Tag Archives: Evangelization

Set Your Parish on Fire

Sacred Heart 20It’s been a while –– I’ve stopped writing our my homilies and recording them has been a bit challenging, so there hasn’t been much to post. I’ll work on it. In the meantime, I’ve added some other audio files.

Last week I gave a Parish Lenten Mission for Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, Alberta based around the book Divine Renovation and the current need for Parish transformation –– moving toward a missionary dynamic in the Parish. The Mission took place on March 5 & 6 (2018). Below are the two talks.

Talk 1 (45 mins.)

Talk 2 (73 mins.)

I welcome your feedback. Enjoy!

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Homily – Sunday OT 14 C


Is 66:10-14
Ps 66         R/. Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth.
Gal 6:14-18
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20


In our Gospel today, Luke recounts the second of three times Jesus sent His disciples on a missions to evangelise. The first was to the Apostles (Lk 9); the third will be during the Last supper (Lk 22).

In each sending out, Jesus uses almost exactly the same language, and He focuses their task on the same object: to make disciples by proclaiming the Good News.

When we examine today’s Gospel text in correlation to the other two commissions, we begin to notice a few key things.

First, we notice that Jesus sends the disciples to prepare His way: [He] sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go (Lk 10:1). The mission of the disciples was to go ahead of Jesus and open the hearts of the people so that when Jesus arrived, they would be ready to hear Him and encounter Him. [C]ure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Lk 10:9). This almost echoes the role John the Baptist had in preparing the way of the Lord.

Second, we notice that Jesus wants His message proclaimed to everyone, no exceptions. In Genesis 10, we hear that there were 70 nations in the world besides Israel. Choosing 70 missionaries is symbolic of their going out to all nations, which Jesus will make explicit in His last words to the disciples before He ascends to the Father (Lk 24:47). The harvest is plentiful (Lk 10:2), and the disciples are to go to everyone who will welcome their words and listen.

Third, we notice that this mission is urgent: greet no one on the road (Lk 10:4). Focus on your mission, Jesus was saying; don’t get distracted. This is also part of why Jesus tells them not to bring anything with them. Don’t worry about your needs, they will only distract you from your work; I will take care of all your needs. This mission was also a lesson in Divine Providence.

Lastly, but most importantly, we notice that disciples are called to progress in the faith. When Jesus first began to preach, many people gathered around Him to listen. As He continued, some began to believe in Him and live according to His words; some even began to follow Him around. The word ‘disciple’ means student, and well describes the beginning of the Christian life. Disciples are called to listen to Jesus, to learn from Him and to follow in His ways.

But in this second mission, Jesus is calling out some of the disciples to advance in their relationship with Him. He calls them to move from being ‘students’ to become teachers themselves, as He gives them a mission to go out and preach the Good News. That’s because there’s a necessary progression in the life of faith to move from merely following Jesus (being a student) to one of announcing Jesus to others (being a missionary).

As disciples we’re called to learn from Jesus, allowing Him to change our hearts and minds. But once transformed, we’re called to grow from being a ‘disciple’ to being a ‘missionary disciple’. Each and every baptised person is called to be a missionary, to go out and help others to know and experience the love of Jesus; this is the basic mission of every Christian! Jesus calls us to Himself so that we might go out!

My brothers and sisters, the sending out of the 70 is our sending out; their mission is our mission. Are we ready to go out and preach Jesus to others? Do we know Him well enough to do that? Do we trust Him enough?

This is what Pope Francis keeps telling us. But in order to embrace this mission, in order to grow from being a disciple to being a missionary disciple, we ourselves must first be transformed by the love and grace of Jesus.

As we ponder this mission today, may we turn to Jesus asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that we might grow in faith and in our experience of His love and be faithful to the mission He gives us. Amen.PopeFrancis_Missionaries

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Homily – Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47         R/. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Eph 1:17-23
Mt 28:16-20
Illumination from the Drogon Missal (Metz), ca. 845-855 AD.

Illumination from the Drogon Missal (Metz), ca. 845-855.

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, the feast of the “the final act of our redemption” (JPII), whereby Christ returned to the Father to prepare a place for us (Jn 14:1-3). You see, the Ascension is really the culmination of the Incarnation. Jesus took up our flesh and our nature so that He might unite it to God. In the Ascension, Jesus brings that very nature and flesh into the presence of God for all eternity. In Baptism, we were joined to Christ, we were made members of His Body; that means, then, that Jesus brought us into Heaven with Him as He ascends to the Father. Think about that for a moment! Through Baptism, we already have a share, even now, of Heaven!

As we reflect on this great feast and mystery, I want to share with you some of Saint Pope John Paul II’s thoughts from a homily he gave for the Ascension (24 May 1979).

