Sunday, December 26, 2010

Deferred Status (2010-12-26, Holy Family)

This is my homily for 26 December 2010, Holy Family Sunday. I am the Catholic campus minister for Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We resume our Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) on Sun. Jan. 23, 2011.

[__01 –___ ] “And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two” (Matthew 5:41, Douay-Rheims) “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” (Matthew 5:41, NAB)

These are the words of Jesus in the Sermon the Mount.
So also –

“Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.” (Matthew 5:42, Douay-Rheims)

“Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” (Matthew 5:42, NAB)

These are examples of generosity, steadfast love as taught by Christ. And, these are also examples of what Paul writes in the letter to the Colossians [and also in Ephesians, chapter 5] about “deferral.”

Deferring to the other person. Thinking about the other person’s welfare. Deferral is something that is valuable and valued.

[__02__ ] Isn’t this also true in a professional and financial sense?

• At year end, for charitable purposes, for our taxes. What can we do to postpone – defer – property or income taxes due this year to 2011, 2012, to retirement?

• In the military. This is also valuable. If someone defers military service, he or she is postponing entry, postponing being drafted into the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines.

During election season to the Capitol, White House or Governor’s Mansion, candidates are questioned about their deferrals –

• Has this person avoided military service?
• Has this person paid (or avoided) federal taxes?

Of course, most deferrals are legitimate.

Nevertheless, the candidate is asked:

• You received advantages; What have you done with the time and money you received?
• Did these deferrals give you a jump start in life?
• Election Day becomes Judgment Day. Meet the Press.

[__03 __ ] Deferrals, then, come as gifts. Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. And, we reflect on the ways in which families are communities of love and support.
Husbands defer to their wives. Wives defer to their husbands. Children to defer to their parents. Paul writes, “Defer to one another out of love for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

To the Colossians, Paul writes of what we are to “put on”, i.e., what we are to wear externally as a sign of deferral and charity:

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. And, for all of us, today is a day to reflect on the ways in which we defer to each other. This does not simply mean tolerating – and holding our breath – as others get away with stuff. But, rather, respect.

And, for our young children here who live under the roof – and supervision - of mothers and fathers, this also means obedience.

Young people, boys and girls, during this school holiday, think about everything your parents do for you. Consider the time your parents spend deferring to you.

Now, we may think – under parental supervision – that we simply take orders and carry them out, do what Mom/Dad says. But, it’s also true that Mom/Dad are deferring to you, thinking always about what you need.

They think about your wishes – what you need – food, education, medicine, rest. If your mom/dad are telling you what time to go to bed, they are also urging you to rest.

Just as they take you on vacation in the summer, they are concerned about your rest (vacation) every night.

We are called to obey our parents. In the commandments, we hear “Honor your father and your mother.”

This means doing as we are told, especially when we are young.

And, this is not only because our parents are stronger, more powerful or have the car keys.

But, rather, they use their strength and power to protect us. They would die for us. Thus we obey them. In the same way, we listen and acknowledge Christ’s commands, knowing he has died for us.

This is a way for us to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family every day.

Not all of us live under the direct supervision or rule of our parents, do we?
Many of us are grown up.

However, all of us are called to respect our mothers and fathers, both living and deceased.

[__04__ ] What does respect for one’s parents, as grown-ups – what does this mean?

It means –
• Anticipating the needs of my mother or father – grandfather or grandmother – before I am asked.

• Willingly asking advice. Isn’t it true that adult parents try – out of love – not to intrude upon the lives of their adult children? My parents do not give me advice today as they did when I was younger. Our parents want to share in our lives. But, they would prefer to be neither to be invited rather than to intrude. When we willingly ask advice, we are showing respect.

• Also, when we accept their corrections, their admonitions, we show respect.

[__05__ ] If you and I were running for office, paying our taxes, meeting the press, we would be judged for the deferrals – gifts - received.

We would be judged on the value/deferrals received.

What did we do with our advantages?

The same is true in our faith. We are called to consider – give thanks – for the
ways in which our parents loved us, considered us, and given us a head start.

This is the 4th commandment, which is based on another deferral clause, a clause about advantages:
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) [__end ___ ]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In the Loop (2010-12-25, Christmas)

This is my homily for Christmas 25 December 2010. I am the Catholic campus minister for this Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We resume our Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) on Sun. Jan. 23, 2011.

[__01___ ] A few years ago, as a seminary student at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ our on-campus university library went to 24 hour access.

I remember hoping that our library would be open. This was good news; and it was an upgrade from the late 1980’s and my undergraduate experience at Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) at which the college library was locked – from the inside and outside at 11:00 p.m. sharp.

Very easily could one have been locked inside. This actually happened to a friend of mine. And, I am sure my tuition-paying parents wish this had happened to me. They would have been pleased if police/security had picked me up for violating library hours by the excesses of late-night reading, writing, and arithmetic.

[__02___] 24-hour access is given to things we find valuable. CNN. Wireless Internet. Movies on demand.

If something or someone is very valuable, we desire access day and night.

After hours, after the close of business for most people [but not for shepherds] comes the birth announcement of our Lord and Savior. The shepherds of Bethlehem are experiencing a 24-hour news cycle.

And, these shepherds will also become sources of information, ambassadors of the Good New Messages. They are the first disciples.

[__03__] But, these shepherds are not yet trusted sources of
information. Could I compare them to CNN in 1980? Or, perhaps, our current view of Facebook and YouTube.

Some of the more traditional sources of Temple and religious information would prefer that they be filtered or investigated….

During this momentous late-night announcement, where is are mainstream media and religious authorities of Jerusalem?

[__04 __] Well, they are sleeping, right? The Pharisees, for example, are home. They are the folks with the credentials and microphones and calculators and cameras and other technical equipment– the Pharisees, chief priests, scribes, were sound asleep at home during this first Christmas. And, they might have wondered why no one called them. Since they were not there, it must have been nothing important.

This will, in part, explain their later reluctance to hear the Good News, to heed the Gospel. They will resist the message whether it is brought by the shepherds, the apostles, or Christ himself. Crucify him. The Pharisees are not in the loop. And, these authority-figures would prefer their news in prime time.

[__05___ ] The Good News – and interruption to the regular broadcast - is that –

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (John 3:16)
John 3:16.

For example, Jesus is present 24 hours, all the time in –

• Holy Communion
• In the Tabernacle

The Lord waits for us, forgiving us when we repent. The Father in the Parable stays awake for his younger son – the prodigal - to return. (cf. Luke 15).

The Good Shepherd, Jesus, himself instructs these shepherds and us about steadfastness and loyalty.

Seek the one who is lost, the one out of one hundred. Leaving behind the “other 99”, we also – in love and mercy – put aside our own timetable for those we love.

[__06___] Boys and girls – brothers and sisters – this means doing the right thing 24 hours a day, even when no one is watching.

You and I face, at times, great challenges from others who are stronger, more knowledgeable. Or, we face challenges from those who may be unkind or unforgiving.

This is also the experience of the shepherds in the Gospel.

Through this after-hours and 24-hour message, they are inspired and called to interrupt their lives for the Gospel.

They are interrupting their regular pattern and work.

We might compare the shepherds to those who stayed up really late at night to watch the lunar eclipse this week.

Some of us stayed up – or woke up – in the dark for this 72 minute display of light turning to darkness, and then, darkness turning to light.

[*** The Eclipse – AP Associated Press article, December 21, 2010
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue.

The 3 1/2 hour celestial spectacle was visible from North and Central America where skies were clear. Portions of Europe and Asia only caught part of the show. The totality phase — when the moon was completely immersed in Earth's shadow — lasted 72 minutes.

Since the year's only total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon glowed high in the sky.

The last time this occurred was more than three centuries ago on Dec. 21, 1638. It will happen again on Dec. 21, 2094, according to U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester. [Mark your calendar – that is only 84 years away.]

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye, unlike solar eclipses. The next total lunar eclipse will occur in June 2011 and will not be visible from North America.***]

Were there not, the day after the eclipse, some of your friends/classmates who stayed up late and some who did not?

The ones who did were the eyewitness, the messengers, similar to the shepherds, who are interrupted at an unusual time, at a late hour.

[__07__] And, you and I – who come to Holy Communion, to church to receive Christ –we are also those who saw and those who tell about it.

We tell about this Good News both by what we say and do, both when we can be seen in the light and when people cannot see us in the dark.

For example, boys and girls, we are called to:

• Kindness to the person whom others ignore
• Generosity even to someone who cannot or will not say thank you.
• Saying I’m sorry even this means taking responsibility when other people are dishonest and do not accept responsibility.

