The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

My dear friends,

Words matter.

When I was in high school, my debate teacher would constantly remind my classmates and myself of those two words. Words matter. He would tell us that in an argument and debate, it’s just a few words that can make all the difference. And so when we do speak, we should make sure that our words matter, that we say exactly what we mean and to use our words as best as possible

It’s interesting. When Winston Churchill addressed parliament at the beginning of World War Two to rally his nation, there was much pressure around him to make peace with Hitler. But in his heart, he knew he could not make a deal with someone so evil. And so he gave a very memorable speech. Not long, but his words mattered. And his opponent was asked, what just happened?

And he said, the prime minister militarized his words and sent them into battle. And from those few words, England went to war and freed all of Europe with our help of the evil of Nazism. See, words do matter.

I want to remind us of that tonight, my friends, because tonight we gather here in this sacred space to marvel, to sit in awe of the words that Jesus spoke this night to His apostles. We heard it in the second reading. This is My Body. This is the cup of My Blood. He did not say, this is like My Body.

He did not say, this is a sign of My Body. He did not say, this should remember, you should remind you of My Body. He said in His original Aramaic that we now speak in English, this is My Body.

And if words matter, the One who speaks the words matters even more. And so the One who spoke those words is Our Savior, Our Redeemer, God made man.

And so Jesus this night took the ritual of the Passover, when the jewish people commemorate the passing of the angel of death over them. To free them from the pharaoh and his slavery. He took that simple meal and re transformed it into the sacrament of His Passover from death to life, and gave you and I the great, be able to enter into that mystery without having to be crucified ourselves, without having nails driven into your hands and mine. But in an unbloody way, we enter into that mystery, which we will commemorate tomorrow on the Friday we call good for us.

And He allows us this mystery by simply saying, this is My Body. My friends, here is the Lord Jesus true body, true blood, soul and divinity. This is the Savior and Redeemer of all things who sits on the throne of this altar. And He comes to us every time we gather to do this in His memory. For when we remember the Lord, He is truly, really acting and present in our midst.

There are no words in any language I have ever heard, who could fully and completely describe the mystery we celebrate here. The only thing we can do is to hear the priest in the person of Christ repeat the words that have changed all creation. This is My Body. This is My Blood.

My dear friends, Jesus gives us a share in the ultimate sacrament of love so that we might, with his grace, love as he did. That is why in a few moments, I will, in my own way, reenact with twelve individuals coming here. What the Lord did as our God and savior, he did it to teach us that we received the sacrament of love so that we might love one another. We received to become what we receive. And so, in the time of Jesus, it was a slave that washed a person’s feet.

No one but a slave. And anyone who washed someone else’s feet would be considered impure. And yet, God did it for us. The question is, as we come forward to receive this great mystery every Sunday, perhaps every day, are we willing to allow that sacrament to fill our hearts so that we might love as He did, to love those who have no one, to love them, to love by forgiving those who have offended us, to love those that, at first glance, we have nothing in common with, those we are afraid of, those we have never made it our business to even come to know his or her name. Are you and I willing to love in a way different from that world that sees the poor as a problem, that world that wants us to be divided, to love that way, my friends, will not cause us to hang on a cross, but it will cause us to suffer.

We will leave what’s comfortable. We will leave what’s familiar. We may actually have to leave apart our reputation, even our friendships. But if you and I are going to come forward to receive this great mystery, the true, real, full, complete body and blood of Jesus Christ, and we are not willing to love as He did? Perhaps we are receiving it in vain.

Tonight is a great mystery. Tonight is also a great challenge.

Allow me, my friends, to suggest one more thing. My mother used to say, familiarity breeds contempt. And what does that mean? To put it another way, is that we can easily take for granted one another a wife or husband who no longer talk with each other, a father or mother who takes for granted the time spent with the son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter. A friendship we keep meaning to call the person, and a day becomes a week and a month.

You see, familiarity allows us to take another person for granted.

How often have you and I taken for granted the presence of the Lord. He’s here 363 days a year. Tonight He is no longer in his tabernacle. He will come to his altar of adoration as we depict the Lord preparing for His agony and His crucifixion. And tomorrow and Saturday, He will be gone from this place so that we might once again break that possibility in you and me to take His presence for granted.

When we come into this church, do we acknowledge Him? Do we kneel before Him? Do we genuflect to our King here when He is in our midst? Do we actually spend the time to adore Him? Before mass and after mass, myself included.

Tonight we will have an opportunity to spend time with Him. Please, my friends, spend that time with Him. And allow your heart and mind to once again burn with the fire of love and zeal for the Lord who has come to walk with us.

This is My Body. This is My Blood. These are the words that have changed the whole world. What words will we say to Him in return?

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for Holy Thursday Chrism Mass.

My dear friends in Christ,

A few days ago, while I was taping my podcast with my comrade in arms, Steve Lee, Steve asked me a question on behalf of one of the listeners of the podcast. And the answer I gave initially, I thought was smart. The question was this, what is the most important passage in all of sacred scripture? And of course, my initial response was, they’re all important. Case closed. But something has been, if I may put it, burning in my heart for a very long time. In fact, since we have begun this great spiritual odyssey together, which I affectionately call the One, but really, it is the invitation for all of us to be renewed in spirit and to renew our church for its mission in the world. So I coopted the question, and I said, Perhaps we could phrase it differently. It’s not what is the most important verse in scripture, but what is the most poignant, what is the most provocative? And that, my friends, has a very different answer. For all the years that I’ve had the privilege to be with you, I’ve asked that question in many a talk, and I’ve always answered it the same way.

You may recall the answer I have given in the past. It was the words that came out of the mouth of Pontius Pilate when he’s looking into the face of Jesus, thinking that he had the power of life and death over the Lord. And he asked the question, what is the truth? Of course, the answer was staring him in the face. But now, my dear friends, I have a different answer to that question. And that answer, I believe, perhaps gives us the context about what we’re about to begin to celebrate as Christians. It is the parable of the struggle of discipleship. It’s the reason, I believe, why these oils that we will bless are so important in the life of the church and why the ministerial priesthood born this day is essential to the life that Christ has given to all of us. My brothers, it gives us an understanding of one aspect of our Priestley ministry that we must never forget. You may be wondering, what are those words? For those of us who go to Daily Mass, we heard them a few days ago. We will hear them again tomorrow on Good Friday.

They are the words that St. John puts into his gospel immediately after Judas betrays the Lord. And as he takes the morsel, says, Is it I, Lord? It is you who say it. And then there are four words, John says, And it was night. And it was night.

For you see, my dear friends, in those four words, perhaps in its own sense of parable, we are reminded of the great struggle that lies for those of us, all of us, who wish to follow in the footsteps of the Master and the Savior. For there is in the word night all that is implied within it. It is the struggles that you and I face in our lives to peel away the darkness of sin and deception salvation, the lies that oftentimes try to seduce us, to expose the temptations of the evil one. It is all that takes us away from the light, which is what we are about to celebrate as dusk leads to night, tonight. The great mystery, the unfolding of our salvation, is He who we will proclaim in the Easter Vigil as Christ, our light, came into the very midst of the darkness that this world could muster.

