2013 C ☼ 11th Ordinary ● Father Kevin J Forsyth
“Fathers on Father’s Day” ©
June 16, 2013
Nathan said to David, “Thus says the Lord God: I anointed you
King of Israel. Why have you spurned
the Lord and done evil in His sight?”
Wow! Nathan is God’s prophet
and the “David” he is chastising is King David – Jesus’ great, great
… grand-father. On this day when we
honor fathers, we hear that the Lord’s great, great … grandfather has done
evil in God’s sight. What exactly
did David do? You don’t want to
know. Or do you?
Well, David lusted for Bathsheba
while she bathed, desired her and decided to make her his own. However, Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah,
a soldier with unimpeachable loyalty to King David. David quickly exchanges voyeurism for
betrayal and treachery. He writes a
letter to Joab, Israel’s field commander, and
orders that Uriah be placed on the front lines of the battle. Ironically, it is Uriah who hand delivers
the sealed orders to the commander.
In addition to having Uriah “killed
in action,” David also suffers the sins of rage and hypocrisy. All because David let his passions get
the best of him. Yet, believe it or
not, God forgives a very
repentant David. While this episode
isn’t the proudest moment in the life of Jesus’ great, great … grandfather,
it does point to the mercy, love and forgiveness of God our Father – who
waits for all who embrace it with true repentant hearts.
Well, Father’s Day is here
again. This is a day for all
fathers. As I wrote this homily I
realized that my family has had all three kinds of fathers – biological,
adoptive and spiritual. I’m the
“spiritual” father – to a flock of (mostly) faithful people in Naugatuck –
you – who continue to show up for Mass even in the summer! Bravo!
Faith never takes a vacation!
My dad is one of the biological
fathers in the family; (just so you
know, I’m not a biological father) and my grand-pop is the adoptive father. You see, my grandmother Nellie Coates –
my dad’s mom – had two husbands (just not at the same time): her first,
granddad William Forsyth, died young at age 39 from a fall down an elevator
shaft – something my dad never got over – if he could avoid an elevator, he
did. Nellie remarried grand-pop
Archibald Girard – “Archie” - who embraced and adopted Nellie’s seven
children with open heart and open arms.
Seven kids all under 10! Archie must surely have loved my
grand-mom. The kids – my dad and
aunts and uncles – all adored Archie, calling him “Pop.” Grand-pop and Nana went on to have
another son, my uncle Russell. Eight
children during the Great Depression!
Sadly, for me, all three of my
grandfathers died before I was born; I had three – one more than most
people have and I never knew any of them.
I’ve always felt something missing from my life – the experience of
having a grandfather. Perhaps that’s
the reason why some of our older parish gentlemen find an enduring place in
my heart: men like Stephen Tufanario, George
Mason, Vern Maxwell, Don Duman – they become
surrogate grandfathers to me.
So today is not just a day to
remember my dad and be grateful for all he did for me, but also a day when
I can’t help but remember three other significant men, who are in my family
tree, but sadly, not in my memory.
As I reflect upon all fathers this
day, and on the powerful example we had in Scripture – God our Father who
lavished mercy and forgiveness on Jesus’ great, great (etc.) grandfather
King David, whose eyes were opened to his great sins by a holy prophet of
God, another good man, Nathan; and yes, even the good example of King David
himself who even though he was thee most powerful
man in the kingdom, was not above accepting Nathan’s reprimand and
redirection, humbling himself before God, admitting his sins and taking
personal responsibility for his actions; I can’t help but think our nation
has an urgent need that all fathers, be they heads of households or heads
of parishes, or heads of state, embody these same qualities and be true and
loving men who humbly give of themselves unconditionally.
I wondered if anyone routinely
demonstrated the qualities I believe all fathers need to embody: and then I
thought of the 12 qualities of a good boy scout and how fathers must embody
these qualities, too.
fathers have to avoid lying and cheating.
Trust must underlie all we say and do. Our word is our bond.
Loyal: a father is
loyal to all to whom loyalty is due: his wife, his children and
grandchildren, his parents, his parish and his country.
Helpful: He must be
prepared to help save a life or save a soul, to help an injured person, and
share in the household chores.