This is the Good News of 24-hour access, where we also have access where once the door was locked and power was turned off. This reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1)


Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Sleep Study (2010-12-19, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 19 December 2010 (4th Sunday, Advent) for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

** This is our final Sunday Mass of Fall 2010; we resume Sun. Mass on Jan. 23, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. **

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Psalm 24 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

[__01] Perhaps, we could see this Gospel reading – of Joseph and the angel – as the time of preparation before an important event.
Imagine we are studying for something, for an examination. This is final exam season on campus.

Joseph is the student and the child of God who is preparing for a major examination.

Mary is also a student and the child of God preparing for a challenging test. In this particular reading, we are focused on Joseph and his experience in our salvation, in “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” (Matthew 1:18)

[__02] So – we go through times of preparation, study, evaluation.

What do we do the night before an exam?

What do we do? Usually, we study. But, sometimes – what I have done – is I stay up as late as possible trying to get the last bit of information into my brain.

Sometimes, I may be memorizing things I could have [should have] absorbed weeks ago. I stay up later rather than going to sleep at a reasonable hour.

This is what we are all tempted to do. We are tempted to use every possible moment up until the last minute. Sometimes, this means we are not as rested as we could possibly be for the examination.

What does Joseph do? He is the model student. He goes to sleep.

He is getting a good night’s rest the night before his final.

This rest is also helpful to us in our spiritual journey, our conversion, our repentance. We – on our spiritual journeys – also learn things gradually. Rarely – if ever – can we stay up all night and make a major change in our lives. And, if we are up all night worrying over something it is often because we have experienced some period of anguish over time.

And, though we speak of love-at-first-sight and the changes this brings, true love is also a lifelong project of caring for – and caring about – another person.

So, we need rest in our lives. We need rest so that we can –

• Recall what we have learned
• Revise and check ourselves.

Isn’t it true that , when we are patient, we are better able to check and re-check and correct our errors, to meditate what we have been writing?

[__03] Also, when rested, we are better able to absorb information, even new information, at the last minute. More information, unfamiliar questions.

Questions in a new format. Of course, we prefer the questions to be in familiar form. But, if we are rested, we are able to receive the question in a different format or even analyze the unexpected question and do the best we can. To receive the new information.

[__04] Joseph is confronted with some new information at the last moment, to say the least. He is confronted with information that Mary is now expecting a child, a child of whom he is not the father.

And, his first-draft answer is that they will separate. That they will go to separate rooms, be tested separately. No more helping each other out. No more talking between these two students.

But, then, the angel of the Lord visits Joseph.

This visit comes during Joseph’s good night of sleep. Joseph is asleep. But, Joseph is also open to God’s presence, to God’s inspiration through the Holy Spirit.

[__05] And, we are called to be open the same Spirit. Are we open to the Spirit speaking to us about our:

• Friendships – and what our friends may suggest we do or pressure us to do.
• The way we spend our time
• The way we spend our money

Sometimes, we have learned – or memorized certain responses – to God’s Commandments.

It is difficult to learn the new material, the new Good News of the gospel. Joseph also had a prepared answer that the angel is asking him to revise. But, when we rest, and rest in God’s presence – and pray – then, we can be more open to suggestion, to revision, even repentance.

This is means we are called to examine our lives and even to revise answers we have given before.

To change our minds as Joseph does.

Joseph shows us the example of someone who is well rested, resting in God’s presence. And, he gives us the example of meditation during Advent, waiting patiently for the Lord.

[__06] So well rested is Joseph that he is able to overcome distractions. What is this noises off stage, distractions?

Wouldn’t Joseph have experienced certain social distractions, the static of other people who would have told him not to listen to the angel?

But, Joseph overcomes those would have told him to separate from Mary. These are the other students who are always talking in class. They would be similar to the Scribes and Pharisees who are always talking in class, making trouble for Christ the teacher.

But, Joseph is able to overcome those distractions, to welcome the Holy Spirit into his life, as we are all called to do.

So that we might rest in God’s presence, both in and out of the classroom. [__end]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Answers and Questions (2010-12-12, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 12 December 2010 (Immaculate Conception) for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 | Psalm 146 | James 5:7-10 | Matthew 11:2-11

[__01____] In the earliest days – and years – of our education, we are judged (evaluated) by our ability to answer questions.

The challenge for us is to RESPOND, to ANSWER:
• Spelling
• Mathematics
• History
• And many other subjects.

We answer what is asked. And, this series of answers forms a foundation of grammar, arithmetic, and other subjects.

As we go on in school – and in life – our intelligence judged partially by these answers. However, we reach a point at which we are also evaluated not by answers – but also by questions.

By questions we ask, we demonstrate, at the very least, command of the subject matter. For example, the brilliant astrophysicist or attorney is not only known for his/her ability to answer legal and scientific questions but also for an ability to pose new questions.

And, we also grow in our faith and relationship with Christ and with others by asking new questions.

And, in the Gospel today, Jesus also encourages us to be attentive to our own personal experience.

This encourages us to bring our questions to him.

[__02__ ] Bringing forward a question, asking a question we reveal something about ourselves.

And, unless we submit questions anonymously to a professor in class, we cannot
really ever ask a question without revealing who we are at a particular moment.

And, by the way – teachers generally want to know who is asking – it helps them guide the student, doesn’t it?

In the Gospel, some of the disciples of John the Baptist come forward with a basic, fundamental question of Christ:

“Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”

Jesus welcomes their question and reminds them of the miracles, parables, and teaching.

Christ the Teacher appeals to their intelligence and experience. However, by the nature of their question, they may not be ready to hear the answer.

This Gospel reminds us that these disciples do not have all of the knowledge we have. They are still in mid-semester. Jesus has not yet been crucified, died and risen from the dead.

And, they would have wondered why Jesus was not more austere / impoverished / extreme as John was.

So – they have questions. At least, they are asking. And, asking a question is part of our journey of faith.

[__03 __ ] Asking a question, we can demonstrate both our knowledge and our desire for knowledge.

Questions are part of relationships.

In a professional setting, consider what happens at the conclusion of job interview. The interviewer asks you or me what questions we have.

Then, we have the sometimes daunting challenge of asking an intelligent question about an industry or institution with which we have no experience.

Yet, by our questions, we also demonstrate our interest in the position. Also, we show interest by not asking certain things. For example, by not asking about salary, we demonstrate our interest in all the other conditions and factors that make a job what it is.

We stay away from that question, right ?

[__04__ ] In the early days of our education, we are asked to give answers. And, we spend a lot of time listening.

Consider that even before we can speak we also learn.

But, learning is not a matter of memorization. Isn’t this true no matter how fundamental the command?

For example, consider the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal.

The 7th commandment. We know it by heart, we memorized it by the words and by the number. And, we figure it’s going to be on the final, both now and forever.

On the other hand, this commandment does not simply ask you and me to refrain from breaking into cars and houses.

This commandment also encourages us to consider:
• how we use our goods and resources?
• Am I willing to share with someone who has less?
• How do I speak of others? Would I protect the reputation of another person in the same way I would protect property?
• Do I use other people for my own advancement?

[__05__ ] Much of our lives requires us to give answers. This is not only true in academia but also in life. Mothers and fathers – loving their children – are also responding YES to difficult questions.

Teachers who give their lives to the classroom also say YES each day. Doctors and medical professionals may be called to say YES to cases large and small, profitable or not.

Our lives involve many answers and not all of them are easy.

Sometimes, in life, we tire of asking questions. In a long-term relationship such as marriage or family, we may be exhausted at questions and exasperated at the answers.

We may feel we know everything there is not know about another. But, questions are not only about knowledge. They are also about a relationship.

The depth of our commitment – and our faith – is also shown in the questions we ask - both of God and of each other. [__end___]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Being, Doing (Immaculate Conception 2010-12-08)

This is my homily for Wednesday 8 December 2010 (Immaculate Conception) for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01___] Today, December 8, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It happens to fall during these weeks of Advent and winter – times of darkness, stillness, and prayer. And, in prayer, we meditate not only God’s action … but also on God’s identity.

The same is true for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We might consider not only what Mary does and says but also who Mary is. This feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us of Mary’s role as Mother of God.

And, as we know, we come to know our mothers not only through what they do (in some materially productive way) but also for who they are. For we also come to share who they are, their very nature. For regardless of the origins of our relationship to our mothers, our mothers share not only their actions with us … they not only do for us. They also simply are; they simply exist.

And, this is the reason for our devotion to Mary who also shares her nature, her human nature with Christ. She simply is.

[__02___] This feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us that God generously shares his divine life – not only as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but also joins the life of his own Son to a human mother Mary …and through Mary, makes all of us his adopted brothers and sisters. If Christ is our spiritual brother by baptism, then Mary is also our mother. And, one does not become a mother – or become a child – to a mother by one’s productivity … or even one’s own choice.

This relationship simply exists – and is to be received.

