Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Truth in the Street (2013-09-29)

This is my homily for Sunday September 29, 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. Title:  Truth in the Street (Rich Man and Lazarus)

29  September 2013  26th Sunday

•• Amos 6:1a,4-7 ••••  Psalm 146 ••  ••1 Timothy 6:11-16••Luke 16:19-31 ••

[__01-a__]   This is a parable about Lazarus and the rich man.

The rich man is a fictional character in a parable by Jesus. He is a fictional person currently tormented, in eternal punishment.

A professor of mine at the seminary spoke about prayer as it related to both eternal punishment and eternal reward, our afterlife.

Such punishment is the wish for none of us. And, I daresay, we do not even wish it upon our worst enemy.

However, God gives us free will, to choose his ways or another way.

We do not know the destination of anyone for sure.

But, we can pray  that no one is enduring eternal punishment, that even the rich man would have changed his ways in time.

And, we pray for those who have died that we will all be reunited one day in heaven. And, we pray that we will see the truth, the truth that the rich man of the parable misses.

[__01-b__]   There is truth in the street. 

[__02__]  We know that the FBI, the CIA, the River Edge (or Teaneck) police detectives will true to find the truth, the evidence, the data or the DNA, of the street.

How will they gather this data, this evidence?

They might interview people at Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, JFK Airport, or Main Street  ..or Kinderkamack.

Such law enforcers will canvass, collect OUTDOORS, out of doors so that they can bring the criminal mind “indoors ” to the police station or courthouse … “downtown for further questioning”.

A writer or investigative journalist will do the same. He or she will bring that data indoors to the laptop to write the book or article.

There is truth in the street. Do we have the fortitude, the motivation to recognize, to discover the truth in the street?

[__03__]   We read this Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16.

This is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Does the rich man of the parable – apparently “rolling in it” because he is dressed in purple garments and dining sumptuously each day -  have the fortitude, the courage, the motivation to recognize truth in the street?

The rich man is, figuratively, on Easy Street ..but, geographically / physically would prefer to be away from pavement and asphalt entirely.

Life is better indoors.  There is truth in the street.

Does the rich man have the fortitude – the courage to see, to recognize truth in the street?

[__04__]   Lazarus is at his door, in his way, in the street.  Physical/DNA evidence of poverty.

But, is this material evidence admissible and sufficient to draw a conclusion about what the rich man should do next?

What is the truth about Lazarus? Well, if we were to investigate in the F.B.I. database, do a criminal background check on the 2013 equivalent of Lazarus, what would we find?

We might also have seen, recently, someone living in the street, living at or near Port Authority Bus Terminal New York City or Penn Station.

Searching their history, their known addresses, their phone records, what truth would we uncover?

Would this trust motivate us to help the person in the street? We might find truth that would seem to excuse, permit us to go back indoors, to retreat.

There could be truth in the street, truth to help us withdraw, go away.

But this is not the truth which our Catholic faith/Catholic Church teaches us to find in the street.

Pope Benedict, writing in 2009, suggests that in our increasingly globalized society – a world without economic borders – this calls us to be more attentive to those who go without:

Man's  --  [the human ]   earthly activity – whether in  [BANKING OR MANUFACTURING OR MEDICINE …. OR AGRICULTURE…OR EDUCATION ]… , when inspired and sustained by charity (LOVE), contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.

We are on the FDU global campus, global citizens,… so the truth is also in the street …in the pathways between the Courts and Becton, the SUB and Northpointe…  This truth is love, charity.

In an increasingly globalized society – or university-- , the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations[5], in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God.”[1] 

There is truth in the street. That we are called to lay down our lives for each other.

[__05__]   So, in retrospect, in a historical review of this cold case, and any DNA evidence, it is obvious what the rich man should have done, right?

Moreover, his eternal salvation was at stake.

The truth, after all, was in the street. Lazarus himself was in the street, in his street, right in front of him.

