Sunday, June 24, 2012

Highway Construction (2012-06-24)

This is my homily for 24 June 2012 (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.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.

24 June 2012  Nativity of John the Baptist  [Isaiah 49:1-64]  [Acts 13:22-26]   [+ Luke 1:57-66]

[_01_]       This Sunday, we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. We remember him, recall his location and life in the wilderness/desert.

John resides in the outermost suburbs of Jerusalem where he is known as the “voice one crying out in the desert.” (Luke 3:3-4)    John the Baptist also tells his disciples  - and you/me – “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Luke 3:3-4)

 [_02_]       In a wilderness/remote location with very few – or no – highways/paths/interstates, John proposes new infrastructure.

This is a spiritual path – a method of life/structure – meant to lead us closer to God.

“In his own day, the baptism of John – [in the Jordan River] was a symbol of holiness and receiving this baptism called the person to reform and turn back to God. We read elsewhere in the Gospel that many Pharisees and Sadducees came to John to be baptized (Matthew 3:7) but since they did not believe in the necessity of their repentance (Matthew 21:32), the did not receive John’s baptism.”[1] (Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, “John the Baptist”)  

Thus, this baptism, first by John and later by Jesus is a free choice. Those who travel the road – who prepare the way of the Lord do so freely.

[_03_]   Prepare the way of the Lord, prepare the road.
What are the  requirements for an adequate roadway?

[_04_]       One is communication / understanding.   John -- as spiritual infrastructure engineer – wants to improve access for those who may feel they are in a very slow lane to salvation.

And, many people leave the densely populated city and arrive in the desert. They repent, they are baptized.

This is a new stage of prayer, spiritual communication.

Isn’t it easier to enter or exit a roadway with travelers who yield, who communicate. And, certainly, our path is safer and more pleasant when we are attentive to other travelers.
Or, when family members speak to each other, make time for each other. This requires a slower pace.

Rather than building a transcontinental bullet train or superhighway, John is inviting us to a road with meditation, contemplation, slowly and freely.

First, a road needs communication/understanding.

[_05_]   Secondly, a road needs maintenance/care.

In our Catholic sacrament of penance and reconciliation, we maintain our path, our level for our own good and those of others – drivers and passengers and pedestrians.

We repent of our sins so that we can keep moving and to remove from our way – obstacles.

Obstacles such as selfishness, anger, resentment…or as St. Paul summarized in this letter to the Corinthians, to put aside childish things.

At times, all of us have had – or will have – an obstacle in our path.

This care/maintenance and repentance reminds us that we can know what is truly good for us.

[_06_]       On Fifth Avenue and beyond, the federal, state and local governments build roads/pathways with …..–
  • Yes, asphalt for vehicles and pedestrians
  • Also, regulations for commerce and business
  • Also, standards for education.
The government passes laws and speed limits for activity on the New Jersey Turnpike, within the banking system, and at River Dell High School.

In 2010, two years ago, a new road/path for medical/health care was passed and signed by Congress and the White House.

It is good that the Department of Health and Human Services has improved this road.

And, since all roads are established for a community, the roads themselves have limits, requirements.

What we – as Catholics and many people of faith – are concerned about are certain requirements which infringe upon religious freedom and conscience.

In particular, there mandates which would force a Catholic institution – Seton Hall University, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, the University of Notre Dame – to contract, arrange and pray for contraceptive coverage including abortion.

I also invite you to consult our bulletin for more information on our current period of prayer  - 2 weeks now leading up to July 4 – for religious freedom and protection of conscience..

The Catholic Healthcare Association, under the leadership of Sister Carol Keehan, the nationwide consortium of Catholic hospitals, acknowledges that law allows for some organizations to be exempt from this requirement. However, the exemption/exception for conscience is narrower than any conscience clause ever enacted.[2]

Our hospital leadership and Catholic bishops are concerned that lawmakers have essential put a concrete divider – not in the road – but in our own mission and organization.

This concrete divider attempts to separate – in minute detail – the financial and the spiritual obligations of religious institutions.

Could this mean that a Catholic hospital only practices its mission by offering Sunday Mass in the first floor chapel by the elevator?

Or, would  a Catholic hospital not also practice its mission in the choice of health coverage and in the medical services offered.

The mission and ethical standards is meant to inform not only the prayer but also the … the medical diagnosises, and the salary and benefits – of an Catholic /religious organization. Our ethics are rooted in a teaching also about the sanctity of life.

[_07_]       In this time, we also recall 2 important Constitutions – the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

And, Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae, “individuals are not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to their consciences.”

[_08_]       To have a road, we need communication, maintenance …and we need accessibility.

Accessiblity is good in health care.

However, we also believe accessibility goes hand in hand with justice, and with the sanctity of life.

This is true in personal relationships as well.

We are called to prepare the way of the Lord.

