Saturday, June 30, 2012

13th Sunday in Ordinary TIme (B)

Link to Today's Readings, Psalmody and Gospel

Periodically, from time to time I come across great homilies from outside sources.  Today I would like to share the work of Jesuit Father Chris Collins:

The gracious act of Christ, emptying himself for us.In the liturgy today, we are given a word from the Book of Wisdom that faces, head on, the ultimate human question of death, and God’s relationship to it.  The response could not be more blunt: “God did not make death.” What God does is create.  He makes life and offers love that makes “life worth living,” as Bishop Sheen so famously put it.  God: “fashioned all things that they might have being” and has formed us to be “imperishable.”  That is God’s plan.  Period.
Of course, there is death and destruction of being all around us.  Where is God?  What is His response? St. Paul gives us a clue in the second reading. He urges the Corinthians that while they excel in faith, discourse, knowledge and love, that they might also excel in “this gracious act also.”  What is the gracious act? “This gracious act” must be getting close to the core of what makes all the difference in our Christian vision.  Indeed it is the core. St. Paul immediately describes the “gracious act” initiated by Christ that “though he was rich, he became poor for our sakes.” The gracious act is God’s own free choice to let go, as it were, of the richness of his divinity and empty himself, becoming a slave, taking on human flesh for those of us who are threatened by sin and death.
By looking at the person of Jesus, we see the power of God going out from himself—out from his transcendence, so that he can be close to his people, close to the broken-hearted, close to the poor, the small, the weak.  That’s what God does. In the person of Jesus, we see a glimpse of that same power of God, that has nothing to do with death, and everything to do with life.  In today’s Gospel, while responding in the affirmative to the plea to go to heal the daughter of Jairus, Jesus shows his instinctive desire to bring life.  While he is on his way to Jairus’ house, another encounter happens that reveals the same truth about the power of God’s life flowing through Jesus.  It is unique among the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ encounters with the sick, the blind, and the lame.
As the woman suffering with the hemorrhages makes a desperate attempt to reach out to touch Jesus’ cloak, she has a single-hearted desire for healing to come to her from one she believes has that power. Her weakness meets Jesus’ power, and in that meeting, a transformation occurs. St. Mark describes the unusual nature of the healing: “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him” looks around to find out who had received that power of life and healing.  He seeks to personalize what had happened in an apparently automatic manner. “The woman, realizing what had happened to her…” then sought to approach Jesus, though she did so with “fear and trembling.” Both Jesus and the woman seek to make personal the encounter that had happened unconsciously.  Upon their face-to-face meeting, Jesus confirms her not only as a person who has been healed, but as one who has been given a renewed identity: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”  Not only does Jesus overcome the chasm of isolation she experienced as one who is suffering, but he draws her into a new identity, as a beloved daughter of his Father.  Not only is her “being” refashioned, as the Book of Wisdom describes it, but a new identity is given her.
This is to be the pattern of the Church, also. We are to, first, be the beneficiaries of Christ’s gracious act: he empties himself, becoming one with us so that we might become one with him in eternity.  Once we have received this “gracious act” of Christ, we in turn, as members of his body, are to perform that gracious act ourselves in the world around us. A question for us today might be: how prepared am I to let go of my riches, becoming poor for the sake of those in need?  How might I take part in the “gracious act” of Christ’s self-emptying love for the sake of people like us who don’t seem to deserve it?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24, 2012 (B)

Link to Today's Readings, Psalmody and Gospel

For He must increase, and I must decrease (Jn 3:30).

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, the signpost for the Messiah.

The other day I had an appointment in New York City.  Unlike many, I do not mind driving to and from Manhattan.  The tricky part can be parking.

At many of the parking lots in New York, there will invariably be a parking attendant who will stand on the sidewalk or near the street waving a red flag.  He will try to sweep you in to his parking lot.  It is a very effective tool, one that helps fill the parking lot as fast as possible.   I suppose it can also be helpful to us because it helps us get our cars into a parking spot and out of traffic and on to where we are going, our destinies for the day.

