Fr. Pat’s Homily June 16th, 2019
How would you explain the Trinity to someone who hasn’t heard about it? St. Patrick used the shamrock to preach to the Irish: three petals but one shamrock, three persons but one God. In reality, the human mind cannot capture God.
If I could sum up in a simple way how I see the Trinity, I would say that at the heart of God there is a diversity of persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—which is reflected in the stunning diversity of all created things. Yet at heart the three are one, and thus, so are we, along with all created things. The fate of the human race and our planet hang in the balance until this mystery is understood.
There is further diversity in the Trinity, because the Holy Spirit is often seen as the feminine aspect of God. If the Trinity gives birth to all of creation, it makes sense. In the Old Testament, Wisdom is feminine and is God’s playful companion. She says, “Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of the earth, and I found delight in the human race.”
The mystery of the Trinity as three persons is reflected the stunning diversity of creation. Yet deep down everything is one.
From the unity and the oneness of God, the Big Bang exploded into space and time 13.7 billion years ago. The universe is still expanding, faster than at the beginning. Scientists estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies, but with improved telescopes in space, they predict we may find 200 billion galaxies. They also believe there are other universes parallel to this one.
Our galaxy is not the largest and earth is a mere speck of dust in the backwater of the galaxy. Earth is nothing compared to the vastness of the universe, but pull a blade grass, and it reverberates throughout the entire universe. It is all one, after all.
If you consider the history of the earth in a 24 hour clock, humans came on the scene a little past 11:58 p.m. There are 7.6 billion people now. They speak 6,500 languages. Yet scientists can prove that they all come from one place: Africa, and more specifically, one tribe in Kenya. Adam and Eve were Kenyans. We are all one, after all.
We human beings are the crown of creation and we mirror the mystery of the Trinity that formed us. You can see our diversity in this very church. Just turn and look at your neighbors. No two of us are exactly alike. Yet we long for oneness, for connection, for union. Married couples best live the mystery of the Trinity, as two people become one flesh when they pronounce their wedding vows. Deep down, every human being longs to go home, to be one with God.
Sadly, human beings are a dangerously insane and a very sick species. In the 20th century alone, human beings killed just over 100 million people. Our ego self, our false self, usually feels separate and alienated from God and from other human beings. People cut off from God can do some pretty bad things. Hate and violence are the result. We don’t realize that our unloving and hateful thoughts poison the entire universe. We are powerful spiritual beings.
Christ came to wake us up, to help us realize that the diversity of people, dogs, cats, birds, horses, trees, flowers, and snowflakes, is beautiful, and just a show for our entertainment. We are meant to laugh and delight in creation and in human beings, just as God does. I like how Meister Eckhart put it:
“When God laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten. When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that love is the Holy Spirit.” How about that for a definition of the Trinity?
The Holy Trinity has one desire: our pleasure, our joy, our peace. Deep down we are all brilliant and glorious emanations of the Trinity—likes rays of light from the sun. We are all made of divine stuff. Your only task is to awaken to the mystery that is you. You are the temple of the Trinity, the very throne of God: for you who were made in the image and likeness of God.
When I receive Christ in the Eucharist, the God who fills the entire universe fills my soul. And I am one with God, with all people, and with all that fills the universe. I am in all things and all things are in me: the mystery of the Trinity is my mystery and yours. The fate of our earth depends on this discovery!
Fr. Pat Neary, C.S.C.
Fr. Chris’s Homily for June 2, 2019
Why do we even celebrate the Ascension? It seems kind of silly doesn’t it. It seems like something that we should be mourning…It’s like getting really excited that your best friend is moving across the country, or across the world.
Why would celebrate Jesus leaving us?
Maybe we could say that we celebrate because that is what the first disciples did, as we heard in our reading: “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.”
Okay fine, but why were they happy? Why celebrate Jesus’ departure?
Precisely because they knew it was not a departure but an opening up of a new way.
In many Orthodox Churches, Ascension Sunday is celebrated with similar solemnity to Christmas, it is seen as a parallel feast. For this very reason, Jesus is showing us the way.
At Christmas, the incarnation, Jesus descends the ladder from heaven so that he could show us how to live fully as humans. He becomes flesh, incarnates, so that we might live like him.
At the Ascension, Jesus ascends the ladder to heaven, so that he could show us also how to live more like him by become more united with the divine, the divine image and likeness in which we were created!
We celebrate the Ascension because it is the opening up for us a new way, the Way to divinization.
You are probably tired of hearing this, but today of all days, this prayer makes the most sense, “May we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.”
The Ascension is the very way that we are able to share in the divinity of Christ. Through his Incarnation and the Ascension Jesus has made himself the very ladder, the bridge to heaven. The one that reaches out, as we see him doing on the cross, to bring together, to unite heaven earth, humanity and divinity.
This is precisely what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Way! He is the very path we walk upon on our journey to heaven…to divinization.
But this process of divinization does not just happen in a matter of moments. Divinization begins here, now, on earth. As it did with Jesus.
Because the ladder, the bridge to heaven, begins here on earth. In the way that we live, in the way that we treat each other. If divinization is the end goal…then just skating by in not really the method. Figuring out what I have to do to get to heaven, with the least amount of work and effort, is not really the mentality.
And that is precisely what Jesus showed us, shows us by his life. He shows us the way. He didn’t simply skate by, but went out of his way to pray, to heal, to unburden, to comfort, to feed, forgive, and foster friendship. To elevate the dignity and point to the divinity present in every person, every human life, not matter how small, seemingly insignificant, broken, wounded or warped.
