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, December 26, 2015

Holy Family!


How many of you feel like your families have a problem or two, a little messiness, or "some skeletons in the closet" we might say?  Well, welcome to the club.

As we celebrate the Holy family, we may find it difficult to see ourselves in the people of Mary and Joseph when they are sitting there so nicely in that manger scene.  But if we look more closely at the story, we will see that things aren't as cookie cutter perfect as we make it out to be.  First off, don't forget what that manger would have really looked like: a cave with a little roof on top full of smelly animals and hay and dirt and who knows what else.  And in today's world we have the same problems, sort of.  I was just at home for Christmas day and my mom and dad still crack me up.  They spent about 30 years straight raising kids in the home, all 8 kids for about 4 years, and now they are actually getting used to having a clean house.  So when we all come home for Christmas and fill the house will all this clutter (and more dishes in a couple days than they use in a week!) it gets them a little uneasy.  But that messiness was present in the first Holy Family.  So holiness isn't about being sanitized and unrealistic, but it is about being radically devoted to Christ Jesus and being truly human.

One Christmas about six years ago, I asked my sister for an icon of the Holy Family.  In this simple picture, we see three aspects of how to be a Holy Family.

First, Joseph is clearly a protector.  He wraps Mary and Jesus and sort of acts as a safe support between them and the world.  Fathers need to do this with the same strength and tenderness that Joseph shows here.  Every family is a precious gift, and needs to be safeguarded in order to flourish, just like my baby nephew needs to be protected before he grows to full strength.

In Mary, we see Jesus is presented to the world, not kept for herself.  While we cherish and protect the gift of our faith and of our family, we do not do it for ourselves.  The family, just like our faith, is not for ourselves, but to share with others.  We don't keep the good of our families for ourselves.

Thirdly, in Christ, we see the center and the source of the family's blessings.  In the faithfulness and love of God, we find our blessing (symbolized in the gesture of Christ).  In Jesus alone will we find our happiness and be strengthened to heal others with his love.

Another important lesson from today's Gospel is hidden in the words at the end: he went an was obedient to them.  We don't hear anything about Christ's life for the next 18 years.  The point that I see here is this: Ordinariness is underrated.  Although it is not explained in the Gospel, it is absolutely important.  Christ lives an ordinary family life for 30 years before his public ministry.  Just like he didn't shy away from the quiet faithful work of family life, with all its blessings and crosses, nor should we.  The hidden life is real life, or nothing is real.   G.K. Chesterton made me laugh out loud with this very true statement about how God chooses our families to teach us lessons of love:
The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy.  It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
If we can love our disagreeable family members, we can love anyone.  If we can't love our families, we cannot love anyone; we can only pretend.
So how do we grow in love?  I would emphasize the little things.  Everyone can say "I love you.  I'm sorry.  I forgive you.  Please.  Thank you."  We can hug and kiss and show kindness in other ways.   We can help each other around the home. The small things that we can do to live with each other and share deeply with each other, make up everything!  There is no deep communion in the big things if we do not have it in the small things.
Secondly, we can stay focused on Jesus like in this icon reminds us.  Keep Him at the center and stay close to Him.  Come to Mass together, where Christ is literally at the center, and keep your eyes on him for a while as a family.  talk about the priest's long homily and what you learned from it, or what you thought about during it when it was boring! (hopefully it was the Holy Spirit saying something much better!)
Small things with great love, centered around Christ Jesus.  This is the path to a holy family!  Jesus, save and heal us!  Mary, bring us to Jesus!  Joseph protect us!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Homily - not short!! =)


