Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where Do I Sign ? (2013-10-27)

This is my homily for Sunday October 27, 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. 

30th Sunday, Year C

••  Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 •• Psalm 34 •• 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 •• Luke 18:9-14 ••

[__01a__]   This is a famous parable about prayer.   In the Catholic Catechism, we read that there are 3 principal - 3 main – parables about prayer. All 3 are from the Gospel of Luke and we have heard all 3 in the last few months.

1st is the parable of the importunate friend, the friend arriving at midnight to ask for bread so that he may provide food for unexpected guest.

2nd is the parable of last Sunday about the widow beseeching the judge to hear her case favorably.

3rd is the parable we have just read about the Pharisee and the tax collector (also known as the “Pharisee and the publican”)

[__01b__]   Where do I sign? Where do I sign, place my signature, my name?
This is a question you and I would ask after we have made a commitment, or a decision.

Also this is the question you and I would ask if we were to make a petition.

For example, to run for the U.S. Presidency, a person needs to gather signatures on a petition. With a sufficient number of signatures, a person would be on the ballot.

In California, to be on the presidential ballot, you need 160,000 signatures. In Minnesota, only 2,000.  And, so once, you have signatures and are on the presidential ballot in all 50 states, you are a candidate. The signature is important.

Where do I sign?

 [__02__]   This is the question we are asked by someone from whom we receive approval, permission, favor.

Where do I sign?

 [__03__]   Need a lease on a car? Where do we sign?
Need to be excused from class or from a midterm due to travel?  Where does the professor sign?

[__04__]  We sign our names – personally – asking for things that we need.

[__05__]  In the Gospel this Sunday, we read a parable about the 2 persons (2 men) who went up to the Temple to pray.

First is the Pharisee. Second is the tax collector.

[__06__]  The Pharisee does not want to sign anything, believing all his documents and 
paperwork are in perfect order.

The Pharisee does not make any petitions before God.

The Pharisee does not ask for anything, but just tells God how great his transcript and application are. Even his signature is flawless.

[__07__]   Second, at the Temple is the tax collector (publican). The tax collector, in all humility, has his pen and ink ready with prayer petitions.

“Where do I sign?” He wants to know.

[__08__]    Tax collectors are known to us, through the Bible as notoriously selfish individuals. The Jewish people regarded the tax collectors with contempt, with disdain.

According to the Jewish community, their “tax collectors” (many of whom were Jewish) had signed away the inheritance. They had signed away the promised land to the Roman Empire.

Tax collectors were Jewish themselves and were working for the Roman Empire. They were cheating their own family.

One would have to wonder if the signature of a tax collector is worth much.

The Pharisee would question the value of the tax collector’s autograph … not because the tax collector is not famous…but because the tax collector is infamous in his cheating.

[__09__]   What is my signature – my word – my promise worth?

Isn’t this the same question for all of us in turning our hearts back to God … or in making a repentance or reparation.

That is, yes, we have been dishonest or selfish in some way or at some time.

 [__10__]    The tax collector goes before God seeking forgiveness and brings a petition, a petition to be signed.

We might say that the tax collector gives us an example to follow in Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

This sacrament in its repentance and forgiveness – is also a petition.

[__11__]  In the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, we are also making a request and petition – but it is different from some petitions with which we are familiar.

For example, if we were to run for U.S. President, we would need a petition with signatures – state by state, Michigan and Minnesota, Colorado and California.

We would need a campaign, publicity…

Also if I want to obtain more financial aid, then I write the petition, I write up the details, the plan.

We would need a strategy, a calculation.

[__12__]  In the confession of our sins, we do not come before God with a campaign slogan or a strategy complete.

Rather, in our petition, we are asking the Lord to fill in some of these details.

This is true also in the sacrament of penance.

In the confession of our sins, we make this petition, asking the Lord to give us greater awareness of God’s justice, fairness.

[__13__]   Receiving forgiveness, absolution and peace, we are trying to grow by becoming aware of our desire to follow God’s ways – even if we do not always succeed.

