Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Homily

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Nativity of the Lord

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
December 25, 2016

First and foremost, I would like to welcome all of you here for the joyous celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. Whether you’ve come from far away or just around the corner…whether you come frequently or less so, please know how very glad we are that you are here and how very welcome you are. I send you the Christmas greetings of our pastor, Father Gregory Dube, as well as of our other parochial vicar, Father Richard McLaughlin, as we offer you our prayers that our good and gracious God will fill your hearts and homes with many blessings, good health, and much cheer both now and throughout the coming New Year.

Now since it is Christmas, I’m going to speak about one of the most famous Christmas persons of all time, not counting Jesus. No, it’s not Santa Claus. It’s not Frosty the Snowman. It’s not the Little Drummer Boy or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Dominic the Donkey. Believe it or not, it’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Even hearing the name sends a little chill down our spines, no? He’s the literary epitome of all that’s wrong with humankind and his creator, Charles Dickens, goes to great lengths to paint such a real and vivid picture of so detestable a man that we feel as if we know him personally. His “bah humbug!” really says it all. He is, as Dickens describes him, a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” He’s a harsh, bitter, miserable old miser who is cruel to his clerk Bob Cratchit; cold to his nephew, Fred; and at best unpleasant to any poor creature who dares cross his path. His life is consumed by the accumulation of wealth for himself, and he allows not even the slightest modicum of sympathy or emotion to enter his wretched heart. And yet despite how horrible Ebenezer Scrooge is, despite how pitiable his existence had been, and despite how awful he was to everyone about everything, A Christmas Carol is not a story about sin, but sanctity…it’s not a story about a sinner, but about a saint.

Since 1843, when A Christmas Carol was first published, the ghoulish story of Ebenezer Scrooge had been one of the most popular stories ever told. People from all different ages and walks of life gather yearly to read the tale, to listen to it, or to watch it on stage or on film. It captivates us and draws us in…and not simply because it is dramatic and seasonal, but because – in all honesty – the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a story that cuts right to the core of humanity. Of course this story has been told, in its many different forms, all throughout human history. It’s the story of St. Mary Magdalene…it’s the story of St. Paul…it’s the story of St. Augustine and of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s the story of a sinner who confronts his own wretchedness and ugliness head on, who allows his cold heart to be converted, and who experiences undeserved, but much needed mercy. Deep down, we all like A Christmas Carol, because it’s a reminder to us that God does indeed have the power to transform what is evil into something good. It’s a reminder to us that the Scrooges in our lives, or even the Scrooge that resides in our own heart, can change and be saved.

When we think about the conversion that Ebenezer Scrooge experienced, and how he came to experience this conversion, we have to remember that he didn’t do so on his own…he was prompted by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And although Scrooge obstinately refused their intervention, these spirits persisted and pursued the old man with vigor. They woke him from his sleep and persuaded him to confront a reality he had been blind to. They went after him relentlessly, showing him his life, his choices, and his relationships. Because they invested their time and energy in him, they helped Scrooge to encounter the truth head on…a truth he had denied for so long, and by seeing what the future would hold if he continued to live outside of this truth, he finally gave in. He changed. He converted. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is the story of us all. Like Scrooge, we have all gone astray like sheep, wandering about in our confusion and in our blindness. But like Scrooge, we are being relentlessly pursued…not by three Christmas ghosts, but by God Himself. Since the Fall, God has been running after us, trying to grab us by the shoulders, look into our eyes, and show us the way to truth and life. He sent Moses with the law. He sent the prophets with His word. And then, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son. The eternal Son of the Father, the Word made Flesh, finally caught us…He grabbed us, put on our humanity, and became what we are. With His own fleshly hands He embraced us…with His own real eyes He looked into ours. And because of this, we were given the opportunity to see reality. We saw truth. We saw life. We saw love. We saw the face of God and it changed the world for ever.

The miracle of Christmas is that, because God loves us with a love beyond all telling, because He pursues us night and day with His mercy and grace, and because He has taken on flesh and become man, we can all – every one of us! – be changed forever. Sinners can become saints, evil can become good, and man can become like God…beautiful, good, and true. Even the worst of us, even the most Scrooge-like among us, is infinitely loved by a God of infinite love. And because of this, we can – this day and all days – rejoice and be glad.

As you look upon this beautiful Christmas crib, as you gaze upon the beauty of God-made-Man, know this Christmas Day how much you are loved. Allow yourself to confront that truth this Christmas, and then, like good old Ebenezer, help to make this world a little better, a little brighter, a little more cheerful…and a little holier.

Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Learning How to Wait Well - A Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
December 18, 2016

When I was a kid, my parents did a great job of making sure that my sister and I did not spend a lot of time simply idling around the house. We were a family of adventurers…we did a lot of camping, took a lot of day trips, visited family around New England – in short, we liked to stay busy. But no matter what we had planned, no matter where we were going, every family outing started off exactly the same: dad and I were always ready to go at the agreed-upon time and my mother and sister never were. The car would be packed, everything would be in order, and dad and I would be waiting out in the driveway for a good 10 to 15 minutes before the girls nonchalantly made their way to the car. I remember dad sitting in the driver’s seat, tapping the steering wheel, wondering aloud about what they could possibly be doing. It was annoying at first, but you know, something interesting happened during that waiting period. Since it was just dad and me, we’d start talking and start getting revved up about our adventure. He’d pull out the map, show me how to read it, and then ask for my childish opinion about the best route to take. If we were going to a campground or something, we’d pull out the brochures and start talking about all the cool things we’d do. And if we were visiting family, we’d reminisce about the last time we saw everybody and how much fun it was going to be to see them all again. It was simple, but dad had a way of taking those boring waiting periods and using them to build up more excitement in me, so that by the time my mom and sister got in the car and we were on our way, I was all the happier and definitely more ready for what was coming.

Advent is a lot like that waiting period in the car…four long weeks of waiting while the rest of the world is up to its neck in egg nog, Jingle Bells, and candy canes. The Church is somber and quiet, dragging her feet with O Come, O Come Emmanuels rather than O Come All Ye Faithfuls. Some people have had their trees up since Halloween, but the Church has only her simple Advent wreath counting down the weeks. There’s no Gloria yet…not a poinsettia in sight…and no hope for a single Joy to the World until Christmas Eve. For Christmas fanatics like me, the waiting is tough…but there’s a genius to it. If we let it, if we give into it, the waiting of Advent can condition us to enter more joyfully, more excitedly, more readily into the glory of Christmas.

