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!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How does Light work?

Light is a highly important image in John's Gospel, and for good reason. Remember the first words of God in the entire Bible: “Fiat lux!” Let there be light! Or in the original Hebrew, “yeh-HI Ohr!” אוֹר יְהִי (Online Hebrew Bible AudioIt is very meaningful, then, that Light is the beginning of a new creation that the Father is carrying out in Christ. In fact, in his opening prologue to introduce the Gospel, John intentionally uses the same first words: in the beginning! And continues by describing that The Word made flesh who was in the beginning with God is in fact life itself, and also the light of the human race. This story, then, is much more than a miracle: it is an account of the meaning of life, of the universe: light leads to life, which leads to God.

The Gospel and 2nd reading seem to suggest that light transforms an object. St. Paul says, “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Whatever is visible is light. Jesus, likewise, begins his teaching about Himself as the Light of the World today by saying the man's blindness had this cause: “so that the works of God might be made visible through Him.” In a sense, so that he could shine forth God's glory. So, instead of what we understand today, the wise at the time of Christ believes light turns objects into light itself: just as iron placed in a fire will take on the glow and heat of the fire. The light, like the fire, is has a power to change the thing it touches.

Today we see a similar transformation in the blind man. Using lots of sacramental imagery in his healing, the blind man becomes something new. As we see in the washing an image of baptism, we can see in the clay used on his eyes a symbol of a new creation (remember that Adam was made from the clay of the earth). The light of the world, Jesus Christ, has made this man to be a beacon of light himself: what Pope Francis calls a "missionary disciple." If we are to become disciples of the Light of the World, then we must, as Paul urges, "take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, but rather expose them" to the Light we bear: the truth of the Gospel. The man born blind does this today: "Why are you asking me again? Do you want to be his disciples, too?!”

Young David was anointed king, a humble man who shames the proud (especially when he conquers Goliath) just like today's blind man who "born totally in sin" puts the Pharisees in their place before they throw him out. God raises up the lowly who are willing to be transformed by His Light, like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Peter and Matthew, Paul and even little Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto, who's will said simply: “I was born poor; I have lived poor; I wish to die poor.”). God can do amazing things, as he did with these saints, if we “have faith in the Son of Man,” as Jesus says to the man today.

Perhaps we don't have that faith yet? Perhaps we are still blind in one way or another. There are many ways for us to be blind. First, we can be blind to the spiritual: believing only in what we see. Or, we can be blind to our own weaknesses and failures: thinking or at least pretending we are already perfect and not in need of a transforming re-creation. We can be blind to the ways others are hurting: only trusting in ourselves and our own problems. We can be blind to the power of Christ to heal and renew us: not having hope that we can ever get out of the mess we find ourselves in. Whatever blindness you are struggling with (and there's a blindness for everyone), ask Our Eucharistic Lord Jesus, the one and only Light of the World who can make us anew, to open your eyes and send you out as a messenger of His power and love, as a missionary disciple.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Homily 3-23-2014 Jesus and His Bride - The Thirst for Encounter

It's been 2.5 weeks since Lent began. Hopefully we have been off to a good start; if not, there's still lots of time, and the words of Saint Paul still ring true: today is a very acceptable time, today is the day of salvation. Having been out in the desert for a while, going cold-turkey on past sins and various attachments to things that we have begun to love for themselves and not for the greater good of God's Holy Will, now we discover a kind of pain. Our hearts are groaning. We are thirsty.
In today's Gospel we see that it's not only us who thirst, but God also: Jesus wants you.
This Gospel story operates on many levels at once, and I'll get to those in a second. Firstly, though, no matter what way you take this story, the woman symbolizes us – all of us, so guys, get over it. This isn't some icky weird thing, it's a spiritual truth that runs all through the Old Testament, that God takes His People, then the whole Church (and through Her the entire human race) as his Beloved, his Bride, in a spiritual sense: all of us are called to be bound to God forever, just like a husband and wife are to become one flesh for a lifetime. Christ the Bridegroom has a bride: His Body; all of us collectively – but also each of us individually. So in that way, we put ourselves in this woman's shoes, or sandals I guess.
Here we see that Jesus wants to be with you, thirsts for you, hungers for you more than for food, something which his disciples didn't get at all. Lovers don't think about food; people grieving don't think about it – so Jesus isn't concerned about it either. Every part of his body and soul are focused on this woman, this conversation, this longing for a relationship.
And we hunger for Christ, for the encounter with God that alone can satisfy our wandering heart. Looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces... (Johnny Lee)
This story shows our wandering in sinfulness in a couple ways. First, as the woman goes to the well daily, so do many run to addictive tendencies for a “quick fix” that gets them nowhere instead of to the fountain of life that never runs dry (Ps. 36:9 “for with you is the fountain of life, and in Your light we see light.” Jer. 2:13 “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water”). Secondly, We “have many husbands” - we have committed ourselves to all kinds of things hoping that they will protect us, provide a source of our joy, our happiness, but they betray us and fall short of the aspirations of our hearts.

