Sunday, March 31, 2013

Darkness and Light (2013-03-31, Easter Sunday)

Christ Is Risen!  Blessings of Easter to you. 

This is my homily for Easter Sunday March 31, 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.

[__01]  We have just read from John’s Gospel -  chapter 20, verses 1 through 9 – in which Mary Magdalene rises at dawn to go to the tomb of our Savior.

We might say that the prerequisites – the prerequisites -- of suffering and crucifixion have been satisfied while the students (disciples) have been “off campus” …. in hiding.

The darkness of suffering and crucifixion have preceded the light of resurrection.

The darkness is over – the darkness  and suffering and death – have already served their purposes. Jesus is no longer in the dark.

 [__02]       The darkness and light are part of the lessons – and realities of our lives. 

Darkness and light are in the life of the Magdalene, of Mary Magdalene.   Mary Magdalene represents us as a believer and as a mourner, as one who is grieving.

Isn’t it true at a time of grief – a time of death of a beloved person – that darkness is hard to overcome?

Grief – and sorrow – comprise a journey – physically or figuratively – to consider both the life and death of someone.

Grief is also the process that enables to express great love, gratitude, while professing our faith in eternal life and in a reunion in heaven.

Mary Magdalene is such a mourner one who is aware of death but also moving closer to new life.  She wakes up very early to get there, to begin this journey.

[__03]   The darkness and light are part of the lessons – and realities of our lives.  This is true in our studies and work.

The darkness of 11:00 pm or 5:00 am may be necessary to complete the prerequisites of pain and suffering of academics.

We may stay up late or rise early, going contrary to the patterns of others.

Sometimes, we seek out the darkness as a rare time of peace and quiet.

The darkness provides precious time to concentrate.

[__04]    Yet, the darkness is meant to lead us into the light.

That is, our ultimate objective – in work – is not simply the acquisition of more gifts or even more talents for their own sake. Rather, we acquiring money, talent, wealth … so that these can be shared with our families, with our loved ones, or for other loving purposes.

Taken to the extreme, I think we have all witnessed what wealth, and fame and power can do to some people.  

Wealth and power are good things which enable us to love and to give. They are not, however, our ultimate objective.

In our Catholic tradition, we learn this.    Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us that we work not only for the spotlight … but also sometimes in darkness where only God can see us. If we only want the fame… we may not be where God wants us to be:

 “[often many of us will ] measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability... It is a homage resulting from a profound faith... that with wealth [we / you and I]  may do all things.” (CCC Catechism 1723, John Henry Newman)

We have however a different light and power sources in our faith in Jesus  --  “[teaching us] that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement -- however beneficial it may be -- such as science, technology and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC Catechism 1723)

[__05]  Easter Sunday, Jesus has risen from the tomb. He invites us into the light so that we can dwell in daylight.

Mary Magdalene, as a model, has risen early also – at Zero Dark Thirty to discover the Risen Lord.

This gospel reading calls us to pray over, to meditate on, our fears, our struggles, our hopes and joys… and our sinfulness.  Bring it to the tomb – early -- so that we might die and rise with him and come into the daylight where he also has gone ahead of us.  [__fin]    

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cause & Effect / Good Friday (2013-03-29)

This is my homily for Good Friday March 29, 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.

[01]   When we hear the term “EFFECT” or “EFFECTS”, we might immediately think of something which would be an illusion, or would be an exaggeration, or a computer-generated image made possible by Pixar … George Lucas … or someone at a computer keyboard in California.

Such engineers and designers create SPECIAL effects for our EYES, EARS … and at certain magnitudes and volumes …for our WHOLE BODY.

The Passion of our Lord is also a WHOLE-BODY experience … not only because of the CAUSE ..but also because of the EFFECT.

 [__02]   In the Passion of our Lord, we also reflect and remember the cause of death –

·         The cause of sacrifice
·         The cause of forgiveness
·         The cause of love

As we read in the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the whole world that he gave his only Son that those who believe in him might not die but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

 ·          Fire   ·         Explosion ·         Earthquake ·         Tsunami ·         Flood ·         Disappear / reappear

What the engineer at Pixar Studios or Disney is trying to do is get us to experience only the EFFECT in our hearts and minds … while overlooking / forgetting that the “CAUSE“ is really coming from their Apple Computer.

They would want you to think the “tsunami” effect is real …even if the “cause” were imaginary or artificial.

[__04]    We read the Passion, considering both the cause and effects.

What are the special effects of the Passion?  (Adolphe Tanqueray, The Spiritual Life, n. 133 (“Jesus, the meritorious cause of our spiritual life.”)

