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 21, 2015

Time is up!

We remember the big moments of life that more or less put an end to one chapter and open up another.
Today we see some of the biggest transitions of all history.  In the story of Noah, God says "never again will I wipe out man from the face of the earth." His investment in the human race now means that the story of the Bible is going to be a rescue mission and not any attempt to just write it off and start over.
Then we see in the Gospel the biggest transition of all time until Christ's return: God's rescue-mission that lasted over centuries took two forms: the old covenants wherein He called a people to Himself and slowly guided them along the way of Justice and Truth; and the New and Eternal Covenant ratified in Christ.  Saint Mark explains that this transition ends with John the Baptist's arrest.  The last prophet who simply called out the sinfulness of God's people and their need for forgiveness is now done.
And now a new chapter opens up: Jesus comes on the stage and declares that the time has come. What time? The time of the forgiveness that couldn't be won by the blood of a little lamb.  The time of God's definitive work in rescuing a fallen humanity. The time, Jesus says, of the Kingdom - of repentance and of believing in the Gospel.
But before we can enter into that time, Jesus shows us that it won't be easy.  We will have serious struggle as He did in the desert, but we will also have help.  Did you notice that Jesus wasn't alone in the desert at all? First he was tempted by Satan. Then he's among the wild beasts. Finally he is ministered to by angels.  There is good evidence in the text that these all were happening more or less together, all at once.  Isn't that exactly how we experience it? We all have the adversary tempting us as we wander through the beast-filled deserts of our lives, but we also have the angels there to help us.  We are never abandoned, but we can often get caught up focusing on the voice and the logic of the devil.  Remember what God said to Cain before he killed his brother Abel: Why are you angry and downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

During this season of Lent, that is our struggle.  We must keep our eyes on Christ to conquer this battle in our hearts.  Fortunately, after Christ conquers for us and gives us an example, He immediately comes after us.  Jesus runs out into the country announcing to us and looking for us.  All we have to do is let Him find us, quit hiding, let down our defenses founded on insecurities, and He will be our peace.  "The time has come.  The Kingdom is at hand.  Repent and Believe in the Gospel."
Before we can enter into the Kingdom, Jesus gives us a two-part plan: Repent and believe.  We can't repent without belief, and we don't truly believe unless we repent.  And we keep doing both again and again for the rest of these 40 days.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the grace of true repentance.  To drive us into the desert of our lives with Christ so that He can conquer the devil's lies that have us tied down.  Let us beg the Holy Spirit for a deeper faith to have a Lent that makes us different by the time Easter comes, a heart that is now master over the evil of this world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

American Individualism, Isolation and Relationship with Jesus

The faith of this leper is great: "if you desire it, you can make me clean". His leprosy was worst case scenario: his entire body covered. 

Escrivá Forge 665: The power of working miracles! How many dead — and even rotting — souls you will raise, if you let Christ act in you.
In those days, the Gospel tells us, the Lord was passing by; and they, the sick, called to him and sought him out. Now, too, Christ is passing by, in your Christian life. If you second him, many will come to know him, will call to him, will ask him for help: and their eyes will be opened to the marvellous light of grace.

For the Jewish community, isolation was probably the most difficult part of leprosy. It was so hard for that person to be forced out of society and all of their relationships.
I find it interesting that we in a highltechnological society fail to appreciate the pain and challenge of isolation, even as we experience it even more frequentlybut in different ways.  The United States was in many ways founded on getting away from others and promoting the individual. And that individualism creates within us a unique fear for the exact thing we were created for: community and relationship.
The leper today goes to Jesus in order to seek healing. However, he also submits himself to what the Lord's will is: "if you will let, you can make me clean." That vulnerability is exactly what so many people are afraid of in their relationships. We don't want to be hurt, so we don't allow ourselves to open up to another.

Are we afraid of getting close to Jesus because it might mean shattering are individualism, overcoming our fears of relationship, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in the hands of another? Although this might make sense in other relationships, it does not make sense with Christ. He loves us perfectly. We know this even better than the leper. Look at the cross. You don't need to be afraid of someone who will love you like this.

If we want miracles to happen in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, we half to get close to Jesus. We half to be vulnerable enough to let him take control and change us. That is exactly what prayer is meant to do, abandoning our hearts and souls and futures to the living God.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Man, you don't know pain!"