And by His free gift of His life and His everlasting love, love that does not demand that those to be loved should be worth that love or earn that love or actually in some way prove they are lovable. In that great drama, the Lord Jesus allows the light to be victorious, to shine not just in the tomb, but in every moment of His grace, in every moment of the ages to come until the light is alone what exists. And the darkness, and he who creates it is cast into the abyss forever.

You see, my dear friends, that is why we are here today. We are here because these oils and the sacruments that celebrate them are the vessels of the light of grace for those preparing to be baptized so that all their sins of their life could be forgiven, all of us have had that great privilege in this church. All of us have been set free. For those who are sick, those who may be dying, the oil of the sick comes as a bomb, perhaps not to heal them physically, but to invite them to be healed spiritually so that they may enter into the mystery of death prepared to look upon the light that has no shadow.

Then and, of course, in the oils of chrism, baptism, the confirming of baptism and sacred orders, priesthood and Episcopacy. They consecrate us so that we might be what? The vessels of light in a world that, unfortunately, my friends, you know better than I, is in great turmoil, where the clouds continue to grow thicker and the darkness threatens too many of God’s children, ourselves included. So the ministerial priesthood, my friends, my brothers, you and I that share this great gift, today we must remember that we are called to be the heralds of light. To dare, by word and example, by our ministries and by our preaching, to give God’s people, you and I and our own selves, the path by which we might bring the light of Christ where there is no light or where the darkness threatens that light.

You see, my dear friends, you and I who gather here, please God, none of us in this church is guilty of a colossal failure before the light. That was Judas’s fate that he chose. But perhaps the struggle you and I face in discipleship is more the struggle of twilight, that mixture of light and darkness.

The times when you and I struggle with our own temptations, our own faults, our own failures, or at times when you and I are swayed by the opinions of those around us, or simply wanting to be accepted, or simply lacking the courage to speak what needs to be spoken. So many different ways, you and I in ordinary life, we struggle with that mystery of twilight. And so we come here to be strengthened so that we could peel away that portion of the twilight which threatens us, our integrity, our effectiveness, and quite frankly, our fidelity. I do it every day. I struggle with it every day. And I don’t believe I’m the only one in this church who struggles with that every day. But how blessed are we? My gosh, how blessed are we that Christ offers us His merciful love, His forgiveness for the asking that He never abandons us. And we who are as priests, you brothers know as much as I, the challenges you and I face, and they are many, and they are not getting easier. And yet you and I know the light has never and never will abandon us, even in the moments of our greatest struggle and doubt, even when our temptations raise their faces to try to tempt us to do what we know we should never do.

And yet Christ is there with the light beckoning us to be his herald. And even when we have failed, myself included, He comes to bless us, forgive us, and send us out again in mission. My dear friends, the world needs the light of Christ. The world needs heralds of good news. The world needs a clear, effective, unambiguous, zealous, courageous, reckless proclamation of the light. And that’s true for all of us in this church of every vocation, But as you and I, brothers, celebrating the day when the birth of our vocation was given to us, let us, you and I, together, brothers in Christ, make the pledge as we renew the promises of Priestley life that we will stand shoulder to shoulder as one brotherhood to help one another to peel away the twilight, wherever it threatens you and me to be able to live in the light. If we do that, we know that you and I may not see the effects of all that we do, but Christ us, and the world will, and those who come after us may inherit a world that is willing to cry out, Christ, our light. What’s interesting, my friends, is that in the natural course of 24 hours, twilight happens twice.

At the dawn, and at dusk. We are now on the threshold of the great mystery of all mysteries, the great mystery of salvation that tells us that the twilight light is destined for dawn, not for dusk. Perhaps you and This day may be resolved, rejoicing of the great gifts God has given us, but most especially, if I may be so bold, is to rejoice in the great mystery and gift of the priesthood and the men who serve and give their life over, all of them here and those who are not here, my brothers in the priesthood who give their life so generously so that the light may triumph in small and powerful ways. Let us leave this church ready to go into these days so that those of us who will proclaim it and those of us who will respond will be able to say to the whole world, We believe that Christ is our light.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for Palm Sunday.

My dear friends,

Each time I confirm another class of young people, I admonish them, I remind them, I challenge them not to be part of the crowd, to dare to be different. And that is true, perhaps except for this week, when the church specifically asks us to find our place and voice in the crowd. A crowd which, as we begin this sacred liturgy in the back of church, we’re singing Hosana to the King. And as we just heard our voices cry out, ‘Crucify Him’.

The journey of this week we call Holy is the journey to discover where we stand in the crowd and who has the courage among us to step out of the crowd. For the brutal truth is, there have been times in your life and mine when we have sung Hosanna to the Lord, particularly in times of blessings when all goes well.

And there are times when perhaps we whispered, for we did not have courage to say it out loud because of our resentment, anger, disappointment, frustration. Perhaps we would whisper under our breath, what type of Lord is this who allows me or us to undergo so much? Perhaps we were whispering to crucify Him.

Then, my friends, how many times have you and I been in the crowd and the crowd has swept us away with whatever the crowd thought was good, best, or du jour? And how many times have you and I been in the crowd, wherever the crowd may be, and stepped back and became a faceless person? And let the crowd do the talking for us?

You see, my friends, on the day when the Lord won his victory over sin and death, there was no crowd. There was simply one woman, a penitent, converted woman who knew the depth of suffering and had the courage to step out of the crowd and to wait to greet her risen King.

So my friends, as we begin this week together, my invitation to you is the same invitation I give to myself. Can we have the courage these ways to honestly look at our place in the crowd, what the crowd has brought us to? Do you and I have the courage to step out of that crowd and walk with Jesus on our own so that He may touch us, He may heal us, He may forgive us, and He may give us voice to say for ourselves without being part of any crowd, Hosanna to our risen King.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

My dear friends,

The days of our annual commemoration of the Lord’s agony and death are fast approaching in this last full week of lent. As we gather in this sacred place with the images, the sacred images covered in purple, reminding us to draw our attention ever more closely to those moments of the Lord’s gift, of Himself, His passion, His death and His resurrection. Today the Lord gives us a very clear lesson what it is He expects of those who wish to follow Him. And He says, the grain of wheat must ground and die. And of course, you and I are the grain of wheat.

That a disciple is not greater than His master. And so, if we wish to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, we too must be willing to die to ourselves.

So allow me to ask you a question. What does that mean? Or to put the question another way, how do you and I actually die to ourselves?

To answer the first question, the answer is deceptively easy. What it means is that in the end, there’s only one will to follow. And we all have a choice. It is either God’s will or our own will. And that battle between those two wills is the dying to self.

It’s finding what the Lord is asking of you and me in the vocations of our lives and choosing, despite the sacrifice or cost, to do what He asks, not do what we want or do what we will or do what we desire. It is in many ways our answer to the fundamental sin we call original sin. At the hands of our parents, who chose to put themselves in the place of God rather than to honor God, who told them, of all things, you are not to touch the fruit of this one tree. But if that is in fact what it means, then my second question takes on even greater importance. How do we do that?

