Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Light in Darkness (Christmas, 2011)

This is my homily for Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. Our Sunday Evening Mass resumes Jan. 22, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

[_01_] “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah)
In the Book of Isaiah the prophet, we read about our salvation as a new brightness, a new source of illumination.

The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is meant to be our light. And, in this regard, we might say it is our way to survive the inevitable delays, interruptions, and sorrows, of our lives.

Isn’t this true on the playing surface, as well? That is, on the court or field, we might have trouble competing if we were out there with only natural light. Sometimes, we need more than natural light.

In 2008, there was an actual series of delays which led to a very rain-delayed Wimbledon tennis final in London between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. In 2008, this was the year that Rafael Nadal won his first Wimbledon and Federer lost for the first time at either Wimbledon or on grass in 6 years.

In this 5 set match, the players had to survive in the darkness. The match started about 2:00 p.m., and after 2 rain delays totalling about 3 hours and 4 hours, 48 minutes of playing time, the match finished in near darkness at 9:16 p.m.

(Notes ... this was the longest singles match in Wimbledon history. During one rain delay, Nadal’s coach and uncle Toni, took a siesta in the locker room.)

Nadal said – as the match wore on - he could not see anything, but he certainly saw enough, coming out the winner in 5 sets, 9-7 in games in the final set. This is one of the greatest tennis matches of all time.

Had the games gone much longer, the umpire probably would have “called it” due to darkness.

Immediately after the match, the only light on the court was coming from the photographer’s flashbulbs illuminating Rafael Nadal and his trophy.

[_02_] In such a unique evening-twilight situation, these players wanted to continue even under poor playing conditions.

Neither one would have wanted the match called and postponed until the next day.
If only they could have had a little more light.

Both Federer and Nadal interviewed after the match said, “[we] almost could not see [each other]; [we] thought we would have to stop.”

[_03_] In such a situation of darkness, we may sometimes have to struggle or get by with a limited amount of light or with fading light or with only a gradual increase of light.

Isn’t this true in, for example …
1. School, academic work – we may start the semester or school year in September anxious about the final exam in December or June ..but all we can really do is try to study in a disciplined fashion day by day.

2. In relationships, in our families, at work. Consider that we have someone who causes us difficulty, anxiety. We might wish, at times, this “blackout” could be concluded with the flip of a switch.

In such a situation, all we can do is seek the Lord’s guidance each day, a way of making each day our Sunday, our Sabbath, our seeking of rest and peace.

We are not seeking a championship and final conclusion but rather a rest from our struggle so that we may continue to our final conclusion.

St. Augustine writes about this as the “interior kind of prayer without ceasing, namely the desire of the heart. Whatever else you may be doing, if you but fix your heart on God [God’s Sabbath rest], your prayer will be ceaseless. Therefore if you wish to pray without ceasing, do not cease to desire….. Burning love is the outcry of the heart. If your love is without ceasing, you are crying out always. If always cry out, you are always desiring, if you desire, your calling to mind your eternal rest in the Lord.”

In such a way, we keep the light of the Gospel turned on, even in the darkness. In
this regard, our true desires are also our light.

Our salvation is presented to us as light, as light which the darkness hath not over come (John 1).

With the birth of the Christ child, however, this light comes upon us gradually and invites us to accept this light, this change of viewpoint into our lives, gradually. In a any situation of darkness, we are also invited to repentance, to humility.

This gives us more than natural light, it is a supernatural light that exists in our consciences, in our hearts.

Rather than a bright light shining overhead which will brings a sudden end to evening and the prolonging of this moment … he is the child born after the long night, which brings the light as morning, as the dawn, as the new day.

This the light of Christ shining within us, growing gradually stronger. [_fin_]

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Temple Construction (King David) (2011-12-18, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 18 December 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 | Psalm 89 | Romans 16:25-27 | + Luke 1:26-38

[_01_] This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

In our reading from the Book of Samuel, we read about a building process, a construction project which King David wants to start.
And, isn’t it a source of CONTENTMENT to renovate our homes, to build our rebuild or repair our homes? On a smaller scale, isn’t also a source of contentment to arrange (or re arrange the furniture or have someone else re arrange it for us). We also gain contentment un packing and moving in.

We also may encounter anxiety and distress, but usually this is for a shorter term for some greater goal so that we can seize the moment and take control in our new dwelling.


[_02_-DAVID] Quite contented is King David of whom we read in the Book of Samuel this Sunday.

And, King David is taking control with enthusiasm, gladness about the idea of a new Temple. He has unrolled these architectural blueprints and shared them with Nathan the prophet, the designs for the first Temple of Jerusalem. But, after consulting with Nathan and after Nathan consults with the Lord through his prayer and dream, David learns that this Temple is not to be built right now and not to be built by David himself.

[_03_] What might we learn from the phases or time periods of this construction project which may or may not include an actual building, paint samples, colors, tile, wood.

David has been considering an upgrade from tent of cloth for the ark of the covenant to a house of cedar.

What can we learn about the phases, the lessons of this construction project?

[_04_] Phase 1 / Lesson 1 – First, we learn that David is not really in charge. While king and ruler, David also is being asked to put his plans before God who will review them, approve them...and who may redirect David elsewhere.

In this case, David is being asked to put aside the architectural measurements and blueprints, in favor of the power of another person.

[_05_] Phase 2 / Lesson 2 - Who is this other person, more powerful?
On the one hand, this is the Lord God who possesses this power. David defers to the power of God.

However, David also defers to the power of his son, his son (Solomon) who has not even been born yet.

And, is this not the challenge for all of us, the difficult balancing act in raising and teaching children? That is, while they are young, we are called to direct them, teach them ...but ultimately surrender them to God and teach them to be independent. And, we are also surrendering to our children.

[THIS SECTION ESPECIALLY TO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE HERE] Now as, young people we might think, my parents, my teachers, professors do not surrender to us … Rather, we surrender to those in charge of us.

Young people – do you think your parents are “surrendering” to you? Or , are you surrendering to them? Do they tell you what to do? Do they drive you EVERYWHERE you want to go ...or only some places. Do they make sure that you do your homework?

You may say... of course they make me do these things. And, I’m only 8 years old or 12 years old or 18 or a young adult. And, of course I have to obey.

But, I am suggesting here that your parents, in this rule making process are in fact surrendering to you. They are helping you to learn about authority first subjecting you to authority.

They are helping you to learn responsibility first by telling you what to do.

Soon, in a few years, you will be in charge. You may be in charge of your own parents. We pray that you will be ready to take control.

David the King must prepare his own son, Solomon, also to take control, not only of the budget but also of the family of the royal line, the royal family.

Phase Two concludes when we turn over control to another person more powerful.

[_06_] Phase Three / Lesson Three Construction.

In this episode, we read that King David does not spend taxpayer money by hiring carpenters and stone workers for the Temple. That is, he does not build anything material. Nevertheless, David remains a builder.

The challenge to King David is similar to the challenge made to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to Joseph the Carpenter.

That is, do not worry about the house as a physical structure. Do not put the building first, put the “house” the “royal house” of your family first.

As we reading Psalm 127, “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do the builders labor.”

Sometimes, we are tempted to put the house as a physical structure ahead of the house as a family.

But, truly, wouldn’t we rather live in a smaller structure with someone we truly love or accept a smaller house for the sake of the family.? Isn’t this a safer shelter? Or, we attracted only by what we can see from the curb? The so called curb appeal (or what we can see from the sidewalk) may apply not only to a 3 bedroom colonial or condominium but also to another human being to whom we are attracted for superficial beauty or superficial reasons.

As we approach Christmas, we what is the challenge to King David and to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Annunciation Gospel today?

That is, to place the royal house, the house of our family before any physical object or structure.

In a family, in a marriage, we are also building a house, we gain shelter from the storms of life. We don’t need a structure, owner’s equity, or 20 percent down to have marriage and family.

At the end of our reading, David is told that his house will endure forever, not his house as a series of wooden beams, but rather the house of his family.

And our hope is the same, that our family and relationships will endure and that they will outlast the materials themselves, whether in a tent of cloth or house of cedar. [_fin_]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Traffic Report (2011-12-11, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 11 December 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent.

[_02_] In the Advent Gospel, John the Baptist speaks of a road, quoting Isaiah the prophet. The road, the highway which we are called to build, pave, construct for the Messiah, the Lord, the child Jesus.
The Gospel tells us of travelers (drivers) on this road who have made the excursion to desert, to repentance, to baptism, to see John the Baptist.

[_03_] What is on the road for you and for me? Are we on a journey, always moving straight ahead or, are we sometimes distracted? What would draw our attention? What would slow us down?

[_04_] FIRST – sometimes, we are concerned about being pulled over, stopped.
If we are moving down Route 4 or moving down the hallway at school, we are subject to authority, to certain rules of behavior, speed limits.

And, we may find these limits, ethics, rules to be relatively easy in a familiar territory. That is, we know the speed limit on Midland and Continental (Route 4 and the Garden State Parkway) after we have lived in River Edge (New Jersey) for a while. Or, we know what’s expected after we have been in a particular school, classroom for a while.

