Daily prayer for July 9, 2017

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Homily for Friday, December 12, 2014

Readings for Today

When I think of celebrations like Our Lady of Guadalupe, which we celebrate today, I cannot help but think of the preferences of God for the vulnerable. I think this is because I am more attentive to my faith when things are not going so well. While I am not happy that I do not seem to be as attentive to God when things are going well, I am not sure my experience is that much different than others. For example, I remember a prayer that asked for balance in life. “In times of adversity, let me not forget prosperity, O Lord, and in times of prosperity let me not forget adversity.” The point of the prayer is to make sure that we understand both adversity and prosperity as invitations from God for our faith to grow.

The celebration of the Blessed Mother, today under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, reminds us that regardless of whether or not we are high and mighty or lowly, we can become the means God uses to invite others to faith. The lesson of today is clear. Clergy or lay, woman or man, rich or poor, we see how God uses everyone, regardless, because of the action and love of God for all people. Whether it is Juan Diego or the Blessed Mother, or you or me, everyone has a part to play in God’s plan of salvation.

This second chance to recognize how much it is that God loves and cares for us through the faith of Mary is a special gift during the season of Advent. The Blessed Mother made literal room for the body of Jesus within her, but that was because her heart was already so full of God’s presence. Certainly her life was filled both with prosperity and adversity. But through it all she was faithful. Such is what we must do as well. In good times and in bad times, when things are going well and not so well, we must remember that God is always present in our lives, always loving us, always seeking to bring us the eternal benefit of a deeper relationship with Jesus.

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Homily for September 15, 2014

Readings for Today

Perhaps the worse type of suffering is that suffering that comes in watching someone else suffer, and knowing there is nothing that can be done about it.  Consider the absolute pain of the parents of James Foley, who was savagely beheaded by ISIS.  Or the profound suffering of parents who have a child with a terminal illness.  Or the often disregarded suffering of parents whose children commit some horrible crime, and are executed for it.

It is in this spirit that we understand the Blessed Mother.  From the first moments of her motherhood, she was reminded that to be a mother was to suffer.  You yourself a sword will pierce.  And how true it is when we consider the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  A brutal leader that wishes to execute her son, being a refugee, not understanding her son, witnessing his public and shameful execution.

In today’s society, commemorating such brutality and suffering seems odd.  Why would we wish to recall such suffering, especially that suffering of the sinless Mary.  Too often in western culture we run from suffering.  We spare our children from suffering.  We run.

Yet the Blessed Mother did not run.  Rather, she pondered these events in her heart.  Rather than run, she embraced her suffering to discover its meaning.  How could God bring something good from such horrible suffering?  Was it even possible?

Obviously the answer is a resounding “yes”! Mary pondered so many things in her heart.  She constantly sought the presence of God in her life.  Even when she did not understand her son, she never stopped loving him.  She did not leave his side even when it had to be unbearable to stay.

In this she provides a model for us.  The profound Christian message is that suffering can be redemptive, because of the suffering of Jesus.  His redemptive suffering which led to he possiblity of salvation still does so for us today.

Moreover, she understands when we suffer in a way that makes her especially suited to pray for us.  We simply need to call on her, a mother who knew suffering and a faithful disciple.

Homily for Monday, September 8, 2014

Readings for Today

Even though today we celebrate the birthday of Mary, the Blessed Virgin, it should come as no surprise that all the readings have to do with the arrival and birth of Jesus, her son. This is because Mary was always focused on the doing the will of God. Always.

All of today’s readings remind us that Mary’s “yes” to God was her participation in the long plan for God. God used the openness and generosity of the Blessed Mother to bring about our salvation. God becomes flesh thanks to the affirmation by Mary that. She will do the will of God.

Anyone who is concerned with doing the will of God becomes delighted when others do the will of God. It brings joy since doing the will of God makes the whole world more beautiful. And so Mary is very delighted when anyone grows closer to Jesus and follows him more completely.

And so just like Mary, we too have a place in salvation history. And just as people might ask us to pray for one need or another, Mary, Our Lady, stands ready to pray for us. She takes great joy when we ask her to bring us to her son. For Mary is not the object of worship. Mary is not God. No, Mary is the first disciple of her son and his mother.

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Epiphany Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading for Today

We all have them. Most people for whom it is difficult to shop, because either we can’t think of something that they would actually need or use, or they simply don’t need anything. I certainly have a long list of failed attempts and trying to find gifts for my parents. And I must confess that I really don’t much like wandering around in the store or mall trying to come up with something that seems challenging at best and a waste of time at worst. But what do you get the Son of God?

