Sunday, April 12, 2015

Repeat/Good News (2015-04-12)

2nd Sunday of Easter
Homily 12 April 2015

[__01___]     In today’s Gospel, on the second Sunday of Easter, which we traditionally observe as Divine Mercy Sunday, our Risen Savior visited his disciples in the Upper Room.

He visited; then, he repeated the visit and appearance, one week later.

And so we read the words

This repetition is Good News. It is especially Good News for Thomas the apostle by whom certain conditions for faith had been articulated.

Thomas stated, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and place my finger in his side, I will not believe.”  (John 20:25)

For Thomas, the repeat visit was the ALERT and NEWS for which he had been waiting.

[__02___]      Do we welcome repetition into our lives?

Sometimes, we object to and would rather avoid repetition.

To some person, place or thing which is very familiar or very frustrating, we we might say, in our slang and vernacular -  “been there, done that, got the T-shirt”

Repetition is, at times, tedious.

[__03___]     Repetition is, at times, objectionable with certain family members or close friends. We may avoid repetitions which would stir controversy at the dinner table or in the car ride home.

With certain people in our lives, we may even anticipate certain actions or reactions or words based on their facial expression or gesture.

I may also reveal what I am going to say or do in the same way. We all, at times, wear our hearts on our sleeves.

Is a repeat good news?  Some episodes are repeated more than others. Check your local listings.

[__04___]     The Easter message of resurrection is also about a repetition and a demonstration of God’s mercy.

Paul wrote, in 2nd Corinthians, about our dependence – our reliance – on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ:

 Paul observed that our Savior’s power … “[was made] perfect in weakness.” Therefore, [Paul himself boasts]  all the more gladly of  …. weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [him].

Paul invites all of us to consider –

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

[__05___]      Every moment, every day is a gift of God’s creation, mercy … his repeated gift to you and me.

We are alive physically because of God’s creation. But, don’t we need repeated nourishment, nutrition and perhaps also – medicine – to remain alive physically.

A repeat is Good News.

We are alive and we renew our lives spiritually also by God’s mercy and love and forgiveness.

A repeat of God’s Divine Mercy is Good News.

[__06___]      This repeat can also be challenging, because with each successive gift of God’s mercy, we examine and know more about ourselves .

To seek a repeat of God’s mercy is not a click or an act of remote control or the flip of a switch.

To seek a repeat of God’s mercy, we are called to make repentance part of our daily life, our discipline.

We believe that the … “The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.”  (CCC 1455)

In this regard, God’s power is also made perfect – and apparent – even amid my weakness, even amid a moment of personal fault.

As Paul wrote,  “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

[__07___]     This repetition – of our repentance – enables us to open the Upper Room door where we may have hidden as well.

We welcome Christ’s forgiveness and peace through the sacrament of penance and reconciliation so that we can recognize the gift of God’s mercy in words of absolution which we recognize and know – and have perhaps heard before either recently or some time ago – is good news.  [__fin__]    

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday (2015-04-05)

Easter Sunday Homily 5 April 2015

[__01]  We have just read from John’s Gospel -  chapter 20, verses 1 through 9 – in which Mary Magdalene rises at dawn to go to the tomb of our Savior.

We might say that the prerequisites – the prerequisites -- of suffering and crucifixion have been satisfied while the students (disciples) have been “off campus” …. in hiding.

The darkness of suffering and crucifixion have preceded the light of resurrection.

The darkness is over – the darkness  and suffering and death – have already served their purposes. Jesus is no longer in the dark.

 [__02]       The darkness and light are part of the lessons – and realities of our lives. 

Darkness and light are in the life of the Magdalene, of Mary Magdalene.   Mary Magdalene represents us as a believer and as a mourner, as one who is grieving.

Isn’t it true at a time of grief – a time of death of a beloved person – that darkness is hard to overcome?

Grief – and sorrow – comprise a journey – physically or figuratively – to consider both the life and death of someone.

Grief is also the process that enables to express great love, gratitude, while professing our faith in eternal life and in a reunion in heaven.

Mary Magdalene is such a mourner one who is aware of death but also moving closer to new life.  She wakes up very early to get there, to begin this journey.

[__03]   The darkness and light are part of the lessons – and realities of our lives.  This is true in our studies and work.
The darkness of 11:00 pm or 5:00 am may be necessary to complete the prerequisites of pain and suffering of academics.

