Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guadete Sunday: Grandma Markusic. The Father walks in front of us and guides us in our blindness.

blind pitfall

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Gaudete Sunday is my absolute favorite Sunday of the year because it truly is celebrating light coming into the darkness. So the third candle for Advent is lit, the rose-colored vestments are worn. Christmas is almost here. The darkness has almost come to an end.

I was reading about some of the darkest places in the world right now. So Scandinavia is one of the darkest places where it is night for almost the entire day. And yesterday was the Feast of Saint Lucy. And Saint Lucy was always celebrated on the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year. And Saint Lucy is the Patron Saint of those who are blind and also the Patron Saint of those who need light in their lives.

Now, as I told you, I'm from Cleveland, and Cleveland is usually cloudy and dark. So, actually, last year I broke down and I bought one of those sunlamps, and it worked like a miracle last year. It was a wonderful saving grace. But I sit in front of the sunlamp and I just allow myself to soak it in. One of my priest friends says that I'm solar powered. He claims that I need have the sunlight or I start to, like, wilt away.
We all need the light. And the truth is, spiritually, we're in darkness.

Growing up, there were six kids in my family growing up, three boys, three girls. And my family all still lives in Parma, in the area, and it's great to have them together. But when we were growing up, when I was a teenager, my grandmother came to move in with us. So my grandmother was widowed and she was getting older and she came to move in with us. I loved my Grandma Markusic. It was wonderful to have her live with us. She was a holy woman and a wonderful woman, and very helpful. And one of the things I loved is she would do my laundry. So anytime that I had my laundry done, I would just bring them up and she would fold clothes for me.

Well, as she got older, she began to develop dementia and then she began to develop Alzheimer's, and then she had a stroke and she went blind in one eye, and a couple of months later she had another stroke and she went blind in the other eye and she was completely blind. And from that moment on, it was absolute darkness, and because she kind of struggled with the Alzheimer's and dementia, she was a little confused. She was thinking, "Could somebody please turn the lights on?" And we had to learn to lead her to the dining room, or if she had to go to the bathroom, to the bathroom. And you know, when we first started doing it, she would call out and we would come and we would take her hand, and she was a little reluctant to follow us. And we found out the reason why is that when you are totally blind and you have somebody following here, you don't know what's in front of you.

And so we learned that the best thing to do, actually, was to stand in front of her, to put both of our hands out like this, and to walk in front of her and lead her like this. And she knew that if you were walking in front of her, she wasn't going to run into anything. If there was a ditch, she wasn't going to fall into it, because you are going first. And it was actually a wonderful experience.

I remember many times taking her to the bathroom and she would call, she would say, "Michael," you know, whoever was around, and we would walk over to my grandmother and pick her up and take her by the arms and lead her like this, walk backwards, and she totally trusted us. It was wonderful that she would just walk with us right where she was going through her blindness. And I think it's a wonderful image.

So today on Gaudete Sunday, we celebrate the fact we hear John the Baptist say that he is not the light, but he is pointing to the light. And John the Baptist is saying, "Make straight the way the Lord." Make our pathways straight. And I think about that with my grandmother. You know, especially with the Denk household, with six kids, believe me, like, there were booby traps everywhere. There were toys everywhere. There were plenty of things she could have fallen on. But if we were leading her, she could faithfully trust that she was going to get to wherever she wanted to safely.

Now, the truth is, with all of us, we are in spiritual darkness. Because of sin we are all blind. And we're all blind more so than we have any idea. Completely blind. It's dark. Night. We can't get from point A to B without God's help or without getting way off path, or without falling on some obstacles. And the truth is we need Him. We need Jesus to take us by the hand.

But the wonderful thing is he doesn't walk beside us. He doesn't just take our hand and walk beside us. He actually does walk in front of us. He takes us by the hand and he leads us, and he goes first through whatever we're going through in life. So we don't have to worry about anything that we're facing. We don't have to worry about any obstacles that are in front of us because Jesus goes first, and he leads them through them.

So if you are going through any darkness in your life right now, if you are struggling with anything spiritually heavy, or maybe you're just struggling with the loss of someone you love or with depression or with addiction, or who knows what you are struggling with, we all have our crosses, but Christ is the light and he leads us. He walks through those darknesses first, so that we can ultimately walk with Him without any fear, without any trepidation, because he goes first.

So this week I'll be doing your parish mission. And I'm here tonight at 6:30 to 7:30; Monday, 6:30 to 7:30; and Tuesday, 6:30 to 7:30. So it's just an hour each night. And what I'm going to help you to do is realize that at each and every moment of your lives Christ is there, and all you have to do is reach out your hand and he will lead you through whatever it is you are going through. You don't have to do anything alone. We don't even have to let him walk beside us. He walks ahead of us. So if you are going through any darkness, if you feel distant from the Lord, if you just want to be reconnected with the Lord, this is a wonderful opportunity to do it.

And so I am a younger priest, and I'm kind of into some of the modern technology. And I've been working for a couple of years on developing an app. So I worked for two years, and I finally developed this app. And I was so excited to finish it, I went home and I told my parents, I said, "Mom and Dad, the app is done and it's on the market." And my dad goes, "What's an app?" He had no clue what I was talking about. So how many of you know what an app is? Raise your hand if you do. Okay, good. Most -- great, I think all of you do. Good. So if you don't know, it's on your Smartphone or tablet or device, or anything like that.

But, basically, I've created this app, and it is to help you really allow yourself to be led by Jesus throughout the day, day in and day out, at any time of the day, literally, you can call, you can call Jesus and ask him for advice, and he's going to walk you through it.
If you don't have an app or you don't have a Smartphone, come and bring a notebook and pen. You're still going to love it. And invite anybody that you can to come to it as well. And if you don't know how to do it, how to load the app on your thing, ask your grand kids or your kids, and they will show you how to do it. So I look forward to sharing a wonderful mission.

And part of what I always try to do is always tie it in with music and song and story. And so the song I want to end with today deals with darkness and light. It deals with what it's like to be blind and to have our sight restored. So if service could help me.

I got a ukulele when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago, and it's become my favorite instrument. So I'm going to entertain you for a little bit with a ukulele. I think you're going to know this song, too. If you are really in the mood, you could even clap along, too. Don't feel like you have to.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.

You know it?

I can see all the obstacles in my way

How about some clapping?

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I've been prayin' for
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there's nothin' but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there's nothin' but blue skies.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,

It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

Sing that.

It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

One more time.

It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

All right. Don't you feel, don't you feel better after that song? And Jesus does, he wants to be our light in the darkness. And that's what we are celebrating in this season of Advent, especially this Gaudete Sunday. It's going to be a bright sun-shiny day. That's my promise to you, if you come to the mission these next three nights, tonight, Monday night and Tuesday night, that truly, with the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, I will help to bring light into your darkness, and every day of your lives you can reach out and let God lead you through whatever it is you are going through.

So we celebrate this day, this Gaudete Sunday, and we rejoice that the light is overcoming the darkness.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I tried hard to find a live lamb... this was the next best thing!

fr michael denk lamb hat

"Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock. In his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care."

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know I've been trying to find a lamb all week long for this homily. And if you are not friends with me on Facebook, please friend me because I am always desperate for things like this.

I wasn't able to find a lamb. I found out two things about lamb: First of all, lamb are baby sheep; and second of all, baby sheep don't come until the springtime. So it was kind of difficult for me to find a lamb. But there are some crazy things in the Rectory. So as I searched around the Rectory, I found something in Father Martello's closet that worked out pretty good for me.

"I am the lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world." You think this was in his closet? It wasn't. It was in mine, actually. They are adorable, aren't they? And then another parishioner gave me this for the homily, too, a little cuddly lamb.

"Like a shepherd who feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care."

Advent. Advent is a time for us to be gentle. We hear this in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem." "Comfort, give comfort to my people and speak tenderly to Jerusalem."

So as I was desperately trying to find a lamb all week, I talked to a farmer who is a sheep farmer, and he told me that, no, it would be very difficult to find a lamb this time of year. But he also said that he never eats sheep. I said, "I love veal. It's like the best thing ever." And he goes, "Well, let me tell you why. Because when I raise the lambs, they're bottle fed." So a lot of times he will hold the lambs in his arm like this, and he will feed them a bottle. As he was telling me about this, he got choked up and teary eyed, and he said, "They're just so beautiful and just so tender."

This is how God wants to carry us during this Advent season. Like a lamb, he gathers us to his bosom.

So one of the most important dispositions that we can have during Advent is this tenderness, is this gentleness, is this comfort. And so the Prophet Isaiah says, "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem." I want you to think about that first for yourself. Are you gentle with yourself, or do you beat yourself up? When you talk to yourself or speak to yourself, do you speak tenderly to yourself? Do you comfort yourself? Do you allow God to comfort you?

And secondly is, when you look around at your family, how do you speak to them? Are you tender? Do you speak tenderly with your words? Are your words comforting? Are your actions comforting? If they're not, this could be a time to change, because Advent is ultimately a time of new year. It's a time of new life. It's a time of entering into grace.

I think about pregnant women who are bearing children right now and the tenderness that comes about that. Oftentimes, they will take care of themselves like they never have before when they have a child in the womb. They may have been a smoker all their life, and like that, they quit smoking, or they stop drinking or they eat healthy or take time to rest. They comfort that child within them. They are tender to that life within them.

The truth is, in Advent we are bearing Christ in us. God is, right now, it's like a time of pregnancy. He is being born in us. He is being created in us. So we have to be very tender and gentle with ourselves. "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem."

There's a wonderful poem called "Desiderata," which is by Max Ehrmann. It talks about this gentleness and this tenderness. So as I read this poem, I'm going to end with this, and I just want you to think to yourself about Advent as being a time of tenderness, and how every moment your day and your life should be this kind of kindness, of gentleness, of comfort.

I think about even the craziness of the shopping, the Black Friday shopping sometimes you see on the news the people, like, mauling each other to get the gift; and think about the violence that we have in our schools, children killing each other; think about the riots that are going on. We need, above all, tenderness. We need to have tender moments in our lives. My home hope and prayer for you is sometime today or sometime this week, God is going to give you a moment of tenderness. Maybe it's even hugging your husband or wife that you haven't done in a while. Maybe it's somebody placing a baby into your lap, or maybe it's holding a pet, holding a dog or a cat or being gentle with the lamb. So here is "Desiderata."

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy." 

"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs to himself, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care." This season of Advent be gentle, be tender and bring comfort.

Can anyone get me a live lamb for the homily this weekend? I have 10 and noon on Sunday.

This song made me smile and I hope you do too.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent Poustinia Retreat this Friday and Saturday

Call St. Joseph, Amherst for more information 440.988.2848 or email Bob Glatz at RJRGlatz@oh.rr.com

Please pray for me as I will for you.

I will be away on my annual 8 day retreat. Please pray for me as I will for you. My director is Monsignor John Esseff, exorcist for the Diocese of Scranton, spiritual son of Padre Pio, Spiritual Director to Mother Teresa and her sisters. You can see his blog here: http://www.msgrjohnesseff.net/