Friday, December 21, 2007

Change is coming, like it or not.

December 16, 2007
Third Sunday of Advent
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

The third week of Advent calls us to recognize that the Age of the Messiah is here. Our Gospel text has John the Baptist and his followers seeking to understand if the Messianic Age was truly upon them. Even though John the Baptist had baptized the Lord and had proclaimed his coming, he was still not sure if the message of the prophets had actually been fulfilled.

Our first reading from the great prophet Isaiah is a call to be ready for the Age of the Messiah. Many of his day were looking for a messiah that would be a powerful political/military leader who would deliver them. However, Isiah gives the people a very different image of what type of messiah was to come. Isaiah presents the people with a Messianic Age that is one of peace and healing. A world where the least are the greatest and the wounded are healed. Isaiah is clear that the Messianic Age is not one of politics and might but one of peace and restoration of love for one another and the search for the betterment of God's creation.

Our second reading from James calls us to be ready for the return of the Messiah but also to be aware of the fact that we are living in the Messianic Age now. Yes we are looking forward to Jesus' return but we are present in the Messianic Age now and that means that there is a great deal of work to be done in preparation for the second coming.

The reality that we are living in the Age of the Messiah calls us to mission. I fear that most of us are so busy with our personal relationship with Jesus that we forget our brothers and sisters around us. To be saved and to live in the Age of the Messiah means that we are to work to transform the world in the image of Christ and not merely seek to manipulate the world into our image. We can become so wrapped up in our own pass into Heaven that we forget we are a part of the world. Being a part of the world means that we have a role in Christ's ministry. We are called to work for peace and justice, healing and reconciliation all in the name of the one who is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

The call of the Messianic Age is to transform ourselves and then the world around us in the image of Jesus. This means change and perhaps not the change we want. I marvel as I watch the yapping heads on TV who are always mad and calling for judgment and retribution against anyone and anything they do not like. Cable news is unbearable anymore as well as radio talk. People are so angry and seem to only want revenge on those they deem their opponent. I am stunned that many of these so called "God loving" people are some of the meanest and unforgiving people around. So much for listening to James' call to be patient and not to judge. I guess peace and reconciliation doesn't pay the bills. The bigger problem is that so many of us have the same attitude in which we seek not the way of peace and service but the way of domination and control. That is not the call of the Messianic Age.

Jesus' birth, death and resurrection brought change and it wasn't necessarily the change people wanted. Jesus came so that life might flourish and be reconciled to the Father. Jesus came so that we could bring about the change that creates a world in his image and not ours.

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, I find myself pondering just how much we have left to do in preparation for Jesus' return. So many people are currently so busy claiming that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus that I fear we completely ignore the reality that Jesus is coming back and that he will expect us to have gotten a few things done like peace, justice, compassion, support of those in need, you know, the things Jesus spent his earthly ministry doing! We can sing about peace on earth, joy to the world, and all the silent nights we can handle but our words must be followed by the actions to prove the words. Our Christmas carols are not enough to bring joy to the world or peace on earth good will to all. The words must be followed by an attitude that recognizes that we are in the Age of the Messiah and that the Messiah expects us to change and be molded in his image and not our own.

Jesus came into the world so that it could change. It may not be the change that meets the demands of our agendas and we need to get over it. We must be willing to let the Messiah change our hearts, to make us vulnerable to God's great mercy so that we can be the agents of change that seek that world that Isaiah proclaimed.

I think I need to remember the line from a hymn I always find convicting. That line goes like this, "Let there peace on earth and let it begin with me". That I believe is the call of the Messianic Age.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Be careful what you ask for...

December 9, 2007
Second Sunday of Advent
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

The First Sunday of Advent calls us to watch and pray for the return of Jesus. The Second Sunday of Advent calls us to prepare the way for Jesus' return. Our readings this week give us a very familiar yet perplexing scene with John the Baptist. The prophets had been proclaiming that the Messiah was coming and that there would be a herald who would prepare the way. Problem was that the people hearing the prophecies had their own ideas of who and what the Messiah should be. For centuries, the people had been crying out for the Messiah but when he wasn't what they expected, well, you know what happened. I remember being told by my grandmother that I should always be careful about what I ask for. Her warning was a sound one. I often times get what I asked for but it isn't in the form I wanted! I think my grandmother was right on target.

Our Gospel text is an interesting one. The people had known for centuries to be on the lookout for the messenger who would prepare the way for the Messiah. So they watched and they waited. Then what happens? They get John the Baptist and he isn't what they expected! Here is this wild looking man wearing smelly animal skins and eating things that would make us nauseous! On top of that he is telling people to get right with God because he is on his way! If we saw someone like John the Baptist today we would call the police and have him arrested!

So here the people are faced with a problem. This messenger is not nice and shiny like they expected God's messenger to be. Do they ignore him or do they listen. If they ignore him then they might miss out on the Messiah. If they listen to him, then they have to suspend their preconceived ideas and be vulnerable. Hard choice. So what do the Pharisees and Sadducees do? Well they hold onto their preconceived ideas but they go out to be Baptized by John, well, just in case. They are sitting on the fence trying to keep a foot on both sides. They got what they asked for but they don't want it. They aren't sure if they want this so just take a bit and hold on to the old. Just in case, you know, they are wrong. John won't have any of it!

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are so concerned with their own salvation that they are shopping around. Just in case this wild man is the real thing, they will have him baptize them but then they will keep looking. This idea really ticks off John and he lets them have it. He knows what is in their hearts and it isn't the desire to truly be open to God but rather get a "free pass" into God's good graces. They didn't want God's messenger to be this wild man but they would dabble their feet in the water just in case. Be careful what you wish for.

We are called to prepare the way for the Lord. We have been given the Messiah and salvation is ours if we let ourselves be open to God's touch. But that means we have to be vulnerable to God's will and receive the Messiah as he is and not how we think he should be. We can't play around and try and get a "free pass" by dabbling our feet in the water. We have to dive in and let ourselves be lost fully to the Messiah. Then we go forth and prepare the way by proclaiming the Good News of Salvation.

The old saying goes, "It's all about me". John the Baptist tells us that no it isn't! To prepare the way means that each of us has to be willing to accept Jesus and his call fully. That may sound easy but it can be very hard. It requires us to step aside and let Jesus be the Messiah and we be the servants. We are not in any way shape or form the Master. We are not in control. We need to get over ourselves and proclaim Jesus pure and simple! We called out for the Messiah and God delivered. We must accept Jesus as he is and not try and make him conform to our will because it just isn't going to happen that way.

We have been given a share in Jesus' ministry and that is an amazing gift. Let us not throw away that gift because we are hung up on our own agendas. Let our agenda be one that is filled with only the desire to proclaim the Good News and transform the world with the love of God! Let us go forth and prepare the way because Jesus is coming and we don't want to miss him all because we are busy trying to find a Messiah that fits our own agendas. Let's get a little wild like John the Baptist and prepare the way of the Lord!

Monday, December 10, 2007


December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mass Readings:
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

I remember being in a museum at a special exhibit. The exhibit was a collection of Old Testament themed paintings. There was one that stuck with me and it was a painting about God coming to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. It was based on our Old Testament reading today.In the painting, the Garden of Eden was in a state of chaos. The sunny sky had been replaced with gray storm clouds, animals that had lived in peace were now tearing at each other, the lush fields had become wild with weeds. And there in the middle was the frightened Adam and Eve while lurking off to the side was a dark, ominous figure. That dark figure was sin. The theme of the painting was clearly one of chaos, the chaos that sin brought into the world.

I was thinking about that painting as I was preparing for our Mass. I was thinking about the many paintings I have seen of the Archangel Gabriel appearing to our Blessed Mother. The paintings are always so serene and calm, almost sterile. That has always puzzled me. Don't you think that if an archangel appeared to you and informed you that you were going to be the Mother of God you might get a little freaked out? Don't you think that being informed that you were going to be the vessel for humanity's salvation to arrive you might be more than a bit frightened? Yet the paintings are always so calm and pastoral. I can't help but think we are missing something.

I believe that our readings from Genesis and Luke are both about chaos but two very different types of chaos. In Genesis, the world is thrown into chaos by sin. Sin is the destroyer of all that is calm. Sin creates a wave of chaos that engulfs Adam and Eve and hurls the Garden of Eden into terror as God approaches. Then, in our reading from Luke, chaos once again. However, the chaos created is one that throws sin into the grips of terror! Now it is sin's turn to flee in terror from the presence of God! In the fullness of time, the light is breaking upon humanity! The prayers for salvation, deliverance from bondage are being fulfilled and sin doesn't stand a chance!

Today we celebrate a miracle, the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate the reality that God has always had a plan for us. God has always been prepared to redeem us. Although we have repeatedly refused God's intervention, God never gave up on us! The Immaculate Conception is the reality that God, even before Mary's birth, had a plan. Mary would be kept free from sin so that she could become part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity. In the invisible realm of God, God was at work to make sure that we were never abandoned to the chaos created by sin. In the Immaculate Conception and the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel, God throws sin into a state of chaos, a chaos from which sin can never be free. Sin is destroyed because of the Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception and her willingness to say yes to God!

