Saturday, May 29, 2010

Declaring (30 May 2010, Trinity Sunday)

This is my homily for 30 May 2010, Trinity Sunday. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic chaplain for the community and FDU Newman Catholic Association.

To view the readings, go to and click “May 30” in the calendar

[__01.] This is Trinity Sunday.

And, the Good News of this Trinity Sunday is that Jesus – who is not passing through customs but crossing another border, from death to new life - declares what he has and who he is.

And, Jesus is declaring and handing over the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and to you and me:
“Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15)

”I declare it to you”.

[__02.] At the airport – Newark or JFK – we declare things; and, then, we are asked about what we declared, as we go through immigration, customs, and Homeland Security.

And, we anticipate these questions, based on what we declare. We are asked certain questions about the money in our wallets, the purpose of our trip, where we visited …

Anticipating these questions, we might be tempted not to declare too much.

Would anyone know the difference or catch me? We might be able to get through the airport, onto the turnpike and home more quickly – if we conceal and do not declare too much.

[__03.] Yet, we are also called to imitate Christ’s generosity.

We are aware that declaring ourselves is a risk. It is difficult to keep all of our commitments.

[__04.] In any relationship, we have the freedom to:

• To hide our lamps; or, to display our lamps;
• As we hear in the Sermon on the Mount, to hide our lamps under a bushel basket or to display our lamps. (cf. Matthew 5:14-16)

These lamps – these lights -- symbolize our gifts, talents, affections – and, sometimes, we are tempted to conceal them.

[__05.] We conceal them because the payoff (reward) for taking them out is not what we want.

For example, do I really want to DECLARE – and show affection or love for someone in my class, for someone on my school bus, for someone I know, for someone everyone else rejects … well, where is the reward in that?

And, do I really want to DECLARE – to show affection or love or patience for someone who is not patient with me.

These are reasons not to declare ourselves.

[__06.] And, we become – I become – concerned with my TIME, my SCHEDULE, my COMFORT …

However, in a truly loving and committed relationship, we are called to declare as Christ himself does and gives his life to us.

And, when we declare ourselves, we will be SEARCHED, QUESTIONED, and TESTED ….

I’m not suggesting that your parents or family or spouse will conduct a “full-body scan” or “lie-detector test”.

Really, that is up to you and me.

In other words, we are called to examine ourselves.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are called to examine our own lives for honesty, integrity, love. In this way, we declare ourselves.

[__07.] In such relationships, we are pushed to the border, not to the border between countries, but to the border of patience and sacrifice in our hearts.

[__08.] And, we might be repaid in a way that we do not expect.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians:

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

And, Paul goes on to write…. Yet, God has revealed to us this wisdom through the [Holy] Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:10)

[__09.] MEMORIAL DAY - Also, this Memorial Day weekend, we remember and pray for those who declared themselves on our behalf, who gave their lives in wartime, far from home, or close to home. We pray for those who have died in service to our country.

We pray also for those who have been injured and declared their lives for us.

[__10.] The Trinity reminds us that our relationships are not 2-way transactions or the exchange of US $ Dollars for Euros.

That is, we do not simply declare ourselves so as to get something back.

Jesus says this in his declaration, giving up his life, his Holy Spirit for our benefit.

And, Jesus also does all of this freely and invites us to do the same.

[__11.] In the Trinity we see the connection between giving and receiving.

We see the desire of Jesus to give his life as God the Father asks him. And, we see the desire of the Holy Spirit which inspires Jesus to service.

And, in this way, we learn about the command to love God and love our neighbor.

Loving God and loving our neighbor is not simply a commandment. It is also what we freely declare. [__end_]

Haiti Trip with Seton Hall (Liturgy, 19-26 May 2010)

19 – 26 May 2010 (Hinche & Port au Prince, Haiti). We celebrated the liturgy and prayed each day of our trip. These are the homilies from the trip.

Our “party of five”: Dave Peterson, Campus Ministry / Tom Russomanno, DOVE Asst Director, Campus Ministry / Cynthia Manns, Spiritual Director, Campus Ministry / Tom Cabretta, Seton Hall Sophomore / Father Jim Ferry, chaplain.

This trip to Haiti is one of the the international Service projects of DOVE, Division of Volunteer Efforts, Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, USA.