But, consider that we sometimes find ourselves to be the

• Taking care of a new person or new child at home
• The new kid on the block
• The new person in the classroom.

How do we feel about the rules of the road in these situations?

Do we, sometimes, feel lost? For example, if we were surrounded by other people who do not share our convictions, then, we might feel lost.

This Advent, we gather here not ALONE in the desert, but communally in the desert, in a spiritual sense, to see where Jesus is meeting us.

And, our journey to the Lord, our highway, is not in the desert literally, but in the desert spiritually for repentance and for the water of his forgiveness and mercy.

(Remember ..tomorrow evening Monday December 12, 7:30 p.m. is our Advent Penance Service here at St. Peter’s in the church).

[_05_] SECONDLY – on the road, there is often ongoing construction. The traffic report on the radio tells us – every 10 minutes – what is happened outbound the George and inbound at the Lincoln. Sometimes, our lane is slowed down due to paving, digging, repairs on the bridge or tunnel.

Why the changes in infrastructure, structure, concrete, steel? We wait for this cement to dry so that we can have smoother faster journeys.

Do we accept ongoing construction? In the car or train, we try to avoid it all costs, don’t we?

But, in our lives in general, this may not be possible. The ongoing construction due to:
• Illness, oneself, other
• Death in the family
• Sharing of burdens
• Retiring from a job, seeking a new job.

These ongoing construction projects cause you and me to slow down.

And, sometimes we may even be re-routed to an unfamiliar place – the desert of John the Baptist?

At such a time, the ongoing construction reminds us about some of the basic
principles of our Christian life, our prayer life. This is not about speed, but slowing down - to pray, to fast at times (to sacrifice) to give alms (charity, generosity).

These actions will also smooth our rough edges.

[_06_] THIRDLY – on the road, you and I can be easily distracted by other drivers.

Do I spend my time gazing (rubbernecking?) at others, wishing, they’d go faster ...or wishing that I were driving their car ..or walking in their shoes?

Don’t we sometimes complain about the person in the next car?

Francis de Sales reminds of the Gospel verse, “judge not lest ye be judged” and “condemn not lest ye be condemnded.” (Luke 6:37)
Francis de Sales observes that we sometimes reverse this commandment regarding ourselves and others. That is, isn’t it easier (more likely) that I will turn by judgment upon another person rather than myself?

I can do this regarding both the good and evil of life. Regarding the good, I may so envy another person’s talents or gifts that I do not recognize who I am in God’s eyes.

Regarding the evil, I may feel such bitterness towards another person’s actions that I do not reflect or repent of my own sins. This repentance could remind me that God has mercy on BOTH of us. The Blood of Christ has been poured out for both of us.

[_07_] John the Baptist directs us – re-routes us – gives us a detour - to a new highway where we seek to hear and recognize God’s call to each of us. [_fin_]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Troubled? (Immaculate Conception, 2011-12-08)

[__01] You have only one phone call.

This promise of a single phone call – and restriction to one conversation – is the reality for someone in police custody, in jail, or, in TROUBLE.

Frequently is the main character, the hero of the movie in trouble, in the 2008 Oscar-winning Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire. The main character is Jamal, a young man in Mumbai, in India. The dream of becoming a “millionaire” is part of his life, given that he is a contestant on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire quiz show/game show on television. Jamal is now also a star.

But, before he can be a star, Jamal must get himself out of jail where he is accused of cheating, of having stolen the answers ahead of time and thus earned his winnings dishonestly. Perhaps, a phone call would have helped him, to a good defense attorney.

Later in the movie, and in the sequence of the game show, he is permitted, finally, to make one phone call. That is, the rules of Who Wants to be a Millionaire permit him this one call, to ask for help on a difficult trivia question.

[__02] In trouble, or in difficulty, we would also want to make such a call. Sometimes, in trouble, we may feel our call is dropped, ignored ... call back later.

In the movie, Jamal is really not sure he has a valid telephone number or even one friend left in the city. The phone just keeps ringing...

[__03] Will a phone call really get us out of trouble? What is the case for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?

They are, in the 3rd chapter of the Book of Genesis, in trouble.

And, the childish Adam is unwilling to take any responsibility for his actions. Eve behaves similarly, claiming she did not know what the serpent was talking about. This was a trick, a game?

Before God, Adam and Eve are unable – or unwilling at this time – to admit their sin, to confess. They would prefer to talk to someone else. That phone call? That life line?

Satan, the serpent, meanwhile, is respectfully silent. He knows what he has done.
Adam and Even are in trouble, but currently not fully aware of it. They have only just come out of hiding.

[__04] In the Gospel reading, the Blessed Virgin Mary also speaks of being in trouble, of being troubled, of asking, “how can this be?” how can I be expecting?

Maybe she would like to phone (text) a friend. For all of her trouble, Mary is not going to be millionaire. Her troubles, meanwhile, may continue. Are these the only important instant messages?

[__05] At times, an electronic device or call may get us out of trouble. . For example, we may obtain

• Good news about a medical test
• Progress regarding our children
• Forgiveness from someone we have hurt
• Or ... we may simply obtain a copy of last semester’s final exam

In these cases, we come to know better what to expect. We also feel affirmed that our efforts, our work, our love has been respected, affirmed, received by another.

On the other hand, what about the contrary case. Sometimes, you and I are rejected or somehow restricted.

We cannot make the one phone call or obtain the one message that will get us out of jail … free.

At such a time, we recall the example of our Lord at prayer in Gethsemane (Father if it is your will, take this cup from me…)

And, we recall the example of our Blessed Mother who also begins her vocation, her calling, somewhat troubled.

The Annunciation Gospel (which we have just read) and other moments invited Mary to trust …

What is this trust for you and for me?

Sometimes, our trust exists because of the phone call, the message which will relieve our mind… or the attorney or the infantry who are going to carry us to victory …in the future.

That is, our trust is contingent on some future outcome or result.

But, Mary gives us a different more immediate example of trust.
Mary asks not … how will this be? how will this work out …or who is GOING TO pick up the tab?

Rather Mary asks about the current present moment, how can this be RIGHT NOW?

In our current, ongoing moments of distress, anxiety, trouble, we can do the same.
Certainly in a crisis one of the things we need most is to focus on the here and the now, on what you and I can do TODAY, not next week or next year.

And, in both of the confession of our troubles and profession of our faith, we can call on God right now …

Such a prayer also invites to be patient about the answers which may come later, so that we can focus on how this can be, and what I can do in my life, right now.

And, how is the Lord present in the very next phone call, conversation, or message that I make or receive.

How can this be? [__fin__]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Footloose, Untying the Sandal (2011-12-04, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 4 December 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

2nd Sunday of Advent (B)
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 | Psalm 85 | 2 Peter 3:8-14 | Mark 1:1-8

[_01_] This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent.

We are reminded in this Gospel of a custom, a traditional practice of the Middle East, and of the Far and farther east.

John the Baptist touches on this referring to the “latchet of the shoe, the sandal.”
This is the shoe/sandal to be removed/untied before entering the house.

We normally expect guests to remove their own shoes. Thus, we can enjoy clean floors, hard wood unblemished by the scratches of little pebbles, we removal of shoes.

[_02_] But, would I, could I, remove the shoes of someone else? Or, as Jesus also demonstrates in the Gospel, remove the shoes and then wash the feet of someone else.

To remove the shoes of another, we are called to:
• Vigilance, watchfulness
• Stretching, bending
• Manual dexterity, skilful tying and untying with our hands.

(__1st) Vigilance, watchfulness, and to wait and pray.

Isn’t this the vigilance, the watchfulness exercised in the responsibility of:
• mothers and fathers, for children.
• doctors and nurses for patients
• Teachers for students.
• An attorney for a client
• All of us for each other

In such a case, the care giver may have specialized knowledge and skills. This care giver may even be highly paid.

On the other hand, parents and doctors and teachers and attorneys also rely on God’s help. They rely on God given talents and they also trust their little ones to God.
In this regard, vigilance also reminds us not only to do our best but also to pray that we will accept God’s will, results that may be beyond our control.

Vigilance is not only pulling someone back from danger. Vigilance is also a prayer for the other, a prayer for the person or situation we cannot control.

To remove the shoes of another, we first watch out and are vigilant for the arrival of such a person.

As Paul writes to the Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

(__2nd) Stretching, bending.

Sometimes, tying our own shoes is difficult enough. What about the shoes of another person?

To do so, we stretch our arms, back, And, this is an imitation of Christ. As Paul wrote:

“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

(__3rd) Manual Dexterity

To tie and untie sandals is an act of precision, of exactness, of skillfulness.
How many months (years) before children develop this skill?

And, as grown ups, we need our own hands and fingers to be in perfect working order.

A sprained finger, a broken wrist, and we may on the 21-day disabled list/NFL injured reserve for tying and untying.

It requires attentiveness to detail, to the smallest of details, and to a tolerance for the dust of the floor.

Will I tie, untie?

Will I take the extra time to tie shoelaces in these cases …

(1) the letter, email, conversation that extra attention to both what we write or speak and how we write and speak so as to speak with both charity and clarity.

(2) The difficult homework assignment which we would rather rush through, the homework assignment for the class we do not enjoy.

(3) And, for my own good, will untie my own shoes, and ask for extra help if I need it? It may seem easier to keep my shoes on and sprint … when slowing down is what you and I need to learn and grow.

(4) Will I untie … by the favor extended to someone who overlooks my kindness, someone who is preoccupied.

It is difficult to be vigilant, to stretch, to use our manual dexterity.

But, in this way, we imitate Christ who also has stooped down to become one of us and who wants to be part of the smallest details and sacrifices of our lives.

[__fin__]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alertness (2011-11-27 Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 27 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] This Sunday is the First Sunday of the Season Advent.
Knowing that we have a particular deadline or departure time, we do things in advance for –

• Academic examinations
• Performances and rehearsals
• Job interviews.
• Thanksgiving Dinner
• The Introduction of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition.

Certain deadlines will keep us awake, in the night or the day.

However, we also feel comfort, ease confidence .. when we are prepared.

The opposite may also be the case, such as …
• Being awakened from a deep sleep by an alarm clock at home
• Being awakened from a deep sleep when we are trying to be a good student, a good listener, but we fall asleep in class.
• Being awakened, becoming aware of something we have missed. Maybe, for example, we are not actually asleep but distracted and we forget where we should turn, where to go, what to do next.

[_02_] Whether we are driving down Fifth Avenue, River Edge or trying to survive a Physics lecture, or even Thanksgiving Dinner, we may fall asleep or lose our focus.

In such a case, we resemble the servants of the parable who are left in charge of the house, the gate, the door, the garden. They know not when the master of the house is returning. Easy for them to fall asleep, to lose their focus.

[_03_] Sometimes, we may also to lose our focus, or find ourselves awakened suddenly.

Today the First Sunday of the weeks of Advent, 4 weeks in which we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, and also remembering that Jesus arrived not only once in Bethlehem but he will arrive again at the end of our lives.


[_04_] I’d like to suggest that we go through certain phases of alertness.
Sometimes, we go through the motions…

Going through the motions….

Isn’t it true that certain actions may not require our complete attention such as the difference between the COLD faucet and the HOT faucet in the kitchen sink. (Hot on the left, cold on the right, correct?) Or the difference between the stove and the refrigerator. I don’t need Google maps or GPS to get me there.

However, if we move to a new country or new environment, we may not take things for granted. Or, if we are taking care of someone else’s home, someone else’s property, we are called to attentiveness, alertness about where certain things are located and how certain tasks are accomplished.

In the parable, we might say that the servants are going through the external visible actions. Or, perhaps, they are sleepwalking.

Wouldn’t they seem to be more focused on the objects in the house than on the person who owns the house?

This Advent, we are also called to focus more on the person of Christ rather than on the many objects of the Christmas season, some of which may not be very Christian at
all.

And, even in our everyday lives, keep the person in mind, in view.

Yes, we have many deadlines, exams, interviews.

But all of these things have a personal aspect.

A mother/father/husband/wife meets deadlines and makes commitments not for some object but for the good of the person(s) in the family.

And, just as God has made us as persons in his image and likeness, we are called to see that image in others. Sometimes, that image may be hard to recognize or easy to ignore.

We may miss that image when are very focused on an object, the object of our own pleasure, reputation, popularity, wealth.

But, in looking for this image in others, we are also staying awake for the coming of our Lord who arrives not on the 12/25 deadline but at every day and at every door.

[_fin_]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Matthew 25 (2011-11-20)

This is my homily for Sunday 20 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, a feast that was formally introduced to our church relatively recently.

The church has identified was identifying Jesus as King, before this feast was set on our church calendar as the final Sunday before Advent.

Jesus, in the Gospel, is the ¨rebel king¨, crucified for disobeying the religious authorities and Roman authorities. In mockery of his popularity, the sign is placed on the cross at Calvary, Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews, or Jesus of Nazareth, King of Israel. But, his kingdom is not of this world. (reference …._)

Also, Jesus – in the Gospel – is the one who will rebuild the Temple of his body, and will become a new Temple to replace the structure built by King Solomon.

[_02_] Where do kings, presidents, and other V.I.P.´s live? As we know, most if not all reside in a castle or palace.

And, in this Gospel, Matthew chapter 25, the king (Jesus) is sitting on his throne, in his palace and speaking to his people.

Matthew 25 is our reading today. And, we might say that ¨Matthew 25¨ is not only a parable we are reading. Matthew 25 is also our destination, our mission, in which we read a summary of the Gospel

• Hungry, we give them food
• Thirsty, we give them drink
• Stranger, and we welcome them (some of our relatives are ¨stranger¨ than others)
• Naked, and we clothe them
• Ill, and we care for them
• In prison, and we visit them.

In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us to love God and love our neighbor. And, Matthew 25 tells us both how, when, and where we are do to this.

For the sick, hungry, the estranged, the alien, the poor. This might be someone in our own families who is in need.

In this regard, Matthew 25 is not only a way of making the journey and living the Gospel. Matthew 25 is also a destination. Matthew 25 brings us to the palace of Christ´s kingdom.

PAUSE

[_03_] Matthew 25, in my experience, is also an actual location, a place, and a mission.

About 3 years ago, I traveled to Port au Prince and to central Haiti to an orphanage. I was travelling with a group from Seton Hall University. We were in Haiti, about 7 months before the tragic earthquake of 2010 in which over 300,000 died.

For a week, we were in the small city of Hinche, seeing life severely impoverished and very simple. We visited an orphanage of 250 children who we receiving the benefits of an education, regular meals, housing, a soccer field. Of course, they lacked the necessary emotional and spiritual support of a mother and father.

It was touching to see how they loved each other and loved us, their visitors, through this struggle. We were the strangers and they welcomed us.

In the earthquake that was to come, this orphanage was well beyond the zone of major seismic activity. While they felt some vibration, there would have been very few injuries and no deaths attributable to the earth’s tremors. That was in the countryside…

[_04_] Port au Prince, as we have seen, is very close to epicentre. And, in Port au Prince, we returned to our destination, our mission of Matthew 25.

That is, Matthew 25 is the name of a guest house, it is Matthew 25 Guest House in the city.

And, in some ways, Matthew 25 was a palace, a castle to us. For at Matthew 25, we had certain things that we did not enjoy in the countryside.

We could sit at a table to eat dinner, we had electricity regularly. The Matthew 25 Guest House does not rely on the municipal or city power grid. They have their own generators.

Wouldn’t it be the same at the White House in Washington D.C. or Buckingham Palace in London? The president cannot be in a blackout. The Queen needs wireless internet.
We had electric fans, keeping us cooler at night. And, Matthew 25 was similar to any palace in its placement of a locked gate and the presence of an armed guard, with live ammunition, at the gate.

This was the Palace of Matthew 25. The place of a king?

[_05_] Jesus – in the Gospel – is rebuilding a place for himself as a King. But, he is not building a Temple of marble or palace of stone, but rather the Temple of his body.

Jesus gives up his body, not that he may boast (cf. 1 Corinthians 13), but that we may be saved.
• Hungry, - give - food
• Thirsty, - give - drink
• Stranger, - welcome -
• Naked, - clothe -
• Ill, - care for -
• In prison, - visit -.

Certainly, I was blessed to live this mission of Matthew 25 for a week at the orphanage.

But, to me, for months thereafter, I thought of Matthew 25, the Guest House, as a place where we had some of luxuries of modern living, the water, the food, the fans.
But, if you call yourself Matthew 25, the mission continues. We returned home in June 2009.

And, from the safety of New Jersey, we all watched the events of January 12, 2010, the thousands of died, the thousands who helped.

And, the ministry of Matthew 25 Guest House continued.

Matthew 25 became a semi-permanent home for many professionals, doctors, nurses.
The soccer field adjacent to Matthew 25 became a small tent city for several hundred people.

And, the kitchen became an operating room for emergencies.

So, whether we live by Matthew 25 or live at Matthew 25, we are called to live these values to …
• Hungry, - give - food
• Thirsty, - give - drink
• Stranger, - welcome -
• Naked, - clothe -
• Ill, - care for -
• In prison, - visit -.

We are called to go and do likewise. Matthew 25 is our secure location in the Gospel, a secure and safe summary of how we are called to love. But, Matthew 25 will also challenge us, like the Good Samaritan, to go and do likewise.

Matthew 25 is not a secure place for us to hide, but a destination for us to go and discover what we can do for each other. (__end__)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Packing Extra (2011-11-06)

This is my homily for Sunday 6 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] Is it wise, is it intelligent to carry EXTRA?

Do we not, at times, identify someone as foolish if he or she has too many suitcases, too many textbooks, too many packages or is simply moving too slowly? This parable suggests that we can acquire wisdom when we also acquire – and accept – the extra burden in our lives.

[_02_] Consider for example, last week’s loss of electric power, heat, communications, phone.

Can we survive without Google? Life seemed to move much at a much slower pace.

And, the really “well connected” people were not those with the most HD boxes, flat screens, or gigabytes per second of Internet service.

