Category Archives: Fellowship

Praying for Peace in Ferguson

9972635The following is my homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary time (August 17, 2014):

I am certain I am not alone in my confusion and frustration surrounding the events occurring in Ferguson, Missouri this week. We have been witness to a lot of hurting in our community as a result of the shooting death that occurred on August 9th. It’s sad and it’s scary, and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by these tragic events.

But it’s not enough to be casual observers of the pain and suffering of others.

  • We have to have open hearts and open minds to understand others’ pain and suffering.
  • We must stand for justice and personal accountability, and for respect of all people and all property.
  • We have to be patient and persistent in helping bring about healing and peace in our community.

I choose my words carefully; my intent is not to comment on politics or public opinion. Instead, my intent is to call us all to a greater sense of love, of community and of peace.

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 15: 21-28, The Canaanite Woman’s Faith) is a good example of how we are affected by community and how being patient and persistent can help bring about healing. It’s a good example of how faith can help change hearts and minds.

The Canaanite woman displays great patience, persistence and faith in dealing with Jesus and his disciples. But that doesn’t mean the woman had an easy task. She faced several challenges when turning to Jesus for help for her daughter:

  1. The disciples simply told the woman to go away
  2. Initially, Jesus dismisses her because she isn’t one of the “chosen people.” (Jesus’ mission was describe as for Jews only).
  3. In fact, Jesus went as far as referring to the woman as “a dog” (a common slur in those days used to describe non-Jews) – a dog not worthy of the scraps that fall from the table

But the woman doesn’t give up. She never loses hope. She remains persistent and patient as she goes about doing what she knows she must do: find healing for her daughter.

The woman demonstrates great faith. She knows she would be happy to receive whatever scraps of grace Jesus would share. Eventually, Jesus sees that her faith is over-powering and Jesus cannot let this go unrecognized. He grants her request and her daughter is healed.

My hope and my prayer is that, together, we can find similar healing for Ferguson.

Hope is a wonderful gift from God. Hope is God-focused. It helps us see beyond our current circumstances. And as God graces us with hope, he expects something in return – he expects us to be a channel of hope for others. In living the Gospel, we are expected to be compassionate, prayerful and supportive of others.

The “shadow side” of hope is despair. Despair is me-focused. It causes us to see only ourselves. It is easy to fall into despair when we are bombarded by countless images and news stories from the fallout of the shooting in Ferguson.

When we find ourselves sliding away from hope and falling into despair, we have to re-center ourselves in prayer. We have to turn back to God.

Despair strips us of our purpose, but prayer can help us regain our bearings. Prayer can help us find our spiritual center.

Jesus is a good example of this – regularly going off by himself to pray, to reorient himself to his true purpose.

It will be a long, difficult challenge to move beyond all of the emotion and hurt so tightly wrapped around the events taking place in Ferguson. It will take great hope and great faith to move beyond where we are today.

So, what fueled the Canaanite woman’s hope and faith? What can we learn from her experience?

  1. First, she was motivated beyond herself. She wanted to be a part of the healing for her daughter. She was focused on service for another.
  2. Second, she was willing to be active and to be persistent. Her energy was focused on doing good; doing what was right.

The rejection she experiences from Jesus and his disciples does not deter her. In fact, it seems to energize her because she knew she was doing the right thing. This encourages her boldness. It gives her a sense of empowerment.

So, how can we use the example of the Canaanite woman’s patience and persistence in dealing with the events in Ferguson?

Archbishop Carlson and the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis calls “for all people to pray for calm and peace and to be part of healing.”

  • They remind us that we need to ask hard questions about what causes the turmoil and hatred we have experienced. As we heard Isaiah say in our the First Reading today, we need to “Observe what is right [and] do what is just”. (Isaiah 56:1)
  • They also remind us that we need to work for lasting solutions to overcome the systemic problems that plague our community. As Paul explains in today’s Second Reading, our ministry of peace and love cannot be limited to our own back yard (Paul preached to the Gentiles, not God’s chosen people, the Jews). We have to be willing to reach out to other communities in need.

This week, I invite you to pray for peace, that we can begin to move beyond the raw emotions and hurt that cripples us as a community, and take positive steps toward healing and true justice.

The rallying cry for the protesters in Ferguson is “No justice, no peace.” I understand and support the need for justice. But to move forward, we first need peace.

And as we approach the altar today to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, let us remember that what we receive at Communion is not meager “scraps” from the table to appease us. What we received is truly Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) which strengthens us for the journey.

If we truly want justice, let us start by praying for peace.

In the peace of Christ,

Deacon Dan Donnelly

Love, Relationship and Community In Challenging Times

carlsonHomily for Holy Trinity Sunday – June 15, 2014 

Let me start my homily with a simple question: How do you think of God? Do you think of him as near or distant? Is he frightening or familiar? How do you think of God?

The truth is, at times, God can be seem both near and distant to us. At times, God can seem both frightening and familiar. It all depends on our relationship with him.

When doing my formation work in hospital ministry, I remember the hospital chaplain telling me that the ease by which a person dies is often a reflection of their relationship with God. That made sense to me. The closer we cling to God, the less “baggage” we have to hold onto.

I also remember a quote from one of my ACTS brothers who said: “If you discover that you are distant from God, ask yourself: Who moved?”

If we find ourselves distant from God, it wasn’t God who moved, it was us. We experience this …

  • When we turn our back on God in sin
  • When we focus so much on ourselves that we shut God out of our lives
  • When we allow the events of the world to distract us from living as God intended

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day that calls us to be more aware of the presence of the Trinitarian God in our lives. We are reminded of how the Trinity affects our lives, how it helps us relate more closely with God and to one another.

