Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everyone, and Anyone (2011-02-20)

This is my homily for 20 February 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for 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.

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 | Psalm 103 | 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 | Matthew 5:38-48

[__01___] In the Gospel, Jesus asks us about greetings and whom do we greet.
We usually greet those who return our greeting, those who reciprocate in some way, the generosity, kindness or “good-morning”which we extend.

But, then, Jesus asks us about those who do not reciprocate, those who do not respond and even about those who reject us.

Some individuals will walk right by us without saying Good Morning or Hello.
“If you greet brother or your sister or your friends or only those who say Good Morning, what is unusual about that ?” (cf. Matthew 5:38-48)

We are asked about expanding the social network. And, we are asked how we could apply this to our lives?

[__02___] One example – imagine we are in a large gathering, a large room, a large gathering, a banquet, a party, and with many people. And, we do not linger too long with any one person.

Rather, we “work the room” – we meet everyone who is there. To spend a little bit of time with everyone … no matter important or unimportant a person may seem. This is a sacrifice we can make … to meet and greet and be cordial to a wide variety of people is an imitation of Christ himself.

(Sometimes, one may turn “working the room” into an exercise of ego … but it need not be this way).

[__03___] At school, we are called to this cordiality, this generosity.
For example, to be cheerful even to those who do not make us feel cheerful, to smile for the teacher who does not smile to us.

To smile and to be kind to the other person at school whom others might ridicule or ignore.

This is difficult. The more usual way is to place restrictions, and to use methods that will connect me to the people most likely to give me something back (consolation, amusement, entertainment…)

And we even have methods for imposing our restrictions, caller I.D., voice mail, filtering of e-mail addresses.

To greet certain people and not others, to lend generously to some and not to others. To stay connected with those whom we already desire a connection.

[__04__ ] Jesus is asking us to reconsider these restrictions.
And,this is not so that others might walk all over us. Is this not our immediate reaction when we hear the words … “turn the other cheek?”

We imagine that we have just become a doormat ..and someone has stepped all over us. But, another thing is that Jesus is asking us to have confidence in ourselves even when we endure rejection.

To have confidence even in the other person who rejects us.

To be compassionate to the other person who, perhaps, is ignoring us.

And, to ask myself (yourself), do I rely on – depend on – the affirmation and recognition of others …as a prerequisite before I say Good Morning or do anything?
Jesus is asking us if we have the confidence to walk the second mile with another person, even for the person who has done nothing to deserve it ….

[__05__ ] Yes, it is true that we cannot be equally generous – or making equal “appropriations” of time and money – to everyone, to all …
The deficit would be overwhelming. The Lord is asking us to be discerning
Also, as we heard in last week’s Gospel, we have to make our Yes mean Yes and our No mean No. To be committed .. and to make careful decisions. But, Jesus is also asking us – what is our criteria?

How do we evaluate others? And, would we give our generous service to just anybody?

[__06__ ] Or, would we only serve generously certain people…
Jesus asks us if we would drop some of our restrictions …and to recognize the inherent value of my kindness to another person. Even if that person does not return it. And, to recognize the inherent value of the other.

Jesus is asking us to greet and to befriend those whom others might ignore. To go beyond the usual to do the unusual….

To greet others who may ignore us. The Gospel asks us to have confidence, to reach out to others… not that we can help all … but that, for the ordinary person, we can be kind to just anybody… [the-end]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pyramids of Power (2011-02-13)

This is my homily for 13 February 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for 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.

6th Sunday, Year A.
[ Isaiah 58:7-10 | Psalm 112 | 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | Matthew 5:13-16]

[__01___] It takes a great deal of consistency to build, to build a pyramid of power.

And, in Egypt and in Cairo, the pyramids are symbols of power, symbols of ancient power. And, we might see them as a symbolic of the 30-year power and regime of

President Hosni Mubarak who just resigned.

