Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Direction, Climbing a Ladder in Church, Ascension Homily

Ladder - Ascension Homily

I heard recently from my nieces that the band One Direction lost one of their band members. I don't know if any of you have heard of the band One Direction, but the younger kids probably know it. One of their members is now gone from the band. So five is down to four. I have to say, it is blowing up all over Twitter. The teenage girls are having a very difficult time with this. They are very upset that he has left the band. Their world is never going to be the same.

Now, I joke about that, but some of you may remember when The Beatles were breaking up, right, and John Lennon was leaving The Beatles. That was such a huge thing. That was before my time, by the way. But it was such a huge thing; that The Beatles are broken up! In my day, it was New Kids on the Block the girls loved, and NSYNC for my younger siblings. We have all had the experience of a band we love and when someone leaves the band. All of a sudden everything changes and it is such a difficult thing for us to experience.

I know we are experiencing that here at St. Joe's right now. Father Martello is retiring. By the way, keep him in your prayers. He went to the Emergency Room again last night. He now has an infection in his foot. His cast had to be removed again. So keep him in your prayers. I may be leaving in June, so I don't know what is going on in my world. We have this feeling now of interruption, of having this feeling that the band was together for a little while, and now they are breaking up.

The disciples must have felt something like this with The Ascension. Jesus had been with them in The Resurrection for 40 days and 40 nights. He was working miracles. He was appearing before them. He was eating with them. Then all of a sudden, He tells them, "Hey, guys, I've got to go to My Father." Then they have this happen, where they experience The Ascension of Him going up into heaven.

I was trying to think about that. Then the image that came to my mind was that of a ladder. When I was in high school, I used to do roofing. I got to climb those really big ladders that you mount on the roofs in the summer. That is the image I want to use.

If the servers can help me out. I brought my dad's roofing ladder here. If you remember in one of my earlier homilies, my dad has all of his tools labeled. This one is labeled "Denk" by the way. It is my father's ladder.

Can you get the door for me?

I am going to need a couple of spotters. Maybe the Kelly family. Maybe you two guys can help me. I don't want to fall. We don't need two of us in the hospital, right? Can you hold that for me? Thanks.

Do you guys like me?

The idea that we have of The Ascension is that Jesus is going into heaven and He is kind of leaving us behind.

Well, it is higher than I thought!

He is kind of leaving us behind. He is going to ascend into heaven. It is like we have this image that as He goes, the band is breaking up, right? He leaves His disciples. It is like He is saying, "Okay, guys, I'm going to heaven to be with My Father. You take care of the Earth. I'll see you when you get here." That is kind of the image that we have of The Ascension, of Jesus ascending into heaven and climbing this ladder and leaving us behind. But it is actually not like that at all. So I am actually going to do something a little different with the ladder.

Hold it while I come down.

Now, how about if you guys take this ladder and lay it from the first pew to the sanctuary by your family. You are strong guys. Yeah, you can put it right on top of the first pew and then bring the other end right over here. You can lay it down. I don't think I need your spotting here. Maybe I do. I don't know.

Here is the image of The Ascension now. Instead of it being a vertical ascension that we hear in the opening prayer, and we will hear in the preface right before the Communion. It is almost like a parallel ascension where Jesus is the head and we're the body, and the head goes first into heaven but the body follows.

In The Ascension, actually, he is not going away from us, but he is taking us with Him into heaven. This is actually a more accurate portrayal of The Ascension. It is Jesus walking not vertically, but horizontally. The best thing is He leaves the ladder there when The Ascension happens. He doesn't take it away. He is still connected to us.

I know some of you are grieving the loss of a loved one. There is a beautiful line in the funeral liturgy that when our loved ones have gone before us, when they have gone to heaven, life has changed, not ended. They continue to be connected with us.

In The Ascension, when Jesus goes to be in heaven, He actually brings heaven and Earth together. They are not separated. He brings heaven and Earth together as one. That is the mystery we experience in The Ascension.

The ladder is there for you; all of you. Right now, you can experience heaven.

Anyone want to do the ladder? Come on up. You can do it. No, let your little sister do it. But, Jacob, you could spot her.

