HOMILY

150th Anniversary of the Saint Basil Church

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Dushore

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 17 September 2022

 

My friends, it is good to be with all of you – to celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ within this wonderful parish community of the Immaculate Heart of Mary  and to give thanks for the blessing of Saint Basil Church, this beautiful house of worship where you’ve encountered God for 150 years.  I thank Father Major for his kind invitation to join you today – and I especially thank him for the care that he has so generously provided to you in this corner of God’s kingdom.

For all that is associated with this wonderful liturgy, whether you’ve worshipped in this sacred space for your entire life or have only come to know it well since the formation of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish about 13 years ago, one of the more significant elements of this day has to do with “remembering” – remembering your life in relationship to this Church and this parish community.  …  That’s a good thing to do!

As you reflect upon this beautiful church, no doubt there are countless memories flooding your thoughts and hearts.  Perhaps this is the church in which you or your children were baptized.  …  Maybe this is where you received your First Holy Communion or Confirmation.  …  Not a few of you were likely married in this sacred place.  …  And some of you are probably thinking of loved ones who were brought into this church for Christian burial.

Yet, for all of the memories that we hold this day, for as meaningful as this sacred space is, when we recall events that have taken place in our lives in relationship to Saint Basil Church, we are more likely to recall certain people than merely a place – perhaps a priest, a sister, a relative or a friend.  And at the heart of such memories are found the deepest mysteries of our faith and the Eucharist itself.

Saint John Paul II, said this about parish life:  “The parish is not principally a structure, a territory or a building, but rather, a people, ‘the family of God,’ ‘a familial and welcoming home,’ the ‘community of the faithful.’” The Holy Father went on to say further that “the parish the place where the very ‘mystery’ of the Church is present and at work.”

Suddenly when we hear such words, this anniversary should remind us of much, much more than merely a building, no matter how special a space it may be.

First, this celebration reminds us of who we are as Catholic Christians.   My presence here today is a reminder of our relationship to all of the People of God who are a part of the Diocese of Scranton, not just in Sullivan County but throughout our eleven counties that make up our local Church.  It is also a reminder of our relationship to the broader, worldwide Church – and to Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and successor of Saint Peter.

This reality also reminds us that we belong to a vast community, linking us to the past and the present.  Through the mystery and power of God, we are not merely members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish but a part of the communion of saints, the saints of this world and the next.  Through our faith in the risen Jesus, we are bound to our mothers and fathers, to grandparents and great-grandparents, and to every soul that has ever worshipped in this wonderful Church for its 150 years.  We are bound together because of the Eucharist that we celebrate on this altar and because of the words of faith that we proclaim in its presence:  “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

But there is another reason why we celebrate this day.  For as much as it has been faced with its share of struggles over the years, the Catholic Church has been responsible for more good and decency and help than most would ever realize or believe.  And right here in Sullivan County, look at what you have done for so many years.  You’ve celebrated life and called one another to a profound respect for that sublime gift.  You’ve taught people – young and old – about Jesus and their faith.  You’ve rebuilt lives following devastating floods particularly in recent years.  You’ve fed families and clothed the poor.  You’ve healed bodies and spirits, consoled, buried and converted hearts to the Lord.   You have done Christ’s work!

Yet, our gathering today also reminds us that like this church building that has been repaired, remodeled and changed over the years – we ourselves are unfinished temples of the Holy Spirit.  We can become worn and broken.  And we constantly have need for conversion in our lives.

Despite the crosses that come our way – the sad reality of abuse in the Church – the challenge of merging parishes that you know very well in this community – the struggles that each of us face in our personal journeys of life – our faith always gives us a reason to hope.   We are given the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  And we are nourished by the Eucharist and by the presence of God in the lives of our sisters and brothers in faith.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the unusual parable of a corrupt business manager who is about to lose his job.  Essentially, the manager – the steward – is caught stealing from his employer.  When caught, he comes up with a plan to turn the tide of his situation.  His hope is that his shrewdness and cleverness will win back his employer’s favor.  If not, the steward will at least have made some grateful friends along the way.

