July 14, 2019 Fr Andy Upah 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 DT 30:10-14

 Responsorial Psalm PS 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37

  1. (cf. 33)  Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

 Reading 2 COL1:15-20

Alleluia CF. JN 6:63C, 68C

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:25-37

Homily for Nativity on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 7/14/2019 DT 30:10-14, LK 10:25-37

Good afternoon/morning everyone!  My name is Fr. Andy Upah and I am your new Pastor.  I’m very happy to be here and I plan to stick around for awhile, 6 to 12 years, whatever the Archbishop will give me!  

I am also assigned as the Chaplain at Wahlert and Mazzuchelli, which I am continuing from last year, and I am thankful to be staying there in the schools and feel very blessed to be staying here in Dubuque!  

Just a bit of background about myself, I am from Tama County in Central Iowa, I grew up on a farm outside of Toledo.  

My parents still live on the farm and have businesses in Toledo, my dad, Stan, fixes tractors and sells four-wheelers, and my mom, Charlotte, is a CPA and has her own bookkeeping business.  Also my dad is a deacon and my parents are really involved in marriage ministry.  

I have two younger sisters, Sara lives in Marshalltown with her husband and four kids, they just moved back home after 14 years in Colorado so I’ve been enjoying seeing them more the last few weeks. 

 My other sister Kristy lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband and their three kids.  You’ll probably figure out how much I love my nieces and nephews... they provide me with a lot of good homily material!

 I was what they call a “late vocation” meaning I went out into the working world for awhile before seminary. I earned a degree in Computer Science from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, then I moved to West Des Moines where I worked for eight years doing website development and software consulting, managing projects and people for a variety of different companies and industries.

 I grew up Catholic but in college I fell away from the Faith.  I went to lots of different Christian Churches and for awhile I thought it didn’t really matter where I went as long as I loved Jesus, but back in 2007 I had a strong conversion back to the Catholic Church through clearly seeing sacraments in scripture, especially the Eucharist and Confession, so I really love those sacraments.

Once I had an appreciation for the sacraments, I started to have an appreciation for the Priesthood, to see the real need for the priesthood and as I learned more about the faith and spent more time in prayer, I began to feel a call to the priesthood.

 My home parish is St. Patrick in Tama.  Fr. Mike Mescher has been the Pastor there since 2005 and I know he was the Pastor here before that… I can still see the evidence of his dogs in my new house! 

 Fr. Mike was the one that encouraged my vocation and invited me to think about priesthood back in 2011.  Somewhat ironically, this weekend is his last weekend in Tama and then he will be moving to the rectory in Luxembourg to retire. 

While I was in Tama, I would occasionally see Msgr. Jim Miller who was in Marshalltown at St. Mary’s.  

During seminary, I would see him as he was hosting seminarians for the summer, and then I got to know him better this year while I was at Res, and what I discovered is that he is a great man, a wonderful priest, so I know have some big shoes to fill!  

Back in the fall I was helping Fr. Jim here with a communal reconciliation service  and he put me in his normal confessional, the Pastor’s confessional.  Maybe he knew something I didn’t? Anyway, it has been great to be here with him in Dubuque this last year and I am very happy that he is staying in town.  

So I have only been ordained a year and two months and people keep asking me, “So, are you ready to be a Pastor?”

I’ve been thinking about it like this, when a husband and a wife are told they are going to have a child, are they truly ready?  

My sense is “No,” I mean, they might think they are ready, they’ve been married for however long and they’ve read all the parenting books, but then when the baby actually arrives and they encounter all the things come up that they didn’t expect... it would be hard to say that they were truly ready for what this child might bring to their life.

 Archbishop Jackels told me six months ago that I was going to be assigned as Pastor of the Church of the Nativity, as well as retaining my position as chaplain at Mazzuchelli and Wahlert.  Much like a pregnant couple, I was quite surprised since I wasn’t planning on this for at least another year or two, but, nevertheless, it’s happening, ready or not, there’s a date on the calendar.

So, I’ve been preparing as much as one can.  I took my first opportunity after it was announced to meet the staff.  I came over here and toured the facilities with Msgr. Miller. I went to Waterloo to talk to Fr. Scott Bullock, my former rector at seminary here at Loras, about what it means to be a good Pastor.  

But much like having a baby, there is only so much you can do until it’s placed in your arms.  So here I am, and much like parents having a baby, I already love you, I mean, I’ve been praying for you for six months and looking forward to this day when I get to see you, but there is a love that is already there and will grow as I continue to get to know all of you.

Similarly, you will get to know me, and I hope you grow to love me as well.  But whether I am here for 6 years or 12 years, what I really hope is that we all get to know Jesus better, that we grow in love with Him, that is my primary vision. 

In today’s Gospel, a scholar asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life?  This is really the most important thing, the thing that we all seek, eternal life with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.  So Jesus turned the question around and asked the scholar what he thought he must do?

He said in reply,

"You shall love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,

with all your being,

with all your strength,

and with all your mind,

and your neighbor as yourself."

[Jesus] replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."

 We all want to live forever in the Kingdom of Heaven, and as your Pastor, it is my responsibility to help my parishioners to realize that destiny, to grow in holiness as we love God and love our neighbor, more and more every day.  That is my primary vision for Nativity.

It has been interesting being at Resurrection this year with a new Pastor, Fr. Phil Gibbs, and everyone would ask him, what is your vision?  To me, it seemed like a really difficult question to answer, not knowing the people, not knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the parish.

The Church has a really good vision for what a Pastor should do, for what a Parish should be like, but it is all in the framework of getting to know God, to deepen that relationship, as today's gospel says, when we love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind, we can’t help but deepen that relationship every day.

We love what we think about the most. Furthermore, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, especially the people who are in need who are placed in our path, which is the point of the Good Samaritan parable.

 It might seem difficult at times, but Moses said in that first reading, this command to love God, to really know Jesus with all your heart and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves “is not too mysterious and remote for you... No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.

As I get to know the parish and as we get to know each other, hopefully we can grow together in knowing Jesus Christ and understanding His vision for our eternal salvation.

Once again, I am very happy to be here, to be your Pastor.  The Church of the Nativity has had some really great pastors and I hope to live up to them, and in some ways I know you’ll be teaching me what it means to be a good Pastor along the way.  

 Know of my prayers for you, and please pray for me, specifically, if each of you could just pray one Hail Mary for me every day, I would be so appreciative of that. May God bless you always.

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