Friendly: He is a
friend to all, including his wife and children. He is also a brother to other fathers who
need support in living a virtuous life.
Courteous: He is
polite, especially to his wife, children, elders and the weak and
helpless. A good father avoids
losing his temper and restrains from hurtful speech.
Kind: He is respectful
of his wife and children. He avoids
being spiteful, and tempers his authority with kindness.
Obedient: He obeys
God’s commandments, and respects his marriage vows. He sets this example for the benefit of
his own children. Humility is at the
heart of his obedience, and respect for others flows from this humility.
Cheerful: He smiles
whenever he can. He avoids shirking
responsibilities and grumbling at hardships that inevitably come his way
(even if he has 8 kids! God bless
Thrifty: He works
faithfully, wastes nothing, and makes the best use of his resources. He is a good steward of his money so that
he may care for his family and be generous to those in need.
Brave: He has the
courage to stand up for what is right and just. Failure does not dishearten him; he
learns from his mistakes.
Clean: He keeps
clean in body and in mind; stands for clean speech, clean sport, clean
habits; and travels with a clean crowd.
Reverent: He is
faithful to his religious duties. He
is a good example of piety to his family and friends. His first role in teaching his children
is the passing on of the faith.
Well, from what I was told, my three
grandfathers, Henry, William and Archie, embodied many of these fine
qualities, and I know from first-hand experience my dad did. As I have come to know many of the men of
this parish these last 10 years, I know you embody many of these qualities,
I’m thinking that if we, in this
country, had more fathers who embodied these “boy scout” qualities,
we’d really have something to celebrate in this great land of ours – and not
just on the third Sunday of June.
Epilogue: I told you my grandma
Nellie had eight children. Doesn’t
that sound like a typical good Catholic of that generation? Well, she wasn’t a good Catholic. She was a good Episcopalian. See, it isn’t just Catholics that had big
C ☼ 10th
Ordinary ● Father Kevin J Forsyth
“A Meeting at the Gate”
June 9, 2013
“Do not weep.” These three words encompass
the whole purpose of Christ's coming into the world. Today’s moving Gospel passage from Luke
(7:11-17) reminds us that Jesus came to wipe away our tears, to soften our
pain, and to lighten the burden of life.
I can only
imagine how painful must have been the grief of this widow on her
way to the cemetery to bury her only child - a son. Her hopes and dreams were being buried in
that coffin. Saint Luke writes a “large crowd from the city was with
her,” yet no matter how many people surrounded her to offer support,
she was now alone and aware only of her pain and grief.
beautiful city of Nain in the region of Galilee, all she could see were two
graves - that of her husband and now of her only son. “Nain” means “pleasant.” On this particular day it undoubtedly was
still a pleasant place, but its beauty was over-shadowed by something dark,
gloomy and fearful: death had visited God’s people.
funeral procession was making its way through the city gates towards the
cemetery while another procession was heading into the city. At the head of one was a corpse -
symbolizing despair, grief, and the hopelessness of humankind. But at the head of the other
procession was Christ the Savior, sent to end humankind’s tragic journey to
the grave and to offer hope, salvation and eternal life. I wonder, was this encounter
a mere coincidence? Or had God
arranged “a meeting at the gate?”
Death had already exercised its
power. We are not told how the man
died or what caused his death. It
could have been caused by an accident or disease, but the sad truth is -
people of all ages die every day. As
George Bernard Shaw once wrote; “The statistics of death are quite
impressive – one of one people die.”
The story of the widow of Nain is
one of the most powerful of the Gospel stories about Jesus. It is difficult for us to appreciate just
what effect Jesus’ action had on the widow’s life.
the Lord’s day, for a woman to be left with no man to support her was
catastrophic. The woman in the story
had lost both her husband and her only son.
As a woman, the widow could not have legally inherited the estate,
the land, her home. The loss of her
only son would have left her dependent on the charity of more distant
relatives and neighbors. So she was
indeed greatly in need of Jesus' compassion.
same happened to the Blessed Mother Mary – with the Lord’s death, Mary
would become homeless – this is why Jesus, while hanging on His cross, left
her in the care of the beloved disciple, John. “From
that moment on, John took Mary into his home.”
with no sons were all
alone in a society that did not make provisions for the care of
widows. A widow in those days was in
a totally vulnerable position if there were no male relatives to protect
and provide for her. This widow
knows nothing of Jesus; her world is limited to a darkened sphere of
grief. She doesn’t even approach
Jesus with an eloquent plea but when Jesus “saw her,” He saw not only her grief but also the social
stigma she would have to bear as well.
