Sunday, September 22, 2019

Put God first:

25th Sunday of ordinary time year C 2019:
There are people out there who swear they can be more efficient by multi-tasking.  Some people think that they can get a lot of stuff done all at the same time.  But, I don’t think this is true.  I find that if I try to do multiple things at once, I end up doing all of them badly.  Have you ever been talking to someone and they keep saying “uh, huh”, then you look over and they are messing with their phone?  That person is trying to multitask.  But, I’m betting he or she didn’t hear a single word you said.  I’ve read studies that show that humans really can’t put their attention on more than one thing.  So, it’s much better to keep our focus on one task at a time.
In the gospel, Jesus tells us that we can’t try to be spiritual multi-taskers either.  You cannot serve both God and mammon.  You will end up loving one and hating the other.  Mammon is a Hebrew word that means money or profit.  I like to think of it as the business or practical side of our lives.  And there’s no getting out of it.  We all have to take care of our finances.  Even as a priest, I have my personal finances to manage and I have the parish’s finances to manage.  All of you have many practical things you have to do in your lives.  We all have work to do.  Appointments to keep.  Etc.  All of that fits into mammon.  But, are we trying to multitask? Or is God number 1 in our lives?  
It can be easy to think about our relationship with God as just one of the things in our lives.  We have our jobs, our families, our relationship with God.  But, Jesus is always clear on teaching that God has to be number one.  What’s the great commandment?  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, then love your neighbor as yourself.  God has to be number one.  Why?  Because we are not good at multitasking.  If we try to keep God on the same level as everything else in our lives, then we end up not doing any of it very well. 
But, the nice thing about putting God number one in our lives, is that he actually helps us to do everything else better.  Having a great relationship with God will make us better mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers, whatever…  Putting God number one makes us more honest, dependable, trustworthy.  All of these qualities help us in all aspects of our lives.  
So, how can you tell if God is number one?  Just do some tracking.  Do we spend time in prayer?  Do we spend time serving others?  Do we think about God in our daily lives?  I read a book on productivity that had an exercise where I had to track every minute of the day for a week to see where I was spending my time. It was sort of shocking just how much time I wasted.  Or how much time I was spending on things that weren’t that important.  Track your time.  How much of it does God get, how much do we spend in serving others? Also, look at your finances.  We think we spend money on only the important things.  But, I know that I don’t always spend it on the right things.  One thing that really helped me with that was putting my tithe as the first withdrawal every month.  My paycheck is deposited on the 15th.  My online giving comes out on the 17th.  This helps me to try to put God first in my finances as well. 
Jesus is absolutely correct.  We cannot serve both God and mammon.  We cannot multitask when it comes to the spiritual life.  We have to put God above all things.  And yet, when we do, it’s so rewarding.  Never be afraid to put God first in your life.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The humility of Christ

