Saturday, September 24, 2016

Homily for 25 Sep 2016

25 Sep 2016
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Word of God is pretty straightforward today.  In a nutshell, it says: Children of God are supposed to be socially just and look after those who are in need.  And so, if we are children of God, then we should take social justice seriously.  That’s the message of the Prophet Amos.  It’s the message of Jesus.

And, really, it’s a message that goes all the way back to Genesis [4:9].  After Cain murdered Abel, God asked Cain, “Where’s your brother?”  And Cain replied with irritation, “I don’t know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Of course, the unspoken answer is: Yes, yes you are your brother’s keeper.  The idea of being socially just doesn’t come from Jesus of Nazareth; it comes from the dawning of creation, when God put it into our DNA to be concerned for others.

This is why Abraham says to the rich man, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”  The call to social justice is in the Law of Moses.  Remember the Ten Commandments: Honor your father and your mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not tell lies about your neighbor, and so on.  It’s a call to be socially just.  And the Ten Commandments aren’t revolutionary; they’re just a reminder of what we humans already know we should do. 

And so, the idea of social justice is there from the start of creation, really.  And with the coming of Christ, that idea is highlighted even more.  So much so that Jesus himself says: “This is how others will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”  That idea of “love for one another” is another way of expressing the idea of “being socially just.”  To be just is to give others what is due to them.  And, since others are fellow humans and creations of God, we owe it to them (and to us) to be loving in whatever way we can. 

And so, the Word of God today is pretty straightforward.  If we are, indeed, sons and daughters of God, then it should be natural for us to be socially just, and look after one another and those who are in need.  Of course, this opens up a very big can of worms, doesn’t it?

A couple of years ago, my class in seminary went to Rome.  We were there for a week, going around to all the usual tourist sites.  And the priest who was leading us said, “Do not give any money to the beggars.”  And he said that several times: “Do not give any money to the beggars; they don’t need it; it’s all a scam.  Don’t give them anything.”  Of course, that goes against the idea of social justice and charity, but we followed his advice.

And as we walked around, we’d see people with crunches, sitting on the sidewalk, with their hands out asking for money.  Or women would come up to us with a child in their arms, and ask us for money for food for the child.  And every time that happened we’d either ignore them or tell them no.  This happened every day, the whole time we were there. 

One person, in particular, kept following our group around one afternoon.  She was a little, frail looking woman in rags who was going from one person to the next, asking for money.  And we would each tell her no—even though it felt kind of weird to do that.  And the priest who was showing us around had finally had enough and he yelled at her and said, “No!  No, grazie, no!”  And she gave him the “evil eye” and went away.  I watched to see where the woman went to, and I saw five or six other women come to support her—and they were all dressed exactly the same.

It was a scam; she wasn’t lonely or destitute.  They had a nice operation going there; they even had their own tailor-made rags.  And that gentleman with the crutches, who was too lame to walk or earn a living—I watched him every day, too.  And, you know, as soon as another beggar would come into his territory, it was like a miracle!  The crutches were laying on the ground, and there he was, chasing away that other beggar away like an athlete.  And then he’d return to his spot on the sidewalk, pick up his crutches and be lame again.

That’s the unfortunate side of social justice—people who take advantage of Christian charity; people who know it’s in our hearts to be generous, but who see that generosity as a blank check.  And, sometimes, it makes a very clear commandment from God very difficult to live out.  Is it socially just to simply give others what they say they need?  Is that social justice?  Or is it socially just, sometimes, to say: “No, you can handle that on your own.”  Is that social justice?  And the answer is: Yes and yes.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul writes, “Those who will not work should not eat” [3:10].  And that sounds rather uncharitable.  But he’s saying: Those who are capable of working and contributing to society—but who refuse to—should not reap the benefits of society; food being one of those benefits.  When it comes to social justice, it isn’t just the individual who is due something; society—the welfare of the common good—is also due something if the individual has it to offer. 

Part of the call to social justice is also the call to help others live more authentically, more fully, using every gift and blessing God has given them.  And so, sometimes, it is just to say: No, you can do that yourself.  You can do it, and you should do it—for your good and the good of others.

At the same time, though, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” [Mt 25:40].  Not every beggar is a scam artist.  Not every person who asks for help is being lazy.  Some people, many people, truly need help; they are hungry, they are homeless, they are lost or lonely. 

