Last summer Lucia and I spent about 10 weeks in Hungary and Romania. As much as we love the people there and the work of the new evangelization it is hard to be there. To me their language is incomprehensible. We miss our family, our friends and our parish . . . While there we are aliens, foreigners.

Today’s Reading from the Prophet Isaiah was addressed to the Judean exiles living in Babylon as foreigners. But these scriptures were also written down for our instruction (1 Cor 10:11), they speak to us as well. You see, since Adam and Eve were exiled from paradise, much of human experience is fraught with alienation and rejection, fractured relationships and broken hearts. We are strangers and outcasts, it seems, even to ourselves. Burdened by sin, guilt and shame, we look for comfort in all the wrong places. And so the cycle continues and sin, guilt and shame increase.

Despite the pitiable condition of humanity the prophet climbs a high mountain and shouts at the top of his voice:
Here is your God! He comes with power. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom.
This season of Advent is a season to hope, a season of comfort. But some of you might say the LORD is not coming, I don’t see His power, I don’t feel His arms, and I’m not close to His bosom . . .
In the Reading from 2 Peter it is explained that what might look like a delay is really God’s patience. The LORD does not want you to perish, but rather that all should come to repentance! Go deeper this Advent. Press on! The LORD is coming!

Today the prophet Isaiah is crying out, our patron saint John the Baptist is crying out, Make a straight way! Not in the Judean or Saharan desert, not in the Gobi or Mojave desert. They’re crying out in the wasteland that is the human heart: straighten up, rectify your lives! Level that mountain of pride, fill in that valley of bitterness with compassion and mercy. Let that hard rugged land soften and become a heart of flesh.

People were being baptized by him as they acknowledged their sins. How much more should sins be acknowledged before the One who baptizes you with the Holy Spirit. Blessed John Paul the Great, in his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance, said there can be no conversion without the acknowledgment of one’s own sin. Acknowledging sin and receiving the LORD’S forgiveness in the Sacrament is what breaks the cycle of sin, guilt and shame.

This Monday evening at 7pm is our Advent Penance service. Let’s fill the Church this year. Let’s walk again on the road of conversion by acknowledging our own sin and receiving forgiveness from the LORD.
I hope to see all of you Monday night.

