Thursday, May 31, 2018

Homily for 31 May 2018

31 May 2018
Feast of the Visitation
(School Mass)

We know that Saint Mary is one of our greatest helpers.  She loves to bring her son, Jesus, to us, and she loves it when we get to know him.  Have you ever given a gift to someone, and the enjoyable part of it all is to just see the person’s reaction?  Well, that’s how it is with St. Mary—she enjoys bringing Jesus to us and making our lives better.

And, you know, it all started with today’s feast: the Feast of the Visitation.  She went over to Elizabeth’s house for a visit.  But it was a special visit because it was the first time she was bringing Jesus to someone else.  That was when our Blessed Mother started to live out her calling—God called her and made her to bring Jesus to other people. 

And that’s why we pray to St. Mary.  We all know the Rosary: “Hail, Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee”—that’s what the Archangel Gabriel said.  “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”—that’s what Elizabeth said when Mary came for her visit.  “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us…”—that’s what we say.  And we say it because, of all the people who ever lived, Saint Mary knows how to get us in touch with her son, Jesus.

Now, of course, we can pray to Jesus directly (and we should).  But sometimes we need a little help in our prayers.  Maybe we feel like Jesus is far away.  And so we might ask our Blessed Mother—and all the Angels and the Saints, and even our family and friends and ancestors who’ve died—we ask them to “pray for us,” to help us connect with God.

St. Mary’s calling is to be the Mother of God, and also to be the main person who helps us connect with Jesus.  She’s there to help us.  And she’s there to bring joy and happiness into our lives—through Jesus.  And so, we pray: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Homily for 30 May 2018

30 May 2018

We don’t usually think of ourselves as “captives.”  But the Scriptures today suggest that it might be helpful to think of ourselves as such.  St. Peter writes, “Beloved, realize that you were ransomed….”  And then Jesus says, “the Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Of course, a “ransom” is given specifically to release someone who’s been held captive.  If Jesus died for us, it wasn’t only to show us his love and devotion.  It was also to free us.  But, again, we don’t usually think of ourselves as even being captive.  So the idea of Jesus “freeing” us doesn’t always resonate.  But, still, the Scriptures today suggest we might want to think and pray about that.

We humans can be captive to a lot of things, things like: food, or the need for others’ approval.  We can be captive to our own negative thoughts about ourselves or others—ruminating about faults and failures; being captive to resentments or unforgiveness.  We can be captive to our ways and patterns of thinking, without considering there might be other ways.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be committed to certain things in life; certain values, ways of thinking and believing, and so on.  But are there things in life which…hold us back?  Are there things we do, or ways of thinking which frustrate us, or limit us?  If not, that’s great—maybe God has already set you free from them.  But if there are areas in life where, “Yes, I’m a captive to something,” it’s good to ask how the Lord can “set you free” from it.

We don’t usually think of ourselves as “captives.”  But, again, the Lord came to “give his life as a ransom.”  Is there an area of my life where I could use the Lord’s help to be free?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Homily for 27 May 2018

27 May 2018
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Memorial Day weekend and our solemnity today, the Most Holy Trinity—it’s an interesting combination, but they actually work together quite nicely.  There’s a commonality between both the Holy Trinity and Memorial Day, and that element is “love.”  On Monday we’ll remember all those men and women who gave their lives for love of country.  And this weekend we remember that at the heart of our God, the Holy Trinity, is love.

But that word “love” needs a little bit of nuance.  And I think President Abraham Lincoln got at the nuance in his Gettysburg Address.  He gave the address in 1863 at the dedication of the new Soldier’s Cemetery in Gettysburg, and in it he said, “from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

And that idea of “devotion” gets to what we’re talking about when we talk about “love of country,” and the “love at the heart of the Holy Trinity.”  It’s not a sentimental, warm-fuzzy love, but rather, it’s “devotion;” self-sacrificing, other-centered devotion.  It’s the kind of love which looks outward, away from the self, and toward the good of the other.  It’s the kind of love and devotion which says, “I want what’s best for…you; I devote myself to your good.” 

Of course, it’s not entirely self-sacrificing because that kind of devotion and love actually builds up the person who’s doing the loving.  The soldier is built up and honored because he or she “gave the last full measure of devotion.”  And we come here and give “glory and honor” to the Holy Trinity because our God epitomizes “the last full measure of devotion,” especially on the Cross and in the Eucharist.  The person who’s devoted to something bigger than him-or-herself doesn’t get lost; they’re actually enhanced and honored.

