Tag Archives: Very Reverend Joseph S. Cebula

Twenty-Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:     Genesis 2:18-24;     Hebrews 2:9-11;     Mark 10:2-16

There is the temptation, to think that the living of our Faith, has little to do with how we live our lives day in and day out as a person, family and people.

In recent days, we again had “breaking news,” share another horror, this time in Oregon. And then again begins the political debate about guns.  (And I am not here to enter that debate.)

Aware that this is “Respect Life Month,” I began to reflect that maybe we should be centering in on “Respect for:  Others, Creation, Environment,” which takes or maybe should be taking many, many, many forms in our lives and world daily.

+ Respecting others, as we respect ourselves.  (There may be the first challenge; do we respect ourselves)

+ Respecting others, as the person they are, not the person we want them to be.

+ Respecting others, in our positive conversations about others.

+ Respecting others, by going out of our way to do good and avoid evil.

+ Respecting others, by beginning at home, with our spouse, with our parents, with our children.

+ Respecting others, by driving more caringly and less aggressively.

+ Respecting others, by our gestures of kindness, politeness, deference.

+ Respecting others, in many, many ways that I am sure every one of us could add to this short list.

It seems to me, that when we respect others, just maybe some of the issues we have at home, at school, at work, in the community,  in the Parish, in the world… would drop significantly.

It also, needs to be shared that respect for others has many Brothers and Sisters:

Like:   Respect for creation… How do we treat our pets (most appropriate on this Feast of St. Francis of Assisi)

Like:  Respect for our environment.

+The question is not do I have something, like electricity or water; but how to I responsibly use electricity and water.    Did you know, that even the Pope goes around the “Santa Marta” where he lives, turning out lights.    (And probably closing doors, too.)

+  What do we do with those returnable bottles?  Throw them away or return them for deposit.

+  What do we do with the litter in our hands?  Is it discarded in the nearby trash can, or is it discarded on the floor, the ground, the road, the pew – at that moment?

Finally, let me close with a request the Pope asked of families, last weekend, that maybe expresses the effort to respect one another, when he asked – “Families,” which is all of us, “Don’t yell at one another.”

Wise words, worth living, as a first step to respecting others and in our ongoing journey of growing in love of God and God’s people today and every day.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Numbers 11:25-29;      James 5:1-6;      Mark 9:38-48

Jesus has some hard things to say in today’s Gospel…

Put another way, Jesus is saying that to turn away or to close our eyes to the evils or the needs in our own towns and cities is to ignore Jesus’ warning about what hands and feet and eyes are really for.

What are our hands and feet and eyes for?     Our lives really for?

A good place to start are the Corporal Works of Mercy:

+  Feeding the Hungry                      + Giving Drink to the Thirsty

+  Clothing the Naked                      + Giving Shelter to the Homeless

+  Visiting the Sick                             + Visiting the Imprisoned

+  Burying the Dead

And we say, I give food to the hungry; I put some used clothing in the clothing

bin; I shared my bottle of water with a friend…

But, as Pope Francis, reminded us this week, it is easy to get comfortable with life.  We need to continue to go forth and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to life in the world of today.

  • Here in the Parish, in the newsletter sent to all Parish families a few weeks ago and in today’s Parish Bulletin we asked for parishioners to consider at least one area of Parish life that they might be involved in. Quite honestly only 2 new parishioners have come forth to date.

We all can do something; but we cannot do everything!

Where is the Lord calling you who are present here today to use your hands and feet and eyes for the Gospel, for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ?

  • This week my secretary, Stephanie, repeated something I heard from Jane Hegener, our past parish secretary, “Father, we do not have enough Eucharistic Ministers at our weekend Masses.”

As I thought about this, it came to me, that if I shared that someone in our Parish was in need for food, your donations of food would be immediate and generous.

Well, our Parishioners are in need of spiritual food: the Body and Blood of Jesus, every weekend at every mass.    But it takes more than one person to feed God’s People.    It takes God’s People to feel God’s People.

