Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Homily for 30 June 2016

30 June 2016

It’s a pretty common response: You don’t like somebody’s message, and so you “shoot the messenger.”  Amaziah did it to Amos.  And the scribes did it to Jesus.  They “shot the messengers” by trying to discredit them.  And so, we hear that Amos is a conspirator, and that Jesus is a blasphemer . . . of course, they aren’t.  But it’s a common response to attack the messenger when you’re unable to accept the message they bring.

Now, Jesus brings us a message of reconciliation and mercy.  And that’s “good news” for us; we very happily accept it.  But with reconciliation comes the message that we have to admit our sins . . . and that we’re in need of repentance and conversion.  And that’s a message we’d sometimes rather avoid.  Of course, we wouldn’t go so far as to “shoot the messenger.”  But we might give that message of repentance less weight than perhaps Jesus intends.  Or maybe not.

Whenever we hear the Word of God, or hear the voice of the Church, or the voice of our conscience, we’re hearing some message that God wants to tell us.  But the question always is: Do we accept that message?  Whether it’s good or bad, affirming or challenging, do we let Christ deliver his message to us?  For most of us, I imagine the answer is both yes and no.

But the challenge, it seems, is for us to be able to say—with peaceful acceptance, our psalm from today: “The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.”  However God intends to guide us, can we say from our heart that he speaks truth, and that he speaks justly?  Whether he’s giving us consolation in the heart, or a sense of guilt or sorrow, can we say—either way—that: “The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.” 

If we can do that, then a whole new world is opened up to us.  If we can do that, then every day is like a fresh start.  If we can be humble before God the Messenger, then we can his companion and friend, today and for all eternity.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Homily for 29 June 2016

29 June 2016
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

There’s something strange about the Church.  On the one hand, we recognize the primacy of Saint Peter.  He’s the one to whom Jesus gave “the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.”  He’s the one upon whom Jesus said he would “build my Church.”  But, on the other hand, it’s usually Saint Paul’s words and teachings that we’re familiar with. 

Paul said: “The time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”  We hear that at funerals all the time.  He also said: “Faith, hope and love remain; these three.  But the greatest of these is love.”  We hear that at weddings all the time.  And at every Mass we hear Paul’s words of greeting: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Peter’s words, on the other hand, don’t spring to mind as readily.  And so, there’s something strange about the Church.  Saint Peter is the “rock” foundation of the Church; and yet it more often seems like Saint Paul really is.  But, perhaps, this is how God planned it. 

After all, God works through the community of the faithful.  Authority doesn’t rest with a single person; even God, who’s the ultimate authority, isn’t a single person—God is a Trinity.  And so, with this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, we celebrate the way God reveals his mind and his mercy; it’s the way of companionship.

When Peter was locked up in prison, it was “the Church”—it was the faithful who were of one mind and heart—who called to God for help.  The Church is a community of companions, bound together by the Holy Spirit.  And so, we celebrate the Church, not for its own sake, but because it’s the primary way God reveals himself to the world. 

To be real companions in faith is to be the living presence of God in the world.  And that’s what Saints Peter and Paul were; they were companions in faith.  And that’s what we are (or should be): Companions in faith.  And in that, everybody has a role to play.  Peter and Paul had theirs: Peter was the rock; Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The question, though, is: What’s our role in the Church?  It’s to be a companion; but to whom and in what way?  How can we share the gospel through the gift of companionship?

Homily for 28 June 2016

28 June 2016

The prophet Amos asks: “Do two [people] walk together unless they have agreed?”  Can two people be companions and friends if they haven’t each said yes to it?  And the answer is: Probably not.  In other words, there needs to be some sort of covenant between them.  Without that, it’s easy for someone to just walk away—especially when “the going gets rough.”

And that’s what we see there in the boat on the stormy sea.  Jesus got into the boat, and his disciples “followed him.”  And I think we can see the boat as a metaphor for the covenant; they’re “in it together.”  Now, Jesus was asleep in the boat; he was totally at peace with the commitment he’d made to his disciples.  “No storm could shake his inmost calm.”