Today, we remember:

  • God the Father who created us in his own image
  • God the Son who became one of us and redeemed us
  • God the Holy Spirit who remains with us to accompany us and guide us on our spiritual journey

The central themes in today’s readings are relationship and love. Which helps us realize how personal and loving God is. These themes are clearly evident in that beautiful passage from the Gospel of John:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

To me, the operative phrase in that passage is believing in God. Whether God seems near or distant to us – we have to keep believing. Whether focused on God or lost in worldly events – we have to keep believing. Whether “swimming in God’s grace or drowning in sin” – we have to keep believing.

It is difficult to explain (and to understand) the mystery of the Trinity. But at the root of this mystery are three things: love, relationship, and community.

In that vein, I want to comment on the controversy this week surrounding Archbishop Carlson and the recent reporting on his depositions. Not to put another spin on the topic. Not to sound as an expert on the matter – because I am not. There is good information about all of this on the Archdiocese website. I recommend viewing the video from Archbishop Carlson and reading the letter from the Archbishop. They reflect the Archbishop I know: very humble, very compassionate … and very human.

I want to use this situation as a teachable moment of how we are to live in love, in relationship, when the foundation and cohesion of our faith community is challenged.

Today, you prove that you are a believing people because you are here. You honor God by your presence.

  • In spite of this cancer of sex abuse that continually attacks the life of the Church, you love God and his Church
  • In spite of the accusations of poor leadership and poor judgment in our Church surrounding the issue of sex abuse, you value the relationship of the Church and God’s people
  • In spite of the questions and accusations in the media, you gather here as community

We are here as a community of faith, hope and love.

But we know that others who are faithful and love their Church may not be here today. Like many of us, they may be confused, hurting, and questioning the Church and its leaders over these recent events.

And when this occurs, when we find our Church under suspicion, the best thing we can do is pray and model how God describes himself in our First Reading: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity.

We pray …

  • For the victims and all affected by abuse
  • For those who have fallen away from the Catholic Church in disillusionment
  • For justice
  • For peace
  • For reconciliation in our world

We turn to God in times like this and pray for God’s grace:

  • To lighten the burdens of our questioning minds
  • To overcome whatever distrust, skepticism, or uncertainty that may haunt us
  • To sustain us through periods of unbelief and doubt
  • To save us from the tendency to rush to judgment or speculation

And we pray to the leaders of our Church, as we will in the Eucharistic Prayer today. We will pray for Archbishop Carlson in a very personal way – using his first name (Robert). May we do so with open hearts and open minds. We do not do this in blind obedience, but as compassionate believers.

As we go forth today, let us ask the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son, and Spirit – to make us ever more aware of God’s loving presence in and around us.

Let us go forth this day, in a spirit of love, relationship and community, strengthened by that very Trinitarian prayer St. Paul shared with us in the Second Reading (2 Corinthians 13:11-13):

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

Deacon Dan Donnelly

The Reflection of God’s Love and Mercy

9945245Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In today’s Gospel, we hear discipleship compared to salt and light. Let’s talk a little about this simile of salt and light.

We know that salt (sodium) is necessary for good health, but too much sodium leads to health problems. The disciples would have understood Jesus’ message about salt in two ways:

  1.  They would understand that salt is used to enhance the flavor of food (it’s still one of the most common ingredients in modern cooking), and
  2. They would know that salt is used to preserve foods (for example, before refrigeration, people would apply a thin layer of salt to fish and meats to help preserve them)

So, what Jesus was telling his disciples, as he prepared them for their missionary work was: Carry out your mission with enthusiasm and passion (add flavor to your mission), and be steadfast in preserving and sharing the faith that Christ had taught them.

We also hear Jesus warning that if salt loses its taste it is no longer good for anything and should be thrown out. Technically, salt never loses its flavor, but it can become less effective when other things are added to it, or it becomes impure. Jesus was telling disciples: do not allow your faith and beliefs to be compromised by what they may experience in the outside world (In effect, Jesus was telling the disciples: Be in this world, but not of this world).

Those are lessons that apply to us today. Through our baptism, we are called to be missionaries (to help spread the Good News of Jesus). We are expected to carry out our mission with zeal (with enthusiasm and passion). And our missionary work needs to be “grounded” in the truth so we can both enhance and preserve the Good News of God’s love and mercy.

Another “fun fact” about salt: Salt is referenced many times in Scripture. In all of the times salt is referenced, it is never described as existing only for itself (you wouldn’t go to the movies and order a large box of salt, would you? No, you’d go for the mega bucket of popcorn and use salt to flavor it).

Our faith doesn’t exist for ourselves alone. Our faith is personal, but it is also communal. We are called to live and work in community and to share our gifts and resources with others.We hear this in our First Reading when we are reminded to:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Shelter the oppressed and the homeless
  • Clothe the naked
  • Don’t turn your back on others, but help them

God is telling us to use our faith to take action! And when we do this, “Then [our] light shall break forth like the dawn.”

I was talking to a deacon friend of mine, not too long ago, who told me about a woman he was counseling. While protecting her identity, he shared her predicament with me: The woman had come to him to discuss problems she was experiencing with her 12-year old son. She said her son threw a fit every time he had to go to attend class at the Parish School of Religion (PSR). He complained that he just didn’t like PSR. He said he was too busy with other extracurricular activities, and that he was too tired to go at the end of the day.

