Tag Archives: Very Reverend Joseph S. Cebula

Third Sunday of Advent

We hear St. Paul today reminding the people of Philippi and each of us, Disciples of the Lord, to, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I say it again, rejoice!”

Why rejoice?  What are we rejoicing about?  The fact that the source for our redemption is near.  The source of course is Jesus.   Whose birth we celebrate in 12 days.  And that, in fact, is part of the Gospel Message today.

Salvation is more attainable than people realize.

And very much like ourselves, the people ask, “What should we do?”  And John the Baptist answer is simple, direct and clear.  He did not say, as Jesus later would, “sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Him.”  Rather, John says: care for others… give away your second coat… share your food… stop cheating people… be generous… be fair… be honorable… exercise your heart for the good of others.

“What should we do?”   We all know the answer.  Do the right thing!

There is a story told of a Hebrew scholar, Hillel, who lived 50 years before Christ.  Someone once asked him to sum up the Jewish teaching in just a phrase.  He replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.  This is the whole Torah.  The rest is commentary [explanation].  Now go and learn.”

In the end it comes down to choices.  We make them every day.  The doctor says your cholesterol is a bit high.    He suggests you exercise a bit more.   Take the stairs more, the elevator less.    And when given the choice… what do we choose?  The elevator, of course.

And probably more than we care to admit, it is often that way in making more important changes in our lives, the kind that John the Baptist is asking.  But John makes it clear it does not have to be that way.  Start small…  Make the effort…  Exercise your heart….  Take the stairs…

Make the choices that will make you ready to welcome Jesus, not just at Christmas…  But the choices that make us ready to welcome Jesus every day in family, friends, foes… in the needy and poor… in the people of this moment and every moment of your day, our day.

By the way… John never used the word, but if asked what should we do today, he might say, live the Corporal Works of Mercy?  Know what they are?  If not just look at the front cover of today’s Bulletin.  Easy to read and memorize but living them may need some effort on the part of all of us.

But when we do… when we try and try and try… we not only do the right thing, but we become more and more ready to welcome the Lord into our lives now and in the future.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

I read a great quote about Mary today about the Wedding Feast of Cana, when Mary said to the attendants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Mary knew she had to step aside and let her Son work.

Just maybe today’s Feast is a reminder for us to cooperate with the plans of God;  to get out of the way and let the work of God happen.  Just like Mary did…

Put another way, our ego, our self-centeredness can often get in the way.   One priest in a conversation we had last week, shared the observation that when we hear about the good another person or group or church is doing, we often dismiss it, rather than seize the moment to join in that good work, the good work of God.

When can we join with others to advance the Kingdom of God, here on Earth as it is in Heaven?

In recent days, I heard about an effort begun in the Saratoga Area entitled, “Pray 60.”  In the coming weeks, I will be speaking with parish leaders to see how we here at St. Mary’s, Crescent might join in this effort come the new year.

Mary’s many yeses of her life were always about her getting out of the way and making room for something greater.  May Mary be our reminder and our example that ultimately our lives need to be about GOD.

Second Sunday of Advent

Baruch 5:1-9;      Philippians 1:4-6. 8-11;     Luke 3:1-6

This Tuesday, December 8, 2015 begins a very special year:   A Jubilee Year of Mercy, from this Tuesday, December 8, 2015 thru The Feast of Christ the King at the end of November 2016.   A Year that Pope asks all of us to participate in.

The date chosen to begin this Year of Mercy, Tuesday, December 8, 2015, is a significant date in the life of the church:

+ December 8 is the Feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary.  Mary the Mother of God;  Mary the model of discipleship for all.

+ December 8 also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council that began in 1965.

Pope Francis in speaking about this Jubilee Year of Mercy shared, “I ask everyone to celebrate the Year of Mercy by showing to others the Mercy of God constantly at work in all of us.”

The Pope is asking us to use the year ahead to “become more and more a conduit of God’s mercy in everything we say and do.”

Last weekend at the 10:30 am Mass, I suggested that we “look for Jesus” in the people we would be coming into contact during the week.  One couple shared with me:

We have made special efforts to see Jesus in everyone around us this week in the midst of the holiday preparation hubbub.  We discussed with each other the challenge that this presented at times and we admit that it was not always easy.  Nevertheless we feel it was a very worthwhile Advent exercise and one we will try to continue.