Do I really act in accord in accord with my conscience toward others treating them with respect, sanctity, justice?

Or, do I sometimes charge a different toll, a different price for the same services …

Am I willing to sacrifice not only for the good of my friends but also for those who may oppose me…those who do not return my love?

The Lord calls us to build a road. The road is not only for my freedom and salvation but for the freedom and salvation of all.

And, the road is also to welcome our Savior.

The highway is for our God.

[1] “John the Baptist,” New Testament section, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, p. 356. New York: Wagner Publishers, 1956.
[2] Letter to HHS from Carol Keehan June 15, 2012, p. 3.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Religious Freedom (2012-06-21)

 [_01_]     In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that God is our Father.      Yes, we have a personal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, we also have a communal relationship with our Lord through and with one another.

A spiritual director once advised me to consider if this in order to love particular individuals with whom I might have difficulty. In other words, to love those who do not return our love – or who are somehow difficult to love.

Remember the Our Father. Remember that God loves the other person as a son or daughter. Remember that what you and I might find difficult to forgive – or understand – in other person…that God knows their heart, their mind. God loves this other person for whom he truly is, for whom she truly is.

God will see the good that we have difficulty seeing. The Our Father reminds us of this communal relationship. To love as God loves.

[_02_]     At times, we might prefer to be in a private club. A private relationship.
A private club often has better facilities, better air conditioning, better groundskeeping.

Privacy has its benefits over the public facility, and away from the so-called crowd.
Nevertheless, we are one community. We are one Church.

And, the Lord invites us to be public witnesses in the world, between Van Saun and Kinderkamack and beyond.

Sometimes, this means enduring longer lines, encountering people of diverse backgrounds. 
It may mean doing things that are unpopular.

We are doing this, living out the petition of Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be done in our lives.

 [_03_]     Today – June 21 – is also the beginning of a 2-week period of prayer – until July 4 – in our country to pray for the endurance of religious freedom in our country. Of course, we celebrate all of our freedoms on July 4, Independence Day.

But, this year we are reminded of a particular legal challenge in new legislation.

This does not affect only the Catholic Church or Archdiocese of Newark but also Jewish synagogues, Islamic mosques, Christian churches and faith communities, all people of faith who also have employees with group health insurance coverage.

The challenge exists due to a federal mandate that all health care plans conform to standards that do not meet our Catholic ethical standards and belief in the sanctity of life. In this case, we are particularly concerned about the sanctity of unborn life and the requirement to provide abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
In the past, Catholic and other religious institutions were given exemptions based on the First Amendment.

The new exemption allows very few organizations to qualify for this exemption. This would mean, for example, that the Archdiocese (and parishes of the Archdiocese), certain schools, universities, hospitals would have to offer these coverages in their plans.

What Catholics and other faiths object to is not the legality or availability of these services. They are already legal and available. However, now an employer/institution would be required to participate in and pay for a plan which offers them.  

In a February 2012 compromise, the White House has responded that the employer would participate and the employee would receives the benefit but neither would actually pay. In other words, the services must be supplied by the insurance company free of charge.  Nevertheless, the employer would pay for a total package of services which includes those (abortion, contraception, sterilization) we find objectionable.

[_04_]     The government is mandating that certain things must be included in a health care package.

We might respond, would it not be easier if we all went to the doctor privately, paid privately for services…or that we could individually buy our own health insurance?
In other words, privacy = freedom?

But, the government has been involved in health care, in law-making, and matters of justice for a long time. Consider the government must make laws about medical malpractice or doctor-patient confidentiality.

The government is already involved.

This matter of health care cannot – and will not – be perfectly privatized.

[_05_]     But, we struggle for and pray for is a balance of private/individual freedom and public accountability/standards.

And, we pray that people of all faith will have constitutional freedom to practice their faith not only in the worship space but also the emergency room.

[_06_]     We also are called to pray for those who lack health insurance or access to care. Certainly, private access is better.

Not everyone enjoys private access, private health insurance.

So, the government is making an effort to support the poor, the indigent.

And, we have a responsibility to make our voice heard, publicly, communally, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that we can speak up for our standards of life and health care ethics in the world.  [_fin_]      

Semilla Enterrada (2012-06-17)

17 June 2012  Ezequiel 17:22-24   | Salmo 91   |     2 Corintios 5:6-10     |  + Marcos 4:26-34

[_01_]     En esta lectura del evangelio, Jesús nos cuenta una parábola corta de un hombre durmiendo. Escuchamos una descripción del reino de Dios.

 “El reino de Dios se parece a un hombre que echa simiente en la tierra. Él duerme de noche y se levanta de mañana; la semilla germina y va creciendo, sin que él sepa como.”

¿No sabe nada – este hombre -- sobre las obras de ciencia, agricultura?

El hombre no sabe como.

Por no saber como, el hombre aun así un ejemplo de trabajo, un ejemplo de alguien rindo (rendir) todo al Señor.

En otra palabra, el hombre puede cavar en la tierra (en el suelo), puede regar sus plants. Sin embargo, él no puede controlar el clima – las lluvias, el sol.

[_02_]    En los ángulos oscuros y en los nichos de seguridad, sus plantas tienen una vida escondida.  Ellas viven (casi) invisiblemente.

 [_03_]    Este domingo as El Father´s Day, El día del papá.   Papás y mamás también sembra y establece sus hijos en la Tierra.  Y, a más largo plazo, ellos les preparan para el Cielo, para la vida eterna.

 [_04_]      Papás y mamás hacen así mientras dormimos y descansamos.
Nuestras papás y mamás se acuestan más tardes y se despiertan más tempranos.
Por acostarse y despertarse así, nuestras papás son similares al hombre de la parábola. Nuestras papás invierten en nosotros.

[_05_]     Las papás también reconocen que nostros están pasando más cerca de la cosecha (harvest).

La cosecha de graduación, la cosecha del matrimonio, la cosecha de una carrera, la cosecha de educación después del colegio (secundario). Y más.

Entonces, nuestras papás se invierten por enseñarnos, acompañarnos.

Sin embargo, nuestras papás no pueden controlar las lluvias del éxito y la lucha para nosotros.

[_06_]     Por el contrario, ellos nos enseñan – por obra, palabra, ejemplo – los mandatos del Señor …

“Amarás el Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón y con toda tu alma y con toda tu mente …y Amarás a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.” (Mateo 22:37-39)

Nuestras papás nos instruyen sobre este amor, perdón y misercordia, compásion.
En estos momentos, a veces, no tenemos el control de las condiciones climáticas. Como el hombre de la parábola.

Nuestras papas nos instruyen sobre la paciencia, sobre el trabajo. A veces, tenemos que esperar a ver

Las plantas – frijoles, arroz, frutas, vegetales – crecen mientras dormimos.  En esta parábola, el hombre puede descansar después de él ha trabajado.  Puede descansar con tal de que él hemos trabajado.   Él hombre durmiendo ha hecho su tarea. Ahora, él espera la cosecha mientras está escuchando el Espiritu Santo. De nuestras papás, hemos aprendido de proteger la vida que hemos recibido de Dios.


Buried Seed (2012-06-17)

This is my homily for 17 June 2012 (11th 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.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.

17 June 2012  Ezequiel 17:22-24   | Salmo 91   |     2 Corintios 5:6-10     |  + Marcos 4:26-34

[_01_]        This is how it is with the Kingdom of God. A man scattered seed on the ground… (in the earth).   He went to sleep….. it grew while he was sleeping. The seed grows of itself, though he knows not how.

( “El reino de Dios se parece a un hombre que echa simiente en la tierra. Él duerme de noche y se levanta de mañana; la semilla germina y va creciendo, sin que él sepa como.”)

He knows not how … agriculture, the environment, science …work? Really?

Observing this man, would we say that he is really and completely clueless, in the dark about how his wheat, corn, grapes are developing?

Or, might we simply say that the mean is simply not able to direct and control that growth by his own power.

Of his own, the man can dig, plant, provide some water, but he also relies on the sun to shine and the rain to fall, phenomena outside of his personal climate control settings.

In the darkness, in the recesses, underneath the soil, the earth, the roots and plants generate, grow …and live invisibly. They have a hidden life.

 [_02_]     This Sunday is Father´s Day.  And, as we know, fathers and mothers plant and prepare their children ….   In fact, they often do this while we were sleeping and resting. Our fathers and mothers went to bed later and awoke earlier so that we can could rest.
Our parents – themselves – made investments…

[_03_]     Also, recognizing that we – as children – are always moving closer to a time of harvest, whether towards the harvest of graduation, the harvest of a marriage and family, the harvest of our life´s calling, our life´s career… parents have also tried to prepare us, to train us.

Nevertheless, our parents cannot control the climate of sun and rainfall, of success and struggle for us either.

Rather, they are simply teaching us – by word and example to love God, love our neighbor, teaching us also compassion, self sacrifice …and sometimes, the environmental conditions are difficult.

They also teach us to be prepared, to think, work and to understand sometimes, we have to wait overnight …or have to wait several weeks or months to see the fruit – the results – our of labors

The man sleeps while his plants are growing.  However, he is not a passive bystander waiting for the delivery of an overnight package.

He sleeps, he rests because he has worked all day…

The man who sleeps has done his homework. Now, he waits also for the harvest by listening and being attentive to the Holy Spirit, day and night.

This is also what we have learned from our parents, of our responsibility to care for ourselves, to care for others …to nurture the life which God has given us.  [_fin_