After four weeks of putting aside the Gloria during the preparatory season of Advent, we sang today once again the great song of the Angels in heaven, the same words that the Angels themselves sang to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to people of good will.”  The words of the Gloria reflect what Christmas brings us: a deep and lasting happiness that Pope Francis calls the Joy of the Gospel.  This joy can be summarized in a simple way: that the Lord God has become man, has come to dwell in our world, among us, in our lives.  And why?  God becomes man so that man can become divine, can in a sense become God by participation in his divine life that he freely welcomes us into.  This joy is exactly what so many in our world need, as we look around and see so many hearts have grown cold in life, thinking God to be too far away from them, beyond their reach, or else not interested in their “messy lives” because they feel “unworthy” of God's love.
God knew we needed the gift of Jesus, so that we could know by faith that these cold and dark thoughts are overcome by the warmth and light of His love.  Pope Francis, in declaring the Jubilee Year of Mercy, summarized it perfectly in his opening sentences of that document: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.”  We humans are body and soul, and so God reaches to our souls through the physical world as well as to our souls.
The first to adore our Lord after Mary and Joseph are the shepherds, to whom the angels proclaimed the savior.  Is this a coincidence?  Perhaps not, since shepherds were important symbols of God's relationship to His people throughout the Old Testament.  And we can think of the parable of the Good Shepherd that Jesus himself tells, leaving the 99 to bring back the one lost sheep.  This parable was often understood as am explanation of the mystery we see beginning in Bethlehem today: God Himself, departing the 99 (representing the angels in heaven), comes down to earth to put fallen humanity upon His shoulders (by taking up our nature in the Incarnation) and brings it back to the fold of heaven.  In this beautiful image of the joy of this solemnity, three mercies are present:
1. God bridges the gap that we could not overcome.  Heaven is impossible for us without God's help.
2. In becoming man, God reminds us of our great dignity and the goal of our lives.  We were made to be holy, to be saints, and to live forever.  To ignore this is not humility, but sorrow.
3. In showing the depths of His love for us, God helps us to respond back in love.  Love desires to unite itself to the beloved as much as possible, so God becomes man, and even in the Eucharist becomes food, so that he can commune with us, the desire of his heart and mind.
Think of the love a father or mother has for a child who is ill.  The child needs a curing remedy that is beyond his or her reach - no matter how hard one tries - up on the top shelf.  The parent could do two things out of love for that child: simply grab the remedy and pass it to the child, or pick up the child and allow him to share in the joy and communion of obtaining the remedy, even though it all truly comes from the love of the father.  This is exactly what God does in Christ Jesus: He allows us to share in the healing and salvation that we need, even though it is truly all grace, all a pure gift.
In looking at Jesus anew, we are able to rediscover the gift of God's great mercy, and find our joy.  Happiness doesn't come from running around the world looking for satisfaction in these things: the rich, as we see so clearly, are more sad and depressed than anyone.  Joy comes from relationships of love with each other and with our God.  It comes from knowing that God isn't afraid of our messiness, of our “unworthiness.” No, God comes right to us and picks us up so that He can carry us to where we belong, back into the sheepfold of the Church.  I've been blessed to be pastor here at St. John the Baptist for 6 months, and I can proudly say, this is home.  Indeed, the Church is your home, no matter what, no matter how long it's been, no matter how far you've run, no matter how lost you feel.  Look at Jesus, let Him pick you up, heal you, and bring you home.  Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homily 12-20 4th Advent Sunday (Outline)

Perhaps Advent has gone by quicker than we expected. We can still prepare intensely in these last days. **Confessions Monday evening from 7-9pm**

ADVENT & CHRISTMAS IS A YEAR-ROUND EVENT, a daily event (like Easter)

1. Waiting in hope.
2. God's plans not ours, after Mary's example (His are better)
3. His work, not ours.
  • It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you.”
  • And this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us.”

How can this be that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
God doesn't wait for us to be ready, and that is a Mercy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Homily - John the Baptist and Proof of Repentance

