Sunday, May 20, 2018

Wake Up Call, Coordination, Confidence (Pentecost, 2018-05-20)

Pentecost Vigil and Pentecost Sunday – 20 May 2018   

Pentecost Vigil •• Genesis 11:1-9  •• Psalm 33  •• Romans 8:22-27 •• + John 7:37-39 ••

Pentecost Sunday •• Acts 2:1-11   •• Psalm 104  •• 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Galatians 5:16-25 •• + John 20:19-23 ••

Title:  “Pentecost. Reason, Faith,  Coordination, Confidence   

[__01__]      By the time I was ready to leave home after senior year of high school for college, I knew something – a little bit – about curfews, returning home on time, not staying out too late.
            Nevertheless, after one particular late-arrival incident, my father took me aside and said … you know, someday, staying out too late could really cost you something … the next day, something you need to be present, something or someone whom you do not want to miss.
            In this case, this “correction” or explanation was an appeal by my father not to remind my of my CULPABILITY (or potential blame or guilt) but rather of my COMMITMENTS.
            I wish I could tell you that I have never missed an alarm clock … but, nevertheless, the lesson about commitment was meaningful to me.
            Occasionally, I do need – we all need – a wake up call.
[__02__]      And, I suggest that our real wake-up calls in life are not simply about our “COORDINATION”  mentally or intellectually … but also about our CONFIDENCE, spiritually and personally.
            In this case, I am using the word “COORDINATION” to refer to the things we know by reason, by logic, by science, by intellect.
            And, I am using the word “CONFIDENCE” to refer to what we know by belief, by faith, through God.
            We need wake-up calls to help us in both COORDINATION and CONFIDENCE.  
[__03__]     On  Pentecost Sunday, at the beginning of Acts, chapter 2, we see that the disciples are gathered in one place, they are – naturally – intellectually at least – drawn to each other. They have each experienced the event of Jesus’ Passion and Death.
            They each fear for their own safety and lives for the same reason. So, they are COORDINATED – co-located – and hiding out.
            They disciples were all together for the same reason and with the same REASONING in their mind.
            They are also coordinated in that they do not believe in the Resurrection quite yet. They have been told about it, but they are not quite rejoicing or confident.  They need a wake-up call.
            Their journey will include a wake-up call.

 [__04__]      Our journeys in life, our steps and stages in life – also include wake-up calls.  
            However, we may not want others to know that we need a wake-up call… we may not ourselves admit we need one.
            For example, if I am called to re-examine my life, my assumptions, I do not do this according to scheduled alarms on my phone. Rather, it comes from outside of me, and at moments unexpected, and moments uncomfortable.

[__05__]    In mid-June, the World Cup of Soccer (football) will start in Russia.  And, the teams there are striving for coordination – in passing, shooting, defense, offense, cornerkicks and set plays. Coordination is the goal. Coordination scores goals.
            However, the winning teams are not set apart as high-achievers simply because of coordination in the things that they can see … but also confident about the things that they cannot see.
            They are confident in each other.

[__06__]      The Lord desires – Pentecost Sunday and all the time – not only that we are mentally coordinated with the 10 Commandments and the rules of the game which we can see, but also that we seek a personal, spiritual relationship with Him each day.

[__07__]    Several years ago, I recall that my mother told me that someone reported to her something that my father had said about my mom or the family or something … something that was supposed to make her react with either humor or rage.
            She reacted in neither way to the speaker but simply responded that there was no need for either humor or rage..because she know that the report was completely false:  “your father would never say that.”
            That is not just mental coordination, that’s spiritual confidence.

[__08__]     On Pentecost Sunday, the disciples receive a gift of not only what to say, but also the gift of communicating this in many languages simultaneously. That is awesome coordination !! …but, of course, it is not simply computer-technology.
            But, they are not simply transformed into expert and instantaneous UN United Nations translators.
            They are not uniting the nations by translation, but uniting the nations by their personal transformation.
            Rather, the apostles are speaking in the other’s languages not only because they have memorized what to say …but they also have been given – a gift to know – what God wants them to say and do.
            The Holy Spirit is their translator (coordination) …but also their conscience & confidence. 