We celebrate today, a miracle. The Immaculate Conception is often glossed over as just a holy day that we have to come to church for. If we view it like that, we miss the miracle given to us. The Immaculate Conception is a recognition of God's power and never ending desire to redeem us and give us everything that is good. Mary, born without the touch of sin is the miracle through which our Salvation arrives. This brave young woman who said yes to God, is the miracle through which the Christ Child comes and throws sin into a state of chaos and destroys it!

Thank you Lord for the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Faith from the most suprising places.

December 3, 2007
Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 4:2-6
Matthew 8:5-11

I always look forward to today's Gospel reading. I think it is beautiful and moving. Here we have Jesus and his disciples traveling to Capernaum. As they come to the city, they are met with a scene that was probably frightening to the disciples. They are approached by a Roman Centurion. I would imagine they were terrified. Was this guy going to arrest them? Was he going to hurt them? The Roman Centurion was a feared element of the Roman Empire. They were the law and were known for extreme brutality.

And what do they get? This centurion is desperate. His servant is sick and is going to die. One would think that the centurion would just get another servant when this one dies so why is he so concerned over this one servant? He is concerned because he cares about this servant, an attribute that many probably would not have thought a centurion capable of.

But this centurion goes to a whole new level. He comes to Jesus, a man that the government would have seen as a threat. Jesus who proclaimed a kingdom not of Cesar but of God. This centurion was taking a great risk by coming to Jesus and acknowledging Jesus' authority. I would dare say this centurion could have been severely punished for seeking out Jesus and maybe he was. But the risk is worth it for this man because his love for his servant is more powerful than concern for his own well being. I can just imagine the disciples eyes bugged out when this powerful and frightening man humbles himself before Jesus. and it is more than humility for this centurion believes in Jesus, another great risk for him. He is acknowledging Jesus' power and is turning to him instead of his gods. Now that is a sign of faith! And his faith is so powerful that he knows that Jesus can heal with only a word. Amen!

This centurion's faith always makes me look at my own. Is my faith as strong as this centurion's? This man who most people would have believed beyond redemption had a faith greater than even Jesus' disciples. I know that at times I must give up my preconceived notions about what I think should or should not be and open myself to the Holy Spirit. I believe this centurion has a great deal to teach us some 2000 years later. I believe that this man who was despised and feared shows us all that we need to give up our sense of superiority and entitlement and throw our selves at the feet of the Lord and ask for his grace. I think this centurion teaches us to take a risk and set aside concern for what others might think and give ourselves to God with complete abandon. When we do that, we may just find that our faith is stronger than we could ever have imagined.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let the insanity begin!

December 2, 2007
First Sunday of Advent

Mass Readings:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

Here we go! The shopping malls already look like one of Dante's circles of hell! The parties, the stress, the over eating, over spending, etc., etc., etc... Merry Christmas! Before I go any further, I need to confess something, I really, really struggle with Christmas. It isn't because of all the extra work. I struggle because I am very uncomfortable with what is expected of us at Christmas. I mean all of us. We are expected to join in the insanity of the consumerism of Christmas.

At Halloween I noticed that Christmas stuff was already hitting the shelves. Go into the store, buy a Jack-O-Lantern and a $1 figurine of the baby Jesus! I thought for a moment my head was going explode. And there is even an ad by one of the "big box" stores that proclaims their sale prices are more satisfying than world peace!! Again, I thought my head was going to explode! I haven't seen that ad again so I am hoping people jammed their complaint lines!

And, like clockwork, the jabbering cable news heads began their search for, insert ominous drum-roll, "The War on Christmas"! Oh yeah. That time of year again for some folk to try and score viewer ratings by proclaiming that there is a "War on Christmas". So, is there a "War on Christmas"? You bet there is. Who is waging this "War on Christmas"? Christians! That's who! You heard me. I believe that there is a "War on Christmas" and it was started and is sustained by Christians. I will explain my thoughts in a moment.

The Season of Advent is about Hope. Brilliantly, Pope Benedict released on Friday his second Encyclical Letter entitled "Spe Salvi". It is a document that calls us to Hope! We are saved by Hope in Christ! You can read the document and download it at

Hope. We are a people who desperately need Hope. Adrian Nossest O.S.B, once wrote these words, "Our world is a sad place; it seems to be without hope, precisely because its crisis is a crisis of faith and love". When we give into despair, we lose hope. When we lose sight of hope, we turn to false gods. I believe that we have lost the message of Advent and especially Christmas because we have turned to the false gods of consumerism. More on that in a minute.

The first week of Advent calls us to Watch and Pray. What are we waiting for and praying for? The fulfillment of our hope in Christ when he will return to bring us the fullness of joy and usher us into his Father's heavenly kingdom! How do we look forward? We remember the past. We remember Christ's first coming as a human being. Christ the child who took on human form and was born in a manger to a virgin and protected by his adopted father. This child became our Hope!

So how do we remember and celebrate the promise of our salvation through the Christ Child? Well we rush out on Black Friday and weeks after so that we can gorge ourselves on trinkets that are made in sweat shops by slave labor and worse of all, child labor! Oh yeah, Jesus is the reason for the season. We celebrate Jesus' birth by hording items made at the expense of the poor. I am sure Jesus is so proud.

Sorry. I should have given a hard cynicism warning!

But I am being serious. I was in a store the other day and 99% of the items I looked at were made in countries with proven track records of using the poor in slave like conditions and even children to make the products that we will consume in order to celebrate the Birth of our Lord. That my friends is the true "War on Christmas"!

How can we proclaim a message of hope when we ourselves are contributing to the loss of hope for so many of the poor of the world? Advent and Christmas should be about restoring hope and giving freely the love of Christ that he has so abundantly given to each of us! Hope is about transforming the world into the image of Christ! The love that propelled Jesus to become human so that we might have the fullness of life, should be the force that propels us to celebrate in a way that points to Jesus the Christ! Instead, I fear that the buying and selling of products that create misery for so many is almost the sole focus. Even the "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" banners are made in countries that promote the deliberate destruction of life! The "War on Christmas" is being fought and it is at the hands of Christians.

I know that this homily may be dark. That is not my intent. My intent is to try and lead us to a celebration of the Birth of our Lord that gives life to all. We are called to watch and pray. We watch and pray for the celebration of Christmas when we give thanks and worship the Christ Child. Then we watch and pray for the return of our Lord and we strive to be found deserving of the Lord's great gift of life!

If we start looking now at how we celebrate the birth of our Lord, maybe we can change our habits and truly proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season. Let us celebrate the fact that Jesus' birth is the source of life and hope. Let us celebrate with deeds of love and charity not just in December but 365 days a year. Let us celebrate in a way that supports and nourishes one another in the life of faith.

When Jesus returns, we will not meet him with our trinkets made in sweatshops in the Third World. We will face Jesus alone, with how we have lived our life for him and our brothers and sisters. Let us live a life that proclaims hope and life to all. Let us labor so that those who are oppressed may know the Good News of Christmas, that Jesus is the reason for our joy! Let us turn away form the insanity of the consumer Christmas and instead turn to a celebration of Christmas that is about restoring hope and striving to transform instead of consume.

If we believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, then let us celebrate the season with lives modeled on the sacrifice of Christ. Let us celebrate a season of life instead of consuming. Let us celebrate with doing good deeds, the giving of alms, the restoration of hope and faith!

Let us proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord! That my friends, is the reason for the season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Simple gets the job done.

November 30, 2007
Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
St. Andrew Academy School Mass

Today we celebrate the feast day of the patron saint of our great school! What an exciting day! All of us gathered here today, students, faculty, parents and parishioners are witness to a miracle. Our school is the result of a vision. We had a number of small schools who were struggling to keep going so we combined our energies and created St. Andrew Academy, a regional school with 438 students! That's amazing! Just look around at this overflowing crowd! We have come from form three small schools to this large, strong, and faith filled school! We are a part of the miracle of education here on our side of Louisville. Thank God! All of us gathered here today are living witnesses to God's command to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

We look to our patron saint today, St. Andrew for strength and guidance. Who was St. Andrew? Well, we know that he is St. Peter's brother. We also know that he was a fisherman just like his brother and father. St. Andrew wasn't a man of power. He worked everyday at a very tough job. He was a hard worker. Being a fisherman is hard work. St. Andrew and his family would have put in long hours on the water and then come back to shore and do the hard, messy work of getting their fish to market. These guys weren't just standing with a fishing pole pulling in an occasional fish. These guys were doing back breaking, messy, smelly work. And it was to this man that Jesus came to and asked him to do something amazing, follow him.

Jesus asked Andrew and his brother Peter to come with him and proclaim his message of love and salvation. They accepted Jesus' invitation. Andrew and his brother Peter were not powerful men. They were not rich men. Andrew and Peter were simple men. They were just like you and me. And that is important to remember. Jesus did not chose the rich and powerful. Jesus chose the people who were willing to listen to him and follow him. Jesus made a simple request and gave them a simple job. But simple doesn't mean easy. The task that Jesus set for Andrew was not complex but it wasn't easy. Even a simple job can be hard work. And look at the work Andrew did! We are here today because of what St. Andrew did. St. Andrew said yes to Jesus and followed him. St. Andrew transformed the lives of countless people in his earthly ministry and now his example and work continues to transform lives!

