Friday, June 28, 2013

Strength in Numbers (2013-06-23)

This is my homily for  June 23 2013, (12th Sunday).   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 resumes,  August 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm at  FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. ***

[__01__]    In many every day matters, we seek to be productive and profitable, avoiding large numbers.    Some of us might avoid large numbers by not doing mathematics .... MEANWHILE .... some of us avoid large numbers by avoiding crowds.

·         We travel more happily and efficiently outside rush hour.

·         We live more happily – and peacefully – if we can avoid panic and chaos that might originate in crowd.  Financial advisers tell us to avoid following the herd or crowd.

[__02__]     In this section of the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 9, and on other occasions, Jesus separates himself from the crowd.

This separation is manifested/demonstrated in …

[__02(a)__]      TOTAL ATTENDANCE – That is, this encounter occurs when …
“Jesus was praying in solitude and his disciples were with him.”  (Luke 9:18)

Our Savior had gone away from and separated the disciples from the crowd. 

[__02(b)__]       This separation is manifested/demonstrated in this Gospel in 2-part question …

The question, part 1  --  Jesus had asked the disciples,  “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18)

We hear the analytical and data-driven answers of the disciples, based on the current Nielsen ratings, based on Jesus’ reputation and identity.

The disciples have asked around, learning that Jesus is known by his association to others – to Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the prophets.

The question, part 2 --  is not based on analysis or data, but rather is personal question .    “Who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)

Jesus separates himself from the crowed.

And, sometimes we are invited to do the same.

[__03__]       In matters of morality and ethics, a classmate or friend may invite us to do something we recognize as dishonest.

To do the right thing might mean a separation, a distance from the crowd, or a challenge to the friend from whom we have been invited down the wrong path.

This is not easy.

[__04__]    In more public settings or even in legal situations, we may encounter this.

We find ourselves, in the past year, as a Catholic community praying for religious freedom.

For example - the “crowd” and our country have accepted and signed a new health-care legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

Also, we recognize that that many people will be helped by access to regular examinations, to prescriptions, to hospitals.

At the same time, we as Catholics have reservations about a path that seems to include the greatest number of the choices, the greatest number of permissions …without sufficient regard for  religious freedom.

Having freedom means exercising our values, our conscience… not simply doing what is permitted.

Also, we believe that our medical care requires, always, the freedom of the individual to choose – regarding   --- payment ---  insurance --- treatments.

The Affordable Care Act, in its implementation by the current Administration -  includes items – as therapies – that we believe do not protect the sanctity of life at all stages.

In this regard, some separation from the crowd is Good News, for our religious faith and civil freedom.

[__05__]       In our own quieter moments of prayer, we also ask for the Lord’s guidance.

For example, we can sit before Jesus, present in the tabernacle, in church, asking his guidance during a crisis or sorrow.

We may separate ourselves from the crowd for a while to do so.  We can also ask his guidance during a time of joy. 

Or, we might remind a family member for whom “faith” or “church” might seem a distant reality about this.  Such a person might not have the continuity of religious practice in their lives.   Such a person could be reminded to come to church, to pray before the tabernacle, to ask God – in solitude –for the word or words today.

Jesus speaks to us in our solitude away from the crowd. God speaks to us each day.

[__06__]        This conversation of prayer does not only happen at times of sorrow or crisis.

For example, you might say to yourself…or I might say to myself …. “given my gifts, talents, how shall I take up my cross each day?”

This could also be a prayer this summer, after graduation, or as we approach graduation from high school or college.  How shall each of us give back?

[__07__]       For now, Jesus is separated, away from the crowd.

Yet, it is also true that he and his disciples will return to the crowd as we also will. He will return to Jerusalem, to the big city.

This return is part of the prediction of his passion and death.

And, we will also return to our equivalent of “Jerusalem,” the big city, to the tasks and activities of our lives.

We will return to our lives, to our tasks.

[__08__]       It is Good News also to be back in the crowd.  For we are called to seek God’s will and presence everywhere. And, thus in making choices – and seeking the good – we are reminded of the question directed individually to each of us from our Savior –

who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)                [__fin__]       

Fashionably Late? (2013-06-16)

This is my homily for  June 16 2013, (11th Sunday and U.S. Father's 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 resumes,  August 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm at  FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. ***

 [__01__]    On certain formal occasions, the entrance – and the timing of one’s entrance – is very important.

This would include -- Commencement,  Graduations, Weddings.

