You Tricked Me: Homily for Sunday, September 3, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

He was eager.  Young.  Maybe a little naive.  But Jeremiah willingly followed God.  He became the mouthpiece for God.  Even when the words were hard, and not well received, Jeremiah was faithful.  He tried to avoid saying bad words.  But the love of God and the power of his Word were too much.  His love for God spilled out.  He spoke for God because of love.

Confronting someone is never easy.  We often avoid it.  We look the other way.  And yet, if we love God, we must love others.  Sometimes confronting someone is an act of love.  When someone is doing something wrong, the loving action can be to correct it.  Parents who love their children do this.  Spouses confront each other at times in a healthy relationship.  And as we learn from today’s readings, Christians confront each other out of love for God and them.

God’s Plan: Homily for Saturday, July 8, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Sometimes when we read a story in the bible, it can result in a surprise for us.  Today’s first reading might be an example. Deception is used to further God’s plan.  The father is tricked.  The younger son receives the blessing.  But despite this deception, God’s plan is fulfilled.

When we think of God’s plan for us, it often is not clear until we reflect back over our lives. How is it then we discover God’s plan? Perhaps the best way is to put ourselves into the place where we will come to know God and what he wants.

Authority: Homily for Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click the link above.

Readings for Today

Authority.  Today, we celebrate the feast of the chair of St. Peter. And what this means for us, is that today’s feast gives us an invitation to think about the structure of our Church. The way in which our Church is organized and put together so that we can have some certainty about what it means to believe.

Because important organizations in our lives have structure, they have rules. When we look at the United States for example, we have a Constitution that guides us and helps us to understand what it is we can and cannot do. Games have certain rules that are necessary for the game to be fair. And the Church is no different. The church too, has rules, that help it to guide people in the proper way to live in fidelity to the Lord Jesus.

Such as what we celebrate today. When Peter is asked for his statement of faith about the Lord Jesus, the foundation of the church is set in motion by Jesus himself. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the chosen one by God to save the world, is the beginning of the foundation of Peter’s leadership in Christ. And because of this steadfast statement of faith in Jesus the Messiah, Peter is given special authority to guide the Church. Peter is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

This structure helps us to have certitude about what the Lord Jesus teaches and how it is that we are supposed to live these teachings in our lives. With deep faith in God let us pray for the Pope and for the bishops, that they might be faithful in their roles of leadership. And let us pray for each one of us, that guided by the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the Church and the Lord Jesus himself we might become faithful followers of Jesus.

Homily for Sunday, May 3, 2015

Readings for Today

I have had a lot of relatives die lately. Four since December. They have all been advanced in years, and none of their deaths could be called unexpected. As can be the case when a loved one dies, each death has occasioned a lot of remembering for me. I have remembered funny things, like my father getting out of his car at the George Washington Bridge asking for change, since he had driven into the exact change lane without exact change, or a house where there were always good things to eat, or instances where a love of the Red Sox was fostered. In fact, it is not unusual. Many of us are filled with stories, using the amazing faculty of memory to make past experiences present again, to make them real once more.

One memory evoked by today’s readings was one that takes me to one of my aunt’s house, where, in the back yard, there were grapes. I recall these grapes for many reasons. First, the location of the grapes sometimes made baseball a little difficult to play, and I must confess that there were times when a wayward pitch caused some damage for the grapes. There was the difficulty in following directions to wait until the grapes were ripe, only to know they would be picked for jam or some other treat.

The grapes were better than raspberries, which were at another aunt’s place, because even though the raspberries were more plentiful, one ran the risk of encountering a snake in the raspberry patch. Despite the snake stick, the method of protection devised by my aunt as we engaged the risk of the snakes (likely harmless grass snakes, or maybe equally harmless milk snakes, though we did not know that).