Despite the romanticism in the coming of the wise men, or more accurately, the magi, from the East, their quest was probably pretty dramatic. The idea that they were kings, traveling from some unknown location in the East makes for a good Christmas Carol, but it probably is not very historically accurate. In fact, nowhere in Matthew’s Gospel does it mention there were only three Magi. It simply states that there were three gifts brought by the Magi. Historians believe they may have been astrologers from the East, Perhaps the Zoroastrian religion which paid careful attention to the stars and found meaning in their location.

More important than the historical accuracy are the claims made by Matthew’s Gospel. When we consider the Magi, it is important to delve into the meaning of the word. Originally used to designate the Persian kingly class, magi gradually came to be associated with anyone believed to have knowledge that was not obtained simply by reason alone. Most likely, the magi were astrologers from the East, familiar with attempting to read the stars and planets to find some meaning.

The star they witnessed, represented the common belief, that when the king was born a new star rose in the sky. These magi, seemingly after a long pilgrimage, overjoyed in seeing the star. The reason for the request has become clear. It is also interesting that these magi encounter Jesus not in the manger, as we associate with Christmas, but rather in the house. Bringing their gifts, they recognize immediately the importance of this child.

More important than history, is the recognition that the faith in Jesus Christ is open to the entire world. All people are invited to recognizing Jesus the example of living the builds of the kingdom of God, and stresses the importance of caring concern for the poor, and a good living on moral life founded in the full humanity we are given. To call to holiness, as stated in the Second Vatican Council, is universal. All people are called to holiness, all people are invited to be the pilgrim people seeking God in every aspect of their lives.

In this story, the Magi recognize the presence of God. And in the gifts they brought, they provided insight as to what Jesus, the Son if God was all about. Myrrh, incense, and gold signified Jesus as priest, prophet and king. In our baptism, we too are anointed priest, prophet and king, through Christ. Put simply, Epiphany means manifestation. The gifts given by the Magi would be manifested over and over again in the life in Jesus. The presence of God is made manifest to the Magi, because of their attention to the signs in their lives. And so it must be with us. We too must be people seeking to draw understanding of meaning from the events of our lives, empowered by the grace of our baptism.

Certainly it is possible and indeed probably most likely, that this presence of God is found in the ordinary events of our lives. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a community of faith that reminds us that we are in this quest together. We seek to discover the presence of God in our family, in this church community, your relatives, those people with whom we work, indeed, everyone with whom we come in contact on a daily basis.

Seeing the presence of God in our ordinary everyday lives, requires us to be attentive to the grace of God. This in fact may be more difficult than those exceptional moments when we are called to do something outstanding. When parents recognize that their children are works in progress, and often do what they do precisely because their children, it shows openness to the presence of God which dwells in them. It serves as a reminder that our children are gifts to us gifts from God. When children recognize their parents have had as much experience being parents as they have had as kids, and can recognize the parents sometimes have bad days, they too are open to seeing the presence of God.

When we can see and discover meaning in the things that we do every day, we become more open to growing in faith. It becomes easier for us to recognize that God is indeed at work in everyone, even us.

However, there are too those moments when we are called to make an exceptional pilgrimage for travel to some distant location where people are especially great need. We are reminded then, of the young adults in this parish who are currently in Haiti ministering at an orphanage. On one level, they are helping the people of Haiti. But as is most obvious, often times we discover in such situations that we are the ones to whom ministry is happening. Nonetheless, the presence of our young adults in a country so desperate, without any infrastructure, is a reminder to them that they have not been forgotten. Despite the tragedies that overwhelm their lives, simply by being present, the young adults of this parish remind them of their loved by God and that they are remembered in person the world, but people they have never met.

The challenges of following God means going wherever God leads us. Such a quest is not always easy, especially in the hustle and bustle that often characterizes our lives. Too often, in our attempts to find fulfillment in our lives, we lose focus on the things that are truly important. How do we find out what to give the Son of God?

While the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, we are called to bring Jesus the gift of our lives. Because of our baptism we have been chosen by God to make a difference in the world. We have been chosen by God, to reflect the presence of God because we are meeting his image and likeness. And so the most important gift we can bring the Christ child, is the gift that was first given to us: our very lives.

Mary, Mother of God, January 1, 2013

Today’s Readings

A key aspect of Dominican life is the notion that Dominicans are called to be active contemplatives. That is to say, Dominicans are called to hold together a balance between contemplative life, or mental prayer, and the activity that is ministry. as Dominicans, we are challenged to contemplate in order to hand on to others the fruits of our contemplation.  As a Dominican parish, we are called to do the same.

The Blessed mother herself, also reflected this mix of active motherhood and contemplation. We can make the mistake of thinking that Mary lived an easy life. But let us consider the events of her life. After saying yes to God, Mary very shortly faced the task of convincing Joseph that while she was pregnant, and while he was not the father, she had not been unfaithful. After God’s intervention, and Mary and Joseph began their life together, there was the difficult travel undertaken while she was pregnant. There were the miraculous and yet interesting events which challenged the Blessed Mother to make sense of the events that surrounded her. In order to protect her son from a madman, she and Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt, refugees in a strange land.