Right now in our country are a lot of debates regarding social justice.  Immigration is one.  There’s one line of thinking that our borders should simply be open; anybody can come in and go out.  There’s another line of thinking that our borders should be very tight.  Neither is entirely right or wrong.  It’s a matter of social justice that we help those in real need.  It’s also a matter of social justice that our country protect her citizens from danger.  An open border can be just; and a closed border can be just—it depends on who you’re letting pass through, and why.  What’s just for the individual, and what’s just for the welfare of the country?  It’s not a simple answer.

Gay marriage is another debate that centers on social justice.  Again, it’s a complex question, especially since it involves not only matters of faith, but also federal and state laws—over which the Catholic faith doesn’t necessarily have much influence.  Some people ask: Is it just to say that two people can’t commit themselves to each other just because they’re the same sex?  Other people ask: Is it just for humans to think we can redefine the laws of nature; is it just for humans to try and replace God as the Creator?  Again, it’s a question of social justice; it’s the question: What is due to the individual as a child of God?  What is due to society?  The answer, of course, is charity, compassion, truth.  The Church loves all her children—whoever they are.  The Church also loves the order of creation.  The challenge is to do justice to both.

As I consider the life and direction of Saint Clare Parish, and the big questions on our minds, I see that they center, again, on the idea of social justice.  Every man, woman and child in our parish is due: respect, forgiveness, a second-chance, a third-chance.  Everyone is due such basic things as: charity, a fair hearing, and the ability to contribute to the good of the whole.  And that includes our ancestors in faith, as well as the generations to come.  It’s a monumental task even just here, locally, in the parish to try to be socially just and charitable.

You know, the poor and the needy aren’t just in the big cities; they’re right here, too.  And I don’t mean the economically poor, or the materially poor.  What about those who are lonely?  What about the elderly who live a full life and, now at the end, are alone?  Are they not part of “the poor and the needy?”  Or what about our youth?

I was just reading an article in the diocesan newspaper, the Compass, about why 10-year olds leave the Church.  Here are some of the reasons the kids gave: “Catholic beliefs aren’t based on fact. Everything is hearsay from back before anything could be documented, so nothing can be disproved, but it certainly shouldn’t be taken seriously.” And “Because I grew up and realized it was a story like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”  And “I realized that religion is in complete contradiction with the rational and scientific world, and to continue to subscribe to a religion would be hypocritical.”  Are some of our youth “poor and needy?”  Yes, definitely.                   

And then there are those among us—teens, middle aged, and old alike—who simply desire belonging and acceptance.  They don’t want to take advantage of Christian charity; they’d just like to receive some every now and then to know they’re loved and that they’re worth something to somebody.  The poor and the needy are all around us; we ourselves may be the poor and the needy.

Our Scripture readings today are pretty straightforward.  In a nutshell, they say: Children of God are supposed to be socially just and look after those who are in need.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Yes, we are.  And we are because God himself is our keeper.  As we heard in the psalm today: “The Lord sets captives free; the Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down; the Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers; the orphan and the helpless he sustains.” 

If God does all this and more in a spirit of what it right and just, certainly we can do it, too—because we are children of God, and looking after one another is just what we do.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Homily for 23 Sep 2016

23 Sep 2016

“God has made everything appropriate to its time.”  Even such things as Jesus being revealed as the Christ, or the coming of his passion and death didn’t happen until it was time.  And this is an insight into the ways of God that we have to remember. 

Why is there so much struggle and strife in the world today?  It’s time for it; maybe there are a lot of things in society that need to be straightened out—and it’s time they get straightened out.  But, of course, it won’t last; because peace also has its time.  And a time of peace is coming.  When?  When it’s time.

In the parish we worry a lot about the future: What’s going to happen with our buildings?  What’s going to happen with the shrinking numbers of priests?  What’s going to happen . . . and when are we going to know?  When it’s time to know.  Right now we’re still in a fog but, you know, when the sun rises, it gets rid of all that fog.  When is our spiritual fog going to lift?  When the Light of God rises in our hearts.  When is that going to be?  When it’s time.  But, rest assured, the fog will lift.  That time will come.