For the last four weeks, the Church in her liturgy has been pulling out her maps, taking out her brochures, and reminiscing with us all for the sake of helping us enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation. We’ve been listening attentively to the prophecies of Isaiah and Zechariah and John the Baptist while recalling the longing that the people of Israel felt for the appearance of the Messiah. We’ve sung ancient hymns and canticles and psalms that capture the full range of humanity’s angst, expectation, and hope. We’ve been offered the opportunity to go to Confession, to pray more, and to give our time and treasure to the needy and the poor. The work of Advent, the waiting and the preparing that we do, isn’t meant to be an annoying burden that prevents us from celebrating sooner…it’s a gift that is meant to help us celebrate deeper. Advent reminds us that the best things in life are worth waiting for, and if we can develop a little bit of patience, all of the promises of Advent will be given to us in full measure.

In one week’s time we’ll be back here in this church. At that point, our Advent waiting will have become Christmas joy. In the meantime, though, for the next seven days, let’s take this next week to ensure that we round off this blessed time as best as possible. How can we give in more completely to the power of Advent before Christmas comes knocking? Maybe we can make it a point to go to daily Mass a couple times this week. Or maybe come to Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday. Maybe we can shut the TV off for a couple of nights and read the Scriptures – especially the infancy narratives in the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Maybe we can spend some extra quiet time in prayer, thinking about and praying for a world in such desperate need of grace and mercy. Maybe we can abstain from candy and sweets and excesses this week, saving all of our celebrating for the actual season of Christmas. Maybe we can pick a day to write a bunch of cards for the residents of a local nursing home, or pick up a load of non-perishables for a food pantry, or weed out the extra clothes we’re not wearing and bring them to a thrift store or other charity. If we can spend the next seven days not jumping the gun and making the best use of this last stretch of Advent waiting, I guarantee that our Christmas joy will be more complete.

In our Gospel today, St. Joseph gets his mind and expectations blown when the angel of the Lord reveals to him that Wisdom incarnate, the Mighty Lord, the Root of Jesse, the Key of David, the bright Dayspring, the King of Nations, Emmanuel Himself had been conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and would soon be living in his home, under his watchful care and protection. At that moment, Joseph entered into his own Advent waiting…and no doubt he set about at once to make a worthy home for the Christ Child. Let’s take Joseph as our model this week and let him teach us, like dads do, how to wait well. Then we'll be able to treasure every waking moment we have as we ready our minds, our hearts, and our souls to receive the Newborn King with great joy.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Craziness of John the Baptist - A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Second Sunday of Advent
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
December 4, 2016

John the Baptist: the last of the Old Testament prophets; the Forerunner and the Precursor to Christ; one of the central and key voices in our Advent liturgy who beckons us to prepare the way of the Lord; and a complete and utter loon.  

John the Baptist was crazy. Bonkers, even. Not mentally ill, not suffering from a psychosis, just plain old nuts. Biblical scholars tend to describe him as eccentric, but this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. He lived in the wilderness, wore clothing made out of camel’s hair, and ate bugs. At a time when the region of Judea was considered culturally, economically, linguistically, and religiously rather sophisticated, a person like John the Baptist really stood out. He was the unwashed, unkempt, scraggily, scrubby nut job who inhabited the desert peripheries of Judea – the guy everyone gossiped and talked about. But none of this is why I say John the Baptist was crazy. It wasn’t his diet or his appearance or his way of living…it was his message. John was crazy because he believed something crazy and he dedicated his whole life to preaching this craziness to others. He believed that the God of heaven and earth, the God Who created all things and sustained them in existence, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had become – in the fullness of time – a man. While he was still in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, John leapt like a fanatic when he came into the very presence of Adonai, God Himself, in the womb of the young maiden from Nazareth. Before he ever saw the light of day, John the Baptist knew in the very core of his being that God, Emmanuel, had made His fleshly dwelling among us. It was mind-boggling, it was extraordinary, and it was absolutely crazy. The people of Israel surely knew that God was going to send them a Messiah and Savior, but it was beyond their wildest imaginations that this Messiah and Savior would be God Himself, in the flesh, clothed in their very own humanity. But before this kind craziness could be seen and accepted not just by the people of Israel, but by every land and nation, a crazy man capable of announcing this crazy news had to go out and prepare the way. John the Baptist took this task on boldly, and with a figurative sickle in his hand, he went out about like a mad man cutting down and carving a path, an in-road, for the God-Man to come into the midst of His people. John chopped away at everyone’s preconceived notions, at their worldview, at their complacency and smugness…and he called them to repentance, to change their lives, and to ready themselves to be overcome by the presence of God Himself. He didn’t care what people thought of him…he didn’t live this life seeking comfort or power or wealth…he knew that God became man in Christ and that his whole life should be spent bringing others to see and follow and love Him. He was crazy, but only because He was the herald of something even crazier.

The great dramatist and philosopher, Seneca the Younger, wrote in his dialogue On the Tranquility of Mind that craziness, madness, is simply the mind completely and utterly excited as it begins to grasp truth. He even quotes Aristotle as having said that, “no great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.” The craziness of John the Baptist captures this dynamic beautifully. Of the prophets that preceded him – Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, of them all he is the last. In him rests their centuries of longing for God to fulfill His promises and to make Himself known. The great truth of what God has in-store for humanity is revealed to John, and it is not merely his mind that grows excited in response to this, but his heart and soul as well. John goes mad, crazy, bonkers in the best possible way because He knows that God has come to save His people in the craziest, most unexpected of ways.

2,000 years have passed since the craziness of John the Baptist’s message set the people of Israel on fire. We find ourselves here, in our own day, on the Second Sunday of Advent in December of 2016 still reflecting on this burst of madness that changed the world so many years ago. But now the question for us is, does this burst of madness change us? Does the reality of God’s crazy love for us stir us into a crazy excitement of mind, heart, and soul as it did for John? Or have we, in our own complacency, forgotten it all? I think that, in our present society and culture, the luster and excitement and craziness of Christianity has been all-too-tempered into polite normalcy by those of us who just want to “fit in.” Some of us downplay the tenants of our Catholic faith out of fear that others will think poorly of us. Others of us have stopped believing these tenants altogether out of fear that we might start thinking poorly of ourselves. The reality is, my friends, our faith is just as crazy, just as mind-boggling, just as mysterious, and just as true as it was in the days of John the Baptist. And if we let it, if we allow ourselves to be captured by it, it can become just as new and just as exciting to us in our day. John evangelized people successfully not because he was smart, or articulate, or funny, or charismatic…but because he was crazy. He was crazy in love with a God who was crazy in love with him. It changed him and it helped to change the world.

