Sunday, April 25, 2010

Touch Here (25 April 2010, 4th Sunday Easter)

This is my homily for 25 April 2010, 4th Sunday of Easter, for Newman Catholic Association at the Teaneck campus of FDU Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. **ALL ARE WELCOME.** To view the readings, go to and click “April 25” in the calendar.

[__01] It is traditional in our Catholic Mass, our Catholic worship, to read from the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament.

And, normally, we hear – at Mass – a reading from the Jewish Old Testament that relates to the Good News of the Gospel and New Testament. For example, we might hear about the Jewish people and their miraculous crossing of Red Sea in the Book of Exodus. Then, we would hear a reading from the Gospel in which Jesus also miraculously crosses the water, walking on water. In both readings, water is symbol of death and danger and sin …and God saves us from the waters of death.

Or, in another example, Good Friday, the first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah which is about the suffering servant who will save Israel. Then, in the Gospel of Good Friday, we read about the Passion and Death of Jesus.

The exception to this tradition comes in the Easter Season. We read not from the Old Testament but from the New Testament and Acts of the Apostles. These apostles have experienced the resurrection and have seen Jesus and are being sent out to serve and “act.” Thus, we read about these “acts” of these “apostles.”

[__02] Coming to the altar, we also experience the resurrection. When we come to the altar, we say and sing, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:9)

We are similar to the apostles; we touch him; we receive him.

And, we remember that touch is an invitation.

[__03] For example, to be “tapped on the shoulder” by the President means you are being sent to Washington D.C. to be part of the Cabinet.

To be “tapped on the shoulder” by the coach means you are being sent into the match.

Touch – in these two cases – is an affirmation of who you are and what you can do.

Nevertheless, we are also called to keep our ego in check, keep our pride in check even when someone singles us out to do something.

In anything we do there will be failures, rejection mixed with success.

And, this is the case in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The reading about Paul and Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas experience some encouragement, some success.

They go to Antioch to preach the Good News but they are run out of town within two weeks.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that they go the synagogue once. But, then they go to the synagogue the next week and their “poll numbers” are way down. Next stop: Iconium.

[__04] Sometimes, being touched and being sent spiritually can be uncomfortable. The Lord may ask to do things that seem difficult - uncomfortable – or even impossible.

And, we may be asked to do something for which there is no study guide or reading days. Fortunately, our *Teacher* has “office hours” and you can even take the exam multiple times.

Maybe we are being led – as Peter is after the resurrection – where we do not want to go. (cf. John 21:18)

Or, we may be led to change something that we do not want to change.

For example, suppose we find ourselves with a particular friend or group of friends with whom we feel very comfortable; or among whom we feel very popular ... but also with whom we also find ourselves tempted to do things really are against our own Catholic Christian ethic of wholeness, and human dignity , faithfulness to Christ in both body and spirit.

It is not easy or comfortable to distance ourselves from such a friendship.

Saying no – even out of love – can be very disruptive. Also, telling someone else –that “your behavior does not demonstrate love” is a great challenge.

It’s not easy to tap the other person on the shoulder.

Prayer is important before, during and after any such conversation. Even when you are having such a difficult conversation, pray in your head and heart. Prayer helps to keep our own ego in check while really seeking the good of the other person … and also putting aside our own desires for status, popularity, comfort.

Also, prayer helps us to remember that true love and friendship are only built on the sands of time and comfort. Rather, true love and friendship even exists beyond the sands of time. And, true love exists into eternity in our friendship through Christ. Our hope is that our relationships will continue in heaven. And, this friendship does not mean sand, it means rock.

We don’t build our houses on sand but on rock. (cf. Matthew 7:24-29) The solid rock of honesty, self-sacrifice. This sometimes I do not get what I want…but that I become who I truly am both now and forever.

[__05] Touch is a loving action but also can produce some discomfort in the short term. Being tapped on the shoulder and sent into the game can be difficult.

It is so for Paul and Barnabas in chapter 13 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Tapped on the shoulder by the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas are sent to Antioch to preach the Good News. Some of the Antioch townspeople welcome and encourage them; some do not.

Their stay is cut down to only two weeks and their message – by their persecutors – is deleted faster than a phony email asking for your Bank of America PIN number.