How do you and I learn to put God’s will first? Well, you know, my friends, taking a who said to their congregation, as I’m sharing with you, my friends, that perhaps the very structure of the cross can teach us how, from Good Friday, we will look upon the cross of Jesus Christ, and we will look upon it not simply to thank Him for the gift of Himself, but also to remind ourselves what we are to do. And the very physical cross teaches us three lessons.

Number one, if you and I were alive at the time Jesus was crucified, and we had the enormous privilege, I may say, to stand in front of the cross in order to look at Jesus, we would have to look up, because the Romans created the cross in such a way that you could not reach the person who was crucified because they would be afraid that they would be taken down by mobs of people who did not want this person to die. And so they crucified a person so high up on the one beam that in order to look at them, you would have to look up.

And that’s lesson number one, that what the Lord asks of us is to keep our eyes fixed on the heavens. Or I may say, heaven, that all that we do and choose in your life and mine, if it is not leading us closer to heaven, then don’t do it. For it is your will and mine, not His. For He wills that all of us, all of us come to the glory of heaven. Lesson number one.

Lesson number two. Jesus carried the cross beam that He was nailed to first as He walked, His agony. And that crossbeam was designed so that the person who was crucified would have to literally hang and therefore not able to breathe easily on the cross because a person who was crucified eventually would suffocate to death. But there’s a lesson here, for Jesus did not. Jesus was not forced to die.

He chose to die. And as He extended His hands, He was reminding us of the charity of his heart. For as He embraces all people of every race, language, and way of life, He’s reminding us that the cross is the invitation to love, as He did everyone, all people, saints, and sinners alike. And if we are not willing to love, as He did, recklessly, generously, forgivingly, mercifully, then we’re choosing our will over His.

And lastly, my friends, as you know, Calvary was a small little mountain, very rocky, and yet the cross was put into the soil and buttressed by the rocks around it.

And that literal need to put it into the soil reminds us. The soil itself reminds us of the third lesson, that we are called to be a people, not afraid to put our feet onto the soil, the dirt of this world, and know the truth and admit the truth in humility, humility which comes from the word dirt. To know the truth about you and me, our faults and failings, the truth about our neighbors, the truth of who Jesus is. And never be afraid to embrace the truth. For Jesus said, the truth shall set you free.

And when we decide to deceive, lie, or believe somebody else’s truth, then we are not dying to ourselves.

So how do we die to ourselves?

With our eyes always fixed on heaven, with a heart that is ready to love as Jesus did, and always allowing the truth to be our guide in every moment of your life and mine, my friends, we will have no choice but to slowly die to everything that is not of God and to ever more clearly see his holy will for you and me. And then, at that point, the Lord can point for us not only agony, crucifixion and death but He will point to us our destiny of everlasting life.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for St. Patrick’s Day.

My dear sisters and brothers,

You could imagine when I was a little boy, in the normal rough and tumble of life. Many a day I found myself running to my mother because of some fall off a bike or whatever else happened, with a wound, a scratch, a bruise, wanting relief. And my mother’s idea of first aid was very simple. We would often go either to the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink, soap and water.

You’re washed up. There’s the bandage. Off you go. Not too sophisticated, but it worked. In fact, the initial pain quickly dissipated, and most of the time, life went back to normal.

See, my mother, in her simple wisdom, understood what you and I also understand that a wound cannot be healed unless it is faced and cleaned. That, my friends, is true of our mortal life. It is even more true in our spiritual life. For when we are wounded or wound ourselves by not just our sinfulness, but the things that may happen to us, those wounds need to be faced and cleaned. For if they are not, they fester and can cause great harm, even death.

I raise this to you, my friends, this morning, on this day when we celebrate the glorious example, model, intercession and protection of Patrick, who is the patron of all of Ireland and one of the great saints of the western church. Patrick understood what I just said, and because he understood it, miracles happened. Why do I say that? Well, you know the story of St. Patrick.

Patrick was the son of a roman official who lived in what is now great Britain, or at least Britain. And at the age of 16, he was kidnapped. And he was sent to Ireland to work as a shepherd, an indentured shepherd. And he was in Ireland for six years. And then he was able to escape.

And once he escaped and had his freedom, he did something remarkable, extraordinary beyond belief. He went back to the scene of the crime. He went back to where he was in slavery. Imagine the saints were not perfect. Nor are we.

Imagine the anger and the resentment and the disappointment and the questions this young man had as he was held in slavery. Imagine all of that in his heart. You and I would have had that and much more. And he had that for six years. And in the moment of freedom, what did Patrick do?

He didn’t turn back on where all of that happened. He didn’t say enough with you and all your people, what did he do? He faced it and he cleansed it with the power of grace. And he went back. And what did he do?

He built a great nation, a nation of martyrs and saints, a nation from which all of Europe received the faith. And just think of our country, you know better than I, church in this country was built by many hands, most of which were irish hands. Many of those who came from Ireland, who came to a country which was overwhelmingly protestant, leaving a country where Protestantism had also sought to enslave them. And they came so that the church could grow. It’s remarkable.

And Patrick, in his life, as you know, my friends, cast out the serpents. There are stories that 33 people rose from the dead because of Patrick’s prayers and presence. And all of that was possible because he didn’t run away from his anger, resentment. He didn’t run away from the wounds that people inflicted on him. But he faced them and sought the grace of Christ to clean it and begin the healing.

And he is revered as a man of great holiness because he had the courage to seek to be healed.

You know, my dear friends, when you look at our world, when you look at our communities, may I say when we look at our own families, how many wounds are there? Perhaps you and I this morning came with them in our own hearts.

When you look at the church in Ireland today, it is in deep crisis in large measure, because many were wounded and those wounds festered in silence and darkness. And only now are those wounds slowly being cleaned. So, too, in our lives and among our families and in our communities and in this very broken world, you and I come here to pray for Patrick’s intercession, not simply to admire him, not simply to seek for our personal intentions, but could I dare say, as your spiritual father, could I dare say that we are all here to follow his example, to ask for the grace to be able to look at whatever wounds we see in our own life, in those around us, and not run away from them, not resent them, not become angry with them, because all that may happen, but to actually ask the grace, through the intercession of our great patron, Patrick, to face them, to ask for the grace to begin to clean them so that we could be healed day by day. And God’s grace and His remarkable power can be unleashed in you and me so that what Patrick did in his time, you and I, 16 centuries later, are ready to do again.

It is not easy to be a daughter or son of St. Patrick, whether you are irish or not. But we are all children of Patrick. And if the world ever needed women and men and young people to follow in his footsteps, the time is now.

One man built a great nation. Could you imagine what you and I can do together here and now?

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the fourth Sunday of Lent, given at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

My dear friends,

I was 23 years old, settling into my new job as the sales representative for the Greg division of the McGraw Hill Book company. And when I was not on the road, right, traveling with customers, I would go down to headquarters on 6th Avenue in Manhattan and by train, and I would take the F train. And many of you perhaps have been to the station, 47th and 50th Street, Rockefell Center. And it is a sprawling station.

And in those days, as is coming true today, it was the home for many homeless people. And I noticed after a few weeks that the same homeless young man, young, was always in the same spot asking for money. And I had made a resolution that every time I saw him, I would give him a dollar. So you could imagine, I would lean over and give him the dollar. And I was proud of myself, to be perfectly honest, that I was doing charity.

