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, November 26, 2016

Choose Surprise or Preparation


Happy Advent, and happy new year to everyone! That's right, the Church year begins today, over a month earlier than the secular calendar. Did that catch you off guard? It happens a lot that time seems to vanish away from us, where things that we felt were still weeks away are all of the sudden upon us. The new year is one example, but not the only one. Did you know the Jubilee Year of Mercy just ended last week? And of course, Christmas and New Years' Eve are around the corner as well. Sometimes we can get caught off guard with birthdays or anniversaries, with other deadlines that are important for either our work or for our personal lives. We know these “surprises” really aren't surprises, but sometimes we are a little shocked that things come upon us so suddenly. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if we prepared ourselves ahead of time.

Well, it turns out that it works like that in our spiritual lives also, and at the start of Advent we are reminded (I should say we are warned) precisely about those things that can catch us off guard if we aren't careful, and they are pretty important.

Advent begins really with a call for us to “wake up” to what is really important and to prepare for it so we aren't caught off guard. This is precisely the image Saint Paul uses: we are living in a darkness that is passing away, just like every morning at 6am in South Bend this time of year. That darkness (of sin and evil) which engulfs our world will not last forever, and will in fact be conquered very soon when the sun rises (when Jesus returns). We don't know exactly when, but we know it's coming. So we must prepare, Paul says: put off the deeds of darkness and live as in the light, putting on the Lord Jesus. If we do not live properly, Jesus makes clear in the Gospel that we will be in a very unpleasant situation of surprise: like getting caught by a thief, or being swept away in the flood like those who mocked Noah for preparing his family for the future he saw coming.

So too in Advent we prepare, joyfully but soberly, with true awareness of our need, but with greater anticipation for the good the Lord is planning.

Isn't the idea of a new year exciting, encouraging? I love the thought that I can turn into a better priest, put more good into the world by my work, and help those around me, and fall more in love with the God who created me, who died on a Cross for me, and whose Holy Spirit dwells within me. This excitement is what Isaiah speaks of in the first reading: “Let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the God of Jacob, so that He may instruct us.” Let us learn what it means to be children of the light and turn aside from the darkness around us, for this darkness leads nowhere, is passing away, and offers us nothing compared to the beauty that the light opens up for us.

So many people make New Year’s resolutions that fizzle out before January ends. However, if you use this season of Advent as an opportunity to get a head start, you will have developed the right spiritual habit by the time Jan 1st rolls around. And don’t settle for some little resolution that doesn’t work on your heart. Make it important, make it significant, but make it attainable.

So what’s your spiritual resolution for the New Year of Advent? Perhaps you can prepare for Christ’s coming with more quiet, more prayer, more mercy & love to those around us, more joy at the new beginning God is offering us, so that the Lord's coming (at the end of time or at our own passing) isn't a terrifying surprise, but something we daily look forward to with joyful anticipation.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Homily - (Christ the King) How to "get it" when it matters

There is a longing for the human heart and mind to know the fullness of truth, and the more important the question, then the more we long for the real answers.  For example, when struggling with an illness, we usually won't settle for "shallow" answers that don't really get at the heart of it.  If our stomach is writhing in pain, we want to know what's wrong.  If our vision is blurred non-stop for three hours but then goes back to normal, we won't settle for the fact that at least things are okay now.  We want to know what is going on, why things are the way they are.  And to do that we have to get to the deeper causes.

Well the same goes for the deeper questions of our faith: why does a 14-month old baby die unexpectedly?  Why do planes crash?  Why do we have to suffer such pain, and ultimately die?  Why?  We don't "get it" sometimes.  We don't see the deeper answer to our deep questions.

The section from Saint Paul's Letter to the Colossians today brings in focus for us the only real answer to our deepest questions: the person of Jesus Christ, and especially his Paschal Mystery.  The truth is that we will never "get it" for the deep questions of life if we don't "get Jesus."  If we don't put Him at the center, nothing else makes sense.

Have you ever said (or had your kids say): "Mom (or Dad), you just don't get it."  I think there's some time where every teenager says this (or at least thinks it 100 times) - whether it is about hippie outfits or 80's hairstyles or grunge music or Pokemon Go or today's "lingo" or anything else.  So often we just don't "get it" - which is fine for small things but is a tragedy and a disaster when it comes to the most important things of life.

Paul summarizes the centrality of Jesus perfectly: All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

And Luke today shows us where Jesus becomes a King, on the Cross.  This is the one who will judge us at the end of time.  If this Year of Mercy has taught us anything, it has taught us that we should not fear the loving God who freely gives everything, even the clothes on his back, to win us back to him - truly a love that is absolutely infinite.