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JESUS PROPOSED ANOTHER PARABLE TO THE CROWDS
A Parable is a story full of illustrations from daily life that compares the things of heaven with things of earth. Its purpose is to reveal mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Another way of saying it this is: a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. In today’s gospel Jesus proposes not one but three parables to you. Each parable begins with the phrase:
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE
The Kingdom of Heaven is not a kingdom like Great Britain, whose monarch is a figurehead. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a kingdom with a self-declared monarch like Napoleon of France. The Kingdom of Heaven is certainly not a democracy, like the USA, where the will of the majority is the Law of the land. The Kingdom of heaven is the Reign and the rule of God. He alone reigns because He is the maker of heaven and earth; He is the Father of all; He alone is Lord; His word is Law. And while His reign and authority are absolute, neither is the Kingdom Heaven a reign of tyranny. As you heard in the 1st Reading (Wis 12:13, 16-19), His might is the source of justice, Yet He judges with clemency, and He governs us with much lenience. Let us look then at the three parables beginning with the second, the third and then we’ll come back to the first:
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED
The smallest of seeds sown in the field growing into the largest of trees speaks of the sudden, surprising, and unexpected growth of God’s kingdom throughout history. You have seen this type of growth here at the parish. One year ago there were fewer than two hundred families. More than eighty families have joined the parish – a forty percent increase – and I assure you it is not because of Fr. Bob’s or my good looks or athletic builds.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE YEAST MIXED WITH THREE MEASURES OF WHEAT FLOUR
The growth of the Kingdom of God, like the work of the yeast, is hidden but thorough. The kingdom of God contains within it the power that can renew and transform the whole world. This type of growth is hidden within each of you also. It is the power to transform a young man addicted to alcohol and drugs to a follower of Christ; it has the power to transform the life of a sinful woman into a woman who loves the Lord with all her heart and soul. And it has the power to transform your lives as well! Let’s return now to the first parable.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MAY BE LIKENED TO A MAN
Jesus is speaking of Himself, the Son of Man. He is the One who came from the bosom of the Father when the Word became flesh. He dwelt among us and was like us in every way but sin. This was an absolutely singular and unique event: God became Man in Jesus and in no one else. WHO SOWED GOOD SEED IN HIS FIELD
The good seed are the children of the kingdom those who received Him, who believed in Him, He gave power to become children of God (Jn 1:12). When you receive Him in Holy Communion He will come into your body. Believe in Him and invite Him into your heart and mind and like leaven He will begin the work of transformation in your life.
WHILE EVERYONE WAS ASLEEP HIS ENEMY CAME
The enemy is the devil, and he works at night. Like I’ve told my children many times: nothing good ever happens after midnight. So stay alert and be watchful.
AND SOWED WEEDS ALL THROUGH THE WHEAT
The weed referred to is darnel, which when young is amazingly similar in appearance to wheat. The devil sows in such a way so as to mix in error with truth. And the error, or the lie, is of course, presented as a good – just like he lied to Eve who saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom (Gen 3:5).
WHERE HAVE THE WEEDS COME FROM?
Or, why is there evil in the world? Why is the church filled with both saints and sinners? Even closer to home – why is there both good and evil in my life and yours? Here is the point, I believe, of the parable, the mystery of why God allows both good and evil:
HE REPLIED, ‘NO, IF YOU PULL UP THE WEEDS YOU MIGHT UPROOT THE WHEAT ALONG WITH THEM
The point of this parable is the incredible and enduring patience and mercy of God. He wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1Tim 2:4). Because God is slow to anger, (and) abounding in kindness, the final sorting will come when Christ Jesus appears in all his glory . . .
AT HARVEST TIME I WILL SAY TO THE HARVESTERS: COLLECT THE WEEDS AND TIE THEM IN BUNDLES FOR BURNING
There will be a time of judgment: the weeds will be pulled from the wheat; the goats separated from the sheep; and the sinner from the righteous – we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. So, brothers and sisters, let us live our lives for Him. And when the time comes may you hear the master say:
GATHER THE WHEAT INTO MY BARN . . .

About twenty three years ago our oldest daughter began her freshman year at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. We did the soccer and lacrosse matches, the choir performances and the parent / teacher conferences. And in the process we met quite a few of the teachers at the school. Two years later our second daughter began her high school career and she was followed by four more. (I think we hold some kind of record for continuance attendance by members of the same family : )

Children numbered two through six were inevitably greeted by teachers whom they had not yet met with the following : So, which Thomashefski are you? There was something about the way they looked, the way they spoke, the way they carried themselves, that immediately their teachers knew who their father was! What was said about me as I was growing up was said also about them: you’re a real chip off the old block!

This idiom can be used about the LORD: Jesus is a chip off the old block! In the Gospel today Jesus says:
Whoever Has Seen Me Has Seen The Father. By seeing and observing what Jesus taught, how He spoke, the way in which He related to others (especially the poor, the broken and the disenfranchised) we begin to come to know Him. Then the LORD says,
If You Know Me, Then You Will Also Know My Father.
Another way of saying this is, if you want to know the Father get to know His son, Jesus! When you get to know the Son, this is what you get to know about God the Father: you are unequivocally and irrevocably loved by your Father in heaven! God the Father did not, cannot and will not ever reject you or stop loving you. In Redemptoris Missio Blessed John Paul the Great says something like this: Jesus not only reveals to us who God is, He reveals to us who we are. Who you are is your identity. You are beloved sons and daughters of God the Father.

