Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seek and You Will Find (2012-11-25, Jesus Christ the King)

This is my homily for 25 November 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.

25 November 2012, Feast of Jesus Christ the King, 34th Sunday of the Year

[__01]     In the Gospel of Matthew, we read these words about prayer and meditation.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be
opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find.

These are words which apply not only to a buying / selling transaction, or only to a Google search … but also to a search for the truth.

Seek and you will find.

In the Gospel, we have just read, Pilate is the judge who is finding out things about the defendant Jesus.

This Sunday is the feast of Jesus Christ the King, a Sunday and feast we observe just before the 4 weeks of Advent – starting next week.

Jesus is on trial before Pilate as civil courtroom judge who must rely on the evidence and testimony which others bring to him.

But, is not also Pilate’s duty – as officer of the court – as “minister of justice” – to do more than rely on the “show and tell” presentation by the Pharisees or the crowd.

Jesus – defendant – objects – but the objection is not sustained – by asking about Pilate’s method in the courtroom.  

Jesus suggests that Pilate will only reach the truth if he himself asks the questions.

Pilate said to Jesus,  "Are you the King of the Jews?"  Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?"” (cf. John 18:33b-34 à )

[__02]   By what ways and means and committees do we arrive honestly at the truth? Is it because of what we say on our own or only because of what others have told us?

Are you / am I swayed and influenced by what others are saying now …or might say in the future?

[__03]   Pontius Pilate certainly is one such person, influenced by the crowd.

A short time after this “police booking” of Jesus the suspect, Pilate ultimately gives into the will, the desires of the crowd.

Pilate does not demonstrate that he has prepared for this trial, brought his own questions, his own investigation.

[__04]      Don’t we fall into the same trap, the same danger ourselves?

This could be true in an academic endeavor or professional endeavor. Our teacher (or our boss) assigns a written term paper or project requiring research and reflection.

Let’s say the history of the British Empire in India from 1900 until 1947. Of course, what a history professor/teacher also asks is that we consider the lessons learned. And, we are called to bring our own questions about, say,

  • Colonialism
  • Imperialism
  • Economics
  • Justice

Doing so, are we only relying on the questions others have asked? Are we thinking about both 1912 and 2012 and beyond?

Pilate is stuck in the past. He has not done any real research. He asks questions based only on Wikipedia or, worse, the Teleprompter screen as a cue.

[__05]     In questions of morality or justice, the same may be true. Are we asking the same questions or the ones which others tell us to ask?

[apply experience of living and simply being alive to the sanctity of life…]

Are we reluctant / do we hesitate to put the questions in our own words?

For example, our Catholic Church teaches about the sanctity, the precious gift of human life from conception until natural death.

This is a general definition which may leave us content, satisfied …meanwhile, we also may be tempted to say this does not apply to me or we have no experience to contribute. I am not a scientist, right?

But, our own human growth / experience counts.  Of course, birth and early childhood development are not events we can recall. Our consciousness  - our awareness that we even existed – came about gradually. We relied on others to sustain us, nourish us.

Yet, at the same time, a child – from the first moment – is not only alive and capable of growth.   

Meanwhile, other “judges” and “juries” may present other arguments, or raise questions.

This arguments, often based on choice and freedom, may be attractive, enticing.

Would I, however, on my own – as a person who wants to live – who wants my life protected – want the right to terminate a life protected?

[__06]   The responsibility to safeguard human life does not rest only with judges, politicians, or physicians, but with everyone.

Our Catholic principles – and Catholic faith – also invites us to apply this sanctity of life definition again and again.

In other words, to ask about new technology, new medications, new stem-cell research. Is life being protected? At all stages.

It’s important that we do not let others tell us what the questions – or the answers – are.

It is truly our Catholic health care ethic to care for the whole person at any age. And, when we have questions, it is important to ask – one of our priests, a professional we can trust …and not simply to follow orders or prescriptions.

[__07]    We can evaluate – in faith, hope, and love, the evidence ourselves, body and soul.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be
opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)   [__fin__]      

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Sun, Moon, and the Stars (2012-11-

November 18, 2012, 33rd Sunday
[ Daniel 12:1-3  | Psalm 16 |Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 | Mark 13:24-32 ]

[__01]    In this Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples and to us about the end of time and the end of our lives.

And, while telling us the Good News of his Second Coming, Jesus also describes this with images that are startling –

  • A darker moon
  • Fading sun
  • Falling star

Here in the New York metropolitan region, we would be very inclined to study the signs in the sky – of meteorology, weather, astronomy – any signs that could influence the tide, the storm, or any disaster.

For example, we know that the high and low tide in the ocean is affected by the force of gravity on both the earth and on our moon.  Hurricane Sandy remains a “superstorm” also because of a sign in the sky – the gravity of the moon.

More scientific understanding, then would lead to more preparation, more gasoline-powered generators, or so we might think.

[__02]    Our preparation for a storm, a hurricane, an earthquake, however, does not necessarily remove our fear of the crisis.

Certainly, many things could happen for which you and I neither forewarned nor forearmed.

And, certainly, death and dying – in general – is one of these things.

November – the month of All Souls – is a time that we pray for our loved ones who have died and we offer special Masses for the living who mourn.

___PAUSE _____

While the hope of eternal life, the hope of reunion with our loved ones in heaven exists and is real … this does not completely eliminate our fear of separation, change, mourning, sorrow.

Or, our fear that something can happen for which I am not prepared. Mothers and fathers can  prepare for many things, on behalf of their children.  But, death is not one of them.

Try that on Google ?

This is not on anyone’s Government / FEMA / disaster preparedness To-Do List.
Jesus himself at Gethsemane – in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his trial and crucifixion begs God the Father:

Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Truly Jesus had not a  backup/emergency generator. The “generator” was in his heart, in his person, through the grace – the energy – given him by God.

His fear, in this sense, is real but it does NOT become an obstacle.

The storm of death and suffering are real. They are to be feared.

But, in this case, the Lord’s fear is of the storm.

For me, emotion may manifest itself as a fear of something, of something unknown, such as a storm.  Then, on top of this, in addition, my fear itself becomes a Category 5 Hurricane.
This could happen to any of us.

___PAUSE _____

[__03]  St. Augustine asks, do we really fear the end of time, the end of our lives? Do we fear death?

For some of us, for those who may have only a little understanding of our faith, death is only a scientific or chronological reality. That is, it is just a moment in time. 

It’s the end of time.

It is when time stops.  In scientific – astronomical terms, some might say death is SIMILAR TO the fading soon, the darkened moon, or the falling star.

Or, perhaps, death is something even greater in magnitude, wider in diameter and far, far away... ?

Death is, say, the black hole in outer space …that would be one alternative view. I’m not supporting this particular view.

For us, however, death is not so LARGE, not so far away…and, in some ways, not such a drastic change.

We believe – and we come to learn often painfully through the process of grief and mourning – that death is more of a take off point than a landing or even a burial.

In the funeral mass, we pray – and believe – that in death – life is changed not ended.

So, should we fear Christ’s coming?

Loving God, loving our neighbor, and making sacrifices which might actually make his poor, uncomfortable, or even without electricity …. All of these things indicated that we do not fear death.

Rather, we are willing to die to ourselves each day.

We do not fear death or God’s coming; we welcome it.

[__04]  If, on the other hand, I am really not loving God, not loving my neighbor ..If I am leading a selfish life … if my pleasure, my comfort, my sins are # 1, then I would fear God’s coming.

Augustine – in a very blunt and direct manner – puts it this way – do we love God or do we 
love our sins more?

Of course, we love God but we may need help to overcome our sinfulness and turn back to God again and again.

For this, however, our Church, in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation has also given us some emergency and crisis management methods.

We are called to examine our lives, to seek forgiveness, penance and thus to open ourselves to God without fear.

As as we read in the first letter of John, perfect love drives out all fear.

We need not fear his arrival or anything in the moon, or the stars, or the sun, on heaven, or on earth, even death and dying.    

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Major Gift (2012-11-11)

This is my homily for 11 November 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.

November 2012  -  32nd Sunday (B) -   U.S./Veterans Day
 [ 1 Kings 17:10-16 | Psalm 146 | Hebrews 9:24-28 | Mark 12:38-44 ]

[__01]    We read in the Gospel today about a woman/widow who is a major donor, a major-gift donor.

When we hear the term a “major gift donor” at Fairleigh Dickinson University, or any university, or a hospital, or the Central Park Conservancy Foundation, we think of an individual/family writing a check involving zeroes, the powers of 10, or some other way to express a large number.

For example, John Paulson is a wealthy New Yorker of surprised everyone with a large gift and the New York Times wrote,

When the hedge fund manager John A. Paulson stood in front of a gently cascading Bethesda Fountain on Tuesday morning in the heart of Central Park and announced a $100 million gift to the Central Park Conservancy, it seemed to come out of nowhere, like an errant ball from one of the park’s playing fields.[1]

So, Mr. Paulson’s gift “comes out of nowhere”… because it surprises everyone, like a soccer ball rolling through a playground.

Also interesting about the Central Park gift was that Mr. Paulson does not expect anything to be named after him. So, his major gift is different than our usual idea which involves a building with a name over the door.
This woman is a major gift donor, in a different way, because she gives all that she has, one hundred percent.

She has exactly 2 coins of net worth, 2 coins in her bank account, it is a short trip to from FULL to EMPTY.

You and I do not always step from wealth to poverty or FULL to EMPTY so willingly.

Last Sunday, I was driving around last Sunday, concerned that the needle of my car’s dashboard fuel gauge might reach E or Empty sometime soon. What if I have to drive to some galaxy far, far away?

Emptiness – even the thought of it – or the temporary experience of it – tends to be unsettling, uncomfortable.

[__02]   Of course, you and I also have ample reminders – TODAY and in New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut – who are without heat or shelter. It is our calling to pray for them and, when possible, to donate material goods, money to help them.

Here on campus, our food drive, this semester will go to help those who are hungry and homeless in our area.

[__04]   In the Gospel, Jesus is known as the one who empties himself, gives, pours out himself for our salvation. And, he says, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.

Am I willing to give this a try? Are we willing to give this a try, to be empty, OR -- to be hungry in this way?

[__05]     It is often said that those who are the most successful – the most prosperous – are those who are hungry. This description is often given to the aspiring actor, actress, or sculptor, violinist, entrepreneur, student, or student-athlete.

He or she is hungry. For success, for money, for reward, such a person will go – on the dashboard -  to “E” or “empty” on the gauge.

Would this success be the only motivation?

The woman in the Gospel does not receive such an immediate reward, payback.

Sometimes, we do not either…

[__06]      ACADEMICS. Academically, in the classroom.

We may have to take subjects in school. Young people, you may have to learn topics, principles that do not seem to help you right now.

Or, you may be called to learn the subject with a professor/teacher who is not your first choice.

Of course, there is always after the semester is over. But, what about right now…?

During the semester, it requires humility – we might say emptiness – to learn in such an environment.

And, I’m asking you – as students of FDU – to remember this and live it.

What you are doing now is not simply a preparation for your future calling/vocation… learning is your calling/vocation right now.

And, a gift to be treasured from God you’re your last 2 coins.   Wisdom is a pearl of great price.

[__07]    Personally , in relationships, we are called to emptiness, to openness to God’s calling.

It is certainly a temptation to take or to go out and get everything we possibly can in a friendship, relationship with another person.

But, especially as young people, we are called to certain virtues, even to restraint, to saying NO. And, to remember that we are preparing for a future calling which may be marriage.

Emptiness is good news; you are giving all you have.    Want to be successful in a relationship or future relationship? Stay hungry.

You are loved and you will be loved.

[__08]      Also, now and in the in the future, people will want what you have.

In coming to Sunday Mass, and in our prayer, we asking God’s help in order to find our way to the Temple.

Our gift – unlike the hedge fund manager from New York to Central Park – is different… for 2 reasons… it’s worth more than $100 million…and it definitely does not come out of nowhere.

Our gift is possible – and is a MAJOR GIFT -- because of what God has made us to be, to be to each other.

There is a reading/passage from the letter of St. Paul to Timothy. Paul is the elder writing to the younger Timothy to encourage him to be bold, courageous especially working with people who are older than he is…

Timothy might be discouraged because, to some, he does not seem to have too much to offer –

Let no one have contempt for your youth,* but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Until I arrive, attend to the reading,* exhortation, and teaching.  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.   ” (1 Timothy 4:12-16)

[1] Foderaro, Lisa, “A $100 Million Thank you for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories,” The New York Times, October 23, 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lights (2012-11-04)

This is my homily for 4 November 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.

4 November 2012  -  31st Sunday (B) -  [ Deuteronomy 6:2-6  | Psalm 18 | Hebrews 7:23-28 | + Mark 12:28b-34 ]

[__01]    For what and for whom do I stop, do I look and do I listen?

When we are learning to drive an automobile, ride a bicycle, or glide on a skateboard, or cross the street, we also learn many RULES about signs and signals -  STOP, YIELD, SPEED LIMIT, RIGHT ON RED, and others.

These rules apply on Midland Ave, River Edge, and  Madison Avenue, New York City,   //// apply on River Road, Teaneck and Riverside Drive, New York.

And, at any single moment, we are not just following one law but several. This is what we are taught to do, to follow for our good/well being/sake and for the good/well being/sake of others.

[__02]   In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus and a scribe – a scholar of the law – discuss the laws of God.

Both the scribe and the Lord agree that the --- greatest and first commandment is this: Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

My behavior – my actions – in a car or on the street – will demonstrate – in some sense – my love of neighbor.

Perhaps, at any one moment, I am not so focused on loving my neighbor as I am interested in passing my neighbor.

At times, I will use all of my mind and strength to get around a slow moving vehicle.

And, in most cases, this is also within the rules of the road. I can do so safely, without trouble or incident or having to show any police officer my license and registration.

[__03]    But, times have suddenly changed… if only temporarily.   The rules are different, are they not , when I now have to use all my mind and strength to cross the street at a point where the traffic light is not working, say at Kinderkamack and Main Street ….  In River Edge …or at River Street and Anderson Avenue in Hackensack.

In these geographic locations, I cannot rely on RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT to enforce the law or to keep everything orderly and safe.

Now, I am called to use more of my understanding and strength to anticipate what another driver may do and also to use my willpower to cross myself, without causing accident.

Suddenly, on Kinderkamack Road or on River Street, I am16 and 17 years old with permit or new driver’s license, trying to enter traffic, to pass the test.

[__04  The recent storm [i.e., Hurricane Sandy of October 2012], the outages put all of us to a test of understanding – to anticipate the needs of others.

Perhaps, we are anticipating the needs of our our children – out of school, the needs of a neighbor, the needs of a friend.

We are also at a crossroads without lights.

And, in this crisis, many of us have had to be more aware of what the rules are. We are called to use our minds for safety, security… and to respect our own lives and the lives of others.

Also, we use our hearts to love, to wait patiently when we would rather pass.

This is an opportunity to look and listen with all of our strength not because of rules enforced legally but because our faith tells us to love – to seek the way of charity at every turn, every encounter, every intersection.   [___fin__]