The well connected folks in the blackout were those with Double-A batteries, lanterns and fireplaces.

Prudent it was to have a little extra.

[_03_] Do we not also strive to acquire a little extra in academic studies in the classroom as well?

In academic endeavors, we carry around many books, papers, notebooks.

And, in the early part of the semester, we may carry around absolutely everything not sure of what we need. (Or, perhaps, we think only the freshmen do this… the upperclassmen are much cooler, aren’t they?).

Nevertheless, early in the semester –- as we read in the parable in the Gospel -- we have to fill up our flasks with oil, our tanks with fuel. We fill up these flasks, these tanks, to get through the midterm and final.

By December, we may actually be able to reduce the weight in our backpacks. That is, we may have burned off, consumed some of the necessary oil. So, we may not be carrying around so many gallons of oil or kilograms of textbooks. Rather, we hope that we hope that we have learned the knowledge.

That, is the knowledge is burning inside of us. And, this light will burn until the end of the semester and beyond.

[_04_] In the population of students, the wise person brings some extra; the foolish person is the one who travels with little or no luggage.

And, for a while, this person is pretty cool and comfortable. But, this is also the person who knocks on your door, or comes up to you at the [SUB] cafeteria and wants you to explain microbiology or microeconomics, the day before the midterm.

This person, foolishly, has not studied, having carried nothing around, let alone opening a book. Unfortunately, it’s too late.

This parable reminds us to acquire, for example, intellectual knowledge for ourselves. Some things cannot be memorized or downloaded at the last minute.
Wise and prudent are we to carry a bit extra at the start of the journey.

[_05_] Isn’t this also true in our spiritual lives and in our relationships with others?

That is, we are also wise to carry a bit extra. However, we may find it difficult to do so.

For example, at Newark Airport or L.A.X. or JFK or Penn Station, I could be easily persuaded to carry an extra suitcase or layer of clothing … on one condition.
That is, I am carrying this burden for my own comfort, my own appearance.

[_06_] More difficult, however, is the choice that I make which brings me NEITHER:

Popularity NOR Reward.

Sometimes, I do not achieve popularity or reward for my actions.

For example, I may choose to do the honest thing when my friends are pressuring me to take the easy way out. I may carry the extra burden of rejection or loneliness for a while, due to the choice of virtue, of integrity. The Lord reminds us that we are are not alone. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped with his cross, Jesus returns the favor with our crosses.

[_07_] Or, I may choose to compromise or make a sacrifice for someone who does not notice – recognize – what I am doing.

This choice may slow me down. Isn’t it easier when I receive credit for my actions? …and also when all of the electricity and lights are working?

[_08_] By this parable, Jesus encourages us to accept even the difficult burden, not to run from our responsibilities.

It is true… the commitment which seems difficult may also slow us down. This may be for example, the commitment of marriage, family, parenting for many of us.

We may be tested, examined – and stopped at the border repeatedly to be asked about it.

But, and these commitments require great energy from us… but, they are also commitments which teach us about God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, commitments which provide the fuel we need to gain warmth and the light we need in order to see.

[__fin__]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Power Outages (2011-10-30)

This is my homily for Sunday 30 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

31st Sunday (Year A)

NEWS NOTE --- The New York Times By SARAH MASLIN Published: October 30, 2011

*** " Millions of people across the Northeast found themselves without power on Sunday after an unusual autumn storm dumped record amounts of snow. More than 2.3 million customers from Pennsylvania through New England had no electricity, according to reports, as the region was lashed by surprisingly high winds and the snowdrifts piled up. In Manhattan, tree branches snapped under the weight of wet snow, piling up along Fifth Avenue and blocking Central Park paths. " ***

[_01_] In a power outage (blackout, loss of electricity, heat, cable, telephone), we observe homes going dark on the same street where other homes burn and glow PSE&G style.

Random does the loss of power seem. Not only does our home within become disorganized without working light switches, but the neighbourhood is also in disarray.

The grass seems greener on the neighbor’s property for it is now better illuminated.

[_02_] And, how about the process of restoring power to households who have electricity from the utility company?

This may also seem random. Some homes are restored to electricity, heat, telephone sooner than others.

In New Jersey, the utility is PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas). And, we recognize that PSE&G (and Verizon and other providers) must set a priority.
That is, we try to have patience while the most vulnerable – the most deserving – are cared for.

In this regard, power is given to those who are most deserving.

[_03_] In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus speaks of the power, prestige, authority, that is gained or obtained by some individuals.

These individuals are the Pharisees and Scribes. They have power.

Do they have this power because they have earned it?

We also have encounters with those who have authority and power. These individuals could be teachers, parents, professors, supervisors.

What do we learn from these experiences?

[_04_] The disciples are being reminded that power is not given to them because they have earned it or deserved it.

And, parents, for example, exercise their greatest influence over their children not by winning an argument today or by laying down the law or proving they are right all the time.

Rather, don’t parents have the greatest influence over their children, simply by the exercise of humble service.

That is, children themselves learn how to be mothers and fathers and husbands and wives by the example of parents who sacrifice.

And, in a similar way, we could say that students – who feel called to teach – will learn what it is to be a teacher not by the teacher with the longest curriculum vitae longest but from the teacher’s own sacrifice and gift of self.

In this regard, we learn that the last shall become first in times of both darkness and light. [__end__]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Excellent Way (2011-10-23)

This is my homily for Sunday 23 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] In this reading from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, Jesus is asked to make an evaluation, to provide a ranking, to set a priority.
“Which commandment of the law is the greatest?”

Which is the greatest?

First, we might reflect on how we determine greatness, excellence.

Of course, many examples of superior performance exist. And, some things which are regarded as superior in a popular sense are not the same things we really think are important.

We might, for example, enjoy certain entertainment, spoorts, movies, film, recreation. Some of these things might win awards, trophies, honors. Do they, however, possess greatness, the beauty, importance of which the Lord speaks?

Isn’t Jesus being asked a question about enduring greatness, about greatness that can and will continue?

Some things are currently in vogue, in fashion, or # 1.

[_02-EXAMPLES OF GREATNESS_] In professional sports, in major-league baseball, either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Texas Rangers will be the 2011 World Series Champion.

Japan and Spain are the current champions in the women’s and men’s world cup of soccer.

In tennis, Novak Djokovic from Croatia the current champion of the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.

These individuals and teams have risen to the top, the summit in their selected competitions. In fact, no one “nominated” them... no one choose them... they were simply victorious in a competition with referees, point totals ...and they are currently number one.

[_03_] How do you and I determine greatness? Is it only based on CURRENT performance, yesterday, last week ...and my CURRENT comparision of myself with others?

Or ... my latest grade on a midterm exam or popularity poll?

Can we achieve – do we seek – greatness which is beyond these particular moments in time?

[_04_] Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”
Aren’t students fond of asking this question of the teacher in the classroom?

As students you and I would also want to know – what do I need to know right now, or for this semester .... for final exam, A.P. exam, or test I will have in a few weeks or months?

And, so Jesus tells them about greatness –

[_05_-love of God and of fellow human being..]

That is, what is the greatest commandment:

We show our love for God not only by our attendance at worship and prayer but also by our attentiveness to – a brother, sister, classmate, roommate, child, friend, spouse, neighbor.

Our greatness is demonstrated by the way we love, act charitably toward others. Right now.

And, every day, every moment is a new opportunity to love, to forgive and to be the light of the world.

But, as we know, greatness does not come about literally overnight.

Even sporting competitors, the players on a team know this. Novak Djokovic, the current Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian open champion did not win these 3 tournaments merely by playing well for a day... or for the practice session the day before. Years of effort go into a championship, into greatness.

His greatness is measured over a much longer time period and so is ours.

The greatest commandment of love, then, is an invitation to practice ...more than to competition.

[_06_-greatness not overnight] Love – charity – calls us to a slower pace than the latest highlights on the television news or ESPN Sportscenter.

Love, is shall we say, more a documentary than a highlight ... a work in progress ... perhaps, the History Channel.

Love and charity invites us to consider not only --
• What have I done for you lately?
• Or what have you done for me lately?
• But rather what have I done..what have you done...and what has the Holy Spirit been achieving also through our cooperation?
• what have I already done... to what / whom have I already dedicated myself ? And, thus, where am I going?

[_07_] This is the History Channel... but sometimes we prefer the highlight film of what is only in the present, the current actual moment.

For example, doesn’t it seem easier to deal with the present, the actual issue evil / injustice of the day... or the reason that my team is falling behind...

Love invites us to a longer historical view.

I’m suggesting, however, that love in Christ, invites us to consider the history of his Passion, his cross in our lives.

[_08_] So, we might ask ourselves, not only how – currently – is
• my family
• my marriage
• my child
• my career
• (my ministry)
• TODAY...

But also, to what greatness do I aspire? Where is the love bringing me to this greatness?

And, not only ask ...
• How is my relationship with my spouse right now,... but what led us to be in love...either a year ago or several years ago ...? Not simply asking what changed ... in the intervening years... but what decision did we make, what commitment and why?
• Not only how is my child doing today ...but what love enabled me to accept the challenge of being mother or father?
• Not only how is my professional career going now ... or my studies...but how did I get here? What were my hopes, dreams?

For example, here in college, right now, you are making decisions about the rest of your life. And, someday you will return to this moment – October 23, 2011 and ask yourself – what was I feeling, sensing, commiting myself to ...?

Praying about these things, even of the past, we of this history can help us discover love, greatness ...and the greatest commandment amid our own search for greatness.

Or as Paul says..love is being an even more excellent way amid our own search for excellence... [_fin_]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Payback Unto Caesar/God (2011-10-16)

This is my homily for Sunday 16 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01] Can I borrow some money? Of course I will pay you back. I will repay the loan, the money which I have borrowed.

That promise to repay, however, needs a little more detail, doesn’t it?

How much will I repay at a time? And, when will I repay? By what date, what day, month, year, …uh, century?

[__02] We have just read from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22, about repayment, -- paying back, -- giving back, or in another translation of this verse –

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God, the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

Rendering to God and rendering to Caesar. Paying back.

[__03] Paying back a loan to Bank of America, a credit card to VISA, or a tax bill to the government, we may try pay at the latest possible date and in the smallest possible amount.

For taxes, we may wait until April 15.

This style, this schedule of repayment will work for some things. It may work well for things which strictly belong to Caesar.

What do we mean by Caesar in this Gospel? Caesar is the name of Augustus Caesar, the Roman Emperor. The taxes are being collected in his name, for his government.

[__04] Caesar represents more than the American federal government or the New Jersey state government. Caesar represents all of our material possessions, all of our financial obligations, all of our physical and earthly responsibilities

The things are material and physical. They are not, strictly speaking, spiritual.
However, they are also not strictly speaking superficial, or trivial or unimportant.

Jesus is saying that we are to keep these obligations to Caesar, to keep commitments hear in River Edge, in our jobs in NJ, New York, at school and at home.

Isn’t it true that our commitments, our responsibilities, cannot easily be divided or subdivided into things for Caesar and things for God.

[__05_WORK__] Work. Career. Making money. Isn’t it true that working and earning money is a way that we repay Caesar and we support our families physically and spiritually?

But, this work is also a spiritual sacrifice We would be thinking too materially if we simply say that work is about higher profits and technology.

Consider, for example, the achievements of Steve Jobs, who recently died. Steve Jobs was one of the founders of Apple Computers and he retired shortly before his death from his position as CEO, Chief Executive Officer. Steve Jobs personified Apple Computers, the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod … not to mention iTunes where I downloaded this homily for $0.99 (that might be a joke, check iTunes yourself).

What was the value of Steve Jobs’ life? Was it money? Technology? Did his life have more value than say a worker paid per hour to install the furniture in his office or to maintain the air conditioning in the building?

Work has a spiritual effect on us. Work is not about producing objects but about letting the work produce an effect on us. In this regard, when we work, we simultaneously give back to both Caesar and God, we do not produce objects .

[__06_-PRAYER_] Couldn’t we also say that PRAYER has both physical and spiritual effects. For example, we not only pray for our future salvation, in heaven. We are called to pray, to repent of our sins. However, we also pray – in the current moment – for help with immediate decisions, over material choices.

We also pray FOR CAESAR. We pray for elected officials, for our president, governor, senators.

While we pray for our government, and beg God’s help for them, our prayer helps us remember that we serve God first. If we also Caesar simultaneously, that’s great.

But, seek ye first the kingdom of God.

We cannot serve both God and mammon, can we?

[__07_-SCHOOL__] How about at school, those of us who are students, whether we are in second grade or sophomore year or senior year…

We are also paying back.

We are not simply paying back our tuition.

But, we are constantly handing in homework, handing in term papers, handing in what we owe the teacher, based on the syllabus.

Why do students hand these things in, why do they repay? Why do they render unto Caesar?

Well…I daresay that most students are truly motivated by the grades, by the possibility of getting a good grade. And, that is an honorable motivation, a good reason.

When we get good grades, moreover, we may be recognized by “Caesar”. The emperor will notice those who do things well. Who is the emperor, who is Caeasar who notices these things? Well, we might say that the emperor is the school as institution – River Dell High School, Bergen Catholic, Paramus Catholic, Immaculate Conception, IHA, Holy Angels, Cherry Hill Elementary.

Students here are motivated to do well and get good grades so that they will be honored, so they will excel.

However, there is a further reason. We do this work, we hand in our papers, we do our best on our professional jobs for another reason.

That is, to give back the intelligence, the reasoning, the talents which God has given us. We come here, in a similar way, to share the faith which God has given us.

The Lord comes to help us make our payments, to render unto God. [__fin__]

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What to Wear (2011-10-09)

This is my homily for Sunday 9 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

● Isaiah 5:1-17 ● Psalm 80 ● Philippians 4:6-9 ● Matthew 21:33-43 ●

[__01__] Aren’t the most likely to succeed are also the most likely to be photographed?

Showing up on the red carpet for the an Academy Awards presentation (the Oscars) or a presidential banquet (the White House), we see the photographers gravitate toward the most successful, the most famous, the A-list.

We use the term “A-list” don’t we describe the group “A” … not surnames and names that start with A, but the people who are first class, desirable, the cool people.

And, famous people on the red carpet not only want to be seen, they also want to be seen near each other, don’t they? The movie star with the MVP, the famous tenor with the first lady.

[__02] In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22, we read about invitations sent to the A-list, to the elite …

The parable uses the allegory - the symbolic fictional figure – of a wedding
banquet to represent the Christian life, the reign of God.

Just as we are expected to bring ourselves, to dedicate ourselves, to pay attention… and to honor the other guests … at a real-life party …we are also expected to bring ourselves, to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, to his commandments.

In our spiritual life, we opening and re-opening the envelope, the RSVP card and considering the invitation every day.

However, sometimes, we have difficulty with those invitations, We can’t figure where we put them, what they say …we may want to stall for time before we say YES or NO.

[__03__] Jesus reminds us in this parable that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – never stops calling, inviting, texting or sending messages. He is trying find us, inviting us to prayer, repentance, virtue, generosity.

The Lord is trying to locate us, for real, not simply to entertain us with an allegory or a fiction.

[__04] So, what is the allegory, the symbol in our lives?

In our lives, we may not relate this allegory of a royal banquet in London or Madrid or Tokyo … few of us have been invited. Few of us will be invited to the White House… and last I heard, you cannot crash parties there so easily.

But, where are we invited? We have invitations on our calendars, arriving in the mail or we may hope to be included.

And, the questions are … with any invitation:
(1) Can I afford this?
(2) Do I have time for this?
(3) What will I wear?

[__05_Can I afford this?_] For some invitations we are expected to bring a gift, and we might decline if we cannot. But, in the invitation to be a good friend, a mother/father, to be a teacher, a son/daughter, a neighbor, we are always bringing the gift of ourselves.

Setting aside our own desires, needs, keeping commitments …. These are costly, expensive at times and we need God’s help to pay for them.

There is also the gift of time which is the next question

[__05_do I have time?_] If I were to imagine myself to be on the A-list, the elite, I may easily decline or stay in RSVP no-man’s land … with the response… “I’ll get there if I have time.”

Jesus is asking us, inviting us… to consider what do we already have time for … and where can we find time?

Or, if not, how we can at least take what is already burdening us, keeping us busy…and keeping in mind that we do this to praise God, we carry out our tasks so that the burdens of others may be lightened … not so that we will be praised.

[__06-what will I wear?] After asking – can I afford this, do I have time, we also ask … what will I wear?

The right garment will gain notice at the Oscars in L.A. and the White House in D.C.
And, it is a garment which gains notice at the end of this parable. The parable concludes with someone not properly dressed. How can we relate to him?

This is an allegory, a fictional representation. The guest not properly dressed is … or could be … any one of us.

One biblical scholar observes that the kingdom of God, the reign of God includes those who behave virtuously, those who live exemplary lives and those who behave with injustice, dishonesty.

What will I wear?

St. Paul in Romans, speaks about being clothed in righteousness, in goodness. Romans 13:14)

Just as we change our clothes each day and worry about our appearances, so we are also called to examine our lives for sinfulness, to examine our priorities, to seek repentance, forgivness, to make way in our calendars for this invitation and, finally, to on God’s new A-list. [__fin_]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vine Country (2011-10-02)

This is my homily for Sunday 2 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

● Isaiah 5:1-7 ● Psalm 80 ● Philippians 4:6-9 ● Matthew 21:33-43 ●
27th Sunday (year A)●

[__01-RL SUNDAY OCTOBER 2 INTRO]

On this Sunday (October 2, 2011) in Catholic parishes of the United States, we observe Respect Life Sunday, a time for explicit reflection on our call to guard life at all stages, lives of children in danger, the hungry, the homeless, lives of those entrusted to us.

Such guardianship could be more complex than the wine-making process in the vineyard described by our Lord and by Isaiah the prophet.

In either case – the guardianship of human life – and the guardianship of a vineyard – not everything which is technologically feasible is necessarily good for us, or good for the soil in which the vine and branches are.

Life, birth, death are complexities in which we participate as stewards are caretakers and caregivers, just as doctors, nurses, mothers, fathers take care of the lives entrusted to them. We need no special training to be such a caregiver.

We may invent technology … but we did not invent life. God invented it, and asks us to guard his creation, take care of his vineyard.

This includes – at times heroic sacrifice, heroic virtue – for others.

[PAUSE]

On Respect Life Sunday, we also recognize that many have suffered due to choices surrounding unborn children. We may need time to heal. Respect Life Sunday is a time for all of us to pray for reconciliation and resurrection. A ministry of the U.S. Catholic Church is also a program called Rachel’s Vineyard – Rachel’s Vineyard – which was started by a Catholic pscychologist, Dr. Theresa Burke, to help this healing process. Information is available online – Rachel’s Vineyard-dot-O-R-G.

[__02] The vineyard remains an image of life and of creation.
By our own efforts, we are trying – the best we can – to take care of God’s vineyard.

And, vineyards are everywhere.

[__03-FDU] Consider – that here on campus we are in a vineyard… a vineyard on the Hackensack River … called FDU.

A challenging part of college or graduate study is not only the individual work we need to do … but also, the group projects or team projects or lab work we may need to do with others.

That is, not only do I have to worry about my own performance but also those of a team member. My team might not be helping me. To *[__03.01]

[__03-SPRE] Imagine – young people, boys and girls -- that your mother or father have asked you to help around the house …

And, perhaps, while receiving this instruction, you are reluctant to do it …because it just has no reward.

We want something back. In this regard, we resemble the tenants of the vineyard in the parable, or we resemble the sons of the landowner in last week’s parable.

That is, 1 of the 2 sons wakes up in the morning intending to:
• help around the vineyard
• rake leaves
• mow the lawn
• clean his room

But, in the end, he decides against it. Sometimes, we don’t want to work either.
At our house, my brothers and I would disagree at home over who should cut the lawn, who cut the lawn last week, or should mow the front or the backyard..and which of the two were larger.

We wanted equal pay for equal work in our “vineyard”

[__03.01] These are questions that divide us or distract us, not just questions about grape harvesting, vineyard maintenance but also, the care, guardianship of:

• parents, loved ones who are ill
• care of children
• division of the many labors within the home

Sometimes, we might also wish we wee in a completely different vineyard … it’s not easy to work in a vineyard. As Isaiah portrays it, the vineyard presents a challenge because the work is

• UPHILL -- planted on a hillside, planted where other things do not grow so easily. It’s not easy to work going UPHILL

• BELOW GROUND – the vineyard owner has to clear the stones, work in the soil, the dirt …

• And, we also may find ourselves buried or working underground at times, working in places where we are not noticed or appreciated.

As we know, vineyards are often known by their place – their region – Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux. The wine has its authenticity not only because of the winemaker’s expertise but also because of the God-given soil, the location, over which the human maker has little control. You have to be in Sonoma County to get a Sonoma wine, right?

And, true winemakers simply manage what is already in the soil, rather than trying to make the soil – artificially – into something else.

In fact, an old saying about the process and the vineyard – the worse the soil, the better the wine.

And, the inherent dignity of all human life calls us to accept the vineyard, our lvies, our children, our parents, our work as they currently are … as we hear in the Serenity prayer.

For years I only knew the first part, the entire prayer reminds us of God’s love for us, his mercy, and his challenge, sending us into his vineyard:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference; Living one day at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it:

Trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will;that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next.

[__fin__]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Reversed Call (2011-09-25)

This is my homily for Sunday 25 September 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

● Ezekiel 18:25-28 ● Psalm 25 ● Philippians 2:1-11 ● Matthew 21:28-32 ●

[__01] Isn’t it easier to wake up early in the morning on the days that we don’t actually have to be at work, or at school …or anywhere at any particular time?
Of course, some of us might take the opportunity for extra sleep on such an occasion too ..but the alarm clock is less of a space invader on holidays, or non working days?

[__02] In the parable we have just read, there are 2 sons, two children of the same father who has a vineyard – the family business – in which he wants them to work – today.

Each of the sons wakes up with a different attitude, we might say. One with an attitude of freedom, the other of obligation.

Consider that they wake up at the same time. Both would have to clock in at the vineyard at the same time. But, for one, he has risen from his bed, put on his clothes, with excitement.. it is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off …and he is too cool go to school or to any “vineyard”. This is the son who, at first, says No …I’m not going into the vineyard. He is going to cut class, this is his direction.

Then, there is the other son..one of A Few Good Men who puts on his uniform willingly …and goes into the vineyard..or at least, he heads in that direction.

[__03] But, then, something happens along the way – to both of them.
The one who began with such earnestness, such seriousness … loses his enthusiasm, changes out of his uniform, his work clothes… and decides not to work at all.
This seems to catch everyone by surprise ..he is the one with the high grades, the excellent work history…

When he says he is not going to work…no one argues with him, no one begs him. Perhaps, no one expected more.

[__04] Yes, it is certainly easier to wake up in the morning… perhaps on the holiday break between the 2 semesters.
On those days of fewer required activities, fewer obligations… or, perhaps no obligations.

[__05] This parable invites us to change our minds, as the son in the parable does.

Some days – or at some points in our life – we may also wake up – or start up with no intention of keeping our promises … or following through …or doing what is required.

We also begin with every intention of cutting corners or cutting class.

We may even vacillate back and forth – we may waver – in our level of commitment.

[__06] Isn’t this especially true when we are challenged by something that is mandatory, non-negotiable, non-discretionary.

That is, even if we fulfill our responsibilities, we do so at the absolute minimum level… or with absolute minimum cheerfulness.

The parable reminds us that we will have requirements, required obligations, commandments to go into the vineyard on behalf of our children, parents, students, family …

We may be asked to contribute to others with our time, or our money …

At such times, faced with these requirements, we are invited to pray … not to pray about how we can get out of it … but to pray about…

• Why am I in it?
• Why I am here..
• Rather than “why me”… why NOT me?

And, then, perhaps, changing our mind, and going to the vineyard, we can discover the choice really was ours to make, freely.

In this way, we spend less time trying to change what is required …but rather praying about… asking the Holy Spirit … how can what is required … change you and me. [__fin__]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Even Numbers (2011-09-18)

This is my homily for Sunday 18 September 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01] What will keep us in our seats, in attendance – or attention – until the very conclusion of a sporting event?

Well, usually, it is a very close score, a tied game, as we say.

In baseball, such an even score leads to extra innings; in soccer, to extra time, then to penalty kicks.

In a sporting match, we favor – we enjoy and look forward to – a competition with an equal distribution of points for as long as possible.

This makes the experience more interesting.

It is more interesting for the observer,for the fan.

And, even for the players, isn’t the match better when both teams believe they can win.

[__02] In our life – away from sidelines, base lines goal lines – we believe that some projects that some projects, some relationships, are meant to conclude in a tie – in a draw – with an equal distribution of benefits for everyone.
This is true in family life … even at the dinner table, an equitable sharing of the meal.

Is such an even distribution – such a “tie” – always what we desire? Or, do we see this as just another standoff or stalemate?
Perhaps, we would prefer to win.

[__03] Imagine, for a moment, the homework assignment which a teacher might have assigned this past Friday, just 2 days ago. Some will

• work really hard on it, all weekend.
• just a little bit ..maybe opening the book late tonight, or in the morning or in the car on the way to school.
• Write an answer down during class tomorrow.

Then, imagine that the teacher evaluates the written work of every student, but gives everyone the exact same grade.

It seems unfair.

Wouldn’t it also seem unfair for a team on a playing field – baseball, soccer, football – not to be rewarded with a victory after they have played longer, made more shots on goal, had more possessions, or left fewer runners on base?

Such a team – such a player – such a student also – expects to be rewarded.

And, this is the Gospel parable about the group, the subset of vineyard workers who have been working all day. Some worked more hours than others.

They were the ones we might call the starters, the starting team.

But, at the end, the vineyard owner pays the same wage to every worker.

What could be the Good News of the Gospel in this parable?

[__04] How can we apply this lesson of EQUALITY of reward to our lives?

[__05] First, some of us are similar to the vineyard owner. That is, we take care of “workers”. For example, we may take care of actual workers for whom we are the boss or employer.

Or, we might see the “workers” as representative of others for whom we care.

We may look after children (as mothers, fathers, teachers, caregivers).

And, the great balancing act for a mother/father is to love each child individually,
to know each one, to appreciate each one’s gifts, to understand each one’s personality.

This builds trust between parents and children. On the other hand, mothers and fathers are also called to love equally, to divide up the their time, their attention equally.

Of course, these allotments of team do not happen with the timing of a stop watch and the supervision of a referee. But, nevertheless, parents – every day – are trying to find enough time for all of their children.

[__06] How can we apply this lesson of equality in our lives… if we are the workers?

Let’s say that you and I were the laborers who had been there all day long.

As the parable tells it, we bore the day’s burden and the heat. We are sunburned, thirsty, expecting overtime pay.

Then, we receive the same wages/money as everyone else.

[__07] At this point, we might ask ourselves – have we truly suffered a defeat?
By coming out even – equal – in a tie – we are just that … even, equal in God’s eyes, loved.

Therefore, are there not times in life when the honorable choice is one of equality, of balancing the rights of others to life… that others have a right to life, to happiness … a right that is just as great as my own?

Of course, we believe this is true in law making, in Washington D.C., in Trenton.

It is part of our Christian faith in the right to life for the unborn child or the elderly and infirm person.

And, the Lord is saying this is true also in our friendships, family, relationships, marriage.

Yes, it is true that one partner in a relationship may work more hours, earn more money or provide some unique benefit.

However, this does not grant power of one person over the other. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “subordinate to one another out of love for Christ ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Equality is also what enables true intimacy. It is what enables one person to be a gift to the other. For we are truly gifts to each other, not possessions.

[__08] The good thing about a match – or game that is even in the second half or late innings – is that it will hold our attention, our focus longer. The Lord also wants to hold our attention.

Through this parable, he gives us a message of consolation, of comfort. We acknowledge we are all sinners, all in need of God’s grace, the saving blood of Christ and that we are all coming from behind for a different type of victory. [__fin_]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Salvation, Version 7.7.7 (2011-09-11)

This is my homily for Sunday 11 September 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01] When should we leave?

Often, we depart – we leave – for a destination based only on distance and arrival time. How far? When is the appointment?

Then, we calculate in reverse.

Sometimes, however, the presence – or actions of others will have a big influence on when we might start the journey.

Isn’t this the calculation as we come to the conclusion of an event with a large audience – the event such as a concert, sporting event?

Is the crowd moving toward the exit? Maybe we should get going. To accelerate or not to accelerate, that is the question.

How much longer …should I stay ? wait? … Persevere?

[__02] Through the parables and through the conversation with Peter, the Lord is telling us about the value of staying – of staying up beyond intermission, beyond halftime, until the end.

And, we remember that the Lord waits with us until the end – and beyond in our lives.

[__03] In other words, don’t get on the road too soon, don’t count the cost of the driving or the so-called distance- to-empty.

This is what Peter is doing, staring at the dashboard, and running on empty.

Peter wants to know how much longer must I persevere – or be patient with – someone who has sinned against me?

[__04] Peter and you and I have similar dispositions – similar egos.
If someone has offended us or hurt us, we are tempted to take revenge or take flight.

This behavior might be described – scientifically – as the natural response to a threat --– either “fight” or “flight”. But, we might choose “fight” or to book a “flight” … in spiritual ways also. That is, even at times when we are not actually cornered by a predator.

Either way (taking revenge or a flight), we gain some immediate security from the reaction.

[__05] But, we believe our real security comes about through forgiveness of our enemies.

Whom do we forgive?

It is relatively easy to see we will forgive – or have forgiven – someone whom I’ve already given up on. That is, this person has been so disappointing, so discouraging to me, that now I have become indifferent.

Or, we might compare our attitude of forgiveness to the others who are watching …

Perhaps, the person who has offended us is now an outcast in the eyes of everyone else. Everyone else has “left the stadium.” No one cares. Why should I care? We equate forgiveness with indifference.

In this regard, we come to forgive those we have forgotten about…

[__06] But, Jesus is challenging Peter –and us – to forgive in the first half, before intermission and then to persevere.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

What time should we leave?

The journey to forgiveness is not EZ Pass … sometimes we have to slow down to pay the toll. This perseverance may not change the heart of the other person.. However, in forgiveness version 7.7.7. we are growing closer to Christ who also waits - stays behind – patiently for us.

[__07] September 11

What time should we leave?

10 years ago – hundreds of first responders - police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians - departed on a calls in New York, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania.

Many at Ground Zero and the World Trade Center entered the Twin Towers unsure when – or if – they would be able to leave. They had only an estimate of the number of people inside.

They had no calculation of arrival departure, they were in an eternal present and without an exit strategy.

These courageous workers – and those who persevered after them – to find both the living and deceased – those who dug for months in the ground – were making a profession of faith, a profession of faith that saving every life possible would be worthwhile.

And, in the call to forgiveness – in our own lives - we are also trying to save every life possible – every bit of our own lives possible – and making our own profession of faith…

[__fin__]

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Am I my brother's keeper? (2011-09-04)

This is my homily for Sunday 4 September 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01] In the past week, we have witnessed rescues and help, especially seeing people up and down the east coast of the United States, for people affected by the hurricane ….

…and 10 years ago, the rescue and help given to the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

[__02] Rescue is important. Rescue requires a risk, a sacrifice.
This is a message from the Gospel.

And, it is a message which can take us a long time to learn, that is (i.e.) , our responsibility).

In the Book of Genesis, the first two sons of Adam and Eve are Cain and Abel.
Very shortly, the question of personal responsibility emerges between these 2 sons, 2 siblings, Cain and Abel.

In jealousy, Cain takes the life of his brother. Then, the Lord comes looking for both of them, first finding Cain and asking him – where is your brother, Abel?

Cain’s answers the question with an other question, showing that Cain is protesting, avoiding responsibility in the famous expression:

Am I my brother’s keeper?

(Am I supposed to be responsible for him? Why should I worry about him?)

For those of us with younger siblings, we have asked the same question …

[__03] Am I my brother’s, my sister’s keeper? Am I called to be responsible for others?

Jesus is saying YES; and, many of us in our commitments to family, to marriage, to friendship also say YES to this.

It is not easy to do so.

Or, perhaps, it is not always obvious HOW – in what manner – we are to be our brothers’/sisters’ keepers.

[__04-PHYSICALLY …]

There are, on the one hand, physical dangers such as a house on fire, a building vulnerable to collapse, a river overflowing.

In these visible – physical dangers – we recognize the need to take care of each other.

This would be the case in Hurricane Irene (2011, east coast USA), 9/11. And other instances.

What about spiritual dangers which we see?

We may observe individuals in spiritual dangers. And we are called to pull them back, from the brink, from the edge of the canyon, the busy street.

Maybe, we see someone whose life does not have the firm foundation or direction to withstand a storm.

In the Gospel (e.g., Matthew, chapter 7), Jesus speaks about building our house on solid rock rather than sand. This enables to withstand the storm.

Sometimes, we see the person whose life is built on sand, whose lives or lifestyles lack a firm foundation.

[__05] What are some examples of this?

We see someone on shaky ground because, a person is
• Very anxious
• Very depressed
• Living dishonestly
• Living unethically

Or, we see their lives are in disarray or broken because they lack power, not electricity, but simply the power – or energy – to make the right decisions.

We admit readily that we are called to reach out to the person whose basement is flooded with water.

But, what about the person whose life is flooded with spiritual trouble, with anxiety, brokenness, sinfulness, addiction.

[__06] The Lord admits that sometimes we need the help of other people in order to throw a lifeline or a rescue boat to someone in spiritual danger.

We cannot always do it alone.

Jesus says, “where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

So, those 2 or 3 might be ..
• You and me
• You and a friend
• It could be your parents … a mother and a father try to present a united front to their children.

[__07] but, sometimes, we don’t have 2 or 3. Sometimes, it is one on one, or man to man defense, as we say on the field or playground.

We wonder at such times if we are really worthy…

And, Jesus says, at times, we may be acting as an individual. We are acting, however, with his help and grace.

At such times, we wonder, am I really worthy of helping someone else out or challenging someone ‘s behavior, someone’s addiction, someone’s dishonesty… someone’s lazinesss.

There could be various things.

We doubt that both our desires and abilities.

[__08] At such a time, we need the help of the Holy Spirit before during and after the conversation.

We need the Holy Spirit’s help to identify the right time to speak, the right person to approach.

And, we are called to speak in a way that reflects our interest in the other person’s welfare, salvation, rescue.

It’s easy to identify how the faults of another person will irritate me … but can I challenge another person to change for that person’s conversion rather than for my convenience.

[__09] Hearing Jesus’s call to be his rescue workers, we recognize that not everything is a police matter or a 9-1-1 call.

Sometimes, we are the ones to get involved, to help the other, and we know that

Christ travels with us – regardless of the result – regardless of the grade – that he is with us even until the end of the age (world). (Matthew 28:20 ) [__fin__]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Evacuations (2011-08-28)

This is my homily for Sunday 28 August 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. We resume our Sunday schedule on Sunday September 4, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

[__01___] Obvserving the precautions and evacuations of Hurricane Irene in the states here on the east coast, we see people who are moving and being moved. Some people require some extra help to reach higher ground or a place inland, some people may move reluctantly, (stubbornly) wishing for one more wave or one more hour on a suddenly un-crowded beach.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read that Peter the Apostle is being moved, motivated, told where Jesus will go (i.e., to Jerusalem) and where Peter himself will also travel.

Toward the end of the Gospel, Peter receives this message again even more clearly, being told about what it means to follow Christ in moral decisions, ethical decisions. That is, Peter is reminded of being generous, loving in the use of his gifts for others.

These words may remind us of a subtle evacuation-order …

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)

[__02___] In this Sunday’s Gospel, Peter is not only hesitant but also obstinate in his refusal to go. Though tolls on the GSP Garden State Parkway have been suspended, Peter desire not to leave Long Beach Island.

Now, this seems to be a change for Peter. That is, in last Sunday’s Gospel, he was the favored student, the one with all the answers to the question: “who do people say that I am?” and “who do you say that I am?”

Peter is praised for his answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” A correct answer. But, at this point, it is also an answer that makes Peter very comfortable, increases his inertia. Peter is settled intellectually, spiritually, physically.

[__03___] When Jesus speaks of leaving for Jerusalem, Peter stands at the end of the driveway, blocking vehicles.

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the movements in our lives that we will face at times, persecution, suffering, temptation.

[__04___] If we were to consider the coastal evacuation route as a symbol of our own journeys toward God, our own calling to service, to discipleship, could we then ask – what obstacles stand in the way?

[__05___] First – Greed, Greediness, Avarice.

In a real physical evacuation, we may struggle to discern what is most important, what do I pack and bring?

What do I leave behind?

In a real evacuation, we resemble Noah, preparing the ark in the rains. And, we are also stewards of God’s creation. This means we collaborate with the Lord and with each other in caring for our possessions, our natural world, our loved ones.

There are situations in which we absolutely take ownership, take possession. While the gospel is about simplicity, it is also about having priorities.
This way… we own and possess things rather than letting them own us.

So, Greed is one thing that can get in the way.

[__06___] A second is ANXIETY.

Am I anxious about the future for myself or others? Peter has good intentions, that is does not – in a way – put an umbrella and provide a refuge for his teacher, master, friend.

However, Peter is also causing a traffic jam.

Jesus wants to get on the road.

After Greed, after Anxiety…

[__07___] There is a third – PRIDE.

Being proud, we may want to put the pedal to the metal in situations where this is just impossible.

Pride is what we confront in every transition, evacuation. For example, at the moment, I leave a job, leave my home, go to a new school, or accept a new reality in my family life.

These can cause sadness. We need time to mourn, to pray for God’s grace to restore his.

We may also need time. Grief is not pride… rather, grieving, and letting go is a process of humility.

Sometimes, however, rather than mourning and understanding our sorrow, we simply gaze in the rear view mirror remembering what was or what might have been.

[pause]

The Good News is that Jesus travels with us on this road, going ahead, paying the way for us with his body and blood.
[__fin___]



Monday, August 15, 2011

Magnifying Devices (Assumption 15 August 2011)

This is my homily for the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. We resume our Sunday schedule on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.


“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

With the help of a GPS navigation device, we can identify our route, to forecast where we are heading in the future.

With the help of caller I.D., we recognize who is calling right now, in the present.

And, with the assistance of an answering machine/voice mail, we find out who has called, in the past.

These devices provide recognition, past, present, future. They help us to separate the real voice from the static, the real route from the traffic, the signal from the background noise.

They are magnifiers.

St. Paul wrote of our spiritual journey, “For now, see in a mirror dimly, then, face to face. Now, I know in part, but then [in the future], I shall understand fully, as I have been fully understood.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

At the moment, on our spiritual journey, we do not see everything. St. Paul himself compares our current life to a glance in a mirror where things are indistinct. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are hidden from view. And, in the Beatitudes, we read about our future vision, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

On this this Feast of the Assumption, we remember the Blessed Virgin as the one who is the first to welcome the Son of God. In this regard, Mary sees the Lord, opens the door, sees that he has a place in her life. Being pure of heart and clean of heart, Mary sees God quite readily and easily. In the Gospel of Luke, we read that Mary’s soul “magnifies”- or “proclaims the greatness”– of the Lord. (Luke 1:46)

Others with clouded vision – the Pharisees and some the of the disciples – do not always recognize Christ’s divinity. Meanshwile, Mary turns up the volume, increases the clarity of God’s image.

How can we do the same? How can we make an application (app) of this in our lives? To see God, his image, we are called to consider the past, the present, and the future. Perhaps, also, to consider our devices for seeing the world and him.

For example…

[Past] What is recorded on my answering machine? What messages have I received, stored? These messages could be actual voice or video. Some of them could be good, some harmful. Aside from these hard drives and tapes, there are other messages that we write and record by our thoughts and actions.

Do these messages reflect that we are born and made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:27)? Do these messages reflect that we are reborn and remade by being baptized into Christ’s death? (cf., Romans 6:3-4)

And, in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, we continue to clarify this image. Receiving absolution, we believe the Lord takes our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west (cf. Psalm 103:12).

These sins are erased, deleted, and we are given a new heart for memory and recall, past and present.

[Present] What is on my caller I.D.? Caller I.D. is always turned on, even without a phone. That is, listening to the voice or body language of another person, I can hear who is angry, sad, friendly, exciting, interesting, or troublesome.

Reading these numbers on the so-called screen, we decide which calls to take, or not. Truly do we need to be discerning in our lives.

However, sometimes, we may ignore or shun a person who really needs us. This may gain us some advantage. Is this, however, the way to be clean of heart? Pure of heart? What do we hear ringing in our conscience and soul?

The Blessed Virgin exemplifies one hears God’s ring even at inopportune moments.

Or, in AT&T marketing slang, “more bars in more places”. In our lives, we may – at times – delay in picking up. However, as we grow in purity of heart, we allow for better reception, and I.D. of God’s voice, in the PRESENT.

[Future] Where am I going? My destination? Very early in our own life as a mother, Mary is told about the suffering to be endured.

At the Temple, Simeon tells Mary, “Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

For any mother who has seen the death, disability, illness, the suffering of a child, a sword has pierced her heart. Knowing of this suffering, many of us would choose a different route, a detour.

Mary, however, recognizes that in her suffering, she is also being brought closer to God and to heaven.

Furthermore, the Blessed Mother proclaims that:

“the Lord will look with favor on his lowly servant …that he will cast down the mighty from their thrones … and fill the hungry with good things.” (cf. Luke 1:46-56)

[Past, Present, Future] Electronic devices are everywhere for recording, identifying, navigating. But, we also know that these are only screens. They may provide – at best – a window to some reality. At worst, they become idols to which we speak, listen, even worship.

We have other devices in God’s word, the sacraments, our prayer.

The Beatitudes – blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God – reminds us that we have different backlighting, first in Jesus himself and in his mother who help us to see the image of God in the child, in the child yet to be born, in our families. And, coming to pray, we ask that this image be enlarged, magnified, proclaimed in our souls and in our lives

[__fin___]

Q & A (2011-08-14)

This is my homily for Sunday, 14 August 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. We resume our Sunday schedule on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 | Psalm 67 | Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 | Matthew 15:21-28

[__01 ___] For what do we pray for, regarding examinations at school?
What is our hope? Aspiration?

Success, an A, a high mark. Sure. This is our goal. However, to reach this goal we pray for the strength of wisdom and the power of recognition.

That is, I pray for the ability to recognize the questions being asked. Once I recognize the questions – and understand the questions – I can use my intelligence, my understanding, to write answers.

[__02 ___] In this Gospel, a Canaanite woman approaches with a question, a petition which Jesus the miracle worker could surely grant easily.
Her petition: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But, Jesus – at first – seems not to welcome here. We read, “he does not say a word in answer to her.” Is Jesus behaving in the way similar to many of our teachers or bosses or other supervisors might?

Is Jesus simply making her jump through hoops? That’s the test – jumping through hoops – that we give to test or train animals … a dog, perhaps? Jump through hoops, and we hear about dogs in this Gospel reading also.

So, Jesus pauses, temporarily seems to turn her down, by debating with her.
The woman herself is, in fact, being tested. And, so are all the disciples and all of us. Peter the apostle is, for example, tested when he is invited come out of the boat to walk on water.

We should be careful here. This woman is not being tested – nor are you/I tested – by God because we are because we are unworthy.

Nor are we given trick questions.

The testing has a different origin. We endure suffering – and testing – because we share in the Passion and Death of Good Friday and the Resurrection of Easter Sunday. This is Jesus’ final test – the Passion - when he himself is sent “to the dogs” a test that he registers for on his own. (cf. Isaiah 53:7, “his own will”) .

Being arrested on the night before he dies, Jesus is questioned, punished – in fact –for not providing the desired – or popular- answers. But, he wins our salvation by having the right answers.

[__03 ___] The Lord is inviting this Canaanite woman – and all of us – to come to him with our questions, even to debate with him.

This woman uses all of her heart, mind, strength in this prayer, this dialogue with Christ.

She even revisits her original statement and petition, restates her question, saying in effect:

“Lord, I have seen that you fill the hungry with good things. I sense that you love me and care for me and my daughter. But, you know what, even if you can only give me a little bit of help, even a “scrap”, I will take whatever you can offer. ”
And, in her debate with Jesus, she uses her reason/experience and her faith. She is saying, “Thy will be done [in my life].”

[__04___] This woman uses her reasoning to debate with Jesus, who is not making her jump through hoops, but invites her – and us – to use our intelligence – our reasoning to get answers to the right questions.

And, to keep the conversation with the Lord going whether the exam is a midterm or a final. [__FIN__]