You see, according to the Jewish mindset of the day, the loss of an
only son was regarded as divine punishment for sin! “What
did I do to deserve this?” I
wonder if that’s where we get this saying.
Of all deaths, that of a child is the
most unnatural and the hardest to bear.
We expect the old to die. The
separation is always difficult, but it comes as no surprise, but what of
the child or the youth? Life
lies ahead, with its beauty, its wonder, its
potential. Death is a cruel thief when
it strikes down the young. The suffering that usually precedes
death is another reason childhood death is so hard for parents to
bear. Children were made for fun and
laughter, for sunshine and lollipops, not sickness or pain. In a way that is different from any other
relationship, a child is bone of his parent’s bone, flesh of their
flesh. When a child dies, part of
the parents is buried, too.
Notice that all the initiative in
this conversation was taken by the Lord; and then not in response to
faith, she offered no faith, Jesus acts in response to her grief. “Do
not weep;” we often tell others not to cry, basically because it makes us
uncomfortable. Jesus told her not to
weep because it was unnecessary as He was about to restore her life with the gift of her
Perhaps we are like the widow; our
hearts have run out of hope. We
don’t just need a change of attitude, we need to connect or reconnect
to the source of our hope.
Our Lord is not hindered nor limited by the things that render us
hopeless, even when we cannot feel His presence, as we learned Mother
Teresa experienced. God is at work
on our behalf. With Christ, there is
always hope. Life can be beautiful for a while, but inevitably the day comes when
it is no longer so beautiful. There
is suffering, distress, sickness, war, death. The result of all this is grief - an
utterly painful experience that all of us must at some point in life come
to terms with.
How do we
handle grief effectively? In the 21st
century we live in an age of miracle drugs.
There are few pains which science today cannot lessen or eliminate
completely with medication. Yet
there is no pill or sedative that can ease the anguish, loneliness and
suffering of a grieving and broken heart.
experts tell us that the mismanagement of grief can cause all sorts
of illnesses from ulcers to psychosis.
It may even lead to suicide.
Some people think that the greatest cure for grief is time: “time heals all wounds.” Balderdash! “God
heals all wounds, in time.” Time
alone will not heal grief. In fact,
time can do terrible things to grief.
It can turn it into bitter resentment which can poison the body, the
mind and the soul. If we are to cure
grief we must co-operate with time in ways which are constructive.
One of the
most serious mistakes we can make is to refuse to express our grief - to
keep it bottled up. It is such
unexpressed grief that causes all sorts of physical and mental ailments. Modern psychiatry has emphasized that
when the eyes refuse to cry, other organs in the body will begin to cry
with all kinds of illnesses resulting.
Thus a constructive way of expressing grief is to let the tears flow, men as well as women, boys as
well as girls.
in our culture we often equate tears with weakness. We even say, “If that person had faith in Christ they wouldn’t cry.” Yet tears have nothing to do with
weakness or lack of faith. When
Lazarus died, Saint John wrote that “Jesus
wept.” And the next verse says
very simply but profoundly; “And the
Jews said, ‘See how much He loved him.’” The fact that Jesus wept teaches us that
sorrow is natural. Tears are an
expression of love. Jesus wept even
though He is the Source of all life!
sure knowledge of eternal life will not take all the grief out of
the human heart when we lose someone we love. Saint Paul says, “Do not grieve as others who have no hope.” Paul is not saying that we should not
grieve, but that we should grieve as a people who have hope -
Christian hope – the hope that says life does not end in the grave.
facilitate the healthy expression of grief, our Church conducts wakes and
Funeral services and remembrances on the anniversaries of our loved ones'
passing. The Church has always
realized that in many ways a grieving person is like a steam engine. Unless the steam can escape in a
controlled manner and environment, pressure will build up and the boiler
Christ, there is no need to explode.