Just think of The Ascension as we are connected into heaven. She's not going to do it. You could do it. Yeah, you could do it. Why don't you spot him.

Imagine I am Christ. This is heaven. This is Earth. The two are joined.

He is taller than I am. It is harder. And you're like, come on it. Thank you. Go ahead, sit down.

That is the reality of The Ascension. When Jesus was ascended into heaven, he not only went to heaven Himself, but He brought all of Earth, all of creation with Him, where the head went first, the body follows, and hopes.

The reality is that the mystery that He reveals to us in The Ascension is that heaven and Earth are joined. We say this every time we pray the "Our Father." "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done." As we do His will together here on Earth, heaven and Earth are brought together.

Just remember that any time you are anxious about losing someone, or being distant from God, or being distant from one of your priests, or being distant from someone you love that has gone to heaven, the reality is, heaven is not up here and Earth is down there. The reality is heaven and Earth are joined.

In The Ascension, when Jesus goes first, He brings all of us with Him. So may we truly celebrate and then believe this great gift we have in The Ascension. As we believe in Jesus and that He has ascended into heaven, that he brings Earth with Him. Then heaven and Earth are joined.​

Disney's Cinderella I no longer call you servants I call you friend's Disney's Cinderella 2015


I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Ella. She saw the world not always as it was but perhaps as it could be with just a little bit of magic.

Anybody know what movie it is?

Cinderella. It is a beautiful movie that Disney put out. Actually, if you watch it with Christian eyes, there is so much in it that is symbolic of our Faith and the reality of this mystery of God coming into our life as friends. That is going to be my focus today for the homily.

I no longer call you servants. I call you friends.

I am going to give you an image of a servant. We see Cinderella as the one who is the lady of the ashes and the servant, and ultimately what it means to be a friend, and how God calls us out of being servants and in to being friends.

Throughout the entire movie, it is the voice of the Fairy Godmother that does the narration.

To her mother and father, Cinderella was a princess. True, she had no crown or castle, but she was the ruler of her own little kingdom. A kingdom whose borders were the house, the meadows, and the forest edge where her people had lived for generations.

There is a beautiful image of her and her father dancing. Ella is standing on her father's feet. The voice of the Fairy Godmother says, "All was just as it should be. They knew themselves to be the happiest of families to live as they did and to love each other so." Cinderella’s mother’s voice singing as the father and the daughter dance: "Lavenders blue dilly, dilly, lavenders green. When I am King, dilly, dilly, you shall be Queen."

This becomes the theme throughout the entire movie. The Fairy Godmother goes on to say, "But sorrow can come to any kingdom, no matter how happy." [Ella's mother and father leave her bedroom when suddenly Ella's mother collapses.]

"And so it came to Ella's home." [Ella sat outside watching her mother in her room when the doctor came out to tell her father that she was going to die.] And the doctor says, "I am sorry for you."

There is a beautiful image then which is kind of an image of the Holy family. Ella goes in to be with her mother. Her mother lies in bed and draws Ella close to her. She says to her daughter, "Ella, my darling, I want to tell you a secret. A great secret that will get you through the toughest trials that life can offer. You must always remember this: “Have courage and be kind." It is used throughout the whole movie. "Have courage and be kind.” She said, “You have more kindness in you, Ella, than most people have in their whole body. It has power, more power than you know. And magic."

Now magic is the key word for grace. Anytime we hear about magic and Cinderella, it means grace.

Ella looked confused and tears started to stream down her face and a tear forms in her father's eyes. She has one final experience of this love of her mother and father. "Magic?" asks Ella. Remember grace. "Truly. Have courage and be kind, my darling. Will you promise me?" "I promise," she says to her mother. "Very good."

Ella begins to cry and Ella's mother says to her, "Ella, I must go very soon. Please forgive me." And Ella says, "Of course I forgive you." [Ella’s mother holds her daughter in her hands and the father comes over and embraces them all.] And it is an image of the Holy family, and we hear the words of mother to daughter and daughter to mother: "I love you. I love you, my darling. I love you." And the camera pans out of the house, and we see that Ella loses her mother.

Time passed and pain turned to memory. Years after Ella's mother had passed away, we see Ella grown into a beautiful young girl. And her father leaves for a journey once more. As he leaves on his journey, Ella escapes to her private room in the attic and pours herself into serving.