In the confession of our sins, we are aware of the difference between God’s ways and our ways. For example, we realize that we might have found to be “justified” …might really be unjust.

Or what we promised – signing our name to – we realize that maybe we did not keep our end of the agreement / relationship.

And, in these cases – asking for forgiveness, we are asking, with an open heart … where do we sign?


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good Try (2013-10-20)

This is my homily for Sunday October 20, 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. 

29th Sunday, Year C
•• Exodus 17:8-13 •• Psalm 121
•• 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 •• Luke 18:1-8

[__01__]  Good try. “Good try.”

These are word we pronounce as a verdict – as a judgment – sometimes at a very high volume regarding someone’s effort.

The good try may remind us of the successful – or the unsuccessful.

The good try may be the penalty kick that went wide of the net or the TD pass nearly caught or the math problem nearly – but not quite exactly – solved.

Good try.

[__02__]  This try is evaluated, measured, in terms of heart-rate, beats per minute, or hours of homework per night.

We associate a good try with someone’s persistence, perseverance.

It is good [news] to be tested, to be tried.

[__03__]  We read in the Gospel this Sunday a parable about a trial.

A widow in a certain town goes to her municipal courthouse. Her legal case/suit is being heard in the courtroom.

The evidence of the case is being tested, tried.   Patience is also being tested.

The patience – the forbearance – of both the woman as plaintiff and the judge is on trial.

The Lord offers this parable, this example of the extra effort, the good try, the extended time – overtime, extra innings, on the part of this widow/woman in court.

[__04__] Much time passes before the case is heard in the courthouse.   A long time could be months, years, decades? We are not told exactly.

Finally, there is a good try, a trial.

[__05__] Jesus offers this good-courtroom trial/ good-try parable as a reminder about prayer in our lives, about the need to discern – through effort, through trial --  God’s will in our lives.

Yes, we will have trials, difficulties. There will be …
è Penalty kicks
è Final exams
è Illness / Health issues
è Relationships

In each case – all of the above – the trial or the test is in 2 parts.

1.      Part 1 is about the VISIBLE – performance

2.      Part 2 is about the INVISIBLE (or, HIDDEN) – spirit / soul / perseverance.

[__06__]   In Part 1, there is a penalty kick or a chemistry exam or an illness.
Of course, these are different types of trials. Yet, in all of them, we are asked to do something. The woman of the parable had a case to be heard, a case against a particular adversary.

We understand that she does her best to bring this case to trial.  The widow believes that, eventually even a dishonest / corrupt / unethical judge will hear the case and decide in 
her favor.

This is faith, confidence in God, and hope.

That is… FAITH = believing that … even a dishonest / corrupt / unethical judge will hear the case and decide in her favor.

A good try.

[__07__]   So, also, at times, are we not called to work – to make the good try or series of good tries under difficult or unfair circumstances.

In Part 1, we perform – VISIBLY (being seen) as best we can.

And, in the marathon or overtime of a serious illness, we are also called to perform, according the doctor’s rules and strategies. It is not easy to keep up.

Part 1 of the good try is visible. Our performance.

[__08__]    However, the parable about the woman on trial is not only about her performance. It is also about her spirit / soul / perseverance.

This is not visible.

For example, one’s daily work / career could be such a test.  Our family knows that we go to work each day. Our employer sees that we show up.  However, neither may be able to quantify – measure – know – the internal struggles we endure.

We may not even know – fully – the internal struggles. It is good to cc:, to place our efforts/tries on file with our Lord and Savior.

For example, we may have to carry out a job without adequate recognition or reward. We may have to work for someone with whom we disagree.

In medicine, in business-strategy, in law – or other careers, we may face ethical guidelines which are LESS strict than our faith, our actual conscience.

We may take unpopular stances.

This requires perseverance.

We read in the Gospel “Jesus told his disciples a  parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” (Luke 18:1)

Prayer requires strength and gives strength.

[__09__]    Following God’s will is not only a matter of intelligence or memorization. Our soul – our character and conscience – is also involved.

This takes us from Part 1/Performance to Part 2/Perseverance. From the visible to the invisible.