After probing into the problem a little more, the deacon asked the woman how her son felt about going to Mass. The woman replied, “Oh, we don’t usually go to Mass” and rattled off a litany of reasons. She said, “neither my husband nor my son like to go to Mass, so it’s a hassle to get them to attend. I often work weekends, so scheduling time for Mass can be difficult. And, frankly, my job wears me out, so I like to sleep in on Sundays.”

Do you detect a parallel here? The son was using the same excuses for not going to PSR as the mother and father did for not going to Mass.

I share this story not to single out families (in full-time or part time school at the parish) who don’t attend Mass on Sundays. I share this story to demonstrate how our actions can reflect negatively on our children, our freinds, and our family – especially when it comes to sharing our faith.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “light of the world” and that they “must shine before others, that [others] may see [their] good deeds and glorify [God].” Were these parents a shining light for their son? From what I heard, I would guess “no.” But I can empathize with the woman in this story.

Its difficult  for kids to attend PSR after a full day of school. Scheduling for busy families can be a problem. Being a parent is hard … and tiring … and sometimes frustrating. But it can also be quite gratifying.

For me, as a parent, life is most gratifying when I see my children behaving in ways that reflect the goodness of God.  I like to think that their mother and I had some influence in those “good things” they reflect in their life.

We are all called to be that good example for others. To be the “Light of Christ” for others. But, to be the “light of the world” does not mean that you have to be the source of that light. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are not called to be God, but to be a reflection of God, of His love and mercy.

Here’s an example that explains this in everyday terms. Think about where we are in the seasons. We are half way through Winter. Even in the midst of the coldest temperatures and most snowfall we’ve seen in years, we see signs of hope. The sun is staying out a little longer each day. Even in the bitter cold, we are witnessing some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

But ask yourself: Is the sky the source of that beauty? Do the clouds dictate the colors? No, these awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets are the sky and the clouds allowing the light of the sun to reflect in beautiful hues.

We are not the source of the light in our world … God is

Today’s readings help us step back and reflect on we are living our lives as Christians.

  • Are we being the best versions of ourselves, reflecting God’s love and mercy?
  • Are we being good examples for others by our words and actions?
  • Are we helping share the Light of Christ with others?

These are questions we might reflect on this week.

As we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist, let us remember that salt doesn’t act alone. We are a community of believers, called to gather at the Lord’s table, and to go forth to live our faith with zeal.

Through our Baptism, we are called to be light to the world, called to be a reflection of the beauty of God’s love and mercy.

May you have great week, reflecting God’s love and mercy in all that you do!

Setting the World On Fire

File0258Homily from Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013

Today is the 17th anniversary of the death of my father, John J. Donnelly, Jr. (lovingly remembered as “Red”). Indulge me for a moment, if you will, as I tie the memories and lessons of his passing to the Feast of Pentecost.

My dad had been sick for a while and would not recover from his illness. So, my family was challenged with the decision of honoring his wishes – to allow him to be removed from life support and to allow him to die in peace. As you can imagine, it was a difficult thing for my mother and her six children to experience.  We had to accept the end of my dad’s earthly life to allow him to begin his new life with God.

Seventeen years later, two things about that day still stick out in my mind. First, was the drive to the hospital to be with my dad. The song “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion was playing on the radio and, as I listened, that song served as a soundtrack of my life as I recalled my relationship with my dad:

“You were my strength when I was weak. You were my voice when I couldn’t speak. You were my eyes when I couldn’t see. You saw the best there was in me. Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach. You gave me faith ‘coz you believed. I’m everything I am because you loved me.”

The second thing was the reaction of my family members after my dad passed away. For me, it was interesting to observe how four sons and two daughters who grew up in the same family would experience and grieve my dad’s death in such different ways.

You may be familiar with the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote extensively on the stages of grief. She identified those stages as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. And she writes that while “these are the responses to loss that many people have, there is not a typical response to loss and there is no typical loss. Our grief is as individual as our lives.”

I guess I was expecting something different. There we were; six kids from the same gene pool (shallow and murky as that pool may be) who grew up in the same house, went to the same schools, attended the same church, and shared the same family stories and traditions. But each experienced loss and grief in different ways. And each brought different gifts to the grieving process: none better, none worse – just different.

This reminds me of our First Reading today. The apostles were gathered all in one place. They had experienced their own stages of grief after the death of Jesus. As they witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit, they each had a different experience. The Holy Spirit allowed them to speak in tongues – in unknown languages that were understood by a diverse group who had gathered in Jerusalem. Just as God does with each of us as we grieve a loss, God sent the Holy Spirit to meet those gathered in Jerusalem “where they were” and to minister to them in ways that allowed them to proclaim Christ in their lives.

This is what Pentecost is all about: For us to recall Christ’s command to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

In our Confirmation we have received a new spirit for a new life we are called to live. But this isn’t a one-time deal. We have to be open to receiving the Spirit every day and we have to be open to living the life we are called to live – every day. That’s where the challenge often begins.

Think about a time in your life when you were especially moved by the Holy Spirit. Maybe it was at the birth of your child or the death of a loved one. May be it was during your Timothy 4 retreat or an ACTS retreat. Maybe it was at sight of a beautiful sunset or the words of a particularly moving song or poem. The Spirit moves us in different ways. And each of us has different gifts to offer. But we have to share and live those gifts. We can’t just keep them to ourselves.

The beauty of this is summed up in something I read this week about the value of Catholic communities: “The gift and strength of community is that we come to community with individual gifts, and in turn we are the recipients of the gifts of all those who gather with us.” (Brother Stephen Glodek, SM – Marianist Praxis: Building Marianist Educational Culture) This is why we worship together at Mass each Sunday. This is why we gather – to bring our own unique gifts, and to receive the gifts of community in Christ. But in order for this formula to work we have to be open to accepting our individual and communal gifts. And we have to be open to sharing those gifts with others. This ebb and flow of grace needs to be a constant cycle in our lives.