But, again, from the Gettysburg Address: “from these honored dead we take increased devotion to…that cause…” for which they gave their lives.  This weekend we honor those who have died for our country; we honor our God who died on the Cross out of sheer devotion for us.  They died for something—something worth dying for.  Soldiers die for the American cause, and those “certain inalienable rights, among them: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  And God died for the cause of humanity, that “we might have life, life to the fullest.”

Among us Catholics we also recognize all those martyrs throughout the ages who “fought the good fight,” who died for the cause of truth, goodness, and right in the world.  And we can understand this whole idea of “devotion;” dedication and love for something outside of ourselves.

For instance, when a bride and groom approach their wedding day, they aren’t thinking sarcastically, “Oh! This’ll be interesting!”  No…they’re excited about devoted themselves to an idea—the idea of a happy marriage, a happy, long life together.  They’re devoting themselves to each other, of course.  But they’re devoting themselves to an idea they share: the idea of mutual, self-giving love.  “I love you and I’ll do anything…for you.”

Or take a priest on ordination day.  He isn’t thinking, “Oh, I could be doing anything else but this!  What am I doing here?!”  No…he’s focused on devoting himself to an idea—the idea of sharing the gospel, bringing God and his people together, making a positive change for the good of others; the idea of dedicating one’s life to God and the things of heaven.  The priest says the same thing as the bride and groom, but he says it to God and to the Church: “I love you and I’ll do anything…for you.”

Of course, those causes don’t always turn out the way they’re supposed to.  And so, the soldiers die, the martyrs die, the married couple has to work through aggravations between themselves, the priest has to go through “dark nights of the soul,” and God has to die on a Cross.  Love and devotion aren’t all roses and sunshine.  Love and devotion also have a cost, and we honor those who pay the price, who “give the last full measure of devotion” so that the cause might live on.

But that’s just it.  They didn’t die so that we could just honor them in our words.  Soldiers don’t die so we can have Memorial Day.  God and the martyrs didn’t die so we could have something to do on Sunday morning.  They all “gave the last full measure of devotion” as…an invitation, of a sort.

Soldiers die in order to say, “Be a faithful, involved, responsible citizen of your country.”  The Christian martyrs die in order to say, “Be a faithful, involved, responsible member of the Church.”  And God pours out his heart of devotion on the Cross with that eternal invitation: “Follow me.”  They all die for some cause, and they want us to get on board with it, be it the country, or the Church, or God (or all three).

And we hear this invitation, too, in the Gettysburg Address.  Lincoln says, “It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”  We honor those who died for our country by: voting, by being a champion of freedom in our own way, by respecting our laws and our values, and so on.  And we honor our God, the Holy Trinity, by: speaking the truth with kindness and mercy, dedicating ourselves happily to the Providence of God, fostering gratitude for all the blessings we have in life, being concerned for the well-being of our neighbor, and so on. 

So, Memorial Day weekend and the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity have a commonality, that being “love,” or a spirit of “devotion.”  But, especially as Catholics, we honor this weekend the Holy Trinity; the divine union which is possible only because of love: self-sacrificing, devotional love, which puts concern for “the other” ahead of “my own convenience.” 

Christ died to open us up to the heart of God, that heart poured out in selfless devotion for us.  May we let him lead us into “life, life to the fullest,” that cause for which he died.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Homily for 22 May 2018

22 May 2018

In the old liturgical calendar there really wasn’t “Ordinary Time.”  The weeks were laid out as: “The 1st Sunday After Pentecost, the 10th Sunday After Pentecost, the 18th Week After Pentecost,” and so on.  The reference point was Pentecost, that moment when the disciples’ lives took a definite turn.  There was no “going back” after one had been struck by the Holy Spirit.

And this is reflected, maybe, in the very first line of the gospel today: “Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey….”  Just two days ago we celebrated Pentecost; the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of the Church, into the hearts of the faithful.  The question is: Where are we going from here?  Are we going anywhere?

Is this the Tuesday after Pentecost, or do we go back to “Ordinary Time,” as usual?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Homily for 20 May 2018

20 May 2018
Solemnity of Pentecost

Jesus ascended into the heavens, and as he went he gave his little group of followers their calling in life.  He said to them, “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”  That was their vocation: the spread the good news of God’s love and salvation to all parts of the world.  And then the Holy Spirit came upon them and empowered them to do just that.

