Sunday, February 24, 2013

Surrounded (2013-02-24, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday February 24, 2013 (Lent). 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.

[_ver-05_]    2nd Sunday Lent, 24 February 2013

[Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18  | Psalm 27 | Philippians 3:17-4:1 |  Luke 9:28b-36]

TITLE:   Surround Sound … and Light

[__01]        This is the Gospel of the Transfiguration … the Transfiguration in which Jesus is surrounded by bright light, surrounded by Moses and Elijah on a mountain.

The Transfiguration is an exaltation, a glorification of Jesus, anticipating the Resurrection.

Moses and Elijah, famous Hebrew prophets who had died centuries earlier, are part of this dazzling white vision. (NOTE = Moses had also seen God’s glory on Mt. Sinai (Exodus, 2x, receiving commandments) and Elijah on Mt. Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings18:19))

Both Moses and Elijah had also seen God’s glory on a mountain, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Carmel.

In this Transfiguration, Jesus is surrounded and glorified at a high altitude.

Later the Lord will be surrounded and accused, at a low altitude … kicked to the ground, when he is arrested in Jerusalem and put to death.

The Transfiguration – in all its brightness offers consolation to the apostles and disciples. Save that photo on your hard drive for future reference.

[__02]    Jesus, Peter, James, and John are up above. They are on the mountain.

    Coming round the mountain could be … dazzling white visions which are snow or powder or ice …

On a mountain, the 5-day forecast prediction on the Weather Channel might not help. There may only be time to react to the immediate whiteness or white-out …the brightness which could cause harm, danger.
This could leave us – very rapidly -- surrounded, stranded, with no easy way out. It might be an avalanche, such a dazzling white vision at a high altitude.

[__03]      Peter, James, and John are surrounded .. and quickly. They were asleep for a little while, suddenly now seeing the transfigured Jesus.

In this Gospel, the Transfiguration, we read of the amazement, the fear of the disciples. An avalanche, perhaps in a spiritual or emotional sense.

Peter, James, and John see “clothing [which becomes] dazzling white.” (cf. Luke 9:__)

[__04]         The Transfiguration is a sudden event.  It is the event not predicted in the 5-day forecast.

And, often, we are tempted to disregard things which come up suddenly.

Do we sometimes disregard the surprises … especially if there is anything negative in it for you or for me?

In an academic sense – in school – we might do this, saying. Well, I don’t really enjoy or understand a particular subject or professor. There is nothing there for me. I’m not going to work that hard…  or worry about it.

And, then, we may feel surprised or less motivated as a result to respond to anything off the radar, anything unexpected.

In an everyday sense, we might do the same.

That is, we only focus on what is already pre-programmed, scheduled …or in the 5-day forecast.

 And, then we may only see what we want to see. At this point… Peter, James and John are seeing – in the vision on the mountain – only what they want to see.

As Paul Simon wrote and sang, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” (NOTE: Lyrics to Sound of Silence by Paul Simon)
If something or someone [not on the agenda] were to require my attention or service, I could very easily excuse myself of taking no action. (NOTE: Excellent example in C.S. Lewis chapter “Let’s Pretend” in Mere Christianity about “suddenness of provocation… reveals how ill tempered I am…”)
The Transfiguration was not on the forecast, not on the agenda of the disciples.

And, for this reason, it very easily reveals their understanding and faith.

They are on a journey, on a spiritual journey as we are learning about their faith.

They are devoted…but as Jesus observes, they are very focused on building things outwardly externally.

Sometimes, we only what to do the things which are noticed, build externally… or be called on in class.

Jesus does not want them to build a tent on the mountain. Rather, he wants to build a tent to dwell in their hearts.

The Good News is that there is a new environment, a new atmosphere, a new altitude.. a new covenant and a new relationship with him in mind.

We reach this not by climbing a mountain, but by climbing out of our routine for intimate moments of prayer to listen to his voice.

The Good News is that Jesus wants to surround us also. [__fin__]      

[1] Moses had also seen God’s glory on Mt. Sinai (Exodus, 2x, receiving commandments) and Elijah on Mt. Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19)
[2] Paul Simon, The Sound of Silence
[3] Excellent example in C.S. Lewis chapter “Let’s Pretend” in Mere Christianity about “suddenness of provocation… reveals how ill tempered I am…”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bowing Down (2013-02-17, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday February 17, 2013 (Lent). 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.