Ella's only comfort is knowing that her father will return one day. But he would never return from this final journey. It was his servant that let her know: "Til the end he spoke only of you and your mother and how much he loved you. And he wanted to give this to you." It was the branch that she had asked him to think of her the first time a branch touched his shoulder. He had kept it.

After the servant left and she closed the door, her whole world would change and darkness would envelop her. It is at this point that we see what it is like to be a slave or a servant.

Her stepmother and her stepsisters moved in and they misused her. And by and by they considered Ella less a sister and more a servant.

Then we begin to see these scenes with Ella traipsing up and down the steps and gathering the laundry and doing the wash. And the Godmother says, "And so Ella was left to do all of the work. This was a good thing, for it distracted her from her grief. At least that's what her stepmother said. And she and her two daughters were more than happy to provide Ella with lots and lots of distractions."

We see Ella polishing their shoes and cleaning the clothes. Well, in their defense, they did share with her the very food they ate. Or rather the scraps from the table. She had little in the way of friends. Well, her friends were very little. And of course she's talking about the mice. But those friends she had, she treated with an open heart and an open hand.

Sometimes, by the end of the day, the drafty attic was too cold to spend the night, so she lay by the dying embers of the hearth and the fire to keep her warm.

As we see Ella laying down by the fire, we hear this voice: "Cinderella. Names have power, like magic spells." All of a sudden it seemed to her that her stepmother and the stepsisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil. We see now that she becomes this slave. She becomes this servant.

We hear the image in the Gospel today that Jesus says, "I no longer call you servant; I call you friends because a slave does not know what his master is doing, and I have told you everything that the Father is doing so I called you friends."

I want you to think about times in your life where you have felt like a slave, times where you have felt like a servant, times where you have felt like you have lost everybody.

Today we celebrate Mother's Day. Maybe you have lost your mother. We realize that God gives us people who love us. He gives us mothers for a time. And I think as we grow older, our mothers turn out not to be only mothers to us, but they become friends. Sometimes they even become our best of friends. But at some point we even lose our mothers.

So we have this change now from Cinderella, who has become the slave. She has become the servant. She has become the worker. She is lonely and she has lost her parents. She has no friends. Her only friends are the mice and the animals. And all of a sudden something begins to transform.

The King puts forth an invitation. Now, in the Christian world, this is like Christ putting forth the invitation for all of us to come to the Eucharist. The King puts forth the invitation. He does not limit it to only to royalty. He wants everyone to have the invitation, even those who are poor, even those who are servants. The prince shall choose his bride. Let the invitations go out to everyone, not just the nobility.

Through this time, Cinderella hears conflicting voices, that of her mother: "Have courage and be kind. I love you." And that of her stepmother: "Just remember who you are you wretch, Cinderella.”

At the end of the movie, when the glass slipper finally fits on to her foot, she realizes her true identity. Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to realize who we truly are.

As she walks to meet the prince, she looks in the mirror once more and she hears her mother's voice saying, "Have courage, and be kind."

The music streams elegantly as she walks down the stairs and sees her prince. She bows humbly before him and he asks, "Who are you?" She says with a smile, "I am Cinderella, your Majesty. I am not a princess. I have no carriage. I have no parents. I have no dowry. I do not know if this beautiful slipper will even fit, but if it does, will you take me as I am? An honest country girl who loves you?"

And the prince says, "Of course I will. But only if you take me as I am. An apprentice still learning his trade."

He sits down as the attendant looks on. They look into each other’s eyes. She closes her eyes and he slips the glass slipper on, and it fits perfectly. The music begins to escalate. They stand only to be interrupted by their stepsisters, apologizing.

He takes her hand and says, "Shall we?" He nods and they begin to leave Cinderella's home, where she was once a slave. As they walk out the same stairs that Cinderella walked on, the evil stepmother walks down poised, distressed. Cinderella looks back at her and says three simple words: "I forgive you."

See, the truth is, forgiveness doesn't need to be asked for nor does it need to be received to be freeing.