No GPS required, the rich man does not have to “acquire satellites” to calculate a position. The truth is in the street.

[__06__]   What is the STREET, to you and me?

First, the street is our transition, our journey.

FDU is our street, 4 years for most of us, shorter for some.  In any case, this is a defined time frame of study. The street will have bumps, detours, delay, Nevertheless, there is a relatively clear requirement of study and paid tuition (the tolls)  and exit ramp of Commencement (the destination) along with the BA, MBA, Ph. D. diplomas (DNA evidence that we did something).

Giving oneself to the process, to the journey, we discover there is truth in the street, truth gained in following through, following a method.

[__07__]   However, …however .. are all of our maps and charts so clearly marked with latitude, longitude, and street address?

Someday, or even now, you will be on a street that is simply a place to discern, to decide what to do next.

And, in such a case, we are called to discover where God is…where God’s will is present.

In a recent interview, Pope Francis shared this thought on discernment of God’s will …

         Forgiveness for someone by whom you have been hurt … where is the truth?

· ·                 Decision about a career … or even a major … where is the truth?

·         ·         Commitment to another person, in love, in marriage … where is the truth?

·         ·         Raising a child .. taking care of a child … am I ready to have a child?  …where is the truth?

I offer these as some practical considerations we may have…

Pope Francis summarizes the thoughts of St. Ignatius on discernment:

Discernment,”   … is an instrument of struggle in order to know the Lord and follow him ….  non coerceri a maximo, sed contineri a minimo divinum est (“not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest—this is the divine”).”

This is also a thought of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit order, from which Pope Francis comes… “to find God in all things.”

There is truth in the street.

[__08__]    There is also truth in the street – on the journey – if we consider more than the uncertainty or fears of the current moment.

Our fears can prevent us from ever going outside. We may hesitate in making a commitment because we lack answers.

But, there is truth in the street.

As Jesus said to his disciples – sending them out into the street --- at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “I will be with you always even until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:30)

This means, that with new and/or unfamiliar commitments, we need not have everything ready or perfect before the journey starts.

In this regard, we can see Lazarus and God’s will before us, the call to build up the city of God, both in the other person and in ourselves … globally and locally,  on the way, while we are in transition.

There is truth in the street. [__fin__

[1] Benedict XVI, Caritas In Veritate, n. 7. 29 June 2009.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Who You Know" (2013-09-22)

This is my homily for Sunday September 22, 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. 

September 22, 2013  /  25th Sunday

•• Amos 8:4-7 •• Psalm 113 •• 1 Timothy 2:1-8 •• Luke 16:1-13

[__01__]  In this parable from the Gospel of Luke,  chapter 16, we see the:

  • Middleman
  • Middle manager
This is the steward. The steward has customers to whom he is negotiating prices, selling goods, selling a product.

[__02__]   The steward is also the manager of a social network.

He has his own form of social media, his own connections.  And, maybe some people even like him on Facebook.

The steward / middle manager – in  the parable -- is trying to take advantage of all the connections possible.

First, this advantage is taken – seized – to give the steward the maximum possible profit.

He is greedy… that is Part 1 of his life.

Then, we read about his change of heart and change of  business practice.

This leads to Part 2.

As he has a change of heart about the profit and business, he also takes advantage of his connections, of  his relationships.

The steward reduces his own profit, builds relationships.

[__03__]   What are we often told about success … success in the world, with or without the Internet, Facebook… and  online purchasing?

What is the wisdom on social media, marketing and prosperity?

The  message is’s not what you know it’s  who you know.

Everything is going to depend on our connections.

Of course, sometimes, we take this to the extreme to avoid doing any work because we see other people getting ahead just based on points of  popularity rather than points in their GPA … or actual knowledge.

We might also avoid doing our best for our teacher, our coach,  our team… because we see others playing favorites.
Yes, unfortunately, this happens.

