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Holy Day

Homily for Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


On this Easter morning we find ourselves in the same boat as Mary Magdalene. Our world has been turned upside down. We are lost and afraid. We mourn our “old” life, the life we had before the many losses the coronavirus ushered into our world. With Mary, we come with darkness surrounding us, to the place of death. There is no expectation of anything new, only more of the same: sorrow and loss. With her, we feel empty—joy has fled our lives and peace with it.

At first glance, the Easter Gospel which the Church gives us seems to do nothing to alleviate our sorrow, nothing to take away our emptiness.

John’s Gospel for today is empty of the reassurances of the other Gospels that Christ is Risen. There is only an empty tomb with a few burial cloths. There are no angels dressed in dazzling white announcing, “He is Risen.” There are no encounters with the Risen Lord, at least not yet. All that greets Peter and the other disciple when they finish their race to the tomb is emptiness. The body of their crucified friend is gone.

The absence of angelic promises, the absence of the Risen Lord, is what many Catholics are feeling right now. Where is the Lord Jesus in all that is going on in our world? Emptiness is what many are feeling, an emptiness matching the emptiness of his tomb. Many Catholics feel the pain of this emptiness in the depths of their spirit, because they have not received the Eucharist for days seemingly without end.

Part of the challenge of faith at this time is to plunge deeper into the Word of God, where the Lord feeds and nourishes us. Remember, those first disciples only came to understand the Resurrection as they came to understand the Scriptures that he had to rise from the dead. What we begin to understand as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures and allow them to illumine our life, is that Resurrection is not a one-time event, but an ongoing reality. Resurrection is what God does, over and over again.

In the Old Testament, over and over again God raised his fallen people, the People of Israel, to new life. He raised them up from slavery to freedom, from exile to homecoming, from their sinful ways to reconciliation with Him. God did the same with many individuals in the Old Testament, who faced what they thought was the end of their life as they knew it only to be granted new life by God: Abraham and Sarah, Moses and David, Esther and Judith.

The story continues in the New Testament, with Peter dead in his sorrow over his denial of Jesus, life as he knew it seemingly over, being raised to new life by the Risen Lord, so Peter can proclaim this Truth to others.

If we look back on our lives with the eyes of faith, we will see how the Lord has raised us up from this or that loss into a new life. With the eyes of faith, we can see how the Lord has written resurrection into our story. We are able to see and believe.

The Saints show us how to see and believe, how to entrust our lives to the one who is the Lord of life and death. When Fr. Rother was asked by the religious sisters at his parish a week before his death, what do we tell the people when they come and kill you, he answered: “Go into the church and light the Easter candle and sing the Easter Alleluia.”

Yes, indeed, Christ is Risen, and he raises up to new life all who believe in Him. For Christ is Risen, and we will rise up with him—nothing can kill this saving Truth.

The emptiness of this church feels like the emptiness of the tomb on Easter morn. Where is the Lord? Where is his Body? Without the living Body of Christ gathered together to become more fully who they are, to enter more deeply into Communion with each other and with the Risen Lord, this place yawns with emptiness.

But this emptiness is a prelude to the new life the Risen Lord brings from death. Like the emptiness of the soil receiving the seed which will produce new life, so the seeds of the resurrection are planted within us this Easter, the seeds of new life which cannot be killed. Because with God, life never dies—it only becomes fuller and richer and more meaningful.

For the Risen Lord is calling all of us to faith during these difficult days. A faith which is not so much believing that the Lord Jesus exists, but instead going to Jesus and entrusting our lives to Him, knowing that he cares about us.

This time of trial is forcing us to choose what matters and what passes away; a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is time to get our lives back on track with regard to our relationship with the Risen Lord and with others.

There will be a new church building and a new beginning for the people of our parish after this time of isolation has ended. For to those who walk in the light of the Risen Christ, every ending brings with it a new beginning, Every death leads to new life.

During this time when so many have experienced the loss of so many things, we are invited to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. Let us listen once again to the proclamation that saves us: “Christ is risen and living by our side.”