So often, Pentecost is referred to as the “birthday of the Church.”  But it’s more like the birthday of the “missionary spirit of” the Church.  Before then the little Church—that little group of believers—had already been joined to Jesus.  [And we know their names: Peter, John, James and Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddeus; together with some women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (among them Barsabbas and Matthias) (Acts 1:13,14,23).]

They already existed as a band of believers, as the Church.  But with Pentecost they went from being an isolated group to being out and about in the world as a specifically “missionary” Church.  It’s like getting a diploma from high school or college: you feel empowered to go take on the world and make a difference.  It’s a thrilling experience of life!  And that’s what those first believers experienced: the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to go and impact others’ lives through by sharing the good news of God’s love and salvation.

But, you know, the world is a big place!  So, as we heard, the Spirit enabled them to speak different languages; to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard the gospel message.  And this is where the Church—that little band of believers—became “catholic.”  After all, it’s one of the hallmarks of Christ’s Church, that it’s “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”  From day one, it’s been part of the Church’s self-understanding; that she is “catholic.”

Now, if when you hear the word “catholic” you immediately think of: the pope, bishops, hierarchy, the Mass, the Rosary, priests and deacons...Rome, that’s good.  It’s all part of who and what the Church is.  But the word “catholic” really is an adjective, just like those other three words: “one, holy, and apostolic.”  It’s an adjective: “catholic” means “according to the whole,” or as we’d say in English, “universal” or “all-encompassing.”

Jesus created a Church which is all-encompassing (or “catholic”); one that goes out to anybody and everybody in order to spread the gospel message.  It’s also a Church which opens the door to anybody and everybody who wants to follow Christ in a particular way of life.  At Pentecost, God created a “catholic” Church, a universal and all-encompassing Church.

So the purpose of the Church isn’t to be just an isolated little thing; the Lord created her—at Pentecost—to be a Church: on the move, making a difference, transforming life on earth, inviting humanity back to reunion with God.  This is part of the Church’s vocation: to love God, to love her neighbors, and to go make disciples of every nation. 

And the Church fulfills her vocation in a million different ways, through all the countless callings God has given his people (which we talked about last week).  No single person reaches everybody.  But, as a whole, the Church has many “tongues of fire” which it uses to reach out to the multitudes.  (It’s one of the blessings we have here at St. Clare, the fact that you don’t have to listen to just one preacher throughout the year: you have a priest and three deacons who preach in different ways, who reach different people from different backgrounds.)

“Diversity” is a hallmark of the Catholic Church, and we see that so clearly in the image of the multitude of tongues in the Acts of the Apostles.

I’ve heard a few people (outside the parish) say they’re watching us at St. Clare (in a positive way), to see what happens.  And they say that in reference to the merger and how parish life in general continues to take shape.  And what they seem to be suggesting is that the basic idea of “catholicity” is put to the test here at St. Clare.  They’re interested to see how the “catholic” Church takes shape among a diverse group of people.

When I was a seminarian, I was assigned to a parish in Indiana, and it was merging with another parish.  And they were vastly different communities.  One was a large community, mostly Caucasian, middle-upper class, with their own local traditions and ways they celebrate the Mass.  They had a big gothic church downtown.  The other was a pretty small community (maybe 100 people), mostly Black with some Hispanic, lower-middle class, with their own cultural traditions and ways they celebrate the Mass.  They had a small brick church a few blocks away. 

They merged...and they’re going strong, at least in part because they know what the word “catholic” means.  Being part of the “catholic” Church allows for such diversity.  And not only that, it also encourages that kind of diversity...for the purpose of spreading the gospel message to a variety of people.  Can people be on the same page, with regard to the common mission of Christ’s Church, while at the same time respecting (and even encouraging) diversity in the parish population?

This is what the Church calls “unity in diversity:” a diversity of God-given vocations, calling, gifts and talents...all serving one purpose; namely, the glorification of God and the sanctification of the world.  But that’s how the Holy Spirit worked there at that first Pentecost: the Spirit unites, and he also diversifies.

In the “catholic” Church, everybody should be able to find a home—everybody, that is, who is looking for a place to belong.  And that can be so different that what we experience in other places.  I think of high school and peer pressure: the pressure to “fit in,” to be like everybody else for the sake of belonging; the pressure to sacrifice yourself to conform to someone else’s standards.  We don’t do that in the Church.

That’s not to say there aren’t certain standards we try to follow.  There are.  But they’re pretty basic to human nature: love God, love your neighbor as a brother or sister, use the gifts God has given you, be respectful, encourage others, share Jesus with people who need him...I guess those are “standards” we try to adhere to.  But, they’re meant to build up, not tear down.  They’re meant to cause growth, not destruction of the individual.