We even attend rehearsals, striving for punctuality. We try not to keep others waiting.

A delay could mean trouble.

Or – is it Good News to be delayed ?

[__02__]    From the Gospel this Sunday, we read that Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus, our  Savior, to dinner at a specific time and place.

Jesus would have been the main guest – the guest of honor – and could not have been late. The celebration starts after his arrival.

Then, an unexpected guest – a woman known publicly for his sinful past – arrives.

If this were purely a report about the notable people of Jerusalem, one in which guest are photographed on red carpets arriving at mansion or theatre, we might then say the woman is fashionably late, intentionally delayed to make an impression.

But there are no paparazzi. And, this is not exactly Jay Gatsby’s mansion.    

Is it Good News to be delayed?

[__03__]    For Simon the Pharisee, No, it is not Good News.

Simon the Pharisee believed this woman should have repented long ago, or perhaps should never have fallen into sin in the first place.

This was no joyous reunion for the guest stuck in bridge traffic.

Simon’s perception leads to the prophecy of Jesus, the interpretation of Simon’s thoughts by our Lord …

Jesus reads Simon’s thoughts and reveals them through the parable about 2 persons in debt for different amounts, one with a very large balance … the other a very small balance.

One scholar observes:  “While Simon silently condemns Jesus for not divining the character of the woman, Jesus proves himself a prophet by reading the secret thoughts of Simon [the Pharisee].”[1]

[__04__]     Is it Good News to be delayed?

For Jesus, for you for me, the delay is Good News.

Our Savior offers us the sacraments and the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, also for our debts, our sins.

The Lord also offers us this sacrament for our delay tactics, knowing that we might take a while to come around to confession.

[__05__]    Isn’t this true in our relationships with others? For example, are we not also striving to grow in forgiveness and mercy towards others?

We may striving to forgive the faults of family members, of a spouse, a friend, a child, a friend.

Not everyone will ask forgiveness according to our screen of arrival / and / departures. There may be air-traffic, bridge, or tunnel delays.

In some cases, we are also called to forgive the faults unknown to the person committing them. This is a further delay.

And, sometimes, it is just as difficult – or more difficult – to accept the expression of contrition – to accept an apology – than to deliver an apology.

[__06__]             On this Father’s Day, we can also give thanks – in prayer or in person – for gift  of our fathers, for their mercy, forgiveness, for their efforts to understand us, especially when we were delayed – fashionably nor unfashionably.

[__07__]            In this  Gospel, we are reminded that the Lord waits and endures our delay.

The delay is Good News, with our freedom is all the greater, and the celebration and feast at the table all the stronger, receiving his forgiveness and invitation to go in peace.

[1] Jerome Biblical Commentary, 44:76,  “Luke 7:36-50, The Penitent Woman”. Regarding Luke 7:40, the commentator writes: “While Simon silently condemns Jesus for not divining the character of the woman,Jesus proves himself a prophet by reading the secret thoughts of Simon [the Pharisee].”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Next ... The Physician Will See You Now" ... (2013-06-09)

This is my homily for  June 9 2013, (10th Sunday).   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 resumes,  August 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm at  FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. ***

[__01__]        In this Gospel we read that “God has visited his people.”  Also, we read that our Savior sees, recognizes, welcomes the widow of Nain.

 It is certainly good news for the widow of Nain that the Lord “sees” and “heals” her son. It is not only good news but also surprising news.

As a widow, this mother would have have had few rights – few guarantees – little insurance …and no appointment.

[__02__]         How do you and I negotiate and schedule time  with doctors and other professionals?

On the one hand,  we obtain referrals, and ask favors of  “to get us in”, do we not?

On the other hand, in an urgent case, we may go to the Holy Name / Valley / Hackensack Emergency Room and wait our turn.

“Next”.  “The physician will see you now.”

In both cases, the scheduled and the unscheduled, we feel justified AFTER we have been served and seen.

Furthermore, we would feel rebuffed / rejected, if someone else were to go ahead of us.

The son of the widow of Nain was just such a “someone”,  someone without a chart or history.

The widow’s son is not selected due to visibility. Jesus sees her, recognizes the widow and her son in their obscurity.

[__03__]       The widow’s son and Jesus (the Son of God / Son of Mary) share at least one common aspect – obscurity, lack of brand-name recognition.

