Tag Archives: Reverend Joseph S. Cebula

Easter Sunday

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily for Easter Sunday: CLICK HERE!

Today’s Gospel is pretty interesting… We hear of Mary of Magdala going to the Tomb of Jesus  and then running back to Simon Peter and the other disciple and telling them: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”  And the other disciple and Peter run to the Tomb.  And when they arrive, at the empty tomb, they “see and believe” but did not yet understand the scripture that “He had to rise from the Dead”.

Their faith was shaken by the events of the past Days, and now this…  Yet, they had faith, even if it was a glimmer of faith…

And in the days ahead – today we call them the EASTER SEASON – the Disciples would have time to think, to reflect, to experience what really happened these past days, including that early morning some 2000 years ago.

We are no different than the disciples of the scriptures.  Yes, we know Jesus;  Yes, we know what he said and taught and did when He was with us… but, we too are called to ponder, to reflect, to remember, and to grow in understanding and in living our faith in Jesus, our Lord and Savior; as the Disciples of Jesus have done over the past 2000 years.

It took more than one day, one Sunday morning 2000 years ago, but the Disciples, eventually came to understand what it not only meant to be a Disciple of Jesus;  but what to rise from the dead, really meant.

Peter, in time was able to witness to all that Jesus was and is to us and all people he has risen; he is alive!

Maybe the message of Easter, the message of the resurrection of Jesus is more than a simple one-day celebration.  Maybe it is an invitation to make the TRUTH of Easter a way of life each of us in our own way striving to bring: light where there is darkness; hope where there is despair;   and community building where there is division.

Finally let me end with a story:

An 11 year old boy named Philip, who had Down’s Syndrome, was in a religion class with 8 other children.  On Easter Sunday the teacher gave each child an empty plastic egg.   The children were told to go outside and find something to put into the egg that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

They came back excited and happy.  As each egg was opened there were exclamation of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass.  Then the last egg was opened.   It was Philip’s and it was empty.  Some of the children laughed at Philip.

“But teacher,” Philip said, “Teacher, the tomb was empty!”

Good Friday

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from Good Friday: CLICK HERE!

This day, one of the most solemn and holiest days in our Christian tradition speaks to us about great suffering, betrayal, rejection and sadness.  While also offering incredible hope.

The Gospel today is very familiar; but a Gospel that is never easy to listen too.  Yet we are invited to enter into every moment of the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice and at the same time recalling to mind own faults, failings and sin — and above all the Lord’s love for us.

And that is where the hope comes in: suffering and sacrifice that is rooted in LOVE.

And, yes we know that, but in these troubling times the reminder of God’s great love cannot occur often enough.

About 7 years ago, I was in Myrtle Beach for the World Golf Amateur.  One morning before the tournament began, I played a practice round at one of the golf courses.  Since I was alone, I joined two other golfers.  Introductions were made and we began what one non-golfer has called a good walk spoiled.  Well that day we did little walking, carts were mandatory.

Of course between shots there was conversation about many things, including questions like: Where are you from?  Are you retired?  What do you do for a living?

Well after several holes, one of the guys asks, “Joe what do you do for a living?”  To which I answer, “I am a Roman Catholic Priest.”  Well, as you might imagine the language for the rest of the round was Rated G.

Any ways when we finished, I was putting my clubs into my car, and one of the golfers came over to talk.  He shared with me, with tears in his eyes, “Father Joe it was only recently that I really came to understand and appreciate that if I was the only person to ever live on the earth, Jesus Christ lived and died and rose for me.  I thank God for his love every day and make an effort to live his love through my life every day.”

Let us pray today for OPEN HEARTS as we walk with Jesus as he carries his cross.  Today is an opportunity for us to grasp more fully what Jesus did for us out of love and to consider how we might give his sacrifice deeper meaning in and through our own lives.

At the end of today and every day there is only one thing that matters…  Jesus made that clear through his suffering and sacrifice and by his very words, “as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Holy Thursday

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from Holy Thursday: CLICK HERE!

After three years of Jesus teaching his Disciples, not only in word, but by example, after example…

Jesus gathers for a meal, some say the Passover meal, the Jewish meal that remembers the Jews’ miraculous departure from Egypt, the end of a long and brutal period of slavery and the symbolic birth of the Jewish nation…

And now Jesus, with his friends, his Disciples, gives them one more example.  He who is Master and Teacher, washes the feet of his Disciples an action reserved for the servant.  And Jesus, goes a step further and says, probably to a startled group, “If, I can do this, your teacher and master, you need to do the same.”