> > > [Thu. 20 May 2010], “Layers”

+ John 17:20-26 (Thursday of 7th week of Easter, for our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)

This is my homily for Thursday Mass.

[__01.] When I was in high school, one summer, I took a swimming and lifesaving class, a class which is necessary to become a lifeguard. One day, we were instructed to dress in layers for a specific exercise in the pool.

Do not try this at home.

Or, perhaps, you have already done it, if you took such a class.

The objective was for the students (i.e., my classmates and me) to learn how to use our own clothes to make a flotation device. Personally, I’d rather have a raft or a Coast Guard helicopter rescue me from the waves, but you do what you have to do.

That morning, we put on our bathing suits and – then, on top of our bathing suits we put our regular clothes, jeans and long sleeve shirts and shoes too.

Then, we are told to jump into nine feet of water in the deep end of the pool. We have to take our shoes off first and let them go.

Then, you remove your shirt, your socks, your jeans and somehow tie knots in the leg and blow air into them and you float.

[__02.] We float, we survive in this exercise because of what we removed and what we did with the layers that were otherwise completely soaked and burdensome.

If we had kept all that stuff on, it would have just weighed us down …and caused us to drown.

[__03.] I don’t know about you – but I was dressed in many layers leaving NJ and NY to fly to Port au Prince. I did not want to be cold in the air conditioning of the aircraft.

However, those layers did me absolutely no good, plunging into the deep end of immigration, customs and baggage claim at the airport.

It is also in layers that we traveled with our bags, bringing in more articles than we will take home.

[__04.] In our meeting about two weeks ago, Michelle [Michelle Peterson, Seton Hall DOVE Director] encouraged us to view our journey here as a retreat, a spiritual retreat and journey with the boys and girls of Maison Fortune (, and the Azeal, the children and adults taken in by the Missionaries of Charity at the Azeal home.

Such a journey, such a retreat involves the removal of layers.

This does not mean that we will immediately learn new lifesaving techniques to rescue the people of Haiti from the depths, from the waves, or from poverty and crisis.

I don’t want to minimize or diminish the importance of our visit here. We can touch others by our cheerfulness, our smiles, our enthusiasm, our laughter, our listening … even if our proficient listening in Creole might be limited in a technical sense.

Yet, in coming to Hinche and Port au Prince, we will not necessarily witness material changes ourselves.

However, in coming here, we remove our layers not to effect an immediate rescue but also to remove our layers so that you and I might be touched and changed by the experience …so that we will float and survive with the help of God … even if we are not dry the entire the time. [__end__]

> > > [Fri. 21 May 2010], “Lifting”

+ John 21:15-19 (Friday of 7th week of Easter, with our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)

This is my homily for Friday Mass.

[__01.] We have all heard the instruction that if you are going to lift something …use your whole body.

If we were to lift something with only our arms, we could strain our arms. If we were to lift and use our backs, we would throw our backs out.

We have all done this.

If you or I were going to lift something, you or I would be best off using our whole body in order to lift it.

And, the same is true in our experience at Maison Fortune and at the Azeal, to use our whole body, all of our strength.

Does not Jesus remind his disciples of the first and second commandments, also referred to as the Shema Israel (“Hear O Israel”in the Books of Moses):

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength”

And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-30; Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

[__02.] Here at Maison Fortune and at the Azeal, we need to use our whole body in order to enter into the experience and the lives of young brothers and sisters here.

We need to use our whole bodies, sometimes literally, to lift them, or to sit down on the ground with them, or to play soccer or basketball with them.

We also need our whole body to listen to them …

And, this is also the lesson for Peter the Apostle in this particular reading from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 21.

[__03.] Peter is the one who runs away, runs away from the cross, runs away when Jesus is arrested.

And, Peter seeks an easy way out… taking out his sword to strike the guard’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. (cf., John 18:10)

But, more than that will be required of Saint Peter …

His whole body and soul will be involved.

In this Gospel reading, Jesus tells Peter that he will suffer a similar fate to that of Jesus himself.

That is, Peter’s whole body is required.

Part of using his whole body is that Peter will be dressed in a way that he would rather not dress, that he will be a led to a place to which he would rather not go. (cf. John 21:18)

[__04.] That is part of making sacrifices in our lives, doing the things that we do not always want to do.

And, in letting others touch our bodies and in letting God use our bodies and our souls and minds to help others who are in need.

