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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!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Anointing

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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)

Monday, March 9, 2020

Who are we listening to?



Audio: Click here!


"Listen to him."
"Don’t be afraid."
Two types of listening.
1 - hearing. (Too many distractions in our lives; or we are focused on the wrong things; or we are talking too much when we pray)
2 - following their advice/guidance. (We trust the wrong people or wrong ideas. Do I listen to Dr. Popular more than I do God about any part of my life? This can include the ways we view the world contrary to how God does, whether consciously or not. Everything is about economics, or everything is about politics, or entertainment, or self-comfort, or success, or popularity.)
Abram chooses to listen to God at great sacrifice.
Who are we listening to?

1. Make sure you are giving time to listen to the one that matters.
2. Make sure you are following the one that matters.

*** In the end, it will be worth it. ***
Byzantine Liturgy: You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.299 

Augustine: Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Basic training: Origins and Destiny




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There's a lot of excitement about DNA tests nowadays, especially the new mail-in tests that you are able to do yourself and get results back regarding your ancestral heritage.  I've heard of many people being surprised to learn that their genetic makeup shows them to be connected with areas of the world they would not have guessed. In fact, our locally-produced Catholic medical radio show "Doctor, Doctor" just dedicated an episode to this topic that I found very enlightening.  The question of why this was so popular was presented to the guest by the two doctor hosts, and the priest-doctor's response was simple: people like to know about where they are from, to discover more about themselves. There is a sense that knowing where you are from gives your life today some meaning, purpose, direction. It grounds you in a story bigger than yourself.
For us today, at the first Sunday of this Lent, we sort of do the same. We look at where we came from in the first reading, and in a certain way, from the other readings as well.
The story of Genesis chapters two and three helps us to understand our own lives. Instead of being a history or science book, this reading today outlines the important theological truths about the human person: we are created in God's image and likeness; sin is not natural to us; our human nature is disordered by sin and the deceptive lies of the devil; and the world is good but fallen from the same cause.

The father of lies wishes to do anything he can to corrupt our sense of reality.  He wants to confuse us about the world, about ourselves, and above all, about who God is. One of Lent's goals is to get back to the basics, uproot any of those lies, and let the truth of God's goodness seep into us as water into tilled soil in the Spring.

Today the Church throughout the world begins the period of preparation for those entering the Church at Easter known as "Election," and those Catechumens who are on the road toward baptism are to be the "elect" when they go through the process of enrollment of names with Bishop Rhodes on Sunday afternoon.
In this beautiful moment for our Catechumens, we all stop and reflect on this core truth of our own identity: We are created by God for a relationship with Him. He "elects" or "chooses" every one of us to be His own.  He chooses us all to exist, and our existence is most importantly so that he can shine the light of His love upon us.
Relationships require time.  Prayer is that giving time for God, as well as obedience to His commands, fasting from the good things of this world, and almsgiving - which are all prayer put into action.
CS Lewis' Weight of Glory - a beautiful sermon given at the end of term in Oxford, 1942.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.

All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. ...
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.


If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
This is the point, then, of the season of Lent: to redirect our desires to the things that we really should be desiring.  Not to destroy desire itself, but to set it on the proper object: God alone. Thus Jesus spends 40 days in the desert, not for himself to re-orient, but to be an example for us of how important this must be in our lives.  Everything it less important. Nothing else matters, not even food, when compared to the great "weight of glory" that God wishes to share with us. In the desert, we connect with our true identity in God and discover where we really come from.  At the same time, we are called forward to where we are really headed. May we follow Our Lord's example this Lent and draw close to the Lord, our true origin, and our ultimate destiny.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

How to do Lent wrong:
As a self-help program (weight loss, self-perfection)   *no reference to God*
From a perspective that enjoying things of earth is bad  (Buddhism and Stoicism) *not ordered*
“hold my breath” penances
doing too much.  (not sustainable)
doing too little  (no growth)  (e.g. push-ups, not 1/day, not 500/day)
“winging it” (no plan)
telling no one (no accountability, easy to slack off; no chance to help others)
telling everyone  (Pharisees)
LOSING THE CENTER  - GOD IS THE CENTER


CCC 1428 Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.  St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, "there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.”

1432Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!"26 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him.

1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,31 which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins."32

1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father.

Focus is relationship.  Prodigal Son.
Prayer and Mass have a priority.  From this flows the other two practices of fasting and almsgiving.  Encountering God helps us to realize that these things of the world will not satisfy, and almsgiving is to be like God who is generous, self-giving love.  So God must be at the center.

Deification -  GOD WANTS TO MAKE YOU LIKE HIMSELF.  He created you that way, but our sins have covered over it, just like the ashes on our forehead will be a small sign of the mess we have thrown over our souls. Lent is a time of taking that stuff away.

