Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wait Watching (2010-08-29)

This is my homily for Sunday 29 August 2010, 22nd 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 campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Readings: Sirach 3:17-18 | Psalm 68 | Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24 | Luke 14:1, 7-14

[_01__] In the Gospel, we observe guests who want to be seated, in a hurry.

They care only that they are in first class, in the honored seats.

“Every man, woman, and child for himself.”

Has the party formally started? Has anyone been seated? Did they RSVP? Who knows?

It is possible that some of those who are sitting in the honored seats also belong in the honored seats. Maybe the President and Vice President and Governor and a few Senators are there. However, to everyone who is not (or not yet) such an elected official and VIP, Jesus is speaking, to all of them and to all of us.

The Lord speaks about the waiting that is involved in our lives, and the patience involve, and the delays we experience.

[_02__] In many areas of our lives, we encounter delays in getting there.

• In sports, to be strong, to be intelligent to compete well. It takes practice.
• In academics – to learn, to study. It takes time.
• In music, the arts – to use our ears and hands and eyes for true beauty. It takes technique and rehearsal.

Then, we also see

• Awards that others receive
• Houses or rooms – or residence halls - they live in.
• Friends whom they have.

And, we wonder, “Why can’t I have that?”

[_03_] It is important to ask the Lord for what we really want. To ask him how our waiting, how our goal, how our objective may be beneficial.

For example, to ask him in prayer, how we can grow to be best we can, how we can excel in the classroom, on the field, or improve in our relationships with others.

And, also it is important to consider how are our relationships, our efforts helping others, showing love.

• What we are we doing to help others who may experience a delay?

• What am I doing to help the new student in my class, or on my school bus, in my dorm? To help the person in a new place or the new one who is far from home?

• What we are doing to exalt the humble? To give up our seats, to help the last and the least become first?

[__04_(Σ)_] There is waiting involved in the spiritual life and in many aspects of our lives. One example from the Gospel is Thomas the Apostle.

In the Easter Gospel, we recall that Thomas is the one who is not present when Jesus appears to the other apostles in the Upper Room.

John Henry Newman, in his sermon Faith and Sight, reflects on the life of Thomas who has to wait one more week than the other apostle to discover Jesus has risen from the dead.

However, Thomas is blessed in this period of time, this period of waiting.

And, blest are we, blest are we also who blessed are all who wait up on God’s will, blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. (John 20:29)

[__05__] There is waiting involved in the spiritual life and in many aspects of our lives.

• Studying, reading, writing – waiting as we try to understand the material. It does not all happen at once or in one semester.

• Making new friends, and maybe, also, letting go of old friends who may have gone a different way, to other schools, to new jobs.. This does not mean that these friendships will end. But, they may enter a different phase.

• There is waiting involved in showing our affection, our love for others. Sometimes, others do not return our love in the way we had been expecting.

The Good News of the Gospel reminds us that the Lord is with us when we wait, whether we are already seated or whether we are delayed, even with cancelled flight, and at the back of the line where the last shall be first. [__end__]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Parting Gifts (2010-08-15, Assumption of BVM)

This is my homily for Sunday 15 August 2010, Feast of the Assumption. 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 campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01] This Sunday, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, we hear this Gospel of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.

On this feast of the Assumption, we recall a final gift, one last gift.

Sometimes, after we stay somewhere, we feel obligated – or we feel moved – to leave some gift with the person or family with whom we stayed.

We offer this in exchange for the value of their time and hospitality in the house. And, also, in the hope that we will be invited back someday.

We might offer a gift, then, not only when we arrive but also when we leave.

[__02] Perhaps, at the end of her three-month stay with Elizabeth, Mary offered some gift to Elizabeth, something material.

We are not sure based on the Gospel.

However, we do know that by the end of Mary’s stay – the end of Mary’s stay on earth – Mary leaves behind something and someone behind.

Elizabeth also leaves someone behind.

Mary is mother of Jesus; Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist.

On this feast, we recall the legacy of Mary and Elizabeth, the legacy of Mary through Christ.

Today is the feast of her Assumption, marking the end of her earthly life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary falls asleep in death and is taken up to heaven. Her life is her final gift to us; however, we also believe that her life – her intercession for us – continues in heaven.

[__03] Thomas Merton observes – making the quite obvious statement in one of his essays – that death is the end of life.

However, Thomas Merton cautions us not to fear death or to become obsessed with death.

It is true that all life – all of our lives – are limited, just as our stay in any place is limited.

Merton suggests that we look beyond these superficial fact that that death is the end of life. His point is that if we treat death superficially – or without some appreciation of its seriousness – we will also treat life – our lives with superficiality.

And, if death becomes trivial … well, life can become trivial too.

[__04] Elizabeth and Mary – in the Visitation – are treating their lives and the lives they are nurturing with gratitude and some seriousness.

They recognize that the lives of their children are gifts. They are gifts to be treasured. However, they are also gifts that cannot fully possess or contain. Sometimes, these gifts contain surprises.

Ultimately, they are also gifts to be surrendered and shared.

This is the call to all of us – to remember that our true home is in heaven and the gift we will leave behind is also our lives.

[__05] At this Mass, M. and D. bring their child .... recognizing her life is also a gift, a gift they are now sharing their baby with all of us, with this Christian community.

And, it is also our responsibility to help them with our prayers, and with the example of our own honesty, integrity, and sacrifice.

We help this .... family also to bring their gift – their child – to the altar today and each day that they pray for her and for themselves and for their family. [__end]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Final Bell (2010-08-08)

This is my homily for Sunday 8 August 2010, 18th Sunday in ordinary time. 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 campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

[__01] We have bells and alarms timed to tell us what to do.

We are accustomed to such bells … (or alarms) – when we wake up in the morning, when we go to school, when we watch or play soccer and basketball.

Recently, in the World Cup in South Africa, we became aware of the way that time is kept for the end of the game. That is, we cannot simply watch the clock countdown and expect a final whistle. In soccer, the referee keeps track of all the injuries during the game and adds time to be sure the full game is played.

In this regard, the official time or final whistle (or bell) is a big secret, known to the referee alone. The players are not sure when the game is up.

And, the servants in the parable are not sure either when the game is up or their lives are over.

[__02] They do not hear or see anything ringing or wrong. They might benefit from a system of alarms. Jesus cautions us that they “the servants” – in particular one servant - lack a sense of urgency.

[__03] Sometimes, we also wish the bell would go off and solve the problem.

But the bell does not solve the problem for the servants who see nothing wrong in their lives… who are not sensing anything in their consciences.

Sometimes, we can be the same way. We need more than the publication of the laws, the rules. We need someone to deliver a personal message.

Even if the players receive a yellow cards and red cards from the referee, they still might not behave.

It has to be more personal. We receive this personal message through Jesus himself and through the New Testament.

• For example, Jesus confronts the money changers at the Temple. He could have simply spread rumors about them.

• Jesus also talks to to Peter, James and John about their envy and jealousy. He does not wait passively for them to change. He confronts them.

• And, he also confronts Temple officials who will arrest him for his views.

This is a personal message… and, it’s risky to deliver a message personally.

For you and me, this may mean sacrificing or risking our reputation or popularity.

It could mean challenging others … even confrontation … trying to correct someone in a loving way.

For example, if we have a co-worker who is objectively failing to do his or her job… we might have a responsibility to tell this person.

Or, we have classmates at school who are doing something dishonest … or harmful, we have a responsibility, at least, to avoid the same behavior. However, we also may have a responsibility to tell them.

Our first reaction might be not to tell – but to tell on – the other person. However, the loving thing can be to tell them.

In the parable, the problem – the chaos among the servants increases because no one ever says anything…

[__04] It is not easy to confront someone who is doing something wrong. We often wish someone else – with more authority – the teacher or the boss would do it. Or, we wish the bell would ring.

Or that the referee would stop the game and throw someone out of the game.

But, sometimes, it falls to us. And, it can be a great and loving service we are doing. The person might be angry… the person might not want to be your friend anymore. But, on the other hand, you may be rescuing the person from some much greater punishment.

It is certainly a risk. At such times, we need to say at least 2 prayers…

(a) pray for yourself that you will hear the Holy Spirit …understand what to say..when to say it…
(b) pray for the other person….that he or she will be willing to listen.
(c) And .. it’s also OK to continue praying …in your head while you are having this difficult conversation.

[__05] It would be nice if a rule book or other authority figure would keep everyone in line… but, that does not always happen. As the parable says, we are the servants entrusted with the house. We are also called to keep peace even if this is risky at times, to do the loving thing

We do so because the Master may show up anytime now, ringing the bell. [__end_]