I believe that here in this Church right now, at this Mass, there are many of you who could readily be a Eucharistic Minister once every 3-4 weeks, (as well as other Ministries).  That means, we need at least:  25 Parishioners at this Mass, to be Eucharistic Ministers, please heed the Lord’s  call to care for my people.  Please call the Parish Office or fill out the “Ministry Form” in today’s bulletin and return to the Parish within the next 10 days.     (Appropriate training will be provided)

Finally, the Pope said this past week, as he looked over the crowd of people at one of the Papal events:   Please care for one another, please care for the most precious people in the crowd:  the children.

Our children need, and will always need the good example of all of us, but especially parents.

How are, how can, our hands and feet and eyes, as adults and especially as parents foster and grow the faith in our children not just some of the time, but all of the time.

What example, what good example… are we giving to our children about the importance of practice of our faith, every day, including Sundays?

As we know, the Pope has been reminding us, that the Church is for everyone – all are welcome – all are invited – not just occasionally, but regularly.

Said, one author:  If each of us brings just one other person to the table of the Eucharist and to God… Everyone will be there.

May we each bring at least one person to this table and to God;  beginning with our children, our spouse, our friends.

May we all use our hands and feet and eyes for God and for the good of the Gospel more and more and more…

Let us daily be mistaken for present day Disciples of Jesus!

Twenty-Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Wisdom 2:12, 17-20;      James 3:26-4:3;      Mark 9:30-37

In 1996 while on sabbatical in Rome, Italy, I remember one day when a group of priests were engaged in discussion while having some adult beverages before dinner one night.

One priest shared during the discussion that our group must be the best group of priests that has ever gone thru this sabbatical program.    Fortunately, this thought did not get much play.    But, I did think to myself at the time, it does seem a bit self-centered, at the very least to think our group was the best group of the 60 or so sabbatical groups to have gathered over the years.

Even the Disciples, as we heard in today’s gospel, argued over who was the greatest!

Jesus, of course, has some other thoughts, says Jesus:

+ To receive God, open your arms to others.  Embrace the helpless and needy.   Seek out the smallest.

In the letter to St. James today, he reminds us that, “we need to get over ourselves.”

Said Sergeant Shiver, founder of the Peace Corps, many years ago, at Yale University,   “break your mirrors.  Shatter the glass,” he said.   “In our society that is so self-absorbed,” he explained, “begin to look less at yourself and more at each other.    Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.”

He also offered a blunt assessment, saying, “when you get to be 30, 40, 50, or even 70 years old, you will get more happiness and contentment out of counting your friends than counting your dollars.”   And he ended by sharing, “you will get more from being a peacemaker than a warrior.   I have been both,” said Sergeant Shriver, “so I speak from experience… Break the mirrors.”

Says Jesus to his Disciples of yesterday and today – the greatest is the one who serves the needs of others.  And as we hear in another Gospel from St. Matthew,  “whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

What is the Lord asking of each of us, as person, family and Parish, in the call to be of service to others?

Last week, in the newsletter that was sent to all parishioners, we invited parishioners to prayerfully consider being involved in some ministry or activity of the Parish.    I hope you have or will consider prayerfully where the Lord is calling YOU to be of service, of ministry to others.     Yes, it may mean some sacrifice.   Yes, it may mean some training.   Yes, it many mean sharing our talents.    But, is this not one of the reasons God has blessed each of us?    Blessed us so we can be a blessing to others in the name of Jesus, who came to love and to bring hope and life to all people – period.

Imagine a world where power turned to service;  where the last were first?

Finally, do take the time to listen to Pope Francis who visits Washington, DC; New York City and Philadelphia this week.     I truly believe he will be asking you and me and us, to take the next step in sharing the Gospel of Jesus, that is best accomplished by our faithful living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ today and every day.

Twenty-Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:   Isaiah 50:5-9;   James 2:14-18;   Mark 8:27-35

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus ask his Disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”    But he quickly turns his attention to his Disciples and asks them,  “Who do you say that I am?”

His disciples had been with him for a while and Jesus was trying to see what they had learned, he was trying to see if they were on the “same page as He.”

How well do we know Jesus?    What is your response?

How would you describe Jesus to someone who knows nothing of him?