[__05]   First – DEPTH. This depth is not a dark abyss, or chasm, but the depth of God’s mercy.

All of our sins/faults can be forgiven – pardoned – when we ask forgiveness.

We read in Psalm 51, “A humble contrite heart O God you will not spurn” (Psalm 51:__)

As Catholics, we see penance and absolution through a priest who is called to share God’s mercy and love with us.

Similarly, praying at Mass, we experience Jesus offering himself up for our sins through the consecration, through the Eucharist. This is my body, given up for you. 

The special effect of DEPTH … and DEPTH PERCEPTION for us.

 [__06]      Secondly – POWER, STRENGTH.

Through Christ’s Passion we are empowered, strengthened.  As Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Jesus gives us a conscience – an ability to know right from wrong. It is not always easy to do the right thing… to “save” ourselves in various ways, physically and spiritually.

It is easy to be tempted.  But, Jesus gives us the special effect of power – through our conscience… to grow in virtue, purity, true love.

The special effect of POWER. …

[__07]       This power also enables us to imitate Christ, to take up our own cross daily.

Isn’t the CROSS both the CAUSE and the SPECIAL EFFECT of our spiritual life …

“If any will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

The Passion – the special effect – reminds us that we are also participating in Christ’s suffering when we PRAY, when we FAST .. when we GIVE charitably

And, we participate when we love – lay down our lives as Jesus did … symbolized in the washing of the feet at Jesus’s Last Supper and in our Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

This love is described in by our Holy Father Pope Francis WHO CELEBRATES HOLY THURSDAY MASS AND THE WASHING OF THE FEET TODAY at the Casal del Marmo juvenile dentention facility … a correctional facility, a jail for youth ….  Reminding us also to seek to help those most in need, those who might be imprisoned – physically or spiritually in our midst.

From his homily of today, Holy Thursday – Pope Francis --
[The washing of the feet] is the example set by Our Lord, it’s important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others.

This [washing of the feet here reminds us] to help the person in need … [who might be just across the room …not just across the country or the world.]

And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.

…. this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us.

In this regard, the Gospel is about finding our own path to salvation, but also teaching others the CAUSES and the EFFECTS – brought about in reality by the Son of God. He is the reason – the cause - for the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passageways (2013-03-24, Palm Sunday)

This is my homily for Sunday March 24, 2013 (Palm 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.

If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to email or call me -, FDU office 201.692.2570. - Father Jim Ferry. READINGS: Isaiah 50:4-7 | Psalm 22 | Philippians 2:6-11 | Luke 

[__Homily-01]   The entrance of a dignitary – a president, or prime minister – or, say, our Holy Father at  St. Peter’s square – into NY, New Delhi, or Rome – is usually a mission of peace, of goodwill.     Peace.

[__02]    But, is this the way we perceive the actual entrance?

How is the actual “mission” and arrival of such a president or leader demonstrated at the UN or in the street?  What happens such a dignitary or governor decides to use the road or airport as we also use?

Is it their stated intention to cause us DELAY to create frozen zones in midtown.

FROZEN ZONES – around which we must travel.   We might think a frozen zone is some kind of glacier – or National Weather  Service advisory.  Rather, the FROZEN ZONE is also about peace, security – not just winter.

[__03]    The “entrance” is a complicated affair - @ JFK, the Holland Tunnel, the Turnpike .

And, the Secret Service and State Police are – in their own official way – laying their cloaks on the ground – and meanwhile checking every square foot of pavement for problems.

[__04]    Is the way – the passageway – clear? Safe ? 

ENTRANCE – the arrival – and peaceful arrival – is an aspect common to both Christmas and Easter, to both Advent and to Lent.  In Advent, we also read / sing – “Prepare ye the way of the Lord / make straight his paths .. every valley shall be filled in …

This a homeland-security message courtesy of the Gospel from Isaiah and John the Baptist.
We receive “every-10-minute traffic updates” to be on the watch for the Messiah’s arrival.

ADVENT emphasizes – in a sense - the alternate route.  Vigilance is necessary to recognize the Messiah on this alternate route.

Vigilance is necessary in the darkness of winter, in the wild and wilderness.

Bethlehem is not on GoogleMaps. (It is off the, so to say, main roads).

[__05]   On Palm Sunday, on the other hand, there is no alternate route. The way is being prepared right here, right now.

The setting includes a crowd …and the inbound lane to the city of Jerusalem.

A gridlock alert day?

[__06]     The Lord also arrives in our city –

·         The Teaneck side of campus
·         The Hackensack side of campus
·         Rothman / Becton / The Courts
·         The SUB
·         In our office, our home.