He is and was the bridge for others, the one who stood and stands amidst conflict as an instrument of peace, holding seeming opposites in tension—heaven and earth, human and divine, Jews and Gentiles. He has shown us the way. And invites us to do the same among the dramatic division in our world, our families, our friends, our homes and our hearts.
The Ascended Jesus beckons us to follow in his footsteps. He has opened heaven for us and shown us the way. A way that begins here on earth, in our humanity and ends with us sharing in his divinity.
This week Jesus invites us to extend bridges, to forgive, to be peace for others, to begin our journey to heaven, our journey to divinity with fervor and zeal.
Knowing that we can only do so with his help, perhaps each day this week our prayer can be, Jesus show me the way today. So that we might begin so share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity and through his ascension showed us the way to heaven.
Fr. Chris’s Homily For May 19 th, 2019
Okay Jesus…thanks for giving us an impossible task! Let’s get this straight…we are supposed to love as he has loved us! Like with divine love…What! That is impossible! We are not him, we are not God. We don’t make all things new!
To make matters worse, Jesus could not even convince those who spent almost all their waking hours with him to love that way. The first line of the Gospel tells us this much. Judas has just left the last supper to betray Jesus…not to love like him.
If the first disciples didn’t love like Jesus, how can we be expected to!
Especially with the way that things are in our world! We are divided into good guys and bad guys, democrats and republicans, conservatives and liberals, friends and enemies, those we agree with and the idiotic worthless people who cannot see what I see, the right and the wrong, the valiant and the vile, the righteous and the wretched.
How can we love people who so greatly disagree with…and perhaps secretly, or not so secretly despise or look down upon?
Better yet, would Jesus have even loved some of these people…these people so unworthy of love? And if he would have, how in the heck could we possibly love as he did…as he does?
The answer is, not alone and never simply by our own power. Loving one another as Jesus commands so simply, is never simple. Love is messy, complicated, hard work. And it always required his help—He is the one who makes things new.
And yet Jesus, knowing what love takes as he was preparing to show his disciples what love looks like—the vulnerability of the cross, hammers home this idea of love in this Gospel—commanding love three times in as many sentences.
He means for his disciples, for us who follow him, to follow him fully to his ultimate vision of love. A love that mandates far more than simple tolerance, acceptance, or even romance.
A love that requires knowledge, relationship, friendship, even vulnerability. A willingness to see a person beyond positions and politics, a willingness to see the dignity of even those we find the most disgusting, a willingness to see Jesus—to see the divine, in the human.
You have heard it said many times from this ambo, but as a way of reminder, at every Mass when the priest or deacon pours the water into the wine, the ordinary into the extraordinary, he prays the same prayer… “By the mystery of this water and wine, my we share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
A prayer that calls upon God to help transform our ordinary love, into extraordinary love. A prayer that recognizes that we can only love as Jesus loves, with his help. A prayer that begs God, to make all things new!
Prayer is important. Actually praying for those who we are called to love. Asking God to help us to love more fully those who are easy to love and those most annoying and aggravating among us. Prayer that asks God to make new stale relationships, stalled love, and ancient grudges. Prayer and trust that “Behold, I make all things new.” That Christ’s power is real!
In addition to this trust and prayer, Jesus calls us to action. To actually do something. To love by first knowing. Because this is how Jesus loved, as we heard in the Gospel last week. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
Every single person in the world has a deeply ingrained desire to know and be known, to love and to be loved. And the only avenue in which this desire is satisfied is through relationship—in genuinely getting to know those we are called to love, in actually caring about one another and our neighbor’s wellbeing.
St. Augustine wrote that “No one can be truly known [or loved], except through friendship.” That then is what we are called to. Through friendship and love to make all things new.
In commanding and challenging us to love as he loves, Jesus is asking us to approach every person we meet as if they were a friend. With a spirit of care and compassion, recognizing the inherent dignity of all people—it is the only way to obey his command to love on another.
This is no simple task and on our own it is impossible.
Yet in every instance of love, however possible or impossible it may seem, Jesus is there, present, prodding us to see dignity, to see the divine in the human.
And in the most difficult and impossible of situations, at every opportunity of love, he stand by us, whispering, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Fr. Pat’s Homily For May 19th, 2019
When I worked in Campus Ministry at the University of Notre Dame with Latino students, we had a wonderful Latino student retreat, and most of the talks were given by the students. One young woman, who was beautiful and very smart—all the guys wanted to date her—gave a talk about her life. Yes, she was a cheerleader in high school, she was Student Body President, but most people didn’t know two important things about her. When she came home from high school, her father, who was from Colombia, was seated on the couch in handcuffs. Officials from the DEA were there, and it turns out he worked for a drug cartel in Colombia. After that, whenever she wanted to see her father, she would have to visit him in prison. It wasn’t long after that that she was diagnosed with a very serious illness called Lupus. It means that you won’t live a long and full life. Yet this young woman was so full of love, so full of joy, always smiling, you would never have guessed how much she had suffered in her young life. The room was spellbound as she gave her talk and no one said anything for a little while after she stopped speaking.
St. Paul says in the first reading today: “You have to undergo many trials to enter the kingdom of God.” My friends, especially you young people, you face a lot of challenges. Often there are problems at home. Some of you wrestle with depression or anxiety. You want to be accepted at school, or even be popular, but some kids do things that just aren’t good or right. You know that some of your friends can even feel alone or suicidal. And sometimes when you look towards the future you can worry about what the options are for you.
