Sunday, April 29, 2012

Green Means Go (2012-04-29, Easter)

This is my homily for 29 April 2012 (4th Sunday Easter). 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_] Green means go. At the intersection of Forest Avenue and Howland Avenue by Van Saun Park, or the intersection of Midland and Fifth Avenue by River Dell High School … [Or, at the intersection of River Road and Route 4] … a traffic light exists to tell us –
• RED, to STOP
• YELLOW/AMBER, to proceed with caution or reduce speed
• GREEN, to GO.

[_02_] Green means go. Green means we are going some place and growing in some way. This is also true when we consider the parable of the Good Shepherd in today’s reading and also when we consider our young brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, friends who move – who travel – who go – to Holy Communion for the first time today. You have the green light today. Green means going and growing.

[_03_] The color GREEN is of vital importance to shepherds, and to sheep, even if they dwell far away from intersections and traffic lights. We see vibrancy and life in the green of the pasture. Green indicates this is a nourishing, healthy place for the sheep. And, in the twenty-third Psalm, we read, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)

Green means going and growing.

[_04_] One of the challenges for the sheep and the shepherd is that they need to keep moving. Keeping and growing and moving together – as a community – as a communion – not just a first communion but a continuous communion to find their next drink of water or meal of grass. Green means going and growing.

[_05_] In the Good Shepherd parable, Jesus is inviting us to a new green pasture. We also believe the Lord is our Shepherd because he forgives our sins, dying for us on the Cross. He loves us. This journey of forgiveness – whether we are repenting of our sins or forgiving someone else’s faults – is also about going, growing.

Repentance are forgiveness green lights, as are honesty and integrity. The Lord, as shepherd, brings us to a new pasture, to new green grass when we repent of our sins or when we forgive someone else from the depths of our hearts. Carrying a grudge – or withholding our own repentance is more of a traffic jam, a delay tactic.

Green means going and growing. Green means progress. And, boys and girls, we rejoice and celebrate your progress today as well. Coming to receive Communion, at the altar, we recognize that we are constantly growing, changing. As the sheep are nourished by the earth and grass, we are nourished by his body and blood.

This Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday and First Communion Sunday, the Lord invites us to a new pasture, new place and new rest, where the GREEN also indicates new life. [__fin___]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Startled (2012-04-22)

This is my homily for 22 April 2012 (3rd Sunday Easter). 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 the Gospel we read that the disciples – though they are startled, terrified – when Jesus arrives into their lives.

Jesus is the guest who arrives late – unexpectedly at their doorstep, standing in the doorway.

Also startling to us may be the late-arriving guest who requires --
• A special room
• A special meal, dietary requirements.
• A special agenda.

These transitions to a special room, special meal, special agenda are also reflected in our celebration of Holy Communion, welcoming Jesus into our lives.

Jesus dwells in a special room in churches, chapels, tabernacles, in the Cathedral Basilica in Newark, Holy Trinity Church, Hackensack, the FDU Chapel. But, do you and I create – in our own dorm rooms, homes, desks a place where we can pray and talk with him?

This does not necessarily mean elaborate paintings or architecture, but simply, an orderly design, setup, place for quiet.

Do the images we see – on our screens – throughout the day – help us to go to this private room with him or do they become a distraction?

In such a case, Jesus may seem a startling guest on our doorstep.

The Eucharist is also our special meal, the Lord´s Supper and sacrifice.
And, this relates also to his special agenda-requirements.

Jesus, as a guest may startle us – or disrupt us with some of his requirements. They are not exactly dietary requirements, but they help us to prepare to eat and be nourished.

Consider what happens if we were to visit a very close friend or family member and stay in their homes.

Often, we are expected to surrender our lives and agenda to their schedule. We help around the house, we go to their social events, their parties …

We become passengers in their journey.

Do we treat our Lord and Savior in a similar way?
Is he a passenger in my vehicle ..or am I trying to do ride alongs with him, again in prayer and meditaton?

Or, even more, do I try to become a passenger on his itinerary?

[_05_] Guests who arrive late or suddenly can cause us some fright or concern.
We are startled at their sudden appearance.

Another reason we may be startled is the realization that we were not completely alone after all. Consider those instances when we walk into a room or corridor and do not realize that someone else is there.

This also causes us a gasp, temporarily, of terror.

[_06_] In Holy Communion, we are also trying to be aware of Jesus who is already there.

How do we do this?

Consider that our Communion – whether First Holy Communion or any successive Holy Communion is one that invites us to prepare our hearts and bodies, our souls and our mouths to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

This preparation includes, for example, our fasting for one hour – no eating and drinking only water – for one hour or more before Communion.

We are fasting so that we can welcome a guest, that we may unite our fast and sacrifice to that of Christ.

