The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021: Homily

In John’s gospel, John the Baptist points his finger toward Jesus. His vocation was to seek the Kingdom of God here on earth and to wake us up to forgiveness and love.

 Jesus asks John’s followers, “What are you looking for?” This question echoes across the centuries and into our lives. This is a divine question, meaning it comes from Jesus.  We take his questions to heart. Our vocations arise from his voice.

Questions always challenge us. They get us involved in our relationships. Without questions, we never change for the good, we never learn how to love more deeply or to believe with greater strength. Questions help us get over the poison of entitlement or selfishness or believing we are better than other people. “What are you looking for?” is a key question in our time.

We are facing horrific divides in our nation and Church. These may be the most provocative and challenging months in our lifetimes. The pandemic has greater strength than many wars. The labels we have stamped upon other people are more like a hot branding because they seem permanent. We brand people to divide the rich and the poor, the Republican and the Democrat, the conservative and the liberal, the person who is with me verses and the person who is against me, the ones who have and the ones who don’t have. These labels do not express our vocations as Christians.

These labels are absorbing our attention more than our faith. We have somehow believed that politics can hold our entire emotional and spiritual lives as human beings. We have given our hearts away to pollical parties. No political structure can absorb our full identities as human beings. In other words, politics has overshadowed our faith. Politics does not offer us vocations of love. Our faith is in Christ Jesus. He alone questions our motives and our actions. God gives us direction and that direction is always toward love, forgiveness and hope.

So, what are you looking for? We are all looking for a home in this world where we can educate our children and feel like we belong and experience acceptance. We are looking for a true desire to serve other people. We are looking for love.

We all have the ability to answer the question for our own lives. However, what Jesus asks of us is to follow Him, even to the Cross.  And to follow him means we die to self and selfishness and learn to live for the common good, for the beauty of life on earth, with responsibility, with justice, with integrity, and with hope for the dignity of all people.

This week as our nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. and inaugurates a new president, I want you to sit and ponder the question Jesus poses in the beginning of his ministry. He changed the life and even the name of Peter. Jesus desires to change us as well. Jesus questions us because he loves the world and so desperately desires to find his home within us, within you and within me. Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

God give you peace.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021: Bulletin Column and Art

Click here to read full bulletin for January 17, 2021

Dear Followers of Jesus,

In today’s gospel, John 1:35-42, John pointed into the direction of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Two disciples heard John and began to follow Jesus. Jesus turned to the men and asked them, “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks this rather provocative question to these strangers. However, this question also jumps off the page to capture our attention. I wonder if we really know what we want from Jesus. I wonder if we can be honest enough to explore this Divine question. These words came from the mouth of Jesus. Here is my reflection on Jesus’ question to each of us. I would love to hear from you as to how you would answer this question if Jesus was standing in front of you.

“What are you looking for?”

For my heart to know your presence.

For my soul to sing of your love.

For reassurance that you listen.

For trust that you hope in me.

For inner freedom to live your life in me.

For remedy to my stubbornness.

For your warmth to strengthen this cold heart.

For a long rest upon your shoulder.

For my heart to become fire.

For my mind to embrace honesty.

For my anxiety to melt in your presence.

For my life to understand your call for me.

For life to unfold in truth and fidelity.

For life to reflect my belief in you alone.

For life to affirm my voice and gifts.

For life to find you as its source.

For kindness to unite relationships.

For gossip to ebb.

For tenderness to flow.

For justice to makes its home in us all.

For healing to flood my soul.

For a shroud of forgiveness around me.

For mercy to make a home within me.

For home to reflect love.

For people to find your truth.

For the ill to know your healing.

For the stubborn to find serenity.

For the addicted to let go of compulsion.  

For an end of violence and misunderstanding.

For empty stomachs to remain full.

For wars to ebb.

For rainforests and oceans to thrive.

For the earth to be healed.

For the children to know your encouragement.

For the elderly to die in peace.

For the world to treasure your enduring word.

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

The Stations of the Cross in Atonement for Abuse and the Healing of All: Published by Liturgical Press

Lent provides the perfect setting to pray about one of the most important issues in the Church today, the healing of sexual abuse. CLICK here to learn more and order for your parish or faith community.

