Breathe: Homily for Saturday, February 4, 2017

To listen to the homily, click the links above.

Readings for Today

When I was studying Saint Thomas Aquinas and his thought and life, there was an image that was used that has stayed with me.  It was to represent that we were, as people, going to God, and going out from God.  It was breath.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  This is what happens all of the time in the relationship of spiritual growth with God.  God draws us in, God sends us out.

These two dynamics are present in today’s readings.  In the first reading from the letter to the Hebrews, we are very much reminded about those external actions of our lives.  What gives glory to God?  Is the external action by itself?  Or, is there more than that?  Too often, the temptation can be to use the external as the goal of our spiritual life.  That if we just do these actions, then we will be close to God.  That is not the point.  The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that external actions should always lead to internal spiritual growth.

This same notion is echoed in today’s gospel. The Apostles are simply quite excited about all they have done and accomplished.  You can almost sense their enthusiasm as they return to tell Jesus all they have done. It does not seem like much that they are eager to keep going.  If a little bit of effort has accomplished so much, just imagine what could be done when we go out to do more.

But Jesus personifies the breath of God.  He is active, healing, preaching and giving.  But so too he goes away to receive.  What the apostles accomplish comes from their cooperation with the hand of God.  Without recognizing that it is God that gives them strength, without recognizing the source of all they can do, they will fail.  They will burn out.  To be active in the spiritual life means recognizing the breath of God.  We need to breathe spiritually. We need to be drawn to God and to be sent by God.

Novena of Saint Jude, May 23, 2015 (Vigil of Pentecost)

I am preaching the Novena of Saint Jude, days 4-9. This is an audio recording of my day five preaching, which explores the relationship between prayer and hope. How can we wait with patient endurance? For more information about the Dominican Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus in Chicago, visit their website here.

Homily for Monday, May 18, 2015

Readings for Today

In the early Church there was a problem with distinguishing the place and relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, especially when considering the question of baptism. John moved into a baptism that was a sign and symbol of repentance. Yet he baptized Jesus, who was in no need of repentance. There were those who heard John preach and thought he might be the Messiah, the anointed sent be God for the Jewish people. And even today’s first reading shows the confusion between the baptism received by John, and the baptism celebrated by the early Church after the resurrection of Jesus. So just what is the difference?

First, it is important to know that there was a qualitative difference between the two. Those who were baptized by John that we read about today did not know of the Holy Spirit, and it can be presumed, of John’s clarification of his role and that of Jesus.The baptism of John was a concrete sign of the desire to repent and believe in Jesus, who was to come, whose sandal John is not worthy of untying. John even says to Jesus that he should be baptized by Jesus, and not the other way around.

The baptism of John was a necessary preparation for the preaching of Jesus, insofar as it prepared people to know of the mercy of God for those who are willing to repent. It was the outcasts, the marginalized who embraced the preaching of John and his call to repent with great enthusiasm. It is the baptism of Jesus that fully removes sin, and enables us to enter into the deep relationship that leads to eternal life.

When they are baptized in the sacrament, they are transformed. They receive the Spirit, they become deeply aware of God and their relationship with him. Today we see baptism and confirmation in the reading from Paul. Do you ever think of how you are called to be changed because of your baptism and confirmation? Ideally these are moments when we are profoundly committed to the following of Jesus. These are moments when we become deeply aware of our choice to leave everything and follow Jesus wherever he may lead us. Will you follow Jesus?

Homily for Monday, May 11, 2015

Readings for Today

If there is a main theme in the Acts of the Apostles, it could be summed up this way: There is just no resisting the Spirit.Starting with this week’s readings there will be a special emphasis on the Advocate, as we move toward the celebration of Pentecost in a couple of weeks. This period of preparation allows us to give special attention in our prayer life to the role of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

Today I would like to focus on this concept of Advocate. In French, the word for lawyer is advocat, or advocate. An advocate today can be a person who believes strongly in a cause and works to have a policy that will move it forward supported. While advocate seen in these ways is a noun, it is also the case that advocate can also be a verb, giving it a sense of action. A representative in government can advocate for something.

It is this dual sense of being a noun and a verb that I would like us to think about. First, the Holy Spirit, seen as an advocate, is a person, in fact, the third person of the Blessed Trinity. But the Holy Spirit can also be seen in the sense of a verb, an action, movement or outpouring. It is often described as a rushing wind, and it is God’s spirit that hovers above the waters at creation. As wind, in the gospel of John, we hear that there is a certain unpredictability to the wind. It blows where it will.

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Homily for Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Readings for Today

I do not know if you have ever thought of yourself as “set apart”, but today’s first reading made me think of the ways in which God describes the people of God. We are described as a people “set apart”. So while today it is the fact that Barnabas and Saul are set apart for a mission, the real truth is that each one of us, because of our baptism, has been set apart for some higher purpose. Our vocation, whatever it is, is the reality that each of us has been “set apart” for some particular purpose that God will use for the best.

I have to clarify at the start that “set apart” does not mean “better than.” It is not that by setting apart Barnabas and Paul God is making a statement of worth. As significant was the mission they undertook, in fulfilling their vocation they were no better than any of the rest of us in answering the call of God to follow him. But it does serve as a powerful reminder that when it comes to the Kingdom of God, it is not our effort alone that makes things happen. No, it is when we cooperate with God’s grace that good things happen.

Jesus makes this powerful reminder in the gospel today. We are reminded that believing and following Jesus means believing and following the one who sent Jesus, the Holy Spirit. But remember — we are sent. We do not go of our own accord. As such, we need to be sure that we do all we can to hear the call. We need to open our hearts and minds to the voice of the Spirit that sends us. We need to place ourselves in places where we are likely to encounter the Spirit. We need to pray, to go to Mass, to go to confession, to read the bible, to pray the rosary and find time for silent prayer. We need to put ourselves at the service of those in need so that we can get to meet Jesus. And so, you are set apart. Time to find out why and for what purpose.

Homily for Sunday, April 12, 2015

Readings for Today

There are few things that bring as much joy as when we think about the perfect place. It might be a vacation spot that is a particular favorite of ours. It may be a camp where we can get away from it all. It might even be an imaginary world where we can envision having special powers. Imagining other places may be the reason we see movies, tv shows or read books.We might play games for the same reason.

As we listen to today’s first reading we can make the mistake of thinking that the world described in the Acts of the Apostles is simply an imaginary place that does not, or can not, really exist. In a world where every element of life seems to divide people, even quite sharply, it can seem downright impossible that any group of people can be of one heart and one mind. Even when the group professes belief in Jesus, it can obviously seem to be impossible in this group as well.

That being said, we cannot lose hope. The call to be of one mind and heart is a call to open our hearts ever more fully to the Spirit. When our hearts are open to the Spirit as believers, the beauty of being of one heart and one mind becomes real. And when we live in that unity, it becomes possible for us to live the ideal presented, one where all have their needs met, and living in harmony and generosity is the norm.

Today’s readings are meant to remind us of generosity. There is the generosity of spirit that compels us to care for one another. But perhaps on this Divine Mercy Sunday, there is the generosity we witness in the forgiveness of Jesus, first to the apostles but ultimately also to you and me. This mercy seemed so unreal, that neither Thomas nor the other apostles could believe without confirming this Jesus was the real Jesus, and that the mercy of God was indeed so powerful it could overcome the sinful abandonment of Jesus done by the apostles.

There can be two mistakes, probably more, but two I can think of when I consider the mercy of God. The first mistake is to believe that somehow our sins are too big to be forgiven by God. We can limit the mercy of God, by failing to realize that Jesus came to die for everyone’s sinfulness. There is never the sin that is too big, too evil, that cannot be overcome by the mercy of God because of the salvific victory won by Jesus.

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Homily for Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Readings for Today

How often do you precede a big decision by entering into prayer? How many of you who are married asked God if the person you to whom you are married is the person who will lead you to a life of holiness? Have we thought about praying before taking a new job? When we went to college, did we pray about what we should study?

Such an attitude about prayer is what Jesus models for us in choosing the disciples. He spends the night in prayer before calling individuls to be his apostles. This significant and important moment in the life of Jesus is preceeded by prayer. In giving us this example we are reminded how important it is to seek life’s most important questions before God, knowing that when we connect our lives to God’s grace, we can become more and more the person God made us to be.

Truth is, that God wants to give us the grace to help in every aspect of our lives. For when we turn our lives over to God, we open ourselves to become a dwelling for the Spirit. For when we open our lives to God, it is then that we find our true home. When we depend only upon ourselves, in many ways we are those strangers and aliens who do not have a home.

Our home can only be true if it has a solid foundation. We are built upon a foundation upon the Apostles and the prophets. And all is kept together because of the Son of God, Jesus.

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Homily for Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Readings for Today

How do you know you are following the Spirit? We have mentioned a reason for following religious rules can be to avoid the real conversion that is necessary to follow Jesus. But how do we know when we are actually following the Spirit?

Fortunately Paul gives us the answer in today’s first reading. When we follow the Spirit, the qualities of the Spirit begin to “rub off.” Paul lists them. Following the Spirit should produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We have discussed how being overly concerned about the rules alone can be a way of avoiding the call of God to change our hearts. Notice the fruits of the Spirit are internal. They are deep.

When we notice these fruits of the Spirit in our own lives, we have the type of joy that lasts. It is not simply a quick and passing satisfaction, but is rather something that lasts. Following the rules only produces the momentary satisfaction which quickly fades.

So we are really discussing whether we have the ability to do the hard work or whether you need the easy path. The spiritual life is not the only place where we need to make such a choice. We make these choices in relatioships. We can look for the friend we use, or the person that is only engaged fin a “one night stand”. We can “settle” in our lives, not seeking out ways to accept challenges that lead to growth.

In a way this is another version of the Book of Deuteronomy where Moses asks about choosing death or life. So, choose life.

Today’s Preaching: September 9, 2014

Readings for Today’s Preaching

I have used this gospel as proof that Jesus was not a morning person, like me. See, when he needed to do something very early in the morning he stayed up all night rather than the harsh reality of having to wake up early. Truth is, the actions of Jesus serve as a very important example of the importance of prayer.

Perhaps you have seen the joke that is a an analysis of the talents and skills of the apostles. It points out that Peter is too impulsive, James and John are too ambitious, and makes interesting observations about each one in terms of their suitability for leadership.

Jesus knew that choosing his leaders was not primarily about seeking a business consultant. Rather, he spent the night in prayer seeking the prompting a of the spirit for the most effective persons of faith. We know they were not perfect. We know there were failures on their part. But the example of Jesus serves as an important example to us. Namely, we need to recognize that when it comes to discipleship, it is the Spirit who knows the human heart.

It can be said, I think, that the growth needed by the disciples was spiritual growth. When they think in only rational terms, they usually fail to understand the priorities of Jesus. We see in the gospel it takes time for the disciples to see clearly. In fact, it really is only after the Holy Spirit descends upon them they are able to see the world from the perspective of faith.

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Homily for Friday, May 2, 2014

Readings for Today

Wisdom is a powerful gift of the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom is not just that a few facts are known.  It is not just cramming our head with facts.  Wisdom is more than common sense.  It is not just knowing what to do.  In fact, wisdom is a multifaceted thing that incorporates all of these things and more.  The World English dictionary defines wisdom this way: “the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.”

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