(Of course, there’s also the weekend Mass schedule, which is another thing we conform to, whether or not we like it.  But that’s another homily…)

In the “catholic” Church, everybody who’s looking to belong somewhere should have a home.  That’s part of the gospel message, right?  The good news of salvation: that God draws all people to himself.  And it’s the basic vocation of the “catholic” Church to spread that good news to those who need to hear it; the core of the gospel message: “Jesus Christ loves you (yes, you); he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free you” [Evangelii Gaudium, 164]. 

Who do you know who needs to hear that?  A friend, a spouse, people you wouldn’t normally think to reach out to?  Do you need to hear it? 

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they [your “catholic,” universal Church] shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth”…through her.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Homily for 18 May 2018

18 May 2018

In ancient times, gods were powerful beings.  There was no such thing as a “weak god.”  It was inconceivable.  And times haven’t changed all that much—with respect to people’s expectations of “the gods.”

When things go wrong, people expect God to fix it.  When there are earthquakes, floods, and natural disasters, people expect God to stop it.  When people around us lose their faith, we expect to just knock some sense into them, to set things right again. 

But the kingdom of our God isn’t the expected “kingdom of strength.”  We worship a risen Lord, of course, but we worship even more intensely a crucified Lord, an apparently very weak and ineffective God who “couldn’t even safe him, let alone others.”  Jesus put to humanity a very different understanding of what makes for godliness and divinity.  And he asks his followers to take the same path of weakness.

For example, we hear of St. Paul’s capture today.  He was caught not only by his Jewish adversaries, but he was also caught in the legal system of ancient Rome.  He was just being carried along by whatever the world threw at him.  He didn’t appear to be very strong.

Another example is St. Peter.  It’s a great line that Jesus says to him: “You will stretch out your hands, and someone else will…lead you where you do not want to go.”  Talk about not having control over your life or your destiny…

And yet, Peter and Paul are literally foundational figures for us Christians.  Two apparently very weak men, following the direction of an apparently weak God—Jesus.  And yet, they built the foundation of a Church which has lasted through the centuries up to the present day.  They founded a way of life built entirely upon the idea of “strength through weakness.”  And it’s been wildly successful.

“Strength through weakness:” that’s the vision Jesus lays out for us.  And we know it works.  It works to be weak, to say things like: “I don’t know;” “I don’t understand, but I’ll trust that it’ll work out the way it’s supposed to;” to call Jesus “Lord” and mean it.  It works to be weak, to be happy with the simple pleasures of life, to be content with what we have, to be thankful. 

“Strength through weakness” is the Way Jesus has shown us.  How can we follow that Way a little closer today?

Homily for 17 May 2018

17 May 2018
(School Mass)

This past weekend at Mass, we heard that “Jesus Christ loves you.”  It’s part of the gospel message.  And when you here that—“Jesus Christ loves you”—think of how a mom or dad might hold a little newborn baby in their arms.  They look at the little child and smile; they’re amazed at this little life they’ve created; they would do anything to keep that little child safe; they would do anything to make sure that child grows and becomes strong and healthy; they adore their little baby.

And that’s what we mean when we say that “Jesus Christ loves you.”  He holds us in his arms, and he looks and smiles at us; he adores us—after all, he made us.  And he would do anything to keep us safe (even die for us), and to keep us close to him.  That’s what Jesus’ love for us is like.

In the gospel today, Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, I want them to be me, I want them to be with us—us in them, them in us; I in them, them in me.”  Jesus wants very badly to be close to us…for our good; so that we can be raised up with him, so we can have a happier life even today.

Jesus is the closest and most committed Friend we have.  And that’s a reason to come to the Altar of God first thing today, and to say thank you.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all the ways you love us.  Thank you for being an unfailing Friend to each one of us. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Homily for 16 May 2018

16 May 2018

In another few days we’ll be celebrating Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come and take up residence within our souls.  Our souls have to be open enough to “go with the flow” of the Holy Spirit.  And so, there’s some preparation that needs to happen.  We have to “get the house ready,” so to speak. 

And we do that by letting ourselves experience the bittersweetness of what’s happening in the readings today.  Saint Paul was leaving his beloved brothers and sisters, and “they were all weeping loudly.”  And then there’s Jesus’ prayer to the Father, which brings to mind Jesus saying to Mary Magdalene, “Stop holding on to me; I have to go to my Father.”

