Tag Archives: Reverend Joseph S. Cebula

Third Sunday of Lent

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the Third Sunday of Lent: CLICK HERE! 

Somewhere this week I came across the phrase, “We are a people who forget too easily.”

We forget:

  • Where we put our car keys
  • To do our homework
  • To take out the garbage
  • Birthdays and Anniversaries…
  • What’s really important.

I am sure each of us can add a few more things to the list of what we easily forget.

I would suggest that today’s readings are reminding us to remember what God has done for us.  That God is in our midst, not as a God of vengeance and destruction, as God could be.  But God is in our midst as a God of salvation and freedom.  Freedom from slavery for sure as we hear in the first reading from Exodus, our God is a God who cares for his people, who protects his people, who leads his people to the Promised Land. This needs to be REMEMBERED!

God is in our midst yesterday, today and tomorrow.  How do we REMEMBER?  How do we remind one another that God is in our midst?

Just maybe we remember and remind people when we LIVE and SHARE with others what our God has shared with us and others: patience and forgiveness of the sinner.  Isn’t this one of the main teachings that comes forth from the story of the fig tree today?

The tree has been cared for three years, but no fruit.  The first thought is to cut it down!  But the gardener says, let me try again, it may bear fruit in the future.  That tree is US; That gardener is Jesus, our Savior.

The stories of Jesus where usually pretty direct and understandable by the people, and Jesus point is simply:

  • Remember the story
  • Remember how God has always been and will always be present in your life
  • Remember how God has and continues to show: mercy, compassion, forgiveness, patience, kindness, generosity, and so much more to us, His people time and again.
  • Share what God has shared with one another…

I was going to stop here, but let me end with 3 examples of how we might remember and not forget what God has done for us:

  • Is there someone we need to be more patient with?  Someone we need to really forgive, if only in our heart?
  • Is it possible that we might bring a food item or two next weekend for area food pantries as a reminder that we do not forget about God’s people?
  • Is it possible that acts of kindness, like the new dishes our confirmation students will be bringing to an area facility next week, might get us thinking about how such acts of “kindness” can continue in our lives as person, family and Parish.

First Sunday of Lent

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the First Sunday of Lent: CLICK HERE!

On this First Sunday of Lent 2019, we hear as we do every Lent about the Temptations of Jesus in the Desert…  Before putting my Homily together, two Ideas came to mind:

  • Where are, or what are the temptations in our lives?
  • Where is God (or the Holy Spirit) in our lives ?

We are all tempted in any number of ways every day.  Some small, some not so small…

Tempted to run the traffic light, to pass the school bus with its flashing red lights.

Tempted to take the easy way, to let someone else do something when we could easily have assisted or done something.

Tempted to do something we should not do morally or legally, because no one is watching.

Tempted not to assist someone, when we could or maybe should.  Not to do something, because it was an inconvenience.

Tempted to rationalize the things we do that do not reflect our call to be the person and person of faith we are called to be…

And on the list goes on and in reality, the temptation will continue or will return…

One scripture scholar says of the three temptations of Jesus:

  • Jesus is taunted to be relevant:  turn these stones into bread.
  • Jesus is taunted to be spectacular: worship me and I will give you all this power and glory.
  • Jesus is taunted once more to be powerful: throw yourself down from the parapet (steeple) and save yourself!

And with each temptation by the Devil, by Satan, Jesus lets his tempter know that he stands firmly with God!

We too stand firmly with God when we call upon him in prayer; when we recall the Holy Spirit is with us and wishes to guide us to live fully our Baptismal Call: to grow in love of God, and others and be faithful disciples…










Four Days into Lent…36 More to Go…

May our Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving and Good Works:

Support us in “Standing Firm in and with God” and Living our Faith more today than yesterday!

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE! 

Pretty challenging stuff from Jesus to his disciples of yesterday and to us, his disciples of today…

“To you who hear” I say “love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.”

And what is our response?  Jesus doesn’t really mean it… It’s only a suggestion?  I can’t do those things Jesus asks…

Well, Jesus did mean it and the proof was the life he led.

Last month, in his January 10, 2019 Daily Mass Homily, Pope Francis shared a few things that sounded like Jesus from today’s Gospel.

In his Homily, Pope Francis identified three signs of behavior that can help us discern our capacity to LOVE others and God:

  1. Our willingness to pray for our neighbors, including those we do not like.
  1. To refrain from “feelings of Jealousy and envy.”
  1. And above all to “avoid gossip”…(judging).

Speaking of praying for others, for those we do not like, for our enemies… the story is told about a High School Sophomore, who had a teacher that some of the students did not like.  When the student complained to their mother, she told the student that they were to pray for the teacher.  When the student repeated their grumbling a few days later, the mother asked if they were praying for the teacher.  To which the student replied, “yes” …and continued… “It is nearly impossible, but yes, I am praying for my teacher… to have a happy death before the end of the semester.”  With a well-controlled facial expression the mother told the student that was not exactly what she had meant.