This simple fisherman has changed the world. Each of you gathered here today has a very important task to do. Jesus is calling each of you to work hard, learn and grow in faith and then be a source of Jesus' love to others. You don't have to be powerful or rich. You don't have to be a celebrity or a famous athlete. All you have to be is yourself. Say yes to Jesus' request to follow him and be faithful to hom and you will do great things for him. Just like St. Andrew, we all have something that we can do for Jesus. All we simply have to do is say yes to Jesus.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We don't know what power is.

November 25, 2007
The Solemnity of Christ the King
Mass Readings:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

I remember watching a show on TV about the history of state dinners. Those are the fancy dinners at the White House. The show chronicled the state dinner from the earliest days of the country up until the present day. What I learned is that a state dinner will cost hundreds of thousands of tax dollars so that a group of people can dress in multi thousand dollar outfits and congratulate each other on how powerful they are. Yes I am being cynical.

So here we have a group of people who think that they are powerful. They have the finest clothes and the choicest foods and they drive around in elite limousines. In fact I once had someone say to me that having a limousine is a sign of being rich and powerful. I've been in a lot of limousines but they were always because someone had died and we were in the funeral procession. So much for rich and powerful! Yet that example leads me to think this, how can someone feel that he or she is powerful when all the power in the world won't stop a massive heart attack or stroke that kills? All of these people who relish their power can find that it is all gone in an instant if his or her heart decides to stop working. All the earthly power possible cannot stop the body from shutting down.

That show caused me to start thinking about how we view power. My observations have led me to believe that many people in our world view power as either the ability to destroy or to buy. I fear that many folk view power as the possession of guns and bombs or purchasing and selling power. This is fleeting and hollow power. It is power that seeks self gratification and is not true power.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This celebration is the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is Power. Jesus Christ is the source of life, of all creation. Yet how is that power displayed? Jesus' power is made manifest in his broken and bloodied body on the cross. To most people this would not be a sign of power. We want our power to be glossy and fancy and in many cases, destructive. Yet today we look to the source of life hanging upon a cross.

I remember hearing a parable that went like this. A European city was being destroyed by a marauding force in the 13th century. There was a monastery in the town and the monks, all but one, had been slaughtered. As the commander of the army rode into the monastery on his horse, the one surviving monk stood and faced him. The commander asked the monk a question: "Do you not fear me? I have the power to take or spare your life." The monk replied: "Do you not fear me? I have the power to give you my life." There it is. There is power! How can that be?

Jesus' power is not in the destruction or purchase of life but in his ability to give life. Jesus' life was not taken from him but rather Jesus gave it freely. Jesus Christ, King and Lord of Creation freely offered himself up so that we might live. Jesus' power is in life not death or the pursuit of riches. Power is what gives life. Destruction and riches are merely hollow pursuits and have no power.

There is not a bomb that can blast a hole into Heaven. There is no limousine that will slide us into Heaven. There isn't enough money that will grease the palm of St. Peter so that we can sneak into Heaven. All the things we humans may deem as power have no influence on God. In fact, we will all face Christ the King on the same footing. We will all give account of what we did with the life that Jesus gave to us in his death, burial and resurrection. None of the things we hold as power on earth will make a bit of difference when we face the True Power, Christ the King.

At Calvary Jesus proclaims the truth of power. Power is from God and God alone. All of our earthly powers will mean nothing when we stand face to face with Christ the King. Our guns and bombs, our money and possessions will be gone and rotted and we will stand there powerless in the face of Power.

All of our "false gods of power" will fail us. We can worship at the feet of the latest celebrity idol or long to have favor from a politician but all we succeed in doing is selling our own soul for brief earthly power. The favor we should strive for is that of Christ the King. From Christ the King we receive life and power. The power we receive is to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of Life that was born on the cross as Jesus shed his blood for us. Power is when we seek to do all things in the image of Jesus. To humble yourself before Christ the King is the first sign of being powerful. Not powerful in the eyes of the world, but powerful as a disciple of the Lord. The power we receive from Christ is the power to proclaim the life giving message proclaimed by Christ.

Let us seek the power of life that comes from Christ the King, the power to be his faithful disciples.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Those with sight are often blind.

November 19, 2007
Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63
Luke 18:35-43

This text from Luke is a familiar one. I have heard many sermons on how the Lord heals and gives us what we need. But this Gospel text has more going on than meets the eye. Pardon the pun.

Jesus is traveling to Jericho and as usual, his entourage is in force. As they are traveling, a blind beggar begins to call out to Jesus. Here is a man who has never witnessed one of Jesus' miracles but that doesn't matter. The blind beggar has heard the stories and he is now desperate to have Jesus' attention. That in and of itself is not what I believe the focus is. Rather, it is the response from Jesus' entourage. Here is a group of people, including the 12 Disciples, who should know better than to try and silence a poor, blind beggar. Don't you think they would have wanted this man to experience the power of Jesus? One would think. But that is not the case here. Jesus' followers are blind to this man's needs.

I can't help but think that we are in many ways like Jesus' entourage who wanted to keep this needy man away from Jesus. More often than not, it is the blessed who want to horde their blessings instead of sharing. Why is it that those with the most are often the most selfish? God's blessings are not a commodity that is to be squirreled away for a rainy day. The reality is that the gifts of the Spirit are to be freely given and then, and only then do they grow. God's blessings are not something we can put in a bank to draw interest. God's gifts of the Spirit must be used, given away in order for them to grow and return.

The folks who were traveling with Jesus should have known better and we may read this text and shake our heads. The problem with shaking our heads is that we might be too busy feeling superior and completely miss our own deficiencies. In what ways do we stand in the way of others being able to experience God's love? In what ways do we set up obstacles and place burdens on others who are seeking an encounter with the Lord? I am not saying we do it deliberately. I am just wondering how we often times get so entrenched with what we believe God should do that we forget that God is going to do what God wants and we have no say. God's love is for everyone and we cannot dictate to whom that Love will be given. I think the folk following Jesus to Jericho thought they were the "bouncers" who could determine who got to enter the party or not. Jesus showed them quickly that they had absolutely no power over who God shows love to.

In that respect I think it was the members of the entourage who were the blind ones. It was the one who was blind who could see God's love was present and begged to receive. Out of his neediness the blind beggar could see that God was present. The entourage gathered around Jesus were blinded by their sense of importance and almost missed a chance to see God's love in action. Worse, these folk could have deprived another of God's children from being healed. That is a frightening thought.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How we treat death reflects on how we treat life.

November 11, 2007
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38

Our readings this morning are more than a bit tough. We have our reading from the book of Second Maccabees and Maccabees only comes around once every three years on Sunday and it is a doozy! We have a very gruesome reading and this portion of Scripture has been cut down. The full text is very graphic. So why is it in our Sunday lectionary? I believe this is an important piece of Scripture because it gives us an example of how we treat death and for that matter life.

We have these sons along with their mother and they are being subjected to religious violence. The Greeks were forcing the Jews to practice the Greek religion and to defile their faith in the one true God. Many Jews would not stand for that and they would eventually lead a revolt that would topple the Greeks. So we have this group of Jews being threatened with death while they are being tortured and it is all because they will not turn their backs on God. These individuals believe that their lives are less important if they deny God in order to live.

This causes me to ponder how we view death. Life is a rather cheap thing for many. All we have to do is take a look at how we so casually view death. We seem to be more calloused by the day when it comes to the horrors we human beings can inflict upon one another. Even comedians have noted how we humans seem to not really even budge emotionally when it comes to death unless it is an event that is extremely gruesome. Most times we will just click past the latest news of horror without even skipping a beat. Why?

I notice that I am receiving more and more frantic phone calls from people who have a loved one who is five minutes away from death and they expect me to be there even though I may be at least 30 minutes away. More frequently, the person in question has been very ill for a very long time yet haven't been to church in ages and have never called to see a priest except right at the very end. I am not passing judgment. I am merely presenting fact. Why do we seem to think that we can put things off until our death-bed and THEN we want to get right with God? Wouldn't we be valuing our life more if we took stock now instead of waiting until we are in a panic because we put things off and now we are terrified of death? If death is unimportant until we are at death's door then won't we treat life with as much disrespect?

Our Gospel reading has the Saducees being rather flippant about death. The Saducees were a group who didn't believe in life-after-death. These folk believed that what you got in this life was as good as it gets. Although they weren't so crass as many of us today, we might translate this into an "eat, drink, and be merry" attitude where we try to get as much out of life and give little to no thought about God's Kingdom.

The Saducees that come to Jesus toss out a rather goofy question and they know it is goofy because they are making fun of Jesus. They give Jesus the scenario of Moses' direction of how a woman who loses her husband and is childless is to be treated. Moses had the brothers of the deceased marry the widow. Not good for her! Anyone who says the Bible should be taken 100% literally needs to start queuing up to marry their brother's widow! Okay, that was snarky of me. Sorry.

So the Saducess want Jesus to give an equally ridiculous answer to their ridiculous question. These Saducees see death as trivial and so they ask a trivial question. But Jesus gives a very serious answer. Jesus reminds them that the very man they quote about the marriage deal is also the man who talked about life after death. Jesus reminds them they can't have it both ways.