We would probably tell the story, but how well do we know the story of Jesus Christ?     The Greatest Story ever told.     The Story that is just not a story of yesterday, but a story of everyday and of today!

You know the Story of Jesus loses its power when we take it for granted.     It loses its power when we become so familiar with it that we stop hearing it as part of our Story.      When we remove ourselves from the Story of Jesus we become immune to the life-changing message of the Gospel and become slaves to the world.

I would suggest, we all need to re-discover Jesus, not just for our own sakes, but for our children and their children, for the sake of our local church communities, for society at large, and for all humanity.

The Jesus we know, the Jesus we need to continue to come to know, asks us, His present day Disciples, you and me, to live the message of:

+ Love of God, love of others

+ Faithfulness to God and to others

+ Kindness, patience, encouragement

+ Sacrifice

+ Living what we say is important

You know in about a week, Pope Francis will be visiting the USA.

The Pope recently reminded we who claim the title “Catholic” to be “living examples of love, forgiveness and care.”

Said the Pope, “Be a family of love.  Pray together, especially by attending Mass every weekend with your Parish family.  Forgive one another.     Do not gossip.   Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity, and worldly decadence.  Be kind.   Kindness is the beginning of mercy.  Care for others.”

Said the Pope, “parents who make sacrifices for their families model Jesus as they place the needs of others ahead of our own.”

Just maybe our prayer today is one of continuing to get to know Jesus, to rediscover Jesus in our lives as person, family and Parish.

And in the process share the Greatest Story of the Greatest Person:  Jesus, with our children and with all others, through the lives we live daily.   Lives that speak volumes more about who Jesus is for us and who we are as the present say Disciples of Jesus.    Present day Disciples of Jesus, who are on the same page as Jesus, our Lord and Savior:  yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Isaiah 35:4-7;    James 2:1-5;    Mark 7:31-37

Some years ago, many Christians would say:   WWJD.  Translation, “What would Jesus do?”

Today in the Gospel we hear what Jesus did!

He cured people;  He gave people life;  He gave people hope;  He cared about everyone through his words and actions of everyday life.

Just read the newspapers or your electronic news and it is quite clear that many people in our world today are not meeting Jesus in their lives and in their needs.

Quite frankly, “Jesus wants us to continue to carry on his work!”

After the biggest meeting of his life went very well.  Paul could not wait to tell his wife and boss.  As he and his team rushed out of the NYC office building, they noticed a vacant cab – a rare sight during rush hour.

Eagar to catch their flight home, the bolted toward the cab.  As they made their way across the sidewalk that inadvertently knocked down a small produce stand.  The team seemed not to notice until Paul stopped and turned around to go back.

From the taxi cab the others called, “Paul, come on, you will miss your flight.”

“Go ahead without me,” Paul replied as he made his way back to the sidewalk covered with produce.  At that point, Paul realized that the woman behind the produce stand was blind.  She was just standing there crying softly with tears running down her face.

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” Paul said as he got down on his hands and knees and began picking up the fruit and vegetables.  There were a hundred people passing in every direction, but nobody else stopped to help.  They just scurried off to what ever they were doing.

When the fruit was all back up on the stand Paul neatly organized it, and set aside anything that was spoiled.  Then he turned to the woman and asked, “are you ok?”  She nodded through her tears.  Then Paul took some money out of his wallet and gave it to the woman saying, “this money should cover the damages.”

With that Paul turned and began to walk away.

“Mister,” the woman called to him.  Paul paused and turned around.  She said, “Are you Jesus?”

“Oh,  no,” he replied.

The woman continued, “I only ask because I prayed for Jesus to help me as I heard my fruit all over the sidewalk.”

Paul turned to leave again, on this time his eyes were filled with tears.

For a long time Paul looked for a taxi.   He found one eventually, but the evening traffic to the airport, resulted in his missing his flight that Friday night.  Paul spent the evening at a nearby hotel.  This time gave him time to think.  He could not get one question out of his head:  “When was the last time someone confused you for Jesus?”


Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Joshua 24:2-2, 15-18;    Ephesians 5:21-32;    John 6:60-69

If asked “Do you believe?  Are you and your family people of faith?”  We would most readily share, “Sure I believe, sure I am a person of faith!”

