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, September 24, 2016

SJB-lastHomily -- Remember what you are!

The theme I see in this weekend's readings is pretty simply stated: "don't forget who you are!" (And the flip side of that is: “Don't forget who you are not!”) Amos clearly condemns the complacently rich of Zion (Jerusalem), and foretells their downfall.  Jesus shoes us a parallel image of the anonymous "rich man" who has lost his identity into his wealth: all he is now is just his stuff - Lazarus is not even as dehumanized as him. He doesn't reflect that he is a beggar before God like all of us, and that he is not immortal. Do not forget who you are, nor who you are not.
We see this also in the second reading.  The first letter to Timothy is full of Saint Paul's advice for the young leader who, due to his age, needs reassurance that he is on the right track for where he should be leading the Christian community, as well as reminders of who he is and what he is about.  It may seem a bit of a hodgepodge, but truly is more like a potluck of delicious little dishes like the nice parish picnic we had about a month ago. In fact, this letter follows the typical style of the day when kings/emperors would send instruction to their local governors for how they ought to carry out their duties. Sometimes local Greco-Roman magistrates would even post copies of these letters on the outside of the main buildings for everyone to read, and thus the emperor would write in a way that, while speaking to the governor, truly also spoke to everyone.  This letter of St. Paul is summarized by Luke Timothy Johnson as follows: As in Ephesians, the Christian household and community are witnesses to the world of "faith and truth" (2:7).  But only a community that is orderly and harmonious - displaying the best of the values and virtues of the larger Greco-Roman culture - can truly be the "household of God." Indeed, only as an orderly "household" can the community stand as a witness among the Gentiles  to the great mystery in Christ (3:16).
Saint Paul encourages Timothy in what he knows is God's Will for him as a leader of the Christian community, as well as outlining the vocation of the entire "household of God:" But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called...
This is certainly good advice for Timothy, but it is also good advice for all of us.  It is a reminder that the pastor (myself) is at best a good leader when he is simply trying to live as a good child of God like the rest of the "household."  As Saint Augustine put it, "For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian; the first names a danger, but the latter names a salvation."
I have tried to be a good leader by being a good Christian here, and have not been perfect at that but have also never given up.  I pray that the Merciful Lord may look kindly upon me and help me in the future.  Ultimately any priest who sows good seeds for the kingdom is doing it for the future, not the present, and I am grateful for the generous hearts of the pastors who have been here in the past decades of this parish.  Ironically as well, the best priests put not themselves at the center, but Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.  You need Him, and you need a priest to bring Him to you in the Eucharist, but that is all. 
Paul indirectly stresses that Timothy needs to remember the primacy of Jesus, by mentioning him three times in this short passage, including the poetic prayer of praise that finishes the reading.  That focus is essential for the pastor, which is why I am at peace with the road ahead for myself and for you.  Father Glenn is a great priest and pastor who will care for this household of God with wisdom and compassion and a deep love for Jesus Christ. You will be in good hands, and I am grateful to pass on to him this family that shows a real love for priests.
May God bless us all as we continue our journey of faith, and may we never forget who we are: children of our heavenly Father, whom He deems worthy of His love!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Make the turn-around, ASAP!


While the first reading should have a clear message for you, this Gospel should probably confuse you at first.

Amos: was a prophet who spoke to the northern half of the promised people (commonly called Israel) even though he came from the southern half (commonly called Judah).  He is sent to remind the people that their prim & proper worship rituals don't mean a thing if at the same time they are committing or allowing grave injustices to humanity - which indeed they are.  The Lord will not forget the crimes that are committed to the poor.  He will lift them up, Psalm 113 tells us.  We must not let the lures of mammon (which means money and possessions) cloud our mind from what really matters.

Mammon leads us to our Gospel reading, where we are given this interesting parable by Jesus of an unjust steward.  This man is caught cheating, like Amos warns the people of his own day.  Perhaps getting caught is the best thing that ever happened to the steward in this parable, because it forces him to face the facts that he must render an account of his actions.  And the earlier we change our wicked ways, all the better... and if we never change our wicked ways, all the worse.

So there is the first lesson we get from this dishonest man: knowing our position and responding.  The Catholic word for this is simple: repentance! (or conversion)   This is a very “John the Baptist” kind of word, and he himself used fiery images to wake up the people of his own day.  Repent in Hebrew shoov means to turn around, to do a 180, and that's exactly what this man does today.  He knows that he needs to make quick changes if he is going to fix the situation, and he takes the drastic measures he needs.

The Greek word for repentance or conversion is METANOIA, and this will lead us to our next lesson from this Gospel.  Metanoia means to transform our way of thinking, and this dishonest steward spent his time thinking always about money and profit: how can I get ahead of others, get them to be literally indebted to me.  The funny thing is he turns this thought process on its head when he realizes he is up a creek, since his leverage on the locals is about to completely disappear.  So what does he do?  He flips to forgiveness, to mercy, to cutting the debts of the people he used.  By helping them out of their tough times, they will love him and help him out when his come around.  Talk about a true metanoia, a transformation of mind.  This man shows us how to realize our situation and respond.

Often we are temped to think, like in the time of Amos, that we are on top of the world and nothing can bring us down, but this parable reminds us that there will be an accounting for all of us.
In fact, this parable may be the best example of the prayer we pray at every single Mass: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to help us to realize our sinfulness, our debts toward God and others, and make up for them by forgiving others ourselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Triumph of the cross

Triumph - victory. Found in a torture device of capital punishment? That is the mystery of providence, that is the sign of God's great love.
Pilgrimage: hike
Auschwitz - St. Maximillian Kolbe: love is stronger than hatred, light it stronger than darkness, good is stronger than evil.