C ☼ Body & Blood of Christ
● Father Kevin J Forsyth
“I Believe Without
June 2, 2013
king of Salem, brought out bread and wine.” Those words are from Genesis
(chapter 14). It seems we’ve been celebrating
great events of God Most High with bread and wine since the beginning of
Abram, later known as Abraham, won a
battle against a united army of kings from the east who had been menacing
the communities of the Jordan valley and who had taken captive his kinsman,
Lot. The local leaders are grateful
to Abram – among them Melchizedek, king of Salem, later known as
Jerusalem. In addition to
being king, he was a priest of God.
Melchizedek is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer 1 – the long Roman
Canon. I won’t be praying that one
today, but I will add his name to the one I will pray.
Melchizedek declares Abram blessed by
God the Most High because God worked through him to bring victory to the
good guys. The priest, who I suppose
we’d call “Father Mel” today, celebrated this moment by setting out a feast
of bread and wine.
Abram’s gesture of gratitude – a ‘tithe’ – meaning a ‘tenth’ of all
the possessions he recovered after the battle – becomes his offering to
God. This is where we get the first
idea of offering a ‘tithe’ or a ‘tenth’ to God.
Now, I could take us on a tour throughout the bible and speak about
all the occasions where the people offered up to God bread and wine, or you
could just take my word that it happens a lot. Do you want to take my word for it? OK; wise choice, shorter summer
paper and throw).
Fast forward to the Gospel: Jesus
takes five loaves of bread and two cups of wine – oops! – no, that’s two fish. Well, I guess you offer to God whatever
you have available to offer!
Before Jesus gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd of
thousands, He “said a blessing
over them” and “broke them.” What words of blessing did He use? I wish Luke had told us, because this
little point of trivia could be vital information. If Jesus said something like, “Bless us O
Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to
receive from thy bounty through … Me” then it could be a simple prayer of request to bless the sharing of
However, if Jesus offered the
traditional Jewish prayers, called the Berakah
prayers, then it would be definitive proof He meant it as a foreshadowing
of His Last Supper – our First Eucharist.
We use these Berakah Prayers at every Mass
(walk to Altar): “Blessed are you,
Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have this bread to
offer you …” Did Jesus pray the Berakah prayers?
Luke, I want to know!
Let’s consider Paul: Paul writes to
the Corinthians that he hands on to them what he received from the Lord:
that “Jesus, on the night He was
handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it…” Well, that’s no help – in fact, it seems
different – “giving thanks” as opposed to “said a blessing” but in fact,
one includes the other. When we ask
God to bless something – anything – it is because we recognize God is the
source of what we have received and we give God thanks. In fact, the word Eucharist means “giving
So, which do I believe it is? Jesus was a faithful, knowledgeable Jew. He knew Sacred Scripture like He wrote
it! I believe Jesus would have used
the Jewish Berakah prayers. Can I prove it? No.
Does it matter? Not to
me. Why? Because, I believe. Perhaps Luke didn’t mention this one
little detail because he just assumed we’d know. He didn’t imagine a time when people
would require hard evidence – maybe even video proof.
To take the bread and break it and
take the wine and drink it and to do both in remembrance of the Lord Jesus, is to proclaim His salvific Death for all the
world, for all those who will receive this blessing from God.
For Paul, all are welcome to
proclaim the Death through which the victory of the Resurrection came, just
as we proclaim in the Memorial Acclamation at every Eucharist, “When we eat
this bread, and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you
So, “Blessed are you Lord God of all
creation, through your goodness we have received this bread and wine we offer you.”
Receive now our faith and our gratitude. Thanks be to
2013 C ☼ Most Holy Trinity ● Father Kevin J
“Being God’s Delight”
The Trinity: absolutely awesome;
beyond explanation or comprehension; as the Church has taught for
centuries, a most holy mystery.