And certainly, our minds might turn to the present day people who are indeed doing as Jesus asked…  Yes, doctors and nurses, first responders and hospital personnel and many others who are selflessly caring for others, especially the sick.

And these people, some we know, some we will never know, are giving us example after  example of unconditional love and care…  and recognize them and applaud them we should.

BUT, maybe it should not stop there…  Maybe we need to look around us and recognize the selflessness of others, maybe even ourselves.  The examples of selflessness on the part of the Walmart worker…  the grocery store cashier…  the parents at home with the kids day, after day, after day and the kids at home with the parents day, after day, after day.

In recent days someone shared with me a person’s “aha” moment when it came to the people around them.  How they had come to a better understanding of these people.  How they had come to believe these people always had the person’s best interest in mind.  How the Holy Spirit was guiding them in living the best life they could.

Just maybe Jesus is reminding us that there are times when we need to go above and beyond whatever limits or boundaries we think exists when it comes to SERVICE and CARE for one another, for others…

These days we call the Triduum… this Holy Thursday, is certainly about Jesus, but in a sense, it is also about his DISCIPLES – living the word; being the example that Jesus spoke about and lived.

What’s your story of faith, hope and love that you and I are not only living but hopefully teaching and encouraging others to do… Examples of service and care and so much more.

Talk about it after Mass tonight, as your gather around your supper table.

And then after dinner as we wash our hands and wash the dishes, let it be a reminder that service and care begins at home and flows out into the world.

Palm Sunday

To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from Palm Sunday: CLICK HERE!

It’s Palm Sunday and what is Palm Sunday without PALM?  For the present time, palm will not be available. Once we are back “together” in Church, palm will be available.

It was in a long line at 6:45 am at the grocery store that opened at 7:00 am for seniors only.  A young man came from the parking lot and tried to cut in at the front of the line, but an old lady beat him back into the parking lot with her cane.  He returned and tried to cut in again, but an old man punched him in the gut, then kicked him to the ground and rolled him away.  As he approached the line for the third time he said “If you don’t let me unlock the door, you will never get in there.”

With the many challenges that exist in our world, our state, our families, our lives… we might be wondering, will we triumph?

As my grandmother used to say, “by the grace of God.”  What’s that mean?  By the grace of God… Grace is God’s unconditional love, a relationship of love, beyond our imagining, with all of us.

Grace is God walking with us, watching over us, caring for us.  I think at times we think, it is all up to God, to take care of, what is the concern of the moment or day…  and, yes we need to let God win the day for us.  We also have to ask the question, what is our or my part?  We who pray to our God for healing, for understanding, for consolation, for peace and so much more.

Ultimately, grace is God’s work, if you will God’s operation; but we too have a part, namely our cooperation with the work, the grace of God.

Five weeks ago one of our Petitions at Mass was may our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and good works bring us closer to our God and one another.

I submit to you that God has heard our prayer this Lent and we have grown closer to our God and one another.

Lent is not over and even if it was, how are our efforts of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and good works continuing to bring us closer to our God (no social distancing necessary) and closer to one another?

This Holy Week, I would ask you to see the prayer, fasting, almsgiving and good works as part of the plan of God, part of our cooperation with the love of God, who wishes us all that is good.

This Holy Week, keep making some time to pray each day as a person and family, maybe it is grace before/after meals; maybe it is a special time during the day where the entire family can get together for a few moments or more of prayer; maybe a listing of prayers; maybe a reading from the Bible; maybe a prayer or more, like the Our Father or Hail Mary… A prayer for the people you live with (we all need that) and a prayer for the people we know or do not know who are working for an end to this Pandemic.

And of course, let’s pray together at Mass (via Live Streaming) until we meet again in person.  Maybe even joining us for Holy Thursday & Good Friday Services at 5:00 PM. (via Live Streaming).

This Holy Week, continue to make an effort at FASTING… fasting from food, complaining, gossip, pessimism, suspicion… so we will be able to FEAST, very soon.

This Holy Week, continue acts of kindness, good works…  Keep calling all those people who are part of our lives, keep social distancing (it makes a difference not only for other people, but also for yourself).

Finally, don’t forget almsgiving this Holy Week, please continue to do what you can for charities and your Church.  I heard that liquor sales were up 55% the past week or two. Let’s hope Church and charity donations are not down 55%…

We pray to our God who always hears our prayer and we pray that we will continue to make the effort to live our prayers daily; to cooperate with the plan and grace of God.  For In the end, God’s grace always triumphs!