Paul and Barnabas end by shaking the dust of Antioch from their feet.

[__06] Yet, this remains Good News. Even when we have to shake the dust of our feet of something that happened …or when It is Good News when we realize who has touched us, tapped us, sent us and in whose hand and reach we are.

Jesus not only sends us into trouble and danger but also meets it himself on the cross on Good Friday.

This is the cross whose wood we also touch on Good Friday. Traditionally Good Friday is about touching, touching the wood of the cross which reminds us to bring our joys and sorrows to him.

And, which reminds us that we are within range – of touch and voice of the Good Shepherd. And, we pray that he will continue to be guided us by his words and his hand.

As we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel:

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)

This reminds of the Trinity, of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that Jesus hears our prayers and intercedes for us in heaven. [__end__]

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Forgiveness (18 April 2010, 3rd Sunday Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 18 April 2010, 2nd Sunday of Easter for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. To view the readings, go to and click “April 18” in the calendar.

[__01.] Appearing visually, Jesus shows up unannounced at the lakeshore.

Does Peter see him coming? Does Peter see the forgiveness and mercy of Christ coming from off in the distance, after Jesus has visually appeared?

Peter does not always see things coming. This happened before.

[__02.] After being asked who do you say that I am [by Jesus], Peter proudly responds, You are the Messiah (Mark 8:28). But, then, Peter does not see the next part of coming in which Jesus defines the Messiah as the Son the Man who ….

…. the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:29-33)

Then, Jesus respond saying, this is just the way it is, or in the words of the Gospel:

"Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." (Mark 8:29-33)

Peter did not see that coming.

Peter does not want the Passion and and Death. And, we might even think of this as Peter’s first denial.

Then, later, Jesus reminds Peter that the hour has come for the Passion.

And, Peter says. Well, Lord, if you are going to be arrested and crucified … well, me, too. I want to get on board that same train.

Peter said [to Jesus], "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times." (John 13:37-38)

Then, Jesus predicts… Peter before the cock crows twice thou shalt deny me thrice.

[__03.] this leads to this Gospel conversation – or we might say “confrontation.” Peter who had denied Jesus 3x is now asked do you love me 3x.

Peter, do you love me?

But, this is not the mere settling of a score.

Forgiveness is not about keeping scores or settling scores.

[__04.] Forgiveness is about a new vision for Peter who has had his blind spots. As we all do.

Jesus is not interested in getting back at Peter as his former associate. Rather, Jesus is simply asking Peter, do you love me?

And, this is the same question the one we are called to ask in any experience of forgiveness whether we are seeking forgiveness or granting forgiveness.

Where is the love? Where is the charity?

For example, if someone asks us for forgiveness, we have to ask that question.

Or, in the other – perhaps more frequent case – we have to ask the question we are harboring some bitterness, feeling hurt ..and we are not publicly sought out for our benevolence and mercy.

In this case, the person who has wronged me may be unaware, unable, or unwilling to ask my forgiveness.

Nevertheless, I can freely give it or not. And, I am called to ask the same question – love. Where is the love? Charity?

How can I love this person?.

And, not just one time, not just 3 times, not even just 7 times.

Recall what Peter himself had asked Jesus earlier in the Gospel:

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him, as many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

And, Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but seventy seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

This is the question and answer that Peter does not see coming. That Peter is called to forgive many times.

[__05.] And, if we are going to seek forgiveness – and grant forgiveness – we are called to do the same arithmetic, the same math ..which invites to the remember that forgiveness is not about the infinite love of God, the limitless of Christ which we are trying to imitate..

It means even loving those who do not love us in return.

As Jesus says, “for if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?”

Not like tax collectors. And, no one wants to be a tax collector on or about April 15th.

In forgiveness, we express love and hope for everyone.

Love leads to forgiveness. But, it may be a difficult “audit” or “investigation” as it is sometimes hard to find the good in the other person. But, in searching for the good, we are also seeking the Godliness, the image of Christ in the other, the love in the other person and in ourselves.

[__06.] Jesus does not show up asking Peter the questionss he might have seen coming. Such as the three questions:

(one) Peter, what you are your sins?
(two) Peter, where were you on the night before Good Friday?
(three) Peter, what did you say about me or not say about me?

These are not the questions.