[__05.] We also remember that Jesus suffered and died for everyone, suffered and died for the children here and children and people suffering everywhere.

So, that when we suffer with them, we are also imitating Christ on the cross, and lifting his cross with every part of our body. [__end__]

> > > [Sat. 22 May 2010], “Comparisons”

+ John 21:20-25 (Saturday of 7th week of Easter, feast of St. Rita, w/ Missionaries of Charity Hinche, 6:00 a.m. Mass; our group also attended Mass in the sisters’ chapel, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)

[__01.] We could hear today’s Gospel, the conclusion to the Gospel of John, as a prelude to the Sunday Feast of Pentecost.

Today, we hear about jealousy, about envy between Peter the apostle and John the apostle. Peter’s jealousy of John is evident to our Lord. Peter is jealous of John’s gifts in today’s Gospel.

On Pentecost Sunday, we remember that all of us receive gifts from God, the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, this gift is manifested in unique ways, in unique talents. And, we are sometimes very aware of this differences.

We may see the differences as deficiencies in ourselves and wish for more. In some cases, we are right to strive for more… to do our best. However, we are also called to remember that God made each of us good and in his image.

Observing these gifts and identifying them is part of our redemption. Excessive comparison about them, however, can lead to jealousy and envy. It can be part of our destruction.

[__02.] Both Peter and John have been in Jesus’ inner circle. Peter, in particular, has not learned that his unique gifts are not diminished by the esteem shown for another.

All of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of comparing ourselves to others.

We have compared ourselves to the talents of others, to the sacrifices of others.

And, we also observe that others receive rewards – or obtain recognition - that we do not receive,

And, while it is OK to meditate on our hurts to ask for the Lord’s help, we are also called to remember that Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to all of us.

Not necessarily to speak in tongues in exactly the same way as the ancient disciples of the Mediterranean,

Yet, we are called to use our unique talents, in a unique way to reach out to those who need us. [__end__]

> > > [Sun. 23 May 2010], “Pentecost”

Acts 2:1-11; + John 20:19-23 (Pentecost Sunday Mass with the children of Maison Fortune, Xaverian Brothers, Jean Louis, plus all expatriate visitors including our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)

This is my homily for Pentecost Sunday Mass. Jean Louis translated this homily into Creole; I paused after every 2-3 sentences for him to translate.

[__01.] Sometimes, we have to go to the doctor or nurse. And, the doctor wants to know if we are healthy or sick. Do we feel sick. The doctor wants to examine us.

And, we might wonder, “how does the doctor know if we are sick?” One way, one method that the doctor uses to see if we are sick is to look out our mouths, our tongues.

The doctor tells you to open your mouth, to stick out your tongue when you come into the office.

[__02.] The tongue is very small but it tells the doctor or the nurse something about the whole body.

Our tongue, our mouth is also what we use to speak, to make words.

And, our words also indicate something about what is going on inside of us, inside of our hearts.

[__03.] For example, if I say, “I am hungry”, it means there is no food inside.

if I say, “I am thirsty”, it means there is no water.

If I say, “I love you”, it means something that I feel inside. Also, I say, “I am angry with you”, or if I say, “I will not share something with you”, it means there is something inside of me too.

[__04.] So, our words, our mouths will tell other people if we are happy or if we are healthy.

And, that is what is happening in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit comes to touch the tongues, to touch the mouths of the disciples of Jesus.

To touch their tongues.

[__05.] And, we believe that when the Holy Spirit touches our tongues and helps us to speak, then the Holy Spirit is also touching and shaping our whole bodies.

To speak words of love, we need the Holy Spirit not just to touch us with the right words that people can hear … but also to touch us with the right thoughts and intentions and affections inside.

[__06.] The Holy Spirit is helping us to speak and to share with each other and to love each other by what we say and do.

The Holy Spirit helps us to share even when we feel selfish or do not want to do it. The Holy Spirit helps us to say, I love you …even to someone who has hurt us.

The Holy Spirit helps us to smile even if we feel sad or lonely.

So, by our mouths and by our tongues – and our whole bodies – we show our love for each other. [__end__]

> > > [Wed. 26 May 2010], “Neighbor or Stranger?”