My friends, in just a few short weeks we will be entering into the great celebration of God’s holy, amazing, and crazy love for us…a love that caused Him to take on flesh, to become man, and to making His dwelling among us. And in a few short minutes, we will approach this altar to receive God’s holy, amazing, and crazy love for us once again in Holy Communion…a love that causes Him to take on the appearance of bread and to make His dwelling in us. Today let’s pray for the strength to cast aside all of our preconceived notions, all of our arrogance, all of our complacency, and learn to respond to God as John the Baptist did, by loving Him just as crazily as He loves us.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

God's Obsessive Love - A Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
First Sunday of Advent
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
November 27, 2016

It was a Friday afternoon in December of 1994. I was only seven years old, but I remember the experience like it was yesterday. Breaking my parent’s rules, I was flipping through the channels on the television without adult supervision and came across a commercial for a new horror movie. It scared the living daylights out of me. I quickly changed the channel to cartoons, but the damage had already been done…the sounds and images were burned into my mind. As you can imagine, bedtime that night was a disaster…and despite my pleading and crying, my parents insisted that I go to bed at my regular time. They tucked me in, told me there were no such things as monsters, and said that the sooner I close my eyes and go to sleep the sooner morning would come and everything would feel better. Their words, however, offered me no real comfort. I was so scared that I didn’t sleep the entire night…I was consumed by and obsessing over my fear, convinced that at any moment the worst was going to happen. I lay there, tucked under my covers agonizing for hours, but then, slowly, the first hints of twilight started to come in through my window. I jumped out from under my covers, opened my blinds, and watched the sun slowly rise over the horizon. It was the first real sunrise I had ever seen and it was breath-taking. The sun was like a superhero, coming in and powerfully defeating the villain that was darkness. With every second my fear was dissipating and I felt stronger and braver. Soon the dawn, the morning sun, was pouring into my bedroom and I felt silly that I had ever been scared in the first place.

The night is advanced, St. Paul tells us in our second reading today, and the day is at hand. The darkness, the shadows, the fear…it’s all fading away because Christ, the true and everlasting Son of God, is close at hand. It is time for us, then, to throw off the covers – to throw off the works of darkness­ – and, to cast aside our fear, and rush to our windows to see the rising sun. It is time to put on the armor of light and to, strongly and bravely, prepare for the Lord Who comes.

My friends, today we find ourselves beginning the holy season of Advent once again. The word “Advent” itself means the arrival, the coming towards, the approach – and this blessed season serves to focus our minds and hearts on the great mystery of God’s real, tangible, and immanent in-breaking into our world. He came to us 2,000 years ago, veiled in the flesh as a tiny child lying in a manger. He comes to us now, in our own day, through the power of grace and in the most Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And He will come to us again, in glory, at the end of time. The season of Advent isn’t just about preparing for Christmas, it’s about getting over our fear of darkness and sin and coming to realize how utterly obsessed God is with us that He advents, that He comes to us as He does. This is why Saint Augustine calls Him the “Hound of Heaven,” – the God of the universe, of all creation, can’t leave us alone. Like the sun itching to make its presence known in a dark world, God wants nothing more than to make His presence known in our midst. He comes to us, so truly and so really, dispelling the night with the light of His radiance, and reveals Himself to us. He shakes us out of slumber and begs us to see how much He loves us. When we become awake to this awesome mystery, free from the fear that once bound us, we can then begin the great work of loving Him in return. This is what Advent is all about…preparing ourselves to become as obsessed with God as He is with us.

Four weeks from now this beautiful Cathedral will be bedecked with Christmas glory…lights and evergreens and flowers will abound. The Christ Child will be placed in His manger and we’ll all sing the carols we know and love. But behind all of the trappings of Christmas, remember the mystery of God’s absolute, infinite, reckless, obsessive love for you. Take the next four weeks, plunge yourself into the silent twilight of Advent and await the dawn of Christmas morning by learning how to love Him as He loves you. Meditate on the Scriptures…come to Mass more frequently…go to Confession and receive Holy Communion. Let His light fill your mind, His grace fill your soul, and His love fill your heart. This is what it means to be prepared for His coming. This is why the Church gives us this beautiful season.

In our Collect – our opening prayer – today, we prayed that God would grant us, His faithful, the resolve to run forth to meet His Christ with righteous deeds at His coming. May this prayer govern our lives for the next four weeks. The Son of God is coming to us…let us leave everything else behind, every bit of sin, of despair, and of fear, and, with reckless abandonment, run towards Him.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Sky is Falling! What Do We Do? - A Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
November 13, 2016

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of Chicken Little. There are a few different versions floating around, but the basic storyline centers around a little chicken who, after an acorn falls on his head, becomes absolutely convinced that the sky is falling and that the end-of-the-world is near. Stricken by fear, Chicken Little decides that the king must know about this, so he sets off on a journey to warn him. Along the way he scares the feathers off of several other barnyard fowl by telling them the news, and soon there’s a whole contingent of anxious and petrified birds making their way to see the king. All of this, of course, draws the attention of a certain cunning fox who knows darn well the sky isn’t falling and who decides to take advantage of the flustered featherheads. Playing into their fear and sense of urgency, the fox tells them that he knows the perfect shortcut to the king’s palace. The gullible birds follow him right to his den, only to end up on the dinner menu. The moral of the story: not everything is as it seems, so stay calm, discern wisely, and don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

Over the last several months we’ve been hit on the head by many acorns. Devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters; a contentious and deeply divisive election season; multiple mass shootings; violent protests…and the list could go on. Things just seem to be getting progressively worse around the world. And with all of these acorns falling, there is the lingering temptation to over assess the situation and to begin believing that the sky is falling. I’ve had more than a few people express their fear to me that it seems like we might be nearing “the end.” Now on the one hand we shouldn’t simply dismiss this possibility; after all, our Lord has assured us that there will be a definitive end to this world as we know it when He comes again in glory. But on the other hand, we want to remain sober and restrained in our discernment of signs and events in our world lest we lead others and ourselves down a fox hole.

In our Gospel today, Jesus speaks about the future destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a sign that the old order is passing away and that the new covenant of His Blood is being established for all eternity. “All that you see here,” He says, “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Though He is speaking about the Temple, He is also speaking about the end of time and reminds us that things are going to get difficult prior to His return: “Wars and insurrections…nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Now when we look around at our world, we see these things happening more and more. Does it mean we’re nearing the end? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe they’re just acorns or maybe the sky is actually falling. But quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Whether the world ends tomorrow or in a thousand years from now, the life and duty of the Christian remains the same: we love God, we love our neighbor, we confess and repent of our sins, we feed on His Body and Blood, and we live out each day striving for greater faith, greater hope, and greater love. This is what Jesus is getting at in our Gospel today. Whether things are going really well or whether they get really bad, whether it’s the end or not, we must persevere in our steadfast living out of His gospel.

