Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alertness (2011-11-27 Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday 27 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck 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_] This Sunday is the First Sunday of the Season Advent.
Knowing that we have a particular deadline or departure time, we do things in advance for –

• Academic examinations
• Performances and rehearsals
• Job interviews.
• Thanksgiving Dinner
• The Introduction of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition.

Certain deadlines will keep us awake, in the night or the day.

However, we also feel comfort, ease confidence .. when we are prepared.

The opposite may also be the case, such as …
• Being awakened from a deep sleep by an alarm clock at home
• Being awakened from a deep sleep when we are trying to be a good student, a good listener, but we fall asleep in class.
• Being awakened, becoming aware of something we have missed. Maybe, for example, we are not actually asleep but distracted and we forget where we should turn, where to go, what to do next.

[_02_] Whether we are driving down Fifth Avenue, River Edge or trying to survive a Physics lecture, or even Thanksgiving Dinner, we may fall asleep or lose our focus.

In such a case, we resemble the servants of the parable who are left in charge of the house, the gate, the door, the garden. They know not when the master of the house is returning. Easy for them to fall asleep, to lose their focus.

[_03_] Sometimes, we may also to lose our focus, or find ourselves awakened suddenly.

Today the First Sunday of the weeks of Advent, 4 weeks in which we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, and also remembering that Jesus arrived not only once in Bethlehem but he will arrive again at the end of our lives.


[_04_] I’d like to suggest that we go through certain phases of alertness.
Sometimes, we go through the motions…

Going through the motions….

Isn’t it true that certain actions may not require our complete attention such as the difference between the COLD faucet and the HOT faucet in the kitchen sink. (Hot on the left, cold on the right, correct?) Or the difference between the stove and the refrigerator. I don’t need Google maps or GPS to get me there.

However, if we move to a new country or new environment, we may not take things for granted. Or, if we are taking care of someone else’s home, someone else’s property, we are called to attentiveness, alertness about where certain things are located and how certain tasks are accomplished.

In the parable, we might say that the servants are going through the external visible actions. Or, perhaps, they are sleepwalking.

Wouldn’t they seem to be more focused on the objects in the house than on the person who owns the house?

This Advent, we are also called to focus more on the person of Christ rather than on the many objects of the Christmas season, some of which may not be very Christian at
all.

And, even in our everyday lives, keep the person in mind, in view.

Yes, we have many deadlines, exams, interviews.

But all of these things have a personal aspect.

A mother/father/husband/wife meets deadlines and makes commitments not for some object but for the good of the person(s) in the family.

And, just as God has made us as persons in his image and likeness, we are called to see that image in others. Sometimes, that image may be hard to recognize or easy to ignore.

We may miss that image when are very focused on an object, the object of our own pleasure, reputation, popularity, wealth.

But, in looking for this image in others, we are also staying awake for the coming of our Lord who arrives not on the 12/25 deadline but at every day and at every door.

[_fin_]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Matthew 25 (2011-11-20)

This is my homily for Sunday 20 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck 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_] This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, a feast that was formally introduced to our church relatively recently.

The church has identified was identifying Jesus as King, before this feast was set on our church calendar as the final Sunday before Advent.

Jesus, in the Gospel, is the ¨rebel king¨, crucified for disobeying the religious authorities and Roman authorities. In mockery of his popularity, the sign is placed on the cross at Calvary, Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews, or Jesus of Nazareth, King of Israel. But, his kingdom is not of this world. (reference …._)

Also, Jesus – in the Gospel – is the one who will rebuild the Temple of his body, and will become a new Temple to replace the structure built by King Solomon.

[_02_] Where do kings, presidents, and other V.I.P.´s live? As we know, most if not all reside in a castle or palace.

And, in this Gospel, Matthew chapter 25, the king (Jesus) is sitting on his throne, in his palace and speaking to his people.

Matthew 25 is our reading today. And, we might say that ¨Matthew 25¨ is not only a parable we are reading. Matthew 25 is also our destination, our mission, in which we read a summary of the Gospel

• Hungry, we give them food
• Thirsty, we give them drink
• Stranger, and we welcome them (some of our relatives are ¨stranger¨ than others)
• Naked, and we clothe them
• Ill, and we care for them
• In prison, and we visit them.

In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us to love God and love our neighbor. And, Matthew 25 tells us both how, when, and where we are do to this.

For the sick, hungry, the estranged, the alien, the poor. This might be someone in our own families who is in need.

In this regard, Matthew 25 is not only a way of making the journey and living the Gospel. Matthew 25 is also a destination. Matthew 25 brings us to the palace of Christ´s kingdom.

PAUSE

[_03_] Matthew 25, in my experience, is also an actual location, a place, and a mission.