God’s plan has to be allowed to unfold in its due course, even if it means some temporary separation, some temporary bitterness.  And the more we can step back and let “God’s will be done,” the more we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit.  Of course, it’s not all negative—letting God’s will be done.  It’s not all bitterness and separation.  It’s also the experience of love and friendship, the joy of being alive and seeing something bigger at work, other than simply what “I want.”

The Holy Spirit comes, for sure.  But he comes especially to hearts and minds that are able to “go with the flow” of God’s will.  And so, in preparation for the Holy Spirit, we pray not only “Come, Holy Spirit, come,” but also, “thy will be done on earth…as it is in heaven.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Homily for 15 May 2018

15 May 2018

Jesus fulfilled his calling.  Saint Paul fulfilled his calling, as did the Apostles, our Blessed Mother, and countless others.  They’ve done their best to pass the faith along.  But then Saint Paul says, “I am not responsible for the blood of any of you.”  In other words, the responsibility for our own faith doesn’t lie with anybody else, except us.

What we each do with the faith is our own responsibility.  What we each do with the vocations and life callings we’ve been given is our own responsibility.  At the end of the day, nobody’s responsible for my life of faith other than “me.”

And I suppose that could be a scary thing; I mean, very few of us live out our calling to perfection.  But Jesus isn’t looking for perfection; he isn’t looking to condemn anyone.  He’s looking for faithfulness; he’s looking to support us in our life of faith.  Even in the ups and downs of our lives, Jesus is looking for a pattern of fidelity.  That’s what we’re each responsible for.  Nobody can be faithful to God’s calling for me other than…me.

And so, it’s actually an empowering thing: to realize that St. Paul, St. Mary, even Jesus himself is not responsible for “me.”  It’s as we heard this past weekend: Jesus has taken the training wheels off.  He’s still there to help us, but what we each do with our life (especially our life of faith) is up to…”me.” 

Jesus and his Church have given us the gift of faith.  But what we do with that is entirely up to “me.”  So what am “I” going to do with my faith?  How am “I” going to live it out a little more today?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Homily for 13 May 2018

13 May 2018
The Ascension of the Lord

The Ascension is like Jesus taking the training wheels off.  From the Incarnation at Christmas, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus showed his followers the Way.  He taught them how to love, how to love their neighbors, and how to love one another.  He taught them—especially on the Cross—how deeply God loved them (and all humanity and all creation).

It’s like his disciples were learning how to ride a bicycle (the bicycle of Life), and Jesus himself was their training wheels.  But then, with the Ascension, those training wheels came off.  And Jesus said, “Now, let me see what you can do.  I’ll still be right there, but now it’s your time to take over.”

The Ascension was a major step forward for the infant Church.  Just then, that little community of believers heard their basic vocational call.  They knew what they were about and what they had to do.  Jesus said it very clearly: “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

And that involves, primarily, preaching the gospel, sharing the “good news.”  But that “good news” has a very specific message.  Pope Francis puts it this way: The good news, the gospel is that “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free you” [Evangelii Gaudium, 164].  That’s the gospel message at its core.  And that’s the message Jesus entrusted to his followers.

He said, “Here is this magnificent truth I’ve tried to share with you and teach you.  Now, take it and share it to the ends of the earth.”  And the Church did, to much success.  When we think of all that’s happened in the history of the world ever since then, it’s incredible that the message survived at all.

Ruthless persecutions of early Christians, the fall of the Roman Empire, barbarian invasions and general chaos throughout Europe and the Middle East; the Church getting too entangled with secular politics in the Middle Ages, corruption, fights over power, the influence of science and the demand for hard evidence to prove anything; abuse scandals, Post-Modern thought (or lack of thought).

It’s amazing that the gospel message has survived through all that (and more).  But it has.  And that’s because the message Jesus entrusted to the Church is eternal; it can’t be destroyed.  “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free you.”  It’s a message that can’t be destroyed.  But it can be overlooked and ignored.

Not everybody buys the gospel message.  Some people couldn’t care less about it.  And so we don’t have to wonder where the swords come from that pierce the Blessed Mother’s heart.  They come from indifference, apathy, and even hostility toward what Mother Church holds as…precious.

And so, the Church’s vocation isn’t just to share the gospel message (in a mechanical sort of way).  It’s also: to share God’s joy when others believe it, and to share in the sorrow when others reject the message or, worse, when Christians turn cold toward it.  The vocation involves both sorrow and joy.  And it’s a vocation the Church has always fulfilled, with the training wheels off, and with the Lord’s help.