President Mubarak’s leadership was recently pulled down by a demonstration of people power in the streets. It is difficult to sit on top of a pyramid when things are not going well in the foundations of the country.

The question and challenge remains – will those -- who are now trying to ascend the pyramid – use their power and authority with peaceful methods? Will there be consistency, the consistency necessary for a pyramid to remain.

[__02__ ] Jesus is asking in this Gospel also about consistency in our lives, not simply scientific conformity to build a pyramid..and not only our exact scientific adherence to the letter of the law/commandments, but also the consistency of our behavior regarding the entire law, even looking beyond the written law to the spirit of the law.

Often we use the term … following the “spirit of a law” … to excuse ourselves from following some strict guideline. For example, if the speed limit is 65 miles per hour … I might justify 85 or more… when there is no else on the road…or I might justify if I have a vehicle designed for high speed…

Saying… well, that law does not really apply to me…

But, in this Gospel Jesus is using the “spirit of the law” ..not to excuse us..but also to expand our vision of what the law really means.

He does not want us to climb to the top of the pyramid and stay there…but to
understand what are the foundations that make the pyramid possible….. to understand not only how the law is designed… but how we are a person, in relationships, made to love, be loved…

[__03___] Regarding the law and our behavior …Jesus asks –
• How do we express frustration or displeasure in our lives?
• In what ways do we express our discontent … even our anger?

On the other hand, Jesus also asks …
• What happens when we cause anguish, pain for someone else…
• How do we handle that situation?

[__04(a)__ ] First, suppose that we express some frustration caused by another person. Or, suppose we have been insulted or wronged or cheated…
We are called to refrain from anger. Now, this does not mean we can refrain from or eliminate all feelings of displeasure, discontent, frustration.
In this case, Jesus is equating anger with a desire for revenge ..or the taking of revenge or vengeance.

Sometimes, we take vengeance not simply by doing something …but also by not doing…
• I stop talking
• I will not eat at your table
• I don’t return phone calls …
• The cold shoulder
• This is also revenge…

Jesus is equating anger with this revenge. According the letter of the law, we might be permitted to seek restitution – payback – in this way. But, Jesus is asking us to conform to the spirit of the law, so that we will have a firm foundation in our relationships, even if we are are wronged.

In the later part of the Gospel, Jesus speaks of “pray for your enemies…pray for those who persecute you.” This is the beginning of our change of heart … a new foundation, a consistent demonstration of our own power that we are not sitting on top of a pyramid but rather coming down to earth.

[__04(b)__ ] Also, Jesus is asking us what to do … if we have wronged someone else – suppose someone has something against you or me.

Again, Jesus says …stay off the pyramid. Do not hide on top of the pyramid…or inside it.. And,. Do not even hide in church or the synagogue.

This is a very challenging word to all of us.

Quote -- “if you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother (or sister or friend or family member) has something against you..leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother. Then, come and offer your gift. (matthew 5:__)”

Again … we are not only praying for those we have hurt ..but also to what is possible to build communion in our lives, by our own sacrifices.

This is conversion. This is building a strong foundation.

In Egypt and in Cairo, the people are demanding a change…and this consistent demonstration has persuaded the president to resign…for a new government to be elected.

This not simply a switch from one political party to another or a switch from the current president his appointed successor.

But, this is a real conversion is happening. And, conversions are painful… sometimes with real sorrow for the past…and not entirely peaceful in the short term.

But, conversion is also asking us – what do we believe ? Religious conversions ask us what we believe .. And, when we are changing our hearts about a situation that makes us feel angry or sad…or we have caused another person some difficulty… we are also asked what do we believe? What do we believe about God and about the other person?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Salt and Light (2011-02-06)

This is my homily for 6 February 2011. I am the Catholic campus minister for 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 58:7-10 | Psalm 112 | 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | Matthew 5:13-16

[__01____ ] We consider natural image and symbolism in today’s Gospel. From the sky or heavens, LIGHT.From the ground or ocean, we hear of SALT.

Both have properties and capabilities which we observe … even properties from which we protect ourselves. “Low salt” “Sunscreen”

Salt and light have powerful properties.

[__02_ ] What our Lord is reminding us of is that both LIGHT and SALT have their moments … not on the table, indoors and outdoors.

[__03___ ] This past month, in Tunisia and in Egypt, we have also seen influence outdoors – by protestors demand a change to governments that have been in power for 23 years in Tunisia and about 30 years in Egypt Thousands have raised their voices in the street. The change is not completely peaceful or nonviolent.

We pray that this democracy movement will also give way to diplomacy and restrained measures of peacekeeping.

At this time, in Egypt – in particular – the protesters are there to bring LIGHT ..if not also firepower. It is a revolution.

[__04____ ] On a smaller scale – in our own relationships, and desires for influence, we are inclined to turn up the volume, turn up the brightness. Use the light.

And, in the case of legitimate protest, this is needed. Sometimes, it is absolutely necessary to attract attention. If someone we love were to something harmful, we have a responsibility to call attention.

Or, suppose, even that one of our friends is inviting us – pressuring us to do something we know – conscientiously – is wrong. In a relationship, at a party, with our friends. In school.

It’s difficult to say no. Saying NO…sometimes means shining a light on others…shining a light on ourselves. It’s easier to be in the dark sometimes

We may find, at times, our popularity shrinks … or we may feel – at times – ashamed to speak up … knowing … hey, I’m also a sinner, I’m not perfect either.

We may find the protest we start turns into a backlash – we might recall the words of the Beatitudes from last Sunday’s gospel –

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Light is not always welcome …sometimes people will put on their sunglasses (literally or figuratively) when they are talking to us.

[__05___ ] Light, however, is not only valuable for its ability to shine … to bring the spotlight to us…or to make everyone realize how brilliant I am.

This would be one way to interpret the Lord’s instruction -- A way to display our light, to remove the lamp from under the bushel basket and put it on a lampstand (cf. Matthew 5:15)

And, we might be inclined to view light as either ON or OFF …NOTICED or UNNOTICED … REWARDED or REJECTED.

But, there is another way to view light ..and it relates to our view of SALT.
Sometimes, light is simply absorbed.

This is what mothers and fathers and teachers often have to do … be present, show up. They might not be rewarded or recognized. We are also called to do the same, testifying to our beliefs, our honesty. That is, we don’t necessarily need to be noticed or rewarded… Our light will be absorbed…

[__06___ ] Jesus also speaks of SALT, the properties of the salt to preserve, salt which can purify.

However, salt which is everywhere (snow brings salt to our roads) also is known for its disappearance, its lack of visibility.

The crystals can only be detected visually before they are used.

How about in Liberation Square, in Cairo, in the protests and revolution there?
What we say so clearly in Cairo are not individuals – individual protesters – but rather a massive crowd. The individuals dissolved in an ocean … persons dissolved in a movement.

[__07____ ] What about our actions, our behavior, our … salt?
Sometimes, as a mother, father, friend, … as a brother or sister, we also dissolve … we also disappear a little bit.

It does not mean that our actions or behavior are not important. But, they are not so visible. They may not be rewarded.

Consider – for example – something so ordinary as taking responsibility for a child, for one of your younger brothers or sisters.

If, for example, we do not “get away with things” as our younger sister or brother does, we may feel excluded … we may feel we do not matter. Or, we simply want the attention. We do not want to disappear.

[__08 ___ ] We would rather have the spotlight, right? But, often, we are simply called to be salt of the earth. And, salt, while it disappears, is also very important and powerful.

Salt preserves the good things in other things. Salt brings out the characteristics, the gifts, the essential quality of something else.

Salt and light are the symbols we hear of today, both of which are absorbed, both of which remind us to share ourselves with others ..and to adapt to the natural circumstances to which the Lord calls us.

At times, we may feel we are disappearing..but truly God’s grace is appearing and being received. [__the__end__]