About 3 years ago, I traveled to Port au Prince and to central Haiti to an orphanage. I was travelling with a group from Seton Hall University. We were in Haiti, about 7 months before the tragic earthquake of 2010 in which over 300,000 died.

For a week, we were in the small city of Hinche, seeing life severely impoverished and very simple. We visited an orphanage of 250 children who we receiving the benefits of an education, regular meals, housing, a soccer field. Of course, they lacked the necessary emotional and spiritual support of a mother and father.

It was touching to see how they loved each other and loved us, their visitors, through this struggle. We were the strangers and they welcomed us.

In the earthquake that was to come, this orphanage was well beyond the zone of major seismic activity. While they felt some vibration, there would have been very few injuries and no deaths attributable to the earth’s tremors. That was in the countryside…

[_04_] Port au Prince, as we have seen, is very close to epicentre. And, in Port au Prince, we returned to our destination, our mission of Matthew 25.

That is, Matthew 25 is the name of a guest house, it is Matthew 25 Guest House in the city.

And, in some ways, Matthew 25 was a palace, a castle to us. For at Matthew 25, we had certain things that we did not enjoy in the countryside.

We could sit at a table to eat dinner, we had electricity regularly. The Matthew 25 Guest House does not rely on the municipal or city power grid. They have their own generators.

Wouldn’t it be the same at the White House in Washington D.C. or Buckingham Palace in London? The president cannot be in a blackout. The Queen needs wireless internet.
We had electric fans, keeping us cooler at night. And, Matthew 25 was similar to any palace in its placement of a locked gate and the presence of an armed guard, with live ammunition, at the gate.

This was the Palace of Matthew 25. The place of a king?

[_05_] Jesus – in the Gospel – is rebuilding a place for himself as a King. But, he is not building a Temple of marble or palace of stone, but rather the Temple of his body.

Jesus gives up his body, not that he may boast (cf. 1 Corinthians 13), but that we may be saved.
• Hungry, - give - food
• Thirsty, - give - drink
• Stranger, - welcome -
• Naked, - clothe -
• Ill, - care for -
• In prison, - visit -.

Certainly, I was blessed to live this mission of Matthew 25 for a week at the orphanage.

But, to me, for months thereafter, I thought of Matthew 25, the Guest House, as a place where we had some of luxuries of modern living, the water, the food, the fans.
But, if you call yourself Matthew 25, the mission continues. We returned home in June 2009.

And, from the safety of New Jersey, we all watched the events of January 12, 2010, the thousands of died, the thousands who helped.

And, the ministry of Matthew 25 Guest House continued.

Matthew 25 became a semi-permanent home for many professionals, doctors, nurses.
The soccer field adjacent to Matthew 25 became a small tent city for several hundred people.

And, the kitchen became an operating room for emergencies.

So, whether we live by Matthew 25 or live at Matthew 25, we are called to live these values to …
• Hungry, - give - food
• Thirsty, - give - drink
• Stranger, - welcome -
• Naked, - clothe -
• Ill, - care for -
• In prison, - visit -.

We are called to go and do likewise. Matthew 25 is our secure location in the Gospel, a secure and safe summary of how we are called to love. But, Matthew 25 will also challenge us, like the Good Samaritan, to go and do likewise.

Matthew 25 is not a secure place for us to hide, but a destination for us to go and discover what we can do for each other. (__end__)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Packing Extra (2011-11-06)

This is my homily for Sunday 6 November 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck 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_] Is it wise, is it intelligent to carry EXTRA?

Do we not, at times, identify someone as foolish if he or she has too many suitcases, too many textbooks, too many packages or is simply moving too slowly? This parable suggests that we can acquire wisdom when we also acquire – and accept – the extra burden in our lives.

[_02_] Consider for example, last week’s loss of electric power, heat, communications, phone.

Can we survive without Google? Life seemed to move much at a much slower pace.

And, the really “well connected” people were not those with the most HD boxes, flat screens, or gigabytes per second of Internet service.

The well connected folks in the blackout were those with Double-A batteries, lanterns and fireplaces.

Prudent it was to have a little extra.

[_03_] Do we not also strive to acquire a little extra in academic studies in the classroom as well?

In academic endeavors, we carry around many books, papers, notebooks.

And, in the early part of the semester, we may carry around absolutely everything not sure of what we need. (Or, perhaps, we think only the freshmen do this… the upperclassmen are much cooler, aren’t they?).

Nevertheless, early in the semester –- as we read in the parable in the Gospel -- we have to fill up our flasks with oil, our tanks with fuel. We fill up these flasks, these tanks, to get through the midterm and final.

By December, we may actually be able to reduce the weight in our backpacks. That is, we may have burned off, consumed some of the necessary oil. So, we may not be carrying around so many gallons of oil or kilograms of textbooks. Rather, we hope that we hope that we have learned the knowledge.

That, is the knowledge is burning inside of us. And, this light will burn until the end of the semester and beyond.

[_04_] In the population of students, the wise person brings some extra; the foolish person is the one who travels with little or no luggage.

And, for a while, this person is pretty cool and comfortable. But, this is also the person who knocks on your door, or comes up to you at the [SUB] cafeteria and wants you to explain microbiology or microeconomics, the day before the midterm.

This person, foolishly, has not studied, having carried nothing around, let alone opening a book. Unfortunately, it’s too late.

This parable reminds us to acquire, for example, intellectual knowledge for ourselves. Some things cannot be memorized or downloaded at the last minute.
Wise and prudent are we to carry a bit extra at the start of the journey.

[_05_] Isn’t this also true in our spiritual lives and in our relationships with others?

That is, we are also wise to carry a bit extra. However, we may find it difficult to do so.

For example, at Newark Airport or L.A.X. or JFK or Penn Station, I could be easily persuaded to carry an extra suitcase or layer of clothing … on one condition.
That is, I am carrying this burden for my own comfort, my own appearance.

[_06_] More difficult, however, is the choice that I make which brings me NEITHER:

Popularity NOR Reward.

Sometimes, I do not achieve popularity or reward for my actions.

For example, I may choose to do the honest thing when my friends are pressuring me to take the easy way out. I may carry the extra burden of rejection or loneliness for a while, due to the choice of virtue, of integrity. The Lord reminds us that we are are not alone. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped with his cross, Jesus returns the favor with our crosses.

[_07_] Or, I may choose to compromise or make a sacrifice for someone who does not notice – recognize – what I am doing.

This choice may slow me down. Isn’t it easier when I receive credit for my actions? …and also when all of the electricity and lights are working?

[_08_] By this parable, Jesus encourages us to accept even the difficult burden, not to run from our responsibilities.

It is true… the commitment which seems difficult may also slow us down. This may be for example, the commitment of marriage, family, parenting for many of us.

We may be tested, examined – and stopped at the border repeatedly to be asked about it.

But, and these commitments require great energy from us… but, they are also commitments which teach us about God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, commitments which provide the fuel we need to gain warmth and the light we need in order to see.

[__fin__]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Power Outages (2011-10-30)

This is my homily for Sunday 30 October 2011. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck 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.

31st Sunday (Year A)

NEWS NOTE --- The New York Times By SARAH MASLIN Published: October 30, 2011

*** " Millions of people across the Northeast found themselves without power on Sunday after an unusual autumn storm dumped record amounts of snow. More than 2.3 million customers from Pennsylvania through New England had no electricity, according to reports, as the region was lashed by surprisingly high winds and the snowdrifts piled up. In Manhattan, tree branches snapped under the weight of wet snow, piling up along Fifth Avenue and blocking Central Park paths. " ***

[_01_] In a power outage (blackout, loss of electricity, heat, cable, telephone), we observe homes going dark on the same street where other homes burn and glow PSE&G style.

Random does the loss of power seem. Not only does our home within become disorganized without working light switches, but the neighbourhood is also in disarray.

The grass seems greener on the neighbor’s property for it is now better illuminated.

[_02_] And, how about the process of restoring power to households who have electricity from the utility company?

This may also seem random. Some homes are restored to electricity, heat, telephone sooner than others.

In New Jersey, the utility is PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas). And, we recognize that PSE&G (and Verizon and other providers) must set a priority.
That is, we try to have patience while the most vulnerable – the most deserving – are cared for.

In this regard, power is given to those who are most deserving.

[_03_] In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus speaks of the power, prestige, authority, that is gained or obtained by some individuals.

These individuals are the Pharisees and Scribes. They have power.

Do they have this power because they have earned it?

We also have encounters with those who have authority and power. These individuals could be teachers, parents, professors, supervisors.

What do we learn from these experiences?

[_04_] The disciples are being reminded that power is not given to them because they have earned it or deserved it.

And, parents, for example, exercise their greatest influence over their children not by winning an argument today or by laying down the law or proving they are right all the time.

Rather, don’t parents have the greatest influence over their children, simply by the exercise of humble service.

That is, children themselves learn how to be mothers and fathers and husbands and wives by the example of parents who sacrifice.

And, in a similar way, we could say that students – who feel called to teach – will learn what it is to be a teacher not by the teacher with the longest curriculum vitae longest but from the teacher’s own sacrifice and gift of self.

In this regard, we learn that the last shall become first in times of both darkness and light. [__end__]