Today’s feast is not a celebration of Catholic dogma, although many a priest has tried to make it so; it is a
celebration that God has existed, does exist and always will exist. God is not an entity that can be fully
explained; God simply is. Jesus did
not come into the world to explain God; Jesus came into the world to
help us experience God, as something to see, hear, touch, feel, and
even taste (“Taste and see the
goodness of the Lord.”) To the
21st century mind, this is not enough to satisfy the intellect,
but it is more than enough to satisfy the heart, for it is there that God
dwells: in the hearts of all who believe, even with faith the size of a
Each of the Scriptures today gives us
a glimpse of God. In the Gospel,
Jesus speaks of the Father and of the Spirit and of Himself: Behold: the
Trinity! We didn’t have to look high
and low to find it. The point Jesus
makes is that all three work together as one; none work independently; all
work in harmony; in a unified action.
They are of one mind, one heart and one being.
Jesus’ words, “I have much more to tell you, but you can not
bear it now,” serve to remind us that our understanding of God unfolds
in over time, in God’s time. God’s
awe-some-ness is so mind-boggling, it is not possible for any of us to receive
it or accept it all at once. Our
understanding of God is a life-long process. We simply must have patience as God’s
self-revelation is slowly, continuously revealed to us throughout time.
Paul reminds us of the activity of
the Trinity. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the love of God has been poured out in
our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
The image of God’s love being “poured out” is remarkable. Through this overflowing abundance of
love, we come to understand that our God is never stingy: He is more than
generous with his amazing grace.
The reading from Proverbs is a poetic
expression of the beginnings of creation.
We are told it is the Wisdom (the spirit) of God who speaks in this
passage: “The Lord possessed me, the
beginning of His ways. From of old,
I was poured forth … before the earth, when there were no depths, I was
brought forth … before the mountains, before the hills … I was brought
forth. When the Lord established the
heavens I was there … when He made firm the skies … when he fixed fast the
foundations … when he set the seas … I was beside him as his craftsman ...” And this is the part I
like the best: “I was His delight
day by day … playing before Him all the while … playing on the surface of
the earth … and I found delight in the human race.”
What a beautiful description of
the Wisdom of God – His Spirit, not just present at creation (as Genesis
affirms) but serving as the very delight of God - “playing” on the
earth! And finding delight in playing
with God’s children – the human race – us!
While God the Father is busy “working,” creating His world, His
Wisdom - His Spirit - is playing!
God is actually having great fun creating His world! His work is His delight! Much like mine! Is your you’re
your delight? It should be. Our God is a God who thoroughly enjoys
His job! Mel Brooks was right: “it’s good to be God!” God enjoyed creating and I’ll bet God is
still enjoying His creation.
The question is: are we enjoying
His creation: the earth, the air, the waters? If not, why not? We too are His creation; are we enjoying
each other or are we too busy finding fault with one another – it’s a
negative and will bring us down. How
about enjoying His animals? They are
God’s creation too. In Genesis we
hear that God made us humans the “stewards” of His creation. It is our ‘job’ to take care of all God
created – created for us to use and enjoy.
God found great joy in His
creation. If we don’t find that same
joy, we’re missing something. Maybe
our sorrows or hardships are blurring our vision. Paul mentions these today and says that
these hardships can be used for a greater purpose. We can learn to turn these hardships
around to our advantage and actually improve our lives! Paul seems to be saying: “If life hands
you lemons … make lemonade!” Turn
the negative into a positive.
Our hardships, our afflictions can
build endurance over time, where we find that we are stronger than
we first thought! Endurance produces
proven character over time, strengthening our virtue as we grow to accept
that which we cannot change. And our
proven character brings hope, a hope that does not disappoint, a positive
“attitude of gratitude” that simply will not allow “the turkeys of this world to get us down.” God’s love poured forth into our hearts,
a love that knows no limits, will sustain us especially in our darkest
hours when we think no one cares, maybe not even God. “My
God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Who among us hasn’t had those moments, even
Today is a day about God: Father, Son
and Spirit. It is a day of
discovering or re-discovering our God present in all His creation, even
within us! “Seek and you shall find,” said Jesus. Like God, we too can find delight in His
creation. You know, we’ve been
blessed with a beautiful day: go out and take a look around at God’s
creation! For thus says the Wisdom
of God: “I was His delight day by
day, playing before Him.” Today,
maybe we could be a bit more like God’s Wisdom,
God’s Spirit, and go outside …
and play! It’s not just for kids you
know! Just don’t be surprised if you
bump into God’s Spirit, still playing - still being God’s delight!