22ndSunday in Ordinary time year C:
Today in the gospel Jesus calls us to grow in the virtue of humility.  St. Thomas Moore calls humility the low, sweet root, from which all heavenly virtues shoot.  Beautiful image.  All heavenly virtues can grow within us if we are rooted in humility.  I’m tempted to go on at this point and tell you just how well-suited I am to teach all of you about humility because of just how humble I am. I don’t normally like to brag, but my humility is really pretty incredible.  Ok, that’s a joke.  Humility is an important virtue for all of us.  But, I’ll be the first person to admit that humility can be so tough.  We can say we want to be humble, but then someone at work gets recognized and we can feel ourselves getting upset; or then it seems like our family doesn’t appreciate us; or, then we go through a tough time in our lives and we ask God why he chose us to endure such suffering. Humility is tough.
So, I wanted to reflect on two questions so that all of us can learn more about humility.  First question: why be humble?  Second, how to learn humility?
Why be humble?  We all know that we are supposed to be humble.  We know that the saints are humble.  We know that being humble is something that Jesus wants from us.  But, are these answers compelling enough to motivate us to grow in humility?  I don’t know about you, but I often lose motivation when I’m trying to do something simply because I’m supposedto do it.  Why are we supposed to be humble?  The short answer is that we are supposed to be humble simply because Christ was humble. I think that sometimes we make it all too complicated.  Christianity is not a system of rules and obligations.  Christianity is entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ and conforming our life to his.  If we are going to bear the name Christian, then we have to become like Christ.  It’s that simple.  Now, all the moral laws, the obligations, the teachings of the Church, they all help us to become more like Christ.  But, I think we can often lose sight of the fact that everything we do is supposed to help us become more like Christ.  So, if our motivation to grow in humility is simply because it’s some abstract obligation, I bet we won’t be successful.  But, if we consciously remember to become more like Christ every day, we might see ourselves desire to grow in humility, as painful as it can be.
Ok, now we are motivated to grow in humility.  How do we learn humility?  I think the best thing we can possibly do to grow in humility is to study the life of Christ.  Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God.  Yet, he was humble enough to become fully human.  His entire life is like a documentary on the virtue of humility. He could have ridden down on the clouds, he became flesh in the womb of a simple girl.  He could have been born in a palace, he was born in a stable.  He could have been laid down on silk, he was laid in a manger.  He could have apprenticed at the finest schools, Joseph taught him a simple trade. He could have picked the best and brightest disciples, he picked humble fishermen.  The author of life itself, handed over his life on the Cross, the most despised and humiliating kind of death imaginable at the time.  He should have been buried under a great pyramid, it was a small and simple tomb.  His rising could have been witnessed by millions, no one actually saw him rise from the tomb. 
If you just take one of these examples and use it for contemplation, you will find that Christ can teach us all humility.  If we seek to be like him and emulate the example of his life, we can’t help but grow in humility.
But, I want to talk about one last example of the humility of Christ, the Eucharist.  Jesus left us the Eucharist as his lasting presence among us.  The Blessed Sacrament is truly his Body and Blood.  It is not a mere symbol.  It does not just remind us of Christ.  It is him.  I know that many people read that there was a survey recently that stated only 30% of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist.  It’s a shocking number.  I’ll say that my experience is that the vast majority of people I encounter believe in the Eucharist.  I mean, that’s why you are here right?  It’s truly the Body and Blood of Christ.  Yet, I think this number of people who don’t believe shows Christ’s humility even more. He’s so humble, that people fail to acknowledge his presence.  Maybe the reason that people find it hard to believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is because all of us find it hard to be humble.  Maybe those people who don’t believe in the Eucharist might say: well, if it was a bit more flashy, I’d believe.  No, Christ was, is, and will always be humble.  
You and I believe in him.  We strive to embrace his life.  We want to become like him.  As we celebrate this Holy Eucharist, we are once again in his humble presence.  So, we can learn from him how to be humble. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Life is hard sometimes... embrace it.

