Tag Archives: Very Rev Joseph S. Cebula

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:    Acts  10:25-26, 34-35    1 John 4:7-10    John 15:9-17


A Protestant Theologian by the name of Karl Barth is often considered the greatest theologian of the 20th Century.

He exercised great influence on most of the theologians for his day, with last names like:  Bonhoffer;  Neibuhr, Moltmann and Updike.  Barth even opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Regime.

He even wrote on the most profound works of Systematic Theology – the 13 Volume work:  Church Dogmatics.

Well, the story is told about an occasion when Karl Barth was asked, “What is the most profound thought that every entered your mind?”

After a brief reflection, Barth replied, “the most profound thought I have ever known is the simple truth, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

Indeed each of our readings this weekend imparts the same simple truth, “God loves us;  Jesus loves us.”

One of the most profound signs of God’s love for us is the fact that God – Jesus – died for us out of love.

Love is who we are and how we are to be, in relationship with God and with one another…

As friends of God we put God first by putting others before ourselves.  This is laying down our lives for our friends.

Jesus was willing to die for us.  Are we willing to LIVE for others?  How do we live for others, how do we love others?

We are asked daily, directly and indirectly, to live our love for others by being present to another person be they family member, friends, neighbor, fellow parishioner, even stranger… every day.

We are asked daily directly and indirectly to assist others in an ongoing way of service or ministry in our community, in our school, in our church.

We are asked daily directly and indirectly to share a portion of our time, talent and money, so that others will come to know and experience the God of care and love.

For sure these questions, among many questions, are not just answered with a yes or no, because we realize how important our positive response in action is needed.    How our love in action is necessary.

God’s act of sending Jesus Christ into the world reveals what love is.

And, this will always be true.  But, we too, the Disciples of Jesus today are also being asked to reveal God’s love to others daily through our love in action.

To quote a saying of some years ago that Bishop Scharfenberger shared at Confirmation this past Thursday, “You may be the only Christ that others meet.”

May it be the Christ of unconditional life, love and mercy!

Third Sunday in Advent

Scripture Readings:  Isaiah 6:1-2, 10-11;  Thessalonians 5:16-24;  John 1:6-8, 19-28


Don’t you love a “Gospel of the Lord” in which the Lord does not utter a single word?

Today’s Gospel centers on John the Baptist who, when asked, “Who are you?” says, he has come to “testify to the Light.”  The Light of course being “The Christ, The Savior.”  Says John the Baptist, “I am a voice calling people to know the goodness of God, to know the Love of God, to know the Favor of God and so much more.”

John the Baptist knew who he was and who he was not.

Advent calls us to know who we are:  Christians, Disciples of Jesus!

And Paul gives us a few characteristic of such a Christian:  “Rejoice always, pray always, give thanks always.”

This might sound like a daunting task, but we are also reminded in the Readings today, “Rejoice heartily in the Lord” (Isaiah); and (Paul to the Thessalonians) “The One (God) who calls you is faithful, and He will also accomplish it.”

Every day gives us another opportunity for good, to witness to the Gospel, to bring Gospel Joy to another or others.  Because in the end it is not the “Issues of the Day” that are our first concern, rather it is the “the people” whom God would have us see.

Pope Francis urges us to say no to selfishness and spiritual sloth.  Spiritual sloth, there’s a phrase that might have us wondering, what is that?

Sloth, is a kind of Spiritual laziness.  It means not making it a priority to do what we should, or change what we should in ourselves.

Like John the Baptist, we too are called to “testify to the Light” to “testify to the Joy of the Gospel” each day.

Obviously, there are many ways of “testifying to the Light” as a person, family and parish.  We pray that we will continue to do so, with the support of our God who is at work within each of us.

Finally, as an example of testifying to the Light, let me share an email that a parishioner sent me, that is certainly pertinent to this season, it’s entitled:   “Holiday To Do List”

Holiday to do list:

  1. Buy Presents                  becomes                1.  Be Present
  2. Wrap Gifts                        becomes                2.  Wrap someone in a Hug
  3. Send Gifts                         becomes               3.  Send Peace
  4. Shop for Food                becomes              4.  Donate Food
  5. Make Cookies                 becomes               5.  Make Love
  6. See the Lights                 becomes              6.  Be the Light

Feast of All Souls

Scripture Readings:  Wisdom 3:1-9;  Romans 5:5-11;  John 6:37-40


Yesterday, (November first) we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, not only a reminder of the people that are “officially recognized” as Saints, but the reminder that we are all called to be whole and holy people – Saints, if you will.

Today, November second, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls.  Today, we remember and celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, “that great cloud of witnesses who surround us,” as we hear today in Hebrews.   (And who says the cloud is something new to the internet age).