Rather, Jesus asks Peter the question he does not see coming. That is, “Do you love me?”

And, it’s the same question we are called to ask whether we are seeking forgiveness or granting forgiveness.

If we trust in the love of God and the love between our neighbor and ourselves, then we will ask this question about love and we will see coming -- greater peace and mercy -- through Christ our Risen Lord. [__end__.]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do Not Disturb? (11 April 2010, 2nd Sun Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 11 April 2010, 2nd Sunday of Easter for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall and Spring Semester. To view the readings, go to and click “April 11” in the calendar.

[__01.] Do we need a reason to wake up at a particular time?

I’d say Yes. I need a reason. Perhaps, we all do – a reason to wake up at say, 5:45 a.m. or 6:45 a.m. or whenever it is – to wake up because it will be beneficial to us. Some good will come to us if we wake up on time.

This good might be – health, education, work.

But, without any reason, we might sleep in. Do not disturb.

[__02.] Sometimes, we also do not want to be disturbed by the idea of right and wrong … good and evil … ethical and unethical.

We favor the idea of God’s mercy but we also fear the idea of changing our own lives … in response to what is truly right.

Sometimes, such a change might involve, for example, the loss of a friendship, the loss of status, the loss of money.

[__02(a).] Friendship and peer pressure can, for example, be occasions that lead us away from our Lord or to be locked up.

In the Gospel today, the disciples are locked behind a door, away from Christ who comes to them anyway. But, they are locked up, afraid.

Sometimes, we also lock ourselves up or we lock ourselves up … and tell the Lord, please do not trouble me…

This can happen whether we are student or a professional … young or old …

[__02(a)-1.] For example, we can recall times when our “friends” wanted us to do something with them or for them … something that might involve danger or harm. Maybe, we are at a party … maybe
We are away for the weekend.

Maybe, we figure no one is going to get hurt…

But, in our consciences we know something is wrong. So, we put out the sign -- Do Not Disturb.

[__02(a)-2.] Another example, we may feel angry or bitter toward someone because of something he or she did to us, to hurt us.

In this case, anger and bitterness become a locked door.

One lesson we can learn from the Passion and Death of Jesus is that we will suffer for sins … as Jesus suffers for our sins, sometimes, we will suffer because of the sins of others against us.

An important lesson of the resurrection is that we can be freed from sin and we can conquer sin.

[__03.] It is part of our sacred life as Catholics and as believers to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, and to let the Lord into the doorway of our lives.

We may feel vulnerable or scared about letting Jesus in.

For example, if we were to reject the invitations of certain “friends” who seem only interested in helping us to enjoy life and have a good time, then we might risk the loss of those “friends”.

We would feel vulnerable, scared.

In such a case, we would be similar to the apostles who feel vulnerability and fear behind the locked door.

At the start of this Gospel, they seem to have have forgotten the words that Jesus
said to them:

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” (Mark 8:31)

They seem to have forgotten the last part…about rising from death.

[__04.] This Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter – also known as Divine Mercy Sunday – Jesus gives his apostles the Holy Spirit and power to forgive sins.

This is the sacred moment of confession, the sacrament of confession and the receiving of absolution from a priest.

Forgiveness is sometimes as difficult as waking up when we are very tired or anxious about what will come when the night is over and daylight comes.

[__05.] When we come to the Lord and repent of our sins, we are unlocking the doors. This is true when we admit our sins to priest and when we offer an apology to someone we have hurt and when we receive/accept the apology of someone who has hurt us.

When we admit our own sinfulness and brokenness, we are doing what is also difficult early in the morning, we are waking up and permitting ourselves – through the peace of Christ and the the Holy Spirit -- to be disturbed. [__end__.]

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Overheard in Jerusalem: Good News (4 April 2010, Easter Sunday)

This is my Sunday homily for 4 April 2010, Easter Sunday for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall and Spring Semester. To view the readings, go to and click “April 4” in the calendar.

[__01.] Have you heard what they are saying about …. [ ] ?

There’s a blank which we could fill in. Fill in the blank.

While our news and information may appear visually in different forms – video, newspapers, billboards, texting – what we also desire is to hear the news and interpret and re-tell it ourselves.

That’s why we mingle, to ask the questions, “Have your heard about…” or “What have you heard about…” [someone] or [something].