Father Ronald Knox, in a sermon about “obscurity” and “humility” points that one of the principal charges – legal charges – against Jesus is his obscurity.[1]

The Pharisees and others reject our Savior, seeing no credentials, no qualifications, no formal training.   Yet, somehow, Jesus is knowledgeable to debate with them.

Their charge was that the Jesus had been operating a ministry without legitimacy, without their approval.

They arrest him.    “Pontius Pilate will see you now.”

 [__04__]       Earlier this year, we witnessed – on February 11 – the resignation – the withdrawal – of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Choosing to resign the papacy, Benedict XVI goes on no speaking tours, accepts no university fellowships or honorary degrees, writes no memoir.

Indeed, we do not see him.

Yet, Benedict lives, praying for the church. His life continues in prayer and off camera.

[__05__]         Humility would keep us all off camera and away from the spotlight.

But, what is humility?  Father Ronald Knox provides a useful definition and example. The widow of Nain demonstrates this humility, putting her son first, asking nothing for herself.

Father Knox writes that true humility is a quite different thing from “modesty ” – the modesty which forbids us to boast, to brag, to forward it to – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

True humility is one that allows us to accept – even to desire – obscurity as Good News.

Jesus takes pity on the widow due to her obscurity.  Her humility brings her closer to Christ the Physician.

Our own suffering – our own distress and anxiety – can also bring us closer his presence.  Jesus the Physican – through our prayer -  will see us now. You are next. I am next.      [__fin__]       

[1] Knox, Ronald, “The Charm of our Obscurity” Pastoral and Occasional Sermons (1940) San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002.   pp. 221-224. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Corpus Christi (2013-06-02)

This is my homily, Corpus Christi  Sunday  June 2 2013, Pentecost.   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 resumes,  August 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm at  FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. ***

[__01__]    This is Corpus Christi Sunday. In our Gospel, we read about the crowd of 5 thousand-plus   for whom our Savior multiplies the loaves and fishes.

The Good News is the nourishment they receive. The Good News is also the location, the venue, the place.

[__02__]      Sometimes, a certain place is preferable – if not required – for nourishment.

In the Gospel, we read about a large gathering – the 5,000 --  away from home, away from town. 

For this reason, the Twelve Apostles came to Jesus, suggesting this new traffic pattern,

Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”  (Luke 9:11-17)
The Twelve believe that a different place is required. The current venue is impractical.

[__03__]       Location would be significant if we were making camp for the night, away from home. Our guides – or our group would seek a safe place, safety for the campfire, safety from animals – safety of the water supply.

In such a scenario, a location is also chosen for the benefit of all, to keep the team, the family, the group, together.

[__04__]         This unityis both Good News and challenging news.

Jesus does not accept the suggested traffic pattern, choosing rather to keep the crowd together.  We might, then, say he is keeping all of his disciples together, his Church-community together.  In a relationship.

Do not dismiss the crowd, Jesus says.

[__05__]         Who is my crowd?  Who is your crowd?  This could be our family, our marriage, our extended family, important friendships.

[__06__]          Our lifetime commitments of marriage and family, for example, or our life’s vocation/work, can bring us great peace.

This invite us to maintain a certain stability and focus. This stability enables us to be more productive, happy…

On the other hand, every commitment can bring days if not years – or decades – of hardship.

We might wish for dismissal. Dismissal would be logical .

Dismissal might be equated with “class dismissed” and “summer vacation”.

Dismissal would give us independence, the ability to choose a new location, to go into town, and find lodging and food for ourselves, right?

[__07__]      The logical response to our emptiness, or our fear, or our pride is to change location.

Relocate. This was the logical and immediate response of the Twelve Apostles, surrounded by 5,000 plus physically hungry followers.

Check out their Twitter feed  – “OMG we’re empty here. Send them away to be filled / fulfilled.”

[__08__]          Relocate Go to a new place. This was the logical and immediate response of the Twelve Apostles, surrounded by a crowd that had arrested and imprisoned Jesus.

No more updates. Their ministry was appearing void, empty. They dismiss – excuse – themselves. Nearly all of them relocate, go elsewhere.

[__09__]           Presented with a challenge, crisis, emptiness, we may be tempted to relocate, to seek fulfillment elsewhere, outside of our current vocation, life, family commitments.

In this particular miracle, in this particular example of nourishment, Jesus invites us to take our place at his side – to remain at his site – to be nourished in the current location by the food, the gifts, the talents which he can multiply, creating an abundance, given for the many, and given for all.   [__fin__]