So yes, things are crazy in our world right now. We can be like Chicken Little if we want and cause all kinds of imprudent, unhelpful panic as we over-analyze the current situation. Or we can honestly acknowledge the state of things and simply put our hands back to the plow and keep on keeping on. All of this is going away one day, but it doesn’t matter when. All that matters is that, when the Lord comes, He finds us faithful. So live out the Commandments, come to Mass, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, say your prayers in the morning and at night, teach your children the faith, take care of the poor, and don’t worry so much about all the acorns. That’s why Jesus tells us that it is “by your perseverance you will secure your lives.” No panicking, no jumping to conclusions, just perseverance. We pray for this grace today as we come to the Lord’s altar.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” - A Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
November 6, 2016

The sun rose this morning at 6:23 and it will set this afternoon at 4:24. Ten hours of sunlight is all we get today. A month ago we had eleven and a half hours and in a month from now we will have fewer than nine. It’s getting darker and colder by the day. The beautiful summer flowers are long gone and now even the vibrant autumn colors have turned dull and bleak. The trees are almost all bare, the birds are fleeing southward, and nature is preparing itself for winter’s sleep. Before we know it, and inevitably before we’re ready for it, the snow will fall and the long months of winter will begin. Now winter might be inconvenient, but it’s bearable because we know that it will only last for a time…we know that come March things will start turning around and spring will be on its way. But imagine if we didn’t know this. Imagine if we were an alien from outer space experiencing all of this for the first time. We might be convinced that it’s all over, that the world was literally fading away before our eyes. And no doubt we’d soon fall into the depths of despair. Imagine not knowing that winter is followed by spring, that bare trees are followed by lush vegetation, that the birds come back, that the days get longer and warmer again. Life would become intolerable, we would become miserable, and we’d just curl up waiting for it all to end. Thank God we do know better. The gift of hindsight and experience assures us of the beauty and the warmth and the light that awaits us on the other side of winter.

This life we live can, at times, be a lot like winter. Sometimes we find ourselves lost in the cold stillness and other times we’re fighting through unforgiving blizzards. There’s a lot of icy darkness that plagues our hearts…like doubt, anxiety, and fear. And there’s a lot of harshness that plagues them too…like anger, lust, and greed. War, violence, famine, disease, homelessness, natural disasters…it’s all winter. And on top of all that, each and every one of us is on a trajectory of decline. Without exception we will all age, become weaker, and eventually die. It can be so overwhelming at times…overwhelming, and frightening, and even hopeless, because unlike the tree that loses and regains everything it has every year, we have no definitive assurance that the winter of this life will ever be followed by a spring. After all, there is not one among us who has made it through the pain and the tragedy and the death of this life who can assure us that something greater awaits us, right? Right? I think you can see where I’m going with this.

We are in this church this morning for one reason and one reason alone. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One Who died a true death on a cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, is no longer dead but is risen. He was seen and heard in His risen state by countless witnesses whose testimony has gone out to the limits of the earth, through all time and to all places…even to Portland, Maine this very day. Jesus Christ endured death, He endured winter, and He conquered it, becoming our first and everlasting sign of the spring that awaits us. He is the very embodiment of our hope, the One in Whom we place our faith, and the true object of our love. He is the ray of light that pierces through the darkness, that warms the cold, and sets the world ablaze. The glory of His Resurrection is the surest sign and promise for us of the eternal beauty waiting for us on the other side of the winter of this life. This is why we cried out in our Psalm this morning, “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”

In our Gospel this morning, Jesus encounters a group of people – the Sadducees – who are sadly convinced that there is only winter and that there is no spring to look forward to. They were a small Jewish sect in Jesus’ day who denied the immortality of the soul, the existence of heaven, and the resurrection of the dead. They considered it their duty to obey the written law faithfully only so that they could attain the highest measure of happiness possible in this life. For them there was no hope, no spring, and ultimately, no joy. But Jesus looks them in the eye in our gospel today and He proclaims to them the very truth He would soon prove in His Resurrection: “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”

My friends, we are Christian because we proclaim Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We confess this truth of truths with our tongues and we live it by our lives. And we know the blessed hope it gives us, too, who faithfully endure our own winter alongside Him. But there are many modern Sadducees in our world today who live without the hope and joy that comes from knowing Christ. They are fighting through the storms and the darkness and the cold and they have no sign, no hope, no assurance that the winter they are fighting through can indeed find its fulfillment in an everlasting spring. It belongs to us, those who have this hope, to be – as Christ calls us – light for the world. We are called to dispel darkness with faith, to warm uncertainty with hope, and to set hearts on fire with love. This is the work of evangelization…and it is necessary and urgent.

I’m giving you some homework this week. Spend some time meditating on how the good news of Jesus Christ risen from the dead has affected you in your life. Think of the people in your life who helped you come to this knowledge and faith and then begin to emulate their witness. Parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings, priests, religious, neighbors, friends…where would you be today without them? Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith at His holy altar and then, like them, commit yourself to the work of handing on the faith. Be a light in the midst of darkness and proclaim boldly and warmly that winter is not the end, but rather only the beginning.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Overcoming our Fragility and Becoming Vulnerable: A Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Thirty-First Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
October 30, 2016

Charles VI, who ruled France as King from 1380 to 1422, began suffering from bouts of insanity towards the end of his life. At first he just began acting strange, but his attacks grew more and more severe, eventually leading him to have terrible delusions. Among the delusions that the king suffered from was the idea that he was made of glass. He became absolutely convinced that with any false move or fall he would immediately shatter into a million pieces. This fear paralyzed him and he went to absurd lengths to ensure that he wouldn’t break. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him and he even had special reinforced clothing made. Charles become obsessed with his own perceived fragility, even though he was never really at risk, and it ruined the rest of his life. The walls he put up to protect himself deprived him of companionship and personal contact. And at the tender age of 53, Charles died a lonely death, a shell of his former self.

It’s easy to feel bad for poor Charles…he clearly wasn’t in his right mind and he suffered greatly for it. But let’s be honest with ourselves…what was a sickness of the mind for Charles can so often be in us a sickness of the heart. Isn’t it true that much of our lives are spent trying to protect ourselves from perceived fears? Maybe we’re afraid of getting hurt, or getting rejected, or loving without being loved in return…and because this fear can at times be so paralyzing we go to great lengths to protect our hearts from it. We build walls, we keep people at a distance, we put on fa├žades…anything we can do to ensure that we won’t get hurt. Like Charles, we can sometimes over-estimate our fragility and take extreme measures to prevent ourselves from breaking. The problem is, when we don’t live in the truth, when we don’t learn to overcome our fragility and dare to become truly vulnerable, we end up missing out on the best things in life.

