Monday, November 26, 2018
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Four ways the kingdom of this world does not align with Christ's kingdom:
Four ways to examine if these "diseases" have started to enter our life:
2. Checkbook / Wallet
3. Use of entertainment
4. House (each room) and other possessions
Monday, November 19, 2018
Audio (9:30am Mass) - Click Here!
As we are approaching the end of the church year, our readings speak of the end of days, so I thought it would be good to look at the end. Really there are two: the final judgment and the particular judgment, which happens when we die before the final judgment.
Jesus is speaking about the coming of the Son of Man, which we also call the Second Coming of Christ, which begins the final judgment as we profess in the creed that "he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." The type of imagery Jesus is using is known as apocalyptic. Think of the book of Revelation, which is just the Latin word for Apocalypse, and is almost entirely in apocalyptic language, like our first reading today as well. The prophet Daniel, who speaks of the Archangel Michael in today's passage, reminds us that Jesus' coming will bring glory to some and shame to others. If we are in Christ and united to him, we can look with confident expectation for the return of the one we love and who we know loves us. So - what are we afraid of?
Ultimately, every fear is connected with death, with the loss of some part of life. Death is the loss of all those things combined, and thus is the greatest fear we have by nature. We can overcome this fear, but often it comes too late.
I'm reading a book right now called Being Mortal. It's been a NYTimes best seller for 62 weeks now. It is very well-written, timely, and I highly recommend it. The author, a doctor named Atul Gawande, talks about how our approach to medicine often ignores the fact that we are going to die, and how the choices we make end up missing the main concerns/needs of the patient during the long, slow process of dying. Think of this fact: in the past, almost everyone was susceptible to death by disease or accident or war on any given day, month, or year. We live in a totally different circumstance with modern medicine, so that outside of tragic accidents or acts of violence, we all feel much more assured that our health is not going to bring us home to God tomorrow or next week or even beyond. Because of this, we hear the urgency of the Gospel in a very different way. "Repent today!" doesn't hit as hard. We feel like "the end" will have to be down the road for us, at least certainly not tomorrow.
So we often don't face death until it's right upon us. Confident that medicine can always save us, we very often end up with only days to prepare for something that should be part of a lifetime. For the reality is: it could be today. We know neither the day nor the hour, Our Lord tells us.
Remember I spoke about the word Apocalypse - or Revelation - which literally means to take away the veil. Well, I think the devil has put a veil on us, has pulled the wool over our eyes in so many ways, including the reality of mortality, as well as of fear of death.
Why should we be afraid of Jesus coming back or meeting Him at our own end. God wants to give us something so much better than this life, and we won't lose anything good that we have in this life. All our relationships will be heightened to a more beautiful level because they will all be in Christ Jesus. We pray "thy kingdom come," but do we ever think of how wonderful a gift that Kingdom will actually be? Do we consider how much we really do want His Kingdom to come?
Another truth is: we live a lot better when we face the reality of being mortal. If we face death, we can overcome the great fear that, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, "has subjected us to slavery for our entire lives."
Another book for helping us when loved ones are nearing death: Final Gifts. My mom read it when my grandmother was dying about five years ago. We are all called at different times in life to be like Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry his cross. The final journey is an important time for us to be ready to lovingly support family and friends who are preparing to go to Jesus. They may have worries or concerns or needs that we can be a support for. Perhaps helping someone else is God's way of preparing us for our particular judgement, which will ultimately help us to live every day better.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
Audio (9:30am Mass) Click here!
God wants us to give Him everything before we can receive everything. This is the lesson of the readings today, both the widow of Zarepath who is called by Elijah to give up her last bit of food in service of God's will, and of the widow at the temple who in the Gospel gives up her whole livelihood for God. They seem to be at rock bottom, but still they give. What a testimony of faith and trust in God. And for that they are richly rewarded.
