Sunday, March 27, 2011

Got Water? (Supply/Demand) (2011-03-27, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday, 27 March 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.

Exodus 17:3-7 | Psalm 95 | Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 | John 4:5-42

[__01__] During times of very low rainfall, what River Edge or Bergen County or the State of New Jersey will impose are drought restrictions. Certain individuals may be exempt (or restriction-free), provided they have a private water supply or well.
But, for the vast majority of us, water is a common, shared natural resource, also a gift from on high. And, in times of drought, we are called to change our ways. To change our patterns … of consumption.

Our Lord alerts us to the Good News of a new water supply. Water is the metaphor, the symbol, of his mercy, his love, reminding us of his sacrifice on the cross, in which blood and water flow out for us.

That’s the Good News about the new water.

[__02__] In a drought, 2 common reactions might happen –
(a) Increase our demand get whatever we can.
(b) Increase our supply, avoid giving away any water.

Restrictions – or the move to a new water supply can be painful. Perhaps, we have to dig beneath the surface to find a spring or stream.

And, the longer this takes, the tougher it is.

[__03__] Hardship is the norm – in our first reading – for the Hebrew people who are quite parched after 17 chapters of Exodus and the desert. And, they increase their demands.

The heat does not actually make them impatient on the sand – nor do heat and stress make us impatient - however, it makes it difficult to be patient.

In the Hebrew traveler, you might see yourself; I might see myself. Waiting on a very long line, a queue, waiting for someone else to do something. Waiting for someone else to recognize what I need.

And, don’t we often find ourselves waiting for other people to do things, things perhaps that they should not need to be told – in either TALK, TEXT, or E-MAIL.

It is a trial to keep our requests civilized (restrained… patient) when something is overdue. We may increase our demands through our words, our tone of voice … or other actions. We want to fill the reservoir.

[e.g., see note on Moses, striking the rock twice, increasing his demands. ]

So, sometimes, we increase our demands in a shortage or drought.

[__04__] Another reaction and response to the drought is … saving and hiding what we have.

This would increase our supply, right. You hide what you I have. I’ll hide what I have. Keep it under a bushel basket. On the other hand, Jesus tells us elsewhere, --
“For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25, Douay-Rheims)

And, in the beginning of the conversation at the well – between the Samaritan woman and our savior – there is some restriction, some hiding.

Hearing a request for a drink, the Samaritan tells Jesus, “how can you – a Jew – ask me – a Samaritan – for a drink?”

Also, she is saying – how can anyone from “regular society” ask me for anything.

The time of day and location explain – at well, at Noon ?

And, due to a series of unstable and unfulfilled relationships which lack commitment, she is an exile in our own country. She is an outcast and does not have much.

Others – who need water for work and home would have arrived much earlier and would have arrived together.

We might consider the well to be Starbucks or … a train station or bus stop, places that many people go on their way to their other activities. is she is at Noon, alone.

But, we read that she is also a woman of faith and trust.

She says, “I know that the Messiah is coming, called the Christ, when he comes he will tell us everything.” (John 4:25)

The woman of Samaria knows the law and prophets. And, she has been preparing to meet Jesus for a while. She just did not expect it to be right now.

Asking for a drink, Jesus can expect that her first response will be to hide … so as to preserve and save what she has.

In this regard, the Messiah (for whom she has been waiting) asks her to change her ways. Moreover, doesn’t Jesus also place a trust in her which others do not.

The water …you can do it.

You can come out of hiding.

We have heard reference to water and food and service before, as part of a list of generous actions –

“For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Jesus invites the woman – and you and me – to participate in his mission with this drink. He is asking for her to give him to drink.

But, lifting water from the well is not simply a reprieve to the impoverished and a sacrifice by the well-watered to the dry.

It is not simply a give-away.

It is also about a shared desire, a shared hope, belief.


*****See also these references from Catholic tradition & St. Augustine:

(a) CCC Catechism 2560 - 2560 "If you knew the gift of God!"7 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. - (Cf. Augustine, De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64,4:PL 40,56)

(b) (Augustine, Roman Breviary 2nd reading, 3rd Sunday of Lent) - "The Samaritans were foreigners; Jews never used their utensils. The woman was carrying a pail for drawing weater. She was astonished that a Jew should ask her for a drink of water, a thing Jews would not do. but the one who was asking for a drink was thirsting for her faith..." -- or we might say, thirsting for a personal relationship with her...i.e., Christ's desire for her, for you, for me. *********


Both Jesus and the woman arrive at the well for a drink, for the same reason.

[__05__] Asking her for water, Jesus tells her… I want what you want. I seek you and I seek you and have found you before you even found me. And, this is the Good News. While challenging us to conversion, repentance, and to a new water supply, the Lord assures us that he can overcome the drought of our pain – our sorrow – our grief – our mourning – our poverty - and he wants to give us what we really desire …for the reasons we are truly thirsty.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Climbing (2011-03-20, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday, 20 March 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.