Reflecting on the readings associated with this feast, he found that “the richness of this mystery” can be summarized “in two statements: Jesus gave instructions, and then Jesus took his place” (JPII). I want to focus on the first statement, ‘Jesus gave instructions’.

*          *          *

In the days that followed the Resurrection, Jesus helped the Apostles to understand what had taken place over the first Holy Week, why He had to suffer and die, and what He had taught them.

Now, in His last moments on earth, Jesus commanded the Apostles to be [His] witnesses … to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), and to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Jesus gave them, and through them, the whole community of believers, the Church, the mission to share the Gospel, to evangelize the world. He instructs (commands) us to continue His mission!

But, as St. John Paul II wisely points out, “The instructions indicated, above all, that the Apostles were to wait for the Holy Spirit, who was the gift of the Father [cf. Acts 1:4]. From the beginning, it had to be crystal-clear that the source of the Apostles’ strength is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the way of truth; the Gospel is to spread through the power of God, and not by means of human wisdom or strength” (JPII).

My brothers and sisters, our mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world is rooted not merely in our own encounter with Him and the joy that this relationship brings us, but more importantly, it’s rooted in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that we received in Baptism and Confirmation.

It’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the zeal, the joy, the wisdom, the courage, the fidelity, and the words that we’ll need — when we need — to fulfill this mission of evangelisation, this mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. “Like Jesus, [we, too, are] to speak explicitly about the Kingdom of God and about salvation. [We, too, are] to give witness to Christ to the ends of the earth. The early Church clearly understood these instructions and the missionary era began” (JPII).

My brothers and sister, we — you and I, today! —, we need to rediscover this missionary era! This is what the Church means when she speaks of a time for a ‘new evangelisation’. We need once again to proclaim the Good News and salvation of Jesus Christ, each one of us!

But if we’re to do that, then it means that we ourselves first need to rediscover this beautiful gift. We ourselves first need to be renewed in the love and mercy of God, and re-strengthened with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And this isn’t an ‘optional’ part of being a disciple of Christ! If we truly believe what we profess by coming to Mass; if we truly believe what we say in the Creed; if we truly believe that Jesus is our Lord and God, and that He saves us by His Body and Blood, then we have a moral and religious obligation to share that salvation with others, because God wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4; cf. 2 Pet 3:9). We believe because we believe it to be true; so if it’s the truth, then how could we ever keep it to ourselves?! And so, with this command to preach the Gospel, Jesus shares His mission of saving the world with the Church, with each one of us who follow Him.

"The Ascension", illumination from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 184r at the Musée Condé (Chantilly), ca. 1410.

“The Ascension”, illumination from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 184r at the Musée Condé (Chantilly), ca. 1410.

That’s why it’s vital for each one of us to know Jesus, to know Him personally, and to always continue learning more about Him and about what He’s done for us. And there are really only three ways in which this knowledge of Jesus can be gained:

First, through prayer. We need to spend time with Jesus in order to get to know Him; we need to be with Him, to speak with Him, to listen to Him. A relationship can only be built through time and conversation, so if we’re to grow in our love and knowledge of Jesus, then we need make time to pray, every day.

Second, through Scripture. St. Jerome, the great Bible scholar once said, ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ’. So if we’re to know who Jesus is and what He’s done for us, then we need to read the Bible. I recommend beginning with the New Testament, and then going back into the Old Testament for a deeper understanding. And since the Bible is the Word of God, reading it with prayer is a great way of discovering and listening to God’s voice.

Third, through the Saints. If prayer is conversation with Christ, and Scripture is His Word to speaking to us, then listening to what the Saints have to say about their life with Jesus is like talking with His family and friends. Our knowledge of Jesus and our intimacy with Him can grow tremendously through a dialogue with the Saints, by reading about their lives and experiences, and by feeding our prayer life with their spiritual writings.

And so these three things: prayer, Scripture and the Saints – these are the principal means of deepening our relationship with Jesus and strengthening our love for Him; these are the tools required for our mission of evangelization, for bearing faithful witness to who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. But of course, as St. John Paul II reminds us, all of this is rooted in the Holy Spirit working in our lives, giving us the grace to grow in faith, in love, in holiness, and increasing our capacity to be faithful and courageous witnesses in the world, for the world.

This is the vocation of the whole Church, not just of the clergy, but of all the baptised. “This is the mystery of the Ascension of [the Lord]. Let us always remember: Jesus gave instructions, and then Jesus took his place” (JPII). May we be faithful to that instruction, and so come to share in the place He has prepared for us. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday OT 31 C


Ws 11:22-12:2
Ps 145       R/.  I will bless your name for ever, my King and my God.
2 Thess 1:11-2:2
Lk 19:1-10

When I was a young boy, we had a series of little comic books about the Bible — now you can get them in one volume, called the Action Bible.  My brothers and I would read these little books all the time.  It’s actually the way I learned all my Bible stories, and I still remember them today because of that.  But there was always one New Testament passage that got my attention over and over again: Man in a Tree.