I thought to myself, if everyone did that for this young man, he could lift himself out of poverty and restore his life. I thought I was being generous. I thought I was being merciful.

42 years have passed since that time. What I’ve come to realize, my friends, is that perhaps that was kind, perhaps that was generous, but it was not merciful. For mercy that comes from our Father. The mercy He asks us to share with one another is much more than $1 a day.

What is the mercy of God that St. Paul speaks to the people of Ephesus? What is it that you and I ought to share with one another and all of those whom we meet out there? It is very hard to define. You know it when you see it, at least when you’re wise enough to see it.

But this much is true. Pope Francis has been challenging us, both the priests and deacons of the church and perhaps all the faithful. In this very famous phrase, he has said over and over again, to smell like the sheep. My friends, have you ever considered that a shepherd can only smell, truly smell, like his sheep by picking them up and literally carrying them in his hands so that their wool and the oils in the wool rub off on his own clothes. Can’t be done from afar.

It can’t be done by just feeding them from afar. You literally have to embrace them to smell like them. And perhaps that’s the clue. For when I look back, those 40 some odd years ago, I never once asked the young man what his name was. To my shame and embarrassment, I did not once even speak to him.

I did not once ask or inquire why he was homeless. What was that drove him to this point in his life? So young in his life, I was just satisfied to give him a dollar. But you see, mercy is love that goes deeper, love that asks those questions, love that embraces someone in their point of suffering or pain, or when they need forgiveness and literally lifts them up. See, that is what God has done for us, each of us, in our poverty, in our suffering, in our sinfulness.

He has reached down, literally and touched our lives and lifts up so that whatever moment of our life we know, God is there to love us and to care for us and to lead us to glory, even if that glory is not clear in this life. Our destiny is eternal love in Him. See, that is mercy. And, my dear friends, that is what the Lord asks us to give to each other and to all whom we meet. And that is the beginning of the problem.

And if I may put it so bluntly, what I did 40 some odd years ago, and sadly, perhaps have done at different times in my life, chances are, perhaps you have done the same thing, or you and I have decided that there’s a class of people, an individual or a group of individuals, that are simply not worth more than simply $1.

But allow me to ask you this question. God would not treat those people, that person, that way. St. Paul says to the people of Ephesus that he came not to condemn the world, but to save the world, to invite every child of God to recognize the mercy of Christ so that their sins might be forgiven and they may have new life. So if it’s good enough for God, for you and me.

So it seems to me on this fourth Sunday of Lent that perhaps instead of looking forward, perhaps in this middle point of Lent, that we can look back. Perhaps we could look at our lives as I’ve begun to do in my own, and ask yourself the question, when have I risen to the challenge to truly be merciful? That is, to invest myself in the life of someone else who is in desperate need or lost or lonely or looking for purpose or looking for forgiveness or simply looking for a hand to hold on to. Have I done that? And in the past?

If we have not, then we have something to bring to our own heavenly Father to ask for his mercy and forgiveness and to learn the lesson as we move forward in discipleship.

If you recall, years ago, Congress passed a bill. It was about education. And the name of it is no child left behind.

You see, my friends, that defines how wide and deep God’s mercy is for all His children. All his children, every child, every person who lives on this earth. Christ has come so that no child may be left behind once again. If it’s good enough for Christ, why would it not be good enough for me and you.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the third Sunday of Lent, given at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

Apart from the events of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, it would seem to me that today in the gospel, we hear what one would consider the most dramatic moment in the Lord’s ministry. Dramatic insofar as it was shocking to people, this gentle, merciful rabbi preacher suddenly shows a righteous anger and throws all of these money changers and merchants out of the temple area. Could you imagine where people were taken aback? And it was a righteous anger because the Lord had committed Himself to purify the temple of His Father. And so He did and left us a tremendous challenge.

Because allow me to ask you a question, my friends. What is it that the Lord is actually purifying for? The answer may surprise us, for we should not fall into the mistake of thinking that these merchants and money changers appeared in the temple and made it a form of Macy’s on their own. In fact, they were doing exactly what was asked of them. It was required in the law.

What was required? That if you were going to sacrifice an animal, it was to be purchased already prepared for the sacrifice. You couldn’t go to the supermarket and buy it. You bought it in the temple area. And notice that they sold doves, because for the poor, who could not afford a lamb or a goat, they offered a dove in its place.

So, too, for the money, there would be money offerings in the temple, in the sacrifice offered by the high priest. But the money of Caesar, the Daenerys, was considered impure. It could not be offered in the sacrifice of the temple. And so money exchange. They would take the money of the Roman Empire and exchange it for the money that was used in the temple so that people could offer sacrifice.

So, my friends, these were necessary services. These were offered for God’s people. The temple couldn’t function without them. So then the question is, why did Jesus throw them out? And this, my friends, is the challenge.

It was not because the money changers and temple and the merchants, it wasn’t what they were doing. It was rather why they were doing it, for their intentions had nothing to do with the worship. They were asked to assist. They were there for their own self aggrandizement, their own greed, their own profit for themselves. And even though they were doing the right thing, they were doing it for the wrong reason.

And that is why they got tossed out.

And that’s the challenge, because you and I, my friends, come here each Sunday to ask the grace of the Holy Spirit to receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of the Lord Jesus Himself, so that we might do good that we might do what’s asked of us. If I could put it this way, we heard in the first reading from Exodus, the Ten Commandments. Those are the God rails of life, to live what the Lord commands us. And that is good and necessary. But it is not enough for me.

For you, it is not just doing what is expected or doing what is right or doing what is good, but to do it for the right reasons. In other words, to purify our intentions so that they are in the mind of God. Now, let’s be honest. Every single one of us in this church is a sinner, myself included. No one here has pure, perfect intentions in the things we do, even when we do good.

That’s the struggle of discipleship. It’s to be able to recognize when our intentions are mixed and spend time in reflection and spiritual discipline so that our intentions become ever more pure, ever more following the spirit that the Lord asks of us to live. So, for example, boys and girls, for those of you who want to respect and honor your mother and father, it’s not enough simply to do it because you don’t want to get in trouble. But it’s really to be able to do it because it’s a way of showing your parents your gratitude and your love. As God does for us, so, too, for you and I, who are a bit older.

My friends, today is the Lord’s day of resurrection. It is the christian version of the Sabbath. We keep it holy. How we come to mass. Wonderful.

Does that fulfill the intent of the law? Or does it not mean that the entire day should be held sacred? Time for prayer and reflection, to do what we do not ordinarily do, the other six days of the week. And to make everything on this day mindful of the honor, worship, and glory that is due to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who makes this day, you, me, and all creation destined for holiness. And I can go on and on.

Allow me to offer you a suggestion. We are in the third week of Lent, and therefore, our spiritual homework this week is to look not only at the things we are doing good, not only admitting the things we have done wrong or sinful, but perhaps we can add one more piece to this. And that is when we look at our lives each day. Perhaps before you go to bed and examine all the things you have done, could we please ask ourselves, when we look back on the things we have done good. Why did I do them?