But the disciples were all frantic because the boat—the covenant with Jesus—was being tested.  Of course, our own boat—our own faith in Jesus—is shaken sometimes.  And, usually, it’s not anything that God has done.  It’s usually something that’s happened around us, or in the world.  Life can be like the stormy sea.  Life tests us to see if we’ve really agreed to walk with the Lord. 

And the “test” isn’t to see how smooth we can make our life.  Really, the “test” is to see what (and who) our rock is when life gets rough.  When life throws a curve-ball, it’s good to pay attention to what we do.  Do we jump ship and try to find a replacement for Jesus?  Or do we stay in the boat and let Jesus take care of the curve-ball.?

Two people can’t walk together unless they’ve each said “yes” to the friendship.  And we can’t weather the storms of life unless we’ve said “yes” to the Lord’s friendship.  We know he says “yes” to us; we see that every time he offers us his Body and Blood.  And we know we’ve said “yes” to him.  But will our “yes” remain strong and true?  Will we have faith when the storms of life come passing by?   

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Homily for 26 June 2016

26 June 2016
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

It’s a common story in Scripture: Someone is called by God and they leave everything to follow that call.  We hear it in the story of Elisha.  He’s out there just plowing his fields; but then Elijah comes by and—just like that!—life is changed for him.  Elisha slaughters his oxen and turns his equipment into a barbecue.  It’s a pretty radical destruction of his old life to follow the will of God.

We see the same thing happen with the Apostles.  Jesus said to them: “Follow me.”  And they did.  Peter, James and John left their fishing boat on the shore and walked away with Jesus.  They even left their nets just sitting there in the boat; everything they needed they left behind.  And it happened the same way with Andrew, Philip, and the rest of them.  Matthew was sitting at his table collecting taxes; Jesus walked by and said, “Follow me,” so Matthew did.  He left everything and made a radical change in his life.

And that’s one way people are called to follow the Lord: by a radical change in life.  The other way is a call to simply remain with the Lord; to stay on the “straight and narrow” path they’ve already been on.  We see this with our Blessed Mother.

She was born free from original sin and was always close to the Lord.  And yet she, too, had that call from God to a still deeper commitment.  She didn’t have to radically change her life; she just had to stay firm on that path God had put her on.  And I imagine we all know people who’ve been called in this way.

They’ve just always been a good person; they seem to have had the Spirit of God guiding them from an early age.  Maybe it’s a friend of ours, or a family member, or somebody who inspires.  Certainly, there are many Saints who fall into this category; Saints like: Therese of the Little Flower, Francis de Sales, and our patroness, Saint Bernadette.

And so, some people are called to follow the Lord through a radical change in life.  While others are called just to stay on the path they’re already on.  But, either way, that call from God isn’t necessarily because we’re sinners.  After all, Elisha wasn’t an especially great sinner.  Neither was Peter, or James or John.  Now, Matthew was a bit of a sinner.  Mary Magdalene was.  Saint Paul certainly was a big-time sinner.  But Saint John wasn’t.

The call to follow the Lord—either by a radical change in life, or by remaining steady in what we’re doing—isn’t about our sinfulness.  The call to follow the Lord isn’t about our sinfulness.  It’s about being an instrument of God in whatever way God needs us to be his instruments. 

When I was considering my own vocational call, God had already inspired me to be a church musician.  It was a pretty natural idea; I’ve been a musician my whole life.  And it would’ve been fine if I’d just stayed on that path.  It’s a good and worthy vocation to bring people to God through music and the arts.  And yet, God put it into my head to think about priesthood, which was definitely a more radical change in direction for me.

That call wasn’t about me trying to follow a holier or better path in life.  The call was about what God needed.  With Elisha and St Peter, there wasn’t anything wrong with being a farmer, or a fisherman.  In fact, they contributed a lot to the community; they were a presence of God to their neighbors.  And yet God said to them: I need some help—would you come and help me?

And that’s just as important a calling as when God says: I need you to keep doing what you’re doing—would you help me by doing that?  Regardless of how we might feel God calling us, the purpose of that call is always the same; it’s to be an instrument of our God. 

