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, January 25, 2020

Homily - Fishers of Men.

Audio: click here!

Fishers of men.  Nice short-film about priesthood.  Inspiring.  Everyone should give it a look.  It’s definitely worth replacing 15 minutes of TV or video games or cat videos.

One problem with the great video is that we might think only the priesthood is meant to be like this.  That Jesus only calls priests to be “fishers of men.”  But rather, this is meant for all of us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope John Paul II called a sure norm for teaching the faith, takes two quotes from the second Vatican Council when it speaks about the role of the laity in the work of evangelization:
CCC 905 - Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, "that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life." For lay people, "this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world." LG 35
This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful. AA 6 (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. approved by vote of 2,340 to 2)
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but I have to say that not all non-Christians or non-Catholics are the same.  They are at different degrees of connection with God or the Church. And for all of them, they are going to travel through a process of drawing closer to Jesus.  And the truth of the matter is, many of us in the Church today might find ourselves at different stages of this journey to full discipleship with Christ.  But if we are going to be of help to others on their journey, we as fishers of men need to know what stage the other person is at.
The five stages of discipleship are from a book by Sherry Weddell called FORMING INTENTIONAL DISCIPLES, and she actually got them from a campus minister who did a study of college students on their process of conversion throughout a school year and realized that Every person must go through a series of questions one by one. Conversion isn’t magic and doesn’t happen in an instant. So here they are. One more thing before I get started: think of a few people you see every week who aren’t active disciples and try to figure out where they fall on this list. That is how you will know how to help them make it to the next step.  

1. Initial trust: Can I trust God and His Church? (They need a connection of trust)
2. Spiritual Curiosity: Is this worth looking into?  (They are intrigued by Christian way of life)
3. Spiritual Openness: Am I willing to be changed? (not committing to change; just open to it; not closed off)
4. Spiritual Seeking: Is this the life for me? (dating with a purpose; pursuing God / Church)
5. Intentional Discipleship: Am I all in? Will I give myself to this? This is it.  I’m doing it.  I’m giving my life.  I’m all in. The decision may take some time to ripple through one’s life and lifestyle but The personal relationship with Jesus has now begun in earnest.
This last step is what we tend to focus on. This is what we tell stories about, but we can’t forget the entirety of the process that led up to it. It is indeed the fruit of a series of ever-deeper choices and commitments: trust, curiosity, openness, seeking/pursuing, following/discipleship.
We have to really try hard to imagine where the non-believer or non-Catholic is coming from. These questions may seem simple to us, trusting God or the Church for example, but to the person you run into randomly at a store who was not raised in a Catholic family or go to a Catholic school, it can be a real test and cause of concern to trust.
The work of sharing Christ with others is really something that is done best through love and not through facts.  Sometimes people need facts.  Sometimes they need examples.  Every time and at all times they need to be loved.  That is one thing that we can always be confident of. One man’s testimony in the book shows this perfectly: “I am not a Christian because it ‘makes sense’ or because someone sat down and diagrammed it for me.  I am a Christian because I have been loved deeply and unconditionally by Christians.  Some of them … troubled me with hard questions.  But all of them loved me when I did not love them… Reason is a wonderful tool, but it is a weak force for deep change in human beings.  Faith, hope, and love are not tools; they are virtues, powerful and exceedingly difficult to embody, and much more efficacious than reason for changing lives.”
Jesus wants you to follow Him. To give him everything.  If you have never really dropped your nets and let him transform your life, do so.  But then, Jesus wants more.  He wants you to help others to know him, to be fishers of men.  This is what you are meant to be by baptism.  Become what you are. Take the next step.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

John the Baptist and Us

Audio: click here!

This year of readings will overall have a greater focus on the Gospel of Matthew, but today we hear from John’s Gospel about the person and role of John the Baptist.  In this Gospel, we hear John the Baptist stressing the divinity of Christ Jesus, his cousin, who he refers to as one “I did not know” – using that word “know” in a different sense from what we normally mean.  Earlier in John’s prologue which is read on the Mass during Christmas Day, it speaks of the Word made flesh using these words in verse ten: He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. This sense that God is something totally other, something the world cannot control or get a full grasp on, is what John is referring to.  Obviously they were cousins, they knew each other, even though John the Baptist might not have seen Jesus for many years if we are right in thinking he lived by the Jordan river with the Essene community and eventually lived as a sort of hermit-monk before his preaching of repentance.
John’s testimony is important.  He had a strong following of people.  They wanted him to be the Messiah.  He could have easily let all that go to his head.  However, he was faithful to his vocation, to what God had revealed to him: ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God. This is a beautiful witness. BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD.  This phrase is packed full of meaning for the Jewish people, who twice a day offered sacrifice of a lamb in the temple, and every year at Passover the same offering was required of every single family.  In fact, they might not have ever understood it at the time.  Why would God need a lamb?  What does he have to offer sacrifice for?  And why would God offer sacrifice to Himself?
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him.  Indeed this is how it is with all of us.  Jesus comes towards us and seeks us out.  As He pursues us, John the Baptist tells us: This is the Lamb of God.
To his disciples who have followed his message of repentance, John the Baptist now points the way forward and offers the possibility of learning more about Jesus.  They must discover Him, must ponder the mystery of who this Lamb of God is.  They must follow him.  “He must increase; I must decrease.”
We find ourselves in two places in today’s Gospel.  First, we are like John’s disciples.  We must submit ourselves to following Jesus wherever He goes, and this begins with confession of our sins – the Lamb of God is here to take away the sins of the world.
But secondly, we see ourselves in John the Baptist.  The role of all the baptized is to point to Christ Jesus, to point the way forward for others toward the one who must increase in their lives, the one who can take away their sins.  They must follow him.
Let us pray for the grace to be followers of Jesus, but also to never be only followers.  Let us pray to be messengers who prepare others to draw close to Christ, who is always seeking them.  May our heart burn with the heart of the lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, who seeks to save what was lost.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Baptism - Identity