1st Sunday Lent, 17 February 2013  /  [Deuteronomy 26:4-10 | Psalm 91 | Romans 10:8-13 |  Luke 4:1-13]

[__01]       This is the Gospel of the temptations of Jesus in the desert, during which there are negotiations, bargains being offered by Satan. Sales, deals …

This is the deal. Satan does not simply give Jesus the kingdoms as a reward, as a standing ovation for his excellent performance in the desert, 40 days and 40 nights without food or water.

The evil spirit, Satan, would only surrender these kingdoms if Jesus were to submit the necessary paperwork – in the form of a bow or prayer.   

From Luke Chapter 4 à  The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory;  for it has been handed over to me,  and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”

[  ]  Click here to accept all terms and conditions. This is the bow.

Jesus says, “No Deal.”

[__02]       St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, teaches that the devil – Satan – is manifest in several ways.

That is, we can “suspect the influence of an evil spirit if we were …”

·         In great turmoil about a situation

·         Always chasing after great and spectacular comfort, pleasure, profit

·         Tempted to cover up our offenses, unwilling to admit our sins, our wrongdoing before God or others.

·         Or .. always chasing after some extreme form of suffering à yes, Jesus was 40 days in the desert, following in the footsteps of Elijah who fasts for 40 days while on the run from King Ahab (cf. 1 Kings 19)_ …and Moses who fasts for 40 days on Sinai (twice – cf. Exodus 24:18; 34:28) , receiving the Commandments. 

·         The fasting of Jesus shows his connection to these prophets.  Our fast is less extreme … seeking a very extreme fast or sacrifice … may not be from a spirit of holiness, but a spirit of evil.

·         Also our Lenten fast / abstinence is meant to be a gathering with others– in the spirit of a communal fast with others who are also at prayer. Our fast is not a withdrawal or escape.

[__03]      The Catholic Church teaching is that the devil cannot act directly on our mind.[1] Our mind and soul are creations of God, the devil cannot enter there.

But, the devil can appear in the desert.

He is capable of making the water to the thirsty seem even more attractive or necessary; and, equally, the bread to the hungry.

Just as we could bow (prostrate ourselves) before an evil temptation, before something we know is wrong, the devil can also bow …

And bow, he does, making a sales pitch.

[__04]    The devil may sell us (making a sale) through spirits of DESPAIR, or GREED, or PRIDE, or JEALOUSY, or ENVY on …the idea that:

·         Insults should not be endured.
·         Imperfection should not be endured.

Isn’t the spirit of DESPAIR often easier to acquire (or maintain) than a spirit of PATIENCE?

Isn’t the spirit of GREED often easier to acquire (or maintain) than a spirit of SIMPLICITY?

Isn’t the spirit of PRIDE often easier to acquire (or maintain) than a spirit of HUMILITY?

(C.S. Lewis presents “pride”in 2 forms. The first form is one whereby I cannot find satisfaction in my own work/action… but rather must absolutely have the affirmation of others. This is one level of pride, but not the lesser of the two.

The more harmful form is when my pride makes me unable to receive any compliment, feedback, criticism from others.

The first pride is a desire for admiration; the 2nd pride is indifference).[2]

We are being “sold” presented these and other spirits as part of our acquisitions, our relationships, our emails, our texts…

It’s just part of the evil spirit’s UNLIMITED calling plan.

[__05]     The Bad News is that we can be tempted by

·         Friends, substances, parties, online or elsewhere

·         Pressure to produce academic work, to research… even to present work that is not ours

And, are we not most tempted not by actions that will cause us harm.. we are most tempted when we figure no one will find out.

[__06]     Who can resist such a sales pitch?

St. Teresa of Avila, a mystic and Carmelite from Spain  offers us a reminder of the Good News.

Our courage and strength under such circumstances   –   or sales pitches – comes not because we are strong but rather because we are humble.[3]

·         For example – is it the elite Ph.D. in political science who will resist corruption or bribery if she were elected to a government office?

·         Is it the super-intelligent engineer who can resists all forms of temptation, online, wireless, and otherwise?

Our strength is in our humility.

In the desert, Jesus is weakened, hungry, thirsty, but remains humble.

And, this is his final bow to us, his final bow to us on the cross, surrendering his life.

In humility  - alert to a need for God’s help – Jesus can resist the evil one who is always selling, always introducing himself.

God asks only that we bow down to him, to his well, his commands.