Now, we heard about those people who were jumping at the chance to follow Jesus.  We heard that “as they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ . . . And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’”  Well, maybe Jesus wasn’t calling them to a radical change in life.  Maybe he needed them to just keep being who they were.

Did they think that a radical change in life was more important, or better, or worthier than just “keeping on the straight and narrow?”  I don’t know.  But if they did, they were wrong.  What’s important is not how we follow God, but that we follow God.  God doesn’t love the pope more than people who just try to love God and their neighbor.  He loves them equally.

When we get together for a funeral, we put the white pall over the casket.  And it’s a reminder of our baptismal garment, of course.  But it’s also a reminder that, in God’s eyes, we all have an equal claim on his love—whether we’re ordained or laity, male or female, a leader or a follower.  Whether it’s a pine box, or a beautifully carved walnut casket, the pall is a reminder that—in the end—all that matters to God is that we were faithful to him and his ways.

It’s a common story in Scripture: Someone is called by God and they leave everything to follow that call.  It’s just as common a story that someone is called by God to stay put, and to continue doing what they’re already doing.  Either way the call is exactly the same: to be an instrument of God and an agent of love.

And so, whoever we are and whatever we do, let’s remember to give thanks to God for all the many vocations in life he gives us: mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, family, friends, doctors and nurses, teachers and scientists, artists and musicians, politicians and public servants, the bagger at the grocery store, the guy who helps out in the lumber department, the nameless person across the street, the gentle beggar, the priest, the deacon, the bishop, the loud people, the quiet people, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Whatever the calling, it’s exactly the same: to be an instrument of God and an agent of love.  And, in the end, all that matters to God is that we were faithful to him, and that we paid attention to him say, “Follow me.” 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Homily for 25 June 2016

25 June 2016

There’s always a struggle in politics.  And by “politics” I mean: The science and the craft of making human society function well.  There’s always a struggle in that.  And struggle seems to be: Figuring out our place in the grand scheme of things.  And we ask questions like: What is the role of the family?  What is the role of the Church?  How should the government and the people relate to one another?

Those are pretty big questions, for sure.  But the individual asks the same questions: What’s my role in my family?  What’s my role in the parish?  What’s my position and responsible to my neighbors?  And I’m sure we’ve all seen and heard individuals who put themselves on a pretty high pedestal.  We have a lot of self-proclaimed prophets running around.  And that makes the struggle of politics even more of a challenge.

Maybe this is why Jesus was “amazed” when he heard the Roman centurion speak.  The centurion was a politically powerful man; yet, he felt compassion for his servant.  But that’s because the centurion knew that he himself was also a servant to others.  That Roman centurion knew his place in the grand scheme of things; and so, even though he was powerful, he cared for the weak and he depended on God’s mercy.  For Jesus, the centurion was like a breath of fresh air; he was “amazed” at his faith.

And that’s a gift of our faith: We know our strengths and our limitations; we know that we are not God, but that God alone is God; and we’re more humble and grateful and stable in a sometimes unstable world.

There’s always a struggle in politics.  It isn’t easy to make human society function well; and it’s almost impossible without faith.  Faith reminds us that there’s only one King of the Hill, and the rest of us are simply servants . . . of other servants.        

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Homily for 24 June 2016

24 June 2016
Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

It never fails; every summer there’s road construction going on somewhere.  And just when you think you have your detour all figured out, it changes.  And in those times, sometimes you just have to follow the detour signs to get where you want to be. 

Of course, this is how life usually happens, too.  We’re going along, and then we get a sign that pushes us onto another path.  And, while that is sometimes annoying, other times it’s a very great blessing.  And that’s what we celebrate today with the birth of John the Baptist.  We celebrate the birth of a detour sign.  And he says: “Go this way!  Go toward the Lamb of God!  There he is!”

Of all the saints we ask to pray for us, St. John the Baptist is one of the big ones.  And that’s because he was born simply—and only—to redirect us toward Jesus.  That’s his whole reason for being: to be a detour sign reminding us to stay on the right path. 