This past Tuesday, I attended a workshop hosted by the Archdiocese on Social Media and Evangelization. We started the day with Mass. The lector began to proclaim the first reading but you could barely hear her. We continued with the Psalm, but it was hard to hear that as well – until half-way through the Psalm when someone remembered to turn on the sound system! Bishop Rice, who was presiding at the Mass, opened his homily by joking, “Lesson one in evangelization – turn on the microphone!”

We need to ask ourselves a question: Is my evangelization microphone on? Am I continuing to live those grace-filled moments of my ACTS retreat, or my Timothy 4 retreat, or my Luke 18 retreat? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to work through me and to lead me in my life? Am I on fire with the Holy Spirit … or do I need to rekindle the flame in my heart?

That’s what we are called to do: To be on fire wherever God leads us, to allow the gifts we have received to flow through us, to recognize and believe that we are loved, and to be witnesses to Christ to the ends of the earth.

Sure, sometimes this is scary and uncomfortable. Even the disciples were afraid. As we just heard, they locked themselves in a room after Jesus died out of fear of the Jews. But Jesus came and stood in their midst and he told them repeatedly: “Peace be with you. Peace be with you.”

Maybe that’s how we can help rekindle the fire in our hearts. This evening, when I invite you to share the sign of peace with others, I am going to invite our youth to do something a little different. I am going to invite you to make a symbolic gesture of going forth to share your gifts and spread the love of Christ.

I invite you teens, at the Sign of Peace, to leave your pews and mingle around the church, extending the sign of peace to the rest of the congregation. Allow the Holy Spirit to flow through you. Demonstrate what it means to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth (or at least to the ends of the last pews!). Are you willing to accept this invitation?

Let me wrap up this evening with a quick story and a quote. The late Fr. Jim Krings helped me understand my giftedness and my relationship with the Holy Spirit. From his spiritual counsel I adopted the phrase “Be on fire wherever you are” as my spiritual mantra. This was a response to Fr. Krings’ challenge to not just be a person who had received the gifts of the ACTS retreats, but to be a person who lives and shares those gifts. And, from that living and sharing, Fr. Krings challenged us to attract and invite others to share this wonderful experience (to put it in Bishop Rice terms, to “make sure our evangelization microphone was always on”).

It is true with the ACTS retreats. It is true with Timothy 4 retreats, the Luke 18 retreats, Kairos retreats … whatever spiritual movement you may experience. We are not only expected to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we are also expected to share (to live) those gifts with others. When we join our individual gifts with the gifts of our community, we can make a world of difference in our lives.

I think this quote from St. Catherine of Sienna sums it up very well. She said:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!”

This week, I pray that we will all reflect on these words and help set the world on fire by sharing our gifts and Christ’s love with each other.

Peace be with you!

The Mysteries of the Trinity

The following is Deacon Dan’s homily for Trinity Sunday, June 19, 2011.

Today is the Feast day of the Most Holy Trinity. If you came to this Mass hoping to finally learn all of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, this lowly deacon is sorry to disappoint. The Trinity is indeed a mystery which far greater men than I have tried to comprehend.

St. Patrick had some luck using a shamrock to explain how three persons (three leaves on one stem in this case) could be one being. That was enough to help win over some Irish pagans to the faith. St. Augustine wasn’t as successful. And there’s an old story that describes his failed attempt to understand the Trinity. It goes something like this:

One day, St. Augustine was taking a walk along the seashore, mulling over the Trinity in his head, trying to understand the complexities of it. While walking he saw a little child playing by the sea. The Child had made a hole in the sand and was walking back and forth between the sand and the sea, carrying a little seashell. As St. Augustine watched, he watched the child take the seashell, scoop up some water from the sea, carefully walk back to the hole he had dug and pour the water into the hole. The child would do this repeatedly.

St. Augustine asked the child what he was doing. The child replied, “I am going to empty the sea into that hole, which I have dug in the sand.” St. Augustine laughed out loud and said “Child, that is quite impossible. Look how big the ocean is, and how small that hole is!” The child looked at him and answered, “And yet, it would be easier for me to do this than for you to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity.” With that, the child left.

It is difficult for us to grasp the idea of the Holy Trinity – three divine persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but one divine nature

An interesting bit of trivia: Pope Benedict has a shell on his coat of arms. It reminds him (and the whole church) that God is infinitely wonderful, beyond our human comprehension. No mere human mind can comprehend the Trinity. As we hear the prophet, Isaiah say:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Yet, God provides us with glimpses into the mystery in our readings today.

We, as humans, tend to focus on the “who.” Who is God? Who is Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? We want to know who is in charge? Who out ranks the other? In our minds we think: If the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit went out to dinner, who would pick up the check?

We also focus on the “how” How does the Holy Trinity work with us? How do we know which one to call on when we need help?

I think we need to focus more on the “what” part of the equation. What are the characteristics of the Holy Trinity? What can we learn from those characteristics to live a more holy life?

Then we can begin to know God in a different way – from the inside out.