In one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Mary and the relatives seek to find Jesus, and to bring him home, because, as the gospel says, “they are convinced he is out of his mind.” Like the disciples and all followers of Jesus, understanding the person of Jesus and his ministry was not always easy, and at times was a very painful. We can forget she witnessed the public execution of her son.

But she did not become bitter, cynical, or hostile. She was able to trust God who first trusted her with this outstanding location. How was she able to do this? Surprisingly, the answer is rather easy. “She pondered all of these things in her heart.” In other words, Mary incorporated her experiences of the divine, the events of her day-to-day life, and those moments of intense challenge in a way that helped her to find meaning by discovering the deep presence of God.

And so twice during the season of Advent and Christmas, our attention is focused upon the Blessed mother. First, we recognize the outstanding privilege that God grants Mary in the immaculate conception, the privilege her son made possible for each of us in baptism. And today, we focus on the power of her motherhood, providing us a tremendous example of openness and faithfulness to God.

As we stand on the precipice of a new year, we seek to become more like Mary. We look to accept the challenge of pondering things deeply in our heart, so that we might discover more completely discover the presence of Jesus in our lives. We come to this place, to this church, to celebrate the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives, so that the heart of God can speak to our heart. We recognize that like the Blessed mother, our lives will be a mix of wonderful events of God’s presence, many ordinary day-to-day events, and realistically probably some events which cause us suffering and pain.

In the midst of it all we’re given an invitation. While a vocation is unique to each person, we ask for the intercession of Mary that we too might give the best answer: your will be done.

Holy Family, December 30, 2012

Today’s Readings

Anyone who has a twelve year old has probably had an experience like the gospel describes today.  Parents find themselves frustrated, or scared by one or another event in the life of their twelve year old son or daughter.  And, the twelve year old son or daughter simply cannot see why their parents are so upset.  Or maybe they can, but they do not really care.  At any rate, it is not difficult to relate to the anxiety in Mary’s voice when she speaks to the boy Jesus when they find him in the temple.  One can only imagine the anger, the relief, and the fear that bubbled to the surface.  (Losing the Son of God does not make a good case for Mother of the Year.)

But Mary spent so much of her life contemplating God.  She clearly had moments where she sought to understand Jesus.  She would spend a lot of times trying to understand her son.  But through it all, she remained ever faithful to God.  Perhaps that is why she is known as the refuge of sinners.  She knows what it is like to lose Jesus.  Even though she did not sin, she is able to understand sinners because she knows what it means to lose Jesus.

St. Thomas Aquinas speaks about the fact we can not always find the right word to describe something.  Rather, we can only find a word that approximates the meaning.  The most notable example is God. Since God is far beyond our ability to understand and comprehend, as are the qualities of God, we put our best effort into trying to approximate who God is and what God is about. We speak in analogy. There are other words, such as the transcendentals, things like love, or beauty, or goodness whose meanings we can only partially grasp. Today, I  suggest the concept of family is also one of these words difficult to fully comprehend.

I remember reading somewhere, it was estimated there were as many single-parent families during the revolutionary war period in United States, as there are today. While the reasons were different (men were being killed in war) the result was similar. But one key difference during those days, concerns the existence of an extended family, a family that formed a larger community to help each member to flourish.  I think of my father’s brothers and sisters many of whom lived very close to where they were born and grew up. In fact I can think of four of them who lived less than a 10th of a mile from each other. There was many a summer day, where I am not sure that my mother and father, my aunts or uncles honestly knew where my cousins and I were. It was clear my life and the lives of my cousins were clearly shaped by a lived experience that involves a family beyond my nuclear family. The collection of experiences, wisdom, and love from my relatives caused me to look beyond the world I knew at the time. And these days were fun.

So just what is a family? When we hear the word, the first thing that might come to mind is our nuclear family. Mother, father, sons and daughters. In our highly mobile society, is much less likely that parents and children find themselves in close proximity. We also use the word family to describe other realities, because of their similarity to how we understand family. We use expressions like the family of nations, or by referring to a parish as a family. Dominicans also prefer to the various members of the order as a family, priests, brothers and sisters, contemplative nuns, and lay men and women.

Rather than simply attempting to define what it means to be a family, perhaps it is more important, as a member of multiple communities referred to his family, that we seek to remember that what we celebrate today is not the feast of any old family but the feast of the holy family. In other words, the emphasis is not simply of being any old kind of family, but to discern what it means to be a family that is holy.