Because we will find even in doing good, we have work to do. Because the last thing, my friends, we want to do and be. The last position you and I ever want to be is to have to face the righteous anger of God.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, given at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

My dear friends,

It’s amazing the difference one week can make. For if you recall, when we gathered last Sunday, we heard the great story of the Lord’s temptations in the desert, and He was about to begin His ministry. Now, a week later, in the 9th chapter of St. Mark, Jesus is almost halfway done with his ministry and had already made the decision to turn His attention to go to Jerusalem, where He knew – had foreseen – what awaited Him. That He would freely give His life up so that you and I, His apostles, and all who believe in Him, might have eternal life.

And so He pauses and chooses three of His apostles to come up the mountain so that they might see a glimpse of His glory, the glory He had before He entered the world, the glory that would be His again after His death and resurrection, when He ascended to the right hand of His Father, a glory that was meant to encourage them so that they could endure His passion and death. But there was something else going on, my friends, for the apostles began to notice at this point in His ministry that even the crowd was beginning to turn, turn away from the Lord, begin to question and doubt Him. That would lead to the mobs that said crucify Him. And they also began to realize that what happened to Jesus could happen to them, that there was a cost to follow Jesus. And so the Lord wants to encourage them not only to witness what would happen to Him, but so that they could bear whatever sufferings would come to be faithful to Him, a lesson most of the apostles found very hard to learn.

That encouragement is also for us in our life of faith, as you and I struggle to be faithful in a world that is making it ever more difficult to follow the Lord Jesus. But I do have a question to ask you. There were twelve apostles. All twelve walked with Jesus. Why did the Lord only choose three to go up the mountain and not twelve?

For all twelve would suffer. All twelve would have to sacrifice. But He chose only three, Peter, James and John.

And I think if we reflect on a possible reason for that choice, then it gives us a spiritual challenge for you and I in the modern world. For let us consider what those three were asked to do. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and the first bishop of Rome who would lead the christian community in a time of great persecution. James was the leader of the church of Jerusalem, a place where the apostles and the disciples of Jesus would be persecuted. And he himself was the first apostle to die.

John was the one who did not betray Jesus or abandon Him. And to him was given the singular duty to take care of the Mother of God. After Jesus rose from the dead and he brought her to Antioch, where he lived and cared for her until she was assumed into heaven, which the tradition holds. Mary was 72 years old.

All three were asked to assist others in faith. All three were asked to accompany and encourage and strengthen those around them. In other words, my friends, they were chosen to be encouraged, not only for their own sake, but that they may encourage others. That what they received, they would share. That they would be the ones when the Lord had risen and ascended, to be the ones who would lead, help encourage, support, walk with their fellow christians when they were questioning, doubtful, confused, when they were suffering.

You see, my friends, every single one of us has a cross to carry. My mother used to say, God makes it in such a way that it’s just heavy enough for you to carry. So my cross is not yours and yours is not mine. However, as we carry our cross in life, whatever it may be, what the Lord is teaching us today is that no one is to carry it alone, but we are to walk with each other and encourage each other and support each other in our life of faith. So let me ask you a question.

If you look around this church like I do, how many of the people here sitting next to you, behind you, in front of you, how many of them do you and I know what cross they bear? How many do we know here by name? And yet the Lord asks us to walk with each other?

You see, my friends, can we dare to build a church? Can we dare to hope in the power of the Holy Spirit that the day would come when everyone knows everyone else’s name? When everyone who comes here to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass would know each other’s crosses? And could we dare to believe that the day would come when there is no single person in our church, no matter how great the cross may be, will carry it alone? But there would be others to walk with them.

You see, my friends, that is the challenge of the transfiguration.

Consider in a few moments, I will come to the altar and join with you in this great sacrifice. The Lord will come, and He will be veiled under the form of bread and wine. But it is truly, really, completely the body, blood, soul and divinity of the risen, crucified and risen. Lord, He comes with all his glory, no different than the glory on the mount of transfiguration. He comes here and He is veiled.

But He comes here to dwell in you and me so that we might lift the veil out there and show the world and people that He is alive in us and to lift it here so that everyone who believes and walks in faith may strengthen each other until we walk together to heaven.

And so, as I often ask you, allow me to ask you this question. Is there someone in your life that you know that you know is carrying a cross and perhaps carrying it alone? Is there someone in your life or mine that we have been meaning to reach out to because chances are no one else would? Is there someone in this church right now that you’ve often asked yourself? You know what? I always see that person, but I don’t know their name. I would like to get to know them. Because by doing that, my friends, you will get to know not only a person’s name, but a person’s life and perhaps a person’s cross. Don’t you think it is time for you and me to walk up the mountain of the transfiguration with Christ alive in your heart and mind and lift the veil of glory and help someone else to see it so that they might have courage and faith in Him?

Who here is ready? Go up the mountain with Jesus.

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

As we do each first Sunday in Lent, the church asks us to meditate upon that event in the Lord’s life.

When in the midst of the desert He was visited by the Father of Evil and tempted, having already been baptized in the Jordan for our sake. And before He began His public ministry, Jesus entered into the solitude of the desert to pray. And there the Father of Evil did his best. From the gospel of Matthew and Luke, we know that there were three temptations the Lord had. But interestingly, today in the gospel of Mark, Mark does not list the three temptations. He simply says Jesus was tempted.

And it’s curious. One could say, well, didn’t St. Mark think it was important? And of course, he certainly would have. But I think he’s trying to teach us a lesson, a lesson that you and I need to apply in our own lives. Because, my friends, whether we talk about the temptation the Lord endured for power, authority or possession, they all have the same root. They have one temptation that underlies them all. The temptation was this, that the Father of Evil tempted the Lord in his Humanity not to do what the Father asked, to create a wedge between the Lord and His Father, to take Him away from His mission, ultimately to deny who He was and why He came into the world in the first place.

And Jesus resisted precisely because there was no greater desire in His heart than to be faithful to His Father. There was no more burning passion in the heart, the sacred heart of the Lord, than to do what His Father asked and to love Him to the end, regardless of what the cost would be. The Lord’s heart was singular, pure, single, focused, and Satan left defeated.

You may ask, well, then, bishop, what’s the lesson for you and I? The lesson, my friends, rests in this simple fact, that temptation, when it comes in your life and mine, most often finds its root in the desires of your heart and mine. For unlike Jesus, our hearts are divided. Our desires at times are not ordered to the good. We want to do the good, but we’re attracted to do something else, which perhaps is not good, or even worse, is sinful. Part of our lives want to be faithful to God, and part of us want to be aligned to allegiance with something else. Our hearts are not always singular. They are divided. And in that crack is where the Father of Evil makes his home. And so it seems to me that in this first week in lent, you and I have spiritual homework. And it begins by asking the question for these next six days, ask it every day.

What is it that I truly desire in my heart? What is it that you and I truly want? To be honest. Brutally honest. And by being brutally honest, we can begin to diagnose why at times we fall prey to temptation and why we do the things we know are wrong. But we do them anyway, in part because we want to do them because we desire what they supposedly will give us. Pleasure, power, privilege, authority, whatever it may be. I cannot answer that question for you, but I am obliged to answer it for myself. For to overcome temptation in life, my friends, is a lifetime journey.

