Sunday, November 24, 2013

How To Be More Appealing (Christ the King Sunday, 2013-11-24)

This is my homily for Sunday November 24, 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. 

34th Sunday, Christ King Year C  ••  2 Samuel 5:1-3 •• Psalm 122 ••  Colossians 1:12-20 •• Luke 23:35-43  ••

Title:   How To Be More Appealing

[__01__]     How to be more appealing
Father Ronald Knox, in a sermon called “Jesus My Friend” gives an example of a schoolgirl / schoolboy whose style of speaking and writing are similar to the teacher.

That is, the young student finds his or her teacher appealing and imitates the teacher.

Do we not also learn to communicate by finding what is appealing in those around us.
And, by the way.. OMG … we may find “appeal” in words or actions that are not necessarily good for us. 

[__02__]   An “appeal” may cause us to prefer (like) one product or person or idea more than another.

Sometimes, “appeal” is superficial or based on appearance.

This is true in our friendships, our relationships, as well.

Father Ronald Knox – Ronald Knox – observes that human friendships can waver, can falter.

One of the great appeals – or strengths – of a friend is his or her endurance, loyalty, consistency.

In the book of Sirach, we read about the value – and “treasure” of friendship --
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” (Sirach 6:14)

[__03__]    In the Gospel this Sunday, we read about the appeal and the friendship between Jesus, crucified,  and the thief also crucified.

The Lord welcomes the appeal, the request of the thief on the cross.

The Lord also wants us to be appealing.. to appeal to him.

Are we appealing? Am I appealing? Are you appealing?

In this regard, I’m not reflecting on physical presentation to others but on the presence of God in us, in our midst.

Am I appealing to God each day for my needs? My petitions?

Do I appeal – in prayer - … when things are going wrong … do I give up?

 [__04__]  The thief on the cross gives an example of enduring appeal, of one unafraid to make a request that would seem too late.

 [__05__]   FRIENDSHIP -  Friendship – as Ronald Knox writes – can either inspire us or drag us down.

Sometimes, we make choices based only on superficial appeal – height/weight, clothing, appearances.

We may follow certain ideas – or friends – only because they have immediate appeal or popularity.

[__06__]   Are we – are you and I – however – also open the appeals which God makes to us through the Gospel, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – through our consciences…. Even through our relationships?

If we live by only superficial standards or immediate comfort / convenience, then we might be only trying to receive/gain favor, or to give someone a favor ….

But, real and lasting friendship is not based on the favors we exchange or do for each other. 

We perform favors, expecting payback.

Jesus, however, asks us to be in a relationship – enduring/permanent – that is not based on favors.

Rather, he gives us “appeals” .. not “favors”.  God wants us to be more appealing.

God wants us not to do favors but to listen to his truth, his appeal.
Sometimes, we are invited to serve – to sacrifice - ..this is an appeal.

The Lord wants us to be more appealing

In our love of God and love of neighbor, the Lord’s friendship – and our faith in the Gospel – also enables us to be more appealing. [__fin__]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Without Defense, Still Strong

This is my homily for Sunday November 17, 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. 

33rd Sunday, Year C   ••  Malachi 3:19-20a •• Psalm 98 •• 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 •• Luke 21:5-19  ••

Title:   Without Defense, Still Strong

[__01__]     Without defense, we can still be strong.

Without defense, we can still be strong.

 In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “some of you will be led before governors because of my name. You are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for 

I myself shall give you [a] wisdom” (cf. Luke 21:12, 15)

[__02__]   This prophecy, from our Savior, refers to martyrdom and to martyrs. These witnesses for our faith stood up for our Creed..not only did they stand for the Creed after the homily at Sunday Mass but they stood in a public square or courtroom.

[__03__]    Regarding these disciples and regarding our own lives as Christians,  Jesus tells that we can be strong even if we do not have …
·         Defense
·         Defense attorney  / public defender
·         Representation, agent,

We can be strong even if we lack the eloquence to speak or write  … or the wireless connectivity to make our voice heard or our message seen.
Without defense, we can still be strong.

