Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts.


“I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 

Growing up, one of the things I loved about my father was that he had a tool for everything. He allowed us to use any of them to work on anything we could, like our cars and our car stereos. Anytime we’d get stuck on something, we could just go to my dad, and he’d help us figure it out. Then we’d be able to do it ourselves.

 So we grew up with this lack of fear. We believed we could work on anything and restore it. In that way, he gave us great freedom. He had one rule, though, and that rule was: Every tool has its place, and you have to return the tool to its proper place.

As kids, we didn’t always follow this rule. So my dad, somewhere along the line, came up with his trademark. A yellow paint stick. Over the years, he’d use it to write “Denk,” D-E-N-K, on all his tools. No matter what the tool was, it would have this big, remarkable, sometimes ugly, yellow writing on it that said “Denk,” and you knew whose tool it was.

For example, if you were welding and you flipped the mask down, right across the front of it, it would say “Denk.” If you had a chainsaw and you were cutting a tree down, what would it say right on the blade? “Denk” written in really big, bright, yellow letters. This was written on the tool no matter what the tool was, no matter how big or small. You could have a hammer and on the side of the hammer it would say “Denk” in big yellow letters.


And so, over the years, we kind of made fun of him. One Christmas, we got him a brand new nail gun, and it was a beautiful nail gun! But right on the side of it, in big yellow letters was written “D-E-N-K.” You always knew it was my father’s tool. It would always get returned to the right spot. That was his hope: that the tool would get returned.

A couple of years ago, as a priest, I didn’t have any tools. So I said to my dad, “I need a general toolbox. Can you get me one for my birthday?” He got me a toolbox for my birthday. I was really excited because it was a Craftsman toolbox. And wouldn’t you know it, he wrote in yellow letters on it “Mike Denk.” I’m his son, so he made sure to write this in yellow, and he even wrote, very nicely, “bottom” and “top” so I would know how to open my toolbox. So now, if I ever lend it out, anyone will know whose toolbox it is. And they are going to return it to me, right? So I have no fear about lending my tools out. If you ever need a general toolbox, I have one for you. I have you covered.


The idea is that something will always be returned if it has the owner’s name written on
it. We hear in that first reading, “I will place my law within them. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God has written his word on your hearts. You belong to him. You are his. No matter whatever happens in your life, no matter how far you stray, no matter what anyone does to you, you belong to him.

His word is written on your hearts, and you will always be returned to him.

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people. I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jimmy Kimmel A Message for the Anti-Vaccine Movement

which would you choose_wm

Jimmy Kimmel is one of the late night guys that one of you may know. And who would ever think I would get a homily out of JimmyKimmel? But he's a really genuine and sincere guy, and I love watching his stuff, especially his monologue at the beginning. He's usually always very funny and witty and quick, but the last week he had a very serious monologue and it kind of struck me. I think he was like, he was really, like, trying to say something from the heart. I'm going to give you a little preface and start off by saying, I'm not a doctor and I'm not recommending anything for you. I'm just going to tell you the story of what Jimmy Kimmel said, and try to use that as an image for the homily.

So two weeks ago he did a bit on vaccinations and whether or not children should have their vaccination. And my sister Christie is going to have her baby in June, so she's kind of been panicking as a mother. She's reading all of these rumors online and wondering what she would do.

And so Jimmy Kimmel starts the bit out, "I'm not a doctor. You certainly don't want to take advice from a late night host, but you could take advice from just about every doctor in the world and get your vaccination." And then he goes on to display these real doctors that come in and tell their story of, you know, how they're trying to tell people, you know, how vaccinations have helped us for hundreds of years, and just trying to give them this idea that, you know, by not getting a vaccination, they're not only endangering their own lives, but they're endangering lives all around them.

So believe it or not, Jimmy Kimmel got tons of letters and flack about this. There were people really upset about him. How dare a talk show host talk about these shots, or whatever. He got tons of letters about this. So he read some of the letters, as he does. You know, like he does the mean tweets. He shared some of the letters. And one of the letters said, you know, it was a mother saying, "I want my kid to be old enough to make the decision themselves. So when they are 18, they can make the decision of whether or not they get shots, and I don't want anyone telling me otherwise."

When we think about it, think about what the shots are to prevent, you know, all the different diseases, like polio, and what are other, the measles, mumps. All those things we don't have to worry about, you know, because of those shots. You know, the whole idea was if you wait until 18, if you wait until your kid is 18, it's too late. Not only are they going on get that, but it's going to, like, snowball into all these other complications in their lives.