Allow me to offer three steps where you and I can perhaps get the better of the Father of Evil when he comes knocking on the door of our hearts. Step number one is exactly what I said, is to be honest with the desires that we have to face them in the honesty of our hearts. Because if we cannot name them, if we’re not honest with ourselves, then they will always wreak havoc. And once we have understood at this point what it is I want, or tomorrow what I want, or later today, what my heart is desiring, then step number two, my friends, is never put ourselves in the occasion where the temptation will grow.

A person who is addicted will not find a place of welcome in a bar or a drug den. They need to be away from all that tempts them. The same is true for you and me. If we’re tempted to lust, then be custodians of our eyes, what are we looking at and why are we looking at it? If we are tempted to possessions, then why is it that we continue to go online, on tv, in the stores and continue to buy and put ourselves in the position to continue to buy when we know we don’t need anymore? You see, my friends, step number two is avoid the occasions of sin, occasions when we are tempted.

And then step number three, my friends, is the hardest of all. When you and I are standing before the Father of Evil and he is whispering in your heart, do it. Go there. What difference does it make? You really want it, don’t you? You and I can never make the mistake that we can overcome that temptation alone, but dwells within us the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, of the one true God. And in those moments of temptations, I beg you, my friends, as I do in my own life, to turn to the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to say no. For left to ourselves, more than likely, we will stumble and say yes. But armed with His power, we can and will say no.

And the Father of Evil will go away defeated.

My friends, in the life of faith, temptation will come. It came to the Lord. It will come to us. Let us guard the doors of our hearts so that the Lord will be victorious and the Father of Evil will leave defeated.

My dear friends, over the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a tremendous change in medicine, a change for the better. For I remember when I was a little boy, I always avoided going to the doctor until there was absolutely no possibility of avoiding it.

But now we are told that we should be more proactive. We speak of “wellness visits,” that we should take our health more seriously and do what’s necessary to prevent disease from coming in the first place because our health is a precious gift: the health of body, health of mind.

Well, that being the case, my friends, you and I gather here on this first (day) of the discipline of Lent so that we may begin a spiritual wellness check: to look at the health of our spiritual life, and if necessary, ask the Lord for the remedy. We might need to become more healthy in our relationship with him and our relationship with each other.

For example, as there is disease in the physical body, so there is disease in the spiritual life. And that disease, you and I know, (is) our sins. They are poison. They destroy the grace that is meant to dwell in our hearts. It turns us against God, ourselves and our neighbor. And first and foremost, if we seek spiritual wellbeing or health, our sins need to be admitted. They need to be placed before the mercy of God in the sacrament of confession. And he will forgive them. That, my friends, is essential for spiritual health.

These 40 days will allow us many opportunities to root out the disease of sin. But there is more to spiritual health. And in these 40 days, the Church asks us to look at three tools to help us to grow more spiritually alive: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

And what does all that mean? Will allow me to ask you three questions, my friends?

How comfortable are you or I to sit in the quiet of our rooms, our cars, whatever place we choose, and to sit in the presence of the Lord and allow him to speak to us? That ultimately is what prayer is. It is more than saying prayers. It’s allowing the Lord to touch us with his mercy, his compassion, his warning, his admonition, his challenge, whatever it is he wishes to tell us. Any relationship requires two speaking, not one. And if you are sitting there saying to yourself, “Bishop, you know, I’m not exactly sure how to do that,” then in Lent is the time for you and I to learn it again: to learn to be silent, to learn to listen, to learn to understand the signs of God’s presence in our lives. For that takes us to ever greater health in the Spirit, to learn how truly to pray.

No different than fasting. You know my friends, we fast today (and) Good Friday. We abstain from meat from the Fridays of Lent, and you are invited to do it every Friday of the year. We do that for a reason. We deny ourselves to remind ourselves that everything is a blessing. Everything is a gift. We live in a world that’s entitled. We live in a world that wants us to believe our possessions are what really matters. And in that world, our possessions possess us. Fasting gives us freedom to understand everything is a blessing. And I can give up this or that or the other because by doing that, whatever I would have spent on that, I can give to you or to as someone in need. It’s freedom. How free are you and I?

And lastly, almsgiving. My friends, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And in a world where talk is cheap, what do we in fact do to love our neighbor in the concrete, in the daily life? Today, you and me.

What I outlined for you and me today is not easy, my friends. It is a regimen far more difficult than any cardiac regimen, any exercise regimen, anything you and I would do with our physical diet. This is a lifetime’s work, but that is what we are called to do as disciples of Christ. Not only to value our physical health and our mental health, they are gifts. But to value our spiritual health and to be alive in Christ, to be the shining example of his presence in the world.

For in a few moments, you and I will come forward and we will be marked with these ashes. And you and I will be reminded that we are made of dust and unto dust we shall return. For no matter how much we are proactive with our health, the day will come when you and I will have to enter the mystery of death. This life cannot endure forever. And when you consider all that we do to continue to maintain our health, and rightfully so, isn’t it worth every effort you and I make to not simply be ready for our physical death, but to avoid at all cost? Our eternal death Lent invites us to walk the journey with Christ unto eternal life.

Who here is ready for the journey?


The following is Bishop Caggiano’s February 11, 2024 Sunday homily

The year was 1979, and I was 20 years old, and I was attending the college seminary. And so while I attended most of my time and attention to my studies, there was a part of me that still kept one eye on the business world because I was still discerning whether or not I wanted to truly be a priest. And it was in that very year that AT&T, the telephone company, which then was the largest company in the world, launched an advertising campaign. Which so struck me that 45 years later, I still remember it. And I remember it precisely because it was so simple.

It featured a woman sitting at a desk picking up the receiver of those old fashioned telephones. Those of you who are younger may not know what I mean, but actually sitting on a desk and the slogan – what she thought – and then she made her phone call. And the slogan was “reach out and touch someone”. And it was brilliant, because at the time you paid by the calls you made.

The more calls you made, the more money AT&T made. Brilliant. And the slogan makes sense. But in first century Palestine, it would not have made sense, particularly as we hear in the gospel in the occasions when some of the members of the community were afflicted with disease, most especially leprosy. For the last thing you would want to do is reach out and touch them for many reasons.

First and foremost, if one were to even accidentally touch someone who had leprosy, then you would be ritually unclean and you would have to undergo the same ostracization isolation that a leper did. You would be cut off from your family, your friends, your livelihood, your money, your house. Out you went. And secondly, as we know from Hansen’s disease, which is leprosy, it is very contagious. So by touching someone with leprosy, you are putting yourself in great danger.

And so perhaps the slogan would say, don’t reach out and don’t touch those who have leprosy. Simple as that.

Today in the gospel, we hear that Jesus, in His great compassion and mercy, heals this man, makes him clean, heals him physically, heals him spiritually and sets him free so he could return to the life he had once. A beautiful reminder of his healing as Lord that you and I share in. But I must ask you a question, my friends. Why did Jesus touch the leper? Says it clearly in the gospel.

Jesus healed many times without touching anyone. He could have done it any way He wished, but He chose to touch the leper. And I would like to suggest that offers us a challenge. For as is true for the lepers, of the time of Jesus that they were literally isolated, they were segregated, they were left on their own. And you can imagine the great turmoil they felt because they literally had no one and no place to turn.

