Deacon Thomas Winninger's Homily Hot Sheets
Homily Hot Sheet
June 8th, 2014 Lourdes Deacon Thomas Winninger
Pentecost, John 20:19-23
Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you... As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Pentecost was already a great feast. The celebration was not initiated to remind people of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was one of the three great Jewish feasts at the time. The Jewish event was similar to our celebration of Thanksgiving. It was an ancient celebration when many pilgrims would come from all over the Eastern Mediterranean into Jerusalem in gratitude to God for the yearly harvest about to be reaped. Later, another Jewish tradition added the remembrance of the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was celebrated 50 days after the Pasch. It was a time of great rejoicing.
For the 150 or so disciples crowded in the upper room it was not so joyful. Just 50 days before their leader, their friend, had been brutally murdered. But some of them had seen Jesus since then, he had appeared to them. There is a sense that the room was quiet, they could hear the noise in the street below. Many of them were hoping that Jesus would come to say farewell for he had indicated that he was leaving them and going to the Father.
Then "bam" there he was in their midst, Jesus their Lord. He said a few words then "bam" suddenly the rush of a mighty wind came and filled the house where they were sitting and tongues of fire came and rested on each of them. The visual images in scripture are wonderful, "wind and fire", elements which usually accompanied God in the Old Testament.
The key theme here is not just one of enlightenment. Yes, they were filled with wisdom of understanding, yes they were able to speak and be understood by all who heard them, yes, they were strengthened in their fear. But more than that they were commissioned in their purpose and formed into Church. Biblical scholars say that this was the beginning of the Church. Each individual disciple at that moment with the help of the Holy Spirit came to understand why he or she was created. They received the understanding of their unique gifts in which they were called. Now that is powerful. They came to understand the purpose of their lives. It is purpose that makes all the difference.
Each of us knows someone who lived all their life and never understood for what purpose they were created. They lived in ignorance, but not these disciples in the brief moment of time the reality of who they were and what they were meant to do became so real to them and no amount of fear of difference in language was going to stand in their way. Their purpose was to go forth to evangelize the world. They were Church, a community of believers, to go out as Jesus did sharing the good news of salvation.
WOW! In a time when many of us don't know who we are and what our purpose in life is, this is amazing. Well, some of us are good at defining ourselves purely in terms of what our job is or what our living situation happens to be. We even ask each other what we do rather than who we are. Let's not be too hard on ourselves, I find defining myself as Deacon or as a father of seven.
But that is not what the mystery of Pentecost is all about. It is about coming to realize what we are called to do, what our purpose is, based on our unique gifts. For example, if we followed the formulas of the gospel when we introduced ourselves, or better yet when one of the disciples in the upper room would describe himself it might go something like this, "I am a true believer in the message of salvation, called to tell others about the joy of living life conformed to the will of God." Now if you met someone in the hallway or even here in Church who introduced themselves that way we might think them strange. It is easy to understand that we would not say that as a normal part of conversation with others but the sad part is that we don't say that to ourselves, and sadder yet we don't live the purpose of that definition in our lives. We don't live the purpose of Pentecost, we don't live our call, our created purpose.
Don't we all wish we could have been in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came in wind and fire, but we are in the upper room? This is the upper room; the Holy Spirit doesn't operate in space and time. The Pentecost of 2000 years ago is happening at this moment. You say, Deacon Winninger I don't hear the rushing of the mighty wind and I don't see tongues of fire (Pause) and why not? (Pause). Because it is not happening out there, it is happening in here. The Holy Spirit is at work all the time, the Paraclete is in perpetual motion, just like parents who are always giving of themselves always guiding, guarding, feeding, praying for their children.
So what must we do if we want to experience Pentecost in our lives, if we want to understand our purpose, our call and experience the same joy that the disciples experienced. Augustine says that we must correspond with the Holy Spirit. Not unlike writing a note to someone we love. First, he says we must become docile to the reality of the Holy Spirit. Now that is not a word we hear in common usage. Docile means we must be open like the disciples to learn; it is a willingness to be teachable. For when we are we discover things. We discover God's dots in our lives; those are situations, people or circumstances that lead us to knowledge of our purpose, the knowledge of God's presence in our lives. We miss God's dots because we are making our own dots and connecting our own dots. Suddenly something changes in our lives, God gets our attention by erasing the lines we are drawing connecting our dots, forcing us to consider his dots. (Now dots are another whole homily). Second, we must come to reflective prayer, that is conversation with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we share ourselves, what we know about ourselves and what we would like to know about ourselves. Most of us fall into the human trap of just asking for more dots.
And third, we must come to union with the cross. The Holy Spirit follows the cross, it does not precede it. In other words, we must abandon our will to God, humble ourselves, get control of our will by a practice of abstinence when it isn't Lent. It opens space for the will of God to enter. Corresponding with the Holy Spirit is worth it for Augustine reminds us that the Holy Spirit brings many gifts that change our lives for the good including love, joy, peace, trustfulness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, and self-control.
