Fr. Pat’s for February 17, 2019 – Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Jeremiah 17: 5-8
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20
Gospel: Luke 6: 17, 20-26
Blessed are you when people respect you and admire your achievements. Blessed are you when your name carries a title: CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CBO, president, senator, congressman, judge, Cardinal, Archbishop or doctor. Blessed are you when you get the home of your dreams and people are impressed by the car you drive. Blessed are you when you become a millionaire. Blessed are you when you appear on T.V. or become an expert. Blessed are you when you have smart children who get accepted into Yale, Harvard, or Stanford.
The problem with the above—which is the American dream—is that it’s really a dream of the ego. It’s what I can achieve, what I have accomplished, how I want to live my life. It’s about human control. Remember that famous song of Frank Sinatra: “I did it my way.” Well, that’s the whole problem: I did it my way!
Listen to the Prophet Jeremiah: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings. Listen to Jesus who says, “Woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are filled now, woe to you who laugh now, woe to you when all speak well of you.” With all due respect to Jesus, it seems downright un-American.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ Great Sermon is not meant for the whole world in general but for those who have decided to follow Christ. They are meant for people who are mature, committed disciples.
Jeremiah goes on to say, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Jesus is saying that trust in human beings is the attitude of the rich, but trust in the Lord is the attitude of those who are poor and hungry, who weep and are hated, ostracized and reviled.”
Jesus in Luke’s gospel is on the side of the poor. Luke doesn’t soften or add modifiers to the Beatitudes, as St. Mathew does, who wrote, “Blessed are the poor ‘in spirit.’” St. Luke just writes: “Blessed are the poor.” St. Luke writes bluntly of people who are homeless, underprivileged, broke even broken. The beggar Lazarus is easily recalled. This poor, homeless, diseased individual is welcomed to Abraham’s bosom while his well-off neighbor perishes. For Luke, Jesus’ primary concern was for the poor and for any disadvantaged person on the periphery of society.
Jesus himself lived poor and learned to rely on God alone. The ultimate sign of his poverty was to have his clothing raffled off at the foot of the Cross. He didn’t have a loin cloth as we see on this crucifix. He died naked and humiliated. God’s ultimate poverty is Jesus nailed to a cross. In Christ, God embraces the most extreme form of human poverty: God is nailed to a tree and cannot even move. There you see what love is!
Blessed are we when we face our human poverty and the most extreme human limitation. Jesus Christ has to turn our ego’s way of thinking on its head. Blessed are you when you face anxiety or depression. Blessed are you when you mourn a loved one. Blessed are you when you have failed or sinned greatly. Blessed are you when your marriage fell apart. Blessed are you when you lost a job. As one wise person once put it: human weakness is God’s opportunity.
This is a tough gospel intended for Christ’s true disciples. For those willing to go the extra mile, he says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.” Have you ever leapt for joy when someone insulted you? Just to be a Catholic today in our country is to be discounted and despised by many. What is this crazy way of thinking that turns the worst things in our life into our greatest blessings?
Let us take Jeremiah’s words to heart: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” It is a choice between the American dream, the ego power dream, or God’s dream for us. For you younger people, think of Harry Potter not keeping the Elder Wand, a wand more powerful than any other wand in the wizarding world. What riches insides him allowed him to give it up? Get in touch with that part of you!
Blessed are you when you wake up and realize that everything your heart desires is already yours. I know it’s true, only I keep seeking it in people, in things, in approval and in accomplishments. Why do we keep looking to the world for a drink when it will only get us drunk? It’s time to stop chasing rainbows.
And let us as individuals and as a parish, seek out the people who are rich in God’s eyes: the poor and the marginalized. As Dorothy Day also said, “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.”
Fr. Pat Neary, CSC
Fr. Chris’ Homily for February 9, 2019 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Perhaps the two most fundamental factors and feelings of our life are faith and fear…
Faith of course, here a deep grounded believe and rooted in God is what we think about when we say faith. But faith goes far beyond that. It extends to people, institutions, perhaps even things, in the laws of physics, the changing of the seasons. We say things all the time like, ”I have faith in him.” When somebody is cynical about a product “Have a little faith.” Or after a bad experience, “I lost my faith in that company.”
Faith means to trust, rely, to put confidence in. Faith is part of everyday life. If you do not believe me, try going about your day without faith, without trust that things will work the way that they normally do. For example, before you turn on a light switch, the TV, the car, etc. Try not to have faith in it. Eventually you will go mad! In fact, that is the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Put differently, to live with out faith. Faith, trust, is a part of everyday life.
