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, July 26, 2015

Sunday homily – the Eucharist and the teaching of the 12 apostles

John 6.  The Lord Jesus uses the miracle of the multiplication of loaves to foreshadow and prepare the greater miracle of the gift of the Eucharist!
No Last Supper account, so this becomes the Gospel's teaching on the Eucharist.

From the account of this story and the details inside it, we can see what we do at Mass, and start to understand why we do it, i.e. the meaning behind it.
Taken. Blessed. Broken. Given.
Represents Christ Jesus.  Represents all of us.

Presentation of the gifts is like the small offering of the little boy, which Jesus takes and transforms miraculously into something so much greater.

Gathering of the fragments :: the use of patens and purification of vessels.  A symbol of uniting many into one as well.  This is also emphasized in an early document called the "Teaching of the 12 Apostles" or Didache. In there, they speak on the Eucharist: symbol of the grains of wheat scattered across the hillside and gathered into one in the loaf of bread that ultimately becomes Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is a symbol of the unity that Jesus has created for all of humanity – the people that have hated each other and have killed each other for generations upon generations are now united in the reconciling sacrifice of our Lord on the cross.  That's like what we heard in Saint Paul today: preserve that unity!

Silent Prayer after Communion. In some ways, the most special time you have with Christ Jesus every week.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Matt and Katie wedding homily

A match made in heaven, a match made in Indianapolis, a match made on the volleyball court!

The story of Tobit: just when a person has nothing else to hold on to except the Lord, and they abandon themselves to his plan, he provides us with all that they need!  This in some sense, is how Matt and Katie experienced things. Leading up to meeting each other, they felt their futures in their dreams somewhat stripped away and left empty-handed. Yet they remained faithful. And the Lord rewarded them!

Married love is meant to be a gospel!  Gospel of Christ: dying to self, submitting to the Father's Will for our lives, will ultimately lead us through the Cross to a New Life that is fuller than was ever possible before.

Big brothers are supposed to protect her sisters from bad guys. I feel I have been a bit negligent of that for my sisters, but they done just a fine job. The only real test I have had of Matt was this: is this guy crazy enough to risk freezing to death in order to watch Notre Dame football? He passed: he is that crazy. And that tinge of crazy in him is a good thing.  You see, marriage requires a bit of insanity if it's going to work. You have to love the other person so much that you are ready to give them everything, starting with yourself, your entire person. But when I realized that he loves my sister with that same craziness, that same reckless abandon, then I knew they had something.  That's why the cross and the Eucharist are the true shape and form of love! (Cross held during vows) As Saint Paul reminded us today in Ephesians, Jesus doesn't hold anything back from His bride the Church: he loved her and gave himself up for her. Look at how crazy love this!  Look at how madly God is in love with us!

Marriage means so much more than what our society thinks it means.  We have so often reduced it to the least common denominator, and done it again and again and again, but now it looks very different from its true form in God's original plan.  With the way civil laws have developed over the past few decades , it now seems that marriage is only about me: how does this person satisfy my plans for my future, my happiness, my goals.  But as we see in St. Paul, it's supposed to be about the other person, and about Jesus.  Matt and Katie understand this, and that is why when they were dating and talking about marriage, they saw the big picture, which Matt even mentioned when he proposed on Christmas eve: they want to get each other to heaven.

Matt and Katie, in just a few moments you will be married.  Then the first thing you will do as husband and wife will be to pray at Mass together, to witness the only true definition of love in the Lord's Cross made present to us on this altar, and to receive the gift of the Eucharist that should define and shape your entire life and fuel your hearts to love more fully every day.  Tomorrow's Mass has for its Gospel the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, the only miracle remembered in all four Gospels, and is seen as a mystery of the Eucharist.  Jesus satisfies all of us, and we are called like the apostles to receive from Him and to give to hungry hearts and souls.  If you stay close to Jesus, your marriage will overflow.  Your love will abundantly bear fruit, as the Gospel always does, in the hearts of the people you meet, the lives you touch.  We pray of course for many children as well, but we are certain that the fruitfulness will be there for those who are faithful, more often in ways that we cannot see than in ways that are visible to the history books.  Thank you for your yes today, and may Jesus renew and strengthen that yes in your hearts every time you meet Him in the Eucharist.  Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Sabbath in a hyperactive culture!