And, we fill in the blanks ourselves. We want to know if what they are saying is true, whoever they are.

So, we mingle – on the playground, at the party, at the office, on campus, in the SUB, in our classrooms, in class, before class, after class -- to be alert to and apprehend what people are talking about.

[__02.] After the Passion and Death of Jesus, after Good Friday, the disciples are not been mingling – to say the least.

They have neither been heard nor seen; and, they are hiding out on the edge of town.

[__03.] They are locked in the upper room. They might be talking but they are probably not listening to each other.

Then comes the morning of the Resurrection. First, they hear that the tomb is empty from Mary Magdalene.

And, they start to move toward the action, toward the tomb. Peter and the others might remember what they have heard and overheard before at another tomb, at the tomb of Lazarus. They overhear Martha and Jesus speaking to each other.

" Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother [Lazarus] would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, [Martha]?"

And, what we overhear is Martha’s profession of faith:

Martha says to Jesus, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." (John 11:21-26)

[__04.] This is the Good News that reminds that the good we do and the suffering we endure has a meaning even beyond today, even beyond this semester, or even beyond this summer, this degree.

It might take us some time to apprehend this to learn this. It will not appear in our GPA (grade point average).

Even in the Gospel today, we hear, “For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

That’s the final verse of the Gospel.

“For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

[__05.] … Reminding us that the Holy Spirit has not yet come to enlighten the Church concerning the divine mysteries. Some are slower than others at believing in the Lord’s death and resurrection the third day.

It will take a while for some to hear – and to overhear – the Good News. And, some are slower than others at believing.

And, we ourselves may go through those same ups and downs. We may feel some days we have a lot of faith, some days we only have a little bit of faith. Some days, we have the faith of the large mustard plant fully grown. Or other days, we only have the faith of the tiny mustard seed. Jesus says we only need the littlest bit of faith, the tiny seed which he will nurture ..and help us to grow. (cf., Matthew 13:31-32)

He is going to help us to do the rest. His inner circle – Peter even - demonstrates the ups and downs of belief and are on a long walk with their Savior as are we.

What will also help is to do what the disciples do today: Listen.

[__06.] Listening is a virtue. The New Testament, the Good News – the Best News – advises us about this:

In the letter of St. James we read:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19 )

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

This is advice that we can all take that I can take for myself.

Listening is part of our Christian discipline and communion, calling us to patience not only with the person who may talk too much but also to call us to patience with the person who may not talk enough.

And, to call us to patience with someone in our families, the someone whom everybody thinks is strange, weird.

[__07.] And, what we are called to do is not just to TOLERATE this person but actually to listen, to be Christ for this person.

To listen actively, to ask appropriate questions.

Maybe that person is a very young person. Maybe that person is an older person to whom few people pay attention.

And, we are called to respect life in the way that we treat such individuals. It is not easy, but it is part of our Christian communion to so, that we listen, hear and that we even listen to what we are overhearing.

[__08.] Overhearing… is also part of this. I’m not suggesting that we actually engage in … wiretapping or eavesdropping or … reading someone else’s mail.

This is new type of Homeland Security that we observe and listen even to things not directly addressed to us.

[__09(a).] This happens not only at the Easter dinner table with our family and relatives to whom we listen – but also happens at …

AT SCHOOL - listening to the questions our classmates and ask, even the questions we were afraid or reluctant to ask. We learn from those questions.

[__09(b).] AT HOME – listen not only to what your mothers and fathers tell you..but also to what they say and don’t say to other people in the family. We learn to love – and we learn who to love and trust – by listening to what they say…

It also a priceless source of “intelligence” to observe how the people we know (or think we know) behave in their family circle.

If you were to go over to your friend’s house and were to observe how your friend is treating his or her mother / father, you would learn a lot about their character

Spouses (and future spouses) learn a lot about each other through their visits to the home of the other person’s family.

So, listening is part of the Good News.

[__10.] The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord reminds us to keep our ears open and to keep going.

Even if we hear and overhear bad news at times, Jesus’ victory over sin and death is the Good News that we receive not just in our ears (which are imperfect and which are subject to noise outside and distraction) but also in our consciences and hearts where he dwells with us.

Remember the Good News we hear today, this day, the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. [__end__]