The Risen Lord by the power of the Spirit of Love which he shares with His Father can and will turn to good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. With him, we rise up from despair to hope again; In him, we rise up from the darkness of doubt to the light of faith; Through him, we rise up from our tombs of fear to trust and love again.

He is calling us from death to new life today. Because as believers know, with God, life never dies!

Homily for Good Friday

April 10, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Our separation from God is over. The Son of God by his death on the cross has reconciled the world to himself. Christ Jesus has undone the sin of Adam, has washed away our sins in his blood, and by his death given us new life and united us to His Father. By the power of the cross, our separation from God is over.

But in the 21st century where we have so many ways to connect to each other, why is it that so many feel isolated from God and others? Especially at this time when we “shelter in place,” we can feel cut off from God and others.

In this new age of coronavirus, we have been encouraged to keep our distance from one another to slow the spread of the virus. However, “social distancing” is not the best term for this action, because more than ever before we long for and desperately need social connection. It would be better to practice “physical distancing,” while reaching out to others and connecting to them socially.

We are created by God for connection with God and others, for union with God and others. We are made to reach out to others, to seek communion with them.

Catholics long for Holy Communion—the Sacrament— but also long for what the celebration of the Eucharist brings— communion with the other members of the Body of Christ. Praying together with others is part of our DNA— we are made to be with others in worship.

At this time when we are not able to come together in worship, we are united with each other in this common suffering. In fact, suffering of any kind unites us, even when we are physically separated from each other. The Son of God was not spared the very human experience of suffering. All of us who are flesh and blood encounter the mystery of suffering. No one escapes suffering, even though some try to escape it through the various “sedatives” of today’s world.

The question is: what will we do with the suffering that is ours? Will we embrace it or try to escape it? Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God, shows us a way forward.

Because of Jesus’ free embrace of the cross and the suffering which flowed from his acceptance of his cross, Jesus has changed suffering to glory and death to life. Also, because of the cross, the suffering of those who love the Crucified One becomes a Communion between them. Those who are marked by the cross in baptism are joined to each other in the suffering they freely embrace because of their love for the Crucified Lord.

This is what I would call the “Communion of saints” with that word, “saints”, beginning with a small “s.” We are never alone in our suffering, for we are joined to our brothers and sisters in the Lord in their suffering. As we take our pain and our struggles to Christ on the cross, we are assured that we do not go there alone but are joining others at the foot of the cross.

Acceptance of pain can become our gift to each other in Christ. Acceptance of our fear of death and even embracing death itself in trust becomes our gift to others in Christ. Embracing the hardships of this particular time is our gift of Christ’s love to one another; our gift of Christ’s life to one another.

As we recognize that in our suffering we are united to the glorified body of Christ, all those holy women and men who have gone before us in faith, we enter into the “Communion of Saints” with a large “S.” People of faith never ever suffer alone, even though it may feel that way at times, for we are not only joined in our suffering to the suffering Body of Christ on this earth but also to his Glorified body in heaven.

As we become filled with anxiety over this modern-day plague, let us invite St. Aloysius Gonzaga to walk with us, to help us carry our cross. St. Aloysius took care of those dying of the plague in Rome at the end of the 16th century, and eventually died of the plague himself at 24. As we worry about our health, St. Therese of Liseux walks with us. She contracted tuberculosis at a young age and suffered greatly because of it, dying at the end of the 19th century at the age of 24. She, too, helps us carry our cross at this time.

As we take our suffering to Christ on the cross, he receives our cross in order to give us his cross. We give him our pain and sorrow and struggles in order that we might receive his cross.

For his cross is like a rudder, steering the ship of our life through stormy waters, assuring us that we are redeemed. His cross is an anchor, for as the huge waves of fear and uncertainty seem to tip the boat of our life, we are firmly rooted in the conviction that we are saved. We have nothing to fear. The cross of Christ is our greatest hope and the very source of our joy, for by it we have been healed and embraced by Him who reminds us that nothing and no one can separate us from his love. So, Christ from the cross invites us to be courageous and open ourselves up to his love. We are all in this boat together and the captain of the ship will steer us through this stormy time.

By receiving the Lord’s cross, by adoring the wood on which hung the salvation of the world, we receive our Savior. He gives us his hands to take firm hold of his saving cross; his power to make it a source of blessing; his life to cause it to flower; and his heart to enable us to accept with love our burdens and the burdens of others.

Homily for Holy Thursday

April 9, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Tonight is not a typical celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Catholics in Mustang, throughout Oklahoma, across the United States and the world are not able to partake in the Holy Eucharist. On the very night when we celebrate the institution by Jesus of the Eucharist, Catholics whose faith is strengthened and sustained by such a great gift are not able to receive it.

But since this evening’s celebration is unlike any other Holy Thursday celebration in our lifetime, perhaps we can broaden our understanding of this rich mystery of the Eucharist. John the evangelist invites us to a more complete understanding of what the Lord Jesus is asking us to do to remember him.

Every year at this celebration the Church in her wisdom gifts us with this account from the Gospel of John. However, what is missing is what we normally think of when we think of the Eucharist—the Sacred Meal. Rather, John takes a different approach to lead us into a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. What disciples are to do in memory of Jesus is to wash feet. In other words, disciples are to remember Jesus’ life-giving gift of himself on the cross by giving their lives away in loving service of others. By doing so, we are nourished by the presence of the Lord in those we serve, and we become his life-giving presence for them to feast on as we give ourselves away in love for them.

Christ Jesus, the Servant of Humankind, the One who comes not to be served but to serve and to give his life away as a ransom for many, teaches us that whenever we do the same in memory of Him, he feeds us, he nourishes us. So, as our bodies are broken open in generous love of others, as our blood is poured out in our service of others, we are filled with new life–His life.

In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis noted that the coronavirus tragedy helps us “to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others.” The Pope challenges us to “reach out to those suffering and in need” and states: “May we not be concerned with what we lack, but what good we can do for others.”

The Pope points out that the real heroes today are not “famous, rich and successful people” but rather “medical staff, nursing home caregivers, transport workers, supermarket clerks and others for their sacrifice to help lives.” Yes, the real heroes are not sport stars or movie stars or music stars but ordinary folks who are serving others in simple yet extraordinary ways.

Some medical staff are living apart from their families at the very time they need that support the most in order to protect their loved ones from the virus. EMT’s who face unpredictable situations, phlebotomists who draw blood for testing, and those who run the tests–all giving of themselves to others. Then there are those public servants who patrol our streets to keep us safe and others who are ready at a moment’s notice to extinguish a fire or to rush into an emergency situation. The Body of Christ serving the Body of Christ.

There are those who stock the shelves at grocery stores and those who serve in the checkout line. There are those whose jobs are essential but who go unseen, far from the public eye: cleaning ladies who by the very nature of their job risk coming into contact with the coronavirus; and electrical workers who keep power flowing for our many devices, those who oversee our water plants so we can have clean water at a moment’s notice; and those long-haul truckers who drive cross country to deliver much needed goods The Body of Christ serving the Body of Christ.

All of these and many others teach us that our lives find meaning when we serve others. All of these and many others show us that if we really want to feel connected to others then we need to share our gifts in service of their needs.

Thus, the Eucharist is more verb than noun, more an action than an object: the action of receiving Christ and then giving our lives away in love with Jesus Christ to Him living in others. A living and true relationship with Jesus takes us beyond a “me and Jesus” spiritual world to a concrete relationship with Him in his suffering body all around us.

We cannot adore Him worthily in the Blessed Sacrament if we do not see Him and serve Him in others, especially those suffering in any way. We hear the Lord Jesus crying out from the cross as we hear Him crying out in the least of our sisters and brothers who are suffering and feel all alone.

One spiritual author speaks about this central truth of the Eucharist and of our Eucharistic faith, as revealed by Jesus’ action in John’s Last Supper account.

Here, Jesus is taking the place of a person at the bottom, the last place, the place of a slave. For Peter this is impossible. Little does he realize that Jesus came to transform the model of society, from a pyramid to a body, where each and every person has a place, whatever their abilities or disabilities, where each one is dependent upon the other. Each is called to fulfill a mission in the body of humanity and of the Church. There is no “last place.” Jesus, revealing himself as the least one in society, the one who does the dirty jobs, the one who is the last place, calls his followers to be attentive to the least in society. God is not out of reach, in the skies. God is hidden in the “heavens” of the hearts of all those who are in the last place.

The Eucharist is not something we receive but someone we receive. At every celebration of the Eucharist we become what we receive—the Body of Christ. At the Eucharist, we do not come to take something but to become Someone— to become other Christ’s in this world by allowing his life to take root and grow in us. The Eucharist is not a thing but a person, the very person of the Crucified One now Risen, who shares his life with us, so that we might share his life and love with others.

Ash Wednesday

March 6, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


One Lent a faithful Catholic decided to give up coffee completely. So, he did. And everyone else suffered with him! He was irritable and short-tempered, so not only was he miserable without his daily caffeine fix, but he made everyone else miserable.

Now if God is calling you to give up coffee this Lent, and you discern that this is truly from God, then go for it. But know this — Lent is about something much more than giving up coffee or candy or soft drinks or alcohol. The Holy Season of Lent invites us to conversion, in the Greek sense of that word — metanoia. Which means a change of mind, which leads to a change of heart, which leads to a change in the way we live and love.

When we change our ingrained patterns of thinking, which are not attuned to the mind of Christ, then we can love others more like he loves. Thinking with Him, using the Gospels as our guide, we can then love one another as He loves us.

So Lent is not so much about changing what we eat or drink— the exterior stuff— as it is a change from the inside out. Changing the way we think, so that we might rend our hearts, and in breaking them open, be stretched to love even more, so that we might return to God and to one another.

Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are ancient practices, which transform our way of thinking and seeing the world, which in turn expands our heart to love as we’ve been made to love. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are three interconnected penitential practices which become the energy of ongoing conversion, a dying to all in our life which is not of Christ.

Would that this Lent we would fast from judging and condemning others! When we give up looking for the splinter in our brother’s eye, then we can see more clearly the log in our own. When we pay close attention to our thoughts, we see how quickly we jump to judgment. The call of God in Lent is to pay attention to our own blindness, to those ways of thinking which blind us to the image of God reflected in the face of the other.

The invitation is to humility, to honestly recognize that we are no more holy or less holy than anyone else, that we are all sinners in need of God’s saving mercy in Christ. Humility kills hypocrisy and propels us to do good, not so others may think good of us, but because this is what God commands us to do.

Would that during these 40 days we would grow in our relationship with God through prayer! Many people say “I don’t have time for prayer.” Well, this is where fasting feeds a life of prayer, as we give up some of the wasted time we spend on Facebook or other social media, or the wasted time we spend vegging in front of our TV or other mind-numbing entertainment devices.

The prayer we all need to grow in is LISTENING to God. Too often we think of prayer as giving God a to-do list and then becoming upset with God, because God did not do everything we told God to do. This Lent listen to God by making the daily Mass Scriptures your daily food. Listen to what God is saying each day in His Holy Word that you might hear what God hears—the cry of the poor and the brokenhearted, the weeping of those crushed in body and spirit.

Would that during these 40 days we would give alms by giving of ourselves more fully in love of others! It is a good thing to give monetary gifts to help the poor, but Lent invites us to a more profound giving of alms, and that is the gift of our very self to others. We do this best when we put ourselves in the shoes of others.

Can we feel-with the homeless mother on the streets of Oklahoma City who is worried sick about how to provide for her child?

Can we empathize with the parents fleeing violence in Guatemala to make the long trek to the US border? Can we taste their fear and feel their terror and know how much they love the children they are trying to save?

Can we place ourselves in the shoes of a husband and father, who because of an accident and lack of health insurance, has lost his job?

Can we, with the Spirit’s help, break out of our own little self-centered world and enter the world of a family member or co-worker or fellow parishioner, and just for a moment see what they see and feel what they feel?

When we put ourselves in the shoes of the “other”, everything changes. Then any alms we give them come not from a place of pity but of compassion. The gift of oneself to another human being is what Christian hospitality is all about, because then we welcome and love the suffering Christ in them.

The cold ashes we will soon receive on our foreheads remind us that now is the time to be reconciled to God and to others. Soon these bodies of ours will turn back to dust, so now is the time for Metanoia.

Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving lead us to reconcile us to God and to others. These three Lenten practices bring us closer to God and to others.

They produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives for others to feast on, the fruit of love and joy and peace, the fruit of generosity and goodness and gentleness, the fruit patience and kindness and faithfulness.

Then when this Lenten journey leads us to the doorstep of the Easter Triduum on Holy Thursday evening we will have been transformed more fully into the Body of Christ. We will be living a more abundant life, united more closely to the Lord of the Life, the Conqueror of Sin and Death, the Risen Lord Jesus, who is the reason for this season.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Carlo Maria Martini, a deceased Italian Jesuit cardinal and former Archbishop of Milan, once described grace as knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” Cardinal Martini, who died in 2012, defined grace in this beautiful way: knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” So, take your age plus nine months and then add in eternity— that is how long you have been loved by God. Grace is knowing this everlasting love of God and living out of that love.

St. Paul states the same truth in a different way, saying that God the Father chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. From the beginning of Creation, God knew each one of us and intended us to be born. So that we are loved not so much for what we do, but for who we are, because we have been chosen in by the Father in His Son.

Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel”

Being chosen by God also means God has a plan and a purpose for our life. You matter, I matter, and so does our mission in this life. Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel” (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, #19 ).

Since Mary was chosen from the beginning of time to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary’s Mission is a unique one. So much so that God prepared her to be the Mother of the Son of God by freeing her from sin and the effects of sin from the very first moment of her existence in the womb of her mother, Anne. Mary is full of grace, free to allow God who is love to take her flesh, to say a complete and full Yes to God’s plan to live in her womb and be born into the world through her.

The archangel Gabriel’s greeting is our greeting as well to Mary on this great Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception: “Hail Mary, full of grace.” For this humble virgin from the backwoods town of Nazareth was indeed full of grace. To be full of grace is to be filled with life and love and light. To be full of grace is to live out the marks of holiness described by St. Paul VI in his great encyclical, “Evangelization in the Modern World.” This saintly pope said: “The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice.”

To be full of grace is to yearn for peace in the world, to do acts of kindness every day, to have an inclusive heart, to be able to laugh and cry, to feel deeply the sorrows and joys of the world. To be full of grace is to accept what God gives and to give what God takes, a lesson that St. Teresa of Calcutta taught her sisters and the world.

But you and I are not full of grace. Something blocks us from completely embracing the mystery of God’s love and mercy in Jesus. Call it pride, call it ignorance, call it fear, something holds us back from uttering the fully obedient “YES” that Mary proclaimed the Annunciation.

From the beginning, our first parents chose not to believe in God’s love for them. Instead of saying “YES” in obedience to all that God offered them, they disobeyed, failing to trust in God’s goodness, trusting only in themselves and their desire to be God. Thus sin and the affects of sin entered the world. Instead of standing erect and raising their heads to bask in the light of God’s love, our first parents hid in their shame and passed the blame.

We, too, still wrestle with sin and the affects of sin in our lives, but by Mary’s “YES” which reversed the “NO” of our first parents, we have been given a Savior who frees us from the obstacles in our lives which prevent us from living out of the love of God for us. So, one of the cries of Advent is, “Come O Lord and set us free.” Set us free from the sin which binds us, the fear which enslaves us, heal us of our blindness.

When we embrace the truth which Mary knew, that we have been loved for a very long time, our lives are transformed. Knowing how much we are loved by God sets us free to give love away.

In the giving away of God’s love, more space is created for a new influx of divine grace.

It is this rhythm that defines the life of discipleship. It is this rhythm of receiving and sharing God’s love that Mary, the 1st disciple, teaches us.