How many times does it seem that we ask the Lord for guidance?  “Lord, show me a sign.”  “Lord, show me what to do.  Help me.”  And he does help us.  He gives us John the Baptist as a powerful intercessor; as a guide.  But that “spirit” of John the Baptist also seems to live on in: our mentors, the help of friends, in words of wisdom we hear, and in those “ah-ha!” moments when we get some clear direction.

The “good news” we celebrate today is that God does not leave us to wander around, lost.  We know that.  And so, if we’re ever lost in our spiritual life, or life in general, maybe we missed a detour sign along the way.  Saint John the Baptist, pray for us; show us the way to Jesus.       

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Homily for 19 June 2016

19 June 2016
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“The Lord is my shepherd.  There is nothing I shall want.  In green pastures he gives me repose.  Beside restful waters he leads me.”  It’s one of the more popular images of Jesus: Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  With Jesus by our side, everything will be okay.  And that’s true.  And it’s certainly a reason to celebrate our God and the fact that he is our Shepherd.  How lucky are we to have such a kind and gracious God.

In fact, if Jesus were to ask us, “Who do people say that I am?” we could easily say: “Many people see you, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd—as a kind, merciful, loving God who walks with us and keeps us safe.  You are a reason for people to celebrate, Jesus; you’re the Bringer of hope and wisdom, peace and truth.”  And that’s all true.

Saint Peter himself could have said the same thing, and he did; except he said it very simply: “You are the Christ of God,” Jesus; the Anointed One of God.  And that’s what we generally expect Jesus to be: the Good Shepherd who leads us to peace; the Christ of God who is sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free.”  It’s who we expect Jesus to be, because he tells us that’s who he is.

And yet, he “scolded” Peter for speaking the truth about him.  And Jesus does the same to us whenever we call him “the Good Shepherd,” or the “Christ,” or the “Savior.”  Now, the word “scold” in our translation is a maybe a little harsh, because we think of “scolding” as “criticizing somebody with anger.”  But the original Greek word (epitimÄ“sas) means “to sternly warn someone, so as to teach them something.”  It’s “a warning to prevent something from going wrong.”

If you’re a parent, you know what it’s like to say to your kids: “Don’t run out into the road!  You might get hit by a car.”  It’s the same thing here when Jesus “sternly warns” us. 

But what could go wrong with Peter calling Jesus “the Christ of God?”  It’s who he is.  And what could go wrong by us calling him “the Good Shepherd” and celebrating that Good News?  What could go wrong?  Well, it seems that the potential problem is in our expectations.

Now, we’ve all seen Christian denominations that celebrate God’s goodness to the hilt.  And it’s becoming more common among Catholics.  We hear that: God is good—all the time.  God is loving—all the time.  And, of course, God is good and loving all the time.  But our expectation of what that means can get in the way.  What happens when God appears to be less-than-loving, or absent?  When our expectations of God aren’t met, the gospel message leaves kind of a sour taste—because so often we expect Christ’s words to be . . . sweet and uplifting.

Jesus “scolds” Peter and us—not for speaking the truth about him, but to warn us about putting more faith in our expectations of him, than in who he really is.  Like a parent, Jesus says: “Don’t run out into the road!  You might get hit by a car!  Don’t be carried away by your expectations of me!  You might get hit by a truth you won’t like!”

And there’s certainly some wisdom in what he’s saying.  You know, we love Jesus when he brings us comfort and peace.  But we get a little leery of Jesus when he starts talking about the cross and suffering.  But, you know, all of it—the joy, the peace, the suffering, the trials—all of it is part of the gospel message.  And so, while we can expect the Good Shepherd to lead us to green pastures and peaceful waters, we can also expect him to lead us to some hard truths and experiences in life that are probably going to make us uncomfortable.

And this is why Jesus is so stern in his warning.  If we expect Jesus to be an eternally gentle God, a God who does “whatever we ask in his name,” we will be disappointed.  We’ll be “confounded” in our expectations.  And our faith will be put into doubt.  The whole gospel message will appear to be a sham.

