Sunday, July 14, 2019

Who is my neighbor? (2019-07-14, Sunday 15)


HOMILY • 2019 July 14 •  15th Sunday

• Deuteronomy 30:10-14  • Psalm __ • Colossians 1:15-20 • +Luke 10:25-37 •           

[_01_]   This is the Good Samaritan parable.  And,if  there were anyone who could have excused himself from being “neighborly” and doing the rescue of the victim, the wounded/abandoned man, it was the Samaritan.
          There was an excuse, there was a rational way out for the Samaritan.
The Good Samaritan could have made excuses. The Good Samaritan – for moreso than the priest and Levite – has every reason to hustle and hurry through this area and get off the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
          The Samaritan is in unfriendly territory which is foreign to him.  Especially on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, how much could we really expect from a Samaritan? Should we expect the Samaritan to be neighborly?  Jesus says, yes, the Samaritan is a neighbor and this is what we can expect and hope for.
[_02_]     Sometimes, we learn or we condition ourselves not to expect – not to hope for - too much. Maybe – not to hope for too much from ourselves, not to hope for too much from other people.
For many years, my uncle and father’s brother – who recently died – lived in a house independently and seemed to require a lot of oversight.  That is, my uncle was likely NOT to pay his bills on time, do his banking or read his mail or to have any nourishing food in the refrigerator.
          His capability seemed limited.
          In fact, to this day, we would say – in my family – that my uncle was probably had some special learning needs, some cognitive needs,  he was probably on the autistic spectrum …had some special learning needs related to or in the category of autism.  But, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, these were not addressed for him.
Nevertheless, he had a job,  served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam era and had a productive life in many ways.
          On the other hand, we did not expect much from him. He seemed limited. But, was this an excuse?
[_03]   After my uncle passed away earlier this year, we were all quite surprised at the number of neighbors and friends he had acquired and acquainted himself with over the years.
          His next door neighbor said it was my uncle’s presence and greeting and friendliness on the front porch of the house that led to their final decision – when they came with the real estate agent to the neighborhood for the first time.
          Evidently, my uncle was well practiced in the ways of being a neighbor.  He surpassed our expectations and evaluations.
          And, several years ago, when he was out one day at this place / restaurant he frequented, there was some trouble, possibly a fight. And, he himself was neither big nor young nor muscular intervened to stop a fight. As a result, there was a photo of him hung on the wall of the restaurant w/ the word “HERO” (“H-E-R-O”) underneath it.
          So, this surpassed our expectations. We all knew of the incident and ‘rescue’, but at my uncle’s wake and funeral, several people told me of my uncle’s heroic effort, as though I had never heard it. It was meaningful to many.
          And, so sometimes we can surpass expectations.
          And, the situation of the Good Samaritan parable reminds us of this surpassing of expectations, … to be  charitable toward the person in need, toward the child in need, toward our parents in need (those who took care of us..now we take care of them), in a way that may surpass our expectations.
          For I believe that all of us – married or single with our own children or without our own children – are going to be taking care of a neighbor or a friend, or a parent, or a sibling. 
          Can I be the neighbor?
[_04_]    What does it mean to surpass expectations …?
St. John Paul II expressed it as follows that our neighbors are not simply the OBJECTS of our affection, or the DESTINATIONS of our debit-card transactions.
          For example, have you been to Shop Rite, K-Mart, Target – recently ? …. after a hurricane?  After an earthquake? Tsunami? You are asked – at cashier/checkout - to make a donation – would you like to donate $1 ….. $5 …. $10 …to hurricane relief, to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, to earthquake assistance. All worthy causes.
          Sometimes, I wonder if the supermarket checkout is really a judgement-free-zone? Am I being watched or measured for how much I contribute to a particular cause? Do I want an excuse to get out of this?
          Every one of us has free will. Of course, any one of us is particularly motivated in these moments – to be the Good Samaritan if the natural disaster has been particularly momentous, or if our loved ones – wherever they are – are affected.
          But, sometimes in these cases, the focus is simply on the people as faraway objects of our affection.
[_05_]    But the Good Samaritan reminds not only to GO GLOBAL in our charity but to be LOCAL in our love. Of the little things, the personal, of being invested and involved …and to be – as they say in the world of philanthropy large and small – to be the “recurring donor”…the Good Samaritain is not not just the one-time donor who clicks $1… $5 at the supermarket check out and walks away. He comes back to the inn and innkeeper
          In this regard, the Good Samaritan does not see the wounded man as simply the OBJECT of his charity – but also a SUBJECT. The wounded man is a subject … a subjective, personal – individual needs to be attended to.
[_06_]     And, certainly so many of you as parents, as mothers and fathers and as teachers and grown-up’s who care for young people, those of you who care for a loved one who is aging, we do not simply regard these individuals as the objects of our affection.
          They are individuals with their own personal subjective needs. And, you are help them in their need.
          And, the idea of the Catholic ethic of the sanctity and preciousness of life at all stages is that a person the object, but that a person’s life has subjective value. My life has a subjective value to me and to God … your life has a subjective value to you and to God.
          Yes, it also has an OBJECTIVE value – because the value is God-given and inherent, innate, inborn. And, the fact that we recognize this “subjectivity” – is similar to what he Samaritan does – he helps the wounded man get back on his feet, get help, get healed, get free. And, so the the wounded man can also know – his own value and worth.
          Every person has this inherent – subjective value no matter how small or fragile or terminally ill someone is.
          We raise and care for others so that they can also love God and love their neighbor.            We are called to love them as we love ourselves. We are called to grow into this …
[_07_]     One day, many years ago, a little boy from down the street came to our house. In fact, he frequented our house because he was often looking for some kids his own age and my sister was about the same age as he.
          We saw him coming time and after time and were accustomed.
          However, one day, my grandmother was watching us and my grandmother was not accustomed to his visits. When my grandmother heard the doorbell and knock, she opened the door and he immediately ran past her and hid himself in a closet in our home.
          And, my grandmother asked my sister, “what’s happening? Who is this?  Do we know him?”
          My sister replied: “I have no idea who he is.” That was not true.
          Sometimes, we are not ready or to admit a neighbor into our lives.  /  We may need to grow into the idea.
          I’m grateful to you our many parents and parishioners for your love for each other, for those in our community and to give me the reminders and the correction to ask, each day – “who is my neighbor?”
          And, more importantly, am I a neighbor?  [_fin_]   

