Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Homily for 11 April 2018

11 April 2018

We celebrate the Eucharist in order to give thanks to God.  We thank him because, as we hear in the Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone…might have eternal life.”  We thank God for his love for us.

We also thank God for those who went through great danger to bring us the good news of God’s love.  There are the Apostles, in our first reading, who were put in prison and then set free by an angel.  But instead of using the opportunity to run away and be safe, they went right back into the lion’s den and kept preaching. 

Then there is Saint Stanislaus, whose memorial we celebrate today.  He had wealth and security, but gave it all to the poor and became a parish priest.  He was known for his skills in spiritual direction and became a reluctant bishop.  And he preached against sinful living, which the king at the time didn’t like.  So Stanislaus was murdered while celebrating the Mass, in 1079.

We give thanks to God for his love.  And we give thanks for those in our past and in our present who reassure of God’s love for us, who bring us the good news of God’s very great love.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Homily for 10 April 2018

10 April 2018

“The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus says.  The interesting thing, though, is that the wind is not the air.  The air is already there; it’s a physical thing; we know “where it comes from and where it goes.”  But the wind, well that’s the force that moves the air.  And, spiritually speaking, we don’t know “where it comes from or where it goes.” 

And the point is that we’re like the air, and the Holy Spirit is like the wind that makes the air move.  Our basic calling in life is to be carried along by the Holy Spirit.  That’s part of the meaning in what Jesus says about being “born from above;” being “brought forth” on the winds of Heaven.  Of course, being carried along by that wind could be enjoyable, or scary even.

When we say, “Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit…Lord, help me to be your presence in the world today…Lord, show me the right thing to do,” whenever we try to let God take the lead, we never quite know where we’re going to end up.  We don’t know where the Holy Spirit is going to carry us off to.  It might be into a greater experience of life.  It might be down a path that really challenges us.  It might be toward an experience of the Cross.  Who knows.  Who knows where the wind will carry us off to.  We certainly don’t know.

But we do have some idea; after all, Jesus has gone before us.  We know where he’s at.  And where he’s at is where the Holy Spirit comes from and goes back to.  And so, sooner or later, if we let ourselves be carried along by the winds of the Holy Spirit, we’ll end up in a really good place: in heaven, with all the angels and the saints, with all our loved ones who’ve gone before us, all together in one place, loving God and being loved by him; happily, eternally.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Homily for 5 April 2018

5 April 2018
(School Mass)

Jesus doesn’t lie.  When he says something is going to happen, it does; like his resurrection.  Before he died on the Cross, Jesus told everybody he was going to rise from the dead.  And he did.  So why were the Apostles all scared and amazed when he came to them?  Well, because they didn’t believe him.  They didn’t believe him.  And that’s okay, because eventually they did believe. 

And that’s the important thing...they eventually believed him.  And that’s how it is with us, too.  We hear Jesus say things all the time, right?  For example, we go to confession and we hear the priest say, “Your sins are forgiven.”  But do we believe him?  Or we hear Jesus say, “Be not afraid, I am with you always.”  But do we believe him?  Or what about at the Mass when Jesus says, “This is my Body, given up for you.”  Do we believe him?

And I would bet the answer is: “Well, sometimes I believe him.  Sometimes I do.  But, sometimes I’m not sure.”  So we’re not all that different from those Apostles, right?, who were sitting there and then, oh my gosh, there’s Jesus standing there risen from the dead!

But then Jesus said, “Touch my hands and my feet.  Give me some food to eat, so you can I really am here.”  Jesus had to prove it to his Apostles that he wasn’t a liar, that he was trustworthy.  And did that so the Apostles could then go out and prove to others that Jesus told the truth.  And that’s why we have the Church and her bishops, and the priests and deacons, and the pope.  It’s why we have all the saints and all the angels.  The whole Church exists to show the world that Jesus is trustworthy; that what he says is true—even resurrection from the dead.

