Tuesday, August 16, 2016

After seven decades of watching the political process, two things are evident to me.  Frist, those seeking high office are all flawed.  The very best Christians who have been president in my lifetime were often the worst presidents; George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter come to mind.  Both were very decent God-fearing people who were utterly incompetent as presidents.  John Kennedy, our only Catholic president, was a sexual deviant. I fear that is a disorder many of our leaders have suffered, Bill Clinton being the poster boy.

When the good ones are so often bad leaders, and the bad ones as often good leaders, what is one to do? This election year is the worst in my lifetime.  Never could I imagine America choosing two such awful people. With the flawed candidates we are offered how do we make a right decision?

There is only one answer:  pray!  
Pray for America. Because our culture is sinking into a quagmire of moral confusion.

Trust God will answer our prayers.  If America does not soon drop to its knees in prayer, we are destined to get what we deserve.  If you want real leadership in America – pray for it!  Our God can do anything!  

If ever America needed a miracle this is the year.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Homily - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2016

First reading from Ecclesiastes
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! 
All things are vanity!

Gospel reading from Luke 
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do?’ ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! 
This night your life will be demanded of you.’”

There is an insightful story about an American tourist, traveling in Europe, who paid a visit to a famous wise and holy priest who lived there. The American was surprised when he saw how simply the man lived, in a single room with only books and a table and a chair. “Father, where is your furniture?’ asked the tourist. “Where is yours?” the priest asked. The American tourist answered, “My furniture? I am passing through here.” The wise priest responded: “So am I”!

This little story gets to the heart of our readings today. Today the readings are simple and clear, and they force us to deal with one of the fundamental questions of life. 
Today we are asked: 

What’s it all about? Is it all about the possessions we accumulate, or eternal life?

In the first reading, we heard the voice of a man known as Qoheleth who says:  You work and worry your way through life and what do you have to show for it? He says if you give your life to nothing but the accumulation of possessions, in the end, it’s all vanity. The Hebrew word for vanity means puffs of air. It’s all just --- puffs of air --- here today and gone tomorrow. 

The speaker of this story is said to be King Solomon who was very wealthy.  He sounds like a cranky old man at the end of his life who has it all, but is feeling empty, when he says: Vanity of vanities!  All things are vanity!

Jesus says the same thing.  

He says of the man who decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones so he can store up the possessions of this world:  “You fool!  This very night you will have to give up your life.”

“You fool!”  I’m pretty sure that’s one greeting none of us hope to hear from Jesus at the end of our lives. But if I’m being honest, Jesus’ parable creates anxiety in me. I mean isn’t the rich man’s reaction to a financial bonanza pretty much the same as anyone’s?  You have a banner year at work, hit a bull’s eye in the stock market, get an inheritance don’t most people then consider:  How can I save this money?  Where will it be safe?

The farmer’s problem isn’t that he’s had a great harvest, or that he’s rich, or that he wants to plan for the future.  The farmer’s problem is that his good fortune has curved his vision so that everything he sees starts and ends with himself. In Jesus’ story, the rich fool in his speech refers to himself 13 times in 5 short sentences. It was all about him. It was never about being thankful for the blessings of God. And, he never gave one thought to sharing his good fortune with those in need.

The point of the parable is not that money, and earthly goods are bad. In the Scriptures, there are many texts that underscore that having riches is not sinful; it’s what one does with them that determines virtue or vice.  Abraham, for example, was said to be highly favored by God because he had great flocks and herds and a great number of servants. The goods of the earth are not only good, according to God’s Word itself, but they are also essential for human survival.  But … they’re not enough.  They’re not what life is all about, and they don’t satisfy the deepest longing of the human spirit.  Jesus is saying if the way you measure your life is by the things you possess, you better re-think that!

The man in the parable was a fool because what he gave his life for was transient, fleeting and temporary – puffs of air!  VANITY!

When we focus our lives exclusively on this world and on acquiring and hoarding the passing treasures in this life, and never give a thought to God and what he wants of our lives – we’re fools. The desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied by what is here today and gone tomorrow.  This foolish man was so pre-occupied with himself and the things of this world that he forgot that there was another world — an eternal world. Jesus is saying don’t build your treasure on earth build it in heaven.

Someone once wisely said: “This world is a bridge. 
The wise man will pass over it but will not build his house upon it.”

This world is just a preparatory stage to another world and the person who forgets this is foolish. The main object of life is to prepare for eternity. To remember – We’re only passing through. That’s the answer to the fundamental question of life: “What’s it all about?”

Saint Paul tells us to live a life full of meaning and wisdom:  
Seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pope Francis told us how to grow the Church. He said:

            “We should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point
             to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.
             It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction.’ ”

Attraction to JOY – that’s our call.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Abraham Joshua Heschel 

"How embarrassing for man to be 
the greatest miracle on earth and not to understand it!"

"How embarrassing for man to have been created
in the likeness of God and to be unable to recognize him!"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Go to church, live longer

Over a 20-year span, the study surveyed a group of more than 76,000 female nurses, most of whom were Catholic and Protestant. At the end of 20 years, more than 13,000 of them had died.

The women who went to religious services more than once a week were 33 percent less likely to be in that group who died, compared to those who never attended services, the study by Harvard University School of Health found.

