Category Archives: Gifts & Strengths

Jesus as Priest, Prophet and King

19391805My Homily from November 24, 2013 – Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Today we celebrate what has traditionally been known as the Feast of Christ the King, a day that we recall the fullness of our relationship with Jesus. It would be good for us to reflect on that relationship. Here are two key points we should remember:

  1. Our relationship with Christ is multi-dimensional
  2. It’s a relationship that is supposed to grow over time

We are first introduced to the different dimensions of our relationship with Christ when we are baptized. During the baptism, the celebrant anoints us with the Oil of Chrism and prays, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

Beginning on the day we enter the Church we are called to live like Christ – Priest, Prophet, and King. But how do we do that? It may be helpful to get a better understanding of these terms: Priest, Prophet and King.

A simple definition of a priest is one who serves as a bridge or mediator between God and humankind. It’s easy to understand Jesus as priest when we think of “bridge” or “mediator”

  • He is God who became man to draw us closer to him
  • He taught us to remember his love for us in our Eucharist celebration (“Do this in memory of me”)
  • He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us on our spiritual journey
  • He continues to mediate for us (to plead for us) to His Father

So, how do we live out our vocation as priest, like Christ?

  • When we participate in the sacramental life (when we gather in His name to connect with each other and with God)
  • When we cultivate a personal prayer life (our prayers can be a two-way bridge to make our concerns known to God and to receive back God’s grace and blessings in our life)
  • When we introduce Christ to others (we can be a bridge to Christ for others)

All of these things help us connect with God

A prophet is a messenger sent by God – one who speaks for God. Jesus is the last and the ultimate prophet. Not only is he a messenger sent by God (to remind us of God’s unconditional love), Jesus IS God, the Word Made Flesh.

So, how do we live out our vocation as prophet, like Jesus?

  • By embracing opportunities to grow in our faith and share that faith with others (we develop a habit of lifelong learning)
  • By inviting others to join in the life of our faith and the life of our parish (there is no better way to help spread the Word of God than to invite others to see and hear God’s word in action)

We might be a little less familiar with the concept of “king.” Our reference is often works of fiction or dark history. We may think of kings as selfish or deceitful rulers. Or we may think of them overburdening people with taxes and other requirements. But Jesus gives us a different (a better) model of what it means to be king.

A king is a person who has superior authority over a territory. But what is Jesus territory? Where does he proclaim superiority over us? The answer is in today’s Gospel. The territory that Jesus claims as his own is our hearts.

After being mocked as “King of the Jews,” Jesus chooses the Cross as his royal throne. His royal office is not judgment or condemnation (but to forgive the repentant sinner). Jesus teaches us that he is willing to forgive anyone, to love anyone, to serve anyone. All he asks from us is our hearts.

So what is Jesus, the King, teaching us?

  • He is teaching us humility and care for others
  • He is teaching us love and forgiveness
  • He is teaching us to serve others with the heart of a servant

And, how do we live out our vocation as King, like Jesus?

  • By being loving, caring and respectful to others
  • By sharing our gifts generously in the spirit of service
  • By forgiving others … and by being willing to accept forgiveness

We will soon turn our thoughts to the Eucharistic Feast, where our relationship with Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King will all come together. As we listen to today’s prayers, may our hearts be open to all that:

  • Connects us to God
  • Engages us in service to our parish and the world we live in
  • And reminds us of our call to love one another

This week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take some time to be thankful for the times in your life when you have been willing to forgive, and The times in your life when you were willing to accept forgiveness.

May our prayerful reflection help us all grow closer to the God 

Peace be with you!

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!

Ask and You Shall Receive

The following is a summary of Deacon Dan’s homily for July 24, 2011 – the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

One of the recurring themes in old movies and cartoons is the Genie in the Lamp. The story goes that if you find a magic lamp and rub it three times, a Genie will appear and, out of gratitude for being liberated from the lamp, will grant you three wishes. In movies and cartoons, the person who has been granted the three wishes typically asks for the same things. First, they ask for all the power and wealth in the world. Second, they ask to live forever. Third (if they are smarter than the Genie), they ask for an unlimited number of additional wishes.

God takes a different approach with Solomon in our first reading. God tells Solomon “Ask something [to paraphrase: ‘Ask one thing’] of me and I will give it to you.”

Solomon responds not by asking for power or riches. He doesn’t ask for eternal life. Instead, Solomon asks for help. He knows that God has asked a lot of him to lead his people. He knows that he cannot do God’s will without God’s help. So, what Solomon asks for is the “Heart of a Servant.” He asks for an understanding heart – with the ability to judge wisely, to distinguish right from wrong, and to serve God’s people well. This pleases God and God promises Solomon a “heart so wise and understanding.” God promises Solomon wisdom the world has never known before – and will never know again. This, I believe, is a great lesson in humility and surrender to God’s will. And it’s a lesson of how we can grow closer to God by asking and receiving.