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you... As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Easter Vigil April 19, 2014
Deacon Thomas Winninger, CSMA
Gn. 1:1, 26-31, Ex. 14:15, Matt. 28:1-10
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness...God saw how good it was."
It is hard to imagine that there is something about us that is like God. Does God have a head? Does God have hands or feet? It is hard to imagine especially when we look at the imperfections of our bodies. Tall, short, little, big; it seems like only the media knows what is perfect and what they project is usually made up, it is not real. So what makes us in the image and likeness of God? In other words, what about us is Divine? (pause) Yes, it is our immortal souls. The Divine in each one of us is our soul. It is not a human part of us. Our soul is bigger than the human part of us. It's the door to the divine, the window to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It's that part of us that encounters Christ. It's that part of us to which God speaks.
We, like Jesus, are both human and divine. We are embodied spirits, our souls use our bodies to live our lives so that we attain eternal life.
The theme of these readings is renewal of the soul, the spirit. The theme is embodied in Psalm 104's petitions, "Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth!" All the images that are part of this liturgy, the flame (the bonfire), the lighting of all our candles, the baptism, the confirmations, the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord are calls for renewal of our mind and spirit, our body and soul. This liturgy is about conversion, not the moment in time that we embrace Christ in our lives for the first time but all the moments that we seek to have an ever-deepening relationship with our Lord. The conversion we experience on this Easter Vigil calls us to 'becoming', becoming the person we were meant to be when God created us in his image and likeness. Becoming is a journey of moments; moments that contribute to our preparation for everlasting life.
As in Matthew's Gospel we rush to the tomb, why, because we are curious as to the reality of Christ, is he really God? Why, because we are worried about the soldiers stealing the body? Why, because we have nothing better to do than to take a run? No, we rush to the tomb because of a promise. A promise of freedom from death to life, Jesus told us so and he is our shepherd, he is our friend. He loved us to the end. He is a friend who loved us without judgment. He is a friend who forgives us for our failings. He is a friend that moved beyond our faults. He is a friend who was willing to save us by laying down his life. And now he will love us at the beginning of our journey. So we rush to that renewal.
So on this the Easter Vigil what are we called to do? We are called to renew our relationship with Christ. We are called to determine why we seek a relationship with Christ. Do we seek a relationship with him because we feel we have to, because it is the rule? Do we seek a relationship because we want something; we want him to give us something? Or do we seek a relationship because he is a true friend who is willing to die for us? Each of these is a different relationship. Which is yours?
Then we are called today to focus on the divine part of us and in that divine to open our souls to the reality of Christ in our life; for we do not communicate with Christ from our head but rather from our heart. It is in love that we embrace what we do not understand with our head. And finally, we are called through this renewal to seek a deeper level of conversion, a deeper level of transformation; seeking to become what Jesus meant us to be from the beginning, a person of faith who loves, gives, and forgives in the name of the Lord.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness... God saw how good it was."
Holy Thursday, Lord's Supper
Deacon Thomas Winninger, CSMA
Ex. 12:1-8, 11-14, 1 Cor. 11:23-26, John 13:1-15
Do you realize what I have done for you?
You will not wash my feet. I will wash your feet but you will not wash my feet. "But Peter if you do not let me wash your feet then there is no place in heaven for you." "Lord then wash all of me." Peter is definitely an all or nothing kind of guy. With this simple act of washing feet we begin the Triduum, the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ, the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord. This is the mission of his life on earth, the reason he took on human nature was to die for us to save us from our sins and reconcile us to the Father. It was not about the miracles he performed, it was not about him being raised from the dead. It was not about all the banquets he attended with his sinful disciples to demonstrate that he came for the poor in spirit. His true mission is signified in this the longest liturgy we will experience in our Catholic Faith.
So now you look at your watch to check the time in hopes that I do not run for hours. I'm not talking about how long we will be together tonight. I'm talking about the three days of the Triduum note that it is seventy-two hours. From now to Easter Sunday is one liturgy with three parts. It began tonight when Father Griffith declared, "In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". And it will end with "Go in peace to serve the Lord" at the end of Mass on Easter. You see there will be no close tonight; we will quietly leave this the Lord's Supper to enter the garden of Gethsemane where the divine and human natures of Christ will demonstrate the tension of commitment, "Father, if this cup cannot pass from me, thy will be done."
Unfortunately, many think that this is a simple remembrance of the last supper our Lord celebrated with his disciples. But if one considers that the Lord is divine and with the divine there is no time, then we are all there in the upper room. We are all experiencing in the moment, the act of love in washing of the feet, the first communion with the consecration of the bread and wine, and the institution of the priesthood.
The theme of the readings is total love. The Last Supper is a demonstration of total love. Just as with the washing of the feet, love to be whole must be given and received. That is the point Jesus was making to Peter. We are not whole without giving love and accepting love. Jesus indicated to Peter if he cannot accept the love of this act then he will not be with the Lord in paradise. This sets the tone for the whole Triduum and gives us all the call for our personal commitment to walk the way of the cross: a total act of love. But you say, "I do not refuse the love of Christ in my life!" Really, so you accept everything that Jesus sends your way. WOW, I will confess that I fail at that on many occasions. I have been known to reject his gifts because I could wash my own feet, I could set my own path and accomplish my own goals. Sometimes I have missed him because I was just too busy. You see what the Lord was saying to Peter, "I give you everything, all you need to do is surrender to what I am doing for you. I am going to die for you. What greater love can one have for another?"