In recent years, the term the “New Evangelization” has become popular in the Church; the idea being that we need a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit so the Church can “go to the ends of the earth,” to fulfill her vocation, to share the gospel and to remain strong when that message is rejected.  But, with the New Evangelization, there’s also a need in the Church for renewing a sense of “vocation.”  The Holy Spirit empowers one to fulfill his or her vocation.  But without a sense of vocation...what’s the Holy Spirit for (other than for sacraments and as a divine Companion to pray with)?

The Holy Spirit empowers us to fulfill our vocations.  But without a sense of vocation—a sense of “my calling in life”—the Holy Spirit has only limited relevance.  “Church” doesn’t have much to do with “my life.”  When, in reality, the Holy Spirit is there to help us live the whole of life.  And “life” is that “calling,” that vocation we each have as members of the Church.

So we call on the Holy Spirit for the Sacraments and in personal prayer.  But we also call on the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and to strengthen us in our vocations.  Our prayer is, “Come, Holy Spirit.  Give me the grace to do what Christ has given me to do."

Now, the Church has a universal calling: a vocation to holiness, a call to share the gospel message.  And that’s a call we each have from our baptism, when we’re called to “keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts.”  That vocation isn’t just for priests, deacons, bishops, nuns, and monks.  It’s a vocation that every baptized person has.

But, at the same time, we each have our own specific vocations.  For example, we’re not all called to be evangelists.  Saint Paul says as much in his Letter to the Ephesians: Christ “gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers.”  The Church is a body with “many parts,” not just one big evangelizing part.  Imagine if you had three too many fingers and not enough toes; we’d be a little off kilter.  Well, it’s the same with the Church and our vocations.

God didn’t make each of us just to take up space.  He made each of us for a purpose.  And it’s important that we each live our specific vocations—not selfishly, but for the good of the whole, for our own personal flourishing, and for the good of the gospel message.  In fact, it would be a mistake to try to fulfill a vocation which is not ours. 

In the Gospel of Mark, there’s something called the “Messianic Secret.”  And we call it that because in that gospel Jesus was constantly saying to people, “Don’t tell others who I am; don’t tell others who I am.”  It looks like Jesus wanted to keep it a secret that he’s the Messiah.  So we call it the “Messianic Secret.”

But, from the standpoint of “vocation,” Jesus was maybe saying to those people, “Don’t be an evangelizer; don’t go out there and tell people about me; you have a different vocation.”  But then we see it again and again in the Gospel of Mark, people wouldn’t listen to Jesus; they’d go off and tell people, making it impossible for Jesus to do the work he was trying to do.  And so, we can say: It would be a mistake to try to fulfill a vocation which is not ours.

We’re not all called to be evangelists, or apostles, or prophets, or pastors, or teachers.  Some are, and some have other vocations.  But we each have some part to play; we each have some vocation. 

On this Mother’s Day weekend, we celebrate the vocation of motherhood.  Just imagine if mothers didn’t fulfill their vocation.  First off, none of us would be here.  But, so too, we wouldn’t know (through experience of Mom) that the gospel message is true: that we are loved, that others do sacrifice for our good, that we are not alone.  Motherhood is a precious vocation, and we celebrate those women—past and present—who fulfill that vocation in all the marvelous ways they do.

Think of artists, musicians, poets, architects, story-tellers: people whose vocation—from a Christian perspective—is to feed our imagination, to open our minds up to the unbelievable.  You know, the Ascension is an almost unbelievable thing: Jesus going up into the heavens, disappearing into the clouds.  So, too, is the idea that God took on human flesh at Christmas.  Or, even the idea that there is a God in the first place.  It’s all almost unbelievable.  We talk about angels and saints, a whole other realm of existence alongside earthly life—unbelievable.  We talk about people living on after death, the sacraments as channels of God’s grace, the Eucharist as the real Body and Blood of Jesus—it’s unbelievable. 

For a lot of people—especially today when everything has to go under the microscope for it to be believed (and even then, that’s not enough)—for too many people today, Christianity or any sort of spirituality is just...laughable; a bunch of ignorant, simple-minded people who waste their Sunday mornings going to Church to pray to an imaginary God.

Artists, musicians, poets, architects, story-tellers—their vocations are important in that they keep the human spirit open; open to other worlds, other ways of seeing things, other possibilities; open to what seems impossible.  You know, everything we do here at Mass is strange…if we aren’t able to have at least a little belief in the unbelievable.