This does not mean that we ourselves cannot eat or will never eat. We postpone our nourishment so that we can enjoy it when we receive Jesus himself as the guest.

We empty ourselves so that he might fill us.

In a similar way, we have the practive of confessing our serous sins before Communion.

This also prepares us.

It’s important to note that this confession and absolution does not make us somehow worthy or better than anyone else. We do not automatically receive the Mobil 5-Star Guest Rating (or a higher Zagat´s rating) for Jesus´ arrival.

As will pray just before receiving, “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.” (Matthew 8:8)

In other words, we remain unworthy of the gift…but God bestows this gift, visits us at home anyway.

In this regard, our fasting, our confessing is meant to open hearts, minds to God’s will and to experience his presence. In this regard, we make space, we set a new priorities.

And, though our fast and our confession are private practices, we also use them so that we may welcome Jesus publicly. We do so also so that we can be aware that he is already here and we may not be startled at his appearance. [_fin__]

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Door, Revolving (2012-04-15, Easter Season)

This is my homily for 15 April 2012 (2nd Sunday Easter). 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.

Gospel: + John 20:19-31

[_01_] This Sunday is observed as both the 2nd Sunday of Easter and as Divine Mercy Sunday, a devotion in which we recall in a special way that Jesus has died for our sins and that he opens a door – a doorway -- to eternal life.

[_02_] Usually crossing over – or through – a door or alarm system which is locked or secure, we need something unique – a PIN code, password, key, or engraved invitation.

We might note that Jesus possesses none of the above yet is still able to find his disciples who hae the lights out, the blinds pulled down, and the door barred shut in the upper room.

It is the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus is able to reach his disciples – despite the padlocking - on two occasions and to reach Thomas who has a special request to see the nailmarks in Jesus’ hands and the wound in his side.

[_03_] In these conversations behind the locked door, the disciples learn about the Lord’s forgiveness not only NOW – at the first Easter – but also the Lord’s continuous gift of mercy via the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

Jesus gives the apostles and all priests – the grace – to absolve others of sin in his name, saying:

“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and who sins you retain are retained.” (cf. John 20:19-31)

[_04_] This is the gift of the sacrament of absolution and forgiveness through the Lord, the apostles and his Church.

[_05_] This is the new doorway to God’s mercy. But, sometimes, this doorway is difficult to enter. Should we have a PIN, password, key? Maybe we want some control over the door, the access.

The disciples in the Gospel, perhaps, have it a bit easier than we do. They are the ones for whom seeing equals believing, whereas we are the “blessed who have not seen but have believed.”

Moreover, the disciples gain control over the door. For security, they have the door locked and seatbelts fastened. And, Jesus comes to them with mercy.

[_06_] We, on the other hand, may have to work a little more to find Jesus in this sacrament to move through the doorway.

And, if I might make a comparison, not an exact theological comparison…but just an example.

That the sacramental encounter of confession / penance / reconciliation is similar to both an open door and to a revolving door.

What is a revolving door?

We’ve had all the experience, the difficulty of entering an office building or airport or train station which has a revolving door entrance/exit.

Such a door turns on its axis very quickly.

This is, perhaps, an excuse not to approach the door

Our mind spins also, fearing repercussions, consequences.

But, there are certain techniques – are there not – for passing through a revolving door. And, this technique may guide us toward God’s presence and absolution in the sacrament.

[_07_] FIRST – Go toward the door. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we read that the Son moves ever closer to his Father, to his reunion. Confession for the Prodigal begins the moment this angel looks homeward. And, he can go home again.
Confession – and the change of heart – begins even before words are spoken. Isn’t this true in the admission of a fault – or the apology – I make to another person who may know what I’m going to say before I do. Neverthless, the articulation, the contrition, the confession is good for me as the sinner. It resets my direction, my compass/satellite. Go toward the door. This is confession, conversion of heart.

[_08_] SECONDLY – once inside the revolving door, be prepared to exit at the other side. I myself have absentmindedly walked 360 degrees and found myself back on the sidewalk outside the building.

Go Inside. This is reconciliation where we speak through the priest to God our Father who is in secret and hears us in secret. (cf. Matthew 6:5-6) God the Father hears us confidentially. Once inside the room, the priest is speaking for God who wants you to know you are loved, special, redeemed and worth dying for.

Go inside. This is reconciliation and leads to absolution and to the next step on our journey.

[_09_] THIRD, Start over. After absolution, we receive a penance, a prayer to say, a sacrifice to make.

I would compare this to a newfound control over the door, the revolving door. In our penance, we use our strength, to push a little, recognizing that the Lord is also moving the door. In fact, we move it together. In penance, we cooperate with God’s movement and will and power.

[_10_] The Gospel this Sunday reminds us that Jesus opens a door for us but that he also asks us to approach this door regularly so that we can encounter one on one his mercy and love.

And, this door moves both by his grace and our strength. [_fin_]

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Missing Person (2012-04-08, Easter)

This is my homily for 8 April 2012 (Easter Sunday). 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_] On this first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, stay at the empty tomb for a while … at least for a little while.
They are permitted, we might say, more than a visit to the burial site above ground but also an underground tour within the tomb.

[_02_] Underground they discover something unexpected. Jesus is “missing in action”, or “M.I.A.” as the military would say. Underground, perhaps, they can uncover some evidence, physical evidence, D.N.A. that will help in the search. Maybe their Lord is elsewhere.

The disciples, we read, “do not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

[_03_] Consider the situation of a lost physical object. Seeking it, we also try to recall what we were doing at the time.

I recall my own unexpected – and unfortunate – out-of-town trip to Washington DC where I lost my wallet, with my identification, cash, credit cards, everything.

But, I could not recall where I had lost his. Had I misplaced it in the taxi, the lobby, the elevator?

What had I been doing at each point along the way? Fortunately, the next taxi passenger and the very upright and ethical drive returned to me. The object was returned because they sought and found me.

[_04_] The Good News of Easter is also that Jesus will find, recover a relationship – make a reunion possible – with his disciples – Mary Magdalene Peter, John, , you, me.

Naturally, the disciples at the tomb – founding only burial cloths underground might be anxious to call 9-1-1, write the missing person report, and search the tall grass for where Jesus must surely be.

Or they maybe tempted to give up the search entirely and seek a replacement, online? At mall? Shop around, 4G, the next-generation Messiah. Perhaps, James and John can apply for seats at the right and left of a King less likely to lose his life in the middle of the campaign primary.

[_05_] On a search, we often focus on where were physically, what we were visibly doing.

But, what was I thinking?

[_06_]Recalling the 22nd and M Street incident in Washington DC with the taxi, I can NOW recall hurrying, anxiously paying the driver and collecting my bag and exiting the vehicle/taxi. This hastiness became visible to me only LATER, after

I was told that the wallet in the taxi.

The driver called me at home.

[_07_] How do you and I behave during a setback, a loss or even the death of a loved one?

Certainly, we have to take care of many physical, material details. It is not trivial during a time of mourning, loss to – make dinner, go to work, go to school …and do all the homework and housework.

In the case of illness, we may also have to follow explicit therapeutic instructions for healing and health.

[_08_] The Gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 1 through 9 gives us the first few Easter moments.

At this time, the disciples seek physical signs. This is natural and necessary.

Indeed, they will see Jesus risen. They need to see him alive.

However, they are also called to search themselves. Asking, perhaps, the Good Friday question, at least… “were you there?”

And… where are you now? (Where am I?)

Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, you, I care called to examine ourselves.

[_09_] Consider that we are confronted with a loss, setback at school, or at work, or in our families.

The boss (difficult), the teacher (unreasonable), the work (voluminous), the family (complex).

We may desire a quick fix, replacement part, better technology.

[_10_] Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, are courageous in their willingness to remain at the tomb for a while. To reflect not only the physical but the spiritual aspects of this death and resurrection.

The resurrection is God’s creation. But the Resurrection, the Christian Passover, is also the night which is different from all other nights.

Consider the other “nights” of creation. God creates light from darkness, fish of the sea where there had been no fish. Birds of the air where there had been no birds. But, in the resurrection, God restores life where there had been life.

We also, even while alive, may pass through the grave, sacrificing ourselves, and rising to new life each day.

This may introduce darkness. And, at such times, such as the darkness before we sleep, we are called to search our true intentions, our true motivations. Where was … not only in my body but also in my heart and mind. There, at the grave, we allow the Lord to search and find us. [_fin_]

Friday, April 6, 2012

Following The Passion (2012-04-06, Good Friday)

This is my homily for 6 April 2012 (Good Friday). 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_] What are the risks, the consequences of following one’s passion?
A “passion ” can be something very positive, motivating us to success.
Nevertheless, risks – whether appearing as speed bumps or oncoming vehicles (or, telephone poles, trees….) – may appear in our lane, on our way of passion, the journey.

Passion has consequences.

Passion implies a calling, a responsibility.

This is our observance of Good Friday and the week of the Lord’s Passion.

[_02_] What motivates Jesus? It is his passion for us, his love for us, that inspires him to accept the cup which the Father asks him to drink. (cf. Mark 10:38, Matthew 20:22, cf. Matthew 26:42, Luke 22:42)

The Passion, then, has consequences. What are these consequences:

[_03_] 1st – DEATH. To follow one’s passion means a willingness to die to one’s own convenience, comfort. Also, to die for one’s beliefs, for one’s commitments.

The passion of mothers/fathers are for their children, teachers for their students, leaders/bosses for their workers, doctors/nurses for their patients.

Some days, of course, we give ourselves more willingly – passionately – than other days. Holy Week reminds us to keep the Lord’s Passion – as our model - in mind.

The consequence of our passion may mean fasting, sacrifice, or the equivalent or working through lunch on days other than Good Friday.

[_04_] Passion has consequences in our relationships. Passion means visibility, being seen.

In a parable, Jesus speaks of this visible love, referring to the son who, at first, tells his father that he will not go into the vineyard, but, then later changes his mind and goes. The listeners of the parable have to admit that this son – who lacks motivation at first– is the one who makes his love visible.
And, Jesus has a passion for the late comer, for the one who changes his mind – after the denials. These are the tax collectors and prostitutes who enter the Kingdom of Heaven before us. (cf. Matthew 21:28-32)

[_05_] Passion may lead to some dropped calls. Of course, we’d hope that following our passions would unite us to others, bring us communion, peace. This is certainly our long-term hope.

But, in the short term – or at midterms – we may find that following our passions leaves us, at times, isolated from others.

In his passion, Jesus find that his usual contacts are not there –

• Judas Iscariot finds a willing buyer on Craiglist or E-Bay for the Savior
• Peter deletes all of Jesus’s messages, forwarded through others.
• And nearly all the other disciples their phones turned off.

He is down to one friend plus the Blessed Mother. Following our passion sometimes means rejection.

[_06_] Passion has the consequence of poverty. Jesus loses his life and even his regular clothing in this conviction. Passion, then, calls us to see beyond the surface appearance for ourselves and for others. Am I willing to listen to God’s commandments, to pray for guidance?

This guidance is not going to surround me with an exterior of comfort, but will help me to make decisions in conscience which will give me inner peace, comfort.

This will help us to follow the way of the Cross from death to new life, to follow the Passion which God has set for us. [_fin_]

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Questions (2012-04-01, Palm Sunday)

This is my homily for 1 April 2012 (Palm Sunday). 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_] The mark, the indicator, of an exceptional student – in a classroom …or the exceptional attorney/judge in a courtroom is that both understand the questions which are being asked.

I think all of us, at times, have been “guilty” either in the courtroom or classroom of rushing through certain questions…or responding with an answer before we have heard the question.

This happens, perhaps, especially on multiple choice exams (“A-B-C-D”) where we rule out/eliminate certain choices, then increase our probability of success by focusing on the likely responses.

Have we, however, understood the question? This desire to understand the questions motivates future lawyers, doctors, college students to take many practice exams, to anticipate the types of questions.

In this regard, we hope to use our time more effectively.

[_02_] In the final exam of the Passion, we see certain individuals seeking shortcuts, trying to hand in anything, as quickly as possible. Have they forgotten their extra number 2 pencils?

[_03_] FIRST, Pilate asks, Question One = “Are you a king?”

Arrested, accused, Jesus is stripped of any noble bearing, or VIP garments suitable for the red carpet or royal family. Surely, he is not a king. We can rule out, say “choice A. King.”

The paradox is that Jesus accepts the punishment which is coming to him BECAUSE he is a king. Jesus does not use kingship as immunity.

He says, “Yes, I am a king, but my kingship is not of this world.” (reference?) Our Savior is the king who protects his people by fighting for them, dying for them. He protects our freedom before God by giving up his life.

Pilate wants some other sign of royalty.

Perhaps, we think, at times, that our pursuits of holiness, devotion, prayer, will give us a royal exemption/EZPass from suffering.

Struggling with a particular ordeal or ordinance, we ask, “Why me?”

After all, I’m special … royal? Regal? Too young? Too old? Too busy?Jesus does not ask this question.

He meditates in a different way in Gethsemane. Jesus does not ask why me, but rather … Father if it is your will, why NOT me?
Are you a king? Yes, you are a king.

[_04_] Secondly, the disciples ask, Question Two – “Surely it is not I Lord, who will betray you?”

Instead of reading the actual question back to themselves, the disciples have downloaded – and/or published – a Top Ten List of other Traitors … those most likely
to sell out.

Therefore, each one can rule himself out as the choice for the one to betray.

They proceed to the next question. Yet, the disciples – and we too – could answer the question by self-examination.

Jesus, in his ministry, gives us the freedom, the confidentiality to do this in penance, confession, reconciliation.

“Is it I, Lord who will betray?” We can answer this from our own experience. The Good News about this “exam” is that Jesus has already anticipated our choices …and nails our sins to the cross.

[_05_] The questions of Holy Week invite us to use all of our heart, mind, and strength on this midterm and final …

1. If our king, Jesus, suffers torment, can I really expect royal treatment?
2. Surely it is not I, Lord? Well, if it is I..and if it is you… we can be grateful for this Passion Reading, the Q and A, the test which Jesus has already taken so that we may apply his wisdom to our answers and future questions.