My goal for today is to help us understand how the “what” of the Holy Trinity is woven into the fabric of our spiritual lives – especially as we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Love, Grace and Fellowship

Our Second Reading ends with a familiar benediction:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

St. Paul gives us three characteristics of the Trinity to ponder:

  1. God is love – the author of love
  2. God is grace – through Jesus, his Son
  3. God is fellowship – through the Holy Spirit

The Father is Love

Today, we hear about God’s love in the First Reading. It might help to get a little background information about the meaning of the “two stone tablets.” You see, God had already given Moses the Ten Commandments. But Moses, in anger when he found his people worshipping a golden calf, destroyed the original set of stone tablets. In the section just before today’s reading, God instructed Moses to bring two more tablets to the mountain so He could re-write the commandments for him. God was (literally) giving Moses and his chosen people a clean slate to work from. In golf parlance, God was giving Moses a mulligan!

Our First Reading goes on with God describing what He is – love. God uses two words to describe himself:

  1. Merciful – showing mercy to his people
  2. Gracious – exercising divine grace; a giver of gifts

In the Gospel reading, we hear God’s love and mercy described in this manner:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”

That is a great testament of the love of God. As a father (and grandfather) on Father’s Day, I couldn’t imagine sacrificing my child the way God so willing chose to do. (Sure, there were a few times during my children’s teenage years that I would have at least entertained the idea, but would never be so bold as to offer my child in sacrifice). But God did – for us, and our sins!

Jesus is Grace

We witness Jesus’ grace in the Gospel as well. Grace is defined as “a supernatural gift from God”, which is what Jesus is. We hear this gift from God each week in the Penitential Rite:

  • He was sent to heal the contrite (those expressing remorse)
  • He came to call sinners
  • He pleads for us at the right hand of the Father

(Note that all three contain words of action: sending, calling, pleading)

And we hear in today’s Gospel:

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him”

Again, we hear of God’s love – this time through the willing grace of His Son. All Jesus asks of us is to believe in him – and we will be saved.

We, as Catholics, know that it takes more than words to demonstrate that we believe in Jesus. Yes, we proclaim our faith, but are also called to live our faith.

We proclaim our belief when we profess the Creed each week, and I invite you to listen carefully this week as we proclaim these words:

  • We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
  • We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God
  • We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified

But, more important than words are actions (a lived faith). To demonstrate that belief, we have to live in communion with God:

  • In fellowship with Him
  • To do as he has done
  • To live the model of faith, hope and love that He lived on earth

The Holy Spirit is Fellowship

Jesus told his disciples that he would not abandon them, would not leave them orphan. He promised his Father would send an advocate to dwell among them, to guide them on their journey. He promised the Holy Spirit, who we honored last week at Pentecost.

If we want to grow in relationship with the Holy Trinity – from the inside out – we need to focus on these 3 Things:

  1. We need to open our hearts to the mystery of the Holy Trinity
  2. We need to share our secret thoughts, affections and desires
  3. We need to be open to accepting the innermost thoughts and identity that the Holy Trinity longs to share with us

We need to pray, to reflect, to listen – with our whole being. Prayer cannot be one sided; our prayer must be a dialogue (speaking AND listening.)

We also need to be patient, remembering that spiritual growth is a process

The Ordo for today’s Mass summarizes all of these thoughts this way:

God sent his Son to save us and to forgive us, making us His adopted children. Like the Trinity of persons, may we be united in peace and love through the Spirit, through whom we offer God praise and glory. (Amen.)

Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

“Peter’s Song” – A Good Friday Reflection

During Holy Week we hear the Lord’s Passion played out several times. We heard Matthew’s telling of the story on Palm Sunday. On Good Friday we hear John’s recounting of Christ’s suffering and death.

Several years ago I was reflecting on Christ’s Passion and began to wonder how Peter might have felt about the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. Peter, who Christ chooses to lead his Church, sounds like a strong, proud man. He commits his life to Christ. He promises that he will never betray his friend. He draws his sword to defend Jesus when taken captive in the Garden. But its also Peter who later denies knowing Jesus – three times.

Peter, with all of his strength and bravery, is just like you and I. He is human and not perfect. And Peter’s humanness is reflected in his deserting Jesus in his time of need.

As I reflected on Peter’s actions I began to jot down some words for a song. Using the melody line from the song, Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don McLean, I penned this song. I titled it Peter’s Song (Lonely, Lonely Night). With apologies to Mr. McLean, I offer you the following as a personal reflection during Holy Week:

Peter’s Song
Lyrics by Dan Donnelly

Lonely, lonely night, lifeless corpse in silence lay
Christ abandoned, gone away are those who loved him more than faith would show
Mother’s love was true. At the cross she stayed with you
I just hid; what could I do as fear and darkness covered up my soul

I want to understand what you tried to say to me
How you’d suffer for humanity. How you’d die to set us free
I could not listen, I did not know how. Lord, help me listen now

Nailed upon a tree, stripped of all your dignity
I could not bear what I’d see; a bloody rose hung high between two thorns
What, Lord, did I do? I said would die for you
Love denied I turned from you; I turned my back when faith was needed most

But, my Lord, I love you, and I always will
And though no hope is left in sight on this lonely, lonely night
I pray you will forgive the things I do
I could have told you, Jesus
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

Lonely, lonely night, guarded tomb with boulder placed
How I long to see your face; to hold you in my arms and not let go
Speak to me, my Lord. Help me hear your healing words
Teach me, Lord, what I have heard. The words you wrote upon my aching heart

Help me understand what you tried to say to me
How you’d suffer for humanity. How you’d die to set us free
I could not listen, I did not know how
Lord, help me listen now

Wishing you a blessed Easter.

Deacon Dan

Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

Outside My Own Little World

The following is Deacon Dan’s homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sunday, January 16, 2011.

If you listen to Contemporary Christian Music on the radio, you’re probably familiar with the song “My Own Little World” by Matthew West (here’s a link to the song via YouTube). The song has received a lot of airtime this past year and is a good tie-in to today’s readings.