They were left to be alone, to die. So, too, when we sin, at times we feel alone, don’t we? We feel as if there is no one to turn to who could understand the whole we have created for ourselves. And even when you and I suffer in the modern world, when you get the diagnosis that, God forbid, you or I have cancer, there are many around who will sympathize, try to help, empathize, but the diagnosis is yours alone in the depth of your heart and mine to come to terms with. You see, my friends, what Jesus was reminding us is whether we talk about the effects of sin or the effects of physical illness or disease or suffering, there is a great loneliness, isolation that occurs.

And He touched the leper to let him know that he is not alone, that there is someone who walks with Him.

You have heard me often say, my friends, that you and I are to accompany each other in our life of faith, and rightfully so. But the path of conversion also demands that we walk with each other. When someone is asked to walk the path of suffering and illness, we are to walk with each other. And when someone enters into the last moments or stages of his or her life, that is when we walk with each other, there is no moment in our lives that we are to be alone, isolated, fearful. The Lord was willing to touch the man who had nowhere to turn.

And so I ask you, my friends, are you and I willing to do the same thing? Are we willing to touch the one who is addicted and is looking for someone to take his or her hand in recovery every single day? Are you and I willing to walk and touch the heart of the person who is suffering from perhaps illness that may not have an immediate cure or no cure at all? Are you and I willing to reach out and touch the one who has grown frail with old age and for whom the phone does not ring? Who is willing to go out and touch them, walk with them and let them know they are loved and not alone?

You see, my friends, it is easy to say that we will be a merciful and forgiving people. Perhaps to forgive at times is a challenge. But allow me to suggest it is not enough. But rather, you and I are asked to walk with each other even after we have forgiven one another, so that we can walk together in life hand in hand, and never to face whatever challenge we have alone.

In three days we will begin the great discipline of Lent, when we will walk with the Lord to face our own sinfulness, and He will reach out and touch us and forgive us, and remind us that even in our greatest sin we are never alone, He is always there with us.

Perhaps this Lent, you and I, to make the resolution that as the Lord has touched us, perhaps you and I can pick one person we know, frail, sick, suffering, addicted, struggling, depressed, lonely, anxious, one person we know and dare to reach out and to touch them.

On December 18, 2023, the Dicastery for Doctrine of the Faith issued a Declaration on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings, signed by His Eminence Victor Manuel Cardinal Fernandez, the Prefect of the Dicastery, with the approval of His Holiness, Pope Francis. A further clarification was issued by the same Dicastery on January 4, 2024. The purpose of this diocesan instruction is to help guide priests who may be asked to bless any couple who finds themselves living in an irregular situation.

It is important to note that the Declaration applies to all couples who may find themselves in an irregular situation. This includes same sex couples but not exclusive to such couples. In fact, the experience of most priests and deacons has been to minister and accompany heterosexual couples who for a variety of reasons are living in an irregular situation.

The instruction clearly affirms the Church’s perennial teaching regarding the nature of Christian marriage “which is an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the generation of children” (article 4). It also reaffirms that “the Church does not have the power to impart blessings on unions of persons of the same sex” (article 5). As the Prefect’s preamble clearly summarizes, the declaration envisions “the possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations and same sex couples without officially validating their situation or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”

What the declaration presents is a possible pastoral option to assist those couples that find themselves in irregular situations, including a same sex relationship. Such a blessing is an invocation of God’s mercy upon the individual persons who make up the relationship. It is not a blessing upon the union that they share. For if any human situation does not follow the divine will of God, then it cannot be blessed. “From a strictly liturgical point of view, a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church” (article 9). The persons who comprise the relationship or find themselves in an irregular situation, however, are always able to receive God’s blessing, mercy, healing, forgiveness and strength.

There is also a great responsibility to avoid creating scandal or confusion among fellow clerics and the faithful of the Diocese. Given how the secular media has already mischaracterized the contents and intent of this Declaration, it is of grave importance that nothing be done to create scandal or undermine the Church’s teaching in the areas of human sexuality, family life, marriage, and homosexuality.

In light of these considerations, the following directives are approved for the proper administration of such pastoral blessings in the Diocese of Bridgeport:

  1. All blessings requested by those who find themselves in an irregular situation can be offered only by priests in good standing of the Diocese of Bridgeport.
  2. Such blessings must be imparted in a private setting. At no time can such a pastoral blessing be imparted with other persons in attendance except those who made the request.
  3. No ritual books can be used to impart any such blessing. There can be no use of any prayers established for the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church to impart such blessings. “Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures or words that are proper to a wedding” (article 39). Nor can any church or chapel be the location wherein such a pastoral blessing is imparted.
  4. In order to ensure that those who request such a blessing have the opportunity to be pastorally accompanied, the priest involved should try to discern the intention and sincerity of the request before any blessing is imparted. This can be done in a very sensitive and pastoral manner and will allow the priest to explain the true nature of the blessing that will be imparted. It will also allow the person or persons requesting the blessing to “acknowledge that the life of the Church springs from the womb of God’s mercy and helps us to move forward, to live better and to respond to the Lord’s will” (article 20).
  5. The blessing must be imparted upon each individual person and not as a couple, precisely to avoid any misunderstanding of the true nature of the blessing. The blessing should seek the Lord’s gift of healing, forgiveness and strength for the petitioners, as well as upon all God’s people.

It is of critical importance that the Church, in her pastoral care, remain open to receive and accompany all the baptized, regardless of the situations within which they may find themselves.

In terms of couples in irregular situations, including same sex relationships, such care must be genuine, merciful and directed to accompany them. Such care must also invite such couples to journey with the Church toward the greater truth that the Lord wishes each human person to embrace and live to the fullest.

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s January 21, 2024 Sunday homily

My dear sisters and brothers, as it was true in the time of Jesus, it still remains true even in our own age, among our sisters and brothers of the jewish faith that are orthodox in their practice, that one of the greatest privileges a young man can receive is to be called, that is, chosen by a rabbi to be trained so that one day he himself may become a rabbi.

Usually the boy was perhaps ten years old, a boy that showed promise, intellect and talent. And he would go off months at a time to be with the rabbi, to learn from him, to learn from his example, to be able to be formed so that one day he might be an authority in the law. So with that, in the back of our minds, we can understand why the apostles reacted the way they did, because in their 20s, that call they must have thought was long gone. And now suddenly, this extraordinary rabbi appears and calls them to come to follow Him. The excitement, the enthusiasm, the zeal.

St. Mark tells us that they left their nets. And you know what that meant? They left their family. They left their obligation to care for their family.

They left their parents, especially their fathers, who depended on them to make sure their family had enough food. They left their social status, they left their security, they left everything in the enthusiasm to follow this rabbi who said, come, follow Me. Extraordinary. But what the apostles did not realize is that there are nets and there are nets. There are the things that you can give up in the enthusiasm of the moment.

And then with the sober passage of time, there is the need to learn what one must really give up to follow this extraordinary rabbi, who is far more than any rabbi. And in the journey of their life, they began to realize that they had nets that you could not see, but nets that they found very hard to give up. For example, the fact that the apostles would argue among themselves as to was the greatest among them, for they still sought privilege and status. And the Lord said, that’s a net you gotta get rid of. Or when the crowds began to turn against Jesus and they began to murmur amongst themselves, Jesus said to them, if you’re to follow Me, you have to leave your fear for your own safety behind.