21stSunday of Ordinary Time year C:
My normal routine for writing homilies always starts the previous Sunday.  After I’m done with the weekend masses, I try to read next Sunday’s readings at the end of the day.  Then, during the course of the week, I keep thinking about the readings and go over them in my mind.  That way, by the time Friday or Saturday comes around, I’ve got a few ideas about the readings that I want to share with all of you.  This week, one particular idea just kept coming up over and over. It might seem like a strange idea. But, it’s the one I got for this week. Ready?  Life is hard.
Now, what do I mean?  The letter to the Hebrews keeps telling us that there will be affliction and difficulty.  But, this is discipline from the Lord.  It will make us better and stronger.  Jesus says, strive to enter the narrow gate, but many will not be strong enough.  Life is hard.  There will be difficulties, pains, sorrows, trials, and tribulations.  
But, I’m not telling you anything that is new right? I mean, every one of us knows this to be true.  We know that life is tough.  We experience it all the time.  And yet, it’s so easy to gripe and moan about our troubles.  I know I do it.  I often remark that I have my Ph.D. in gripology.  I’m particularly fond of griping about the winter.  It’s as nice as can be these last couple weeks, and I’m already starting to dread the sleet and the snow.  What are your favorite gripes?  Friends, family, co-workers, people we meet, sickness, sadness, crisis?  A lot of this griping comes from an attitude that life shouldn’t be tough.  It shouldn’t have difficulties.  We shouldn’t have any problems.  So when we do have difficulties, we find it offensive and problematic.  Sound familiar?
But, that’s not the message from the Scriptures this week. Letter to the Hebrews: do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when reproved; discipline seems like a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later is brings peaceful fruit; (and my favorite) strengthen your drooping hands and your week knees.  All these trials and difficulties can just serve to make us stronger.  They can serve to help us grow in our faith.  We can grow in holiness, goodness, and charity.  And make no mistake, we need to get strong.  Jesus says, many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  Now, one important caveat here: we do not get strong on our own.  It’s all by God’s grace.  We need to embrace the pains and sufferings of this life.  We can use them as chances to beg the Lord for grace, mercy, and strength. Doing that, the pains of life make us strong.  And we all know we are going to get these pains whether we want to or not.  Life is hard.  
The saints really do a great job of teaching us these lessons. The saints embrace the sufferings of life, use them as opportunities to grow closer to God, and they become marvelous examples of holiness.  St. Rose of Lima’s feast day was this past Friday.  She’s a great example of this.  She had many sufferings in her life.  She grew up poor.  She had times of loneliness and sadness.  Times were God felt far and distant.  But, she made these into opportunities to grow in her faith.  I want to read a quote from her: “If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace… without a doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions.  All people throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities, and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace.”  Wow.  I thought about that for a time and thought, our culture does the exact opposite.  We do everything we can to seek good fortune, while we do everything we can to avoid pain and trouble.  St. Rose says we need to do it the other way because it will help us grow in God’s grace.  
What a marvelous example for us.  Life is hard.  Ok, no getting around it.  But, do you ever pray for more difficulties?  Probably not.  But, listen again to the scriptures: strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.  Strive to enter that narrow gate.  Call on the Lord in your times of weakness.  Embrace sufferings and difficulties for they will make us stronger.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Listening to the voice of Christ


20th Sunday of Ordinary Time year C:
Jesus says in the gospel today: I have come to set fire upon the earth.  This reminds me of something that I think is quite important.  Jesus is real.  What do I mean?  I think that since Jesus is the most famous and most important person in the history of the world, he can be easy to misunderstand.  It can be easy to make Jesus one-dimensional.  It can be easy to focus on one aspect of his life or one aspect of his teaching.  Yet, Jesus is real.  He’s complex.  We have to take in the whole message, the whole story, from all 4 gospels.  Doing this provides us with many more resources for whatever we need in our lives at a particular time.