As we read in the Gospel, “him alone shall you serve.”


[1] Tanqueray, The Spiritual Life, page 115, article 221 “the devil’s strategy.”
[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1944), “Part 3, Ch. 8 The Great Sin”, San Francisco: Harper, 2001. (p. 125)
[3] Tanqueray, The Spiritual Life, page 115 or thereabouts on the devil’s strategy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ambassadors / Ash Wednesday (2013-02-13)

This is my homily for ASH WEDNESDAY   2013. 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.

[Joel 2:12-18 | Psalm 51 | 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2|  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18]

TITLE:  Ambassadors / Ash Wednesday (2013-02-13)

[__01]       The President of the United States makes appeals – and builds relationships – with other countries through ambassadors.

Ambassadors are diplomatic agents and authorized messengers. In many cases, they carry out their mission living abroad.

Certainly, while traveling/living  internationally, the ambassador walks a tight rope, a balance beam between what the Secretary of State wants back in D.C. and what the elected officials want in Cairo or Tokyo.

[__02]       You or I might resemble the ambassador, say –

·         Representing the mission of  the university to the students, the local citizens of our campus.

·         Teaching students in a classroom – professors / teachers are ambassadors … usually with a deadline.

·         Studying – earning a degree – a student resembles an ambassador …in that a student must often put aside his or own agenda, personal interests in order to learn.

·         An athlete on the field, on the court or any student leader would also be an ambassador of the university.
[__03]        How does one become an ambassador … of any kind –
 In Jersey City, or Kuwait City, or London. In Teaneck, Hackensack, Tokyo, or Helsinki.

And, how does one become an ambassador for Christ, the Christian faith?

In 2nd Corinthians, today, Paul calls us “ambassadors for Christ”.

[__04]       Challenging for the ambassador is not only the mission but also the style, the  presentation. Not  only what to say and do  - but also HOW to say, to do, to negotiate.

[__05]       Being an ambassador for Christ calls us to be concerned with both what we do and how we carry it out.

LENT could be a 40-day retreat for us, the ambassadors – before we are sent off to a new country …

Lent could also be a 40-day meditation on how we have lived in our own difficult circumstances. To love as Christ taught, to love God and love our neighbor with all of our heart, mind and strength requires at times – DIPLOMACY … SELF-SACRIFICE.

Do I need a passport? A visa?

[__06]   Jesus, our Savior, appeals to others through us – God is working through us to reach – a family member, a roommate, a teammate, a friend, a student.  He crosses borders.

The ambassador is God’s representative making the appeal …

  In the Gospel, the Lord reminds us of some Gospel practices for ambassadors, for us, his disciples.

[__07]       The Ash Wednesday Gospel mentions the 3 classic practices of LENT and of our spiritual life -  ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, and FASTING.

[__08]    (1) ALMSGIVING – which is charity, love.

Jesus says, “do not let your right hand know what your left is doing.”   (Matthew 6:__)
This is love without conditions.

Isn’t it a blessing to be loved by someone who loves us for who we are , who puts the relationship first… puts the relationship ahead of money, profit, comfort, convenience?

And, the Gospel ambassador does the same. Just as a parent would put her child first. The ambassador puts the relationship first.

In this regard, the “boundaries” or the “borders” between the country (or the 2 people involved) only make sense once they have made their love – their charity – to each other clear and known.

LENT is a time for charity, for love, without allowing the right hand (or right brain) to know what the LEFT is doing.

[__09]    (2) PRAYER / MEDITATION  - Making time for prayer is the ambassador’s / disciple’s call. This is not only about coming to
church but also about our ongoing daily relationships.

Do I / do you  have relationships with others which may be disrupted, interrupted, broken ?

Jesus says, pray for your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

LENT is a good time to pray about difficult relationships, with their diplomatic differences. And, just as we book time for study, exercise so that we can make a good appearance  in class or on campus,  ….

We also pray (and make time in our calendar – even writing it down as an appointment)  so that we can make peace in private …and make peace in public as Christ’s ambassadors.

Part of our prayer is also repentance, confession of our sins, putting down our burdens. Our mission is one of not only of peace but also of FREEDOM.

[__10]    (3) FASTING  - It is a basic practice of Lent that we fast, take 1 main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and that we abstain from meat on these days.

Our fast during Lent is not a demonstration or competition..  As the Lord says, do NOT appear to be fasting.

As Jesus calls us to be ambassadors, he is also concerned with not only what we do but how …and how we appear.