When Jesus… when the Pope reminds us to love our enemies… to pray for one another, including our enemies… to do good for them…  to stop judging, to stop condemning, to forgive…

They are reminding us that this is the life that people of faith are meant to LIVE and not just talk about…

The beginning of Lent is only 10 days away… And for many people Lent is like New Year’s Resolutions… Why waste time on anything…I’ll eventually fail.

I would like to suggest today that the challenge of today’s Gospel might well be for a Lenten focus this year to consider one, maybe more but one, of the areas that Jesus speaks about today for this  Lent 2019.

What one will each of us chose?  Maybe better said, what one should we chose?  To love our enemies… To pray for one another, including our enemies… To do good for them…  To stop judging, to stop condemning, to forgive…

Let this Lent be the time for renewing our Baptismal Promises to grow in love of God, love of others, and be faithful disciples of Jesus.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE! 

This past Thursday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day.  A day that centers on our love for others.  Of course, our words of love need to be seen in our actions of love.  And in that vein, Jesus reminds us that we are here to love one another, especially our enemies.

The story is told about a Bishop from Vietnam: Francis Van Thuan, who was captured in 1975 shortly before the end of the war and imprisoned by the communist government for 13 years… 9 of which were in solitary confinement.  After his release, he took refuge in the Vatican.  From his time in prison, he learned a sage-like wisdom.  He taught that “we always run the risk of possessing a theory of love, but not enough of the art of love.”

To that end he shared a story from prison:

When I was in isolation, five police took turns so that there were always two guarding me.  The leaders had told them, “we will replace you every two weeks with another group so that you will not be ‘contaminated’ by this dangerous bishop.”  In the beginning, the guards did not talk with me.  They only answered with a yes or no.  I was terribly sad.  I started to love them, to love Jesus in them, smiling and exchanging kind words with them.  I began to tell stories of my trips abroad, of how people live in America, in Canada, in Japan, in the Philippines … about economics, about freedom, about technology.  This stimulated their curiosity, and they began asking me many questions.  Little by little, we became friends.  They wanted to learn foreign languages, French, English … and my guards became my students!

On one occasion, I had to cut wood on a rainy day.  I spoke to the guard, “can I ask you a favor?”  The guard said, “tell me. I’ll help you.”  I said, “I would like to cut a piece of wood in the shape of a cross.”  The guard said, “don’t you know it’s severely forbidden to have any religious signs whatsoever?” I answered, “I know, but we are friends, and I promise to keep it hidden.”  The guard pointed out that “it will be really dangerous for us.”  So I said, “close your eyes. I’ll do it now, and I’ll be really careful.”  The guard went away and left me alone.  I cut the cross and kept it hidden in a piece of soap — up until the time of my release.  This piece of wood, later placed within a metal frame, became my pectoral cross.

In another prison, I asked my guard, who had become my friend, for a piece of electrical wire.  Frightened, he said to me, “I learned at the Police Academy that when someone asks for electrical wire, it means they want to kill themselves.”  I explained to him, “Catholic priests don’t commit suicide.”  He asked, “but what do you want to do with electrical wire?”  I replied, “I would like to make a chain so I can carry my cross.” “How can you make a chain with electrical wire?  It’s impossible!”  I told him, “if you bring me two small pincers, I’ll show you.”  He said, “it’s too dangerous” and I reminded him “but we’re friends.”  Three days later, he came to me.  “It’s really hard to refuse you anything.  Tomorrow night, when it’s my shift, I’ll bring you a piece of electrical wire.  But you have to finish everything in four hours.”  The next evening, from 7-11, with two little pincers, we cut the electrical wire into pieces the size of matchsticks.  We put them together, and the chain was ready by the time the next guard came on duty.

I carry this bishop’s pectoral cross and chain with me every day, not because they are remembrances of prison, but because they represent my profound conviction.  They constantly remind me that only Christian love — not weapons, not threats, not the media — can change hearts.  It is love that prepares the way for the announcement of the Gospel.

The greatness of Jesus’s preaching (as we hear in today’s Gospel of the Beatitudes) is that no one escapes.  Jesus has something for everyone.

What is it for each of us… all of us… that we are being asked to address when it comes to loving one another, even our enemies.”

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE! 

Imagine living in the time of Jesus.  As a devout Jew who went to synagogue every Sabbath, part of the prayer ritual was reading from the Hebrew Scripture (aka the “Old Testament).  And in walks Jesus, the carpenter’s son, who is asked not only to read the passage from Isaiah, but to share a commentary.  And then Jesus says, “This is happening right here, right now”…

And some got it immediately, “Jesus was speaking as if HE was the Anointed One.  He was acting as if he believed it.”   Not what people expected to hear.