And so, it’s both frustrating and reassuring to know that things happen . . . when they’re supposed to happen.  Of course, we want difficult times to be done with, and for good times to hurry up and get here.  That’s the frustrating part.  The reassuring part, though, is in knowing that the good times will come.  And it’s even reassuring to know that we wouldn’t be in difficult times if it wasn’t meant to be.

Maybe when life is dark, there’s some wisdom we need to learn.  Maybe it’s time of testing; a time for making our faith and hope stronger.  Maybe.  And when life is good, maybe we need to learn to be more grateful or more carefree.  Maybe.  Regardless, “God has made everything appropriate to its time.”  The challenge is to let God do what he does, when he does it, and to just go with the flow—not with fear, but with trust that, in the end, God is in control.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Homily for 22 Sep 2016

22 Sep 2016
(School Mass)
We heard one of the most famous lines in Scripture today: “Vanity of vanities; all things are vanity!”  And what that means is that nothing lasts.  You know, if I gave you an ice cream cone, or maybe a candy bar, how long do you think it would last?  Maybe five minutes?  You’d eat it up and then it would be gone.  And that’s like most things in life: they don’t last forever. 

And that’s why the writer, Qoheleth, says, “Vanity of vanities; all things are vanity!”  Nothing lasts, so why bother?  Why should we try to be nice to other people?  Why should we exercise and eat right?  Why should we come to church and pray?  Why should we even go to school?  If nothing lasts, then why bother?  Why put in the effort?

Well, the reason is that the writer, Qoheleth, isn’t entirely right.  He says that “all things are vanity;” all things come to an end.  But that’s not quite right.  Some things do last—and they last forever.

Now, remember that ice cream cone or the candy bar that I gave you?  Well, that’s only going to last a few minutes.  But think about the joy and the excitement you feel when I give it to you.  Now, that’s going to last; and the memory of that will last.  And what about friendships?  You know, friends often times come and go.  But it’s that feeling of acceptance and belonging and even fun that you have with friends that will last forever.

What about your school work?  Homework doesn’t last forever—thank goodness!  But knowledge and wisdom do.  And so, it’s worth it to study and learn.  Whoever said that “all things are vanity” wasn’t exactly right.  Not everything comes to an end.  And what we discover is that everything that lasts forever . . . is really a part of God.

After all, God is: love, friendship, acceptance; God is: wisdom and knowledge, creativity and wonder.  God is: smiles and laughter, tears and hugs; God is truth and beauty, and goodness.  God is all those things, and a lot more.  And all those things last forever, especially in our hearts. 

And so, it’s never a waste of our time to try to be like our God.  It’s never a waste of time to be a good friend, or to do what we’re good at.  It’s never a waste of time to enjoy life.  Because life is all about enjoying those things which last forever—at it starts here at the altar, with the love and friendship of God, which last . . . forever.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Homily for 21 Sep 2016

21 Sept 2016
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Jesus works with what he has.  He doesn’t throw things out and start over.  He’s like somebody who goes into an antique store and discovers a treasure.  Maybe it’s an old silver bowl, black with tarnish, and even with a few dings in it.  But Jesus loves it and snatches it right up.  The way he sees it, it has potential: the bowl is basically good.

I wonder if that’s how Jesus saw Matthew, sitting there at the customs post.  Maybe Matthew was like that old silver bowl: tarnish with sin, and even with a few dings in him.  But Jesus loved him and snatched him right up.  Jesus could see beneath mere appearances, and he knew he’d found a treasure.  Of course, that silver bowl would need to be shined up, and straightened out—just like St. Matthew.

And that’s how Jesus looks at us, too.  He sees us; we’re basically good—except we’re tarnished by our sins; we have a few dings and bruises from living in the world.   But, in spite of that, he snatches us up . . . if we’ll go.  Of course, we’re going to have get shined up and straightened out by the mercy of God.  But Jesus is happy to do that; he’s overjoyed to fix us up . . . if we’ll go.

That’s always the thing—we have to go with Jesus.  But where to?  Well, I guess to wherever they fix up tax collectors and sinners and turn them into apostles and saints.  And I think that place is right here at the altar of God, and in our honest prayers and conversations with God.  That’s where we get all shined up and straightened out—in the bosom of God, letting Jesus feed us with the nourishment of his grace and mercy.