Fifth Sunday of Lent

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

As I watched the special blessing of Pope Francis on Friday afternoon to the City of Rome and the World, in light of Pandemic that has gripped our world, it was obvious that it was raining in Rome.  (Just as it is raining now, here in the Capital District)

And when I read that famous quote from today’s Gospel, “Jesus wept” I could but think that maybe the rain in Rome was our God’s way of reminding us that he “weeps” with us and worries with us and walks with us in this unprecedented time in history… When a virus can seemingly change the way we live in a heartbeat.  A virus that brings: illness, separation, isolation, questions, concern, anxiety, health concerns and even death to some.

Jesus is with us, Jesus cares for us; just as he cared for his friend Lazarus.

The bottom line to the Gospel today is Jesus brings us hope in good days, in joyful days; in days of sorrow and challenge…

DO YOU BELIEVE?

And like Mary and Martha we too say, “Yes, Lord we believe.”  But still we wonder where is Jesus today?  When will Jesus show up?  Maybe, if we look beyond our selves we might see Jesus in our midst.

I love the post I saw this week on Facebook of a family of 9 that placed a piece of paper on the wall with a caption that said: GRATITUDE LIST (4 things were written at the time) Music…  The Internet…  Sough Dough…  and in BIG LETTERS:     DOGS.

What would you add to the list?

You know, many people might be staying at home and becoming a bit stir crazy, or maybe feel like you are under house arrest.  But with every challenge comes opportunity. The opportunity to bring hope to another or others, just as Jesus did.

I truly think that one of the messages, and truly there are many messages, that is coming from the present crisis is, our need to be more concerned about others… it ain’t all Me but others too.

Steve Hartman, a broadcast journalist from CBS is at home with his children.  He recently offered a session online for children called “Kindness 101”.  One thing he talked about was heroism and how heroes today are wearing different kinds of uniforms. So their assignment for the week was to pick one of these new heroes and thank them in any way they could.

Some kids went straight to the phone to thank the pharmacist or the fire chief and nurses. Others used sidewalks to thank mail carriers, FedEx and UPS drivers.  But one kid, Tyler, age 9, decided to give his note to a truck driver, so he taped the note to the loading dock.  The note read in part, “I appreciate that you are still going out and driving your truck because all of us are sitting on our butts watching TV and eating cheetos”.

Who are our heroes for whom are we grateful and thankful?  How might we take this gift of extra time we have to thank a hero, who often looks like you…

Just maybe heroes we call

  • Health care workers at all levels
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • First Responders
  • Grocery Store Personnel
  • Truckers
  • Mail and Banking Personnel
  • All those Essential People… (oh, and how can I forget the most essential of them all, Liquor Stores – kidding to a degree)

Like Jesus (and all those people) who come into our lives daily with hope and healing and so much more, when it is sunny and when it is rainy. May we do the same. Plan on doing something today!

As one quote I came across recently reminds us, “think outside the box; you’ll have eternity to think inside the box.”

Finally, in the new routines that we are taking on at present, take time for:

  • Family
  • Meals together
  • Talking with one another
  • For your school work or job
  • Reaching out to others
  • Fun
  • Relaxing
  • GOD and prayer

Third Sunday of Lent

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

I saw a one box cartoon this past week of Tony the Tiger, whose famous line is, “They’re great!” (Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes)  Tony the Tiger is laying on a couch, and he says to the doctor, “I don’t feel great.”

And maybe that is most of us, in a sense…  Amidst the concerns of our world, our nation, our state, our county, our family… we do not feel great, and like the Israelite people in our Exodus reading, we to might think, “is the Lord in our midst or not?”

Personally, as I thought about all that has been going on these weeks and months and most especially the past few days, the questions I would suggest is, “what would Jesus do?”  As people of faith, what are we being asked to do?

There is no doubt that news of the past week or so may bring uncertainty to some, to many some fear and increased concern for family and others…

Yet, the Coronavirus is not going to lead to the Zombie Apocalypse.  (It is not the beginning of the end!)

From my understanding of what has been shared over the past weeks, there are a variety of things  that need our attention and action, among them:

  •  Make every effort to stay healthy, not only for yourself and family but for others…
  • Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands, and of course, wash your hands…  for 20 seconds w/soap!
  • Avoid one on one contact with people who are sick, not just for your health but for theirs.  (But do make an effort to keep in touch with people.  There are a few newly invented things we might consider: a phone call, Facetime, Email, a letter/a post card, etc. )
  • We are advised to keep some space between our self and others.  What are they suggesting?  3 to 6 feet…
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. 
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • If you are sick, do not come to Church… Stay home.