This might sound crazy, but your problems are your best friends. Why? Because when you have problems, you will learn that your happiness isn’t in the world out there. There isn’t a person that can make you happy. No amount of money can make you happy. No job can make you happy. No fame can make you happy. We think that singers and actors and athletes are happy. But most of them are miserable and afraid.
Your problems will help you see that your only hope is your faith in Christ. Whenever I feel down or afraid, I turn to the 2nd letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 12. He said he was given a thorn in the flesh and three times he begged Jesus to take it away from him. All that Jesus said to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you. For in weakness power reaches perfection.” So St. Paul said, “I’m content with my weaknesses. For when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.
Whatever your problems are, talk to the Lord Jesus about them. Ask him to transform your problems and weaknesses into blessings for you. Just as bread and wine and transformed by the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, so you will be transformed into another Christ. For you are also Christ!
Fr. Chris’ Homily For First Communion Mass on May 5th, 2019
We are going to start with a few questions. Here are the rules: the First Communicants start first, then the parents if there is awkward silence, then Mrs. Bagby, then Fr. Pat.
The first question, and we will start easy, what is today? Why are we here? (Third Sunday of Easter, First Communion)
Communion, what do we mean by that? What is communion?
(Community, unity, together, with each other, with God, with Jesus)
When we come to Communion, what do we do?
(Receive God, Jesus, so that we might be close to him! We are fed!)
Now with this question we are going to get a little tougher. What are other names for Communion? (Bread of Life, Eucharist)
What does Eucharist mean? (Thanksgiving)
So we have Communion (coming closer to God and each other), Eucharist (giving thanks), and Bread of Life (being feed).
Now I am going to focus on this last part, Bread of Life, because that is precisely what you are going to receive for the first time today!
Bread. Bread is present in many key points of Jesus’ life: his miracles, his meals, his last supper and in almost every appearance he makes to his disciples after the resurrection, after he has risen from the dead, as we see in the reading that we just heard from the Gospel of John (John 21: 1-19). Often, his disciples only recognize him after the breaking of the bread.
So it is no wonder then, that Jesus gives us himself as the Bread of Life. As food for our journeys, as nourishment as we walk in his way. For thousands of years, for centuries Christians have been feed by this ancient bread—the Bread of Life.
Speaking of ancient bread, there is somebody in this parish who makes an excellent sourdough! And her starter comes from the 1850’s. If you do not know what a starter is, it is basically a gloopy, gluey blob of stringy dough that you take a little bit of, add it to flour and it makes the bread rise and it is also what gives it its distinctive sour flavor.
Not only is this bread delicious, it also is fascinating. Think about how many people have been feed in the last 170 years from this one starter dough, because one person shared it with others. It is fascinating how so many can be fed.
And yet this starter has only been able to feed so many in the last 170 years because it too has been fed. If the starter is not periodically fed with flour, it will deflate, it will die.
At our baptism, our starter was begun, and it is in the communion that we receive here that that starter is continually fed and nourished. It is where we receive our daily bread that we pray for every time we say the Our Father.
It is through this Bread of Life that we are nourished and called to take that same nourishment into our world and feed others. To build community, to give thanks, to feed others. In receiving the Bread of Life, we receive the Body of Christ, Jesus. St. Augustine said, as you approach communion, “receive who you are (the Body of Christ), and become what you receive (The Body of Christ)”
For some of you, this is your first communion, you will be fed with the Bread of Life. And while it is a beautiful moment to mark and cherish, it is not the most important. Why? Because your second communion is, and after your second, your third will be the most important. And it is the same for all of us, our next communion is the most important because it is what will feed us and allow us to continue to feed others!
Jesus knew the importance of feeding people.It brought people together (communion) and it allowed them the opportunity to give thanks (Eucharist). As you gather to eat this week around your tables at home to be fed, take some time to be nourished by food, but also by each other’s company and each other’s thanksgiving.
May the Bread of Life, our daily bread, continue to feed the good work started in us at our Baptism. May this communion, this Eucharist sustain us all…and help us to become what we receive and be bread for others!
Fr. Chris’ Homily from April 21, 2019 – Easter Sunday
My family has a story that comes up from time to time. The story of when “Steve Got Lost.” Many of you probably have similar stories that you share among your families, and they usually begin with the same question: “Where is _________?”
In my family’s case, it begins with “Where’s Steve?” We were all on vacation. I was an infant, my brother Steve must have been 5 and my other two brothers 10 and 12. We were all at a hotel and spread around, a few people in the room, a few people outside in the sun and a few people at the indoor pool.
As these stories go, my oldest brother thought my dad was keeping an eye on Steve, my dad thought my oldest brother was keeping an eye on Steve. Well Steve left the pool to go to the room and be with my mom. As it so happened, while Steve goes up one elevator to the room, my mom is on the other elevator with me coming to go to the pool.
Enter the classic question: “Where’s Steve?” And then, the ensuing chaos. Anxiety. The pit in the stomach forms. My mom runs to the lobby, one brother runs outside, another to the room. He is now where to be found. The pits in the stomach start to grow, and you can see the panic in the eyes of not only of my parents, but of my brothers who were calling out his name. Anxious thoughts wander to the worst.
They found by brother when he walked back to the pool, not knowing the stir he caused, always closer to them than they thought. Even though there was nothing to fear, the tension was palpable, you could cut it with a knife. My family was a nervous wreck running around asking, “Where is he?”
It is with that same anxiety, with those same thoughts wondering to the worst, that Mary Magdalene in panic thinks “Where is he?”, runs to Peter and John and frantically says, “We don’t know where he is, they’ve taken him, they’ve taken my Lord!”
