Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homily for First Sunday of Advent 2010

First, I’d like to apologize to those who felt my homily last week was a personal attack on some of our musicians. That was not the intent, but I should have foreseen that possible interpretation.

We are now beginning the season of Advent. I believe last year I commented on the fact that Advent has two themes dealing with the waiting for Christ. The first part of Advent, through Dec 16 deals with waiting for Christ’s return in glory. Starting on Dec 17th we start to focus on and prepare more immediately to celebrate the birth of the Christ.

Our readings today deal with being awake so we are ready for Christ’s return. Not only are we to be awake, but we are to prepare for the coming of Christ.

In our second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Romans we heard:

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.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

And in the Gospel we heard, “So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Two weeks ago I spoke on preparing using the context of the motto of the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared.” How is it that we start to be prepared.

We read in the CCC

2607 When Jesus prays he is already teaching us how to pray. His prayer to his Father is the theological path (the path of faith, hope, and charity) of our prayer to God. But the Gospel also gives us Jesus' explicit teaching on prayer. Like a wise teacher he takes hold of us where we are and leads us progressively toward the Father. Addressing the crowds following him, Jesus builds on what they already know of prayer from the Old Covenant and opens to them the newness of the coming Kingdom. Then he reveals this newness to them in parables. Finally, he will speak openly of the Father and the Holy Spirit to his disciples who will be the teachers of prayer in his Church.

2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.(64) This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

2609 Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way.(65) (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2607)

This conversion of heart of which the CCC speaks comes with throwing off the “works of darkness”. This is truly the first step leading to fruitful prayer. Paul mentions the works of darkness and we’ve heard the list twice already this morning so I’ll not use them like a battering ram.

I do want to comment upon how easily we can get trapped in these “works of darkness.” In one of our recent CD of the month offerings, Matthew Kelly compares our soul to a car. I know, for some of us this requires us to move to our imagination.

Matthew talks about getting our car cleaned. We come out of the car wash. The interior has been vacuumed. The trash as all been left in garbage can. The dash has been wiped down with Armour-all. Wow! What a beautiful looking car we have. We start down the street and see a mud puddle. We go out of our way to make sure we don’t hit the mud puddle. The car is still clean. We go through the drive through for a Whooper. We are careful not to drop any of the lettuce on our lap and when we finish we make sure the bag is properly placed in the trash. As time goes on, the outside of the car starts to pick up a little dirt and grim from the road and just the dirt sticking to the dew on the outside of the car. After a while we might put a small wrapper in back seat to be picked up later. Soon, the back seat is filled with wrappers and other trash. We don’t care if we hit a mud puddle because the car is already dirty.

Our souls are much like this car. When we first get out of confession with our sins forgiven, we are excited to keep ourselves clean. As we go on through life, we start to pick up the dirt of daily living. Once the car shows a little dirt, or picks up a little trash in the back seat, it is easier to add little more. What difference does that little more make? Even the venial sins in our lives can start to add up and make us more open to the next sin. The “works of darkness” are growing in our hearts.

Jesus calls us to prepare because we do not know when the Son of Man will return. One of the ways we prepare is to work on cleaning our soul with a good confession. This is a step towards the conversion of heart from the CCC. Having received the sacrament of reconciliation, it makes it easier for us to work on the same reconciliation with others. Jesus talks about loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. We hear of the need for prayerful forgiveness from the depths of our hearts. For these things, we need God’s grace working in our lives. That grace grows as we participate in the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation.

As we heard in the CCC, “Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith.” Note it does not say once converted, but once committed to conversion. “ Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand.” We many times do not understand all we are asked to do in faith. As we pray and ask for God’s guidance, we may come to understand some of it more completely, but we may only be give the grace to accept certain things as a matter of faith. But, “It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way.”

We do not know when the Son of Man will return. We do know we need to prepare and cast off “works of darkness.” We can do this through confession and prayer. May God bless you as you prepare for his return.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homily for Christ the King, 2010

This it the text of the homily I plan to deliver tomorrow in my parishes.

I ran across a story recently about Dorothy Day. She was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She was very much aware of the need for social justice in the world. After the Second Vatican Council allowed parts of the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, or tongue of the people, she was pleased to say the least. Yet, she still saw a difference between the sacred and mundane. It seems that one day, a priest saying Mass for her group at a soup kitchen took a simple coffee cup to use as the chalice. Dorothy was greatly offended. After the Mass she took the coffee cup, kissed it and buried it so that it would no longer be used for the mundane. That cup had held the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Dorothy knew that this cup was no longer just a cup and did not want it to be confused as such. As I read from the person telling this story, “ I learned more about the Eucharist that day than I had from any book or sermon. It was a learning experience for the priest as well—thereafter he used a chalice.”

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. In our Gospel reading we hear the story of Jesus own crucifixion. Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." Two criminals were also crucified with Jesus. One demanded that Jesus should show his kingship and save them all. The other, realizing a bit more about Jesus made a simpler request, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

The first criminal wanted to bring Jesus down to his level. He saw this king as a way out of the problem in which he found himself. His real focus was on himself – on his escape from the suffering and death he was about to face.

The second saw something greater and hoped to be raised up to the dignity of a person sharing in Christ’s kingdom. One was focused on the here and now while the other was being drawn to a far greater reality.

Many times in our daily lives, we fail to recognize Christ as King, but tend to see him more as a friend. We’ve brought him down to our earthly existence and we fail to focus on the heavenly banquet to which we are called. We can even see it sometimes in our celebration of the Mass. Our focus becomes about ourselves. I can’t help but think of the lyrics of a song that appears in popular hymnal, We Are the Church. This song focuses not on God, (Father, Son nor Holy Spirit), nor on Mary or one of the great saints. If focuses on us. The refrains is,
“We are the Church, the Body of Christ. We are the Church, a people redeemed. We are the Church, anointed to serve God’s Holy People, the People of God.”

