See also:

On this page, you will find homilies preached by the priests who celebrate the English Mass in our church. Homilies will usually be posted a few hours after Sunday Mass. For the Homily Archive in previous years, open a tab above.

Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A

Reading I: Acts 2:42-47
Responsorial: Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Reading II: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Gospel: John 20:19-31

The story of Doubting Thomas is so familiar that we may be tempted to dismiss it as not having any relevance to our own lives. We are told that Thomas was called Didymus in Greek – a name that means ‘Twin.’ And this gives us a clue about how Thomas relates to each of us: is not Doubting Thomas the twin of all of us who have not seen the Lord, who are called to faith only through the testimony of others? After Christ’s Ascension, all generations of Christians are twins to the doubting Apostle Thomas.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. The image of Divine Mercy is an excellent icon of our Lord when he appeared to the Apostles after his Resurrection. He comes to those who are afraid and doubtful and says, ‘Peace be with you!’ He waits to hear us respond, ‘Jesus, I trust in you.’

When Jesus appeared this way to Saint Faustyna Kowalska, her response was total trust. But our response is more like that of Thomas – the deeply human desire to experience God personally, to touch him. Even the most beautiful image is not enough to satisfy this desire. So how do we respond to Christ’s offer of peace with an act of perfect trust in his mercy?

Again, we have a clue in the Gospel and in the image of Divine Mercy. Jesus appeared to his Apostles and showed them his wounds; in the image of Divine Mercy, we see the same wounds that Jesus still bears in his glorified body in heaven. Why does he show us his wounds? Because it is through his suffering and death that Christ’s mercy comes to us. He accepted in his body the suffering and death that we merited by our sins.

If we do not acknowledge that Christ’s wounds were caused by our sins, we cannot receive his mercy.

Saint Anthony of Padua associated the wounds of Christ with words from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’ (Is 29:15-16).

Each one of our names is written indelibly on the palms of Jesus: the ink is his blood, and the pen is a nail. We may forget or reject Jesus, but he cannot forget us. His wounds that are the gates of mercy will never be closed.

The wounds of Jesus hold another mystery: he shows us his wounds, so that we may freely reveal our wounds to him. All of us are wounded. All of us have suffered from misunderstanding, rejection, humiliation. Each of us is scarred by the damage we’ve done to ourselves and others through our sins. The mystery of Christ the Wounded One is that through his wounds, he can heal our wounds. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).

Our faith is not a set of beliefs or ideas; our faith is not a set of commandments.
Our faith is belief in a Person; our sins are real wounds with which we crucify a real Person. But all of his suffering is worthless if we do not acknowledge our sins and accept his saving sacrifice on the Cross.

But Christ does not want to limit his mercy to a personal encounter between ourselves and him. Consider the words which we repeat in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Christ commissioned and sent forth his Apostles, saying, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ He also commissions us to share the good news of his mercy with everyone. Jesus explained this to Saint Faustyna:

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.… Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy (cf. Diary of Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska, nr 699).

Today above all days, Divine Mercy Sunday, God is pouring out his mercy to anyone who looks on his wounds, trusts in his mercy, and dares to give to him the sins that cause us the most shame, the sins that have become ingrained habits. When we confess our sins and say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God,’ we will hear those blessed words of pardon as Christ says, ‘Peace be with you.’

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Easter Sunday, Year A

Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Responsorial: Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Reading II: I Corinthians 5:6b-8
Gospel: John 20:1-9

Today, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, we are confronted with the essential mystery of Christian faith. As St. Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (cf. 1 Cor 15:14). The news of the Resurrection of Jesus obviously answers the question of what happened to his body. But it seems to me that the Resurrection raises a more important question, about our own lives. In the second reading today, we heard, “If…you were raised with Christ, seek what is above” (Col 3:1). So as Christians, the Resurrection applies to all of us, because we, too, will rise to new life.

All the events that we have commemorated in the liturgy in the past three days, everything we have seen and heard,leads us, with Simon Peter and John, to the empty tomb. Today, like the Apostles, we can also enter the tomb: we can see and believe.

Because we believe in Christ’s Resurrection, we also look forward to our own resurrection. The two are inextricably connected. As Jesus comforted his disciples at the Last Supper, “Because I live, you also will live” (Jn 14:19).

And St Paul says to us today: “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As Christians, we are hidden in Christ; by our baptism, we were immersed in His death and Resurrection. So our eternal life starts here, in this world. This new life is something more, a different way of life than just life after death, such as Lazarus experienced when he was returned to bodily life.

For his followers, the time between Christ’s death and his Resurrection was a time of doubt, darkness, and fear. Simon Peter and John ran to the tomb expecting to find nothing – emptiness – even the body of their Lord taken away from them. But instead, their faith was affirmed in a miraculous way.

We, too, go through times of darkness, pain and loss. It may seem to us that the tomb is empty; God is gone, and we are alone. But we who have been baptized into Christ’s death have also been baptized into his Resurrection. So in our darkest times, if we raise our heads from our earthly trials, and seek what is above, we will see Christ seated at the right hand of God. With our eyes fixed on Christ, and our hearts set on the resurrection that is to come, even in when all seems lost, we will be able to proclaim with the psalmist: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A

Reading I: Ezekiel 37:12-14
Responsorial: Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Reading II: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45

The story in today’s Gospel is both dramatic and mysterious. Jesus’s friend Lazarus is dead. His body has been sealed in a tomb for four days. Jesus arrives, and simply by saying, ‘Come out!’ Lazarus is raised from the dead.

We don’t find out what Lazarus thought about all of this. We don’t know how – or if – his experience after death affected the rest of his life. We don’t know if he was grateful for being brought back to life.

Many people think that our resurrection will be just like the resurrection of Lazarus. But our resurrection will be very different from his.

Lazarus returned to normal, earthly life – to the worries, troubles and struggles of a life that ends in physical death. Lazarus had to wait for a second death, and so his renewed life was very much like ours.

When we are resurrected, however, we will not be resurrected into this worldly life, but into the life of God. We will enter into a new life where there will be no death. The resurrection will take place in a new creation, and nothing of the forms of mortal life will exist there. We will be resurrected into a wonderful community of people who live in love with each other and with God.

The resurrection of Lazarus, which we read about today, and the Resurrection of Jesus, which we will celebrate in two weeks, give us the conviction that death is not the end of human life. Since God takes us beyond the grave to new life; death is not the end.

Today is a good day to examine our feelings about death, to put aside any fears, and to have confidence that since Jesus rose from the dead, we will live forever if we live in friendship with him.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Third Sunday in Lent, Year A

Reading I: Exodus 17:3-7
Responsorial: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42

I remember a time when I was extremely thirsty. It was summer, and I was hiking in the mountains with my brothers. In our enthusiasm, we decided to extend our hike for a couple of hours – a couple of hours, in high summer, hiking on mountain trails – without water.

At one point, we were so desperately thirsty that we tried to scoop stagnant water from a cleft in a rock.

Today’s Gospel story of Jesus’s conversation with the woman of Samaria is all about thirst. Jesus had been walking the hot, dusty road from Judea to Galilee, when he arrived at Jacob’s well. It was about noon. He was thirsty. Naturally he would want to drink at the well. But when he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is surprised, because there was a hostile relationship between Jews and Samaritans. Nevertheless, Jesus’s request opens up the possibility of a conversation, and we learn that the Samaritan woman’s personal relationships are irregular. We also learn that she is well aware of the promise of the Messiah, and she seems to be actively waiting for him to appear.

When Jesus asked for a drink, the woman naturally focused on the literal meaning of water. But when Jesus said, ‘Give me a drink,’ there is a more important, spiritual purpose in his request. His request shows us that God is always seeking to initiate a deeper relationship with each of us. God knows that each of us, whatever the state of our personal lives, whatever the level of our spiritual development, still needs his invitation and his help.

This help that God offers is a ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ That is, it is no less than the Holy Spirit poured out to satisfy our thirst for the deeply fulfilling life that we all long for.

But are we interested in what God wants to give us? Notice, brothers and sisters, that the woman at the well only asked for or expected practical help in her daily life. Going to the well several times a day was a chore. So she asks Jesus for something practical: ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty, or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ When she asked this Jewish stranger for relief from her burdensome chore, the Samaritan woman had no idea how her life would be changed.

And what about us? We are created with a profound spiritual thirst for God, but we can ignore this thirst because we are too pre-occupied with all the practical things we need and want to do in daily life.

We thirst for God; God thirsts for a deeper relationship with us.

Today, let’s ask ourselves if we are as open to Jesus as the Samaritan woman was. Are we ready to acknowledge what our hearts are truly thirsting for? Are we ready to let Jesus quench our spiritual thirst?

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

Reading I: Genesis 12:1-4a
Responsorial: Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Reading II: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

During Lent, Jesus invites us to climb three mountains with him. Today, we go up the first mountain. Along with three favored Apostles, we are taken to Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Transfiguration, where Christ’s divinity is revealed. This vision assures us of the glory that lies beyond his death on the Cross.

The second mountain that we climb in Lent is the Mount of Olives, where we witness the evil that plagues mankind, and discover the power of prayer.

The final, and most arduous ascent is on Palm Sunday, when we follow our Lord to Calvary, where he “offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and [the glory] of all who would believe in His name” (Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ, p.158).

It is easy for us to look back on these events in the full knowledge of Christ’s divinity. But we have to remember that at his incarnation, the Divinity of our Lord Jesus was hidden behind his humanity. Before his Transfiguration, his disciples did not know what we know today. Jesus showed his future glory to three of them, to give them strength and courage, so they would not lose their faith and hope during the difficult events that lay ahead. They needed the vision of his glory, if they were to endure the scandal of the cross on Good Friday.

While we reflect on what happened to Jesus and his Apostles at the Transfiguration, it is important to remember that the Transfiguration came immediately after the first announcement of His passion. His prophetic words indicated to His followers that they would also have to carry his Cross. He was letting them know that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Dear brothers and sisters, what does this mean to us?

It means that we need to take this time in Lent,to prepare ourselves to enter into the Passion of Christ. It helps us to reflect on the fact that the Christian life consists in the steady ascent of those two mountains:the ascent that leads to the Cross, is also the ascent that leads to Glory. Tabor prepares us for Calvary; Calvary prepares us for Tabor. Every suffering, every cross in our life, leads us to the final glory. There is no alternative route;there are no short-cuts along the way.

This Sunday, let’s ascend to Mount Tabor with the Apostles,and once there,let’s take the opportunity to look over our lives, taking in both the broad perspective and our ultimate goal. Let’s hear the heavenly Father’s voice declaring Jesus his beloved Son, and hear what the Father has to say about each of us, personally, as his beloved children.

And when we have done this, we will be prepared to descend from the Mount of the Transfiguration, return to our daily lives, take up our crosses and faithfully follow Jesus wherever he is leading us.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 49:14-15
Responsorial: Psalm  62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

A few months ago, I went to see the film Hacksaw Ridge. The film is based on the experiences of Desmond Doss, who served as a medic in the United States Army during World War II. Doss was a patriotic man, and he was willing to serve his country during the war. But it was against his Christian principles to kill anyone,

so he refused to use a weapon. Despite refusing even to defend himself during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss not only survived, he saved the lives of seventy-five wounded soldiers and was given a medal by his country.

Doss was a man of prayer and total trust in God. Through-out his military service, he relied entirely on God. He got his strength from personal prayer and reading the Bible. Every time he saved another soldier, he prayed aloud, “Lord, please help me get one more.” His fellow soldiers were convinced that Doss survived one of the worst battles in human history only because of his faith.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that it is not possible for us to serve two masters. He exhorts us to trust only in Him. If we do this, then like Desmond Doss, we will not worry about our lives, because we know that our heavenly Father will take care of all our needs.

Because he placed all his trust in God; because he sought first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” Doss was able to save the lives of his friends and his enemies. And God himself protected the life of Desmond Doss.

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters, because there is always a struggle going on inside us, between reliance on God and reliance on oneself.

So let’s stop and remember that we only have the present moment; the past and future are in the hands of God. So live in this moment, enjoy the beauty of creation, and remember that unless we rely on God, all of our efforts will be like chasing the wind.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Responsorial: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48

Children naturally imitate their parents. Daughters like to try on their mother’s clothes and play with their mother’s cosmetics. Sons want to use their father’s tools or sit behind the wheel of the car and pretend to drive like Dad.

Children know that they are supposed to grow up and become like the adults around them. Acting like adults leads to being treated like adults, and parents praise their children for signs of maturity. But nobody ever has to teach a child how to be a child.

St John tells us that because of God’s love ‘we may be called the children of God’ and we are the children of God (1 Jn 3:1). Truly, God created us as His children and He sustains us with His love.

On the other hand, in today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, that [we] may be children of [our] heavenly Father.”

So paradoxically, we need to learn how to be children of our heavenly Father: being children of the heavenly Father is both a state of being and a process.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about the love of the heavenly Father. This love is absolute, total, complete. It is the very fullness of love. Like the sun that gives its light to all and the rain that falls on the just and unjust alike, the Father’s love for his creatures has no barriers or limits.

As children imitating our heavenly Father, our love for one another must also be without barriers or limits.

So we grow and develop as God’s children as we imitate our Father in love. We will only reach the fullness of love when we are in heaven with the Father.

Children imitate their parents for a time; but eventually children begin to see that their parents are merely human and faulted. However, unlike our human parents,
who are not perfect, and can never be perfect, our heavenly Father is perfect.

And only God can give us the perfect love that our hearts desire. As children of God, we are called to imitate our heavenly father, to “be perfect, just as He is perfect.” This means recognizing that God loves us just as we are, with all our faults and imperfections.

When we accept His love with the simplicity of children, we are able to love others with all of their faults, and even to love our enemies.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in calling us to love one another without limits, Jesus does not leave us without an example to follow. His earthly life provides the model for us to imitate. In his death on the Cross, Jesus showed us a love that is poured out for everyone; love that perseveres to the end. And we get our capacity to love from the same source that Jesus did: the love of the Father.

Yes, we are always God’s beloved children, because by His love God made us. But like children, we have to grow and mature. We can be childish and selfish, demanding an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ when someone offends us. Or we can be child-like and simple, imitating our heavenly Father and loving everyone as brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are God’s beloved children, but we are children who are far from our Father’s house. It depends on us if we wish to be acknowledged as God’s children on earth, and to make our way home to our Father in heaven.

Amen.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Sirach 15:15-20
Responsorial: Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Gospel:  Matthew 5:17-37

Have you ever met a person who inspired you? What was it in him or her that you liked? What qualities attract you to someone, and make you like the person? Maybe it is a pleasant face, or a good personal attitude.

Last time I visited my community at Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa, I met a religious sister named Elizabeth Włodarczyck. Sister Elizabeth founded a home for orphans and poor children who are victims of war and conflicts in the Holy Land. The home that Sister Elizabeth established is called the House of Peace.

Sister Elizabeth definitely inspired me! What inspired me the most?  Her faith; her personality.

Sister Elizabeth was very open to sharing her stories with people. She is a simple person, and she makes people happy. She teaches us not to worry too much about our lives and our mistakes, but to have our sights set on God. God is the answer in our lives.

For the past two Sundays, the gospels have been about the Sermon on the Mount, also called the Beatitudes. Two weeks ago, Jesus taught us that we are blessed. Knowing that we are blessed, last Sunday we received instructions to go out into the world and be salt and light.

Like every country, Poland has its share of problems; and like all people, we can be bad or good.

But in Church, we receive inspiration from Jesus, who knows all of the world’s problems. The Gospels of these three recent Sundays are challenging, but they are also inspiring: in them, Jesus tells us the kind of people we need to be to inspire the world. There’s one more thing I’d like to share with you: We often don’t really like ourselves, do we? Especially when we do something wrong.

I’d like to challenge you to change this kind of thinking, starting today. Instead of being down on yourself, I think you need to send yourself a different kind of message.

Start saying to yourself

  • ‘To God, I am a good person.
  • ‘God knows me.’
  • ‘God knows my sins.’
  • ‘I am free.’
  • ‘I can inspire my friends; I will have time for them.’
  • ‘I will be simple in what I do.’
  • ‘My “yes” will be “yes” and my “no” will be “no.”’
  • ‘I am free in Jesus.’

We are blessed! Forgive yourself for your mistakes. And live your life so that everyone can see you are living a blessed life.  Amen.

Fr Michał Kurzynka, OSPPE

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
Responsorial: Psalm 146: 6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a

“You are the salt of the earth.”
“You are the light of the world.”

Jesus used those two images to describe His followers: salt, which preserves, gives flavor and is necessary for life; and light, without which we stumble in darkness.

In short, this passage calls us to hold fast to the mission given to us at baptism. We are to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).

The text is also talking about two kinds of holiness: our personal holiness and the holiness of the Church.

It is not uncommon to hear charges against the Church. Often, those who represent the Church do not appear to be the salt of the earth or a light to the world. In the eyes of many, the Church seems to have little to do with holiness. And when it comes to the actions of sinful people who belong to the Church, too often the Church’s critics are right: too often each of us fails to be salt and light.

But the Church is holy. The Church is made holy by the sanctity of God, because God who is all-holy and the source of all holiness, is in the midst of the Church. We sinners do not make the Church holy, nor can our sinfulness corrupt the Church. No. We sinners come to the holiness of the Church so that through her, God might make us holy.

God gave us the Church to make us holy, but it requires our cooperation. So Jesus’s words about being salt and light should be a kind of examination of conscience for us: as members of the Body of Christ in the Church, are we doing our part to protect and renew the deposit of faith that has been given to us? Are our lives a light that “shines before others, so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father”?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, if you are here today, it means that the holiness of the Church is available to you. It means that you can be sanctified – made holy – by the sacraments of the Church. Because of the grace that God gave you at Baptism, you have been set on a lamp-stand, to shed light on all your brothers and sisters in the household of this world.

Bringing other people to the knowledge of God depends on you, on how you live your life. Ponder Jesus’s words today and examine your heart. Does the ‘salt of faith’ still preserve and provide the flavour of your life? Does the flame of your faith burn brightly and bring light to the lives of others?

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 8:23-9:3-1
Responsorial: Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23

In today’s Gospel, we heard that Jesus ‘left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.’ He did not go to some great city like Jerusalem or Rome, but to a small border-town. Today we see Jesus call two simple fishermen to be His Apostles. And today, we stand before Jesus, who will be present among us in the Eucharist.

God always seems to choose the least and last in the eyes of the world. As Saint Paul said, ‘God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something’ (1 Cor 1:27-28a)

When Jesus went to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali he not only went to a geographical border, he went into pagan territory. This shows us how far God is willing to go to enter into our lives. It shows us that the time when we should most expect to find Jesus is when our faith is stretched to its limits, when we are afraid, suffering, overwhelmed or in despair.

Maybe you feel stretched to the limit in your life. Maybe you feel lost or neglected. Perhaps it seems to you that no one cares about you, your troubles and struggles. Jesus has already been there, where you are. He’s waiting for you when you reach your limit, when you feel that you are on the brink of disaster, because he “came to seek and to save the lost’ (cf. Lk 19, 10).

When you think you have reached the limits of your strength, have no fear, because your limits can always be exceeded by the Unlimited One, who in His merciful love became limited, so he could meet us in our own limitations. He wants to enlighten your life: He is light for the people sitting in darkness. Just as Jesus called Peter and Andrew to leave behind their nets, he wants us to leave behind the cares of the world that entangle us, so by our witness, we can be apostles to a weary and suffering world. God draws us out of our entanglement in our own cares, buy putting on our path other people who need our help. We find joy and meaning in our lives when we help others, show them the light, and enlighten their darkness with our love.

So where are you today in your journey of faith? Have you reached the limit of your faith, hope and strength?

If so, Jesus is especially close to you in your suffering, because he is ‘the great light, which has arisen on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death.’

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Responsorial: Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Reading II: I Corinthians 1:1-3
Gospel: John 1:29-34

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”

In today’s Gospel, we witness John the Baptist’s profession of faith. John – who prepared people for the coming of the one ‘who ranked ahead of him’ — leaves the stage, after drawing our attention to the One ‘who takes away the sin of the world,’ the One who ‘existed before him.’ John acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, and he recognizes Jesus as his Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

To me, it is a beautiful to consider that the single gesture of pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God sums up John’s entire life. The meaning and significance of John’s life is crystallized in this moment: John is the voice that announces the Word; John prepares the way for the One who is to come; John, who is like a finger, pointing out the sun.

Through his ascetic life, John learned the difficult art of receding into the background, being unnoticed, who does not place himself before God. After all, John COULD claim some right to participate in the glory of Jesus, to be someone important, someone significant. But right to the end, John serves only as a sign: even his martyr’s death proclaims that Jesus is the Lord.

Because I am a priest, people often ask me for advice. And there is a temptation to feel strong and proud when one has been able to advise another person. But if I let that happen, then the glory that belongs to God, is blocked by the assertion of myself. When I want myself to shine, I obscure the glory of God.

I find inspiration in something that Pope Francis said in his first interview after being raised to the Chair of Peter: “I am a sinner…. I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am…a forgiven man.… I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess, it is because I need to feel that God’s mercy is still upon me” (Credere, Dec. 2, 2015).

It is a challenge to our human pride to be only a sign, only a finger, pointing to God; only a herald who proclaims someone else’s greatness. Because if we proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, so that others only see us, this means that we do not really recognize Jesus as God. But every time we are willing to decrease so that God might increase we grow in humility,and this is a measure of the maturity and authenticity of our faith.

And so the example of John the Baptist invites us to examine ourselves:

  • Are we able to stay in the background and let someone else take centre stage?
  • When we do a good deed, do we congratulate ourselves or give the glory to God?
  • Do we humbly accept our talents as a gift from God?
  • Are we quick to correct others while over-looking our own faults?
  • Are we ready to turn over our entire lives to God, echoing Job, who declared, ‘The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord’ (cf. Job 1:21)?

John the Baptist was a holy man, and because of his holiness, he did not take attention away from God. John knew who he was. But more important, he knew who Jesus was. John fulfilled his mission by stepping aside so Jesus could fulfill his.

The words of John the Baptist are repeated at every Mass, throughout the world: “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sin of the world.” These words should be our prayer in every little thing we do for God or for others. Each one of our good acts should be a small gesture that points others to the Son of God.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

The Baptism of the Lord

Reading I: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial: Psalm Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Reading II: Acts 10:34-38
Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17

Today, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we see the first and most important illumination of the mission of Jesus: ‘[B]ehold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”’

When we set forth on a difficult path, we need to have strength and support. If we have a companion who encourages us, someone who says, ‘I love you;’ ‘I’m here beside you;’ ‘I’m pleased with your efforts;’ ‘I will always help you’ — then we can carry on. Even though we walk through ‘the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil’ (cf. Ps 23).

This is what it means for the Spirit to descend on Jesus at his Baptism in the Jordan: He was completely suffused with the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit — their eternal love, their heavenly serenity and peace.

Jesus set forth on his public ministry so that others could share in his happiness – and share it eternally. Now we share in the Lord’s Baptism, and so HIS mission has become our mission: like Jesus, from the moment of our baptism we no longer live for ourselves, and we no longer die for ourselves (cf. Rom 14:7).

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Someone may have told you once – or even many times – that you are good for nothing. When we hear these messages, we can feel attacked, degraded, and hopeless.

But those voices are silenced by God’s voice from heaven; God’s words at your baptism resound, and drown out the negative voices around you: ‘You are my son; you are my daughter; You serve a great king; You are beloved; and I require from you gentleness and patience.’ The only criterion for assessing our lives is our standing before God, not the opinion of other people.

When you were baptized in the name of Christ, you were immersed in his mission — the most important mission in the history of the world.

Whatever you do today, remember that as baptized Christians, you have a commission from God, who reminds you: ‘I, the Lord, have called you for justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as…a light for the nations… (Isaiah 42:6).

It can be discouraging and frightening to think about our baptismal calling when we contemplate the state of today’s world. But it depends on us where we will immerse our hearts, minds, wills and humanity. We are like sponges that can be immersed in the murky waters of inhumane words, or in the words of God that were spoken when we were immersed in the pure waters of baptism.

Only sons and daughters of the heavenly Father are able to resist the temptation
to succumb to the distractions of this world, which would keep us from fulfilling our baptismal vocation.

Only servants of the Lord who hear the voice of the Father and accept the power of the Spirit of Love, can set forth with confidence on the Christian path because they know who they are, they know Who loves them and they know Who gives them strength.

As we meditate on the Baptism of the Lord, let us remind ourselves of our own baptism, and have the confident assurance that every day, in every situation,
we can fulfill our mission as children and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who holds each of us by the hand, and has commissioned us to be a light to the nations.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

 

The Epiphany of the Lord

Reading I: Isaiah 60:1-6
Responsorial: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ These words, which were sung as the Alleluia verse, introduce us to today’s Gospel.

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage’— this sums up the story of the three Wise Men.

They saw the star, and they set forth on their journey – for the Wise Men, these two steps comprised a single act.

The Wise Men had no doubts. Their faith was strong and certain. They were not afraid of the difficulties they would face along the way because their hearts were generous. They did not hesitate to set out on their arduous journey because their hearts were open. They were ready to go.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: If our hearts are open, we know that often in our lives, a star appears on the horizon – that is, we experience the inner inspiration of God.

This inspiration calls us to go forth and do a great deed, to leave something behind, to live in a deeper intimacy with God.

We should then follow this inspiration, with the same faith, generosity and openness of the three Wise Men.

When we do this, it will lead us to an encounter with God, we will find the One who is the goal of all loving hearts.

The Wise Men never turned back, even though they did not know precisely where they were going. They are an example to us: when God calls us to some action or sacrifice, we need to step out in faith and persevere in faith as the Wise Men set out in faith when they observed the star.

The Wise Men were guided by a star – they travelled, then, by night, in the darkness. As we journey in faith, our hunger for God illuminates our inner darkness, and helps us persevere on the path when we are not sure where God is leading us.

Our spiritual darkness is enlightened by a spirit of pure and humble faith, which relies on God alone. If I am sure that God asks something of me; if I know that he has called me out of my current way of living; that should be enough for me:
I cannot doubt him.

The faith of these pagan Wise Men, is a surprise to us believers. It should also be a challenge.

Heeding the call to seek and encounter Jesus transformed their lives. As the Gospel says, ‘they departed for their country by another way.’

A person who has had an encounter with Christ is changed forever. He can no longer live his life the way he did before. A true meeting with Jesus must change a person’s life.

So today, we are challenged to ask ourselves, ‘Do I have the faith of those pagan sages?’

Am I able to persevere in my walk of faith, even during the darkest times? Am I ready to offer God the best gifts I have to give – that is, my faith, hope and love?

Has my life really changed – is my life always changing – because of my relationship with Jesus?

Today, as we come to church to commemorate the visit and the faith of the three Wise Men, will we return to our homes ready to live our lives in a different – and better – way?

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Reading I: Numbers 6:22-27
Responsorial: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading II: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

People often complain that they don’t have enough time. Sometimes I feel the same way. We don’t have time for prayer, to be with family, to help other people, or get enough rest.

Deep down, we know it’s not supposed to be this way. These are the most important things in life: prayer, family, our neighbors, our own health. People justify neglecting these vital issues by saying ‘I don’t have enough time.’

But does dismissing them in this way justify us in the eyes of God? Whose fault is it that we do not have enough time? Did God make the day too short?

No. God gives us plenty of time to do everything that he expects from us. He equips us for anything that life brings, and he gives us all the time we need to do it.

Obviously we cannot do all the good that we would like to do, even if we worked twenty-four hours a day. But God does not want us to do all the good things that we can think of doing; he only wants us to do the good that he asks of us.

So what is the key to using our time well? The answer is simple: Love always has enough time. When we act in love, we always have enough time to take care of ourselves, even with the heaviest workload. A husband who loves his wife, always has time for her. A mother who loves her children, always has time for them. A friend, no matter how busy he is, always has time for a sick friend.

But those who have no love, also have no time for God or neighbor – they don’t even really have time for themselves.

As we begin a new year, it is good to reflect on how we use our time. Time passes so quickly, and we have so much to do. The next twelve months are a new opportunity for each of us and for all of mankind. Keep in mind that every day you will have enough time, only if you use your time in a spirit of love. Love alone can transcend the boundaries of time and eternity.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Homily 25 December 2016: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 52:7-10
Responsorial: Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel: John 1:1-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’

The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became a man and is born for us today. He is the Word of the Father, in whom he reveals himself. The mystery of His nativity also says something important about us, about mankind.

When God became man, ‘nothing human was alien to Him.’ His incarnation shows us that human life is a great and holy thing. In this way, at Christmas, we celebrate God’s love for us, but we also once again recall the beauty of our own humanity.

St. Athanasius wrote that ‘the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’ (cf., De Incarnatione or On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B; CCC 460). This does not mean that we will take God’s place, but rather ‘that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939; CCC 460).

The humility of Christ’s incarnation is a reversal of the choice of Adam and Eve, who wanted to take for themselves God’s wisdom and power.

As a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve, we all harbour in our hearts a desire for God-like authority: every sin is a failed attempt to supplant God, to put ourselves in his place.

But now we can give up the fruitless, pointless struggle to make ourselves into God. Why? Because God became man; because God has put himself in our place.

Today – Christmas – puts this reality front and centre: God became one of us. God, who seemed distant and inaccessible, reveals himself to us now in a way that everyone can understand, by sharing in our human experience. How could he possibly come closer to us?

In the weakness and innocence of an infant, Jesus calls us to transform our lives completely. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us so that we might become divine and live a new life in God.

I know that this transformation is easier said than done. It will always be a challenge for us to conform ourselves to Christ.

But Christmas gives us new hope, because God became human, and he shows us the perfection of what it means to be human.

Saint Irenaeus is often quoted as saying, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man, is the vision of God.’ This profound insight applies both to God and to us. We see God’s glory, when we see him as a man, fully alive. And when we see God, we are fully alive. As one of my professors put it, ‘it is good for God and man to be together.’

Brothers and Sisters! Christ is born in us each day if we are open to His divine actions. Today we sing the Gloria, and our hearts rejoice because the Father has loved us so much. May we share God’s love each day of our lives, even as we rejoice in His salvation.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Homily 18 December 2016: Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial: Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

In today’s Gospel on the last Sunday of Advent, we hear about Saint Joseph who is an unusual saint, because we have no record of him saying anything.

He is a silent saint, someone whose actions speak louder than words.

In the Bible, Joseph is described as a righteous man, but perhaps thanks to overly sentimental religious art, we can often think of him as a sweet, doddering old man instead of a man who courageously protects the vulnerable and innocent.

Let’s try to imagine Joseph’s dilemma. In his time, in his society, under Mosaic law, his situation seemed impossible. He was betrothed to a woman who was pregnant, and he knew he was not the father of her child. Some men might have a breakdown or simply wash their hands of the whole situation – walk away; disappear.

But in keeping with his character as a righteous man, Joseph wanted to find a just, honorable and charitable solution. He was ‘unwilling to expose [Mary] to shame,’ so he ‘decided to divorce her quietly.’

In the very next verse, we find that Joseph went to sleep.

Did he sleep the peaceful sleep of a man who knew he had made the right decision? Or was it the troubled sleep of a man who has decided, but is unhappy with his decision? Or perhaps it was a kind of desperate escape into sleep – an attempt to stop thinking, to forget his trouble, to end it all in the oblivion of sleep.

But then Joseph had a dream. The dream offered him a kind of escape – not from Mary and her child – but from Joseph’s own ideas about what he should do and what his life should be like.

Joseph’s whole life would be shaped by what he did next: ‘When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.’
In that brief sleep, Joseph died to his own ideas and plans and embraced God’s will.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the story of Joseph shows us that the entire course of our lives can depend on being willing to die to our own vision of how our lives should be. So often, we prefer to do what we think is wise, to follow our own plans, rather than to allow God to lead us in the way he wants us to go. We fight so hard to hold onto what we want to be and to do, even when God offers us something better, something that we cannot shape and decide and control.

Saint Joseph is a patron saint for each of us when we face seemingly impossible dilemmas in our lives. He shows us how to surrender ourselves and our plans to God. This silent, holy man shows us that when we let go of our plans for a comfortable, easy life, we open ourselves to our role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world, which is far greater than anything we can imagine or predict.

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Homily 11 December 2016: Third Sunday in Advent, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
Responsorial: Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading II: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

The homily on this Sunday was offered by Fr Joseph Baker from the United States, who especially invited us to ‘Rejoice’ by dwelling on the gratitude that we owe to God, especially after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion.

Homily 4 December 2016: Second Sunday in Advent, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 11:1-10
Responsorial: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Reading II: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

How hopeful those words sound! They remind us that God is about to come to us, both in the commemoration of his birth at Christmas and at the end of time when he comes again in glory.

In today’s gospel, we see John the Baptist, who is ‘a voice of one crying out in the desert.’ He calls us to ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make straight [our] paths.’

I wonder how many of us really hear and listen to the voice of the prophet John. Or do we tune him out, comforting ourselves with the idea that we’re OK — maybe not perfect or sinless — but good enough that we don’t need to change anything in our lives.

But the fact is, the kingdom of heaven has come, and John is still calling us to repentance, so that we can conform our lives to the law of God’s Kingdom.

In every generation, we need this prophetic voice, calling to us as we wander in the desert. Because maybe this will be our last chance to celebrate Christmas not as just another reason to shop and have a party, but as a time to prepare for the real birth of God in our hearts.

Advent is a time to listen and take seriously the calls to change and repentance that we may be hearing in our lives. Maybe the call is coming from a parent, spouse or friend. Maybe today is the last chance to repent.

This Advent, let’s take the time to stop and listen to God’s call in our lives. Maybe spend a few minutes every day reading the scriptures from the daily liturgy. They are full of hope and consolation, and can bring God’s light to your life. Or maybe find a homily or Advent reflections on YouTube that will help you take some time out of the daily rush and meditate on God’s action in your lives.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand — for you, today.

What are you going to do about it?

Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.

Homily 27 November 2016: First Sunday in Advent, Year A

Reading I: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial: Psalm 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

Our homilist on the First Sunday in Advent was a visiting Franciscan, Fr Marcin Buntow, who was in Wrocław this Sunday to speak at Masses concerning the need for more vocations to the Franciscan Order, to ask for prayers for Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters and for prayers for young men in formation to be Franciscan priests and friars.

Fr Marcin asked especially for prayers during Advent, which is a time both of waiting for the Lord’s coming, and for preparation for the Lord’s return. In this time of preparation, we all have something in common with the young men in formation in the Franciscan Order, who go through as much as eight years of preparation for their vocation: a year as postulants, the novitiate – in which they are guided by our former Pastoral Centre Rector, Fr Dariusz Sowa – and six years in seminary, if they will be ordained as priests.

It is always good and necessary to pray for vocations – for those discerning a vocation to priestly or religious life; for those in active preparation, and for those who have taken final vows or been ordained, and are devoting their lives to serving the people of God. If praying for those with religious vocations is not something you do regularly, Advent is a good time to begin.

A prayer for more people to be open to religious vocations:

O Father, you desire all of us to be happy.
Stir up the grace of a religious vocation in the hearts of many men and women.
Grant to them the willingness and generosity to give of themselves, their lives, their time and their talents to the service of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord and Savior, and to His Holy Church.

May more men and women go forth as Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters to bring the truths of our Catholic faith to all others so that soon they, too, may know You better and love You more, and in serving You, be truly happy.
Amen.

A prayer for all of us to live out our vocations faithfully:

Father in heaven, you sent us your only Son to redeem us and to build your kingdom on earth.
Please give us the wisdom and strength we need to follow His call.
Grant to the faithful a spirit of generosity, that Church vocations may flourish.
Bless our priests with holiness and courage, that they may lead your people to Christ.
Help all sisters and brothers to fulfill their sacred promises and so be effective signs of your kingdom.
Lord, invite more men and women to your service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

More such prayers can be found on the website of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.