Because we know the end of the Easter story and because we know that Jesus has not been taken, but indeed risen from the dead, it is hard to enter into the anxiety, fear and frustration of these first disciples.
But their anxiety and fear are real. And it is only magnified by their sorrow, frustration, shock and anger at losing their teacher, their friend, their Lord, the one they spent almost every waking hour with. Their confusion and wrath at the scandal of the Cross weighs heavy too.
While it might be hard to feel the emotions of Mary, Peter and John in the Gospel today, at different points this year we have felt each of these emotions. And for different reasons, chief among them, the scandal in the Church has stung again, and we have felt confusion, sorrow, frustration, shock, anger, anxiety, fear and indignation.
These feelings have weighed heavy on us. And justifiably we have felt anger, indignation, heart break. We have been robbed of our trust and confidence in our church and our faith.
We may be tempted to see this as a symbol that it’s all over, that the faith is gone, that the story is over and that it should all be placed in the tomb of the past and the large stone of progress should roll and close it up forever. Many of us are angry, disenchanted, embarrassed and just tired. Frustrated, fearful, anxious. It feels sometimes like all has been lost.
As it did for Mary, Peter and John that first Easter. As did for the first followers of Christ.
When the death, destruction, despair and darkness of evil lingers like a cloud of smoke, when the Cross looms large and our hearts are left with only the emptiness of the tomb, we are tempted to dwell so deeply in them that it seems like these are the only things that are real. That we see only darkness and not His light. When we feel only fear and despair.
And in these dark times, as Mary did that first Easter morning, as Peter and John did and as countless Christians who have come before us have, we ask ourselves, “Where is Jesus?”
He is much closer than we think. He is never far from the Cross and the empty tomb. Never far from our crosses, crisis, chaos. Never far from our empty tombs even when it feels like he is light years away!
The history of the Church is full of Christians who have allowed the light of Christ to shine in them, amidst scandal, against the backdrop of dark despair. Men and women who, like the first disciples, shared his light! His resurrection. And dispelled the darkness. Men and women who knew what it meant to be resurrection people. Who, in the Cross and in the empty tomb, saw not death, but life…saw Jesus, the Risen One. Saw Resurrection.
Some of you may know the story of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who in 1980 was murdered, martyred as he was saying Mass. He was one of these men, who in desperate and despairing times, when his people were literally being killed, engaged darkness with light. But not his own light but that of Jesus, the Risen One.
And that light spread!
At his funeral, in the back drop of the empty tomb, those Christians saw Jesus, the Risen One. In the face of death and evil, when they had every right to despair, they shouted, Resurrection, Resurrection!
On dark days, when we ask, “Where is Jesus?”, the answer is where ever we find and sow light, we find Jesus, the Risen One.
When we love, in the face of only searing hatred, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When we turn our enemies into our neighbors, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When we forgive those who have only sought our peril and defeat, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When a young couple chooses life and the sacrifices it entails, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When we see the poor as our brother or our sister, embrace their dignity and feed their hunger, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When a parent can love their gay child as God loves them, made in His image and likeness, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When addictions no longer grip the hearts and lives of our friends, we find Jesus, the Risen One. When we take a deep breath, YH-WH, we find Jesus, the Risen One.
On dark days, may the light of Easter shine brightly! Amidst the backdrop of the empty tomb, when we and others question in fear, anxiety and despair ask, “Where is Jesus?” may our lives, shine forth with his light, and may our actions give others reason to hope and see Jesus, the Risen One.
To chant, with contagious joy—Resurrection, Resurrection, Resurrection!
Fr. Pat’s Homily from April 14, 2019 – Palm Sunday
Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Poor Peter. What shame, what disgrace, what weakness, what utter failure. Christ once offered him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. All was lost now.
Peter was not in the room with Jesus when he denied him, yet the Lord turned and looked at him. What do you think that Peter saw in that look of Jesus?
Whatever it was stunned him. The way the Lord looked at him hadn’t changed. It was a look of love, of compassion, of understanding, of forgiveness. It was the look of a faithful friend, of a lifelong lover.
The Lord looks at us the same way. Everything we seek is in that look. What have we to worry about? Why are we afraid? All is forgiven. All is well.
Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
Fr. Chris’ Homily from April 7, 2019 – 5th Sunday of Lent
Many of us are probably asking the question, “What did Jesus write?” “What could he possibly have written, to turn the Pharisees away?”
Well, after thousands of years of study and research, scholars can definitively and with absolute certainty say what Jesus wrote on the ground. Nothing. Really nobody has any idea about what he wrote!
And while our attention might initially go to what he wrote, what he did might have even more significance. What he actually does, especially in our world of words, might be of more value.
To combat the coy test of the Pharisees, their self-righteous arrogance and puffed out chests, Jesus opts for the opposite. He kneels down and writes on the ground. In response to their pride, he responds in humility, first by kneeling in front of a sinner, something one does before their superior, but also by writing on the ground, on the humus—of which we can see the root of the word hum-ility.
Jesus’ reaction models mercy and humility. And he humbly offers that humble mercy to us and challenges us to offer the humble mercy we have received to others.
At different points in our lives, we stand before Jesus as the accused woman, scared, nervous, sinful. And at other times, we stand before Jesus proud, self-righteous, afraid and sinful.
What is common between the woman in the middle and the Pharisees is their sinfulness, which Jesus so clearly draws out. He challenges us to humility, recognize both our own sinfulness and his mercy!
The message is mercy and humility. The amazing thing is that even the Pharisees were humble, perhaps it was a forced humility, but they were humbled to recognize that, standing before the one who humbled himself to share in our humanity, they too were sinners.