We are certainly tempted to view our relationships otherwise.

That is, we seek what others can do – or produce – for us. And, if we expect things unreasonable or if we always expect to be pleased, then, we may grow suspicious or envious.
Other people – and relationships – do not exist for our pleasure or profit.

[__03___] Our readings today remind us of the need to accept relationships as they are.

Sometimes, we desire something that is simply not in God’s plan.
Also, we are reminded to be discerning about who we listen to. Whom can we really trust?

Into any relationship – no matter how strong or emotionally satisfying at first – may will creep in doubt, suspicion about the true motives of another person.

[__04___] In the Book of Genesis, we might see the start of some suspicion. It begins with a numerical inventory, a statement about percentages, and, a lie. We sometimes say that statistics lie … but, in fact, liars lie. And, the serpent uses statistics to uproot one tree and plant the seeds of discontent and envy.

What Satan the statistician suggest?

To Eve he says, did God really say that you may not eat of any of the trees? (zero percent)

And to the serpent, Eve replies, realizing she is better at math than the serpent “no it is only of the tree in the middle of the garden that we may not eat.”

Through this conversation, about numbers, percentages, and comparisons, the serpent is able to draw a distorted image of God. The serpent presents God as jealous … and somewhat unstable in his commandments.

And, Adam and Eve give in to this idea themselves. Regarding God – whom they once loved – they are now jealous and envious of him and, soon, each other.

Genesis reminds us to be careful whom we trust …and whom we listen to.

[__05___] We have access to more and more information. But, does all of this – really – make us more discerning, more careful about how we use information? Or, do we overload on information? Do we also measure others by their productivity, by what they have done for us lately? Can we, rather, love them for who they are?

[__06___] In the Gospel, we encounter Mary is a model in this regard. She has been taken by surprise by the angel Gabriel. Yet, over the course of her life, Mary has come to understood God’s promise and faithfulness.

Justifiably would Mary have had questions about how this would all work out.

What we celebrate today is the not only what Mary does … about how Mary co-creates with God, the Savior of the world. What we also remember is who Mary is, her patience, her strength. Isn’t it beautiful when we can offer a generous and unreserved Yes also – or when someone gives us their commitment.

In this way, we are not only promising to do something, we are also promising to be someone, and turn our desires for productivity over to Almighty God, for whom nothing is impossible. [__end__]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Xtreme Good News (Advent, 2010-12-05)

This is my homily for Sunday 5 December 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Isaiah 11:1-10 | Psalm 72 | Romans 15:4-9 | Matthew 3:1-12

[__01__ ] In the wilderness, we encounter inclines and angles to the land. Sometimes, these can be quite extreme and sudden.

What this means --
• Too sudden an incline up … get stuck
• Too sudden an incline down … fall …

John the Baptist is experienced in the back country, going up and down hills.
It would seem he is interested in a very sudden change of life – repent, prepare the way of the Lord, eat locusts and wild honey, wear a camel’s hair coat.

John the Baptist appears to be extreme, everything about his manner, his tone of voice is extreme. Is the Holy Spirit also inviting us to make an extreme change?

John the Baptist’s extreme lifestyle attracts the notice of others.

POSITIVELY - Positive support comes in the form of those who visit him, the many people from Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordan region come to the Jordan River to hear him, to repent of their sins, to be baptized.

NEGATIVELY - On the other hand, we might imagine that the Scribes and Pharisees – what are they doing in the woods ? What motivates them? Perhaps, they close his movement down. They are similar to the park rangers and police who would tell you not to stay here, camp here … you do not belong here.

And, the Pharisees and Sadducees do not want any extreme changes either. They favor their position, things as they are. They might not encourage you and me to change either.

[__02__ ]

We understand John the Baptist is a person comfortable with
• Extreme austerity
• Extreme poverty

However, he is also a person of extreme integrity, of extreme charity, of extreme love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our Lord praises John the Baptist and all those who are willing to seek this poverty and simplicity.

Jesus says in next Sunday’s Gospel of John:

“[there is] none greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”

In this way, Jesus is praising John the Baptist for his extreme devotion and faithfulness … and praises all those who will go to extremes for the Kingdom of Heaven.

[__03___ ] Does this require us to move into the woods, off the grid, no electricity, phones, television, internet?

In other words, if we were to climb the mountain (the mountain mentioned in our first reading from Isaiah…), should we climb that mountain at an extremely sharp angle?

The danger with climbing – on 2 feet or a mountain bike or 4x4 truck – is that at an extreme angle … we could get stuck easily.

At an extreme angle coming down … we could slip, lose our balance.

[__04__] How might we imitate John the Baptist during our Advent worship and meditations?

First - John the Baptist invites all of us to repentance.

John Paul II observes that we might find it hard at times to say – I repent – I am sorry. This seems too extreme, similar to going up straight up an incline or down a hill.

Is it really necessary to be so extreme, to admit that I am wrong? Could not there be other factors – other people – to blame .. who made me who I am?

John Paul II further writes:

“It is clear, however, that Christian penance will only be authentic if it is inspired by love and not by mere fear; if it consists in a serious effort to crucify the " old man " so that the " new" can be born by the power of Christ; if it takes as its model Christ, who though he was innocent chose the path of poverty, patience, austerity and, one can say, the penitential life.”

So, our repenentance, our conversion may throw us off balance, may seem extreme at times. However, this is also an invitation to make gradual and long-lasting changes in our lives.

[__04__ ] Our penance and repentance is the first way to imitate John the Baptist. There is a second way. However, this second way really depends on the first. The first way of penance and repentance is necessary for all of us.

However, we might also observe that John goes into the wilderness to protest. This is what revolutionaries and rebels do. They go into the woods to gather resources.
Then, they re-emerge later, stronger.

What is John protesting?

Dishonesty, corruption, hypocrisy.

And, he withdraws from civilization to do this . He is seen as an extremist, attracting the notice of the Pharisees and Sadducees. What are they doing walking around in the backcountry? I thought they favored concrete sidewalks and places of honor at table and greetings in marketplaces.

Perhaps, they are here to observe, capture some information, put it on the internet and close down John’s ministry.

John protests them too.

Against whom do we protest?

We are also called to protest dishonesty and hypocrisy and corrupt behavior.
There are two ways to register these protests - as Cardinal Newman observes – the choice of method depends on the situation. And,

I think both require penance and prayer.

First, we can protest silently.

When we keep ourselves free from sin, we are silently protesting others who do not. It is very difficult (sometimes, impossible) to correct those who are in authority (a boss, for example). However, we can protest silently by our own example.

Also, we can protest when we choose to against the crowd, when we resist peer pressure which we might encounter – at a a party, from a group of friends. Resisting peer pressure also can seem an extreme choice … it may be so much easier to slide along with the rest. It may lose us some popularity points.

However, this is where we are strong. In Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians we read–

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Secondly, we can protest in words.

Also, if we do have the absolute need to protest someone else’s actions …we might also consider the “extremes” here. The extreme good here is that we are so interested in seeking the good of another ..that we are willing to risk some negative reaction, willing to risk my own loss of popularity by speaking up.

This is the extreme we seek. The extreme we want to avoid is to suggest that I am extremely honest or better than you. Truly, this is not the case. All of us are sinners, all of us need God’s grace.

If we were to speak to someone – in protest – we also can benefit by prayer.

Recognize that this encounter (or confrontation) is not something we do every day.

Pray for the other person, before, during and after the conversation.

And, in doing so, recognize that we are all to seek a new extreme, a new model … but that we also are moving there gradually, gradually slowing leveling the ground, to find a new road, to prepare the way of the Lord. [__end__]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Overtime (Advent 1, 2010-11-28)

This is my homily for Sunday 28 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01__] Sometimes, we do our best work under time limits. These time limits also lead to better performance on the playing field or the court. For example, don’t some players and teams really come to life in the …

• 2nd half
• 9th inning
• 4th quarter
• OT - overtime

We, sometimes, do the same in our tight spaces [not just the dorm room tight space] …but the tight space of syllabus, of a final exam, of the semester.

And, sometimes, in addition, tight spaces are also dark spaces. At this time of year, we feel the pressure of the end of the semester, the deadline …and I, daresay, the darkness.

After the game, the lights go out in the stadium as well.

[__02__] Today is the first Sunday of Advent. On the one hand, this is a beginning, a starting point. This is the beginning of the Church year, the beginning of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

However, Advent is also a time to meditate on the ending, the Second Coming to which Jesus refers in the Gospel and to which Paul alludes in the letter to the Romans.
Advent is a season of “overtime”, to meditate on the final stages of our lives.

And, what happens during “regular time” will influence what happens in “overtime.” What is true for a player who is in shape and able to play the whole game and also overtime … also can be true for us.