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Connection. Consistency. Compassion (Discipleship) (2019-07-07, Sunday 14)


HML  • 2019 July 7 •  14th Sunday

• Isaiah 66:10-14c • Psalm __ • Galatians 6:14-18 • +Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 •           

Title:   Connection. Consistency. Compassion.

[_01_]   Jesus speaks about discipleship and about following him as a disciple, in this Gospel.
          A disciple is one who….
 “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines (teachings) of another…” [source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Collegiate Edition, 10th edition]
          And, we share the teachings, we spread the teachings of Jesus by our love for God and for one another.
          In the Gospel of St. John, chapter 13, we read:  by this shall all [people, men & women] know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
          So, that’s the goal. It is World Cup Final Sunday. You might have the game/match on right now. It just started at 11:00 am.  That’s the goal we are aiming for --  love of God and love of neighbor …

[_02_]    Jesus invites all of us to have this game turned on and tuned in our heads, just as he sent out the 72 disciples out, he is also sending us out.
          And, you and I are also sent out – at every Sunday Mass (every Mass & Holy Eucharist), the deacon and priest express and conclude with a reminder that we are sent à “go in peace” … “go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
          And, we say “Thanks be to God” – acknowledging that we are being sent at the time of the final blessing. So, we acknowledge we have gained some nourishment here in prayer, in word, in the sacraments. And, we go out with the Good News.
          We go out with the Good News right at the time it is announced the “Mass is ended” and we say…”thanks be to God.”
          So, while I am touching on the nature of Mass-being-ended …you know “The Mass is Ended, go in peace…” this homily is not quite ended or over yet. Bear with me.
                   