Growing up in a rural world, it was not possible to avoid gaining at least some knowledge of the natural world. It was all around us. Whether it was playing hide and seek in the corn stalks that seemed to extend for ever behind the small car dealership in my relatives small town, the blackberries that were endlessly available, which contributed to many a delicious pie made by my mother and others, the rhubarb which grew everywhere, my life was one surrounded by images like the vine in today’s gospel.

As I look back on those days of my childhood, the grapes, the raspberries, blackberries and corn were not really about what they produced, as tasty as those things were. Rather, they connected me and my relatives to something much bigger and more important. They served only as the means to teach us about how we were connected, that even in those times when we were scattered far from our summers in this small town, we were never really all that far apart. We had these common experiences that connected us.

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Homily for Monday, April 6, 2015

Readings for Today

Do you take the resurrection for granted? Has it become so familiar that it has little or no impact in your life? Put simply do you find yourself “fearful, yet overjoyed” by the resurrection as the two Marys felt after the encounter with the Risen Christ? Because truth be told, even a short consideration of the way in which the resurrection of Jesus changes our lives should also make us “fearful, yet overjoyed” because of what the new life given to us, not only without cost to us, but removing the debt we owed, has reversed completely the course of our lives and our destinies.

The two Marys needed time to take it all in, to begin to absorb all that the resurrection of Jesus meant for them. For without the risen Christ, the Church is not possible. Without the supreme act of mercy, the innocent Jesus going to the Cross to die for our sins, and to rise for our future, we are condemned. Without the resurrection of Christ, our faith is worthless, leading to nothing.

But because of the all this, the resurrection of Jesus means the new life of baptism is not only possible but real. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we receive him every Mass in the Eucharist. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, our sins are forgiven. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we too are sent forth, just as the two Marys were sent forth to proclaim the Good News. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, marriage is a domestic Church and priests act in the person of Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Nothing can be the same, because we are now a people filled with hope. We are now a people filled with the new life of the resurrection that only Jesus can give, and a fulfillment becomes possible that can only have as its source God himself.

Easter makes all this possible. Easter changes everything. So, go, tell, teach, proclaim: Jesus is risen! Alleluia!

Homily for Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Readings for Today

When we think about society in general, we probably are more “public” with our information, details, relationships and fights than at any other point in our history.  The click of a few buttons and we can say whatever pops into our head.  While the ability to be in touch with those far away is a good thing, it is not without its problems.

Social media can be used as a vehicle to attack others without really having to engage in discussion.  The problem with this approach is that in a way, it lets us “off the hook” from being meaningfully challenged, or entering into true dialogue.  It is much easier to type a few words on a a computer than it is to engage in the art of face to face communication.  Even with face to face communication, such as with face to face debate, there is the temptation to talk “at” the other, or to shift the conversation away from the topic at hand.

Nowhere is this type of communication more challenging than when we need to correct the behavior of another.  While parents do this all of the time with their children (and probably vice-versa), for many of us confronting the behavior of another is not always easy.  In religious life, we talk historically about a “chapter of faults”, but in my experience today confronting each other in a loving and charitable way does not seem to work very often in practice.  Perhaps this is because we can find it difficult to hear, and maybe more importantly, to admit that we have faults.

Jesus in today’s gospel helps us by outlining a process for spiritual correction.  As a starting point, he suggests the one on one conversation that can at its best preserve dignity and make it more likely that ‘saving face” is a little less of a concern.  Indeed, I am reminded of a psychologist who said once, “You have to earn the right to confront.” What was meant was that if the dignity of a relationship did not exist, then the confrontation was better left to someone else.

In offering his pathway for conversion among the members of the Church, Jesus values the power of human relationships.  Since when we love we are doing a holy and divine thing, this high concern for preserving the dignity of others is real.  It is the necessary foundation upon which everything else can occur.  Reaching out for relationships reminds us that true love always seeks relationship.

Maybe today we can examine how willing we are to preserve the human dignity of others, and to enter into true and authentic relationships that are concerned with the needs of the other, and their best interest.  This too is an action of God, holy and divine, in whose image and likeness we are created.  So as always, the readings are challenging us to make sure what we do comes from who we are: people made in the divine image of God.