How do you make and shape glass? How do you make steel armor or a sword?  You place it in a fire. And it becomes like that fire: it becomes hot and it gives light.
God is the fire, and prayer is drawing close to him. The fire burns away our imperfections, but only if we put our selves into it, just like the glass and steel will never be purified, strengthened, and transformed unless it is put in the fire and becomes that fire.
From afar, a blazing fire is only a light that shines on us, and we are “safe” but unchanged when we keep our distance, left out in the cold. Draw near to the fire of God’s love this Lent, and you will lose your false “safety” but gain your true self and become the fulness of what you were always made to be as a son and daughter of God.


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Identity - from God alone



Audio - click here!

If you remember, last week we spoke about the importance of seeing beyond the rules of our faith to their full meaning, and their true goal: which is holiness, human perfection, the ability to love in a way that is powerful and transforms the world around us. This truth is continued in today’s readings, as we get at a “rule” that is so essential for making both the old law of Judaism and the New Law of Christ Jesus: love of neighbor.
As we do this, it might be good to start with a simple reminder: You are not the center of the universe.  I’m sorry if this comes as a shock to you, but rest assured, it’s gonna be okay. You will make it through this.
Now if that wasn’t shocking to you, perhaps this truth is more so: You are not even the center of yourself, of your own life. The more you make yourself the center, the more you fall apart, and the less yourself you become.  You end up just an empty shell.
I’ve talked about identity before, and it ultimately boils down to this: our true center is found in God.  If He’s at the center of our lives, we are full. We become what we were made to be.
You discover who you are by discovering whose you are.
The 2nd Vatican Council (1963) described this beautifully when the bishops promulgated the document on the Church in the Modern World entitled Gaudium et Spes.  It says in article 22 - In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself and brings to light its very high calling.
This is why in our 1st reading today we hear the phrase
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.  And we end with the phrase …I am the Lord. In fact, as the law is given in Leviticus almost every paragraph ends with that phrase   …I am the Lord. …I am the Lord. …I am the Lord.  It’s as if God is showing us who we are by showing us who He is.  And that indeed is what He means to “Be holy because He is Holy” a phrase Jesus also reprises with his conclusion today: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

God slowly reveals Himself to us. God slowly reveals ourselves to us.
“Self help” vs. Christian identity à Become a fool so as to become wise.
You discover who you are by discovering whose you are. A life of worship of God, of gazing at Him and His love, is how you discover your true identity.
As you live from this identity, you will be able to help others also discover their true selves. Go and be that light.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

homily - why rules?



Audio: click here!


As far as rules go, Christianity needs to graduate to a higher understanding. Christianity is much more than a list of ‘no’s. 
G.K. Chesterton uses the image of a what rules are for:  Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.
Jesus raises the bar here, because he wants the people to see the true meaning of all the prescriptions of the Law.  The purpose of the Law is to work its way inwards to the heart of the person.  Sinful human nature, with its tendency towards sin, needs to be worked on, and the easiest place to start that work of untwisting the lies of the devil is in our actions. The law is all about external actions, things that can be measured.  These almost always take time to think about and take a real conscious decision to enact. When we begin to control our behavior, it should strengthen us for the next step, the mind, our thoughts, and then finally the passions, which are certainly much more difficult to overcome but can be healed by God’s grace.
So Jesus raises the bar from the Old Law today in all kinds of ways for this reason: that there is something more out there for us.  The rules Jesus gives are not ends in themselves. They have a goal that we cannot forget.  When we forget the goal of human perfection, holiness, the ability to love at such a high pitch that our lives become the salt of the earth and the light of the world, - when we forget that, Christianity looks like a bunch of silly rules.  Like my family’s rule that shoes had to go upstairs.  Why, dad? I don’t wear shoes upstairs… “Because your mother and I are the parents and you are the kids, and we said so.” In just the same way, Christianity because rather unattractive when we don’t see the point of the rules.
 It can happen in many different parts of life where we get caught up in the rules and forget that there is a reason for them that goes beyond them.
Soccer, basketball, baseball, any sport they all have lots of rules. But the rules have a higher purpose: the beauty of the game played well.
Music too has rules.  Playing piano or guitar or another musical instrument has all kinds of things that say: do it this way, not this way. But the rules have a higher purpose: the beauty of music performed well.
Was Michael Jordan breaking the rules all the time? No. But did he play for something more than the rules? Definitely.
Did Mozart or Beethoven have to learn the rules of music and how to play piano? Certainly. But did they stay focused on the rules forever? No way!
So too for us as Christians: we must learn the rules in our head, but more importantly live them so well that they become part of us – automatic so to speak.  Then we can really get more and more free into the beauty of the Christian life.