And yet, interestingly enough, is its enemy, fear. Fear can spark almost every scary emotion: anxiety, doubt, insecurity, loneliness, worthlessness, scrupulosity, exclusion, failure, jealousy, greed, envy, sloth, anger. There is a fear, a phobia of almost everything known to man. Interestingly enough, fear is also often part of everyday life!
Fear and faith are part of our lives, part of our journeys. In our readings tonight, we see this imaged so clearly, the ebb and flow of fear and faith. Isaiah’s insecurities and feeling of unworthiness, fostered by fear, flow freely, until God assures him of his worth, which he clearly sees and quickly says, “Here, I am Lord, send me!” The transformation is fascinating.
With Peter, we see the opposite. An initial faith, a willingness to “put out into the deep” which quickly devolves into a feeling of utter unworthiness and fear.
Our journey is not all that different. A cycle of faith and fear, fear and faith. Of courage and doubt. Of, “Here I am Lord, send me!” and “Oh No!” And no matter where we are on that journey, Jesus says to us the same words he said to Peter: “Do not be afraid.” “Do not be afraid!”
He stands with us as he did before Peter and calmly says, “Do not be afraid.” The end of that phrase of course is because “I am with you.”
Jesus or God say “Do not be afraid” so many times in the Gospel of Luke that it is almost a catch phrase, his campaign slogan. And given where we are right now in our nation, perhaps there is not a better one, one that speaks more deeply to the needs of our world, the vulnerable, to young people, to the cleric and everyday Christian, to every person.
To those searching and seeking, to those here for the first, fortieth, or fourteen hundredth time. He says to us “Do not be afraid.” He says put out into the deep, whatever you might fear, bring it to the fore, address it before Christ for “I am with you”
To the young and the old, to the single and to the married. But especially today, because it is “World Marriage Day”, he says do not be afraid! Perhaps better than most, married couples know that faith and fear are a part of life. Of course, this is true of all relationships but especially in marriage. To you, all who are married, or engaged to be, Jesus says to you, “Do not be afraid.” If you are happy and flourishing, Jesus says “put out into the deep”, delve further into each other and your faith. If things are rough, Jesus says “put out into the deep”, forget the fear and know that he is here to help you through as he did with Isaiah. Say to him, “Here I am Lord, help.”
Indeed this applies to all of us. May the words calming words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid” pierce our hearts so poignantly and the Body and Blood that we are about to share nourish us so fully, that we, like Isaiah may say to Jesus…”Here I am Lord, send me.”
Fr. Chris Brennan, CSC
Fr. Pat’s Homily for February 3, 2019 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Oscar Romero of El Salvador was a prophet. When he became Archbishop, the political elite privately rejoiced, knowing that this bookish, conservative man would not interfere. Then the death squads began their work of killing. His own priest friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande, who worked in a slum was murdered. When he saw his body he said, “If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I took must walk the same path.” On March 23, 1980, he cancelled all Masses except one. In his homily, he challenged El Salvador’s soldiers to stop carrying out government orders in violation of human rights. That evening, as he celebrated a Mass in a hospital chapel, he was shot dead by a lone gunman.
It’s not easy being a prophet. Look at the prophet Jeremiah. Despite his protests of being too young and a poor speaker, he is sent. He was mocked and persecuted by his fellow villagers, forbidden by God to marry or have children, beaten and put into stocks. He barely escapes the death sentence demanded by a mob. He had to go into hiding for his preaching and was accused of being a traitor. After being pulled out of a dry well, he was kept in prison, only to be carried off to Egypt against his will. If you are ever feeling discouraged, read Jeremiah!
Jesus doesn’t fare any better. He makes a big splash in the beginning. He’s in his home town synagogue and it’s going well. But then his old neighbors start thinking, “But he’s the carpenter’s son. Who does he think he is? He’s a nobody, really.” And Jesus proceeds to offend them. Jesus knew his own neighbors were stuck in old patterns of thinking. He praises pagan Gentiles as being superior to his fellow Jews to get their goat. He purposely touches a raw nerve and he almost gets himself killed. Think twice before becoming a prophet.
I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is: you are a prophet. The bad news is: you are a prophet. When you were baptized, you were baptized a priest, a prophet and a king. As a prophet, you are called to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. And that isn’t much fun!