This image reminds me of Saint John the Baptist.  He is not the messiah, but the forerunner of the Christ.  He comes not to save, but to point us to the one who saves.  He comes not to move mountains, but to make our paths straight so that Jesus can be present to us.  John is calling us to grace so that our beings can receive Jesus, the true and just God for all.

Saint John the Baptist prepares us to be vessels for the Lord so that His salvation may reach the ends of the earth as we hear in our First Reading today from Isaiah 49:6.

In Acts, our Second Reading (13:22-26), we hear that John is the herald of our savior, Jesus.  John baptizes us in repentance to clear out our souls so that they may be made ready to receive our Lord.

In the Gospel we hear of the birth of John and his naming.  His parents are Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin Mary's cousin and Zechariah, both descendants of the priestly tribes of Israel.  In fact, Zechariah is given the prophecy of the birth of the Baptist while conducting his priestly duties in the inner sanctum of the Temple at the tabernacle of the Lord.

Today we should reflect on John's great words that come to us from Saint John's Gospel, "For He must increase, and I must decrease" (Jn 3:30).  

Many times in our lives it is our way or the highway.  We act in a way that is not selfless, interdependent and life giving.  We sometimes live not ordered to God, but to ourselves.  

Let us then rejoice at the birth of Saint John the Baptist, who great as he was, points us to Christ who is the Way the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).  Let us resolve to be people for others, signposts for Christ, helping those find in Him the place of sanctity and truth, comfort and consolation and ultimately, a profound depth of eternal joy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Happy Father's day!

We begin with a character description of a person most important to me.  Personal stories are good when they remind us of our own stories.  Our stories help us grow inwardly so our outward expression of life and faith can be intertwined into something beautiful.  This is the story of my Dad.

He walks a mile nearly every day.  He quite remarkably survived some great hardships: The Great Depression that wracked the very substance of our country in the decades of the 1920s and 1930s, World War II (stationed with the U.S. Marines in Panama) and one that is almost unnoticed: difficulty in utilizing his G.I. Bill benefit guaranteeing (re)education while he transitioned back to civilization after the war.  He is among the last of his generation, now 88 years young and probably one of the only certified Architects in America (A.I.A.) who never studied or graduated at the baccalaureate level.  Although he lives a life of quiet solitude, his life's journey as seen through the lens of his professional fait acompli was chronicled in a 1975 edition of the journal, Who's Who in America.

He is my Dad.  And you may have already guessed, I am very proud of him.  Happy Father's day Dad, and to all Dads present here or not!

Link to today's Readings, Psalmody and Gospel

In our First Reading today, we hear from the Prophet Ezekiel, who was in exile with his Jewish brethren in Babylonia, after the destruction of the Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar in the early 6th Century, B.C.  The prophet tells us that God the Father will restore Israel to its greatness from the remnant.  This will be a great nation, in fact the greatest and God will ensure this.  This is a foreshadowing of Christ and Christianity; He the Light to all Nations and we his adopted children the bearers of His light to the world.

Our Responsorial Psalm reminds us that it is good to offer thanksgiving to God.  Prayer should never be limited to a crying out in our times of sorrow or hardship.  We must thank the Lord on our good days as well.  This is essential to good spiritual life, grounded in Christ.  The Psalmist invites to respond: Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

In our Second Reading, Saint Paul writes to the community at Corinth (modern day Greece).  
Here he teaches the local Church about the transcendence of the soul, and that our immortal soul's fate will be determined by Christ, the Just Judge.  The good/bad that we do while in the state of mortal flesh (our earthly lives) will be the fodder for judgement.

The Gospel from Saint Mark features the great parable of the "mustard seed".  OUr Lord gives us this image for the kingdom of heaven, He even explains that it is among the smallest of all seeds.  