 [__04__]  It is difficult to break down or take down our defensive walls, firewalls.

 [__05__]    While few of us may be actually arrested / indicted while standing up for the Creed at Mass, all of us are called to live the Gospel by taking down our defenses.
We do this in our service/charity to others …. And we do this is in the repentance of our sins.

[__06__]   I would like to touch on an image seen by many of us recently of Pope Francis, November 6, in St. Peter’s Square, in which the Pope embraces a man severely disfigured – suffering from suffers from neurofibromatosis.

The Mayo Clinic describes neurofibromatosis as a “genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in your nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue.” It is not contagious.

 While individuals with neurofibromatosis are sometimes shunned because of their appearance, Francis wasted no time kissing the man’s face, embracing him and offering up a blessing.

Of course, there are many volunteers in hospitals, many doctors and nurses doing the same, welcoming the sick person.

They are also taking down their own defenses.

Without defense we can still be strong.

[__07__]   On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines.

Thousands of people have lost their lives. Thousands more are injured, homeless, impoverished.

This immense tragedy reminds us that we are defenseless – though not completely helpless – against certain natural disasters.

Jesus is speaking about God’s wisdom being more important than well-written defense strategy in spiritual and moral matters.

However, could we not apply this same idea to the disaster in the island of Leyte, the city of Tacloban and other places in the Philippines.

That is, we cannot necessarily have a defense strong enough in a material sense. Moreover, isn’t it also true that many humanitarian aid workers have gone to – or already in – the affected areas without “defense.”

They do not have all the food, water, medicine, shelter, DEFENSE…which are needed.

Yet, their presence is still absolutely necessary.

Without defense we can still be strong.

 [__08_]    Our strength – as Christians – is not in playing defense whether with 4 midfielders or 2 midfielders, whether in a zone or man-to-man coverage.

These are the defenses of the court and field, away from the courthouse.

Our strength as Christians is not in play D, defense, or in playing offense either.

Our strength is in God’s mercy and love.

Our Holy Father gave us a public example of this in the embrace of the man at St. Peter’s Square.

As St. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians:

“Love / charity does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered … love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (cf., 1 Corinthians 13:5-7)

Defenses fail.  “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Without defense we can still be strong. [__fin__]

[1] As one reviewer wrote in an informal internet-review comment on the photo, “The Pope is crushing it”. In this case, crushing is good.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good News: All Are Alive (2013-11-10)

This is my homily for Sunday November 10, 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. 

32nd Sunday, Year C   ••  2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 •• Psalm 17 •• 2 Thessalonians 2:16-35 •• Luke 20:27-38 ••

[__01__]      In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus engages in a legal debate with the Sadducee party of Jerusalem.

We might say that both our Savior and the Sadducees are …
·         Enrolled in the same course
·         Studying the same curriculum
·         Taking the same examinations

However, these classmates are reaching different conclusions.

[__02__]   That is, both our Savior and the Sadducees have studied the 10 Commandments, studied the importance of ethics and responsibility, honesty, sacrifice, love of God and love of neighbor.

They believe that God is the creator of the world and the universe and the author of laws, of justice, of love.

In a sense, both our Savior and the Sadducees agree – completely – about history, about the past.   What they disagree about is the present and the future.

[__03__]     And, in the Gospel today, the Sadducees and our Savior are discussing the possibility of salvation, and of existence … of existence beyond this world, beyond this life, the personal and individual resurrection of the body.

 [__04__]    During the month of November, the month of All Souls, we are reminded to pray for our loved ones, to pray for the dead, the deceased.

 [__05__]     Their lives have value. And, their life does not have value only because of a history of a past or even because of a legacy alone. Yes, it is beautiful to leave a legacy of charity, of love, of children, grandchildren.

All of these things enrich our lives. Part of the month of November is to give thanks for these legacies and achievements.

In many cases, these legacies also help us to focus on the future, to be hopeful.

For example, recalling the earlier persistence and endurance of our parents and grandparents, we are strengthened in our commitments today.

