Father Peter's Past Sermons
Past Sermons from Father Peter's Desk
All Saint's Day - November 1, 2020
Debbie Hoefling was a high-school senior in Lockport, Illinois. Encouraged by her sociology teacher, Debbie decided not to speak a single word for seven days. She wanted to know how it felt to be a mute, to be speechless.
The first day Debbie went shopping with her mother. Two girl shoppers snickered as she tried to make known by signs what she wanted. One girl remarked, loud enough to hear: “Look at that dummy.” The two girls deliberately bumped into her, almost knocking her down. Debbie realized: “This is the way it feels when you are different. This is the way you hurt.” When the week was over, she declared: “I am so happy and grateful to be able to speak.”
Millions of people are hurting. Many of you have some hurt or handicap. Jesus is talking about you when He tells us today: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Formerly those words referred to people who were poor in this world’s goods, those who accepted the condition of being poor, and to those who were wealthy but shared their riches with others. Today Bible experts give those words a wider meaning. They explain that the “poor in spirit” includes those who are crushed in spirit, broken in spirit.
Not only the speechless are broken in spirit. The blind, the crippled, the deaf and hard of hearing, the mentally retarded can also be. Think of the old, the sick and the lonely, the unskilled, the uneducated, the unemployed. How suppressed the spirit of those who are worried, discouraged, disillusioned, the unattractive, the unloved, the friendless. How crumpled in spirit are the ill-housed, the ill-fed, the ill-clothed. How pressed down are people of a different color, nationality, social level.
These fellow human beings lack the liveliness, the courage, the vigor, the enthusiasm of the strong in spirit. They are sad, depressed, “out of spirits,” as the expression goes. They seldom, if ever, experience the pleasures, the comforts, the satisfactions of life. They are ground down, overwhelmed, frustrated, fearful because of their condition.
The heart of Christ goes out to all these crushed in spirit. He tells us they are blessed, holy, happy. They are happy because Jesus loves them with a special love. To such Christ calls out: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will refresh you.”
You who are broken in spirit, downtrodden, worn out with life’s struggle, you are important in Christ’s eyes. He experienced many things that crush the spirit – rejection, hatred, ingratitude, mental and physical pain, even a bloody death. No wonder you are precious to Him. No wonder you are His chosen ones. No wonder He wants you with him in heaven.
What better time to think of this truth than on this day when we honor all the Saints, canonized or not. They all went through at least some of the tragedies that crush the spirit. As we offer Christ to His Father may we offer a prayer for all who are crushed in spirit.
God bless you and have a nice and safe week.
Father Peter Pham
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 25, 2020
Lord, Help Me Love You!
Most of you have heard the poem “Trees,” which winds up with the words: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” The author of that poem became a Catholic at the age of 27. He was a sensitive, straightforward, and simple writer who took common things, like a tree, and brought out their beauty. He enlisted in World War One and was killed in action at the age of 32, leaving a wife and family.
Joyce Kilmer’s deeply religious spirit found fulfillment in the Catholic faith. He loved and lived it. His letters to his wife, also a poet, to his children and friends were filled with spiritual insights. In one letter he wrote something closely related to today’s Good News: “Pray that I may love God more. It seems to me that if I can love God more passionately, more constantly, without distraction, that nothing else can matter… I got faith by praying for it. I hope to get love the same way.”
How many of us have ever asked God to help us love him? To love God is a gift – from God Himself. Too many falsely think we can grow in the love of God by our own efforts, that it is entirely up to us to learn how to love Him.
To be sure, we need to do everything humanly possible to carry out the command of Christ: “You shall love the Lord your God.” But above and beyond our efforts this gift will be ours when we beg it from our heavenly Father.
What do we mean when we say: “Love God?” Here is a working definition that has helped me. To love God means to desire to please God. Christ’s command might have read: “You shall desire to please God.”
Love of neighbor means the desire to do good to our neighbor. We cannot “do good” to God, but we can desire to please God. We can and must do good to our neighbor. Incidentally one of the best ways to please God is to do good to our neighbor.
Jesus told us several times in several ways that he who loves God will keep God’s commandments. Several Sundays ago, we saw that God’s commandments are a proof of God’s love for us. Keeping them is a proof of our love for Him.
You come to Mass because God is pleased when you worship Him. You receive Holy Communion because God wants to be with you. You pray because God is pleased when you talk to Him. You respect His Holy name because that pleases Him.
You honor your father and mother because that pleases Him. You respect your health and life and the health and life of others because that pleases God. You respect the sacred power of sex because that pleases God. You respect the right of your neighbor to his property, his good name, his wife, because that pleases God.
To do these things is to love God. To do them we need God’s help, we have to ask His help, as Joyce Kilmer did, as the saints did.
Use the opening prayer of the Mass: “Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise.” “Make us grow in love” (Eucharistic Prayer #2).
I want to please you, Lord. Help me to please you.