And of course, when the Lord faced the moment of His passion, we know the apostles ran. But the call did not end, for the Lord called them back in His mercy. And once forgiven and receiving the grace of the Holy Spirit, they let go of all the rest of the nets that entangled them, held them, tripped them, including their many sins. And then they walked to the ends of the earth, free to follow the One who called them. Why do I tell you all this, my friends, is because you and I have been chosen by Christ, have we not?

On the day of our baptism, you and I walk in the footsteps of the Lord. You and I, because we are in this church, have given up much for the Lord. And the Lord rewards us, does He not? Whatever we give up, He gives us a hundredfold in his mercy, love, forgiveness and grace for His consolation and power. However, there is not a person in this church, myself included, who still does not at one time or another, cling to our nets.

Something in your life and mine we have not given over. And as we prepare for Lent, which, my friends, is not far away, the beginning of Lent is Valentine’s day of all days. So I’m telling you now, celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 13th, not the 14 February. It is not far away. Perhaps we can use these few weeks to prepare, to ask ourselves the question, what is it that is entangling me from following the Lord, for example?

We live in a world – you have often heard me describe it as self absorbed. It’s all about me. Well, is your opinion or mine? Your thoughts or mine?

Is your stance on things or mine more important than following the Lord? Who may choose otherwise? Do we resist to do things my way rather than His way? How much do we fear when people will oppose us because we walk in the footsteps of this extraordinary Savior? Rabbi, do we say, like the rest of the world, well, that’s enough.

Enough is enough. If you do more than this, you’re like a fanatic. “This is good enough.” Is it? And then, of course, you and I all come here with our sins, some of them known to us, quite frankly, some that may not be known to you or to me.

And yet they don’t just simply hold us back. They trip us. The nets literally prevent us from moving forward, whatever it is. My friends, may I suggest we spend the next few weeks looking ourselves in the mirror and not just celebrating what we have already given up to follow Christ, but what we have not yet. So that in the weeks of Lent, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may learn one finger at a time to let go.

Because only then, with His freedom, can we follow Him wherever he asks us to go.

For my dear friends, the apostles set free with all their nets gone, walked to the ends of the earth. The question for you and I is, are we willing to follow their example?

The following is Bishop Caggiano’s December 31, 2023 Sunday homily

Thank you, my dear friends in Christ. The very first world Youth Day that I attended as a catechist bishop was in 2008, in the most exotic of places in Sydney, Australia. And at the end of the very first session, when I gave my talk and I invited questions to be given from those who attended, one of the last questions that was offered was by a gentleman from New Zealand. And this is what he asked me. He said, bishop, what do you consider to be the greatest challenge that young people face in their life of faith?

Now, I must confess, I was not prepared for the question. I didn’t have an answer to the question, and I don’t even remember what I said as a response to the question. But I have not forgotten the question. It has haunted me for almost 16 years, and quite frankly, my friends, with all the experiences that have happened since, perhaps I can venture now to answer the question. But it is a question that does not apply solely to young people.

Quite frankly, it is a challenge that we all face of every age, even those of us in this church, even me.

And tonight, today’s feast may provide us part of the response we want to give to that challenge. So, first, what is the challenge? I’m sure others could answer the question in a different way, but at least for my part, the best way to describe the challenge is to put it this way. Seems to me you and I are either navigating in a world, or, for those who are younger, are growing up in a world where the world out there in so many obvious and subtle ways, in mass media, entertainment, television, social media, commercial marketing, our economics, and even our political life, tell us over and over and over and over again every day that you and I are not quite worth it. In other words, we need the latest to be accepted.

We need to have the right friends to get ahead. That we need the latest car or house, whatever, so that we’re more acceptable, that we’re never worth what we are as we are now, that there’s always more. So to put it another way, we’re never quite athletic enough, beautiful enough, handsome enough, rich enough, associated enough connected enough, educated enough to be worth it to someone else. And if you and I sit with that for long enough, we will come to the conclusion that we are not lovable as we are, that we have to work at being lovable. And if we’re not lovable the way we are, with all our faults and failings, then who can actually love us?

We accept that lie, for it is a lie. Then you can see, my friends, why we are coming into a world that’s becoming ever more angry and lonely and disassociated and anxious and sometimes leading even to despair. It may sound bleak, but there is a solution, my friends. There’s a solution as obvious as our face when we look in a mirror. For the solution is for you and I to go back to the roots of who you and I are in Jesus Christ and look at the holy family as the model for you and I to live in our own families.

You may say, bishop, well, why is this the solution? Pope Benedict, God rest his soul, before he died, said in one of his homilies, it is the family where, in the privileged place, that all its members learn to give love and to receive love, no matter what our family looks like. And they are all very different. They all are the seed beds of where you and I learn to be loved and to love one another. The holy family whom we honor today was that family.

It was the place where the father’s love was made real, literally, his son, who is love made in the flesh. And yet they lived a place, a time, a life, where their members, all three, loved each other completely and faced every challenge and suffering the world threw at them together. Consider, my friends, none of our families are without challenge. None of our families are perfect. None of them.

But the holy family faced sufferings and challenges that our families, perhaps, please God, will never have to. Giving birth in a stable, for there was no room in the world for their son to run for their lives to a different country. Because the government wanted to kill my child. To leave family, language, household, relatives, to live in a time when the gossip would have said that Mary was pregnant by God knows who. All those challenges they faced, always remaining a place where love animated all that they did.

So for you and I, my friends, to follow their example. We need to remember this. To be a loving family does not mean we have to be a perfect family, but to make the choices we need to make so that we never take advantage or granted for the people God has given us, our spouses, our children, our elderly parents, our aunts and uncles, and all those who are part of our family, near and far away. I’m not talking about love that the world understands. I’m talking about love that you and I have explored together.

Love, that’s a choice to do what’s good and right for the person. So when parents discipline their children, it’s an act of love, even though the child may not receive it with the best of humor. When a wife makes it her business or a husband, her business to spend time with his or her spouse and listen to what they’re really saying. To create space where they can share their innermost hopes and dreams. That’s an act of love.

To be able to forgive even when someone messes up royally. Hold them accountable for what they did, but never turn their back. Never turn one’s back to them. See, that’s the seed bed of love. And it is there, where you and I can relearn over and over again, that we are really lovable and that there are those who love us.

And going forth in life, we may face whatever challenge there is confident that God loves us also.

So may I make a suggestion, my friends? Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I presume almost all of us will stay up to welcome the new year. I will not, for the record, but I wish you all well at midnight. And you’re going to make resolutions, I presume I will make them, too.

I pray they will last at least the first week. I hope they will last. But may I suggest a resolution we can all make? What is the one thing you can do in your family to make it more a place of love? What is it you and I can do so that in our relationship with our spouse, our children, our parents, whoever else in this new year can make a difference, so that that person knows that they are truly loved and lovable for me, for God, and for those around him.

And perhaps that’s a resolution that we should keep, not just one day or one week, not just for one year, but for the rest of our lives.