Our gospel today invites us into this mystery and challenges us to move from fragility to vulnerability. In the story of Zacchaeus, we encounter a fragile man who effectively shut himself away. As the chief tax collector in Jericho, Zacchaeus would have been despised…he would have been seen by his fellow Jews as a complete traitor and a cooperator in the oppressive Roman system as he became rich off of his own people. And despite all the money he was making, despite the fact that he was at the top of the career, I’d be willing to bet that, deep down, Zacchaeus was absolutely miserable. Imagine what his world must have been like. I can see him walking down the street, maybe with his head held high in pride, but inside he’s a wreck. Every face he encounters is a scowl – never a smile. Every word he hears is bitter – never cheerful. He probably can’t remember the last time someone invited him over for dinner, or checked up on him when he was sick, or sat down with him for a heart-to-heart. For whatever reason, Zacchaeus – in his own perceived fragility – chose a life that effectively kept everyone at a distance. He cut himself off, built up his walls, and prevented himself from giving and receiving love. And no doubt he felt that there was no way out of it.

But then something happens…Jesus comes to Jericho. Unable to explain it, Zacchaeus’ poor, closed-off, over-protective heart begins to beat again. No doubt at the end of his rope, Zacchaeus can’t take it anymore…the fear, the loneliness, the pain is all too much. But there’s something about this strange visitor that seems to offer him the promise of relief. Suddenly, out of nowhere, forgetting his own fragility and making himself completely and utterly vulnerable, Zacchaeus hurls himself up into a tree just to catch a glimpse of this man. The people standing around him were probably shocked…who would have thought that Zacchaeus, of all people, would care enough about something to climb a dirty tree. But there he was, exposed and vulnerable, sitting up there for all to see in that old sycamore tree, desperately searching and looking for the love he was made for. And then their eyes met…Zacchaeus locked eyes with Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Creator and creature. God and man. They stared at each other for a moment and Zacchaeus’ heart was pierced by a love that cannot be put into words. A love so powerful that he, from that moment on, changed his life, turning it around forever.

Had he never climbed that tree, had he never put aside his fears and exposed himself in utter vulnerability, Zacchaeus’ life-changing encounter with the Lord might never have happened. He would have stayed on the ground, safe and sound and fragile, continuing to live his agonizing lonely life in the protective shadows…and he would not have known the riches of love that were waiting for him.

So what about us? What walls do we need to knock down that we built around those fragile parts of our hearts? What trees do we need to climb in order to expose ourselves to the mystery of love? For each one of us it’s a little different. Maybe it’s something in our past that we’re ashamed of. Maybe we went through some kind of tragic event that has left us cold and shut off. Maybe it’s a past love that didn’t work out, or an addiction we can’t seem to overcome, or a sin we keep falling into. Whatever it is, whatever we are holding on to that in turn is holding us back from God’s love and the abundant life He calls us to, we’ve got to let go of it. Both Charles and Zacchaeus spent their lives trying to protect themselves…and while Charles remained in his fear, Zacchaeus climbed the tree. By opening himself up, by exposing himself, forgetting his fragility and becoming vulnerable, Zacchaeus was finally able to love and be loved…and the same is true for us.

In the hustle and bustle of this world, in the midst of all its craziness and sadness, the Lord walks in search of our own searching hearts. Today, let us be resolved to be open to the gift of His love. Today let us forget all of our pretenses, all of our hang-ups, all of our insecurities, all of our fears, and dare, in utter vulnerability, to embrace and to be embraced by the extraordinary gift of love. Today let us get up in our trees, no matter how ridiculous we think we might look, and cry out with Zacchaeus that we too want to love and to be loved! And when we find it difficult, we can look to the cross…we can look to the One Who climbed the tree of the cross, exposed and vulnerable for all to see, not because He had to, but because He loved us. Imagine…imagine what could happen to us and to our world if we lived in and modeled that vulnerable love every day of our lives…

Saturday, October 22, 2016

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” - A Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Thirtieth Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
October 23, 2016

The famous Irish playwright, poet, and novelist, Oscar Wilde, was an iconic and interesting man, to say the least. He is remembered well for his great works, like his novel A Picture of Dorian Gray and his play The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as for his wit, his humor, and his intelligence. He was personable, more than a tad flamboyant, and quite charming in his own way. But he is also remembered for his short-comings. He would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t exactly the poster boy for Christian morality. Wilde lived a very decadent and, at times, outrageous lifestyle. He was well-known for his extra-marital affairs and numerous sexual liaisons with both women and men. In fact, in 1895 Wilde was charged with gross indecency and sent to prison in London for two years. When he got out of prison, his life turned to shambles and he declined into depression and alcoholism. But it was after all of this, after all his exciting, complicated, sinful, human experiences, that Oscar Wilde began to realize that there is more to this life than one’s accomplishments or sins…in fact, he began to realize that there is more than just this life. Deep in his soul he struggled terribly as he felt a need to connect with God…and by encountering the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Wilde began to see himself and his own life through new eyes. He made his intentions known that he would soon be converting to Catholicism. Before this would come to pass, though, he developed cerebral meningitis and found himself with only days to live. As he lay on his death bed, Fr. Cuthbert Dunne, a priest from Ireland, received him into the Church and administered the Last Rites, absolving Oscar Wilde of his sins and anointing him for his journey to God. On November 30, 1900, he departed this life for eternity…leaving his sins and failings behind him. Wilde knew, as we all do deep down, that God was going to lay a claim on him, which is perhaps why he put those now famous words into the mouth of Lord Illingworth in the play A Woman of No Importance: 
“The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

In our Gospel today, Jesus sets before us the example of two men. On the surface they couldn’t be more different. The Pharisee was himself an example of virtuous living and external holiness…he lived a blameless life, abstained from vice, fasted twice a week, and gave much to the poor. He would have appeared to us, who couldn’t see his heart as Jesus could, as a walking saint. Then you have the tax collector…a prime example of sinful and unholy living. He took money from the poor, ripped off his own people, and grew fat and happy. He would have appeared to us, who couldn’t see his heart as Jesus could, as a miserable sinner. But at the end of the day, in their heart of hearts and in the sight of God, these men are not as different as they appear or as they might like to believe. They both lived and struggled and sinned. The tax collector’s sins are a little more obvious than the Pharisee’s, but despite all of his virtue the Pharisee is not without sin himself. What separates these two men is not how they have sinned, but rather the recognition that they have sinned and the subsequent turning towards God for forgiveness. The Pharisee – the parable’s saint – forgot that he had a past to repent of…while the tax collector – the parable’s sinner – remembered that he had a future to turn towards.

