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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, April 27, 2019

Why are you afraid?




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Love is silly.
The Cross is foolishness, except for the love with which it was done.
God is in love with you.  The Cross is proof of that.


When I was a kid, I knew my dad was strong.  Every once in a while I'd wrestle him around a bit and I was never any match for him.  He barely exerted any effort and had me picked up or moved around however he wanted.  But despite all that, I wasn't afraid of him.  Because I knew he loved me.
So I guess the biggest problem in our world today is that people don't know that God really loves them.  That's why they are afraid.
But how did people fall into that trap?  I don't know.  Perhaps there are hundreds of ways.  Maybe they felt their sins were too heavy to be forgiven.  Maybe they believed someone who said they need to do such and such before God will love them, and they never got around to it.  Maybe they just got too busy with life to really feel a sense of God's love, to see His fingerprints in their lives.  Perhaps they stopped going to Church, stopped praying, stopped reading Scripture, or whatever other spiritual practices they were accustomed to, and ended up losing touch with God.  But I think whatever the long version of the story is, the reality is that it all boils down to the same fundamental cause: they have taken their eyes off Jesus.  Jesus on the cross, and Jesus after the Resurrection with those glorified wounds in his body.  If we don't keep that picture of Jesus in our mind, then he turns into a pretty scare figure in the story of Revelation that we heard in the second reading, the just judge  It reminds me of this mosaic of Jesus in the basilica in Washington DC that shows Jesus really buff and looking a little angry.  Yikes.  And that's exactly what many people think God is like.  They get one aspect of God and paint it as everything.  God's desire for justice is not all of God.
God is also Mercy.  Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, established by Pope JPII.  It reminds us to refocus on who God really is - as Pope Francis famously said, the name of God is Mercy.
So the Alpha and the Omega, the one before whom we should all be terrified to see, is not a fright to us because we know he loves us.  John, the author of Revelation, falls down in fear.
When Jesus appears to the disciples, he says "Shalom," or "Peace." This word in Hebrew means the right ordering of all aspects of life, that the whole of your life is set aright, and therefore you are at peace.  Like me, I'm sick right now with a sinus infection, so one part of my body is a little off, and it affects all the rest, so my body is really not at peace.  Shalom is much more than just a physical peace.  It means every aspect of ourselves, and particularly the most important aspect, the soul, is set aright.  So we can say that Christ is the only true source of peace, because Christ is the only way we get our souls set straight.  And a huge part of that, as we discussed earlier, is knowing God's absolute love for you, no matter what.  The only peace that lasts forever is the peace of knowing we are right with God, and that peace comes from the risen Jesus Christ, who comes back not for revenge, but forgiveness.
Look at the saints who have fixed their eyes on Jesus. They were never afraid of God.  They were profoundly confident in His love for them, and they loved Him back with all they had.  May we all truly encounter the Divine Mercy of God on this second Sunday of Easter.  The Mercy that is the source of all true peace.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter-UnfinishedWork




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Brothers and sisters, today's feast is a declaration that God is not done yet. He has more work to do in us. There’s more up His sleeve.
Everyone thought God was done working. That they knew His plans. 
Jews thought that reaffirming the law in Moses was all that the Messiah was going to, because it seemed perfect in itself.  They were wrong.  God wasn't done yet.
The Pharisees thought the traditions of the Hebrews were all that was needed to gain eternal life.  They were wrong.
The Zealots thought throwing out the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom was enough.  Guess what, they were wrong.
Disciples in upper room.  Thought Jesus's mission was destroyed as a failure by His death, and that perhaps He was not the Christ after all, or somehow it was tragically sabotaged.  They were wrong, because soon they would discover that God had more to His plan than they realized.
Christian disciples over the centuries have misunderstood God's ways and plans, and again and again they had to realize that God had something better in mind than they could have conceived.  God had something else in mind.
If they were all wrong, why do we so often think that we know that God is done working?
No, my brothers and sisters, it is always ourselves who have the small picture of what God is doing.

Today is the definitive proof that God has bigger plans for us.  Just when we think all is finished, all is lost, God restores us and conquers the greatest foe: death.  We no longer have to be afraid of death! Think of all the things we fear: all of them boil down to a sort of death, an aspect of dying in one way or another.  We are afraid of losing things, losing the goods of life.  In Christ, we have already died and risen.  "You were baptized into His death," Saint Paul tells us.
In Baptism, God begins his plan of a new creation within us, continuing the story of creation in Genesis.  If you've ever seen a baptismal font with eight sides, or a baptismal room in the shape of an octagon, it is precisely to emphasize this truth.  Even the north rose window of the great Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which this past week survived a fire that consumed the roof and tall spire, that rose window has a circle of eight panes, then 16, then 32, then 32, totaling 88.  Eight, once again, is not a coincidence.  It is seven plus one, for in Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of the new creation.  God who created the world in seven days, now begins a new creation, an eighth day, wherein the new order of the universe is begun.  In Christ, we start that new life, and the more we disappear into Him, the more we are truly alive to what God's full plans for us are.