Audio: click here! (8pm Mass)

Many stories, whether movies or books, are focused on the question of identity: Who am I?  The answer should be God’s beloved. His adopted son or daughter.
The source of your value should come from your Baptism.  Your identity is found in Christ.  Colossians 3: You are hidden in Christ. When Christ, your life, appears, then you will appear with him in glory. Not in what you do – a common mistake in American culture that values everything by $, by output and how it fits into the economic realm.
When you believe a lie, you empower the liar.  You give them power over your life.  That lie affects the way you live.
I’m a jock.  I’m a comedian. I’m a nice-guy. I’m reliable. I’m a hard worker. I’m a family man. I’m loyal.  I’m smart. I’m caring. I’m productive. I’m successful. I’m talented. I’m special. I’m irreplaceable. I’m blah blah blah.  And to flip it on its head there are other lies that can be sown in our hearts, especially when we find that we don’t measure up: I’m a mess. I’m broken. I’m damaged goods. I can’t love. I’m not worthy of God. I don’t deserve friends. I always mess things up. I’ll never get it straight.
All of these can be ways for the lies of identity to take root in something other than God.  And if those lies grow, you live differently, and your life and those you touch will be worse off, perhaps drastically worse for those lies.
Our identity does not come from what we do, but from who we are as created in God’s image and likeness, and above all recreated through Baptism.  Our identity is from who God says we are, not what the world says about us.
Christ emptied himself into the world in its entirety, in order that the world might be reconciled with the Father… Christ entered into every aspect of being human, with its temptations, its fears, its joys and aspirations, even its sin (without of course sinning himself), in order that all of humanity, every aspect of us, might be liberated from slavery to sin, to those lies that we have given power over us, and be reconciled into full communion with God.  To be brought into God’s family. (Heart of the World, Center of the Church, p. 312).
This is what the fathers of the church (early bishops and other preachers) called a “Mirabile commercium”: wondrous exchange.
In Jesus, God wants to strike a deal with us.  He basically is saying to us: You give me all of yourself, and I’ll give you all of myself.
Jesus Christ enters us, so that we might enter into Christ. (ibid)
What’s the catch?  We have to be all in.  We have to hand it all over.  We will receive it back, but in a new way.  It won’t be the same after we hand it all over to Jesus, because it will actually be better.  It will in fact be free of all the things that actually sucked life from us.  This is what it means to give your entire self to Jesus so that he gives His entire self to you.
And this great trade begins in baptism, and its fullness is made present here in the Eucharist, for this is indeed the future within the present, heaven breaking into our time.  Pope Benedict: The divine Child whom we adore in the crib is the Emmanuel, God-with-us, who is really present in the sacrament of the Altar. The wonderful exchange, the "mirabile commercium", that takes place in Bethlehem between God and humanity becomes constantly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which for this reason is the source of the Church's life and holiness. (Pope B. XVI. Address to Roman Curia 2004-12-21).
St. Paul tells us: “Christ became poor though he was rich, so that by his poverty we might become rich.” Let us live the beauty of this identity that we have in our Baptism by giving ourselves anew to our Eucharistic Lord, so that we may receive His fullness.

Monday, January 6, 2020

“Reading the signs” in our life is what makes it an adventure.

Audio - 11:30am Click Here

“Reading the signs” in our life is what makes it an adventure.
Life is meant to be an adventure.  A journey toward something.  I many ways, it is a “coming home.”
If we do not spend some attention on our life, then we will miss God speaking to us.
We need time to process life, to wonder at beauty, and to see the signs that God is trying to send us in our life.  Solitude is almost gone.  We never get a chance to turn on our own brains because we are too busy taking in information (videos, news, advertisements, radio, or the task at hand).  Our “free time” isn’t “free” from all this input, and this is a dangerous thing, because Silence is a key way to hear God’s voice. Unfortunately our world has been saturated by “Noise.”  C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters on “noise”.
The “Noise” that we encounter today is not always audible, but it has also taken the shape of constant advertising, and numerous images and media vying for our attention.
We need to set boundaries and be intentional about how we live, so that we can see God’s hand at work in our lives.  We need time to pray.  We also need other periods of time to think about what just happened, about what God might be trying to tell us.