Below is my art response to the these Stations of the Cross. This response is published in the book. i am so grateful to Liturgical Press for asking me to be part of this important project.

The Artist’s Response

Finger Painting

I pray that my fingers covered in paint may help redeem the abuse our children faced at the hands of my brothers.

Backdrop of Chaos

With my fingers, brushes, and rags, I splashed paint on the canvas. From that chaos, Jesus emerged. The sex crimes of clergy will never fade or go away. Healing must allow the chaos to speak. The disorder cannot be blended away or ignored or painted over. The disarray becomes the consistent motif for all fourteen stations. I cannot control the chaos of abuse. I also could not control how the face of Jesus revealed itself from the canvas of such discontinuity, disorder, and madness.

Outside the Lines

I pray that my paintings with blurred lines may help heal the ways my brother priests blurred lines of appropriate boundaries. They destroyed children’s innocence and that destruction continues within adulthood. I want people to see themselves here in the mess, the mix of colors, and the unfinished nature of the characters. I want people to see Jesus’ emotion for them.

Primary Colors

Our children use primary colors to create art. I want to experience the innocence of raw color and their instincts of applying paint on canvas. These images are not adorned with clean lines, nuance, or historical style. Viewing the colors and styles of children enable us all to heal.

Face of Christ

The face of Christ holds every emotion of abuse and of our untold stories. He receives all we offer him. Jesus, in turn, reveals to us both suffering and mercy. In his eyes, we find home.

The Disembodiment of Abuse

We often fear and feel shame within our abused bodies. Jesus is revealed without a body in the majority of these paintings. Our bodies need to tell their own stories. These stations reveal disembodied suffering of many who cannot face the truth of their abuse.

The Handprints of Children

The handprints reveal the longing of our children to touch mystery, to touch love and hope again. The prints suggest that innocence can only be restored by the mystery of Jesus. We all wait to touch such mystery. This touch may heal the forbidden touch of the past.

The Baptism of the Lord 2021

CLICK here to read full bulletin

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Today, we celebrate The Baptism of the Lord. His cousin, John, baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. This baptism initiated Jesus into his public ministry. After this moment in the Jordan, Jesus enters the lives of people to bring healing, forgiveness and peace into people’s lives. Jesus becomes the living embodiment of love, the love only the Father can give from his Kingdom of Heaven.

Most people in the Church were baptized as infants. We never understood this transformation, this new life. We have relied on others to witness on our behalf such a transformation. This feast is an opportunity for us to live the mystery of our own baptism. Jesus’ life, his passion, death and resurrection, become the life into which we are initiated. We belong to him because of our baptism. We are God’s adopted children. We are rich in the presence of Christ Jesus through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. God’s love is thoroughly within our lives, our bodies and our souls. 

Because we belong to God in baptism, then we also belong in the Church. We belong to one another. In baptism, we understand our relationship with one another. The waters of baptism in many ways become thicker and more relational than the blood of our relatives. The unique connection we have within baptism connects us to the lives and needs of other people. 

Baptism is not a private sacrament. Baptism is not a sacrament of privilege. Baptism is a radical understanding that we belong to Christ’s redeeming love and to the real life world of the Church. We belong to one another. This is why people in the early Church shared their gifts, their money and their goods. Baptism is an equalizer. Baptism does not put one person on a pedestal. 

This year, we celebrate the Lord’s baptism without water! During the pandemic, we may have forgotten how much we belong to one another. No matter how much we have been afraid to attend Mass or feel just lonely, we know that through our baptism, we belong to the Church and to one another. This year, we rely on the Holy Spirit to engage our hearts and to heal our misfortunes and our fears of being together in worship. Baptism is engagement with the Holy Spirit to compel us to move into the world to provide peace, healing and kindness. 

There are several items used in the ritual of baptism that become images for our Christian lives. Of course, water, becomes an image of washing, cleansing from sin, and initiation into the lives of the community. In water, the old has been washed away. The Light of Christ, a candle given to godparents, becomes an image of life, of renewal and hope for the child or adult who is baptized. The light reveals Christ when darkness covers our path. The white garment is also given to a child. This garment may be the white gown or clothing worn. This garment, however, is really important. It signifies that we are clothed in Christ Jesus. The garment found in the empty tomb becomes the garment we all wear. This garment is revealed again in the pall at our funerals, that we are all one in Christ. We are one in the Mystery of Heaven here on earth. 