St. Philip Neri + Mark 10:32-45 . This is my homily for Wednesday Morning Mass, at around 9:20 a.m. on our last morning at in Port au Prince. We stayed overnight 25 May and departed for the airport the following morning, in Delmas 19, Port au Prince at Walls Intl Guest House which has steel gates, 10 foot high cement walls, and armed guards.

[__01.] When we go to a job interview, we see that the interviewer is somehow who is both an ally an opponent. That person is someone we want to win over. However, it is also someone to whom we need to prove ourselves as well.

You might say, the interview is both a “neighbor” and a “stranger” to us.

And, the interviewer also wants to know how you – or I – are going to treat the neighbors and strangers we encounter.

[__02.] The interviewer – I think – really wants to know something which is difficult to measure, quantify and evaluate.

That is, how will you (or I) behave, what will you do when you encounter a neighbor … what will you do when you encounter a stranger?

That is, how will we treat those neighbors with whom we get along and how are we going to treat those with whom we do not get along?

Out in the marketplace, in the world, the interviewer asks certain standard – and somewhat superficial questions – to arrive at this:

• Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
• What are your strengths? weaknesses?
• “What have you done for me lately?”

These are the questions that interviewers of business and “the world” ask us … on the road to a 2nd or 3rd round of interviews and evaluations.

[__03.] Jesus is interviewing James and John, to find out how they will treat neighbors and strangers along the way, and also to ask – each of us – how we will treat the neighbors and strangers we will meet.

Jesus is trying to evaluate them for the executive positions they want in the Kingdom of God.

The brothers, James and John, are attracted to Christ. This is good. They want to be closer to him. This is good.

But, Jesus is not so concerned about what they have already done or said …or proven or not proven.

Jesus is not even concerned about those gaps in our job history… you know those gaps when we did not have a job.

[__04.] Jesus is more concerned about he future. And, this is what he is asking about, regarding James and John.

In the future, “can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38)

Are you going to be a neighbor to me? Or, are you going to be a stranger to me?

That is what Jesus is asking. And, Jesus is sending them out into the world, He is sending them out just as he is sending us out.

First, to Port au Prince, to New Jersey, north and south, perhaps to return to Haiti. He is sending us back to school or out after we have finished our schooling, so that we can encounter him wherever we are, to grow closer to Christ as a neighbor in all the ways that we might serve him and find him.

[__05.] Today is also the feast of Philip Neri, a patron saint of priests who invites all of us to consider what we want out of life…

For what type of “position” or “compensation package” are we interviewing or negotiating?

Are we carrying out our service in order to gain some position? Some profit? Or, are we carrying it out in humility?

In one of Augustine’s writings (2nd reading, Office of Readings, 26 May, St. Philip Neri) asks a question about neighbors and strangers.

Who is the stranger and neighbor? Jesus is both the stranger and neighbor because he is the one who comes from on high to become our neighbor out of compassion. Jesus is the stranger, the man lying on the road, left half dead by robbers. This man is treated with contempt by the priest and levite who pass by; Jesus is the man who is rescued by the passing Samaritan who takes care of him and helps him.

And, that body on the ground – Christ – is the whole human race. That person is the whole population of Haiti.

So, when we pick up the stranger on the ground, we make him our neighbor… and we also make Christ our neighbor.

And, we also learn to treat our neighbors not as their sins deserve or for our own advantage… but with mercy and service. [__end__]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fourth Quarter Forgiveness (16 May 2010, 7th Sunday Easter)

This is my homily for Sunday 16 May July 2010, 7th Sunday of Easter. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic chaplain for the community and FDU Newman Catholic Association.

To view the readings, go to and click “May 16” in the calendar.

[__01] Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is sometimes the thing that happens later in the game of our lives and involves a come-from-behind victory.

I think we are all familiar with comeback victories or situations where the underdog on the playing field pulls out an unlikely victory.

It is also true in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which Stephen turns towards his accusers – late in his life, at the very end. Stephen turns towards his accusers and shows them forgiveness and mercy.

Stephen is the first martyr, to give up his life, with a surprising outcome at the end of his life.
The surprise is the forgiveness bestowed upon those who want to punish him with death.

Why the penalty of death?

[__02] Just before this section of the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen’s accusers are furious. Here is how he makes them furious.

Stephen makes a speech – really a sermon – about Abraham, the patriarchs, Jacob, Jacob’s youngest son Joseph who is rejected and sold into slavery and other prophets – and the rejection experienced by those inspired and chosen by God.