So, when we hear about Christ’s birth at Bethlehem, we are not reminded of the start of the “game” …. We are also being reminded that Christ will come again, be born again. And, even now, he wants to shine his light into our lives.

However, he is not going to impose this light in the way a detective turns a bare light bulb on a suspect during an interrogation or the way the doctor knocks you unconscious then turns up the light really bright … light that you cannot even see.

Jesus wants us to see the light which he is shining. He wants us to see it – willingly – during both regular time and overtime.

[__03__] Advent, while it is a beginning, also reminds us that we are already works-in-progress and that we are getting closer and closer to the end.

There is a time limit. And, there is darkness associated with the limits of the time, the end of the year, or semester.

Right now, we see the time limits quite clearly. It is dark outside, practically the middle of the night at 7:45 p.m. here in Eastern Standard Time.

And, we have grown accustomed to this darkness, turning on our vehicle headlights at 4:30 in the afternoon.

We are accustomed to the darkness. However, as John Henry Newman writes, we find it hard to be satisfied by the darkness. We really have to meditate on the end of life … on what it means to be … near death. So, if you – in your prayer – wonder about eternal life, about the mystery of death … well this is also Advent – it reminds us that life [even when there is plenty of daylight] does not satisfy us.

And, when we are in the dark days of winter, we are reminded of this all the more:

“Does the [soul] rejoice solemnly that "the night is far spent, the day is at hand," that there are "new heavens and a new earth" to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will "soon see the King in His beauty," and "behold the land which is very far off." These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ.”

So, as we approach Advent, we might remember not that we are re-born as children … but that we will be reborn …in death as grown ups too. So, if we feel a bit older in the winter weather … that is in fitting with the season. It is getting closer and closer to our overtime. And to the darkness.

[__04__] Being un-satisfied with the darkness, we seek for light. And, we might choose artificial lights or real lights. The real lights are the ones which
Christ wants to give us, to bless us with.

For example, the artificial are the entertainments or media we select. Sure, these might be diversions, recreations. But, we are also called to be discerning about the messages we absorb from them.

• Does Facebook teach me anything about Friendship?
• Does a Hollywood love story teach me anything about true love… an action hero …about real heroism? Or about the love and everyday heroic sacrifices to which we are all called? Marriage, for example, is about both love and heroism for both spouses.

These diversions are not inherently bad. But, diversions need discernment.

Francis de Sales writes about recreations – if too much time be given to such things, they cease to be a recreation and they become an occupation and so far from relaxing the mind, they produce tension.

Actually, Francis de Sales was thinking of this in terms of the danger of spending 5 or 6 hours playing too much tennis … or chess …. Maybe that it is not the seduction we fall into … but I think we get the picture.

[__05__] What are the true lights?

• Time with our families
• Time visiting someone who needs us, visiting someone who is sick
• These might seem to be a confinement to a dark room. However, we might remember the words of Psalm 139, “darkness is not dark for you and night shines as clear as the day.”

• Jesus comes to us in our darkness.
• Quiet time
• Study.

These times of study might also seem to be real darkness. However, this is a light that no one else can turn off, unlike entertainment or movie.

These are the real lights we are called to pursue, the lights which will shine through us, the lights which will guide us into overtime and beyond. [__end__]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Honesty and The Steal Sign (2010-11-21, Christ the King)

This is my homily for Sunday 21 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

This is the Feast of Christ the King.

2 Samuel 5:1-3 | Psalm 122 | Colossians 1:12-20 | Luke 23:35-43

[__01__] This Gospel is part of the Passion of our Lord, a reading we would also hear on Palm Sunday, about the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.
And, in this section, we read about the thieves who are crucified with Jesus. One of them is known as the Good Thief. He is the good thief because he becomes repentant.

[__02__] We might also ask, what is it that makes a thief good?
What it is that makes a thief good at stealing, at taking possession of things?

Two things that thieves do well are –

(a) Minimize risk
(b) Move quickly

[__03__] What we might feel, after watching Hollywood and fictional thieves, is that thieves are risk-takers.

They are bold, daring, adventurous. This gets them what they want. They have complicated plans and targets including –

(a) Back room or vault of a Las Vegas casino
(b) The cash registers of baseball stadium, maybe Fenway Park.

We admire the daring adventurer and thief.

[__04__] Is this really true?

Aren’t the most “successful” and “wealthiest” thieves the ones who do not call attention to themselves and avoid the searchlight and IRS/detectives for as long as possible.

They don’t want broad daylight.

[__05__] Couldn’t we say the same about baseball players and base-runners who are taking a lead, off of first base?

In baseball, we use the term “stealing” as well. All within the rules, I assure you.

But, we still describe this as a steal. What happens?

A runner leads off of first base. Then, he starts running during the pitcher’s delivery to second base.

For example, Jose Reyes of the New York Mets stole bases in 2005, 2006, and 2007 than any other player in the National League.

He is also the all-time team leader in stolen bases for the New York Mets. But, how does a base stealer?

He does not want to call attention. He takes a lead and runs during the pitcher’s delivery, as a surprise.

And, he wants to reach second base “safely” without risk. Maybe, he can get such an advance/jump that there is no risk and no throw from the catcher.

The base-stealer is also trying to minimize risk. That’s what thieves do. They get what they want without taking too many risks or dares. Everything is plotted. And, they the read the steal signs.

[__06__] In the Confessions, St. Augustine gives an example of stealing he committed in his youth.

One night, Augustine, as a young man, breaks into the private property and orchard of a local person. The orchard has many pear trees. He and other lads take the pears.

But, he admits that he did not find the pears delicious or beautiful. He admits, in the Confessions, that he did not find beauty in the pears but only in the stealing itself of the pears. He rejoiced – in youthful pride – in his ability to get away with something.

He could not enjoy the true fruit of the pear but only the counterfeit fruit of his own glory, pride, the “popularity” with his friends.

He is considered “cool”, though he does not use this term in his 4th-century autobiography.

[__07__] Was Augustine, stealing the pears, taking a risk, really all that daring? Or, was he simply follow a safe route to popularity, and a feeling of power?

We may do the same thing, even on a path starts out very honestly. For example, we avoid risks by connecting with and relating to the right people.

How far will I go in my search for connections? Will I simply take without giving of myself to others?

Am I willing to take what does not belong to me in the process?

All of us are called to be generous.

[__08__] The Good Thief on the cross has been good at obtaining what he wants by not revealing too much, not going out in broad daylight and not taking too many risks.
Here, on Calvary, he has a choice and he knows he needs help.

What might be his inclination? To turn to the rich and the powerful,the VIP’s.

They are the powerful ones of whom we hear…

“The rulers sneered at [ridiculed] Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Chosen One, the Christ of God.’ ” (cf., Luke 23:35-43)
Perhaps, they, the rulers, can negotiate a lighter sentence for him, an acquittal for his crimes. That would be a low-risk choice, turning to those who have connections.

But, in this case, the thief discovers that he can no longer play it safe. And, he risks it all by asking Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is the beginning of his personal relationship with Christ. And, with this honest confession, this humility, he advances further than he could have imagined.

If he were actually a base-runner in baseball, we would say he just stole home.

But, we could also say, that he has just come out of hiding. That was the risk.

Honesty is a risk. It is also his salvation. [__end __]

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Facades and Foundations (2010-11-14)

This is my homily for Sunday 14 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01__] What is a stone?

The British Empire, in the 19th century, devised a system of weights and measures that was in place until 1959. Then, in 1959, the metric system was adopted.

However, in the U.K., we still may hear reference to weight measured in stone.

Rather than 140 pounds, we hear 10 stone. 1 stone equals 14 pounds.

Stone = weight. And, weight – in many instances – is what we use to measure value.

A heavier stone is usually more valuable. This is true whether the stone is marble or diamond.

On the other hand, we also place a high value on things because they are light – sports cars or cell phones.

In either case, “weight” = value. This is a measurement.

Jesus is well aware that the people of his day are taking measurements and making evaluations.

They take measurements from the sidewalk outside the Temple. They admire the stones, the “costly stones” and “votive offerings.”

Walking down the street in Jerusalem outside the Temple, the Lord hears these visitors paying homage (respect) to the external aspects of “costly stones” and “votive offerings.”

The Lord is telling us that the external – while costly - has a limited life-span.

The Lord says: “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (cf. Luke 21:5-19)

Should they, then, put away their cameras? Or, rather, take more photos, capture it on film? In other words, if they take more, they would do what travelers-tourists naturally do everywhere to capture and remember the height of office buildings, museums, and cathedrals?

We take these photos to remember and measure. And, we are impressed with what we can see.

[__02__] On the other hand, in some cases, the “superficial” and the “surface” are very important. In other words, both facade and foundation count.