But as life gets in the way, with all that can and often does go wrong…  With the suffering and injustice and hate, that is part of the lives of others and even our own.

With the business of life that keeps us, at times, from doing the good or the right we espouse.  How are our actions, our lives, really saying:  “As for me and our household we will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Let me share two examples:

+ There was a story I heard this week about an American woman who was taken hostage about 2 years ago by ISIS.  Time and time again, she was asked, maybe better said demanded to renounce her Christian faith.  But in the face of torture and so much more – refused time and time again to renounce her Christian faith.

Makes you wonder how we might response to such a situation?

+ Then in the past few days, we hear that former President Jimmy Carter has brain cancer.  Jimmy Carter has always been known to be a person of faith and this came out again, as he shared with the media on Thursday his diagnosis.

Jimmy Carter spoke about the peace he has had in dealing with the diagnosis and now with the treatment.  And as a person of 90 years of age, he spoke not of regrets (except one), but of all the opportunities he has had over the years to assist people.  That one regret was in not freeing the hostages in Iran for 444 days (Nov. 4, 1979 thru Jan. 20, 1981)   Said the President, “If I had sent in one more helicopter, in the failed attempt to rescue the Iran hostages.”  He then added, that he would have been re-elected had the effort succeeded.

Jimmy Carter shared he would be cutting back dramatically on his schedule but planned to continue teaching Sunday School at his Church.   (and we struggle to get health people to teach Faith Formation)

Said the former President, “I am perfectly at peace with whatever comes.  Now I feel this in the hands of God.  I am ready for anything and looking forward to a new adventure.”

It seems to me, President Carter can be at ease and at peace with this serious condition not because he is old, but rather that he has grown in the faith, grown in his love of God and others.  Said the 90 year old President, “I have had an exciting and venturous and gratifying existence.”

“As for me and our household we will serve the Lord.”

“Master, to whom shall we go?   You have the words of Eternal Life.    We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Like the woman hostage, like President Carter, like other people of true faith we know or will get to know.  May our lives increasingly give witness to the faith we profess each day; to the centrality of God in all that we do and all that we are every day.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Proverbs 9:1-6;    Ephesians 5:15-20;    John 6:51-58

For many years we have all been going to Mass.  Our reasons may be varied, but the one thing we have in common every time we go to Mass is we are FED.

We are fed with God’s Word…

We are Fed with God’s Body and Blood with the Eucharist/Holy Communion…

Eating has been pretty important over the centuries:  We eat to stay alive;   We eat to be nourished;    We eat to be healthy…

The food and drink of our daily lives is a reminder of the food and drink that we share in every time we come to Mass and come around the Table of God – the Altar.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive, is God’s reminder to us that He is with us in our journey of life and faith.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive, is God’s reminder to us that He wants to nourish us and strengthen us and change us in the same way food and drink does.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive, is God’s reminder to us that he calls us to let him into our lives because we cannot do God’s Will alone.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive, is God’s reminder to us that his Gift of Himself to us is something that takes a lifetime to REALLY understand and appreciate.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive is God’s reminder to us that his Gift of Himself to us is meant to lead us to bring God’s Life and Love and Presence to those we meet every day: family, friends, neighbors and even the stranger in our midst.

The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive today is God’s reminder for us that we can REALLY live in Jesus and He in us, every moment of our lives beginning with these few moments we gather in Church each week and in the many moments of everyday life, till we return next week to come again into the real presence of Jesus in the Sacramental encounter we call the Eucharist, Holy Communion.

Feast of the Assumption of Mary

1 Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2       1 Corinthians 15:15-57       Luke 11:27-28

In today’s Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary we hear the word:  BLESSED used twice in the two sentence Gospel.

Mary, the Blessed Mother was blessed not because she earned it or achieved it.      Rather Mary was Blessed by the God’s Grace.

And like Mary we too are blessed by the Grace of God at our Baptisms.

But like everything that is good, we need to respond to the grace, the Love of God for us in and through the lives we live each day, as the Blessed People of the past and present witnessed through their lives.

Blessedness is evident in our lives – by our willingness to be open to God’s actions and direction in our lives.