It seems that God chooses to work most powerfully in the lives of those who completely depend on Him, who hold nothing back for themselves. If we give God everything, then we are finally empty handed enough to receive the abundance he wants to offer us (usually not material abundance). Sometimes that's how God works. Perhaps that's always how God works.
Mary was asked by Gabriel to trust God with her life.
Joseph, when he took the holy family and fled for Egypt, was putting their lives completely in God's hands. Traveling at that time didn't have any of the protections we have nowadays that make it safe and less stressful.
David when he faced Goliath without any armor and only a sling was giving up control entirely to God and trusting Him alone, something none of the other soldiers of Saul's army were willing to risk, even fully equipped.
Job had to abandon himself to God's will when he lost everything, and eventually God blessed Him abundantly.
Elijah himself will put everything in God's hands when he challenges the 450 false prophets by himself alone at Mount Carmel, just in the chapter following today's passage. He has to run out of the country to escape the wrath of the queen Jezebel.
Giving up everything to God is a requirement of the spiritual life. This is what Jesus means when He says "everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." But not just possessions, Jesus mentions that we must put our relationships (father, mother, sister, brother) and even our own lives second to following Him, which is why the martyrs are so important to us: they did precisely that.
Sacrifice is a special word. It literally means to make something holy or to do a holy deed. In the Old Testament, things were made holy by being offered to God in the temple. Yes animals and food offerings were sacrificed to God, but also the people and the things that were before God were made holy through those rituals. Then they were dedicated only to God's service. This is what our entire lives should be: given completely to God, then returned back into our control to be used for His Glory. The word Stewardship means pretty much the same thing: a steward is in charge of something that does not belong to him, so he must take care of it and use it in the way his master desires. Our lives, and all we have, are meant to be lived in stewardship. Like Mary, Joseph, David, Elijah, the widows of today's readings, and all the saints, we need to live as if our lives are not our own, but about something much greater than ourselves. In this Eucharist, God wishes to give us the abundant blessing of Eternal Life that is found in His Son Jesus. But we must give Him everything first. Let us pray to the saints to show us how to do that day after day.
Today is committment Sunday for our capital campaign and so I would like to ask the ushers to distribute the pledge cards as I begin to review the case of our campaign. As you receive your pledge cards, please fill out the basic information as I do a quick run-through again of our needs which you've heard about in the past weeks and received a letter in the mail outlining the campaign. Our parish is looking to raise $1.3 million dollars over three years for various projects to help our parish church to be a visible sign of the vibrant life that is present here day after day. In order to ensure our church stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we are planning to replace the over 60-yr old boiler and the A/C units which will require replacement in a few years by government regulation. We will also install A/C for Payne Hall below the church. The church itself will receive new lighting to brighten up the space and spread light better on our ceiling and paintings of the stations of the cross. The 30-yr old flooring will be replaced. The church pews will have the kneeler pads replaced. The tabernacle will receive a larger altar of repose. The choir and Mary shrine will trade places, and the chapel will have a glass divider allowing the chapel to be used as a "calming area" during Masses, with a door toward the rear of church. New audio technology for hearing aids should assist people with difficulty from ambient noise and allow them to participate more fully in the liturgy. An information kiosk in the back of church will provide a central location for helping people get involved in the parish. Finally, we also will cover the Annual Bishop's Appeal and prepare to replace the parish center roof and resurface the parking lot. These plans will cover our foreseeable needs to put our parish in position for continued success and growth as we bring the love of God to the world from our prayer and through our service to the poor and needy.
But this is going to require all of us to be a part of it, and today we are doing this together, because we really are doing this together. As we prepare to make our own pledges, I am happy to confess that we have already received pledges from about 60 households to amount to almost $400,000 of our goal, of which my personal pledge is a part (yes, my meager salary is going to help build our church!). This pledge total is a phenomenal sign of the dedication of our parishioners and evidence that we can attain this goal. I am truly grateful to those who have stepped forward in faith already to reach this huge portion of our goal, almost one third already! But to finish our goal, sacrifice is needed on behalf of all of us, and so I ask you to consider at least the commitment to give $1.50 each day (that is, $45 a month) for 36-months to our pledge campaign. This is truly a case of the widow's sacrifice, putting everything into God's hands. I am excited about the work that this parish offers to South Bend and St. Joseph County in so many ways, and am hopeful that this project will be a true benefit to our parishioners and really enable us to continue our mission and ministries.