They continued by sharing:

On the lighter side of this, we found ourselves tied up in a couple major traffic jams which led us to conclude that “Jesus is not always a very good driver!”

My response to this was, Jesus still has a Learner’s Permit.

Well as our Advent continues, as we begin this year of Mercy, I would share with you three areas where we might seriously think about “Mercy” becoming more evident in our Lives:

  1. Listen to God’s Word.  In today’s readings what is God sharing and asking of us?

+ Baruch, the Prophet in reading one shares, “God is leading us to joy.”  Do we see, do we experience, are we open to all the good that God has and is leading us to?

+ Paul, in the Second reading, “prays that our love will increase.”  How is our love increasing for God, for others?

+ Luke, our Gospel Writer, reminds us “make straight the road.”  What efforts do we make, can we make to assist others, in need, in distress, here and now ?

  1. Recognize the need for Mercy.  We do not have to look far to see human misery.  How will we heal wounds; knock down the walls between us; restore human dignity?
  1. Do not judge or condemn.  As the pope often reminds us, “no one can look into another’s soul, we only see what happens on the surface.”  Refraining from judging and condemnation is an Act of Mercy because it allows us to accept the good in every person and spare that person suffering caused by our negative attitude.

This Advent – This Jubilee of Mercy:  God who began this good work in us; May He bring it to completion.   (Amen.)

Thanksgiving Eve Mass

The great British Poet, Rudyard Kipling was a very famous writer even before he died, and made a great deal of money at his trade.

One day a newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, ”Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over $100 a word.”  Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, ”Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter cynically reached into his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to Kipling and said, ”Here’s a $100 bill Mr. Kipling.    Now give me one of your $100 words.”

Rudyard Kipling looked at that $100 bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, ”Thanks.”

One might say the word ”thanks” is certainly a $100 word.   Maybe even a million dollar word.    A word that may be close to being put on the endangered species list.

Tonight we, the Disciples of Jesus, from Corpus Christi Church and St. Mary’s Church, Crescent and beyond gather to say, thanks!  Today and hopefully throughout the year.  We give thanks for the blessings of faith, family, friends, the blessings of opportunity…  the blessing to make a difference…

In the past few days, a national news item, shared the story of a young boy in NYC who wanted the NYC Police Department to know that he really appreciated their efforts.  The boy, age about 7, decided he wanted to PERSONALLY thank every NYC police person (all 34,000 of them).  So began the process a year ago and one day a week he and his mother, on her day off, visit NYC Police Stations and there the boy personally gives each police officer a hand-shake and a word of thanks, along with a card of appreciation.  The boy is a year older from when he began, but he continues to give thanks.

Makes you wonder what we could do that maybe we have put off, or maybe have not had time to consider, when it comes to giving thanks to God and to others.

And maybe this Thanksgiving we might ask our God for a more positive attitude… something that is often lacking in our world today.

It’s been said that:


Feast of Christ the King

Scripture Readings:     Daniel 7:13-14;      Revelation 1:5-8;     John 18:33-37

Last weekend, as I have done many times over the past five years, I spoke about the “Kingdom of God.”  Today, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, but not a King in the usual sense of the word or the world.  For as even Jesus says to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

The Kingdom of God is marked by humility, peace, justice and love.  Qualities, that are often found lacking in our day.  But, like Jesus we can bring, by the lives we live, this humility, peace, justice and love to our world, if we choose.

Jesus chose to do so and was met with opposition, even death.  As Baptized people, Disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to continue to build and to maintain the Kingdom of God in our time and place.

The Kingdom of God is often found, in every act of selfless kindness and humble generosity.

We have often heard the phrase “choose life.”  Maybe this Feast of Christ the King is asking us to chose the ways of Christ our Lord and Savior, to chose a way of life that is in sync with Jesus Christ – the way of peace, humility, justice and love…

May we always, seek to be instruments of peace, humility, justice and love, it probably won’t be that hard to see, since opportunity abounds; but more importantly make it real today, this week and into the future.

May our good and God-like thoughts and ideas be experienced in real ways more and more, by more and more people of our daily lives.

