Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mystery (2012-08-26)

This is my homily for 26 August  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.  

[Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b  | Psalm 34 | Ephesians 5:21-32 | + John 6:60-69]

[__01]   Could we define a mystery as something without a beginning and/or an end.
This would be a general – everyday English-language - definition of a mystery. Something without a beginning and/or an end, something without a start and/or a finish.

[__02]   This happens in fictional narratives, on the screen or on the page [although the screen now is the page. Yet, one more mystery.].
On the screen or on the printed page we may not catch a glimpse of [learn] the ultimate fate/destiny of certain characters. The ending is mysterious.
Or, we may not comprehend – in a particular story – the origins / the motive of a particular character. The beginning is mysterious.
Or, sometimes, both points on the spectrum are obscure, mysterious.

[__03]   In our Gospel reading this Sunday, early disciples and observers also find the introduction of the Holy Eucharist to be mysterious.  And, to some of them, unreasonable, implausible.
Last Sunday we read, they were quarreling among themselves, asking, about Jesus, how “this man”  can give us his flesh to eat?” (cf. John 6:51-58)

[__04]   A mystery is something without a beginning or an end, without a clearly defined start or finish.

[__05]   The 7 sacraments of our Catholic Church are mysteries, encounters with the Holy Spirit who also has neither a beginning nor an end.
God created the world, everything in the world. God created you and me, gave us our lives. Of this mystery – which is non-fiction – he is the author
This means God intervenes and has a plan for our lives, one which gradually unfolds for us.

[__06]  In this regard, because you and I are cared for by God, we are also made eternal, endless.
We believe, in particular, our lives are changed/altered – but not ended – with death. There is life beyond this earth.

[__07]  Over the past few Sundays, we have been reading from the Gospel of John, chapter 6.   The beginning of this chapter was mysterious. A miracle took place in the first paragraph, anticipating the later miracle of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

This was the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes for the hungry crowd

A miracle can also be a mystery. In the feeding of the 5,000 plus men, women, and children, from where did all the food/nourishment originate? Beginning?

In the miracle of the Holy Eucharist – there is the transformation – transubstantiation – of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, what is its provenance? Starting point? The motive ?

[__08]    The beginning – the motive – that we cannot see – is God’s love for us.

And, the Passion of our Lord, the Holy Eucharist indicate God’s love for us.

In every day life, we do not see – or may not comprehend – the sacrifices which others make for us.  We may not personally know their motives.

The Holy Eucharist is given to us as God’s personal touch, the Lord’s personal memorial – of his suffering and death.

We read in the 1st letter of John –
Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

The mystery is something we receive. And, the Lord wants us to receive a taste, a touch,  of eternal life – and communion - through the Body and Blood of Christ.

[__09]   What effect – emotion – does a good mystery have on our minds? Hearts?

Mysteries – in general terms – have the power to entertain, to distract. We may lose focus on other aspects of life. The mystery may help us to relax, to rest.

However, in this sense,  the mystery – in all its Hollywood/Bollywood glory is about suspense.  And, we too may only be suspended , removed from everyday life, temporarily, for 143 minutes at the Garden State Plaza Clearview Cinema, or 268 pages on the Amazon Kindle.

A mystery – in all its glory of God – is not meant to remove us from everyday life.

Rather we believe that our “suspense” is really a conversion, an elevation of our hearts and minds to God.

St. Therese of Lisieux writes of the elevation in this way, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.” (CCC 2558)  [1]

And, by focusing on God’s love for us, our beginning, we can more clearly comprehend our true calling in life, where we are going and what our true ending is in God’s real presence.

[1] CCC 2558, St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What We Work For (2012-08-19)

This is my homily for 19 August  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]   How do you and I work – or labor – for our food?

Working for our food is something we do beyond the harvest, beyond the farm.

We work at home to prepare meals. We work intellectually –mentally – to understand what we are consuming, receiving – in the breakdown of both food calories and food chemistry.

What is it that we are consuming?

And, we know the commonsense and scientific fact:  “you are what you eat.”

[__02]   Working for our food reminds us not take the good things of the earth for granted.

In working for our food, we set an example, or follow the example of gratitude for what we receive.

In understand what we eat – even studying – we set an example – and follow an example of discernment, discrimination. It is good to have a discriminating sense, taste and palate.

[__03]   St. Paul, writing to Corinth (à 1 Cor 10) takes this a step further.  That is, not only is the individual changed by what he or she consumes, not only are we changed as individuals by what we eat/consume, but so is the whole community.

An example is being set by what we receive, by what we consume.

This is part of the Holy Eucharist in the example set by Jesus.  Jesus lays down his life for us, we are called to do the same for each other.  (cf. John 15:13, “no greater love…”)

[__04]   Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks about the fact that certain things, certain foods also in ancient Greece – in ancient Greek society – were associated with the Greek Temple, were associated with non-Christian practices.

An example is being set by Christians who also participate and consume any and all of the above.

[__05]   Paul writes to believers in metropolitan Corinth known to be a place where many things could be bought and sold, typical of a large city today – Boston or Buenos Aires.

Now, Paul is writing explicitly about food.

Nevertheless, we could apply his message to the big city where we can – possibly - consume almost anything, food we taste, music we hear, images we see.

While everything is possible, not everything is nourishing, and everything sets an example.
Paul admits, writing --

 “Eat anything sold in the market without raising questions on grounds of conscience, for the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” (1 Corinthians 10:26)
The “earth and its fullness are the Lord’s”, so God created everything. Cherish these things, give thanks.

And, we know that God calls everything good that he makes.

Paul indicates that while everything may be permissible, not everything will be beneficial, not everything will be good for us.

[__06]  Each day, we are called to work – to discern – - to labor - to pray – for our daily bread.

Physically, we are accustomed to doing this.

And, we are called to do this in a spiritual sense as well, what are we to consume.

[__07]  The Good News is that the Lord introduces the Eucharist to us as the food for which we do not work or pay.

Jesus says, “My flesh is true food, by blood is true drink.” (John 6:51-58)

This sacrament is given to us as nourishment, but it also meant to remind us of the effort involved, the work of Jesus’ passion, his death and resurrection.
An example he has set for us.

And, we are called to set an example for others, by what we receive, consume, and by what we pray for each day.  [__fin__]

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Assumption of Mary (2012-08-15)

This is my homily for 15 August   2012 (Assumption). 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]  Today is the feast, the Holy Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, we have just read from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 1.
Mary travels to the home of her kinswoman/cousin Elizabeth – Elizabeth who considers the GREETING of the traveler, Mary, to be a blessing.

Elizabeth responds to Mary: “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

This greeting is God’s word, God’s revelation …or we might say, God’s inspiration and direction to us. Are we ready for this greeting?

[__02] The immediate recognition of Elizabeth – and of her child, John the Baptist is part of the Good News. Others in the Gospel – even those who meet the grown up Jesus – respond much more slowly.

Are you and I open to receiving God’s word – inspiration – which may also touch us rapidly or surprisingly, in real time.

Mary has been travelling some days or weeks to reach the hill country. There was radio silence, no status updates, no traffic reports. Suddenly, Mary is at the door …in all the swiftness of Travelocity.

 [__03]   In a greeting, we learn about TRUST, FIDELITY, COMMITMENT.

The elder Elizabeth welcomes the younger Mary after a long journey. Elizabeth senses – perceives this trust, fidelity, commitment in Mary.  Moreover, Elizabeth – and her son John [the Baptist] – perceive God’s presence in through Mary and Jesus.

Both learn this quickly.

 [__04] Should a greeting reveal so much? Give away so much?

Don’t and formal welcomes and handshakes also allow us to hide, conceal. In the days before unlimited TALK/TEXT/WEB, we would send telegrams… and really keep things brief.  And, “STOP”right there.

In a person’s posture or greeting, we can understand someone’s personality, mood, based on his or her presentation.

But, in the Gospel, despite a long and difficult off road, overland journey, Mary is enthusiastic …and revealing.

[__05]  Certainly we know people who selectively conceal or reveal by their greetings. We may do the same by our

  • Choice of words, the sheer number of words we use
  • Tone
  • Body language – including the number of times we look at my cell phones during the conversation.  Am I really present?
[__06]   In the Gospel, Mary and Elizabeth demonstrate their faithfulness by the way the receive the Lord in their lives and by the way they greet each other.

[__07]   Both Mary and Elizabeth recognize the image of God present in the other and in their children.
No pre-recorded messages.

[__08]    For us, it may be a struggle – but it is also a worthwhile challenge – to resist the pre-recorded message that we may give to others.

In other words, to resist the pre-recorded response in my head to the person who seems unpleasant or difficult.

The pre-recorded response may seem efficient.  But, it may not be what the moment demands. It may not reflect what is happening in real time. Ultimately, it may slow me down.

[__09]   The cheerful greeting to the difficult person is also an act of loving kindness.
Maybe, I don’t want to reveal/offer the friendly “Travelocity”– yet traditional - greetings of Mary and Elizabeth. I may want to hide

[__10]   We are called each day to welcome God’s word and will.   And, the visitors placed at our doorstep. And, this calls us to be aware of the settings we have made or will make in our greetings.

“Privacy” / “Out of the office” / “Call back later”

[__11] And, to ask ourselves who we can communicate God’s love by our greetings by our welcome.

And, also to consider how we can receive God’s love by our openness to the graciousness of others, even to others who are not on our preferred list of EMAIL ADDRESSES …or SPEED DIAL.

 [__12]  We can receive these greetings immediately, in the moment, as Mary and Elizabeth do in their real time exchange.

It is through our private prayer and meditation, our times of slowing down that we prepare for these greetings. For the word God speaks each day.

The bell might be ringing now … or will do so very soon.   

We pray so that we can be more alert, aware, to the word God speaks each day, so that we can also respond at the moment the greeting reaches our ears.  [__fin__]

Continuity (2012-08-12)

This is my homily for 12 August   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] Don’t we find the continuation – the continuity of a journey – to be Good News? For those who have experienced – at times – the delays of plane, trains and automobiles, we are grateful when we can keep moving.

We might say that the Gospel readings  from Saint John – especially over the past few weeks and into next week are a continuous – journey. Without commercial interruption.
A few Sundays ago, we began at chapter 6, verse 1… and we are still making our way.
We might say that the journey began with a delay. A fortunate, providential delay but a delay nonetheless. 5,000 plus hungry people were waiting to be fed.

They were not yet ready to pack up and go home to go to the local station or roads. This miraculous feeding and nourishment enables them to continue their journey.
And, this miraculous feeding and nourishment anticipates our sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

The Good News of the Gospel is nourishment which helps us to stop – pause – be nourished ..and continue our respective journeys.

[__02]  In the book of Kings, our first reading, the prophet Elijah is travelling, journeying and interrupted …

  • NAB note on 1 Kings 19:1-21 -  The story of Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb begins as a flight from danger, but takes a surprising turn. The prophet makes his solitary way to the mountain where the Lord had appeared to Moses and the Israelites (“Horeb” is an alternate name for “Sinai”). Like Moses on the holy mountain, Elijah experiences a theophany and receives a commission
And, for Elijah, hunger and thirst slow him down. He is ready to give up.  For Elijah, also, a miraculous meal – food and drink – a hearth cake and jug of water – give him new life.
[skipping hand written page A-9, A-10 parts about Jewish people and Exodus…]

[__03] But, in this moment of being fed, Elijah also receives a new calling, an assignment…

[__04] And, in our prayer before the Holy Eucharist, and in receiving communion, we are also praying that we might understand our own true calling.

One way we do this, for example, is praying in the Lord’s presence, where there is a tabernacle. For while God is is present everywhere in the world, he is present in a particular way in his own home, his tabernacle.

The Eucharist reminds us of our need for God’s help, wisdom, grace.

And, praying before the tabernacle and alter, we beg for God’s help to keep moving – in our own ways – on our own journeys.
We beg for God’s help to stand up, to stand our ground, to stand up to difficult people…
At times when it would be easier to rest our heads as Elijah does.
We depend on the Lord to keep going.

[__05]  There are delays that we experience … or ways in which our own vehicles or trains might go off the road or off the rails.

The temptation at such time might be to turn around, get on a train going in the opposite direction.

And, at times, this really is the solution. For example, in the case of the parable of the Prodigal Son, we see the Son who had spent all his father’s money packing up and going home… so as to be fed also.  However, the Son himself has changed in the process, his home has changed. The place to which he returns is not the same place from which he departed.

And, his calling – his responsibility – in this new place will be different.

[__06] During a delay, the temptation is to turn around. At times, we may be so focused on the “train station” of the past that we do not yet focus on the station – or situation – of the present.

It’s good to keep moving. This is the message to the folks who hear Jesus speak about the Bread of Life today…

Some of them are very focused on the manna the bread which saved the Jewish people in the desert during the Exodus. Also, a beautiful and necessary miracle. But, this was only physical nourishment.

We are called to see the Eucharist as our spiritual nourishment as well.  

So that, whether we endure ON-TIME SMOOTH SAILING ..or CANCELLATIONS… whether we endure JOY or SORROW, we are moving forward and trying to love God and love our neighbor at each stage of the journey.  [__fin__]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Miracle Finish in the 5,000 (2012-08-05)

This is my homily for 5 August  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. 

5 August 2012, 18th Sunday, year B

Exodus 16:2-4 | Psalm 78 | Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 | + John 6:24-35

[__01]   It was a miracle finish in the 5,000.  And, miraculous events attract attention, sometimes journalists, the press, with cameras and tape recorders.

The Gospel today also attracts attention.

In the Gospel this Sunday, our Lord and Savior speaks to the people – disciples and “news analysts” of his day.  Many are impressed with the most recent miracle, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes of which we read in last Sunday’s Gospel.

This is live coverage.

5,000 plus people were fed instantly.

Has a new record been set?   Now, of course, we do not assign point values, or gold/silver/bronze medals to some miracles over others. All of the miracles remind us the Lord’s sacrifice and undying love, his endurance on our behalf. However, in this particular miracle, Jesus touches and feeds everyone present.

This miracle anticipates the even more important “final” event of his Last Supper, death, resurrection by which he feeds us with his body and blood in the Eucharist.

This is our communion, our bond in real time.

[__02]  In the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, Paul compares the Christian journey, a race (sprint, marathon, 5,000 meters…). This race may leave us out of breath. For we have challenges and sorrows in our lives.

Even just the daily struggle, amid difficulty to:

  • Be cheerful, to smile
  • Be punctual, to be on time
  • Be patient, to with kindness on others

The Good News is that we are not judged with a stopwatch. We are not judged based on our defeats. Rather, we are judged by God who loves us and will credit us for trying, for our degree of difficulty, the degree of difficulty – mental, physical, emotional.

So this is a race. Nevertheless, Paul also emphasizes that we are not simply running toward the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the finish line.

In the letter to the Romans, chapter 5, Paul writes that the love of God has been poured into our hearts. (cf. Romans 5:5)

In Psalm 27, we read, “the Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?”

We should not be afraid of our…
  • Bosses
  • Children
  • The classmate who is 5 inches taller or who seems so much more intelligent.

You and I are on a journey and are still growing, changing …and, at times looking back, reflecting and repenting.  But, this does not mean that we wait for others to judge us with Gold/Silver/Bronze.

[__03]  In this Gospel, Jesus is being interviewed and analyzed after the multiplication miracle. And, many in the press, the reporters/journalists – with their microphones and cameras – are trying to capture the moment so as to report on it … objectively, factually.

Of course, OBJECTIVE reporting has a value. Every media outlet is trying to outperform the others in their accuracy and speed.  They want to be able to say.. you heard it here first.

This OBJECTIVE reporting has a value whether this is the BBC, NBC, or the New Testament.

And, the objective fact of the multiplication miracle is important to our understanding of the Eucharist. The Lord makes himself present to all. He remains abundant and available to us in prayer.  Also, in feeding the crowd on the green grass, we remember that the Lord wants to lead us to what is good, making us to lie down in green pastures, beside restful waters, as we read in Psalm 23.[1]

[Psalm 23]

The bread is multiplied, beautifully placed before us for our consideration… objectively speaking.

[__04]  Nevertheless, last Sunday  and this Sunday, Jesus suggests that we avoid making him only an OBJECT to be worshiped from afar. We recall that last Sunday Jesus wants to escape the plot to make him king.

Today, Jesus is asked / analyzed further – “how can we do what you do? How can we accomplish the works of God? ”  (cf. John 6:24-35)

[__05]  Jesus speaks now of a relationship rather than a competition.

That is, he says, believe in me, welcome me into your mind and heart. Don’t make me a competitor to against whom to race.

Make me a companion with whom to race, or walk or simply lie down in green pastures in prayer.

Welcoming the Lord this way, we enjoy our bond, our communion with him. With his assistance and support, this is our victory.


[1] CCC 1335, Daniel Harrington, Sacra Pagina, John, page 198, “the green grass recalls Psalm 23:2 …”