No doubt about it: Jesus is Lord

Readings for Today

If I were in the shoes of Saint Thomas, I would have reacted just as he did. I would have doubted. I mean, rising from the dead. How many people can say that have witnessed a death, and seen new life. It is too bad we remember Thomas too often for his doubt. Thomas believed. He shed his life. How did he move from doubt to faith? By a personal encounter with Jesus. Spend some time with Jesus to get to know him better today.

Homily given at Saint Dominic Priory, Saint Louis, Missouri, July 3, 2018.
Image courtesy Pixabay.

Homily for Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Readings for Today

Work harder, not smarter. This would seem to be the motto of the Pharisees. How much work their version of religion seems to be. All these rules, regulations and minor but time consuming ways of following what they believe to be important. They spend so much time and energy working at what really does not matter. The are working harder and harder, but they are not growing in what is truly important, namely growing in the faith.

Their work is simply for show. They appear righteous on the outside, but not on the inside, where authentic relationships with God start. In fact, they rot on the inside even while looking righteous on the outside. While they do not appear to be a mess, they indeed are.

I know, though, that I need to be careful not to think that I have moved beyond the example of the Pharisees in my own spiritual life. They can seem like those that are simply so obviously not good that it can be easy to forget that too often in my own life it can be about show, and not about a relationship with God. It can be lots of attention to the outside, with little concern for the inside.

How is it that someone knows where they stand with God? Of course, the first and most important is the degree to which we find ourselves in prayerful actions and being with God that enables us to discover the internal presence of God that can be found when we go to our rooms in private, or fast without appearing to look like we are fasting. The authentic spiritual relationship avoids righteous deeds done only in order to be seen.

Rather, it is about an interior disposition of the heart. It is about making sure that we become most attentive to the grace of God that moves in our hearts, healing our brokenness and selfishness not so that we can impress others, but rather so that we can become the persons God wishes we would be.

The focus of the Pharisees was on their image? It was most concerned about what others see and what others think. It is all about the external image. It is not about what I am really, but what others think I am. And so, today, as is true everyday, today we stand in God’s presence, being invited to make a choice. What will we do? Will I focus on my image and what others think of me, or will I seek to recognize the holy presence of God and answer the call to enter into more and more deeply into a relationship with Jesus.

Thoughts for Sunday, December 8, 2013

Readings for Today

One thing I remember about high school was the opportunity to debate essential and important life questions.  This usually happened in study hall (which for my high school almost always put us in the cafeteria), when we were tired of playing “paper football”.  I am referring to really important questions, like, “If Superman and Spiderman got into a fight, who would win?”

For me the answer seemed obvious.  Of course Superman with his X-ray vision and his other super powers would win.  It seemed so obvious.  But others were not so convinced.  What was clear, we all longed for the abilities of superheroes.  But, what exactly is a hero?  Is a hero only the stuff of comic books?  Or, is there a notion of hero that is deeper, and in fact possible for human beings to achieve?

Dictionary.com refers to a hero as a person of distinguished ability or courage, and someone who is seen as a model for others.  In that sense, it is in each of us to be a hero.  The first reading describes the characteristics of one who is given over to the life in the Spirit of God.  Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength and fear of the Lord are some of the characteristics discussed. The hero of the first reading will not judge by hearsay, and will judge the poor with justice.

St. John the Baptizer, described in the gospel, is also a hero.  While we might not find his diet of grasshoppers and honey too appealing, they remind us of the best and worst times in the lives of the Jewish people in the Old Testament.  Locusts were one of the plagues described in Exodus, and a land flowing with milk and honey was the covenant of the promised land.

Pope Francis is a hero as well.  I am sure many of you saw the photograph of the pope hugging and kissing the man whose face was so disfigured.  His words and actions challenge us over and over again to be heroes, especially to those people who seem the least likely to be heroic.

The trip to the desert to hear St. John the Baptizer was one where the destination provided a difficult challenge to those who listened to his words.  Yet while the message was hard, people responded in large numbers.  Indeed, only those who came out of curiosity, looking for a trap to set for John may not have been moved by John’s words.

When I taught confirmation classes, I stressed to the students in these classes to seek out a sponsor they would describe as a “hero in the faith.”  Someone who they were able to look upon as a person who made decisions from the deep reservoir of a life lived in relationship with Jesus.

Advent quietly seeks to invite us to become heroes.  Not heroes like Superman or Spiderman, but those heroes who bring out the best that God can give them, the very gift of themselves to God and others.  This advent, become a hero.

Thoughts for Sunday, December 1, 2013

Readings for Today

Probably everyone has had the experience of going to the eye doctor.  When we go, we look at charts, get checked for Glaucoma, and undergo a variety of tests to make sure our vision is clear.  For years, in my eye exams, I heard the eye doctor say, “Well, next year we will probably need to talk about reading glasses.”  And the next year it turned out my eyes were fine.  But, eventually, age caught up with me and his words were true.  I needed them.

Using reading glasses, my eyes are now more effective, and I can read things more easily.  My vision has become more in focus.  At the beginning of this Church year, we are ready for a “spiritual eye exam”, so that we may discover how well we view the world with the eyes of faith.  Are we able to see the presence of Jesus in our day to day lives, and the abundant grace that is poured out generously for us.

The first reading from Isaiah uses an image of climbing a mountain that will have all types of amazing things available for us.  If you have ever had the experience of being on a mountain top, you know that it provides a distinct view of the earth, one that is not possible if we are looking from somewhere else.  By reminding us of the mountain top that we are called to imagine at the end of time, we are reminded that we have a God of excessive love.  The images of food and drink imply quite the feast.

In the gospel, Jesus describes people in previous ages that did not see too well.  He reflects upon the time of Noah, and how people went on with their lives oblivious to the signs that things were changing.  To be sure, picturing Noah building an ark on dry land must have captured the attention of many that Noah was “not all there”, for people of faith they saw in his work the image of salvation.

St. Paul tells us “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”.  How is that?  Does Jesus save us more over time?  No, it is the case that we are called to see more clearly the good news of the grace that is super abundant in our lives.  To be sure, Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus in a variety of ways.  First, we are invited to consider the historical birth of Jesus, and we look to prepare for that celebration.  Second, we celebrate the anticipation of Jesus at the end of time.  But we also acknowledge a third way in which Jesus comes into our world, that is, the way in which Jesus come into our lives in a personal way.

Indeed St. Paul invites us to recognize that we need to do certain things to become more aware of God’s grace.  “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”  Putting on the deeds of daylight also implies the ways in which we put ourselves in a place to receive God’s grace.

Some of us may remember praying in an Act of Contrition avoiding the near occasion of grace.  Advent calls us to place ourselves in the occasion of grace, to find those ways when the spirit of God becomes more deeply evident in the ways we live our lives.  Placing ourselves in the occasion of grace is not easy.  Rather, it becomes a challenge, especially in a culture that sees the days and weeks before Christmas as simply preparation for consumerism to take greater root in our lives.

Perhaps this Advent you might consider the occasions of grace that are available to you.  You might choose to read the Bible a bit more, or go to daily Mass, or seek out a way to do a good deed for another.  The way in which we seek out the occasion of grace is to avail ourselves of the counter-cultural voice of Advent that encourages us into the stillness and the silence.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis encourages us to a personal encounter with Jesus.  To use an analogy, the personal encounter with Jesus is like the improved eyesight we get with glasses.  When we encounter Jesus personally, in the sacraments, or in prayer, or in others, this personal encounter changes us, and our lives fall into place.