This is a great teaching on faith, good works and proper disposition toward the things of the world.  Our faith needs to be nurtured.  Our resolve must be oriented toward the Triune God, revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit by the Son and Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  We must be good sons and daughters to our Father in heaven to enjoy the rewards of heavenly paradise.

Today is the first Sunday in many weeks that we wear green at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Green is a color of hope. It is the color that says, "life springs eternal".  It is a sign of good things to come and a reminder that when we have our failings, when sin becomes apparent in our lives, our good and just Lord is there to forgive us and relieve us of our burdens.  That ultimately is what a good Father does for his children and our heavenly FAther is beyond perfect.  We need never fear going to Him for help, mercy and forgiveness.

To me and my siblings, our Dad has always been there for us.  It is quite remarkable that he is so full of vitality now and, I am sure, that it has everything to do with his great self-discipline that he learned from the sufferings of his life as well as the joys of hearing, seeking and implementing good wisdom for himself and others.  His seven children grew up in difficult times of our own: social revolution in the 60s, severe inflation and unemployment in the 70s and huge federal deficits in the 1980s.  We as sons and daughters suffered the loss of our Mom and his bride of 40 years in 1991.

We have survived and stand ready to flourish.  We can because the "seed" of the faith was nurtured well by our Mom and Dad.  Mom through her Catholic devotion, and Dad through his wisdom and parenting.  Let all of us resolve to be good and faithful servants of the Lord, nurturing the seeds of faith given to us through the Divine Creator and His human instruments  of pro-creation, Moms and Dads.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trinity Sunday 2012 (B)

Praise the Holy Trinity, undivided unity, Holy God, mighty God, God immortal we adore!

Link to Today's Readings, Psalmody and Gospel

Mysterium fidei
We accept that our faith is incomprehensible by the simple human mind and not just mysterious, but mystery itself.  Nothing can approach the mystery of the Holy Trinity, One God in three persons of God.

Rublev's famous Russian Orthodox "Icon",
The Trinity

Last year in the seminary we were asked to write a homily on the Trinity.  It would be used for our final grade in Homiletics (a course on preaching) and as well for our Dogmatic Theology course on the Trinity.

I used as my image the Buckingham fountain in Chicago.  The fountain has three distinct levels that seem to be always full of water yet are constantly being replenished.  That is a good representation of the Trinity.  However the fountain fails because it is self contained, it never releases that water; our Triune God gives us himself completely.  This can be especially understood by Grace.  Grace is His love and the outpouring of that love to us, undeserved as we are.

In today's scripture, we hear Moses preparing the people for their reality: salvation as God's chosen people.  He reminds them how special they are (our Psalm reminds us of this) and that they must keep His statutes and commandments, that by doing so their children (descendants) will prosper.

Saint Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle, a Pharasaic Jew himself, teaches the Gentiles (you and I, unless we descend from the Jewish people) that we are God's adopted sons and daughters.  This means that we are equal in dignity to the children of God, by virtue of our Baptism.  Paul informs us that we are led by the Spirit to be heirs to what God has promised through his only Son, Jesus Christ.  Through our suffering comes redemption when we join it to His.  Then we can and will be glorified with Him.

Our Gospel is the commission of the disciples in Matthew.  We are the disciples now.  We are commissioned by our faith to baptize all the nations, all who we encounter, by living a Christian life of virtue and charity.  This is how we are sanctified and how we can transform the world.

We do so by mirroring the Trinity: selfless not selfish, interdependent not independent, communal not singular.  For when we give, we receive,  When we sacrifice what is ours then we can receive from another.

Today the world proclaims the I.  Self-determination through self definition.  Ugh!
Christ died for our sins, only He can lift us up with Himself (as he promised) to eternal life.
This is our faith.
This is the creed that we profess.
This is to what we are invited to....
This world is falling away, let us, then, accept the hand of God who calls us out of darkness into light.