Christmas, December 25, 2017

December 29th, 2017

A former Pentagon official who had been in charge of investigating UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) recently said in a TV interview that he believes that “there is very compelling evidence” that alien beings have visited our planet. But if what this gentleman is saying is true, it’s not difficult to understand why these alien beings have not made a larger effort to contact us, much less stay put. Just look at this past year, with its seemingly endless procession of misery: earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and fires all took their devastating toll, even as we were once again horrified by the human capacity for cruelty, selfishness, and stupidity. Why would any alien being who happened upon our planet want to stick around?

But our God did more than just visit our world; our God became one of us, choosing to be not someone on the outside looking in but someone living right in the middle of our suffering, our fear, our anxiety, and our confusion. Right from the very beginning, God endured harsh realities that human beings must endure: his parents struggled to survive in a land stripped of its wealth by unjust rulers; while still in the womb, he had an enemy—and a threat on his life; on his birthday he was thrust into the cold night air, deprived of shelter, and had to sleep in a place where animals fed.

God still wants to be right in the middle of our suffering, our fear, our anxiety, and our confusion. Boundless in mercy and compassion, God wants to be with us as we deal with challenges to our health and safety, challenges to our financial security, challenges to the unity of our families, challenges to faithfulness in relationships, challenges to our ability to forgive, challenges to our hope for the future, and even challenges to our belief in God.

God has no desire to be a visitor. Instead, it is God’s wish to stick around, to share our world and our lives—just as long as we are willing to share our world and our lives with God.

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

3rd Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

December 29th, 2017

Many of us carry a membership card for the American Automobile Association, better known as “Triple A,” in order to take advantage of its roadside assistance. Triple A members get peace of mind knowing that if they get a flat tire, the car won’t start, or the keys get locked in, there is someone they can call for help.

Looking at the problems facing our world and our nation—problems much more serious than some mishap with the car—we may feel so lost and hopeless at times that we wish there were someone who would come to our aid. We are on the brink of nuclear war; terrorist attacks have become so frequent that they are almost a “normal” occurrence; whole groups of people are being targeted for extermination by others, while those who are the enemy of nobody in particular continue to die of starvation and disease. More and more people are living on the streets or—if they’re “lucky,” in their cars—as those who have more money than they need and more power than they deserve just keep trying to get more. Honor, virtue, faithfulness, even politeness, all seem to be things of the past as people seem to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it.

As Christians, we naturally turn to Jesus; after all, he is the savior who first came to us in our great need. Surely, as our Advent readings remind us, he will not abandon us: he will come again! But we too have a responsibility. The words in our first reading apply not just to Jesus but also to each one of us: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, . . . .” It is fine and good to ask the Lord to save us but what am I going to do to save us? We can’t just wait around for Jesus. Whether it is by joining a protest, casting a vote, taking care to pass on proper values to children, making a contribution, or standing up for somebody whose dignity is being attacked, we must answer the call for help.

see Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017

December 29th, 2017

When my nieces were very small, they would from time to time draw pictures that they would then give to me. No doubt these pictures, drawn in crayon or marking pen, would embarrass my nieces today but I still have every one of their drawings on display in my residence, just as I’m sure that many of you have refrigerator doors covered by the drawings of children or grandchildren.

Actually, many if not most of the world’s most precious objects are not mass-produced in some factory or laboratory but are created uniquely by someone’s hands. Think about all the great works of art protected and preserved in museums: paintings, sculptures, porcelain. But besides being handmade and prized for their beauty and craftsmanship, these precious works of art share another characteristic: all of them have flaws. We might not notice them at first; we might even have to look at them with a magnifying glass. But the flaws are there. That is the nature of anything that is made by hand.

Today the prophet Isaiah is speaking for us when he says to God, “we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” We are God’s creation but we too have flaws. There is no exception. As we think about the people who have been part of our lives in this year that is rapidly drawing to a close, let us not fail to see that in spite of their flaws, there is a beauty and craftsmanship in each one.

see Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 19, 2017

November 30th, 2017

Millions of Americans are preparing to gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. For Christians it is a time to give voice to the sentiment expressed in the old hymn: “All good gifts around us are sent from heav’n above; then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love.”