While Jesus’ drawing attention and witness to humility is perhaps more significant, it does not mean that what he wrote, was of no value.
The fact that what he wrote is a mystery, seems to be an invitation to enter into the story ourselves. To embrace the curiosity. What did he write? Who was he writing to? Was he writing to the Pharisees, perhaps listing their sins? Was he writing to the woman, reassuring her? Or was he writing to you?
This week, enter this story, allow it to flow over you. Ask Jesus what he would write to you.
And around the water coolers, the blog-o-spheres, and the kitchen tables, as we hear of people literally getting stoned, and the daily lambasting and mud slinging in the media, this reading calls us to figuratively kneel and write on the ground. To embraces his humility.
Amidst the many circles of condemnation we experience daily, Jesus is writing us a message, challenging us to take up our Cross and follow him, take up his model of mercy and humility. Not condemning and vilifying others but lovingly summoning the sinner, meaning not just others but ourselves, to repent, to continuing conversion, to live a better life, to a fresh start, to Jesus’ gentle and infinite mercy!
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine!
Fr. Pat’s Homily from March 31, 2019 – 4th Sunday of Lent
Africans have a special take on the story of the prodigal son. They know that it is taboo to ask your father for your inheritance while he is still living. It means that you want him to die. So a father would beat his son for even asking such a thing. The request would never be granted in the first place.
The father is very unusual in that he readily grants his request, knowing that his younger son is headed for trouble. I think we all know parents whose kids head down the wrong path and the anguish they go through, especially if they have a drug or alcohol problem. The younger son is looking for happiness in a distant land. He ends up broke, without friends, and reduced to feeding pigs. There is a little humor here, as Jews did not eat pork, so not even having the food given to pigs means that he’s hit rock bottom.
He’s not really sorry about what he’s done, he’s just starving. He has a prepared speech, all rehearsed, but it’s not from the heart. His father, who symbolizes God, is watching every day for his return. He rushes to him and doesn’t let him finish his speech. He embraces him, covers him with kisses, and gives him the finest cloak, ring, and sandals that he has. This, my friends, is how God treats sinners! It’s just the opposite of what you’d expect.
I know a gentleman in our parish from Mexico who is a prodigal son. He left Mexico as a boy of 14 and ended up in California, only to become a drug addict and an alcoholic. Ten years later, having hit rock bottom, he discovered God’s love and achieved sobriety. The man is on fire with the love of God and he talks like a preacher. Recently he spoke to 2,000 Latino men at a state prison and they were spellbound. I’m jealous, as he knows God’ love better than I do.
Maybe you and I haven’t gone astray like the prodigal son, but we are like him in that we constantly look for our happiness out in the world. We keep thinking that this person or this thing will fulfill me. We are looking for love in all the wrong places. We also have to realize, too, that our worst failures, mistakes, sins, or sufferings are the very things that will transform us and set us free.
Believe it or not, the older brother ends up worse off than the younger brother. Jesus is referring to the scribes and Pharisees when he talks about the older brother. The older son always does the right thing, is moral, and is perfectly obedient to his father. Yet he doesn’t feel loved by the father. So he is not loving himself and condemns his brother.
I’m more like the older brother. I have always tried to do what’s right, to be moral, to live the Scout law, and to be nice to others. But part of me has always felt like I have to earn God’s love, or that I can’t fully please God. And even though I’m a priest, I can still doubt God’s unconditional love of me. I remember a quote by Carl Jung, which said that in his experience most people, deep down, feel rejected by God. I think for many people that is how they feel.
Rembrandt did a famous painting of the prodigal son. The father is a nearly blind old man, who recognizes his son, not with the eyes of the body but with the inner eye of his heart. He expresses his love not in a kiss but through touching his son with his hands. Most amazing are the two hands of the old man: the left hand touching his son’s shoulder is strong and muscular. But the right hand does not hold or grasp. The right hand is soft, very tender and it wants to caress, and to stroke, and to console the son. It is a woman’s hand. Here one sees that a mother’s love best expresses the tender mercy of God.
If we could only catch a glimpse of how loved we are by God, even for a second, we would be changed forever. As St. John says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” To experience this love, I would ask you to think of the person that has loved you most in this world. You didn’t have to earn that love. The person just loved you for who you are. Is your concept of God is at least as good as this person? Carl Jung, the disciple of Sigmund Freud, said that our image of God was the worst qualities of our father and mother rolled into one! So if you have a bad image of God, fire your God! We need to find a more loving image of God. As Tito Collander put it, “It is for us to begin. If we take one step towards the Lord, he takes ten steps towards us—he who saw the prodigal son while he was at a distance, and had compassion and ran and embraced him.”
It is our turn to come home. I can do it by making a simple act of faith: I believe that I am the beloved son, the beloved daughter. God totally accepts me as I am right now. I don’t have to earn anything to be worthy of this love. Everything the father has is mine, because I am his and he is mine. I am rich.
Then the next step is to realize that I am called to become the spiritual father or mother. My only mission on this earth is to radiate love, forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Our hands are mean to embrace and to bless. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila: “God has no eyes now but yours, no hands now but yours, no feet now but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he must see the world, yours are the hands that must bless the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.”
Fr. Pat’s Homily from March 24, 2019 – 3rd Sunday of Lent
Recently I grabbed a book off my bookshelf called, “In the Footprints of Loneliness” by Catherine Doherty. Catherine was of Russian nobility whose family was forced to flee Russia after the communist takeover. She was affectionately referred to as “the Baroness,” and was a deeply devout woman who dedicated her life to serving the poor in Canada. She was a friend and contemporary of Dorothy Day and started the Madonna House ministry to meet the needs of the indigent poor.