The fast, the sacrifice is neither a hunger strike nor a hunger game.

Fasting is simply a way for us to put spiritual needs, spiritual hunger ahead of physical hunger, to know ourselves better, to comprehend God’s will more clearly.

In this regard, the fast – the emptiness – opens us up to the nourishment which God offers.

Fasting helps us to discern not how hungry we are … but what we might actually need for nourishment – in a spiritual sense.

Fasting in this regard is not a withdrawal  or escape from reality

Rather fasting – along with charity and prayer – are ways for us to be more present, to understand our current reality.

And, as ambassadors – the Lenten journey – enables us to live in peace and security and freedom in God’s kingdom, our new country of residence.  [__fin___]

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nothing But Net (2013-02-10)

This is my homily for SUNDAY 10 February  2013. 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.

5th Sunday, 10 February 2013

[Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8 | Psalm 138 | 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 |  Luke 5:1-11]

TITLE:  Nothing But Net (2013-02-10)

[__01]  Peter , the accomplished and experienced sailor  and fisherman – has encountered someone , Jesus, with superb (superior) expertise of the water, climate, fish.

In this episode, Peter wants to call it a night having caught no fish.

From the water what the fishermen pull is NOTHING BUT NET.   (Great news, yes, on jump shot or 3-pointer; here, not so much.)

Then,  Jesus says, row out, 1 more time.

[__02]       A common biblical phenomenon is the manifestation/demonstration of God’s power on the lake, on the water:

·         Red Sea, the Exodus – the Jewish people cross from death to life with “Egyptian horse and chariot cast into the sea”  (Exodus ___)

·         Sea of Galilee – Jesus calms a storm

·         And, later on the Sea of Galilee – Jesus – and Peter for a little while – walk on water.

[__03]     The greatness of God’s power, the holiness of Jesus is revealed to us, to Peter in these instances.

In the Lord’s presence, Peter feels distress, anxiety, awareness of his personal sinfulness, saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  (Luke ___)

[__04] The Good News is that the Lord wants Peter to encourage Peter – to encourage us – especially when we become aware of our own weakness, brokenness, sinfulness.

[__05]   Are we not often reminded by others – or called by others – to untie our boats – or untie ourselves from discouragement?

-          In school – teachers (parents too) remind us to open our books, our homework – each day – even for the overwhelmingly difficult subject. To use our energy, our efforts – even when we do not seem to be catching on …. Or catching anything.

-          In relationships, are we not sometimes surprised that our cheerfulness or our punctuality really matters to other people. Even we do not feel motivated to smile, to be on time… then we are also called to untie our boats and get moving.

-          In prayer, we are reminded to pray – just one more time for the difficult person – even his or behavior does not change, we are changed by going offshore .. by using our prayer time to ask for God’s help with the difficult person.

-          And, in repentance/confession,  we are called to admit our faults – even the same faults so that we are reminded that we are truly free … even if we have sinned.  Jesus is not telling Peter is NOT a sinner… but Jesus is  telling  Peter he remains free.

[__06]    Peter is asked to take a reasonable risk – a reasonable dare – by going out with his boat.

But, at first, Peter is discouraged feeling he is not good enough… or that some other truly good person would be more appropriate.

Sometimes, you and I – and Peter – believe – hook, line and sinker – that only certain people can attain goodness …

But, it is even Jesus who attains goodness while being fully human and fully divine. He is our example.

[__07]     C.S. Lewis, a writer of both novels and spiritual works from England, writes this about faith and about our journey to holiness and our journey to Christ. This involves risk – daring – even temptation.

C.S. Lewis writes:

No man [person] knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.  A silly idea is [out there at the SUB, in the Lindens, Northpointe, the Courts, on the playing field or court, or classroom ...  or in our house or heart] … a silly ideas out thtere is that good people do not know what temptation means …. [or that] good people are not tempted by evil.”

Lewis continues with this metaphor:

You find the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it [1]…and in our efforts towards holiness, goodness, the wind is not always at our backs

So, the Good News for Peter and for us…is not EXCLUSIVELY that Jesus is perfect and sinless.. C.S. Lewis is writing also that the The Good News is that Jesus is a complete REALIST, having also known temptation and known our struggles.

[__08]      Each time that we open our hearts – or open or books when we are anxious … each time that  we pray .. or admit our faults, confess our sins.