(When was the last time you heard a Priest say do not come to Church, not often because our God does ask us to gather with our fellow believers; but when we are really sick, we should not be here.)

And besides, in the World we live in, when we are sick, from the comfort of our home we can watch the Mass Live Streamed every Sunday at 10:30 am.  Just go to our Parish Website to do so:   StMarysCrescent.Org

Oh, and don’t forget our ongoing financial support of your Parish, whether we are here or not, like everyone your Parish still has bills and salaries to be paid!

  • Avoid shaking hands with people… Some eye contact and a heartfelt hello or good bye goes a long way.
  • And I am sure you are taking many other everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, like the Coronavirus.

It seems that much of the present concerns are an effort to help lessen the passing on of the Coronavirus to others, especially the sick.  Those who are 60 years of age plus, who may be more vulnerable than others.  (That includes your Pastor, he’s almost 71, if you care and I sure you do; he would rather not be sick).

Often many of the challenges we face in life also present opportunities…

When it comes to the Coronavirus, what opportunities may be present with authorities cancelling many public events, with people cancelling travel plans, with schools closed, with people staying home maybe we can:

  • Take some time to bond as a family…
  • A meal or more together, might work…
  • Family time, while watching a movie, playing a game…
  • A phone call to all those people we’ve been meaning to call these past few years…
  • A letter or note or card to a neighbor, a relative, someone you may even take for granted.
  • And, not to be forgotten, pray…  Pray personally…  Pray with your family…  Watch a Live-Streamed Mass together as a family.

Oh, and one more thing…  Don’t hoard…  Leave some pasta, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, even Doritos for others…

Care and share…

Maybe this Homily can be summed up like this: God loves us… God loves you…  May others thru our actions of caring and sharing be reminded that God is indeed in our midst!

First Sunday in Lent

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

Let me begin with a rhetorical question today, “when was the last time you were tempted?    And gave into the temptation?”

We are all tempted, maybe even with in the last few minutes.  Today, we hear that even Jesus was tempted.  And why would be think that he would not be tempted ?

Jesus, like us was fully human, and fully divine.  And like us Jesus was tempted, but maybe unlike us, Jesus resisted the temptations…

What are the temptations we address daily?  Lots to be sure…

What do we see in the First Reading today from Genesis?  Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden and rather than let them wander happily ever after in the garden, Satan (The Devil, The Evil One, The Tempter) shows up to debate with Eve, so she could bring Adam into line.  And all Satan had to do was sow some doubt, by saying to Eve, “did God tell you that you could not eat any fruit tree in the middle of the garden?”

And Eve thinks to herself, “actually, it was Adam who said it to me.  Will Adam always try to tell me what to do?”  And you almost see Satan grinning as he not only Separates man and wife…

                        But goes for even a bigger prize…

“Dividing them Both from God” and the Ways of God.

            It was all about them….at least that is what Satan wanted them

to think and act…

                        Not people growing in a Relationship of Intensifying Love

with God…but….wanting to Become – GOD.

What can I get out of this…and…never delay my own

Gratification.

            Temptations….abound in our world…

The Tempter…is that “VOICE” within us that: 

+  urges us To Put ourselves First….

            + wants us to place our wants  & expectations  Before the needs of others…

            +  tries to Separate us from One Another and from God…

            Like Jesus..it is…the “Spirit of God” who leads us into the     Desert…

this Lent 2020…

            The Spirit of God…that offers a Life beyond all the

Let me begin with a rhetorical question today:  “When was the last time you were tempted?    And gave into the temptation?”

We are all tempted…maybe even with in the last few minutes.

Today, we hear that even Jesus was tempted.

And why would be think that he would not be tempted ?

Jesus, like us was fully Human,  (and fully Divine).

And like us Jesus was Tempted…but…maybe unlike us, Jesus resisted the Temptations….

What are the temptations we address daily…   Lots to be sure…

What do we see in the First Reading today from Genesis…

            Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden.

            And rather than let them wander happily ever after n the Garden,

                        Satan – The Devil – The Evil One – The Tempter shows up

                        to debate with Eve, so she could bring Adam into line.

            And all Satan had to do was sow some doubt, by saying to Eve,

                        “Did God tell you that you could not eat any fruit Tree in the

                          Middle of the Garden?”

