Sunday, April 28, 2013

Passwords (2013-04-28)

This is my homily, Sun. April 28, 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 5:00 pm/7:00 pm celebrated during Fall and Spring semester  at  FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

TITLE: “Password ”

[__01]   In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas are traveling.  These 2 are traveling missionaries throughout the Mediterranean region.

And, we read that they are opening doors.
They are opening new communities.

Paul are Barnabas are teaching the Good News of the Gospel.  We read that

 “[Paul and Barnabas] had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

These are the new Christians of Pamphylia, Pisidia, Perga, Attalia, Antioch. They have received the password, the key to the door

[__02]    One of the challenges of our lives to recall and maintain our keys, passwords, personal identification numbers, PIN codes.

So also in the Gospel, Jesus offerspasswords and keys that we are called to guard and maintain.

One difference is that the Gospel “passwords” and “concepts” are not 17-character alphanumeric codes which we hide from public view.

[__03]      Rather, our Savior offers passwords and key words that we can recall and even share:

·         Pray for your enemy; pray for those who persecute you; pray for those who cause difficulty.

·         In the sacraments.. Jesus reminds us of certain passwords.

·         In the sacrament of matrimony, Jesus reminds us that the 2 shall become 1. That’s a keyword for husbands and wives to recall.  In other words, the benefit of one is the benefit of the other. The happiness (or sorrow) of one is the happiness (sorrow) of the other.

·         For mothers and fathers… and everyone – we are called to recall the words, Jesus says “he who welcomes  a child… welcomes me.”    A great test of our skills of “hospitality” and of “warmth” is how we will treat a child… how we will treat anyone who lacks the same skill/energy that you and I have.      Do we welcome the child whom we encounter in other people. …  

·         This “child to be welcomed” is not simply a person under age 21 or 18 or 13 ….  Jesus places a child in the midst of the disciples also as a “key”, a key to understanding the Gospel, the Gospel that calls us to love those who are rejected, forgotten. To love those whom we might reject or forget.

·         So, one key is to ask myself, yourself. Do I welcome others – as children who are also growing and beloved in God’s sight?  Or, do I “try” (convict?) them as adults?

·         In the Gospel of this Sunday, we read, “love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34)
[__04]    Even though the password is “love” or “charity",  we may need to talk, text, or email it in various ways …or even, daresay, express it in person!

Faith -- and confidence in God – are doorways, places of encounter, of journeys.

We need a password to access the corridor.

We pass through these doors all the time.

On our way to this doorway to our Savior, we pass through other entrances and exits.

We are called to practice our faith wherever we are.

Of course, the ultimate doorway is that at which we find ourselves face-to-face with God…. In heaven.

We will pass through other doorways on the way.

And, we may need to recall these passwords to navigate with relationships with family, friends, co-workers.

And, if we have not used the password for a while, we may have trouble recalling it.

Don’t you and I open certain “doors” – or bank accounts – or files – infrequently? These passwords could pertain to records – financial, academic, personal, legal.

In some cases, we open certain doors – or accounts or records – very infrequently.

In such cases, we may have somewhere – in a galaxy far far away – a password or a key for access. But, we have no idea where it could be ..what it is.

We may need help to recall what it is.

(Do you need a new password?  Yes, I need a new password … or a new key for entry.)

[__05]     Faith and love are doorways.

Different doorways require slightly different versions of the same password.

[__06]      At times, in love and in charity, we close a doorway, we close the door.

Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Sometimes, out of love for God and love for each other, we close the door to pray. The temptation might be to talk about everything which is of concern, to tell the world, or at least everyone on the floor… or everyone I meet on the way to class…

However, sometimes, the loving choice is to close the door first. Close the door to ask for God’s help, God’s wisdom. This is not isolation but intimacy, trust.

At such a door, the password, love, remains a constant.

[__07]     At other times, in love and in charity, we open a doorway, we open the door.

Consider times when you and I receive criticism, negative feedback from others. There are times when we would prefer a closed door policy. But, can I accept the will, the voluntary criticism of another? Can I open the door in love, to consider what the truth is?

This is love for God, for neighbor, for oneself.

 [__08]      In Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas are traveling crossing borders, time zones, new countries, new worlds.  Such travel – also requires passwords, codes …  and our Savior is trying to impart these codes for us, writing them on our hearts for recall at important moments – and doorways - of our lives.