I have to confess that most of my life I’ve wanted people to like me, to approve of me. It has its rewards but it’s also a trap. While District Superior in East Africa, I sometimes did not renew a Holy Cross religious as Headmaster of a high school or as a Pastor. They didn’t like this and they didn’t like me! It wasn’t fun but I slowly realized that serving the truth matters more than ego approval.
Our real fear is taking on the disapproval of the human ego. The ego is that deep sense of separation and division in human beings: Me against the world. The human ego begins as soon as a child looks at a toy and say, “mine!” The ego is in charge of the media, politics and many organizations. It is a distorted way of seeing reality that Jesus called sin. It is a trickster. When challenged, it can become very violent. Just tell someone he or she is wrong and watch it at work! Jesus was all compassion but not with the ego. He went after it, especially in the smug religious leaders. He called it Satan when he saw it in St. Peter. He will continue to attack it in you and me until our ego surrenders, until he wins. That is why it’s dangerous for us when everything is sweet and pleasant.
Eventually the ego surrenders and we assume “Christ-consciousness,” which is our true nature. Another word for it is love. Your Christ nature is patient and kind. Your Christ-consciousness is not jealous, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing, but rejoices with the truth. Your true self bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
You no longer fear anyone or anything because you’re free. That is what it means to live like a king or a queen: not having fame or fortune. You’ve become a prophet: someone who can speak the truth to anyone, even to those in power, without counting the cost—just like Jeremiah and Jesus did.
Embrace your inner prophet. Our society says that we must not offend anyone, but sometimes the Gospel demands that we give offense for the truth. Let God show you when you must comfort the afflicted and when you must comfort he afflict the comfortable. The church needs you!
As St. Oscar Romero wrote, “A Church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of society in which it is being proclaimed, what gospel is that?”
Fr. Pat Brennan, CSC
Fr. Chris’ Homily for January 27, 2019 ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Who here has a favorite movie? Or book? Or song? Or now days, YouTube video? And what is your reaction when somebody hasn’t seen that movie? Well, if you are like me, you are first shocked and then you immediately want to show them the movie!
I bring this up because Fr. Pat and I found out that one of the novices has not seen “Tommy Boy”…my initial feeling was anger, then sorrow, then denial and I am only getting to acceptance now. Fr. Pat and I look at each other and said, we will have to fix that…or in the great line from Uncle Argle in Braveheart…”We shall have to remedy that.” I mean, seriously, how could somebody live life without, seeing “Fat guy in a little coat!”
We have all had similar experiences. When somebody doesn’t know our favorite movie, favorite song, book, or YouTube video…we have this intense, ingrained desire to share it with them. We wanted them to experience what we have, what has brought us joy, what has moved us. Even the most quite, reserved and nerdy among us love to share about the things that we love—case in point…Star Wars people…If you do not know which episode “The Empire Strikes Back” is, they look at you as if you kicked their dog and insulted their mother at the same time!
We love to share and invite people into what we experience, what brings us not only enjoyment, but what moves us, what gives us life. So that, that person might be moved and given life as well. That we might share something in common with them.
Hopefully, the same is true with our faith. We are made so alive by what we do and say here, that what we consume here, Christ’s Body, is actually what, who we are—the Body of Christ. That what we consume here, consumes us in such a way, that we cannot wait to share. That the reaction we have when somebody hasn’t seen “Tommy Boy” is strong when we know that somebody has not come to Church in a while, or has never met Christ.
Of course, it is a lot easier to convince somebody to watch a movie than drag them to Church. Because faith is so intimate it can be harder to share, but perhaps all the more reason to. It can be hard to share because the Church is not perfect, which has been painfully evident recently, but perhaps, all the more reason to share the joy that Christ has offered you. It can be hard to invite others because we ourselves have doubts, perhaps all the more reason to share that despite those doubts you have received life ,not only from his Body on that altar, but from his Body seated in these pews.
Paul tells us that we are one body, with many parts. And that all of us who have been baptized are a part of this body, whether we know it or recognize it. He says that all of us BELONG! We belong to Christ, we belong in this place. Like the parts of the body, all of us belong, all of us matter, all of us play an important function. And the fact that we are different, and distinct, is not only okay, it is essential to our health!
We are less able to do one of the essential parts of the mission of the Church, as Dorothy Day said, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” There are many not here that need to be comforted and perhaps some of us here, that need to be challenged by them.