Happy Advent!

It has been a while since I have been able to publish my homilies, but what better time for resolutions than the new year.  And, since this is the first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new Church year, a liturgical year of grace.  sacramental language, the church and the calendar or about Space and time. The church makes space holy.the liturgical calendar next time holy. Both are invitations to help us to recognize the presence of God in our lives and to be more fully open to his grace.

Just a couple of notes as we begin these reflections. First of all, the Sunday readings come from Year C of  the lectionary. Weekday readings come from year one.  On the weekends, in Year C we hear from the Gospel of Luke. Year C is the third year of the three-year lectionary cycle. On weekdays,we are in year one of the two year cycle of weekday readings. Here’s hoping that this liturgical year of grace will be an opportunity to become closer to God and more united with the community of faith.

Homily for Wednesday, August 8, 2012 (Feast of Saint Dominic)

Readings for Today

These are strange times.  Our country and our Church appear more polarized than ever.  On the political level, Obama is loved by some, reviled by others, and each side is entrenched in their views.  On an ecclesial  level, we are either dismantling Vatican II or correcting the misinterpretations of it.  And the fireworks really begin when the political and spiritual worlds collide.  We have access to more information, at the touch of a few buttons, than we have ever had before.  But, in some ways we know even less about what is really important.  We have a much greater number of ways to stay in touch, and yet some would argue we are more isolated than ever.  We are living longer than ever before, but we hear reports that these “golden” years are not really that golden at all.

We seek to remove moral discussion from modern political day issues, relegating faith as anachronistic at best, a delusional set of fairy tales at worst.  And yet when a horrible event like the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, or a troubling diagnosis like an aggressive cancer hits our lives, we are shaken enough to search for meaning again.

This is not to be cynical, but is rather an attempt to discuss aspects of the present age in which we live.  And I am not pessimistic about the current age in which we live, but rather hopeful and optimistic about what opportunities it provides.  So too was Dominic.  Perhaps when he first ventured outside of Spain, and encountered people not at all like him, he was as overwhelmed as we can be about the paradoxes of our current age.  But he quickly came to “read the signs of the times” to use a Vatican II phrase, and understood an overwhelming need for more informed preaching in ways that were accessible to people.

Things are not that much different today.  A person could be forgiven if they believed the only issues of importance today were abortion, homosexuality and artificial birth control, since the bishops speak about this often, and the press covers it often because controversy sells.  But while I am not suggesting these are not important issues, but I believe there are deeper spiritual questions that the average person questions and seeks answers from God about.

So, since Dominic was empowered to preach, an act that was in his day reserved to bishops, let me be so bold as to suggest the life of St. Dominic provides a life that may need to be more imitated today.  Perhaps we also need to emphasize these fundamental ideas more.  What spiritual issues underlie the current state of things?

First, I think we must be called to  imitate Dominic by finding a more appropriate balance between action and contemplation.  We live in a fast paced world, with a flurry of activity, with things that could distract us twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  It is now common to accept that people can be addicted to the internet, that technology, which was supposed to make our lives easier, has in fact, lengthened our work day and taken away relaxation, because we can now always be reached, and that in the name of keeping our kids out of trouble, we sign our children up for as many activities as possible.  It is said that Dominic either spoke “to God or about God.”  This was only possible because of the balance he carved out between contemplation and action.

When do we find the time simply to relax, let alone enter into that meditative prayer that provides the gateway to make sense of it all?  On many levels, we have bought into (literally) a mentality that calls us to work more and more, but to experience less and less?  Professed Dominicans are not immune from this temptation.  Far too often we are engaged in active ministry at the expense of contemplative prayer.  We too have bought into the western obsession with production, preferring to see what we make, rather than to focus on who we become.

So, firstly, I think Dominic is challenging us to say, “Enough!”  This is time for God and God’s people.  “Be still.”