So if we find ourselves maybe a little doubtful in our faith, that’s okay.  But then we want to be sure to listen even closer to what the Church says about Jesus.  And if we’re really strong in our faith, well, that’s good.  But then we have to be sure to share our faith, and to teach others—very gently—that what Jesus says is true, and that he can be trusted.

When Jesus says something is going to happen, it does—even rising from the dead.  Do you believe him?  Jesus, help us when we doubt you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Homily for 25 Mar 2018

25 Mar 2018
Palm Sunday

A week from now we’ll be celebrating Easter, and we’re getting for that: deciding what to make for Easter dinner, who’s coming over.  Just yesterday I was at the store and bought some jelly beans.  Easter is coming and we’re looking forward to it.

But, of course, Easter does not stand alone.  The holiday exists in relation to the Passion and the Cross of our Lord.  At Easter, we celebrate that Christ died for our sins, of course.  But we also celebrate the revelation of the Tree of Life.

Remember back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were expelled.  Well, they (and all of humanity) were cut off from the Tree of Life in the center of the garden.  They couldn’t get to it; they didn’t have any way to access Paradise.  But...with the Resurrection, the wooden Cross is revealed as the Tree of Life.  The Cross is our access to Paradise!

At Easter celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection, but with that we also rejoice that the door to Paradise has been shown to us!  In his resurrection, Jesus points back to the Cross and says, “That’s the Way!  If you want to be with me in Paradise, go that Way!”    

And that’s why each year we hear the Passion.  It’s why we carry the Cross in our processions.  It’s why on Good Friday we venerate the Cross; we kiss it and bow to it; we touch it; we reverence it—the Cross, the doorway to Paradise.  It’s why in Catholic churches we surround ourselves with the Stations of the Cross.

The Cross is everything to us.  Next Sunday as we’re celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, let’s be sure to also celebrate what the resurrection reveals to us—it reveals the Cross, it validates selfless love as the door to Paradise. 

Paradise is opened again to humanity.  And the Cross is the doorway.  Thanks be to God for the Cross.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Homily for 23 Mar 2018

23 Mar 2018

“To err is human; to forgive, divine” (Alexander Pope, 1711).  For a long time, since at least the beginning of the Church, we’ve recognized that who we are and what we do is blend of both human and divine.  We’re entirely human, but...we also have some divinity within us—not only in a figurative and poetic, but in a literal sense.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  To stumble and fall is human; to get up and humbly keep going, divine.  To be weak is human; to accept the help of another, divine.  To compete is human; to practice good sportsmanship, divine.  To make mistakes is human; to learn and grow, divine.  We’re entirely human, but we have some divinity within us, too. 

And the more that divine part of us grows, the more we experience what we call “resurrected life.”  The resurrection isn’t just for when we die, it’s for today, too.  You know, at the heart of our God—literally in his very core, is Love itself: love, selfless sharing, companionship, compassion, vulnerability,  And love is really at the core of who we are and what we do.  At our core, as humans, is divinity. 

And that’s really an astounding thing...we’re humans, and yet, we have something of the divine life built into us.  We’re human, but perhaps not entirely.  We’re also—at least, a little bit—like God, too.  And our prayer is that we “come to share in the divinity of Christ,” more and more each day, “as he humbled himself to share in our humanity.” 

May we come to share in the divinity of Christ, as he humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Homily for 22 Mar 2018

22 Mar 2018
(School Mass)

If God were standing right in front of you…would you recognize him?  That’s a good question.  You know, last week I asked how many of you were Christians.  And everybody raised their hands.  Well, being a “Christian” is the same as saying, “I follow Christ.  I belong to Christ.”  And we do that as part of the Church—the community of believers all around the world, the “Catholic” Church.

So, we’re followers of Christ, disciples of Christ, but…if he were standing right of us, would we recognize him?  You know, it’s hard to be a Christian if we can’t recognize Christ.  It would be like saying, “I’m a basketball player, but I don’t really know the rules of the game.”  It’s one thing to know how to dribble and how put the ball through the hoop.  That’s good, but if I’m going to call myself a basketball “player,” then I also need to know the rules of the game.

