Sunday, August 08, 2010

A New Assignment: Honduras

As of August 10th, 2010, I will be transferred down to Honduras. Here is a little blurb I wrote up for the parish bulletin that explains the situation. Names have been removed for privacy sake.


Dear brothers and sisters,

When my provincial asked me this summer to consider an immediate transfer to Honduras, my heart sank. I asked myself: who would want to give up the fraternal support of Fr. X and Br. Y and the warmth and vibrancy of the people of St. Z? And yet as I began praying over this decision I remembered, from when I first started discerning a call to religious life, how much I wanted to be generous in my response to God’s love and to let Him do with me as He wills. In 2008, the last time I was in our missions in Central America, my prayer as to whether I was to come to the missions after seminary was answered with what I discerned to be God’s reply of “not yet”. I asked what I was to do in the interim and was shown that God had growth in a particular area in mind for me. So my discernment in response to my provincial’s proposal was not a matter of asking God “if” He was asking me to go, but rather “when”. My own plans were that I spend three to five years in the US as a priest before going to the missions, and I had hoped that I could stay here for that. Yet as I prayed over the decision for a few days, I noticed that God was reminding me of the generosity to which He was calling me and showing me that the area of growth He wanted from me was near completion. So, fully aware of my limitations, but with trust in God, I answered “yes”.

At the same time I realized the answer, I became acutely aware that by placing more trust in God and being more generous in my response to God’s will, I would be, in fact, asking Fr. X, Br. Y and the entire community at St. Z to place more trust in God and to be more generous to God in their response to His love, to dedicate themselves more to the Lord’s work for His people, the Church. Though I do not leave easily, I can only hope that the void left will inspire others to lend a hand to help the parish fulfill its God given mission of evangelizing the families of D... . I also hope that some of our youth may discern God calling them to the consecrated religious life and some of the young men to priesthood.

I thank you for opening your hearts and home to me and for your well wishes and prayers. Please know that I will also be praying for you and offering the sacrifices of mission work for you and your families. ... God bless you all.

Peace and Good,

Fr. Chris Gaffrey, OFM

Homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Here is my homily for this Sunday, August 8th. (Note: I never deliver a homily the way I write it).

If the greatest thing we can do while on earth is truly love God and our neighbors, than faith is the first step toward loving. In the gospel Jesus tells His disciples to not be afraid, that the Father is pleased to give them the Kingdom. By doing so, Jesus is asking them to have faith in God, to believe that God is indeed present in their lives in a way that is not seen with our physical eyes, but discerned through the eyes of faith.

Knowing that God is near that His providence is at work in our lives calms our anxieties over our daily needs and enables us to hope in God for our welfare. No longer afraid for ourselves, but trusting in God and confident He will provide should we be lacking, we no longer cling to possessions, to the excess just in case, but are able instead to open our hearts and turn our attention to those who have-not, to be willing to give to others in light of God’s goodness to us now and in light of the reward awaiting those who are truly God’s servants, those who served their fellow men and women in need.

Oddly enough we have a bad example in the steward who begins to beat his fellow servants and is busy eating and getting drunk on the very food and drink he should have been distributing to his fellow servants. What went wrong with this servant? Why did he stop doing the master’s will and turn instead into a selfish servant? Jesus tells us he began to think that his master was delayed in coming.

We too can begin to think that “our master is delayed in coming” when we begin to think that God does not actually want to have anything to do with us, when we question whether He is even present in our daily lives. We too can easily get caught up in fear and selfishness when we forget that God is indeed present in our lives even when we can’t “see” it.

The stronger our faith, the more we hope to receive from God, the more we let God love us and are willing to give back to God in love. One example of this is Abraham who the letter to the Hebrews extols as an All-Star of faith. Abraham had just as many difficulties to face as we do, if not more, and yet he always faced them with God, firmly depending on Him and not relying on his own strength. As a result Abraham grew steadily in wisdom and holiness. He trusted God and hoped for all things from Him, and God was able to advance his plan of salvation through him, preparing Abraham to be willing to give all back to God and to do all for the good of others.

Abraham is an example that we are called to imitate. We too are called to follow God no matter what. We too are called to let God do wonderful things for us and through us. But if we want to have greater hope and if we want to love more we need great faith that is strong and mature. The question that comes to us today is how can we grow in our faith? The answer is just as easy as developing strong mature muscles. Just as we need to eat carbs and protein to build muscles, we need to feed our faith on the sacraments and prayer, just as we are doing here today at mass. And just as we exercise our muscles, likewise we need to exercise our faith. One way we can exercise our faith is to say small, spontaneous, and sincere acts of faith, mini-prayers, every day, in the quiet of our hearts. When we see a beautiful sunset or feel the tangy ocean breeze, to say, "Thank you Lord; I believe in you." When we visit a loved one who is sick or dying, to say, "Lord, I believe in you; don't abandon this person, give them strength." When we experience life's sorrows, to say, "Lord, you suffered for me; teach me to suffer with faith for you." When we experience life's joys, to say, "Lord, this is just a small hint of your love for me; teach me to believe in you more deeply." Today, when Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion, let's consciously exercise our faith. And let's promise that we will continue exercising it all week, so it will grow, and we will be able to live life to the full, hoping in God and loving Him and our neighbors both now and for all eternity. May the Lord give you peace.

Homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Here is my homily for last Sunday, August 1st.

This is one of those gospel passages that can really puzzle us if we don’t understand what is happening. Here is a man who comes to Jesus with a real problem. His brother is trying to make off with most of the inheritance. He asks Jesus to step in and arbitrate, to get his brother to give him his share. Yet Jesus refuses to do so. Instead he tells a parable about a man who is so busy searching out wealth and luxury that he dies without having had any regard for what comes after this life. In essence, Jesus is telling this man: don’t be so concerned with this life that you end up taking your eye off the prize, the gift of eternal life in heaven. How true this is and the readings today are chocked full of reminders.

We hear in the first reading how pointless and vain it is to work so hard without any thought for our soul or for our salvation. In the psalm we prayed that God give us wisdom to realize that this world is passing and that we need to be attentive to God’s voice to show us what is really worth working for, what labors of ours truly bear lasting fruit. In the gospel we hear how the man in the parable spent so much time working that he did not prepare his soul for death and all his earthly treasure went to others.

Jesus reminds us that it is important to be rich in what matters to God, and in the second reading, St. Paul reminds us what that prize is that is truly worth working toward. He tells us to keep our eye on the prize of our life in Christ, not only that life in Christ that we already possess even now, but that future life of glory that we will live with Christ after death. Paul reminds us that we are to be busy at putting an end to the reign of sin in our lives and to seek Christ as our all. In no way does this mean we shouldn’t work for the things of this earth. We don’t hear the author of Ecclesiastes, St. Paul, or Jesus condemning our earthly work. Instead they are simply reminding us that the good things of this world are not the end all and be all of our lives. Instead, the prize is our life with God, our victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus, our becoming saints with the help of the Holy Spirit.

There once was a young man from a wealthy and influential family, whose father owned a prominent newspaper firm. Despite his father’s financial success this young man was more interested in helping the poor than he was at securing his inheritance or making a name for himself in politics and business. He deeply loved Christ, went to mass daily and prayed the rosary three times a day. Yet his devotion and faith did not stop him from continuing his studies, going on hiking trips with friends and looking to better the plight of the poor with social activism. One cold night, when he returned home without his coat, his frugal father scolded him for having given it to a poor old man. The young man replied “But you see, father, it was cold.” This young man’s name was Pier Giorgio Frassati, who Pope John Paul II beatified and called a man of the beatitudes. Upon Pier Giorgio’s death the greatest outpouring of love was not from the social elite that his family knew and not from his circle of friends, but rather from the poor of Turin, who had no idea that Pier Giorgio was even from such an influential family. Blessed Pier Giorgio understood that it is necessary for us to keep our eyes on the prize, that living for Christ and for others, becoming saints, is more important than riches and wealth.

Not all of us are called to the kind of charity practiced by Blessed Pier Giorgio, especially since not many of us come from rich and influential families. However, like Blessed Pier Giorgio, we are all called to keep our focus on Christ, our eyes on the prize of eternal life. This may seem a bit difficult today, but it is not impossible. Today we live in a society that values work and recreation. We work so that we can afford the pleasures of television, movies, vacations, sports. After the recreation, we go back to work. Yet all too often we can get trapped in the idea that we work so as to afford recreation and do recreation in order to take a break from work. In the midst of this pendulum between the toil of work and the pleasure of recreation we can easily loose sight of why we are here in the first place.

One way we can keep our eye on the prize and not forget that our life in Christ is what is most valuable is for us to plan out time for a retreat. This doesn’t have to mean going off for a few days to a monastery to pray, though if we did that it certainly wouldn’t hurt. However, going on retreat, taking some time to be silent and pray can be as simple as scheduling an evening where the tv, computers, cell-phones and video games are turned off and the family can gather for the rosary or for reading a passage of the gospel and sharing one’s reflections on it. Or ‘a retreat’ could be as simple as scheduling one day in the midst of vacation for silent prayer, or for visiting a holy site, like a monastery, a shrine, or a basilica. For those who like to travel on their vacations, the idea of taking time for a retreat could be as simple as arranging to go some place on pilgrimage instead of simply touring. No matter what for our retreat may take, it can be for us the perfect opportunity to take inventory in our lives, to see where we are going, how we are living, if we are truly happy, and for us to not take our eyes off the prize of the life that God calls us to live in Christ. May the Lord give you Peace.