Paul says all of us belong, but not just all of us who are here belong, but so many of our brothers and sisters, that are not here. They are part of the body, and when we are not here, we are less of what we are. We are less ourselves as the Body of Christ. And it means that we don’t function as well. Part of our mouth is missing, so we speak less loudly, less prophetically, lovingly. Part of our eye is missing so we see less clearly, we are blind to certain things. Part of ear is missing, so we hear less and less.
We are the Body of Christ, and all who are baptized belong to Christ, indeed, all people belong to Christ. Everyone belongs in this place. We are a place where people are not just welcome but belong!
Precisely because of who we are in Christ!
Christ is at the center. Always. He is who we share. So that others might have what we have. That they might have life, and have it abundantly.
May what we consume at this altar, nourish us to be who we are, his Body. May his Body, this Body, strengthen us to bring others along because they already belong. Not only in this place, but to Christ.
Fr. Chris Brennan, CSC
Fr. Pat’s Homily for January 20, 2019 ~ Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
One day this poor couple in Italy came to the Associate Pastor of a parish and said, “We can’t afford to rent a hall for our wedding reception. Could we use the church for our reception if we promise not to drink or dance?” The young priest pleaded with the Pastor about this, and the Pastor agreed under one condition: that there would be no drinking or dancing. Being good Italians there was a little wine and a little dancing, and then eventually a lot of wine and a lot of dancing. The Pastor witnessed what was happening and went to complain to the Associate Pastor. The Associate Pastor said, “But Father, there was drinking and dancing at the wedding in Cana.” And the Pastor replied, “Yes, there was, but the Blessed Sacrament wasn’t there!”
The wedding at Cana, to which Jesus, Mary and the disciples were all invited, witnessed Jesus’ first miracle. It all comes about because they have run out of wine. How would you feel if at your wedding or your party there is nothing left to drink? Mary is alive to this couple’s humiliation. She intervenes with Jesus and says, “They have no wine.” She becomes the model disciple. She is never referred to by name in John’s gospel. She only appears here at Cana and at the foot of the Cross. She is the model disciple for John. “Do whatever he tells you,” she says. It echoes her own, “Be it done to me as you have said.”
First of all, this gospel salutes all married couples. Christ performs his first miracle at a wedding. Weddings reminded Jesus of God’s marriage to the people of Israel and the joy of married love. There is no greater institution on earth than your marriage, no greater force for good. Given our human limitations and weaknesses, marriage is also hard work. If we invite Jesus into our marriage and family life, he can transform them as he transformed water in wine.
There are times, however, when we seemingly have no wine. Life seems dry and meaningless. We have our seasons of depression or anxiety. We commit a big mistake. We have periods of self-doubt or guilt. Maybe we don’t find fulfillment in our work anymore. We just aren’t happy. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our marriage fails and the pain is unbearable. We are stuck drinking inferior wine when life is meant to be a banquet.
Wherever Jesus went, however, people were full of joy and wanted to have a party. Jesus changed about 180 gallons of water into wine. That’s a lot of wine, and it’s on top of the jars the revelers had drained already. It’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “Party on!” Just so, for the wine here of course represents Jesus and the New Covenant. No need for a designated driver when our beverage of choice is God Himself. Cut loose and drink deep! So, we’re called to get tipsy on Jesus. (I hesitate to say blasted.)
To what end? In vino veritas, “in wine there is truth” goes the old Roman saying, and that applies here, too. Curiously, this wine brings clear-sighted sobriety: we finally see that are what we drink in the Eucharist; we are Christ. We must bring the wine to all who are thirsting for love. If not us, then who?
We must bring wine to co-workers, fellow students, family members, friends and even our enemies. We must give wine to those who seemingly have no wine in life, especially the poor, the lonely, prisoners and immigrants.
I went a few months back to give out food from the back of the truck of one of our Hispanic parishioners. He loads a big pot of spaghetti, Spanish rice, sandwiches and water, and travels to areas where small groups of the homeless live. At one little bus stop, this pretty young woman sat with a friend. She was homeless and told me that the Bible she had from her grandmother was stolen. When I handed her a plate of food, she said, “I’m so hungry. Thank you.” It about broke my heart but it also made my heart swell with love. She had no wine but we gave her wine, and she gave us wine in turn.
So in the spirit of that Italian wedding and the wedding at Cana, I’ll leave you with a few Catholic quotes on wine, wishing that you and I can be filled to the brim with the wine of joy:
• Hilaire Belloc wrote, “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so, Benedicamus Domino.”
• St. John XXIII said, “Men are like wine—some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”
• St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.
Fr. Patrick Neary, CSC.