Body and Blood of Christ, June 18, 2017

June 22nd, 2017

Although there are plenty of wonderful families with adoptive parents and children, people who speak English sometimes use the words “flesh and blood” to describe a close family connection. Since it is Father’s Day, a couple of examples involving fathers would be appropriate. A teenage son whose father has denied him permission to borrow the car might say sarcastically, “Nice way to treat your own flesh and blood.” Years later, however, the father might say to the son, “Of course I’ll give you the money for the down payment for your house. You’re my own flesh and blood.”

As Jesus makes clear to the crowds gathered around him, those who share in the heavenly food and drink that he gives share in his own flesh and blood. In doing so, they are united to him by a close family connection. But just as some family connections of flesh and blood can be lost because of time, distance, indifference, or conflict, the family connection of flesh and blood with Jesus can also be lost—even for those who receive holy communion at mass each week.

To maintain—or better, affirm—our family connection of flesh and blood with Jesus, we need only to connect with others as Jesus did—through compassion for those who are suffering, welcome for those who are strangers, acceptance for those who are rejected, mercy for those who have wronged us. In other words, we show our family connection of flesh and blood with Jesus when we show to others a connection of love.

see John 6:51-58

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

Holy Trinity, June 11, 2017

June 22nd, 2017

Human communication can be a challenge. Sometimes we want to say something but we can’t, maybe because we don’t have the language skills, maybe because we’re overcome by emotion, or maybe because we simply don’t know what to say. There are also times when we do express ourselves but we do it badly or incorrectly, causing misunderstanding, confusion, hurt feelings, and/or anger. And what if the problem is not on our end? What if we are communicating clearly but, for a variety of reasons, those to whom we are communicating are still not getting the message?

From eternity God was a God of love, “merciful and gracious, . . . slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” It is perhaps debatable whether God was always communicating clearly, but many of the people of Israel were not getting the proper message. There was no better way to clarify and reinforce the message that God was a God of love than for God to come into the world as Jesus Christ, the Son sent by the Father not to condemn the world but to save it. In his preaching and healing, in his compassion for the poor and the outcast, and above all, in his suffering and death, Jesus communicated loud and clear the message that God was indeed a God of love.

Now that Jesus no longer walks this earth, that same message has been entrusted to us. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, present and active in our world, we can live lives of selflessness and sacrifice, generously putting the needs of others before our own. When we allow the Spirit to work in and through us to do good, we communicate loud and clear the message that God is indeed a God of love.

see John 3:16-18; Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

Pentecost, June 4, 2017

June 22nd, 2017

Are you listening to me? That’s a fair question, as we all know that we don’t always listen to other people. For example, we’ve all had the experience of being on the phone with someone who keeps talking beyond the point where we’re interested in what the other person is saying. We might say, “Uh huh . . . uh huh . . . uh huh . . . “ but we’re not really listening.

The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, enabling them to speak in a variety of languages—languages they did not previously speak. At the same time, the Spirit made it possible for the many foreign visitors to Jerusalem to understand what the disciples were saying. But what if those visitors were not paying attention to the disciples? What if they were focused on some other concern, like a problem with the family or how they were going to get home after their visit? In order for those visitors to understand the disciples, they first had to listen to them.

God is not so much interested in us gaining an understanding of what people say as in gaining an understanding of who people are. Misunderstanding can lead to fear, suspicion, and unfair judgment; understanding can lead to respect, empathy, and even appreciation. This is especially true when we encounter people whose cultures, religious beliefs, or points of view might be different from our own. The Holy Spirit can help us to grow in our understanding of others, but first we have to be open to growing in our understanding others; we have to be willing to listen with our ears and our hearts.

see Acts 2:1-11

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

Ascension, May 28, 2017

June 22nd, 2017

Pope Francis is known for his deep humility. In September of 2013, when he had been pope for just a little over six months, an interviewer asked him to describe himself. The pope responded, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

In our gospel today there is a line that is very simple and yet full of meaning. Upon seeing Jesus on the mountain from which he was to ascend to heaven, the disciples “worshiped, but they doubted.” These words essentially say of the disciples the same thing that Pope Francis said about himself in that interview back in 2013: they are weak, imperfect, human. And yet, none of this makes any difference in terms of the commission that Jesus gives to them before his ascension. He still says to them, “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations.”