Feeling lost: turn to the story of the prodigal son.  Know that the Father is there with his love and mercy.  Know that Christ loves you and wants to forgive you.  Feelings sinful: turn to the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus says: neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.  Feeling complacent and think you have no problems: turn to the story where Jesus says why do you notice the speck in your neighbor’s eye while you do not recognize the beam in your own.
I think you get the point.  It can be so easy to get stuck on just one aspect of Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching that we lose out on so much guidance that we need in our lives.
For example, I don’t think that many of us instinctively turn to today’s gospel.  I’ll speak for myself, it’s not the most encouraging and comforting of news.  I came to cast fire.  From now on all families will be divided.  But, this, too is a message that we need to hear. 
First, Jesus predicts that he will end up causing division.  I think we all know that this is true right?  Any easier way to make people uncomfortable than by injecting in a normal conversation: hey by the way, do you want to talk about Jesus?  What do they say, don’t talk about religion or politics?  Even in our own families, not many of us can say that we are all united on our faith in Christ, right?  Jesus is controversial in that way.  This does not mean that we should go out of our way to cause division.  Rather, we should take heart that division will naturally occur.  We want to help people to come to know Christ, but faith is ultimately a mystery.  So, this passage can really help us if we are feeling discouraged because of divisions in our friends and family based on religion.  Jesus told us it would happen.  So, take heart and renew your prayer and good example asking the Lord to help your family members grow in their faith.
Second, the fire.  This image is striking.  I love fire.  Not that I like setting things on fire.  But, one of my favorite things to do is to sit outside by a fire.  I find the flames mesmerizing.  Yet, the flames are also scary.  They can burn.  Jesus wants to cast fire on the earth.  This is a special kind of fire because it lives inside of us.  It’s important to remember that we use fire to represent the Holy Spirit.  The fire of God’s love active in the hearts and lives of Christians.  Yet, this fire can burn sometimes.  It might be scary.  It’s not easy to follow Christ.  As our second reading states, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.  It’s tough following Christ.  It’s hard to be purified from our sin and from our selfishness.  Sometimes it hurts to be cast into the fire of his love.  And yet, living in the fire of Christ is an amazing place to be.  It makes us truly alive.  It’s the kind of life we all want to have.  A life filled with love and joy and peace and the goodness of God.  So, we have to lean into that fire.  Don’t turn away from it.
In this week’s Message in a Minute, I recommended to everyone that a good way to enter into the purifying fire of Christ’s love is to make it to confession.  Confession might seem a bit scary sometimes.  It might feel like fire.  But, it burns away the sin from our lives.  Especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession, let the fire of Christ’s love burn in your lives to help you on the way to holiness.
So, this gospel passage might seem off-putting at first.  It seems edgy and controversial.  We might not like that.  But, it’s a good reminder that Jesus is complex.  We need the whole message.  Maybe today, you and I need to hear this particular message for an important reason.  Maybe we need to hear it because we are dealing with divisions in our family.  Jesus predicted this would happen.  So, let’s be at peace and still try to encourage the unity of faith in Christ.  Maybe we need to hear this passage today because we are afraid of the fire of Christ’s love.  Let him cast that flame in your life.  Let it be something that excites and motivates us, more than frightens us. 
One thing I love about being Catholic is the fact that we read the whole Bible.  We don’t just pick and choose the parts we like.  Rather, we need the real, dynamic, concrete, and complex Jesus Christ in our lives.  Let us listen to his voice as he speaks to us today.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Stewards...