At such a door, the Gospel passwords remain constant, just as is constant God’s love for you and me.   [__fin__]      

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hear My Voice (2013-04-24)

This is my homily, Sun. April 21, 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 5:00 pm/7:00 pm celebrated during Fall and Spring semester  at  FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

April 21, 2013 (Acts 13:14, 43-52 | Psalm 100  Revelation 7:9, 14b-17 | John 10:27-30)

[__01]    Let’s say that you or I were to encounter a professor [teacher] several years from now […or a teacher from years several ago…].

We associate – recall – teachers / professors – by the subjects / curricula – which they taught.   However , we might not remember the exact content of:

·         Spanish - Irregular verbs
·         Poetry - Emily Dickinson
·         Chemistry - Hydrogen - molecule

Nevertheless, at a reunion – reconnection –or return to our alma mater  [a former school], we will recall their identity.

Voices equal memories.  If certain old-friends or well-known family members were to call us or leave us a voice mail, we would know them instantly by their voices.  No video conference necessary.

The voice equals both an identity and a relationship.

[__02]     Jesus also projects his voice as a teacher, a shepherd. Hear my voice.

Jesus projects his voice with lessons for us –

What I’d like to touch on are values and virtues in the Gospel  (i.e., the teacher’s voice).

What does a teacher’s voice communicate? Invite us toward?

[__03]    Jesus has projected his voice, directed his voice to us so that we might recall his voice in terms of …

·         SIMPLICITY – We remember the voice and behavior of teachers who can simplify difficult topics, make things comprehensible.

If we were faced with a crisis, a difficulty, we turn to Jesus to simplify it for us, to help us – through our prayer – what we can do today, at this moment.

Simplicity is a virtue helping us to be aware of God’s work, God’s actions.

As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, about Jesus, our Savior, “In him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

SIMPLICITY is a virtue. 

Now, certainly, we turn to Jesus with complex problems, complex financial problems, complex family differences,

But, we take action based on a plan with that we can comprehend, that he calls us to follow.

[__04]     Jesus has projected his voice, directed his voice to us so that we might recall his voice in terms of …

ETERNITY – And, don’t we remember  - and esteem – teachers and professors who could help us retain information and methods for the long term, forever…  These teachers help us put the lessons of the classroom into practice.

Jesus, teacher and savior, is interested in our salvation and happiness, long term, eternally.

Jesus reminds us of eternity, of love, of things that do not pass away,

do not worry about your life and what you are to eat and about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing…” (Luke 12:22-23)

do not seek what you are to eat, what you are to drink…” (Luke 12:29)

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”  (Matthew 6:33).   Eternity.

[__05]     Jesus has projected his voice, directed his voice to us so that we might recall his voice in terms of …

TRUTHFULNESS – we value and esteem the teacher who will not simply tell us the answers but also help us to “own” and to possess the answer.

Or, we might say – that in an academic setting – the role of the educator is to give us the rules for research, for gathering information.  Then, we will “own” answer, put our name on the title page, and hand in the report. This is truth … in an academic sense.

And, we esteem – we value – the teacher who will help us find the truth if we are going astray.

Sometimes, even years later, we give thanks for the teachers who helped us to apply ourselves to difficult subjects … as Jesus does for his disciples – for the method of Simplicity , and the goal of Eternity.

Hear my voice. [_fin_]

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stretch Out Your Hands (2013-04-14)

This is my homily, Sun. April 14, 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 5:00 pm/7:00 pm celebrated during Fall and Spring semester  at  FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

The following homily  offered at Sunday Mass at St. Aloysius Parish, Jersey City, NJ.  I visited there to share information about our NJCU/Catholic campus ministry  about 1 miles from St. Aloysius.

READINGS, 2013-04-14:  [Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 | Psalm 30 | Revelation 5:11-14 | John 21:1-19]

HOMILY:   [__01]   Stretch out your hands. Follow me.

In this Gospel, Peter the Apostle was told by Jesus to stretch.  Peter is told about the importance of stretching.

This is for spiritual – rather than physical – conditioning.

Jesus says to Peter:  “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.””  (John 21:18-19)

Stretch out your hands. Follow me.

[__02]    I am Father Jim Ferry, a visitor to St. Aloysius for Sunday Mass today.

I am a Catholic chaplain at New Jersey City University.    On this college campus – at N.J.C.U. -  I am a “parish priest” to the students, the faculty, the staff as my “parishioners.” 

This “parish” exists, as you know, between the borders of Kennedy Boulevard and West Side Avenue, between Audubon and Culver.

I serve NJCU as part of a team sponsored by the Archdiocese of Newark, Campus Ministry Division.

This team includes my associate and colleague, Cody Carter, as Catholic campus minister and me as chaplain. Cody is with me today; and we will be at the doors of the church after Mass with information and some free books about our Catholic faith and about evangelization.

By the way, we come here today not for any fundraising or donation.   We only ask that you stretch out your hands to pray for us and our effort to reach students with spiritual and social events.

[__03]  For example, on campus, the day before Ash Wednesday, we held a Mardi Gras (Carnival) with music, dancing, cuisine, and decorations/photos of Carnival and Mardi Gras from around the world.  

So, both our “feast” of Mardi Gras/Carnival – with its religious origins…and our  “fast” of Ash Wednesday Mass. These were held in the center of campus, in the Gilligan Student Union Building.

The university provides excellent facilities and space for the purpose of the Mass at Tuesday 12:00 Noon and other gatherings.

Last week, a lunchtime presentation and discussion on the history of the Papal Conclave, and the election of Pope Francis was held, also in the Student Union in which we have a chaplain’s office on the 3rd floor.

We offer the Catholic sacraments on campus.

[__04]    Perhaps you are an NJCU student or you know someone there, a friend, family member, neighbor.

Regarding NJCU, we can give you our names, email addresses, telephone numbers after Mass.

Regarding other campuses, we can also provide information, served by the Archdiocese of Newark, here in northeast New Jersey.  This would include Rutgers University in Newark and other campuses.

Please help us stretch out our hands.

I am grateful to Father Joe D’Amico, pastor, for his welcome to St. Al’s.

Our goal at NJCU is to build up a community of students for social and spiritual events, for all students – resident or commuter – full time or part time – day or evening.

As you know, at a Catholic university, the institution itself takes responsibility for Catholic identity and the celebration of Mass and the sacraments.   For example, St. Peter’s University and Seton Hall would take responsibility in this way.

But, at institutions  such as Rutgers or NJCU, the university simply welcome the archdiocese to serve and carry on the faith … for us to take on this responsibility.

[__05]    “Stretch out your hands. Follow me.”
Isn’t it true that a college student is being stretched – academically  / mentally – every day?

For example, the college curriculum does not simply ask us to read and memorize but also to respond and make comments.  As college students, we were – or we would be–  asked to contribute.

On a desk at the library or a desk in the classroom, this could mean stretching out ..our books, our notes… This calls us to

·         DILIGENCE -- Careful review and study of difficult material

·         HUMILITY – to ask a question out loud. Perhaps, asking a question, raising/stretching our hand in class.

·         GENEROSITY – to help a classmate or someone in need.

[__06]   Stretch out your hands. 

In our faith and Catholic practice, we are called to stretch in terms of
repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness.

We do not have to read Shakespeare or or Sociology to be “tested”. You and I are tested every day off campus and on campus.

Are we not “tested” to give generously to our families, to share our time, to be patient with those who do not love us perfectly?

Are we not “tested” to be generous to our children whose behavior might provoke us …or cause frustration? 

Are we not tested to obey our parents whose rules we not always understand?

We are tested when we repent of our sins.  But, we can “complete” this test simply by admitting our faults when we go to confession. In this, the examination – the examination of conscience -   is complete.

[__07]    Our Savior also asks us to forgive others. This is also a difficult exercise.

We pray the Our Father – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We are also called to forgive the person from whom we do not receive a sincere apology. Such reconciliation, though difficult, is a blessing.  It is way for us to be free from bitterness, darkness and to find the bright light, the bright sun of Easter morning outside the tomb.

Such stretching leads to peace, with God’s help.

[__08]      Our faith journey calls us to open our hands and hearts.

As we know, Peter the Apostle is told to stretch out his hands. And, he is asked “Do you love me?” three times.

And, this is a parallel to Peter’s three denials. On the night before the crucifixion, Peter does not stretch out his hands.

He avoids, keeping his hands in his pockets, three times.

So, we are called to stretch out our hands, in our parish, our home,  so that we might go to Christ who stretched out his hands first for us.  So that we might follow Him.  [__fin]

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Class Participation (2013-04-07)

This is my homily for  Sunday April 7, 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.