Dressed in their wedding garments and ready to present themselves to the crowd, the prince says to her, "Are you ready?" And Cinderella says, "For Anything, so as long as it is with you. Will you take me as I am?"

They would come to live and be the fairest and kindest rulers the kingdom had ever known. And Ella continued to see the world not just as it is, but as it could be.

If only you believe in courage and kindness and occasionally just a little bit of magic. Grace.

The truth is love finds us no matter where we are. So think of Cinderella and that image of her hiding near the embers of the fire trying to keep warm, lonely, alone, without any friends, without any family, without any parents; being treated as a slave, being treated as a servant. And finally at one point love enters her life. It comes through her Fairy Godmother.

Now, as Christians we know that this is her Godmother. And God often places people into our lives at times when we need it the most. Times when we are missing our loved ones. Times when we are without friends. When we go through difficult times and transitions in our lives. God does place fairy Godmothers into our lives. He places people that will be like mother and father to us. He places people that will be friends to us. And ultimately, friendship is an image of God's love.

Jesus says, "I no longer call you slaves." You are no longer covered in embers. You are no longer a slave to this world. I call you friends because I have revealed to you everything that the Father has revealed to me."

And through it all, Ella's spirit was not broken. She continued to have that wonderful life that she dreamed of. And just as they are about to leave the house together, we hear the angelic voice echoing her mother's song, "lavenders green, dilly, dilly, lavenders blue. If you love me, dilly, dilly, I will love you."

Ultimately, it is that same love that God is calling us into. He is calling us into this love of friendship. This love of family. This love that will get us through any distress that we face in life. Ultimately we realize on this Mother's Day that God has blessed us with human mothers. God has blessed us with Godmothers. God has blessed us with our Mother Mary, and ultimately God has blessed us with His friendship.

You are no longer slaves, but you are friends.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bonsai Tree - The Vine and the Branches

2015-05-05 11.37.03 1_wm Boys and girls, as I mentioned before, I am so excited to have you here for your First Communion. This is a wonderful weekend for all of us. It is a wonderful weekend for me, personally, because at 11 a.m. this morning, I got to do my niece's First Communion. I get to be here with you and do your First Communion. I have my godson's First Communion tomorrow. So there are a lot of First Communions.

I am very excited because this will be the moment, for the first time, you get to receive Jesus into you. As we heard in the Gospel, He is the vine and you are the branches. This is how we stay close to Jesus. This is how we continue to have life in Jesus and to live by feeding on the Eucharist. When you receive the body and blood of Christ, that is how Jesus becomes one in you and you become the branches of the same vine.

I have always loved the movie "The Karate Kid" since I was a young child. I know they made a new "The Karate Kid" movie. I am a big fan of Ralph Macchio and the original "The Karate Kid" movie. One of the things I loved about the movie was Mr. Miyagi.

Mr. Miyagi, in the original "The Karate Kid" movie, used to work on bonsai trees. He always had these beautiful bonsai trees that he worked on.

When I grew up, I always wanted to have a bonsai tree. So when I became a priest, a parishioner at my last parish gave me one.

So can you bring it over? Be very careful when you bring over the bonsai tree.

Boys and girls, I am going to actually have you come up for a moment. Can all of you come up around me and the bonsai tree?

So this is it. This is my bonsai tree. Every once in a while you have to prune it. You need to take some of the bad leaves and cut them off. You keep the green ones. When you trim the bonsai tree, it grows more and more beautiful. You begin to shape it into a tree.

So who is good with scissors? Any of you want to cut some branches off here? I trust you. This is my very special bonsai tree. Here we go.

Now, these are the good ones, the green ones, and these dead ones are the ones you want to cut off. So why don't you cut off -- see this dead branch right here? Can you cut this branch off for me? Cut it right here. Watch my finger. You might have to go a little bit higher on the scissors. Got it. Go ahead. Grab that for me, okay.

Hold that up for everybody. Show them. That thing is pretty dead, isn't it? It's not growing back. It's not growing back at all.

Now, what if you took a live one? Sometimes you can do this with bonsai trees too. You can take a live one if you want to shape it, if it is getting a little bit out of control. So why don't we cut off this part right here? Cut it right here. That's good.

Now hold that. Can you hold this one for him? Hold it up for everyone.

