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, February 28, 2016

God's True Name and True Face

Click here for Audio for Year C (full-text below)
Click here for Audio for Year A (Saturday night - RCIA - audio only)

Jesus' words are words of warning today, and Saint Paul gives the same.  They are words that are meant to humble us and remind us of the truth that we are indeed sinful like all of humanity, and therefore must work out our salvation through repentance.  When we confess our sins and cling to Christ Jesus, we can be made righteous in Him.  If we think ourselves already justified and without sin, we will find ourselves proven wrong on the last day.  Christ wants us to bear fruit, like the fig tree in today's parable.  The three years symbolize his own ministry, his message of conversion.  That is the main fruit God wants of us: a humble confession of our need for God.  God will provide the rest.
Moses today gives us a beautiful example of conversion and of humility.  He was prince of Egypt, but he was a Hebrew.  He was lost, searching for his identity, and he felt the suffering of his people. He tried to take matters into his own hands by killing a slave-driver.  Realizing they did not want yet to be freed, he had to run.  Now today, many years later, he learns to be humble and let God work.  He realizes he is not in control and cannot impose his will on others.
Ultimately, though, the Lord gives us in Moses a beautiful account of who God truly is, and who he is not.  In the burning bush, we only get a glimpse of God.  He is a God whose name is mysterious, beyond controlling.  But He also is a God who hears the cries of the poor, and a God who sends us on a mission.  God is not a tyrant.  Our image needs to change.

God of Mercy.  Year of Mercy.  Works of Mercy.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Mountain of Prayer is where we can see God's Plans

Growing up in Indiana, I've always been fascinated with mountains. I've not been able to climb many mountains in my life, so when I have, the experiences aren't really forgotten. Three times (In 6th grade and in high school and just a few years ago) I was able to be in the mountains of Colorado. I've been in the Italian Appenines visiting Assisi and the region around there. I've skied a few times in some good mountains with my friends. I think that's it. I love them. They are special places that will never get old for me. You know, Saint John Paul II loved the mountains, especially skiing. So did Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassatti, a remarkable saint who died at an early age.
But back to mountains. In Genesis Chapter 15, Abraham gets a glimpse of God's plans for him on top of a mountain. In Luke chapter 9, Peter, James & John encounter the same even as Jesus reveals a glimpse of His hidden glory to them. Mountains are special places for deeper vision. They are closer to heaven. We see earth from a totally different perspective: even though we can see much more, we also see less of the sharp, intense details of the small things. Our focus on the next five minutes switches to our ultimate goals. That change of focus is exactly what Abraham and the 3 disciples needed. They were too bogged down in the immediate concerns of their life to remember the big picture.
Abraham talks with God about his future. He doesn't see how God is planning to make good on the promise of numerous descendants since he has no son as of yet. So God take him outside and has him look at the stars. What's interesting in this passage, though, is that just a couple verses later (after preparing all the sacrificial animals and protecting them from carrion) then it becomes evening. Is God showing Abraham the stars in the middle of the day? Was Abraham keeping a night-vigil of prayer? Or was God reassuring Abraham by stressing that “Look, just because you can't see something doesn't mean that it isn't there.” We cannot tell for sure, but all three are good possibilities. I think the third does a great job of changing our perspective, reminding us that we creatures don't have it all figured out, and that God knows what He is about. It helps free Abraham from is imprisonment in the immediate things, and keeps him focused on the ultimate goal: God will fulfill His promises in His way.
Peter, James & John go up on the mountain one week after Jesus has just told them something heart-dropping: The Son of Man goes to Jerusalem to be rejected, crucified, and buried, but will rise on the third day. The disciples, naturally, cannot see past the first parts of this news to the last. They are stuck on the fact that their powerful, miracle-working teacher, who has shown no signs of weakness or defeat, whom they know to be the Messiah, will have to die such an ignoble death. So Jesus consoles them with this mountain-top experience to broaden their vision. He shows some of His glory, so that they might be able to “look past” the upcoming trauma of the crucifixion, and trust in the Lord's plans.

Lent is a time for us to receive the same gift as was given Abraham, Peter, James, & John. We have our own trials in life. We all have things that are sucking up our attention when they shouldn't be. We all need mountain-top experiences. And these events can only be found if we are people of deep prayer. If we are “with the Lord” and make sacrifices of our time and energy to be vulnerable to Him as Abraham was. Climbing a mountain is never easy, but it is always worth it. Prayer may be a sacrifice, but it is always worth it. When we are lost and cannot find our way, the best thing to do is get on high ground and see where we should go. This is what the Lord wants to do for us this Lent. Lord Jesus, give us the courage to climb after you and let you lead us to a deeper vision of our lives and futures. Amen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Confessing our Wounds...


17th Century Christian philosopher Blaise Paschal: "I have realized that all of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room."  An interesting thought to ponder, and in many ways I think this very true.  But nowadays we would have to add a few caveats: "all of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room... without a telephone, without a TV, without an iPad, without a Kindle, without even a book or anything else to distract us.  As I think about what that really means, I bet you would find that most people in this country couldn't handle it.  I know it would be hard for me, but I hope I would be able to get used to it after fidgeting for about two hours.  People become afraid of silence when they aren't used to it.