We do this because we have also been called by Christ who strengthens us… even we have nothing but net,

Even when the wind and rain (or snow) are against us.     [__fin à trans à blessing]   

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity,  “Ch. 11 Faith ” page 142.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

You Are Here (2013-02-03)

This is my homily for SUNDAY 3 February  2013. 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.

4th Sunday, 3 February 2013
[Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 | 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13 |  Luke 4:21-30]

[__01]       You are here.

[SPRE]  This particular address is written --- 445 5th Avenue, River Edge, NJ and St. Peter’s Church;  and,  on a map – seen between Van Saun Park and Fifth Avenue.  Both God and a Google Map satellite are watching us right now.

 [FDU]  This particular address is written --- 842 River Road, Teaneck, and and,  on a map – seen as a property between the Hackensack River and River Road, adjacent to FDU Public Safety.   Both God and a Google Map satellite are watching us right now.

You are here.  Save the dot for future reference.

[__02]       In a less familiar place, of unfamiliar streets and marketplaces, say in Japan,  Switzerland, or  … Garden State Plaza, we may need a map.

Have we not been lost, confused, unable or unwilling to ask for directions.

You are here. The map with the dot is important, to reach the train station, to cross the street, or exit J. Crew.

You are here. I am here.

[__03]       And, “here” on the page of Luke, Chapter 4, Jesus has returned to the familiar streets of Nazareth.

Jesus, you are here. While having returned home, Jesus receives no hero’s welcome for all those miracles. There is parade, no Air Force One welcome.

There is only rejection from the people who knew him well, a rejection [a spurning, a turning way] that is summarized in a famous saying about prophets

For we have all been the ‘prophet’ now and then, in relationships between:

  • Grown up Parent and young child

  • Grown-up Child and grown up parent

  • Spouses – wife and husband

  • Any conversation about  – what to eat, when to do homework, what is good for you …

  • Relations between teacher and student

In all of these, the prophet expects to be heard, if not also admired …and given a parade of thanksgiving.  We will settle for a Mardi Gras parade , if we cannot get a Super Bowl parade.

But, it is quite the other way, sometimes.

And, our Lord and Savior summarizes the situation: “no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (Luke 4:24)

Or, as we have also read –

“no prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:24, Douay-Rheims)

You are here.

[__04]        In a time of rejection or refusal, we need to consider the map, the surroundings, both externally and internally.

When we experience rejection, we are tempted to run and hide.  Certainly, we may need some private time, some time to recollect ourselves.

But, at this time of rejection, Jesus remains out in the open.

Externally, we can do the same. What do we do when we’re lost in the Metro – in D.C. or
Tokyo – we examine our surroundings.

And, if we are rejected, turned away by even the most popular person at River Dell High or Bergen Catholic or IHA or Fairleigh Dickinson or NYU, we should examine our surroundings carefully.

Is this rejection going to change me? Destroy me?

Jesus gives us an example of confidence when it would be easy to be crushed, hurt.  After all, everyone wants to be celebrated at homecoming and remembered at the class reunion.

We are not “here”, we do not merely exist to gain human approval in the form of popularity, the Dean’s List, or even more financial aid.

That’s not the only the map – or GPS – we follow.

[__05]        Internally, inside of us another map exists.

St. Paul writes in Romans Chapter 8 – “all things work for good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.”   (Romans 8:28)

Internally, another map exists, another home. This is our home with God in our hearts.

[SPRE]  And, if we are rejected at River Dell, or Bergen Catholic, or River Edge …

 [FDU]  And, if we are rejected at / in the Courts/Northpointe/Linden/the  SUB or somewhere else on the campus map
Then, we share in the sufferings of Christ.

It is a mystery, but also the truth that the child who grows up without parents, the parents who suffer the death of a child, the person dying in hospital – or without access to school.

From the perspective of “Nazareth” or  “River Dell”  or   “Metropolitan Campus”, they may be isolated and alienated.

These folks may not appear on anyone’s map or radar screen, or recently found GPS destinations, or SENT MESSAGE box.

Yet, they are not lost. For the person who is rejected, impoverished, is suffering not alone but with Christ.

When we say we are offering up our own sufferings, we are then suffering with both of them.

And, we are all given the opportunity to be Simon of Cyrene on Good Friday, to pick up the cross each day. This is a blessing.

And, on the map, the cross brings us closer to our true home, where God is.

Lord, we know, You are Here. [__fin___]