But it seems to me that the many gifts we receive from God—life, health, food, abilities, material possessions, the people who are important to us, this complicated yet still wonderful world in which we live—are not like the gifts we receive from other people. For one thing, the gifts we receive from God are not really ours, because everything belongs to God. For another, we are not free to do with them as we please.

The gifts we receive from God are really much more like the money the master entrusts to his servants, expecting interest on his investment: God expects that the good things given to us in abundance be used to produce good things in even greater abundance. If I have the gift of wealth, I should be sharing it generously with the poor and supporting the church. If I have the gift of a great mind, I should be developing solutions to great problems like hunger, disease, and homelessness. If I have the gift of children, I should be teaching them the ways of faith—especially through my own example. If I have the gift of compassion, I should be comforting those who are in pain. If I have the gift of musical or artistic skill, I should be inspiring others to seek God, the source of all beauty.

To the extent that we use God’s gifts not just to improve our lives but also to improve the lives of our sisters and brothers, we prove ourselves faithful servants of God.

see Matthew 25:14-30

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 5, 2017

November 30th, 2017

At the church my family and I used to attend when I was a teenager, the pastor did not give homilies based on the scriptures read at mass. Instead, every Sunday, regardless of the scripture readings, the season of the Church year, or the occasion being celebrated, the monsignor would give the congregation the next part in a seemingly endless series of lectures that he had written on subjects such as the sacraments or Church history. These talks were long and boring and had absolutely nothing to do with people’s real lives. Years later, as I prepared to become a priest, I vowed that I would never follow this example.

There are more bad examples in our gospel reading: “do not follow their example,” Jesus says to the crowds, speaking of the scribes and Pharisees. But what about us? Do we want to be the bad examples, the ones that Jesus advises people to disregard or do we want to be the good examples, the ones that Jesus holds up as role models for the rest of his disciples? Really, the choice is ours—and it depends on the examples we decide to follow.

There might be many people we admire and wish to be like, including parents, grandparents, teachers, priests, world leaders, and/or saints of the Church. However, the best example for us to follow is always Jesus himself. With him as a role model, we can never go wrong. If we can be like him—serving others without any thought of personal gain, forgiving sins both large and small, welcoming the forgotten and the outcast, seeking God’s kingdom before any earthly treasure, and placing God’s commands above any human authority—we can be sure that we will also be the best example we can be.

see Matthew 23:1-12

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 29, 2017

November 1st, 2017

On Days of Our Lives, the daytime drama I have watched on TV for more than 30 years, a common plot device is amnesia. Every once in a while, someone in the show’s large cast of characters has a traumatic experience that leaves him or her without any memory of who he or she is, causing great distress to family and friends.

Today we hear Jesus say the familiar words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But sometimes loving our neighbors is quite a challenge for us, particularly when those around us are very different from us. Even before we get to know our neighbors, we notice the things that make us different–language, culture, religion, certain values—and we can focus on those things, allowing them to separate us.

When that happens, however, I think we are suffering from a kind of amnesia; we are forgetting who we are. Just as in our first reading God reminds the Israelites, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt,” God reminds us of our history. Aside from Native Americans—who were made to feel different in their own land—all here either came from somewhere else or had ancestors who came from somewhere else and were made to feel different from those already here. And who among us has not felt different at one time or another because of physical appearance, a personal struggle, an unusual interest, or some other characteristic that sets him or her apart from other people? Who among us has not felt different because of a new school, a new job, a new home?

As different as we may be from our neighbors, we all share, along with our common humanity and our privileged status as children of God, a history of being different. When we come to that realization, we may just get a little closer to seeing our neighbors as people we can love.

see Matthew 22:34-40; Exodus 22:20-26

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 22, 2017

November 1st, 2017

We all have innumerable relationships in our lives. Some are close, some are distant. Some are complex; some are merely professional. Some are with people we don’t know; some are with people about whom we already know too much. Besides relationships with family members and friends, our relationships include those with neighbors, co-workers and supervisors, teachers and students, doctors and waiters, store clerks and police officers, leaders of church and leaders of government, refugees on the other side of the world, and all those people we see at mass each week.