Thirty-Third Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:     Daniel 12:1-3;      Hebrews 10:11-18;     Mark 13:24-32

As a homilist, I have to say that the Scripture Readings we hear in these last few weeks of the Liturgical Year can be a bit challenging to preach on.  They speak of endings.  They speak of the end times and for the most part, we infrequently speak of the end times or even our own end time.

Of course, one of the thoughts that was on the mind of many of the early Christians was the imminent Second Coming of Jesus, but as we know, it is some 2000 years later and we and the world are still here.

What happened was Christians began to “refine” there understanding of the coming of God.  They began to realize, it may not be tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

The early Christians and people of faith since then, now focus on how the Kingdom of God might begin to be revealed in some way in the world of today.  We even pray, as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

Like the early Christians – we too need to focus in on the presence of Jesus in everyone and in every situation.  How is being a Christian, a Disciple of Jesus, a Catholic changing how we live here and now, in the way we live our lives daily.

How can we, in 2015-2016, begin to not only experience, but maybe more importantly share with others, the coming of “the Kingdom of God here on Earth, as it is in Heaven,” to the people we encounter at  home, work, school; in our community, and our faith community?

It is interesting, that even our society (knowing or unknowingly) tries to bring something of goodness, of God to people.  There is National:

  • Hug Someone Day
  • Random Acts of Kindness Day
  • Honesty Day
  • World Laughter Day
  • Friendship Day
  • Smile Day
  • Kindness Day
  • Love your Lawyer Day
  • National Day of Listening

But, Jesus also offered us some ideas to that might make a bit more real the “Kingdom of God here on Earth, as it is  in Heaven:”

  • Love One Another – Really Love Others
  • Forgive Others – Really Forgive Others
  • Feed the Hungry
  • Shelter the Homeless
  • Visit the Sick…              (Really live the Corporal Works of Mercy)

Even Pope Francis is asking the world to observe a Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning this December…  A year when people will become more merciful in their own lives and bring God’s mercy to others.

Yes, the end is near, we know not the day or hour, but in the mean time, maybe the scriptures are suggesting that we do live like today is the final day.  Living as people who are as a friend of mine sings in one of his songs, “Blest are we who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Thirty-Second Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:     I Kings 17:10-16;      Hebrews 9:24-28;    Mark 10:35-45

We all know that the living of our faith is a response to God’s love for us.  A love we share in from Baptism.  A Baptism that calls us to love God, love others and be faithful disciples.

Today we hear about two widows.  One not a believer (not Jewish) and one Jewish.  Both of whom “LISTENED to GOD within her heart and did God’s will.”

Today Scripture Readings, as always, give us some things to think about in living our lives today.  The Psalm, reminds us to “Praise the Lord,” for our God is a God who “keeps faith forever.”  Our God’s Love reached out to the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the orphan, the widow.

The Psalm is meant to bring us to action or at least to ask the question as people who hear God speak to us.  What are we doing actively to reach out to others in God’s name?

In the First Reading, from Kings, we hear of a woman, not even a believer, who “LISTENED to GOD within her heart and did God’s will.”   She, with just about no food, shared with the stranger, what little she had.

In the Gospel, we hear of another woman, who also “LISTENED to GOD within her heart and did God’s will.”  She gave in the collection her last two coins of money.

What is God saying to us, as persons, families and Parish in our heart, in our collective heart?

This week, I was talking to one of our Priests from the Diocese who shared how excited he was to be going away for 3 weeks to Sudan in Africa to visit his brother.  I asked what his brother was doing in Sudan.  Well it seems he is the ONLY doctor in a hospital that cares for the people of the area.  This man, Tom Catena, has worked there for 8 years.  After googling his name, it shared that he was one of Time magazines’ 100 Most Influential People in the World.

He is the only doctor in an area of 750,000 people, working 24/7 at Mother of Mercy Hospital.  An area that is affect by rebels making it dangerous for the people who need to come to the hospital, yet they come.  Said one local Muslim Chief of Doctor Tom, “He is Jesus Christ.”

Seems to me, Dr. Tom listened to God in his heart and actively responded.

Well, we may not be called to live and work in Sudan.  But God is speaking to us everyday… amid the noise and busyness… amid the moments of silence… God is speaking to our heart.