In the last couple weeks we spoke about prophecy, and how all of us are called to share in the prophetic mission of our Lord Jesus Christ and his church.  The first reading toda speaks quite directly to leaders within the church, "shepherds" who must lead their peopl truly, according to how God wants them and not according to their own whims or the ways of the world.  Sometimes for myself as a priest proclaiming in a prophetic way what Jesus wants his people to hear can be very painful and difficult, and other times it is not so hard, like in today's Gospel.

"Come away and rest a while" Jesus demands of his apostles. I think it is important to remember that this was not a suggestion, or a nice idea, but a command that Jesus gave to his disciples. Jesus commands us to rest a while!
For the Jews, this was supposed to happen every single weekend.  And for Christians also, at least until the recent past, this was also seen on Sundays by the fact that people didn't work, most stores were closed, and the day was spent relaxing and catching up with family and close friends.

In our world today, we have lost in many ways that identifying part of who we are as God's people: we have been absorbed by the constant activity of those around us, and have lost the gift of Sunday rest - it is meant to be a great gift a blessing.  We have heard the world say to us again and again "don't just sit there, do something!" And slowly but surely, we have given in.
We have lost the ability to hear the Lord say to us: "don't just do something, sit there!" Meaning, the Lord is begging us, "Don't just be filled with all this activity that doesn't have any meaning, spend some time reflecting on what life is about, what your life is about, and what the Lord's will for your future is, even how you are to spend this day!" "Come away and rest a while!"

I've only read two books by Abraham Joshua Heschel, but today I just happened to be speaking to you about him again after I did two weeks ago: this book The Sabbath is a phenomenal little book!  He speaks in poetic, symbolic, colorful language, using stories and vignettes from his childhood and adulthood, to describe his religious experience of his Jewish observance of the required day of rest that comes at the end of every week.

This period of rest isn't something only for Sundays, but should happen every single day as well! This is one of the things I talked about when I spoke of the four signs of a dynamic Catholic: prayer and study are essential for a living,  growing, life-giving Christian.

I know for myself, there are lots of things on my plate. Some of them are very much right in front of me all the time, like my messy office, or the boxes of things I carried over from St Pius that have not been unpacked yet! Not to mention all of the various things that come to my desk and through email and the telephone. If I am not careful, I can get swept into doing hours and hours of things that God might not want me to be focusing on at this point. Just because something is right in front of you and seems urgent, does not mean that it is important. We have to be people of prayer, and people of discernment to know the difference between important and urgent. God wants us to use our time well, and only prayer, only reflection, only those little times of rest every day will help us to realize what is important, what is truly worthy of our time and energy and work. Maybe God doesn't want me to unpack these boxes for the next couple months, maybe he wants to teach me a lesson that some of these things are totally unnecessary and I can probably recycle them! What kind of lessons does the Lord want to teach you, that perhaps the constant business and activity does not allow you to here? Don't just do something, sit there, with the Lord in prayer, and reflect on what you are doing.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Modern Prophets, Part Two: witnessing

Prophecy is once again at the center of this week's readings. Remember from last week, I spoke on being the living witnesses of the God of Abraham in today's world, and the 4 Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: Prayer, Study, Generosity, and Evangelization. Hopefully you have prayed about this and started a plan to slowly increase these in your life.
A new theme I want to focus on: How to evangelize with your words.
Ultimately, we must remember it's not about you or me, nor about the people we are speaking to.
Fr. Ben's room in seminary: you aren't here for yourself!
I had a picture of my "bride to be" - the Cathedral of our diocese.
We have pictures of our loved ones in our offices, our cars, nowadays our phones & computers.
These are all reminders: we are here to give ourselves away.

Amos and Saint Paul show us how to witness.
Amos: tell your story.
Paul: tell your story in light of HIS story.

The best witnessing answers this question: What has GOD done in your life?

This is what Amos shows us today. He speaks straightforward and honestly about who he was and who he now is because of what God has done. We must so the same. Think of your own story and be able to tell it (or really a snapshot of it) in a minute or less. That is the best way to witness with your words.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Prophets of yesterday and today

Audio: I forgot to record it this week.  I apologize!  Audio recordings will return next week!