We may stay up late or rise early, going contrary to the patterns of others.

Sometimes, we seek out the darkness as a rare time of peace and quiet.

The darkness provides precious time to concentrate.

[__04]    Yet, the darkness is meant to lead us into the light.

That is, our ultimate objective – in work – is not simply the acquisition of more gifts or even more talents for their own sake. Rather, we acquiring money, talent, wealth … so that these can be shared with our families, with our loved ones, or for other loving purposes.

Taken to the extreme, I think we have all witnessed what wealth, and fame and power can do to some people.   Wealth and power are good things which enable us to love and to give. They are not, however, our ultimate objective.

In our Catholic tradition, we learn this.    Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us that we work not only for the spotlight … but also sometimes in darkness where only God can see us. If we only want the fame… we may not be where God wants us to be:

 “[often many of us will ] measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability... It is a homage resulting from a profound faith... that with wealth [we / you and I]  may do all things.” (CCC Catechism 1723, John Henry Newman)

We have however a different light and power sources in our faith in Jesus  --  “[teaching us] that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement -- however beneficial it may be -- such as science, technology and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC Catechism 1723)

[__05]  Easter Sunday, Jesus has risen from the tomb. He invites us into the light so that we can dwell in daylight.

Mary Magdalene, as a model, has risen early also – at Zero Dark Thirty to discover the Risen Lord.

This gospel reading calls us to pray over, to meditate on, our fears, our struggles, our hopes and joys… and our sinfulness.  Bring it to the tomb – early -- so that we might die and rise with him and come into the daylight where he also has gone ahead of us.    [__fin___]     

Surrounded (Good Friday, 2015-04-03)

[__01__]  This Good Friday – the middle day – the 2nd day of the 3 days of our Easter Triduum.

Certainly, many of our traditional attitudes and practices surrounding the Good Friday fast, our practice at table …even what we strive to do – and not do – will ring tones of both sobriety and solemnity.

We are sober, we are solemn and we are between the great feast of the late-evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil of our Savior’s resurrection of very early Sunday.
We are surrounded – between – this Feast and this resurrection.

We are in the midst of the Passion today, Good Friday.

And today, our Lord and Savior is surrounded.  Yet, he was free, even though he had been confined and surrounded by the guards, his captors.

[__02__]   Can you and I accept – remain in – our surroundings and be free, be content, and be saved by the body and blood of Christ?

Certainly a few – and only a few – of our Savior’s original disciples would have agreed that one could be simultaneously FREE and SURROUNDED.  In other words, to be a person of liberty and of conscience while others around them might insult them or threaten them.

But, did not the Blessed Mother – Our Lady of Lourdes – and her companions – demonstrate that they could be surrounded by Roman guards, by the executioners, and be free to follow our Savior.

Our Lady and these few disciples demonstrated their willingness to be surrounded – willingly, freely – with Jesus at the inner-city foot of his cross and crucifixion.

Meanwhile,  Peter and others sought their freedom in the outer suburbs, or on the outskirts, on the other side of the tracks where there were fewer lights, sirens, and cameras.

They did not want to be surrounded, recognized, seen.

Often, “being surrounded” brings us a very clear sense of our obligations, our responsibilities.

As mature adults, and as generous and loving parents / spouses / workers / family members / members of the community, we can even welcome the experience of being surrounded –
·       By our children
·       By our parents
·       By our teammates or classmates.

For example, is not the strength of a family or team known not by their winning streak or losing streak – by their victories or their defeats – but by their character?

 The strength, character, goodness of our family, our community can, perhaps, be better known – more clearly identified in a time of adversity, of difficulty.

It’s not a bad thing to be surrounded.

And, by the way ..with Holy Thursday + Good Friday + Easter Vigil & Sunday, this is our Final Four.

We are surrounded.

[__02__]  Paul in his missionary journey to Athens, standing amid the many temples to the gods of Greek mythology, tried to communicate that “God does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.”   (Acts 17:24-25)

Of course, we are blessed with a beautiful parish and church… we come here not to catch or confine God …but so that he can call and speak to us.

As Paul continues, “[God] is not far from each one of us for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’ ” (Acts 17:27-28)

[__03__]  In the Passion, Jesus is, as we sing, O Sacred Head Surrounded.

His Sacred Head – his divinity – his divine mind – his eternal presence – is now visibly surrounded,  seemingly obscured, apparently subordinated and destroyed by the taking of his life on the Cross.

