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, February 23, 2013

Homily 2-24-2013 Mountains

 Mountains in the Bible are powerful and important places. Mountain is almost a code-word for divine intervention, for God manifesting Himself and making something critical happen.
In seminary, we had our own little mountains not far off the Mississipi river in southeast Minnesota, called “bluffs.” One of these had an awesome rock formation right near the top that gave a wonderful view of the gorgeous campus below. I went up there many times, even once before sunrise to watch the dawn break. Back when I was in shape, I could take the most direct and steepest route right up to it, but I was always out of breath by the time I made it to the top.

Lent is meant to be a time of climbing a mountain to experience God. And if you've ever tried to climb a mountain, you know that it ain't no walk in the park. This is some seriously difficult work, and you better make good preparations for it. You have to first off dress properly and bring the right equipment. But also you have to pack the necessary amount of food and water. But not too much. Any ounce of extra baggage you bring is going to make that climb more miserable. So the journey up the mountain requires you to make judgments on things: what's important? what will help me? what will hold me back? That's one thing we do during Lent.
But then we get to work climbing. And that work toward sanctification can be tough. In these 40 days, we may want to quit. It is so much easier to just give in to the gravity of our concupiscence and fall down. It's not easy to change; it means going against the grain of our habits to make better ones.
When we are tempted to give in to the difficulties, or find ourselves tripped up on our faces because of sin, it is then that we need a reminder of our purpose: why are we doing this?
The Cross hurts, but the Resurrection gives us assurance that it's worth it.
This is what the disciples experience today. 8 Days ago, they hear that their teacher, the Messiah, is going to taste the most humiliating, most shameful, and most painful death possible.
They need encouragement. They need a change of perspective- to see things from above.
They need a God's eye view. They need hope.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homily 2-17-2013 Winning the Desert Duel

 Five days into Lent, I am sure some of us have been tempted to give up our Lenten promises. Perhaps we've felt the sting of our sacrifices and we already asked ourselves, “Is it too late to change my penance?”
This is okay. Temptation is normal for us humans. And today, as we follow Jesus into the desert in a game of “follow the leader” that really isn't a game, we look toward our future with confidence knowing that He was Himself tempted and overcame the sting of that temptation.
Today, in the desert where we have to face-up to ourselves, we see Jesus in a sort of duel - a wrestling match between Himself and the Devil's cunning temptations. And the lesson for us today is that we don't defeat the Devil at his own game. If we play his game, we lose no matter what.
Look at Christ. Jesus doesn't beat Satan by doing what he tells Him: turning stones to bread to satisfy his physical wants; worshiping him to receive power and dominion; or hurling himself off the temple to receive the praise and adoration of others. Rather, Christ conquers these attacks by His lowliness, by His humility, by His trust in God His Father. Not that he couldn't have shown the Devil who's who, but He responded this way to leave an example for us. And in that victory we are shown a way to win in our own struggles and temptations, whatever form they take (for me right now it is in the form of yummy looking sweets and snacks between meals!). We have to follow our leader.
The desert reminds us that we will fail on our own. This is why Moses commands the people of God to proclaim the story of their ancestors, of how God saved them by mighty works: so they never forget that they are nothing without God. We must confess our trust in God over these next 40 days as Paul reminds the Romans. We see today the truth in the words of Saint Paul, who said in 2 Cor. 10:12 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. Here's one example of that. If on Ash Wednesday we cannot survive the 16-or-so hours of fasting (or at least Fr. Terry cannot) without being either irritable, grumpy, or lazy, then how do we expect to survive the forty days of Lent ahead of us? No, Lent is not a muscle-building program for us to be self-sufficient; Lent is a habitual re-orienting of the eyes of our hearts and minds towards God so that we find in Him our only true strength. When we are weak, then we are strong. This is the humility that Christ exemplified for us today, and this is how he defeated the Devil in that challenging competition.
So whether we have already stumbled in our Lenten program or have survived the first days of Lent, we know that we must trust in God our Father, after the example of Christ in the desert. With absolute humility, let us creatures acknowledge Our Creator and Defender, and find ourselves strong in our weakness. CCC 2097 To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the "nothingness of the creature" who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.
This humble adoration is the way to victory. This is the program for our entire Christian life, and especially for our next six weeks. Let us follow our leader with His humility and His strength to the desert and the cross, and so receive the promise of eternal life that we taste in this Mass.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Homily 2-10-2013

