What does protection mean?: Homily for Monday, October 2, 2017

Readings for Today

I heard about the shootings in Las Vegas before I recorded this homily.  It is really awful. I am shaken, as I am sure others are too. Life is so fragile. In just an instant, life can change. Perhaps what is most difficult about a mass shooting is the ordinariness of the location. We feel safe.  We do not expect it.

So just what does it mean when we ask God to protect us? What does it mean? Does protection by God mean we have guaranteed safety? That cannot be true, as we know there are martyrs who gave their lives for the faith and were not safe, at least in the eyes of this life. Protection by God is protection for eternal evil. Our guardian angels protect us from anything that threatens our salvation. And that is pretty wonderful.

The Power of Repentance: Homily for Tuesday, July 18, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Tyre and Sidon did not really have a good reputation.  In the book of the prophet Joel, they not only rejected the religion of Joel, but placed the silver and gold from the temple into their own temple.  And when mentioned by Jesus, the big problem is the lack of repentance.  There is no acknowledgement of sin.  There is no desire to change ways.  And for this failure, Jesus chastises them.

What about us?  Do we recognize our sin?  Do we bring this sin to Jesus to be forgiven? Do we seek reconciliation? In the modern day it is easy to excuse sin.  It seems that in modern culture there is simply no longer a sense that there are bad or immoral actions.  There can be a tendency to allow anything as long as it does not seem to bother anyone.  Perhaps the challenge is that we no longer believe in miracles.  We no longer can see the action and presence of God.  Make the first words of the gospel your own.  Repent.

The Divisive Jesus: Homily for Monday, July 17, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Divisive.  It is not common these days to think of Jesus as a divisive person.  It seems the popular notion is that Jesus is a warm fuzzy teddy bear.  He loves us.  He does not challenge us.  He never scolds us or thinks we do anything wrong or sinful.  Jesus reaffirms what we already believe.  But today is different.  Today we read in the gospel about a Jesus that comes to bring division, not peace.

It is important to remember that being a Christian is not always easy.  That is why we need grace.  We need the help that God gives us to be faithful to our relationship with Jesus.  Being a Christian means standing up for what is good and right.  And there is a cost to us when we do so.  Sometimes the cost is standing up for what is right and losing friends.  Sometimes the cost is not giving in to fear and welcoming the stranger.  Sometimes the cost is not accepting the priorities of the workplace and to make other aspects of life more important.  And always the cost is recognizing that as important as family relationships and friendships are, there is no relationship more important than the one we have with Jesus.

Wickedness: Homily for Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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

Readings for Today

Wickedness.  There are moments where you just want to give up. Things are too difficult, Life is too hard, you just can’t feel like you can go on.  All in all, you just want to give up. To be sure, there are moments in our life where we just feel completely overwhelmed. And, this is somewhat normal from time to time. Life is hard. It’s difficult. And so it’s not unusual that we come to certain moments in our life, where we feel that left to our own energy and actions, we simply can’t be successful.

It could be easy, to put God in a similar place in today’s reading. He certainly seems at first glance, to be overwhelmed, fed up, ready to give up. Fortunately, God is not a human being. God is more. God is divine. God is eternal. God is constantly pouring out love to help humanity to understand what it means to follow him. And so in the midst of all of this wickedness, in the midst of all of the sin, when a mere mortal could be tempted to give up, God calls Noah.

It is no secret, nor great theological statement that sin angers God. And so it is not beyond the pale for the divine God to express anger at the sins of the people. But what is unique to the divine God is God’s constant ability to pour forth a new covenant. Today, the covenant will be extended to Noah. There’s a covenant given later to Abraham. There is a covenant that will be given to Moses. There’s a covenant that will be given through David. And when humanity does not accept fully and totally all of these covenants, God sent his only son. Human beings might be tempted to give up. But God never gives up on those who seek his new life, his forgiveness, his mercy and his love.

Open: Homily for the Memorial of Saint Scholastica, February 10, 2017

To listen to the homily, click the links above.

Readings for Today

Open.  This word has so many applications.  One use refers to a business when customers can purchase something.  Another use refers to a road that is clear, free from obstructions.  Another use concerns an athletic competition, as in the US Open.  The word open can refer to what we can see, either good things or not so good things.  And in today’s first reading, and the gospel, the notion of open plays an important role.

In the first reading, Adam and Eve’s eyes are opened.  But instead of being opened to good things, Adam and Eve are now able to see evil.  They use their power of choice to reject God.  When they reject God, it is not the case their lives become better.  In becoming open to evil, they become closed to God.

When the deaf man encounters Jesus, his ears are opened.  Through the healing action of Jesus, the man can now hear God.  He can now proclaim the Good News.  Which he does.  Despite being told not to, the man cannot help but do so.  He tells anyone and everyone what Jesus has done for him.  Everyone hears the Good News.  Everyone proclaims the marvelous deeds of Jesus.

It is for this reason, listening and proclaiming, that this phrase is used at Baptism.  Just as Jesus opened the ears and loosened the tongue of the man, so too he does in baptism.  When we are baptised, we are just like the deaf man.  And the odd paradox is, that when we are opened to God, we become more closed to evil. God says to you and me today, speaking to our hearts: Be opened!

The Butterfly Effect and Baltimore: It is all on us

Edward Lorenz. You may not know who he is, but chances are you have heard of his contribution: The Butterfly Effect. In popular understanding, it is the notion that the flapping of butterfly wings in a distant place, say India, can cause a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. But like many popular understandings, the actual theory of the Butterfly Effect is not nearly as simple. I have thought of it a lot in these past few weeks of unarmed black men being shot by white police officers. And both in discussions with friends, commentaries on the news, the situation seems to be reduced to simply standing with the police or against the police, as if those were the only two options.

But like almost everything in life, to reduce the complexities of these shootings to one simple concrete factor, to limit understanding to a binary choice, is to miss the point that many factors go into what we see at the present time. Rather than the simple trace of causality of a hurricane to a butterfly, the physics theory of the Butterfly Effect actually says quite the opposite. While it is true that there can be a direct line of causality, it is not the case that the direct line of causality is easy to find. In fact, given that at any moment there are many such minor, often infinitesimal such changes, it is precisely that such a line of causality cannot be found, at least by us. There are trillions and trillions of such minute moments to keep them all straight.

So, as much as we like to simplify things, not only is it challenging in the physical world to do so, it is equally challenging in the world of events as well. Protests in Feguson, Missouri, or Cleveland, or South Carolina, or Baltimore are simply do not fit into an easy explanation where there are heroes and villains. Rather, in each person there is both hero and villain. And all of our own little comments, actions, and attitudes have brought us to this moment. Everyone. All of us.

Continue reading

Homily for Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Readings for Today

We have a very important story to tell. The world, weary from too much evil, sin, violence, a lack of sharing even the most basic things, selfishness and greed, is tired. The world is weary, and it needs so desperately a word to rouse it. The stories of the world are all too often the same refrain, the same sadness, and have the same inability to lead anywhere significant. Think of the world for a moment.

When we consider the world on a global scale, what do we see? We see beheadings by ISIS, those sold into sexual slavery, humans trafficked like cattle, sold and used in the most banal ways, we see young school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. There is so much blood in the Middle East is can seem impossible for the earth to hold it. Throughout too much of the world we see people die, not because of something external, but for lack of something basic — food. Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libia and countless other countries experience far too much in the way of violence, death, evil.

And then let us consider our own country. We too have people who are poor, suffering, and blamed for their own situation. Too many young lives, many without much to begin with, find themselves killed every day at the hand of gun violence. Far from providing opportunity that leads to a good life, in too many places we are preparing too many young people for a life in prison.

And in our own families, we can see too much suffering, sadness, disease and death. There can be too many broken relationships, too much hurt, sadness, loss. In too many families this is the case.

Continue reading

Homily for Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Readings for Today

Have you ever wondered, if your name were to reflect significant qualities about you, what it would be? “His name first means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace.”” How is it that people would refer to me? How might they discuss you? Would you be able to live up to such a name?

Truth is, we have a name. Not only the given name we have, but the name we share because of faith, the name of Christian, of Catholic. And this name does carry with it the responsibility to live in a specific way. We cannot just live any old way. No, we have to live as persons who wish to follow Jesus, living according to that friendship.

Today’s gospel shows us the power of a relationship. For the Pharisees and Heroidans, this power leads them to evil. They simply cannot let go of their rigid understanding of the Law. For the man who was healed, the power of a relationship was the gift of new life. This power led not to evil, but to eternal life, to holiness.

Continue reading

Homily for Friday, January 9, 2015

Readings for Today

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” If there is a common theme in advertisements for personal hygiene products, it is the notion that we will be quite ashamed by certain realities. You do not want unclean clothes. You do not want unclean bodies. You do not want bad breath. You need this toothpaste or that one, this soap or that one, this deodorant or that one. Failure means that you will be greatly shamed.

As a result, we use a lot of water, and we can calculate our own use. As for dollars, we spend a lot of money on our looks. Shampoos, teeth whiteners, soaps, perfumes, toothpastes, and more take a lot of money. It is necessary? There are suggestions we shower too often. Levis suggested not machine washing denim jeans. Since the advent of indoor plumbing in the 1940s, we have more access to machines that use much more water to do what we did before. We have come to believe in the ultimate significance of hygiene. We want to be clean.

To be a leper in Jesus’ day was one of the worst types of uncleanness, and indeed we might not have passed the clean test. We too might have been a leper, because many skin conditions could lead us to be called lepers. But to believe another could make a leper clean in those days? This was a powerful statement of faith. And for miracles to occur, faith is a precondition.

Do we spend as much time thinking about our spiritual cleanliness as we do our personal hygiene cleanliness? As a result of today’s encounter, the leper is made clean. Others come to listen to Jesus and to ultimately be cured. There is a process here, I am guessing. There was the request, indeed the courage of the man who spoke to Jesus. There was the response of Jesus. And there was the telling of others. In some ways, this is a model for the faith. Seek, experience Jesus, be made clean, tell others.

Put simply, I need to be cleaned spiritually. I need to say to Jesus, you can make me clean. I need to encounter the profound mercy of God in confession, the love of God at Mass, the fidelity of God in prayer, and the image of God in the lives I see in others. As I experience these moments of grace, I realize that I am a sinner. That was the answer Pope Francis gave to the question of who he was, when asked early in his pontificate about his self-identity. “Who is Jorge Borgoglio? I am a sinner.”

As a sinner, I must seek the only one who can make me clean. I must seek Jesus, and allow him to clean me from my sins. I am a sinner, and I need the forgiveness, love and mercy of God. And so do you.

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.

Continue reading