[__04__]   Could he not, should he not, have escaped this arrest, this surrounding?

The restrictions placed on him seem to contradict Jesus' own divinity, his special relation to God as Father.

Mark 15:29-30 à We read in the Gospel of Mark, “Those passing by reviled him shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha, you who would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.’”

Peter the Apostle agreed that Jesus would have to be excused from the Cross in order to be free.

When Peter was  told that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes … Peter suggested they avoid this destination and surrounding entirely.

[__05__]  In the Passion, our Savior is the Sacred Head surrounded, yet free. When we join our sufferings to his, we can also be aware of God’s will and hope for us, even amid our own surroundings.

[__06__]  For example, we may be halted or hindered by the actions  of others, the sins of others.

We may attribute – EVEN CORRECTLY – the difficulties we experience on the choices that others have made.

In other words, we suffer due to the sinful choices of others.

This is the Passion of our Lord. He suffers due to the sins of others which he accepts  upon himself. 

To be surrounded and aware of the actions of others is to share in the Passion.

[__07__]  For example, we may feel betrayed by a person in whom we have placed our trust. In certain people close to us to do certain things, understand certain things.

Their forgetfulness, their selfishness – even in something minor – may hurt us more  than a great offense from someone of whom we hardly know.

In the Passion, Jesus was also deserted by those in whom he had placed his trust, his love, friendship.

This the Passion; to share our hurt with him is to share in his Passion.

[__08__]   Jesus is also inviting us to remember that  just as  his nature, his goodness was only apparently destroyed and surrounded on Calvary, so also the sufferings  we endure at home or in high school … whether in sickness or in health…. Help us to reach a new destination, a new wisdom for which we can always search but no one  can take away or seize by force.  [__09__]  

Palm Sunday (2015-03-29)

Palm  Sunday, 29  March 2015

[__01__]  Crowds love a winner. Crowds love a victory.  For this reason, we observe that a competitive contest / match may start with the supporters of 2 teams in the arena, but conclude with only 1 team’s supporters still in their seats.

A crowd favors and follows a victory, a winner.

[__02__]   And, this traditional Gospel of Palm Sunday reports to us the crowd of Jerusalem, following and welcoming a victor, a winner.

Jesus of Nazareth had arrived. He is  in the building.  And,  his supporters, fans, were there to…
·       Make the rough way smooth – and paved – with their cloaks.
·       Fill the atmosphere and air with shouts of support and  palm branches.
·       Boost the approval rating overall of Jesus as Savior.

The crowd loves a win, a victory.

[__03__]   Don’t we see the same in awards’ ceremonies, in the Olympic torch being carried worldwide on its way to Rio de Janeiro for 2016, and ceremonies of graduation, inauguration, and  - of course – coronation.

The crowds love a winner, a victory.

[__04__]   This Palm  Sunday, in the traditional Gospel reading, we observe that the crowd rejoiced and welcomed our Lord and Savior, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.”  (Mark 11)

The crowd loves a winner. And, Jesus is moving in their direction. They welcome him into their city of Jerusalem.

 [__05__]  Sometimes, of course, the crowd does not welcome or favor such a visitor…. Because sometimes the visitor – the ambassador, the president, the rock star – simply causes the midtown Manhattan traffic and the Lincoln Tunnel to slow down … or the traffic around Capitol Hill in Washington could be a nightmare.

Yes, crowds love a winner…but the crowd also wants to keep moving.  Crowds want movement.  You and I also are called to keep moving, to keep moving forward in our lives.

[__06__]   Coming into Jerusalem, Jesus as our Savior/King/Victor – also invites not only to shout for him, or to watch him, but also to move with him, on the Via Crucis, the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross.

We are  in the crowd. We also love a winner, a victory.

[__07__]  However, for this victory, the victory of our salvation, we are not simply passive observers, cheering on someone else in the competition.

Yes, we rejoice, we celebrate that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

We love a winner, a victory.  And, indeed,  though Jesus had been mocked, scourged, rejected … and abandoned by many of his friends, he was still favored – still the favorite – all along.

And, we might remember this in our own experience  of the Cross – that if we were to experience, say, the rejection or sorrow within our family,  or difficulty even we have done  our best, we are called to remember that we have – through the Holy Spirit – and  through our consciences – God’s favor, God’s  love. God also loves us and cheers us on to movement, and  to victory.

