Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our King's Speech (2011-04-24, Easter)

This is my homily for Easter Sunday, 24 April 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- important msg = high speed__] When there is news to be uncovered which is particularly good or, at least, particularly surprising, we are inclined to all our mind, our heart, and our strength … to figure out what is going on.

We’ll take to the roads with 4WD or good shoes (or high-speed electronic devices) to get the lowdown with a download. Speed is of the essence, right?

Isn’t this true for Mary Magdalene whose devotion and commitment bring her to the tomb first, while it is still dark. Her head start.

Speed is of the essence for Peter and John [the beloved disciple] who race each other to the tomb where Jesus had been buried after his death on the cross.
Seeing the stone rolled away, they further press ahead with notifications and status updates. The tomb is empty. [Click here for more information … ]

[__02, high speed more about msg than person?___] The need for speed could have made these disciples very attached to the message, very attached to the news itself, rather than to the person , Jesus, who brings the news.

For in this Gospel – John chapter 20, verses 1 through 9 – we read only the message, the possibility, the advance publicity that the Lord has been raised from the dead.

Now, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John have to hasten to find out more. But, their journey is not only about distributing information but, more importantly, discipleship and a relationship with Christ.

And, this personal relationship will take place at, perhaps, they may seem to cover less distance (maybe only 14 miles per hour) but will do so more deeply… right now,
we might say, they are over the legally posted speed.

[__03_-MM at high speed___] Don’t we see, for example, the momentary error which Mary Magdalene makes a short time later, this same Easter morning at the tomb. Mary Magdalene believes Jesus is the gardener.

Is Mary Magdalene rushed?

[__04_-Peter at high speed__] Don’t we see, for example, in Peter the Apostle, a desire to rush through his conversation, his reconciliation with Jesus. Asked three times by Christ, “do you love me?”

Peter says, with a bit of impatience, Yes, Lord … you know that I love you.

[__05 – trans to person___] Currently, on this first Easter day, Peter and John and Mary Magdalene are all about the message. But, soon, they will be concerned with the person of the Messiah.

[__06 – don’t lose personal aspect___] It is tempting to accelerate when the message is very important. But, we may lose something if we forget the personal aspect.

Consider that caring for a loved one who cannot communicate with us…may involve our responsible attentiveness to messages … the challenge is to see a person within those messages as we discharge our responsibilities for care. This would be a similar challenge to a doctor or nurse to treat each person with dignity and compassion..not simply a message to which we either save or … delete.

This personal aspect is not only good for the other person but also for oneself.

[__07_- King ex.__] An example of this was in the history and biography of King George VI of England, crowned in 1936, the monarch whose biography was put on screen in this year’s Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech, a title which refers to two great hurdles for his majesty the king:

(1) Speeches as public addresses – he is not so good at these

(2) Speech as a human faculty, as a means of communication. Sometimes, he falters, he stutters, he stammers even when there is no microphone in sight.
This king has a big problem; public speaking is part of the package.

[__08 – soln for King, in r’ships__] What we see at first, is the king desire’s for speed, for technique, for an effective therapy based on pronunciation and vocal exercises. His speech therapist is Lionel Logue.

Lionel believes the king needs to slow down, but not only in the way he speaks, the king needs to slow down to understand himself, his own life.

And, the solutions for the king are ultimately manifest not in technique – or the perfect pronunciation of words – but in his relationships with others. His wife loves him unconditionally ..and his teacher not only instructs but also befriends him.

[__09- speech & 2 advices__] At one point, in the late 1930’s, the king must make an important address to the nation regarding the declaration of war, the beginnings of World War II.

The King is still concerned about his technique, his speed, his ability to make the words, to produce the message.

Lionel – the therapist – gives him two pieces of advice about this address which is publicly broadcast in Britain and around the world:

(1) If you get stuck, if you feel a stammer coming on…just stop, pause, take a breath. This will give your words gravity, a seriousness.

(2) Disregard the crowd, the “audience”… speak to one person, tell it to a friend.

[__10-same 2 counsels for Good News __] Couldn’t we say the same about our call to speak the Good News, to share the Good News?

Or, the calling of Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John to publish their updates.

The Gospel includes many commandments about aspects of life. We may stutter or stammer over the right words to say.

What are the right words to love everyone, to be all things to all people (as St. Paul writes), or the right words to love a particular who needs to be affirmed, to be recognized and who also needs to be challenged, to be stretched. Sometimes, love involves a challenge.

What is the right word to repent/apologize ourselves …or to forgive someone who repents?

Tell it to one person.
We tell the Good News not only with high speed vehicles and laptops, but also one person at a time.

The Lord asks us to consider not only the message we broadcast in general but also .. to do what Mary Magdalene and Peter had to do.

That is, how will Mary Magdalene, Peter, you and I bring the Good News to very next person we meet?

If the message makes us stutter or stammer or withdraw from the person we need to help, then PAUSE, pray, and Christ comes to us – as he comes at Pentecost – to help us speak this message – at any speed – in what we say and do.

This Jesus Christ’s Gospel, our King’s Speech.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Silence of the Lamb (2011-04-22, Good Friday)

This is my homily for Good Friday, 22 April 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 also held this service, Liturgy of the Word, Good Friday at 12:10 p.m. in the chapel.

[__01__] There is good reason to rely upon an attorney, an accountant, a very capable assistant –

• Tell us what to do or
• Tell us what to say in pressure
• Screen our calls
• coach us
• Anticipate questions

This is not only for grown ups in the quote unquote “real world” (wherever you may find this)

[__02__] Don’t we experience this in school also? We have to prepare ourselves in school for the questions which are going to come. We go to school hopeful (imperfect though we are) and ready for the questions to be asked.

Maybe there is some junior or senior out there or some seventh grader or eighth grader who can tell us what to expect or give us their notes from last year.
Some teachers are kind enough to give us a copy of last year’s test – or old exams – so that we are ready. In this way, we are articulate and victorious in the answers we write.

[__03__] Isaiah the prophet – and Moses the prophet – both recognize that their ultimate adviser , their help, their advocate, is the Lord –

Isaiah writes: “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue” (Isaiah 50:4).

Moses, on the other hand, does not actually start off his ministry with a well-trained tongue but rather with great fear and uncertainty about public speaking.

But, the Lord promises help.

But, gradually do the preparations start for Moses who makes the necessary arguments – on God’s behalf, with God’s help - to lead to the Exodus from Egypt and to the first Passover… the Passover the Lord which enables the Jewish people to depart for the Promised Land.

[__04__] Now, in the Passion, we are at the second Passover, the new Passover, and a new trial … not Moses before Pharoah ..

But rather Jesus before Pilate. Also, a good place for a representative.

After all, no one wants to be without representation. No one wants to be defenseless under pressure, defenseless against an accusation.

[__05__] And, in Jesus’s greatest trial, the Passion of our Lord, we might expect his most eloquent arguments – his wittiest remarks.

But these are saved for another time – for other times when another person is accused …
• “let who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:1-11 ??)
• Or parable of the unforgiving servant is offered as an example to Peter and to all of us – of who we say the faults in others but not in ourselves. (Peter also asks here – if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive, as many as seven times?, 70 times 7 times)

[__06__] Now, Jesus himself is on trial – where is his well-trained tongue now?
Where is his advocate, his attorney ..where are his friends? His entourage?

Throughout this test of his Passion, the Lord demonstrates not arguments, not defense, but silence.

He is the silent lamb led to the slaughter who opens not his mouth.

[__07__] And, in the Passion, Jesus is the rabbi, the speaker , who leads his disciples away from the crowd, and to a secluded place in the Garden of Gethsemane for silence… This is not surprising to us because we are familiar with this Gospel reading.

But, wasn’t there a natural and human alternative to this silence and seclusion? Why not a defense strategy?

Why not talk ..

At his greatest trial, he gives us an example of what to do when we are under trial,
or in sorrow. Often we want to do something, we want activity, we want distraction.
Jesus only asks one thing – stay awake.

He is asking them to stay awake.

And, we are also asked to stay awake and alert during a crisis.

Or, to stay awake and alert to avoid a crisis.

Jesus tells all of us that he needs us .. not only to stay awake for exams, not only to stay awake at our desks ..but also to stay awake to his presence in the world.
To stay awake even when others may sin against us, to stay awake that we may grow closer to Christ during our own passion and sorrows. Often, we are tempted to do the opposite.. to sleep via indifference or rejection.

[Jesus is the one who will help us with our tests.]

[__08__] In the Passion, in Jerusalem, in the Temple, Jesus remains silent.
In the courtroom before Pilate, Jesus is silent for 2 important reasons

FIRST - we often say that silence is an admission of guilt. The one who is silent is the one who is guilty.
If one is innocent, one would defend himself. This is what people think, right?
If I were innocent, I would defend myself.
Jesus remains silent, telling us that he accepts the guilt of our sins upon himself.
He is taking our sins upon himself, quietly, nailing them to the cross, and pleading guilty on our behalf. In silence Jesus accepts our guilt.

[__09__] SECONDLY, silence is also a means of concentration and attentiveness.

The Lord remains quiet even now, concentrating on you and me, urging us to stay awake with him, to examine our lives and to see that he loves us…not only by telling us .. but also by showing us by his actions which speak louder than words.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wave Energy (2011-04-17, Palm Sunday)

This is my homily for Palm Sunday, 17 April 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.

[The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew]

[__01_energy comes in waves_] Energy is delivered to us in waves. We speak of waves of electricity. Sometimes, these waves are small ..sometimes, these are large (even harmful)…. We ride these waves all the time. We can surf waves of channels or surf the internet with waves of electricity.

Waves equal energy.

An important environmental and economic challenge for us, today, is the conversion of waves of natural energy into waves of electrical energy for homes, automobiles.

[__02_energy so strong, need protxn & storage capacity_] For example, waves of sunlight are so powerful that we have to protect ourselves from them with Coppertone and UV-ultraviolet-rated dark lenses. These are waves of light, waves of energy.

The same would be true of other waves we hear about – wind, ocean tidal-waves. We can feel this energy … perceive it, even literally surf these waves and get somewhere.

That is, we may not have find the perfect wave (unless you are floating in the ocean salt water on a board) but rather simply use what we have.
The challenge, then, might not necessarily discovering the energy but rather simply capturing the energy, storing it, transmitting it … using the energy

[__02 __] Jesus also rides into town on a wave. Entering Jerusalem, the Lord encounters waves of energy in the palm branches, the crowd is waving, enthusiastic …
Hosanna to the Son of David.

Jesus is welcomed as a king; he also is crucified, nailed to the cross as a king. A different curve to that wave.

[__03-E in the crowd, + & -__] Entering Jerusalem, Jesus encounters the activity of individual believers, of his disciples.

Jesus receives the energy, the enthusiasm, the waves of palm branches which we also hold today.Jesus perceives energy in them, energy in the crowd… a wave which now raises him up …

As Jesus lays down his life in Jerusalem, we might observe – simply – the power going out of him. A new wave has knocked him over. Be careful in the waves.

[__04, pwr lost, regained in death, stop & pray, discover the wave.___] At first, the Lord’s disciples will mourn because the power goes out of him. In s similar way, we mourn the death of a loved one, losing their touch, their personal presence, their energy in our lives. We also feel sadness.

In his Passion and Death, the Lord is giving us hope for life beyond death.
In other words, our true spiritual power does not depend on new sources of energy.

Rather, our spiritual journey depends on the strength which he displays in weakness, the light he reveals in darkness, and the movement, the next wave which he discovers for us … when we pause … when we stop moving, when we stop waving… to pray with him in the Garden about what is coming next. [__end ___]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Delay Tactics (2011-04-10, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday, 10 April 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.

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister [Mary] and Lazarus. So when he heard that he [Lazarus] was ill, he remained for two days where he was.” (John 11: __)

[__01__] This is the Gospel of the raising of Lazarus. In John, chapter 11, Jesus receives word that Lazarus is ill.

Now, the usual response is rapid to such a crisis or sorrow or illness or terminal illness. Rapidly, quickly do we pack our suitcase, make travel plans, we get on the road.

But, there is a delay in this Gospel, before Jesus actually sets out from his current location to and travels to Bethany.

[__02__] What is the result of a delay in our lives?

2 possible results:
• Send people away [OR]
• Attract attention of people.

Traffic jams, rain and snow, these things cause people to stay home or go elsewhere. Or, consider a class where the teacher runs late (I am not suggesting this ever happens at FDU Fairleigh Dickinson…). But, if students were to see the professor arrive late, some of them would arrive a little later too. The delay can send people away

On the other hand, sometimes, delays can attract attention.

Such as when a President or Prime Minister arrives or arrives late. The crowd will hang around.

[__03__] And, the Lord wants to attract a crowd in this Gospel, showing up four days later, this guarantees that there will be many people –

• Present
• Observing what he does

And, in this case, observing does not necessarily mean “approving”. Jesus attracts some negative attention here.

[Example of the disapproving remarks which follow - John 11:46-48]

Some of those who observe the miraculous raising of Lazarus are also those who oppose Jesus, those who will condemn him, have him arrested, the Pharisees.

This is part of Jesus’ intentional delay tactic, delay strategy, to attract attention not only to those who believe in him, but also from those who will ultimately condemn him and oppose him.

[__04__] Also, Jesus demonstrates – by this delay – his own freedom, his own discernment and evaluation of the crisis, the crisis of death ..not only for the party of 3 in Bethany (the siblings of Martha, Mary, Lazarus) but also the crisis of death for all of us.

Martha and Mary ask him about his postponement, his delayed departure and arrival, saying,

“Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21; John 11:32)

[__05__] Martha and Mary profess their faith/confidence in this statement. Martha and Mary also express their lament, their complaint ..

On one level, Jesus is motivated to solve this problem for Martha and Mary, to turn things around for them, to bring back Lazarus.

We sometimes find ourselves doing the same thing – we respond – or act according to the anxieties of others or the anxieties that we ourselves have.

Jesus is trying to show his own freedom and power over life and death. To do what he has discerned is necessary … for Martha and Mary and for us.

By this miracle Jesus not only wants to show explicitly his power over life and death for all of us.

[__06__] Sometimes, we may pray and wonder where the Lord is in our lives. We may also pray, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. This sorrow would not have affected me.”

The apostles make a similar plea to Jesus, during an episode on the sea of Galilee on the boat (cf. Mark 4:35-41). On the boat and in the storm, the disciples are bailing out water and worried about the waves crashing over the side of the boat. Meanwhile the Lord – who must be a pretty heavy sleeper – is sound asleep on a cushion in the stern.

So, the disciples call out to him, loudly enough to wake Jesus, “Lord do you not care that we are perishing.” (cf. Mark 4:35-41)

Don’t we also pray the same way – to God –
• If you had been here…
• Do you not care…
• Do you not care about me.

And, we experience a delay in our lives.

This Gospel is a reminder to us, to continue to pray, to wait on the Lord’s goodness in our lives, even if there is a delay involved.

Martha and Mary – those who mourn – continue to pray, continue to reach out to Jesus in their crisis. And, aren’t we sometimes inspired by those who we observe mourning, grieving … those who persevere in their prayer after the death of someone they love.

[__07__] Also, this Gospel reminds us of perseverance in not only PRAYER ..but also perseverance in our SERVICE/ACTION.

Yes ..Jesus is delayed ..but he is not going to be discouraged by the anxiety of others, nor is he discouraged – or deterred – because this miracle will later get him in trouble … not all the observers wanted Jesus to be triumphant over death.

Jesus, perceived as dangerous, knows of this perception, his reputation. A quiet healing miracle – perhaps during the illness of Lazarus would have kept him off the hook.

We may be delayed in serving others ..and this delay does not always make us popular.

Children are called to serve their parents; parents to serve their children…

And, in this way, the “observers” may become anxious about you or me.

People will want us to deliver – to produce – to serve – as quickly as possible.

[__08__] In the delayed delivery of the Good News, Jesus shows his freedom, his freedom to be generous…but also his freedom from being backed into a corner…

In the delay, we also discover the freedom to discover – to discern our true calling and responsibilities.

And, through this Gospel, we learn that it is not too late to start…

That we can go out to meet him, that we can begin our journey to Bethany to meet the Lord, to meet the Lord today or maybe in a few days from now… [__end__]

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Selections/Long shots (2011-04-03, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday, 3 April 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 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a | Psalm 23 | Ephesians 5:8-14 | + John 9:1-41

[__01-surprise, dark horse candidates__]

Sometimes, we are surprised regarding who makes it to the finals, the finals of a tournament, a competition. Or in the case of the Pharisees, they are concerned about the finals of salvation, they are concerned with who is worthy to be saved.

In the Book of Samuel and the Gospel of John, we see two individuals who are selected, but seem unlikely choices.

The envelope, please. What is really written there? Do they measure up? The Pharisees would want to know.

[__02-who? David, beggar__] David, in the Book of Samuel is the first of these two long shots.

The second long shot is the blind beggar in the Gospel of John.

[__03-David__] David is selected, then awarded – anointed – the King of Israel by Samuel. An unlikely starter, David has 7 (seven) older brothers who are stronger, more experienced, blue-chip prospects, right?

This youngest one, David, is not even at home when the important call comes in. David must be retrieved from the sheepfold, from the field. We wonder if they have a uniform that will fit him.

David of Bethlehem is an unlikely selection, just as Jesus himself appears to be when he is born in Bethlehem.

[__04-Blind Beggar__] The second longshot is the blind beggar, the blind man of the Temple who finds his way to the Final Four in Jerusalem.

Immediately do the spectators – Pharisees and Christ’s disciples alike – wonder who he is, how could have made it this far?

And, why is this man blind. Surely this would hurt his candidacy for salvation, his worthiness, for happiness. This is the Pharisee view.

[__05- why convict?, comfort = see? - PHARISEES __]

The Pharisees feel comfortable with those whom they can see …and those who can see them.

“Stay where I can see you.”

Aren’t we – also -- most comfortable speaking with someone we can see, or someone we can visualize? On the telephone, I cannot see the other person. However, I feel comfortable with someone whom I know moreso than with someone I do not know.

Sight and light and vision matters in a relationship.

The Pharisees want to be recognized, to be seen.

They express a desire that we also have – we want others to understand us, notice us, see us…

And, if they ignore us…well … then we may pay them back by ignoring them also.

[__06-why convict, comfort = see? – YOU & ME] We also require, at times, evidence of another person’s love or friendship. Give me something I can see … something real, something tangible.

There is a time and place for this – we are called, at times, in committed relationships – especially in marriage and family – to back our commitments with actions.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of, for example, husbands and wives serving each other. This mutual service is evidence – visible evidence - of commitment.

Paul also writes … we are not people of the night but of day. Let us throw off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

In all of these ways, we want to see and to be seen and to be known.

[__06__] The Lord, however, sees something which others miss in the blind man. And, he invites us to do the same – to love one another as he loved us, which includes not only tolerating the faults and weaknesses of another person, but discovering a worthiness in each person apart from his or her faults.

The faults one can clearly see just as one could see that David lacks – at the current time – the height and strength of his brothers. Still, he is chosen.

And, still the blind man is healed.

[__07__] Jesus says here is the Good News. To the Pharisees who are so dead set on other “favorites” that they choose to single out the blind man for sinfulness and they miss their own sins. Well, to the Pharisees who are stuck on the blind man’s sinfulness, Christ says – see, I have given my grace to the guilty, to the sinner, the prisoner.

And, to those who do not worry so much about the blind man’s worthiness but their own (this is the rest of us), we see that the Lord wants to uncover, to see, to bring to light the gifts which others might leave in darkness, for God has an entirely different selection process and road to the finals. [_end_]