Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012-07-29)

This is my homily for 29 July 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 (7:00 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.   

 [2 Kings 4:42-44]    [Salmo 145]  [Efesios 4:1-6]  [+ John 6:1-15]

[_01]      Attraction is an important aspect of this multiplication miracle in this Sunday’s Gospel.  Jesus feeds the crowd who is attracted to him, feeds the crowd who desires to see him.
So important is this miracle that is literally in all the papers, all 4 Gospels report the  miracle. And, it is an important one for us to understand. We learn that…
  • HUNGER is what the Lord wants to satisfy - physically & spiritually.
  • ATTRACTION to Jesus means that we come to as we are … even  EXHAUSTED / IMPOVERISHED / ANXIOUS or under stress. No fee for admission.
[_02_]   In the Gospel, noticing that it would take 200 days wages (over 6 months salary) to feed this crowd, we see that there is both HUNGER and ATTRACTION among the people. Philip the Apostle is not sure what what to do … is this a hunger game? A competition?

[_03_]       Recently, we have witnessed another attraction and competition
Starting this weekend in London, the 2012 Olympic athletes from 204 countries hope to gain medals - Gold, Silver, Bronze.

However, a different score (a non medal event) is being kept but by a small group of countries, including – for example - South Korea, Spain, the U.S., Australia, Greece, China.

And, is not Great Britain also in this group, hoping the country has outperformed the others in the quality of the Friday night-time opening ceremonies with lights, dancers, fireworks, and philharmonics.

London (the Olympic host) is vying for attention and hoping to out-do  Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008.  We shall see…
The opening ceremonies, then, are both a competition between countries and competition for our attention. It’s an attraction.

 [_04_]  To what and for what – are we attracted? Hungry?

Writing about relationships – including marriage and love between a man and a woman – Pope John Paul II wrote about the way in which God made us to love and be loved by others.

Love leads to hunger, desire within us for affection, affirmation, closeness, support, satisfaction.

Pope John Paul writes that this attraction, leading to love, may also surprise the persons involved.

1 person is attracted to another – but the attraction often happens as a surprise to the man or the woman. This attraction – unlike the 2012 light show in London – is not an engineering / science project:

John Paul II writes:

Feelings arise spontaneously – the attraction which one person feels towards another often begins suddenly and unexpectedly … this reaction is, in effect, “blind.[1]

Love – or its origins – may be in a sense hidden, obscure … or “love is blind”, we say.
And, while / though only some relationships are truly love at first sight, first impressions are important. The opening ceremonies between two people are usually somehow memorable and meaningful.

[_05_]   Hunger and attraction are important to the Good News this Sunday.
Hunger makes the attraction stronger, the desire of the crowd to stay with Jesus.

[_06_]     Coming to the Lord, hungry, we profess that he will feed us, to provide for what we need, even when we are tired and hungry.

Consider that it takes precious energy to examine our lives, to repent, to confess our sins. 
Admitting we are wrong may leave us hungrier.  This also takes courage, fortitude.
In our relationships, also, we are called not only to pursue our attractions and take what we desire … but to give what we can and share the love – and goodness -  which God can multiply in our lives.

To see the good in myself and in that of the other person. The good which God has made. 
There is enough to go around, to satisfy the hungry crowd.

[1] Wojtyla, Karol, Love & Responsibility, page 78.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

True Love (2012-07-22)

This is my homily for 22 July 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 (7:00 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.  

[_01_]      Which would be BETTER – to be the person who complies with – says YES – to the wants-desires of others …or to be the person who rebels against the requests, the wants, the desires of others?

Perhaps, the parable of the 2 sons who are sent into the vineyard by the one father –who WANTS-DESIRES that they work – would be an example.

Consider that in this parable, the first son says, “Yes, I will go to the vineyard… but in fact takes HOLIDAY/PERSONAL DAY ”.  The second son, apparently, wakes up later, demonstrates no immediate inclination to work in the vineyard. However, he eventually goes and does as his father has asked.

Which one does the will of this father? The second.

[_02_]      In our lives, we may, at times, resemble either the first son or the second son.
At times, we are compliant, at times, we are rebellious.

[_03_]      In his book, Love and Responsibility, John Paul II writes that the DESIRE (internal desire) is really what we makes me unique as a person.

That is, I may have – you may have – many unique characteristics – height, weight, blood pressure, age, grade point average, golf-stroke-handicap.

However, what really makes me unique – or you unique – is something else.

That is, what makes the first son of the parable different from the second son of the parable?

They share many things, same parents, a physical resemblance. Perhaps, they are even identical twins. It’s possible.

But, what sets them apart is that each one has a different desire in his heart.

[_04_]        In the Gospel, this Sunday, we read that Jesus meets many people who are coming to them. And, we read that he teaches them.

Now, who are these students who are coming to him?

Would, Jesus, the teacher say…oh, these are the students who are into me?  In fact, Jesus COULD say… they are “so” into me..that I am going to set up some additional office hours, additional time … just for them, just for the really good students.

But, this is not the case with this Gospel.

In other words, the Lord is not helping a small segment of the total “student population. 
This is not an elite summer honors program .,.. this is more like the first week of classes when everyone is lost trying to find their building and classrooms.

[_05_]       The Good News of today’s Gospel is that the Lord offers these extra hours to all of us, to everyone.
And, Christ, the Son of God offers this so that he might know us better..and also so that we might know him.

 [_06_]      John Paul II writes – in Love and Responsibility – an important reality for all of us to keep in mind in our relationships with others.
Yes, it is true others want us to behave in certain ways. Our teachers/parents may want something from us, our children, our siblings, our neighbors.

Nevertheless, a person is NEVER the means to an end.[1]  

John Paul II writes …” for a person is a thinking subject, capable of taking decisions …[and therefore must be respected.]”

While Jesus teaches us – and asks of us many things, he does not force anything upon us.
John Paul II summarizes the nature of schooling…whether the classroom is air conditioned for the summer or heated for the winter … “This is also the purpose of education, both the education of children and the mutual education of adults. It is just that a matter of seeking true ends [objectives, purposes] … i.e., real goods as the ends [purposes] of our actions and of  finding and showing to others the ways to realize them.”[2]

[_07_]        Which would be BETTER – to be the person who complies with – says YES – to the wants-desires of others …or to be the person who rebels against the requests, the wants, the desires of others?

What is most important in our lives is that we understand what our true desires are.

Then, we can also pray that our will and the will of our Father in heaven can be the same…

For what makes us unique are these desires.

[_08_]         John Paul II writes that I can be – at times – the OBJECT of someone else’s actions.  Someone can ask me – require me – to do something….even go to summer school!

On the other hand, no one can want for me, no one can desire for me.

The Lord, in this Gospel, makes himself available to us – in prayer – in “office hours” so that we might come to know him, know our true desires, also know be more mindful of our true love.   [_fin_]   

[1] Wojtyla, Karol, Love and Responsibility, p. 26 “The First Meaning of the verb ‘to use’”
[2] Wojtyla, K. L and R. p. 27.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Traveler's Advisory (2012-07-15)

This is my homily for 15  July 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 (7:00 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.  

[_01_]       In this Gospel, we read instructions to the 12 apostles who are traveling and receive a list of things to bring, a list of things not to bring. It’s a traveler’s advisory for their journey/jornada.

In our own journeys – especially for international journeys and for airport security -- we also have to care of some of the same things mentioned in the Gospel
·         belts
·         money in our belts, metal coins in our pockets
·         food and/or water we are carrying
·         carry on bags and extra clothing
·         shoes

We know that our carry on baggage must fit in the overead compartment or beneath the seat in front of us. Put the tray table in the upright position. Keep your seatbelt fastened until the captain indicates that it is safe to move about the cabin.

[_02_]   Following these rules, we surrender at the airport to the agents, flight attendants, pilots.

If we want to fly United Airlines, then we have to follow the rules of UA. It’s very simple, direct, explicit.

 [_03_]    However, the Gospel does not offer “travel advisory” for suitcases … but rather for the person carrying the suitcase.

In this Gospel, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of detachment, simplicity.
And, as we read elsewhere…
“do not lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven…”  (Matthew 6:19)

Thus, when we for example, sacrifice generously for another person without regard for reward, we are laying up treasure in heaven.

This may mean putting down my baggage to carry the bag of someone else.

Or, caring for someone who is aging, sick.

 [_04_]    The Lord is also teaching us about repentance and penance.

Is it more difficult for a rich man/woman/family or a wealthy executive or celebrity to enter the Kingdom of God?  

Yes, they can be tempted by many spirits of evil.  Comfort itself can be an idol.And, that idol is more easily stored in the overead compartment in First Class.

So, in this Gospel, Jesus sends his apostles out with few possessions. But, he does send them out two by two, together, in relationships.

This companionship, love is their true travel security.

 [_05_]   Also, this simplicity, on the other hand, is meant to help the apostle –a and help us – to be humble, to repent of our sins.

And, to grow in humility and repentance without regard for our security and comfort.

 [_06_]    In particular, do I repent of my sins only in the hope of a reward. Of course, we do so for a heavenly reward.

But, do I want something more tangible, immediate?

The desire for reward influences my choices in transportation – whether  we are buying a car or a plane ticket.

Who will give me zero % APR, a free upgrade, or double frequent flyer miles?

 [_07_]    Often, we are willing – able – encouraged to repent when some valuable reward awaits.
For example, a child is persuaded to apologize. Then, in return, he can go outside and play or eat his favorite food.

In this forgiveness is not valued. Rather, forgiveness is a traveler’s cheque or  currency which I exchange or convert into something that I really want. 

 [_08_]    The Lord encourages us to see penance as a step forward rather than backward.

Of course, in order to repent, or reflecto n my own life, I will examine something in the past. This will be a meditation, an examination of conscience and examination of my actions. But, penance is not simply a travel restriction or delay.

However, in doing penance , confessing my sins, I will also be moving forward.

In this the Lord is asking me to turn my attention away from someone / something I envy.  Or want to possess.

Or, to admit my fault simply because I want to be free, because I want to turn back to God.

Repentance is a journey, an invitation to keep moving, to draw closer to God, and to move away from things that may be too heavy to carry physically or spiritually.  [_fin_]   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Home Field, Advantage? (2012-07-08)

This is my homily for 8 July 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 (7:00 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.  We resume Sunday August 26, 2012.  

[_01_]       As a general rule, a team or an individual competitor feels stronger, more confident at home.

This would be true for the NJ Devils at the Prudential Center, NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the NY Mets at Citifield. And, today, in London, Andy Murray playing in front of the “home”  British crowd at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Isn’t it encouraging to have a friendly and supportive crowd?

[_02_]       In the Gospel this Sunday, our Lord and Savior makes a homecoming.
But this is Nazareth, not Wimbledon.

While – in London - Andy Murray of the U.K. receives much encouragement in a very 
difficult tennis final against Roger Federer from Switzerland, Jesus is spurned/rejected by his own people, his “fan base” in his own country.

This is summarized in the Gospel declaration which has become a proverb to us, “a prophet is never accepted in his own country.” (Mark 6:4)[1]

[_03_]       Where would my country, or your country be? In this case, country indicates something local, a hometown.

River Edge, then, is a country with its own customs, traditions. And, within our country, we have certain expectations.

Perhaps, our “country” is River Dell High School, or Roosevelt or Cherry Hill Elementary.

Our country is also our family where husband/wife, mother/father create not only a home but also a secure frontier and environment for their children.

And, parents carry out their responsibility to protect their children from outside dangers and prepare them, one day, to cross the border on their own.

[_04_]       In our reading from Mark, Chapter 6, Jesus returns To the town and country of Nazareth where he is examined, criticized, analyzed.

The crowd is not so friendly. And, the “home field” or “home stadium” seems to be a disadvantage, a hindrance.

The people of Nazareth prefer not to receive or heed the teaching of someone they know quite so well.

Is he not the carpenter’s son?
[_05_]       And, don’t we all have trouble hearing advice/correction from those who are very close to us?

Please – we would think --  I’d rather not be told how to dress, where to go, or whether I should take the George Washington Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel to get there.

[_06_]       In a similar way, the Nazareth crowd / audience spurns Jesus, rejects him.
They do not – and we do not – want to experience defeat or correction on our home court. 

Isn’t this true when a family member tells me something I do not want to hear?

Yet, it is through close/intímate relationships that we understand not only our capacity for 
love … but also our own brokenness, our faults.

And, to accept Jesus at home, in our home court sometimes means going against the mood of the crowd.

 [_07_]       What is the mood, the attitude of the crowd in Nazareth?    As they might have said in Nazareth, we say in New Jersey, “you talking to me?”

Surely Jesus can go other places and ask them to repent of their sins …

Or Jesus should speak to those folks who do not go to the synagogue or church … maybe they need to change

Or, maybe Jesus should touch the hearts of those who are very young, very impresionable, those who have much to learn.

But, surely, the Lord would not be speaking to me, right?

[_08_]       In loving and receiving Jesus in our home, for the improvement of our home – or hometown – we may have to endure some discomfort.

We are also called to love, to sacrifice for our children, our families, for our spouses in ways that require great strength.

To love someone who is suffering from an illness for many years, to love someone who cannot fully communicate takes heroic virtue.

And, sometimes, heroic virtue also goes unrecognized, unnoticed by others, unseen in the crowd.

The Good News today is that Jesus tries to reach us (arrive where we are) even though we may resist ..and the Good News is that when we try to follow him, even in weakness, it is then that we are strong.     [_fin_]      

[1] Exactly, NAB = “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mark 6:4)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Crowded (2012-07-01)

This is my homily for 1 July 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. 

 [Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24]  [Psalm 30:2]  [2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 [+ Mark 5:21-43]

[_01_]       A woman in the Gospel struggles – yet succeeds – in locating our Lord and Savior in the crowd.

With serious and long standing illness, this woman – unidentified – has been living, enduring, but also persevering.

She persists. She perseveres. In a spiritual sense, she is quite healthy. (synonym for health / healthy?)

But, she also is currently alone and possibly abandoned by family and friends.  In this regard, this woman is different from the young girl – daughter of Jairus who is healed by Jesus.

The girl enjoys the benefits of family friends, a parent, a father who goes out seeking help for her. The girl can rest at home, privately, safely.

Jesus locates the girl.

The woman, on the other hand, must calculate a route on her own to find the Lord.

 [_02_]      Would I not prefer, would you not prefer that the Lord make a house call?

That is, he makes a house call to the home of the child of Jairus.

We are also his children. Will he not make a house call to find us?

Jesus is everywhere. He should be able to find the address.

[_03_]   But, are we also actively seeking him?   Do we know where to find him?

In another earlier Gospel, the young Jesus says to Mary and Joseph his parents who are hunt him down in the Temple, “why were you looking for me, did you not know that I would be in my Father’s house and about about my Father’s business?”

In other words, don’t just look anywhere.. you will always find me in my Temple, in my Church….

This is true. This is a reason we come to Sunday Mass, knowing we will find Jesus here.

On the other hand, Mary and Joseph will also take Jesus home. He does not remain in the Temple only.

[_04_]       This Gospel reminds us to persevere, to present ourselves to the Lord not only in private but also in public.

We do this in our friendships, in our conversation.

We present ourselves to the Lord by our choices between what is good/evil, right and wrong.

Sometimes, in the crowd – or among friends – we may experience to go along or just to get 

We may want to make others happy by saying YES, even if we know this is against our conscience, even if we know something is wrong.

In this regard, it is hard to find Jesus in the crowd.

However, it remains possible and it remains part of our spiritual well being and health.

Jesus wants also to know, he asks … who touched me?

He wants to know if you and I are also touching /in touch with him.