I was drawn to “In the Footprints of Loneliness” because of the numerous reports I read about an increasing loneliness in American society. It is not just a phenomenon among older Americans who may live alone, but increasingly young adults experience it too. A recent survey by CIGNA of 20,000 Americans, aged 20-80, determined that more than half of survey respondents, 54 percent, said that they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes, or always felt like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” And 2 in 5 felt like “they lack companionship,” that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they “are isolated from others.” In short, most people in our country views themselves as lonely.
About loneliness, Catherine Doherty wrote, “Have you ever considered loneliness a gift of God? We all suffer from loneliness one way or another. The Lord has made this loneliness. We’re lonely because we’re separated from God. ‘My heart will not rest,’ said St. Augustine, ‘until it rests in Thee.’” She then suggested that, “…if there was ever a lonely person on earth, it was Jesus Christ. The very essence of his loneliness was in the Garden of Gethsemane, when his beloved apostles slept”. She then highlights the loneliness of God, and suggests that, “The loneliness of God is given to man, so that man might arise and seek God.”
How astounding to think that God’s loneliness and human loneliness are meant to bring us together in mutual intimacy and friendship. Catherine even suggests that our happiness lies in entering loneliness, in entering its belly and, there, suddenly meeting God.
As individual believers and as members of the Holy Redeemer family, our call this Lent, is to reach out to those around us who feel lonely. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just a willingness to listen and to give a little of our time. Our presence can be a balm that soothes, not only the loneliness of others, but of Christ himself.
Fr. Chris’ Homily for March 24, 2019 – 3rd Sunday of Lent
YHWH…Does anybody know what it means?
Hebrew for God, Lord, LORD, Jehovah, “I Am”…
It means, “I Am”. That is the fundamental definition of God. He is! And that is kind of strange.
“So [that means] every time we hear the word Yahweh or every time you see LORD in the English Bible, you should think: this is a proper name (like Peter or Mary) built out of the word for “I am” and reminding us each time that God absolutely is.”
God is. Period. Not he was or will be. He is, perpetually… perpetualis-ing. And that makes no sense to us, and that is okay, it inspires our natural curiosity.
It is hard to wrap our heads around, this idea that God is. I Am. God knows that and that is precisely why when he tells Moses who he is-“I Am” YHWH, he puts it in context. I am, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
And perhaps we too can put this reality of God as “I Am” into a context.
I Am, God, is existence itself. In relation to us, that means he is the very reason we exist. “In him we live and move and have our being.” Yes, our being, be-ing, our existence. And the scripture is rich with imagery in this regard but none perhaps greater than Genesis 2—where God breathes life into clay, into us! He breathed his Spirit into us!
And that constant breath of God has not stopped holding us in existence, he has not stopped sustaining us, and he never will!
Our breath gives witness to this. The inhale and exhale even sounds of the divine name-Yaa-Wae!
Each breath we take draws on his existence. Serves as a reminder that we are because he is! Reminds us of “I Am”. We all know the power of taking a deep breath and intential breathing…given the power of YHWH, perhaps the value of a deep breath is more than simply psychological…But a taking in of the Spirit.
And that is precisely why we come here—through this moment of worship to be reminded of his constant presence, to receive the nourishment (in Word and Sacrament) to live in and into his presence!
That is why we practice Lenten disciplines—to breathe in the Spirit and be reminded of I AM! We say no to things so that we can see the existence behind things, so we can see the very reason these things exist—I Am!
“Our world is well provisioned with gifts from God’s hand, but the gifts are often worshiped and the Giver is ignored.”
The season of Lent calls us back, as does the Mass, to worship not things, not God’s gifts but God, the great I Am.
Sometimes during Lent, we can trick ourselves into believing that we pray and fast and give alms so that we can change God’s opinion of us. That we might give him a reason to have mercy on us and be kinder than we deserve. No! We don’t do these things to change God. He is “I Am”, the One Never Changes, Who Always Is.
We are the ones who are called to change, called to conversion, called to conscious of his constant presence. That our fickleness might be transfigured into faithfulness, into the same steadfast generosity that God offered to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to Moses, and now to us.
May I Am, YHWH, continues to breathe life into us on our journeys, especially this Lent! May our prayer, fasting, and alms giving help us remember that I Am is the source of our life, helps us to be aware and conscious of his presence in our lives—that in him we live and move and have our being. That he is our very breath and inspire us to cling to him!
YH-WH bring us, your people, close to you!
Fr. Pat’s Homily for March 17, 2019 – 2nd Sunday of Lent
I think that my favorite religious movie as a kid was the 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Pharaoh. I loved it when Moses’ staff becomes a cobra, when the two staffs of the magicians of Pharaoh also become cobras and the cobra of Moses eats them. And it is an awesome spectacle when Moses touches his staff to the River Nile and it turns into blood. It gave me goosebumps to watch the Angel of Death slowly sweep down from the moonlit sky to strike down all the firstborn males of Egypt.
The exodus is the central narrative of the Jewish people whom God rescued from slavery. In St. Luke’s gospel, Moses and Elijah are there to give Jesus courage as they speak to him about his coming exodus. Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses who is about to embark on a new exodus to liberate people from their greatest foe — not the Pharaoh but death itself! When Moses once spoke to God on the mountain, his face became so radiant that he had to cover it with a veil to talk to the people. Jesus’ face also becomes radiant, which prefigures the glory of his resurrection.