If we’re going to call ourselves “Christian,” then we have to know Christ, because he’s the one we say we’re following.

So, if Jesus were standing right in front of us…would we recognize him?  What would we look for?  Well, somebody who’s truthful and honest.  Somebody who is kind, somebody who loves life and has an uplifting spirit.  Somebody who’s courageous and tells you the truth, even if it means you might not like them because of it.  There are lots of ways to recognize Jesus.  We could spend all day talking about that (but you have to go to school, so we won’t).

If Jesus were standing right in front of us—right in front of you and me—would we recognize him?  What would you be looking for?  That’s a good question.  And it’s a question we’ll spend our whole lives trying to answer: Jesus, who are you?  Help me to see you and to hear you…more clearly…every day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Homily for 18 Mar 2018

18 March 2018
5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

So you came into church today and noticed, “Hey, something is different.”  And, of course, you see our statues are covered in purple cloth.  Something is different.  And what’s changed is: where we are in the season of Lent.  We’re a week away from Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.  Very soon Lent will come to an end.  But before we get to Easter, we go deeper into the spirit of this season, and we begin to focus more on the Passion.

We see more purple, that reminder of penitence.  We cover our statues as a way to fast from images.  We become more intent on prayer and works of charity, almsgiving, and such.  Before the light of Easter comes, things get a little darker.  They get more intense, more subdued, and more focused on the mysteries of our faith we’ll be celebrating next week.  And at the heart of those mysteries is the Passion.

So, yes, something is different.  We’ve turned the corner, and the Passion is coming into view—not only Christ’s Passion, but our own.

Over the past five weeks we’ve prayed more, we’ve fasted, we’ve given alms.  And we’ll keep doing that.  And those are all disciplines which help us redirect our passions.  God has made us to be passionate creatures.  He’s made us capable of being moved in our souls by the force of intense emotions and feelings.  And, in that, he’s made us like himself. 

We call Jesus’ Passion his “passion” because he fulfilled perfectly this idea of being “moved,” to the point that his life was swept up into this thing he was passionate about; namely, the Kingdom of God, the Will of God, and salvation.  If you think of somebody who really “gets into” what his or her interests and talents are, that’s what we mean by “passion.”  They give their lives over to that thing.  They’re passionate about the thing they have a passion for.

And our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is meant to redirect our passions toward what God is passionate about.  The Lord is passionate about: human dignity, justice, life, mercy, beauty, truth, and so on.  Lent is about redirecting our passions (or at least, broadening our passions) to include what God is passionate about.

Lent seems to boil down to Jesus asking us: Can you have passion in your heart for what I am passionate about?  After five weeks of Lent, something is different.  We’re entering into a time of more intense personal reflection: Am I becoming passionate (at least, a little more) about what the Lord is passionate about?  Am I beginning to let his Passion become my passion, too?  And that’s a deep question for reflection here in the last couple of weeks of Lent.

Something is different.  And it’s reflected in Scripture, and in the language we hear.

The Letter to the Hebrews talks about how Jesus learned “obedience” through what he “suffered.”  Obedience and suffering: those are two intense words for us.  Number one, we treasure our individual liberty, and so the idea of obedience isn’t something we swallow very well (even with a “spoonful of sugar,” it doesn’t go down well).  And number two, most of us don’t like to feel pain or distress; and so we keep that idea of suffering at arm’s length.  “Obedience” and “suffering” are two ideas that trip the passionate side of us, and we say, “No.  No, I’m not going there.”

But, you know, Scripture wasn’t written in English.  It was written in Greek and Hebrew. 

The word “obey” is from the Latin “obedíre,” which means basically “to listen to” someone.  And the Greek in Scripture is “hupa-kónay,” which means “to respond to someone who’s speaking.”  “Obedience” doesn’t mean “do what I say or die.”  That’s not obedience; that’s tyranny.  Obedience begins with trust; it begins with a relationship.  A person who “obeys” says, “I trust you.  I trust you, and I trust that what you say is good, and so I’m gonna do it.”  To be obedient is to be passionate about our God who is...trustworthy.  Obedience is about a partnership with God, and that’s something we can be passionate about.