Jesus works with what he has; he loves to do that.  He doesn’t throw things out and start over.  He takes us as we are, and he works with us to make us even better—for our own good, for the good of others, and for his glory.  There’s nothing to lose in letting Jesus snatch us up and work on us.  So why not give it a go . . . let’s follow him, and see the potential he already sees in us.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Homily for 20 Sep 2016

20 Sep 2016

It feels good to finish a project; it feels good to set a goal, to work on it, and then—at some time—to be able to say “It is finished.”  And this is a reason why what Jesus says can be hard.  He says, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”  In the ancient Greek it’s more like: “My mother and my brothers are those who are hearing and doing the word of God.” 

“Hearing” and “doing” the word of God isn’t a once-and-done sort of deal; it’s a lifelong, ongoing thing.  And we won’t be able to say “It is finished” until the day we pass from this life and go into the next.  We’re brothers and sisters of Christ, even today.  But what makes us that is our ongoing Christian living; our lifelong obsession, even, with the word of God.

And what makes us the mother of Christ, even now, is when our “hearing and doing” the word of God makes the Spirit of Christ present to others.  You know, if the Church ever ceases “hearing and doing” the word of God, then she’ll cease to be “Mother” Church.  And we’re each part of Mother Church. 

But if we wish to call ourselves the mother, and the brothers and sisters of Christ, the price is that we won’t ever be able to call our Christian living “finished”—at least, not on this side of heaven.  The trick is to be okay with that, and even to find “delight” in it, like the psalm says. 

It feels good to finish a project.  But, with “hearing and doing” the word of God, our joy has to come not in finishing, but in simply doing the task Jesus gives to each of us.  Each and every day it’s our task—it’s our delight—to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.  It’s a task that will never be finished, and that’s okay, because the “doing” of it is satisfying enough.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Homily for 16 Sept 2016

16 Sept 2016

We describe it in a few ways—phrases like: “turning over a new leaf;” “starting again with a clean slate;” “getting a fresh start.”  They’re all ways we describe going from perhaps a bad time in life toward better times.  And that’s what the Resurrection is—moving out of death and into life; getting through the hard times and coming out the other end with a new look on life.

So, obviously we don’t have to wait until we die to experience resurrected life.  Even now, today, the Lord invites us to follow him, to get on a better track in life; to evaluate our lives and see where perhaps we’re still living in “darkness,” and to make some changes for the better.  Every time we “turn over a new leaf,” or “get a fresh start,” we leave behind whatever is dark, and we move toward what is light, toward what is glorious.

And so, today, and every day, the resurrection begins.  Because today, and every day, we have the chance to “turn over yet another new leaf.” Every day we have the chance to “get a fresh start in yet another area of life.” Every day we have a chance to ask Jesus to forgive us and to “start again with a clean slate.” 

Resurrected life isn’t just for the future, it’s for today—especially today. Every day the promise of resurrection is given to us.  We only have to “turn over a new leaf” now and then to see that promise come true; to see the glory of God revealed in our own resurrected living.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Homily for 15 Sept 2016

15 Sept 2016
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
(School Mass)
Yesterday the Catholic Church celebrated the Cross of Jesus.  We remembered that he died to show how much he loves us, and how much he wants us to have a good life.  And we thank God for all that Jesus did on the Cross.  It’s a marvelous thing Jesus did for us.  But, you know, it was also a very sad thing.

Mary’s only son, Jesus, died.  And we know that she wept, and that her heart became full of sadness and sorrow.  She still had faith, hope, and love in heart—but she was also very, very sad when Jesus died.  But, you know, there was also another person at the Cross.  We don’t know the person’s name, but he’s described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  And he was sad, too, when Jesus died on the Cross.

But before Jesus died, he made sure that his mother Mary and “the disciple he loved” would stay together.  And that’s important, isn’t it.  You know, when we’re feeling sad, sometimes what makes it even worse is when we’re alone.  When we’re sad, it’s important to be with other people. 

For a lot of the younger students, you usually go to your parents when you’re feeling sad, don’t you?  And that’s good, because our parents can be like Jesus’ mother.  They can be sad with you, and they can tell you it’ll be okay.  And for a lot of older students, you find that sometimes it’s easier to turn to friends when you’re feeling sad.  And that’s good, too; because Jesus puts other people in our lives so that we can through the ups and downs of life together.