So, what are we called to do as a result of this experience? Commit during the next three days to the absolute nature of love. That is love without judgment, that is love without expectations, that is love of giving of self not just of words. Is this really the love Jesus is calling us to, if it is only words, and not actions? It must be an act of love that comes with the words. In Calcutta these past two weeks I came to tell everyone I love them. Mother Teresa demonstrated those words by embracing with love in action everyone who the Lord sent into her life, one person at a time.
As we enter the paschal mystery, we are called to realize more deeply what Jesus did and is doing for us each day, to be good receivers as part of our loving.
I love you.
Second Sunday of Lent 3/16/14
Deacon Thomas Winninger, CSMA
Gn. 12:1-4, 2 Tim. 1:8-10, Mt. 17:1-9.
Go forth to the land I will show you.
Climb every mountain, search high and low, ford every stream, and follow every rainbow, till you find your dream. And those lyrics are from? (Pause) That's right, the Sound of Music! The Von Trapp family sang that song as they were seeking to escape the tribulations of their occupied country.
The question this second Sunday of Lent is what mountains are you trying to climb in your life? Are they mountains or as my grandfather would say molehills you are trying to turn into mountains? And what do you expect to find at the top of your mountain? Better stated, what mountain must you climb to experience Jesus in your life? What must you and I do to make room for Christ in our lives so that he can help us be transformed by his transfiguration?
This Lenten journey is about finding Christ at a deeper level in our life so that we can discover who we really are, so that we can discover what he is calling us to do with our life that we have not done. Now, there is a deeper question for reflection, "What are we suppose to do that we have not done so far in our lives?" I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on you; most of us do a pretty good job of that ourselves. But in all reality, life is a journey of self-discovery and transformation. It is a journey of becoming, becoming better. Will we be any better at the end of this Lent?
The theme of today's readings is all about seeking the answers to our life. Now this certainly is not going to happen today, or even this week but today is a good day to ask the question. "What does God want me to do that I am not doing? And how will he help me along the way? How will he help me transform?"
In the first reading from Genesis God asks Abraham to leave his homeland and to seek an unknown place where he will come to discover what his life is all about. Now Abraham could have said, "Lord, I'm going to stay right here, I'm happy right here, I'm going to stay put, so find someone else to pester with your self discovery stuff." But he did not say that, he went as God directed him. When the Lord God said, "Go forth from you homeland," he went forth. How many of us right here in this assembly including myself would have gone forth, no matter how enticing the promises were. But then we might say, "But God spoke to Abraham, he is not speaking to me." And what makes you so sure that he is not speaking to you? Is it because you cannot interpret the signals or you are too busy pitching your own tent to catch on to what he has in store for you? Remember Abraham was over eighty years old at the time the Lord told him to go forth. That means none of us has an excuse. Age is not an excuse for most of us in this room.
Perhaps we should pray more fervently, as David did in Psalm 33, "Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you." Lord, show us where you want us to go forth as we place our trust in you. If we had more trust and hope we would go forth out of our comfort level.
In Paul's letter to Timothy, he says in the Lord Jesus Christ we find hope to climb the mountains of life. "Grace is made manifest in us." But we must make the climb, we must live our faith in our lives and in our work.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus opens the eyes of Peter, James, and John to the reality of their call. He takes them up the mountain and is transfigured before their eyes. You ask, what does that mean? It means that he showed them his divine nature and his relationship to the Father. He took them beyond their human limitations. He showed them that if they follow his path, it will be worth the trip. The primary purpose of the transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the Cross. He revealed his glory so they would not lose hope when they witness him being crucified.
What are we called to do as a result of these readings? First, we are called to realize that our journey is not over yet. Each of us still has a mountain to climb in our life. No matter what our age or situation, Jesus is calling us to be transformed in this journey of life. He is calling us to look to him for hope, guidance and confidence that things will be good. Second, on a more practical level we are called to associate with people who are more joyful and faith filled than ourselves. In other words, befriend people who are more hopeful believers. Clearly, it's easier to be joyful around joyful people who live their faith, than skeptics who are to busy tearing things down. Remember, Peter in his joy of the transfiguration offered to build three tents. Third, we are called to pray for strength, wisdom, and insights into our lives so that we can come more clearly to what Jesus wants us to do with our time, our talent, and gifts.
"Go forth..." he says, "... to the land I will show you".
To whichever you choose…before you are life and death, good and evil.
Which door do you pick? Door one or door two? You have free will, God gave us free will to choose to love him or not love him. He said, you choose, I made you to love me, that is, I will give you the desire to love me but I will not make you love me. Well I don’t know which door to pick. What are the consequences of picking door one or door two? As your deacon I am not the one to tell you which door to choose? Just like God I will not make you choose and I will not judge you for your choices.