God bless you and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 18, 2020
Once, a missionary went to a distant land to preach the Good News of Christ our Lord. While he was walking with the guide, he asked about the people, culture, food and so on. And at one point, the missionary priest looked at the guide and asked, "What about cannibals? Do you have cannibals in the community?' The guide laughed and laughed and said, "O Father, we do not have any cannibal because the last one we ate yesterday".
The Holy Catholic Church today celebrates 'Mission Sunday'. Today we in a special way, pray for all our missionary priests, nuns, and people who dedicate their lives to promote justice and peace and who preach the Good News of Christ our Lord, namely love and forgiveness to all. We, by the very nature of the sacrament of Baptism, are called to become missionaries at home and missionaries abroad.
There is a non-canonical story of our Lord Jesus Christ that, after His ascension, the angels met with Him and, looking at his feet and hands, they said, “You suffered a lot to bring love and forgiveness among people, and Lord, who is going to preach your mercy, compassion and love now?”
Jesus said, "My followers, because I asked them to go everywhere to preach the Good News.” “What would happen after they die? Do you have any other plan?” Jesus said, "My only plan is after my apostles, my disciples, people who were baptized will carry on the message".
Yes, brothers and sisters, we are His plan. We are called to bring the Good News of love and forgiveness to all.
In the Old Testament time, people did not go out to preach the message of God. They spread the message of God within the community. But in the New Testament time and after His glorious Ascension, we are called to go everywhere to preach the good tidings.
Once a man came to a spiritual master and offered him two gold coins and said, "Master, I would like to be a missionary and thus go everywhere and preach the Good News, and what should I do?” The master, without answering the man, picked up one of the gold coins and threw it in the river.
The man right away jumped into the water looking for the gold coin and, upon not finding it, asked the master, “Where did you throw my gold coin?” For that the master took another gold coin and threw it in the water and said, "Right there". Then the master with compassion looked at the man and said, "Son, if you want to be a missionary, you should know how to unbind yourself from material things and hold on to Christ the Way.
Every time Christ sent His apostles on the mission to preach the Good News, He clearly told them not to take anything with them. As they went, the power of Christ was with them. They preached the message of Christ according to their needs, and the Gospel helped people to look at their culture, customs and traditions differently.
I remember one year during my vacation in Lake of the Woods, Ontario, I went to visit a priest friend in Manitouwadge near Thunder Bay. He said that in his mission Church, as he was doing a funeral Mass, right after homily...every one of them left the church and he did not know what was going on. They all came in after ten minutes, and thus he finished the Mass. Afterwards he asked one of the parishioners why people left right after the homily. Do you know what he said? "O Father, this is our tradition. Right after homily, we always go out for a ten minutes smoke-break."
As St. Paul went to different communities to preach the Good News, so many people tried to stop him and so many went against him because they were so afraid to change. They were people like the Pharisee in today's gospel trying to entrap Jesus by asking him about paying taxes to the emperor or not. In answering them, he went further: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Powerful message!
St. Paul, in order to preach the Good News, not 30 thousand kilometers but 30 thousand miles walked. He was given the power and stamina by Christ our Lord. And we all know how St. Jean de Brebeuf did the mission work in Canada.
Once there was a fight between two African tribes in Niger and a man from one tribe killed his neighbor who belonged to another tribe. When the tribe won, they wanted to take revenge of the killer and they called the wife who witnessed her husband's death and asked her to point out the killer but she refused saying , "The missionaries who were here taught us how to forgive and accept others like Christ". Once Gandhi said, "Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".
Even today there are so many priests, religious and lay people going to different countries to preach the good news of Christ our Lord. They build schools and hospitals; they build churches and homes for orphanages. They are doing a wonderful job in the name of Christ our Lord. Let us remember them all and pray that God may continue to bless them.
Today we are also called to become missionaries. We are called to preach the Good News to all. Yes, it is our duty to tell them all about God's love and Christ's forgiveness.
Let us preach the Good News and, as St. Francis of Assisi says, "Let us preach the Good News to all and, if it's necessary, let us use words." Yes, let our life preach to them all the unconditional love and unlimited forgiveness of Christ. Amen.
God bless you and Stay Safe!
Father Peter Pham
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 11, 2020
Joe Invited Bill
After Mass, Joe approached his pastor: “Father, you talked about inviting people to our services. I had an experience in the army. Bill and I were buddies, both Catholics. But Bill never went to Mass. We were having a five-day mission on the base. I asked Bill to come along, but he had some kind of excuse. The second and third night more excuses. Finally, on the fourth night he came with me to the chapel. Something hit him, because from then on, he went with me to Mass and Communion regularly. That was twenty years ago. Haven’t seen him since, but he writes to me every year and thanks me for asking him to go to that mission.”
Dear friends of Saint Martin’s,
Jesus just told us the kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a marriage feast for his son. The kingdom of heaven means the family of God here on this earth. The marriage feast is the table loaded with spiritual food.