For some people, their vocation is to be faithful to weekend Mass; to be a witness of fidelity to God for their neighbors.  For some people, their vocation is to a good friend in the workplace; to be a witness of God’s love to others—even if those others aren’t aware they’re being touched by God’s love.

Everybody has a vocation—everybody.  Some people allow themselves to be drawn into the confines of a monastery, to spend their lives in quiet prayer for the good of the world.  Others are more active out in the world; to be “in the world,” but not “of the world.”  Some are called the vocation of marriage; others to the single life.

Jesus did his part; he taught us how to love, our neighbor, and each other.  Now it’s the Church’s responsibility to spread the gospel message, each in our own way.  Jesus took the training wheels off, and he says to each of us, “There you go!  Now let me what you can do with what I’ve given you.  I’ll be right here to help.  But it’s your vocation now; see where you can take it.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Homily for 11 May 2018

11 May 2018

Our hope doesn’t come from nowhere.  It comes by the grace of God, and also through the words of the Lord in Scripture.  Today, Jesus says, “So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice.”

“I will see you again,” Jesus says.  Later in the Gospel of John he says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”  And after the Resurrection, he appears and says, “Peace be with you.”  “Be not afraid; I am with you always until the end of the age.”

It’s lines like that feed our hope.  And so we hold them very close to us.  If someone were to ask, “Why do you silly Christians have hope?”  We’d say very simply, “Jesus gives me hope.  By the grace of God and the words of Jesus, we have hope.”  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Homily for 10 May 2018

10 May 2018
(School Mass)

Around this time of the year, students are ready to be done with school.  You’ve been working hard since September, and it’s time for a break.  Just imagine how the high school seniors must feel...another three weeks and they’ll never have to go to school again, if they don’t want to.

But, you know, when it comes to being a “student” of Jesus, we’re always “in school.”  We don’t get a summer vacation from being a disciple of Jesus.  And that’s because as long as we’re living life and having new experiences, there’s always something for us to learn.  Jesus our Teacher is always trying to open our minds up.

Our challenge, though, is to let him teach us about...everything: life, friendships, nature, heaven, God...everything.  The challenge is to let Jesus be our Teacher.  But sometimes he’s going to say things that we just don’t understand.

Now, in the gospel, we see Jesus being the Teacher.  And, you know, the disciples had no idea what he was talking about.  They were totally confused.  That doesn’t mean they were stupid; it just means they were trying to figure something out—something Jesus was trying to teach them.  But the important thing is that, even though they didn’t understand, they still let Jesus be their Teacher.

That’s a little different than what happened in the Acts of the Apostles, however.  When Saint Paul was preaching...and teaching in the name of Jesus...some people didn’t understand, and so they just stopped listening.  They decided they didn’t want Jesus to be their Teacher.  And so, Jesus couldn’t teach them...anything.  It’s not because they were stupid; it’s because they closed their minds.

So our challenge is to always let Jesus be our Teacher, to keep our minds open to what he has to say—even if we don’t understand what he’s saying.  After all, Jesus is the Lord of Life.  And if we want to really experience life, we want him as our guide and teacher—not just during the school year, but in every day, throughout the whole year.  Jesus, be our Teacher today and always!     

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Homily for 9 May 2018

9 May 2018

“Glory” is one of those words we use all the time.  And Jesus gives us a clue as to what it means.  He says, “the Spirit of truth [the Holy Spirit]…will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”  To “glorify” God is essentially to pass onto others what he has given us.

Jesus talks about the flowers of the field and how they give more glory to God than Solomon in all his splendor.  And that’s because they simply take the nature that God has given them, and they let it shine.  The psalm today says that “heaven and earth are full of your glory.”  Everything from the stars and the sun, to the angels and humanity, to the little bugs that crawl around in the dirt gives glory to God.  It all passes on, it all makes known, the creativity in the mind of God.  It all reveals something of God.  And so, it all glorifies God.

The thing about glorifying God, though, is that it doesn’t matter if anyone notices.  The flowers of the field glorify God, even if nobody takes the time to notice.  When Saint Paul was out and about telling people about God and sharing what God had done for him, he was glorifying God.  Whether or not anybody got on board with him was beside the point.  He wasn’t looking for numbers; he was just out sharing God with others.

And that’s an important lesson for us.  We glorify God by sharing his gifts to us with others: our talents, our strengths, our aptitudes, our experiences.  Some do it in really big, public ways; others do it quietly as they just go through daily life.  But our goal in glorifying God isn’t necessarily to increase Mass attendance.  Our goal is to simply glorify God, to share him with others, and to then let the chips fall where they may.

