Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who is my shepherd? (2011-05-15)

This is my homily for 15 May 2011, 4th Sunday of Easter. 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. OUR NEXT SUNDAY MASS WILL BE - SUNDAY AUGUST 28, 2011. SEE YOU IN THE FALL.

[__01___] One of the ways in which we measure service – at a particular place we visit – is by the RECEPTION EXPERIENCE.

How am I received? Will my suitcases – car keys – car parked – coat – be RECEIVED….
And by being RECEIVED… I will be RELIEVED.

But, most importantly, is my name RECEIVED, RECOGNIZED, KNOWN?

Isn’t this the personal touch we want, for example, on the first day of school. Someone who knows my name, my teacher, my grade.

On other hand, sometimes we believe we can hide from the teacher who does not know our name… maybe in those first few hours or days when the teacher is learning our names.

Jesus asks us to SHOW and TELL ourselves to him, by name.

In the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the Shepherd, the gatekeeper who knows our name, receives us.

We read: “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them.”

Coming here today are: __________, _____________, ______________, _____________ for the sacrament of Baptism with their families. This is the first day of school for them in the Christian life.

And, they arrive and are immediately asked their names.

IMPLICITLY, ABSOLUTELY, does the Lord already know our names, even before we declare it… at customs…at the doorway…at the gate.

Saying our name, however, we make our relationship to him CLEARER, more EXPLICIT.
We say our name because we want the teacher, the shepherd to recognize us.

It is the special responsibility of shepherds to help their sheep to gain nourishment, to avoid danger … and even, at times, to pull them back, direct them away from things which could harm them.

And, our parents [bringing us for baptism … just as __ and __ do] accept this responsibility to shepherd us, to bring us up in the practice of the faith, teaching us to love God and love our neighbor as Christ himself taught us.

This has important challenges which we might summarize in what our parents are called to SAY ..and what they are called to PRAY…

1ST – SAYING … at times, NO, to help a child avoid danger, harm which the child himself/herself cannot anticipate.

But… our parents cannot say NO to everything … nor can they be with us at every possible moment.

So …not only saying is important……but also …

2nd – PRAYING – helping us to be aware of Christ’s presence at every doorway, that his/her name is known by God.

That is, prayer means becoming aware of Christ’s presence, and love for us. And, prayer helps our children to turn to God with their desires, fears, joys, sorrows, throughout their lives.

[__03___] On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we are reminded to pray, that we may hear God’s voice, hear what God is speaking to us.

For some of us, these messages have to do with a specific vocation, as a religious sister, brother, priest, deacon.

And, truly Deacon Andy, Deacon Ed, Sister Barbara, Sister Jean, Father Mike Sheehan, Father German, Father Matthew, and I rely on prayers and the guidance of the Good Shepherd who knows us.

And, we are grateful for your prayers for us. You also know us by name and you remind us of who we are in Christ.. of where our names are written down.

[__04___] However, all of our names are written down, and have been received – on the day of our baptisms – by Christ who still waits to hear from us.. for us to check in with him REGULARLY…not just when we need something, but to check in to tell him

• who we are,
• tell him what our dreams for our career and work are…
• our dreams for marriage and family
• our difficulties, concerns.

Arriving at a destination, we hope that our name will be named.. that when we are asked… “who”, we will then be known and welcomed. And, today we also ask who … who? Who is my shepherd?

The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…(cont’d)

Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell, forever and ever.]

And, now, we welcome in the Lord’s house, to dwell forever and every --- __________, __________, ______________, ___________ for their baptisms…


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Something To Talk About (2011-05-08)

This is my homily for 8 May 2011, 3rd Sunday of Easter. 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. OUR NEXT SUNDAY MASS WILL BE - SUNDAY AUGUST 28, 2011. SEE YOU IN THE FALL.

Acts 2:14, 22-33 | Psalm 16 | 1 Peter 1:17-21 | + Luke 24:13-35

[__01- __] What will they say about me now? Or you… Should we be influenced by – or simply aware – of what others may say, or think?

