Pass it on!”

Today’s Gospel and the Lord’s reminder that however small our faith (mustard seed faith) that much good is possible.  Ordinary acts of kindness; simple acts of caring; every act of generosity done in faith can change lives and will one day bear fruit, abundant fruit.

In recent bulletins, and in a mailing going out to all the Parish this week, we will be sharing information about a Diocesan Campaign entitled:  “Re-Igniting our Faith.”

In a nutshell, we are being asked to look to the future as a church locally and as a Diocese, not just today, or this week or this month…

Among Diocesan efforts in need of consideration are:

  • Support for Vocations
  • Increasing efforts for evangelization
  • Increasing resources for Catholic Education
  • Providing critical funding to assist our retired priests (my favorite)

And here in our Parish there is always a wish list for such areas as:

  • Increasing outreach to the needy (locally and beyond)
  • Meeting changing needs in ministry to the Parish and beyond
  • Increasing efforts to share and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obviously there is a financial ask here.  And there is no doubt that St. Mary’s, Crescent has been and continues to be very generous to the Parish financially when it comes to weekly parish support and to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, for which each of us here at St. Mary’s are very grateful.  And it goes without saying this support must continue and I have faith that we, the people of St. Mary’s, Crescent, will do so.

When it comes to supporting the Re-Igniting our Faith Campaign, there may be reasons for doing so or not…  However, I only ask that you:

  1. Read, reflect and pray about the information that will be coming to you in the coming days at your home….
  2. And when it comes to a financial gift – whether it be a one-time gift or a gift over the coming 5 years for Re-Igniting our Faith, think mustard seed faith, mustard seed generosity… that can go a long way and make a big difference.
  3. Remember today’s story about the actions of a Rookie FBI Agent that made such a difference over the years…  Acts of kindness and generosity by others have bloomed over the years for which we have been and are beneficiaries.

Re-igniting our Faith is an effort, a campaign, for us to pass it on.

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

Jesus, as we know, used stories to get his message across to people.  Jesus wanted the people of his day, and the people of our day to live a life that reflects a life of a believer, a disciple of Jesus – the Son of God…

As one person has written, “Jesus did not tell parables (stories) as comforting bedtime stories.  The stories of Jesus are meant to wake us up and give us a new perspective.”  And this person goes on to reminds us, “the first sign that we are hearing Jesus’ message is that it makes us uncomfortable.”

And just maybe the ending of today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable or defensive…

“No servant can serve two masters… we will either hate one and love the other; or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot give you self to God and mammon” (maman meaning wealth regarded as an evil Influence or false object of worship or devotion.)  Put another way, do we live for Christ or for the world?

Sure, we live for Christ!  More and more and more… or do we live for Christ when it suits my time and schedule, my wants and needs???

When we live for Christ and not the world, we recognize that GOD is GOD and we are not!

Father, we live for Christ when we go to church and communion every week, we say our prayers, obey the commandments, live the beatitudes, etc…

Very good Grasshopper, but what other choices of life challenge us to live for Christ???

  • When we attend a church meeting are we listening to what God has to share with us today or are we thinking about what else we could be doing or zoning right out or sneakily giving our smart phone our undivided attention?
  • When we are around our family and friends, even strangers, is our behavior that of a person of values and honor and faith, or something we don’t want our parents to know about?
  • Is our life about helping others, especially those in real need, or is our life all about me, all about what I want, all about making my life comfortable?

On that note – as I was writing this last sentence, I received a text from a 28 year old who recognized me when I was on vacation recently.  A person I last saw when he was 13 years old.  I shared I would share this with him via text, how thoughtful it was for him to say hello, even though he may have been asking the wrong person.  Gets you thinking how many people can we not only bring joy to for even a moment, by a hello, a kind word, an act of kindness, each and every day.  Seems this is the thing of people of faith, people who live for Christ.

There is no doubt that we live in the WORLD…  But one of those questions that just maybe needs to be on our minds often is as a person of faith, how can we/I… How will we/I… live for Christ today, tomorrow and every day.

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we prayed, “a clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew in me.”

On commentator of today’s Psalm 51 has said that this line, should come with a warning label: “The side effects of praying like this are unpredictable and often uncomfortable.  If it works, you will never be the same.”

Note what we are praying for today!  Usually we might pray for a favor from God that will change our circumstances or those of others.  (Give health to the sick; Let it be a blizzard tomorrow, I didn’t do my book report for English Class, please God no school for at least a week!)

In Psalm 51, we begin by admitting that what we want changed is OURSELVES!   “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew in me.”

In Psalm 51, we begin by admitting that what we want changed is our way of being, of acting, of seeing things.

