Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Homily 2012: The Birth of my Nephew Aiden, Death of a Parishioner, and the Resurrection of our Lord.


In February, My youngest sister Sheri gave birth to my Nephew Aiden.  It was one of those long deliveries where she got to the Hospital in the morning and didn’t have him until just before midnight. 

Because it was so late all the extended family had gone home and it was just my parents and the six of us kids.  My sister wanted all of her brothers and sisters there.  Since she is a single mother, my two other sisters and my mother got to be in the birth room with Sheri.  Outside in the waiting area were the guys. 

There was a little scare because his heart stopped and my mother said that Sheri asked everyone to pray, what would you like us to pray?  “The Hail Mary” Sheri yelled. It occurred to me later that we mirrored the masculine of what was happening with the women in the waiting room.  My two brothers and I were praying with my father while my two sisters and mother were praying with Sheri.  My father was quite and panicking and the women were calm and diligent coaxing a newborn baby out of the womb.

We, the guys didn’t actually get to see the birth, and from what “Coach” said, aka my sister Christie, we were better off being outside. 
I was just talking to a delivery Doctor and he said that he read an article done by scientist that by all physical means it’s impossible for a woman’s body to give birth to a baby.  So I’m sure for those of you that have been through it, know what a difficult and messy process birth is. 

The first time I saw my new nephew, Aiden, he was cleaned and beautiful.  This tiny little baby, this new life, this little boy was now really here in our world.  I wonder if that’s what the disciples felt the first time they saw the resurrected Lord. 

When we all were allowed in we gathered around her bed to see him for the first time the nurse took a picture of our family together.

For some reason God had chosen the women to see Aiden in advance.  And from what I saw of my father crying and nervous outside, maybe it is better that we weren’t in there. 




A month later I would have a very different but equally powerful moment.  I had been called to the house of a parishioner that was dying.  The hospice nurse said it wasn’t immediate, but that I should come within the week.  It was one of those rare moments where I actually had time before my next meeting so I went to the house right away.  When I got there almost all of the kids and grandkids were home, some outside, some in the kitchen, his wife at the kitchen table and one of his sons sitting in a recliner by his bedside.

The dying man was pretty sedated and not very responsive, but I’ve been told and always remind the family that the hearing is one of the last organs to go.  So we gathered together around his bed and I began to pray the Last Rites.  I spoke the words of the Apostolic Pardon into his ears: "Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy." Then had his family lay their hands on him, I anointed him with the Oil of the Sick, sang the litany of saints, and together we commended him to God.

I drove back to the rectory and was getting ready to go the meeting, it hadn’t been 10 minutes when the phone rang and they told me that he had died.  When I got back to the house the family was there grieving.  At the same time there was also a very strong sense of the powerful moment that had just happened and the realization that these sacred Rites of the church had actually allowed him to die very quickly and peacefully.

A Few minutes later, one of the sons who wasn’t there came in to discover the news that his father was dead.  He had missed the actual moment.  He came in late only to see the looks on his family’s faces that his father had died.  The son broke down and wept running into the room where his father was.  Days later I would gather the family around his body once more as we celebrated the funeral and laid him to rest. 

I can’t help but think that in both of these moments, the birth of my nephew and the death of this parishioner, I wasn’t actually there for the moment of transition.  I wasn’t actually in the room when my nephew was born, nor was I at the house at the moment of the man’s passing.  It was only before and after that I got to witness the wondrous birth into new life. 

Something very similar happened in the resurrection.  None of the disciples would be there for the moment of the Resurrection.  The last glimpse of Jesus would be when they covered his dead body in the shroud and laid him in the tomb.  The next they would see him, he was already raised from the dead, in His Glorified body, and the tomb was empty. 

The questions can be asked: “Why didn’t anyone get to see?  Why wasn’t anyone allowed to be there when Jesus was raised from the dead?” 

God, for some reason in His divine providence kept that intimate moment of rebirth within the Heart of the Trinity. 

We didn’t get to see it.  The disciples didn’t get to see it.  Even the women, who never left his side, didn’t get to see it. 

John the Evangelist accounts only the moment of discovery: 
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

Peter and the beloved disciple, when they came to the tomb, saw only the burial clothes there and
“the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

Like us men in the waiting room of the hospital and the son who missed his father’s death.  What happened in the tomb when Jesus was raised from the dead was probably beyond what we could handle.  Indeed it is the Paschal Mystery.  Even the disciples did not yet understand the Scripture that “he had to raise from the dead.” 

The disciples are left grasping and searching for the meaning.  And so it is with us.  At the Resurrection, and at all moments of birth and death, we stand in awe at the mystery… so far beyond what we can comprehend. 

In the days to come after the Resurrection we hear in the Acts of the Apostles: 

This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

Some of us have seen him.  Really some of us have experienced Him in the Resurrected form.  Some of us do know what it is to live the life of the Resurrection.  For those of you that have, in a special way you are to be witnesses.  For those of you who really do believe that when we come here today it’s not just bread and wine that we receive, but His Body and Blood.  For those of you who live a life of deep prayer, love, service, joy, and above all relation with Jesus, it is up to you to share your experience for those of us who have not yet met him or at least realize that we have met him. 

Many of you will come to mass today that may only come once or twice a year.  My challenge to you is to ask someone who comes Sunday after Sunday, lives their faith deeply, who really believes in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, who truly knows and walks with Jesus, ask them what this life is like. 

He may be stirring something in your heart right now because chances are you have had these moments in your life and they were real.  Each and every one of us probably has had some mystical experience of Jesus.  We just don’t recognize it for what it is, or more so we don’t recognize Him. 

We need to continue to eat and drink with Him because there is no life without Him.  We will never get to experience the joys of life, the deep meaning that comes with birth, rebirth, and the resurrection unless we come to gather at the Eucharist each and every Sunday of our lives. 

If your faith has become dead...  If you can’t remember the last time you have really experienced the Lord.  If you find yourself in desolation, sadness, despair.  If life is not everything that God desires for you… come back to Him. 

Come back to the Eucharist.  Next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, a Sunday where all are called back to experience the Mercy of God.  Come back to confession.  Come back to the Sacraments. 

Allow yourself to experience Jesus in Word and Sacrament, in the depth of prayer, and in this community of believers. 

You may have missed out or been away because of any number of reasons.  But you don’t have to miss out on any more. 

And just as my sister wanted all of her brothers and sisters gathered around her as she gave birth to her son, and just as the entire family desired to be around their father as he died, so does Jesus desire to have all of us, brothers and sisters, around Him at this alter as he invites to step right now into Eternal Life. 



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday Homily: Mending Walls and Vulnerability


 
Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” wrote:

Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense,
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.


He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
"Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later."
Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."
Jesus answered him,
"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." (John 13)

Simon Peter put up a wall when he said, “You will never wash my feet.” 
We all do this from time to time with God and each other.  Why?  What walls have you put up? 

Ultimately it is fear.  Fear that we will be rejected; fear that we are unlovable, fear that there is something ugly and shameful that could never be accepted. 

This fear however only leads to loneliness.  It only leads to more fences, more walls, and ultimately we find ourselves in Hell – separated from the love of God and the love of others. 

This ultimately is sin and its effects. 

The only way out of isolation and hell is through vulnerability.  The only way Peter can overcome his Pride is to be vulnerable to Jesus and allow Jesus to wash his feet. 

Many of you have allowed Jesus to wash your feet and taken down the wall over these past weeks.  Every one of you that humbled yourself and became vulnerable to one of us priests for confession allowed Jesus to wash your feet. 

I know myself it is a humbling experience to do this.  I also know how humbled I am as a priest when I see your face as you walk in the confessional… tense, worried, ashamed and vulnerable.  In those sacred moments as you revealed your sins, your pain, your sorrow, you did in reality allow the Lord to Wash you. 

That moment as God lays his hands on your head and speaks the words “I absolve you from your sins…” I witnessed before my eyes the release of all that worry, and fear, tension and shame.  Transformed in my presence and in the Presence of God you became a person filled with light, joy, and deep peace.  I could see it by the smile on your face that just radiated the good news of your forgiveness. 

We have a tendency like Peter to send out a signal that we will not allow Jesus to wash our feet, we have a tendency to build fences and wall ourselves in and wall God and others out. 

God is the “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”
This intimacy with God, which is eternal life, can only come when we take down our walls.  Intimacy with God only comes with being vulnerable. 