Did you know up until 200 BC or so, Jewish believers were of the mind that death was the end of every creature’s existence and that only God was immortal.  Gradually, however, there came the realization that human beings were blessed with an Immortal Spirit that survived death.  Death is not the end, but a moment of passage into peace in the presence of God.

Life Eternal is God’s gift to us, even for the imperfect person and sinner that we are.  God assures us in the Gospels – “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”  Today and everyday may we turn to the Lord, not away from the Lord.

Whenever I officiate at a funeral, I always mention our prayers for the deceased, but I add, as “proper, right and just as it is to pray for those who have died, they also pray for us.”

They pray for us because life may be changed when some dies and is no longer with us, but life is not ended when someone dies, our relationships of life continue in a new way.

One author says of All Souls Day, “It is a day to REMEMBER with LOVE.”

Who do we remember with love today?  A spouse, a parent, a child, a relative, a friend, a neighbor…

What is the story, or what are the stories, of that person’s life and faith that you remember and share with others so they will not be forgotten?

Perhaps today’s Mass (and the lives of our faithful departed) will inspire us to live with courage and compassion, with caring and generosity, with faith, hope and love, thereby creating fond memories for those who will someday mourn and celebrate our going forth into the bright land beyond.

Finally, just a word about how we live as Catholics, as Christians, as People of Faith from Pope Francis:

“How many times have we heard in our neighborhoods, ‘Oh that person over there always goes to Church, but he badmouths everyone, skins them alive.’  What a bad example to badmouth other people.  This is not Christian.”  The pope continued, “Casual scandal and being a bad example turn people off, making them think:  ‘Hey, if that is being Christian, I’ll be an atheist’.  That’s because our Witness is what makes people see what it is to be Christian.”

But the Pope also continued by reminding everyone that “while sin and human weakness can create ‘scandal’ and plenty of bad example in the Church, God also Lets People Grow in Holiness.”

The people we remember today grew in God’s Grace and Holiness and if we want, “we too can continue to grow in God’s Grace and Holiness,” today, tomorrow and everyday.  And in the process, “become a source of witness.  To be witnesses of what Jesus wants us to do by what we say with our life.”

Today’s Feast will someday be our Feast!

All you Holy Men and Women pray for us!

Please pray us into Heaven with you!

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:  Isaiah 25:6-10;  Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20;  Matthew 20:1-14


This past Thursday, I was speaking with a Parish Life Director of our Diocese, a woman religious who shared that she recently had Dan Schutte at her Parish for a Concert, the same Dan Schutte who, a year ago, was at our neighboring Parish.     And, I am sure most, if not all of us, are familiar with his song, “Table of Plenty” and the beginning of the song’s refrain:

“Come to the feast of Heaven and Earth; Come to the table of plenty.”

The scriptures today, especially that of Isaiah and Matthew reflect their common belief that the Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of Heaven – is like a banquet of rich food and choice wines, prepared by God.

For Isaiah all the peoples of the earth would be in attendance.

For Matthew the guest list evolved, after those invited refused to come, the servants of the king went out into the streets and gathered in to the feast, all they found, the good and bad alike.

John Wesley, a Methodist minister once shared that, “when he arrived in heaven, he would be surprised by three things:

  •        First, he would be surprised by who was there
  •        Second, he would be surprised by who was not there
  •        Third, he would be surprised to find himself there”

John Wesley, reminds us that God’s ways are not only surprising, but rich in mercy and love for sinners.

Maybe another way of saying all this is, how can we try and try and try again, to take on the “Mind of Jesus?”

I do think that this is exactly what Pope Francis is asking us to consider through his preaching and his exhortations to Catholics, to Christians, to all people.  (This, I believe is what the Pope hopes to see happen in the Synod on the Family that is underway in Rome.)  How can the Church, how can we who are part of the Church at the present time – take on the mind of Jesus when it comes to our daily lives at home, at work, in school, in the parish, in the community.  Maybe there are more Pastoral ways to live our lives – personally and universally – as person, families and Church.

Pope Francis, it seems, continues to remind us to be more accepting of people, to be more merciful, to be more forgiving, to be more caring, to be more Christ like.

Many people often wonder why the man of the Gospel was thrown out of the Wedding Feast.  Rather “bound hand and feet, and cast into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

It had nothing to do with not being dressed to the nine’s – rather the point is that just showing up is not enough.

The garment is a reminder us of our Baptismal garment, when we “put on Christ” as the Baptism Ritual shares: “See in the white garment you wear the outward sign of your Christian dignity.   With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of Heaven.”

Our Baptismal garment cannot not be tucked away in storage, it needs to be worn every day; and our Baptismal promises need to be lived every day, as we actively live our love of God, love of others, as His Disciples of today!

Come to the Feast of Heaven and Earth, Come to the table of plenty and may “Christ be our Light” today and every day.       Amen.