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

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 16, 2017

September 29th, 2017

After the Nazis occupied the Netherlands during World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her family tried to help Jews by hiding them in their home in Amsterdam to prevent them from being rounded up and sent to death camps. Eventually, however, someone reported the family’s illegal activities to the authorities and they suffered the same fate as the people they had tried to rescue. Corrie was the only member of her family to survive internment.

Years later, when Corrie was traveling throughout Europe lecturing on the subject of forgiveness, a man in the audience in Munich came forward to thank her for the talk she had just given. She was horrified to recognize him as one of the guards from the camp where she and her sister were interned. The man extended his hand but Corrie, her mind flooded by painful memories, could not bring herself to shake it. Even though she had just given a talk on forgiveness, she could not forgive this man for what he had done.

Then Corrie began to pray silently: “Jesus, I cannot forgive this man. Give me your forgiveness.” At that moment, her hand, as if moved by some unseen force, took the man’s hand—and she forgave him.

Sometimes people hurt us so deeply that the pain issues forth as from a bottomless well. We know of Jesus’ commandment to forgive and still we find no ability in ourselves to do so. That is why we have to look somewhere else. Like Corrie ten Boom, we must look to Jesus, who alone can give the grace to forgive our sisters and brothers from the heart.

see Matthew 18:21-25

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 10, 2017

September 29th, 2017

As a former college English major, I have occasionally offered to correct the writing of other people. But aside from asking someone to check for spelling errors or misplaced commas, people rarely welcome correction. I think we all get defensive when people criticize us. When someone tries to tell us we’ve done something wrong, our first reaction is not a gracious, “Thank you for pointing that out,” but an angry “Who do you think you are?”

Nonetheless, the correction of others is still a temptation. The words in our gospel—attributed to Jesus but really a reflection of the practice of the early Christian community—seem to encourage this correction. But I suggest that before we “help” others by telling them their faults, we consider the answers to these questions:

First, do I really want to help the person or is my criticism just a way of lashing out in retaliation?

Second, is what the person did to me really important or is it just important to me?

Third, will my words bring reconciliation and peace or just cause a larger divide between me and the other person?

And fourth, am I fully aware of and do I humbly acknowledge my own imperfection? Am I trying to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye without removing the wooden beam from my own?

We may be tempted to correct others but after some thought, we may find that we are the ones who need correcting.

see Matthew 18:15-20

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 3, 2017

September 29th, 2017

“I have good news and bad news. What do you want to hear first?”

Unfortunately, no matter how we answer this question, the bad news doesn’t go away. And that’s also true in the life of any one of us: there will always be some bad news, whether we’re talking about war, natural disasters, sickness, death, injustice, rejection, failure, or anything else that can cause us pain or sorrow. All of creation is imperfect, and that includes the human race, damaged by ignorance and sin. Eventually, everyone is affected by that imperfection in creation.

That’s difficult for us to accept. Like Peter in our gospel story, we try desperately to hold on to the fiction that bad things will happen to other people, somewhere else, but nothing bad will happen to people we love—or to us. Like Peter, we say “God forbid” that this or that should happen.

But Peter doesn’t listen very well, and neither do we. Yes, Jesus says that he must “suffer greatly . . . and be killed,” but he also says that he will “be raised.” As people of faith, we can’t stop at the bad news but we must also hear the good news: the good news that tells us that whatever suffering we have to endure in this life, we have a God who saves, a faithful God who loves us enough to ensure that ultimately, what is in store for us is the best of news.

see Matthew 16:21-27

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

22nd Sun. O.T. (A) Sept. 3, 2017 11 & 5

see Matthew 16:21-27

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2017

August 30th, 2017

When I go to the eye doctor each year, the part of my appointment that I dread the most is reading—or trying to read—the letters projected on the wall. I get embarrassed when I get to the letters I can’t read and I have to start guessing or just admit that I have no idea what they are.

One of the big problems with the racist and bigoted protesters the whole world saw on display at Charlottesville, VA, a week ago yesterday is that their vision is severely limited—and they don’t know it. They look at certain people and they can’t see beyond their color, their ethnic group, their religion. Instead of trying to improve their vision, they go through life with eyesight clouded by ignorance and impaired by ugly stereotypes and lies.

Jesus could have looked at the woman seeking his help and seen just a Canaanite, a non-Jew, and worse, an ancestral enemy of his people. But he was able to look beyond all that to see much more: not only a person of great faith but also a mother with great love for her child. Most important of all, Jesus was able to see this woman as someone worthy of his care and compassion.

Can we see beyond color, ethnic group, religion, or anything else that might cause us to make negative judgments about people before we even get to know them? Can we see with the eyes of Christ—eyes that see the value of each one of his sisters and brothers on this earth? If not, our vision must absolutely be corrected.

see Matthew 15:21-28

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 13, 2017

August 30th, 2017

I am not a big risk taker. I don’t place bets, I don’t try every food that I haven’t tried before, and I certainly don’t jump out of airplanes. So rather than criticize St. Peter for his lack of faith, I have to commend him for making the attempt to walk across the water, even if he failed. He did something I would never do.

I’m not going to criticize Peter also because in another way, we all are like Peter. There may be some here who are risk takers, but every one of us is lacking in faith, and we always will be. That is simply part of our human nature and to expect something different, to expect that we will someday be filled to the brim with faith is not realistic for any of us.