The fact that each one of us is weak, imperfect, human does not disqualify us from spreading the gospel message to all those we may encounter in this life. Instead, we could say that being weak, imperfect, human actually makes us more qualified to do this task. The gospel that we and the other disciples of Jesus are called to proclaim by word and example is a gospel of mercy and forgiveness, a gospel that says that God loves us not only in spite of our sinfulness but even in our sinfulness. Who could be better for the job of spreading that gospel of mercy and forgiveness than people who have recognized their need for that gospel and continue to benefit from it—people who can say, “I am a sinner”?

see Matthew 28:16-20

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

6th Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

May 26th, 2017

I dare say most Catholics don’t notice it, and if they do, they likely don’t know what it means. I’m referring to a gesture the priest makes during mass, when he holds his hands together over the bread and wine on the altar. This very important gesture, called the laying on of hands, signifies a request for the action of the Holy Spirit. It is the same gesture that Peter and John use in our first reading when they ask the Holy Spirit to come upon those in Samaria who “had accepted the word of God.”

The laying on of hands appears today not only during the mass but also in many other rituals of the Church, including baptism, confirmation, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, and the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons. The gesture is one of power—not the power of the person laying hands, but the power of God. Without that power of God, the Church can’t do anything: it can’t change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; it can’t bring in or strengthen new members; it can’t forgive sins or heal the sick; it can’t send forth those called to serve the Church as clergy.

But all of us are equally dependent upon the power of God. Without that power, we can’t do anything good: parents can’t raise children to be decent human beings; married couples can’t have or keep a truly loving relationship; teachers can’t pass on knowledge; artists can’t create things of beauty; scientists can’t figure out mysteries; lawmakers can’t make wise laws. Most important of all, we all are dependent upon the power of God to enable us to be faithful to Christ and keep his commandments, serving God and others as he did, with selfless devotion and dedication.

Whether we are at church, in need of spiritual nourishment, at home, in need of patience with family members, or at work, in need of help with a project, we all need the power of God to come upon us.

see Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; John 14:15-21

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

3rd Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017

May 26th, 2017

Things that happened that we wish had not happened. Things that didn’t happen that we wish had happened. Like the two disciples in our gospel story, we all have our disappointments in life—and, like the disciples in our gospel story, we could talk about those disappointments at great length with friends or anyone else who might be willing to listen. We might not think about those disappointments every moment of every day, but they are with us, perhaps to the end of our lives.

But besides the fact that all of our disappointments have been disappointing, there is one other thing that they all have in common, and that is that they are in the past. They’re history. No matter how much we might want to change what did or didn’t happen, there is nothing we can do about it now.

The risen Lord offers us the chance to walk with him on the road, to move on from the past, to live a new life. For those of us willing to take him up on his offer, there is mercy and forgiveness, as well as the grace and strength we will need to let go of those disappointments and keep walking. Jesus may have vanished from our sight, but he is still with us. If we choose to walk with him, we will not be disappointed.

see Luke 24:13-35

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

Easter, April 16, 2017

April 15th, 2017

It’s easy to feel hopeless. All we have to do is look around. People are killing people with complete disregard for the value of human life or the use of reason. Those fleeing war, persecution, and poverty feel they have no choice but to risk their lives crossing the sea in rickety boats or dragging themselves across blazing deserts in search of refuge. Homeless and jobless people wander the streets daily or huddle together in camps, while many with jobs live in their cars because they still can’t afford the astronomical cost of renting an apartment. So many marriages fall apart that potential brides and grooms no longer see any point in getting married. Families consist of individuals who barely spend any time with each other or who have stopped talking to each other because of their differences. Young people have abandoned our churches, observing every day as a day of rest—from God. It seems like people have become so self-centered that they have forgotten how to treat other people with politeness and respect, thinking it okay to say or do anything they want at any time, regardless of the effect it may have on someone else.