[__09__]     On Pentecost Sunday, we also recall that God comes – the Holy Spirit comes – to translate and to complete what we may not be able to say on our own, to give us the desire for repentance – or for forgiveness – that we might not have on our own, to give us a desire for generosity or charity that we might not have on our own.
            The Holy Spirit in this regard is both a transformer with energy and coordination and a translator with confidence and with God’s word, so that our joy might be complete. This joy – this rejoicing in the resurrection – is our wake-up call.     [__fin__]    

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mystery: Denial (2018-05-13, Easter 07 & Mother's Day)

7th SUNDAY of Easter  and Mother’s Day   -- 13 May 2018    •• Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48  •• Psalm 98  •• 1 John 4:7-10  •• + John 15:9-17 ••

Title:  “Mystery”

[__01__]      In a mystery – in something mysterious – we have reason to believe – historically, politically, fictionally – that there is something being denied or some denial … denial causes a disconnection.
          As a result of the denial,
information is withheld, a story is not told fully, we feel we are not getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
          On the other hand, “denial” – in the Christian sense and our Lord’s sense - in terms of “restraint” or “sacrifice” - can demonstrate a great truth.
          Now …Jesus did not say this …but this is what we read on T-shirts and refrigerator magnets: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”
          Jesus does not say it that way, but says – “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
          Denial – or sacrifice – is good news.
[__02__]      This Sunday, we give thanks – gratitude – for the connections made and commitments made by our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers for all those who – in small and great ways – denied themselves for our greater good.
          They denied or at least postponed their own satisfaction for the greater good of their own children and family.
[__03__]      Denial – that is, denial or sacrifice of my own needs – can build community, friendship, and freedom.
          It is a paradox but by learning to “deny” ourselves, to delay our own satisfaction, this is how we truly become free. On the other hand, when we say YES to everything we can become a prisoner to our own desires.
          As Catholics and Christians, we believe that this friendship and freedom is part of the dignity and sanctity of life at all stages, of the dignity of every person.
          We are called to befriend, to care for, to pray for the lives of the unborn person, of the elderly person, of the infirm person, to put their lives before our own.
          This promotes not simply adherence to a commandment but acknowledgement of a community and the friendship and freedom – and right to life –we all desire. Denial = freedom.
          There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
            “Anyone who would be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
[__04__]      I also suggest that denial not only produces “connection” and community … but does so when there is a plan involved.
          To make a good denial – to deny – we need a plan, right?
          This is true also when there is a surprise party or gathering. I cite this as one such example…
[__05__]    We needed plan. In early October 2010, my mother thought she was going to a party scheduled for her grandson, who was little, who was a newborn, recently baptized and visiting – cross-country - from Los Angeles.
            Anticipating this party, this plan, my mother called up her friends to invite them to celebrate. They did not call her back.
            Denial. Mystery. What was going on?
            But, the party was not a celebration for the visitor and visitors from Hotel-California side of the familybut rather a celebration, a 70th birthday for my mother.
            Fortunately, the people she was inviting were already on the “real” guest list.
[__06__]     In order to have the mystery – to maintain the mystery – we the family (except for my mother) had to connect, talk with each other, agree on certain details… and carefully figure out when and where to have these conversations.
          We had to deny ourselves. My father had to deny himself and was tempted several times to talk about menus and seating.
          Denial – mystery – invites us to be quiet, to silence.
          In everyday things, isn’t it true that we are called a quiet talks with God as well.
          Mystery invites us to a connection – and talk  - with God also. In our mysterious connection with God, we know that God is everywhere… but He also desires to talk with us at specific times and places, such as Sunday Mass and also when we go to sleep at night.
          Mothers, fathers, grandparents, families  - God bless for your efforts to pray – to bend the knee with your children – to pray with them so that they will know God’s love for them is REAL.
[__07__]    The party was a celebration for my mother which she enjoyed very much …but it was also a celebration for all of us to share, a mystery for all of us to manage and enjoy, to be connected in joy.
          Somehow, it was a birthday for all of us – and this was highlighted by the comment of my brother’s daughter – Scarlett – who was 8 years old getting into the car after the music, after the meal, the cake, the games, et cetera et cetera.
          After all that, Scarlett could say aloud for my mother to hear:
          “This is the best day of my entire life.”      
          That was real. It was not a denial. It was not just apparently true. That was real.
          And, it was real and true for my mother to share her day, her gladness with a child and to take her home.
          Jesus also takes us home, and invites us to take him home, to school, to our friends so that we can – mysteriously and really – share his heart, his communion, his friendship and freedom, his sacrifice, his Body and Blood which is laid down and poured out for us each day.   [__fin__

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Signs. Sacraments (2018-05-06, 6th Sun. Easter)

6th SUNDAY of Easter 
6 May 2018    •• Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48  •• Psalm 98  •• 1 John 4:7-10  •• + John 15:9-17 ••

Title:  “Signs, Sacraments”