Tyler VanderWeele, a researcher who co-wrote the study, said the effect diminished as the study participants decreased church attendance.

Those who attended services once a week saw their odds of dying go down 26 percent. For those who attended less than weekly, the odds of dying decreased 13 percent, VanderWeele said.

"The facts on mortality do seem to be quite substantial," Vanderweele added according to CBS

"So I do think the results are under appreciated at present both within the medical and public health communities, but also within religious communities."

He noted that regular churchgoers have more social support, lower smoking rates and lower rates of depression than those who never attend religious services.

"Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate," VanderWeele and his co-workers found.

"We were a bit surprised, initially, by the magnitude of the findings," VanderWeele said, adding that they found a long list of positive effects.

"I don't think it's one single reason that this effect is emerging. I think it's that service attendance affects so many different aspects of life," VanderWeele concluded.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reading: The woman who had been caught in adultery -- John 8:1-11.

There is a painting of this scene done by Lucas Cranach; the Younger in 1507, now exhibited in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg. At the front center of the painting are Jesus and the woman. It’s the moment when Jesus turns toward the accusers and challenges those without sin to cast a stone. His expression is stern but troubled. The woman is not bowed to the ground in front of Jesus as in many paintings depicting this scene but is standing at his left. She is very young with eyes closed looking dejected and resigned to her fate. The most striking thing to me about this painting is that her right hand is entwined with the left hand of Jesus in a gesture of beautiful tenderness. The hands of mercy are joined to the hands of a suffering person. Jesus stood up in the face of that angry mob and courageously defended the sinner.

Do we do that?

When one gazes at this scene and sees Jesus and this woman you have to ask: Is this what our Church looks like to the world?  Does the Church (and by the Church I mean do we, each one of us) like Jesus offer the sinner forgiveness and protection from condemnation?  Or are we carrying around stones ready to judge and attack?

Jesus shows us in this passage there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with sin: The wrong way is to be hypocritical and self-righteous and condemn the sin in others without recognizing that we too are sinners. The wrong way is to seek the destruction the sinner rather than their transformation healing and a new beginning. The right way is to forgive the sin in a way that will inspire in that person the desire for virtue and goodness.

Jesus forgave and loved that woman in the middle of her mess. This woman had a whole pile of mess going on in her life that day, but Jesus decides to love her anyway. He loved her regardless of the sinful life choices she’d made. Forgiveness involves loving people in the middle of their mess. Let’s just be honest – life gets messy doesn’t it!? Jesus doesn't call us to love the mess people make of their lives, but he does call us to love the person.

Jesus died on the cross because of our mess. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge reason I was drawn to Jesus. It was because I felt He loved me the way that I am and not the way I’m supposed to be. And he challenges us to do the same. Love the people in our life the way he loved that woman is the message Jesus came to share with us. Jesus said: “A new commandment I give you: love one another ... as ... I have loved you…” (John 13:34)  As I have loved” is the key phrase.  Today we have an amazing example of how Jesus loves us. He defended the woman that day whose sin was public and obvious.  He did not judge her but encouraged her to change her life. Today – in this story – we have a great model of how Jesus loved.                                                        
We have to ask ourselves: “Is that how I love?”
Or is my hand clinching a stone ...
Stone of bitterness
Stone of anger
Stone of hatred
Stone of prejudice

As followers of Jesus Christ – as Christians – we are called to drop our stones of condemnation. We are called to love others the way they are, even in the middle of their mess.  Who in your life needs that kind of love – a brother, a sister, friend, ex-husband or wife; someone who harmed you or a member of your family?

We recently saw an amazing example of this played out right in front of us. Most of us recall the tragic shootings last summer that unfolded at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  It’s not hard to remember the events that unfolded on that horrific day in June when a young man shot and killed nine people, as they sat in a prayer group at their church.  But it was the day after the shootings where something remarkable happened; where we saw people acting like Jesus.  It was at the arraignment hearing of the shooter where family members of the victims took the stand and one after another, looked right at the shooter, and offered forgiveness. They offered forgiveness!  They offered forgiveness to one who in society’s eyes didn't ever deserve it  With a shaky voice and a quivering lip one elderly lady even invited him to her Wednesday night, small group. It was astounding to hear those words.

Do you know what I think we were witnessing during that arraignment hearing?  We saw what happens when heaven comes to earth. Through those precious followers of Jesus in Charleston South Carolina, we got a glimpse of heaven touching earth. We saw Jesus in them. That’s what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

There are people today in our lives who desperately need to hear of Jesus’s love and forgiveness. If we don’t tell them who will?

Monday, January 18, 2016

woman with umbrella

Here’s how I knew . . .
“Here’s how I knew I was very, 
very slowly becoming a follower 
of Christ. I was willing to be seen less, not more. I began to want to be quieter, not louder. I found myself making tiny sacrifices: fasting from meat for a day or giving the three bucks I would have spent at Starbucks to a homeless person. I found myself experiencing tiny moments of joy. I found myself mysteriously, ever more deeply drawn to Confession, to Mass. More and more I asked different questions from those the world asked. I looked for a different kind of result. 
I served a different master.”

—Excerpted from Stripped: 
At the Intersection of Cancer, Culture, and Christ by Heather King