One of the best writers I read in seminary, particularly about the prophets, was the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel.  He received a doctorate at the University of Berlin but in his 30s had to flee the Nazis and came to the United States, where he taught for the rest of his life. He wrote a two-volume work called "the prophets." In the first chapter, he talks about what a prophet really is, and here I read some of his inspiring words.

There is no proof for the existence of the God of Abraham.  There are only witnesses. (The prophets are those witnesses)
The prophet's word is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels a blast from heaven. ...
... It is embarrassing to be a prophet. There are so many pretenders, predicting peace and prosperity, offering cheerful words, adding strength to self-reliance, while the prophet predicts disaster, pestilence, agony, and destruction. People need exhortations to courage, endurance, confidence, fighting spirit, but Jeremiah proclaims: you are about to die if you do not have a change of heart and cease being callous to the word of God. He sends shutters over the whole city, at a time when the will to fight is most important.  ...
... None of the prophets seem enamored with being a prophet nor proud of his attainment. To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction. The mission he performs is distasteful to him and repugnant to others: no reward is promised him and no reward could temper its bitterness. ... The prophet is a lonely man. The prophet's duty is (as we heard in the first reading from Ezekiel today) to speak to the people, whether they hear or refuse to hear.

Why does a prophet do all this? Because he cannot stand the injustice that he sees between God and man, between fellow human beings, and between man and the earth. The prophet cannot ignore the cries of God to go unheard among the rest of humanity. Heschel says: the prophet's eye is directed to the contemporary scene: the society and its conduct are the main theme of his speeches. Yet his ear is inclined to God. He is a person struck by the glory and presence of God, overpowered by the hand of God. Yet his true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought.

What made the prophets effective is the same thing that made to St. Paul effective: he lived in a radical way what he was talking about. He knew the love of Christ in his own life, in an intimate, unique, and personal way, and thus was able to share with others.

We have to do the same! The only way for the gospel to spread, the only way for the kingdom of God to grow, the only way for this parish to stay full of life is for us like St. Paul, like Jesus Christ, like all of the Old Testament prophets, is to live deeply our faith, both interiorly, and in the public sphere.

In this book, for signs of a dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly outlines from various studies that his institute performed, the most important ways that we have to live our faith if we want to be truly good witnesses.  They are simple, but powerful, like a river that runs deep.  The first is prayer: dynamic Catholics pray at a set time at a set place and then Isett way every single day. It is not left to chance, and it is not done whimsically.
Secondly, dynamic Catholic's study their faith. In order to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, it means you have to be a student learning from him. Whether it is just reading a Catholic book, studying the Bible, watching Catholic television, or listening to Catholic radio (95.7 FM in South Bend), or a Catholic CD, or Catholic website, anything! All of this can be a way of studying the faith.

The third side of a dynamic Catholic is generosity.  The catholics studied said they didn't start with volunteering for religious education or working at the soup kitchen, but rather started small: giving of their treasure to people in need and programs they believed in, including of course the parish collection.  That is a small step that puts faith into action, and it slowly opens us up to being more like Christ who spent Himself entirely for us all.

The fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic is evangelization, which is being a witness, which is being a prophet in our world today!  Ultimately, it will come naturally.  When you know God intimately in prayer, when you are a student of our Lord Jesus instead of the

Incremental Change.  The most powerful things in the world are the things that are slow, steady, and relentless.  Think of the rains Texas had lately: if it rains long enough the impact is obvious.  I heard that even in Indiana the rain of June might mean millions of dollars in crop loss.  If we want to change our lives with the power of God's grace, then we have to make small, steady changes that will ultimately change the terrain of our hearts and souls.  But we can start small.

Set an alarm on your phone or write it in your daily calendar to pray every day at a fixed time.  Find a time in your day when you are usually available, and go to the same place to pray.
(6:11) One family in my parish, for example, would always pray together for my brother and I at 6:11 since we were being ordained on June 11th.
Read one page a day from a faith-based book.  I have hundreds and plan to eventually have a library for you to borrow from if you are interested.  I will also have CD's available from Lighthouse Media.  You always have the Catholic radio 95.7 with you as well as websites.
Let's just start with those two for now.

I have 3 copies of this book and if you want to take it home and get started reading, ask me.

There is no proof for the existence of the God of Abraham.  There are only witnesses. 
The prophets are those witnesses.  We are those witnesses.  Let us ask for God's strength in witnessing.