Maybe this is why Saint Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified.”  Not just Christ, but Christ crucified.  Suffering is part and parcel of our life as followers of Christ.  When we say “yes” to Jesus, we say “yes” to all of Jesus and what he’s about.  He is about love, mercy, peace and forgiveness.  And he is about struggle, suffering, Blood and tears.  This is what our faith in Christ means: It means accepting both the good and the bad, the happiness and the pain.

One line in the Book of Job that’s always hard to read says: “We accept good from God; should we not also accept evil?”  It’s not that God would do anything evil.  But our expectations of God’s goodness are what make us judge events in life as either “good” or “evil.”  When “bad things happen to good people,” what we suffer is not only the real pain of sorrow and distress.  We also suffer the very hard demands of faith, hope, and love.

When something bad happens, we might wonder: “Where was God?  God let us down.”  The other question, however, is: “Where are we?  Will we let God down?  Is our faith in our expectations of God, or in God as he is?”  Jesus said: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place.  They will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.  And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.”

And, of course, we have the suffering and death of the Son of God himself.  Jesus hits us with some hard truths about how the world goes.  But he doesn’t do that to scare us; he does it to prepare us.  It’s a warning to us so that we can prevent something from going wrong.  And the “something” that could wrong, is that we’d lose our faith simply because trial and suffering come our way.

In literature and movies, and even in real history, there’s often a character called “the wise old man,” or the “wise old woman.”  They’re “wisdom figures” who tell stories and have lots of wisdom to share.  They encourage people to reach their full potential.  They’re warm and inviting people, and yet they also speak sternly and truthfully; and so, their message is sometimes welcomed, and sometimes not. And this is a role Jesus plays for us; he is the definitive “wise old man” for us.

And he’s giving us all a “stern warning.” He looks us square in the eye and says: “If you want to love me, then love me as I am—not as you want me to be.  If you want to be my disciple, then stop trying to be the teacher, and be the student.”  In other words, Jesus is the Christ of God; he is the eternally Good Shepherd.  And we have every reason to celebrate that our God is among us.

But exactly how he is our Shepherd and our God, that’s for him to tell us.  And, with that, we can have real faith in him.  No matter what happens in life, our hope can be in him.  Our love can be for him—as he is.  May the psalm from today be our prayer always: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”  My soul is thirsting for . . . you.      

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Homily for 17 June 2016

17 June 2016

“Store up treasures in heaven,” Jesus says, rather than “treasures on earth.”  And with that Jesus isn’t saying the world is bad.  Instead, he’s saying, “Enjoy the life on earth you’ve been given, but remember to keep an eye toward what lasts eternally.”  And some of the eternal is here on earth; and they’re rather everyday things.

One “treasure of heaven” is our memory, those emotions and thoughts of another time in our life.  We can revisit them because they exist somewhere between heaven and earth.  Even though we might forget or even lose our memories, the memories are, nonetheless, there.  They’re part of the tapestry of life; a tapestry whose vivid memory we’ll enjoy in heaven with clear sight.  Memories are a “treasure of heaven.”

And all this week in Scripture, God has offered us various other “treasures of heaven.”  On Tuesday, we saw that what God asks of us is pretty simple.  But, sometimes, that gets all muddied up when we start putting other’s so-called “commandments” ahead of God’s.  Jesus breaks into that and he says: “You have heard from others that it was said . . . , but I say to you: Love one another.  Follow me.  Learn from me.”  There’s a “treasure of heaven” we can store up: Being a student of Christ and a lover of God.

On Wednesday, we saw that it feels good to be praised by others; that it’s encouraging.  But that sort of earthly praise comes and goes.  But the kind of praise that doesn’t fade is when God himself tickles our heart and whispers to us: “Well done, my good and faithful friend,” whenever we do something good.  It’s a very great “treasure of heaven” to let God’s love be enough for us.

And yesterday we heard that God doesn’t need us to say lots of words in our prayer; words are spoken and they die off.  Instead, the Lord desires us simply to rest in him.  Like a little child who falls asleep on a parent’s shoulder, or while being held against the chest.  It’s another of those “treasures of heaven:” simply being with Our Father . . . in stillness and in peace.