I went online and I was doing all this research, too, for my sister, and I'm finding out, like, all of the horrible things that could happen if you don't get shots; and not only does it impact you, it impacts others. What also got me researching this, I got a call from a parishioner who works at the Cleveland clinic, and they have to get shots there. The only reason they wouldn't have to is for faith reasons. So she called me and she said, "I need you to sign a letter for me because I don't want to get the shots."

And so I actually had to call downtown and talk to the Diocese and talk to the Moral Theologians, and I found out that the, kind of like, the Moral Theologians and doctors agree that we need to get our shots and not only are we not taking care of ourselves, but we're endangering other people. That's a little sidenote.

Anyway, I'm not a doctor. You do whatever you want with the shots. That's not the point of this homily. The point is that a week after that, Jimmy got all of these letters from people, and one of the letters said, and it was a mother saying, "I want my kid to be old enough to decide for themselves. When they are 18 they can decide." So Jimmy Kimmel went to the streets, okay. He took two things with him. He took a lollipop in one hand and he took a syringe in the other hand. He walked up to kids on the street and he said to them, "Which one of these would you like? Would you like a lollipop or would you like a syringe?" What do you think all of the kids chose? The lollipop, right? I mean, who in their right mind is going to choose the syringe?

None of us like shots. None of us like pain. None of us like suffering. But the truth is, now to bring it to a spiritual level, we all were born with a disease. We all were born with, as a good priest monsignor who used to direct Mother Teresa, we were born with spiritual aids, we were all born with mortal sin; and unless we are cured from this, it's going to cause our death.

And so I didn't -- I couldn't find a needle anywhere in the directory last night. I found a lollipop and a crucifix. So, you know, if I were to walk around to some of the kids here at mass today and said, "Which one would you like, would you like the lollipop or the crucifix?" they just might say, "The lollipop." Thankfully, they're all gone right now. But the truth is we all kind of go for the lollipop, right? I mean, the cross isn't that attractive.

I know a lot non-Catholics are turned off because the Catholics have the cross everywhere. We've got it in our house, in our rooms, in our living rooms, in our kitchen, in the church. The cross is like the central figure for us. But so often we're tempted to choose the lollipop.

Now, I want to -- first of all, who brought kids with you today? Raise your hands if you brought kids with you to mass today. Raise them real high so everybody can see it. Give these people a huge round of applause. I'm serious. Give them a round of applause. Have you ever had to struggle with your kids and they said, "I don't want to go to mass?" Have you had that happen? Throwing your daughter under the bus.

If you gave your kid the option on Sunday and said, "Hey, you can go to mass or you can sleep in or watch a movie," or whatever, what do you think they're going to choose? They're going to sleep in, right, or they're going to watch a movie or they're going to go to their basketball game, or whatever. They're going to choose the lollipop every time, I guarantee it. And that's why, as parents -- not only parents, but mature people in our faith -- all of us who are gathered here together at mass are called to be disciples.

We've received this inoculation. We've received the shot. We are saved through Christ. You know, we've received the power that he has to take away our original sin. And so not only that, then it becomes our responsibility to help people say, "This isn't what you really want. This is what you want." And sometimes people are terrified by this because the crucifix is like the syringe: it means suffering; it means pain; it means sacrifice. But ultimately, it is our salvation.

I just want to use these two images and reflect on the gospel. It's John 3:16. I think we kind of gloss past it really quick because it's John 3:16. It's the sign you see on all of the sport signs, "For God so loved the world He gave His only Son." I'm just going to give you you the image of the crucifix and the lollipop as we go through it.

So the crucifix is Christ, the church the sacraments, the prayer; and the lollipop is all the temptations of the world, all the deceptions of the enemy. It is the darkness over the light. Just going to hold these two up as we go through the reading, okay.

So Jesus said to Nicodemus, just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Everyone who believes in him has received this eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life. So that they might not die in their original sin. They might not end up in hell, but have eternal life through Christ. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

So this is our salvation. Christ is our salvation. He did not come to condemn the world; he came to save us. Whoever believes in him will be saved, but whoever does not believe in him has already been condemned because he does not believe in the only Son of God. And this is the verdict: That the light came into the world, but the people chose the darkness because their works were evil. So everyone who does things, hates the light -- everyone who does wicked things, hates the light and does not come toward the light, so his works might not be exposed; but whoever lives in the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be seen as clearly done by God.

The truth is, with our faith, you know, it's something we want to hand on to the rest of the world. If we really believe that Christ is our salvation and that he is like that shot that takes away our original sin, we want it not only for ourselves, but we want it for children, for our loved ones, we want it for the entire world. We're called to evangelize.

Right now there's a horrible lie that's being told. There's a lie that's being told that you don't need Christ. There's a lie that's being told in our world that we don't need Christ in order to go to heaven.

And I'll give you three hard words, but they're quick words. Some of the Moral Theologians say that in our day and age, the big heresy is that we are moral -- we are moral deism. So we believe in doing things that are good and bad. We believe in a God, but we don't necessarily believe in Christ. So the phrase is "moral therapeutic deism." We will do things that are right, we will do things that make us feel good, but we don't necessarily believe in Christ.

The lie that's being told today is the lollipop. And so many people are attracted to it and grab it, and discount Christ. But the only way to salvation for us and for those that we love is the crucifix.

So the don't wait until your kids are 18 years old, because if you wait that long and your kids are 18 years old, I got to tell you, when they are at their sexual prime and their hormones are going to wild and crazy, they're really not going to be attracted to the cross. It's something that begins in our infancy. And just as your faith was handed down to by your parents and loved ones, so it's our responsibility to lead other people to Christ.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some people ask "What's the bare minimum I have to do as a Catholic?"

While it's not a great question, the church actually gives us these guidelines.  They are called "The 5 Precepts of the Church":

2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:
2042 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.82
The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.83
The third precept ("You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.84
2043 The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.85
The fifth precept ("You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church") means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.86
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities.87

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Transfiguration: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (Ukulele song)


As we celebrate this great Feast of the Transfiguration. And I think we all want that experience of being with God, of experiencing God. You know, I think that's why we come here every Sunday, because we want to have this encounter. We want to have this experience of God. 

I know from the time I was a little boy, I used to love going to the Eucharistic adoration. So my mother would go late at night and sometimes she would take me. I would get to go with her and experience just being in silence and being in prayer in front of our Lord and the blessed sacrament.

So over the years I just continued to do that, through all my high school and college years. And when I finally entered the seminary, I continued to have a deep love for this Eucharistic adoration, just being in God's presence. And I'll never forget, it was my first year in the seminary and we were on a retreat. And it was a very much like it is now. It was ice cold outside. There was snow everywhere. It had been snowing for weeks and weeks and weeks, and there wasn't much you could do outside, so you had to stay inside. I found myself spending a lot of time in the chapel. I would just go in there again and spend time in Eucharistic adoration.

I will never forget this moment or this experience that I had. It was a time where I just felt, as I was praying, like all of a sudden I was in God's presence; like I was with God; like I was being held by God. And I don't know how long the moment lasted. I don't know how long I was even there in the chapel. It could have been hours. It could have been minutes. It could have been seconds. But I wanted to be there forever. And it was from that moment on that I realized how loving God is, and not only how loving God is, but how loved I was uniquely by God, and I wanted to stay there forever.

And I imagine that's kind of what the experience of the transfiguration was, you know, for those disciples. They were taken up to the mountain, and Jesus took them up there alone just to be with them, and he revealed himself as he truly was. And as they're there, all of a sudden this cloud comes down and wraps around them, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit. They hear the voice of the Father say, "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him."

The disciples had what the saints would call a mystical experience. They got to experience the reality of who Jesus was, the mystery of Jesus truly being God and have that revealed to them. And the notion was Peter, they wanted to stay there forever. He said, "Let us just build three tents so that we could just stay here." And at that moment they hear the Father's voice, and before you know it the moment's over and they have to go back down the mountain into life.

The truth is we're all called to have these experiences of God in our lives. We're also called to have experiences, and we kind of go back into our regular and ordinary life with having that memory or that experience. I think sometimes we think that that's only for, like, you know, the saints. Well, the truth is we're all called to be saints. Maybe that is not for everyone or maybe that is only for a priest to experience. We're all supposed to experience God like this, to have some kind of transcended experience of him. And the truth is you probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't happened to you.

So I want you to think about that time in your life. Have you ever had a time in your life where God made himself known to you, where you knew, without a doubt, that you were experiencing God? The truth is we want to stay there forever. We want to embrace that moment. We never want to leave. And that's ultimately what heaven is being with God and experiencing that love. But sometimes we do have to go back, go back down the mountain and go back in life. We yearn for another time. We yearn for another time where we get to be with God and prayer like that and experience him like that in the moment.

Well, the truth is, as we begin to grow in our prayer life and begin to be transformed more and more into his image, not only our prayer time, but our whole life becomes more of this experience of being in God's presence. Instead of just having a moment or a taste of it, we begin to live our whole lives with this experience of God's presence.

And as you know, sometimes I like to bring out the ukulele. And this is one of my favorite songs. It's an oldies song, but it was recently redone, and the title of it is "Tonight you're mine completely." I want you to think about God singing these words to you, of having you his completely just for a time and all of a sudden the moment is over. But him yearning for you, wanting to have you with himself completely.

Tonight you're mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment's pleasure
Can I believe the magic of your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun

I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow

Well, thank you.

So this whole notion of "Tonight you're mine completely," of having that moment where we feel like we are God's and he is ours, and we have this feeling of completion, this feeling of union. The saints and the mystics call it a mystical union. We have this experience of being totally united to God. The truth is we are all supposed to have this.

So lent is a wonderful time because during lent we increase our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving. And when we put ourselves in this state or this disposition where we increase all of that, the likelihood of us experiencing God in these transcending moments is much greater during lent. The truth is we are all supposed to be mystics. We're all supposed to be saints. We are all called, and God does gift us all with these experiences. The frustrating part is we can't make it happen, we can't make God do it, but we can place ourselves in the disposition.

That's what lent is for. These 40 days and 40 nights of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving put us in a right disposition to receive God's grace. I think it's profound that the second Sunday of lent we're given this image of the transfiguration. It's an image that during our prayer, fast and the almsgiving, it's an image that gives us hope already of the resurrection, already of the eternal life where we get to be with God forever.

So Karl Rahner, who is a Jesuit priest said that "when God is with man in awe and love, that's when he is praying." So what does that mean to pray? Just to be with God in awe and love. Have you ever had that experience where you've just been taken back in awe before the beauty of God, maybe in prayer or maybe out in nature or maybe just the experience of love where you are completely awestruck?

He says, too, that "in the days ahead you will either a mystic, one who has experienced God for real or nothing at all." And that's the world we live in now. Either we are called to be mystics and truly experience this loving God, or we give ourselves over to despair. We're called to be mystics.

St. John on the cross is one of my favorite saints and one of the greatest mystics of the church. When he was leading some of his followers, he gave them three principles. And that's what I am going to give to you today, three principles, in terms of how to experience and to put ourselves in the disposition to have this encounter with God.

So this was a meditation that he gave to his novice. It's three points. The first point is to summon up the mysteries of Jesus by imaging them. So do that right now. I want you to just close your eyes and try to imagine one of the mysteries. Let's go with the transfiguration. Imagine being there with Jesus on the mountain top. And when we imagine, we are supposed to use all of our senses. We're supposed to see, hear, taste, touch, feel what it's like to be there with Jesus.

So the first step is to imagine. We can do this with any of the mysteries in Jesus' life. We can do it with the nativity. Often in lent, we do this with the Passion, with the Stations of the Cross. The first thing is to imagine.

The second step that he says is to ponder, to ponder in your mind what the mystery evokes. So just allow your mind to ponder what that means and what that means for you.

And the third step and the deepest step is to finally be still, have a loving attention of God, and it is there where the fruit of the other activity is plucked away and the door of the mind is open to God's life.

So first of all, to imagine a scene from God; secondly, to ponder what that means for you; and thirdly is just to be still. And ultimately, it's in that stillness and that silence that we experience that loving presence, that desire of Jesus where man is with God in awe and love. So we're called to ponder these mysteries and ultimately to rest there.

Now, as you may or may not know by all the bulletins and billboards and everything, I will be doing the parish mission for the next three days. So starting tomorrow and Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, my hope for you is to give you a way to do this, to remain in God's presence, to experience Him, not only in prayer, but to remain in his presence throughout your daily life, because this is what we all yearn for and long for. You know, like the song "Tonight you're mine completely," we desire to be God's completely. But there are times we go away from the mountain, there are times we walk away from God and ultimately we want him to come back to him. How do we come back to him?

Well, over the next three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, what I'm going to lead you through and is one of St. Ignatius' most powerful prayer is called the Examen prayer. St. Ignatius actually says it, if we were to drop any prayer in our day because of tiredness or because of business, the last prayer that we should drop is the Examen prayer, because the Examen prayer ultimately helps us be conscience and be aware of God's love and presence in our lives.

So that's my hope for you, is to help us all to experience, first of all, this mystical experience, this transfiguration; but also, like Peter wanted to, to hold on to it and to be able to live there forever.

So if you could join us this Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., I promise you will not regret it. And hopefully, you will not only have a wonderful experience of God, you will know how to remain there when you've fallen away, you will know how to come back again. That's this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night where I will be leading you through the parish mission in the Examen prayer. And every night there's going to be some entertainment and music, there's going to be stories that I share, and ultimately there's going to be very concrete ways where I lead you into prayer.

You've probably seen that I've developed an app for this. If you have your smartphones or device, Father Martello is not here. You are allowed to bring them. This will be one of the few times you can bring your cell phones into church. You won't get scowled at. If you don't have one, don't worry about it. We actually have handouts that we will be giving to people, tools that will help you pray this Examen prayer. So that's my hope and my prayer; that for all of you, this entire parish, that we will have this experience of the transfiguration and also the ability to remain there.