[__01__]      Welcome – girls and boys – a special welcome to our young sisters and brothers who received the Sacrament of 1st Holy Communion on April 22nd and your classmates who are part of your First Communion journey.
            Holy Communion is a sacrament which means a special sacred or holy mystery. One these 7 sacred mysteries of the church.
[__02__]   When we hear the word sacrament – sacrament is a big religion- vocabulary word – I suggest we think of a sacrament as a sign – SIGN. 
            A sign. We receive signs, signals.
            For example, if you recall – during the winter – not so long ago, “signs” were necessary due to snow and ice and bad weather. Some people think snow is good weather, but they do not live around here. Follow the signs to Utah or Vermont.
            On a snowy – blizzard – day, every teacher of the school and every student of the school must be told whether or not there will be class. So, signs were sent out. Click [SEND].
            The “sign” was a message – words, email, text, voice mail – telling us whether the school is open, closed, delayed opening or some other status.
            In this case, you or I would be at home waiting for this message, this sign, this indication. We can read the SIGN. The sign tells us where to go, what to do.
[__03__]      The sign is visible. We can see it. But the school is invisible. We cannot see it.
            This is also an official Catholic definition of a sacrament, from the Catechism, that a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality:  a visible sign of something we cannot see.
 [__04__]      Jesus Christ, our Lord, gave us 7 special signs – the sacraments – to SHOW + TELL us of his love.
            For example, Holy Communion – First Holy Communion is 1 of the 7 holy signs or sacraments.
            And, every sacrament is a SIGN of unity, even if we cannot see the unity.
            We might even say that the SIGN on a snow day from school is a sign of unity. It’s not exactly “sacramental”or religious but the SIGN is given so that for everyone’s safety … we will either come to school at a very specific time, or stay home…or maybe leave early.
            Everyone is supposed to read the sign, follow the sign. Signs bring unity … even if we cannot observe – or judge or evaluate - what everyone else is doing or feeling.
            Sometimes, we do not know what is on another person’s mind or heart – “or on his or plate”.  [Sometimes, unity is mysterious.  Sacraments are also, by the way, mysteries of our faith.]
[__05__]      And, Holy Communion is also given to us for unity… not only for our individual nourishment and health but so that we are all nourished and strengthened together…and that by receiving Jesus we also become more and like Jesus, united to him each day. He is united to us – his disciples - because he sacrifices his life, dies for us.
            And, even when the original disciples get lost or get sad or get anxious or scared, Jesus is still watching over them, trying unite them to bring them back to him, to show them a sign.
[__06__]   Sometimes, I am asked his question:   do you remember Puerto Rico? When I was about 11 months or 13 months old, my mother traveled on a plane to visit a good friend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I traveled with my mother on this trip, my father was unable to go that at that time.
            Being the only child of the family at the time, I imagine this was a special trip for my mother and a special trip for me. And, it seems whenever anybody goes to Puerto Rico or talks about Puerto Rico – and certainly after last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, my mother reminds me of this trip.
            She often asks me if I remember the trip. I was ONE ! I remember nothing.
            The only sign I have is that you – Mom – are telling me about the trip, about the journey.
[__05__]      This is the sign to the disciples, that Jesus was searching for them, when they were not searching for him, that he was dying for them, for their sins, even before they understood their offense or sins, that Jesus wanted to forgive them, even before they asked.
            That he loves us so much and teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  UNITY.
            He invites us to pray for this unity, this peace so that we can be united to him in love and be united to others – to others whom we can see … even to love others whom we may not always understand, for whom we may need an extra sign of God’s love and unity with us, so that we can lay down our lives in sacrifice also.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Connectivity is Fragile. (2018-04-29, 5th Sunday Easter)

5th SUNDAY of Easter 
29 April 2018,    •• Acts 9:26-31  •• Psalm 22  •• 1 John 3:18-24  •• + John 15:1-8 ••

Title:  “Connectivity is fragile.”