On this 2nd Sunday of Easter we have much to celebrate and rejoice over. I will speak briefly on the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday and the Beatification of the Blessed John Paul the Great. The Octave of Easter has been an eight day celebration of the single day of Easter. In the Gospel, when you hear that
HE SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND HIS SIDE you see and hear that Jesus mocked Death: It was He who descended to the abode of the dead and who tore down the gates of hell; it was He who bound the strong man and plundered his house; it was He who led a whole host in victory and who opened once again to humanity the Gates of Heaven! Death is fettered in chains, it is abolished, slain and destroyed. Oh risen Savior, dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life! Today, like then, when
HE CAME WHERE THE DISCIPLES WERE FOR FEAR . . . He comes to you in your place of fear: Are you afraid of suffering? Christ also suffered for you (1 Pt 2:21). Are you afraid of being rejected? He was despised and rejected by men (Is 53:3). Are you afraid of dying? He already has and We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him! (Rom 6:9) and so do not be afraid. On this Divine Mercy Sunday you see and hear that Jesus said
WHOSE SINS YOU FORGIVE ARE FORGIVEN THEM Jesus broke forever the stranglehold that sin had over the human race. Because of sin you were lost, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God (Eph 2:12). But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our sins brought us to life with Christ (Eph 2:4). Jesus said to St. Faustina, That day the very depths of my tender mercy is open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the font of mercy. The unfathomable wellspring of mercy and the fountainhead of God’s love is open to you today! On this day of the Beatification of the Blessed John Paul the Great how fitting these words from today’s Gospel:
THE DOORS WERE LOCKED . . . JESUS CAME AND STOOD IN THEIR MIDST
.
There is no stone so heavy that can keep Him in the tomb. Do not for a moment think that when Christ rose from dead he had to lean against the stone and struggle to push it aside. NO! The angel moved it so the women and the disciples could look inside! His risen body passed through the tomb just as it passed through those closed doors. There is no door so locked
that can keep Him out. No door except one, the door to your heart. When he died, John Paul the Great had sat on Peter’s Chair for half my life. He is my hero! Beginning and throughout his pontificate he proclaimed these words: Open wide the doors for Christ! On this wonderful Octave of Easter, on this Mercy Sunday, on this beatification day of Blessed John Paul II, may every one of you

Open wide the doors for Christ!

After listening to the First Reading I’m thinking: Isn’t it good that God doesn’t judge like men do? Men judge by looking on the outside: who’s the tallest, strongest, smartest, sexiest, richest or the most influential. Thank God He judges by looking at what’s on the inside!
Out of all the cast of characters seen in the Gospel, parents, neighbors, members of the synagogue and also the Pharisees, Jesus chose the man born blind. Like the man in today’s Gospel you also are born blind from birth: Blind to the existence of the world where God reigns; where love prevails; where light, and goodness, and truth and beauty blaze like a million suns. The world where myriads of angels delight in doing God’s will; the world that knows no end; the world where there is no darkness, sadness, suffering and death. This is the world you were created for, the world for which your heart aches and your eyes long to see. This is the world you can’t see until you wash in the Pool of Siloam. Until you are united in baptism to the One who was sent from God. At Baptism your eyes were opened and you began the journey of growing in faith. Today’s Gospel shows you some of the steps on that journey: When questioned by his neighbors on how his eyes were opened the man born blind said,
THE MAN CALLED JESUS MADE CLAY AND ANOINTED MY EYES.
In the beginning, for the blind man, and maybe also for you Jesus is no more than a man. Maybe a good man, maybe even a great man, but just a man. After he began to see the Pharisees questioned him by asking,

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HIM? He said, He is a prophet. He takes a step forward. He understands that Jesus is sent from God. But Muslims and people of other religions would agree that Jesus was a Prophet. After being thrown out of the synagogue,
JESUS FOUND HIM The man born blind was not looking for Jesus but Jesus was looking for him! In your journey of faith you might now not be looking for Jesus. But let me clue you in – Jesus is looking for you. Jesus asks him,
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SON OF MAN? He said, I do believe, Lord, and he worshiped him. The man formerly blind recognizes Him as his Lord and God and worships Him. To move along on this journey of faith you must know Jesus personally. In the words of Pope Benedict this is the journey of faith,