In fact, there is another connection to today's feast that connects to the fire in Parish.  Just as Notre Dame will be restored in the years to come, God in Christ has decided to rebuild fallen humanity.  He does this as a whole, but also individually.  In his cross we are all renewed.  The sin of Adam is undone.  Heaven is reopened.  However, we ourselves must walk that path one bit at a time.  In the church universal, which has itself experienced the great spiritual damage of egregious sins exposed this past year, God wishes to restore - not so much through huge financial donors, but through the hidden prayers of the faithful. 
God wishes to restore us individually too.  When you think your plans for life are good, ask God to show you His plans for you.  Look at Christ this Easter Season: the one who as risen from the dead has ascended to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts that we may be called sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.  He takes our humanity into heaven and brings us into the communion of the Trinity!  I guarantee your plans aren't that good.  I hope you weren't thinking about winning the lottery or something.  I know mine would never have been.  I would have been pleased to have my sins forgiven.  That would have been good.  And be pastor here forever, which would be great, and has the added benefit of never having the responsibility of a bishop!  Double bonus! =)
But seriously - In Jesus, God is saying, "your plans are too small.  I want to restore you to something greater than you can imagine." 

This year Passover fell on Saturday, just as it did in the Gospels on the year of Our Lord’s Paschal mystery.  The message is the same now as it was then: while we rest, God is working his salvation for us.

No matter how bad life is going for you right now, and no matter how good your life seems to be, God wants to draw you to something much greater.  Your response to Jesus is the deciding factor.  Do not be afraid to take the plunge, to go all in, and to let God continue His new creation in you.  He has more up his sleeve.  There's more He desire to work in you.  God is not done yet.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Holy Thursday



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THE PASSOVER – Sedar Meal with Youth Group
Roots
Pope Francis – WYD
It is impossible for us to grow unless we have strong roots to support us and to keep us firmly grounded. It is easy to drift off, when there is nothing to clutch onto, to hold onto. And here is a question that we older people have to ask ourselves, those of us who are here, but also a question that you need to ask us, a question that you, young people, need to ask us, older people, and which we have to answer: What roots are we providing for you, what foundations are we providing for you to grow as persons? It is a question for us older persons. It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future. … I remember once talking with some young people, and one of them asked me: “Why are so many young people today not interested in whether God exists or find it difficult to believe in him, and they seem so bored and aimless in life? I asked them in return what they thought. I  remember one particular answer that touched me and it relates to the experience Alfredo shared – “Father, it’s because many of them feel that, little by little, they stopped existing for others; often they feel invisible”. Many young people feel that they have stopped existing for others, for the family, for society, for the community... They often feel, as a result, invisible. This is the culture of abandonment and lack of concern for others. Not everyone, but many people feel that they have little or nothing to contribute, because there is no one around to ask them to get involved. How can they think that God exists, if they, these young people, have long since stopped thinking that they exist for their brothers and sisters and for society?


We must remain rooted.
The Eucharist, the Mass, is the greatest part of our roots.
Jesus takes the Passover and makes it His own, because God knew we need roots.

Good Friday - Suffering in union with Christ





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Source: Is it Possible to Live this Way? An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence (Volume 3: Charity) by Luigi Guissani