Remember what this experience was like.  What it was like to go to confession.  What it was like to have your feet washed.  What it was like to take down the wall.

And I ask you now… are there any more fences, are there any more walls?  Are there any areas of your life that you are walling off from God or others? 

In the words of the Great Poet, Robert Frost:
Before I built a fence I’d ask what am I walling in and what am I walling out. 



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land



Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

It’s official.  I will be the chaplain for a group going to the Holy Land this fall. I’ve been looking at different trips for a while and decided to go with this Catholic Company based on my impression and advice from a brother priest who has known this company and the priest that has run it for years.  He assures me that Proximo will be a first class experience and that we will be well taken care of, from the travel, to the hotels, to the food, and some say the chaplain is pretty darn good too!  Really, I’m very excited about this trip and would love for you to join me for the first time I will see the Holy Land.  I can only imagine what Scriptures, Prayer, and the Mass will be like after walking in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. 

I would love for you to join me,


Fr. Michael J. Denk 


11 Days October 29 – November 8th 2012

Jerusalem • Bethlehem
Nazareth • Galilee • Via Crucis • Last Supper
Gethsemane • Dormition • Nativity Church • Capernaum


Trip Includes
    Flights can originate from anywhere in the U.S. where published. (same price)
    Daily Mass is available but not mandatory. Proximo Travel has always one or more Catholic Priests accompanying the group as chaplain(s).
    Airport Taxes, Security Fees & Fuel Surcharges
    Transfers as per itinerary
    4 or 5 star Hotels in Downtown Areas
    Transportation with Luxury Bus
    All Breakfasts and all Dinners. Wine included with all dinners
    All Tips to Driver, Hotel, and Tour Guide
    Guided Tours and Tour Fees
    Luggage handling (1 piece per person)
Remember: Our trips are not more expensive during high season ~  Passengers will never be expected to pay extra for anything while on the trip ~ Our group size is small to medium ~ We always wait for passengers and never leave anyone behind ~ There are no extra charges if a passenger would like to depart from overseas at a later date

Trip Itinerary
    Day 1: Depart from USA. Arrival next day.
    Day 2: Arrive Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. We will meet our guide and head to our hotel by deluxe motorcoach. We will have a brief orientation meeting, enjoy a meal, and acclimate to our new surroundings. Dinner and over night in Jerusalem.
    Day 3: After breakfast we shall view the Place of the Ascension before we descend by foot and visit the Pater Noster Church commemorating Jesus' teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Then we will walk down to the church of Dominus Flevit; here Jesus wept over the City of Jerusalem and foretold its destruction (Luke 19:4144). We shall then visit the Garden of the Gethsemane, the scene of Jesus’ agony, betrayal and arrest (Luke 22:2254). Also visit the Church of All Nations containing the rock where Jesus is believed to have prayed before His betrayal and arrest, after lunch, visit the Upper Room, the site of the last supper. Then continue to visit the Dormition Abbey, built over the site where the Virgin Mary was laid to rest its name meaning “eternal sleep”. Proceed to the Church of St. Peter in Galli Cantu, which is built over the site of the house of the High Priest Caiaphas and the dungeon where Our Lord was imprisoned before his trial. It is also here that Peter denied knowing Jesus thrice (Luke 22: 5462).
    Day 4: After breakfast we will visit Bethlehem starting with the Basilica of the Nativity and the Grotto, venerated as the birthplace of Jesus (Luke 2:17). Also visit the Church of St. Catherine, the Crusaders’ Cloister, the Chapel of St. Jerome, and the Grotto of the Holy Innocents and the Milk Grotto. Continue to visit the Shepherds’ Fields (Luke 2:820). After lunch in Bethlehem we shall drive to Ein Karem, home of St. Elizabeth, and mother of John the Baptist to visit the Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist. Enjoy a night tour of Jerusalem.
    Day 5: Today we shall drive to Jericho to view the Old City and the Mount of Temptation. We shall also view Zacchaeus’ tree. Proceed to Qumran - ruins of the ancient Essene settlement in whose nearby caves the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; take the cable-car to the top of Masada - the scene of the epic stand by the Jewish Rebels at the end of the Great Revolt against Rome nearly 2,000 years ago; and enjoy a relaxing float in the Dead Sea.
    Day 6: After breakfast we will drive to St. Steven’s gate where we shall enter the Old City and start our morning tour at the Crusaders' Church of St. Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Continue to the Tower of Antonia where Jesus was tried and the Church of the Flagellation from where we will follow the Stations of the Cross ending inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. After lunch in Jerusalem visit the Wailing Wall and Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are hosted.
    Day 7: Travel at a slow pace to the Jordan River and to the tourist Place of Baptism (Yardenit) for a visit and for renewal of Baptismal vows if desired.
    Day 8: After breakfast we will leave the hotel and take a cruise across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Capharnaum. We shall first visit Capharnaum “The Town of Jesus” where He carried out the major part of His Ministry. Jesus told Peter and Andrew “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:1222), and here Jesus made the promise of the Eucharist (John 6:2271). We will visit the excavations and St. Peter's Church before we continue to visit the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter (John 21:114) followed by Tabgha, the site where Christ fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (John 6:113). Proceed to visit the Mount of Beatitudes which commemorates the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:112). We shall then view the site Magdala before we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight. After dinner, enjoy a night show right on the lake of Galilee.
    Day 9: After breakfast drive to Cana of Galilee; here we will visit the Franciscan Church of the Wedding Feast. Enjoy a wine tasting in Cana (especially the pomegranate wine). Continue to Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:2638). It was also here that Jesus grew up. Visit the Basilica of the Annunciation. We shall also visit the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Old Synagogue which tradition holds that this simple building stands on the site of the synagogue of Jesus. Next visit the Church of St. Gabriel (Mary's Well), which is built over the only freshwater spring in Nazareth. After lunch we will drive to Mount Tabor, the place where Jesus was transfigured. Ascend by taxis to the summit to visit the Basilica of Transfiguration, and to see the magnificent view across the plain of Jezreel.
    Day 10: Visit the City Haifa to Mount Carmel to visit the Mother Church of the Carmelite Order and Elijah’s Cave. Then off to see the amazing Acquaduct in Caesarea Maritima. We shall then proceed to Tiberia for dinner and possible over night (some flights require midnight departure in order to ensure arrival in USA on designated day).
Day 11: Back to USA from the Holy Land