And that’s why Jesus says to each one of us: “Children, behold your mother.”  And he says to Mary, his mother: “Woman, behold your children.”  Jesus gives his mother to us, and he gives us to his mother.  And that’s because he knows it’s hard to be a good disciple of his.  Sometimes, being a disciple of Jesus makes us sad or sorrowful, and he knows that we’ll need our Blessed Mother to help us and to tell us it’ll be okay. 

So, when you’re sad, remember to go to your parents or your friends, or your priest or whoever can help you.  Just remember that you can also go to our Blessed Mother—to Our Lady of Sorrows—who can be sad with you, but who can also keep you strong in faith and in hope.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Homily for 13 Sept 2016

13 Sept 2016

God could’ve made us humans to be anything; and he just about did that.  But one thing he did not make us to be is well-rounded.  There’s nobody who’s good at everything.  And that serves to highlight Saint Paul’s point today: There are many parts of the one Body of Christ.

One thing I look forward to with our new parish picture directory is being able to see in one place the “many parts of the one Body” here at Saint Clare.  Everybody has their own gifts and talents.  Everybody has their own weaknesses.  However many people there are in the Church, there are at least that many parts to the one Body of Christ.  And every part is essential to the good of the whole.

Today, we hear the story of Jesus bringing the dead man back to life.  And we might think, “Wouldn’t that be great to be able to do that?”  But, then again, none of us is the Son of God.  Only he can do what he does.  But that’s not a reason to be sad; it’s a reason to be glad, knowing that every weakness of ours is somebody else’s strength . . . and that somebody else’s weakness may be our strength.  And, that, wherever humanity as a whole fails, Jesus will pick up the slack.

It’s a wonderful thing God did by not making us well-rounded, because it makes us realize that each and every person has some gift of God which is given to be shared.  Every part—every person—is essential to the good of the whole.  No one is dispensable. 

And that’s the “good news,” the gospel news today—none of us is dispensable.  Each of us must be here, and we’re here for some good purpose . . . a purpose which no one else can fulfill.  We are loved, yes.  But we are also needed.  What a wonderful thing it is to find out you are needed.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homily for 11 Sept 2016

11 Sept 2016
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

It’s fundamental to our Catholic faith that life never ends, it only ever changes.  From the moment we were conceived, our life has been changing, growing, going through ups and downs.  Life never stands still; it’s always on the move.  And we have so many reminders of this reality.

Just last week, school started.  The summer vacations are over, and students are getting used to a new school year.  Last year’s 4th Graders are this year’s 5th Graders.  The 8th Graders went off to High School.  The seniors graduated last spring and are trying to get used to a new life of college or work or family.

Of course, every time we look in the mirror we see it, too.  The middle schoolers and high schoolers see the physical changes that come with adolescence.  And that’s something new to get used to.  You become an adult and see your first slightly grayish hair, and that’s a change to get used to.  Life never stands still; it’s always on the move.

Anybody who’s under the age of 20 would have no memory of the events of September 11, 2001.  But that day, life changed pretty dramatically for Americans, and for the world, too.  It’s why we have such tight security at airports; it’s why we struggle to separate in our minds Muslims from radical Muslims; it’s a reason why racial tensions have become so elevated even today.  It was a bad day, September 11, 2001.  Life changed in an unexpected and terrible way.

But, you know, life changed in other ways, too.  At the time, I was an organist at St. Mary’s in Oshkosh.  And I remember that the churches were packed on 9/11 and the weeks afterward; the pews were absolutely full—and that was a change.  People who hadn’t set foot in a church in years were there.  And it seemed like the two things we can be sure of came together that day.

Life changes—that we can be sure of.  And in the midst of those changes, God is stable—that we can also be sure of.  But sometimes it seems like God is not stable.  For instance, look at the way he acts in our Scripture today.

When God is speaking with Moses, it sounds like God is ready to destroy his people because of their sins.  Moses has to step in and say, “Whoa!  Hold on here, God.  What about the promises you made to your people?”  God has kind of a hot head there when he’s talking to Moses.  It sounds like he’s even ready to disown his people because of their sins.  Did you catch what he said to Moses?  He said, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt.”  To which Moses said, “Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt?”  It’s like God is trying to say: “I don’t want to have anything to do with these people, Moses; they’re yours!”