I’m going to make this short, sweet, and to the point today. My friends, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you’ve been in this life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a great saint or a terrible sinner. What matters is that you have an honest recognition of your past and a firm hope in God for your future. Each one of us needs God more than the earth needs the sun. He puts breath in our lungs and grace in our souls…without Him we would be nothing. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking, like the Pharisee, that we’re simply “all set” – even if we have progressed so far in the spiritual life that we have left most of the “big” sins behind, we must still admit where we have come from and who brought us from there. On the flip side, we also have to guard ourselves from thinking that our sinfulness is in any way beyond God’s mercy…like the tax collector, like Oscar Wilde, we have to ask that God forgive our past and give us a future in His Son.

As we come to the altar today, let us remember in truth who we are, where we came from, but also what the future holds in store. No saint in history ever dared approach the altar without first admitting his or her sins and shortcomings…and no repentant sinner in history ever left the altar without becoming a saint. I pray that we, the regular old Joe Shmoes of this life, will come to realize and rejoice in what Oscar Wilde himself discovered, that every saint indeed has a past and every sinner has a future.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

“Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it...” - A Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
October 16, 2016

Growing up, Saturday nights always looked the same. My grandfather would get the beans on the stove by 4 o’clock and my grandmother would get the red hot dogs and the brown molasses bread going. The baked beans came from a can…in fact, so did the brown bread…we didn’t have time for any of that fancy stuff. We had to eat and have the table cleared off by 5 o’clock so that we could pile into the living room for the Lawrence Welk Show. It was so much fun to watch my grandparents come alive during that hour…the bubbles, the champagne music, the dancing, it all brought them right back to their younger years. Then the 6 o’clock news, a bit of dessert, and, of course, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy back to back. Saturday nights were wholesome, simple, and because of my grandparents, always a step back in time…and I loved every minute of it. Those nights were formative for me and they no doubt helped to turn me into the old soul that I am. But it wasn’t the food and the laughter and the shows that made the most impact on my little heart…it was what came after. As my grandfather would stay in the living room watching some old Western or something, my grandmother would help me get ready for bed and then she’d sit me down and talk to me about the faith…the same faith she learned as a little girl. She told me stories about the saints and about her early days at St. Peter’s Elementary School with all the priests and sisters and brothers. She’d pull out her old family Bible and would explain the stories behind the beautiful pictures I saw. She kept a little box on her dresser with holy medals and holy cards and she’d let me paw through them all as she told me what they all meant. Then we’d say our prayers – in English and in French – and then I’d fall asleep. I can still remember those precious little moments as if they happened just yesterday. Those Saturday nights, I am convinced, are why I am a man of faith and a priest today.

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation. This is what St. Paul tells us in our second reading today in his second letter to Timothy. Tradition and scholars tell us that this was St. Paul’s final letter before his death and we can see in it that he, as a loving father not long for this world, is trying to ensure that the same faith that was handed on to him would remain strong and alive and vibrant in his spiritual children, in the many generations to come. Deliberately, devoutly, and lovingly he passed on the faith given to him, and because of this the world was set on fire with the love of Jesus Christ. For two thousand years the faith has been passed on like this…person to person, heart to heart, priest to faithful, sister to student, father to son, mother to daughter, grandmother to grandson. Stories and memories and Scripture and prayers, a moment here and a moment there…this is the work of evangelization, this is how the faith is passed on, this is how the world is set ablaze. Of course we need an army of great teachers and preachers who will go to the ends of the earth, but nothing substitutes for the authentic faith a child can see living in the eyes and life of someone he or she loves. My grandmother probably never thought of herself as a missionary, as an evangelist, and yet she was…simply by remaining faithful to what she learned and believed, she helped me to do the same.

My friends, in our world today as things get darker and grimmer, we have to let St. Paul’s words cut us right to core. We can’t let all of the bad things happening around us or to us distract us from what matters most: the salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ. We cannot forget all that we have learned and believed when the world makes fun us for being fanatics, when e-mails are sent about us being backwards, or when people in power try to snuff us out. On the contrary, we must cling ever more tightly to the faith of our fathers and mothers, of our grandfathers and grandmothers, and continue passing it along to the next generation. We have to help our children come to love God by showing them how much we ourselves love Him. We have to teach them to find the answers to their questions in the Scriptures and through prayer. We have to make sure they know how imminent and close God is to them. And we have to remind them that, when all else in this world of ours fails, they only have to seek out the red glow of the sanctuary lamp and take refuge in a love beyond all knowing.

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Jesus puts this question before His disciples in our Gospel today and He puts it before us too. If we cave into the allurements of the world, into the new “theologies” and new “spiritualties,” if we forget all that has been passed on to us, all that we have learned and believed from of old, then when the Son of Man comes we will only be able to hide our faces in shame. But if we withstand the temptations, if we are tirelessly true to what has been handed down to us, if we have sought to share it and to pass it on without being ashamed or scared, then we will be able to stand before Him face to face as He transforms the faith He has found in us into sight.

As we come to this altar today, continuing to receive the One Who hands Himself over to us as true and heavenly food, let us rededicate our entire selves to the robust living of our faith. Let us thank God for the holy men and women who passed the faith on to us and beg Him to give us the strength to do the same.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Denying Christ - A Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
October 9, 2016

One day I was sitting in Mrs. Blanchette’s fifth grade classroom bursting with anticipation. My grandmother was picking me up from school early that day for a dentist’s appointment. I wasn’t excited about the dentist by any means, but I was excited about the fact that I was going to be out of school before noon and that I wouldn’t be going back until the next day. No doubt, after the dentist, we’d go have lunch, get some ice cream, and probably go someplace for me to pick out a toy. All I had to do was wait. Luckily, though, our classroom was at ground level, and we were perfectly positioned to see the school parking lot from our window, so I would know exactly when my grandmother arrived and would be all ready to go when the secretary announced over the PA: “Kyle Doustou, please report to the office.” I was watching the clock like hawk, unable to focus really, when finally my grandmother’s car pulled into the parking lot. But all of a sudden, as she got out of the car and began walking to the school, my classmates who were sitting by the window started to snicker. They began making fun of the “old lady” who was hobbling down the sidewalk. They mocked her “old lady” car, her “old lady” clothes, and her “old lady” walk. I was instantly both mad and embarrassed. Then one of them whispered to me, “Hey Kyle, isn’t that your grandmother?” I didn’t know how to answer, so I lied and said I couldn’t see her very well. But sure enough, I was almost immediately called to the office for dismissal and as I got up and left they called me out, “It is your grandmother!” and they all started to laugh. When we got into the car I felt so bad that I started to cry. My grandmother asked me what was wrong and, lying again, I told her that I was just afraid of going to the dentist. She comforted me, we drove off, and that was that. I didn’t have the guts to defend the one person I loved more than anyone else in the world because I was embarrassed.