Dates 2012:
    $3,999 11 Days
    Airfare included


Trip Information and Itinerary

Trip Registration for Fr. Michael Denk’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land


Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

It’s official.  I will be the chaplain for a group going to the Holy Land this fall. I’ve been looking at different trips for a while and decided to go with this Catholic Company based on my impression and advice from a brother priest who has known this company and the priest that has run it for years.  He assures me that Proximo will be a first class experience and that we will be well taken care of, from the travel, to the hotels, to the food, and some say the chaplain is pretty darn good too!  Really, I’m very excited about this trip and would love for you to join me for the first time I will see the Holy Land.  I can only imagine what Scriptures, Prayer, and the Mass will be like after walking in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. 

I would love for you to join me,
 


11 Days October 29 – November 8th 2012

Jerusalem • Bethlehem
Nazareth • Galilee • Via Crucis • Last Supper
Gethsemane • Dormition • Nativity Church • Capernaum

Trip Includes
    Flights can originate from anywhere in the U.S. where published. (same price)
    Daily Mass is available but not mandatory. Proximo Travel has always one or more Catholic Priests accompanying the group as chaplain(s).
    Airport Taxes, Security Fees & Fuel Surcharges
    Transfers as per itinerary
    4 or 5 star Hotels in Downtown Areas
    Transportation with Luxury Bus
    All Breakfasts and all Dinners. Wine included with all dinners
    All Tips to Driver, Hotel, and Tour Guide
    Guided Tours and Tour Fees
    Luggage handling (1 piece per person)
Remember: Our trips are not more expensive during high season ~  Passengers will never be expected to pay extra for anything while on the trip ~ Our group size is small to medium ~ We always wait for passengers and never leave anyone behind ~ There are no extra charges if a passenger would like to depart from overseas at a later date