This would be a concerns of Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem where Jesus of Nazareth, their teacher and leader, had been crucified.
We were his disciples, his followers, loyal to him – what will they say about us now?
Their lives are in disarray. Jesus did not redeem all Israel in the way they had expected. (cf. Luke 24:13-35)

[__01(a) __] Cleopas has not lost all faith. After all, he opens up to the Risen Jesus, as the unkown traveler, though they do not recognize him at first. They have heard about the empty tomb, but they are not yet sure what this means.

[__02__] Up to now, Cleopas and his companion have committed their lives to Jesus of Nazareth whom they had hoped “would be the one to redeem Israel.” (cf.Luke 24:13-35)

Into an anxious conversation and journey on their seven-mile walk the Risen Lord, who tells them, in so many words what he told his apostles at the Last Supper, in this first Breaking of the Bread (their “First Communion”)

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.” (Douay-Rheims, John 14:1-3)

In this new, “second” Communion, Cleopas sees that Jesus given up his life for sins, for our sins, faults. Jesus is our mediator before God; he is the one we pray to in this life. He is the one we will meet when we die. We confess our sins to him in Penance and Reconcilation, through the priest, knowing that with the Lord there is mercy and the fullness of redemption. We see Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the sacred moments of our sacraments.

So… in this regard, we might say … don’t worry what others are saying about you… or me. For, the Lord has gone before us to the Cross.

[__03- __] On the other hand, what they say could be revealing, could be redeeming. Jesus gives up his body to those who talk about him, this is our redemption.

And, so we can learn by what others may say.

[__04- __] As a 12-year-old in the Temple, Jesus learns what they say about him, what “they” the scholars of the Law, the rabbis of Jerusalem are very impressed with the young Jesus. (Luke 2:41-52)

These scholars want the young Jesus also to be a scholar, to be one of them.

Ironic, then, isn’t it …that the more educated and adult Jesus of Nazareth is not admitted to their company. He was, first, ignored… put on the waiting list..then, ultimately rejected by them.

But, as a young person he is very popular, hearing what others say.

[__05- __] And, it was the special responsibility of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help the young Jesus understand what these scholars were saying about him.

[And, Mary asks Jesus this challenging question, finding him in the Temple, what are you doing here? Your father and I have been searching for you. (cf. Luke 2:41-51)].

It is the special calling of our is Mother’s Day. It is the special calling of our mothers.. [and fathers] to help us understand what others say about us, what they may want from us, expect from us.

Have we not turned to our mothers [and fathers] to share with them our successes, our setbacks …

• Boss / Coworkers / Teacher
• Friend / Spouse / Child
• Friend/boyfriend/girlfriend.

Our mothers are wonderful listeners in this regard. Sometimes, our mothers do not have to say anything at all.

Of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother at the Temple to the 12-year-old Jesus, we hear that she brought Jesus home and pondered all these things (what they were saying about him) in her heart. (Luke 2:51) She prayed for him as our mothers do for us.

[__06- __] Our mothers [and fathers] are our first teachers. They prepare us from the time we are young to accept responsibility, commitment, even, perhaps to be married and have children ourselves. They teach us by example and also by listening to what others say…and listening to what we say.

As Jesus says to his disciples, do not be afraid of what others say (e.g., Beatitudes Blessed are you when they utter slander against you…).

I am interested in what you say. Yes, we can turn to God – as we turn to mom and dad – to tell him what others are saying about his, positively or negatively. But, the Lord is interested in what we say.

If we place such importance in the words of others, we might also see value in our own words, the things we reveal by what we say.

By reflecting on these words, we can renew our relationship with Christ our Lord.

These words are Christ’s first interest – his first question – to find out more about these 2 travelers on the road to Emmaus, and to find out more about us, asking,

“what were you discussing as you walked along.” (Luke 24:16)

[__end __]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Doors, Unlocked (2011-05-01, 2nd Sun. Easter)

This is my homily for 1 May 2011, 2nd Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday. 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.

Acts 2:42-47 | Psalm 118 | 1 Peter 1:3-9 | + John 20:19-31

[__01- __] Isn’t it a very effective way to get someone’s attention, to place a note under the door, in the door, or on the door?
Voice mails, e-mails, texts … come sun-limited plans and unlimited numbers do they come, but a note under the door is different. I have to bend my knees, stretch my arms to reach it. It will be more memorable, noticeable.

[__02____] Reaching through the doors of the locked upper room, Jesus grabs the attention of his disciples. This is a note they will save, and share, and forward. The message which makes it through the door is Christ himself.

Why the locked door? For shelter, refuge from the authorities who might arrest these disciples by association with Jesus of Nazareth whom they crucified. They believe in the locked door, the door as firewall protection against anything unnecessary, extraneous, or dangerous.

[__03- __] Therefore, Thomas the Apostle at first believes that nothing – no one – could make it past this filter. Thomas asks for the message to be re-sent, delivered personally to his in-box.

Does Thomas doubt – do we sometimes doubt … that God cannot find us? Or God is not seeking is …or do we doubt, thinking God has not already been here before…?

[__04____] Tempted we might be to file Thomas away and his own messages as showing … belligerence, defensiveness, reluctance.

Yet, isn’t Thomas also, simply, astonished and inquisitive? His so-called “doubts” indicate a desire to know the Lord, to encounter Christ personally. Thomas is surprised at what has happened – not indifferent – he is not completely devoid of faith in the resurrection.

He leaves the door open [a little…]

[** pause **]

[__05- __] Who is Thomas-behind-the-locked door for you, for me?

Do we find someone else hard to reach behind a door? Am I the person who is behind the door ?

[__05(a)- __] First, the other person who is locked in…

Sometimes, we arrive to deliver a message and find the door locked, after regular business hours, a holiday. We could leave a note.

In this regard, we can reasonably expect that not everyone is 100% available at all times.

On the other hand, sometimes, we might encounter someone who is inaccessible most of the time, all the time, locked up for some reason.

And, in this case, we may wish we had an ADMINISTRATOR password or a MASTER key to get through to the person.

These keys are not easy to come by. Sometimes, I may encounter someone whose door is closed because of something I have said, something I have done…

Or, I encounter someone whose door is closed because of some other circumstance, tragedy, crisis, sorrow.

I knock, call, no one answers. This may even happen in a relatively close relationship, family too.

In such a case, we are trying to reach beyond a locked door. We may not be able to get through ourselves. We may not even be able to get a note under the door.

In such a case, we need Christ himself to pass through.
A door which we pray Jesus would pass through, unlock from the inside, then turn the knob and let us in.

Isn’t this an example of praying for our enemies, praying for those who persecute us … from behind a barrier or locked door?

Isn’t this also what we pray for when we are estranged, alienated, distant, separated from someone we love?

Praying, meditating, we beg that the Lord will help our messages get under or through the door.

[__05(b)- __] Secondly , I may be the one locked in… Or any one of us could be the one locked in.

The door can also be something that I can hang, install … but then lock. I construct this with my pride, my complacency, my fear.

Am I a locked door?

In this, you and I are called to examine our lives, this Second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, remembering that Christ comes into our lives with his mercy and love.

In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation we experience this.. . also just on the other side of a door.

When we confess our sins,we approach Christ, we might imagine that we have call upon him, invite him into the room ….or that we better hope he’s in the room.

In fact, we need only recognize – as Thomas is called to recognize– that Christ has already been here. Jesus was here a week ago, Peter, James and John would tell Thomas.

Jesus was also here [in this chapel, church…] last Sunday, the Sunday before that and every other Sunday…

Just as the purpose of a door is to be opened …or at least have some space through which air, light, messages can pass through, it is the nature of Christ to let us in, to forgive us.

Christ himself calls himself the door, the door to the sheepfold, the gate for the sheep..and our doorway to God’s presence through Holy Communion.

Can I see …can you see Christ in this doorway, the doorway here at St. Peter’s and beyond….the doorway … of our home?

Today, in the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, we see Christ in the doorway of his life, how our late Holy Father tried to make Christ present in difficulty, sorrow. For John Paul, his physical body became a locked door through Parkinson’s. But, we also saw that he allowed Christ into his doorway… in his courage and bravery.
Desiring to persevere late in life, he was allowing Christ into the room.

Can see Christ in all of our doorways? of our room, of our office, of our classroom… the doorway to the car we also serve him in our travels… that Christ is present in these doorways, waiting inside to receive us …and leaving notes he does not want us to miss.