Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jesus Free Falls Three Times (28 March 2010, Palm Sunday)

This is my homily for 28 March 2010, Palm Sunday. To view the readings, go to and click “March 28” in the calendar.

[__01.] Being elected is no guarantee of ongoing or future popularity.

A candidate could, one day, be chosen by the people and the next day, week, or month be out of favor.

We admire holders of elected high office who persevere and take the high road in all their decisions, saying, “I’d rather do what is good rather than what simply appears to be good.” They are not concerned with what is popular.

Sometimes, we see the opposite – in the candidate – or even in ourselves – that is, we don’t do the right thing, we do the wrong thing and then we worry not about the actually wrong thing but simply about the appearance of impropriety and sinfulness.

American Idol is a reality, not just reality TV.

But, election means more than popularity, doesn’t it? Election means service - and this is true not only in Sacramento - Trenton - Washington DC - but also in the New Testament, the elect are those chosen by God … and Jesus is the first of the elect, really our leading candidate.

And, Jesus, the Son of Man, comes not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

[__02.] As the Son of God, he is expected to have a term of office beyond this earthly life.

But, the Lord has a tough campaign trail. We’d have to call it a freefall in approval ratings from the triumphant entry to Jerusalem to, then, the arrest and crucifixion. All of this happens in a few days, as we celebrate the events, the swing in popularity is from Sunday to Friday, that is, Palm Sunday to Good Friday.

[__03.] In the Passion of our Lord, we observe how Jesus endures every consequence a lack of popularity – loss of status, ridicule.

He is called names and the crowd switches its allegiance quickly to the unknown outside candidate, Barabbas, who has no qualifications but also does not have what the crowd regards as “baggage.” Focus group numbers for Barabbas are way better.

Jesus, on the other hand, has been accused of blasphemy, healing people on the Sabbath, disobeying the Mosaic law.

[__03(a).] Jesus might prefer to leave town. But, he does not … he endures the insults on our behalf, being nailed to the cross for our sins.

[__03(b).] We ourselves walk the way of the Cross when we feel insulted, misunderstood, ignored, rejected ..when we feel our parents – or children – or friends – are not paying attention to us. When we feel rejected, we are called to turn this pain into a petition for God’s help.

We pray because we recognize that our experiences of pain –- or illness –- or challenge –- or actual death -- can also be experiences where life changes so much that we also die, when a part of us dies. And, we pray that we will rise to new life.

[__04.] Jesus dies for all humanity, all men and women, even those who do not make him popular.

His blood is poured out even for those who doubt and reject him.

With this, Jesus encourages us to be patient and virtuous as we endure our own declines in popularity or setbacks or rejections or name calling because we know that when we feel death, we can also live in him.

And, with his Passion, we believe that he gives us an example of how to love and care for each other, in what we say and do, popular or no. [_end_]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Got Forgiveness? (2010 March 21, Lent)

This is my homily for 21 March 2010, 5th Sunday of Lent,. To view the readings, go to and click “March 21” in the calendar.

[__01.] Out of their hiding places will come certain types of reporters, some of them we find less than reputable, but out of their hiding places they will come if the sense even the slightest bit of impropriety.

They will pounce on their prey with their flashbulbs, lenses, and microphones. And, as we have been taught about journalism and -- even e-mail – the pen is mightier than the sword, even if your “paper” is really a computer screen and the only “ink” is in your printer.

In such a world, even the digital camera in our phones could be a lethal weapon to capture an image that could damage someone’s reputation. It’s a small world after all. And, we never know who is watching. Not good news.

[__02.] On the other hand, some would suggest that big stars and famous people just want their names highlighted and boldfaced. They care not for the breath of scandal – even the breath of scandal could breathe new life into a career. As they say in Hollywood, there is no such thing as bad publicity. But, that’s not really good news either.

[__02(a).] But, wouldn’t the scribes and Pharisees agree and Jesus himself agree that there is such thing as bad publicity – in this case – from the Gospel of John, chapter 8.

The scribes and Pharisees and Jesus would agree that things are not going well for the woman caught in adultery. (cf. John 8 : 4)

[__02(b).] The Pharisees want to make a visible example of this person, of her sins, so as to levy punishment.

They want a public confession and punishment.

And, if this were our view of confession, we would also prefer to hide from the cameras and microphones.

We would want our sins hidden from view so that we can fit into polite society, fit in with our friends and family, and have the material things that rightfully belong to us.

We would want to hide our sins from the Pharisees and the scribes and their legal briefs and briefcases.

The Pharisees also want “hiding” too. They want to hide this woman away, to take her life away, to banish and exile her at the very least.

By bringing her out into the open, the Pharisees and scribes are keeping their system of law and order going.

[__04.] Visibility of sins – and sinfulness - for Jesus our Lord -- is also about law and order. But it is a law and order without attorneys and prisons. Better news.

For example, in the sacrament of confession – this sacrament of forgiveness – we are invited to bring ourselves forward into the light. But, there will be no flash photography permitted. It is between you and Christ.

