Homily for Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Readings for Today

Why me? I imagine that everyone has had a moment when they asked themselves this question. Those times when not only is it the case that nothing is going right, but even worse, when it appears to us that we have been singled out for particularly awful treatment. We can believe that we have been abandoned completely, even by God.

This is the feeling that could arise if we found ourselves in the situation described in the first reading. Consider Gideon’s question: “My Lord, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” I have certainly felt times in my life where I feel like Gideon. If I am serving the Lord, why is it the case that such difficult things are happening to me? Why do I not seem to be getting some credit when I believe I am clearly following the path of the Lord?

Indeed, being delivered into the power of the enemy might be causing just these questions to be asked by the Christians in the Middle East who are being slaughtered and oppressed at the hands of ISIS. It is certainly understandable. There may be a special kind of suffering that comes for these persecuted Christians today because the world seems to take little or no notice.

Gideon is told by God that he is not alone, and that the suffering of today will not last forever. And isn’t it precisely that which helps us too? Isn’t it really important to know that we are not alone? Think about those most difficult moments. Is it that we wish that others would solve our problems, or is it rather that we want someone to accompany us as we face them?

It is for this reason, I believe, that of walking with each other, that we are called individually by God to be in community. Each one of us must say yes to God, but at the same time each one of us is also called to journey with the others in the Christian community. Moreover, each one of us is called to take responsibility for everyone in the world. We are, indeed, our brother’s keeper.

Another reminder from the first reading is that we are not helped by God only when we can fully trust God and his promises. Quite the opposite. Wherever we find ourselves in this life, with strong faith or strong doubt, we are loved by God. God wants for us to be open to seeking God’s presence regardless of what our past has been like.

Hopefully, you are not facing a situation that causes you to ask, “Why me?” But know that if you are, you are never alone, because God is there, ready to make great things happen.

Homily for Monday, August 17, 2015

Readings for Today

Among the most difficult rejections that parents may face is when the faith which is so important to them is not embraced by their adult children. There is a special kind of suffering that comes for parents in this situation. How can it be that something that is so important to them not be embraced by the children they love? How hard indeed.

Yet this is precisely what happens in the first reading when the Israelites turn away from God to serve the Baals. Despite all that God has done for his people, they turn away. They cannot embrace the way of life God has given to them, despite all of the marvels God has performed again and again.

Despite the power of God that had been witnessed, the desire to “fit in” with those nations around them proved too strong to resist. But when they turned their back upon God and were led astray, what happened? Was it not precisely that they found themselves lost, oppressed and abandoned?

God sought to provide for the people even though they turned away. Guides and judges were given them. Despite the rejection by the people, God remained with them and loved them. God reached out to help them over and over.

This seems important in our day too. We do not need to look too far to see that we too have too often rejected God. And as a result, our lives have become horribly disheveled. We can be lost, defeated. Or, we can find ourselves in a situation where we do not even notice the impact of rejecting God.

It seems that the most important element needed to “get back on track” is to be open to a deeper relationship with God. For those who have such a relationship with God, it is more likely we will not only see what God provides to help us, but to follow such help as well. For those who worry about a loved one, the key is to create the type of witness and environment that makes it most likely they will succeed in seeing the value of the relationship with Jesus. Certainly it is also a good thing to pray for them as well.  Remember that Saint Monica, whose feast we celebrate in a couple of weeks, prayed for years for her son Augustine before he embraced the Lord.

Whatever we do it is important to be open to what God wants from us. For if we do, we know we are never going to be alone.

Homily for Christmas 2014

Readings for the Vigil Mass

Readings for the Mass at Night

Readings for Mass at Dawn

Readings for Mass During the Day

Over these past few weeks, I have had the powerful realization that I am not alone. My father died a little more than a week ago. Throughout his most recent illness, the result of a fall where he broke both hips, I spent a lot of time in a hospital and in a nursing home. Interestingly, these two locations can be places of loneliness and connection. I witnessed both. But I experienced connection. It was because I was not alone. First, and most important, I felt repeatedly the presence of God. But beyond that, my mother and brother were beside me. We were together. Second, thanks to my connection to the Dominicans in the Central Province, my relatives, and those with whom I am connected on Facebook, I felt a tremendous sense of being to connected to many people from aspects of my life.

But in the midst of these days I saw many who appeared to be alone. This was not a result of care. My father received amazing care. But as my father had dementia, there were many spouses visiting persons they loved who did not know who they were. My father over the past few years had his mind taken from him little by little. At the end of his life, I think he thought I was one of the nurses. Thinking not only about my father, as well as the others in the various care facilities, caused me to wonder what someone with dementia really felt and experienced.  I thought about a woman whose husband had been in the care facility for years. He did not recognize him. Even so, moved by what seemed to me to be loving care, she visited him every day for hours a day. I wonder if she felt alone in the midst of this horrible illness.

During the holidays, like Christmas, while for many are times when family and loved ones can make us feel connected, for others it can be a time of profound loneliness. As beautiful as Norman Rockwell Christmas paintings can be, they do not reflect for all the reality of the season. How is it we attempt to cope with this loneliness? There are a variety of ways. For some, it is the desire to get and to purchase lots and lots of material things in an attempt to fill up what we are missing. For some, it can be a time where there is a lot of drinking to numb the pain.

But the profound mystery we celebrate this Christmas is the reality we are not alone. God is with us. We have learned that in the name we sometimes us to refer to Jesus, “God with us.” And what can be more powerful than knowing that really, we are never alone. God is with us. For God could not bear for us to be alone, the result of sin. Sin breaks our relationships. Sin causes the connections we desire to form due to our social nature to be destroyed.

God desires nothing more than giving us every chance to experience salvation. Knowledge we are not alone helps us to face just about anything. While the awareness I was not alone did not keep my father from dying, it did remind me in a powerful way that life is beyond simply what I can see. I learned I was connected in ways I was not even aware of before my father’s death.

It can be easy in our world to question whether God exists, because there seems to be so much disconnection. There is such brutal and unbelievable suffering and death in places like Syria and Iraq. There are too many who go without the basics in life. Each day people starve not because we cannot produce enough food, but because we do not share it. The possibility of a person coming into the United States might have Ebola causes tremendous panic, even though we here can live with the reality that too many in the world have little or no health care structure at all.

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