Sunday, January 29, 2012

Opposites Attract (2012-01-29)

This is my homily for Sunday 29 January 2012. 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 Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_01_] In chapter one of the Gospel of Mark, the evil demons/evil spirits – in darkness – recognize the light/brightness within the Lord Jesus.
More easily do these evil spirits recognize the Lord than the disciples do.

The evil spirits recognizes the good spirit. They recognize and catch on to the mission of Jesus as Messiah. They are his opposition. .

[_02_] In many trials – or projects – we try to (strive to ) see what the opposition is going to do …

• In or ice hockey or NFL football, the goalkeeper identifies the center about to shoot …or the defensive back, takes a glimpse of the QB quarterback – Tom Brady or Eli Manning – about to throw.

• In U.S. presidential politics, candidates debate with each other … in plain sight, they also see each other, anticipate each other’s moves.

• And, in these examples, the “opposites” are competing for some visible prize which they both can see.

In the Gospel, we might also say that the evil spirits are somehow equal to the Lord Jesus in their ability to see …

That is, the the evil spirits know Christ’s goodness. They fear what Christ will do … and protest … ”have you come to destroy us?” The evil spirits anticipate the moves of the Messiah.

The evil spirits and Jesus are not actually equal opponents … but they do recognize each other quite well.


In this Gospel episode, the disciples and the other people are in the synagogue of Capernaum. And, in the synagogue, they easily identify, from the crowd, among all others, one man who has an unclean spirit. He is possessed by an evil spirit.
But, the disciples, in this case, only see the outward, external effects of his troubles.

The disciples are not able to see his spirit, his soul, his inner life … or the true source of his distress.
Isn’t this sometimes the case in our own struggle with evil, sinfulness, selfishness?

[_04-EXTERNAL_] For example, we might recognize certain individuals as very AMBITIOUS, ANGRY, or, MATERIALISTIC.

These are their idols, demons. These are only a few examples. There are individuals with overabundance of …

1. AMBITION – the person trying to get ahead and put someone else down in the process.
This existed even among Jesus’ own disciples. Remember James and John asking for 1st class tickets/seats in the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells, them “You do not know what you are asking.” (cf. Mark 10:35-45)

2. ANGER – the person who is, perhaps, very difficult to please or has very high expectations of others.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that our peacefulness with our own brothers and sisters is an indication of our own true communion, a sign of the Holy Eucharist.

3. MATERIAL COMFORT sometimes, when we are too comfortable, the inevitable challenges of life become very difficult to endure.
To his own disciples being sent on mission, Jesus urges simplicity, even poverty … “taking nothing for the journey, not even an extra coat or walking stick” (cf. Luke 9:1-3)

[_05-INTERNAL_] The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus does not merely want to save the man with the unclean spirit from public embarrassment.
Actually, Jesus does not merely want to save him “externally” but completely.

And, the Lord asks the same from us … regarding for example…

ANGER As Jesus says,

“if you come to the Temple to offer your gift and there discover that your brother [or sister] has something against you, go first and be reconciled with your brother, then, come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Do I also try to settle one on one ? Am I willing to lose face, lose standing for the same of something better, communion, peace, love?
AMBITION & MATERIALISM– Surely, the Lord wants us to use our gifts and talents, to take our light from under the bushel basket and place it on a lampstand.

Due to our own efforts, we may also be able to purchase material comforts for ourselves and for others.

The Lord is asking that we place our gifts at the service of others, for the good of all.

ANGER, AMBITION, MATERIALISM have external effects. Others may see these effects superficially … but more important is the way in which the Lord sees us and the way we also see ourselves.

And, while we may suffer from temptations, brokenness, and opposition of enemies at times, we also believe that Jesus is the Redeemer who gives us victory over our opposites and opponents.

Being in God’s presence, seeking his absolution in penance and reconciliation, we also recognize these opponents and obstacles with his help, some of which may be invisible to the eyes of other observers. [_fin_]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stereotypes (2012-01-22)

This is my homily for Sunday 22 January 2012. 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 Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[_00_] This Sunday, one of our special prayer intentions is for the remembrance of the precious gift of life from conception until natural death. With the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, we observed many changes in legislation and attitudes which differ from our profession of faith.

In our faith, we recognize explicitly that God is the Lord and giver of life. He planted the first seeds of life on the earth and in our own physical and spiritual being. We are his co-workers, helping to nurture this life.

Tomorrow, Monday – in Washington DC – thousands will march in solidarity and prayer remembering that we are stewards of the life which God gives.

This reminds us that work is required both by the crowd and the individual … to nurture and protect life. It is not only the task of the Supreme Court but of our community – and our conscience -- to help mothers and fathers.

In our church, we also recognize that many have suffered due to choices surrounding unborn children. We may need time to heal. Reconciliation and new life is possible.

A ministry of the U.S. Catholic Church is also a program called Rachel’s Vineyard – Rachel’s Vineyard – which was started by a Catholic psychologist, Dr. Theresa Burke, to help this healing process. Information is available online –

Through Rachel’s Vineyard and other ministries, we pray for the protection of life at all stages.

[_01_] Haven’t we all been taught about the danger of stereotypes?

In other words, we are taught about the danger, the harm that can be caused by steroyping.

The standardized mental photograph picture which maybe commonly stored on my hard drive (my temporal lobe or my brain.). Then, easily do I click and view that photo, that stereotype which represents – an oversimplified opinion, a prejudiced attitude, or an uncritical judgment.

[_02_] We read and hear today, in our first reading, about Jonah who is on his way to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.

In Jonah’s memory is stored a stereotype of the Ninevites, the people of a nation hostile to Israel.

For example, in the 2nd book of Kings we read that…

“In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah (of Judah), Sennacherib, king of Assyria, went on an expedition against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.” (2 Kings 18:13).

Assyria was a friend neither to Israel nationally nor to Jonah personally.

[_03_] Seeing only the stereotype and the history of Nineveh, Jonah wants to avoid Nineveh. Being sent there as a prophet by the Lord, Jonah goes in the opposite direction.

Rather than going east to Nineveh, Jonah goes to the local marine terminal, to the harbor. Jonah wants to go west to Tarshish.

And, many of us are familiar with what happens next. On board, the ship is engulfed in a storm. And, the sailors come to understand that the storm is a warning to Jonah who now asks to be thrown overboard.

But, even here, the Lord rescues him. Jonah is swallowed by the great fish and returned to land.

[_04_] In our reading today, we encounter Jonah, Part II, the sequel as he enters Nineveh on foot after the attempt to flee by boat.

As we read, “Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, " when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” (Jonah 3:4-5)

[_05_] The Good News for Nineveh is about repentance, forgiveness, mercy.
Their fasting and their penitential practice indicates their contrition, their sorrow for their sins.

However, Jonah remains unsatisfied.

As one biblical commentator writes, Jonah – in Part One – was seen escaping because he knew that the Lord would have mercy on the Ninevites if they repented.

But, Jonah has only one photo of the Ninevites on his hard drive. That is, Jonah only sees Nineveh as an enemy to be avoided.

In this regard, Jonah’s vision is hindered by this photo, this image.

[_06_] What images have we stored?

Sometimes, these images can keep us away from ___relationships or from ___repentance.

1. Relationships – family, friends.
Do I stereotype the behavior of others? Do I presume that past behavior will always be repeated?

Yes, we have memorized and observed carefully the behaviors of certain family members, close friends. For example, based on a particular news item (good or bad), or weather (hot or cold), we may be able to predict what they will say or not say.

Or, we may be able to predict the way another person will express anger. We may have been hurt by the pattern of another person’s behavior.

All of these are images on our personal hard drives and devices. Some are crystal clear.

They may, however, not be perfect indicators of the future.

In the Book of Jonah, the enemy “Assyria” welcomes Jonah’s message. Renewal and peace are possible.

2. Repentance –

Do I believe that others can repent and change? Jonah has trouble here.
You and I may recognize the personal – internal – struggle in repenting of our own sins. It is not easy to admit we are wrong.

Do we presume it is, therefore, easy for others to do so?

Is it easier for Nineveh than for Jonah?

Can I give some credit to the other person for trying?

After all, Jonah observes with his own eyes the fasting, the sackcloth, the penances of Nineveh.

Perhaps, Jonah assumes this was easier for Nineveh because they repented later in life… because their period of infidelity (and fun?) lasted longer than his did.

Is it really an easy task to repent?

Should we avoid all stereotypes.

Jonah also is a stereotype. From him, we can learn a few things. [_fin_]

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Come and See (2012-01-15)

This is my homily for Sunday 15 January 2012. 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 Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. Our Sunday Evening Mass resumes Jan. 22, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

[_01_] Come and See.

What do we mean by “come and see.”

For example, government leaders also come and see each other all the time. The Prime Minister of Japan or the Great Britain comes to the White House to see the President. These leaders arrive not for a visual inspection but also for a relationship. To have such a summit, the leaders must see each other. But, they also must listen, hear each other… enter into a relationship / dialogue.

When I was about 15 years old, one of our neighbors called to invite my family (parents, my brothers, my sister and me) to their home in late December.

“You are invited to come over and see our Christmas tree.”

“You are invited to come over and see our Christmas tree.”

This was the message

Foolishly did I think this literally meant a visual examination of the height, diameter, lighting, and ornamentation of their evergreen.

Had this been the case, our visit would take 5 to 10 minutes. Fortunately, my parents explained that “come and see our tree” really meant “come to our house … along with 50 other people, have something to eat, drink, stay awhile.” This would be the this neighbors’ annual Christmas party.

(I was clueless).

[_02_] This invitation to come and see could be very informal and quick.
Certainly, this was my perception as a young person. That is, after we had seen the tree, then we would go on our way to someplace else, to our real destination.

In this case, at that party “seeing” was the whole point. However, we were not there only to see a tree, but to experience the joy of Christmas in this celebration at home. And, my eyes would be opened to this, once had I arrived. Come and see.

Come and see, therefore, often means:

• Time commitment
• Gift of oneself

Isn’t this the case for the 2 disciples of John the Baptist who stop Jesus who is passing by.

They have been watching, waiting for the Messiah with John the Baptist for sometime. Now, the Messiah – Jesus – has appeared and he invites them along.

These 2 individuals ask Jesus, “where do you dwell …where do you live?”

With John the Baptist, they have been anticipating/preparing the a highway for the Lord. Should this highway, now, lead to a particular exit ramp … landmarks and destination/address?

They might expect Jesus, Messiah and King, to take up residence in particular place, palace, government building.

[_02_] Jesus invites them to come and see.

However, they are not – we are not – being invited to a confined spot/place.
Jesus is inviting them to a new type of summit meeting … to a new mountain top.
Consider what happens in ordinary “summit meetings” when government leaders get together.

[_03_] Jesus is also inviting us not only to a place but also to a relationship.

The disciples are invited to come and see, and to stay a while, to abide with him.

[_04_] Are you and I willing to go and watch for the coming of Jesus today, to accept his invitation to come and see, with an open heart.
Arriving at Sunday Mass is a start. However, aren’t we invited to encounter and observe Christ elsewhere …


• At the bedside or home of a family member who is aging or suffering from an illness. These visits may take more than a few minutes. The hours and days we spend are a gift, of our love of God and love of neighbour. We come and see.

• In the care of our children. When children ask us to see something they have done, are they not asking for more than a quick glance. We nurturing our children by observing, entering into their projects, their enthusiasm, their viewpoints. And, we nurture them by seeing them. And, we are invited to see the Christ child in them also. We come and see.

• In prayer. We come and see when we welcome God’s grace and help in our lives. Do you and I need to be healed of some resentment or need to be resolved about some commitment, decision? We are invited to come and see Jesus in our own prayer time, not only on Sunday but throughout the week.

[_05_] We are invited to remember the words of Samuel from our Reading from the Book of Samuel. Samuel is surrounded by beauty and grandeur of God in the Temple. Yet, even come to the Temple, having seen all of this… receives God’s message when he can say.. Speak Lord for your servant is listening.

With this statement, Samuel and you and I have truly arrived.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Confidentiality (Mary, Mother of God, 2012-01-01)

This is my homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Sunday 1 January 2012. 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 Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. Our Sunday Evening Mass resumes Jan. 22, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

[_01_] Who can keep a secret?

Secrecy are confidentiality are very important to us.

We will pay someone to keep a confidence. Or, we will expect certain friends, family member to reveal only information which is absolutely necessary in a crisis or a time of confusion.

Confidentiality is safety. Confidentiality is a firewall.

Confidentiality saves us time, money and enable us to buy, sell, hold.

Confidentiality can also be a sign of love, charity, care.

[_02_] Jesus asks for secrecy at times in his ministry.
This happens after the healing of the deaf and mute man and after the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah by Peter. (cf., Mark 7:33-36, Mark 8:27-30)

Jesus urges his disciples not to tell anyone at these times.

These are examples of what is called the “messianic secret.” That is, Jesus makes confidential / secret revelations to his disciples while teaching them that he is not a conquering Messiah coming to take their lives but a compassionate Messiah coming to give his life.

So, there is this time of secrecy in Christ’s ministry.

And, we also hear about it today in the shepherds who are coming to Jesus.

[_03_] The shepherds of Luke’s Gospel are called to secrecy and confidence… at least at first. In the darkness, watching their flocks, they are first to hear about the birth of the Messiah, the first to hear the unrevised Glory to God in the highest, from the angels.

Then, they are instructed to go to Bethlehem, to see Jesus, to adore, to learn about him.

After this (initial) encounter, they go and tell it on the mountain that Jesus
Christ is born.

And, as we read, “all who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”

[_04_] The shepherds very quickly come out from behind any firewall of security. They publish and broadcast what they have heard. This is their calling, to communicate, to share all of their photos with you and me.

Neverthless, the relationship between the shepherds and the Lord starts out in secrecy, in confidentiality.

[_05_] The Blessed Virgin Mary has a calling to confidentialityat this time. She is silent, disclosing no account information, except to those who come to the manger on their own.

Mary is silent. In contrast with those who cause and promote amazement by their sharing of the Good News, “Mary [pondered] kept all of these things reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

[_07_] Sometimes, we also are emotionally amazed, we may be just a bit impressed, or we may be completely astonished regarding...
• Amazement about something we received for Christmas or amazed because of something we did not receive.
• Amazed about something someone said to us – or something the person did not say, something which was withheld or forgotten.
• Amazed because of the great kindness (generosity) of another person or due to cruelty (unkindness)

[_08_] Regarding such amazement, what about the firewall, the confidence, the secrecy?
First of all, in the face of emotional anxiety and joy, don’t we need someone to talk to. We need certain selected people in our lives whom we can trust to keep a secret.

But, beyond these trusted confidantes, should we go and tell it on the mountain?

Both the shepherds and the Blessed Virgin Mary remind us that our adoration and prayer are meant to come first.

First, we come and adore him.

First, we adore before we can be amazed.

First we adore – privately - before we can tell the public.

Mary herself adores privately before she proclaims the greatness of the Lord, before she rejoices in God her savior.

Yes, sometimes, we are amazed, overcome by the goodness or the evil in the actions of others.

We may not know what to do.

The Gospel today reminds us of the Good News of keeping secrets, of keeping confidence.

Consider that our own mothers and fathers have nurtured us, helped us to grow NOT ONLY by giving us advice but also by listening, by sharing, sometimes not saying anything, reflecting on these things in their hearts.

And, when we are in a state of amazement, confusion, crisis, we are invited to come first to adore him, to adore him in the Blessed Sacrament, to adore him in prayer, in that one-on-one conversation.

So that we might also keep the Gospel in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.