Me at the beginning of my climbing phase (18 mos.)

Me at the beginning of my climbing phase (18 mos.)

You see, I was a small short kid, so I completely identified with Zacchaeus not being able to see Jesus over the crowd.  I also loved to climb things: trees, sheds, bookcases, scaffolding, houses…  So this story about a short man in a tree captivated me, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Zacchaeus.

As I grew up, other aspects of this passage came to life for me.  I realised that Jesus called Zacchaeus by name the first time He spoke to him.  It’s as if Jesus already knew him.  Then, the math didn’t make any sense to me: half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I’ve defrauded anyone … I will pay back four times as much (v. 8).  Either he was a good investor or a bad counter, because giving back four times what he took with only half of his money left…?  It just didn’t add up for me.

But as I began to study Scripture in the seminary, this passage, and many others like it, began to open up to a deeper content.  Now, it’s not that there was anything hidden in the story; it’s all completely visible, I just didn’t know to see it.

You see — and I’ve said this several times already since I’ve been here —, Bible passages must always be read within their context: the immediate context of the chapter and the specific book, but also in their wider context of the whole Bible.  And for Zacchaeus’ story, this give us so much!

By this time in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is on His final journey to Jerusalem where He will be crucified.  He knows this very clearly, because He’s already talked to His disciples about it three times (Lk 9:22; 9:44; 18:31-33).  And the closer He gets to Jerusalem, the stronger His language becomes.

In the paragraph before today’s story, Jesus arrived at Jericho (Zacchaeus’ town) and He healed a blind man who had been crying out: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me! (Lk 18:38). You probably remember the story.  Now a crowd had already been following Jesus, but now with the healing, you can imagine the crowd got bigger.  And this is where we meet Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus may already have heard about Jesus before, but Luke gives us the impression that he certainly heard about the healing: He was trying to see who Jesus was (v. 3).  Zacchaeus’ interest was piqued by what he had heard about Jesus, and he wanted to know who this man was, who could heal the blind.  And clearly his curiosity was quite strong; it’s not everyday that an adult would run ahead and climb a tree (cf. v. 4) to see who’s passing by.

Now that’s just Zacchaeus’ actions.  Jesus’ actions are all the more powerful!  Notice how Jesus calls him by name: Zacchaeus, hurry and come down (v. 5).  Again, Jesus looked at him with the heart of God, and loved him.  That’s why he then proceeded, not to condemn him for being a sinner, a tax-collector, but rather welcomed him and invited Himself over: I must stay at your house today (v. 5). Zacchaeus met Jesus, and Jesus welcomed him; Jesus accepted Zacchaeus and loved him despite his sins.  Think on that for a minute!  Whereas the crowd grumbled and rejected Zacchaeus, Jesus accepted and loved him despite his sins.

No wonder Zacchaeus got so excited and generous in his response!  See what love does!  See what God’s grace does to the sinner!  That’s why Jesus said he came to seek out and to save the lost (Lk 19:10).  Love brings to conversion when it’s encountered.  Jesus welcomed Zacchaeus, whom He already loved; and Zacchaeus, through that loving welcome, encountered the generous love of God, and immediately repented of his sins and changed his life.  That’s why Jesus was able to say: Today, salvation has come to this house (v. 9). Encountering Jesus Christ brings with it conversion; repentance brings with it salvation.  This is the beautiful gift that our Lord came to bring us!  This is the Good News!

Encounter with Christ is why we have the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist; it’s why we have so much Scripture at Mass; it’s why we really do need to daily spend time in prayer.  Repentance is why we acknowledging our sins by beginning each Mass with the Penitential Act; it’s why we have Confession.  And we gather for the Eucharist as a community so that we may also encounter Jesus in and through each other.  All of this works for our salvation.

But we also need to become ‘encounters’ for others.  How many people do you think Zacchaeus told about his meeting with Jesus?  How many people do you think he told about having Him over as a houseguest?  We too need to talk about our faith, but not so much about the doctrines of our faith.  As Pope Francis recently said, doctrine doesn’t make sense without knowing Christ (“Interview with Pope Francis”, La Repubblica, 9 October 2013).  Rather, we need to talk about the experiences we’ve had of Christ, who continues to welcome us and work in us.  This is our mission as disciples: to share the encounter we’ve had of Jesus with everyone around us.

But to do this, we must imitate Jesus: we are not to condemn the sinner, but to welcome and love him.  Now that doesn’t mean we put up with sin; but we do put up with people, people who are loved by God, and so should be loved by us also.  Who knows what that Love will do?  Who knows what that encounter with Jesus will do in their hearts?  Maybe, like Zacchaeus, they too will repent and respond with a generous love for God.  Amen.

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