 Today I have a simple message for you all: don't be afraid of prayer. Despite its difficulties, it is rewarding.
When Jesus tells Peter to “cast out into the deep for a catch,” I think this is a beautiful image for what prayer is. Prayer is dark, scary, demanding, challenging. It requires our hard work, yes, but ultimately depends on more than that to be fruitful: we can't force God, just as Peter can't force fish into his net. But if we are faithful to prayer, we will in the end see great results. If we go “cast out into the depths” of our soul in prayer, it is there we will find the wellsprings of eternal life in the Holy Spirit, and we will never be dissappointed, we will never be let down.
Today's readings show us that prayer is the source of Christian mission. Only in prayer do we get a sense of who God is, who we are, and what that relationship demands that we do on this earth – both for God and for our fellow man.
Saint Peter today receives his vocation, to be a fisher of men, through a profound encounter with the Lord Jesus. Saint Paul, who says today how he was made an apostle by Jesus appearing to him on the way to Damascus, also receives his mission, and his strength for perseverance, from that experience. And in our first reading, the prophet Isaiah, deep in prayer, had a similar mystical experience where he encountered in a vision both God and his angels, and hears the Lord calling out to him to fulfill a specific mission. Prayer is the source of vocation. Prayer is the source of mission.
Even Jesus himself underwent this process, one example being at the beginning of His public ministry: deep in prayer at His Baptism, the Father's voice is heard, and the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for 40 days to be deeply devoted to prayer as he begins his mission to proclaim the Gospel of repentance. This is what we are about to do as a universal Church in the 40 days of Lent which begin this Ash Wednesday, preparing for the holiest days of our Church Year – the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
If prayer is the source of mission, the source of what God is calling us to do, then it is also the source of Grace, with which God also equips us to carry out what He asks of us. This is why prayer is so critical: without it, we fail. The less we pray, the more we will struggle as disciples. On the other hand, the more we advance in prayer, the more perfect we become, the closer we are to being the saints God calls us to be, and the more our weaknesses and defects are overcome, since we are united to God Himself more perfectly and His love draws us into His fulness.  (A dedicated Christian should pray 15 minutes a day, minimum) (silent prayer is necessary!)
So, it is very fitting that at this time, we as a parish, as Christian Disciples, as stewards of the gifts of our life and our time, rededicate ourselves today to the stewardship of Prayer, affirming that we cannot fulfill our Baptismal calling without a regimen of prayer. I now invite our joint-speakers, Matt and Jack, to share their own experience of prayer in their lives to guide our commitment for this year.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Homily 2-3-2013 Receiving the Difficult Message

Jesus Christ, out of love for his hometown, speaks a difficult message to them, and they are unwilling to receive it. It fills “them with rage,” and we see the first glimpse of how the Gospel will end, Our Lord suffering death for standing up for the truth in live. Veritatem in Caritate, the truth in charity, is the episcopal motto of our Bishop Kevin Rhoades, and this is exactly the witness I have always seen him bear to our diocese. This role is a challenge for us as Christians, to speak the unpopular truth with compassion, but it is an essential part of true love, because Love and Truth go together. Charity does not abide in fantasy, it rather faces reality as it is – along with faith and hope to guide it.
But what really hits home for us today is how often we fit the role in today's Gospel not of Christ, but of the locals. How many times have we failed to listen to what we know is true because of how much it hurts? How many times have we disregarded the message because of a personal or social hang-up we have for the messenger? I know I have been guilty in the past of disregarding people I disagree with, of ignoring people I haven't forgiven, and of slandering (at least in my heart if not in my words/actions) people who have rubbed me the wrong way. If we fail to hear the hard truth, instead of growing and learning from our failings, we will only continue in the same shortcomings.
Sin is always easy, because of our concupiscence – since we have a tendency to self-love, it is always a challenge to be charitable, to be selfless, to model the Lord's Cross.
Saint Paul reminds us today of the essence of love, the essence of the Christian life. One practice I would ask you to do is to look at this passage for 1 Cor. 13, and replace the word Charity with Jesus, and see what it teaches you. Then replace it with yourself, and use that as an examination of conscience. You will find this remarkably helpful.
Living in love is the trademark of Christians, of God's adopted children. CCC-1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. ... (Basil) If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.
Let us be those children who love for love's sake. And if we can't do it in every part of our life, let us fake it 'til we make it. Practice it until it truly is a part of your soul.
In order to know what charity looks like, let us recall its fruits: CCC-1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: (Augustine) Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.
And these last words are why we are here today: God is love, and by coming to Him in our daily prayer and especially in the Mass, where Love itself is poured out into our hearts from this altar, we are restored and strengthened to live as children of God. Thank you Jesus, let the Love from your Sacred Heart fill our souls.