Jesus invites us to pray. It is good that our case is being heard, good that we are on trial.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Power of Recognition (2013-10-13)

This is my homily for Sunday October 13, 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. 

28th Sunday, Year C
•• 2 Kings 5:14-17 •• Psalm 98
•• 2 Timothy 2:8-13 •• Luke 17:11-19

[__01__]  We read this Sunday from the Gospel of Luke about the 10 individual persons, 10 men suffering with leprosy. They desire healing

All 10 are healed, “made clean” ..for their leprosy is regarded as not only a physical malady but also a spiritual ailment.

All 10 are healed. Only 1, however, returns to express gratitude.

Recognition is his strength. Recognition – a virtue of recognition – is a strength for this Samaritan.

 [__02__]  Recognition is a strength.

Is it not the special virtue (strength?) of a star player – on the court or field – to recognize – to visualize [to comprehend] what to do under pressure?

Also, is recognition not a virtue that enables anyone – physician, attorney, teacher, mother, father – to choose the right path for someone in his or her care also under pressure or in a crisis.

Recognition is a strength.
… we speak of the “power of recognition”……

 [__03__]  ALTERNATIVELY – ON THE OTHER HAND --- Isn’t it true that we feel disconnected – detached – when we do recognize someone’s face but not recall the name?

Or, if we were to have a mid-term or final exam and we do not RECOGNIZE the questions.

That is, failing or struggling to recognize, we feel weaker, less capable.

Recognition is our strength. Recognition is also the beginning of relationships.

IN THIS ENCOUNTER / RELATIONSHIP WITH THE 10… THE Lord expresses disappointment that the other 9 – apparently all of the other 9 were Jewish, his own people – that the other 9 did not return …nor did they say, write, email, talk, or text… any kind of thank you note.

The other 9 did not recognize the gift, at least not explicitly or out loud.

 [__04__]   Perhaps, this also proves Jesus’s own words – about a prophet not being accepted  (recognized, thanked) in his own land / country. (cf. Matthew 13:57, John 4:44)

Sometimes, we may feel more appreciated outside our home country – away from our family than we do at home.

The ability to recognize – the will to express gratitude – these also are talents/strengths to be taught, to be cultivated in family life, in marriage, in relationships between parent to child, and child to parent.

We are strengthened, recognized, saying thank you for the gifts of the persons placed in our lives.

This recognition is not just for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, but a talent to be used and practiced every day.

Recognition is our strength.

[__05__]  The Samaritan carries this out – by his journey in reverse back to our Lord – this act of recognition.

He is recognizing God’s presence in his life.

[__06__]  Recognition is a strength.

Recognition is a spiritual strength because “recognition” is also part of our prayer, acknowledgement that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

RECOGNITION – by coming to Mass, by prayer, we are reminded that indeed, even if we have felt abandoned – or forgotten – by our own families, that God – as Father, Son, Holy Spirit – loves us.

RECOGNITION – that Jesus, Son of God, gave his life for us.
Recognition is a strength, Recognition reminds us of love.

[__07__]  Recognition is a strength.

Recognition keeps us honest.

Is this only because there is facial recognition, finger-print recognition on the Apple iPhone5s, and metal detectors … and E-Z Pass devices that indicate our exact latitude and longitude?

These are the forms of recognition (manifested as technology) which may keep us – officially / legally -- honest.

 [__10__]   However… what is the point guard trying to recognize on the court?

What is a physician/surgeon trying to recognize in the operating room?

What is a photographer or painter trying to recognize in a crowd or landscape?

All of them are trying to recognize – to distinguish –  
·         Light from darkness
·         Good from evil
·         Beneficial from harmful

They are also trying to recognize what is true.

Recognition is a strength.

When we come to God, we are are also in need of some healing, most often spiritual healing, forgiveness of our sins.

We come to the Lord for this forgiveness in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

This is also an act of recognition, recognition of actions, behaviors, attitudes that might bring darkness or cause harm.

Recognizing them, we are stronger.

Recognizing that Jesus makes this recognition possible, we express our gratitude.