One of the deepest questions, why do we suffer, is answered not by a statement from God, but by His own suffering with us.  We must never doubt that God can use any suffering we endure for love of Him to bring about a greater good, even if we never see it.

Finally, let us remember the words to the good thief: "Today you will be with me in paradise."  This is one of the reason's why we reject the idea of capital punishment and physician assisted suicide: it is never too late on this earth, even to our last breath, to receive God's mercy.  We all need His Mercy, and we may need every moment to receive it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Homily - Protests and the Gospel of Peace - That they may be one!

Audio: click here!
It is a good thing we prayed last Sunday as a parish community for healing and peace in our country.  Today I urge you to continue that prayer, because clearly we still need it.  Last Wednesday morning college campuses and some city centers had protests – some of them starting fires and many of them riddled with more poisonous speech than our already-wearied ears and hearts wish to take in.  Certainly we can understand what has led some small pockets of people to this type of response, but is this in any way helpful?  St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans “Do not be conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  We as Christians are called to something greater, and in the readings today we are reminded exactly of the important lessons that would hinder us from any demonstration that is not peaceful and ultimately directed toward healing and unifying in the truth of Christ Jesus.
Let us look first at the Gospel.  Jesus says clearly that there will be all sorts of false alarms out there about the end of the world, and some will falsely claim to be the Messiah who has returned.  “See that you not be deceived!” Christ tells us.  We will be persecuted because we act in Christ’s name and we will give testimony – testimony to the fact that we stand with Christ Jesus for healing and for unity in the human family, whether here or in Iraq or Syria or Nigeria or Ukraine or Mexico or the Philippines or North Korea.  The social media has been full of little “crucifixions” of so many by parents, brothers, relatives and friends.  Could any of this be from the Holy Spirit?  I doubt it.
Let us look at the second reading: Saint Paul presents himself as a model for how to live.  We as Christians must do the same for each other, and for those beyond the family of God.  And what does Paul ultimately say: earn your own keep by working diligently.
We are not to get sucked into the chaotic fears that the devil wishes to sow in our hearts.  We are called to work, to work for the Kingdom of God in our communities, by living out the Works of Mercy (both corporal and spiritual) that the Church has placed before us anew during this year of Mercy.  If we put our attention on the Lord Jesus, the one who is truly in charge of everything, and stay faithful to our work among families, friends, workplace, church, and local community, then we have nothing to fear, for the peace of Christ will dwell among us.   As St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love.”
And it starts here, with united prayer before the loving God who is the source of all unity.  In this Eucharist, God heals our divisions, caused by sin and selfishness and evil.  May the body and blood of Jesus make us one again.

“By your perseverance you will save your lives,” Christ tells us.  Let us never grow weary in doing what is right, brothers.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our deepest allegiance is to God

Audio from 11:30 - click here 

November remembers the end before we get to the beginning of all things new in Christ Jesus' Advent, his "coming near" to us.

But for now, as we look to eternity, we see the world fading away.  Leaves die, fall, and trees are left barren.  Light fades, and starting now the sun will set around 5pm every day.  And if we are attentive to it, we can see that the rest of this world passes away as well.  Not just mountains that fall or stars that burn up or other material stuff, but also the immaterial things this world offers us.  Food only satisfies us so long, and a movie or an opera has never kept someone uplifted for weeks.  Not to mention that our bodies do not last forever.  My friend from grade school, Josh, was a good country boy and he died leaving our church on his motorcycle around age 20.  I just heard today that his mom died unexpectedly lastnight.  I can't imagine how the husband and father is feeling, but I know one thing: life is short and we don't know what the end will look like, so we better live today in a way that would make us proud: glorifying God and loving our neighbor for love of Him.
This is what we see in the first reading today.  These boys are put to a shameful death because they refuse to deny their Christian faith.
Lest we think this is only for a distant past, let it be remembered that there are still cases all over the world, especially in the last century, of governments or other groups trying to force people to reject their God, and most often Christians.
One of the newest saints, a young Mexican boy named Jose Sanchez del Rio, 14 years old (an 8th grader).  He was martyred by anti-Catholic government because he was part of the Cristeros movement.
Think also of the 20 Coptic Christians who were executed on a beach last year by ISIL, or Father Jacques in France who was executed this past summer.  They would not reject their faith, would not spit in the face of their God, and for this it cost them their lives, some of them after much torture.

Why do this?  Why endure so much?  Because death is not the end.  Because while this world passes away, our faith holds firm to the truth in the Resurrection.  Jesus Christ changed everything, and in the end, if we cling to Him above and before all else, we will find our hope realized, like the martyrs.