But then we compare that with the parable of the prodigal son.  The Father doesn’t disown his child because of his sins; he’s concerned about his son and is overjoyed to see him come back.  He ran up to son, embraced him and kissed him, and then threw a party for his son, sinner though he was.  If Jesus tells us that story to show how God deals with sinners, well, then we’re confused.  What happened to the vengeful God who Moses had to hold back?  It almost looks like God has changed; that God is not stable. 

But, here, God is not the one who changes—humanity is.  Our understanding of God, and our relationship to him is what changes.  Back in the days of Moses, the gods which were seen to have authority were those who were powerful and even vengeful.  A god was a being to be feared.  There was no such thing as a weak god.  God had revealed himself to his people, yes, but they understood him to be like any other god.

But then, eventually, Jesus comes along—God himself walked among us—to show us, to demonstrate very clearly to humanity, that God is, indeed, powerful; but that God’s real power comes through being weak.  Remember what Saint Paul said: “It’s when I am weak that I am strong.”  He’s simply echoing what God himself would say: “It’s when I am weak that I am strong.”  God has been, and always will be, God.  God is constant.  But our understanding of God will continue to deepen; our life of faith is what changes.  And that is sometimes difficult.

Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, the Church still struggles with the changes and the aftermath of the Council.  Some people see Vatican II as practically the savior of the Church, while others condemn it as pure heresy—in respect to all areas of life: our worship, social justice, Church government, devotions, our understanding of God and humanity, and so on.  With Vatican II, our life as Catholics changed dramatically, and fifty years later, we’re still trying to work through those changes.  Even right here at Saint Clare, we’re still doing that.

When we look our buildings, they’re really quite beautiful.  They were built at a time when the devotional life was important, when art and visual aesthetics were meant to nurture the interior life.  Just look at our stained glass windows, the Stations of the Cross, the statues.  Look at the ceilings and how they’re height is meant to raise our minds and hearts to things divine.  Even the pews are meant to show how the flock is all heading together in the same direction toward our One Shepherd. 

But with Vatican II, Catholics were asked to consider also the Body of Christ—the gathered faithful—who come to worship God, and are also sent out into the world as disciples of Christ.  A lot of new churches were built to foster a sense of community, and to make a visual statement that God is not only present in the Eucharist, in Scripture, and in the ordained priest, but also in baptized faithful.  Catholics were asked to maintain their devotions, their art, their interior life; but also to add to it.

And so, our church buildings are caught in the middle of us still trying to work through those changes that happened over fifty years ago.  And, I think, we intuitively know that.  You know, while there are debates about money and politics and all that, fundamentally, our debates are about faith and God, and what’s important in life, and what it means to be a Catholic in today’s world.  I think we intuitively know that.  And so, our struggle to get it right is a good one.

You know, the Church is neither progressive nor traditional—it’s both.  It must be both.  When we know something is true, we don’t just throw it away; we hold onto it, we treasure it, and we pass it along to the next generations.  And that same time, though, we don’t know everything.  God is constantly leading us into greater truth—about himself, about us, about the world and creation, about life and death.  We don’t know everything, and so the Church is also open to newness; to truths we didn’t know before.  The Church is both traditional and progressive.  We treasure what we know to be true, and we treasure new truths and discoveries that come to us as well.  And that’s simply because God is Truth, and whenever we uncover a bit of truth, we uncover a bit of God. 

There’s truth in these old buildings.  And there’s truth in new buildings.  The struggle is to get through this without compromising any of the beautiful truths God has given us.  And it is a struggle.  Anytime we’re trying to work through the changes that life brings, there’s going to be some struggle.  And that’s okay.  We’ll be fine, as long as we rely on God who is constant.

I think of newly married couples, or families with a newborn, and the amount of adjustment that has to happen in the home.  I think of newly ordained priests and the parishes they serve and the amount of adjustment that has to happen in the parish, in the office.  I think of people who are suddenly hit one day with the realization that, “Oh wow, I’m getting older.”  And I think especially of teens and young adults whose whole lives for at least a few years is nothing but change.

