Sunday, November 28, 2010

Overtime (Advent 1, 2010-11-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[__05__] What are the true lights?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

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

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

This is the Feast of Christ the King.

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

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

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

Two things that thieves do well are –

(a) Minimize risk
(b) Move quickly

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

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

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

We admire the daring adventurer and thief.

[__04__] Is this really true?

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

They don’t want broad daylight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of us are called to be generous.

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

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

They are the powerful ones of whom we hear…

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Facades and Foundations (2010-11-14)

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

[__01__] What is a stone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Paul writes in the New Testament:

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

So – what is our view of this new Temple?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric that he remains a member of the team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Body + Soul = 100%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sound”, “soundness” –

Why do we say “sound” here.. ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[6.1] DEATH & LIFE

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

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


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

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

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

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

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