Favor: Homily for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Remember us, Lord, as you favor your people. This was the response to the psalm today.  From time to time, I think it can be good to focus on the psalm, as the psalms have long been considered the prayers of Jesus.  The psalms have also been prayed for centuries in Christian life.  They are still the basis of prayer today.  When we speak the words of Jesus in the psalms, we are attentive to the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray.

And we do well to listen to the Holy Spirit.  We always need God’s favor.  There is never a time when we do not need God.  By asking God to remember us, we remember God.  When we acknowledge God’s favor, we grow in faith.  We all need the grace and understanding of God.  And so, Remember us, Lord, as you favor your people.

Thank God!: Homily for Saturday, June 10, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

I am not nearly as grateful as I should be.  So much in  my life has been a gift I have not deserved.  Certainly the most important is the gift of my creation, my life, from God, which I did nothing to earn.  But there are the countless gifts I simply take for granted.  My basic needs are met.  My education has been provided by others.  The Dominican community which is so important to me has become so because of God’s mercy and the mercy of my brothers.  Again and Again, rather than seeing the overwhelming gifts I have been given, it seems more to me that I am too quick to take credit for my accomplishments, and too quick to focus on my sufferings.

Today’s first reading provides a wonderful picture of the fruit of gratitude.  With a grateful heart that seeks to be seen in a gift to a helpful stranger, Tobit encounters the living God in the Archangel Raphael.  While it certainly did not appear so to Tobit, God was always present in his life moving and acting in grace.  Show your gratitude today to see the active presence of God.

Choice: Life or Death, Blessing or Curse. Homily for Thursday, March 2, 2107

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Choice.  I am a fan of Servais Pinckaers, a Belgian Dominican priest who was a significant moral theologian of the last century.  Pinckaers helped to identify the ways in which humans can understand choice.  On the one hand, there is that choice which can be limited to this or that, a choice between two things.  This is what we might call today license, and what Pinckaers called a freedom from.  When freedom is understood as license, then anything that in any way restricts our choices is bad.  Often when a teen complains to parents, “Don’t tell me what to do” they say this because they do not like having their license to do whatever they please taken away.

The other type of freedom is what Pinckaers described as a freedom for.  In other words, choices are made not because it is something I want to do and you cannot stop me, but rather because I want to become someone.  In this understanding, I choose to tell the truth even when it is hard to do so because I want to be honest.  I choose to stop eating chocolate covered cherries by the boxful because I want to be healthy.  I exercise even when I feel like sitting on the couch because I want to be fit.

It is in this sense that we can understand the choice of the first reading.  “Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.”  When we first hear that question, we might ask ourselves who would possibly choose doom?  Who would possibly choose death?  And we would be right to wonder those things.  And yet, anyone who has seen a person suffer from an addiction knows that death and doom can be chosen.  Anyone who has watched someone seek to acquire an endless amount of money or material possessions, and to then be worried about it being taken away, so much so they never give it to anyone, knows how the death and doom that is greed can be chosen.

Death and doom are chosen when people only focus on doing whatever they want, not on what they can become.  Death and doom are chosen because “no one can tell me what to do.”  Life is chosen when we decide to become that person God has created us to be.

Christianity Ain’t for Wimps: The Choice is not always easy

I recently saw a cartoon on the internet that placed a challenge right at the heart of my understanding of my faith. Usually I expect to see funny cartoons, plays on words, or jokes. But this one actually present a challenge to me. It was simply a quote: “If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.”

It got me to thinking: when was the last time I was challenged by God. To be sure, I can see and admit my sinfulness. But, have I really had a sense that God was calling me to something difficult, something that I did not want to do? Moses and Jesus set the choice before us: life or death, the cross or the comfort.

Homily for Thursday March 6, 2014

Readings for Today

When we think of freedom, we often think that being free means to do whatever we want, when we want.   We can easily see that to be free is to have no limits to our activity.  And on one level, such a world might seem quite attractive.  But those who have made significant choices in their lives, like to get married, to have children, or even to have a pet, come soon to realize that while they were free in making these choices, they were not free in being able to do whatever they want.  They chose to be responsible in their choice to a new way of living.  Doing whatever we want might seem like freedom, but in fact, it is license.  And if we do not control our license, then usually it controls us.

We might like to eat all the candy we could possibly eat, we might like to be totally free in every relationship, or even being totally free in the way we treat others.  But if we were totally free, without limits, we would soon discover that this choices of license, choosing to eat candy or vegetables, would create in us a world were we would find these unfettered choices leave us less free.

The type of freedom that we seek, to be truly our authentic selves, means often that we need to set limits for ourselves, and choose to do things we might not want to do.  What parent really wants to get up at 2am to care for a sick child?  What person on a diet does not know they need to limit what they want to eat?  In this second type of freedom, it is not emphasizing what we want to do, but rather, whom do we wish to become?

It is this second type of freedom, where the focus is on becoming, not doing, that is emphasized in today’s first reading.  “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.”  I think these words are a good way to begin Lent.  Do we choose life or death?

The purpose of self-denial is really to help us to discover what is really important in our lives.  We might give up something we really like for Lent, in order to focus on something more important.  We might choose to give up Facebook for Lent, in order to focus more upon prayer.  We might choose to give up sweets, to help us focus more on the significant suffering others might have in their lives. We might seek to be more charitable to those in need, to be kind to the co-worker who drives us up the wall, or to find some time for silent reflection to examine our relationship with God.

Moses challenges us to choose life, that fulfilling life that is eternal.  Too often though, the temptation is not to focus on our relationship with Jesus, but rather to check off a set of rules.  This matters because when we focus only on the Ten Commandments, for example, we could become proud.  We might be able to say that we have not stolen, lied, committed adultery, murdered or blasphemed.  But have we really entered into that type of conversion which moves our friendship with Jesus deeper and deeper?

Choosing life means focusing upon making the most of the precious gift we have been given of ourselves.  God has made us in his image.  We are called to something more wonderful that we can possibly imagine.  And so we are asked, “Do you choose life or death, the blessing or the curse.”   Choose life.

Homily for Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Readings for Today

Dictionary.com defines a blessing in many ways. It can be a noun, a verb, or an action.  It can be visible or invisible. We can express deep gratitude for a blessing, and we can be happy when we realized that something that did not appear to be good, becomes a blessing in disguise. The word blessing is one of those words in English that conveys a wide variety of meaning.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that today’s first reading in today’s gospel provide two understandings of blessings. In the first reading, we hear the well-known Jewish prayer that is often used as a blessing in Christian worship as well. It is a prayer that seeks protection and happiness for the recipient.

The gospel describes the type of blessing that can be understood as a summation of a variety of good experiences. The shepherds, Mary,and the many other witnesses of the newborn Christ child have many blessings to ponder and treasure in their hearts. The events of the incarnation are simply too much to be understood without significant reflection.

The word January, comes from the Roman God Janus. The word is used to describe this month, is Janus was a two headed God who could look both backwards and forwards. As we stand on the precipice of a new year, we too look forwards and backwards. As Christians, this becomes applied in rather dramatic ways. Since we are still in the season of Christmas, we are reminded that the celebration of the incarnation provides us a chance to look forwards and backwards.

On the one hand, it is clear that we commemorate the coming of our God in time. On the other hand, we know that the incarnation of Christ is not a one-time event. Moreover, we know the Christ remains incarnated, humanity and divinity, forever joined in the Christ. Perhaps this looking forwards and looking backwards is a reminder that we need to be grateful for the actions that occurred in the past, and yet filled with hope for the blessings that await us.