Message in a Minute for August 11th:

Today’s gospel addresses an important concern for the early Church.  It addresses the problem of the Ascended Christ.  What do we do now that Christ has ascended to the Father? 

Early Christians lived life with a certain kind of intensity that is missing from our lives today.  They truly expected Christ to return at any moment.  Today’s gospel talks about the faithful and prudent steward who is busy doing his master’s work while he is away.  For early Christians, this was an important story that told them they needed to be working diligently awaiting the return of Christ.

Yet, here we are 2000 years after the time of Christ.  It might be easy for us to avoid that intense kind of waiting.  We might be tempted to think: Jesus won’t be coming back during my days.  But, just like those early Christians, we should be living life with that same kind of intensity.  We hope and pray that Christ will return right away.  I always like to joke that I’d be happy for Christ to come back today since it would get me out of a lot of work!  

Each of us is called to be that faithful and prudent steward who is working diligently while the master is away.  Our mission in life is to carry out the work of Christ.  Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could do this very task.  As good stewards, we are to use the gifts that he has given us to carry out his work in the world.  

The steward who does his master’s bidding gets a reward.  But, the lazy and wicked servant gets punished.  Great questions to ask ourselves in prayer this week: what kind of servant am I?  Am I working diligently while the master is away?


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Saturday, August 3, 2019

18th Sunday: be rich in what matters to God

18thSunday of Ordinary Time Year C 2019:
There is an inherent tension in the life of every Christian.  We live in this world.  But, we are destined for another world.  St. Paul really captures this tension in our second reading.  St. Paul says, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  We hear a similar message in the gospel when Jesus gives the example of the farmer who wants to tear down his small barns to build bigger barns.  You fool, you should have been rich in what matters to God. So, there is a tension.  We live in this world, but we are supposed to be focused on the next world, which is our life with God.  No wonder Qoheleth says: vanity of vanities, all things are vanity.
Sure, we have to remain focused on the end goal.  But, this doesn’t mean that we can simply neglect our responsibilities while here on earth.  We still need to pay our bills, take care of our kids, participate in civil society and government.  Yet, all the while, we must do so with our eyes set on what is above.
This can be very challenging.  Some days in my life it seems like it would be much easier to run away and join the monastery.  Then I could escape the trials and tribulations of the world around me and just focus on my life with God.  Of course, then I remember that I can’t play golf in the monastery, so I stay put.  We cannot escape our lives and our responsibilities, nor should we try.  Still, it is difficult to live in the world and yet keep our eyes fixed on Christ.  
  And, it’s of critical importance.  That guy in the gospel is not wicked or evil.  He’s not out there killing people.  Rather he says, now that I’ve got goods stored up I will rest, eat, drink, and be merry.  Sounds like a nice and comfortable retirement, right?  Yet, Jesus says this guy is a fool.  We don’t want to end up like him.  What is the critical point: he stored up treasure for himself, and was not rich in what matters to God.  What matters to God: goodness, kindness, patience, love, mercy.  These are the kinds of things that matter to God.  So, how do we do this?  Two tips.
First, St. Paul gives us some great advice on how to do this. He says: put to death what is earthly, then he mentions a bunch of sins: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, idolatry.  This is a good reminder that it is really hard to keep our eyes on Christ if we are swept away by our sins.  What sin do you and I still need to “put to death?”  Don’t be afraid to walk away from sin and closer to Christ.  There is no better way to store up riches in heaven than to flee from sin and grow closer to God.
The second tip I would like to share came from my spiritual director.  He used to tell me to practice the presence of God.  I asked him what that meant.  He said: God is with us all the time, whether we recognize it or not.  Practicing the presence of God is calling to mind the fact that God is with you in the ordinary circumstances of your life.  You won’t get there without practice.  So, get in the car: call to mind God’s presence. Walk into Church, call to mind God’s presence.  Annoyed with someone at the grocery store, practice the presence of God.  Practice, practice, practice, and we will start to keep our eyes on that which is above.
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity.  We don’t want to get so swept away by the cares and concerns of this world that we are like the foolish man in the gospel.  We might have stored up riches here on earth, but that is worthless when it comes to our life in heaven.  Rather, we want to keep our eyes on what’s above.  So, try these two tips: putting to death sin and practicing the presence of God.  These two things will help us all to become rich in what matters to God.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Back...

Hello everyone,

I've been out of town.  I'm back now.  I hope these posts help out.  Here is the MIM for this weekend:

Message in a Minute for July 28

In today’s gospel we hear the “Our Father” prayer from Luke’s gospel.  If it does not sound familiar to you, that’s because the version we are used to praying is the one found in Matthew’s gospel.  Certainly, there are no contradictions between these two versions of the “Our Father;” Matthew’s version is just a bit longer.

Having two different “Our Father” prayers in the bible got me thinking.  Is one version more accurate than the other?  If Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father prayer, how could there be two different ones?

I think it’s important to remember that Jesus taught his disciples every day for years.  I think it is entirely possible that Jesus taught them how to pray to the Father on numerous occasions.  This fact probably helps to explain why there are two versions, because Jesus probably used different wording choices over the course of his years of teaching. Also, we should remember that Jesus would have spoken the Aramaic of his time.  The gospels are all written in Greek.  Therefore, the words of the bible are translations of the words Jesus would have used during his lifetime.  This could also account for the differences in the wording.

But, I would like to leave everyone with this thought: there are two versions of the Our Father, but both of them encourage us to turn to God with our praise and our needs.  This is the most important thing we can do when it comes to our prayer. We simply turn to God with praise and with trust, asking him to be in our lives.  So, don’t forget to spend some time in prayer today saying: 