What's going to happen to this? Anybody know?

Yeah. It's going to die, right? It's been cut off from the tree. That branch is going to die. So even though it was part of the tree at one point, once it is cut off, it is going to die.

Now, the tree for us is the Body of Christ. Jesus says, "I am the vine." So this tree is the Body of Christ. If we remain in Him, we have much life. If we stay with Him, we are going to keep growing and we are going to keep blossoming.

And He says in the beginning, "You've already been pruned."

Where is the dead one? The dead ones have already been taken away. The good news is you are not going to be taken away from Jesus. That is what happened in the Sacrament of Baptism. He has already promised you that you have already been pruned and you are not going to be taken away.

But sometimes He does have to do some pruning in our lives, right? So we grow when we receive the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. So actually, like the plant food that feeds us, and we continue to grow and flourish. You will notice, even on this tree, there are some dead spots on it. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to be pruned.

Now, if you let a little kid prune the tree, sometimes you are going to cut things you don't want to cut. Like that, right?

No, I asked to you do that. Thank you.

But if you ask me to cut the tree, sometimes you are going to cut things you don't want to cut. But ultimately, the one that is supposed to do the pruning is God. If we allowed Jesus to do the pruning in our lives, He is going to cut the bad things out of our lives that are dead. He is going to allow us to flourish.

I think the first thing we have to realize is that first point: You have already been pruned. Since you were Baptised, you are never going to get cut from this tree. You are the branch on the tree.

Boys and girls, when you were Baptised, from that moment on, God made a covenant with you. He said, "You are mine and I will never lose you." "You are like that sheep. Even if you get lost, I am going to come and find you."

But there are things in our life that He needs to prune. There are sins in our life, or people in our life, or things in our life, that we are too attached to that are dying and causing death. He does need to prune and cut them away. But if we try to cut them away, that is not a good thing, right? We are going to mess it up. All we can do is let God cut it away. Let God prune the things in your life.

So I just want you to think about that as you receive communion, boys and girls. Today, you are going to be nourished and strengthened. You are going to blossom.

That is why you are all dressed up to look beautiful. You are going to look beautiful today. And along your life, as you grow and get older, God is going to need to cut things away from you. But He is never going to hurt you. He is never going to cut you away. He is just going to cut things away so that, ultimately, you can have that fullness of eternal life.

For the adults, I just want you to think about that. Is there any part of you, any relationships that you are in, anything that you are doing that needs to be pruned? We don't have to be afraid because God is not going to hurt us. He is not going to kill us. He does need to prune us and clean us up a little bit so we can have the fullness of life. This fullness of life, boys and girls, is what we are going to prepare you to receive in just a few moments.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Listen to Father Michael on "The Catholic Guy"

Listen to Father Michael Denk's interview on SiriusXM's The Catholic Channel (129) with "The Catholic Guy" Lino Rulli -we promise you'll learn something new!

Learn more about "The Catholic Guy", visit www.linorulli.com!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fr. Michael on the Catholic Channel tonight with the Catholic Guy!

the catholic chanel

Fr. Michael will be interviewed tonight on the Catholic Guy. The show airs from 5-7pm with Fr. Michael being on within the first hour.  It promises to be an entertaining interview... and rumor is he brought his Ukulele!

Lino Rulli is described by his friends as “The Catholic Guy” because that is exactly what he is… an everyday Catholic guy with a fresh, fun, and often off-beat take on living out the faith in the world today. Join Lino for a look at the world unlike any you’ve heard before.

For seven years, Lino broadcast from SiriusXM’s studios in the heart of New York City. Since 2013, Lino’s been “on the road” traveling the world.

Lino has covered every major moment of Pope Francis’ pontificate in person: From the night of his election, World Youth Day in Brazil, the Canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII, the Pastoral Visit to the Holy Land, and the Pastoral Visit to South Korea. The Catholic Guy is the first American program ever allowed to do a week of programming from Vatican Radio, and have done so on seven different occasions.

Lino has broadcast from seminaries and convents across the country; The Seven Deadly Sins Suite in Las Vegas; with American troops stationed in German; from New Orleans during Mardi Gras; and even from his own New York City apartment.