Because every one of us is overrun with concupiscence (our selfish tendency toward sin), the world hates the Cross. I mean, who looks at that and says "gimme gimme gimme!" No one. But today in a more powerful way because our western culture has tried to throw out the idea of universal truth. And when we do that we are left with the two options of today: whatever the crowd says (aka "the herd mentality") or "whatever feels good", or both.
Emotivism: my emotions = true & good. This is clearly the antithesis of the cross.
"Do what feels good" equals idolatry of the ego
Christ wasn't feeling good on the cross. Feelings were far below where his heart and mind were at the time. They were in the sky.
"Thy Will be done" as we pray in the Our Father
Embrace the Cross if you wish to experience it's triumph. 
How? Daily holiness in the small things: family, friends, work (student). John of Cross:  "in the end we are judged by our love."
Confession. Essential for us because we are all sinners. Let the Cross triumph.  Sin only wins if we stay on the ground and don't get back up.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homily Notes - False Idols

Audio from 9am Mass: click here!

False idols are tricky things nowadays.  In the ancient cultures it was, sometimes, very easy to spot idolatry: there was a golden calf, or a statue of another creature (real or not), or a deity in human form.  There was ritual surrounding it: incense, offering, prayers, vestments, priests or priestesses.  This kind of idolatry was easy to avoid.  But nowadays?  Is it still there?
Yes, and it's harder to see it, because while people in our day and age worship all kinds of things, we pretend we don't.  We certainly don't have golden calves lying around our house.  We might have crucifixes on our walls, paintings of saints all around.  We can go to church on Sundays, but idolatry can still be present in our lives, and certainly is present in our world today, if not in our own hearts.
Jesus' parables of mercy are culminated in what has been called the greatest literary masterpiece of all time: the story of the prodigal son.  This amazing parable perfectly shows us God's mercy in the face of the idolatry of the younger son (and older son).  Idols are common because we were created for worship. Idols are problems because, like in this parable, we worship a lower good at the expense of the highest good, namely, our relationship with The Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what do we worship? I think we can use this quote from St. John of the Cross as a guide: "O souls created for such grandeurs and called to them, what are you doing? How are you spending your time?" The way we spend our time is a huge sign of what we give ourselves to. Some of our time is partly our own, some of it completely ours to control, but all of it should really be the Lord's. I say this to my own condemnation as well, since for years I was more likely found wasting time and not praying, and even now still have days where I mess up.
Another guide for testing our hearts is: how do I make decisions? What upsets me? What do I often think about or worry about? These lead us to possible idols we need I give over regularly to the Lord.
And the main step to this is His merciful love. If we experience that we are loved, we are more ready to drop the things we hope might fill that void but never do.
Let us ask the Lord to enlighten our hearts so we may give them more completely to Him. Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

"I really appreciate it!"

Audio (Sat eve.): Click here!
Jesus tells us today that when it comes down to it, we need to follow Him and Him alone.  Our loyalty cannot be with political parties before Jesus, nor can we say "blood is thicker than water" if it means losing Jesus.  We cannot have other things share the throne of our heart.  We can only have one altar in our souls, reserved only for Christ.  This is the cost of discipleship: everything is His because He is sharing His everything with us.  The cost is real, and the cost is worth it.
A common phrase we hear in conversations: "I really appreciate it."  We have heard and said this a lot when thanking someone.  The word appreciate means to know the price of something, to be aware of the cost.  So when we are thanking someone, we are saying, "I know what it cost you to do what you have done."  It means we are aware of the sacrifices someone made for us.
Sometimes we say we appreciate things without truly noting the cost of something, without registering the price another person paid.  Instead, I think we often use it in a different way, simply to say something like "it means a lot to me" instead of the original meaning, "it meant a lot to you."
We can only truly appreciate something when we realize that we needed something, that we couldn't do it on our own, and that it was done by another at great cost to them.  We got something we didn't deserve but needed, and it was a sacrifice for someone to make that happen.  And when we really appreciate something, we don't just say it - we show it by living differently.
Ultimately, the greatest act of appreciation should be in our spiritual life: we should appreciate what God has done for us.  We should register in our minds what it costs God to make it possible that we, slaves of sin, can be welcomed into God's family and attain heaven.  We need to look at that cross and let it sink in.  We need to think about the story of God's faithfulness in the Bible to a people that are so stubborn in their old ways that it must break God's heart.  Then we need to think about how we so often spurn God's love again and again, about how we reject His invitations to come deeper, and how easy it would be for us to give up on someone if they rejected us that many times.  Yet God doesn't give up on us.  If we think of these things, then we will begin to appreciate the gift of His Love, the miracle of His Mercy, the blessing of prayer.
Saint Paul asks Philemon for forgiveness to Onesimus.  Brother needs to forgive brother, Paul encourages, because he should appreciate the great forgiveness we have all received in Christ Jesus.  If we think of what we have been forgiven, and we sincerely realize all that God has done and still does for us every day, then forgiveness is easy, acts of mercy and charity are easy.  It's simply paying it forward.
This is the challenge for us this week: who have I failed to forgive at all, or only forgiven partially?  Who or what is it that the Holy Spirit, God Himself present in my soul by baptism, is asking me to graciously get past so that I can share in my part of the forgiveness he has shown me.  How do I show my appreciation for what He has done?  May the Lord speak to our hearts today in this Mass with a name, a face, or a situation that needs His healing, and inspire us with the grace to bring His Merciful Love into that part of our life.  Amen.