In other words, to confess our sins to our priest, we do this not because we fear the “crowd ” . In other words, we do not fear that the crowd will take our lives away.

Rather, we do this because we believe that sin can take our lives away, sin can take the life out of us.

And, when we confess our sins, we admit – and we ask God to give our life back to us.

[__05.] Jesus is committed to teach us about the seriousness of our sins while also emphasizing the strength of his mercy.

The Pharisees and scribes, as prosecutors, do not agree with this defense strategy. They would suggest that repentance is only possible for those who already good and just.

But what Jesus suggests to the Pharisees and scribes and paparazzi is that –

“They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For I came not to call the just, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Jesus intercedes with his mercy for sinners, for you and for me, and just as he intercedes for the woman in the Gospel.

Jesus is also more interested in our motives and repentance than in the sins themselves. Jesus says to her, “Then, neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus offers us his forgiveness and his intercession in his Passion, Death and Resurrection, so that we also might be prepared to live in freedom.

He even intercedes for us in the public square right out there where everyone can see us, so that we might live in freedom both in public and in private. That’s the Good News. [_end_]

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph (2010 March 19)

This is my homily for 19 March 2010, fest of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. To view the readings, go to and click “March 19” in the calendar.

[__01.] March 19 – the feast of Joseph, husband of Mary – is a feast day that nearly always falls during the forty days of Lent and interrupts our fasting, especially interrupting our fasting and abstinence today, on a Friday of Lent.

We remember that today is a feast. Not only is it a feast of a material or physical reality (a feast on the table) but is also a spiritual feast, a feast that calls us to:

 smile
 cheerfulness
 friendship - a feast that invites us to reach out to each other, to put the good of another person before my own.

For example, a phone call or visit to someone who may be ill or may be dying is a way to celebrate this feast of St. Joseph who is patron of the sick and the dying.

We pray for his intercession today.

[__02.] We also remember Joseph’s quiet spiritual and physical presence within the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

While today is not a fast day – strictly speaking – we might remember that Joseph himself fasted from words. He was the father and provider of the familiy. However, he was also the quiet father and provider who does not speak even one word in the Gospel.

[__03.] Joseph is asked to raise the child Jesus, the son of God, the son of Mary. But, this child – Jesus – is not his flesh and blood. He becomes aware of this.

But Joseph does not turn this fact into a lament. Or, at least, he does not lament this for very long.

He thinks about lamenting it, he thinks about the logic of the situation. And, he reaches the quite logical – initial – conclusion of turning Mary away. Her child is not his.

But – Joseph’s lament – and Joseph’s logic – ultimately – are turned to Joseph’s love.

He pours himself out for Jesus and Mary who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered. We remember Joseph as a provider;

[__04.] we remember Joseph is as devoted as a father would be to his own flesh and blood.

But, Joseph is also called to do this for Jesus who is born of the Holy Spirit.

We are aware of the special bond that emerges between mother and child. This is especially true in the first few months and first few years of life.

A father has to learn how to be a dad during these months and years. And, this role involves the same devotion and support which Joseph offers to his family.

Of course, mothers also have to learn how to be mothers. But, fathers really have to make a special effort, while also sometimes standing on the periphery. Sometimes, the father can even be left out or feel left out.

This is something Joseph would have felt also – and even moreso due to Jesus’s divine origins, divine conception and divine birth.

[__05.] Joseph is the foster father of Jesus on earth. Joseph gives us an example of fatherhood and sacrifice.

Fatherhood requires not only feasting but also fasting at times.

Today, we might also pray for those men in our families who did not have their own children, but nonetheless served as fathers to us and thus taught us to love Jesus in what we say and do – in the ways we feast and fast. [_end_]

A Man Had Two Sons (2010 March 14, Lent)

This is my homily for 14 March 2010, third Sunday of Lent. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to and click “March 14” in the calendar.

[__01.] Having two sons was a man with some land and livestock and profitable investments and property.

The sons, the children of the family come from a highly privileged class and productive agricultural operation and family business. Whether they actually work on the farm or not is unclear.

Surely, both sons must have some work and responsibility around the house and barn, doing their fair share, right?

The older son would claim he’s dong more than his fair share, surpassing his brother in responsibility and righteousness, at least in his own mind.

[__02.] We naturally associate work with the earning of money. And, for those of us who may be in the job market, looking for work, we are acutely aware of the connection between work and money.

Coming here to pray about this search is a good thing, whether to pray for perseverance – in a storm – or to pray about which we way to turn.

While the search for work can be a lonely one, we come here to remember Christ is with us – on the pavement.

[__03.] These two sons of the father, in the Prodigal Son parable, are, however, not looking for work.

In fact, there is more than enough work and and money for both of them at home.

(ASIDE ? – The younger son, at first is looking for something other than work … anything but an honest day’s work and the older son may be simply keeping score rather than keeping up his responsibilities. I think we all do both things – we shrink from our true responsibilities at time and we compare our performance to those of others, seeking self-justification.)