Listen carefully and step forward with courage as Jesus did!  Step forward as Dr. Tom did. Step forward as others have.  Step forward – the example of each one here today is needed, in revealing the Kingdom of God here on Earth as it is in Heaven.


Feast of All Saints

If asked:  What are you dressing up as for Halloween?  The answers would be varied.

Yesterday, on the Facebook page of my niece in Virginia she posted pictures of her children who were part of the School Halloween Party.  They went dressed as:   Pope Francis and the Blessed Mother.    (Full disclosure, it is a Catholic School and their parents are very much practicing Catholics)

Another question, we’ve all been asked, more than once in our lives, what do you want to be when you grow up?  And the answers are numerous, but I would guess we have never heard someone say:  “I want to be a Saint, when I grow up.”

Well on this Feast of All Saints; today is your day and my day.  Truth is we often see ourselves as far too ordinary and flawed to consider ourselves – “Saint material.”  We are all meant by God to be Saints.  Many of the Saints we know have brought some baggage with them.  They were not perfect, they like us, all had flaws and blind spots.

Yet, the one thing that all the Saints share is living a life that cooperated with the grace of God to advance the Kingdom of God here on Earth as it is in Heaven. They may have struggled, but they never gave up, they relied on God’s grace to move forward, growing as a person and person of God.

The door is open to everyone to be a Saint.  One does not even have to be Catholic or a Christian to be a Saint.  The important thing is that we live our lives in accord with the graces God has given each of us.

What are some of the graces or gifts that God has given us?   Positivity — Enthusiasm — Friendliness — Confidence — Humility — Honesty — Kindness — Compassion — Approachability — Generosity — Encouragement.

Today’s Gospel, The Beatitudes, offers a few more qualities for people on the road to Holiness and Saintliness.     Becoming poor in spirit, meek, merciful and peacemakers.

Each of us can list a few names from the official list of Saints whose lives have inspired us.   Yet, I would suggest there is another list to consider.

Sometime today, go through you address nook or your Christmas card list.  Better yet if it is not updated; even includes people who have died.  As you go through the names of the people, pray, “I thank God for all my remembrances of you.”

Each of these names is a person who has inspired you, taught you, supported you, loved you.   This is, if you will your own – Litany of Saints.

Let this list of family members, friends and acquaintances be a reminder to you to continue to persevere in becoming the holy person that we are all called to be, flawed though we be, we can, with the grace of God, become Saints.

Finally, one person has written, “one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and our children is the gift of learning about and from the lives of our Saints.”

I would add the greatest gift we can give our children and one another is allowing God to continue to transform us from ordinary people into holy people, into saints.

Everyday is an opportunity to progress in becoming Saints.

Twenty-Ninth Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:     Isaiah 53:10-11;   Hebrews 4:14-16;    Mark 10:35-45

A few weeks ago, we heard the Gospel story of the “rich young man.”  Remember the story?

He was a good man, kept the commandments, but Jesus says there is just one more thing you need to do, “sell what you have and give it to the poor.”  But he could not.

It has been said, that the reason the young man walked away was not because Jesus said, “You can do more.”  Rather the young man walked away, because the young man knew in his heart what he needed to do to follow Jesus.

He could not and walked away “sad,” a word that is used only once in the Gospels.  When we turn from Jesus and walk away, it is always a sad walk.

In our heart, we know right from wrong, we know what we should do, yet there is often a gap between what our heart calls us to do and the living of what is heart felt.   (A gap between our life and the Gospel call of Jesus)

Jesus understands, but he continues to call us through our words and deeds of love to walk closer to His way; the way of life, light, eternal joy.

This weekend, every family, every parishioner of St. Mary’s is being asked to “come together,” to take the “next step” as person, family and Parish to be the Disciples of Jesus who work together to continue the Mission and Ministry of the Gospel of life, joy, compassion, hope, and so much more, here at St. Mary’s, Crescent.

The Mission and Ministry of Jesus Christ, only continues in our day and age, through our sharing of our gifts of time, talent and treasure.

We have all been blessed by God with time, talent and treasure.

Maybe not equally.  But blessed are we all.