At first reading, it appears that Jesus is condoning the steward’s corrupt behavior.  What Jesus admires, however, is not the steward’s lack of scruples, but his ingenuity in responding to a challenge and in taking control of his situation.

In short, Jesus challenges us in the gospel to use our gifts, talents and skills for good – to act decisively and compassionately when confronted with issues of faith, human care and concern.  Jesus calls us to creatively respond with gospel values when it comes to the need for us to forgive, to accept and respect the lives of those who are different than ourselves, to work for justice and peace, to serve and to love selflessly as he gives us example.

And this, brothers and sisters, is what you’ve done through your embrace of the message of the gospel that has been proclaimed in this blessed house of worship for 150 years.  Perfectly?  No – but with a sincere recognition of who you are and of what you – and all of us – are called to do as Jesus’ followers.

Finally, brothers and sisters, today’s gospel reminds us that for all that we remember and for which we give thanks, this celebration will be incomplete if it ends at the conclusion of Mass.  You see, this anniversary Mass – and every Mass – should remind us that we gather for worship for a reason:  to be strengthened by God for mission!  Those who built this church 150 years ago understood innately what is proclaimed at the end of every Mass.  Recall the words with which we’re dismissed:  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”  “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  Go and do the work of God.  …  And you have!

The light of Jesus has indeed shone brightly in Saint Basil Church for 150 years and the love of Jesus continues to be proclaimed by each of you – the community of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.  …  As we gather to celebrate the Eucharist – the power and presence of God that is the heart of our faith – may our prayer be one of gratitude and hope:  gratitude for all that has been and hope for what will be through the grace and goodness of God.

 

Hispanic Heritage Mass Homily
Saint Peter’s Cathedral – September 9, 2022
Zephaniah 3:16b-20; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 17:11b-19

There is an ancient story first told by one of the desert fathers centuries ago.  A man set out in the desert on a journey.  He walked and walked, hour upon hour across the parched land, under the blistering sun to reach his destination.  As the day wore on and he wearied from the journey, he became anxious.  He destination was nowhere in sight.  But with great determination, despite the obstacles that he faced, he continued on his way.

The man walked and walked in the desert heat.  And with the passing of the day, exhausted from his efforts, he collapsed on the ground and cried out in frustration and fear to the Lord.  “I’m lost and cannot find the way to reach my destination.”  As he lay on the ground, an angel appeared to him and said, “Get up and be on your way!  The Lord has heard your plea.  Travel straight from this place for one hour and you will reach your destination.”  “But,” said the man, “how to I know which way is straight from this place.”  And the angel replied, “To know which way is straight, you must know from where you’ve come.”

To know which way is straight, you must know from where you’ve come – you must know your origin.  …  And my brothers and sisters, no matter how justifiably proud we are of our countries of origin, the heritage that we cherish and seek to nurture and pass from one generation to the next – our origin is not Mexico, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the United States or any other land.  Our true origin – the reason for our time together this day – and the source of our life, our hope and our salvation – is Jesus Christ.

The words from second scripture reading this afternoon from his letter to the Ephesians finds Saint Paul challenging all of us “to live in a manner worthy of the call that we have received … striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

These same words, which serve as the theme for our gathering today, are echoed in Saint John’s gospel as Jesus prayed on the night before he died.  He prayed that his disciples – the twelve and all of us – would walk together in unity, rooted in Jesus as the origin and source of our life, and would witness to the world the power of God’s love and mercy.

Jesus prayed for unity among his followers because he understood that the world – when he walked among us and still today – is fraught with evil, hatred, sin and division.  …  He understood that the greatest testimony to the message of his gospel would be found not in empty words that affirm our beliefs but in the lived experience of our lives.  …  And he understood that the surest witness to his life and mission to bring salvation to the ends of the earth would be found in the lives of his disciples when they reflect the mercy, forgiveness, love and unity present within the Lord whom they – and we – worship.