For example, to build the Temple, the original workers had to level the ground. This labor -- at the “superficial” or “surface” level -- is important to success.

Also, some of the surface adornments identify the Temple and Jewish faith. Do not the “costly stones” and “votive offerings” reflect the presence of God inside? For example, “votive offerings” mean “sacrificial offerings.” The people sacrifice in the Temple for what God has given them in the Temple of their own lives.

And, the stones – heavy and valuable (syn for “valuable”! ! ! ) – reflect the infinite value of God’s Presence inside the Temple.

[__03__] In the Gospel, we might gain the impression that Christ was indifferent to the Temple. However, we know that the Lord observed his Jewish faith in visits to the Temple. And, he cared enough about the Temple to drive out the money changers (cf. John 2:_, et al). He cares about not only worship itself, but the preparation for worship, and the appearance of it.

Our own Holy Communion is a New Passover, reflecting the historic sacrifices of the Temple. However, this New Passover is also an action of the Holy Spirit, giving us a presence more than we can perceive with our five senses.

We cannot weigh or measure this presence in stones or money.

And, we are called to remember the same in our view of another person. Sometimes, we are tempted to make a person an object of measurement. If he or she measures up, good. If not, bad.

We may wonder – what costly stone have you given me or votive offering have you done for me lately?

In my relationship with others, we may expect to be pleased and affirmed. In Christ’s view, however, we are called to see that the facade identifies where the Temple is. But, the facade does not identify what the Temple is.

[__04__] We have other Temples beside the Temple of Jerusalem or the New Temples of our own churches. The new Temple is Christ’s body and blood. And, as followers, we also make up the new Temple, the new building.

As Paul writes in the New Testament:

“Your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit which we have from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

So – what is our view of this new Temple?

As Christ’s followers, we believe that God’s presence is known in a special way through the Blessed Sacrament, through the Holy Eucharist. However, God is also present in our hearts and in the heart of another person.

God is not confined to his Temple regardless of the integrity of its construction.

What about the integrity of your construction and my construction? What is our view of the human body suffering or aging?

Do we see an inherent value in the person who has difficulty walking or speaking?
Consider the outpouring of support for Rutgers University football player, Eric LeGrand, a player who suffered a devastating neck injury a few weeks ago.

This young man’s life is changed forever. What his teammates and coaches demonstrate, however, is a desire to support him as a teammate. And,they are doing whatever they can to level the ground for him, to level the new playing field for him.

And, we have seen – on the news and at football games – the visible desire to inform

Eric that he remains a member of the team.

Wearing his number, 52, is one such outward sign.

[__05___] “Outward signs were important in the Jersualem Temple; they are also important in the New Temple.”

Some of these outward signs will take considerable effort – over many years.

And, by visiting Eric in the hospital or at home, his family and friends tell the world that Eric – as human being – is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).

Sometimes, we may think that our efforts of caregiving do not matter. We may feel discouraged because we have not been able to re-build the foundation yet.
Just as the crowd asks in the Gospel today, we wonder, “when?” and “how will this happen?”

Jerome Biblical Commentary, on Luke: “what Luke is insisting on .... is Christians must not expect a proximate and definite date for the Second Coming or the end of the Temple.”

“Christians must adjust to a long period of waiting and persecution. In doing so, they are following the sorrowful way of the Cross, taken by Jesus to arrive at glory.”

Our lives are not measured stones or ounces or abilities. They are measured in our ability to love and see beyond the facade.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Body + Soul = 100%

This is my homily for Sunday 7 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 | Psalm 17 | Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 | Luke 20:27-38

[__01_-Sadducees & question & their rigor_] Who are the Sadducees who come to Jesus about this question and example of the 1 Bride for 7 Brothers?

We’ve heard of 7 Brides for 7 Brothers – that must be the sequel.

The Sadducees ask this question because of the differing opinion with Jesus about what happens to body and to the soul after death.

And, they are very concerned that physical and material things do not get in the way of God’s Divine Presence.

The Sadducees were known for their rigorous approach to Temple worship. From the Sadducee class come the high priests of the Temple. (Meanwhile, from the Pharisee class come the rabbis.)

The Sadducees are responsible for carrying out many detailed purification rituals in the Temple. And, they believe that the Sacred Presence of God could be easily “transformed” or “vanish if improperly handled.”

For the Sadducees at the Temple, there is no room for error, no happy medium. Thus, the Sadducees want to separate what is divine from what is human very clearly. There is no middle ground.

[__02_-Sadducees & risen-soul-only_] And, the same is true in the Sadducee view of the human person who dies and goes to meet his creator.

Even Christians those who believe in the Good News acknowledge this change – it’s not just the Sadducees ...and scientists –

Paul writes to Corinth, referring to our bodies as a house [or tent]:
“For we know, if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

For our Lord and Savior, this new house [for the soul] is the risen body. The Sadducees disagree. Jesus is telling us the Good News that our experience of life on earth and life in Heaven have a continuity. We will recognize each other there.

[__03 – sound mind & body-defn__] The Sadducees and Jesus are debating the unity of body and soul, the importance of body and soul.

We are told about the importance of a sound mind and sound body.

“Sound”, “soundness” –

Why do we say “sound” here.. ?

One reason might be the “soundings” that sailors would make to figure out how deep the water was on the ocean. Before the invention of SONAR and electronic instruments ...they judged the depth by listening.

And, we can also judge the depth of things by listening – not just to our soul and mind ...but also to our bodies.

We know certain things ... because we feel peaceful in our heart, in our gut ...or not.

[__04 – sound mind & body-for sale__] Soundness of the mind and body is widely practiced goal and it is for sale. I suppose the Sadducees have not only not read the Gospel -... but they are also not doing aerobic exercise or eating organic food. We are certainly reminded – in many circles – religious and non-religious about the mind-body connection. Go to Whole Foods, they sell mind-soul-body stuff in every aisle. Bring your VISA/debit card.

The Sadducees on the other hand only want your soul – maybe their stuff is less expensive?

[__05-free continuity-not-for-sale__] Jesus wants to unify body and soul now – this is what Jesus is doing in the miracle of the wine at Cana. It is free of charge.
The Lord provides the necessary vintage temporarily to the festivities. But, he also feed us – spiritually – with a new vintage of his precious blood.
There is a continuity between the 2 miracles.

[__06.1-examples death_] We are called to continuity and unity -- of –

[6.1] DEATH & LIFE

Someone’s earthly life has come to an end. In our Chrisitan funeral Mass and burial, we are doing everything we can to honor body-soul unity. This begins even before the person dies. Visiting a person who is terminally ill.
Talking to someone who cannot respond, trusting that they are hearing something of what are saying. And, even if my mom cannot recognize me ...we do these things, because we recognize her.

Also, we pray at funeral Masses that life has changed not ended.
And, when the body or our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting place in heaven. And, we do so ..with a new resurrected body.


SINFULNESS & GOODNESS – Here is some bad stuff I did; here is some good stuff. We do need to separate them, be discerning.

But, I think we might remember the words of Paul the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28 - “all things work together for those who love God.”

This means that even my sinfulness, my brokeneness, my emptiness can help me to know myself and know Christ better.

It is true that God forgives our sins ...but we are also gradually changing ... this is a continuity.

The way we pray and seek forgiveness -- we see hope in the resurrection of the body, and body-soul unity, 100% [__end__]

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Raising Your Head (2010-10-31)

This is my homily for Sunday 31 October 2010, 31st Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Wisdom 11:22-12:2 | Psalm 145 | 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 | Luke 19:1-10

[__01_- Keep Your Head Down__] In San Francisco, in the first two games of the World Series, the Texas Rangers didn't hit a home run and Josh Hamilton, their best hitter, (and of the best in the major leagues) was 1-for-8.

Last night, Josh Hamilton hit a 426-foot home run at home in Texas.
How do you connect with a baseball – or a tennis serve? What Josh Hamilton (or Venus Williams in tennis) would tell you – is this -- keep your head down.

This is the focus you need to concentrate.

In the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus – a chief tax collector of Jericho – is concentrating. Doesn’t he have to – in order to climb up and through the branches of a tree?

Zacchaeus also is an example of one who is focused on Christ and who is more focused on Christ than his own sinfulness.

Zacchaeus, in a popular sense, is also 1 for 8, a low batting average with the people he serves. He has struck out many times.

[__02_- Prayer, Conversation & Confrontation__] Yet, here is Zacchaeus persistent, as Paul urges us. That is, insistent in season and out of season, in season and in the post season, all the time. (cf., Timothy 4:2)

Zacchaeus is the forgiven sinner who wants to give back. (CCC 2712)

Zacchaeus is the forgiven sinner who wants to connect with God’s mercy and love and is willing to climb the sycamore to do so. It is difficult to confront a tree, to go up there alone, to keep one’s head down. Drawing himself into a tree takes Zacchaeus away from his office, his flat-screen display,

It would have been easier for Zacchaeus to stay on solid ground, the terra firma.