[__01__]      Connectivity is fragile, a fragile reality or phenomenon, difficult to maintain.
            Connectivity is fragile, sometimes also mobile.  Regarding the phone, we move toward a window or away from a wall – just a short distance, we receive a better (or worse) signal.   Re. this microphone, moving it 6 millimeters away from me, the audio signal may be better or worse.
            Connectivity is fragile.
            This is true with regard to the vine and the branches of Jesus today. There is a fragile connectivity between the vine and branches, and the fruit on the vine.
 [__02__] We know this technically – technologically – and we experience it in our relationships. Sometimes, it is hard to remain connected to people.
            And, we are called by love of God and love of neighbor to seek connections, but also to discern where the real connections, the true connections are. Not every geographical place on the earth’s surface offers an equally clear satellite signal. Not every choice we make – even choices made with a loving intention will produce connectivity.
            We are called to seek connectivity of a real signal and not just the noise of productivity.
            [The vine and the branches Gospel is not about a server, but about Jesus as servant and 24 x 7 connectivity. But, before there is productivity, we are called to connectivity.]
[__03__]      On Friday, April 27, at Washington Elementary School – in our neighborhood down the street at Tory Corner – there was a remembrance/memorial for 2 of our parishioners.
            1st. Governor Brendan Byrne, governor New Jersey from 1974-1982 and 2nd. Mrs. Patricia Villarosa, of Lourdes parish and 1st grade teacher at Washington School until she recently passed away.
            Each was being honored by the planting of trees at Washington Elementary, one in memory of Patty; one for Gov. Byrne.
            Trees remind us of roots, of connections, connections to each other.
            And, the superintendent of West Orange schools, Jeffrey Rutzky, pointed out that the trees, will mark times for the students so that when they return in 10, 20, 50 years, of the passage of time and the vibrant and living memory of Mrs. Villarosa and of Governor Byrne, in their branches, leaves, beauty, strength.
            I could not help but think, being in the presence of these Washington Elementary young people that they were – truly – the ones being planted, nurtured, receiving roots, growing strong.
            Yes, the trees are to be cared for but so are the children and so are we also to be cared for and loved by God and by each other.
            These children were believed in by Governor Byrne and by Patty Villarosa in every moment she spent with them, and that we are also called to care for these children and for each other. Connectivity is fragile.
[__04__]    The children are going to grow up and become as strong as trees. And, we are called to see both the forest and trees in our lives, to see them as individuals and to see them as a community as family.
            Jesus also proclaimed that his disciples were not just individual branches, but a community of branches. Jesus also saw both the forest and the trees.
            Governor Byrne is remembered for having protected a forest – the Pine Barrens State Forest – in southern New Jersey. It is appropriate to plant a tree – and many trees in his honor and in Patty’s honor, because of their care for life and lives in our community and in our state. Connectivity is fragile.
[__05__]     When we plant vines, we observe that these vines – with their stems and tendrils – grow
everywhere and even to overgrow. They grow on the walls, up the walls, inside the walls, under the masonry, on fences, et cetera et cetera.
            Check out the Lourdes Grotto of Blessed Mother/Mary network of green + vines. We are Ivy League!
            But, Jesus is calling us not only to productivity but also to connectivity.
with God and neighbor.
            One example of this is the way that we are called to be charitable.
 [__06__]    CHARITY is our highest ideal. Everyone of every income level – or wealth - is called to be charitable.  Everyone of every age and expertise is called to be charitable.
            In both the way that we give away material things or that we give away our mind or our energy.
            On the other hand, if CHARITY is not connected to the gospel, we can run the risk of being too easy or too easygoing.   (Reference: Parochial & Plain Sermons, Book II, S. 23, “Tolerance of Religious Error”)
            Parents – sometimes – say NO to their children. And, that is an act of love, charity. That’s charity.
            Or if someone asks me to share my perspective or knowledge, sometimes, I might say too much.
            We have all said too much at times.
            Sometimes, saying less is a gift. Less is more.
            And, in this, I’m citing Jesus’ example of being pruned, cut back, purified, simplified.
            He is the vine we are the branches. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)   [__fin__]     

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Good Shepherd & 1st Communion " (2018-04-22, 4th Sunday Easter)

4th SUNDAY of Easter  22 April 2018,    •• Acts 4:8-12  •• Psalm 118  •• 1 John 3:1-2  •• + John 10:11-18 ••

Title:  “The Good Shepherd: Ready. Rescues. Redirects.”

[__01__]     Ready? Are you ready?  Yes, we can see that you are and are delighted that you are ready – dressed so well for your 1st Holy Communion and with your family and friends here to pray with you.
            And, girls and boys this morning, I imagine you had to get ready TOGETHER, getting ready was not just for you alone and individually but for the whole family. Sometimes, we forget things and we all have to go back together … to be ready. In big changes, in marriage, family, we get ready together.
            And, in the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus – the Good Shepherd – is the one who is READY to receive us, who RESCUES us, and who REDIRECTS us.
[__02__]     I’d like to share a personal example of something that happened on a day off from school – when I was in high school.
            And, how I experienced this – READINESS – RESCUE – REDIRECTION.