The reason we can fear this silent solitude is because it is really hard, and perhaps the hardest thing of all, to face yourself, to reflect on who you are, where you've been, what you've done, and say I am weak, wounded, imperfect, sinful.

We live in a world of "I'm okay, you're okay," where we receive awards, accolades, and praises from each other (whether we know each other or not) and even from television commercials ("you deserve it!").  So it is only in the desert, when we shut all that stuff out and come face to face with ourself, that we can see, "I'm not okay, and you're not okay.  But... that's okay!"  And why is that okay?  Because we don't need to be perfect.  Or at least not being so by our own doing.  Life isn't about being invincible, perfectly-polished, and without fault.  Real life is about having a Savior, about how Jesus (not us) is working to perfect us and heal us.  If we have "Rediscovered Jesus," as in the book we all received for Christmas, then we have also rediscovered that it is okay to be in need of Him, to be broken without Him, to be saved only through Him.

When we are alone to face ourselves, we see ourselves as they truly are, and are at the same time slowly set free from our slavery to sinful habits.  Jesus is challenged by the Devil after 40 days in the desert, praying, fasting, but the temptations that the Devil thrusts at Him are now much less powerful.  When His body is its weakest, then Jesus relied more totally on His Father and the words of Sacred Scripture (he uses the Bible in all three refutations of temptation, a great lesson for us).

The Core of the Devil's attack is also his own primary fault: Pride.  Whether it is with the bodily pleasures that bread represents, or the euphoria we get from power, or the testing of God, all three suggestions put the Ego at the center: it's all about me, alone, isolated, above others.  There is no sense of personal weakness, nor a need for relationship, and certainly not dependency on God.  The first reading from Deuteronomy provides a perfect antidote to these temptations: Worship of God.  Offering Him your first fruits says, "I love God more than the good things He gives me," while at the same time saying "I need God."  It is an act of humility, of dependence (not IN-dependence).  It is humility, the opposite of Pride.

However, because our brokenness, we never fully overcome these temptations toward pride and toward all sin.  Concupiscence remains, just like it states at the end of the Gospel that the Devil left Jesus only "for a time."  He would return, ultimately in the Garden of Gethsemani and during His Passion.  So we too must keep watch, never giving up.  That is why we do Lent every year, and should remember the call to vigilance year-round.  And the Lord is always with us to help us, just as Christ was never alone.  Here in the Church, we find strength in numbers.  We fast together, we abstain from meat on Fridays together, we worship in Mass together.  Thank God for each other, and above all, thank Him for the healing we find in Jesus our Savior.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Homily - Being Used, for God's Kingdom

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be named a Saint during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Certainly she was a great saint, evident in the fact that she did with courageous love what so many of us would barely be able to do with fear and trembling. She walked right up to people with decaying limbs and picked them up, put them in a wagon, took them to her home, and cared for them while a doctor would save those he could and comforted those he could not.

She used to describe herself as a little pencil being held by God. She was his instrument to work with, to draw a masterpiece with. By being little in the hands of God, Blessed Mother Teresa, soon-to-be Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was indeed something very great for hundreds and thousands of suffering poor throughout our world.

Isaiah, Saint Paul, and the two sets of fishermen brothers in the Gospel (Simon & Andrew, James & John) also were able to allow themselves to be instruments for God's work, as were so many others within the Old Testament and of the Church's 2000 year history. All truth be told, the most influential people in our world were those who allowed their work to be God's work, even if they weren't Catholic or even Christian. God is the source of all truth, of all justice, of all beauty, of all good, of all love, and so anyone that devotes their lives to these ideals, find themselves leaving the most powerful imprint on the good we see in our world's history.

Let us look at today's Gospel for an example of how that process of becoming an instrument for God starts. Much to our surprise perhaps, it doesn't start with us and it isn't about us. Jesus simply jumps into the lives of these four fishermen by getting into their boat. Imagine if someone jumped into your car at a stoplight, or set up shop in your workplace, or barged into your home, and you will get a sense of how these guys felt. So we see that God is the protagonist, God is the instigator, God is the author of our past and of our future. Our past is that we are loved in spite of our imperfections, and our future is we will do great things in spite of our imperfections.

Secondly, we see Jesus stuns the fishermen with a miracle: their work is shockingly abundant, but only when done according to His plan. At the sight of this, Simon Peter admits his unworthiness in a humble way. But is God (Jesus) surprised or frightened by this news? No, His love is increased. Now Simon is able (with his co-workers) to now begin the mission of “catching men,” even while for almost every day for the next three years they will be at His side. And thanks to their courageous “yes,” we are all here today.

This is a summary of our vocations, mine and yours and of every single Christian. God jumps in. He showers us with grace. We are humbled, and forgiven. We are disciples. We are missionaries.

As we enter into the season of Lent, these parts of the Christian experience are meant to be re-lived anew at a deeper level. Who knows which one will strike us the most? That is up to God. It it His story, we are his little instruments. May this journey of the next 7 weeks help us to grow as true disciples of the Lord.