Entering into prayer for 10 or 15 minutes or is also a conversation with our Lord and Savior. But,this could also be a confrontation with something difficult, uncomfortable.

Keeping one’s head down in contemplation can be an intense silence. But we believe this is how we hear the Lord speaking. Also, this silence helps us to survive (even thrive) in our activity and separate the true signal from the noise.

[__03_- Tree Climbing __] Zacchaeus is in the tree.

How does he do it? What do tree-climbers and mountain-climbers and ladder-climbers tell us? They differ a bit from the MLB baseball player.

They say, “don’t look down”. That is, don’t look all the way down, 90° degrees to the ground. You could lose your way.

This is also the message to Martha who is in the kitchen ... don’t look too far down. It’s OK to stay focused, but don’t look all the way down, 90°.

Hearing that Jesus will be in town, Zacchaeus looks down only enough to get in and out of the tree.

But, in other ways, Zaccahaeus is refraining from looking down...and this too will help him balance. As a good tree-climber would, he focuses on the branch he is on, rather than on every single branch of the past.

Zacchaeus does not look down on:

[_3.01] HIMSELF and his own sinfulness. He could have. His record of dishonesty and using others for personal gain has earned him, shall we say, a low job approval rating in Jericho.

But, today, is a new day and new Election Day for him. Zacchaeus does not indulge in self-pity but rather rejoices in what he can do turn himself around and reconcile with those he has hurt.

Zacchaeus is also the most reviled and despised person in town. Yet, he does confesses from a tree top where everyone can hear and see.

Confessions are not usually heard here but anything is possible.

Zacchaeus is not looking down on himself but giving thanks for his life and what he will make of it with this second chance.

[03.02] OTHERS -- Zacchaeus also does not look down on others.

• On yourself and your own sins – Z. doesn’t. Repentance does not mean indulging in blame of oneself. Z. doesn’t and he’s the most despised person in town. He confesses from a tree-top where everyone can hear and see him. Confessions are usually not heard there … but anything’s possible.

• Don’t look down on the sins and faults of others, past and present. – see next 2 bullet points…

• ___ CCC 2845 - There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, (cf. Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4) whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." (Romans 13:8) The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist. (cf. Matthew 5:23-24; 1 John 3:19-24)

• CCC 2845 – St Cyprian - God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (St. Cyprian – FN 149 to CCC 2845) ______ CCC 2845

[03.03 – coming back to earth] You and I and Zacchaeus are more secure by focusing on who we really are …paying attention ..keeping our head down …but without also turning our head all the way down to the ground. Then, we keep our balance and center.

Zacchaeus does not look down; he looks at Christ through this time of conversation and contemplation. And, this helps him to see more clearly what he needs to do. Then, he can come back down to earth more securely. [__end__]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Originality (2010-10-24)

This is my homily for Sunday 24 October 2010 (30th Sunday) for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

****ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I credit Sean Otto for the concepts of original justice mentioned in this homily, i.e., definition of “original sin” as a loss of “original justice”. Sean Otto makes an excellent distinction, saying that original sin (and its penalty) differ from actual sin. Reference: Otto, Sean, “Felix Culpa: The Doctrine of Original Sin as Doctrine of Hope in Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles”, The Heythrop Journal, 2009.

[__01- Agreement & Disagreement / originality- _]

The Pharisee and the tax collector show the difference between the humbled and the exalted. The Pharisee and the tax collector might disagree about many things.
But, I think they would agree on one thing – that originality is valuable.

Originality is valuable.

For example, original ideas make money. A higher value is assigned to an original painting, an original song, original architecture. And, the Pharisee believes he is original. He is the real thing.

What does the Pharisee say about himself? He thanks God that …

“O God, I thank you that I am not [**made / created**] like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous or even like this tax collector …” (Luke 18:11)

For the Pharisee, originality is the dividing line between what is good and what is bad.

But, we believe that originality is not so much of a dividing line. It is also what brings us together.

Originality is our unity. We are all made the same.

We are all made the same, made to be in friendship with God.

But, it also means that, originally, we are all sinners. And, this is what the tax collector is recognizing. But, the Pharisee does not believe this.

[__02- originality of sin / ages old_] We believe that sin has been with us from the beginning of our existence, from the beginning of time.

We believe there is original sin. And, in everyday speaking, we might use original sin to explain things that might go wrong.

[__03- originality of sin – everyday examples_] Why do lock my doors at night? (original sin); why do I have anti-theft alarm on my car while locked in the garage? (original sin); why do I re-confirm a hotel reservation (original sin). Why does the professor in the classroom watch the students during a written exam? Would anyone turn to see another student’s answers? (well ..there is original sin).
We use original sin to explain the things that could go wrong. Thinking this way, however, we may be thinking/feeling as the Pharisee does.

That is, sin is something other people do. And, I need to protect myself from their trespasses against me. Before I even think about “forgiving them their trespasses”, I want to be sure I am safeguarded.

And, this is what the Pharisee thinks.

Original sin, however, is meant to grow in compassion and understanding for each other.

Rather than to divide us from each other.

[__04- original justice & Felix Culpa & made the same_]

“This [understanding] of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" [flips side] of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all … and that all [of us] need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. We [profess] that original sin and salvation [and baptism] in Christ go together. …”

One writer/researcher suggested we might think of original sin also as an absence of peace or justice or reconciliation – from the beginning.

And, “in the beginning” is from the book of Genesis when God is originally revealed.

In the beginning of any relationship – “in the beginning”, when everything is original and pristine, we think that there will be justice and peace and reconciliation. We may even think things are going to be easy.
Consider the beginning of anything:

• The first day of school
• The first day of a new job
• The first date
• The honeymoon

We think things are going to be easy. Then, something goes wrong. Perhaps, I hurt someone or someone hurts me. Or you say or do something or someone does something to you.

And, we lose that original sense of justice and peace and reconciliation. (We may lose confidence that we can work it out. We need a little extra (call it grace) if we are to forgive that person who has hurt us …or if we are to admit we are wrong.)

And, the same was true when God created the first man and woman and gave them all intelligence and freedom. Original sin is loss of this sense of justice.

And, there is no perfect set of laws – even the 10 Commandments – which is going to make them do what they do not want to do.

There is free will for all of us, free to love or not.

So, we believe that Jesus comes to restore our sense of justice and to reconcile us. And, we believe Christ’s grace surpasses what was lost.

And, thus, we also call the first sin (original sin) the felix culpa, “happy fault, the necessary sin of Adam which won for us so great a redeemer.” (Easter Proclamation at the Vigil).

Contrary to what the Pharisee may say, we really are all the same originally and worthy of the same grace. We may have different gifts and talents but we are all the same before God.

And, while “sin” might scare us and even make us walk a little faster in a dark parking lot … “original sin “is also a doctrine meant to bring us hope and remind us we are all worthy of grace and redemption through baptism and the sacraments. And, we can all take up our place in the new temple to pray. [__end__]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Paper (2010-10-17)

This is my homily for Sunday 17 October 2010, 29th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01] On August 22nd, the BBC News Service reported that the miners of the San Jose Mine in Chile were fortunate to be in one group and team of 33 underground; they had a lot of resources within the group to help one another.

These gold and copper-miners –rescued this week – had been trapped 700 meters vertically underground, starting 5 August when their main access tunnel collapsed.

On August 22nd, the chief engineer warned that rescue would take at least 120 days
(four months), to bore (or dig) a hole with a shaft 66 cm (26 inches) in diameter.

In fact, these 33 miners were rescued within about 70 days.
They emerged with some health issues but in remarkably good spirits. And, all were alive.

[__02] On paper, these miners – from the beginning – knew that their bosses (their company) would search for them. On paper existed a map of the mine and its shafts and tunnels including the tunnel which had collapsed.

There was a paper trail leading to them. But there was no actual trail yet. They even heard the drills overhead.

It took real strength – emotionally and physically – to let these facts on paper become faith and in their hearts during those 70 days.

When you are lost, we you want to be found. You don’t care that there is a map out there somewhere that – hypothetically – someone could read and, then, use to discover you.

And, the woman of the Gospel parable has a similar concern.

Will she really be found? Saved?

[__03] The woman of the Gospel parable is also buried, perhaps even under legal paperwork. And, she has gone to the judge many times.

And, given that she probably lacks money also, she seems to have a slim chance of success on paper.
And, her chances are worse by the lack of compassion of the judge. He does not want her case; he does not want to care.

[__04] Sometimes, we may feel discouragement or disappointment over our own circumstances, our own chances for rescue.

We may wonder: Does anyone hear me? See me? Understand me? Even if I hear the drills, will anyone really get to me? Do we feel buried underground?

[__05] We may face a situation which is unjust. For example,

• We might see – people zooming ahead of us in the left lane, speeding?

• Do you and I also see other people zooming ahead of us– at work – at school – zooming ahead of me– even cheating me – to take what I feel belongs to me. Do I witness them handing in work they did not do …or perhaps – at work – being rewarded even though they did not do their fair share? We may feel tempted to do the same? After all, if life is not fair, why should I play by the rules? This is similar to the widow in the parable.

• Or, do we see other people who have escaped difficulty and enjoyed material comfort by simply avoiding commitment .. or by avoiding sacrifice …and simply putting themselves first. This is also unjust.

Both are unjust. It is unjust when others get ahead or zoom ahead by (a) dishonesty or … (b) selfishness.

[__06] We come together as a community, a Catholic community, who believes in the value of faith and sacrifice and honesty.

And, we believe, for example, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:9), “[Jesus] though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

We believe that we are made rich and whole by the sacrifice Jesus makes for us. This is also the body of Christ which we receive in Communion. And, we are complete by our relationship to him.

This calls us also to make sacrifices for each other. This calls us to play by the rules.

Playing by the rules is not simply to avoid being caught by the teacher or by the boss.

We choose this because we want to be known who we truly are, not just on paper but in reality.

We also believe there is a reality beyond our paper-profits or paper-accomplishments.

And, we do not earn God’s love by our honesty. However, we are loved even if we fail or fall behind when we are honest and others may not be.
And, we are loved even when we are:
• Buried underground
• Buried in paperwork
• Trying to do our best

And, as Jesus says in the Gospel, we also believe the Lord is a just judge who hears prayers of those who call out to him day and night. (Luke 18:7) [END]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thank You: End or Beginning? (2010-10-10)

This is my homily for Sunday 10 October 2010, 28th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01] Why do we say thank you? A thank you note can be the elegant conclusion to an important endeavor.

Thank you “notes” come in various forms – they might not even be written. The “note” or communication might be –

• Spoken – such as in a speech
• Written – in a card
• Acted out – such as in applause or other ceremony. A trophy, perhaps. The Oscar – and that leads to more thank you’s by the Academy Award Winners.

Thank you’s come in various forms and methods. How we say thank you may vary.

[__02] When do we say Thank You? Here, we might simply say … well, at the end of something, such as –

• Wedding
• Big party
• Important speech
• Championship or prize

The speaker (or writer) wants to identify the contributors, every single person who contributed.

There can be so much pressure in the public thank you, especially if someone insists you we stand up a microphone. That’s could be daunting … and, perhaps, also exhausting. It takes effort.

[__03] In the Gospel, there is 1 leper who is healed and who gives thanks to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for this cure of leprosy.

This Samaritan leper returns, makes the effort, to say thank you.

He is the only 1 of 10 who does so.

[__04] He gives thanks after this healing, after this time of suffering. He gives his thank you at the end.

[__05] **** What does a thank you note express? Does it express that our relationship is a transaction completed. That is, please pay the check or please take your card. Or, does it is express that our relationship is continuing.

A thank-you also expresses my hope, my trust, my feeling that you – and I – have some ongoing relationship, some continuity.

In purely business transactions, we may not be interested in this. We start looking at our watches, trying to get home. So, when the project is completed or the meal served, we say…

• “Thank you”; then,
• “Check, please.”

[__06] In the Gospel, the leper who returns to give thanks is not simply coming back to pay the bill or settle the account. And, the fact that he is the Samaritan coming back is meaningful too.

*** Who are the Samaritans?

They are from the ancient Promised Land of Israel (the northern part) and Judah (the southern part). Jerusalem (and the Temple) are in the southern part. Thus, the southern part is regarded as legitimate and faithful. The North, not so much, if at all.

About 800 years (722 or 721 B.C.), the ancestry and heritage of the Samaritans is disrupted. They are captured and taken off into exile by Assyria.

Eventually, they return and settle in “Israel”, i.e., in the North. The Samaritans adopt the Jewish Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). However, they are geographically and spiritually distant from the Temple. They do not follow the Temple rituals.

Thus, the Jewish people (including the Pharisees, the scribes, and Temple priests and Christ’s own disciples) would have been taught to regard them as inferior and unfaithful. ***___

[__07] But, it is this inferior one who wants to continue the relationship with Christ.

Jesus is saying, look, has no one else but this “foreigner” returned to give thanks. Has no one else but this one that we regard as not religious, not faithful, not very honest, not very virtuous … has only he returned?

Does only he believe? Apparently so.

Then, the question, where are the other nine? Where am I? Where are you?

[__08] Where is my thank-you? Is it something I have yet to write, a phone call I have yet to make?

And, is my thank you something that is given simply to complete a transaction …or because I want to continue a relationship?

Our prayer, our attendance at Sunday Mass is also an act of saying thank you, of praying our thank you to God.

To say thank you for our education, even for the homework we don’t want, to say thank you for our parents, our teachers, our classmates.

Saying thank you does not mean everything is perfect. Saying thank you does not mean you have to lie or say something dishonest or exaggerated.

But, don’t we say thank you – don’t we think it is proper to say thank you even if the gift we have received is something…

• We did not want
• Was in poor taste
• I already have one…
• I’d rather a different color

Even then, aren’t we willing to say thank you, because of the relationship, the friendship. Yes, it is the thought that counts.

[__09] Thank you is not an endpoint but a point of continuity.

Toward the end of Sunday Mass, we receive Holy Eucharist. And, the word “Eucharist” means “to show favor, to show grace, to show gratitude.”

And, the Eucharist is part of an ongoing journey , part of our journey toward eternal life with Christ, part of an ongoing thanksgiving.

And, we are called to say thank you for the gifts we receive.

The ones that are perfect and desirable; the ones that are not so perfect or desirable.

[__10] Thank you is not just a word, it is also an action. For example, giving back to help young people, to be kind to younger brothers and sisters.

Or, for those who have much to be kind to those who have less. In college, those who have less might mean those who have less … academic success than I do; or have less playing time than I do on the team; less money.

Or, for juniors and seniors to be kind to freshman and sophomores. This is also an act of thanksgiving. This is a way of saying ..

“I am so thankful for my life. I know what my life is, that it has value. And, I want to share that with you.”

[__11] And, we are called to say thank you for those who stretch us and challenge us. When we are stretched or challenged by others, we don’t want to say thank you…

For example, do I want to thank the friend who is serious when I want to joke around or vice versa.

I don’t feel thankful in such cases. I may, then, become similar to the “other nine” in the Gospel who do not return.

[__12] This is also the case of for those of us who might take care of those who are older or ill, or terminally ill.

When we take care of someone, we are also saying thank you for their lives. Consider that all of us here might some day have to do this for our mothers or fathers …or spouses …or children.

** The act of thanksgiving takes effort. For example, consider the effort of an author who has finished his or her book, now is called to write that section, that long section sometimes, of Acknowledgements, of gratitude, to identify all those who contributed to his or her work.

It takes effort for the leper to turn around and come back.

It might have been easier for him to imagine that he was healed because he was …

• Eating right
• Running on the treadmill
• Has a superior body type

But, the leper does not attribute his health to these practices.

And, we might consider this. As hard as we work, it is not only our own effort that makes things right or possible, but also God’s grace and will.

Thank you is expressed not by what we say but by what we do. We can do this each night, to acknowledge to pray…

And, we then affirm, by saying thank you that our faith has saved us. [_end_]

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sustainable Economics & Life (2010-10-03)

This is my homily for Sunday 3 October 2010, 27th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 | Psalm 95 | 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 | Luke 17:5-10

[__01] The Gospel asks us what we will do when we come in from the field, when we come in from the wilderness.

Or, we might think of this as – what will I do when I come home from school? From work?

Is it not true that when we reach our home, we want to be warm, and comfortable and dry? We want our needs to be satisfied.

When we are out in the “field” or “wilderness” or at work or in class, we are fighting the elements, we are fighting to survive.

Then, we expect certain things to be more comfortable and easier when we get home.

And, it would nice – it would be good – if all my needs (your needs) were perfectly satisfied at home, when we arrived home. That would be good, but it would not be The Good News of The Gospel.

[__02] The Good News of the Gospel is that we are all servants. We are made to serve each other faithfully.

The consoling part of this Good News is that we rely on others to sustain us, to support us.

If you have taken economics or finance, you may have heard the term sustainable, sustainability.

Sustainability is “hot”. And, it should be, sustainability calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation and of finite resources.

Economists and business people often ask will something last … based on whether it is “sustainable.” Can it sustain itself? The same question is here.