                        And Eve thinks to herself:   “Actually, it was Adam who said                                                  it to me.     Will Adam always try to tell me what to do?”

            And you almost see…Satan Grinning…

                        As he not only Separates man and wife…

                        But goes for even a bigger prize…

“Dividing them Both from God” and the Ways of God.

            It was all about them….at least that is what Satan wanted them

to think and act…

                        Not people growing in a Relationship of Intensifying Love

with God…but….wanting to Become – GOD.

What can I get out of this…and…never delay my own

Gratification.

            Temptations….abound in our world…

The Tempter…is that “VOICE” within us that: 

+  urges us To Put ourselves First….

            + wants us to place our wants  & expectations  Before the needs of others…

            +  tries to Separate us from One Another and from God…

            Like Jesus..it is…the “Spirit of God” who leads us into the     Desert…

this Lent 2020…

            The Spirit of God…that offers a Life beyond all the

                                    All the Kingdoms & Riches of the World.

            These 40 days of Lent are meant to Lead us from Temptation

And Lead us:

                                    Closer and Closer to One Another and All People;

                                    Closer and Closer to God and the Ways of God

                                                Everyday of our Lives….

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Oh by the way,

Did you know that Today (Saturday, Feburary 29th) is:  “Leap of Kindness Day ?”

Well it is…If you want to give into a Temptation…

Do something Kind today for Another Person or Persons.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Every weekend when we come to church, we hear the word of the God in the Scripture Readings.  Readings that can encourage us…  Readings that can raise our consciousness… Readings that can teach us…  Readings that can challenge us.

This past Wednesday the first reading at Mass came from the Letter of St. James, where we heard, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

Lent is upon us, Ash Wednesday is this week, it’s on Wednesday in case anyone was wondering what day it is on.

Lent might well be a very appropriate time to put into action what we hear, what we know is good for us as a person, family, and community of faith.  People centered in God, in the Word of God…  People who are blessed not only because they hear the Word of God, but keep it.

I am sure each of us can come up with at least one area of our life, where we know we could be more faithful…

For instance, Jesus says today in our Gospel, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus knows that love, love that is and of God is not easy.  It can be demanding, maybe unreasonable, and unfair.

What is often most challenging about today’s Gospel in not loving our enemies, but loving our annoying sister or bratty brother.

It is easy to love some nameless group of people we have little or nothing to do with.

What is hard is to love the people we live with and work with and go to school with.

To love our enemies is not just to declare a cease fire but to create and maintain an environment where reconciliation is always possible, where acceptance and welcome are assured even within our own families and households.

We have heard… We continue to hear… the Word of God shared with us every day… May we seize the opportunity of Lent 2020, to not only listen to and know the Word of God, but to live it.

To seize the opportunity of Lent 2020 to grow in being doers of the Word.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Recently the comic strip, For Better or Worse, shared an episode of 13 year old Michael complaining to his mother, “Mom there is nothing to wear!”

“Michael,” his mother counters, “you won’t go shopping with me, and the last time I gave you money to buy you own clothes, you did not buy anything!”

A few moments later, Michael who is staring out the window, whines, “There is nothing to do.”

His mother reminds him, “Brian ask you to go swimming, your dad asked you if you wanted to go to town with him — and you turned them both down.”

Then with Michael plopped in front of the TV and the sound turned down.    Michael gripes, “There is nothing to watch.”

And mom says pointedly, “there are plenty of channels to choose from and you have video games to play.”

Then in the next panel, Dad comes home from his errands to find Michael sitting in a chair with a forlorn expression on his face.  “What is with Michael,” dad asks.

Mom deadpans:  “There is nothing to complain about.”

Today’s Gospel is about attitude and perspective.  Michael’s pessimism is his own making and his wise mother calls on it.

But on a deeper and more serious level, Jesus in our Gospel today asks us not to consider our failings and sins, the acts themselves, but the self-centeredness at the heart of our actions.

Says Sirach in our first reading today, ” If you choose, you can keep the Commandments.”

And let me warn you, spoiler alert:

  • If we choose as a person, family, community, nation… we can be reconciled with God and with one another.
  • If we choose, we can be kind, forgiving,  helpful, cooperative, supportive.
  • If we choose, we can keep the Commandments and live the Great Commandment and live the Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy.
  • If we chose, we can grow in faith, hope and love, and accept God’s grace to bring a bit of the Kingdom of God here on Earth, as it in Heaven.

This week, where will we choose, as person, family and parish the ways of God, at home, at work, in the community, in all those daily interactions that come our way again and again and again so we can really live…