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus
. . . may this happen to each one of us!
(October 21, 2009)

TODAY’S SCRIPTURES SPEAK ABOUT THE PROBLEM OF SIN
The Reading from Genesis portrays the pattern of the Original Sin.
Adam and Eve exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rm 1:25). God said,” You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad, for the moment you eat from it you’re surely doomed to die.” They believed the creature, the devil, whom they knew was not God, who said, You will not die your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like gods! All temptation begins with an empty promise and then proceeds through three modes of suggestion, delight, and finally, consent.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans describes the scope of the Original Sin: Sin is a dreadful power that has gripped all of humanity. After one sin there was judgment that brought condemnation and now, through one man’s sin Death now reigns over the entire human race. The devil, through fear of death, wields power: He holds the human race in captivity, so that all his subjects are slaves to sin for their entire lives. Adam and Eve’s Original Sin is passed down through the generations. All of their descendants are now in revolt against the Creator. They’re engaged in the exaltation of their own desires and interests. The culture of death wants to create its own reality apart from God. Everyone wants to decide right and what wrong for themselves.
In the Gospel the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted.
The New Testament Greek to lead has the connotation of being set loose or launched . . . Jesus didn’t go into the desert – that enemy camp where demons dwell – to find Himself or to overcome His personal demons. Jesus went into the desert to do battle! Through fasting He regained what Adam, in the garden, lost through feasting. Through prayer He conquered the demons that enslave you; He gained the victory over your sins and failings; and overcame that which separates you from God and one another.  In the desert Jesus launched His triumphant march through enemy territory that will, on Good Friday, lead Him to the place of the final battle. Where, for your sake and friendship, He laid down His life in death . . .

In preparing for this homily I discovered that there are over 14,000 uses for salt in our lives. I thought I’d mention just the first thousand or so! Salt adds flavor. It’s the most widely used of all food preservatives. Salt softens water and is used to keep roads and sidewalks passable. It cleanses wounds and is used for intravenous saline solutions. It’s used in manufacturing, medicine and drilling. Your blood is almost one percent salt and maintains the electrolyte balance in your body. To put it simply: salt is essential for life! When Jesus says that
You are the salt of the earth He is saying that in this tasteless culture which is opposed to God and promotes death, the practice of your Catholic Faith is essential in adding flavor, preserving, purifying, and renewing this world and bringing salvation to men and women everywhere. But the Gospel also contains a warning:
If salt loses its taste it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out. How can you maintain that saltiness? In Baptism you were made to share in Christ’s life and ministry as priest, prophet, and king. As Priest, Christ offered Himself to the Father on the Cross. So you offer to the Father sacrifices of love that are required of you in marriage and family life, in living as a single, or widowed or divorced person. You offer the successes and failures at work. You offer the pains of rejection, broken relationships, and even your times of recreation. You offer your prayers and suffering to God, especially at Mass, when the Lord, through the priesthood of Fr. Bob, offers Himself to the Father. As Prophet, Christ proclaimed the Good News of salvation. Like St. Paul in weakness and fear and much trembling, with words and action you witness to the reason of your hope in Christ and the Gospel. Finally, as King, Christ exercised His reign over heaven and earth not by being served but by being a servant to all. So dear friends, you are called to serve: the poor, the rejected, the elderly, the sick, the broken, the hungry and the homeless. The salt you add to their lives is really love. God is loving them through you. That is why the LORD goes on to say that
You are the light of the world. The LORD wants your light to shine before others, WHY? So you can be noticed and receive the praise of others? No! So you can feel good about yourself? NO! The LORD wants your light to shine before others so that
They may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father By your good deeds, by your love, you bring glory to God and you work with the Him for the salvation of men and women everywhere.
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world!