Father, hallowed be your name, 
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi 2019:
As I mentioned last week, this is one of the doctrinal Sundays.  Last week we reflected on the doctrine of the Trinity, the heart of our faith because it’s our very belief in God.  Today we reflect on the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, corpus Christi.  The belief in the Trinity is the heart of our faith.  But, the belief in the Eucharist is the heart of our worship.  
I think it’s really beautiful that we celebrate these two feast days in successive weeks, because it really shows the connection between faith and worship.  What we believe affects the way we worship.  The way we worship affects the way we believe.  Worship is like our faith in action.  Yet without the firm foundation of our faith, our worship becomes empty.  The two are intimately connected.  
It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the Eucharist in our Catholic life of faith.  The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist the source and summit of our Catholic life.  Source and summit.  So, for the feast of Corpus Christi, I thought I would reflect a little bit on these two terms: source and summit.
What does it mean to say that the Eucharist is the source of our Catholic life?  First, it’s important to state boldly and unapologetically what we believe at the Eucharist: it is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ himself.  The Blessed Sacrament is the true presence of Christ. We believe that Bread and Wine are transubstantiated into the very body and blood of Christ.  Not a mere sign or symbol, but the true presence of Christ. This is why we genuflect on our way into mass and on our way out of mass.  We reverence Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist.  So, of course, the Eucharist is the source of our Catholic life.  It’s the presence of Christ.  Christ is the source of all Christianity.  Everything comes from him.  Without him we would have nothing, we would be nothing.  He is the source of all that is.  Since the Eucharist is the true presence of Christ, the Eucharist is the source of our Catholic life.  Practically, how would this make an impact in our lives?  What would happen to a river if it was cut off from its source?  It would shrivel up and die.  It would no longer be a river.  It could even turn into a stagnant swamp.  What happens to us if we are cut off from our source?  We can dry up too.  By our faithful participation here at mass we stay connected to Christ, our source.  
Summit.  The peak, the top, the pinnacle of our Catholic life is the celebration of the Mass. Think about the Church year.  It’s full of many feast days and big events. This past week I finished my first year here at the Cathedral.  It’s been a great experience.  But, it has also seemed like a wild ride sometimes.  We have the big events like Christmas and Easter.  But, being the Cathedral, we also have big events like ordinations, baccalaureate masses, confirmations, etc.  All these big events celebrate important moments in Christ’s life or important moments in the faith lives of people from our diocese.  What do all these events have in common?  The mass.  At our most important events, we celebrate the Mass.  At our biggest celebrations, we celebrate the mass. Why?  The Eucharist is the summit of our life of faith.  This is the biggest thing we do.  The best activity of prayer and worship to God is to celebrate the Mass, the Eucharist.  There are lots of ways for us to pray.  There are lots of ways for us to worship God.  But, nothing compares to the Mass.  It’s the very summit.
Another goal I had this weekend was to reflect on the mass as the source and summit so that all of you might have some talking points for family members.  I know that so many of our friends, family, and loved ones do not attend Mass.  Maybe use these images of source and summit as beautiful ways to share with them the glory of the Mass.  Personally, I can’t imagine life without the Mass.  It’s the source and summit of our Catholic life. So, let us give thanks to God for this amazing gift.  But, let us also ask God to help all his people to grow in their love and amazement for the Mass, for the Holy Eucharist.  May it be the source and summit for everyone’s life of faith.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Communion