On the other hand, this is not an excuse for  not doing our homework, not going to practice…or – in our faith journey – not  following the commandments.

God himself also does not play favorites.

The steward is reducing his profit, giving back and living based on relationships.. it is who  you know.

He is building relationships that will endure for the long term.

And, we are called to do the same.

[__04__]   IN OUR WORK.

This true whether we are working professionally, working academically, doing our homework.

Our homework – or tasks – are not optional. This is the minimum we can do.

But, if the fall harvest of happiness is about “who you know”, then there is a relationship to cultivate in the spring..and every day as well.

We also benefit by getting to know the teacher  in the classroom. We benefit by getting to know those who are in  authority … to know his or her values.

To serve the greater good, it is who you know.

This is just one example.

And, by the way, the reading from Timothy today also reminds us of the importance of praying for those in leadership, in authority.

Pray for your boss, your dean…your university president.

[__05__]   The same is true in our family life.

Yes, there are plenty of tasks to do, money to earn, insurance and tuition to pay, and tasks to complete.

We are also called to know – to get to know each of our family members, their personality, their temperament… to love them not only as we would be loved…but also to love them according to what they need.

Paul writes in the letter to Thessalonians..
??? about telling them what  they need??

Each person requires different loving actions, different acts of forgiveness from each of us.

It is  who you know.

[__06__]   This is also true in our faith and  belief and action.

We are called not only to remember the  commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal.

That would 1 of the commandments which is forgotten by the steward, at least temporarily.

He is, in fact,  stealing from both his master and his customers with unfair pricing and excessive profit taking.

We are also called  to know our Lord.

In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes about what he has learned, the knowledge and techniques he has gained.

That is,  “what he knows is important.”

I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:12, Douay-Rheims)

I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. (Philippians 4:12, Revised NAB)

 But who he knows is even more important.

I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13, Douay-Rheims)

I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippains 4:13, Revised NAB)

It’s who you know. [__fin__]  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Search Begins at Home (2013-09-15)

This is my homily for Sunday September 15, 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. 

September 15, 2013  /  24th Sunday

••• Exodus 32:7-11 ••• Psalm 51 ••• 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ••• + Luke 15:1-32 •••

TITLE:  “The Search Begins At Home”

[__01_]   The search begins at home.
In the Gospel this Sunday, we read a parable about a woman – seeking / sweeping / cleaning – and ultimately FINDING / COLLECTING … her lost coin.

 [__02__]  The Good News is that her search – and our search – starts at home.

 [__03_]   Isn’t this true as we begin the intellectual and social life of the new academic/school year?

What have we lost? Are we losing? Are we not already trying to catch up … coming up from behind …?

We have “lost”  - seemingly misplaced – all of the free time we had before Labor Day weekend.

Now, all seems lost.

We have to work more, study more, keep up with deadlines.

How do we make up for what we have lost? How do we find the lost coin?

What we learn in the Gospel is that the search begins at home.

But, this is often not our approach.

 [__04__]   That is, confronted with the loss of our free time, our leisure time and the painful therapies of homework, we want to find something else.

Call this our search for another coin. We are collecting other coins, coins of leisure, comfort, partying.

In other words, we do not sweep the house or restructure the house. We just try to get out of the house.

The Good News of the Gospel – and the recovery / collection of the coin – is that our search begins at home with this inventory,  with this examination.

This is an examination of our conscience, an examination of our lives.

Through this examination, we also recall that our studies now bring knowledge which is its own reward. We need not search outside the house for something else.

The search begins at home.

[__05__]   The woman has lost a coin at home.

But, are there not other coins – more valuable – to be earned elsewhere?

Perhaps, we experienced a loss – or disruption – to an important relationship, in family, friendship, marriage.

 [__06__]   Do we seek our satisfaction in friendships, comforts, leisure outside our home?  Or, more generally, are we praying for the strength and wisdom to love those immediately around us.