There is no doubt that it is easy to feel hopeless. But just as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter celebrates the birth of hope. The resurrection of Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that the way things are is not the way things have to be; we have hope that just as One who was dead is now alive, our world, our church, our nation, our families, our lives can be, through the power of God, something different from what they are now. This hope we have been given does not mean that we are to sit idly by with some silly grin on our faces. We still have to pray and work and struggle as we face the challenges before us. But Easter assures us that despite appearances, all is not lost. On the contrary, Easter gives us hope that, in the words of Blessed Juliana of Norwich, “all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be very well.”

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

5th Sunday of Lent, April 2, 2017

April 15th, 2017

I don’t like movies that have unhappy endings—especially the ones where one of the main characters dies.

Our gospel story today could have had an unhappy ending. It could have ended with Jesus weeping at the news that his beloved friend Lazarus had died and some of the people wondering why the same person who had healed the blind man did nothing to prevent this tragedy. But that is not how the story ends.

When someone we love dies, it is easy for us to see that person’s death as the unhappy ending to the story. There is nothing else to be said—except that we feel pain and sorrow. But if we believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life, we must also believe that the stories of loved ones who have died do not end with their death. Rather, death is a continuation of their stories; what’s more, death is an event that takes their stories in a whole new and infinitely better direction—one that leads directly to God and will be marked by a beauty, a peace, a joy greater than any human being can ever imagine.

For our loved ones and for us, to share in the resurrection of Christ means that there will be no unhappy endings.

see John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

4th Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

March 31st, 2017

I have so much trouble telling colors apart that I occasionally have to ask members of my staff to identify the colors in my clothing. I will actually take an article of clothing over to somebody and say, “What color is this?”

We can be blind to different things.

In our gospel story, everyone except Jesus is convinced that the blind man is guilty of some sin; they think it is the cause of his blindness. What’s more, the blind man is convinced of his guilt, too. But is he really a sinner—or has he simply allowed the words and actions of others to shape this image of himself? Has he allowed other people to make him blind to his own goodness?

If people hear over and over that they are bad, they eventually come to believe it—whether it’s true or not. Today, because of abusive treatment from others, many people are convinced that there is something wrong with them, that they are somehow defective. They may even be filled with guilt and shame. In this way, family members, neighbors, even total strangers have succeeded in making people blind to their own goodness and to the presence of the good and loving God who has never abandoned them.

Fortunately, we can help God to open some eyes by affirming people rather than tearing them down, by offering them support rather than judgment, by pointing out the things we can appreciate about them rather than all the things they need to fix about themselves. Then more people will be able to see themselves as they really are; they will be able to see themselves as God sees them.

see John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

3rd Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

March 21st, 2017

Some of you may remember that Volkswagen once produced a small car called the Rabbit that was very popular. So many years ago, when my family received a phone call from a local grocery store telling us we had won a rabbit, we were very excited at the prospect of winning a new car. You can imagine our surprise—and disappointment—when we went to the store to pick up our prize and discovered that it was not a car we had won but a big stuffed Easter Bunny.

Sometimes it’s very easy to misunderstand what people are trying to say to us. In our gospel story, Jesus, who has just asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, begins to tell her about the water he is offering—a water that will put an end to all thirst. The woman assumes that he is talking about some kind of magic water that would make it unnecessary for her to keep going back and forth to the well.

The water that Jesus is offering is, of course, the water of baptism—and it’s easy for us to misunderstand Jesus, too. Baptism is not just some nice ceremony for a family to celebrate the birth of a child or even to ask God’s blessing at the beginning of a child’s life. No, for those touched by the water of baptism, that water signifies a serious commitment to living a Christian life, a life modeled on that of their brother Jesus. If those who are baptized are too young to make that commitment, their parents and godparents must make that commitment on their behalf, until they are old enough to make that commitment on their own.

There should be no misunderstanding: baptism means a commitment to living as Christ lived, a commitment to living a life marked by prayer and worship; service to the poor; love for those who hate us; the rejection of the earthly values of wealth and power; an appreciation of the diversity of God’s people; and the priority of God’s will over anyone else’s, including our own. There should be no misunderstanding: yes to the water of baptism means yes to the commitment to live a new life. Without that commitment, we may as well be asking for a drink.

see John 4:5-15,19b-26, 39a, 40-42

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm