Let Go: Homily for Sunday, September 17, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for today

One of the most interesting books I have read is a book entitled, Why Forgive?. It is a collection of amazing stories, all true, of people who experienced very difficult things and yet found it in them to forgive. These were not small things.  Children murdered. People left with profound handicaps. And yet, each of them comes to a point where often for their own good, they forgive.

This is the message in the book of Sirach.  When we forgive, we are able then to be forgiven.  Our heart expands.  Anger dissipates.  Our lives are often about this choice.  Hang on to anger and wrath, or let go. Allow anger to consume us, or allow God to give us the grace to forgive.

Revenge: Homily for Saturday, July 15, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

It can be difficult to avoid revenge. When someone harms us we want to get back.  If someone hurts us, we want to hurt them.  Being a Christian means rising above this.  Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek.  Jesus tells us to pray for persecutors.  Jesus tells us to love enemies.

But this is not possible completely on our own.  It is only possible with God’s grace.  God gives us the means to do this.  Joseph could have taken revenge on his brothers.  But God’s grace enabled him to see a greater plan of God.  Since we can in no way be greater than Jesus, let us hear his words.

Homily for Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Readings for Today

To live an authentic life, it is important to seek to understand ourselves. Sometimes we act in ways where our actions are not always what they seem, even to us. Sometimes we do one thing, but the reason for doing the one thing is for something other motive or reason. For example, we might act nicely toward someone, but we may only do so to get something we want. Motivations arise from deep in the heart. And we always need to be asking God to help us to be honest, especially with ourselves.

Why is it we do what we do? Developing self-awareness so that we can understand our motives is not always an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to have the help of others. Such is the case for Tobit in the first reading. He does not trust his wife, and he gets angry at her. She doubts not only her story, but far worse, he doubts her character as well. She is not only lying, but he also accuses her of stealing. But what is really going on?

I would suggest that one challenge is that Tobit is angry, but the object of his anger is not what he thinks it is. He is not angry at his wife, but really is angry at something else. Maybe he is really angry at being blind, or at God, or even at himself. Maybe he is angry that he is dependent upon his wife. Whatever the reason, his lack of self-awareness is taken out at his wife.

The gospel is similar. The question is couched in compliments for Jesus, but the end, or purpose of the question is a trick. They are hoping to catch Jesus in a statement that makes it appear he is either disloyal to Caesar, or to Judaism. It is a tricky answer. Stating a desire to pay the tax could be seen as an admission of his acceptance of the Romans. Giving his loyalty to God may be seen as a desire to be a traitor. Both were high crimes for which he could pay a high price.

In order to help us know what to do, we seek out wise persons. We may see a therapist to help us to face honestly the difficulties in life. We may ask a friend for advice. Most importantly, we may seek out spiritual guidance by making regular use of the sacrament of confession. We may need to find a spiritual director to help us in our attempt to grow in our relationship with God.

Perhaps it is the gospel that helps us with an important goal, namely, to avoid hypocrisy. Not becoming a hypocrite demands the type of honesty that confession or spiritual direction (or usually both) gives us to live honestly. Sin is an attempt to be dishonest with God, which is foolish, as God knows all about us. Honesty is a gift that leads us to a virtuous life, especially when we can be honest about our lives with God.

Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. Because when this is done, when we are honest, we indeed find it possible to grow into a life of fulfillment as we become better selves.

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2015

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Readings for the AscensionHomily for the Ascension

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Today’s second reading tells us how important it is to love. Our relationship with God began out of love, as God first loved us. And we are reminded today of importance of the sharing of love. For when God creates, it is a sign to us of his powerful love. Love must be shared. It is against the very nature of God to be selfish, to keep love to himself. This is why he creates. Because when he does so, love is shared.

But this places upon us the same desire to share, if we are creatures of God’s love. Saint John tells us this. We cannot say we love God if we hate our brother or sister. And when we examine the Scriptures, we see again and again the problems that develop when love is forgotten. Cain kills Abel. He cannot be happy for his brother, but rather becomes jealous, and his attention is turned inward. There is David who gives into his selfish lust with Bathsheba, and is willing to kill her husband Uriah because of it. Those who bring the woman caught in the act of adultery are willing to sacrifice her in spite of their own sinfulness.

Jesus is the ultimate giver of love. We will learn in a couple of weeks about what it means to say that God is love. Today we know that if we wish to remain in this powerful relationship of love, we must love one another. This is, of course not always easy. I find that some people really make me angry. There are others who annoy me. There are still others that have needs I am not always anxious to fill. I know that I should, but I do not. It seems there is no shortage of reasons and excuses I can use not to love.

I find in my own life that things are easier when I can bring these people to prayer. It is harder to remain angry at someone if you bring the relationship you have with them before the Lord. It is easier to deal with those who annoy us when we seek to be in the presence of Jesus. It is clearly harder to ignore those in need when we see the Christ in them. We must love. That is because we are made in God’s image and likeness. And to be like God is to love.

Remember that the important challenge is to remain in relationship with God by loving. Paul reminds us that we do not seek to love all alone. We have help, namely the love of Jesus for us and the outpouring of the Spirit. For us this means placing ourselves in the presence of God as often as possible, so that we can become more and more aware of God’s presence. Failure to do so means we forget God, and as a result, the people who make us angry, who annoy us, who are in need, are seen in a different way. They are not avenues to grace when we see their human dignity, but rather become obstacles to us and are seen as interfering with what we want to do.

Jesus did not view others as an interruption to his well being and happiness, and neither should we. While it is true he sought to go away by himself, it was to focus completely upon the Father and the Father’s work in the world. So too it must be for us. We must never be resistant to go away by ourselves to focus completely on God.

The world offers many distractions. It can be so easy to become involved in this or that, to lose our focus. We can find ourselves pulled in so many different directions that we fail to keep those things that are really important before us. We settle for the less important. We can work too hard and too long and find ourselves away from our families. We can become distracted with movies and television, or social media and games that do not always make us better persons. We might find ourselves drawn into the world of pornography on the Internet, which causes us to turn inward and become selfish and broken.

Remaining in God’s love is that constant practice of becoming more and more aware of God in all that we do. And when we do this, then slowly and gently God moves us more and more into the persons we were created to be, that is to say, our best selves. So you know what it is that you need to do. Remain in God’s love.

The story behind this picture

You probably have seen the picture to the left somewhere and wondered about how this could possibly be helpful in teaching Math. At some point in the future, I am hoping to write something coherent about the Common Core, both from the point of view of its strengths and its weaknesses. (It has both.) The father in question is a man named Jeff Severt, from North Carolina, and he published this on his Facebook page on March 21, 2014.

— For the Record —

A little context might help in understanding the “Letter to Jack.”

Our ASD kid is pretty awesome in math. Reminds us of Rainman sometimes. At nearly age 7 he can barely read and write. This is symptomatic of his learning disability and ADHD.

So, he brought the assessment home on Wednesday and we were to go over it with him. We did. After an HOUR of trudging through the alternative and yet valuable problems designed to teach Base10 number concepts like counting by blocks of 100-10-1 (an hour that included the full range of motivational techniques under our belt to keep him on task – which resulted in tears & flailing about on the floor – a normal occurrence during homework time), we then turned to Page 3, the page in question.

One problem. An application of the previous 2 pages. Fair enough to from concepts and rubrics to application. He knew the answer immediately in his head–111. But this problem required a narrative answer utilizing another valid way of visualizing Base10 math. This confused him greatly. While he knew the actual math answer easily by mental version of old school subtraction, he melted down with the word problem being a writing assignment also–his greatest anxiety. To him, it might as well have been a doctoral dissertation.

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Homily for Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Readings for Today

Christianity is not for wimps. When I taught high school students I often introduced the year with this phrase. What I was trying to impress upon the students was that while God loved them, it was not to mean that nothing is required of us. Too often I found that while they believed in God, they never had thought much about what this belief in God may mean. What I mean to say is, I was not sure how they were really living differently as those who believe in God, from those who had no faith at all. The point was that to live as a Christian was hard.

Jesus makes this point dramatically in the gospel. There is a cost to being a Christian. It will not be all easy and wonderful because God loves us. In fact, there will be moments where we might wonder why we even dedicated our lives to Jesus in the first place. People will tell us we are wrong, they will hate us for reminding them, in our lives and in our words, there is a standard that God sets for us, and yes, some things are wrong and some things are sin. The cost is high.

But the cost is not high because God wishes us to suffer. No, the cost is high because God knows what it is that we can become. God made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows deeply what it means for us to be our fullest, deepest and best self. And God will lead us there if we choose to follow.

But the cost is high. It means feeding the poor, visiting the sick, striving for ever greater generosity, making room in our hearts and lives for that prayerful relationship to which we are called. It means turning our back on our own sinfulness, and as gently and lovingly as possible to offer an example and witness to others. And it means, even when we are attentive to God and living the life of the gospel, sometimes people will get mad. Very mad.

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Homily for Sunday, May 25, 2014

Readings for Today

Are you a joyful Christian? Today’s response to the psalm we said, “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.”  So, the question is, do we all cry out to God with joy? Or are we gloomy, or angry, focusing on the negative in our world, forgetting the powerful presence of our God?  Are we seeking to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, and a search for the truth or do we find ourselves getting dragged into the same types of arguments that really serve no purpose?

It is like the pastor who was grumpy all of the time, who found himself preaching about the joy of the faith.  One of the parishioners remarked that it might be a good idea of his joyful heart told his face.  We can become negative and cynical when we hear the events in the world around us.

Maybe you have found yourself in an argument where you could not care less about the outcome but you do not want to lose the argument.  I got knowing looks from high school students when I taught them and asked them if they had ever had such an experience with their parents.  I would tell them that it was probably also likely their parents had similar moments with them.  This can also be the experience with spouses, or even our good friends.

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Homily for Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Readings for Today

Poor Jeremiah.  Things are really going badly for him.  Modern psychologists might suggest he is depressed.  His life is simply not turning out like he intended.  Perhaps he thought that when he accepted the call of God everything would be very easy.  Say yes to God and become a hero lauded by all.  But, as we hear the words he speaks today, he is far from universally being accepted.  He sounds like he is literally at the end of his rope.

Perhaps you have had a similar time in your life, where it seems like there is nothing good around you, and you have the feeling that things will never, ever get better again.  Such is a very dark place to be.

So often, when we find our selves in such a place, we are challenged to a new way of seeing.  Whether that is in seeking out the legitimate work of a psychological professional, the wise counsel of a holy spiritual director, or the time we spend in private and communal prayer seeking to hear the voice of God deep within us, the path to healing is usually one where we are challenged to see things differently.

Such is the case with Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah’s own words we hear that his preaching has been filled with indignation, anger, so consuming him he cannot sit with merry makers, but rather finds himself alone.

It is interesting that when God speaks to Jeremiah, it is not those to whom he preaches that the call to change is given, but rather, it is to Jeremiah himself.  How easy is it to blame our problems on others?  “If only that co-worker was not so mean to me.”  “If only my boss would see things rightly, like me.”  “If only those Republicans would only stop blocking good legislation.”  “If only those Democrats would stop wasting my money.”  Whatever the view, it is often much easier to look outside of myself when I am unhappy, rather than seeking to look to God to heal my own sinfulness.

For, while we may not always see it, the spiritual life is a treasure that deserves our undivided quest to imitate Jesus in all we do.  To “sell” those aspects of our life that do not lead to a better self, more like Jesus, and to “buy” the field in our hearts ready to bear abundant fruit because of how God will transform our lives.