The unity for which Jesus prayed and that we are called to seek in our lives is not akin to uniformity.  Each of us is created by God as a unique reflection of his life and love.  It’s our belonging to Christ – our baptism into his life, death and resurrection – that makes us one.

Like the disciples, we too confront fear, temptation, suffering, rejection and persecution in many and different ways.  On our own, we’re divided, we give into evil, and we often take as God’s truth those things that are false.  Ultimately, however, it’s our unity one with another – the fellowship that we share – that enables us to best confront the reality of our broken world with hope.  When we remain in Jesus and open our lives to one another in whom the same Jesus lives, his loving protection envelopes us, unites us and protects us.

Yet, like the man who journeyed in the desert, we often tire, don’t we?  It’s not always easy to live together in harmony and peace.  We get confused and we allow our own pride and self-righteousness to cloud our appreciation of Jesus’ prayer for unity.  And we compromise the power of our united efforts and often lose our way.  The brokenness that we sadly manifest reminds us why we all need a power bigger than ourselves to help us find our way in life.  We Christians call that power Jesus – the origin and foundation of our lives – the Savior we are called to proclaim by the words we speak and the mission of love and mercy we embrace in our lives.

In a video message earlier this year to the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry, consisting of Hispanic ministry leaders from throughout the United States, Pope Francis acknowledged the struggles we face as Christians in an unbelieving world – struggles that we confront in our families, our parishes, our neighborhoods and our land.

“Without having yet come out of a pandemic that has afflicted all humanity with great suffering and sorrow, we find ourselves in the midst of the suffering and tragedy of a war,” he said.  “Every war is born of injustice, every war, including those that at times we wage in our families and communities that are fought in silence; they too are born of injustice. It is sad to see that humanity is not capable of thinking with mindsets and plans of peace. … Yet, brotherhood is for all, and it is made manifest in mindsets that change the life of families, communities, peoples, nations and the world.”

Christians are to “set the example” for the peace that we all need, the Pope stated.  “I invite you to reflect on the need to be Christians who transform the structure and who can create bridges in all sectors of society, illuminating thought, so that it may lead to actions that can bring peace and unity at all levels, starting from our families and communities.”  …  The Holy Father concluded, “I ask you to be bridges – to be united in your hearts and lives in order to create bridges, to pray and to work for peace,” he concluded.

Thank you for being the presence of Jesus in our corner of the world.  Thank you for working together to build bridges, to make unity a reality in our communities and to serve those among us who are most in need.  I am so grateful for you who represent the Hispanic community in our local Church.  You are a blessing beyond words and our hope for the future.

Unity and loving service:  words that are intrinsically woven together and that flow from the prayer of Jesus offered on the night before he died.  …  May Jesus’ prayer be our prayer on this great day of thanksgiving and celebration.  …  May we love and serve one another as brothers and sisters and so become credible witnesses of the Savior, whom we are called to proclaim and who binds us together in unity and peace.  Amen.

 

Homilía de la Misa de la Herencia Hispana
Catedral de San Pedro – 9 de septiembre de 2022
Sofonías 3,16b-20; Efesios 4,1-6; Juan 17,11b-19

Hay una historia antigua contada por primera vez por uno de los padres del desierto hace siglos. Un hombre partió en el desierto en un viaje. Caminó y caminó, hora tras hora a través de la tierra seca, bajo el sol abrasador para llegar a su destino. A medida que avanzaba el día y se fatigaba por el viaje, se puso ansioso. El destino no estaba a la vista. Pero con gran determinación, a pesar de los obstáculos que enfrentó, siguió su camino.

El hombre caminó y caminó en el calor del desierto. Y con el paso del día, exhausto por sus esfuerzos, se derrumbó en el suelo y clamó con frustración y temor al Señor. “Estoy perdido y no puedo encontrar el camino para llegar a mi destino”. Mientras yacía en el suelo, se le apareció un ángel y le dijo: “¡Levántate y sigue tu camino! El Señor ha escuchado tu súplica. Viaja directamente desde este lugar durante una hora y llegarás a tu destino. “Pero”, dijo el hombre, “cómo sé qué camino es directo desde este lugar”. Y el ángel respondió: “Para saber cuál es el camino recto, debes saber de dónde has venido”.