Genesis 12:1-4a | Psalm 33 | 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 | Matthew 17:1-9

[__01] Climbing a mountain requires a total-body commitment. Hands, feet, legs, arms. One’s head also needs to be in the game.

Peter is well aware of this physical commitment which was required to ascend the mountain and to witness the transfiguration.

And, he wants to continue this physical commitment with further visible and physical construction. Peter wants to do a renovation upstairs, upstairs on top of the
mountain by adding these 3 tents.

After seeing Jesus in dazzling white, Peter says:
“Lord it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. ” (Matthew 17:4)
It took a lot to climb, and Peter wants to improve the summit-landscape while he is up there.

[__02] Great balance and great effort are also required now. In Japan, northeast of Tokyo, outside the Fukushima Dai Ichi (Fukushima Number One) nuclear reactor, we observe the rescue of the living and the recovery of the dead.

The Japanese people have suffered earthquake, tsunami, aftershock and now, radiation fallout from a power plant.

The Japanese people want their land to be transfigured, transformed after these catastrophic events. It will not happen overnight.

It will take great effort and balance from international organizations, the Japanese people, the U.S. Navy. It will be a gradual transformation.

We pray for safety of the rescue workers, the Japanese people, neighboring countries, and our own people. We pray that will avert even greater catastrophe.

[__03___] Peter, James, and John are reminded of the importance of gradual conversion, gradual change.

Peter, in the Gospel, unrolls a blueprint for what he wants to build immediately. He wants immediate material satisfaction.

And, faith – confidence in God – is present in Peter’s architectural plans, isn’t there?

Peter sees the Lord in dazzling white, sees the Lord glorious. And, Peter wants to commemorate this moment.

However, Jesus is not only glorious in the vision of dazzling white with Moses and Elijah.

Jesus is also glorious and victorious:
• On the Cross, dying
• In the courtroom of Pilate, being convicted of blasphemy.
• In the court of public opinion, being rejected.
• In the tomb, leaving the space empty and stone rolled away.

And, Peter will need physical and mental stamina in all of these cases, running in both directions. First Peter runs away in denial..then he runs to return and races to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

[__04__] And, Jesus reminds us of the same, that we are glorious and victorious even if we are rejected.

“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. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

Life is not only about achievement and construction.

[__05__] And, loving another person requires a certain physical stamina and commitment… even amid rejection and misunderstanding.

Love and charity will motivate the rescue workers in Japan – what else but love?

Could you pay someone enough to do this work?

One might say this is duty, and the Japanese are long on duty and avoidance of shame, we might say or observe from outside.

Doesn’t love, however, also include duty and obligation… carrying out promises made?

Love and charity makes possible physical rescue, consolation, comfort.

We might say that rescue, consolation, comfort are part of love and charity. They are not the sum total of love and charity.

Isn’t this true after a hurricane or earthquake?

A person can be rescued from the rubble …but it is not enough to give them a sleeping bag, water, food and televised updates.

But, a victim – any body – needs to be loved and cared for.

Physical touch and rescue and consolation are steps on the journey, they are not the entire journey.

And, this is what the Lord is reminding Pter who has a shopping list ready for Home Depot and reminding Peter who wants to build something visible and quickly.

Jesus is reminding Peter – be patient, conversion is going to be a gradual process of transformation. Not something only external but also internal.

And, this requires attentiveness, attentiveness to God’s voice – to remind us that love is also about listening.

We are called to listen to Christ – “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)

And, we are called to be open to the Holy Spirit, a voice sometimes spoken through those who truly love us, reminding us also to listen to him. [__end__]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alternative Spring Break (Ash Wednesday 2011-03-09)

This is my homily for Ash Wednesday, 9 March 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.

[__01-necessity of rest] The upcoming university Spring Break [March 14-20, 2011] is absolutely necessary for us to continue our work, our studies… isn’t it necessary?

Is it not also required? A prerequisite about which few of us would protest to the Registrar or Provost.

We take a break from our regular routine … so that we can also resume that our work, …. hypothetically ….at some point in the future.

Academic learning – all learning – requires these time frames of rest between study…
So, next week, even if we were to find ourselves in the sun or at home, we are still preparing for final exams, for graduation, for end-of-year activities.

While not a substitute for note-taking, this rest complements our study …

In the Psalms, we read a similar message, a reminder that the Lord is the giver of every gift, regardless of our efforts and there is a paradox in sleep for every “builder”, “writer”… “worker”–

Psalm 127 –

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor, if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat: when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. ” (Psalm 127)

While we sleep, we rest … the Lord gives gifts to those who have been working in the daylight.