Like all the blessed men and women of the past…

May we too be counted among the Holy Men and Women of today and tomorrow.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    1 Kings 19:4-8;    Ephesians 4:30 0 5:2;    John 6:41-51

One of the observations that I am sure we have all made from time to time, is the impatience, the anger, the aggressiveness all around us; people presuming ill-will on the part of others; people demanding more, without any efforts on their part; people speaking their mind without facts; and so much more that is part and parcel of society today.

Years ago someone may have said to these people, “Take a chill pill.”  While not a real pill, it was a comment used by one party to let another party know that everyone else in the room but them knows they are acting like a complete…. (well, you can fill in the blank)

Truth is, there have been and maybe there are even now times when we should be taking a chill pill.  Times that call us to be more like Jesus – kind to one another; compassionate; and forgiving one another.

As we hear in Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus today, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  Remove from your lives all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling,” (criticizing in an abusive or angrily insulting manner).

This weekend maybe St. Paul is asking us, maybe challenging us to take a chill pill and to calm down and put on the Mind and Heart and Way of Jesus, the Way of Love.

Where today, where this week, and hopefully beyond today and this week will we take the step or steps again and again and again, to live what we believe:  Love God, Love Others, Be Faithful Disciples.     Faithful Disciples together who are on a journey of life and faith that hopefully brings us closer and closer to one another and to our God – here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Many of the prophets of the past grew weary of the hard heartedness of the people, who resisted the message of their God.   May we the person, families and parish of today – grow in being imitators of God in word and in actions more and more and more.

May the Light of Christ within each of us shine more brightly before all people always and everywhere!     AMEN.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:    Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15;    Ephesians 4: 17-14;    John 6: 24-35

Many years ago, there was a song sung at Mass that said, “look beyond the bread you eat, see your Savior and your Lord, look beyond the wine you drink and see your Savior and your Lord.”

Last weekend and this weekend we read and hear about the feeding of God’s people on journey to the promised land and as they yearned for the food of life that only comes from God.

Like the song above suggests, we who receive this gift of God – this bread and wine, this Holy Communion – need to look beyond…

For we who eat the bread of life are called to put on the new selves of righteousness, holiness and truth.   We need to not only take care of ourselves, but we need to look beyond ourselves and care for one another and others.

True story:     After lecturing at a University in Canada, a minister found himself stranded in a bus station during a surprise October snowstorm.    Cold and wet, he finally found a seat at the bus café counter.   A cranky, tired man in a greasy apron took his order – all they had was soup, one kind.   So the minister ordered soup.   The gray goop was the worst thing he had ever eaten.   He wrapped his hands around the bowl – at least it kept his hands warm.

Then the door opened again, letting in the icy wind.   “Close the door!” somebody yelled.    In came a woman in a threadbare coat.    She took a seat not far from the minister.   The cranky man in the greasy apron took her order.  “Glass of water,” she mumbled.

He brought the water.    “Now, what do you want?”

“Just a glass of water and a chance to get warm.”

“Look, I have customers that pay – what do you think this is a Church or something?   If you are not going to order, you have got to leave!”

The man got real loud about it.   So she got up to leave – and, as if rehearsed, everybody in the little café got up and started toward the door.    The minister got up and said to the man in the greasy apron, “I am voting for something here; I do not know what it is.”

“All right, all right, all right,” the cranky man in the greasy apron said.   Everybody sat down again and he brought the woman a bowl of soup.

The minister asked the person sitting next to him, “who is she?”

“I never saw her in here before,” was the reply.

The place grew quiet; all the minister heard was the sipping of that awful soup.     The minister decided to try it again and put his spoon into the bowl.

“You know”, said the minister later, “it really was not bad.  Everyone was eating the soup, and it was pretty good soup.   I have no idea what kind of soup it was.   I do not know what was in it, but I do recall when I was eating it, it tasted a little bit like bread and wine.   Just a little like bread and wine.”

May we as person, families and parish continue to allow the word, the eucharistic sacrament we hear and share in each week to guide us in being authentic disciples of the Lord… worthy of the name and eager to share “our bread” with others.