Para saber qué camino es recto, debes saber de dónde vienes, debes saber tu origen. … Y mis hermanos y hermanas, no importa cuán orgullosos estemos de nuestros países de origen, la herencia que apreciamos y buscamos nutrir y transmitir de una generación a la siguiente: nuestro origen no es México, Ecuador, República Dominicana, los Estados Unidos o cualquier otra tierra. Nuestro verdadero origen, la razón de nuestro tiempo juntos este día, y la fuente de nuestra vida, nuestra esperanza y nuestra salvación, es Jesucristo.

Las palabras de la segunda lectura de las Escrituras de esta tarde de la carta a los Efesios, San Pablo nos desafía a todos a “vivir de una manera digna del llamado que hemos recibido… esforzándonos por preservar la unidad del Espíritu mediante el vínculo de la paz.”

Estas mismas palabras, que sirven como tema para nuestra reunión de hoy, se repiten en el evangelio de San Juan cuando Jesús oró la noche antes de morir. Rezó para que sus discípulos, los doce y todos nosotros, camináramos juntos en unidad, arraigados en Jesús como el origen y la fuente de nuestra vida, y testificáramos al mundo el poder del amor y la misericordia de Dios.

Jesús oró por la unidad entre sus seguidores porque entendió que el mundo, cuando caminó entre nosotros y aún hoy, está plagado de maldad, odio, pecado y división. … Comprendió que el mayor testimonio del mensaje de su evangelio no se encontraría en las palabras vacías que afirman nuestras creencias, sino en la experiencia vivida de nuestras vidas. … Y entendió que el testimonio más seguro de su vida y misión para llevar la salvación hasta los confines de la tierra se encontraría en la vida de sus discípulos cuando reflejen la misericordia, el perdón, el amor y la unidad presentes en el Señor a quien ellos – y nosotros – adoramos.

La unidad por la que oró Jesús y que estamos llamados a buscar en nuestra vida no es equiparable a la uniformidad. Cada uno de nosotros es creado por Dios como un reflejo único de su vida y amor. Es nuestra pertenencia a Cristo, nuestro bautismo en su vida, muerte y resurrección, lo que nos hace uno.

Al igual que los discípulos, nosotros también enfrentamos el miedo, la tentación, el sufrimiento, el rechazo y la persecución de muchas y diferentes maneras. Por nuestra cuenta, estamos divididos, nos entregamos al mal y, a menudo, tomamos como la verdad de Dios las cosas que son falsas. En última instancia, sin embargo, es nuestra unidad entre nosotros, el compañerismo que compartimos, lo que nos permite enfrentar mejor la realidad de nuestro mundo roto con esperanza. Cuando permanecemos en Jesús y abrimos nuestra vida unos a otros en los que vive el mismo Jesús, su amorosa protección nos envuelve, nos une y nos protege.

Sin embargo, como el hombre que viajó por el desierto, a menudo nos cansamos, ¿no es así? No siempre es fácil vivir juntos en armonía y paz. Nos confundimos y permitimos que nuestro propio orgullo y santurronería nublen nuestro aprecio por la oración de Jesús por la unidad. Y comprometemos el poder de nuestros esfuerzos unidos y, a menudo, perdemos el rumbo. El quebrantamiento que tristemente manifestamos nos recuerda por qué todos necesitamos un poder más grande que nosotros mismos para ayudarnos a encontrar nuestro camino en la vida. Los cristianos llamamos a ese poder Jesús, el origen y fundamento de nuestras vidas, el Salvador que estamos llamados a proclamar por las palabras que hablamos y la misión de amor y misericordia que abrazamos en nuestras vidas.