And so as we look to the example of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary I encourage us to ask simple yet profound questions. What does it mean to be a holy father? When does it mean to be a holy mother? What does it mean for a holy mother and a holy father to raise holy children? The answer of course, can be found in the holy family. The start of their lives, which we have witnessed time and again is rather interesting. Through the challenging and awesome events of the beginning of Joseph and Mary’s life together, we see a pathway to holding us. A relationship grounded in God sustained and comforted both Mary and Joseph as they faced the trials of their lives together. The omnipresent God surround the early days of their life with miraculous occurrences leaving no doubt about God’s role in the incarnation.

Asking the questions is the easy part. Come to think of it, so too is the Answer. All we need to do is to imitate the holy family and do the will of God. So what you waiting for?

Homily for Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today’s Readings

Today we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We cannot help but notice that Mary plays a key role during the season of Advent.  Just a few short days ago we celebrated the special privilege granted Mary in her Immaculate Conception.  Today we are reminded of the Blessed Mother’s concern for the poor.  It was a peasant man in Mexico that reminded a powerful bishop of the universal nature of God’s love.  Today serves as a reminder to all of us of the need never to “write off” someone because of their appearance or status.

Today we are reminded we have a special obligation to the poor.  In many instances we are reminded that those who have little are often especially close to God.  And, we are also reminded that for those who are well to do, it can be much harder to enter God’s kingdom.  The rich young man who had many possessions went away sad.  The rich will find it more difficult to enter the Kingdom of God. But the real challenge in readings such as these, is in seeing ourselves for who we really are. It is easy to think we are poor and the rich young man is someone else.

And it can also be difficult to see that we, like Juan Diego are called to be messengers of God’s great gospel. While reluctant and unsure at first, the confidence of the Blessed Mother space and Juan Diego, helped him to gather the courage to be a messenger of faith.

This Advent continues to remind us of the importance of discovering our own baptismal call. It also serves as a reminder the presence of God is universal. Juan Diego encountered the blessed mother as part of his regular day. Need to can encounter God in the ordinary events of our lives. In fact, for most of us this is probably the most common way we experience the faith.

The challenge is to discover the silence that makes these events possible. To open our eyes and open our hearts so that we are able to see and experience God’s presence in our lives. Indeed, to recognize that this season is about waiting for the coming of Jesus into our hearts each day. And as successful well covers of the word, we too are called to be disciples. We too can lead others to a deeper faith in Jesus.

Even more important, open minds and open hearts allow us to do what we could not imagine was even possible without the grace of God. We too can speak eloquently of our faith especially when it is difficult. We too can be persistent in our belief even when people make it hard for us to do so. Indeed, the presence of the blessed mother today, in the life of Juan Diego, is a reminder that she stands ready to pray for all of us.

Homily for Immaculate Conception of Mary

Today’s Readings

One homily I heard about the Immaculate Conception has always stayed with me. It was given by the bishop ordained me a priest. Here’s basically how he attempted to explain one way of understanding today’s feast. All of us of heavy experience I think, or at least most of us have, of flying. And if you have, you know that there is a certain order and strategy to how people are allowed to board the plane. Usually, people needing special assistance, young children traveling alone, and others are allowed to board the plane first. Then, the rest of us are allowed to get on the plane.

However, once we are on the plane, we all experience the same flight. There is not a special section of the plane where turbulence is guaranteed not to happen. So today, we celebrate a similar reality. Mary, the mother of God, in her unique and special role of faith, is given a special privilege. In a word, she is the first one allowed to board the plane that is the Church. That is to say, she is the first recipient of baptism. She is the first recipient of her Son’s salvific grace.

But like every action of God, this too is directed to our benefit and our salvation. Because like Mary, we are given the ability to say yes in faith. Like Mary, we are given the opportunity to receive baptism to live the life to which we have been called. It is with great joy, that we celebrate this feast. And it is particularly important that we celebrate this feast in the heart of the Advent season. We are reminded that being ready for the coming of God however it occurs is an important thing for each one of us. Certainly was for the Blessed Mother.

As we consider this feast in light of the first reading, we see a special grace given to the Blessed Mother. Namely, she was able to trust that God knew best. The first reading, Adam and Eve believe they are better than God. They know better than God. They know better than God what is best for them, They know better than God what they should eat and what they should wear. Perhaps most especially, they believe they know better than God how to live.

We too can fall into this trap. We can look, in our limited experience, and believe that we know better than God knows for us. We must remind ourselves that God’s ultimate concern is our salvation, and most especially it is that we would become the person we have been called to be and made to be by God.

At the very heart of today’s feast, however, is the gospel. Even though she does not understand how all the things the angel of tells her will come to pass, she says yes. Fiat. Let it be done. Mary opens her heart and her will to God, by giving her entire self to the Lord. And so should we.