The “treasures of heaven” are all around us.  We just need to see them for what they are, and enjoy them.  If we can do that, we’ll be well on our way to storing up a wealth of treasure in heaven.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Homily for 16 June 2016

16 June 2016

The woman came into church quietly; the aroma of incense was still heavy, and there were about ten people praying before the Blessed Sacrament.  She knelt in the pew, closed her eyes, and said in her heart: “Almighty God, I come before you . . .”  And no more words came to her.  She tried to stir up some words to say to God, but none came. 

For a couple minutes, she knelt there in silence, struggling to force some words out.  But none came; she had no words to say to God, even though she felt she should.  She almost started to cry in frustration.  But then an angel came and inspired her to simply say: “Father.”  Like a slowly tolling bell, she said again and again: “Father. . . Father. . . Father. . .”  Each time a little quieter. 

And after a while, she slipped into the most sublime prayer: the prayer of just being with God.  Like a couple who just enjoys being with each other; no words spoken.  Or like a child who falls asleep on a parent’s shoulder, or while resting against a warm chest, and just murmurs quietly: “Our Father . . . Our Father . . .”

Sometimes the glory of God is shown in mighty deeds, like those of Elijah and Elisha.  Other times, the glory of God is easy to miss, like that woman in the pew who eventually came to enjoy just being with God.  God doesn’t need our many words in prayer; instead, he desires us simply to rest in him.  May we have a touch of God’s glory, by simply being with Our Father from time to time . . . in stillness and in peace. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Homily for 15 June 2016

15 June 2016

This is a hard gospel to hear: Pray, give alms, and fast for the love of God . . . but don’t tell anybody what you’re doing.  It’s like asking a dog to sit and roll over . . . and then not giving it a treat for doing a good job!  After all, many of us get encouraged when other people recognize the good we’re doing.  It feels good to be praised by others.  But Jesus cautions us about that.

“Take care,” he says, “not to [give alms, or pray, or fast] in order that people may see [what you do].”  Those are all good and pious things to do, of course.  But, Jesus says, whatever we do—if we’re doing it out of personal love for God—then let God’s praise alone be our reward.  And that’s hard.  It’s hard, especially if we’re used to seeking the approval and support of others.

But that’s what Jesus asks of us—when it comes to our personal piety: to do good things for the sheer joy of doing them, even if nobody else knows we’ve done them, other than God.  Now, St. Therese of Lisieux wrote about a “secret delight” she had; a “secret joy” that was in her heart.  And that “secret” was simply her relationship with the Lord.  Whatever she did, it was a private gift of herself to God, a private act of love shared between her and God.  That was her “secret delight;” being able to say to God behind closed doors: “Your love is enough for me."

It feels good to be praised by others; it’s encouraging.  But it especially tickles our heart when God himself whispers to us: “Well done, my good and faithful friend.”  May God’s love and praise be enough for us.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Homily for 14 June 2016

14 June 2016

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”  The problem is: When was that ever said?  There is no commandment in the Law of Moses demanding that one should have hatred for an enemy.  In the Old Testament, sinners and enemies were to be looked down on, and admonished and corrected, yes.  But, hated?  No.  There never was such a commandment; at least, from God there wasn’t.

Maybe Jesus is referring to one of the many laws that mankind had “tacked onto” the Law of God.  God doesn’t ask us to hate our enemies; but the sinful heart of humanity does.  That’s where that so-called “commandment” came from: it came from the heart of man—an otherwise good heart, but still affected by sin."

And this should make us wonder: What other “commandments” and “expectations” are there in our hearts which are not from God?  Jesus says: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  But, you know, there’s another “commandment” in people’s hearts which sounds very similar: “Be perfect, just as those stars on television are perfect.”  Or worse yet: “Be perfect, just as other people expect you to be."