Each of us must also undergo an exodus, because if we are honest, we are all slaves to something. Maybe it’s some trauma or memory from our past, some mistake or failure, that we can’t shake. Some of us are enslaved by the opinions of others. Maybe we or a loved one has experienced some kind of addiction. Almost all of us are enslaved by our minds, our egos. We rarely feel at peace or present to the moment, because our minds are racing at warp speed. Our busy lives can become one big distraction from life. Just look at all the people in an airport staring at their cell phones. As John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens to us as we are busy planning for something else.”
Fear also has us in its grasp a lot of the time. We either feel it directly or experience it as restlessness and desire. Take comfort. The disciples were afraid in the cloud. Jesus himself was afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane. Fear has been a companion of mine, too. Yet fear will actually lead us to exodus and to liberation, if we embrace it.
We won’t experience our own exodus until life has disappointed us and we long for something more. As Dag Hammarskjold put it, “Never let success hide its emptiness from you, achievement its nothingness, toil its desolation. And so, keep alive the incentive to push on further, that pain in the soul which drives us beyond ourselves.”
Peter, James and John are asleep on the mountain. They are also asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Where did Jesus find these guys?) Then the gospel says, “but they became fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men standing with him.” This is what the exodus is about, gradually awakening from our slavery to fear, to a state of joy, peace and inner freedom. I say gradually because I know that I’m not there yet, but I have caught glimpses of it. Have you had any of those mountaintop experiences where you have seen the beauty and joy underneath it all? Maybe it’s when you first gazed into the face of your newborn child? I see such joy in the preschool kids who come to school each morning, who are smiling, skipping and jumping. The 7th and 8th graders, not so much.
Perhaps you have seen it in the crocuses and daffodils that have emerged from the cold earth. Maybe you’ve caught it in a favorite book or movie, in the unconditional love of your dog or cat, or in an uplifting conversation with a best friend. Perhaps you’ve glimpsed it in the moon, the stars, the clouds, the mountains or in falling rain or snow. Joy is our true nature, not fear.
The exodus is about awakening to who you are in Christ. Your face becomes radiant like the face of Christ. Every human face you look at radiates the glory of Christ. Your discover that your soul shines like a brilliant diamond, where sin cannot enter. When you know who you are in Christ, nothing will ever be able to touch you again, and no one will ever be able to hurt you again; you will fear no one and you will fear nothing. That is what it means to live like a king or a queen. May our Lenten exodus lead us to true freedom.
The gospel says that the disciples fell silent on seeing Christ’s glory. This Lent we must find ways to carve out little pockets of silence and stillness in our daily routine. Just a few minutes without the cell phone, the I-pad or even music in the car. Get out in nature, find a quiet place or do those things that make you feel peaceful and still. In the stillness, our minds can grow quiet. When our minds are still, Christ can reveal himself to us.
Christ is our Moses, our liberator, our sure guide, our path and our way. Ask him to set you free and know that it’s his deepest desire for you and for me.
Fr. Chris’ Homily for March 10, 2019 – 1st Sunday of Lent Time
Think back to a few days ago, to how Ash Wednesday went. After a few hours, let alone a whole day of not eating, most of us probably felt famished, ready to scarf down anything that was in front of us.
(Some of us even morphing into Chris Farley’s Saturday Night Live portrayal of a hefty high school girl who when confronted about eating too many fries, responds in demonic voice—“lay off me, I’m starving!”)
That was just one day…Jesus didn’t eat for forty days…four, zero.
We can be tempted into thinking that because Jesus was God, he was not even really tempted. It was easy for him.
No he did not eat for forty days…Jesus was really hungry, starving, weak and vulnerable…he was actually tempted by the prospect of bread. And when the devil placed before him the whole world, that which he had come to save on a silver platter, he was actually tempted. And when he was tempted to remind himself that he was indeed God and the whole world revolved around him, precisely what he came to show us by his incarnation…he was indeed tempted.
Jesus’ whole public ministry could have been wrapped up in a matter of moments. He could have taken the shortcuts, the three easy-ways out that the devil offers him. He could have accepted his counterfeits. But he did not.
Why? Jesus knew that he came to earth to embrace his humanity not deny it, and in doing so, to transform humanity. Jesus humbled himself to share in our humanity that we might share in his divinity, something the deacon or priest says every time he mixes water with wine.
He came to show that humanity, that we, are not bound by our desires and the counterfeits that the devil offers. That our desires, while not wrong when ordered properly, do not rule us. That the basics of life, food, drink, shelter, sex, our desire of material possessions and our desire for power, control and pride are not what commands us, or at least ought not.
In fighting these desires, Jesus models for us what it means to be a God-centered human. If you notice, even in his weakness and perhaps because of it, all of Jesus’ responses are quotes from Scripture, and all of them speak explicitly of God. And he is able to see the devils offers for what they are…counterfeits and false. Desires that can distract us not only from who we really are, but from God.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the character Dante says to God, “I desired you, yet I sought you in things that were not you.” Each of those words could just as easily come from each of our mouths. The good news is that Jesus has shown us a way out by his life, and recommends to us a series of practical practices to adopt as well.
In order to reverse our overwhelming desire for bodily satisfaction (think the temptation of bread)…fasting.
In order to inverse our overwhelming desire to own things, control things around us, and have everything at our disposal (think temptation to rule over all the kingdoms)…giving alms.
In order to reverse the world becoming all about us (think temptation to have angels save him)…prayer. Prayer…especially if we take the key phrase of the Our Father seriously, “Thy will be done” and intend what those words mean…we are placing his will before our own.