[_03]   We are sent out in 3 ways , as disciples who are called to be:
[►CONNECTED] [CONSISTENT]
[COMPASSIONATE]

          1st. [►CONNECTED]. The word connected means – originally – to “bind with” to be “tied with”.
          And, we are in so many ways bound and tied to each other.
The disciples are sent out 2-by-2, bound and tied to each other.
          Isn’t the prayer of every mother, father, grandparent that their children will find good friends.   
I believe a good prayer to say…”dear Lord, find me some friends, find me a good friend.” And, it is the prayer of every mother, father, grandparent for their children that they will have good friends, good connections in life. Jesus does not send us out to be alone.  We pray, Lord, send me a friend or friends into my life, so that I can walk with you 2 by 2.
          In soccer, they go 2 by 2, to move that ball – that spherical object – downfield.
          What is the key to moving the ball downfield – the players may seem to have eyes in the back of their heads…but in fact, they are so well practiced that they trust where the other even without sight. They move the ball downfield – geometrically and artistically and fluently … because they move together and recognize their support for each other to move the ball from one player’s foot to another player’s foot or head or knee whatever is necessary (except your hands !)
          One or two players may gain statistical credit for GOAL / ASSIST, but everyone was involved in getting the ball downfield. Even the players on the sidelines move the ball downfield in practice.
          Connection is key.
          It’s not what you know it’s who you know! We are also bound, tied to each other – connected as disciples.
         
[_04_]      2nd . The importance of
being [►CONSISTENT]
          And, consistency is something we learn in many ways from our parents, from our teachers. I’m grateful that I learned this from my parents, equally and consistently. While loving us equally, they also knew each of us as individuals.
          I recall this example set for me in the seminary, by seminary priests and faculty members, one of whom was Monsignor Robert Coleman who says Thursday morning Mass here at Lourdes.
          Monsignor Coleman gave that example of consistency, with the same expectations of everyone studying for the priesthood.
          Before I went into the seminary, I thought I was pretty special, because I was the only I knew about to study for the priesthood.
          Then, I got to the seminary and realized I might not be so special.
          The lesson of consistency was from another priest who shared with me  ”you know, when you become a priest, you should be glad …James Ferry / Father James Ferry, you should feel blessed – and glad if the people forget your name or confuse you with other Catholic priests. If that happens, you are doing something right. ”
          Kind of like you might confuse one player with another after a goal is scored or a victory…
Consistency calls us to work together.
          We are called to be connected as disciples, consistent as disciples and also compassionate as disciples.

[_05_]    3rd.  The importance of
being [►COMPASSIONATE]. The word compassion includes the word ‘passion’ which does mean suffering …and we are called to suffer with others.
Simon of Cyrene gave us this example, walking the way of the Cross, picking up some of the lumber, the wood to carry the Lord’s cross for Christ…to pick up his portion…Simon of Cyrene is a team player!
          Compassion is also shown by our forgiveness, our willingness to forgive a wrong. Simon Peter learns this.
          Peter comes to Jesus once and says, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how many times must I forgive him.. as many as seven times?”
          No, not 7 times, but 77 times. In other words, “do not keep track…” And, it’s hard to forgive someone over and over again. It’s difficult. Jesus knows this, but he’s forgiving us over and over again..
          And, he’s asking us to do this for each other.
          It does not mean we can never correct another person. Nevertheless, “correcting” another person does not mean that I am withholding forgiveness.
          We can correct another person and still forgive. On the other hand, we can also receive correction – accept correction – and acknowledge that we have been forgiven by another.
          It’s hard to forgive, but forgiveness teaches us COMPASSION, about CONSISTENCY, and that we are CONNECTED in love of God and love of neighbor.    [_fin_]   

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Discipleship, Delays, Patience (2019-06-30, Sunday, Sunday 13)

• 2019 June 30 •  13th Sunday

• 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21  • Psalm 16  • Galatians 5:13-18 • +Luke 9:51-62 •           
Title:   Bridgegate, Delays, Patience.