 We have the privilege of having John the Baptist as our patron saint. It is really special to have the words of our patron saint said at every single Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Who else can say that? Not even Mary's words are part of every single Mass! So yes, we are very blessed to have John the Baptist as our patron. And one of the great things about our patron is his humility: John the Baptist quickly responds to suspicions about himself being the Messiah. John states clearly: he is not even worthy to untie the sandal of the one who is to come (meaning not even be a slave of Jesus), because The Messiah is so much above John the Baptist. If you recall, last week I spoke about humility and joy and how the two go together. Today we see them together again: the humility of John the Baptist in the Gospel, and the joy of the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah, and Saint Paul in the other readings. We also see joy in the “rose” colored vestments I am wearing: the burst of bright color is a visual sign of the fact that we cannot contain our joy because, as Paul says, “the Lord is near.” As I mentioned last week, this joy comes from the humble awareness of the reality of our situation: we are creatures; we have sinned; God loves us too much to let us stay that way; God becomes man to both redeem us and to bind Himself to us forever. In short: we are deeply, deeply loved by the author of all of creation. God desires us. What could be more joyful?
So why do so many people run around the world with gloomy faces? Well, hundreds of reasons that all come down to one reason: sin. If we choose to focus on the pain and hurt of sin and other lesser evils (natural disasters or disease or death itself), then we can easily fall prey to what seems to be a depressing state of humanity. Recall what I said last week: “Sadness is to look at ourselves. Joy is to look at God.” So if we switch the focus, we can find, as John the Baptist did, the source of our joy.
That is exactly what Pope Francis is talking about when he calls us to recommit ourselves to the New Evangelization and discover what he names “The Joy the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium). We must witness to the world that we are joyful, that we are transformed by the change of the Good News, even despite its demands, in fact almost because of its demands.
And it does indeed make demands on us. Our patron could not be any clearer in today's words. The people came to John and heard: “repent!” Well, they naturally wanted to know what John the Baptist meant, and he told them: live differently. Live life like this world doesn't matter, but the people here do. Stop using people and loving things. Start loving people and using things. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance,” John says in verse 8 (which came right before today's section).

So we might ask ourselves: right now, as I prepare for Jesus' coming, what one way can I change my life as evidence of my repentance? Conversion must work on two levels at once: on the interior level, and on the exterior level. We have to work to change our mindset, our way of looking at life – that is where humility comes in. Then, however, we have to put that into concrete actions – which is what John the Baptist and Pope Francis want of us: joyful response. What is my joyful response to my interior change? For Fr. Terry, that means putting aside the activism of a busy-body pastor and finding my center in prayer daily, so I can go about doing pastoral ministry with an awareness of God's will and remember to keep first things first and second things second. Today your patron says, “repent and produce fruit as evidence of it!” and your Pope says “be a joyful missionary.” What change will you make for Jesus?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Clothe ourselves in Humility, Clothe ourselves in the Lord

Today I'd like to look at the connection between humility and joy, both of which are things that Pope Francis has been stressing and living for us (as well as his predecessors).  We shall start with joy:  I read recently that an unnamed Carthusian monk, a religious order devoted to strict silence and almost isolation, spoke this truth about not just his monastic life but about every single one of us: "Sadness is looking at yourself.  Joy is looking at God."  I find that very striking on the readings that we have today.  Baruch speaks to Jerusalem like it is a person, but really is referring to the enslaved Jews of Babylon who have been left desolate and devastated after their city (including God's temple) was destroyed.  God speaks to them about throwing aside their self-centered sadness to accept the joy he wishes to give them.   take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God.  This is a good wake up call not only for them but for us all: we find our joy not in ourselves or what we can do, but what God does through us.
Saint Paul speaks of joy today as well: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you.  Where does his joy come from?  I'd say it's from seeing God in his fellow Christians.  In the four sentences we heard from today from Saint Paul, He spoke of God by name six times.  Certainly he was a man whose eyes were fixed on God even as he worked tirelessly in the world to build up the Kingdom.
Finally today we have in the Gospel our patron, Saint John the Baptist, whose life is, according to all four evangelists, the prologue to Jesus' mission.  John the Baptist calls us today to put our eyes on God for what He is going to do, not you or I.  This is our joy: that God has done great things in Jesus.
Humility, comes into play here.  We must remember that truth that it is essentially God's work even if we, like Mary and Joseph, are needed to cooperate alongside the Lord. “Prepare the way of the Lord," as Isaiah also said, means to get ourselves ready for what God wants to do in our lives and respond generously.  We all have hopes for the holidays and for what 2016 will bring; hopes for our children or grandchildren; hopes for so many things.  Yet these hopes cannot be founded on our plans and our hard work.  That is like building a house on sand.  Our true and only hope is in the Lord, our maker and redeemer, the solid rock that cannot be moved.  Humility is precisely in living from that truth.  If we humbly confess our shortcomings and inabilities while we keep our eyes on God and hope in Him, we will find our true joy! And actually we will be most effective in the world.  It is when we think too much of ourselves (pride) or too little of ourselves (false humility) that we fail to let God do great things in us.  Truly "Sadness is looking at yourself.  Joy is looking at God." During Advent, prepare the way of the Lord by practicing daily in your prayer the virtue of humility; that way, you can experience the joy of what God desires to carry out in you.