Stephen challenges these religious leaders of Jerusalem, the religious leaders of his hometowan of Judaism, challenges them and compares their lack of faith in the Gospel to the lack of faith shown toward Joseph and prophets.

So, they are furious not just because it’s a long sermon. And, it lasts for almost all of Acts, Chapter 7. But, they are furious because it shakes up their view of the world. They want to stone him and take his life.

What may surprise us in this comeback victory are Stephen’s closing words of FORGIVENESS which are similar to those of our Lord on Calvary. Stephen says the words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) which are similar with Christ’s, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

So, forgiveness is a victory, a come-from-behind victory, but not one in which we conquer our enemies who have wronged us.

Or, as Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans about revenge, chapter 12, verse 19:

“Vengeance is mine I will repay says the Lord” (Romans 12:19)

“Vengeance is mine I will repay says the Lord”

Vengeance is not ours to pay back. The Lord pays back but does not subcontract out his revenge for us to take in little bits of revenge on everyone else.

[__04] So, our victory is meant to be over our own selfishness and pride not over our perceived or real enemies. Part of our comeback is to comeback to Christ and to the Gospel.

To come back home.

[__05] Last year, in June 2009, I had the opportunity to travel with a group from Seton Hall University to an orphanage in central Haiti, an orphanage with a residence for about 150 children – which was fortunately not affected by the recent [January 12, 2010 & after] earthquake activity in and around Port au Prince. The orphanage is about 80 miles away from the zone of seismic activity.

This Wednesday, this group and I will return there, playing soccer and basketball with them, for a rematch of USA-Haiti visiting another orphanage where there are some very sick children.

It was an eye-opening experience for all of us, to visit Haiti, to visit the poorest country in the western hemisphere and also to encounter the founder of this orphanage.

[__06] His name is Jean Louis.

Last year, the founder (a native of central Haiti) of the orphanage spoke to us about how the orphanage was started. His name is Jean Louis was born and raised in the dust and poverty of the central plateau and mountains and had barely enough to pay his tuition for school. Education is not publicly funded for everyone.

Running out of money at around age 12, his family had no choice but to withdraw him from school. Fortunately, a couple of Catholic religious brothers, Xaverian bothers, found him, and enabled him to continue his schooling and commuting to school which involved walking for hours each way.

Upon finishing high school, Jean Louis somehow found his way on a scholarship to Virginia Tech to study agriculture. Unfortunately, the techniques of soil cultivation, and planting taught at Virginia Tech does not transfer easily to Haiti where the field workers do not even have gloves, let alone tractors.

But Jean Louis goes home.

Under such conditions, one might wonder why Jean Louis bothered to return home?

[__07] To return to the place where it all began is a journey of forgiveness…

It was a journey home for Stephen to Jerusalem..

The Jewish faith from which our Christian faith is born starts in the hometown of Jerusalem … a place where Christ our Lord and Stephen our brother lay down their lives willingly.

Jesus goes to his home first …preaches and forgives them first… before going out to all the world. (cf., Matthew 28:19)

And, forgiveness – for all of us – is always a journey home.

It was a journey home for the Prodigal Son who has to go home and ask forgiveness, a journey home for the father who welcomes him back.

So, Jean Louis returns home to Haiti.

[__08] He is an educated man with a degree from Virginia Tech, Jean Louis certainly did not have to return to Haiti … to the place where it all began …a country which has suffered due to the complex political interests and economic objectives of many governments in the western hemisphere

Haiti has not always been a priority for the United States or the United Nations and other organizations.

So, would one college graduate be able to do anything? Would it be worth it?

This is the question we are are called to ask in any act of forgiveness, in any decision.

Revenge is not our calling; forgiveness really is the alternative. And, if you thought taking revenge was risky … well … isn’t also a risk to love and show forgiveness too.

I’m not suggesting a path of passive and least resistance where forgiveness means allowing oneself to be used. I’m suggesting forgiveness which also requires effort and compassion and action.

[__09] So, Jean Louis goes home ..and hundreds of children and families would testify to the difference he has made.

Jean Louis has gained support over the years ..running an orphanage on a budget supported mainly by a foundation in Virginia that raises over one hundred thousand dollars per year for him.

And, as for the “western hemisphere” …Jean Louis happens to own property that the United Nations is now renting out ..paying him as their landlord, money which he is using to run the orphanage.

So there may not be vengeance in our lives… but there is the chance of a come-from-behind victory, and justice, when you return home, with a spirit of forgiveness and mercy … even at the end of the game, there is still time left on the clock.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Secrets (9 May 2010, 6th Sunday Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 9 May 2010, 6th 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 (Metropolitan Campus). To view the readings, go to and click “May 9” in the calendar

[__01] It is part of the challenge of growing up to learn how to keep secrets, to keep a secret.

I don’t mean keeping a secret just so that someone can escape truth and consequences. It would be wrong to conceal something just to avoid responsibility or trouble. Sometimes, we are asked to keep secrets for the wrong reasons, hiding the truth for someone who needs to be corrected, challenged or updated.

[__02] What I’m suggesting here, however, is that friendship, family and loving relationships call us to listen, to keep confidences once in a while. And, after gaining the confidence, the information, we really need to pray about what do we do next, with the information that we have.

How and when are we to speak about this?

[__03] For example, a secret emerges in the early years of Jesus’s life, when he is 12 years old, Joseph and Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem for Passover.

Returning home, they discover he is not with them. Each one had thought Jesus was with the other or with some other family member.

After 3 days, Joseph and Mary find Jesus, and Mary says, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

So, to this question, Jesus responds with another question. You’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, but he is the son of God, after all.

And Jesus said, “Why were you looking? Did you not know that I would be in Father’s house [about my Father’s business]? But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And, his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 3:45, 49-51)

This is the secret, the secret of the Messiah, of who Jesus is, one which is gradually revealed And, this first comes as privileged information for Joseph and Mary and for his apostles.

To Mary is also revealed a prophecy about the suffering and death of Jesus and the pain this will cause her. Only a mother would understand – and Simeon the prophet who predicts the Passion of our Lord, tells Mary, “and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed [a sword will pierce your heart.]” (Luke 2:35)

The secret shared with Mary is given so that – in our suffering – we may also turn to Christ and each other for new life in our sorrows.

[__04] Mothers keep secrets. Mothers are our back-up sites for information and are more reliable than any other media.

Yet, it is a burden for mothers to keep all these secrets. And, it is a burden, really, for any of us to keep a secret.

To keep confidence, to have that kind of a relationship. But, that it also part of our Christian calling, to have that kind of love and support for each other.

[__05] Our Gospel reading from Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John sheds light on a secret being revealed to Peter and apostles. They feel uncomfortable about the secrecy being imposed on them.

They ask a question to Jesus right before this Gospel passage begins, wondering, “What happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

“What happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22)

Peter, James, John, and the apostles would prefer more publicity, an app for the iPhone, advertising. It’s going to be hard to communicate the Good News of the Gospel simply by word of mouth.

In other words, in secret.

[__06] Yet, that is what they are being sent out to do, to witness personally – by their lives – in simple ways, and to face others one on one.

And, this is also the challenge that all of our mothers have had to face with all of us.

Our mothers have probably wished at times – for more apps, for more magic – for easier ways of teaching and raising us.

But, Mother’s Day, as always, is not reminder of the spectacular, but of the simple.

[__07] And, our mothers have also had the challenge of meeting – and loving -- each of us one-on-one.

As much as our mothers can guide us and help us, our mothers can make us do anything we don’t want to do.

Consider another example of Mary and Jesus – a few years older now – at the wedding of Cana in Galilee:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
(And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:1-5)

At this point, one might wonder about the identity and capability of our Savior. It seems that Jesus is not going to act on the information.

This currently “secret” shortage is about to become a more well-known crisis and the guests will not be happy.

Will Jesus do nothing?

Yet, Jesus does respond to this simple fact – “they have no wine”, a petition brought to him by his mother.

This is something that our mothers – and our fathers too – do for us. They present the simple fact of who we are, maybe not telling us what to do, but just presenting the simple fact of what we are called to do.

And, this, therefore brings us out of the darkness, the darkness of a secret that might be painful, and into the light of God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and into the light of God’s own presence in whom we can always trust our deepest desires and secrets.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Many Vital Signs, One Body (2 May 2010, 5th Sunday Easter)

This is my Sunday homily for 2 May 2010, 5th 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 (Metropolitan Campus). To view the readings, go to and click “May 2” in the calendar.

[__01] It is remarkable that one vital sign can indicate health / wellness for the whole body.

For example, 98.6 degrees (Fahrenheit here in the U.S.) – ninety-eight point six degrees is our optimal body temperature. And, if your temperature goes well over 100 or into the low 90’s - the same thing. You will also not feel so well. Our whole body is affected by this one detail, by this one vital sign.

And, the doctor can then investigate based on that one piece of data.

It’s also true in our relationships, our families that one little thing can affect many other things.

[__02] A family is a body with vital signs. We can also say that relationships we get into in college are relationships with vital signs.

Sometimes, there are strains, and sprains and pulled muscles, even broken hearts and the need for checkups --- spiritually & emotionally.

By interpreting the words of Paul in the New Testament, to Corinth, we observe of the group – or one member of the Church to which Paul refers -- if one member suffers, then the whole family is touched and affected.

And, if one member of the family rejoices, then the whole family can rejoice …. (cf. 1 Cor 12:26)

[__03] And, we are called to share our joys and suffering with each other. This is why we come to Mass, why we receive Communion.

Receiving Communion is something we do – in community – not only for personal strength but also for strength and wholeness of the whole group.

Sharing our joys with him reminds us of all our relationships.

So, we come here to pray for each other, to pray for those who give us life and also to pray for those who may seem to take our life away.

This invites us to pray for our enemies. And “enemy” or “opponent” or “persecutor” does not necessarily a mean a long-distance relationship with someone who dresses very differently or lives very far away. Our enemy might be someone whom we are really trying hard to love and understand.

And, in this way, we pray that the relationship will change. And, we are praying to survive the suffering and to learn from it.

[__04] This refers us to the one Body of Christ, of which Paul writes, that when one person suffers, then we all suffer. If one person succeeds and rejoices, then we all succeed and rejoice. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26)

This is the Body of Christ.

But do we really live this way, behave this way? 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 24 by 7?

Especially at this time of final exams. Do I rejoice at the success of other people? My classmates? The seniors?

What Jesus is reminding us of in Holy
Communion is that our identity is not determined by our personal accomplishments, by our first name, middle name, last name, address, report card or Social Security Number.

Our identity is determined by our relationships and by the health of the whole body.

By coming to Mass, by praying for each other, we are trying to build up the whole body of Christ

[__05] It is good for our spiritual health to do this, to put aside our desires for success for comfort.

Sometimes, our desire for success- which in and of itself is not bad – also instills in us the disordered desire to gain advantage or even some demean someone else, to degrade someone else.

This also happens in human relationships both business and personal.

But that is not Communion.

It is really communion and communal when we put aside our own desires and celebrate the joy – or share the pain – of another person.

[__06] This is what Jesus is doing for us by going to the Cross.

Someday, for example, we might encounter – and we may not have to look very hard – to find someone in our midst who does not have too many friends, to find the one person – on campus or in our family is somehow the outcast.

Somebody who everyone else makes fun of. And, it is a risk to reach out to that person. We might be the outcast. Love is always a risk, isn’t it?

It is a risk to reach out to the person who cannot repay us who cannot love us in return. If you reach out to the unpopular one… you may also suffer from unpopularity. Or, you may not be repaid in popularity.

Yet, as we hear from or Lord in the Sermon the Mount, “the Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6)

[__07] When we reach out to that person, we are responding to Jesus’s call to love one another.

This is how they will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.

What does this love mean?

Earlier in this same chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus defines this love by washing the feet of his disciples, a seemingly insignificant act that, perhaps, does not call attention to itself with sirens, or lights.

It’s a seemingly insignificant act …but it is one detail just like reaching and touching the person-as-outcast which helps the health of the whole body.

Jesus also affirms this when he tells Peter who does not just want his feet washed but his whole body washed… “Whoever has bathed 6 has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over” (John 13:10)

So, the washing of the feet is a necessary detail for the whole body.

Just like 98.6 degrees (Fahrenheit) indicates the health of the whole body.

[__08] Jesus reminds us that we are one, one Body. And, this is what we are doing today at Sunday Mass. We imitate Christ today by sharing or joys and sorrows rejoicing when the other person rejoices and weeping when the other weep. (cf. Romans 12:15)

As Paul writes, “when one part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

And, this is our faith, our unity, and our Holy Communion.