One commentator shares that the reading from Luke’s Gospel is aimed straight at today’s church, reminding us that Jesus’ words are not comfort from the past, but a program for today.

Pope Francis has also shared that, “reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is about the Kingdom of God.  To the extent that God reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity.”

In a sense, Pope Francis’ words are simply a variation of Jesus announcement that the “Scriptures are fulfilled today in our midst.”

Pope Francis also shared, “both Christian preaching and life, are meant to have an impact on society.  That means that if we live as Christians, we will disturb the same sectors of society that Jesus did.  If our worship is truly Christian (Christ-centered), it will move us to make a difference.”

For Jesus, the difference centers on being good news to the poor.  Which means people who are poor: economically, socially, chronologically, educationally, geographically,  or in any other way.

To use the imagery of St. Paul, wherever there is a real presence of the body of Christ, life will be different for the poor, beginning with the fact that they will know that they are loved and respected and that they are invited to our tables.

My friends, we have all been blessed, gifted with Spirit of God.  We have all been called to be like Jesus… to bring God’s promises to life in our time and place.

It may be a daunting challenge…

But as people of faith, we are called by the spirit of God to continue to be the body of Christ to those we meet today and every day, to the ends of the earth.

Hopefully today’s scriptures will get us thinking and living/acting in ways that not only help us or me, but help others who look to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World here on earth as it will be in heaven.

Just  maybe today’s Scriptures will get us asking what will we do… What will my family do… What can I do to bring glad tidings to the poor, the captives, those who have lost their way, those who are oppressed?

Like Jesus, may we not only say but may we give evidence to our living of the words of Isaiah each day that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  He has sent me to proclaim the Kingdom of God” today, tomorrow and every day!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: CLICK HERE! 

(Please note: a major winter storm will hit the Northeast beginning Saturday afternoon thru late Sunday – with snowfall expected up to 20 inches, with hazardous driving conditions)

Today is the Second Sunday in our Liturgical Year.  And I think I just heard someone say a major snow storm is anything but ordinary, even for us here in the Northeast!

I have three points for our “storm weekend” reflection:

1.  Be the “Face of Jesus” today and every day.

2.  May we use our God given talent/gifts for the good of others.

3.  May we continue to “back up” our words of faith with actions of God’s kindness, care, life and love.

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord: CLICK HERE! 

For the coming months, Our Parish in a variety of ways will be asking each of us to give some time… some attention to the Prayer of Prayers we call the Mass.

To begin this effort, all registered Parishioners received 2 Catholic Updates:

  • A Walk thru the Mass:  Why We Do What We Do
  • Participating Fully at Sunday Mass

As we know the Mass is comprised of two main parts: the Liturgy (Work of the People) of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Liturgy of the Word is the Scriptures that we hear every weekend.  Usually an Old Testament reading, sometimes referred to as the Hebrew scriptures, and then a New Testament reading followed by a Gospel Reading.

We believe that the Scriptures were divinely inspired.  We believe that through these readings God speaks not only to the past, but to us the people of the present.

In a sense, we should be eagerly anticipating what God will be saying to us, to me, this weekend as we gather for Mass.

This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord… a good day to recall our own Baptisms – a very important day in our life.  That day when our parents brought us to church, not just to check off another thing done:

  • Baby born – check
  • Baby fed – check
  • Baby washed – check
  • Baby dressed – check
  • Baby baptized – check
  • Baptism party – check

No, our parents wanted to pass on to us and through us to our children/our families, the gift of faith, the gift for our life here on earth and for eternal life.

Two years ago on this Feast, Pope Francis stressed the importance of both knowing and celebrating the day of our Baptism!  Who among us remembers the day of our Baptism?  (Anyone here today at Mass ???)  If you know, great!  If we do not, you got homework!

Pope Francis would remind us that our Baptism dates are as important as our birth dates!  (Beloved sons and daughters of God)

On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I would call our attention to the Gospel, and the phrase, “a voice came from Heaven: You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

And at our own Baptisms, God says the same to us: “You are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased.”

Oh, yes, two years ago Pope Francis shared the “stupendous reality” of being children of God brings with it the responsibility to follow Jesus… To grow and grow and grow… In love of God, others, and to be Faithful Disciples of Jesus…”  To be the face of Jesus!

At our Baptisms:

  • We are anointed with holy oil (Chrism)
  • We are garbed (dressed) in white
  • We are given a lighted candle to keep the flame of faith burning brightly in our hearts.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that today is a good day to “check our baptismal candles and make sure they are still burning brightly…”