2. Another perspective transforms the symbolism of the Gospel. The well can symbolize prayer: if we are to draw water, we have to go deep. This might mean digging up some pain, as Christ eventually does for this woman, but it also means real peace and happiness. This can be done in lots of ways: retreats, Lectio Divina, a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, a prayer journal, etc. Despite the ways to do it, many of us struggle with a real prayer life, because we can be afraid of going really deep in our prayer, of being really vulnerable, of letting those dreams take flight because we don't want to crash anymore. I assure you, Jesus is waiting at that well, starving and thirsting for you to go to Him. Please, satisfy His thirst, by satisfying your own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3-19-2013 Saint Joseph

The Pope's general audience is published, so far only in Italian (Google might help you with an "unofficial" translation, though it's usually a little sloppy!)
Here's the text: Vatican website.  Here's the video.  He speaks in Spanish a little after 46mins into the video.  Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI used to do most of the "salutations" in various languages, but now Pope Francis, not the linguist, relies on the work of priests to dictate on his behalf the "summaries" and greetings.
Peace!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Homily 3/16/14 Get your head in the clouds!

Sometimes in life, you need to get your head in the clouds! I know that so often we hear the contrary, (that we need to get our head out of the clouds), but if we do it all the time, we are also really missing something.
This past summer I was able to visit Colorado with my family. I was so glad that many of us were able to climb a high mountain together. It was one of the few times in my life I was that high up, and the view is spectacular, and there was even a couple small lakes up there - things you would never know existed if you didn't get yourself up that high. The other really cool experience I've had with views is flying. Wow. Getting above the clouds is absolutely amazing. Up there, you can really understand what the words dazzling white mean in today's account of the Transfiguration!
Moses and Elijah didn't see or hear God's plan until they journeyed up a mountain.  Abram, who heard God's voice today, sees later in life a foreshadowing of the cross when he takes his son Isaac up the mountain.
The point of all of this is that up high, you see things differently. It's worth it.
In the spiritual sense, all of us need to get our head in the clouds, often!  Every day you should get your head in the clouds.
Today, we get a glimpse of the future, of the goal of our lives, of heaven.  Peter, James, & John are able to see beyond the day-to-day to remember why they are following this teacher who they call "the Messiah" or "Christ."  In fact, just before this passage, they were taught by Jesus that "the Son of Man must be rejected, suffer greatly, and be killed, and then raised on the third day." Peter was not happy to hear this; the disciples must have been shocked, terrified, and dumbfounded that this was what the Messiah thinks His mission to be.  That's why, after stressing the point very clearly that you must take up your cross and follow, Jesus gives them a glimpse of His true Glory which the Father has given Him.  They need to see this in order to withstand the scandal of the Cross (scandal meaning stumbling block).  The Transfiguration is a support.
We need that kind of support and consolation, too.  As long as there is sin in the world, there will be stumbling blocks, things that scandalize our faith.  So we put our heads in the clouds, so to speak, through our daily prayer.  We climb the mountain when we come to this house of prayer and see Calvary presented sacramentally from this altar.  That's whey we remember the Transfiguration here in Lent, so that it's clear we aren't doing all this suffering for nothing: we get our eyes and ears out of the day-to-day for a bit so we can see the big picture!
Just as Jesus shows the disciples where their goal is (the glorified life of heaven), we also must do the same in prayer.  If I do not ever imagine what Saint Father Terry looks like I will never try to become that. If I don't see what my transfigured self could be in Christ, I will have difficulty making steps toward it.

Does the caterpillars lose itself when it becomes a butterfly? No! It is lifted up to a higher level.  But it does sacrifice itself - it has to give everything in order to get it. Does the seed lose itself when it is planted and begins to grow?  Yeah, perhaps kind of... but only to make a reality of what it already contains as a possibility: the full tree that God intended it to be.  In this Eucharist, let us ask our Transfigured and Risen Lord to help us keep our minds fixed on what we were truly made to be, so that we can make the daily steps to get there during this Lent.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Homily 3-9-2014 1st Sunday of Lent – Detoxing from the world, flesh, devil.