Second, I think Dominic would challenge us to be people of community.  Namely, to seek out how we can become more connected to the people that should and do matter to us.  Families need to deliberately carve out that time away from television, computers and video games.  Parents need to work less, and spend time together more.  Employers and employees need together to acknowledge that life cannot simply be about work.  And we professed Dominicans, and indeed all in ministry, need to imitate more the person of Jesus who sought out those out of the way places.

Third, we need to inform ourselves about the faith.  How often do we hear, “I do not agree with the Church”, and yet when pushed, people really do not know where the Church taught this or where they even heard it.  Dominic lived in an age of tremendous ignorance, not simply the people he encountered, but the clergy too!  It was why study was to become so important for him, and his community.  Preachers must be informed.  In so many ways the challenges still remain.

Whatever we feel about the Second Vatican Council, we owe it to ourselves, at least once a year, to reread the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  If we are discouraged for whatever reason, we need to read a little Church history.  We Americans are not strong on history.  We do not understand that in the words of the Bible, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Lastly, we need to be close to the sacramental and prayer life of the Church.  We are spoiled here in the United States.  Many of us have easy access to more than one parish.  We can seek out the parish family that helps us to find God.  Whether it is communal prayer, the sacraments, or the devotional life of the Church, we must make efforts to make it a part of our regular lives.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to develop the attitude of Dominic.  The world is a good place, and creation  provides the means to help us come to know God.  For God is indeed knowable.  And we are redeemable.  We are not, in the words of Martin Luther, no better than manure covered with a little grace, but rather are good, even though we commit sin as well.  But God has overcome sin and death!

The reason this is so important is that we live in a world that both needs to be challenged, but at the same time, needs to be reminded of the limitless hope is has, because of the grace of Christ and the tremendous gift he has given to the Church.

If we can begin by embracing the aspects of Dominic’s life I suggest, I am confident we will be more able to live simply, not having more than we need.  If we embrace these aspects of Dominic’s life, we will find it easier to have that type of trust that allows us to be obedient to the will of God.  And if we embrace these aspects of Dominic’s life, all of our relationships will mirror THE relationship, our relationship with God.

Homily for Sunday, August 5, 2012 (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Readings for Today

When I was in high school, I remember being shown a painting of an old man rowing a boat.  But the point and focus of the paining concerned a very little girl, her tiny hands on the oar, looking serious, believing she was doing the rowing.  The gentle old man behind her, with a slight smile, did not disturb this illusion.

The painting stays with me because it touches upon so many emotions.  The gentle old man in the back of the boat, who is in fact doing the rowing, looks so calm and confident.  It is clear he is fond of this little girl, perhaps he is her father, or even her grandfather.  The little girl is so serious, so intent on getting everything right, feeling the entire weight of the world upon her shoulders.

When I find things becoming challenging in my own life, I consider it grace when I am reminded of this painting.  For too often, I am like this very little girl, so caught up in thinking it is all up to me that I become very anxious and full of anxiety.  All along, there is the wise and gentle Father behind me in the boat, a small, loving smile on his face because he knows the truth.

I think about it because not trusting in God when things get tough is a natural human reaction.  For me anyway, it does not seem to matter how often I experience God’s grace, God’s loving care, or God’s providence.  When tough times come upon me, the natural reaction is always to fear and doubt.  To become pessimistic about the future, to doubt whether or not God will come through yet again.

Such was the case with the Israelites.  Time and again they were eyewitnesses to God’s abundant care for them.  They saw, through magnificent deeds, the powerful love God had for them.  They saw that they were not abandoned, but were so deeply cared for they would not be abandoned even in a desert.  But, in that same desert, they doubt.  They are afraid.  They become timid.  The become angry not at God, but at Moses for leading them into this wretched place.

I have not had an experience in my life where God has let me down.  To be sure I have had experiences where I wound up where I could not imagine.  But God has always, time and again, come through.  And, the Israelites had seen the same.  Time and again, God came to the rescue.  But are we really that different from the Israelites?  I ask God for some help, get it, and then curse it as wretched food.  When things go well I will often take the credit but not the blame, no, that is God’s fault.