Sometimes in life we value lesser things over greater things. We value the opinions of our friends over the love of our grandmothers. Or we value the opinions of men over the love of God.

“This saying is trustworthy: if we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” These are the words of the Apostle Paul in our second reading today, his second letter to Timothy. Scholars are in agreement that this was probably the last letter Paul wrote before his death, and so it is not surprising to hear in them a great sense of urgency. Paul is strongly challenging us here and he’s offering us a very stark reminder: we’ve got one shot at this life and we don’t know how long it’s going to last, so we better make it count. We better get out priorities straight, we better figure out what it is that we value most in life, and we better be true to it. In other words, we have to be ready to die with Christ and to persevere in Him. If we’re not, if we deny Him, if we are unfaithful to Him, we cannot expect that He will recognize us when this journey of ours is complete.

There can be no doubt about it: our world today is growing increasingly secular and Christ is not merely being regulated to the sidelines, He’s being kicked to the curb. He’s being forgotten in marriages and in families, He’s being mocked by agenda-driven political activists, He’s being ignored in our political life and in the voting booth. Christians throughout the United States and the first-world are happy to love Him in private, to reap the graces He gives us in our private lives, but He embarrasses us in public and so we, too, so easily ignore Him. We don’t say grace before eating in public, we hide the crosses around our necks, and we never breathe a word of our love for Him. No doubt some of us are scared of what other people will think of us…but the reality is, the more we cower, the more we refuse to be ourselves in private and public, the more we’re going to appropriate the opinions of the crowds in our own life. We’ll slowly grow tired of being hypocrites until one day we give Him up altogether, denying Him and placing ourselves in the popular ranks of the unfaithful.

One day while I was walking to class in Washington, D.C., a truck pulled up next to me. A man rolled down the window and started yelling obscenities at me. He spit at the ground where I was walking and then took off. I was wearing my clerical collar and so I was a very obvious target. I was angry and embarrassed. But soon after that, a few of my fellow seminarians ran up behind me, patted me on the shoulder, and encouraged me. I immediately felt stronger, calmer, and more resolute in my vocation. There’s certainly truth to the old saying that “there’s strength in numbers.” And this is exactly why Christ doesn’t let us follow Him by ourselves as lone wolves. He gives us the Church, His very body, and He calls us to follow Him as a body. When the going gets tough, we can rely on the strength of the rest of the body to hold us up.

My friends, as members of the Church, as the Body of Christ, we have to get better at this. We have to get better at banding together, standing for our beliefs, and defending our Christ. We have to get better at wearing our faith inside and out, at loving and forgiving one another, and getting serious about the most important things in life. We have to stop being so darned concerned with our political agendas, our bank accounts, and what others think about us, and start getting rock solid in our faith so that when one of us feels the pressure of the world, he or she has something strong to hold on to. We have to start being proud of the One we love above all else, whether it’s in our living room or in Monument Square, whether they praise us or laugh at us, whether they accept us or reject us.

“No servant is greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Let us be bold, my friends…bold, courageous, and faithful. And when we’re afraid, or embarrassed, or angry, or hurt, let’s make sure that we keep returning to this altar where the Way, the Truth, and the Life will strengthen us.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Our Eternal Life Insurance Policy - A Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
September 18, 2016

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit down with an insurance agent over a cup of coffee to start talking about things like life insurance, retirement annuities, and IRAs. As I’m barreling towards thirty, I can see the necessity of really beginning to think about my fiscal future. And I have to say, as tedious as the fine print can be and as difficult as it can get to wrap our minds around, there is something very satisfying about knowing that we are taking concrete steps to invest in our future. It is drilled into our American psyche that we should have a definite and reliable fiscal plan for our lives so that we don’t end up suffering or wanting for anything later on. And if we lack in this regard, our lives can quickly become filled anxiety and fear. It’s good to be prepared, it’s good to have a plan, it’s good to know that, no matter what, things will be taken care of. But sometimes we can take this too far and fail to see that there is a danger lurking beneath all of this. We can become so preoccupied thinking about, worrying about, and preparing for worldly things that we forget, neglect, and ignore the greater and eternal realities that far surpass the things of this world.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is warning us about this. He’s warning us about the spirit of the world, about worldliness, and how it can so easily distract us from our true destiny: heaven. As the old Baltimore Catechism puts it so simply and beautifully, our true and ultimate purpose is to love, know, and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him in the next. Everything else that we say or do or want should be first subjected to this final and eternal end of ours. In other words, we should try to be spending each day looking at everything through the lens of eternity. But often times we don’t. Our decisions in this life are so often made from our desire for pleasure or our fear of suffering, and we spend much less time thinking about, meditating on, and preparing for life in the world to come. It’s easier to serve mammon than it is to serve God because the fruits of our service to mammon are immediately felt whereas the greater fruits of our service to God have to be longed and hoped for. But we don’t get to have our cake and eat it too. We have a choice to make and we have to make a choice: we can serve mammon or we can serve God, but we cannot serve both.

When I sat down with the insurance agent, he instilled within me a sense of urgency. If I were to die tomorrow, how would my funeral expenses be paid for? Who would pay off my vehicle? Do I have enough invested to cover all of these things? The answer was no, and so the solution was to invest more, to pick a life insurance policy particular to my state in life and to begin preparing for the day when I would need to use it. As I was driving away from our meeting, it occurred to me that my job as a priest is not dissimilar to that of an insurance agent. I don’t have any policies to sell, but I am called to help people see the urgency of preparing for and investing in their eternal future. We live in the world, we live and work with and use mammon, but we don’t have to be of the world and we don’t have to be slaves of mammon. God calls us to so much more and He promises that if we invest now in our eternal future with Him, our payout will be of infinite value.

So today I’d like to invite you to begin investing in your eternal insurance policy, or, if you have already started, to invest even more. Here are the terms:
  • First, we need evidence of insurability. If you’re not of basic and sufficient spiritual health, you must immediately begin to make healthy spiritual life choices to be insured. Weekly attendance at Mass and regular – at least yearly – use of the Sacrament of Confession are essential. Our priests are waiting and willing to help diagnosis spiritual life-threatening illnesses and to offer sacramental prescriptions as necessary. Contact them immediately for help or consultation.
  • Second, there are no monthly or annual premiums. However, there is the daily premium of picking up your own cross and laying down your own life for love of God and neighbor. Payments may never be deferred, but delinquency is forgivable 100% of the time if forgiveness is sought.
  • Third, you can increase the value of your policy at any time, day or night, by communing with God in prayer, through the practice of fasting, and by engaging in almsgiving.
  • Fourth, you are automatically enrolled in our comprehensive family plan. The angels and saints are ready to invest in your policy at any time. Please solicit them for their prayers. At times their investments will even result in the payments of small dividends in this life, for which God should be glorified and they should be thanked. Furthermore, you are entitled to invest in the policies of anyone on earth or in purgatory. Please direct your prayers and sacrifices accordingly.
  • Fifth, settlements will be paid only after death and will never be paid in this life. Jesus Christ, Who is your insurer, your ultimate investor, and the true owner of your policy, alone reserves the right to review and decide upon your claim. Minor policy failures on your part will result in a time of purification, after which full payment will be tendered. Major policy failures on your part will result in the free-forfeiture of your settlement. Forfeited settlements may not be reinstated after death. Please consult with Jesus in this life to reinstate a forfeited settlement by contacting one of His priests for confession.

So allow me to say it in simple terms. Put God above all things. Love Him and serve Him every day to the best of your ability, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you fall, seek His forgiveness in the sacraments. Give yourself over daily to prayer and come to be nourished by the Lord’s Body and Blood every week at Mass. Live a life of self-sacrifice, give special care to the poor, and ask for help from the angels and saints to do all of this.  Is this difficult? You bet it is. There’s a lot of mammon around to distract us, but fight the good fight. We’ll always have mammon to deal with, but the more we daily invest in heaven, the less mammon will have to offer us, and then the Kingdom of God will be at hand.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lost and Found, Divided and United: A Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year
Cycle C

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
September 11, 2016

Maybe your house was foreclosed on or your beloved pet went missing. Maybe your best friend moved away or your husband walked out on you. Maybe your son was diagnosed with cancer or your mother with dementia. Maybe your grandfather passed away unexpectedly or your aunt perished in the terrorist attacks fifteen years ago. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, if you’ve got breath in your lungs and blood in your veins, you know what it means to lose, to experience loss. Sometimes it’s a little petty, and sometimes it’s horrendously profound, but none of us are exempt from the experience. It’s one of those things that every man, woman, and child has in common…something that people of every race and tongue and nation share. It can make us stronger and it can beat us down; it can open the door for new opportunities or cast us into the throws of depression. Loss is blind and it chooses its victims arbitrarily most of the time, forgetting any sense of justice or fairness. Is there any human experience more gut-wrenching or agonizing than the experience of loss?

Putting it in sterile, but straightforward words, the dictionary describes “loss” as the state or process or feeling of grief when being deprived of someone or something of value. At first glance this seems to be a sufficient description of the experience. When we value a person or a thing and then this person or thing is removed from our lives we quite naturally mourn and miss what we once had. But I think there’s more to the experience of loss than simply the devastation of being deprived of someone or something of value. I think it has a lot more to do with our basic desire and need for unity and completeness.

Our modern English word “loss” itself comes from the Proto-Germanic word “lausa” and the Old Norse word “los” – words that were used to describe the breaking up of an army, or the division and separation of a clan. These words developed fairly organically from verbs in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit which literally mean “to untie.” Thus the origins of the word “loss” describe an experience where something that was once united and one had become separated and divided: what was tied had become untied and what was once whole had been cut. This separation and division caused the felt experience of grief not simply because an individual assigned value to something or someone, but because there was objective value in unity and wholeness. It was better to be one than many, to be united than divided, and thus a “loss” wasn’t simply a personal tragedy, it was an objective and a communal tragedy.

A lost sheep. A lost coin. A lost son. Our Lord in our Gospel today places these three “losses” before us and, calling upon our own wide-ranging and personal experience of loss, He invites us into a deeper consideration of this mystery. He wants us to go beyond the personal angst we feel when we lose something we value and to consider loss as it really is: a deprivation of unity. The man who lost his sheep is distressed not simply because he lost 1/100th of his property value, but because the wholeness and integrity of his herd had been undone. The value of the sheep gone astray wasn’t just a matter of calculation, nor was it simply based on the affinity that the man had for this particular sheep, but because this sheep was a vital part of making the sheepfold one. The same thing is true of the woman who lost her coin and even more so of the father who lost his son. When the son left his father and brother and went off to live a debaucherous life, he untied a unity of persons. Common flesh, father and sons, shared a common home, a common hearth, and a common life. They were one and united, but when the younger son abandoned the family, he left them divided and separate. In a very real way, the son completed his father and brother and the father and brother completed the son, and when they were torn apart, when their unity was compromised, devastation and sadness and grief followed. And when the sheep was found, when the coin was rediscovered, when the son returned home, there was rejoicing and gladness among family, friends, and neighbors not because possessions were reestablished and value returned, but because unity was restored. God’s world, our world, was made for unity, and thus it mourns for all that is lost and rejoices for all that is found. Deep down, beyond all the sin and division that drives us apart, struggle as we might, we know that we were meant for unity.

The experience of loss is felt personally, but it’s not simply a personal experience. It is something, as our Lord Himself tells us, that both heaven and earth lament over. When death, sickness, disease, and sin creep into our lives and deprive us of the unity that God intended for us, all of creation mourns. But this is why Christ has come into the world: to destroy death, to cure sickness, to heal disease, and to eradicate sin, and in doing so reunite us who have gone astray with each other and with the Father. He accomplished this on His Cross and the effects of His work will continue to make themselves known until all is brought to perfection and glory at the end of time. In the meantime, He graces us to be His instruments, giving us the power to destroy division and restore unity in our own little corner of the world. But this requires us to go beyond ourselves and our own immediate concerns. It requires us to care about the good for each person in this life and to be invested in their eternal salvation. It means that we give bread to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. It means we clothe the naked and welcome the stranger. It means we care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. It means that we teach the unlearned and counsel the doubtful. It means we call ourselves and all sinners to conversion and bear wrongs patiently. It means we forgive those who offend us, that we console those who are sad, and that we pray for all, both the living and dead. And why? Because we are all called to be one before the Father, and we must work, with His grace, to tie what has been untied, to make whole what has been cut, to find what was lost. This is when heaven and earth rejoice, because God’s family – one person at a time – is restored to wholeness.

Every bit of loss that we experience in this life, tragic as it is, is a reminder of the unity that we were created for. Let us take our Lord’s words today to heart and allow them transform our lives. Let us value each other not just as objects that increase or decrease our pleasure in this life, but as family, as sons and daughters of the Father who were made to be one. Let us dare to see that the Lord has created us to complete each other, and that together in Him, and in Him alone, do we find our complete joy.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni