Hungry? God has food: Homily for Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Readings for Today

Today’s readings made me hungry.  Isaiah discusses rich foods and choice wines.  Jesus discusses feeding the great multitudes that followed him. But all this talk about food is not accidental.  We can easily see food is a comfortable thing.  When we are hungry, food fills. But what do you want to fill up with? For it is not just an empty stomach that can make us hungry, but also an empty soul.

And when our soul is empty, it is not as easy to fill it ourselves. We can try.  We can look to eating too much, drinking too much, working too hard, or seeking unhealthy physical comforts in something like pornography.  But the soul can only really be filled by Jesus. It is only when we acknowledge our hunger for something more, and invite Jesus into our lives that we get full.  What are you spiritually hungry for? Ask Jesus for spiritual food.  It fills.

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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Homily for Sunday, August 3, 2014

Readings for Today

It can be quite difficult when we spend even a little bit of time considering the news. There simply is so much bad news going on in our world right now. In fact it can seem almost overwhelming. Will things ever get better? Will we ever make progress against those problems that have been with us since the beginning of time? Will we be able to change behaviors that cause people to go without even the basic necessities of life? Will we be able to change those attitudes that are responsible for the deep violence we see in so many parts of our world?

The current circumstances in our world can make us feel quite helpless. These questions have not even considered those difficult circumstances that many of us face our own personal lives. We can rightly wonder where God is in the midst of all of this.  The temptation in the Western world is to sit down and work out those types of actions that we can take, programs that we can create to tackle these difficult problems.

In fact, even a cursory look at recent history suggests that such an approach will, and, also leads almost always, to our inability to solve the long-standing problems. And so perhaps today’s readings are challenging us to look at the situation that we face in our world in different ways. Because perhaps the problem lies in the very reality that we try to do everything ourselves.

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Homily for Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Readings for Today

From time to time I hear the words of a priest or bishop discussing how rarely people are able to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. I have heard Dominicans share the same thing. In some parts of the world, people only area able to get to Mass a few times a year, if that. When people are able to get to Mass, it is not simply a one hour event. No, it can last for a few hours.
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Thoughts for Ash Wednesday 2014

Readings for Today

I get quite a kick out of the Snickers commercials where someone is simply “not themselves” because they’re hungry, supposedly for a Snickers bar. Betty White, Roseanne Barr, Joe Pesci, and Robin Williams, among others have been featured in these ads.

Ash Wednesday is similar, insofar as it becomes a time to recognize we too are hungry, not for a Snickers bar, but for the deep and life giving relationship we treasure with Jesus.

Another story I think of for Lent is one where I was greeting a class of pre-school students on the first day of school. I met one boy, I will call him William, who got a little frustrated when later in the line of students there was another boy named William. “He is not!” said this little boy vehemently. “I am the real William.” I think of this every Ash Wednesday because it reminds me of the important questions for Christians.

Of course there is the question Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” But I also think if the question “Who am I?” What keeps me from being the real me? What do I become when I get hungry, not for a Snickers bar, but for Jesus?

What sin in my life keeps me from being real, the real person God created me to be. The gospel today reminds us that being real is not about show, pretense, or accolades. Rather, it is going to that “inner room” known only to us so that we can cut away the sin and desire that is opposed to God.

To that end, whatever we give up, or take in, should be done with the idea and purpose that I am heightening me desire for Jesus, and a more authentic relationship.

In the well known Velveteen Rabbit, the question of what is real remains constant throughout the book. What we learn is the love makes us real. Because Jesus has first loved us, we are real. God created us out if love, and in spite of our sinfulness, God continues to love us.

It may be, when we stand before God, the question of salvation may hinge on whether we are real, the persons God created us to be. So, do the three things of Lent: penance, alms giving, and fasting. In being attentive to these things during Lent, we will discover the ultimate “real” of becoming holy, and rising to a new better, and deeper relationship with Jesus.

Homily for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Readings for Today

Have you ever had the experience of driving by an accident, and despite your best efforts, simply having to look at it?  I suspect you have.  I know I have.  Even traffic reports have developed a term to describe this:  “rubbernecking.”  There are times when we simply cannot avoid looking at suffering.  We are both repulsed by it and attracted by it.

I wonder if the words of today’s first reading describe “rubber necking”.  Only, in this case, the destruction is pervasive.  Everywhere the writer looks there is destruction.  Individuals slain by the sword, those who are hungry, those waiting for peace without satisfaction, seekers of healing who only experience terror, and those priests and prophets who find this land so strange they cannot recognize it.

It only takes a little bit of time with a newspaper or the television to know that little has changed.  Our city of Chicago has evidence every day of people who are the victims of the modern day “sword”, the gun.  Each weekend we hear about more shootings around the city, to a point where at least I find I do not even find that I am affected by it any more.

Wherever I walk, I cannot help but come across those who are hungry, poor, homeless.  I cannot help but feel the despair that is described in the first reading.

But these feelings are the easy part.  The hard part is when the first reading takes me where I do not want to go, namely the acknowledgement that these things exist, at least in some way, because of my sin.  MY SIN.  Not the sin of others, but my sin, which has contributed to the world of evil.

It begins with the acknowledgement of my sin because I can too quickly move to the communal sense of sin.  Yes, it is true, I alone am not responsible for world hunger.  But I am responsible.  I waste food, I do not consider how I could live more simply, I find there are times I cannot even bring myself to look at the poor.

And, there are times when I all too easily let myself off the hook.  But Jesus did not.  He spent time with the very people who may have been described in the first reading.  He was with the tax collectors, the outcasts, those who are victims of violence and hunger.  In short, Jesus often sided with the very people I sometimes find it hard to be with in my own life today.

In the gospel, as always, the key to the mystery is found.  Becoming detached from the barriers to being that person who is the seed planted in the ground that will yield such a rich harvest.  Less activity, less anxiety, and more reflection on the presence of God in my life form the way in which God answers our prayer, “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.”

Homily for Sunday, July 29, 2012 (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

The Readings for Today

A few weeks ago, I was in Rome. I was taking a class, at Loyola University, at their Rome Center in Monte Mario. During the orientation, we were advised that being in Italy was really a time where we would experience an assault on the senses. The phrase was meant to imply that all of our senses would be engaged during our time in Rome. There would be beautiful art, powerful architecture, fantastic smells of food cooking in the cafés, we would hear sounds of music and conversation and laughing. Specifically, each one of our senses would be engaged.

In particular, we were given specific instructions about understanding how different the culture was in Rome. Of particular importance, was the different understanding the Italian people have about meals. Meals are not simply an occasion for pushing food into our bodies. They are events. It is expected the meal will be savored and enjoyed. It is not the practice, to “turn tables”, that is to say, getting as many people into a restaurant in one evening as possible. Rather in the Italian understanding of food, the practice is simply to make sure that every patron enjoys their meal for as long as it takes.

Even with this understanding, one cannot go far in the city of Rome, without seeing a McDonald’s. There are signs which direct people to McDonald’s everywhere. (A little aside – I can only imagine that if I was in Rome more than three weeks, there might be times where a McDonald’s burger would hit the spot.

The class I attended at Loyola, was one where we examined the foundations of our educational curriculum. As part of the class, we were at various famous locations throughout Rome, to show how many of our educational beliefs today, have their foundations and roots in previous ages.

At the Spanish Steps, the presentation involved the coming together of cultures. That is because at the Spanish steps there is the home of an English poet, Spanish architecture, and a French church at the top of the steps, all of which is set in Rome. Of particular note, was the challenge when McDonald’s indicated it wished to locate a fast food franchise close to the Spanish Steps. The protest against this McDonalds, came from a movement known as the “slow food” movement. It is a group of people who are concerned that the leisurely event like pace of meals, is giving way to the much faster pace of American life.  It continues today.

You might be asking what this reminiscing about a trip to Rome has to do with today’s readings. But it is this attitude of “slow food” that I think can help each of us to understand what referring to the Eucharist as a meal really means. Think of the people in the gospel. These individuals have followed Jesus to an out-of-the-way place because the words he has spoken helped the people to find meaning in their lives.  They come to listen, not hoping that Jesus will be done in a hurry, but rather that they will here in his words a life changing reality.

How would things have been different, if the people who heard Jesus were pressed for time? Would they have seen in his actions and in his words, as we here at the end of the gospel, a sign that convinced them that he was the prophet who was to come. So attracted were they by the words of Jesus, they trudged to the middle of nowhere to hear him speak. One would expect that such a journey was not undertaken with the expectation that it would be over soon.

The people had seen the signs that Jesus had performed for the sick. And in seeing how Jesus gave hope to those who were sick, they found that hope might just be possible in their own lives. It was a time where they could examine the quality of their life, their relationship with God, and perhaps embrace a new direction for their lives.

This analogy of a meal, particularly when compared to the Eucharist, can give us pause. What is our attitude toward the meal of the Eucharist? Do we find ourselves with a “fast food” approach to Eucharist or “slow food” approach to Eucharist? That is to say, do we take the time in our own lives to pray, to reflect, to seek in new and dramatic ways that presence of Christ which constantly pours out new life to those with open hearts? Or, are we more concerned about fulfilling an obligation in getting to the parking lot so that we are not trapped for a long period of time at church?

This question is an important one for us to consider. We are challenged to examine our attitudes toward the Eucharist. It is about the quality of our relationship with God, and the connection between the worship that we engage in here at church, and the lives we live when we leave. More completely, do we strive to find at least some times in our lives, where we engage in a slow food attitude when it comes to prayer and our relationship with God?

If we so do, we might just discover these experiences of our lives can help us to see purpose and direction much more clearly. We can become more intentional about the way we live our lives. We can find, with appropriate reflection, we might just be more able to see the presence of Christ in those people with whom we have difficulty getting along. We can find, with appropriate reflection, we might just be able to see the presence of Christ in those people who are in need. We can find, with appropriate reflection that God is calling each one of us to be a sign that points to a deeper reality in the world in which we live.

For when the people saw the sign that Jesus had performed they were able to see him not simply as a human being but is that profit began to offer them this tremendous new life as the Messiah. His very life pointed to something else. His very life pointed to the divine reality which had always been present to them. But the sign he performed, made it much more clear to those individuals who witnessed this great sign that God was tremendously present in their lives.

And think of the disciples. Imagine Philip’s surprise when Jesus turned to him and said “Where can we buy enough food for these people to eat?”  Jesus knew it was not possible the disciples would have 200 days wages to buy food for everyone who was gathered. But he also knew, when people are attentive to the call of God, their hearts are filled with generosity. The miraculous multiplication of the loaves is made real with the generosity that imitates Christ.

In a world where there are still people without food, people who can’t afford to see a doctor, people who do not have adequate shelter, people whose lives are riddled with violence and war and strife, this generosity of the followers of Christ is needed more than ever.

But, recognizing the sign, and more importantly being the sign, cannot be done in a fast food environment. Such is the challenge of our age. Notice how news organizations evaluate immediately, without reflection, every little word is said and every event that happens. This is not after deep reflection, understanding and documentation, but in a rush to do so as quickly as possible, even if the information is not accurate. Examine for example the way in which the phrase uttered by Pres. Obama, “you didn’t build that”, has taken on a life of its own. Examine the quick response of a news reporter who connected the name James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora Colorado massacre, with a man of the same name who was a member of the tea party.

Imagine,  too, in our own lives, how quickly we do the same. Drawing inaccurate conclusions, not listening to one another, not hearing in our own lives and in our own hearts the very voice of God. We are called to the silence that enables us to become deeply aware of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in our hearts. Such becomes the challenge of people committed to “slow food” liturgy.

Imagine what our lives would be like if we took a few moments each day to pray. Imagine what our lives would be like if we took a few moments each day to read the word of God. Imagine how our lives might change, if we spent a few moments in deep prayer with our God in thanksgiving and gratitude for all God does in our lives and the lives of others.

If we were able to do this, we too would become the signs to help our world to recognize the tremendously pervasive presence of Jesus Christ. They would see by the way in which we live our lives, the power of our love for God made manifest in our actions to help others, a deep imitation of Christ that has the power for eternal change.

And so as we leave here today, we too seek to go to that out-of-the-way place, where we too can encounter the Christ. With the many deeds of God’s generosity are multiplied, or the tremendous power of God’s grace is made manifest not only in our own lives but in our world, and most especially, where the loving presence of Christ becomes abundantly clear to all.