The Story of Sunny and Felicity: A Children’s Homily (December 11, 2016)

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I begin by asking the children if they know why Fr. Joe and I are wearing pink vestments this week and assuming none of them have the right answer, I call on Fr. Joe to explain the meaning of Gaudete Sunday (third Sunday of Advent).  The operative word I’m looking for is joy.  This is a story about joy…

Once upon a time, there were two children who did not know each other but who spent an entire afternoon together one day at the park.  This is the story of Sunny and Felicity.

Sunny lived in a gigantic mansion, a huge house, with his mother and father and many brothers and sisters.  They had servants, people who lived at the mansion night and day and who served Sunny and his family delicious meals, made sure their mansion was kept spotless clean, did all of their laundry, drove the children to school and soccer practice and dance rehearsals, and… pretty much did everything that Sunny and his family asked of them.  They had a dog named Merry and it was the servants who took care of him.  There were ten television sets, all the latest video games, and an indoor swimming pool in Sunny’s house… and it was wonderful.  Sunny and his family were happy.

Felicity lived with her grandmother and brother in a small home on the outside of the city.  It was very nice and the grandmother and Felicity and her brother kept it clean and tidy.  There were no servants there and they had only one television set and they did not have any of the latest video games.  They had a cat named Charm and it was Felicity and her brother’s job to take care of her.  No one drove them places… they rode buses everywhere.  Or walked.  Felicity and her family were filled with joy.

On one particular day, the school that Sunny went to had a field trip to the park and so off to the park they all went.  On that same day, Felicity’s school had a field trip to the same park and off to that park they also went.  Sunny was taken in a special car all by himself and Felicity went there with her classmates in the school bus.

After playing in the park for a while, Sunny decide to rest so he went over to a park bench to sit down.  Right about the same time, Felicity decided to do the same thing.  She looked around at all the benches and saw that there was only one place to sit and that was right next to… Sunny.  So, she went over and sat next to him.

After about five minutes, they started talking to each other.  Sunny introduced himself and Felicity did the same.  It was a little awkward at first since they did not know each other, but after a little while, it was ok.  They were telling each other about their lives.

Sunny said: “I live in an awesome house… it’s huge.  I can watch tv while I’m eating lunch and taking a bath and any time I want to.  I have a driver who takes me places, wherever I want to go and whenever I want to go there.  And I can play video games at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping.  I have a swimming pool in my house too.  My parents are super busy, so I usually talk to the people in my house who clean it and who make us food.  And my brothers and sisters are busy too because they also have their own drivers and go a lot of places whenever they want.  We have a dog named Merry.  I don’t have to clean up after him but he never likes to sit with me.  He always stays with the people in my house who take care of him.”

Felicity said: “I live in a really nice house… it’s perfect for us.  I can only watch tv in the family room but that’s ok.  I usually walk places or take a bus and I don’t play a lot of video games.  We don’t have a swimming pool but I do like to swim.  My grandmother takes care of me, she tells me stories at night and I help her cook supper.  She is teaching me how to make chicken piccata and stuffed olives and I’m getting really good at it.  She is also teaching me how to make mittens and how to grow tomatoes in our garden outside.  My brother and I started the garden together and we always work in it after school in the spring and summer.  We have a cat named Charm and she always sits 0n my lap.”

After a little while, both Sunny and Felicity had to go back to their classmates and then return to their schools.  They had fun that day at the park and both of them really enjoyed meeting each other.  Sunny thought a lot about what Felicity said to him.

That night, Sunny approached his parents and said: “I am very happy here, but I would like to learn how to make chicken piccata and stuffed olives.  Can you teach me?  I want to make my own mittens and I want to make some for both of you too.  I would like to start a garden that my brothers and sisters and I can work on together, not the people here who help us.  We will do it.  I would like us to start taking care of Merry, taking him out when he has to go and feeding him and cleaning up after him.  And I want us all to spend more time together.”

The mother and father looked at each other.  They were moved by what Sunny told them.  Deep down inside, they had been thinking about this too but never talked about it until Sunny brought it up.  They knew that they wanted some of those things that Sunny was suggesting and so they agreed.

And that’s when joy came to their home and their family.

The end.

***

There is a big difference between happiness (like what Sunny experienced) and joy (which is what Felicity had).  A famous writer named Henri Nouwen described it this way.  He said that happiness mostly comes from what is outside of us… it comes from what surrounds us in our lives, oftentimes things we have little control over.  It comes from what we want, which we sometimes can have but sometimes cannot.  Joy comes more from within.  It comes from knowing that no matter what is going on around us, we will always be loved, cherished.  No matter what we do, we will be forgiven.  We will be consoled… and we will be comforted.

Joy and happiness sometimes go together, but not always.  Nouwen said that Jesus came to bring us joy and the knowledge and confidence that his heavenly father will always love us, always forgive us, always console us, always comfort us… no matter what.

On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we remember and celebrate this fact.  We remember that this is the God who made us.  Who adores us.  Who will never forget us.  Who sent his son to us in the form of a tiny baby on Christmas day.  This is Advent.  And this is joy.

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The Story of Sunny and Felicity: A Children’s Homily (December 11, 2016)

THE BAKER AND HIS VERY BAD FALL (A FAIRY TALE ABOUT ACTIONS SPEAKING LOUDER THAN WORDS) – HOMILY, NOVEMBER 6, 2016

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A children’s homily.

Once upon a time, there was a baker who made bread, muffins and fresh cookies every single morning before anyone else in town even woke up.  He was always busy mixing eggs, milk, flour and sugar together into delicious treats which he sold in his small bakery shop on Main Street.

On one particular morning, he realized that he had run out of eggs.  He was quite concerned, so he decided to walk all the way to Farmer Pete’s place to try to get some fresh eggs.  As we walked along the path, he decided to take a shortcut there.  He went off the road and into the woods, but that was a bad mistake because he did not notice that there was a very big hole in the ground… and he fell into it.  It was deep and quite dark inside the hole and so he could not climb out on his own.  Not knowing what else to do, he began to scream: “Help, help… I have fallen into a hole in the ground!”

Eventually, there was someone who was walking by and who heard the cries for help.  It was Mr. Turner.  Mr. Turner was very busy and in a great big hurry… but he decided to find out what all the fuss was about.  As he approached the side of the hole, he looked down inside and saw the baker.  “Hello down there, good sir.  What seems to be your problem?”

The baker said: “Oh, thank goodness I have been found.  Can you please help me?”

Mr. Turner stated: “Well what a terrible predicament you have found yourself in.  This is a bad spot of luck indeed.  I am very sorry for your troubles and would most certainly do anything at all I can for you.  I shall help you.”  And with that, Mr. Turner walked away.  He left, leaving the baker all alone and still stuck in the big hole in the ground.

After some time, Mrs. Finch happened to be passing by and she heard the baker’s screams for assistance.  Looking into the hole, she said: “What seems to be the problem?”

Discouraged, the baker replied: “I have taken a very bad fall and could use some help.”

Mr. Finch noted: “Well that is bad indeed.  I will help you!”

No sooner had she stated this than Mr. Finch ran as quickly as she could to Farmer Pete’s place and asked if he would bring some rope to help a man who had fallen into a deep hole in the ground.  Farmer Peter and Mrs. Finch threw the rope into the hole and the baker tied it around his waist.  He was immediately pulled up and out.

Mr. Turner expressed his sorrow that the baker had fallen into the hole.

Mrs. Finch actually did something about it.

Mr. Turner used words only.  Mrs. Finch, along with Farmer Pete, did something too.  They used actions.

You see, there are words – the things we say – and there are actions – the things we actually do.  They go together and both are important.  But all the words in the world without any actions don’t actually mean all that much.

***

Words and actions go together and both are important.  When we all come to Mass, we experience together both words and actions.  And they are both important.  But all the words in the world without any actions don’t actually mean all that much.  That why our Mass has both.

The first part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word and this is the part that is filled with a lot of words.  There are four different readings: the first is a story about God and his special people, the second is a prayer we usually sing, the third is a lesson about Jesus and the fourth, called the Gospel, is an actual story about Jesus himself.  These words are important because this is how we learn about our faith.

If this first part of the Mass was all there was, then it would be too bad.  We would be missing out on quite a bit.

The second part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and this is about actions.  Here are some of the actions that take place in this part of the Mass:

  1. Some people bring gifts up to the altar; these include ordinary bread and wine.
  2. The priest says some special prayers and the Holy Spirit turns that bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus.
  3. Everyone who has received their First Communion walks up to the front of the Church and receives Communion.

In our Mass, we have both words and actions.  And then based on what we all learn from the words we have heard and prayed and the gifts we receive from Communion, we are all sent out to live as children and disciples of Jesus.

So, we could all go out and be like Mr. Turner… and talk, talk, talk… but do absolutely nothing… or we could use words and actions like Mrs. Finch and Farmer Pete and actually help others and live the way Jesus taught us.  There are words and actions.  Both are important.  Just like in our Mass.

THE BAKER AND HIS VERY BAD FALL (A FAIRY TALE ABOUT ACTIONS SPEAKING LOUDER THAN WORDS) – HOMILY, NOVEMBER 6, 2016

The Lion and the Monkey (A Fairy Tale about Humility) – Homily, October 23, 2016

A children’s homily:

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Once upon a time, there was a mighty lion named Leroy who ruled over all in the jungle where he was king.  He was strong and all of the other animals there feared him for he had little patience and did not like to be bothered by others.

Now in that same jungle, there lived a small vervet monkey named Vernon.  Vernon didn’t have any family or many friends and he mostly just stayed to himself.

Leroy and Vernon had never met, until one day…

Vernon decided to go for a walk and as he approached a clearing in the road, he noticed that coming straight toward him was the mighty king Leroy.  Not knowing any better, Vernon kept on walking until he stood face to face with Leroy.  Leroy said, quite agitatedly: “What are you doing lowly monkey?  Do you know who I am?  Why do you stand there in the middle of the road in my way?”

Vernon was shocked.  He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything.  He simply moved over to the side of the road so that the ferocious lion could pass him by.

Well… several days passed by and Vernon was again out walking through the jungle and happily minding his own business.  He grew a bit tired and decided that he would like to fall asleep, so he looked for a quiet place to rest.  He found a soft pile of leaves and settled in for a nice nap.  A few moments later, he was startled to look up see an angry Leroy staring down at him.  Leroy roared: “Get out of there little monkey.  I am the king of the jungle and I will sit myself down wherever I would like.  Move!”

Vernon jumped up and moved away.  As Leroy walked over to the spot where Vernon had laid down, he looked over at Vernon and thought he recognized him.  Then it struck him and he said: “I know you.  You are the monkey who stood in my way on the road.  I have had enough of you.  Leave the jungle or I shall eat you.”

Vernon was stunned.  Leave the jungle?  Where would he go?  Sadly, he walked away.

Later that evening, Leroy noticed a strange smell in the jungle.  He had never smelled it before.  In fact, all of the animals noticed it too.  They also saw what they thought was a low lying cloud all around them, like a type of mist.  But the mist never looked… or smelled… like this before.

All of the animals became nervous about this so they went to their king and asked what they should do.  Ronald the rhinoceros said: “King, the mist in the jungle is getting worse.  What is it?”  Hector the hippopotamus noted: “The smell is making it hard to breathe.  Tell us king, where should we go?”  And Wally the warthog added: “The other animals are saying that we can’t stay here any longer.  Maybe it’s time to leave the jungle.”

Leroy was stumped.  He had no idea what it was or what he should tell the animals.  And he didn’t much like the idea that the animals might leave.

Just then, he noticed a small monkey carrying a suitcase walking by where they all were standing.  It was Vernon and he was getting ready to leave.  Vernon looked up at Leroy, Ronald, Hector and Wally who all laughed at the strange sight of the small monkey moving away from the jungle.  It was then that Vernon noticed the mist and smelled the strange smell.  Instinctively, he immediately jumped up off the ground and climbed up upon the highest tree and went up to the very top.  Looking around, he noticed that there was a gigantic forest fire in the jungle and it was moving right to where they were.  As he scanned the tops of the trees, he saw that there was no fire where the lake was, so he climbed down and said to the king: “King Leroy, there is something moving in the forest.  Soon, it will be here.  You should tell all the animals to go over to the lake because I think it will be safe over there.”

Leroy thought about it.  Should I listed to this lowly monkey, I wonder?  Hmmm….

He decided to instruct all the animals to run (or fly) to the lake which is exactly what they did.  There, they waited until the fire passed them by.  Because they were in the water at the lake, none of them were hurt by the fire.  Vernon, the lowly vervet monkey had saved the day for everyone.

Later that night, Leroy the king apologized to Vernon and told him he could walk down the middle of any road he would like.  He could sleep on any pile of leaves in the jungle.  And he could make the jungle his home forever.

As a matter of fact, Vernon and Leroy became good friends…and they lived happily ever after.

***

In the Gospel today, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee, who was a lot like Leroy the lion, and a tax collector, who was a lot like Vernon the vervet monkey.  Jesus wanted to make sure that we all know that it is important to be humble.

Humble means… not feeling or acting as though you are better than others.

Humble means… not believing you are more special than others.

Humble means… acting exactly the way Jesus did.

Jesus was a king, the son of God.  But he came here in the form of a small baby, who was helpless.  He was born to modest, peasant parents.  He was a carpenter.  He lived simply.  And he sacrificed for all of us.

Jesus was humble… and so should all of us be as well.

The Lion and the Monkey (A Fairy Tale about Humility) – Homily, October 23, 2016