Today we run into a bit of providence again where the readings relate so well. Last week, in Ordinary Time, my homily was on trust. Today, the readings show us the same theme from a new angle.
Do we trust today? In many ways, that is what Lent does. Just as detox programs for people with serious addictions take a little time of pain and difficulty, so does Lent, and then you feel a little better, a little stronger, a little healthier each day.
Today our Lord Jesus goes out for something much more important than a detox program, more important than getting any physical gunk out of our systems. He goes out as an example for us. He goes to show us what our priorities are really supposed to be: to discover the Father's plan for His life in a way deeper than ever before, because that vision is the foundation for everything that occurs over the next 3 years of His public ministry. He also shows us how to overcome temptations.
In Lent we are all called to go to the deserted wilderness. We are called to a spiritual purification, to detox from the corruption that we experience in our souls thanks to the Fall of Adam & Eve. And eventually, after that time of being renewed, strengthened, and focused, we are called to face our temptations with a strength that is not our own, but comes from above and from within (from the same Holy Spirit that drove Christ to the desert).
According to the 1st Letter of St. John, there are three sources of temptation in our lives: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The beautiful stuff, the “mammon” of the world, grabs our attention and ultimately can grab our hearts, if we aren't serving God with our whole heart. The body (or as St. Francis called it, “brother donkey” - to use the family friendly version) can draw us to be self-absorbed, whether it is food, exercise, laziness, or (once again, to be family-friendly) other physical pleasures. The devil works in other ways: the desire for power, to be at the top and in control and not have to share power.
All three of these ultimately tempt us to the same thing: pride and selfishness. We heard again today how, when it all started, the snake sowed the first slanderous rumor of them all: “God cannot be trusted. He is holding something back.” Then he expands on those seeds of doubt by enticing their selfishness: you will be like gods, knowing good and evil. Knowing good and evil, for sure; being like God, not so much. And that's what makes a lie really dangerous: it is a twisting of a half truth. The better the lie is, the harder for us to see where the truth ends and the lies begin, or even tell it is a lie at all.
Original Sin, and God's response in redemption, is one of the best themes of Catholic Literature. If you want to get a glimpse of the horror that one person's malice can sow in the lives of others, I recommend the reading either J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion (especially Chapters 6 and 7), or if you like plays, Shakespeare's Othello. There are no characters I could think of that are more vile at a deep level - that is, without losing my family-friendly rating! There's so much good Catholic literature (and movies) out there that are great to read but also great for strengthening your faith. I recommend giving some of it a try!

These forty days, we are sent to the desert wilderness to detox from these deeply sown lies, these twisted half-truths, and the doubts that grow from them. Because of the sin of Adam, which we all re-echo in our own lives, we are messed up, but not to the core, and not beyond restoration. Lent reminds us of that, it gives us hope, and it keeps us moving forward. So don't be afraid of the desert.  Don't lose trust even when you can't see the road ahead, even when this "detoxing" from our concupiscence hurts.  The effort and perseverance will be worth it when on Easter Sunday, with pure hearts and minds, we can rejoice fully in our Lord's Resurrection and know the meaning of the A-word that we give up for Lent (the family-friendly one!)  God bless you!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Homily Ash Wednesday 3/5/2014

Today all Catholics throughout the world will have a grumble in their stomach. That means more than 1 billion people world-wide and around 75 million here in the US, except for those who are too young or too old , who will feel light-headed or weak. Today, Catholics fast, a traditional sign of grieving.
Why do we fast? I think for two reasons: both because when people are distraught, they don't even think about food, and because it kind of hurts.
We are distraught. We are in a harsh, sad, scary situation because our lives are riddled with sinfulness. We realize that something is really not right in our lives without God.

Secondly, we fast because it hurts. In a world that constantly runs away from pain, we spiritualize it and take it upon ourselves. We give pain a deeper meaning so that it is no longer oppressive, but somehow liberating. Today our pain doesn't conquer us, we conquer it. Why? How?
Because of the Cross and the Resurrection.
Today's readings tell us there is a bad way to fast, and a good way. There's a bad way to celebrate Lent, and there's a good way.