[__03__]     1st. READY.
            In January of my junior year of high school, we had a day off from school.  I went downhill skiing with 2 friends of mine [Michael S. and Patrick T.].  Sorry, to be talking about snow again? After being dropped off at the ski area – a relatively small ski area run by Bergen County in Mahwah called Campgaw Reservation.
After a few hours of trying to keep up with them – they were much better skiers than I as you will soon learn -  I had to go to E.R. emergency room because of some acrobatic move I attempted on a little hill, a very little hill.
            I was unhappy to spend my day off from school in this manner. And, this was hardly a big mountain or difficult slope. I was not much of a skier. This was hardly Vermont or Utah. A short vertical drop [i.e., height]. No black diamonds, all GREEN / EASY slopes.       Meanwhile, I had to leave my two friends [who continued to ski] while my mom picked me up and took me to the E.R.
            My mother was, of course, very nice; the doctor also professional.  But, what consoled me that day, in addition to my mom and the doctor was a friend and coincidence. At the ER, I met one of my high school classmates. Unlike me, he was NOT a patient. He was, rather, a volunteer on an ambulance squad and had been in the ER with another patient. He was the ER when I arrived. He just happened to be there. And, while he did not expect me, he was READY for me. He was present to me.
            My classmate, John, did not “treat me”,  he did not examine me.  That’s good, because he was only in high school. But he had free time and he spent it with me. He was READY.
            And, a great gift we can give to each other is to be ready, to be “quick to listen slow to speak”(James 1:19) … to try and do what our parents ask when they ask. To remember that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35)

[__04__]    Jesus the Good Shepherd is [READY], he [RESCUES] us, and [REDIRECTS]  us.

[__05__]      Jesus the Good Shepherd [RESCUES] his disciples, he feeds you and me.
            This word “rescue” makes us think of a great drama or a trauma – something meterological or seismic..
            However, Jesus rescues us by his mercy, by his forgiveness.
            And, sometimes, we are starving – very hungry – for help in our lives, and for someone to take a risk, being merciful, to take a chance on us.
            Rescues are risky and Jesus inspires us to take such risks.
            We are rescued by forgiveness. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who RESCUES - lays down his life for - his disciples, for you and me, who feeds us with his Body and Blood. This is Holy Communion.
[__06__]       Sometimes, I need mercy or rescue from something that is my own fault, my own responsibility.
            I had landed not safely on 2 skis but in the ER because I was not really being careful enough, and because I had not maintained my skis properly, et cetera, et cetera …using the wrong equipment and fell to the ground. Not a pretty picture. My responsibility.
            Jesus the Good Shepherd rescues us with mercy not not because of our great TALENTS (SKIING, BALANCE, OR OTHERWISE) but actually because of our TRESPASSES, our SINS. He loves us, forgives us.
            He also [REDIRECTS] us.
 [__07_]        I wonder what my high school classmate – whom I met at the ER is doing now… does he work in medicine or healing?  He had a wonderful bedside manner.  He was simply present to me.
            And, not only was it a consolation to experience my classmate’s, John’s,  presence in the ER to but also to share the good news of his presence when I returned to high school that he had been there with me. It was good news to share, of why I was more calm, tranquil, all of this at the EMERGENCY ROOM! So, I was “redirected” to share that Good News not only with the 2 friends I skied with but with other classmates. And, I remember it felt great to share what had happened.
            Sometimes we are rescued not with 9-1-1 but simply with with mercy and forgiveness. And, we are called to share this Good News with others.
I suggest my friend’s kindness at the E.R. was also a REDIRECTION of Jesus to me– calling me . When I was 16, I did not think I was going to be a priest.  But, when I later did think about it, this particular experience was very significant.
As a priest, I try to be present to people in both sorrow and joy,  which includes visits to hospital, to be present in this way, to imitate the Christlike example of my friend at he ER to me.
So, to you -- our fathers and mothers -- I encourage you to help your children to reflect on – and pray about -- their joys and sorrows on moments of consolation.
These moments will shape them, help them to grow and understand later what it means – themselves to be a mother, father, wife or husband, to be a nurse or a doctor, to be a priest to serve the Church and to listen – in all these ways to Christ the Good Shepherd.

                        Girls and boys – God loves you, your mother loves you, your father loves you, your grandparents. Even if they are not present today, they love you and are praying for you.  Jesus the Good Shepherd loves you, the community of Our Lady of Lourdes loves you, and is grateful for your dedication and prayerfulness today and we look forward to praying with you and growing with you for many Sundays and years to come.
            Jesus, the Good Shepherd, [READY] to receive us, [RESCUES] us with mercy, and [REDIRECTS]  us to green pasture and restful waters.