Our roommates, our teammates – our classmates..even our own family members and friends may be very different.

Each one may be a coin difficult to collect or recover.

Our Lord invites us to begin our examination and inventory at home.

Perhaps, we begin also on the floor, bending the knee in prayer…or getting down on our knees, to pray to repent, to clean house.

To search for what we have lost.   The search begins at home. [__fin__]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Above-Ground Visibility (2013-09-08)

This is my homily for Sunday September 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. 

September 8, 2013  /  23rd Sunday

••• Wisdom 9:13-18b ••• Psalm 90 ••• Philemon 9-10,12-17 ••• + Luke 14:25-33 •••

[__01_]   In this Sunday’s gospel from the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read a short parable about 2 stages of a construction project, the construction of a tower.

The first stage, Stage 1, is the foundation.

And, we are reminded frequently, by the Lord, about the importance of a firm foundation.

[__02__]  In the Word of God of the Bible and Gospel, we are reminded about a firm foundation.

In Psalm 119, we read that God’s word is lamp to my feet and a light for my path. This Word of God – wisdom and virtue - keeps us balanced, upright, keeps our feet on the ground.

In Matthew Chapter 7, we are told about the 2 foundations, the choices we can make in real estate speculation and the selection of a home. This is the a choice between sand and rock. 
And, as we know, the rains came, the winds blew and buffeted the house. But [the house set solidly on rock] did not collapse.

This  “rock” is also our faith in God and the commandments that enables us to endure – not just rain and wind and water – but also … adversity, criticism, even mockery a person – even a friend – with whom we do not agree in some value judgment.

The rock enables us to forgive.

We need rock to stand tall.

But, we also need rock to remain visible.

The foundation exists so that the multi-level structure – the multi-story tower - can be visible.

[__03_]   However, sometimes, we can become – I too can become – complacent or self-satisfied with only a foundation and no building, no visible structure.

In this parable about moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2, our Lord is asking us to consider our hidden  calculations, computations.

For example, do we sometimes give up or turn back after the first or second difficulty arises.   This happens after we have a foundation.  That is, we have made it through midterms…or made it to all the way to graduation or even retirement.

But, then, in Stage 2, the regular season begins.

And, we are called to be seen, to be visible witnesses to our faith and to our calling.

Will not many of us, for example, be called to sacrifice our time, convenience, money for the sake a family member in advanced age or illness?

Jesus is saying is not enough to have the foundation of a blood relationship, or the foundation of a historical relationship.

Stage 2, is – to put it bluntly – what have you done for me lately?

This was often Jesus’ challenge to his disciples, reminding them that he – and they – came not to be served but to serve.

[__04__]  Jesus is inviting  us – in our relationships and commitmens to live out our faith visibly and. Yes, we may need some resources to finish.

For this, we come to Sunday Mass, to prayer, to confession of our sins, to repentance, to gain these resources.

In fact, Jesus does not want us to live strictly indoors, underground in a foundation, or “under the dome”.

Jesus invites us to enter and complete Stage 2. This is a stage with many tests, not just for the weight room or gym or classroom.

They will be tests such as…
·        care of a loved one in advanced age.

·         Caring for a child with special needs

·         Caring someone younger – or more junior – to ourselves – someone to whom we are the leader, the mentor, the adviser.  In such a situation, we maybe “in charge” … but we are also called to the servant. The last shall be first.

In these and other ways, we live above ground, standing on the foundation, carrying the cross in Stage 2.

We also bring our petitions and requests before God for the resources – natural and supernatural – so that we may finish.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Humility (2013-09-01)

This is my homily for Sunday September 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. 

September 1, 2013  /  22nd Sunday (Labor Day Weekend)

••• Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ••• Psalm 68 ••• Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a ••• + Luke 14:1:7-14 •••

[__01_]   Humility is important as we start a new academic year, a new school year.
It is often a humbling experience to start over, to ask questions about things we thought we had already answered … last year.