In today’s gospel, Mark 1:7-11 we hear the voice of God the Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is a profound sentence for every Christian under heaven. We are sons and daughters of our loving God. We belong to Him. We are cherished and given new life in Christ Jesus. Pray this sentence with love this week. Pray this sentence because our lives depend upon such grace and tenderness. 

God give you peace, 

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Memorial of Saint Andre Bessette 2021

This video was created with permission from Salt and Light Productions that shows our contributions to “God’s Doorkeeper” from our parish in Portland, OR. This was filmed in 2010, several months before his canonization.

CLICK here to learn more about Sacred Heart Parish and the Congregation of Holy Cross and Saint Andre Bessette.

CLICK here to listen to Franciscan Media about Brother Andre.

Saint André Bessette is the first person to be canonized in the Congregation of Holy Cross. His memorial is celebrated on January 6 in the United States. In many other countries, the memorial is often celebrated on January 7 because the Epiphany is celebrated normally on January 6. No matter the day of the memorial of Saint André, he speaks to us with love and faith in our three communities during this Christmas time and especially during the many issues of pandemic. 

At Sacred Heart Church, we are honored to have a first-class relic of Saint André Bessette housed within our new altar. We received this relic in 2019 from Saint Joseph Oratory in Montreal. I am so grateful that André’s presence is here in our altar to help us understand the Real Presence of Christ Jesus. André’s gift is to help us sort through our ills, our sorrows, our isolation, and our weariness even in this year of pandemic. 

Alfred (André) Bessette, born near Quebec, Ontario, Canada on August 9, 1845, grew up in poverty and faith. Orphaned by age 12, prayer guided him to Saint Joseph. Through this devotion, he desired to enter the Congregation of Holy Cross. Brother André was assigned as Porter to Notre Dame College, Montreal. As doorkeeper, his healing reputation spread, reaching 600 people a day. He spent sleepless nights praying for the sick. 

I admit, it never occurred to me until this past year that André lived through the pandemic of 1918. He would have been at the height of his ministry of healing. I imagine that André dealt with people who were alone and isolated from the pandemic of his time. His healing ministry takes on an entirely new aspect for me knowing that he had gone through such a reality. 

His ministry grew from the pandemic, and World War I and beyond into what is now Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He died on January 6, 1937 before its completion. He remains a paradox within our religious community since he was illiterate, joining our community known for education. He was frail bodied and strong in faith. He was orphaned and yet welcomed the sick as family. Brother André lived simply, a model of faith for people in despair. He was a sickly child and yet lived to be 91 years old. 

I have a great love and devotion to Saint André. He is such an example for me that God reveals love amid the weak and needy. The strength that enabled him to listen and care for the sick and pray all night came from Jesus. André understood that there was nothing more important than the needs of the sick and suffering. 

I believe we are learning a deeper and more sustaining notion of ministry among the ill given our experiences with COVID-19. We are exhausted from isolation and worry. Our healthcare workers are at the breaking point. I believe this pandemic will open us up to a new way of life and a new sense of compassion for our world. We have this common reality of vulnerability and loss. I pray we can ask Saint André to help us find the Light of Christ in the darkness that surrounds us. Hope is real for us who have faith in difficult times. 

I rely on Saint André in many ways. I also see his work among those who reach out in our community to the sick and elderly. André helps us in our Food Pantry, as simple as it is right now. We must rely on André to help us as a parish to support the needs of vulnerable people even though we cannot have meetings or large in-person services at this time. I ask André to intercede for us when violence covers our streets and anger rages in our hearts. 

Jesus’ heart becomes our heart. We also learn from Saint André Bessette who was canonized on Sunday, October 17, 2010. Saint André extended his heart and life to the weary. I invite you this week to seek out the life of Saint André Bessette. I invite you to surrender your pain and doubt to him in prayer. Invite him into your bodily and emotional pain. Invite him to intercede for us who face the ravages of the pandemic. Allow Saint André to welcome you in the frustrations or tragedies of your life. Allow Saint André to reveal to you the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the place of love and comfort for us all. 

 Prayer:

Saint André,

Welcome me at the threshold,

When I am lost. 

Offer me tenderness and solace,

When I am tired.

Remind me I belong 

When I am orphaned. 

Guide me to Saint Joseph 

When I am far from home. 

Bring forgiveness to my heart

When I feel most unworthy. 

Reveal Jesus’ healing touch

When I hurt and am alone. 

Touch my pain,

When I wait to be healed. 

Saint André Bessette pray for us!

The Epiphany of the Lord 2020: Bulletin Column, Art, Saint Andre

Dear Followers of Christ,

The Church celebrates The Epiphany of the Lord today. This feast continues the Christmas season and the revelation of Christ Jesus as Light of the World. We are drawn toward the Light of Christ. Hope is manifest in our hearts as well as for the lost.

Hope is not secondary to our faith. Hope is not whimsical or for only the well-deserving. We need hope especially in these days of pandemic. We need hope when so many of our relationships are stifled and seem to be on hold.  We need hope when our bodies are alone and untouched. Christ, the Light of the World, is hope for all nations, all people, in every time and land. I urge you to take stock of the hope you encounter on a daily basis; even the kind glances over a mask and the simple ways people help you at the grocery store. The Light of Christ may seem dim this year, but our faith is rooted in every action, every prayer, and in every notion of tenderness. 

I also draw your attention to Saint André Bessette, the first person to be canonized in the Congregation of Holy Cross. His memorial is celebrated on January 6 in the United States. In many other countries, the memorial is often celebrated on January 7 because the Epiphany is celebrated normally on January 6. No matter the day of the memorial of Saint André, he speaks to us with love and faith in our three communities during this Christmas time and especially during the many issues of pandemic. 

At Sacred Heart Church, we are honored to have a first-class relic of Saint André Bessette housed within our new altar. We received this relic in 2019 from Saint Joseph Oratory in Montreal. I am so grateful that André’s presence is here in our altar to help us understand the Real Presence of Christ Jesus. André’s gift is to help us sort through our ills, our sorrows, our isolation, and our weariness even in this year of pandemic. 

Alfred (André) Bessette, born near Quebec, Ontario, Canada on August 9, 1845, grew up in poverty and faith. Orphaned by age 12, prayer guided him to Saint Joseph. Through this devotion, he desired to enter the Congregation of Holy Cross. Brother André was assigned as Porter to Notre Dame College, Montreal. As doorkeeper, his healing reputation spread, reaching 600 people a day. He spent sleepless nights praying for the sick. 

I admit, it never occurred to me until this past year that André lived through the pandemic of 1918. He would have been at the height of his ministry of healing. I imagine that André dealt with people who were alone and isolated from the pandemic of his time. His healing ministry takes on an entirely new aspect for me knowing that he had gone through such a reality. 

His ministry grew from the pandemic, and World War I and beyond into what is now Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He died on January 6, 1937 before its completion. He remains a paradox within our religious community since he was illiterate, joining our community known for education. He was frail bodied and strong in faith. He was orphaned and yet welcomed the sick as family. Brother André lived simply, a model of faith for people in despair. He was a sickly child and yet lived to be 91 years old. 

I have a great love and devotion to Saint André. He is such an example for me that God reveals love amid the weak and needy. The strength that enabled him to listen and care for the sick and pray all night came from Jesus. André understood that there was nothing more important than the needs of the sick and suffering. 

I believe we are learning a deeper and more sustaining notion of ministry among the ill given our experiences with COVID-19. We are exhausted from isolation and worry. Our healthcare workers are at the breaking point. I believe this pandemic will open us up to a new way of life and a new sense of compassion for our world. We have this common reality of vulnerability and loss. I pray we can ask Saint André to help us find the Light of Christ in the darkness that surrounds us. Hope is real for us who have faith in difficult times. 

I rely on Saint André in many ways. I also see his work among those who reach out in our community to the sick and elderly. André helps us in our Food Pantry, as simple as it is right now. We must rely on André to help us as a parish to support the needs of vulnerable people even though we cannot have meetings or large in-person services at this time. I ask André to intercede for us when violence covers our streets and anger rages in our hearts. 