[_01_]   The 1st reading and the Gospel are about following directions and going in a particular direction.  I’e like to talk in 2 parts:  “part 1 DELAYS”…. “part 2. Patience”
Part 1. DELAYS.  Anyone remember BRIDGEGATE?
BRIDGEGATE = Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge (GWB) lane closure scandal or Bridgegate, was a local – and later national - political scandal which implicated several staff members of the New Jersey Governor’s office of 2013, a few years ago.  In September 2013, some staff members of the Governor – got together – and conspired – intentionally -- to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey near the GWB.
          About a month ago, several family members and I were on our way to the Bronx for the gathering of family at church. It was in the morning. Many of us had to cross the Hudson River and GWB.
          We were supposed to be at church by 9:30 am.  And, like most people in tri-state area, we worry about GWB traffic.
          We worry about traffic in general – and upon reaching our destination – any destination – feel it is both necessary and healthy to discuss every road & police slow-down, average speed & MPG.
          And, on this particular day with this particular appointed time at church for 9:30 am, we found that the lower level of GWB was completely closed when we arrived. We were forced to take the upper level. We never take the upper level. We are lower-level people. But we had no choice, in order to keep moving.
          So, we had our own private BRIDGEGATE episode. I’m not pressing charges, I’m just telling you.
          The delay & “mini-bridgegate” were appropriate because the family member – whose funeral it was that day – was really into maps and roads and traffic.
[_02_]   “DIRECTIONS.”
          It is the role of many institutions and individuals to give directions. Our police officers give us directions. GPS devices give us directions.  Google gives directions. Type in an address, and Google will tell you how to get there if you indicate your starting point.  Google will map it out and produce a map for you.
          Are we there yet? The child in the back seat may ask this every time the car stops … They may not know about Bridgegate or traffic reports, but they do know something about the importance of continuity and perseverance … and just keeping ourselves on the road. So that we get there.
[_03]  In 1st Book of Kings,  Elisha is summoned, called, directed to follow Elijah the prophet. Elijah wants to map it out…
          And, in the Gospel there is a man on the road who encounters and also feels called to follow Jesus and his disciples.
          In both cases, that of Elisha and that of the man, there is a delay. And, there purposes of the delay – why they are supposedly delayed – is so plausible to us, so fundamental to us. And, I daresay it seems so cruel that Elijah and Jesus seem to be leaving them on the side of the road and want to put the pedal to the metal and leave them behind.
          Yet, Jesus was simply inviting them and us not to put anything ahead of our connection to God. Patience. [*pause*]
Part 2. PATIENCE.   When Pope Francis speaks of patience – the virtue of being patient or patiently waiting – he will connect these ideas that “going in patience renews our youth and makes us younger.”  (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, January 17, 2019)
Pope Francis, in a document written for young people and all of us reminds us …  [[Jesus … eternally young, wants to give us hearts that are ever young. God’s word asks us to “cast out the old leaven that you may be fresh dough” (1 Cor 5:7). Saint Paul invites us to strip ourselves of the “old self” and to put on a “young” self (Col 3:9-10).[1] In explaining what it means to put on that youthfulness “which is being renewed” (v. 10), he mentions “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against another” (Col 3:12-13). In a word, true youth means having a heart capable of loving, whereas everything that separates us from others makes the soul grow old. And so he concludes: “above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).
14. Let us also keep in mind that Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them. On the contrary, he insisted that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest” (Lk 22:26). For him age did not establish privileges, and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity. (Pope Francis Christus Vivit (2019), n. 13,14)]]
          It is notable that Jesus – in his human nature – starts to demonstrate this patience by “submitting” to his parents and as as a young person – yes, young people – sometimes, our parents require our patience. But, we also learn from them.
          We also learn – as Jesus did in his human nature – that God’s love is present to us in a special way through the love of our mothers and fathers.
          This love also renews us makes us younger and reminds us that DIRECTIONS do not stop or cease just because the voice on the GPS has nothing else to say.
          The direction and the spiritual direction of God – and the spiritual direction we get from others continues even after we stop moving. It reminds us also that we are all young enough to be God’s children.
          I will grant you – it is easier to carry a conversation in car or any vehicle while the traffic is moving, while we get somewhere with good avg speed. When traffic stops, it’s harder to talk, to communicate / enjoy the ride.
          The direction of God reminds us not only to keep – amid the DELAYS and in striving for PATIENCE – to stop, to listen, and wait for his word in each day, so that we can follow him in faith, hope and love. [_fin_]   