To me, our gospel story is not encouraging us to have faith as much as it is reminding us of what will happen to us when, inevitably, our faith is at its weakest point. It is at those extremely trying, painful times in our lives, when we are devastated by terrible news, when plans fall apart and dreams evaporate, when enemies seem to surround us and we feel all alone, it is then that Jesus will stretch out his hand to us and catch us. No matter how little our faith, Jesus will not abandon us; he will not let us go under. As surely as Peter was amazed by the sight of Jesus on the water, we will be amazed at the strength that Jesus can give to us when we call out to him, “Lord, save us!”

see Matthew 14:22-23

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 30, 2017

August 30th, 2017

Stanley Rother grew up working on the family farm in a small town in Oklahoma. Not long after he was ordained a priest in 1963, he volunteered to be a missionary in Guatemala, where he found himself serving in a village of 40,000 people afflicted not only by crushing poverty but also by disease brought on by terrible living conditions: nine out of ten people were sickened by polluted water and about half of all the children died of malnutrition before they were six years old. Fr. Rother, along with other missionaries from his home diocese, worked hard to make the lives of the people better, digging wells, starting schools, opening a medical clinic. He was once seen operating a bulldozer from 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., stopping only to celebrate mass. After learning Spanish, he took on the local Mayan language, becoming so proficient that he translated the New Testament into it.

The people of the village loved Fr. Rother deeply; the government, threatened by anyone who might incite rebellion among the peasants, hated him. After hearing that he was on a hit list, Fr. Rother sought safety back in the United States. But after two months at home with his family, he decided that he had to return to Guatemala. He told his brother, “A shepherd cannot run from his flock.” Just months after Fr. Rother went back to that flock, on July 28, 1981, three men broke into the rectory and killed him. On September 23 of this year, he will be declared blessed, the first American-born martyr of the Church, which awaits his canonization in the future.

Clearly, for Fr. Rother, God’s kingdom was the pearl for which there was no price too great. Most likely, you and I are not willing to pay so high a price. But I think Fr. Rother’s story challenges us to consider what we could offer for the sake of God’s kingdom. Whether it is something we can give, like time spent in the service of our parish, or something we can give up, like intolerance of those who are different, I would guess that we can do more than what we are doing now.

see Matthew 13:44-46

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 23, 2017

July 27th, 2017

On Father’s Day of this year, a woman waiting in the drive-thru at a McDonald’s in Scottsburg, IN, noticed in the car behind her a man buying some Happy Meals for his children. To wish the man a happy Father’s Day, she decided to pay for his entire purchase. And so began an unbroken chain of 167 drive-thru customers paying for the people waiting in line behind them. The chain was broken only when the restaurant had to close for the night.

It’s a heartwarming story that makes us smile. On closer examination, however, it wasn’t much of a challenge for the people in those cars. After all, everybody was being kind to everybody else. It would be a different story, I think, if a customer paid for the Happy Meals of the kids who were throwing things at her car; if someone bought dinner for the woman who honked at him to move up in the line; or if a person paid for all the orders coming from the bus transporting inmates from the local prison.

We might dream of a world where everybody is kind to everybody else but the reality is that the kind and the unkind, the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, we all live together, constantly interacting with and affecting the lives of one another. In a way, we could say that the wheat need the weeds because they challenge us to be our best selves—the people God wants us to be, faithful disciples of Christ. How can we learn forgiveness if there are no people who have sinned against us? How can learn mercy if there are no people deserving of punishment? How can we learn Christian love if there are no people who look on us with contempt? How can we learn selfless generosity if there are no people who take without giving anything in return? How can we learn humility if there are no people who remind us of our shortcomings—who remind us of the fact that we are both wheat and weed?

see Matthew 12:24-30

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 9, 2017

July 27th, 2017

There are probably some people here who, having received holy communion, will not chew the host but insist on allowing it to dissolve in the mouth. That’s because years ago, some Catholic children were taught that chewing a host was disrespectful to the body of Christ.

So much of who we are today was formed by our childhood. So many of our current beliefs, attitudes, and values—good or bad—can be traced directly back to what we learned from our parents or some other parental figure: Do we remember to say “please” and “thank you”? Do we vote in every election? Do we take leftover food home from the restaurant or do we leave it to be thrown in the garbage?

But without the influence of adults, little children are a clean slate, free to approach the world and other people with an innocent ignorance of what might be inhabiting the minds of people who are much older. For example, have you ever noticed that little children do not see the color of other little children’s skin, or if they do see it, it doesn’t mean anything to them? They are able to laugh and play and have fun with whoever wants to laugh and play and have fun. If we were all little children, we just might be able to get along with everybody else, regardless of place of origin, language, culture, or religion.

Jesus praises God for revealing to little ones what he has hidden from the wise and the learned. We are not slaves of the past. If, at some point in the past, we have learned to be prejudiced, to be people who look down on, reject, or despise those who are different from us, we can, with God’s help, unlearn it and see the truth that little ones already know: we are all the same.

see Matthew 11:25-30

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 2, 2017

July 27th, 2017

Who’s the most important person in your life?

If you said Jesus, I’m not sure I believe you. I think that not many people anywhere would honestly be able to say that. Instead, most people would probably list father or mother, son or daughter, spouse or friend—making most people, according to what Jesus says in our gospel, unworthy of him. But even if there are people here who could honestly say that they love Jesus more than anyone else, they would still be unworthy of Jesus. And that is because absolutely everyone is a sinner and is therefore unworthy of Jesus. No one is exempt from saying those words we say at every mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

Note that our unworthiness does not exclude us from friendship with Jesus. If Jesus called only those who were worthy of him, the number of apostles would be exactly zero. As unworthy as we are, Jesus wants us to be with him, to follow him and to walk with him in all our unworthiness. We should never be afraid to approach him, in our sadness or in our joy, with our prayers of petition or prayers of thanksgiving.

Nor should we ever stop trying to be more worthy of him, particularly by showing mercy and compassion to those who, because of their sinfulness or simply because of the scorn and judgment of others, are made to feel unworthy of God’s love.

see Matthew 10:37-42

By: Rev. Gregory Kimm