[__04.] The brothers are not always fully aware of this.

It is in their work at home that they could discover their fulfillment. Ironically, the younger son realizes he could be much happier in these ordinary tasks, even menial tasks at home.

In other words, we might say (or sing) he would be happier sweeping the streets he used to own.

The older son, on the other hand, seems not to take any pleasure in the tasks he has been given to carry out lo’ all these years.

[__05.] What are our chores at home? What is our work at home?

 whether watering the plants or washing the car.
 whether taking out the recycling or taking the children to school
 whether doing our homework or going to Home Depot

All of these regular everyday tasks are opportunities for us to make a gift of ourselves to others.

The 2 sons of the family have had a little trouble realizing this; the younger one catches on a little more quickly.

By the way, it is a feature of Jewish scripture and teaching to turn the tables on the rights of the elder and first born children. Note that it is Joseph who is sold into slavery by his elder brothers and Joseph who becomes their hero and redeemer later in Egypt.

Also, youngest son of Jesse, his son David, is anointed the new king of Israel.

Sometimes, it is the younger ones who learn lessons more quickly than the older ones in the family.

In this family, the younger son discovers his fulfillment in serving – doing his work around the house and barn - for the family, and his father. The older son has not yet caught on.

[__06.] These everyday tasks seem to hinder “life”, or life in the fast lane.

But, he really discovers his life when he returns to these ordinary tasks, returns to his father, willing to be a servant.

[__07.] There is a celebration waiting, a surprise party. In a sense, there is a new inheritance, even more to inherit.

The son is there – as we are also here during Lent and Easter – to inherit our identity as children of God … part of his household and family.

Receiving his grace and forgivness, we not only receive the just reward of our labor, but we also participate in God’s grace and blessing by receiving our labor, by recognizing that there is still work to do.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fire in the Desert (2010 Mar. 7, Lent)

This is my homily for 7 March 2010, Lent 3rd Sunday. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to and click “March 7” in the calendar.

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13:-15 | Psalm 103 | 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 | Luke 13: 1-9

[__01.] In the Gospel today, we hear about the fig tree. The fig tree which does not produce good fruit, the fig tree which is not productive.

Sometimes, we might not feel very productive either. The Good News is that we still have time. The message from the gardener is that he wants to work on our soil, on our environment to help us out.

This is Jesus who comes into our world, into our soil, taking on our human nature. Jesus intercedes for us to give us more time to turn back to him.

Moses is also invited to turn back to God -- at the scene of a fire.

Fires and investigations go together.

However, our faith is that fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is not one that leads to an investigation out there (in a building somewhere – perhaps on the edge of town where something has burned) but rather to an examination– in here, in our hearts.

In the Book of Psalms we read:

“Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105)

Your word – is a fire -- is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.

There are pain and suffering which can result from fire. These are the fires we want to escape.

Fires also exist to prevent injury and loss; they are built for comfort and safety in the dark. A campfire.

[__02.] In our reading today from the Book of the Exodus, chapter 3, Moses is in the desert / wilderness alone. And, he has been there for some time. He is probably
accustomed to building his own fires and is accustomed to his own independent
ways. Now, he sees a fire that he did not build.

Moses sees a fire in a bush which is not consumed by flames.

At first, this is Moses the experienced wilderness wanderer and resident-shepherd of the flock who wants to see what is up with the burning bush.

He is curious.

[__03.] In our 40 days of Lent, we are invited to a sense of curiosity and exploration also. Not only are repentance and humility are part of our journey but also imagination and creativity about where God is.

In order to survive the desert, Moses has been using all of his imaginative and creative powers.

What is happening at this fire scene?

[__04.] Thie is the fire from which Moses wants to escape. The Lord wants him to go to Pharoah to rescue the Hebrew people from slavery.

But, Moses protests that this he is not the right applicant for this job:

He tells the Lord in the “interview”

 Pharoah won’t believe me
 Pharoah’s army is too strong
 and, by the way, I’m not so eloquent, I cannot speak.

Don’t send me. Moses the prophet has a difficult time believing in the mission to free his people from slavery. At least, at first, he does.

Moses would probably question the message of the Psalm:

“Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105)

It is a gradual process for Moses to get on board.

[__05.] Fires require investigation.

However, in the case of this fire, Moses is the subject of the investigation. You and I are the subjects of the investigation during Lent.

Actually, the fire is not the subject of the investigation. Your and I are.

We are called into the desert these 40 days for investigation and examination too.

Not with a fear of what the examination will uncover or what we might be charged with but rather with what we might discover in ourselves.

[__06.] One of our spiritual practices is to sit before the Lord.

This is also the one-on-encounter that Moses has.

We can be in the Lord’s presence when we
sit before God’s presence in our Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament. Doing this, we imitate Moses before the Burning Bush and also Jesus who prays in Gethsemani. This is our personal encounter with Christ.

Praying and speaking with him, we also listen for God to speak to us to light a fire within us. [_end_]