[ Readings: Acts 5:12-16 |  Psalm 118 | Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 | John 20:19-31  ]

[__01]   We have just read the Gospel appearance of Jesus to the apostles, and to Thomas.  At first Thomas is absent. Later, Thomas is present.

What is the importance of our presence -- or our absence – physically?

Say, we are talking about a class tomorrow.  Tomorrow, Monday, you are I have a class. How important is our presence?

Maybe we need to check the syllabus, or class requirements. Does the teacher or professor grade us on “class participation”?

[__02]  Or, in the workplace environment – we might ask if the manager/supervisor notices our timeliness, our punctuality, our presence. If so, then being present is in our favor.

On the other hand, some of us may work in a different environment,  we may run the business …. Or teaching, we may run the classroom.  In such a situation, nevertheless, participation and punctuality are still important.

The student would notice, the customer would notice.

[__03]       How important is presence, is punctuality for Thomas the Apostle?

We might say .. well, not very … he missed the whole appearance and presentation by Jesus the first time.

We might wonder if Thomas will suffer some penalty – academically, professionally, spiritually – for his absence?

[__04]       Is this a setback?

In the journey of faith, the journey to know our Risen Savior,  yes the ABSENCE is a setback, a hindrance for Thomas.

Thomas is being told by the others – but he did not actually see or hear for himself.

[__05]      There is a value to “class participation”.   There is a value to presence.

Immediately after an absence, what would professors of Fairleigh Dickinson expect us to do?

The faculty expectation – the professor’s expectation is this.   They would expect
students are often expected to get up to speed by borrowing the notebook of a classmate – by finding out what was covered last week, what was the homework so as to be ready for this week.

Teachers, professors, as we know, have a syllabus, a timeline. And, if we were to miss a class, the professor would expect us to catch up by turning to friends or classmates.

This is not Thomas’s method.  Thomas really is not very interested in the opinions of the others.. of his “classmates”, or what is in their notebooks.

Thomas has his own ideas, his own “syllabus” and, probably, a very specific notion of what should be on the final exam.

In the person of Thomas, we see our own preconceptions,preconceived ideas, our own stubbornness reflected.

[__06]      What is the importance of our presence?   Say, in a lecture hall or classroom, at school, high school, or college.

In a classroom, we are also called to leave behind some of our preconceived notion. Yes, we are called to read, prepare..but also to be open to the teacher’s presentation of the material.

In such an environment, we learn not only by taking notes, or memorizing, but also by listening to the questions and comments of our classmates.

And, we risk … by asking questions ourselves.

We learn by observing the questions that we had not yet considered.

We also learn – and grow in our faith – by considering the questions and struggles of others – struggles of marriage, children, family, health, finances…

In a classroom, we also learn by contributing, by asking questions..even questions that might reveal that we have fallen behind.

In our prayer, we also bring our questions and confusion to God also.  

We participate in this when we admit our sinfulness.

This Sunday is observed as Divine Mercy Sunday in which Jesus

Jesus speaks explicitly about the forgiveness of sins in his name, through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.  Coming to Jesus in this sacrament, you and I would reveal times we have "fallen" or "fallen behind".   Yet, we are also know that God wants to strengthen us, with absolution and with forgiveness.

[__07]      Thomas the Apostle is only a little bit ready for this “class participation” and presence.

In this  Gospel, the Lord invited Thomas and you and me to leave behind our preconceived notions of where Jesus is …

He is not only in the Upper Room in a resurrection appearance. This is what Thomas wants ..what he “requires.” The Good News is that the Lord appears to him.

More importantly, risen from the dead, Jesus is present in in the Church, in mercy and love and in relationships…

[__08]       Jesus is also present when we try to imitate him. This is our class participation.

It means, for example,

·        _____ Seeking out, befriending someone who may be unpopular or ignored or isolated.

·        ______Avoiding harsh words, avoiding words and actions that can belilttle or demean others …. Even avoding demeaning words to someone who has actually done us something wrong, some injustice.

·         _______Listening to our parents  … doing what they say, even if they are not going to reward us immediately for following along. Our reward is the participation itself.

·         _______As a believer in the Risen Savior, it means also putting the wounds, the difficulties or needs others ahead of my own… putting their nailmarks before my own.

[__09]      Also, for Thomas, for you, for me, it means putting aside … postponing our desire to SEE, to KNOW … exactly what the final grade is going to be.

Participate ..

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says.

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.  (John 20:31)   [__fin___]