Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

humility

The memorable prophecy that Jesus fulfilled in his entry to Jerusalem - “Riding on a baby donkey” – was first and foremost a testament to the truth that the Messiah comes in peace, not in war. If he was riding in conquest, he would enter the city on a horse. Jesus is indeed the prince of Peace. However, it also attests to his humility, his lowliness. The Messiah didn’t need any extra praise from others. He “humbled himself even to the point of death on a cross,” Paul tells us in Philippians 2. And thus he gives us all an example to follow.

The donkey is also a good image of the ministerial priesthood and indeed of all Christians, for “we hold this treasure in earthen vessels” and the Lord wishes to use us humble beasts to do something quite extraordinary: to bear His glorious presence within us and to bring him into other people’s lives.

“We are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

“Deeds of the flesh” = sloth, gluttony, lust, hedonism (maximizing pleasure, avoiding pain) self-preservation. Also, though less obvious are the other “deadly vices” or “capital sins” of vanity, envy, pride, and wrath. All of them look at life from a perspective of the flesh: whether to please the flesh or whether to simply forget that we have a life beyond the flesh, a destiny that is eternal, for good or for ill.

And in fact, if we look at all sins, we can see that pride is center of all sin. “my will be done.”

We must love what Jesus loved from the cross, and despise whatever he despised on the cross.

Fasting and other penance. It’s a training ground for saying “no, I’m in charge and I’m going to glorify God in my body.” It prepares us for when love demands something of us.

Litany of Humilty:  

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


Monday, May 4, 2020

4th Sunday of Easter - Repent and be Baptized, COVID edition


“Repent and be baptized”
Every single thing in our life, all the things that we used to do, and all the things we may soon be doing again - all of them need one of these two actions done to them.
Repent - turn your back on them. Do a 180, to face the right thing. Leave it in the dust. Scrap it. It is not of God or not what God asks of me specifically.
Be baptized - It needs to be consecrated to God. It is good in itself and is what God wants me to be spending myself on for one reason or another. Therefore I must do it. But I must do it for God. Given to God. Covered in prayer and discernment and guided by the wisdom of the Church.
Repent and be baptized. That is our whole life, before and after baptism.

We are called to make sacrifices for our faith, for this relationship.
But God did it first. This is one of the things Jesus is speaking of when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd. Every Good Shepherd is the first one out and the last one in. He led the way as a Good Shepherd. Jesus went through the gate of the cross. We must follow.
Sheep were kept overnight in caves. The shepherd would protect the sheep with his own life by laying down across the mouth of the cave. No wolves could come in without getting through him first. A good shepherd “lays down his life” for his sheep.
God did it first.
Now what are we going to do? Will we follow the voice of this good shepherd? Will we “repent” and “be baptized” in every single aspect of our life?
Will our new life on the other side of quarantine look identical to before? If so, we were either perfect before, or we didn’t grow. Clearly, things should be different for us.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