How we live is a sure sign of how we view death. If we live a life in opposition to the Gospel then we must be saying that life after death isn't a concern. Well, that works until we face death and then we go into panic mode and we scramble to get our life straight with God. That is a shame really. We can have so much in this life if we follow the Gospel. I am not talking material things or power. I mean a life of spiritual blessings and peace. Imagine living a life that is modeled on Jesus instead of the latest celebrity. Imagine living a life of compassion, mercy, charity and grace. Imagine what we can experience with the Lord if we just open ourselves to his glory! If we do that, then we don't have to go into panic mode when our number is called and we are facing death. We can enter death with peace and comfort knowing that Jesus is waiting to welcome us home.

Monday, November 5, 2007

So we think we are powerful?

November 4, 2007
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Wisdom 11:22-12:2
2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Luke 19:1-10

Power. Countless numbers of people want it, countless numbers of people will do whatever it takes to get it and countless numbers of people will misuse it. Power is the subject of entertainment and is the source of a great number of crimes. We human beings think we are so powerful. Yet what do we lift up as power? Money, land, bombs, guns, politics, etc. We think these things are powerful and we don't stop to think that all these things can be taken away in an instant.

Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom shows us what true power is and it isn't with us but God. We read in Wisdom: "Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth." That's power! To God, the universe is no more than a grain of sand or a drop of dew. Yet we humans like to think that because we can push a button and all manner of things happen, good and bad, that we are powerful. A bit arrogant on our part to say the least.

Not long ago I was saying Mass at a parish out of town and afterwards I was approached by someone who was furious over something that had happened recently. A former parishioner who hadn't darkened the doors in decades had died and was buried from the parish. This man had been, to put it kindly, a bad seed. He was rather notorious in that area. Apparently, on his death bed, he took stock of his life and realized his sinfulness and called for the priest and made his confession and made peace with God. The person who was angry and venting to me, was furious over the fact that God forgave this man and the priest had enabled this sinner to be saved! Wow! Mad at God because God showed mercy! That experience has been bouncing around in my head especially with today's readings. God is power. God is the source of all that is good in the world. If the universe is but a grain of sand to God, then where do we get off thinking that we are the powerful ones?

Our Gospel text today is another example of God's great power. Jesus is walking through Jericho and he comes across Zacchaeus. Now Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the Roman Empire. This meant he was a licensed extortionist and he was free to charge what he wanted as long as the Empire got what it required. Zacchaeus was a hated man and was a sinner in the eyes of the religious folk. I would dare say the religious folk were salivating at the thought of Jesus condemning Zacchaeus and making a public display of him. So. What does Jesus do? He forgives him and then goes to stay with him at his house. How dare he! What's up with this? How can Jesus be so forgiving? Does Jesus not care about sin? Does Jesus condone what Zacchaeus has been doing? Of course not! To think otherwise is silly at best. Jesus forgives because he is doing the will of the Father and that will is that all people be saved.

God's power is in his mercy and not condemnation. God's power is his willingness to save rather than destroy. It doesn't take much power to destroy. It takes power to forgive, console, reconcile, and give life. God's great gift of forgiveness and life is not a sign that he is weak and condones sin but rather it is the sign of his absolute power and love! God's love is power!

So what happens after Jesus forgives Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus gives half of his wealth to care for the poor and then goes even further. Zacchaeus goes forth and restores to those he has wronged not just the amount he stole from them but repays four times over! Zacchaeus' experience of God's great power brings life not only to him but brings comfort and support to countless numbers of people. What would have happened if Jesus would have followed the will of the religious folk and condemned instead of granting forgiveness? There would have been more misery and theft and Zacchaeus would have been lost. God's great power of mercy transformed the lives of countless numbers of people that day. Now that's power!

So back to that man who was buried from the parish I was visiting. God exercised his power and the man was forgiven. God's power rescued this man and redeemed him, reconciled him and restored him. The person who was furious over this, I believe, was rejecting God's power and as a result was missing out on a miracle. The one who was angry was in a place where God's great gifts of joy could not be received due to the harboring of resentment, selfishness, and a refusal to acknowledge that God is power and not us humans. We are the creation not the Creator.

If we refuse to accept God's power, if we think that God should do our will, then we are the ones who are showing our absolute weakness. We are invited to share in God's power of life. What a shame if we miss out on God's power of life all because we can't let go of our own selfish and wrong ideas about power.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Happy Dia de los Muertos, y'all!

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
(All Souls)
November 2, 2007
Mass Readings:
Wisdom 3:1-9
Romans 6:3-9
John 6:37-40

Yesterday we celebrated All Saints and now we celebrate All Souls. I love these two days. I always take time on these days to reflect on the fact that death is not the end and to remember and celebrate the lives of my family and friends who have already died in the peace of Christ. I miss them no matter how long it has been since they died but I also celebrate that they are alive and well in God's Kingdom!

I have been fascinated for years with the Mexican celebration known as Dia de los Muertos. The first time I became aware of this celebration I was a bit confused by the garish costumes, skulls made out of sugar, and eating meals in the cemeteries where loved ones are buried, etc. Then it hit me, why be afraid of the dead? Why shouldn't I go to the cemetery and reflect and remember my family and friends who have died? It is now something I look forward to every year.

This morning's Mass is in memory of all our faithful departed. We call to mind all of those who have died in the peace of Christ and are now rejoicing in the Lord's presence! How beautiful is that! We have every reason to dress brightly and laugh and celebrate, to feast and rejoice! Death is not the end but the beginning! it is the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to prepare a place for us in his Father's Kingdom! For those who believe, life does not end but merely changes.

We grieve and mourn the loss of our family and friends. Every year I find myself sad when I think about how I cannot call-up my friend Liz or listen to one of my grandfather's stories. I miss all of my family and friends who have died. Yet at the same time I am happy for them because they have received the perfection of love in God's great gift of salvation! We are baptized into Jesus' death and also his resurrection! We die physically but live eternally in spirit in God's presence. Amen!

This morning I prayed the Office for the Dead and reflected on how blessed I am because of all the people who have touched my life. Those who have died have left their mark upon me and they continue to do so because I know that they are still with me in spirit and are praying for me in Heaven. I am sad and happy today at the same time.

Let us all take time today to remember and mourn, give thanks and celebrate all of our faithful departed. Let us acknowledge our grief but take time to give thanks and be happy for our memories and for the future when we will all be reunited. Tonight I will be going to a celebration of Dia de los Muertos and I am going to eat a few of those sugar skulls and maybe even join in a dance or two. I want to remember with joy the times I had with my family and friends before they died. I want to give air and light to my grief so that I don't ever lose hope. I want to look forward with longing to the time when I will be reunited with all those who have gone before me.

I wish to you all a very life giving All Souls Day. Let us remember and honor, grieve and rejoice, cry and laugh as we honor all of our beloved dead.

Thanks Liz!

Solemnity of All Saints
School Mass at St. Andrew Academy
November 1, 2007
Mass Readings:
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12a

What did we celebrate last night? Halloween! I sat on my front stoop and gave out candy to a lot of ghouls and goblins and a few zombies to boot! Last night we had fun with the ghoulish, ghastly and ghostly. It was all just for fun and especially chocolate! I over estimated and now I have a lot of candy bars left over. Or did I do that on purpose?

Today we celebrate a very important day in the Church. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. We celebrate the reality that those who die in God's grace are received into his Heavenly Kingdom to live forever and worship God. We celebrate the fact that for us to die does not mean the end. It means that we live forever in God's presence in Heaven. It also means that we join what the Apostle Paul called the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" in Heaven. When we die, we meet up again with all our family and friends who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and we get to be together again. However, this time we get to be together in eternal life and be perfectly happy!

The vestments I am wearing this morning were made for my very first Mass after I was ordained seven years ago. This stole and chasuble were made by my best friend Liz. Liz died a few years ago and every time I wear this, I am reminded of how much she loves me and how much I love her. I don't say that in the past tense because Liz and I are still connected. This is what we celebrate today, that even though we may die physically, we do not die spiritually. When we we get to Heaven, we aren't cut off from one another. Those who go before us into Heaven become a source of strength for us and our loved ones pray for us continually and we continue to pray for them.

We often times think that when someone dies that we are finished with knowing them. That's not true. When we believe in Jesus and we die, we go to Heaven where we become a member of the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" who intercede on the behalf of those who are still alive on earth. When we go to Heaven, we have work to do. We celebrate in God's presence and we worship God in perfect praise and we also intercede for those who are still alive. I know for a fact that my friend Liz is praying for me! Liz is also probably shaking her head and laughing when I do something really silly. It makes me feel good and safe to know that she is on my side and praying for me to God. I need all the help I can get.

Today we celebrate the glory of God's gift of salvation and the share in God's Kingdom that each of us receive. There is nothing ghoulish or ghastly about All Saints Day. Today we celebrate all that is beautiful and holy, eternal and perfect. For those who believe in Jesus, life does not end, it changes when we die but it doesn't end.

Let us give thanks to God this morning as we celebrate with all the Saints in Heaven. They are a part of us and we are a part of them and death does not change that. Thank God and Amen!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

God is in control, not us.

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 30, 2007
Mass Readings:
Romans 8:18-25
Luke 13:18-21

Control is something we like to think we have down. None of us like to admit that we are not in control of any particular situation. When we are kids we learn quickly how to manipulate others in an attempt to get what we want. That is a normal part of development when we are kids. The problem is that we continue to do it when we know better as adults. We tend to think that if we can master the manipulation of people, things and events then we will be in control. We usually find out the hard way that we truly do not have control.

Many of us try to control God. Sounds really silly when you stop and think about it but we try it anyway. I believe that our readings today are a strong reminder that we are not the ones in control but rather God who is in control. Take the parables Jesus gives us today. A seed and the yeast are items that have a plan and will carry that plan out. The seed grows and the yeast leavens and makes bread. Simple.

I believe that Jesus is showing us that God's plan is simple and cannot be manipulated by anything we say or do or don't say or do. The Kingdom of God is in God's control, not ours. We may think that God is on "our side" but the fact is that we must always work to be on God's side. I don't understand how we get off thinking that we can control God.

God's Kingdom is a gift. We are given the great gift of salvation and we are invited to accept that gift and use it not control it. The only thing we do have control over is how we respond to God's great gift of salvation. It is simple really. We either say yes or we say no and then we live according to our response. The gift is given, the gift is received and the gift is used. How we live shows whether we value God's gift or not.

I believe these readings fit in perfectly with our readings this past Sunday. We pray out of our neediness and God hears us. We ask for our needs and not merely our wants. We pray because we are dependent upon God and not the other way around. We need God! We need his love! We must be open to God's plan. Our relationship with God is about our living to do his will and not our own. Our prayers should be about our need and not about us trying to get God to bend to our will.

If we ask God, we will receive. If we try to play games with God, we refuse his great gift of life and all we receive is our own empty self righteousness.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Keep the Sabbath holy? I'd rather go shopping.

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2007
Mass Readings:
Romans 8:12-17
Luke 13:10-17

I had a strange experience yesterday. I had finished up the last mass of the day and I was looking at the list of things I needed to get done. I need to get a new passport photo taken so I got in my car and thought I would hop down to the corner Walgreens and get it taken. I developed a knot in my stomach. I started remembering when I was a kid how most all the stores were closed on Sunday except for drug stores. Even few grocery stores were open. I didn't get that photo taken. I couldn't bring myself to spend money on Sunday. I pondered that the rest of the day.

I remembered how when I was a kid, we spent time together as a family. I would go bike riding with my friends after church. We fixed dinner and sat together while we ate at the kitchen table. Sunday was always about church and family when I was a kid. After church there was the understanding that the front door was open and family and friends would get together. I miss that. I am only 40 years old yet I remember a time when Sunday was holy. I know, I'm getting nostalgic and that is always tricky. Nostalgia can often times be more about what we once hoped for but never had, yet I have talked about this with other folk my age and they remember it this way too. There is something true here.

I got up this morning and checked the readings and lo and behold, Jesus talks about the Sabbath and what it means to keep it holy. God was working on me yesterday. Jesus is faced with some self righteous folk who want to accuse Jesus of not keeping the Sabbath holy because he had the audacity to heal! Apparently watering an animal on the Sabbath was holy but healing someone was a violation! Nice.

How do we keep the Sabbath holy? Each of us do it differently. Going to Mass is a part of our Sabbath celebration. But what do we do after that? Are we obsessing over whether Mass goes 50 or 55 minutes just because we have to hit the mall at a certain time? Do we treat Sunday as merely another shopping day? Is the Sabbath just another day of business because we have crammed the other six days so full we use Sunday as an overflow day?

After my experience yesterday I think I miss those blue laws. Maybe we would spend more time with family and friends if we didn't hit the latest sale at the mall. Maybe we would be less tense if we actually took a day of rest. Maybe we would be happier if we actually took a day to slow down and reconnect. One thing I know for sure, we would spend more time with God if we viewed the Sabbath as a gift and not merely an obligation. Mass should be a time to be with family and friends as we celebrate and worship God together. Then, as we leave Mass, wouldn't it be nice to spend time with each other instead of fighting check-out lines at the local big box store? What a novel idea. Spending time with God and family on the Sabbath. Now that sounds like a holy time.

Close to the earth.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 28, 2007
Mass Readings:
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Not too long ago I saw a t-shirt that has stuck with me. It was one of those with a saying plastered on the front of it and it read: "My Attitude? Your Problem!" I was sort of taken-aback by it. What struck me most was that it was worn by a child no more than five or six years old. Today I wonder about how we cultivate and celebrate a culture of arrogance and a sense of superiority at the expense of others. I think that t-shirt reflected an idea that many of us believe that we can do and say whatever we want and other folk just have to put up with it, an "it's all about me" attitude.

Our readings today are about an attitude of humility. We often view humility as being a state of being where we have a low opinion of our self and walk around with a "woe is me" attitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our word humility comes from the Greek word humus which means close to the earth. Humility is about being grounded, knowing who we are and more importantly, whose we are.

Our Gospel text is a glaring example of how not to treat God. The Pharisee comes in and seems to think that he is doing God a favor by spending time with him and God should feel honored to be in his presence because he is so good and holy instead of the other way around. The way we pray reflects on who we think God is and our relationship with him.

The tax collector, a tool of the Romans, used to extort money from the people is painfully aware of his dependence on God. He prays out of his desire to know God instead of trying to prove his holiness to God. The two men pray in very different ways. One prays out of a sense of superiority, while the other prays out of the need to know God and hear God. Jesus tells us that it was the cry of the needy and not the arrogant that was heard. The tax collector went away justified while the Pharisee went away with what he walked into the Temple with, his ego.

Our reading from Sirach instructs us that God hears all of our prayers but it is the prayer of the one who seeks God's will that is answered. In other words, God isn't merely a celestial department store where we just get what we want by going down a request list. Prayer is about drawing close to God so that we can be one with him and do his will. The prayer of the humble is answered while the prayer of the arrogant is heard but doesn't get a response. It is about being grounded, "close to the earth".

Close to the earth. I think this is an important term for me to remember whenever I get too full of myself. I came from the earth and to the earth I will return someday. We all are alike in that we were created by God from the earth and some day we will all return to the earth and we will all have to face God. No one is better than anyone else when we are standing and facing God. So much for arrogance!

So I find myself pondering why we seem to always gravitate to an attitude of arrogance, sense of entitlement, and self righteousness. Why do we do that? All these things give us are broken relationships with one another and with God. We may look like a big deal in the eyes of the world but what we should be concerned about is how we present ourselves to God. God doesn't care about how important we are in society. Our social status doesn't mean squat to God. Our level of importance in our jobs doesn't mean squat to God. What matters to God is that we give our all to be close to him and do his work in the world. Everything else is nothing but our own egos.

Being "close to the earth" is about setting aside our selfishness, arrogance and sense of entitlement so that we can be open to God's call to serve him and one another. We are all in this together. We all came from the earth in Creation and we will all return to it and we will all have to face God on equal footing. In God's presence, none of us can hold to our ego for it is an even field and we have to answer for how we treated one another and how we treated God.

Let's face it. We are in this life together and we should be striving to draw closer to God and with one another. Everything else is just ego. I pray that I can remember this. I pray that I never adopt a sense that my attitude is someone else's problem. It will always be my problem because I will have to answer for it alone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Sorry for the lack of posts. There is much business at the two parishes I serve and I am far behind on my homily posts. I will have more posts up soon. Thanks for bearing with me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Am I really as important as I think I am?

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church
October 1, 2007
Mass Readings:
Zechariah 8:1-8
Luke 9:46-50

I really enjoy this feast day. St. Therese is a great example for each of us today. St. Therese is, in my opinion, the model of how important it is to keep things simple. Simplicity is not a thing most of us do well. We tend to want things complex and we tend to want to be in charge.

Jesus is facing a problem in our Gospel today. the disciples are in a fit. The disciples are arguing about which one of them is top dog. Imagine it. Here the disciples are in the presence of the Savior yet they are more concerned about which one of them is going to get the most glory. Now we may be inclined to think that the disciples are being childish, but don't we do the same thing? How many times do each of us struggle to be in the top spot or what we think is the top spot?

Jesus gives us the moving scene of calling a child to him and elevating that child as the example of what it means to be the greatest, to hold the "top spot". Now, Jesus isn't calling us to act like children! Acting like a child edifies no one! Rather, Jesus is calling us to empty ourselves of our sense of self importance, our sense of independence, our sense of entitlement and become wholly dependent upon God. Children our dependent upon their parents or guardians. A child does not have the luxury of being self sufficient and must rely upon love and generosity. Jesus calls us to live a life of simplicity, humility and dependence upon God.

To be great, each of us must place ourselves upon God's mercy. Being great does not mean a life of perks and praise. Living a life of greatness means that we are to be a servant. To live a life of greatness is a calling to live a life of trust upon God's great love.

Whenever I get into the trap of feeling I am more important than I really am, I like to repeat this mantra to myself: Get over yourself! Get over your sense of entitlement! Get over your feelings of grandiosity! Get over your idea of greatness and let God be in charge! God wants us to get over our selfish, self seeking ways. God wants us to let him be in charge, to realize that it is God who is the greatest and we are wholly dependent upon him! We come and go but God is forever! In comparison, I don't think any of us have room to claim to be the greatest.

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.
Saint Therese of Lisieux (of the Child Jesus)

Amen, St. Therese. Amen!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Compete well for the faith rather than wealth.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

A very popular train of thought in Christianity these days is that if you are rich then it is a sign that you are blessed by God. Material wealth is a sign of how faithful one is and how God is so very generous. I have a big problem with that way of thinking and here's why. I know a lot of very poor people who are very, very faithful to God. So what gives? Does God have a grudge against these holy people? Have these people done something so wrong that God doesn't want them to have adequate sustenance, shelter or health care? What happens if one Christian is rich while another is poor? Does this mean that God loves some people more than others?

Most people would be horrified if someone was to teach that if you are poor then God doesn't love you. Yet I find that the "Prosperity Gospel" comes dangerously close to saying that.

Our first reading today is a harsh one. The Prophet Amos is calling to the religious folk to share the wealth. The prophet even invokes the great figure of faith, David. King David was a man after God's own heart. God loved him and set him over His people to rule with justice and mercy. Unfortunately, David's heart and soul became lazy. David's great empire would fall in on itself due to greed, lust, murder and abandonment of faith. David would watch as debauchery infested his kingdom and destroyed it from the inside out. So much for prosperity! It cost David everything because it became more important than God.

Our Gospel today is a very familiar one. It makes us uncomfortable, all this about dogs licking the poor, hungry, sick Lazarus. It should make us very, very uncomfortable because that is what Jesus intended!Jesus wants us to be appalled and sickened by the scene! Jesus is addressing a group that is content in it's wealth and power and sense of superiority. The Pharisees had no problem placing burdens upon other's while they sought a life of ease and luxury. They did this at the expense of the most defenseless and poor. I think we can see how that is happening even today!

Jesus sought to remind these folk that because they have been fortunate they have an obligation, a calling to see to it that those in need are cared for. This ties in to the whole "to whom much has been given much is expected" stuff Jesus so boldly proclaimed. To have much means that much is expected. To be blessed with wealth and power means that it must be used to help the most defenseless and poor. To sit back and demand more at the expense of others, is sinful and Jesus calls it out for what it is, greed. Contrary to popular belief, greed is not good! Greed is a disease that eats away at the soul and destroys one's relationship with God.

So what do today's readings want from us? I believe that it is summed up with one sentence from Timothy. "Compete well for the faith". What could be more important than giving it all we've got to have a strong faith? We tend to work ourselves to death in order to have the latest and greatest this or that, a bigger house, a fancier car, etc., while we ignore our soul. We do so at our own peril.

Last weekend's Gospel had Jesus Telling us that we cannot serve both God and wealth. If we do, one is going to lose out and it usually isn't wealth. God becomes less important to us when we spend all of our time trying to get more and more stuff.

So what do we think would happen if we were to put as much effort in to our faith as we do getting ahead in the world? Wealth will come and go but our faith is our life. there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and relationships with one another. If we put everything in to getting rich and ignoring the things of God, we may gain the world but we lose our soul. As Christians, I believe that we must seek to make the world a better place for everyone and not just self. What good does it matter if we are rich and powerful yet facing down God's judgment for not being faithful?

Compete well for the faith my friends and may we all follow God's call to serve!

Friday, September 21, 2007

No one is an outcast in Jesus' eyes.

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist
September 21, 2007
Mass Readings:
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
Matthew 9:9-13

All of us at one time or another feel like we don't fit in. At one time or another we each are made to feel like an outsider, an outcast. Most of us can remember those times in school when we weren't cool enough, rich enough, good looking enough, etc. We can remember how horrible it made us feel to be left out.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist. In our Gospel text we see that Matthew was an outcast. He was a tax collector, a man who was looked upon with great disdain and disrespect. He was despised. Yet Jesus comes along and invites Matthew to become a part of his inner circle, a move that would insult the Pharisees.

Matthew invites Jesus to his home and prepares a meal for him. Along comes Matthew's friends, these sinners as the Pharisees are quick to point out. They are insulted that Jesus would dare associate with these outcasts and they let their feelings be known. Jesus gives us his famous line of how the healthy do not need a doctor but the sick do. Jesus is the healer of our soul, the Great Physician and he invited the sick, the sinner to eat with him and receive his amazing grace and forgiveness.

Matthew was an outcast yet Jesus saw through the bad to the good and made him a great evangelist, an Apostle who would give his life for the good of Christ. How's that for an outsider?!

For Jesus, no one is an outsider. For us to demean, belittle, judge another person puts us outside Jesus' circle. We make ourselves outsiders whenever we let our pride and arrogance rule and we pass judgment on others and deem someone to be an outsider, unworthy. We do it in school when we are kids and then we do it as adults. We form cliques, we form societies that say who is worthy and who isn't. What arrogant rubbish! If Jesus doesn't do it then I feel pretty safe in saying we shouldn't do it!

No one is an outcast to Jesus. However, we make ourselves outcasts when we do not honor one another, love one another as Jesus loves and honors each and everyone of us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He deserves it?

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2007
Mass Readings:
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 7:1-10

Picture it. Jesus is preaching and teaching and traveling. Pretty normal day for Jesus and the Apostles. They enter Capernaum and Jesus is approached about healing someone. Sounds good. A Roman Centurion has a slave and he is sick. Obviously this centurion cares deeply about this person. He is so dedicated to providing for this man that he calls for the elders to go to Jesus for him and ask for a miracle. But why doesn't the centurion go himself? We will get to that in a moment.

So here come the elders. They approach Jesus and ask him to provide a miracle. However, listen to how they ask Jesus to do this.

They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” (emphasis added)

The religious leaders ask Jesus to do this because it is the politically astute thing to do. If Jesus heals this slave then surely the centurion will be even more generous to them! Heal a slave and get a bonus!

I always recoil a bit when I read this particular passage. The religious leaders want Jesus to heal this slave because they think the centurion "deserves" it. Would the religious leaders have gone out of their way for someone who was poor or lacked power? We don't know the answer to that question but it is an important question to ask. The religious leaders didn't ask Jesus to do this because they were concerned with the health of the slave but rather because the centurion was powerful and had been generous to the people. So. A miracle is needed and the centurion deserves to be given this?

Jesus goes with the religious leaders but I feel safe in saying that Jesus wasn't trying to score political points with the centurion. As Jesus approaches the centurions house, he is greeted with a very humble act. The centurion does not even feel worthy to have Jesus enter his house, a sign of just how respectful the centurion was of Jesus and how much he valued him. The centurion wasn't trying to score points the way the religious leaders were. There is a valuable lesson there.

Jesus is impressed by the centurion's willingness to humble himself and accept God's authority. The centurion did not place himself above others and declare himself worthy of Jesus' miracle because of his political or military power. The centurion's motives were all about his slave and getting him the care he needed. The religious leaders motives? Well, that is a different story.

How many times do each of us view ourself as so important that surely Jesus will do our bidding? Do we honestly believe that we can manipulate Jesus into doing what we want because we have an over exaggerated sense of self? There is no nation, people or individual so powerful that they can manipulate our Lord and Savior! All are deserving of Jesus' love. Power, money, influence, etc. are never, EVER influences on our Lord. Jesus gives of himself because he loves us and not because we have power.

Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before the Lord. Jesus' love is not something we deserve. Jesus' love is the greatest gift that can ever be given and our responsibility is to accept it and live it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Doing it right but getting it wrong.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 16, 2007
Mass Readings:
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one that has been the source of inspiration for many artists throughout the centuries. Paintings, statues and even plays have been created to tell the story of the wayward son.

Many of us can identify with this prodigal boy. He is selfish, greedy and wants it all right now. He is self seeking and self centered. All of us have been the prodigal at least once. Many of us even have prodigals in our families who we try to bring back in to the fold. We can understand this tale of redemption, reconciliation and restoration.

However, the prodigal is not the sole focus of this parable. Jesus is addressing a group of people who are the religious leaders of the day. These "religious" folk are complaining and judging Jesus for eating and enjoying fellowship with sinners. How dare him! Imagine that, the one who is our salvation daring to spend time with us sinners! So Jesus gives them the parables of how he is there to save the lost and that no one is outside of God's love. Then, as Jesus has them seeing the value of all God's children, he slips in a warning, the elder son.

Most times the elder son is just waxed over and never given any attention but I think the elder son is perhaps the most important part of the parable. It is easy to identify with the prodigal because he comes to his senses and we want to see ourselves that way. We do not want to see our self as the elder son.

Why do we avoid the elder son? We tend to see the elder son as the injured party in the parable. Here he has been faithful for all of these years yet the father doesn't give him the same treatment as the prodigal. Or does he?

The elder son's motives are revealed to be no different than the younger. The elder son has been biding his time and waiting for the father to die and leave him his inheritance. Has his faithfulness been merely so he can get the money? If so, aren't his motives just as selfish and shallow as the younger son? I think the answer is yes. The elder son is an example of doing it right but getting it wrong. We can do everything by the book but if our motives aren't true then we haven't gotten it right.

The elder son is an example of those of us who may think that if we do or say the right things then all is well. However, we fill our hearts with resentments, jealousy and greed. We pile up baggage that gets in the way of our relationship with God and one another. Then, when we are faced with something we feel is unfair, we throw a tantrum just like the elder son. How dare the father be so forgiving that he take in this hooligan! How dare the father be willing to forgive and restore! The elder son stands outside of the house throwing a fit and he completely misses the joy of the father. This moment of redemption, reconciliation and restoration is lost for the elder son. All he can see is that he didn't get things the way he wanted and he cannot see that the gifts have always been there for him and all he had to do was ask.

We can strive to do and say the right things. That's good. Yet, we can strive for the externals and completely miss the internals. Doing and saying the right things become irrelevant when our hearts are filled with resentments and jealousy and our motives become selfish. The baggage we pile on our shoulders do nothing but weigh us down. The resentments and petty grudges keep us standing outside of the house and we can see the feast but our tantrum keeps us from enjoying the gifts so freely given. Why do we do that? Why do we get so caught up in being jealous and holding on to grudges and we willingly step outside of the feast in order to pout and throw a tantrum?! What a monumental loss!

Jesus concludes the parable of the prodigal with a heads up for us all. Let go of the motives that get in the way of our relationship with God and one another. Let go of the resentments, petty disagreements, jealousies and sense of entitlement we may harbor. If we don't, we may just miss out on the feast because we are too busy pouting in the back yard.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

He knows what?!

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 26, 2007
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 66:18-21
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

"Thus says the LORD:I know their works and their thoughts"

The Lord speaks through Isaiah and lets us know something very important. A little bit of info we need to keep in mind is that God knows what is in our hearts and minds and what we do. We can't "fake-out" God.

When we are kids we think that we can lie to our parents and they will never figure out that we are trying to pull a fast one. Well, they know. Yet when we are kids we think that we can pull anything over on anyone if we just lie or manipulate. How can anyone figure it out? Easy! Our lies and games are never that good. So the lies and games build up and become increasingly complex and harder to maintain. Then, they fall apart and we are surprised that anyone saw through them. A bit naive I'd say. Problem is that we all do it at one time or another. We are human and humans play games. Sad but true.

Eventually we begin to use the same tactics with God. We begin to try and barter with God, a quid-pro-quo attitude. We actually begin to think we can lie to God and manipulate the Father! Thing is, God knows our works and our thoughts and he sees right through our charades.

This is one reason why I find politics hard to stomach. Every politician thinks that God is on his/her side. Especially during campaigns, each politician thinks that he/she has the market on God cornered and that he/she speaks for God and everyone else is wrong. By election day I always have a migraine. Just because someone has the public spotlight doesn't mean he/she is God's servant. God is neither a Democrat nor Republican and God can't be manipulated by any political machine. God is God, the creator of the universe and is beholden to no person or group.

We do it in the Church as well. We have so many groups fighting one another because one group thinks that they have the market cornered when it comes to God while another group is seen as the enemy. Surely if we ridicule another group or person loud and long enough that proves us right? So we fight and believe that we can rally God to do what we want him to do because, after all, how can "WE" be wrong?

God is not a commodity that can be controlled and manipulated. No matter how closely we choose our words or actions. No matter how pious we strive to convince God we are. No matter how "religious" we are. No matter how right we may think we are, God will not be controlled or lied to because he knows our thoughts and our works. We cannot hide our true motives and agendas from God. God sees and knows our spirit. Nothing can be hidden from God and we only delude ourselves when we think we can fool God. The only person we fool is our self and we miss out on the glories of being fully open to God's Holy Spirit.

When we delude ourselves into thinking that we can play games with God, we lose the game. All God asks of us is to be open, honest, receptive and willing. God wants us to be open to his love and willing to answer the call he gives. It isn't so hard when you stop and think about it. Yet there we go thinking that we can pull a fast one on God and manipulate him to do our will instead of us doing his will.

The greatest gift that God has given us is love. God's love is an invitation to live a transparent life where we live in communion with The Trinity and one another. It is a joyful communion that gives life and peace. The glorious thing is that this gift is free and requires no manipulation or lies to get it. All we have to do is ask and then give ourselves over to God's will. So simple yet we make it hard when we think we need to play games with God.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Those pesky "Lower Case gods".

August 21, 2007
Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope
Mass Readings:
Judges 6:11-24a
Matthew 19:23-30

Today's Gospel got me in trouble a few years back. At a morning mass this was the text that I preached on and a certain individual got very angry with me for using it. Why? Well, she is a very wealthy person and she thought that I was "condemning her for being rich". I did nothing of the sort and neither does Jesus in this text.

I believe that Jesus is giving us a warning about what I like to call "Lower Case gods". These "gods" are all of the things we place before our relationship with Christ. These "gods" can be anything, money, internet, cars, sports, houses, hobbies, etc... Anytime we sacrifice our relationship with Christ we are worshiping a "Lower Case god". It isn't just about money but rather our seemingly endless list of desires and agendas that put up obstacles between us and God.

I believe that this is an example of why we need to always keep the teachings of Jesus always with us. If the Gospels make us uncomfortable then we need to listen to that. Jesus' words are just as critical for us today as they were in the 1st century. Perhaps they are even more crucial today. We can devote ourselves to "Lower Case gods" without ever having to leave the house! We can tear down our relationship with Christ without leaving the comfort of our own homes and it isn't just about money.

I try to always remind myself that anytime I commit myself to some "thing" and that "thing" becomes more important than Jesus then I have sacrificed myself to one of the "Lower Case gods" and it tears down my soul.

I believe that this is what Jesus is warning us about in today's Gospel reading. Anything that takes the place of Jesus and serving one another as Christians is going to tear us down. Yes, it becomes hard to see Heaven when we are so committed to acquiring so many of those pesky "Lower Case gods".

Monday, August 20, 2007

Division is a choice.

August 19, 2007
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Jesus' words today seem unbearably harsh. All this talk of division and warring among family members is hard to hear. Well, it is hard to hear if all we do is read this one particular part of Luke. Jesus repeatedly throughout the Gospels talks of how God's love is for all creation and that he has come to save the world. So why does Jesus give us this harsh warning about division?

Jesus was preparing the disciples for a hard reality. It would become clear very quickly after Jesus' Resurrection that division would begin right in the heart of the Church. The Apostle Paul would write numerous letter addressing division. Jesus wanted the disciples to be ready and he also wanted them to strive to stay above it.

I believe that Jesus is setting us up to see that division is our doing and not his. Each and every one of us must make a choice whether we strive for unity or we work for division. God's love unites us but we can choose to live divided by our infighting, agendas, selfishness, prejudice, grandiosity, anger, sense of entitlement, delusions of superiority, etc. Divisions within the Church, the Body of Christ, is our doing. We only have ourselves to blame.

Let us all work hard to dismantle the things that divide us. We can remain strong and true to the Faith and at the same time work for unity. Being different from one another does not mean we have to be divided. True unity is when we can agree to disagree and still work together faithfully for the Kingdom of God. We must choose to be united rather than divided.

Hail Mary! and bless Archbishop Kurtz!

August 15, 2007
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mass during the Day
Mass Readings:
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Luke 1:39-56

Today we celebrate the Assumption of our Blessed Mother. So great is her place that Jesus took her body and soul to the glory of Heaven before the corruption of death could touch her body! Hallelujah! What a glorious day this is in our life of faith. For not only do we celebrate the First Disciple, the Blessed Mother, but also the feast day for our cathedral and the instillation of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz! It's a full day so fasten your seat belts because Louisville is alive and kicking! I might also add that today is also the 30 anniversary for Archbishop Kelly's ordination as bishop. A full day indeed.

I must note that Archbishop Kelly ordained me and I give him a great round of thanks this day. He has been a loving father to me and I am very grateful for his leadership and kindness.

On this feast day we look to the great example of our Blessed Mother. Mary was just a young woman, a teenager when she was asked to be the mother of our Lord. Her "yes" to God would open the door to salvation!

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary? This young woman, approached by an angel and given the task of giving birth to the son of God must have been terrified! I have always wondered about all of the paintings and movies that display our Blessed Mother as this stoic young woman who hardly flinches when approached by God. I would dare say that her reaction was one of confusion, terror and stress! How could she not have been distressed? However, she said yes! Her trust in God was stronger than her emotions and concerns and would guide her to be the first disciple. How blessed we are that Mary was strong in her faith and would do her all to follow God.

This brings me to what I believe all of our Marian feast days call us to do. I believe that every time we celebrate our Blessed Mother we are called to examine how each and every one of us say yes to God. Or for that matter, do we even say yes to God? Do we follow the example of the Blessed Mother and follow God with sheer abandon?

Each and every one of us is called to be a faithful disciple. Each and every one of us is given a mission by God. Each of us is asked to say yes to God. Do we? Do we follow the example of Mary by putting God's call ahead of the desire for wealth, fame or power? Do we humble ourselves so that we may serve for the good of God's Kingdom? Do we set aside our own selfish desires so that we may have full life in Christ?

May we each learn from our Blessed Mother. Mary was the first disciple, the Queen of the Apostles and she is our model of faith today. May we find the same joy in serving the Lord as our Mother Mary.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly."


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trusting like a child but not acting like one.

August 14, 2007
Memorial of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr

Mass Readings:
Deuteronomy 31:1-8
Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Be like a child. Jesus gives a command in our Gospel text that is often times misinterpreted. We live in a society that tries to not grow old and spends billions trying to stay young. And I dare say that there are times when we all act a bit childish for our age. I know I am guilty of that from time to time.

Jesus is not calling us to act childish. Jesus, I believe, is calling us to have a child like spirituality. I have three nephews who are one of the core parts of my life. The youngest is eight. Every time I see him, I am reminded of just how cynical a man I am. My youngest nephew is an amazing kid. He is honest, loving, generous and trusting. No matter how long it has been since I have seen him, as soon as I enter the room, he trusts me. Even if it has been several months since I was last home for a visit, he treats me like a beloved uncle whom he trusts. That is an amazing gift he gives to me each and every visit.

I think that is what Jesus is getting at in today's Gospel. We are not to act like a child! I dare say that if we all acted like we were eight years old again we would be in a lot of trouble! No, I believe that Jesus wants us to trust like a child, love like a child and pray like a child. It was much easier as a kid to believe and trust God. Unfortunately, as we get older, we lose some of that due to world weariness. Jesus calls us to shed that callous layer that drains the soul of joy. Jesus wants us to live boldly as God's children and trust, love and welcome one another as we give God our lives in service. As God's children, let us give God our trust, love and service.

Maybe if we greeted God each day as the beloved Father whom we trust, love and cherish we would find that the joy we experienced as a kid is still there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Did you just call me a dog?!

August 8, 2007
Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest
Mass Readings:
Numbers 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26a-29a, 34-35
Matthew 15: 21-28

Today's Gospel text is amazing! Well, they all are, but today's really hits me. Some have commented to me how Jesus seems to be mean in this text and maybe even downright sexist. Nothing could be further from the truth! This text is a prime example of just how in tune Jesus was, is and always will be to what it means to be human.

We have the scene where a Cannanite woman is very, very bold. Here she is, an ancestor of those who were an enemy of the Israelites. The tension goes back to that whole incident with Moses and the Promised Land. There would be great stigma associated with being from Cannan, a gentile. It would even be a sin for an Israelite to marry a Cannanite. These people were outcasts in the 1st century to say the least.

So here we have Jesus being approached by a Cannanite woman. She is an outcast in two senses by race and gender. However, she is obviously a woman with great chutzpah! She comes to Jesus and clearly expects him to hear her and give her what she needs. Of course, the disciples are miffed by this. How dare her! Jesus takes the opportunity to teach a very important lesson. That lesson? No one is an outcast in God's eyes.

Jesus appears to give the disciples what they want, he seems to insult this woman. Yet that isn't what Jesus is doing at all, he's waiting for her to be even more bold, to express her great faith and teach everyone a lesson. Jesus places an obstacle in front of her and she steps right over it. She follows Jesus even though it seemed that Jesus was indifferent to her plea. This brave woman follows Jesus and is faithful in spite of any hardship. That we should all be so faithful!

This Cannanite woman is heard and her need is met. The Cannanite woman, an outcast, is shown to be what she truly was, a child of God. We tend to put obstacles and artificial divisions in our relationships. We tend to view some as more worthy than others. We tend to categorize each other and rate one another's value. It is something we all do and it is sinful. Jesus shows the disciples and all who were gathered that no one is outside of God's love. No one is rejected by God because of sinful human judgments. There is no outcast in God's eyes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

What's my responsibility?

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
Matthew 13:54-58

"And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. "

This sentence from today's Gospel is one that I find a bit haunting. Often I will hear people complain that the days of miracles are over. Many folk seem to believe that there is no use in praying since they do not believe that miracles can happen. And they wonder why nothing miraculous ever happens!

Our culture tends to expect everything without having to do anything. We live in an age when entitlement is an epidemic that drains the life out of the soul. I remember an episode of The Simpson's where Grandpa Simpson is walking down the street and complaining about how the young slackers want everything for free and are lazy and unworthy of anything. He then walks in to a government office and screams; "I'm old! Gimme, gimme, gimme!" I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe. How right on target is that scene. Often times we can be so self absorbed that we think we should have everything fall in our lap.

Our faith can get that way at times. We want the most return without any investment. If we do not exercise our faith then how can we expect to experience the miraculous? Do we honestly expect Jesus to do all of the work while we just sit back and expect him to drop our heart's desire in our lap? Don't we realize that Jesus has done all we need through his death, burial and resurrection? Jesus has already done the hard work and what does he ask of us in return? Faith.

If we think of Jesus as just some "celestial granter of wishes" then have no doubt, we will not experience the miraculous. If we let our hearts become lazy and cynical then how can we expect Jesus to work miracles with us? Today's Gospel reading shows the consequences of being hard hearted. The people missed out on the miraculous because they could not open their hearts. I believe our text calls us to open our hearts, exercise our faith and expect amazing things! And the most amazing thing that can happen to us is the deepening of our relationship with the Lord. As we exercise our faith we draw closer to the One who is our salvation. How great a miracle is that!?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Love NY!

Sorry for the sparse posts of late. I am still trying to settle in at the new assignment and then I took vacation and went to Jersey City and New York City. This past weekend I spent a lot of time knocking about The Village and SOHO. The weather was insanely beautiful!

So there I was in this massive stream of people with all of the sights, sounds and smells and it was a little overwhelming. Then it hit me how amazing God's love is! What a wild mix of folk we humans are! So many differences but we share something that makes us unable to be truly separated from one another and that is the fact that we are all God's children!

I was standing in Washington Square Park and I marveled at how we can be so different from one another yet ultimately we are all the same for we are all created in God's image. No one is better than anyone else because God loves us all, no matter what. Now I already knew all of this but it hit me in a very profound way just how great God's love is since God loves us all, faults and all. A religious experience in Gotham. Not a bad vacation...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 11, 2007 The Feast of St. Benedict

A happy feast day to my brothers at St. Meinrad Archabbey!

I spent two years living at St. Menirad studying under the Benedictines. Those are two years of happy memories! I was given a copy of The Rule by a dear friend from St. Meinrad. It was his very first copy and it holds a very special place in my library. I also have a link to St. Menirad listed over to the right of this page.

Angels aren't like they are on TV.

14th Week of Ordinary Time
Mass Readings
Genesis 32:23-33
Matthew 9:32-38

Here in America we seem to have an obsession with angels. You can rarely walk in to a bookstore without finding little resin statues of cute, fluffy angels. We turn on the TV and we have angels with an Irish brogue who is pretty and holding every one's hands and giving them a doe eyed look. We have shows where angels wander the highways seeking to do good deeds. I even saw a book that claimed to be able to teach anyone how to get his or her guardian angel to give up their name. Angels are a multi million dollar a year industry. I am sure that makes the angels really proud.

The Biblical image of angels is far from the American syrupy image. Throughout the Bible, angels are God's warriors. The angels were created by God to first serve him not to be at the beck and call of humans. Angels are not the fluffy beings we like to make them out to be. In the Bible, when an angel appears to someone, that person's life is about to be turned upside down! Angels arrive to give a charge from God and it isn't just some fluffy little love note. Angels are God's messengers and spiritual warriors.

We see in our reading from Genesis this morning that Jacob has an encounter with an angel that leaves him scarred and charged with a great task from God. We can also see in other accounts from scripture how life altering angelic encounters are. Our Blessed Mother is visited by an angel and she becomes the Mother of God. Joseph is visited by an angel and he is charged with being the adoptive father of our Lord and asked to accept his wife's divine pregnancy. Angels appear when some of the Apostles are held prisoner and the earth quakes and prison cells are wrenched open. These angelic appearances aren't exactly innocuous afternoon teas. No, angels appear when something major is about to happen and if we are visited we can be assured that our life will be forever changed.

I also remember hearing some folk say that when we die, we become angels. Where did that come from? Nothing could be further from the truth. Scripture tells us that we were created above the angels. We were created with the very Breath of God. We are created in God's image. To be made an angel when we die would be a major step backwards! No. We are the Children of God and we are made in God's image. When we die we become a part of that Great Cloud of Witnesses" the Saints in Glory!

To be touched by an angel is to be transformed and charged with great responsibility in God's Kingdom. Angels aren't like the one's on TV. Angels are God's Spiritual Warriors and harbingers of God's commands.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fake it till you make it?

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle
Tuesday July 3, 2007
Mass Readings:
Ephesians 2:19-22
John 20:24-29

I believe that the Apostle Thomas has been given a bad rap. How many times have you heard the phrase, "Doubting Thomas"? It is an insult when one is referred to as a Doubting Thomas. The phrase implies that one is obstinate and deliberately unwilling to believe someone or something. I do not believe that Thomas deserves such a reputation.

Thomas had not had the joy of seeing Jesus yet and so his response to the other Apostles is perfectly understandable. Imagine losing the love of your life and then have someone run to you and tell you they just saw that person! I imagine that I would react angrily and think the one speaking to me was trying to make fun of me. I imagine that is the way Thomas felt. He must have been hurt and angry.

I think that Thomas was brave. He didn't hide his doubt. He voiced his pain instead of just repressing it. I have never liked the phrase, "fake it till you make it". I think it is dismissive of how one feels. When we don't express our doubts and fears, they weigh us down. Thomas reacts honestly. When Thomas does actually see Jesus, he responds with humility and recognizes he was wrong and admits it. Jesus doesn't scold Thomas but actually offers to him the very things he said would be needed in order for him to believe.

How many of us admit to believing something but secretly hold an opposing view? Not exactly an honest thing to do. I believe that if we do not give voice to our doubts and our fears then those things have power over us. I think it is good for us to admit our doubts and then ask God to help us. Lord, help my disbelief! Honesty with God is a sure fire way for God to be able to break down our doubts and fears.

Let's not "fake it" but rather be honest and allow God to help our disbelief.