[__06__]   However, this is not the debate between our Savior and the Sadducees. They are not debating whether or not we should have family pictures around the house or whether we should talk about our deceased loved ones with affection.

They  would agree about this history.

 [__07__]    Rather, Jesus is challenging the Sadducees and you and me to accept that God does not only regard us based on what we have done lately or what are doing right now.

Rather, through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we remain alive even if …
·         We are not physically active
·         Intellectually achieving
·         Or even conscious

We could suffer death. Yet, the Good News, to God all are alive.

This does not change our past. It is meant to change our view of the future.

[__08__]   The hope of personal and bodily resurrection reminds us that we are loved and known as individuals by God.

In this regard, we learn our faith not only to understand the past, or our past. We learn our faith so that we will know where we are going… when the final exam is …

That we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

To God, all are alive.  [__FIN__]  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Return is Good News (2013-11-03)

This is my homily for Sunday November 3, 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. 

[__01a__]      The return is Good News.

We read this Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, in which Zacchaeus touches down – returns – to earth not only according to the law/force of GRAVITY …but also according to the invitation of Jesus, the new law of love.

 [__01b__]    The return was -- also -- Good News for the Prodigal Son whose arrival home was marked by music and mercy, feasting and forgiveness.

Zacchaeus returns and makes good on his debts/sins against others.

For those whom he took money unfairly / unjustly, the 4-times payback, the 400% return is also good news.

 [__01c__]     The problem for Zacchaeus is not his high altitude of wealth or money … but his attitude and choices made to collect such wealth and status. 

The return is Good News. Zacchaeus recognizes his responsibility to give back and avoid dishonesty.

“Come down quickly for I must stay at your house,” Jesus says. (Luke 19:5)
The return is a relationship with our Savior.   The return to earth is good news.

[__02__]   Zacchaeus willingly climbs down from his branch.

But, he would have reason to be reluctant. The people beneath him – physically, socioeconomically, intellectually – bear him great contempt and resentment.

The tree branch is a refuge, but it will only last temporarily.

His wealth – material possessions – are also temporary.

 [__03__]  One biblical commentator writes that Zacchaeus held a high (exalted) position at an important customs post in the town/city of Jericho. Zacchaeus had turned this position into something very profitable.

Material success, in a sense, also increases his height above others.

Isn’t this the case with the material success or material status of, say, many official persons – the President, Governor, Senator …

These are individuals resemble Zacchaeus and would dare not run ahead of a crowd for a better view or climb a tree. Rather, other people / crowds  clear the way for them.  And, for a better view.. well … we can see them with a  television set around their heads.

So, Zacchaeus normally would not run fast to overtake a crowd, he normally does not climb trees…this would be beneath his official dignity.  Zacchaeus can afford to fly first class and frequently, with Gold Elite Status on United and a Platinum card.

He flies when others sit in traffic.

The return is Good News.

Zacchaeus returns to earth, seeking a relationship through faith and action, making a profession of faith in Jesus and also making reparation – payback – to those whom he has wronged.

Zacchaeus is similar to the tax collector about whom we read in last Sunday’s Gospel.  This tax collector makes one petition before God, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

[__04__]     Sometimes, we may be believe – or come to think – that we are only happy – fulfilled – when we are on the high branch, at a high altitude, flying and flying frequently …

How do we attain such heights ?

What is the high branch for you, for me?

[__05.(a)__]   The high branch could be our ambition, our pride, our desire to be seen by others in the best possible light.

Accepting our faults, we do not become instantly a success – or a failure.  Rather, we are accepting our need for God’s grace. This is humility.

The return to earth is Good News.

 [__05.(b)__]  The high branch could be our desire for satisfaction for a relationship, or for a relationship to go a particular way, even if this is contrary to our own faith, to our knowledge of what  is fair, just, true.

Am I driven by desire for satisfaction, possession … or possessions?

Am I willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit and to serve God and my neighbor.

Zacchaeus opens the door of his home as we are called to do, to open the door of our car, our dorm room, our hearts to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are not simply entering God’s house when we come to Sunday Mass. Jesus is entering our house each day that we descend from our sycamore tree.

The return is Good News.

[__05.(c)__]    The high branch could be my – or your – bitternness, resentment over a previous hurt.

Anger is sometimes a high and mighty branch.

The climb down maybe gradual. And, we may not climb down into the exact same relationship as before. Nevertheless, forgiveness is a return home for both the person doing the forgiving… even if the person being forgiven is not aware.

Loving our adversaries – our enemies – does not mean we have to surrender ourselves to our enemies.

Rather, we are surrendering ourselves to God.

In the act of forgiveness, we are also sharing the wood of the branch, the wood of cross, the suffering of Calvary where Jesus was also up a tree.

Sharing his mercy and forgiveness, we ourselves come back to street level in Jericho.

The return to earth is Good News. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Conduct / All Saints Day (2013-11-01)

This is my homily for ALL SAINTS DAY, November 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. 

READINGS  ••  Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 •• Psalm 24 •• 1 John 3:1-3 •• Matthew 5:1-12a••

[__01__]     The music of an excellent orchestra is not only the combination of excellent violinists (with Stradivarii) and horn players and percussionists.

The conductor brings the various pieces together.

The individuals, the individual players bring power. The person with the baton, however, conducts and directs and organizes this power into a coherent and cohesive whole.

“Power” and “conduct” are related.

[__02__]   I think we also know this from our own experience – whether in a laboratory, kitchen, home.

Power must be conducted, led to its destination.

[By the way.. today’s power outage showed that this does not always happen…][2]

Images and sounds and text reach us because the air/atmosphere is a conductor.

So, whether you/I turned off our cell phones or not before Mass or class, there is always connectivity – and conductivity – around us in the air, in the air waves.

Power is conducted, electricity is conducted.

If the power fails to reach us, this would be due to the lack of conductivity.

[__03__]     In a similar way, when we perform well in the classroom, on the field, on the court or anywhere, we are doing so by conducting, by letting the power flow through us.

__04__]    Today is All Saints Day, November 1st, a day on which we recall the many holy men and women who have also been channels – conductors – of God’s grace and power in their lives.

Many are named, canonized, enshrined. However, many holy men and women have not been. The vast majority are not named. Thus, we have this day to honor all of them.

We also aspire to virtue, to sanctity, to saintliness, to holiness.

We do so by allowing God’s power and grace to be manifest – to be conducted – in our words and actions.

In this regard, I am not suggesting that we are passive or that we lack free will.

In fact, are there not times when we are more prepared, more inclined toward honesty, fairness, unselfishness, sacrifice than others.

At such times, we are channels, conductors of God’s grace. The prayer of St. Francis expresses this – make me an instrument of your peace.

[__05__]     At such times, we are channels, conductors of God’s grace.

Consider what happens early on in any relationship, maybe it is the early days of –
·         Spouses, husband and wife.
·         Teammates
·         coworkers

In the beginning, they conduct themselves well. They are conductors of love, mercy, enthusiasm. Each one desires the good other before himself or herself.

 [__06__]   And, if they were to continue to grow in virtue and love, then even advanced age would not necessarily produce friction … rust. A loving relationship can get better with age.

[__07__]  On the other hand, over time, sometimes, we decline in our willingness to be conductors of God’s power.

And, the opposite of conducting is insulating,we insulate – or isolate – ourselves.

 [__08__]    The Gospel reading of the Beatitudes reminds us to be conductors, to be open to God’s grace, even when we are mourning, persecuted, impoverished.

 [__09__]   Any of the above could cause us to insulate – isolate – or go – spiritually – into Federal-Government Shutdown mode.

All Saints Day reminds us the many holy men and women whose paths we follow, through whom we learn that God’s love and life is shared, demonstrated by our conduct in word and action… by conducting God’s grace for our good and that of others.

[2] A nor’easter or mini-tropical storm hurricaneish squall blew through the region / Teaneck around 11:00 am and knocked out power to the Teaneck side of the campus.