Trinity Sunday 2019:
The first Sunday of Ordinary Time after Pentecost is always Trinity Sunday.  We celebrate God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Now, you might say: don’t we always celebrate the Trinity?  It’s true.  Every mass is offering the sacrifice of Christ to the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  So, each and every mass is a mass to, for, and with the Trinity.  But, today gives us a chance to reflect on this doctrine, this teaching.  We firmly believe and profess our faith in One God.  And, this one God is a loving communion of persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We might be tempted to think that this teaching of the Trinity is not all that essential to our human lives.  This teaching can seem somewhat distant and remote.
But, we should remember that we are made in God’s image and likeness.  So, reflecting on the doctrine of the Trinity can teach us about how to live out our human lives.
One of John Paul II’s greatest contributions to the Church was his great Theology of the Body.  If you are unfamiliar with this work, you really owe it to yourself to become familiar with it.  Now, I’ll tell you, the talks themselves can be quite difficult to get through.  JP 2 was an immensely brilliant theologian and philosopher.  So, I would recommend Christopher West.  He has books, tapes, videos online, and other resources that make the Theology of the Body more accessible to all of us.  
The part I wanted to mention today was the notion of communion. Since the Trinity exists from all eternity as a loving communion of persons, and we are made in God’s image and likeness, then JP 2 states that human beings are made for communion.  In the heart of every human being there is a longing for communion.  Ultimately, this longing will only be satisfied by our eternal communion with God in heaven. But, our human relationships should provide a foreshadowing of this communion even here on earth.  JP2 points to marriage as being the preeminent sign of the loving communion of persons.  But, even the Church itself is called to reflect this notion of communion. All of us, as Christ’s disciples, called to live in love and friendship with each other.  Human beings are made for communion, and it will lead us to our ultimate happiness of communion with God.
However, this is not so easy to achieve.  We have many things conspiring against us.  First, there is sin.  Selfishness is pretty much the root of all sin.  Rather than choosing communion, when we choose ourselves it leads us away from happiness.  Also, our society is increasingly putting the emphasis on the individual and not on communion.  I read an interesting article this week that states that our society is become increasingly atomized.  This means that each individual is becoming like a separate atom.  I really find this to be true.  So many people feel isolated, disconnected.  And this does not lead to our human flourishing.  Even in the Church itself, we can experience tensions and disagreements instead of communion.
So, as we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, let’s try to reflect on the concept of communion.  The word means something like union with another.  It’s essential to our human flourishing that we establish union with others.  And, of course, union with Christ.  Maybe call a friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Maybe make time for your spouse and share an evening together.  Spend time with your kids.  I think we need to be a bit more proactive in seeking communion, especially when our culture is trying to atomize us all.  
Today we celebrate this Holy Mass.  When we come forward, we call it “communion.”  The Eucharist is communion with God, it’s also communion with one another.  We were made for communion, because we were made in the image and likeness of God: a loving communion of persons.   May this Blessed Sacrament help us to increase our sense of Communion with God and one another.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pentecost 2019

Pentecost 2019:

Today is the joyful celebration of Pentecost.  We not only remember that first outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  But, we also implore the Lord to send a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit.  May the same Spirit that empowered the Apostles empower us to live out own baptismal vocation to holiness.  When the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they went out into the world and proclaimed the gospel to everyone they could find. My hope and dream is that each one of us will receive the same power of the Holy Spirit and that we too will go out to proclaim this Good News to all the world.  
Today, I want to talk a little bit about this candle. This is the Easter candle.  It is sometimes called the Paschal candle.  It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  It’s 51% beeswax.  When it was brand new you could smell the honey in the wax.  This candle began the solemn Easter Vigil.  It’s the very first part of the celebration of Easter. The Easter fire was lit and blessed. The fire became an image of Christ, who is the light of the world.  That fire was transferred to this candle and it has burned brightly now these last 50 days. Well, at least symbolically, we do blow it out after mass…  But, today is Pentecost, and the candle will be extinguished and placed by the baptismal font at the end of the last Mass today.  So, this candle is like a living symbol for the entire paschal mystery.  Thing about everything that we have celebrated including today: The Lord’s death and resurrection, his glorious ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Holy Spirit came down in tongues of fire, it continues to be symbolized by a tongue of fire right here in this candle.  So, this candle is a symbol for Christ the Light of the World, a symbol for Easter, a symbol for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But, this isn’t the last time we will use this candle. There are two other events where we use the Easter candle.  The first is at baptism.  After a person is baptized, he/she is given a candle which is lit from this candle. The prayer that goes with it says: receive the light of Christ.  You have been enlightened by Christ, walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.  The giving of the candle is symbolic for the gift of the Holy Spirit that is poured out upon us at baptism.  There is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the Sacrament of Confirmation as well. But, the first gift of the Spirit we receive takes place at our baptism.  Each of us has received our own tongue of fire.
The second event where this candle is used is at funeral masses. Isn’t that interesting?  When we are born in Christ, the candle is given to us. When we return to Christ, the candle shines forth one last time.  It’s particularly powerful to see the light of Christ burning brightly in the midst of the sadness the comes with loss and mourning.  Death may have affected us, but the darkness does not get to win. Rather, the light of Christ shines even in the midst of suffering and sadness.  So, this candle burns during our entire life of faith.
This candle symbolizes the light of Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit.  But, even though it stops shining at every mass.  The light of this candle lives on in each one of us.  The light of this candle was entrusted to each one of us at the day of our baptism.  It is our job to keep this light burning brightly in our lives, in our hearts, until our very last moment on earth.  So, while this candle will be extinguished today, it should shine brightly in each one of us.  Let’s pray together, then, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Through his power may we keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Come Holy Spirit