The song is a story of a man who is living inside his own little world, not very attentive to the needs of others. He feels comfortable and secure; all of his basic needs are being met. He has a faith life. He attends church each week and gives financially to the church (although he admits that he does not give sacrificially but from his excess). If he doesn’t like what he sees going on in the world he simply shuts off the news. He tunes out the rest of the world and focuses on one thing only – himself.

The story continues when the man describes an encounter he has with a homeless widow. The woman is begging by the side of the road. For all the man knows he may have passed by this woman on prior occasions and never really noticed her. But this time was different. The man noticed that the widow had a face, and he looks into her eyes. She moves him with her pain and suffering and he asks himself: “Lord, what have I been doing.” He acknowledges that he has been ignoring this woman (a symbol of all who are longing for love and compassion) and comes to this important revelation:

Maybe there’s a bigger picture.
Maybe he’s been missing out.
Maybe there’s a greater purpose he could be living right now.

He begins to understand that God’s Kingdom extends beyond his own little world. He begins to understand that living in the Kingdom of God is not about comfort, security or self. This story of self-discovery is a good lead-in to today’s readings.

If you were to brand today’s readings, you might borrow the U.S. Army recruiting program “Be all that you can be.” But I think a better slogan might be “Be all that you are called to be.”

We hear this in the First Reading. The prophet Isaiah foretells the mission of Christ by announcing “It is too little for you to [just] be my servant … I will make you light to the nations – that my salvation might reach to the ends of the earth.”

That’s how Christ lived his life. At the moment of his baptism (which we hear about again in today’s Gospel), Christ begins his public ministry. He is no longer just the carpenter’s son and a carpenter himself as he has been for the past 30 years. From this point forward, Jesus is all about doing his Father’s will, by sharing the Good News, teaching mercy and love, calling sinners to repent, and (ultimately) dying to free us from our sins. Christ understood his calling, his strengths and his gifts. He used them to be more than “just” a servant.

We hear a similar message in the Second Reading. In his introduction to his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we are “Called to be holy.” Another way to say this is: We are called to be like Christ. And indeed we are.

Each baptized Christian is another “Christ.” When we are baptized, we receive the same Holy Spirit as Christ. We are anointed priest, prophet and king as Christ is. And we share his same mission on earth: To do God’s will, and to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.

That is who we are – we are like Christ. That is what we are called to do – to live more fully and to live more holy.

If you get a chance this week, invest $1.29 on iTunes to download and listen to the song “My Own Little World.” Listen to the story as it unfolds. Listen to what is revealed to this man. Then, offer the same prayer to God that he does:

Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours
Open my stony heart and help make me holy. Help me to live your mercy and compassion.

Give me open hands and open doors
Help me to live my life more fully. Help me look and live beyond my own little world. Help me be more than a servant – help me to be Christ.

Put your light in my eyes and let me see
God, be my strength for the journey. Help me understand that the world in which we all live is bigger than me. Help make me a light to the nations.

My own little world is not about me.

That’s the “bigger picture.” That’s the “greater purpose.” That’s the path to holiness.

Copyright © Deacon Dan Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

Lord, Open My Lips …

I presided at a Benediction service the other night (Benediction is a devotional prayer service before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar). After the service, a friend approached me and commented on my closing prayer. She said she liked it and had never heard it before. I told her, “Honestly, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that prayer as well.” You see, my practice when I preside at such events is to pray from my heart at the end of the service and I don’t know what will be said until I speak. I just follow the words of the ancient psalmist:

“Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:17).

I simply let the Holy Spirit guide me in my prayer.

Sure, I get in the way of God’s grace a bit by giving the prayer some structure (a beginning, a middle and an end), but I truly never know what words God will give me to speak. This type of spontaneous prayer is powerful and I’ve found it to be very helpful in my ministry. It’s an invitation to allow God to do the talking; for me to get out of the way and let his message flow.

When you pray this way and take time to reflect on what you prayed, you can begin to detect patterns and themes in your prayer life. Your heart is often freer to speak the truth than your mind, which can get stifled by pride and supposition. Another way to “peek” into your heart is to journal by themes and expressions.

Most of the time when I journal, I am recording an event or feeling that I have experienced and write like I was writing a letter, using complete sentences and paragraphs. But some of the most interesting journaling I’ve done has been to write as quickly as I can to record the experience or feelings I have bottled up inside me. I forgo grammar and sentence structure and spill it all out there on paper. Messy as it may appear, it is an effective way of identifying the themes and issues that are affecting your life. It is those themes and issues that you can bundle up and present to God as prayers of the heart.

You might give this a try: Take a pad of paper and begin writing all of the thoughts (one to three words at the most per thought) that expresses where you are in your life – your joys, your concerns, your needs, your desires. Write freely; leave the analysis for a later time. Then, when you’ve emptied the well of thoughts and emotions, take time in prayer to identify recurring themes and issues. These are the areas where you might focus future prayer … and future spiritual counseling.

“Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.” I pray these words a lot – before counseling people, before preaching, before proclaiming the Word, before leading a meeting, before singing at Mass, etc. It’s a simple prayer and it is powerful. These are also the first words of the Invitatory – the first offering of prayer each morning in the Liturgy of the Hours. What a great way to start the day.

I heard Amy Grant sing her new song, “Better than a Hallelujah” on a television special not too long ago. (Here’s a link to one YouTube version of the song) It’s a beautiful song about how God loves us as we are and where we are. The refrain of the song is this:

“We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are; the honest cries of breaking hearts … are better than a Hallelujah.”