Recognizing that we are made whole and healthy, we can also do as the Samaritan does…

Stand up and go, our faith has saved us.   [__fin__]   

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Service is Required; Reward is Optional

This is my homily for Sunday October 6, 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. 

27th Sunday, Year C
•• Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 •• Psalm 95
•• 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 •• Luke 17:5-10

[__01__] Service is evitable, the reward is optional.   Don’t we have some experience of this in a situation in which we have been EITHER the customer being served…or the worker carrying the plates from the kitchen.

Excellent service – going above and beyond what is required – will be “profitable” .. will be “productive” ..and gain a 4-star review in Zagat’s / The Record / The Times.
Service is inevitable in a restaurant or hotel …or even the St. Peter’s carnival.

However, if the service is only the absolute minimum, then the optional reward of a gratuity may also be minimized or omitted.

Receiving only the minimum service, we are less likely to dine again at this establishment, thus further decreasing the profitability for the servants.
In the extreme … a shutdown.  And, Congress in Washington will not come to the rescue.

[__02__]  Service is inevitable, but reward is optional. Jesus offers this parable as a challenge to you and to me.
That is, as one biblical commentator (footnote in New American Bible) observes, Jesus is telling his disciples that none of them has an automatic claim on their salvation or their place in the kingdom.
This caution was also part of the response to James/John, the brother. We recall that they wanted – or seemed to have pre-booked …or they wanted pre-confirmed seats in First Class, one at his right and the other at his left.
That was their claim, and the claim of other disciples for whom true greatness was sometimes misunderstood. They were claiming a right to a reward.

[__03__] The reward is optional…not guaranteed…

Meanwhile, all of us are called to serve, to a life of service and sacrifice.

Even a highly-paid star athlete with many goals and touchdowns is also under contractual obligation to serve, to produce, to be profitable to his or her team.

Some may be more highly compensated but everyone is a servant to someone or something. The question is not … will I serve … or will you serve.

But, rather, whom or what will you and I serve?

[__04__] In our Catholic / Christian faith, the call is universal.

This parable indicates this as do Jesus’ words, “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it … ”

To lose your life, meaning to die to yourself and to your own agenda, means to serve.

And, this service is our path to holiness, sanctity, to happiness.

Do we not also read in St. Paul – “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) and “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Service is inevitable. The reward is optional.

And, in our actions of service – whether service in our workplace, service to our family, service to a poor person, do we also choose / opt / select the reward – the reward being holiness.

[__05__] Do we stop at the minimum required service? Do we strive to go beyond what is required?

[__06__] In the beginning of this Gospel, the disciples say to our Lord and Savior, “Increase our faith.”

Responding to this question, Jesus gives them an answer not requiring a syllabus of reading, or a schedule of additional prayers to say ..and a final examination to prove their belief by year-end … by 12/31.

[__07__] Jesus does not give them an intellectual / academic answer but rather an answer based on action.

Service is inevitable. The reward is optional.

[__08__] Isn’t this also a similar reward for teachers, coaches, professors, principals…and also for mothers, fathers?

All of these individuals accept the call to care for a young person, persons, in either the home or the school or university.

This is also call not only to faith. Surely, a mother needs faith.  This is also a call to action.

[__09__] Service and sacrifice are inevitable for a student.

We “serve” and “sacrifice” in order to gain knowledge.

What are these sacrifices?
·        Opening a book …and turning off the music or laptop.
·         Waking up on time
·         Going to sleep on time
·         Being on time, punctual, cheerful
·         Paying attention in class

Academic growth – intellectual growth – does not just happen because we “have faith” in the teacher or even have faith in our ability to perform or have faith in what we often generalize as “God-given, natural talent.”

Having faith equals taking action.

In the parable, the disciples ask … increase our faith. Jesus responds.. get to work.

Service is inevitable, the reward is optional.

[__10__] What is the reward? The reward is not simply a high GPA at – or approaching – 4.0.  The reward is also in the work itself. The reward is possible because we have gone beyond the minimum requirement.

The reward is optional. God freely chooses to give it.  We freely choose to accept it.