[__02-plans for break?] We might ask ourselves now, what will we do with our break, with our rest?

The holidays, breaks in the action, we are given.

What will we do with these 40-forty days of Lent?

Spring Break for us, our Catholic tradition, a preparation for Easter.

What do we have written in our calendars? How do we intend to fill our days and nights?

What is a break ?… why take one? (do we need a reason?)
• Eating
• Speaking
• redirection

[__03- EATING/FASTING] On a break, for example, we want nourishment, relaxation. We want to be fed, to be refreshed.

Sound mind, sound body.

Lent, however, takes this a step further. In rebuilding and renewing, we are asked not only about what-we-will-eat but also about what-we-will-not-eat, what we will renounce.

There are times of fasting. Abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday, Fridays of Lent.
And, during this BREAK ..from our regular choices at table, we are reflecting on how God can fill us spiritually and physically.

[__04-SPEAKING/PRAYING] On a break, we are also waiting for a time to speak. For example, I wait for a break in the action, the lecture, dialogue, to make my point or ask my question.

But, sometimes, it is difficult to find these moments, to ask our questions, to get answers.

Some teachers might go too fast. Some people might also speed right by us, leaving us in the slow lane. We might feel brushed off …. Invisible.

In Lent, the Lord invites us to take this time for a break, for a retreat, every day. We are invited to bring those who ignore us to the moment of prayer. So we can get our questions answered by the Lord.

And, Jesus encourages us to take a break this way –
“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6)
This is our break, our prayer

Of great importance to us are the breaks, collapses , traffic jams-- both large and small – which lead us in a new direction … to an important relationship, a career move, a new school, a new friend.

These are not always smooth transitions. Sometimes, these appear to be accidents.

In our faith, we believe that his grace can also be part of …or happen alongside of … apparently random interruptions.
These, too, are breaks, places of entry for the Holy Spirit.

And, coming here as we do, at midweek, , [12:10 p.m. AT MIDDAY] –- Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of Lent are also a redirection.

Accepting these redirections, however, we are called to slow down, to accept silence so that God may be heard, to accept some decrease in activity so that he may work.

Jesus asks us to give some of our careful planning and analysis. He’s speaking about almsgiving … which is not necessarily limited to the donation of money to charity …but to all acts of love and generosity.. and he invites us to surrender our expectations and multi-dimensional (i.e., right hand/left hand) projections of the result …

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.” (Matthew 6:3)

In this surrender, this new agenda of Lent…. We can let the break begin…


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flood Control Measures (2011-03-06)

This is my homily for 6 March 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.

Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32 | Psalm 31 | Romans 3:21-25, 28 | Matthew 7:21-27

[___01] Hoping to keep the water out of our homes, driveways, garages, basements … hoping to keep the melting snow … from causing a flood, we take certain precautions.
By careful planning, or by hours and hours of snow-shoveling or gutter-cleaning, we can keep the water flowing in the proper direction, away from our home and out int the street, to the river to the ocean.

Ideal for you and me is the ability to turn or off the water, the faucet.

This will keep the water out, the flood away.

Our homes, and foundations of our homes, will then remain dry … by our own maintenance efforts and careful planning.

[___02___] But, then again, we also know that the weather – the rain and snow and storms – are not faucets or taps that we can turn on and off.

Sometimes, we can only wait out the storm.

And, in this Gospel, Jesus promises us that certain storms – certain difficulties – are going to come that we did not anticipate, that we did not foresee.

[___03___] Now, sometimes, we can move away from the flood or the water which is troubling or difficult.

If we take “water” in this case to mean our own vulnerability, our own sinfulness, our own brokenness …then we can sometimes take precautions.

For example, if I know that certain people in my life cause me difficulty .. well, sometimes, I can take precautions. Maybe, I can avoid seeing them …or if I have to see them … I will be careful what we talk about or how much time we spend together.

This is a way to avert a storm.

It is not always possible.

[__04__] For example, let’s say someone is tempting you and me to do something dishonest, something wrong. And, we know it is wrong.

We know that if we follow their advice… we could be in trouble …or we would simply be going against what we believe.

For example, we are tempted to do something -- at a party, at school … at work … or we tempted to do something that is dishonest professionally or dishonest academically.

[___05___] Now, in some cases, we will do something, we will follow our consciences … and this turns out to have some negative consequences.

For example, suddenly, I
• Do not fit in with the cool crowd
• Have nothing to do on Saturday night
• Am isolated from a colleague or superior who had expected my undying allegiance and loyalty.

In these cases, we take a stand… we do the right thing.

And, this is similar to keep our windows shut when it is raining. We do not want any more water to come in.

Or, we take the high ground to avoid the water.

[___06___] But, as a result, we may find ourselves rejected by others.
And, this is an unforeseen flood, this is hardship.
And, in this situation, Jesus the Lord is asking us about our foundation.

He is encouraging us to see our relationship with him as a foundation.

Though others might reject us… and might even damage our reputation, our true foundation is not in popularity, or wealth or fame.

Jesus tells his disciples then – and now –

“whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

(Also - Christ did not please himself:"The reproaches they uttered against you fell on me. (Romans 15:1-3) )

[___07__] The challenge for us is to consider our real foundation, even during a time of flood or stress.

The challenge is to remember that doing good is its own reward, even though this goodness might not be rewarded or recognized.

This is a strong foundation.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spin City (2011-02-27)

This is my homily for 27 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 49:14-15 | Psalm 62 | 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 | Matthew 6:24-34]

[__01_] Sometimes, we speak of a 360-degree movement or circular rotation as something that only brings us back to square one.
“Spinning our wheels.”

On the other hand , machines have to revolve and turn in order to produce – the wheels of a bicycle or car turn.

A washing machine/dryer spins as it cleans and dries.

And, the Lord identifies “spinning” as equivalent to working and producing, in this Sunday’s Gospel… also referring to what we wear, our garments which have also been woven …or spun either by hand or machine:

“Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin … [they do not work or spin] – But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.” (see  Matthew 6:24-34)

[__02____] We are asked a few questions in this Gospel. Using the metaphor of clothing, food, and drink, Jesus is asking us about our desires, our hopes for the future … our concerns about the future, our anxieties…

And, thus, asking:
(1) SPEED – what spin cycle are you on? Am I on? Slow, medium, fast – turbo ?

(2) CENTER – what is in the center of our circle? What – or who -- maintains the balance as we turn, revolve? Is the Lord, the Holy Spirit, in the center – or something else ..someone else – filling up the center and crowding out other things?

[__03___] We are being encouraged to slow down. Using the wild flower example, Jesus reminds us that the organic beauty – and slow growth -- of flowers exceeds anything we could build artificially.

Does this mean that we should sit on our hands ..and wait for the flowers to grow or the paint to dry in our lives?

At other places in the Good News and New Testament, we are told about the importance of work –

The letter of St. James warns employers about withholding wages from workers or failing to pay workers a just wage (James 5:4) - the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is quite blunt – those who do not work should not eat. Paul himself is trying to say that he himself has worked for his daily bread. And, we are called to do the same.

Jesus is cautioning us, however, about the anxiety we may have about daily bread or daily achievement or care of any kind.

Can we go slower and still get somewhere…as the flowers grow gradually?

We are often called to do so – for example ..even if in the short term, we seem to be spinning slowly or paid back only a little bit.

This is often our view of ..

[__03(a)_-ACADEMIC/HOMEWORK___ ] It takes patience – perseverance – to keep on going even when we do not fully understand a particular subject or teacher.
It may take courage to ask a question in class when we do not know what’s going on. That is, I do not want to appear foolish … or admit that I don’t know something …
However, this is humility that enables us to acquire wisdom – Solomon – in addition to being well-dressed – was known for his desire for wisdom, for asking the Lord God for wisdom.

This comes about through many small steps and the courage to keep going, even at a slow speed.

[__03(b)-CARE OF A LOVED ONE__ ] Caring for someone who is suffering from an illness or someone who is at an advanced age can also cause us to spin… even to spin out of control.

I may wonder if this type of “homework” also has any real effect.

We may feel we are really pushing uphill.

But .. in caring for someone who is suffering or -- even not fully alert and awake – we profess a faith in the eternity of life …not only in the existence of heaven ..but belief that life continues even when we cannot perceive it or measure it in the regular way. This also takes courage …and calls us to a slower pace …and a new center.

[__04__] Who is in the center?

Spinning requires some balance and a center of gravity.

With a strong center, we stay physically upright and – on the field or court – we go advance and avoid our opponents.

Spinning and turning are necessary to score points ….
• In Madison Square Garden
• In the World Cup
• Or on the red carpet at the Academy Awards (Oscars) tonight – celebrities of Hollywood will turn around to be photographed, also in garments believed to be more stylish than Solomon in all his splendor.

So ..having a strong center enables me to be physically and materially upright…

[__05__ ] Sometimes, however, this uprightness produces a very tiny center of gravity and center of existence.

There is only room for one – i.e., my self, my needs, my anxieties – in this center of gravity.

I may be spinning my wheels …or running in place.

Jesus asks us – about what we want to wear, eat, drink?

And, by this, he is also asking – around what do we revolve?
He does not suggest that we stop working or or cease caring.
Some us work very hard, have many worries,.he only reminds us that we can still do our spin moves … slowly

On a bicycle, isn’t it true that at the higher gears, we are covering greater distance …while spinning and turning more slowly.

We can also do the same, spinning more slowly and keeping him at the center.