6thSunday of Easter Year C 2019:
As our Easter season winds to a close, you will notice that the readings are helping to move us toward the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  While this passage from the gospel today comes from the Last Supper, the message seems to be pretty clear for us.  Jesus will ascend to the Father.  But, we will not be without help.  The Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
We will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in 2 weeks.  But, it’s not too early to start praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is probably the most neglected of the three persons of the Trinity.  We are obviously focused on Christ.  He lived among us.  He died on the Cross.  He was raised from the dead.  Also, he always taught us to look to the Father.  We pray the Our Father.  But, what about the Holy Spirit?  Just recently, Bishop Rhoades was here for the Baccalaureate Masses for both Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers High Schools.  In both masses, he talked about how the power of the Holy Spirit should enable us to live the Christian life.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of God at work within us, that enables us to follow Christ.  Most of the time, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives without us even being aware. But, how much more powerful might his presence be in our lives if we called on him more frequently.
So, I’d like to reflect on 2 things from today’s gospel to help us in our prayer as we get closer to Pentecost.  First, the name advocate, second, the advocate’s job as described by Jesus.
Jesus says that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  This is an interesting word.  Advocate is the Latin word (advocatus), the Greek word is similar (paraclete).  They both have the same meaning.  Clete comes from the Greek word Kaleo which means: to call. Same with Vocatus: the one called on. So, the word advocate and the word paraclete have the same meaning: one who is called upon.  Now, this word was used primarily in legal settings, and we still use the word advocate today in legal settings.  Advocates help us to make a defense.  But, they have to be called upon.  I find this really interesting.  The word Jesus uses in order to describe the Holy Spirit means: one who will defend you, but you have to call upon him.  God never tramples our freedom.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is our advocate.  He will come to our aid and assistance when we call upon him.  Yet, how often do we call upon him?  I think it might be good for us to memorize the Come Holy Spirit prayer again.  We should never let a day go by where we don’t call on our advocate.  Fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and they should be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Who among us can say that we don’t need to be filled with the fire of God’s love in the Holy Spirit?  Let’s call on him daily as a natural part of our spiritual lives.
Second, what was the job that Jesus said would be entrusted to the Holy Spirit: he will teach you everything and remind you of what I told you.  Knowledge and wisdom are gifts of the Holy Spirit.  By living in close contact with the Holy Spirit, by being filled with his gifts, we are enabled to see what is right.  The Holy Spirit will teach us everything.  In my pastoral work, many people find themselves in need of guidance. Maybe it’s a tough family situation, maybe it's a career choice, maybe it’s one of the million other important decisions we might face in a day.  I know I always have decisions that weigh in on my thoughts.  What about praying to the Holy Spirit?  Jesus literally tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything.  So, turning to the Holy Spirit in times of doubt, struggle, or indecision is a necessity. He will teach us everything.  We even saw this on display in the first reading. The early Christians were confused about the role of circumcision and the Mosaic law for Gentile Christians.  But, with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were led into the truth and made the wise decision.  In our own lives, when we face controversy or choice, we too should turn to the Spirit, who will teach us everything. 
So, we have 2 weeks till Pentecost.  Make these 2 weeks a time of prayer asking God to bestow upon us all the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He is our advocate.  We call on him and he will come to our assistance.  He will lead us into all truth.  So, let us pray these two weeks: come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

Put God first:

25 th  Sunday of ordinary time year C 2019: There are people out there who swear they can be more efficient by multi-tasking.  Some peopl...