The focus of this song is upon us and our earthly existence. The closest we come to actually acknowledging God’s role is to have him say, “Live in my marvelous light.” But the whole song sounds like it is all us doing the work.

Let’s contrast that to “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King”.
To Jesus Christ, our Sovereign King
Who is the world’s salvation.
All praise and homage do we bring,
and thanks and adoration,
Christ Jesus, Victor
Christ Jesus, Ruler
Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer

This song truly directs our hearts and minds to a greater reality, that of Christ who is the ruler and king of our lives.

I think the sense of the mundane that has made an appearance in many Masses has caused us to forget that in the Mass, heaven and earth are united in the great banquet of heaven. The eternal sacrifice that was achieved on Cavalry is made present here and is offered for the forgiveness of our sins. We forget who it is that is present in so many ways during the course of the Mass. It is Christ who is present as we gather. It is Christ who is present as the Word is proclaim. It is Christ who, through the priest, transforms the bread and wine into his body, blood, soul and divinity. It is Christ who is most especially present on the altar. The Mass is not about us, but about getting beyond the ordinary to the extra-ordinary. It is about recognizing our Lord and King.

Yesterday, Bishop Conley, an auxiliary bishop from Denver, gave a talk on the translation of the new Roman Missal to the music people of that archdiocese. According to an article on the Catholic News Agency web page, Bishop Conley stated,

God “makes it possible for us, though we are but creatures, to sing and worship with the angels” – an awe-inspiring task for which household objects, popular music, and casual language are inappropriate. Bishop Conley indicated that many attempts to make worship feel more familiar, have instead made it less inspiring.

The use of a sacred vocabulary directs our hearts to the beyond. The occasional use of elements not common in the normal routine of our lives such as Latin, incense and bells will tell us something different is happening here than what is happening when we are in the store, or the beauty parlor, or even the bar.

I hope that over the next year, as we prepare to implement the translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, we’ll approach it with a new sense of awe and wonder.

Dorothy Day took the cup and buried it because the wine it once contained had become Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, and the cup was now holy and sacred, not fit to be used for the mundane, but to be buried as sacred. She was able to recognize that there is truly a difference between the ordinary and extra-ordinary.

The inscription over the head of Jesus read, “This is the King of the Jews.” One criminal tried to lower Jesus to his way of life and demand that Jesus save them from death on the cross. The other looked ahead and asked to be with Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. We too look forward, but realize that as Jesus said, “today you will be with me in Paradise”, we are experiencing a taste of that Paradise as we worship God at this Eucharistic table where heaven and earth unite.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homily for Nov 14, 2010

Here is the homily I've prepared for this weekend. If I record it I'll update this post

****Here is the link to the recorded homily*****

The motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared”. When Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the worldwide scouting movement, was asked about what this means he responded, “Be Prepared... the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.”

Some would say that this is a direct contradiction to today’s Gospel passage where Jesus says, “Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

Yet, I’d like to suggest that they go hand in hand. Jesus is reminding us that we do not need to prepare our defense. We don’t need to think ahead of time about how we might answer questions if we are brought before the authorities.

I think the real key to Baden Powell’s idea is to “prepare by . . . practicing how we act . . . so that [we are] never taken be surprise.”

I’ve mentioned in daily homilies before how I am astonished about how some groups of people react when a prophet of some sort says the end is near. People gather together and start reading scripture. They start to pray. Some even go through some sort of confession. I guess this is what we as Catholic refer to as immediate preparation. This is the last bit of preparation that needs to take place to be ready for something.

Yet, we need to also think about remote preparation. I’ll give you a quick example of the difference. When I preach a homily on the virtues of marriage and what it means to be married I am remotely preparing people for marriage. When they come to meet with me to prepare for their reception of the sacrament, we are doing immediate preparation.

How do we remotely prepare ourselves for the end days? A good start would be to do what people do when they think the end is near. Start by taking time to grow as people of prayer. Spend time reading the scriptures. Go to confession.

These ideas are the beginning of practicing how we act so that we are not taken by surprise.

When scouts learn about first aid, they usually have all of the things they need at hand to make a splint and to make a sling. They learn the principles needed to stop bleeding with dressings and bandages at hand. When scouts face real life emergencies, they do not have splints and slings and dressings and bandages. The scouts fall back upon their training to use what they can find to make a difference. Scouts learn to think through the emergency to get the results that are desired.

Earlier this month, five young scouts were out elk hunting with their fathers. The boys were in one tent with a wood stove to keep them warm that night. They got up the next morning, enjoyed their breakfast and then went over to the tent in which their fathers were sleeping to let them know they were taking off to hunt. When they got to the tent they found the men unconscious and suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of having a propane heater running all night in the tent. The boys reacted quickly to remove the men from the tent and to go for help. They had fallen back upon the training they had received as boy scouts.

We will face a lot of persecution for our faith. We will face people questioning our beliefs. We will need to be prepared.

In addition to reading scripture and learning to pray, we need to live our lives dedicated completely to Christ. We need to live moral lives that are an example. If we are practicing our faith to the fullest, we will be ready when the time comes.

Lord Baden Powell also said, “A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.”

Jesus told us in today’s gospel, "Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

If we live the faith in all that we do, we will have the wisdom given by Christ that will make our adversaries powerless and in reality make us strong.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

YouTube - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Just a reminder of this event 35 years ago.