I feel like I have had a sheltered childhood.  I was part of a blessed family. Besides losing my maternal grandparents  around age 9, I never really knew much tragedy in my family.
No injuries that weren't fully healed and in the past, etc.
So it's hard to fully understand how Job is feeling in today's reading. I mean, this guy has the ultimate trump card for other people's complaints about what life has dealt them.  Can you imagine losing everyone you've ever loved, everything you've ever owned, and then to top it off your entire body is covered with boils from the worst sunburn imaginable? Job is te only one truly able to tell anyone: "man, you don't know pain - let me tell you about pain!"
However I've seen a whole lot of pain and felt others' pain pretty deeply.  In fact, I almost lost my 4 younger siblings all at one time. (Lake tree accident)
So the Job of my family is my little sister Kasey: Kasey has been through a lot. She was the one with the broken femur at age 4. We carried her around and used a wagon to get her around the house.  At age 8 or so, She broke her jaw and had her mouth wired shut. A little later Tommy broke her head open with a hockey stick. 

Kasey shows that pain doesn't need to overwhelm us and take over.

What do you do for people in times of pain? We have to stand with them through it. Pink and make us alone. We must fight against that!

Sometimes we think pain is the one thing in this life that doesn't make sense.  Like we can challenge God as Job does and say to Him: hey, you don't know what pain is like.  but he does. He does better than we do. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Parish and the Synagogue

 Every Jewish teacher, or rabbi, was trained by another distinguished rabbi. Saint Paul himself was taught by a great Pharisee rabbi of the time, a man called Gamaliel, who is named twice in Acts of the Apostles. The reason for naming your teacher was so that your words could have some backing: you didn't make this stuff up on your own. Rather, you were taught by a scholar of the law, who was taught by another rabbi, who had his own great instructor, etc. all the way back until ultimately you got to who? Moses, the man from today. All authority rested upon Moses who received instruction from God Himself on Mount Sinai.
This is what makes it so astonishing that Jesus teaches on a different authority: he had no rabbi of his own, and no one wanted to claim this man as one of his students. But it is precisely as a teacher that Jesus is first known: he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. The reason Jesus was seen as a teacher was because of where and what he was doing: Jesus would gather at the synagogue and meet people where they met God, and meet God they certainly did, a God in disguise who came so close that it was hard for their eyes to focus.
The Synagogue was the local "parish" of the time. Thanks to the work of the Pharisees, the Jews could gather for a type of worship that centered around the Word of God. Animal sacrifice was reserved for the temple alone, in Jerusalem. Thus the synagogue was a place of prayer, of letting God speak, but also of Religious Education, of Culture, and of Communal Life. Like the parish, the synagogue was the main source of people's connection to God and to each other.
When Jesus travels from town to town, He goes to the synagogues and teaches. And people meet him, people encounter "the Holy One of God" (as the unclean spirit says today) and are delivered from spiritual bondage, are healed physically, are filled with the peace the world cannot give, and are strengthened to love because they know they are infinitely loved by their God.
That is also what the parish is meant to be, and that is why we celebrate today as a parish. The past year, when we began our campaign, “Behold I Make All Things New," we began to make great strides to overcome the obstacles that are hindering the further growth and vitality of our parish. Like the synagogue, this parish is a place where people worship, where religious instruction is given across all stages of life, and where culture and communal life are meant to be shared. These are hard for us to excel in due to our facilities. For worship, we have seven Masses so the community can't pray well together, and its even worse at the holiest days of our Church. Religious instruction is great for younger ages thanks to the education center, but still more is needed to make the programs excel for the large numbers. Adult education struggles because of the lack of facilities to work with. And most of all, communal life suffers during the week because we have only a few good spaces for adults, as well as on Sundays because there's no gathering space to chat and the parking lot is chaos. It breaks our hearts as priests and staff when we have to say so often: “we just can't do that because we don't have anywhere to make it work.” But thanks be to God that through the "Behold I Make All Things New" campaign, we plan to resolve all of these things over the next years by your generous hearts. I am so grateful for the ways God is working. With the amazing amount of $11.75 million raised, we are currently only able to accomplish the largest part of our goal: the worship space, gathering space, and new meeting rooms. The rest of the goal in pledges would also allow for expansion of the Education Center, especially the needed bathrooms and a cafeteria space so we can use the gymnasiums as they were intended.

But the real reason we want to do all of this is so that people can meet Jesus at Saint Pius X. We don't want the parish to simply be a place where you get in an out on Sunday (and other days) as quickly as possible to avoid a jam. We want it to be the life-blood of our families, their second home, and the place where memories are formed year after year. This “catholic synagogue” is where we find Jesus, we are healed by Him, and we proclaim Him “the Holy One of God.” May the Lord, whose generosity and love knows no bounds, bring our work to its completion so that as many people as possible can meet the Lord Jesus in this community of faith.