Life is always changing; it never stands still.  Sometimes it’s like a tornado—even our sins and honest mistakes can turn our souls upside down and topsy-turvy.  Other times life is like an evening breeze that just rustles your hair a little bit.  But it’s always changing, always becoming something else; life never stands still.

But in the midst of all that change and restlessness, we hear a very familiar voice, and it’s the voice of our God who says, “Be not afraid.  I am with you always.  Be not afraid.”  And he can say that because he is, truly, the one constant in life and death and beyond.  God is our Rock.  He’s like the prodigal son’s father, who is simply there as a refuge, as a source of strength for the weak, as the one who is Mercy and Peace itself. 

“Be not afraid,” the Lord says to us.  “Go to your inner room, close the door, and talk with your heavenly Father in secret.”  Life is always changing; it never stands still.  And sometimes it’s unsettling.  But our God is stable; he is peace itself; he is Our Father, who stands at the door of heaven looking for us to be safe amid the changes of life.

He is there.  He’s always there.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Homily for 9 Sept 2016

9 Sept 2016

The U.S. Bishops have made today a day of “Prayer for Peace in Our Communities.”  This is in light of the rising tensions in our country between races, political parties, minorities, and so on.  And, of course, we could easily make this is a day of prayer for peace in our own local communities. 

Last night I was outside around 10:00.  There was a light breeze, the air was comfortable, there weren’t any cars on the road.  Everything was quiet.  The stars were twinkling above, and the moon was bright.  And just then all the problems of the world seemed to be so small, so insignificant.  If only people would learn to live in peace. 

But that’s hard to do when egos are big.  It’s hard to do when people stop thinking and live only according to their passions.  It’s hard to live in peace when humility and shame are scarce.  You know, it’s true: “Pride goes before the fall.”  And “everyone who wishes to save their life, will lose it.”  It’s hard to live in peace when everybody’s trying to be right.

On this day of “Prayer for Peace in Our Communities,” we pray for peace, of course.  But we pray especially for an increase in: humility and charity, prudence and wisdom, and a spirit of reconciliation and mercy—all those things which make for peace.  And we also seek the help of all the angels of God, especially the Prince of the Heavenly Host, as we pray together:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Homily for 8 Sept 2016

8 Sept 2016
Feast of the Nativity of Mary
School Mass
Every year on September 8th, Catholics around the world celebrate the birth of Saint Mary.  But, you know, when she was born, it was a pretty normal thing; she was one child of thousands born at that time.  It wasn’t like when Jesus was born; when the angels all came to the shepherds to proclaim the good news; when the Star of Bethlehem was shining bright in the night sky, and the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill.” 

When Mary was born, it wasn’t like that at all.  Her birth was pretty normal; it wasn’t unusual.  So why do we celebrate her birth today, over two thousand years later?  Well, I think it’s because Saint Mary’s birthday reminds us that God has a plan, and everybody has a part in that plan.  Remember how the Prophet Micah talked about the mother of the new ruler of the people; how that mother would someday be born. 

Way before Saint Mary was born, God already knew that he was going to create her.  And God had a definite part for her in his plans; she was going to be the Mother of God.  And this is really important to remember.  God has a plan, and everybody has a part in it.  Mary has her part to play, but what about everybody here?  Way before we were born, God already knew he was going to create each one of us—for a reason.

Each person here—from the smallest preschooler, to the wisest 8th Grader; from our parents to our grandparents and beyond—each and every one of us was brought into this world by God . . . for a reason.  You know, when we celebrate our birthdays every year, do you know what we’re celebrating?  We’re celebrating fact that God thought it was a good idea to make each of you.  Each and every person is loved by God—it doesn’t matter who you are or what others say about you.  God made you because he needs you to be here.

Maybe in God’s plan, he needs people who are cheerful and can make others happy.  Maybe in God’s plan, he needs people who like to think about things; people who are a little quieter.  Maybe in God’s plan, he needs people who like to play sports; people who set a good example of what it means to be dedicated and enthusiastic.  In God’s plan, everybody has a part to play.  Maybe your part is to be a good friend to your friends.  Who knows.

Today we celebrate Saint Mary’s birthday.  God had a purpose in creating her.  And God has a purpose in creating each one of us.  Our challenge—and our joy!—is to be who and what God made us to be.  He needs us to be ourselves—for the good of others, for our own good, and for the salvation of the whole world.