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

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