Asked by the hypocritical Pharisees about the proper relationship between the Jews and the Romans who have occupied their land, Jesus does more than just give permission to pay the census tax. When he says, “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” he affirms that our relationship with God is the primary relationship in our lives, the one that is not only most important but also the one that should shape and guide all the others. Whatever the relationship, our relationship with God will tell us how to handle it, whether that means strengthening it, respecting it, changing it, or even ending it. Of course, our relationship with God will help us in our other relationships only if that relationship with God involves a willingness to listen and to serve.

see Matthew 22:15-21

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 15, 2017

November 1st, 2017

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend my 40th high school reunion. I thought about the 500-mile round trip to Bakersfield, the busy weekend schedule of a priest, and the fact that most of the people going to the reunion were not people to whom I was close. In the end, I declined the invitation; I decided that the reunion was not a place I wanted to be.

In the Church today, everyone from Church leaders to leaders of families often express their regret and frustration over the increasing number of Catholics, especially young people, who have no interest in being part of the Catholic community. These absent Catholics are like the guests invited to the wedding feast but who ignore the invitation and go away.

While the reasons for this lack of participation in the life of the Church are complex and some are beyond our control, I think it’s important for us to consider ways in which we can make the community of the Church a place people want to be. Chief among these is the example of our lives. Put simply, are we living the kind of life Jesus wishes us to live? Are we people who live in peace with others, striving to resolve conflict without the use of physical or verbal violence? Are we people who are patient and forgiving, whose awareness of their own sinfulness makes it impossible to condemn others? Do we welcome strangers and respect different cultures and beliefs, bringing people together rather than dividing? Are we people who are generous, selflessly putting the needs of others before our own? Do we show kindness to everyone, seeing God’s goodness in both friend and enemy?

Yes, many are declining the invitation to God’s wedding feast and yes, we can only do so much. But if all of us in the community of the Church were to live our faith, surely more people would want to be where we are.

see Matthew 22:1-10

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 1, 2017

November 1st, 2017

I don’t know if people today have less patience than in years past, but modern technology has certainly not helped people to become more patient. For example, if we are on the internet and a webpage doesn’t open up instantaneously, we’re ready to throw our device in the garbage and buy one that is faster. Nonetheless, there are still times in our lives when we are willing to wait, even if we are not completely happy with the delay: the birth of a child; the delivery of a package; the showing of a sequel to a favorite movie; the cooking of some delicious food. In all of these cases, we are willing to wait, even if we are not completely happy with the delay, because that for which we are waiting is worth the wait.

Jesus obviously believes that it is possible for those who have sinned to experience conversion, just as the son in the parable at first refuses to work in the vineyard but later changes his mind and goes. But conversion is often a long process, sometimes taking many years. This is why Jesus also hopes that we will have patience, that we will be willing to wait for sinful people we know to accept God’s grace and allow that grace to work in them.

Those sinful people, of course, include you and me—for whom God always has enough patience.

see Matthew 21:28-32

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino), September 24, 2017

September 29th, 2017

If we want to know what it means to be last, all we have to do is look at the life of Joseph of Cupertino. His own mother thought he was good for nothing. He was probably the worst student in school—the object of every other kid’s ridicule and the student who most tried his teacher’s patience. He was turned away by religious communities he wanted to join. Finally admitted to the Franciscans, he was assigned to the stable, where he also slept next to the animals. When his ability to fly was evident, he was hidden away and practically kept as a prisoner.

But today Joseph is a saint in heaven—honored not only by our parish community but also by the faithful throughout the world and especially by God. In life Joseph may have been last but he is not last anymore.

Sad to say, there are still many people who know what it means to be last: those rejected for being too different, odd, ugly, untalented; the old and the sick who are forgotten or ignored; victims of injustice, poverty and persecution. The story of our patron saint offers hope to those who are last—but do they have to wait until heaven to get an upgrade? Today St. Joseph of Cupertino lifts up all of these people and holds them in front of us, reminding us that while others may put them last, God puts them first—and we should do the same.

see Matthew 20:1-16a

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm