Proclaiming the Gospel & Preaching

One aspect of the deacon’s ministry is proclaiming the Gospel and preaching.  Breaking open the Word of God in a homily for the congregation provides our Permanent Deacons with an opportunity to integrate their twin vocational calls of Marriage & Diaconate. We hope you find our homilies insightful.

Deacon Tim McNerney


What is wrong with the world today?


On Epiphany

A Guest Homily from Deacon Gayden R. Harper

Ephiphany Sunday – Year C
Posted 6 Jan 2010

On November 22, 1963, the same day President Kennedy was assassinated, Bing Crosby recorded a song that has become a holiday standard for almost fifty years. Oddly enough, this song was not intended to be a Christmas song…rather it was written a year before, in 1962, as the United States and Russia were on the brink of war during the Cuban missile crisis. A New York couple wrote this song as a plea for peace. What was once a plea for peace has become a song of Epiphany.

Said the night wind to the little lamb
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song
High above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

I ask that each of us on this Epiphany Sunday be reminded that God speaks to us in unimaginable ways…not only through Scripture…but through events…through people in our lives…yes, even through songs and lyrics. This is what an epiphany is…the awareness of God speaking to us in a special way.

Said the night wind to the little lamb…..Do you see what I see? A star, a star… Could this be our epiphany message…to see?  To see a star of hope in our world of war…violence…terrorism…? To see a star of hope in the division of political and government leaders of our own country? To see a star of hope in strained family and personal relationships? To see and to work for changes?

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy…Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song…Could this be our epiphany message…to hear? To hear the cry of the unborn for our protection?…to hear the plea of our Church Fathers to bring people back to the faith…back to the Church founded by Jesus Christ?…to hear the song of those who hunger – not just for food – but for dignity and acceptance?

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king…Do you know what I know? A child, a child shivering in the cold…Could this be our epiphany message…to know? To know of people in our community, yes…even in our parish community…who are in need? To know that God calls us to action…that God speaks to us through people in need? To know that – yes – there is a child somewhere who is shivering in the cold?

Said the king to the people everywhere…Listen to what I say. Could this be our epiphany message…to listen? To listen to those who seek only their dignity and self respect?…To listen to young people from dysfunctional families?…To listen to the aged who are languishing in nursing homes…lonely and broken-hearted?…To listen to people from other cultures who are here in our country seeking any type of job to feed their families…wanting nothing more than our friendship and acceptance? Do we need to listen?

The prophecy of 3000 years ago has been fulfilled…we have been given a King…Jesus Christ is born…our savior…our promise…our hope. And with this King comes our epiphany…that can only be understood with an open heart…to see…to hear…to know…to listen.

Said the king to the people everywhere…Listen to what I say… The child, the child… He will bring us goodness and light.


Deacon Gayden R. Harper
Diocese of Biloxi


Staying in True

A Homily Recorded at St. Paul Church, Norwich, N.Y.
Sunday in the 15th Week of Ordinary Time
Posted 13 July 2009

“Staying in true”.  What do those three words mean?  Well, to a serious cyclist, it means well-tuned spokes, a straight wheel rim and a wheel that runs straight and cycling_fasttrue on a speedy downhill descent!  In reflecting upon the call to vocation expressed in both the Hebrew Scripture reading from the prophet Amos, and also the Gospel of Mark on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, I presented how we respond to that call by describing it within the context of a bicycle wheel.

Staying in True – A Homily On Answering Gods Call


They Said Nothing

A Reflection on Mark 16:1-8
Deacon Tim McNerney
Posted 12 April 2009

It is a glorious day! The Passion & Death of Jesus Christ has passed and we know that we have been redeemed by his salvific act of true non-violence. But how is it that we know? Have we already heard and acted upon the call to evangelize-to spread the Gospel news?

Mark’s amazingly compact description of the three women as they approach Christ’s tomb to anoint his body points toward that very first call to evangelization after his crucifixion: a call to share the good news that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah!

But Mark did not end the scene at the tomb with that call… instead his final verse describing the morning of the resurrection is punctuated with 3 words which undermine the call to discipleship and seriously question the response of these trusted disciples: THEY SAID NOTHING!

“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was crucified. He has been raised up; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
Go now and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; where you will see him just as he told you.'” They made their way out bewildered and trembling; and because of their great fear, they said nothing to anyone.”

Although Mark attributes their silence to “their great fear”, if we look closely at what transpired at the tomb, we see behind that fear. Was it fear of what others would say? Or, was it confusion over what they had seen, smelled and heard? I would challenge you that while these women came to the tomb with one clear intent: to faithfully complete the ritual burial of their friend, that instead, their amazement and confusion was based on a collision with so many unexpected sights, sounds and smells:

• the first light of day on the open tomb
• the young man clothed in white
• the damp smell of hewn rock in the empty space
• the silence of the dawn shattered by his words, “He is not here, he is raised up.”

They, like us, were bounded by their senses… totally speechless because their preconceived picture of the tomb was replaced in just a few moments with a new reality… a reality outside of the realm of the senses that we rely upon. Eyes and ears weren’t enough… a sense of touch or smell was completely inadequate to the task of understanding this new reality. They were incapable at that moment of understanding the resurrection!

Their fear, wonderment and speechlessness is so reminiscent of the prophet Elijah in 1st Kings, called to Mt. Horeb by God, waiting for the Lord to pass by:

• first the heavy wind rending the mountain, crushing the rocks, but no Lord,
• then an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the quake, and
• finally a great fire, but the Lord was not in the fire..
and then a tiny whispering sound… and Elijah hid his face in his cloak and stood at the entrance of the cave… for God was there.

God speaks quietly and to our hearts. As Elijah discovered, God’s love is not a compassionate love of gongs and cymbals, but instead a voice that speaks to a pure heart. “A pure heart create for me, O God,” intones the psalmist in Psalm 51, for “A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.”

Certainly the women felt the quiet anguish of the Passion of Christ Jesus, just as we have… and that quiet anguish, could not fail to move their hearts. But, we are still bounded by our senses… often unwilling or unable to yield to the quiet reality of God’s call.

We must pray… indeed, we must yearn for the wonderment that transcends our earthly senses. In place of the fear of not knowing, we must experience the joy of believing. With openness to God’s call… with hearts ready to receive His love, we can be true disciples—an Easter people emboldened to proclaim the Good News.

THEY SAID NOTHING wrote Mark… but the women were silent only for a few moments. Just as Zechariah, silent for the 9 months of Elizabeth’s confinement with John, would finally proclaim:

“You my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

TODAY… this glorious Easter morning, the compassion of our God has truly dawned upon us in the Resurrection of His Beloved Son! Let us open our hearts and with the eyes faith answer his CALL!


Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lentcrosshdw

(Reading I – Jeremiah 31:31-34, Reading II – Hebrews 5:7-9,

Gospel – John 12:20-33)

Posted 30 March 2009

Today we find ourselves deep in the season of Lent. I realize that many of you have given up a favorite food or activity as a Lenten sacrifice, or perhaps you’ve added special observances, such as the Stations of the Cross. And you feel that you are truly in the spirit of preparation. Regardless of what you’ve done or haven’t done, today is an excellent time to pause for a moment and ask yourself this question, “Why have I made this extra effort, and how is my spiritual health as I approach Holy Week and the joyous Easter season?”

Before you answer that question, let me place it into an ordinary context. Yesterday in the warmth of the 60 degree spring sun I was slowly laying up a new concrete wall on a 20′ section of our greenhouse. If I were a mason, I’d starve! But you know, I felt great working on that wall. Fit and healthy. For quite a few years now I’ve been taking my good health for granted… however, at the urging of my wife, I’m nearing the end of a two-month round of doctors visits, blood tests, teeth and eye exams… well, the whole 9 yards! And I like what I’m hearing from my doctors: low blood sugar, normal PSA, great blood pressure—you get the picture.

Now some of this is my life style—I try to eat well and exercise. But I’m also blessed with some genes that factor in too – quite an important aspect of our health. In a way, I’ve been “coasting”… not really keeping track of my health, but instead reacting to issues as they arise. Now though, instead of taking my health for granted, I’m being proactive asking myself, “What can I do to be as healthy as possible as I approach my 60’s?”

A few minutes ago I asked, “Why have you made the extra effort to observe Lent, and how is your spiritual health.” It’s pretty easy to see the parallel between that question and the one about my physical health. If your Lenten observances have been a bit like relying on a good genetic mix that you were born with, aren’t you really just taking your spiritual health for granted?

“I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [..] All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”

So writes the prophet Jeremiah in today’s moving first reading. His words were for the Israelites, a people who had suffered, been driven into exile… seemingly without hope. The great Hebrew prophets, like Ezekiel echo this theme of struggle, despair and ultimately God’s love for his people:

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit with you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”

Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s words transcend just their Hebrew audience… speaking directly to us, who often despair, struggle with life’s challenges and harden our hearts against God’s love. How can we truly be ready for the Lord’s forgiveness?

That’s where our spiritual health enters the picture. It enables us to face life’s challenges prepared and proactive. Let’s face it, we don’t seek out life’s tribulations… they have no problem at all in finding us! Good spiritual health that is based upon prayer, praise and thanksgiving can enable us to accept the difficult times… the suffering. By not taking our spiritual health for granted, we keep our hearts open to God’s love.

During this time of Lenten preparation, we must look to the example that Jesus gave us: he did not seek out suffering… instead he accepted it obediently. Jesus was prepared: he prayed, fasted and praised God in the desert. “he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death… and he was heard because of his reverence.” as we heard in the Letter to the Hebrews. Despite the despair he would feel in the garden at Gesthemene the night before he was crucified, he never turned away from his God… OUR GOD!

We can’t afford to coast in life: to take our physical OR spiritual health for granted. If we do, we move through this life alone, unprotected… constantly struggling with the challenges we encounter.

“Why have we made this extra effort to prepare this Lent?’ We know the answer! To be as spiritually fit as possible for the rigors of life and to celebrate the new life offered to us through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. We can’t afford to be repeating the same old Lenten rituals without a heart-felt purpose. Coasting on our “spiritual genes” won’t sustain us. We need to stretch ourselves spiritually: to read a few verses of scripture each day from The Bible and pray on what we’ve read… or recite the Rosary often and with a true spirit of reflection on the sorrowful, joyful, glorious or luminous mysteries. In other words, spend some time with God—our Creator and Redeemer.

We can do it… and enjoy the most fruitful Lenten observance ever… open to God as Jesus was: obedient and accepting. And on Easter Sunday, when HE is lifted up from the earth, we, too will be drawn up to HIM!

Dc. Tim McNerney

St. Bartholomew & St. Paul Churches of Norwich

Homily PDF Download


2 responses to “Homilies

  1. Pingback: They Said Nothing « Gospel Hill Posts

  2. Pingback: Staying in True… « Permanent Deacons – Diocese of Syracuse

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