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Interest Free Borrowing (2019-06-23, Corpus Christi)

• 2019 June 23 •  Corpus Christi Sunday •

• Genesis 14:18-20  • Psalm 110  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 • +John 9:11b-17 •           

[_01_]  The multiplication of the loaves miracle is the Gospel reading for today = Corpus Christi Sunday – which is Latin for the Body of Christ. I’d like to reflect on the meaning and celebration of the Eucharist… for us … using this Gospel and using this example.
         
On May 25, 2006, I stopped in at ... and later departed from my the home of my mother and father. I stopped there because there were family visitors and it was a few days before my ordination as a priest at the cathedral in Newark – the Mass of my ordination as a priest.  I had just finished my seminary studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University.
          As I was leaving the house, somewhat hastily, I went to the door – to go out – and I put on a pair of black shoes at the front door, left and later wore those black shoes to the cathedral.  They were not my black shoes.
          The shoes belonged to my future brother-in-law and my sister’s boyfriend, Jeff … he found it humorous that I was not wearing my own shoes – but rather his shoes … on my feet throughout the entire celebration of my ordination, my first blessing as a priest in the cathedral after ordination and later, celebrating Mass in church as a priest for the first time on the next day on Sunday.
          Well, I had to wear some shoes – like they says at the retail establishments and at the Jersey shore and boardwalk in the heat of summer --  no shirt, no shoes, no service.
          I needed those shoes, those borrowed shoes.

[_02_]  There is a borrowing and lending going on in the Gospel this Sunday, this Corpus Christi Sunday.  And, the borrowing is also for serving, for service, for love.
In the Gospel of the Multiplication of the Loaves “borrowing” is a necessary component … not a borrowing of any article of clothing or money but a borrowing of the loaves of bread and fish to make the miracle possible.
This miracle is similar to the wedding at Cana in which water H2O is borrowed and used to be transformed into the bountiful and best wine.
[_03_]   The material for the miracle is not borrowed from the Temple …it is not borrowed from the Pharisees or the scribes. And the apostles do not go into town to purchase it in person or online.
It is borrowed from an ordinary person.
          In some renditions of the miracle, the one who possesses and shares the loaves of bread and fishes is a young boy …whose youth indicates his simplicity and poverty.
          So, also, our simple and sometimes impoverished gifts to God mean something – God can transform and multiply what we give Him.
Jesus wants to use what we have – what is brought to him – in order to perform the miracle.
The apostles, on the other hand, want to dismiss the crowd, send them into town to buy food … the apostles – at least right now – do not recognize that what the people bring is already enough  for Jesus to work with.
Certainly, in my own ministry as a priest, I have to remember that my own talents are enough for God to work with …that your talents are enough for God to work with …and that together we can do something beautiful.


[_04_]   BORROWING ..is necessary in order to get started.
Often, the hardest part about any endeavor or project is to get STARTED …or if we have been interrupted… to get re-STARTED. Because getting re-started ourselves is not as easy as just turning ON a device.
          We may have to contribute something ourselves. The re-start happens also here in our worship.
          Of course, the re-start of our worship happens at the beginning of Sunday Mass when we stand for the procession and make the sign of the cross, listen to the readings and homily …which I can only hope is somewhat engaging.
          But, as another priest once told me… the goal is not for me to re-write the Gospel you …but for you – in your own conversion to re-boot, to re-start and – in a sense – write the message yourself or complete the message yourself. If you come up with something for next Sunday, let me know !
          But, truly, I welcome your comments, your questions about anything I may say or what I may not say.