En un mensaje de video a principios de este año al Consejo Nacional Católico para el Ministerio Hispano, compuesto por líderes del ministerio hispano de todo Estados Unidos, el Papa Francisco reconoció las luchas que enfrentamos como cristianos en un mundo incrédulo, luchas que enfrentamos en nuestras familias, nuestras parroquias, nuestros vecindarios y nuestro mundo.

“Sin haber salido aún de una pandemia que ha aquejado a toda la humanidad con gran sufrimiento y tristeza, nos encontramos en medio del sufrimiento y la tragedia de una guerra”, dijo. “Toda guerra nace de la injusticia, toda guerra, incluso las que a veces tenemos en nuestras familias y comunidades que se pelean en silencio; también nacen de la injusticia. Es triste ver que la humanidad no es capaz de pensar con mentalidad y planes de paz. … Sin embargo, la fraternidad es de todos y se manifiesta en mentalidades que cambian la vida de las familias, las comunidades, los pueblos, las naciones y el mundo”.

Los cristianos debemos “dar el ejemplo” de la paz que todos necesitamos, afirmó el Papa. “Los invito a reflexionar sobre la necesidad de ser cristianos que transformen la estructura y que puedan tender puentes en todos los sectores de la sociedad, iluminando el pensamiento, para que pueda conducir a acciones que lleven la paz y la unidad a todos los niveles, a partir de nuestra familias y comunidades”. … El Santo Padre concluyó: “Os pido que seáis puentes, que estéis unidos en vuestros corazones y vidas para crear puentes, orar y trabajar por la paz”, concluyó.

Gracias por ser la presencia de Jesús en nuestro rincón del mundo. Gracias por trabajar juntos para construir puentes, hacer realidad la unidad en nuestras comunidades y servir a quienes más lo necesitan. Estoy muy agradecido por ustedes que representan a la comunidad hispana en nuestra Iglesia local. Son una bendición más allá de las palabras y nuestra esperanza para el futuro.

Unidad y servicio amoroso: palabras que están intrínsecamente entretejidas y que brotan de la oración de Jesús la noche anterior a su muerte. … Que la oración de Jesús sea nuestra oración en este gran día de acción de gracias y celebración. …Que nos amemos y nos sirvamos unos a otros como hermanos y hermanas y así lleguemos a ser testigos creíbles del Salvador, a quien estamos llamados a anunciar y que nos une en la unidad y la paz. Amén.

 

Previous 2022 Homilies from Bishop Bambera

 

Mass for Young People in the Diocese of Sunyani, Ghana Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time – August 17, 2022

Mary Queen of Peace Grotto Celebration Diocese of Sunyani, Ghana, Africa Sunday, August 14, 2022 

Charismatic Conference August 7, 2022

Mass of Remembrance July 28, 2022

Saint Ann’s Novena Closing Mass July 26, 2022

Rite of Admission to Candidacy June 20, 2022

Corpus Christi Sunday June 19, 2022

Catholic Women’s Conference June 11, 2022

Priests’ Anniversary of Ordination Mass June 9, 2022

Pentecost Sunday June 5, 2022 

Ordination to the Diaconate May 28, 2022

Dedication of Most Holy Trinity Church, Cresco May 15, 2022

Knights of Columbus Statewide Convocation – Kalahari Resort May 14, 2022

Mother’s Day Adoption Mass May 8, 2022

Mass of Christian Burial Most Reverend John M. Dougherty, D.D. April 26, 2022

Easter April 17, 2022

Chrism Mass April 12, 2022

Palm Sunday April 10, 2022

Day of Atonement and Healing April 7, 2022

Mass Consecrating Ukraine and Russia to the Blessed Virgin March 25, 2022

Solemnity of Saint Joseph March 19, 2022 

Rite of Election March 6, 2022

Ash Wednesday March 2, 2022 

Mass for those with Developmental Disabilities February 13, 2022 

World Day of the Sick Mass February 11, 2022

Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life January 22, 2022

Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God January 19, 2022

Baptism of the Lord January 9, 2022

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord January 1, 2022