When Jesus tells us that the burden will be light, he is saying this by way of comparison.  He is not suggesting that following him will lead to a life with absolutely no difficulty or suffering.  No, what he is saying is that compared to the alternative, when we trust God life becomes not a burden where we carry heavy things, but a time when the burdens are light because we do not carry them alone.

Consider the words of Socrates.  I read in a book, whose name I forget, that the quote attributed to Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living” has often been misunderstood.  It is not that there is a worthless life, but rather, the cost of living the unexamined life it too high.  It simply is not worth the cost.  The worth of the examined life is immense; the cost of the unexamined life is too great.

I think all of the readings today are helping us to realize that a life without consideration and openness to God has a cost that is too high.  The price for the examined Christian life has already been paid.  Jesus has taken upon himself our sins.  Just as the serpent was lifted up in the desert to remove the sins of the people, so too Jesus, the Son of God, has been lifted up to remove our sins.  The cost of the Christian life has been paid by our Savior.

But so often in our lives the search for the truth is something we take on all by ourselves.  We do not seek the aid of God, nor even the community God has formed, the Church.  We go it alone.  Look around at the people at Mass here today.  Inspiring, isn’t it?  People, just like you, here to come to know Jesus more clearly.

But unlike the Israelites in the desert, we have absolute confidence that Jesus is here in our midst, both because of his words, and his presence.  “Where two or three are gathered, in my name” he tells us.  “This is my body” he tells us.  And, body and blood, soul and divinity, Jesus is present at every Mass, and we are invited to receive him every time we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist.

When we clearly recognize the presence of Christ, all around us, then it becomes easier to see the Christ is the guide in our lives that cannot fail.  We can come to see that we are never alone, but always are in the presence of Jesus, both in good times and in bad, finding peace when we turn our lives over to him.

 

Homily for Thursday, August 2, 2012

Readings for Today

I was recently in Rome for a class in education.  It is not possible to be in Rome and to walk even a few steps without coming across something ancient, old, something dating back hundreds or even thousands of years.

The purpose of the class was to help the educators who were taking it come to realize that there is a tremendous connection between the new and the old.  It can be quite the temptation, particularly in a young country like the United States, to believe that we have made such tremendous progress in everything.  A visit to a place like Rome can remind us that we have much to learn.

For, as is often the case, what we consider to be new, is often times something that is really old.  As the Old Testament says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  Today’s readings remind us that the old and the new are often a mix of the same things.

I have tried my hand at pottery, though never on a spinning wheel.  It is not easy, and I admire those who can make it look easy.  But Jeremiah reminds us that often those things that look so awesome when they are finished are often the result of a lot of hard work.  They are often the result of trying something new over and over again.

In our modern age, it is not really simple to get the mix of old and new right.  As we look at the modern age in which we live, we can both be amazed and repulsed at what we can do.  As we look back at the ancient world, be can both be amazed and repulsed by what they did.

So how do we find the wisdom mentioned in the gospel?  We know our storehouse has both good and bad.  How do we keep the good and throw away the bad?  This is not easy.  As I was in Rome I read a suggestion that if the Church simply sold all of the stuff it had, it could end world hunger.  But as I experienced my own emotions in these settings, and saw the tremendous impact such buildings, art work and monuments had on so many who visit them every year, I came to appreciate more fully the foolishness of this suggestion.

Our faith reflects this same struggle.  There are those who want to “turn back the clock”, believing that by embracing a Church they believed existed before the Second Vatican Council, we will be able to turn back the complexities of our age to a more simple time.  There are others who believe the Church must move forward to “adapt with the times.”  Indeed, both have had there time and place in the history of the Church.

But the Church is not a political party, where we align with a set of political ideals.  Rather, it is the Kingdom of God, whereby we evaluate the new and the old, the good and the bad, through the best and only standard: God himself.