My thought for this week is that every one of us is a servant of the great King. Christ is His Son. The heavenly Father sends us out to invite everyone to share the spiritual feast offered by His Church.
Who are the people we can invite? Practically everyone. Too many of our fellow Catholics have never attended a mission, a retreat, or a study club. Fallen-away Catholics often need but a little nudge to start them on their way back to the family of God.
We are thinking especially of the many who attend no church and of our friends of other faiths who are looking for the spiritual nourishment we have.
Where do we meet these possible guests? They could be neighbors, schoolmates, fellow workers, even relatives. They could be chance acquaintances at a game, at the store, on the bus, in the doctor’s waiting room. Do not limit your invitation to so-called respectable people. Invite the underprivileged, the outcast, the sinner. As the king commanded in today’s Gospel: “Go into the main streets and invite everyone you find… both good and bad.”
Invite them to a regular weekend Mass, or preferably to some special service – Christmas Mass, a visit to the crib, First Communion, a baptism, wedding or funeral, a parish dinner or program (not this time of COVID-19), or even a private visit to church some weekday.
You can invite groups like the Boys and Girls Scouts, 4H Clubs, fraternities and sororities, Protestant Bible classes. If possible, tell your pastor about the visitors beforehand. He may wish to acknowledge their presence and have someone show them around church. This makes them feel wanted. It helps correct the false notion that we Catholics do not want non-Catholics at our services.
Suppose they turn down your invitation. Well, you have done your duty, a duty of faith, a duty of charity. You are promoting understanding between different faiths. You are showing that your faith means something to you.
You are concerned, considerate and kind enough to want others to share the spiritual banquet we are enjoying this very hour.
God bless you and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham
Suggestion for the Blessing of food for Thanksgiving Day
(before Thanksgiving Dinner)
God most provident, we join all creation in raising to you a hymn of thanksgiving through Jesus Christ, your Son.
For generation upon generation, people of this land have sung of your bounty; we too offer you praise for the rich harvest we have received at hour hands.
Bless us and this food which we share with grateful hearts.
Continue to make our land fruitful and let our love for you be seen in our pursuit of peace and justice and in our generous response to those in need.
Praise and glory to you, Lord God, now and forever. Amen.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 4, 2020
Pay Your Rent!
Pope Pius X was head of the Catholic Church from 1904 until 1914. We remember him for promoting Christian education, encouraging First Communion at an early age, and for his holy life. Today we honor him as St. Pius X. As a young assistant pastor at Tombolo, Italy, he noticed that many young men did not know how to read or write. As a result, they could not obtain suitable positions or work.
“We will open a night school,” declared the future Pope. “It will be divided into two groups: one of our local teachers will direct the better group, those who know at least a little. I will take care of those who are harder to teach.” The young men were delighted but one of them wanted to know: “How can we pay for this?” The saintly priest explained: “Don’t worry. The pay will consist in your keeping from swearing.”
Dear friends of St. Martin’s parish,
To show us what the Kingdom of God, is like Jesus just told us about the owner who did everything possible to make his vineyard produce grapes. Then he let it out to tenants. When the owner sent messengers to collect his share, the tenants beat them and killed them. He sent his own son. They killed him. Then Jesus declared that the owner would put those murderers to death and turn over the vineyard to tenants who would share the fruit.
The meaning was clear to His Jewish listeners. God has chosen the Jews for His own people, had given them everything possible, but they rejected and murdered God’s messengers and put His own Son to death on a cross.
God then invited the non-Jews, you, and me, to be the new tenants in His vineyard, the new citizens in the Kingdom of God. As such we are expected to produce fruit, to pay some kind of “rent,” some kind of “service,” some kind of “pay” for the privilege of belonging to God’s people.
The young men in our story felt they owed the young priest, the future St. Pius X, for making them members of his class. All he demanded was that they not use the name of God in vain. In making us a member of His Kingdom, all God asks is that we keep His laws. Really, everything the commandments demand of us already belongs to God, just as the fruits the householder demanded already belonged to him.
In the first commandment, God asks for adoration and worship. They belong to Him. We give God that worship principally in and through the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass. The Almighty has a right to have His name honored. One day of the week belongs to God. He asks us to keep it holy, as part of our payment of belonging to His Kingdom.
God has delegated His authority to our parents and teachers. Because they represent God, they deserve our respect, obedience, and support. All life belongs to God. To kill is to take that right in our own hands. God even shares with some human beings the power of creating new human beings. The Almighty surrounds sex with certain safeguards. All property belongs to God. To steal is to take something from God.
The commandments are the payment, the rent, the tax, if you will, we must pay for belonging to God’s kingdom. Ask Him here and now to help you make that payment, to keep His commands, with gratitude and love.
God bless you and keep you safe.
Father Peter Pham