Whether or not anybody stops to notice God’s glory is beside the point.  Our duty, our pleasure is to simply glorify God, in all the little (or big) ways we share him, as his sons and daughters.

Homily for 8 May 2018

8 May 2018

God gives us two especially important tools to carry us through life.  And they are faith and hope.  The angels have wings.  We humans have faith and hope.

When Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison, it was their faith and hope in God that got them through it.  There they were, sitting in the pitch black prison cell…“singing hymns of praise to God.”  And the next thing they knew, they were free.  Faith and hope had unlocked the prison doors.  And that has a lovely sound to it but, you know, they were in prison.  But that experience of prison was necessary; it made them put their faith and hope into practice.

It’s like when Jesus says, “grief has filled your hearts.  But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go [and leave you].”  The disciples had to experience a certain “grief of heart,” not only so the Holy Spirit could come, but so they’d have to become people of real faith and hope.  It’s one thing to believe in Jesus when he’s standing right there in the flesh; it’s another thing to have faith and hope when he’s not so visible.  So Jesus had to go away—for their own good.

Any time in life we’re “tested,” it’s a chance to grow in faith and in hope; it’s a chance to use the “wings” God has given us.  Sometimes God may seem absent.  But we know he isn’t; he hasn’t left us to fend for ourselves.  He’s right there, encouraging us along the ways of faith and hope.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Homily for 4 May 2018

4 May 2018

The commandments of Jesus aren’t necessarily an end in themselves.  There’s a purpose behind them.  And Jesus says as much in the gospel today: “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”  And that, it appears, is the purpose of Jesus’ commandments: to open us up to God the Father, the Source of...everything.

Jesus says, “Love one another.”  He says, “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind.”  Jesus even speaks through the Church—we see this in the Acts of the Apostles.  “The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church,” sent an exhortation—a little list of things to do—to a community of Christians.  Jesus speaks, he commands, not to be a dictator, but so we can be opened up to friendship with God the Father...and all the angels and saints.

Before we had GPS,  we’d get the map out of the glove compartment to see how to get from Point A to Point B.  And that map is a help, it’s a guide.  Well it’s the same with Jesus and his commandments.  “Love one another, love God, keep the Sabbath, don’t kill, don’t covet,” and so on.  They’re all a big map to help us get to God the Father—the Source, the Headwaters, the Font, the One who’s even greater than Jesus.

So it’s good to listen to Jesus (because he knows how to get to where we want to go) and to follow what he says, as best we can—not so we can check the commandments off our to-do list, but so we can follow the path they form; a path through this life and onto the Holy City, where God our Divine Friend lives and makes a home for us.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Homily for 3 May 2018

3 May 2018

Feast of Saints Philip and James

(School Mass)

That’s a pretty enticing thing Jesus says: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”  It sounds a lot like the old genie-in-the-bottle: Just ask for whatever you want and it’s yours.  But that’s not exactly how God works.  The name “Jesus” isn’t a magic word.  We don’t say it out loud and—shazam!—things happen and we get what we ask for.  Of course, we know that.

But, still, it’s an intriguing thing Jesus says: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”  And he seems to be getting at what we heard this past weekend: The idea of communion—being in union with the Lord.  And so, to ask for something “in the name of Jesus” is to say to him: “I want what you want, Jesus.”  That’s what it means.  And then, no matter what happens, it’ll be what we want...because it’s what Jesus wants.

Now when the disciples heard Jesus, they heard the God the Father as well.  And that’s because Jesus spoke and acted “in the name of” God the Father; his mind and his spirit are one with the Father.  And when St. Paul, or St. Philip, or St. James (or any of the Apostles) preached and died for the faith, the crowds didn’t hear them—they heard Jesus speaking to them; they saw Jesus dying for them . . . not just Paul and Philip and James.  And that’s because Paul and Philip and James were one in mind and spirit with Jesus.  They said to him lots of time, “Whatever you want, Jesus, is what we want.”

So, Jesus says something pretty enticing today.  He says, “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”  And it’s true.  But the catch is we have to ask “in the name of Jesus;” we have to be able to say to him: Jesus, Lord, whatever you want is what I want.  And that’s a hard thing to do, for sure.

But the more we practice trusting in God, the more we’ll see some real “magic” happening.  And it’s nothing other than the magic of life.  “We want what you want, Lord Jesus.”  And that’s great, because what he wants for us, life in abundance.