Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Light Means Go (2012-10-28)

This is my homily for 28 October  2012 (Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[ Jeremiah 31:7-9  | Psalm 126 | Hebrews 5:1-6 | + Mark 10:46-52]

[__01]   The light says go.

In the Gospel we have just read, Bartimaeus is a man who has just received the green light – the Go Signal – of vision after years of blindness.

To summarize this section of Mark, Chapter 10, Bartimaeus is raising his voice, making his presence known to Jesus who is leaving Jericho and in a crowded district/area. Bartimaeus is one of many in promixty and within shouting distance to our Lord whom he summons/calls to audibly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).

Others in the crowd advise (“shout down”) Bartimaeus to be silent.   Bartimaeus persists anyway. Jesus comes to him, heals him, saying “your faith has saved you.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).

And, upon gaining sight/vision, the healed Bartimaeus immediately starts moving, goes in motion.  We read, “Immediately [Bartimaeus] received his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).

[__02]       This following – this act of motion would also be one that takes Bartimaeus off of the sidewalk and into the street/road for a longer journey.

Bartimaeus, once stationary is now mobile.

[__03]     Several years ago, I was completing a morning commute from New Jersey to New York City. I had exited the bus, and taken the escalators down through the Port Authority Bus Terminal to 8th Avenue.  

I was on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue at the corner of 42nd Street, about to walk uptown.
Then, just before I stepped into the road, a blind man stopped me, asked I would accompany him across 42nd Street.

We walked, his hand on my arm, across 42nd on the sidewalk, crossed again at 43rd and then we parted ways around 44th.

This man – many individuals who are blind – navigate their homes, other buildings, and sidewalks – even in large cities with full competence and confidence.

 The sidewalk, in particular,  has boundaries that can be felt, the wall/window of a store, the building on one side, a curb or fire hydrant, or parking meter on the other side.

The sidewalk was a haven, similar to a beach or harbor.  The sidewalk is solid ground. The street, on the other hand, resembles an ocean without markers and without differentiation.

But to go further was a different story.  We also need greater powers of vision to go further – to leave the sidewalk of our lives in any literal or symbolic sense.

Dependent on me was the blind man. And, perhaps you have had – or will one day have – a similar experience.

[__04]       [ONE] Consider the transition which many of us make or will one day make from being single to being married or from not having children to having a child.

Or, from thinking about – discerning a particular career …to then living out our career, our life’s calling.

In these commitments, we may be called outside of our comfort zones, the sidewalk, the safety of satisfying our own needs first.

And, in many situations –densely packed conditions between brothers/sisters …husband/wife ..or  parent/child, we see also see that traffic flows in at least 2 directions. Sometimes, in a family crisis, traffic might move in more than 2 directions.

It may seem safer to stay on the sidewalk.

Do we have the necessary vision?

We also need vision – and God’s grace – to survive and look out for the good of another person.

[__05]     [TWO] Consider also the transition from high school to college at FDU, or the transition from our home country to university life and studies in the United States.

In high school – or in our home country – certain things were well defined and known.

We knew how to read the signs.

Here, in a new academic / residential / dorm / cafeteria / eating environment, we are called to a new level of honesty, integrity, community, discipline.

And, we almost always have to manage multiple priorities and, as we say, oncoming cars, trucks, traffic in our way.

Maybe the oncoming traffic is an assignment, expectation from a professor, roommate, the coach, our parents at home.

 [__06]      In the Gospel, Bartimaeus experiences two changes. First, his sight is restored.

Secondly, he moves to follow Jesus which is also a transition from darkness to illumination.

Bartimaeus can see the light. The light says go.

And, in this case, Bartimaeus does not need the help of another pedestrian to cross 42nd Street or 8th Avenue in NY or Jericho.

Bartimaeus can move without holding on to anyone physically but can, as Jesus, tells him, “go [his] own way. ”  (cf. Mark 10:46-52)

[__06.01]     A similar message – at the time of the resurrection – is offered to Mary Magdalene – to whom Jesus tells … “do not hold on to me… ”

Jesus wants to give – to us as well – a spirit of confidence in him, a spirit to overcome temptations, to overcome anger, selfishness…

[__06.02]      Outside of our regular comfort zone, we may encounter people who tempt us…or who push us beyond our limits. Sometimes, this could be a temptation to do something unjust / immoral.

Through our faith – and learning of the commandments – we learn the right way without having to be taken across the street by anyone elsoe.

And, we learn to leave our comfort zones – the sidewalk – in order to grow.
[__07]     Our journey, our discipleship also calls us to follow Jesus, but also to do so with the vision and balance of God’s commandments.      This love – and grace - is meant to help us survive and thrive even when we are off the safety of the sidewalk, and we are also invited with Christ’s help,  “to go our own way” …which is also the direction in which he is leading.     He is our guide.

Seeing the light, experiencing God’s presence and love, this means go.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

We Are Able (2012-10-14)

This is my homily for 21 October  2012 (Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

21 October 2012  -  29th Sunday (B) - 

[ Isaiah 53:10-11  | Psalm 33 | Hebrews 4:14-16 | + Mark 10:35-45]

References:  J.H. Newman
·          Book II, Sermon 26, “Human Responsiblity”
·          Book IV Sermon 20, “The Ventures of Faith”- especially the latter one I am using in this homily.

[__01]   “We can”. Or, “we are able.”

[__02]      James and John tell our Lord and Savior, speaking about their own competence and confidence, “We are able.”

This is their response to the question about ability to drink the cup of suffering which Jesus will drink and their ability to receive the baptism with which he is to be baptized.

[__03]    We are able.

Reading about the expectations – even the demands of James and John – we might wonder what their true abilities and motivations would be.

Reading this Gospel, we might interpret their see a a dark and selfish side of their assertion of ability.  “We are able.” Is this good news?

Everyone has unique abilities and strengths and talents for which some elite performers are even rewarded very handsomely. 

Should we see James and John as elite performers – first round draft picks or heavily recruited players – who also want guarantees based on their ability. We are able.  Now, please give me a deal, a guarantee.

[__05]   In general, a guarantee is a good thing. The question is – does the “guarantee”  motivate us to take action…or, in some way, does the guarantee keep us on the bench or the sidelines …or out of the playoffs.
[__04]   In some places, in the playing field of business or of negotiation, one side demands a guaranteed minimum price, or a guaranteed maximum, or an option to buy or sell.  These guarantees in business are similar to the baseball pitches that A-Rod / Yankee Alex Rodriguez was supposed to connect with and drive over the outfield fence in Yankee Stadium. Home run?

So much for guarantees.

[__06]      In a church sermon from the 19th century – almost 200 years ago and long before the “draft picks” and contracts in Major League Sports – Cardinal John Henry Newman reflected on the words, “We are able.”

How do the words of James and John and their hope for a guarantee apply to you and me?

[__07]       “We are able.”

Saying this, James and John are also signing on for a “contract”  - or what we would call a covenant with Jesus, a relationship.

Newman calls this covenant the venture of faith.

And, a venture is something we undertake at the risk of REJECTION, DANGER, but also with the hope of GAINING SOMETHING ENTIRELY NEW.

The word “venture” describes the fidelity – faithfulness to which James and John are being called.

And, it may seem, then, that they lack guarantees – will there be only – FEAR, RISK, DANGER, ANXIETY, UNCERTAINTY ?

[__08]      Certainly, this is a possibility. And, this would explain why Jesus responds at first to the request of James and John for first class seats in Eternal Life, with this caution … “You do not know what you are asking.” (Mark 10:35 à)

[__09]      Nevertheless, should we not also acknowledge that James and John – while lacking experience – and playing time at the “Major League” level – are in fact putting their faith Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

They are making a venture, taking a risk.

[__10]     Jesus asks James and John – and you and me – if we would be willing to put ourselves at risk for the sake of the Gospel, even in exchange for our own well being.

Doing so, then, we are not only ABLE, but we are also WILLING.

[__11]       And, we would be taking Jesus at his word. Jesus, at the end of the Gospel today, speaks about the guarantee. The guarantee that he is with us always in the Holy Eucharist, in our Church, in his word.

The guarantee is that Jesus gives his life as a ransom – in exchange for – our sins.

[__12]        Are we up for the venture? The adventure?

Through the sacrament of baptism, of confirmation, of communion … of the sacrament of matrimony/marriage, Jesus invites us to participate – in humility and in hope – in this venture.

Yes, in the short term, there may be anxiety, fear, distress, not to mention …. applications, essays, midterms and finals.

[__13]        We are able.  On the day of a wedding – or every day in a marriage or family – husbands, wives, mothers, fathers – express “we are able” in carrying out their vocation to their family.

This involves, sometimes, very large risks, dangers.

It involves – on a daily basis – the venture – the risk of trying to put the needs of someone else first.

Is not a risk, at times, to be cheerful toward someone who may be angry at you? To speak to the person whom  others ignore?

To speak the truth about dishonesty, injustice.

As we grow older – and have more experience with commitment, the risk continues. There is both risk and reward.

For example, adult children caring for a relative or parent who is ill or in advanced age take risks also. There may even be rejection or alienation at times.

We are able.

How are we able?

[__11]       We are able because we believe that Jesus has suffered, died, and risen for us. We are able due to our hope in eternal life.

We are able because even if there is uncertainty now, Jesus is guaranteeing that we can remain with him and he remains with us.

This ensures our success and hope in God who loves you and me. We are able.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lost? Need Directions? (2012-10-14)

This is my homily for 14 October  2012 (Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

14 October 2012  -  28th Sunday (B) -  [ Wisdom 7:7-11  | Psalm 90 | Hebrews 4:12-13 | + Mark 10:17-30]

[__01]   Jesus encounters a future – potential – disciple; and, they are both travelling.

They are both out on a journey. The man -- whom Jesus encounters  -- is trying to find the way, his way.

In the sample days before satellites and towers (GPS and cell phones)  we used to stop and ask someone, “where am I?” / “where are we?”

And, the goal would be to find a local person who knows the roads, comprehends the landmarks.  Therefore, we RECALCULATE the route by finding someone personally who knows the routes.

[__02]      In this Gospel, a man approaches our Lord and Savior who is willing and patient with him, in the way a local person might be.

We read that Jesus looked at him, loved him, looked at him lovingly for the effort/struggle he was going through to find his way.

The young man asked Jesus the way to heaven.  And, he phrases his question this way --

“What good must I do?”, In other words –

  • What task can I perform?
  • What project can I complete?
  • What program can I finish?
  • What book can I read?
 In order to
  • Win
  • Be a 1st round draft pick
  • All-Star
  • To be Saved

[__03]   And, this young man has a plan – probably a DATA with satellite connectivity, wireless. In contemporary, current-day terms, he would have these things, as a few of his MANY possessions.

His question is similar to the questions we also ask about happiness, salvation, contentment, whether we are walking through Barnes and Noble looking the books or surfing the internet.

“What must I do?”

But Jesus is also asking encouraging us task – Where am I? Where are you? And, where is the Lord in our lives?

Would Jesus be a recently found destination for you and me?

[__04]   The question of the young man in the Gospel is similar to a question asked by any student on our campus – or any of us.

When we are in school, we ask,

What must I do?  Is this going to be on the exam? Such a student – and we have all been such a student – is concerned about immediate impact, consequence, and transcript-GPA recalculation.

In this regard, when we ask “where am I?”, we are asking this in relation to others.

That is where I do rank, my ranking , my position… relative to others. Where am I in the bell curve? How many standard deviations away from the mean/average?

How did others do on the test?

Then, we might go to our professors, to our advisers, or to someone in charge and ask, “What do I have to do, in order to achieve, to move forward, pass ..or ace this class?”

In these cases, we might resemble the traveler on the road who does not want to turn around.

As travelers, we often ask for directions – for the fastest possible route – so that I continue doing what I am already doing, to continue with my route (my data plan), my projects.

The man in the Gospel also does not want to go backwards, in reverse. The man in the Gospel wants directions, but also wants to keep going in the same direction.

[__05]   Going in reverse – or back the way whence we came – can make us uncomfortable.

But, Jesus the Teacher invites us to consider this to live in simplicity (without too many possessions) and in charity (but with concern for the other).

This reverse course could mean, for example --

  • Pray, those who cause us difficulty for those from whom we feel persecution. Pray for your enemies.

  • Forgive those who knowingly or unknowingly may have done us wrong. This does not mean that we invite or permit them to continue their wickedness, injustice, or their sinfulness. But, forgive them.

  • Put first – in our lives – the value of another person rather than any possession or object.  This is a special struggle for us as we might try to “climb the ladder” of success or take on a leadership role of any kind.  Popularity is a possession. We don’t want to misplace that or let anyone take our rightful share, do we? But do I put my possession – or popularity – ahead of the good of others?

  • In a friendship – or a relationship – the same can be true. I may seek the “favor” rather than the true friendship in a relationship. This is also could be a possession that Jesus is asking me to sacrifice – to sell…and thus liberate me to serve those in need.

When we examine our lives, we may be sloing down, decelerating, or going back whenc we came.

Where am I? Where are you? We answer this question honestly – in an academic/intellectual sense – when we can recite the basics of any course or discipline. To go back to Chapter 1 for the Final Exam.

Sometimes, in order to find our way, we may need to turn around or, at least, detach ourselves from some of our luggage, baggage.

Need directions?

We are called to look for the person who knows the local roads. Jesus is this person.

Jesus is the local person in the areas who knows the ways of sacrifice , the way of the Cross too, the way of surrender, the way of finding the destination to which God is calling all of us to love and to serve.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Explorations (2012-10-07)

7 October 2012  -  27th Sunday (B) - 

[ Genesis 2:18-24  | Psalm 128 | Hebrews 2:9-11 | + Mark 10:2-16]

This is my homily for 7 October  2012 (Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01]  Tomorrow is Columbus Day.

Through the journeys/travels of Christopher Columbus, our land, our territory – where we are – is given a name by European explorers, a names of places in European languages.

These names endure to this day –
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • And in particular, in Spanish mission territory, Catholic names – such as Saint Augustine in Florida, and the mission locations of California – San Diego, San Francisco. And, Los Ángeles.

These names were given and applied to places

In the same way a chemist would apply a name to a new tiny molecule (via the microscope) or an astronomer would give a name to a new faraway star-planet (via the telescope).

But, of course, the name itself – New York, New Jersey, San Diego – does not tell the whole history.

And, in the case of European explorers-colonizers, some of them gave names to places, to people, but did not necessarily respect the life (well being) of those whom they named and defined.

We would also say that the natives here – on the Hackensack River prior to Columbus – did not really need to be ¨discovered¨, but there was an encounter happening between Europe of the day and the natives of our continent and islands here.

There was a naming and defining going on, by Columbus and by other explorers who arrived here.

[__02]   In the Book of Genesis, Adam is similar to an explorer, encountering every bird of the air, every animal – not simply as an image on a screen or through a telescope but in person.

The ¨naming¨ is, as we read in Genesis, a breeze for Adam. No trouble at all to make this definitions.

The naming was smooth sailing for Columbus. The hard part was coming here, settling, adapting to a new climate and geography, the hard part for any of the colonists who arrive. (Also hard on the natives…)

The naming is a breeze for Adam. The difficult struggle is finding the suitable partner, the relationship which will help him become his true self, the person God is calling him to be.

As we read in the Book of Genesis, ¨It is not good for the man to be alone.¨

So, Adam and Eve have names and complete and complement each other with similar natures. They are equal before God, but made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) in different ways.

Both are made in the image and likeness of God.

[__03]   This is also true in our regard for children in our lives, in anyone whom we care for at any age.

In the case of a child – by giving a name to a child – we are not exactly ¨discovering¨ the child any more than Columbus discovered the Carribean islands.

The child has an independence, a completeness, a beauty, an identity, even before we name a son or daughter.

But, by naming the child is recognized by mother, father, family as one who is completely new, never to be seen again or discovered by scientists or explorers.

Calling a child by name is the first stage of teaching him or her respect, individuality, perception of individual gifts. Called a name (as children), we are also called to be something… to do something.

[__04]   The Good News of the Gospel today and the Good News of every Christmas – December 25 – is that the Kingdom of God arrives as a child.

We read that Jesus  says today in the Gospel that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these [children] …

In Matthew 18:3, he who receives this child, receives me…

[__05]  Our spiritual life is also an exploration, not simply to memorize names or facts – molecules or planets  or the material facts about other people but also to recognize the image of God present in every other person, to help us to grow in love, mercy, compassion.

To grow in who we are supposed to be.

[__06]   We can see the image of our frailty, our fragility in another person. But, we also see the image of our strength in another person.

We see the image of our weakness and strength in Christ who suffers, dies and rises.

So, today, we pray for life at all stages, for children yet to be born, that we will love them …

We people at all stages who might enter into new relationships.

For example, to pray for new friends and to pray for the future spouse – future wife or husband – whom we have not yet met.

Mothers and fathers pray for children who will be born in this way.

This helps us to be open to the suitable partner – and the gifts – which God would sends into our lives.

So that we might recognize the gift, the person whom God provides.

This helps us grow in appreciation of God’s image, wherever it is present, wherever it can be discovered, wherever it can be named.     [__fin_