What does our Lord ask of you and me?  In short, I would suggest the answer might be:     “Love God, love others, be Faithful Disciples.”

Living the gift of faith is a journey we do not take alone; rather a journey we take with the support of our God and with one another.

Part of our journey of life and faith includes: St.  Mary’s Parish Community, Crescent.

St. Mary’s is the spiritual home for over 1,300 families, over 4,000 people.

St. Mary’s, Crescent is where we gather to pray each weekend at Mass; where we share in the Sacraments of Initiation:  Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation, where we share in the Sacraments of Healing:  Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick; and where we share in the Sacraments of Commitment:  Marriage and Ordination.

St. Mary’s, Crescent is where we support each other in the sharing of the faith with our children, youth and adults; in visiting and supporting our homebound, our sick, our grieving brothers & sisters.

St. Mary’s, Crescent is where we pray for one another, for our brothers and sisters in need, for our deceased brothers and sisters.   St. Mary’s is where we grow in being Faithful Disciples of the Lord and bring Jesus not only to the St. Mary’s Parish Community but to the everyday world!

St. Mary’s, Crescent is where individuals come together to form a community of faith, hope and love that reaches beyond parish boundaries to the community at large, to the Diocese, even to Guatemala.

To sum up, St. Mary’s, Crescent is about all of us, the present day disciples of the Lord, continuing the Mission and Ministry of Jesus Christ!

Beginning this week, St. Mary’s Parish, will be embarking upon a parish size effort – to increase our efforts to continue and support the Mission and Ministry of Jesus, here at St. Mary’s Crescent, financially.

This effort, needs every member of the Parish, to pray and to think about, our personal and our family efforts as Faithful Disciples of Jesus.  In a few days you will receive via the mail a letter from me, asking each of us to take the next step in support of the Mission & Ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; I will ask you to read, reflect upon/pray upon this request and then respond.

May the response of each of us, bring joy to you and your families and joy to God’s people here at St. Mary’s, Crescent and beyond.

As a very wise person said some time ago:  “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.”

As you review the information coming to your home this week please do what you can;    please pray and listen and respond with your heart.

Twenty-Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:     Wisdom 7:7-11;     Hebrews 4:12-13;     Mark 10:17-30


2015 is not unlike the world of Jesus…

But Father, the world of Jesus’ time did not have planes, trains and automobiles; instant communications; the internet; computers the size of a watch; supermarkets; fast food, or even selfie sticks.

Maybe, I should have said, people have not changed much since the time of Jesus.

When I reflected upon today’s Readings – I wrote down two things:

  1. We are all filled with good intentions
  2. Often our follow through is wanting

Like the young man of the Gospel, we have the opportunity to approach Jesus and ask Him, “Am I doing OK?”

In that encounter, hopefully the first thing we see, not hear from Jesus, but see, is Jesus looking at us with love.   And then the conversation would continue.

We, like the young man in today’s Gospel, even the Disciples of Jesus, very often are focused on ourselves; focused on our obedience; focused on our accomplishments, instead of focusing on God and the grace of God.  I can’t do this, I can’t and maybe of ourselves we can’t.

But with God, with God’s grace… maybe we can.    (Maybe we can even go “can” crazy)

In today’s First Reading from Wisdom, the prayer we heard is traditionally attributed to King Solomon, who was not a perfect man or a perfect king.  Yet he realized the importance of God and of Wisdom above all things in his life.  King Solomon did not pray for wealth or health or a prosperous reign as king, rather King Solomon prayed for the gifts that would make him a better person.

Maybe that should be our prayer today –  asking God to grace us, gift us in being a better person, a better family, a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better employee, a better employer, a better student, a better citizen, a better person of faith…

But as Jesus speaks to us in our prayers, as Jesus speaks to us through our hearts, minds and soul, often a response asked of us is that we may need to put aside some of our wants and needs; we may need to reach out to others; we may need to get more involved; we may need to let God and others into our lives, a bit more.

We do not know what happened to the young rich man of today’s Gospel who walked away sad.  Perhaps, the love of Jesus drew him back.  Perhaps, he came to see the wisdom of what Jesus shared with him.  Perhaps, St. Mark’s story is meant to encourage us to be firm in following Jesus, who always looks at us with love.