Please look over your pledge cards to be sure they are complete, and I now invite our ushers to come to the front of church and begin to collect the pledges.
I want to thank you for your pledge today, for your commitment to give everything to God like Mary, Joseph, and Therese the little flower. May we continue to do our small things with great love, and find joy in filling the heart of God with our love.
Every single pledge will receive a thank you letter in the mail. If we have not heard from parishioners due to travel, etc., they will receive a series of follow-up mailings inviting them to participate in this important campaign.
Saturday, November 3, 2018
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There is no other commandment greater than these, Jesus says, after he answers the scribe who puts Him to the test. The Pharisees and scribes (two different groups but both very united against Christ who threatens their power), they both try again and again to put Jesus on the trial of public opinion and hope for Him to make a huge mistake. Every time, however, Jesus undoes their snares and today is no exception. What is the greatest commandment? Is a test to hopefully humiliate Christ so they can maintain their authority. However, this man has a heart that is more focused on God than it is on shaming Jesus, as we see in Christ's final words to the man after he responds with understanding: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." This is probably the greatest compliment Christ gives to an adversary, and it is worth noticing. If we truly understand these two truths the man says today, then we ourselves "are not far from the Kingdom of God."
So let us look at these two commandments that Jesus gives as sort of one and the same. I guess you could say it’s two for the price of one. Or better yet, it is if you want one, you gotta take them both. So here we go: First, Jesus answers with the prayer every faithful, praying Jew would have known, for it is something they recite twice a day. It is called the She'mah from the book of Deuteronomy which we heard as the first reading today. In seminary I learned to sing it in my Hebrew class. It goes like this... v'hayoo ha-d'v'rim ha-aleh asher anoki blah blah blah (I don't remember the rest, maybe because it wasn't set to music - or because I'm getting old, or because I don't recite it twice a day like a good Jew would have done!) Anyways, it was a beautiful prayer that affirmed the monotheism of the Jewish people: nothing can replace God or compare with God, so they need to live that way, loving Him with all that he deserves, which is our entire self. Thus we have the poetic repetition to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Jesus adds, by the way, with all your mind. Perhaps to speak more clearly to the audience of his time that the mind isn't excluded from the everything that God deserves from us)
The second commandment comes from Leviticus: to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is not a fuzzy feeling for Jewish people. It was much deeper. It was more closely tied to justice, to how you treated someone. Freely giving them what they deserved as human beings was loving them.
And all that comes back to God. Why they deserved anything was because of the biblical truth that we are all created in God's image and likeness. God has made us all, unrepeatably, and we must honor the truth that each of us is called to a relationship of love with Him, and thus with each other.
If we live these two truths, if we meditate on them deeply, then we are not far from the Kingdom of God. This is truly something worth modeling our lives around!
Now how do you eat a whole pie? One bite at a time, or so I hear. I’ve never actually tried to do it myself. I promise! So for us to live this 2-in-1 commandment, we should really look for one way we can make our daily lives fit more closely with what these words of our Lord require of us. How can I love God more today, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength? (Perhaps it should start with a daily examination of conscience. Five minutes each day, we can reflect back and ask "how in the last 24 hours did I love God or fail to do so?") How can I love my neighbor as myself more today? Perhaps it starts with our family or our friends or co-workers. Can I forgive the way I wish them to forgive? Whatever it may be, let us ask God to show us how to live these two lessons a little more deeply one day at a time. If we do so, we are not far from the Kingdom of God!