And the word “suffer” is from the Latin “sufferíre,” which literally means “to hold up something from underneath,” to “sustain” something.  Just think of trying to change a light fixture on the ceiling; you have to hold that thing up there while you connect the wirings and get it attached to the ceiling.”  Well, you’re “suffering” that light’re holding it up.  In the Scriptures, the Greek word here is “pás-koh,” which sounds a lot like “paschal” in the paschal lamb and the paschal mysteries. 

“Pas-koh” means “to feel heavy emotion.”  It means to feel heavy emotion, to bear the weight of something—and this in important, it’s an emotion or a weight that’s either bad or good.  We think of suffering and we think of something bad, something painful.  But that’s not necessarily what suffering is. 

Any parent or grandparent who has carried the heavy weight of seeing their kids or grandkids leave their faith knows what suffering is.  But it’s not a bad suffering; it’s a good suffering.  And the weight is the weight of having a caring heart, a loving heart.  When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, “soon to be destroyed for its lack of faith,” he suffered.  But what he was holding up was his own immense Sacred Heart, which fewer and fewer people seemed to care about.  He suffered because he loved.

And so, suffering isn’t about enduring needless, pointless pain.  It’s about being passionate about love: love of God, love of neighbor, and an intense emotional desire to see the Kingdom of God be a reality.  And that kind of suffering is something we can be passionate about, as Jesus is.

“Obedience” and “suffering” aren’t words we like to hear.  But if we understand them, we see that they’re ways we can make the Lord’s passions our own as well.  Again, after five weeks of Lent, something is different.  We’re entering into a time of more intense personal reflection: Am I becoming passionate (at least, a little more) about what the Lord is passionate about?  Am I beginning to let his Passion become my passion, too?

This weekend, our soon-to-be First Communicants will be handing out loaves of blessed bread.  But, more to the point, they’ll be “sharing” that food with others.  It could be seen as a form of almsgiving: giving to others from what we have.  And almsgiving is a way we share in the passion the Lord has for charity, neighborliness, and selfless giving. 

Also, this weekend we’ll celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  The Church teaches that those who are sick in any sort of way serve as reminders to all of us to be passionate about the things of God; to be people of hope, even in the face of illness; to be people of faith; to be people of great love who comfort and console one another.  The Lord is passionate about these things: faith, hope, and love; he’s passionate about those things which endure forever, beyond bodily illness or health.

Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, care for the sick, neighborliness...they’re all things we get involved in because they remind us to be passionate about the things the Lord himself is passionate about.

But, it’s important to clarify something here.  The Lord isn’t asking us to stop living our lives and to substitute his in its place.  The Lord doesn’t want us to annihilate ourselves and our passions.  That would be totally contrary to what the Lord is all about!  No, the Lord is asking us to keep being passionate about the things we’re passionate about (our hobbies, our skills, our talents), but...also to be just a little bit more passionate about what his passions are.

We have to turn to the original Greek Scriptures to understand that.  When Jesus talks about “loving” or “hating” our life in this world, we hear them as very black-and-white terms.  But that’s not what Jesus means.  According to St. John, he says, “ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν κόσμῳ τούτῳ [ho misón tayn psukáyn owtú en kósmo túto].”  Our life here on earth and our life in heaven aren’t opposed to one another; they exist side-by-side. 

And Jesus says, “Love your life here on earth; it is my gift to you.  But love the life of heaven just a little bit more.  Be passionate, but be just a little bit more passionate about God and his vision of the Kingdom.”  Our patroness, Saint Clare, said the same thing.  She said: “Hold everything...’hold’ everything, but with a light grasp.”

Be passionate.  But, especially, be passionate about our Lord, who is passionate about us.