[_05_]   So, the hardest part about a new project is to get started – and each Sunday Mass, we re-start, we re-boot, with the preparation of the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
          It is quite easy for us to treat the readings and sermon – which vary from week to week – as somehow more important than the Liturgy of the Eucharist – which at first glance – appears exactly the same each Sunday.
          But, actually, it is different each Sunday – because each Sunday you are different. Every Sunday, I am different. God is the same, but you are ever changing.
The theologian Josef Pieper wrote that to be made in God’s image – to be a child of God – as we are – we recognize that we are never fully completed – we are continually receiving our being and our essence from our heavenly Father. (Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, p. 62)
          What is different in the Liturgy of the Eucharist is each Sunday – for example – is that a different person – or group of persons – brings forward the bread and the wine to the altar.
          It’s almost like a different person lends the loaves and fishes each time. You are this person.
          And, this ritual – symbolic action – also reminds us that your gifts are important to this celebration. For this reason, we also want to include you in this gifts procession and we welcome you also to volunteer to bring up the gifts of bread and wine. We are often looking for volunteers ! (Please do not run away… you may want to start preparing excuses …)
          But, whether you volunteer to walk up the aisle or no – your prayer intentions are also being brought the altar to be raised up and consecrated before God.
          Your prayers – your prayer intentions - are on this altar.
          In the 141st psalm we read:
I have cried to thee, O Lord, hear me: hearken to my voice, when I cry to thee. Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141)
          Your prayers are like the fire and smoke of incense rising up to God.
         
[_06_]    On the day of my ordination as a priest, I was standing – literally – in someone else’s shoes, my future brother-in-law…
          But, was I not also meant to be standing in someone else’s shoes…and you are as well, when we come before God for Holy Communion.
          Receiving Holy Communion, you and I are also meant to stand, called to stand and walk in someone else’s shoes …or, perhaps, sandals. Jesus Christ, our Savior.
          It’s sometimes strange and uncomfortable to wear someone else’s shoes.  In this case, in my 2006 ordination day, it worked out quite well, because it turned out – future my brother-in-law, Jeff, and I were about the same size.
          And, I was thinking about so many other things that I hardly noticed I was wearing someone else’s shoes.
          But, this is good news!
          Jesus does not want us to notice that we are wearing his shoes.
          What we read in the Ash Wednesday Gospel … It is good news to be able to give without our left hand know what our right is doing (or in my case… without my left foot knowing what my right was doing).
          It is good news not to notice … to forget that we are fasting and sacrificing -- just to make it part of our routine.
And, isn’t it true that our many of our most loving and prayerful generous actions are the ones that do not get noticed or notoriety, fame or fortune, maybe the ones that we do not notice ourselves doing.
          And, I believe this also applies to our own actions of forgiveness – to forgive one another’s trespasses, and sins … in other words … it is often hard to forgive someone else… and it’s hard when the other person does not know or “appreciate” the forgiveness.
          But, the forgiveness is not just for the quote unquote “perpetrator” to feel less guilty. The perpetrator may not yet acknowledge his or her sin or guilt.
          The forgiveness is for you and for me to be free… even if it goes unnoticed.
          It is good news when Jesus’ shoes and sandals and ways of walking start to feel like our own.

[_07_]   Looking back on the incident of the borrowed shoes and my ordination, I also recall that these shoes came from someone who was not yet a part of our family … yes, he was my sister’s boyfriend… but they were not yet engaged and 2 years away from being married…
          Today, Jeff is my brother-in-law …and I would regard him as a brother… not just because of the interest-free loan.
          We are called to lend ourselves to God, to neighbor.
          We are made as brothers and sisters, sometimes with those we do not yet know.
          But, when we lend ourselves and give, God can do the multiplying and provide for all.
[_fin_]   

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity Sunday: 3 R's (2019-06-16)

2019 June 16 •  TRINITY SUNDAY •  • Proverbs 8:22-31  • Psalm 8  • Romans 5:1-5  • +John 16:12-15 •           

Title: Trinity Sunday: 3 R’s. Relationship. Reminder. Remembrance.

[_01_]  This is Trinity Sunday and I’d like to touch on [RELATIONSHIPS & the Trinity]    /   [REMINDER about the Trinity]  /  [REMEMBRANCE & the Trinity]

[_02_]  First. “RELATIONSHIPS”. In this “relationship” example, my father’s brother – my uncle – is a retired NYC firefighter (FDNY)
At about 7:30 am on a Monday morning in 1994, as my brother was leaving the 72nd Street subway station in Manhattan on the upper east side, he fell to the ground and, therefore, needed stitches and was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital E.R. emergency room.  He was on his way to work. Actually, he did not fall, but was rather knocked down and assaulted by someone. We do not know who
          Yes, it was traumatic, but also very brief and he recovered completely and quickly. He did require immediate medical attention. Therefore: E.R.
          At Lenox Hill Hospital E.R., just before the anesthesia was administered and he fell asleep “went under” and asleep, a nurse ran up to his stretcher and told him…”I know your uncle who is a NYC fireman in the Bronx.”
          The hospital nurse told my brother:  ”I know your uncle, who is in the Fire Department in the Bronx.”
          This was a strange coincidence and a nice consolation. Hey, I’m in this hospital and someone knows me! Great!
          Reflecting on this later, my brother later learned that firefighters and nurses have their own little “dating app” and matchmaking network and they socialize a lot. But, at the time, my brother was surprised that this nurse – in Manhattan – knew our uncle of the Fire Department – in the Bronx.

[_03_]     You and I cannot control how any 2 people are going to get along or whether they know – or want to know – each other.
          I have had the experience of introducing 2 people who know me – as a mutual friend or acquaintance – but they still do not get along. I presumed they would – or wish they could be friendly …but it just does not happen.
          It does not have to be a matchmaking scenario, but any 2 individuals who – just because they are now my friends – does not mean we will all become friends. It does not always work out. It could go either way.
          That’s the “RELATIONSHIP” and the Trinity.

[_04_]      Here are some REMINDERS about the Trinity.
          RELATIONSHIPS, of course require commitment and respect, mutual self-giving. Even if 2 people have a mutual connection, it does not mean they will get along or click.
          The reminder about the Trinity is that God is not only perfectly committed to you (me) …but also God is perfectly committed in himself as a community of 3 persons.
          Jesuit Father James Schall, S.J. reminds us that nowhere in the Bible does God declare himself to be the Trinity.  The logic of understanding God as “Trinity of Father Son and Holy Spirit ” is based on our understanding that God is love.
          That God exists not only exists to RELATE to us, but also to relate perfectly to himself and in himself, then he relates to us. God relates perfectly to himself and in himself, then he relates to us.
          As an analogy, is it not beautiful and important for mothers and fathers not only to love their children but also to love each other? It is said that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother and so also… it is a gift of a mother to love the father of her children.
          This does not mean husband and wife – mother and father – are getting along swimmingly & perfectly at all times. They may have differences and distance and difficulties. Yet, the way that mothers and fathers treat each other and forgive each other and even correct each other, “speaks volumes” …teaches the children about love and unconditional love and forgiveness and correction.  That they love in this way not only for the sake of each other but also for God who called them together.
          So, the family is a kind of TRINITY local version, TRINITY on earth. TRINITY at your address, behind your front door.
          God the Father and God the Son love each other in a similar way to give us a unity and harmony for us to emulate ..and given the fact that Jesus gives up his life – for love and we are also called to give up our lives – this love is attainable.
          “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”  (John 15:13) 
In every sacrifice 3 “friends” are connected … you + the person you are sacrificing + Jesus.  Jesus is your mutual friend: That’s just a REMINDER about the Trinity.
          And, regarding “RESPECT” and our prayer/worship as Catholics, we always STAND – or KNEEL – at church for the Trinity. We stand as we begin Sunday Mass, we stand to make the sign of the cross – the sign of the Trinity “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – you stand to begin Mass & procession, not because the priest is here but because God – Trinity – is here and we stand at the end of Mass to bless ourselves in the sign of the Trinity – “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”