On Palm Sunday, we recall that Jesus arrives.  But, Jesus does not arrive in a wilderness requiring us to go out and find him.

Rather, he is here in the urban centre.

 [__07]      Slowing us down during LENT or in Friday are certain practices of prayer and fasting and almsgiving.

Also - Lent is a reminder that Friday is a day of penance for all Catholics 52 weeks a year. We are all called to consider what we can do - as self-sacrifice - every Friday. I encourage you to consider the abstinence from meat as your option. It is easy to remember; it is something we can do as a communally - at table.  

It is a way to say YES, Thank the Lord it is Friday, that Jesus died for me on this day.  I am changing ways - prayerfully - to let his Passion be present in my life.

In this 40-day season – and beyond – Jesus also enters and moves about.

He enters not because the streets are empty.

But, rather because we ourselves empty ourselves – remove our cloaks – our coats .

We receive and welcome him with our palms and with our
·         Repentance
·         Self-sacrifice
·         Dying to ourselves
·         Removing our coats – or our attachment to an object, possession, an agenda item -- out of devotion to another person
·         By taking up our cross each day to follow him

We receive him, in our studies, work, relationships, body and spirit.

[__08]   You and I are called to remove our coats, our cloaks – to welcome him.

We do this when we accept certain inconveniences, sacrifices…. Joyfully.

With joy and gratitude for his arrival, we also enable Christ to move about more freely – in the city,   in the street – in our lives.   [__fin___]      

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rescue Operation / Lazarus (2013-03-17, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday March 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 Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

Year A Readings / Ezekiel 37:12-14 | Psalm 130 | Romans 8:8-11 | John 11:1-45.
[__01] Lazarus, the friend of Jesus who had died, was later raised from the dead.   This is the Gospel of John,  Chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus.

Jesus said to his disciples and to those who are mourning, “This is illness is not to end in death.  (John 11:4)

This is illness is not to end in death.  

[__02]  We ourselves are called to extend our care to those who are suffering from illness, to those who are dying.
And, we do this not only to eliminate pain or discomfort. In fact, in many cases, we cannot relieve a person’s discomfort or physical suffering.

Yet, we care for a person who is ill because we believe that illness does not end in death.  And, we believe that death leads to eternal life.

[__03]  In a spiritual sense, though Lazarus is buried, Lazarus remains alive. His soul has not died.

And, when we are caring for someone who is ill or dying, we are caring for that person body and soul, body and spirit.  We are also trying to protect, to save that person.

[__04]  If a gift were to be known to be very precious or fragile, we would be wise to protect it.     A person’s life – and health – is one example.

 [__05]  Another example of a precious and fragile gift is the gift of our:

·         NAME
·         REPUTATION
·         HONOR

Each of us possesses – a name, reputation, honor.

Just as life can be lost , a reputation or record of honor and service can be corrupted or lost.

When we guard someone’s name or reputation, we are also guarding his or her life. We are helping them to reach salvation, to carry out their calling in life.

This is true whether we offer this protection – this guarding of a person’s honor -- in the context of:

·         Family
·         The SUB or the Courts
·         The classroom
·         The locker room
·         The office or meeting

We are guarding his or her life. We are also loving the other as we would want to be loved and protected. Do unto others.

[__06]   For example, you cannot and I cannot do 100% hard drive backup of our reputations.   But another person could “back us up”… if we were not present.

You and I are called to guard the good name and reputation of others by what we do and say.

[__07]   Have we not, at times, stood up for someone’s name and reputation and not been thanked or recognized?

Perhaps, we have even been rejected.

It is risky to save someone’s life.

Our words or our defense might be compared to a basketball full-court press that does not quite hold back the offense.  They still might score on us

[__08]     Lazarus is buried but his soul is immortal. We may encounter, at times, others who are buried, rejected, disgraced.

The Good News is that we can stand up for them.

The Good News for Lazarus and us is that illness does not end in death.

As Jesus tells Martha, “…whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live…” (John 11:25)

Also, as Paul writes to the Romans, in our 2nd reading, “if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10)

When we try to protect the good name of another person, when we try to do the right thing which may be unpopular, our spirit is also alive because of righteousness.

[__09]       God gives us the precious gift of life and the fragile gift of life.

And, also, the gift of honor and a good name.

Both can be interrupted by tragedy, by illness, by the sins of others, by our own faults.

The Good News of Lent – and of repentance and forgiveness and mercy – is that these sorrows, these difficulties are not meant to end in death.  [__fin___]  


Sunday, March 3, 2013

There is Water Here (2013-03-03, Lent)

This is my homily for Sunday March 3, 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.