Psalm 51 has us admitting that our hearts are less then what we want them to be.

Psalm 51 asks God to change, to transform our very desires so that our HEARTS may become larger and filled with Integrity.

In Paul’s letter today, Paul admits to his horrendous errors of the past.  Paul the Persecutor of Christians now rejoices in God’s mercy.  There is no doubt that Paul, a sinner, appreciates but knows first hand about the mercy of God, and wants the message to be shared with all and by all.

In the story of the one lost sheep, we hear Jesus ask the group, “What one among you would not leave the 99 and go after one stray?”

And the sane answer to his question is, “none of us would do that!   Why risk 99 for the sake of one?”

One of today’s reminders to us is God’s first concern is always for the lost!

That includes US, whether we have brought it upon ourselves by straying or through the self-righteousness of thinking we are better than others or we have to earn God’s love, mercy…

To pray today and any day for a change of heart is to risk a conversion like that of St. Paul or the self-righteous zealot or even the Prodigal Son (about whom we did not hear today, since we used the shorter gospel reading)

Their hearts changed when they realized that God delights in them!

God delights in them not because they never strayed, but because they got on the road toward home – toward God…

May one of our daily prayers always be for ourselves, “a clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew in me.”

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

It seems to me that 3 qualities that can be challenging for us – maybe not all the time, but at least sometimes – are:

  • Attitude
  • Understanding
  • Effort

In this era of “it’s all about me,” whatever my attitude and whatever my understanding – whether right or wrong – you just live with it.

This weekend, might I suggest that Jesus is challenging us to reconsider that “it’s all about me” way of living.  As a matter of fact, Jesus makes it pretty clear that being a Disciple of Jesus must include God, others, and a life style that puts this all in balance.

Take going to Mass on weekly basis, we have all seen the decline…

  • Well, we were on vacation…
  • Well, the kids have sports…
  • Well, we got to bed late…
  • Well, I/we just didn’t feel like going…

We may be consistently late;  or consistently leave early.  And the list goes on… 

And in the meantime, our faith, our Discipleship, is not nurtured, is not supported… is slowing eroding…

We need to be and become more and more models of faith in action.

A few days ago, I heard someone say, “I would die for my kids” and a person responded by saying, “How will you LIVE for you kids?”  (Great question!)

How are we living for our kids?  How is our lived life an every day model and reminder of what is of God, goodness and faith, hope and love, Disciples of Jesus, and so much more. Whether people are watching or listening or not.

When I was on vacation a week or so ago, I played in the World Golf Amateur.  One night at a reception, I heard one golfer who played the tournament share, “I was standing next the golf ball of a fellow competitor what could not find his golf ball.  After the 3 minutes for looking for the ball expired and he hit his provisional golf ball for the lost ball, I then told him his golf ball was here.”

Simply put, this is not good sportsmanship.

Oh, I know you are asking, and Father how did you do in the tournament?  The answer should be obvious.  I was victorious.

Living life is about balance, better choices… about better perspective, about our attitudes and our understandings of things and people, about our faith and our relationship with God and one another…

Often we have other gods come into our lives that detour us from the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Where in our lives is something a false God?  Where in our lives is a checkup from the neck up needed?  Where in our lives is our faith fading instead of growing and glowing?

Finally, let me end with a smile:

After a short trip to Earth, the martian astronaut returns home, to Mars, and presents his superior with a TV screen and a smart phone.  “Sorry,” he says to his superiors, “that I could not capture and bring back any Earthlings, but I did better than that… I brought back two of their gods.”

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE!

When I began preparing for today’s homily, the first thought that came to me from today’s Scripture readings was: what does God ask, expect from us, from me?

And our readings certainly point us in several direction, including FAITH in God and the ways of God.

One writer, in speaking of faith, shared, “when he drives his car, he usually puts more faith in Ford then he generally does in God.”

Think about that for a second…

And one person in response shared, how tentatively would I drive, if my faith in the brakes of my car was on par with my faith in God.  How daring would we be with the accelerator?

Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus telling his Disciples to demonstrate their faith by giving everything away!  Pretty challenging for sure!

But maybe there is something much harder than giving away all our stuff, namely “opening our minds and hearts and lives to the ways of God.”

A growing and developing faith, may just call us to move beyond our current boundaries, be they mental, physical, theological or spiritual.

Truth is we can be attached, really attached to attitudes and beliefs just as we are to things.

As we live our lives day to day, where might our God be calling us to enter a situation with an open attitude or to let go of our hardened opinions…

I saw a Volkswagen commercial the other day that ended with, “drive something bigger than yourself.”  I thought it would be appropriate to end today’s Homily similarly:

Live your faith and believe in someone bigger than yourself — GOD.”