Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We have a choice – to believe or not.

We have a choice – to believe or not. 

If we do not believe, the divine power is impotent or remote, and then the waves of life engulf us, the winds blow, nourishment fails, sickness lays us low or kills us. 

If, on the other hand, we believe, our eyes are open, and the waters of baptism are welcoming and sweet, the bread of the Eucharist is multiplied, the dead rise again, the power of God is, as it were, drawn from him by force and spreads throughout all nature.

One must either subjectively minimize or explain away the Gospel, or one must admit the reality of its effects not as momentary and past, but as enduring and true at this moment.

It’s our choice.

Into our hands the world and life are placed, like the Host at Mass in the priest’s hands, ready to be charged with the divine.  This phenomenon of our lives being charged with the presence of God relies on one condition, which is that we believe. 

If we believe, then everything is illuminated and takes shape around us – chance is seen as order, success is measured in everlasting prosperity, suffering becomes a visit and a caress of God.

But if we hesitate, the rock remains dry, the sky dark, the waters treacherous and shifting. And we may hear the voice of God, faced with our messed up lives:

“O men of little faith, why have you doubted ...?”

The choice is ours - to believe or not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homily - 33 Sunday in OT - Are You Ready?

At the end of the church year, we begin to hear parts of the scripture that tell of the end times. 
The end times have become so easy to ignore.  In my lifetime, I’ve lived through at least ten end-of-the-world predictions.  The last big one was the year 2000. Remember how we had endless apocalyptic predictions of computer meltdowns, failed power plants, water and food shortages all symbolized by the ominous Y2K. 

Currently, it seems to be global warming that is going to end it all. And the terrorist attacks in Paris this weekend remind us dramatically how fragile life really is. The world seems very vulnerable today. There will always be something that makes us believe the end is coming soon. 

And the truth is we all will see an end to life sometime ... that’s certain.

Jesus sets before us in the Gospel two sobering themes. First, the end of our life could come suddenly - that certainly seem real as we watch what happened in Paris - and, then he asks us if we are prepared for that end. These are themes we never like to spend much time on, but we cannot afford to take them lightly. These are themes that we cannot afford to dismiss casually. And the truth is, how we respond to these two themes has the potential to change our lives. That’s why the Church sets these themes before us at the end of the liturgical year. It wants to remind us, as Jesus reminded his disciples, that life on earth is but a brief preparation for an eternal life to come.

Therefore ... we should always be prepared for that moment.

Some years ago, Dr. Kubler-Ross of the University of Chicago wrote a book called, “Death and Dying.”  It grew out of her work with terminally ill people. Commenting on their feelings about life as they looked back on it at the moment of death, she writes: “They saw in the final analysis that only two things matter: the service you render others and love. All those things we think are important like fame, money, prestige and power are insignificant.

This weekend’s events in Paris made me think about how fragile life really is.  I thought about what I’d want to do if I were suddenly confronted with the end.  I’d want to tell everyone of my family members I loved them. I’d hope that the last time we were together was a joyful, happy event. This holiday season when the family gathers, thinking how that might be the last time we are together, I want to make it is a truly joy-filled memorable meal; a meal where I affirm everyone there and tell them how much I love them.  Let’s all make a commitment to make our next family meal, or meal with friends, something truly special.

This is the point of Jesus’ remarks in today’s gospel.

None of us knows when the end of our life, or of all life on earth will come. Therefore, we must be prepared ... always. This is the message that Jesus speaks to us in today’s gospel. This is the message that Jesus wants us to ponder prayerfully this week.

We all want to be ready when the time comes. James Weldon Johnson in his book “God’s Trombones” describes the final moment in the life of a woman named Caroline. She was fully prepared for death when it came. Johnson writes of Caroline: “She saw what we couldn’t see; she saw Old Death. She saw Old Death coming like a falling star. But death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline; he looked to her like a welcome friend. And she whispered to us: “I’m going home.” And she smiled and closed her eyes.”

I think we all want to be that prepared when death approaches.  There is a special spiritual peace in knowing that you are ready; always prepared for the Coming of Our Lord. If you are ready, you will have Gods heart, as Dr. Kubler-Ross described it, a heart full of love and a yearning to serve others. Jesus told us: “if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God you need to be a servant to all.”