This reminds me of a personal experience I had some years ago. While traveling to San Antonio for business, a thought came to me. As I was walking back to the hotel after dinner one night, I heard clearly in my mind the question: “What gift can I give to the one who gives everything?” That same question kept coming to mind as I returned to my hotel. Excited that God was speaking to me through the Holy Spirit, I returned to my hotel room and jotted down that question in my prayer journal. “What gift can I give to the one who gives everything?” Then I sat and waited for the answer. And waited. And waited. But nothing came to me that night. God had planted the question in my head (and my heart) and, over time, I would pray and reflect on the answer.

Over time, the question was expanded to “What gift can I give to the one who gives everything? What treasure do I posses that would glorify my King?” That question led me to write the song “The Heart of a Servant.” I learned that what God was asking me was to give back to him all of the gifts, the strengths and treasures he had so graciously given me. I think that is true for all of us.

The song “The Heart of a Servant” became my theme song and prayer during my formation to become a deacon. I dedicated the song to my ordination class (“The Great Class of 2007”) and was asked by Archbishop (now Cardinal) Burke to sing it for him at a dinner he hosted for my class just before ordination. And the real miracle to the story is this: Archbishop Burke ordained me even AFTER he heard me sing!

The refrain of the song is what I used as my prayer at ordination. And if you ever get a copy of one of my “Deacon Dan” business cards, that prayer/refrain is what appears on the back:

“I give you my heart, the heart of a servant, Lord. I give you my joyfulness, my brokenness – every thing I am. May I grow to know and love you and serve the ones you love. Day by day, this I pray: To give you my heart – the heart of a servant.”

In my life, that’s the treasure I have found: The desire to accept, to grow, and to nurture a heart like Christ’s.

We hear about treasure in today’s Gospel. Jesus tells his disciples:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.”

The idea of hiding a treasure in a field may seem odd to us today with the advent of banks, safety deposit boxes, personal safes, etc. But in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.

The key point in this reading is that the person who found the treasure invested everything he had to secure that treasure – to make it his own.

So it is with our faith. Once we discover our faith, we answer our call to grow closer to God – every day and in every way. We answer God’s call to know him, love him and serve him by investing all that we own (our hearts, our minds, our words and our actions) to secure that treasure. We want to do this, but sometimes life gets in the way.

But we can overcome the obstacles that keep us from God by following the example of God and Solomon:

  1. Take it one day at a time
  2. Ask for one thing at a time
  3. Move closer to God one step at a time

Growing in our faith is a lifelong process. It reminds me of the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”

I encourage you to spend some time in prayer this week. Pray and reflect about the treasure God has given you in your life – your strengths, your gifts of the Spirit, your talents and abilities. Then, follow the advice of Michael Fonseca (a former Jesuit priest).

In his book, Living in God’s Embrace: The Practice of Spiritual Intimacy, Fonseca invites readers in one of the spiritual exercises (Exercise Forty-One: Discipleship) to:

“Imagine yourself in a setting that is familiar to you where you meet Jesus in person. He looks into your eyes with a gaze that penetrates your being and dissolves camouflage and deceit. He asks you the question: ‘What do I need to do for you so that you can follow me with love and eagerness, beyond all fear and anxiety?’”

What is it that you need to let go of?

  • Fear of failure?
  • A painful experience from the past?
  • Sinful inclinations or actions?
  • Useless worry?
  • Resentment, anger, control?

Whatever that one thing is, NAME IT. Then turn it over to God and believe, like the wise Solomon, that God will give you what you need to overcome that obstacle.

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

2010 In Review

Thank you to all who have supported Deacon Dan’s Blog in the year 2010. I am committed to increasing the content in 2011.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,100 times in 2010. That’s about 12 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 27 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 48 posts. There were 119 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 23mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 25th with 169 views. The most popular post that day was “Believe What You Read”.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, catholicblogs.com, facebook.com, mail.live.com, and deacondan.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for let it go louie, stir up a fire, deacon dan donnelly saint louis, believe what you read teach what you believe, and making wise spiritual choices.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

“Believe What You Read” March 2010

2

Lord, Open My Lips … August 2010

3

Let It Go, Louie! March 2010

4

Stir Up the Fire September 2010

5

A Plan We Don’t Understand October 2010

Blessings to all for a Spirit-filled New Year!

Deacon Dan Donnelly