We all have thoughts and feelings bottled up inside of us. Some of them can be beneficial to us and others, and some can be harmful. But if the thoughts and feelings are of God, they will be beautiful. So let God speak in your prayer.

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

This Blog Post Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved. http://www.deacondan

Lessons Re-Learned from a Wise Man

Note: This blog originally posted June 23, 2009. It is being re-posted to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the passing of our dear friend and mentor, Rev. Jim Krings.

One of my fondest memories of Rev. James A Krings occurred at a Youth Mass several years ago. Prior to the Gospel, Fr. Krings encouraged us to listen closely to the words and to see if there was anything new that jumped out. I dutifully obliged and listened intently as he proclaimed the Gospel of Matthew about the visit by the Magi.

During his homily, Fr. Krings asked if anyone had heard anything new as they listened to this familiar reading. No one responded; the church was quiet, so I raised my hand and said, “Yes, I don’t think I ever heard the wise men referred to as “the old magi.” Fr. Krings paused for a moment, looked at me with confused look on his face, placed his glasses on his face, and returned to the ambo to consult the scriptures.

After a few seconds, he looked up from the Book of the Gospels, took off his glasses, smiled, and asked me “do you think maybe what you heard was ‘beHOLD’ Magi, not ‘the old’ magi?” My wife looked at me with one of those “you just had to open your mouth” looks and I sank down into the pew and felt like a Southwest Airlines commercial: “You wanna get away?” It was embarrassing, but quite funny!

The magi are also referred to as “wise men” which is what I have learned to appreciate Fr. Krings to be. He has a great gift of spirituality and continues to be a blessing to our community.

We had a prayer service for Fr. Krings last night that was well attended by at least 300 people. As we planned the prayer service I debated how to handle the prayer intentions. In formation, they suggested we never allow people to offer their own intentions during Mass as in doing so such prayers often get off target and become personal instead of being “universal” as intended. The model I was using to prepare the prayer service suggested leaving the prayer intentions open to those in attendance and to encourage them to pray for the groups and ideals that were important in the life of the person for whom the prayer service was being held. I followed the latter suggestion and held my breath when we got to that part of the service. I soon became overwhelmed by the outpouring of thankfulness expressed in the prayers of those who spoke up. It made me realize that we only see a microcosm of a person in our relationship with them, and that there are many (often wonderful) aspects of a person that we never get to experience.

Fr. Krings touched many lives in many ways. I realized last night that my understanding of the man is limited. I have so much to learn from this “wise” man.

The Three-Word Project

One of my favorite parts of writing a blog is interacting with the people who read the blog and comment on it. Most comments are favorable and most are heart-felt. That is the purpose of my blog – to help connect with people in their spiritual journey by sharing thoughts, observations and reflections. Telling and sharing stories is a great way to facilitate that spiritual give-and-take.

A couple of weeks ago I sent an e-mail to people in my electronic address book, asking them to share their thoughts with me about their relationship with God. Here’s what I wrote:

I am reading the book “How Big Is Your God” by the Jesuit priest, Paul Coutinho. In one of the chapters, Fr. Coutinho writes: “My experience of God can be summed up in three words: ‘You are mine.’” Without reading any further, I had a pretty good idea of the type of relationship the author had with God. It got me to thinking …

What three words might I use to describe my relationship with God over the years? I encourage you to take some time and make your own three-word lists to describe your experience of God. If you would, I invite you to send me a copy of your list. I will compile an anonymous list of three-word phrases and will share them in an upcoming blog post.

I was amazed with the response. People submitted hundreds of responses, which are listed below. Some responses are very insightful, a few somewhat humorous, and some a bit disturbing! (Note to self: You might want to exorcise some of the names in your address book.) It was interesting to pick out some of the common themes of the three-word phrases submitted: forgiveness, awe, dependency, love, trust, struggle, etc. I can honestly say that I have experienced most of the phrases on the list at one time or another in my life. For me, that reinforces two important things I have learned so far in life:

  1. We are not alone in our thoughts and desires. After all, we all came from the same mold (the image of God). While we tend to see the world from a limited perspective (our own), many other people are experiencing similar events and feelings in their lives. While we are unique in our God-given gifts, we are all part of the “one body” that St. Paul preaches about.
  2. Our relationship with God changes over time. God never changes, but we do. And, thank heavens, God is always willing to meet us where we are. He is always calling us to him and isn’t opposed to stretching his arms a bit to reach out to us in times of need.

I invite you to take some time to read and reflect on the phrases people have shared with me. Try to identify the times and circumstances when you experienced similar feelings in you relationship with God. Think of all of the times God has reached out to help you, has taken you back when you’ve fallen to sin, and has been there beside you when you didn’t even notice. This type of reflection may lead to a new three-word phrase: Praise The Lord!