3rd Sunday Lent,3  March 2013  /  YEAR A READINGS /  Exodus 17:3-7 | Psalm 95 | Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 | 
John 4:45-52

[__01] Is there water?   Yes, the Good News is that water is available for the people of this Samaritan town.  

A well – or cistern - is visible above ground.  Jesus, our Savior, has stopped there, asking for a drink around Noon, in the midday heat.

There is water for Jesus also.

[__02] While a well exists as the town water supply, a new well, a new fountain is being offered by Jesus our Savior.

The Samaritan woman is very interested.

On behalf of you and me, the Samaritan woman asks our Savior, “Sir, give me this water so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”(John 4:15)

At the well, the woman’s request then is for faith, for confidence in God.

This confidence in God’s love and goodness is the water which flows and brings us closer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Bringing us closer, it is, shall we say “UNITED WATER”  There is no invoice.

 [__03]  Nevertheless, each of us is called to make an investment of our selves, to gain access to this source.

While not actually underground, the source – our confidence in God – may seem at times hidden or obscure.

At the very least… we may need a little help finding the source.

Our own attitudes or practices may get in the way.

The Samaritan woman herself is invited to the well but also to repentance and conversion.

[__04]  I’d like to touch on 3 aspects of Catholic faith, teaching. These are aspects which help us to draw the water up to the surface.

*** I base this reflection on our Church Tradition particular “The Virtues” / “Faith” as part of “Life in Christ” in the Catechism. (CCC articles 1814, 1815, 1816)  ****

[__05]  Is there water? YES

FIRST – Faith calls us to trust, to confidence in God’s ways, God’s plan. This often differ from our own agenda and timeline.

We pray and practice our faith when we recite “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer.

We practice our faith when we say this at a time of –
·        ___ Crisis or difficult transition
·         Heartbreak or sorrow
·         AND ALSO .. at times of joy, on Commencement Day…on the day of an award … on the day of an achievement or milestone completed.

We practice our faith when we ask for more living water for our studies, our commitments, a marriage, a child, a family.

And, while Isaiah the prophet wrote that God’s ways are often “higher than our ways” and God’s thoughts “higher than our thoughts” (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9), neither Isaiah nor Jesus wants us to love or to believe in blindness.

Faith helps us to see what our eyes cannot reveal. Paul emphasizes “faith and sight”.

Just as we grow in love by learning about the other person.. we grow in faith by learning, studying, spiritual reading, devotion, prayer.

There is water here.

[__06]  SECOND   ----  faith involves works, practice. In the epistle/letter of St. James, we read a very blunt doctrine, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)

Other parables and words of Jesus also express this.   Regarding our own worship before the altar, Jesus reminds us to manifest love and esteem toward God but toward others.  Both relationships  manifest our faith.

Jesus says, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother [or sister] has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother [or sister], and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Faith calls us to be charitable, generous and reminds us that we can love even those who are difficult.

Faith is also a recognition of God’s power, transcendence which gives us MOBILITY and MOTIVATION to transcend difficulties – and difficult people with love.

There is water here.

[__07]  THIRD    --   Faith involves being a witness – “keeping the faith”

When we have faith in Christ, we are in God’s “witness protection program.”

This is a little different from, say, United States Federal Witness Protection.

If I were in Federal Witness Protection, I would negotiate with the prosecutor some arrangements for  my life. I would receive a new identity, and avoid being seen and known. Some people might think I had died.

In Jesus’s witness protection program, we also die to ourselves, to our desires. But, we remain alive to God and in God.

We are given – as the Samaritan woman is given – a new identity –through the sacramental life of faith, of baptism, of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

But, we enter this witness protection program not to hide but to reveal ourselves.

Choosing faith, choosing to believe in God’s plan for me (for you) means also that I recognize that my  life has value… that I value or esteem myself .

This calls us to discern carefully the values that others may live by.

It calls us to discern the ways in which we seek and receive intimacy from others.

Do my friends help me in my faith? Or, do they block my navigation to the well?

Faith does not exist in a vacuum of outer space where heaven is also usually imagined several thousand miles in orbit above the earth.

Faith exists in real relationships with Jesus as our Savior and with others.
Being in “witness protection”….means not only that we have a guardian angel.

It means also that we are protecting and guarding ourselves from harm. It is not easy to practice faith … to seek the virtuous way if others do not support us.

We seek this witness protection, nevertheless, so that others can see us and know us for who we really are.

And, so that we practice what we preach.

By our lives, we allow others to taste and see the faith and confidence in God that guides and nourishes us.

The Samaritan woman, also now in Christian witness protection, goes into town, as a missionary bring everyone one back to the good news at the well, bringing them also to faith in Jesus.

There is water here.