[__08__] We are called  to move with Jesus on the Way of the Cross.

This means, at times, separating ourselves from the crowd to follow him through the city.

For example …   
[__08(a)__The Passover and the Holy Eucharist – in the Passion we have read, large crowds welcome him but only the smaller group of disciples joins him for their First Communion in Jerusalem.  And, on Holy Thursday, in a special way, we recall this First Communion of the Church.

In this regard, many in the crowd regard him as a king and ruler rather than as a servant  and helper.

To receive Jesus in Communion, we grow in intimacy with him as servants, as helpers as he was.

[__08(b)__The Crucifixion and Calvary – yes, large crowds follow him, but only a few are still in the “arena” when the clock runs out, when he gives up his spirit  on Calvary.

And, in our lives, doesn’t it take  extra effort, extra grace for us to endure to the end, especially in the care and love of a spouse, child, parent, to share both living and dying with them?  However, in this perseverance, we also grow closer to our Lord, we also follow his way of the Cross … for  own triumphant hope and entry into Heaven and the new Jerusalem.    [__fin__]

Grounded (2015-03-22, Lent)

5th Sunday of Lent, 22 March 2015

• 2 Jeremiah 31:31-34  • Psalm  51 • Hebrews 5:7-9 • John 12:20-33  •

[__01__]    Being grounded is good news. That is, being grounded in the ways of the Gospel, being “grounded” in the methods of our Savior’s faith and love is good news.

[__02__]    Sometimes, of course, we object to the experience of being grounded because it indicates a lack of freedom, or time of confinement, the red card of soccer, the penalty box of ice hockey.

Being grounded means, perhaps, a delay or a restriction.

If we were about to board a flight on United or American Airlines and if the plane had mechanical difficulties or if there were a snowstorm in late March (that never happens), we could be grounded/stranded at Newark or JFK.

For young people – or for us when we lived under the direct supervision of our parents – we did not welcome “being grounded”.  We would not be able to go out, to see our friends, perhaps because we had not followed some instruction.

This would be the penalty box or red card from our mother/father as referee.

[__03__]  However, in the method and language of our Savior, being grounded is good news.

That is, in order for Jesus to be raised up, to be resurrected, he was first GROUNDED.

As we profess in our Creed (Nicene Creed), he suffered death and was buried.

Jesus dies on the cross for our sins. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that
in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

[__04__]    Jesus, the Son of God, unites himself to our human nature – as true God and true man  / divine and human – he takes our sinful nature, puts these sins to death, so that he and you and I could rise to new life.
Being grounded is good news.

And, this is the Gospel message of John this Sunday:

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

 [__05__]   At times, in the Gospel, we observe a lack of roots or stability -  or grounding in the disciples.

For example, consider that Jesus was denied three times (3x) by Peter.  These denials are Peter’s responses to the suggestion that he – Peter – is an companion / friend of with Jesus. They have overheard Peter’s Galilean accent; they have seen Peter in public with our Lord.

So, naturally, Peter is associated with our Savior. Yet, Peter does not wish to be grounded, to be located, to be confined to the latitude and longitude of our Savior’s prison cell or even his neighborhood.  Me? From Galilee? I do not know the man.

Sometimes, for us to know the Lord, to know his will for u s, we simply are called to accept where we are, who we are … in our lives. It is good news to be grounded.  We can bear great fruit in this ground, this earth.

[__06__]  For example …consider the example of Martha and Mary, at their home. They are Martha an Mary, the 2 sisters of Bethany. Jesus visited them at their home.

What we observe is the activity – and altitude above the earth – of Martha – at least 10,000 or 30,000 feet, whereas Mary sits at the feet of our Lord listening.

In prayer, we are called to come down to earth. It is Good News to be grounded.

[__07__] For example, consider the parable of Lazarus, the poor beggar and rich man.

Lazarus, the beggar is – to say the least – grounded and located at the rich man’s doorstep. We could imagine that he would have to leap at least a few inches (or feet? ..vertical jump?)  off the ground to evade Lazarus.
Am I – are we – evading – escaping – opportunities to be generous.

It is good to be ambitious, to work hard, to have aspirations, to make money.