Or what about the pressure we might feel to be like our favorite saints?  Do you look at an image of Saint Francis, or Saint Bernadette, or saint whomever and say: “If only I could be holy like they are . . . Why can’t I just be good like them?”  Of course, Jesus doesn’t say: “Be like Saint Francis.”  He doesn’t say: “Be like Saint Bernadette.”  Jesus says: “Follow me.  Learn from me.  I made you."

What God asks of us is pretty simple.  But that gets all clogged up when we have those false “commandments” in our hearts.  And when that happens, Jesus breaks in to clear it up, and he says: “’You have heard from others that it was said . . . , but I say to you, ‘Love one another—your friends, your enemies, and yourselves—as I love you.  Follow me.  Learn from me.   My voice is true.”          

Friday, June 10, 2016

Homily for 11 June 2016

11 June 2016
Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

Nobody likes to pay bills; at least, I haven’t met anyone who likes paying bills.  Every time you pay a bill . . . you have less money.  It’s kind of sad how that works.  Happily, though, the way God figures it, the more we give, the more we have!

Jesus tells his Apostles, “As you enter a house, wish it peace.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.”  So, either way, by offering peace to others, we’ll come out ahead, or break even.  People who accept our free gift of peace will probably give it back to us in other ways.  And, if not, we still have the peace of God within us knowing we did the right thing.  We never end up in the red by offering somebody peace.

Or we take the Apostles, for example (or Saint Barnabas, on his feast day today).  Giving a sincere “yes” to God yields a pretty big return.  In exchange for their “yes,” God gave them an adventure!  Casting out demons, curing the sick, raising the dead, being a voice of encouragement and love for others.  If you’re really into life and doing what’s right and just, saying “yes” to God gives a pretty high return.

But that’s how God works: the more we give, the more we have.  And what we can each give to God is what he’s given to us—those very precious gifts of faith, hope, and love.  The more faith we put in God, the deeper the life we have.  The more hope we have in God, the greater the happiness in our hearts.  And the more love we have for God, the more love we have for all.

Jesus says, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”  And we needn’t be afraid to give of what God has given us; because, the way God figures it, the more we give, the more we have!  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Homily for 10 June 2016

10 June 2016

What God asks of us is pretty simple and straightforward: Love God, love your neighbors, proclaim the gospel to all.  It’s simple; it’s clear—kind of like the “strong and heavy wind,” the “earthquake,” and the “fire” we hear about in Elijah’s story.  It’s also clear and simple like the Ten Commandments: “Love the Lord your God; Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain; Remember to keep holy the Sabbath; and so on."

What God asks of us is pretty simple and straightforward; it’s hard to miss.  But there’s also more to it; there’s a lot of depth and nuance to what God asks.  As we heard, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you . . .”  In other words, there’s more to it than simply the commandment.

And at the mountain of God, Elijah sees and hears the loud clashing of the wind, the earthquake, and the fire.  But then comes . . . the whisper; there comes the depth of meaning God wants to reveal to Elijah.  What God asks of us is pretty simple and straightforward, but there’s always more to the story.

It’s one of the great gifts of the Catholic Church—we really try to dig into the meaning of what God is saying.  For instance, the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shall not kill.”  And yet sometimes to kill in self-defense is permissible.  There’s the commandment, and the nuanced understanding of the commandment.

And we can apply this approach to God’s law in many areas of life.  For instance, God said: “Honor your father and your mother.”  But what if someone’s parents were abusive?  The commandment doesn’t go out the window; but it needs to be more deeply understood; we have to be quiet enough to hear God whispering to us a good interpretation of that commandment.

Or, what about the commandment to “love your enemies?”  It’s simple and clear.  And, yet, sometimes it does more harm than good to try to love your enemies.  It’s an extreme example, but, you know, terrorists aren’t really that interested in being loved.  Satan isn’t interested in being loved.  The commandment is still there: “Love your enemies.”  But, exactly how we do that, has to be considered with intelligence and with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Church.

What God asks of us is pretty simple and straightforward.  But there’s always more to it than just the commandment.  Behind the strong wind of clarity comes the gentle breeze of nuance.  May we be still enough to let that breeze show us the way.