However, the Good News of the Gospel is not that we are self sufficient – self-sustaining entities – that will turn a profit. But, the Good News is that we are sustainable by the love and support of another.

We are sustained by Jesus’ sacrifice of his life. We are sustained by many sacrifices made for us, by parents and others who love us.

And, we are called to sustain each other.

This means we are servants, even in our own homes. This is the challenging part of the Gospel.

[__03_] This Sunday in Catholic parishes of the United States, we reflect on the call to nurture and sustain life, the gift of life body and soul.

On this Respect Life Sunday, we recall ethical choices, choices so many of us make – to sustain our loved ones.

Providing providing food, drink, even clothing to a parent or spouse or relative who cannot do these things for himself or herself, we sustain others. This is the Gospel.

As we read in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus says that as often as you fed or clothed or visited one of my least brothers and sisters, you also fed, clothed, and visited me.

Sustaining life – and respecting life – also means protecting the life of the one who is yet to be discovered or known or named or even born.

In Psalm 139 and in book of the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 1), we read:

“Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me: thou hast know my sitting down, and my rising up. Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off …. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:1-3, 13)

To the young prophet Jeremiah, the Lord says:

“Before I formed thee …. I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
This reminds us of the importance of all life from even before we are born and until we die naturally

[__04_] We are called to respect life and to sustain life. Even in the comfort and privacy of our own homes, there is the command to love and to serve – and thus to sustain.

For example …

• At home -listening to our moms and dads, (honor thy mother & father, Exodus 20:12)
• At table - eating the food which is served, even in the SUB-cafeteria (the Lord fills the hungry with good things, Luke 1:53)
• In our rooms and homes -- helping around the house, to share and to smile (for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7), and
• In our hearts -- showing mercy (forgiving those who sin/trespass against us, as we have been forgiven, Matthew 6:12).

[__05_] We are called to follow the law of love and be servants even at home.

This call to responsibility and examination of our own actions.

And, this question of responsibility and privacy brings us to a tragic case of a freshman at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Perhaps, you have heard about the death of a Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi.

We cannot necessarily assume that because something is …
• “legal”
• “private”
• “technologically possible” … or “commonly seen + heard on the internet”
... this makes it OK. And, I think we know this.

There are not laws, however, to govern every aspect of human behavior, every aspect of how I might use my phone or computer.

Last week, a Rutgers University freshman took his own life after a roommate and dorm-mate posted images of him publicly, using the internet.

It would certainly seem that the accused Rutgers students had no intention of causing any physical harm to come to their classmate, Tyler. Their actions, while cruel, do not suggest a long time of premeditated bitterness or resentment.

Their actions remind all of us that we are still accountable even if we believe what are doing is –
• Only a joke/prank
• Only in private between a few people
• Only something so minor that the law does not really cover it.

Even such actions have consequences.

We pray for Tyler Clementi of Rutgers and his family.

We pray for the accused Rutgers students. We believe that the Lord wants the sinner and the accused to live. Guilt is our path to repentance. (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).

From this tragedy, we see our own responsibility to serve and to help others to survive … whether we are in the first week of life or the first week of freshman year of college.

There is no law to govern and surround every action. However, there is Christ’s guidance and example which asks us to consider:
• the old saying --- What Jesus do? (Jesus did not have Twitter or wireless internet)
• Jesus was talking about service and love. So, ask, “what would LOVE do” – in every situation, large or small. What would LOVE do? To my friend, to my brother, sister or any person. What would not loving them do?

So, the law might catch up with us. But, the law (and police and courts) are always trying to catch up. And, they will not always catch us.

But, we have another law, the law of the Gospel which tells us – “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12)

And – “there is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

This law helps us to stay ahead of the curve

The call --- To sustain life, sustain life publicly, to sustain life sustain life because the Lord who sees in secret will bring to light everything (cf, Matthew 6:6; 1 Corinthians 4:5).


Saturday, September 25, 2010

It’s a Miracle (2010 Sept 26)

This is my homily for Sunday 26 September 2010, 26th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4-7 | Psalm 146 | 1 Timothy 6:11-16 | Luke 16:19-31

[__01] The 2010 NFL Football Championship, the Super Bowl. It was a miracle, the victory of the less favored New Orleans Saints over their heavily favored opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. The Saints were representing New Orleans, a city, still facing the misfortune and obstacle of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. A victory would increase confidence. Apparently, saints can still pull off miracles. It was a tremendous game, and a boost of confidence.

[__02] An important question for us, however, is – about the connection between miracles and confidence …between miracles and faith.

[__03] Are they connected? The Saints of New Orleans might say so … but, the Saints of New Orleans had to be very well practiced to pull off victory…
And, in the Gospel today, Jesus cautions us about miracles may have – or not have.

What does the rich man ask for, as he suffers in the afterlife, for a miracle, for
divine intervention?

It seems he is asking for this by this statement -- “If someone were to go to my brothers [and sisters] and warn them, they will repent.”

Then, he is told divine intervention is not enough. Then Abraham [replies and ] said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

Then, what is the rich man being told?

“Wondrous events, even resurrection from the dead, do not automatically produce salvation.” (Jerome Biblical Commentary, 44:122)

In other words, miracles may not necessarily increase faith. Surely there are some for whom this is so. There were some among the ancient nation of Israel, the Hebrew people who had been rescued from Egypt and who did not not harden their hearts. There were some, among Jesus’ own disciples who believed the miracles. But, for the most part, the Lord will complain about the lack of faith among those
who see the miracles.

Even Moses was found to be stubborn even at the actual site of a miracle. This was at Meribah has as God was -- miraculously – making water come out of the rock.
The Lord asks Moses, " How long will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?" Numbers xiv. 11.

[__04] We might conclude that the Hebrew people – and the rich man in the parable who steps over poor Lazarus – are extraordinarily selfish and greedy.
Is it because of their selfishness that the miracles made no impression upon them? In a sermon on miracles and faith, Cardinal John Henry Newman says otherwise. He is suggesting that we do not need the spectacle of miracles but something much simpler…that is we need the miracle of love and mercy.

As Newman says -- “But, you will say, a miracle would startle you; true: but would not the startling pass away? could you be {82} startled for ever? And what sort of a religion is that which consists in a state of fright and disturbance? Are you not continually startled by the accidents of life? You see, you hear things suddenly, which bring before your minds the thoughts of God and judgment; calamities befall you which for the time sober you. Startling is not conversion, any more than knowledge is practice.”

What we are reminded of here is that miracles can help to focus our attention. However, they are only the starting point to our relationship with the Lord. However, they are not the endgame.

Is it also not true that – at times --- we not have received the precise miracle for which we hoped, the miracle of healing for a loved one? As a result, we may feel defeated, even angry.. But, even under these circumstances, are truly without faith? Only a believer could express anger to God?

[__05_] Is it not inspiring – miraculous -- to see the person in grief and distress who continues to pray. The stubborn rich man of the parable could learn from such an example. Unfortunately, he is too busy making victorious leaps over
Lazarus on his way to the end zone.

Loving as Jesus wants takes not just a miracle, it takes practice… as we may recall…

This too is a miracle, in things large and small.

[__06_] Super Bowl 44. With New Orleans behind on the scoreboard – to the Indianapolis Colts -- by 4 points and kicking off to the Colts to open the second half, the New Orleans coach Sean Payton called for an onside kick.

The onside kick is a rarely used in professional football …and if so, is only used at the very end of a game by a team who absolutely needs to retain possession.

But, Coach Sean Payton used this play under different circumstances …not in weakness and desperation … but in a show of strength. Coach Sean Payton of New Orleans calls the play “ambush” and that was what it was. The Colts players admitted after the game that they did not see it coming. Was it a miracle ..or just the confidence of a team that had practiced …was really prepared ..not nevertheless concerned?

Thomas Morstead, the New Orleans kicker on the play, said: “I wasn’t worried. I was terrified.”

If the kick had failed, New Orleans would have surrendered the ball to Indianapolis who would have had a short field to start the second half. But as the New York Times reported, New Orleans is a team that travels with nuns and priests in the owner’s entourage, and after years of horrible football and terrible tragedy in New Orleans, the city’s prayers were answered at long last.

[__07_] Miracles – whether it is an onside kick – or a victory – can increase confidence.

Miracles are still possible. However, they also invite us to do more than sit back and watch. The miracle of God’s love and forgiveness also calls us to practice. There are many opportunities out on the field…or maybe in your neighborhood… in a person who sits right next to you ..or who is on your team or in your class ..or on your doorstep. Those opportunities are out there. Check your local listings.


Note: Super Bowl 44 Info/Reporting by Judy Battista, “Champs? The Saints, Dat’s Who”, The New York Times, February 7, 2010.