Today we get that in just a few words from the prophet Joel: Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return (Hebrew shoov, “repent”) to the Lord your God. “Get everyone together and ask for God's mercy.” Yes, but there is more to it than that. Jesus explains further: “Don't do all this for show; don't do it to look good. If you do it for that, then that's all you will get. God won't reward show-offs. He rewards what is done in secret.” The prophet Isaiah in Ch. 58:1-12, gives a more detailed explanation: Don't sit around with ashes,
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.b 4See, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist! Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself?...Is this what you call a fast? ...Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?7Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a devout Jewish scholar who recently died. When we studied him in Prophets class I was really amazed at the way he expressed what Isaiah and Joel are talking about here: all those sacrifices you do, all that ritual, is just a pathetic empty show in the face of God if you just go out and do exactly the opposite of what He really wants. Heschel says: “Deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer. Men may not drown the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings. The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness...Righteousness is not just a value; it is God's part of human life, God's stake in human history. Perhaps it is because the suffering of man is a blot upon God's conscience; because it is in relations between man and man that God is at stake. Or is it simply because the infamy of a wicked act is infinitely greater than we are able to imagine? People act as they please, doing what is vile, abusing the weak, not realizing that they are fighting God, affronting the divine, or that the oppression of man is a humiliation of God.”
So, let's start Lent off right: with a fasting pleasing to God. Let's spend today not on our own pursuits, but upon God's. In class, in our homework, in whatever else we do today, we don't do it for ourselves, for show. We do it for God. And during our free time, we look for what good we can do, for how we can “free the oppressed” so that our sacrifice is not a mockery of God to His face.

As we begin this season, we get two homilies in one Mass. The first you just heard. The second is the liturgy's: ashes and a command. I am kind of jealous, but not really, because I know these ashes are going to do much more for you than my homily; for while the latter might go in one ear and out the other, these ashes will remain with you all day. You will feel them again and again, and you will recall the words spoken to you.

There are two options for what you are told: Repent and believe in the Gospel. And: Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

God calls you to reflect on this command he gives you: Repent and believe! Remember! This is your second homily today.

Let us live this Lent so as to be worthy of Easter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Homily - Sunday March 2, 2014 - - - Trusting God in the Deep End

Today we are reminded about trust. Trust in general in the first reading; trust that God's judgment is more accurate than others' in the second reading, and trust in God's providence for our needs in the Gospel. Trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. This goes for marriages, for parenting, for friendships,...even for the workplace. If we are afraid or unsure of another person, we cannot have a good relationship because we will never be honest about ourselves with them.
Adam and Eve lost their trust in God and that is why they sinned: Catechism #397 "Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. Also sequence and would-be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness."
(Confirmation: as you guys grow up and prepared to become adults, you need to remember that there are some things about which you must always be childlike, some lessons that need to remain with you forever.)
A great image of trust is a child jumping into his or her father's arms. When I was growing up we would always have a summer visit to a lake or two. The youngest kids in their floatation devices or the ones learning to swim would sometimes be nervous about jumping to dad, mom, or an older sibling. Their level of trust was written all over them. You can just see the difference in their eyes, in their body language, in their voices, and you knew which ones were having a really hard time with it because they were scared, even big-time scared. The funny thing is, did that make the situation more or less objectively dangerous? No! My mom or my dad had just as much love for one of them as for the other, and there would be no problems, but they couldn't see it, they couldn't feel that love at that moment. All they saw was the dark water, not the loving parent within the water, in a sense conquering it.
Adults live in fear a lot, too. Fr. Barron's podcast for this weekend said that the 3 largest buildings in Chicago are owned by life insurance companies. That's fear. And how do we work against that fear of the dark water of unknown tragedy? We give money in the promise of receiving more. Because those green bills that say “In God We Trust” are somehow going to be the things that save us from pain, from death, from sin, and from loneliness. No one can serve two masters – stewardship in any form (but especially in this campaign we are embarking on) is essential for us. If we trust God, we will show it in our actions. We have to activate our faith.
My grandma is dying happy, at peace, with full trust in God. She has been making acts of faith all her life, so now she is ready and happy to go to the God she knows and loves. Grandma is not afraid of the deep end of life. She knows who is there in that water, conquering it: it's the Lord Jesus Christ whose image she moved to right in front of her death bed. “It gives me so much peace,” she said on Friday.
I am more and more convinced that the deepest wound of our world, especially of our youth who so easily and seemingly unexpectedly can slide into despair, is the lack of awareness that they are so deeply and irrevocably loved by God. They don't know that God loves them, that he's here in their life, that he cares about them and provides for them. They don't know how to see it; they don't feel it; they have forgotten how to experience it. They need to be shown it! Who is failing to teach them, remind them, help them! Perhaps we need to start here in our work as missionary disciples: tell them directly and clearly: "I know that God loves you, and that cross is proof!"

In a sense, I as a priest have given my whole life for this very purpose. But all of us, no matter what state in life we are, no matter our age or our knowledge of the faith, can manifest and show this love of Christ from his Sacred Heart through our own to those who are hurting.  May that Sacred Heart fill us with His love, help us to have trust (have faith), and share that love with one wounded soul this week.