[_05_]       We’ve touched on RELATIONSHIPS and the Trinity; REMINDERS about the Trinity…
          Now, REMEMBRANCE & Trinity. This “REMEMBRANCE” is also entitled “West Orange, West Point, and West Orange.
         
[_06_]    This past Tuesday, I attended the REMEMBRANCE / memorial for the passing away – for the death – of West Point Cadet Christopher Morgan, beloved member of our West Orange community. He was 22 years old.
          A 2015 graduate of West Orange H.S., Cadet Christopher Morgan went off to the U.S. Military Academy – the prestigious West Point in 2015.
Last week, Cadet Morgan died tragically in military training exercises last Thursday June 6 in New York state near the West Point campus.
Christopher Morgan is remembered now as a star student, student-athlete, football player, star on wrestling mat, and musician and the first African-American student from West Orange High School to attend [United States Military Academy-West Point]
At such a time, a family and community naturally asks why such a death? Why…such a short life?
          I just suggest that while this is not an easy ANSWER, there is ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our faith and belief in the Trinity that we are made to love and for love.
          God loves us simply because we are not because of what we do or for how long we live.
          We are made to love and we are made for love. This is why people come to a Memorial Service, to a funeral service for their own loved ones, why we come and mourn deeply, why 2,000 plus were at West Orange High School gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
          We are made to love and we are made for love, before we are born, while we live and even after we die. We are made to be loved, to be prayed for, to be remembered.
We are capable of remembering that our loved ones remain a part of us after we die.
[*** PAUSE***]
This was certainly the theme/tone at West Orange H.S. for Christopher Morgan, a star student & faithful friend to many.
However, the life of Christopher Morgan did not have meaning simply as a list of achievements and accolades. His life had meaning because he was loved and is still loved by God, by Christ, by his family.
God the Trinity loves so much that he is also a community of persons and this love overflows into a second person – the Son – the love of Father and Son overflows into the Holy Spirit.
Our lives and love also overflow and also are interconnected to other persons, these may be children we love, students we teach, parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers.
We can only keep love can by giving it away.  That’s the paradox.

[_07_]    On Tuesday night at West Orange High, there were many eloquent speakers and tributes. Sitting in the crowd, I was proud to be part of the West Orange community and witness the tributes, though I do not know Cadet Christopher Morgan myself.
          The eloquent tributes included – the Governor’s office from Trenton, Hayden Moore, Robert Parisi, Ronald Bligh – the West Orange High Principal, May and A.D respectively.
Chris’ 2 wrestling coaches – both West Orange & West Point, a wrestling teammate of West Orange now studying and wrestling at U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.
A delegate from West Point.
          All tributes were eloquent and well prepared. But, I could not help but notice that while the applause and clapping were sincere, no one got a standing ovation.
That is, no one got a standing ovation until the family of Christopher Morgan stood and spoke at the microphone.
Then, everyone stood and applauded for the brother and mother and father of Chris.   Then, there was a standing ovation. Were not these individuals the real reason for our RESPECT, why we pay our RESPECTS?
          And, were not these individuals – Chris’ family – the reason we were there – to remember not only his achievements and excellence but simply to acknowledge his existence and place in their family  and that he came from their heart and will always be there.  West Orange family à West Point family and return home to West Orange.
          We celebrate the trinity as our family, as our core image and existence and remember that we are also made for love in the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.     [_fin_]