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

Deacon Dan

How Others Have Experienced God in Their Lives:

  1. A Calming Source
  2. A God Nearby
  3. A Servant’s Heart
  4. A Wrestling Match
  5. Abide in Me
  6. All I Need
  7. All In All
  8. Alpha And Omega
  9. Always With Me
  10. Always With You
  11. And You Are?
  12. Are You Kidding?
  13. Be At Peace
  14. Be Lifted High
  15. Be My Desire
  16. Be My Light
  17. Be My Shepherd
  18. Be Not Afraid
  19. Be On Fire
  20. Beginning And End
  21. Behold The Lamb
  22. Believe In Me
  23. Body Of Christ
  24. Breathed His Last
  25. Bring It On
  26. Bring Us Back
  27. By My Side
  28. Child Of God
  29. Christ Be Praised
  30. Christ, Have Mercy
  31. Christ Our Light
  32. Come, Follow Me
  33. Come, Holy Spirit
  34. Come, Lord Jesus
  35. Count Me In
  36. Creation Is Awesome
  37. Daily Prayer Partner
  38. Day By Day
  39. Died. Risen. Saved.
  40. Don’t Give In
  41. Don’t Give Up
  42. Don’t Be Lazy
  43. Dude, You’re Awesome!
  44. Eat And Drink
  45. Ever And Ever
  46. Ever-Living God
  47. Faith. Hope. Charity.
  48. Father. Son. Spirit.
  49. Fear No Evil
  50. Feed God’s Lambs
  51. Flood My Soul
  52. Foolish Little Boy
  53. For Your People
  54. Forgive Our Sins
  55. Give of Self
  56. Give Us Life
  57. Gives Me Patience
  58. Gives Me Strength
  59. Go For It
  60. God Be Glorified
  61. God Carries Me!
  62. God is Great
  63. God Is Love
  64. God’s Gotta Plan
  65. Good Morning, Lord
  66. Good Night, Lord
  67. Grant Me Peace
  68. Happily Ever After
  69. He Is Near
  70. He Loves Me
  71. Help Me See
  72. Here I Am
  73. Hey, You Listening?
  74. Higher And Higher
  75. Holy Spirit, Come
  76. Holy, Holy, Holy
  77. Hope In Me
  78. I Am Forgiven
  79. I AM Here
  80. I Am Here
  81. I Am Not
  82. I Am Saved
  83. I Am With You
  84. I Find Peace
  85. I Love You
  86. I Miss You
  87. I Need You
  88. I Surrender All
  89. I Trust You
  90. I Trust You
  91. I Will Follow
  92. I Will Lead
  93. I Will Listen
  94. I’ll Be There
  95. I’m Always Here
  96. I’ve Missed You
  97. In Christ Alone
  98. In Due Time
  99. In His Care
  100. In His Love
  101. In His Presence
  102. In My Heart
  103. In The Beginning
  104. In The Moment
  105. In Your Grace
  106. In Your Hands
  107. In Every Being
  108. Into Your Hands
  109. Is It I?
  110. It Is Finished
  111. It’s All Right
  112. It’s Just Begun
  113. It’s My Responsibility
  114. Jesus Loves Me
  115. Jesus Loves You
  116. Jesus, Mary, Joseph
  117. Joy. Joy. Joy.
  118. Just Be Patient
  119. Just Let Go
  120. Just Love Me
  121. Keep Me Safe
  122. Keep On Truckin’
  123. Keep The Faith
  124. Kind And Merciful
  125. Lamp Shining Brightly
  126. Lead Me, Lord
  127. Less Of Me
  128. Let God Arise
  129. Let It Be
  130. Let It Flow
  131. Let It Go
  132. Let Me Help
  133. Let’s Start Again
  134. Lift Me Higher
  135. Light of Christ
  136. Light The Fire
  137. Live In Me
  138. Lord, Have Mercy
  139. Lost Without You
  140. Love Came Down
  141. Love is Kind
  142. Love Is Patient
  143. Love Poured Out
  144. Love, Love, Love
  145. Man In Charge
  146. Man Up, Dude
  147. Maybe You’re Right
  148. Me No Understand
  149. Mean Old Man
  150. More Of You
  151. My Beloved Child
  152. My Best Friend
  153. My Everlasting Joy
  154. My Grace’s Enough
  155. My One Desire
  156. My Only One
  157. My Resting Place
  158. My Sacred Space
  159. My Shining Light
  160. Nature Is Amazing!
  161. Never Forsake You
  162. Never Let Go
  163. No You Didn’t
  164. No You Don’t
  165. No, This Way
  166. Not You Again
  167. O Happy Day
  168. Offer It Up
  169. On The Rise
  170. One More Time
  171. Open My Eyes
  172. Open My Heart
  173. Our Dwelling Place
  174. Our God Reigns
  175. Pardon Our Sins
  176. Patience, My Child
  177. Pillar Of Fire
  178. Pour It Out
  179. Pray For Us
  180. Pray With Me
  181. Prayer Life Peace
  182. Priest. Prophet. King.
  183. Protect The Vine
  184. Purify My Heart
  185. Reign In Me
  186. Remember Your People
  187. Rest In Me
  188. Rich In Kindness
  189. Seek His Blessing
  190. Seize The Cross
  191. Sharp Turn Ahead
  192. Show Me Mercy
  193. Snip, Snip, Prune
  194. Stay With Me
  195. Step By Step
  196. Teach Me Love
  197. Tend The Vineyard
  198. Tend This Vine
  199. Thank You, Lord
  200. The Big Guy
  201. The Devil Lost
  202. The Prime Giver
  203. There For Me
  204. There For Me
  205. This Will Pass
  206. Told You So
  207. Trust In Me
  208. United In Christ
  209. Waiting For Me
  210. We Are Saved
  211. What ‘Cha Doing?
  212. Where Are You
  213. Where Are You?
  214. Where You Been?
  215. Why Not Ask?
  216. Will Always Listen!
  217. Will You Follow?
  218. Word Among Us
  219. You Above All
  220. You Are Forgiven
  221. You Are God
  222. You Are Holy
  223. You Are Loved
  224. You Are Mighty
  225. You Are Worthy
  226. You Complete Me
  227. You Did What?
  228. You Lead Me
  229. You Or Me?
  230. Your Love’s Extravagant

This Blog Post Copyright Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.