3rd Sunday of Easter - Witness is simple


Peter proclaims the Gospel. No special words. Just the basic message. He also shows how Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus quoting Psalm 16. That’s the fruit of reflection on facts.
Learn for yourself the basics of the Good News. I’d recommend the book: Case for Jesus - Brant Pitre. Or listen to the 1hr lecture that is in Formed.org http://watch.formed.org/the-case-for-jesus
This spiritual reading would be a great use of your free time, or even as part of your prayer and meditation time, but not replacing it. Remember, God wants not just your mind, but your heart and soul as well. Getting excited and inspired by some part of the Good News, which this book or lecture could do, is an important part of being a strong witness to Jesus.
Slowly Peter’s understanding deepens through more praying and reflecting on Scripture and sharing with the other Apostles and other followers of Jesus. Our faith is deepened only when we use it. We can’t expect it to grow on its own.
This is what happens to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Their faith is only deepened by encountering Jesus. They were open to letting God speak to them as indeed Jesus generously does even in disguise along the way. Their understanding grows through this sharing. Then when they finally realize the Lord is with them and not just a random traveler, they must run back and return to Jerusalem to bring the Good News to their brothers. They become evangelists these two disciples, Cleopas and the unnamed one. They simply tell their story. This is what God has done in my life.
All of us are called to do the same. Perhaps an easy thing is sharing how our prayer life helps us grow in love and peace each day. Or How God answers our prayers sometimes in big obvious ways. Or just sharing something that built up our faith.
It also means deepening our faith by being with each other as Christians or by sharing virtually with each other as these times require.
Finally, about this deep truth that Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. It is not a coincidence that Jesus disappeared from Cleopas and the other disciple when their “eyes were opened.” This isn’t a sign that Jesus abandoned them but rather a fulfillment of the word at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Behold I am with you until the end of the ages.” His presence was still there, but it is transferred into the Eucharist. nowadays when we are stripped from gathering for Mass and receiving the Eucharist, We are called to realize the same truth but in some ways in reverse: instead of realizing Jesus is among us and then having his presence vanish, we must see our hunger and longing for the Eucharist as a testament to the truth that Jesus is really here.
It was not until they recognized Jesus in the Eucharist did they realize that He had been present in all of their lives. I believe that deepening our faith and understanding of the Eucharist would be a profoundly fruitful use of our time away from the Mass. But above all, to know Jesus, alive and present in your lives, in your mess, redeeming it, restoring it. This is the primary role of the witness. And the world today needs witnesses. Let us learn from Peter and from Cleopas and the other disciple how to witness to Jesus present among us.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Divine Mercy Sunday - Tunnel Vision


See a video of the podcast on our YouTube page, click here!

Take a paper towel tube or a toilet paper one (if you can find it) and place it over your eye like a telescope. This simple toy really changes your perspective. In some ways it’s the definition of tunnel vision.
The apostles had Tunnel-vision. They were staring at one thing way too long, and that’s what got them locked up in the upper room as they were locked in their own minds. Just like the conclave that elected Pope Francis and every pope before him, the key was safely kept in the room that was locked to keep everything else (and everyone else) on the outside.
Their tunnel-vision was very understandable in many ways. They were following a rabbi who was publicly executed. And if it’s true today, it was true even more back then: who you hang out with can do a lot of good or can do a lot of harm. Thus, they saw themselves as next on the list for the cross, or perhaps some other minor punishments. Fear of public shame is a powerful thing. Fear of death even more powerful. Hence the tunnel vision.
Perhaps we could also say they had stone-vision or tomb-vision. All they could think of was that Jesus was dead. It was over. Like all of us today, any of their plans for the future were thrown out. They had to re –evaluate everything and say goodbye to so many things they enjoyed either for a month or two, or perhaps for the rest of their lives. Their vision was focused on the finality of death, on the immovability of that stone over the tomb, on the coldness and darkness of the tomb.
That’s the problem with a problem as big as a crisis. The shock gives you tunnel-vision, gives you stone-vision, tomb-vision. That new and debilitating thing becomes the only part of reality that you can see. Your mind gets locked-up on it. You get stuck inside your head as much as the Apostles were stuck inside that upper room.
But the truth is that life is bigger than the apparent finality of death. The truth is that reality is much broader than a stone or a tomb or a locked door. Tunnel-vision is a sort of lie. It looks at something as if its everything. The stone and the tomb were important parts of reality, but not the most important parts. When faced with a crisis, we end up narrowing our vision to the point that we forget the most important things.
The Apostles had forgotten that God was God. They had forgotten that Jesus had said this was going to happen. They had stopped thinking about the miracles. Their minds were blocked from considering that Jesus said “this is my body given up for you” just the past week in the same upper room. They forgot how God turned tragedy into glory for their ancestors at the Red Sea or with Abraham or with Joshua or Isaiah and Jeremiah.
If they could only take off their blinders and see the whole of reality, especially the reality of God’s providential care and his irrevocable claim on His chosen people, then perhaps they wouldn’t have been so locked-up in their own heads, their own fears, their stone-and-tomb-vision.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t wait for them, or for any of us, to get it all straightened out first. He breaks into the room. He reveals Himself, alive. He rips the paper towel tube right away from their faces so their vision is immediately broadened. As much as His death blinded them from so much of reality, so now His risen body, His presence re-open their minds and unlock the doors.  The stone is now rolled away from their hearts. They are coming out of their own self-made tombs. They have once again found hope, hope that God can bring good even out of the horrible tragedy that is their lives, or that their tunnel-vision said was their lives.
In our current crisis, we need the same transformation. If our eyes are too focused on the problem, then we forget that reality is much broader than just the problem. We don’t see the importance of human freedom, and the fact that if we use our freedom to love, to choose the good again and again (which is to choose God again and again) then we are changing so much around the problem, this crisis, that we may in fact even end up changing the crisis from the “disaster” that it can at times seem to be, downgrading it perhaps to what we might call a “hot mess” or even down to just a “situation.” Love can do such things, because God is love. And He is real. And He is here.
And that, my friends, is the most important truth we need to learn from the Apostles and from Thomas today. When He sees that Jesus is real, that He is here, he’s done. He’s not afraid. He’s at peace. All he has to do is worship, say “My Lord and my God,” and place Himself in the Lord’s hands. When the most important part of reality is that God is still God and still involved in all of my life, then why am I afraid? When Jesus’ wounds show the merciful love of God that is greater than my sin, that is greater than death itself, why would I be afraid? I may die, but I’ve already died in baptism. I already have one foot in heaven and one foot in this world. Now I can really live because I am not afraid. Now I can really love. Now God can change the world through me, and save others from their own tunnel-vision.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday homily


The Lord saves us according to the manner of our fall.
The fall of Adam and Eve is reprised in every human heart. We echo, we harmonize on that dreadful song with every fall of our own.
That tree of which Adam and Eve ate is called “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Perhaps we can say the tree of the knowledge of good mixed with evil. This tree was beside the tree of life in the middle of the garden. Adam and Eve were then temped to eat from this tree, as we know, and they saw that it was pleasing to the eye, and good for food, and then Eve took and ate it and gave it to her husband who was with her, and he did the same.
Knowing evil is not just a matter of information. For the Jews, knowledge means a type of union. This is why Mary can say “I have not known man” when she speaks of her virginity. On this tree, evil and good are intermingled, and when we know good mixed with evil, we thus unite ourselves with that evil.
This is the horror of sin. And if you want to look at it more clearly, in its fullness, look at a crucifix. It is there on the wood of calvary, on a new tree in a new garden, that we see what sin really looks like. “Surely you will not die” the snake told Eve.  Indeed they do not die immediately, but death comes later as a punishment for us and a limit for the evil of this world. But for sin someone does indeed die, but it is God Himself who takes that punishment.
But this horror of the reality of sin, this image that stings our eyes and our consciences to look upon, is also a tree of good mixed with evil. And here, the good absorbs the evil, the infinite God absorbs human misery. For in the Cross we not only see how disgusting our sin is. Here we also are made to see the depth of God’s love. Here we see the lamb without blemish that truly can save us from our sins.
Thus we can hear, as we did a few nights ago in our parish mission, the words of the ancient homily where Jesus speaks to Adam in these powerfully dramatic words of salvation:
For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
This is why we can call today “Good” Friday. Good because of who God is, not because of anything we have done. And now, as we thank the Lord’s merciful love that is poured out in blood upon the earth, we beg Him the grace to respond in love as we should, to show his mercy to our neighbor, especially those closest to us in these days, so that the light of His love will scatter the darkness of sin.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Anointing

Audio: click here!


The word anoint shows up in our first reading, our psalm, and our Gospel. The blind man testifies that Jesus "anointed" him. This word choice is rather interesting for what really happened: mud was smeared on his eyes. Not nearly as attractive and easily-received as the traditional pouring of oil upon the head of the priest or king, as David is anointed today in the first reading.
King David himself wrote psalm 23, the most famous psalm of all, where God is seen as a shepherd. I can only wonder if David came up with this song during those countless hours of solitude in the fields and deserted places tending his own flocks, and realizing how much he felt like a little sheep being led and protected by God.  Not very long, this psalm deserves to be read aloud:
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for endless days.

Near the end of the psalm, David has clearly not  forgotten his anointing, perhaps awaiting for the day it will find its fulfillment as king, and then for his years as king, remembering the promise of his "heavenly shepherd."
ANOINTING is a prominent symbol of the Holy Spirit, and this passage is one of the most clear accounts for why that is so: "and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David."
We all have an anointing in our lives, too. At Baptism, we were anointed on the crown of our head with Sacred Chrism, right where David's head would have first received the oil from Samuel's horn. At Confirmation, that same sacred chrism is placed on our foreheads as we are told: "be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." When I was ordained, the chrism was placed on the palms of my hands.

At all these moments, the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon us, and he enlightens the eyes of our minds.
Thus we, like the blind man, are able to see by the power of the Spirit rushing upon us.  Spiritual sight is more important than physical. Thus the theme of sight and blindness, as you read the Gospel, goes much further and deeper than the physical reality.
That is the trick with John's Gospel - it sounds so simple and basic that it may be hard to see the fulness of what lies beneath the surface.
So when the man is "anointed" with mud, it was not just a medical procedure, but really a symbol or foreshadowing of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) wherein the new believer has the power to see for the first time! In Jesus, when we let Him anoint us in the sacraments, we can see reality more fully, not less fully. Spiritual sight is true sight, truer than this world's shadows and deceptions.
The grace of baptism and Confirmation which we all received, perhaps years and years ago, is still waiting to be unpacked for us during these especially unique days of our "super-Lent". We must ask Jesus to open our eyes to see for the first time what life is really about. Pray for the anointing once again.
O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Feeling (spiritually) thirsty?



This meditation (click the address) is part of this homily. It is worth reading in its entirety, two pages. Use it to start prayer/quiet time! https://avemariaradio.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Jesus-I-Thirst.pdf


The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously at the forefront of people’s minds, as so many things are shutting down temporarily, including schools, and groups larger than 250 are discouraged in the state of Indiana.

We are tempted to draw back in fear from others entirely, instead of balancing that fear with the courage and love we are called to as Christians. If we are attentive to proper hygiene and following the advice of medical professionals, we are doing well.

This period of “social distancing” is in fact a great opportunity for a really powerful Lent. In fact, see if the circumstances in the Gospel today match up with what’s going on in our society right now: The woman at the well today encounters Christ at a time of day when no one else is out and about. It’s so hot outside that no one is coming to the well at that time. People are probably taking their afternoon siesta or busy in their homes. The outside world is rather quiet. It is there that the Samaritan woman is out, alone, pushed to the edge of society by others (and perhaps by herself) due to her past. Now it is there, in that quiet space of feeling alone, that Jesus meets her. It is there she can have an extended conversation, a long and deeply personal encounter with Christ.

Brothers and sisters, during these weeks ahead, it is almost as if God is slowing us down, quieting us down, so that He can speak to our hearts about His thirst for us.  But we need to make sure that we don’t fill it with all kinds of useless noise. Use the opportunity well, for real growth.

1 Pet. 2:16 Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.
Gal. 5:13 For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

If this pandemic has made drastic changes to your life for the next weeks, It might be time for a serious re-thinking of what Lent should look like. So how are you going to live the rest of your Lent? Don’t hide from the invitation by the Lord Jesus.

CCC 2560: The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.

NOW LISTEN TO THESE WORDS FROM A MEDITATION BY MOTHER TERESA, WHERE JESUS IS SPEAKING TO YOU... (read from the end of the meditation linked at the top of this article)