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


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__]