Jesus’ heart becomes our heart. We also learn from Saint André Bessette who was canonized on Sunday, October 17, 2010. Saint André extended his heart and life to the weary. I invite you this week to seek out the life of Saint André Bessette. I invite you to surrender your pain and doubt to him in prayer. Invite him into your bodily and emotional pain. Invite him to intercede for us who face the ravages of the pandemic. Allow Saint André to welcome you in the frustrations or tragedies of your life. Allow Saint André to reveal to you the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the place of love and comfort for us all. 

God give you peace, 

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor

Saint André,

Welcome me at the threshold,

When I am lost. 

Offer me tenderness and solace,

When I am tired.

Remind me I belong 

When I am orphaned. 

Guide me to Saint Joseph 

When I am far from home. 

Bring forgiveness to my heart

When I feel most unworthy. 

Reveal Jesus’ healing touch

When I hurt and am alone. 

Touch my pain,

When I wait to be healed. 

Saint André Bessette pray for us!

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph 2020: Bulletin Column and Cover Art

Dear Believers in the Christ,

In Luke 2: 22-40, we hear with our own ears the beautiful words of Simeon who spotted the child Jesus. He had waited in the Temple for many years for that moment. I imagine him with a grey beard and old dark clothing in the dark, dusty temple. Most people would have passed him up as another old, crazy man without a place to go. People must have known who he was and why he persistently waited in prayer. Then it happened, his eyes fell upon the small child with Mary and Joseph. His words were prophetic and wise. 

Simeon becomes a prophet. His presence and his words ushered in a new reality. The child was destined to change the world. The gospel writer, Luke, puts these words into the old man’s mouth: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” These words are still prayed during Night Prayer in the Church. Imagine, for centuries, we have proclaimed just before bed, the beauty of Simeon’s testimony, that he lived long enough to see the child, who was destined to redeem the world. 

Simeon also has words for Mary that would change her life. I am sure she would never have expected such an encounter bearing the small child in the temple. Simeon says these words, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted— and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” These words spoken to Mary become Mary’s first of the Seven Sorrows. She will treasure the meaning of those words throughout her life and will live out such a prediction as she will learn to stand with Jesus during all the moments of his suffering. 

As we continue to celebrate Christmas, we too, are part of the Holy Family. Through the gift of our baptism, we stand with those who waited to see the Christ Child and those who would witness his ministry, and his passion, death, and resurrection. We are part of God’s plan as well. 

Now that the initial celebration of Christmas is past, at least the wrappings are off the gifts and the leftovers are in the refrigerator, we turn to this feast that celebrates our connection to something more than our earthly families. I am sure this Christmas has initiated new plans and various kinds of celebrations than in the past, due to the pandemic. The one thing the pandemic does not do is to rip apart our understanding that we still belong in God. We are still part of the family in which we celebrate today. The Holy Family is not just about Jesus and his parents, but about the connection that Christ has with his people. Here, the water of baptism is thicker than the blood of family. I rely on that to be true. 

The Holy Family becomes another link as to why we serve people who most need us. We honor all of life, including the unborn, and those who need to be raised, educated and clothed. We honor our adults in nursing homes, and those in long-term facilities suffering from horrific disabilities and disease. There are no distinctions as to who is in the Family of God and who is not. Even our enemies must be cared for by the Christian. The Holy Family is an extended celebration of the Incarnation, Christmas, that is, God-with-us. 

I hope that Zoom and FaceTime can carry the faces into your lives of those you love across the globe during these Christmas days. We ache to see the faces of those we love, just as Simeon finally laid his eyes on Jesus’s tiny eyes and grin. I want desperately for people to realize they belong in God. There is nothing that keeps any of us apart. Belonging is a fundamental notion of being human. And so many people feel at one point or another in life, that they do not belong, either in their families or in the Church. 

Let’s make sure as the calendar turns the page to another year, that we take seriously Simeon and Anna in the gospel of Luke, that they waited to see Jesus even in their old age. They knew they belonged in God’s plan. Anna waited in the temple for years. She too, becomes a messenger of the reality of Jesus in the world. Perhaps we can work on making sure all people are supported, fed, educated, housed and listened to. Perhaps, our faith this year will challenge us to gaze upon the stranger and see the face of Jesus. I am counting on it. 

Happy New Year. 

God give you peace.

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor