Thursday, December 26, 2013

Come Let us Adore Him (Christmas Day, 2013)

This is my homily for Christmas Day.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

[__01_]     In the Good News of Christmas, there are groups of individuals who arrive to ADORE.

We arrive to adore him, Christ the Lord, the Christ child of Bethlehem.

O Come All Ye Faithful.

[__02_]      The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem are the earliest group of disciples, the earliest ones to be informed.

This is not an individual, personal download of information… but a message received by the shepherds in community.

They will check to see if this is a hoax… by going to the manger – by praying, honoring, adoring -- in Bethlehem.

[__03_]    You and I come to Sunday Mass and to Christmas Mass also as a community, as a communion, as the Church, the People of God.

We adore him.

Come All Ye Faithful. Come Let us Adore him.

[__04_]      In some instances, we have reason to be afraid or to be suspicious of ADORATION which is demonstrated only in crowds, large groups, stadiums, arenas.

That is, we might be afraid or suspicious of ADORATION that we are simply reading about or seeing… on a screen –

·         Fans adoring a famous person or team
·         Appreciation of something superficial or material or only entertaining
·         Some people choose to ADORE  the NY GIANTS, NY YANKEES, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL, et al…but maybe not in 2013.

[__05_]     Adoration, honor – by the shepherds – on the other hand – bring no immediate prosperity or success or diversiĆ³n.

Would this ADORATION capture our attention?

You and I might prefer to take our ADORATIONS from the comfortable individual screen and/or seat.

The simple poor Shepherds of the First Noel demonstrate that adoration is a communal activity.

It is for the family, for the group, for our parish.

The shepherds travel and arrive together at the manger of Bethlehem.

[__06_]    Learning to adore the Christ child as Lord and Messiah, in communion, reminds us that all of our gifts are shared.

What you and I might regard as –
·         “my intelligence”
·         “my experience”
·         “my wealth”

All of these are gifts we are called to share.

 [__07_]      Of course, you and I may experience  ACHIEVEMENT or PROSPERITY or  HAPPINESS due to certain possessions or characteristics.

We have our own…

·         Grades in school = intelligence
·         Experience of the world = wisdom
·         Possessions, investments, portfolio = wealth

Pope Francis, in writing about the economy, about wealth.. points out that this gathering of possessions does not simply cut us off

It really cuts us off not only from those from people different or less advantaged … but also cuts off – is an obstacle in reaching our own center, our own heart … our conscience is “blunted”

Pope Francis writes:
Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”

Pope Francis – Time Man  of the Year / Person of the Year on planet Earth and ours continues and quotes the Holy Father in whose footsteps he follows …

I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.[3]

*** OMITTED – SPOKEN HOMILY - 8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?

[__08_]     Christmas reminds us that our true beauty and true goodness are gifts from God.

Also, the beauty and goodness we discover in others are also precious gifts of God to be protected, not simply possessed.

[__09_]      Adoration – Adoration -invites to practice our Catholic faith and Christian love publicly by what we say and do…

For example, in caring for a beloved person with an illness… WE ADORE HIM
In sharing our intelligence and our wisdom with others… WE ADORE HIM
In loving the person whom others might ignore or overlook ... whether this is a co-worker, a neighbor, a boy or girl on the school bus or in our classroom, WE ADORE HIM.
Admitting our need for God’s help to discern right from wrong, WE ADORE HIM.

We make way for Jesus’s entry into Bethlehem  and Jerusalem.

We come to Mass publicly also to pray and seek the spiritual support of others to discover the gifts which God has given us to share

In this regard, we can find safety and shelter and intimacy – with our Savior – even in a crowd. [__fin__]  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baptism of Water / Fire (2013-12-08)

This is my homily for Sunday December 8, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

2nd Sunday, Advent, Year A ••  Isaiah 11:1-10 •• Psalm 72 ••  Romans 15:4-9  •• Matthew 3:1-12  ••

Title:   Baptism By Water and Fire (2013-12-08, Advent)

[__01_]     This Sunday, we read about water and about fire.

For our safety and shelter, we upgrade, we make arrangements to keep ourselves safe from both water and fire.

A storm, “superstorm” or hurricane, can bring dangerous tides and surges from the Atlantic Ocean or the bay or the river. 

The Gospel parable of Matthew, chapter 7 tells us of the wise man who built his house on rock, on a rock/stone foundation. Then, the rain came, the winds below and buffeted the house. But, on a rock foundation, the house was safe.

[__02_]     Then, in many ordinary situations, we also have alarms, detectors, and sprinklers to keep ourselves safe from fire and flames.

[__03_]      Water and Fire… maybe we should stay away?

On the other hand, in the Gospel this Sunday, baptism is introduced to us as a blessing of water and a blessing of fire.

First, there is the water-Jordan-River baptism by John the Baptist.

Secondly, there is the baptism of fire, the baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

In our ritual/sacrament of baptism we observe both symbolically… we received – in our own baptisms - water poured over our heads.

And, we received the fire, the light of the baptismal candle, from the Paschal Candle.

[__04_]    Both water and fire can transform a landscape, a forest, a city.

And, the gifts of the Holy Spirit – through Baptism and the sacraments also transform our 

[__05_] This Sunday, in the Book of Isaiah, we read the traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit  …
·         Wisdom and understanding
·         Counsel and strength
·         Knowledge and fear of the Lord

The Holy Spirit comes as both water and fire, as a transforming presence… The transformation also invites us to change, to conversion.

After an actual climate event – a storm, a forest fire…the residents either move or rebuild.  

They also may have to move to escape the fire line or the storm surge.

We may, at times, also be tempted to try and move to escape the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We may – initially  - say …yes, please give me more…
·         Wisdom and understanding
·         Counsel and strength
·         Knowledge and fear/respect of the Lord

Then, saying this, we are also called to accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and act on them … for example…

[__06_]    The gifts of WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING.

We might be tempted to gain more wisdom or more understanding when we can receive it on our terms on in our time. Sometimes, wisdom and understanding are a hard struggle.

This is true even in academic setting. We may be tempted to given when a teacher’s explanation is poor, when the classroom environment is unpleasant…or when studying is, simply, the least convenient option on our schedule.

We may, then, put out the fire of knowledge and understanding. 

These gifts, however, burn – and remain a fire when we devote ourselves to learning, to pursuit of the truth.

Outside the classroom, we also pursue truth and knowledge in relationships with others. 

We can tend the fire of the Holy Spirit.

[__07_]     The gifts of COUNSEL and STRENGTH.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are a fire.

Sometimes, we let this fire be smothered by our unwillingness to make commitments, to decide, or to seek good advice.

For example, do we seek relationships which make us strong and which help us to live up to our commitments, to the virtues of simplicity and service and purity? … Relationships which give us the right advice, the right counsel and strength.

[__08_]     The gifts of knowledge and fear/reverence for God are also fires of blessing.

In this case, fear also equals respect and reverence for God and God’s gifts.

Sometimes, we treat God’s gifts – whether this is a gift of one’s own person (e.g., a talent) or the gift of another person as though they are possessions to be evaluated, analyzed..perhaps returned on 12/26.

On the other hand, with respect for God, we also strive for God’s knowledge, and to love as God loves.

This also helps keep the fire of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit burning.

[__09_]    Our acceptance of these gifts  of the Holy Spirit will, however, invite us to turn away or to change.

In this regard, the fire may cause some discomfort or pain.

Baptisms by fire usually do…they are often a severe ordeal or initial experience.

[__10_]     This fire is meant to burn within each of us, in our hearts, in our consciences.

It is a fire for which we care for … we tend.

The Holy Spirit not a fire that we can completely control… like a controlled burn … by forest rangers – or Smokey the Bear - in the Rocky Mountains.

The fire and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are beyond our control… that is, if we have experienced the touch of conscience telling us right from wrong… even when the right choice is the less desirable choice..then, this is the uncontrolled burn of the Holy Spirit.

In this regard, the fire is Good News, the fire indicates we are alive.

And, the fire, is not something to escape … but rather to discover, to find. The fire is our shelter, our home with God.    [__fin__]  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stay Alert (2013-12-01, Advent)

This is my homily for Sunday December 1, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

1st Sunday, Advent, Year 
A ••  Isaiah 2:1-5 •• Psalm 122 ••  Romans 13:11-14  •• Matthew 24:37-44  ••

[__01__]      Waking up early – being awake and alert --  is an advantage to us in terms of mobility, productivity. This is true whether we speak of honest or dishonest objectives, honest or dishonest goals.

[__02__]    In the Gospel, Jesus emphasizes ALERTNESS.

In the Gospel,  Jesus our Lord speaks of the thief’s arrival at midnight, later, or sometime around ZeroDarkThirty.

The thief moves more rapidly at night. The thief may be alone on the street

[__03__]     During our Advent season, starting today, we are reminded to stay awake, to remain alert.

The possibility of a thief trying to access our house-door or hard-drive is presented to us. 

And, of course, if you and I had known the hour when the hacker would gain illegal access, then we would never have opened that email or clicked on that attachment.

INTERNET-SCAM EXAMPLES -- “You have just won a million dollars…” OR … “You will inherit a large sum of money if you follow these instructions…”

[__04__]  Jesus also wants to protect us, his disciples, speaking about the anti-theft device or firewall which is represented – in the Gospel – by a…
·         Guard
·         Soldier
·         Member of the household

But, he is not simply trying to protect them from harm. Jesus also wants to prepare us to receive the Holy Spirit, to be awake and alert to God’s will in our lives..

Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42)

[__05_]   Are we not willing to wake up early or earlier to avoid difficulty or to gain material rewards, a financial bonus, deal,

We will go out in the dark…just to be in the black…

To go from SLUMDOG to MILLIONAIRE. Early birds get worms. But it’s not always easy to be early, to be alert.

Doing so, we struggle against –

·         TEMPERATURE .. especially the early morning cold of December and winter

·         MOBILITY – it may be difficult to move at an early hour, due to our fatigue, exhaustion.

·         VISIBILITY – it is difficult to see before dawn, before sunrise.
To live as Jesus taught, to love God and love our neighbor, to pray for those who persecute us, to pray for those who cause us difficulty, this is dying to self.
We come to prayer, to Sunday Mass, for help for alertness ..under these conditions and circumstances of…
·         Temperature
·         Mobility
·         visibility

This is not only a thermometer reading but also an encounter with rejection, by another person or persons or group, at times.
We face the cold of another person’s selfishness, sin.
There is a temptation to avoid this cold or to turn away from the Good-News ALERT to stay awake, by not trying, or by not stretching ourselves, by hitting the SNOOZE…by not giving.

 [__07__]    MOBILITY
In the dark, early morning, it may be hard to move around or start moving.
And, do we not experience times of decreased motivation or discipline in our lives?
We may simply surrender to the inertia of disappointment. We don’t move

 [__08_]    DARKNESS
We come to Jesus, to church and to his sacraments in times of personal darkness,  for forgiveness.

This forgiveness enables us to put aside – as St. Paul writes – to throw off the deeds of darkness.

Telling our sins in confession, at Advent, is an opportunity for all of us to start anew.

It is also an opportunity for us to move with greater confidence even if it is still dark outside.

With forgiveness of our sins, with a clean heart, we gain God’s light and wisdom.

In this regard, at every hour of night and day, we stay awake with our Lord and for our Lord.

This is the action of death and of resurrection to new life. This dying and rising life began with Jesus and continues with you and me.
As St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “he died for us, that all of us, whether awake or asleep, together might live with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10) [__fin__

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How To Be More Appealing (Christ the King Sunday, 2013-11-24)

This is my homily for Sunday November 24, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

34th Sunday, Christ King Year C  ••  2 Samuel 5:1-3 •• Psalm 122 ••  Colossians 1:12-20 •• Luke 23:35-43  ••

Title:   How To Be More Appealing

[__01__]     How to be more appealing
Father Ronald Knox, in a sermon called “Jesus My Friend” gives an example of a schoolgirl / schoolboy whose style of speaking and writing are similar to the teacher.

That is, the young student finds his or her teacher appealing and imitates the teacher.

Do we not also learn to communicate by finding what is appealing in those around us.
And, by the way.. OMG … we may find “appeal” in words or actions that are not necessarily good for us. 

[__02__]   An “appeal” may cause us to prefer (like) one product or person or idea more than another.

Sometimes, “appeal” is superficial or based on appearance.

This is true in our friendships, our relationships, as well.

Father Ronald Knox – Ronald Knox – observes that human friendships can waver, can falter.

One of the great appeals – or strengths – of a friend is his or her endurance, loyalty, consistency.

In the book of Sirach, we read about the value – and “treasure” of friendship --
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” (Sirach 6:14)

[__03__]    In the Gospel this Sunday, we read about the appeal and the friendship between Jesus, crucified,  and the thief also crucified.

The Lord welcomes the appeal, the request of the thief on the cross.

The Lord also wants us to be appealing.. to appeal to him.

Are we appealing? Am I appealing? Are you appealing?

In this regard, I’m not reflecting on physical presentation to others but on the presence of God in us, in our midst.

Am I appealing to God each day for my needs? My petitions?

Do I appeal – in prayer - … when things are going wrong … do I give up?

 [__04__]  The thief on the cross gives an example of enduring appeal, of one unafraid to make a request that would seem too late.

 [__05__]   FRIENDSHIP -  Friendship – as Ronald Knox writes – can either inspire us or drag us down.

Sometimes, we make choices based only on superficial appeal – height/weight, clothing, appearances.

We may follow certain ideas – or friends – only because they have immediate appeal or popularity.

[__06__]   Are we – are you and I – however – also open the appeals which God makes to us through the Gospel, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – through our consciences…. Even through our relationships?

If we live by only superficial standards or immediate comfort / convenience, then we might be only trying to receive/gain favor, or to give someone a favor ….

But, real and lasting friendship is not based on the favors we exchange or do for each other. 

We perform favors, expecting payback.

Jesus, however, asks us to be in a relationship – enduring/permanent – that is not based on favors.

Rather, he gives us “appeals” .. not “favors”.  God wants us to be more appealing.

God wants us not to do favors but to listen to his truth, his appeal.
Sometimes, we are invited to serve – to sacrifice - ..this is an appeal.

The Lord wants us to be more appealing

In our love of God and love of neighbor, the Lord’s friendship – and our faith in the Gospel – also enables us to be more appealing. [__fin__]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Without Defense, Still Strong

This is my homily for Sunday November 17, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

33rd Sunday, Year C   ••  Malachi 3:19-20a •• Psalm 98 •• 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 •• Luke 21:5-19  ••

Title:   Without Defense, Still Strong

[__01__]     Without defense, we can still be strong.

Without defense, we can still be strong.

 In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “some of you will be led before governors because of my name. You are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for 

I myself shall give you [a] wisdom” (cf. Luke 21:12, 15)

[__02__]   This prophecy, from our Savior, refers to martyrdom and to martyrs. These witnesses for our faith stood up for our Creed..not only did they stand for the Creed after the homily at Sunday Mass but they stood in a public square or courtroom.

[__03__]    Regarding these disciples and regarding our own lives as Christians,  Jesus tells that we can be strong even if we do not have …
·         Defense
·         Defense attorney  / public defender
·         Representation, agent,

We can be strong even if we lack the eloquence to speak or write  … or the wireless connectivity to make our voice heard or our message seen.
Without defense, we can still be strong.

 [__04__]  It is difficult to break down or take down our defensive walls, firewalls.

 [__05__]    While few of us may be actually arrested / indicted while standing up for the Creed at Mass, all of us are called to live the Gospel by taking down our defenses.
We do this in our service/charity to others …. And we do this is in the repentance of our sins.

[__06__]   I would like to touch on an image seen by many of us recently of Pope Francis, November 6, in St. Peter’s Square, in which the Pope embraces a man severely disfigured – suffering from suffers from neurofibromatosis.

The Mayo Clinic describes neurofibromatosis as a “genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in your nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue.” It is not contagious.

 While individuals with neurofibromatosis are sometimes shunned because of their appearance, Francis wasted no time kissing the man’s face, embracing him and offering up a blessing.

Of course, there are many volunteers in hospitals, many doctors and nurses doing the same, welcoming the sick person.

They are also taking down their own defenses.

Without defense we can still be strong.

[__07__]   On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines.

Thousands of people have lost their lives. Thousands more are injured, homeless, impoverished.

This immense tragedy reminds us that we are defenseless – though not completely helpless – against certain natural disasters.

Jesus is speaking about God’s wisdom being more important than well-written defense strategy in spiritual and moral matters.

However, could we not apply this same idea to the disaster in the island of Leyte, the city of Tacloban and other places in the Philippines.

That is, we cannot necessarily have a defense strong enough in a material sense. Moreover, isn’t it also true that many humanitarian aid workers have gone to – or already in – the affected areas without “defense.”

They do not have all the food, water, medicine, shelter, DEFENSE…which are needed.

Yet, their presence is still absolutely necessary.

Without defense we can still be strong.

 [__08_]    Our strength – as Christians – is not in playing defense whether with 4 midfielders or 2 midfielders, whether in a zone or man-to-man coverage.

These are the defenses of the court and field, away from the courthouse.

Our strength as Christians is not in play D, defense, or in playing offense either.

Our strength is in God’s mercy and love.

Our Holy Father gave us a public example of this in the embrace of the man at St. Peter’s Square.

As St. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians:

“Love / charity does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered … love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (cf., 1 Corinthians 13:5-7)

Defenses fail.  “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Without defense we can still be strong. [__fin__]

[1] As one reviewer wrote in an informal internet-review comment on the photo, “The Pope is crushing it”. In this case, crushing is good.