The virtue of humility is important for students.

However, in the Book of Sirach, humility is not just for students, not just for those coming up the ladder.

This attitude and spirit pertaining to everyone, e, and especially for leaders – for professors, teachers, priests/clergy, R.A’s … Deans,  Presidents.

After all, a person – leading others – is also setting a standard, setting a bar which others will try to meet – or not. The same call to humility to applies to mothers and fathers.

Yet, as we increase our responsibilities, this need for humility increases.

In the Book of Sirach, chapter 3, this Sunday, we read, “humble yourself the more the greater you are” (Sirach 3:18)

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are taught the same quote-unquote leadership-doctrine by Jesus:

The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

This means that
è College seniors need more humility than sophomores;
è Deans need more humility than professors;
è Professors need more humility than students…
è Older brothers and sisters need more humility than their younger brothers and sisters.

[__02_]   Humility is the virtue that helps us to make the right choices.  Sometimes, we make choices trusting in something other than humility. We, for example, trust in..

·         … superior intelligence? Or above-average physical strength? Or good looks? …or some other form or material wealth?

With such personal characteristics or attributes, we might feel we have no need or use for humility.

[__03_]   Our Lord gives us a caution in case this is so for your or me.
Jesus gives us the example of someone desiring first class or a better seat at the table.  How would this parable apply… Consider that  you or I were at JFK or Newark Airport, boarding a plane.

We might take the seat seats in first class, just because we had reached that section of the plane first?

In the merciful Good News of the Gospel, Jesus says we would be immediately sent to ECONOMY class.

Jesus says, “you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place” (cf. Luke 14:1, 7-14)

Embarrassment ?  If we had actually taken such a seat, embarrassment would have been the least of our problems.

In the not-so-merciful world of Federal FAA regulations, we might be taken off the plane, arrested …

Are we humble only to stay out of trouble with the authorities?

But, Jesus is not limiting our humility to a forms of social etiquette …or the ethics of a dinner party.

So, humility helps us to make the right choices.

[__04_]  The virtues of patience and humility keep us out of trouble with the authorities.

Yet, would we not also admit that the parable of Jesus is offering us advice that applies to life beyond the seating plan of a wedding reception or an airplane?

Jesus is asking us to apply the Gospel to all of our transitions and journeys.

Our Lord is suggesting that we make the best choices when we acknowledge our own foolishness, our brokenness.

In other words, humility helps us to know ourselves, regardless of where we are seated, economy or first class,  honors/Advanced Placement or non-Honors.

John Henry Newman, scholar and priest of the 19th century at Oxford, reminds us that this humility is based on our respect for God … a respect summarized in the bible as “fear of the Lord.”

This “fear of the Lord”, however, is not a fright that is meant to humiliate or humble us to the point of inaction or secrecy or seclusion.

In a state of standard fear, We are not trying to get past “security” or the police or our parents without getting caught.

“Rather, fear of the Lord is simply the beginning of wisdom.  Fear of the Lord leads us to think over things modestly and honestly, to examine patiently, to bear doubt and uncertainty, to wait perseveringly for an increase of light [= knowledge, brilliance…] to be slow to speak, and to be deliberate in deciding.”[1]

 [__05__]   Humility helps us to know ourselves and to know the Lord’s call to each of us, in situations unfamiliar.

Perhaps, the most unfamiliar place and territory is our own mind and soul, when we have been relocated.

And, sometimes, we do not have “relocate” very far to find ourselves a bit lost.

The Good News … we come to the Lord’s banquet with humility.  And, we are not being humbled into a passive state of inertia, but rather prepared for action and movement.

We come to the Lord’s banquet with humility so that we will know his invitation, his timing, and the deadline  of the RSVP for whatever is coming next.

[1] J.H. Newman “Sermon 8. Inward Witness to the Truth of the Gospel,”  Book 8, Parochial and Plain Sermons (1891).  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, page 1632.