Trip Itinerary
    Day 1: Depart from USA. Arrival next day.
    Day 2: Arrive Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. We will meet our guide and head to our hotel by deluxe motorcoach. We will have a brief orientation meeting, enjoy a meal, and acclimate to our new surroundings. Dinner and over night in Jerusalem.
    Day 3: After breakfast we shall view the Place of the Ascension before we descend by foot and visit the Pater Noster Church commemorating Jesus' teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Then we will walk down to the church of Dominus Flevit; here Jesus wept over the City of Jerusalem and foretold its destruction (Luke 19:4144). We shall then visit the Garden of the Gethsemane, the scene of Jesus’ agony, betrayal and arrest (Luke 22:2254). Also visit the Church of All Nations containing the rock where Jesus is believed to have prayed before His betrayal and arrest, after lunch, visit the Upper Room, the site of the last supper. Then continue to visit the Dormition Abbey, built over the site where the Virgin Mary was laid to rest its name meaning “eternal sleep”. Proceed to the Church of St. Peter in Galli Cantu, which is built over the site of the house of the High Priest Caiaphas and the dungeon where Our Lord was imprisoned before his trial. It is also here that Peter denied knowing Jesus thrice (Luke 22: 5462).
    Day 4: After breakfast we will visit Bethlehem starting with the Basilica of the Nativity and the Grotto, venerated as the birthplace of Jesus (Luke 2:17). Also visit the Church of St. Catherine, the Crusaders’ Cloister, the Chapel of St. Jerome, and the Grotto of the Holy Innocents and the Milk Grotto. Continue to visit the Shepherds’ Fields (Luke 2:820). After lunch in Bethlehem we shall drive to Ein Karem, home of St. Elizabeth, and mother of John the Baptist to visit the Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist. Enjoy a night tour of Jerusalem.
    Day 5: Today we shall drive to Jericho to view the Old City and the Mount of Temptation. We shall also view Zacchaeus’ tree. Proceed to Qumran - ruins of the ancient Essene settlement in whose nearby caves the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; take the cable-car to the top of Masada - the scene of the epic stand by the Jewish Rebels at the end of the Great Revolt against Rome nearly 2,000 years ago; and enjoy a relaxing float in the Dead Sea.
    Day 6: After breakfast we will drive to St. Steven’s gate where we shall enter the Old City and start our morning tour at the Crusaders' Church of St. Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Continue to the Tower of Antonia where Jesus was tried and the Church of the Flagellation from where we will follow the Stations of the Cross ending inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. After lunch in Jerusalem visit the Wailing Wall and Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are hosted.
    Day 7: Travel at a slow pace to the Jordan River and to the tourist Place of Baptism (Yardenit) for a visit and for renewal of Baptismal vows if desired.
    Day 8: After breakfast we will leave the hotel and take a cruise across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Capharnaum. We shall first visit Capharnaum “The Town of Jesus” where He carried out the major part of His Ministry. Jesus told Peter and Andrew “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:1222), and here Jesus made the promise of the Eucharist (John 6:2271). We will visit the excavations and St. Peter's Church before we continue to visit the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter (John 21:114) followed by Tabgha, the site where Christ fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (John 6:113). Proceed to visit the Mount of Beatitudes which commemorates the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:112). We shall then view the site Magdala before we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight. After dinner, enjoy a night show right on the lake of Galilee.
    Day 9: After breakfast drive to Cana of Galilee; here we will visit the Franciscan Church of the Wedding Feast. Enjoy a wine tasting in Cana (especially the pomegranate wine). Continue to Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:2638). It was also here that Jesus grew up. Visit the Basilica of the Annunciation. We shall also visit the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Old Synagogue which tradition holds that this simple building stands on the site of the synagogue of Jesus. Next visit the Church of St. Gabriel (Mary's Well), which is built over the only freshwater spring in Nazareth. After lunch we will drive to Mount Tabor, the place where Jesus was transfigured. Ascend by taxis to the summit to visit the Basilica of Transfiguration, and to see the magnificent view across the plain of Jezreel.
    Day 10: Visit the City Haifa to Mount Carmel to visit the Mother Church of the Carmelite Order and Elijah’s Cave. Then off to see the amazing Acquaduct in Caesarea Maritima. We shall then proceed to Tiberia for dinner and possible over night (some flights require midnight departure in order to ensure arrival in USA on designated day).
Day 11: Back to USA from the Holy Land

Dates 2012:
    $3,999 11 Days
    Airfare included


Trip Information and Itinerary

Trip Registration for Fr. Michael Denk’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land