Now this is a key point…in recommending these three practices…Jesus’ point is not to make us hungry, poor, grouchy and isolated…we all know people who get Lent wrong!
Jesus wants the exact opposite for us, to be full, enriched and joyful with and by him. And to be with other people, to spread his joy! He invites us to curtail our desires so that we might actually seek the God who is our ultimate desire and find fulfillment, in Christ and in his Body!
In the Divine Comedy, Dante also says, “I am what I desire, I am what I love.”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus humbled himself to share in our humanity that we might share in his divinity. His example in the gospel today and our Lent practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, invite us to embrace both our humanity and our divinity in Christ. So that we might seek who we desire, and love him. So that w,e like Dante can say, “I am what I desire, I am what I love”—Christ… the Body of Christ.
Hopefully this Lent, through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, through our desire and love, we can come to be who we are and who our world needs us to be, other Christs, people who live like God loves.
Fr. Pat’s Homily for March 3, 2019 – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I want to talk about how we all have planks in our eyes. We are all alive to the faults and defects in others, but when it comes to ourselves, we have blind spots—just like when we are driving. The only way you can see a defect in someone else is if you have it yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t see it.
As an example, my father always tells the same stories over and over. One day at Notre Dame, a graduating senior said in a note, “Dear Fr. Pat. I will miss you, especially hearing the same jokes and stories over and over.” I was stunned. I had become my father.
When I preach at weddings, I often quote Allan Watts. When he presided at weddings, he would tell the couple: “You are seeing each other at your best right now. You will only get worse with time. Decide now to accept each other and give up any projects you have to change your spouse.”
I wonder how many wives here would like to change something in their husband. I wonder how many husbands would like to change something in their wives. Or how many parents would like to change something in their kids, or how many kids would like to change something in their parents?
It’s not easy to live with another human being, so the first thing we need to do is to keep our sense of humor. As Linus, a character in Peanuts comic strip, once said, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”
The main problem is that most of the time we humans live from our ego. It is that sense of being separate from others. We are ruled by our minds, by countless thoughts of the past and the future, and most of them are useless. And most of the time our minds are critical of everything we see, especially of other people. Thank God no one can read our minds.
Christ wants to free us from the prison of our ego, of our mind. He wants to lead us to the wellspring of joy and peace—with no thoughts to trouble us. The ego is a trickster and will fight him. The ego is a thorn bush that cannot produce figs. Christ will therefore have to send us trials that we cannot handle with our own strength, until the ego finally surrenders to him. Once we are set free from our minds, we become a tree that bears good fruit.
When you begin to see with Christ’s eyes, you look at people and situations with greater acceptance. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give another is to accept a person as he or she is. It doesn’t mean we cannot correct a person when he or she does wrong. Jesus was not above challenging his disciples when they had blind spots. But he did it from a place of love. As one wise person said, “Human beings are like flowers: open and receptive to gently falling dew, closed to violent rain.”
When you begin to see with Christ’s eyes, you will realize that the other person is you. We are all profoundly interconnected. Deep down we are all one. Every face you see is your own face, and every face you see—even the face of your enemy—is the face of Christ.
I want to end with an account of a vision experienced by Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk, in his book, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. There he writes, “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.
And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, and no more greed.”
My deepest desire is for you and me to see the secret beauty of our hearts—the store of goodness in the heart that produces good fruit—where there is always peace and joy, despite the storms on the surface of our lives.
Fr. Chris’ Homily for February 24, 2019 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
What silly person loves their enemies? Lends money and doesn’t expect to get paid back? Gets hit and turns the other cheek… “thank you sir, may I have another?” Not only is this just poor business practice, it is crazy!
To our American minds and sensibilities, this Gospel sounds like absolute hogwash.
“People ought to get what they deserve, what they earn!” Right?
The problem with this logic, this way of thinking…is that it cuts God and grace out of the picture!
But when God and grace are in the picture we can begin to make sense of this Gospel. Because we begin to realize that this is precisely how God treats us. He turns the other cheek with us all the time. He is the prodigal God, recklessly raining grace upon grace upon us. Always waiting for us to turn back to him. He is merciful, the very definition of mercy.
That is what Jesus, today, is inviting us to. First to know, recognize and experience God’s grace and mercy—the many ways that he loves us despite our lack of love for him. And having experienced his grace, to share it with others. “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.”
With God and grace in the picture, we can begin to see that we may not be all that different from our enemies, from those who curse us, from those who mistreat us, from those who are in need, those who seem to be just looking for a handout, from those who are entitled. With God and grace in the picture we might begin to see our own need in others—who seem so different. We may even begin to see our own face, or the face of our God in others—even our enemies.
Jesus ends, with a great image…one that we can use throughout this week. “The measure with which you measure, will be measure out to you.”
In our interactions this week, especially with those we find it hard to be around, Jesus invites us to pay attention to and assess the size of the measure we use. Is it a thimble, a tablespoon, a ladle, or a whole water cooler?
This week, the Holy Spirit is inviting us to love in such a way that we ditch the thimble and go for the water cooler. Loving others, as our Father does, prodigally. If we do it right this week, if we measure out love with a water cooler rather than a thimble, everybody around us will be drenched and smiling, like a football coach having just received a Gatorade bath.
May the Eucharist that we celebrate, give us the strength to be merciful as our Father is merciful, and to measure out our love to others as freely as he measures out his love to us.
Fr. Pat’s for February 17, 2019 – Sixth Sunday in 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.