1.  Why is life difficult?  Why are we saddened?  Why do we suffer in this life?  The Bible offers many different approaches to this fundamental human question.  The book of Job says it is a mystery that only God knows, and one day may reveal to us in eternity.  Ecclesiastes states that God has placed the timeless into our hearts, and this can cause that suffering. "So that man may never delude himself into thinking what he has can be enough for him." The longing is a "holy longing," a "holy ache."  This is the "I thirst" we hear from Jesus' lips today: man's ache for God meeting God's ache for humanity.
2. What is sacrifice?
Because of sin, which chooses oneself over and against another, our world is a fallen mess.  We see the horror of it in Our Lord's Passion, and we get it displayed before us in television, movies, and almost anything else.  Because of our fallen world,  to stand with the truth and go against the pleasant lies that disguise our selfishness will always mean sacrifice.  To do something in a true, loyal, sincere, and just way: this is sacrifice.  Sacrifice is required to tear yourself away from falsehood and break free from the landslide of lies.  And so any true relationship, if it is to be free from the lies of hidden selfishness, requires sacrifice.  You cannot live with and for another without sacrifice, for indeed any thought, word, or deed that is not "for myself" is sacrifice.  And the fullest, deepest form of sacrifice is found in precisely that relationship for another.  The greatest sacrifice recognizes a relationship and stands in the truth of that relationship despite the tidal wave of falsehood that attacks it.
3. God's response to suffering.
In the ultimate answer for why we suffer, God gives us not only a word, but a Word become flesh.  He gives us a story and a life.  God is love.  Love is the ultimate, complete, living "for another."  So when God comes into our fallen world out of His infinite love for us, He must reveal Himself in sacrifice.  When he stands up for the truth of His relationship with us, it means resisting the mob of a world torn apart by the selfishness of living "for oneself."  And when our fallen humanity and God's love for us collide, we witness the great devastation of sacrificial love, of "love to the end" in the Lord's passion.  And now in Jesus' love to the end, we can see beyond suffering to resurrection.
4.  So back to why do we suffer?
We suffer because we live, we truly live.  To truly live means to live as we were designed, to live in the fullest sense, which for us means to love.  We suffer because we love in a fallen world that resists the holy ache within us.  We suffer because suffering is a condition for life - because the more one suffers and is capable of suffering, the fuller one's life is.  We know through the best example that we never think about enough: Jesus suffered more than anyone because He loved infinitely, and thus He lived, and lives, in the infinite fullness that is heaven.  This is why we choose to stand in the truth: we desire to live a full life both now and in eternity.
5.  And so we embrace the cross today.  We venerate it.  We genuflect to it this one day each year.  For it is here that we see the fullness of our mystery revealed to us.  Here we find the answer to the questions of why we suffer, what sacrifice brings, and how to truly live.  "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."  May the seed of Christ's sacrifice spur us on to find true life in our lives of self-giving love for others.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

March 24 - Homily - Bearing Fruit of Repentance




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March 30 - Prodigal Son! (5:30pm Mass)




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Homily - Biking and Holiness


A few times in my life I have had the joy of biking up a mountain.  Well, to be more exact, the actual biking up the mountain wasn’t actually very joyful - that part was more like hitting your leg muscles with a baseball bat for 30 or 60 minutes.  Not that I’ve ever tried that, but based off how your legs feel afterwards, I think it’s a good guess.  But what makes it a joy is the view, the accomplishment, and yes, the riding down the mountain.  I won’t tell all the moms in the room how fast I was going, just be confident that I was safe and careful, or at least fortunate, and that’s why I’m still here.  But there is one important thing about the uphill climb on a bike: you don’t stop spinning those pedals.  On a bike with an 8 or 10 percent grade, you are either climbing or falling, either moving forward or backward.  If you think you have “arrived” at the top before you actually have, it can be a sad awakening.  You simply can’t stop the effort, or you will fall or perhaps end up going back down right where you came from.
          Every human action is a moral action (it uses that which is distinctly human – our free will and our intellect), and thus you are either being sanctified or falling from grace. 
Newman: To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.   
Newman: Growth is the only evidence of life.    - Take this for what you will in terms of biology, I believe it makes even better sense in our spiritual lives.  If we aren’t growing, we are dying if not already dead.
          The Pharisees think they have arrived.  They think they are done growing.  They’ve made the fatal biking error of stopping pedaling while still on the hill. 
The woman, however, knows she has fallen from grace.  Yet she has the high ground, because her sin is now brought into the public and she has to face it, and thus she is humbled (humiliated).  Now that she can no longer pretend, her repentance is easier.  She has the high ground, because she has embraced her lowliness.
The Pharisees on the other hand, need more help along the way, for they are stuck in the dangerous spiritual state of having “arrived,” of quitting the hard work of their spiritual growth, and are busy looking down at those beneath them.  As long as they are looking behind at those below them, they are unable to climb higher.  Sure, they may not be committing adultery, but they are murdering their fellow sister in their hearts by their condemnation, their lack of desire to build her up.  They require Jesus to wake them up from their slumber, to pull them out of their tombs and reveal to them that they also need to admit their sinfulness if they are to recover their spiritual lives.
We cannot get comfortable with our own spiritual status.  We must realize the importance of constantly growing, for if we aren’t pedaling up the mountain towards heaven and co-operating with God’s manifold graces in our lives, then our human weakness will throw us down the hill.
Thomas a Kempis: He who does not overcome small faults, shall fall little by little into greater ones.