At the same time, don’t we do all of these things not only for our own flight and freedom but also for the security of others, … is Good news to be grounded

St. Patrick's Parade Day (Lent, 2015-03-15)

4th Sunday of Lent, 15 March 2015

• 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 • Psalm  137 • Ephesians 2:4-10 • John 3:14-21  •

[__01__]   John Henry Newman – Cardinal Newman – writes that to possess power (or authority or control), one must have gained or obtained this power.

In very rare instances does a person gain skill – or advantage – or power – without a struggle.

We see this as nation struggles against nation over issues of homeland security or natural resources.   Or, as candidate struggles against candidate in primary or general elections, seeking the popular vote and an office. 

Or, even in marriage, family, we may put aside the graces of “compromise” and “communion” in favor of a struggle with each other.   

[__02__]   We struggle, perhaps, because want to be number-one, to be the top seed in World Cup or tournament play. And, we may struggle – with power – also with each other.

[__03__] Your individual journey of salvation – or my individual journey of salvation – toward our Savior is also a struggle at times.

Who is the competition?

Against whom do we struggle? I’m suggesting that the competitor would not be any other person or persons.

[__04__]   [*** PAUSE ***]   On this Saint Patrick’s Parade Day in West Orange, a day when we remember not only the Irish – the people of Ireland – but all immigrants, immigrant communities, we are also reminded of the struggle, the hope, to live, to prosper, to thrive.

From my own grandparents, from Ireland, I learned about their struggles, their long hours of work, their need to work multiple jobs, their times of unemployment.

I learned about these things. However, my grandmother and grandfather never actually sat down and told me or even lamented their condition, or the  conditions under which they lived.

They laughed about it and in reference to the Stock Market Crash in the early 20th century, the crash and Depression which would change life [for the worse and for the many] in the U.S. just before World War II, my grandfather would refer to his own arrival at Ellis Island…I arrived here in New York in January of 1929 …. I was just in  time.

[__05__]  They struggled, yes, but they also denied, and rejected the notion that the fight was overwhelming or difficult or not worthwhile .

The immigrant person – from Ireland or India – reminds us that in every struggle there is denial, rejection.

And, in this denial, rejection, I do not simply mean the denial or rejection that happens due to prejudice or poverty.

What I mean is that there is denial and rejection – spiritually – in our lives, in our struggle to move closer to God.

There is good news in denial, in rejection.  This would be the Good News of the 40 days of Lent, reminding us to pray, to fast, to give charitably.  This is self-denial, self-sacrifice, and it may go unnoticed by others.  Or as Jesus says, “do not let the left  hand know what the right is doing” (Matthew 6:3).  There is good news in denial.

[__06__]  There was good news in the denial of self by our own parents and grandparents – yesterday and today – whether they are from Kerry or Quito, Letterkenny or Lima, Mayo or Managua.

Immigrants deny themselves things so as to acclimate, adjust, to harsher conditions in a new  country. They also deny themselves things, comforts, conveniences for the good of the next generation.

There is good news in denial, in rejection.

[__07__] And, in the Gospel today, we are reminded that  à God so loved the world  that he gave [gave up; surrendered] his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  (John 3:16).

[__08__]    Jesus, as the Son of God [as the second person of the Trinity], did not have to struggle to gain power. He did not outperform the competition to become our Savior.

Quite the contrary.

As we read in the letter to the Philippians, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men … (Philippians 2: 6-7…)

Rather than struggling to establish power by winning the primary, Jesus struggles to surrender his power and share it with us.

Jesus, as Son of God, became a human person – both true God and true man. And, though he possessed divine power, knowledge, he reminds us that he came not to be served but to serve. (Matthew 20:28)

There is good news  in denial.

He came to remind us that our true struggle is not with our classmates or teammates against whom we might fight for a higher class rank or a place in the starting team.

Our true struggle is not with our family members or spouse against whom we might fight to change them or wish they were different.

Our true struggle is not with our co-workers or our neighbors.

And, we might say that the struggles of the early disciples of Peter, James, and John were not struggles against each other to prove that they were the greatest. Jesus loved them all.

Rather their true struggle – and ours – is against ourselves and, at times, the evil spirits by whom we are tempted, spirits of selfishness, dishonesty, brokenness, willful desire, convenience, comfort.

There is good news in denial. There is good news in the fasts and sacrifices of Lent which remind us to take  up or cross, and to follow him.

There is good news in denial of  self,  in not pleasing  ourselves but God, and in doing so we also follow the commandment to lay down our lives for each other.