Perhaps today’s readings rather than frightening us can be a gift. They can be the cause of an attitude adjustment. They can remind us that today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of our life; and tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity to serve and love.  They can remind us that we must always treat each other the way we would if we knew it was our last time together.

Several years ago, Tim McGraw had a hit on country radio titled “Live Like You Were Dying”.  The song was about a man in his forties who received the news that he had cancer. The song touched me because when I was in my 40s I was diagnosed with a very serious cancer too. This song tells how this young man decided to live out the remaining days of his life.

The lyric says:
He said

I went skydiving.
I went rocky mountain climbing
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have

And then he said ...
Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin'.

That’s exactly what Jesus is telling us!

We are not promised tomorrow. Today could be our last day.  If you knew for a fact that today was your last ...

What would you do?
Where would you go?

Today Jesus tells us:

Don’t wait ... live now ... live ... like you were dyin’.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Social media and the sin of pride.

       Many, if not most of us, use Facebook, Instagram or one of the other social media sites to keep up with friends.  Which is a truly beautiful thing; but there just might be a dark side to our communicating this way. All of us who use social media enjoy an endless array of photos of happy people. But I can't help but wonder if the effort to create the perfect shot doesn’t take priority over reality. It just may be we are missing out on life, on writing, exploring, playing, anything beautiful and real while we are seeking the perfect cell phone shot.  It can be very unfulfilling to live in pursuit of the image instead of the experience.
       Are we becoming a generation that is afraid to sit alone with ourselves and get real with our life? Does anyone do that anymore; or, are we always seeking the perfect Instagram moment? I saw an ad the other day that said: “Let’s be real, you only go apple picking for the Instagram.”  Maybe it’s time for a little thoughtful reflection about the potential for being artificial on social media, and the temptation to use it in a prideful way.  Are we living a lie telling our friends: “Look, folks, how perfect my life is.” 
       The fearful question for me is wether social media is radically reshaping who we are, or does it merely provide a new platform for man’s expression of his age-old vanity? And dear friends – vanity is the sin of pride. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

            The Hebrew/Christian experience with God is a story of a God whose love is so stubborn and relentless, so staunch and resolute, that despite human disobedience, defiance, and rebelliousness God continuously pursues us. 
            The Hebrew Scriptures tell the story of an endless parade of ingrates that repeatedly ignore his loving advances.  Despite thisYahweh keeps coming back!  The innermost core of Judaism is the Passover; which is a dramatic story of liberation from slavery into new life. And in the face of the most stunning example of His love, the Jewish people time and again slipped into a selfishness that questioned God’s love.  Yahweh sent prophets after prophets to threaten, cajole, woo, and charm them back.  Still they required the lesson of exile, and again liberation and return.  Over and over, Yahweh intervenes in the life of Israel to rescue them.  Over and over they – we – seem to miss the message.
            The language of God is anything but distant and aloof.  His is the language of a lover.  The prophet Hosea describes a love-sick Yahweh pleading outside Israel’s chosen brothel among the pagan gods:  “And I will take you for my wife forever...and you shall know the Lord.”  When you read the “Song of Solomon” you hear a passionate, nearly sexual relationship between Yahweh and Israel.   
            Where is this passion, this pursuit, this hunger of God for our love in today’s teachings of the Church? 
            The Christian Scriptures are full with the same kind of love.  Look how Jesus dealt with people, with sinners – one-on-one – like the public sinner, the adulterous woman, the prodigal son, and the Samaritan woman.  Jesus never required itemized sins or exacted penance to offset the offense.  He simply forgave them, loved them, and invited them to follow Him.  Look how our Church began; our first Pope Peter renouncing within hours of the Last Supper his knowledge of Jesus.  He denied Christ not to toughs but a woman.  How did Jesus restore him?   Jesus asked him three times to “Simon, do you love me?”  No penance.  Instead, he became Pope. 

When will we figure out that our God’s love for us 
is completely irrational and relentless?

When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity
one has only one question left:  How can I be helpful?

Teresa of Avila