Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Judgment of the Nations (2017-11-26, Jesus Christ the King)

Sunday 26 November 2017, 34th (A)  /   Jesus Christ the King

● Ezekiel 34:11-12 ● Psalm 23 ●  1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28  ●   + Matthew 25:31-46    

Title: “The Judgment of the Nations (Christ the King)” 

[__01__]     On this feast of Jesus Christ, the King, we read this Gospel:  “The Judgment of the Nations.”
          Who are the nations?
          And, where can we encounter the nations of the world?
          One practical everyday example. Let’s say we arrive at Newark Airport or Kennedy Airport, with an international arrivals terminal, and there are multiple waiting areas, sections, or queues.
          This is customs. There are citizens from all over the world arriving. This is true of any airport.
          Arriving in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), a queue/line for Brazilian passports differs from the line for all other non-Brazilian passport holders. In New York, all the holders of U.S. (United States) passports wait in one section. Those from all other countries wait in another section.
[__02__]    I would like to make this analogy and suggest the nations of the world are represented in the average everyday globalized international arrivals terminal.
          In this area, people are sorted by nation.  For those in Jesus’ day, they may have interpreted the Judgment to be a sorting only by nation with preferred status, TSA Precheck, or EZ Pass.
          But, in this Judgment of the Nations, everyone is to be judged.
          The Good News is this
lack of preference. It will not increase your waiting time your time in the line (queue).
          In the Judgment of the Nations, we are reminded that love – that charity – may ask us to do what is unfamiliar and to do so..not because of national identity but what is natural to us as part of our Christian calling.
          It is a reminder that our identity  -- even religious identity --  status as a registered parishioner, or for that matter, as a religious Catholic priest, as a religious sister or brother, as the archbishop, as the pope. Each of us will be judged. If you see Pope Francis with his bag at this international arrivals area, maybe you can help him with his bags. 

[__03__]     Everyone is to be judged by this standard: ….  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
          How will you and I be judged? We are going to be judged on our nationality or whether we won a national championship but more whether we served others  naturally.

 [__04__]      When we become a NATION, we are expected to carry out certain things.
          I’d like to extend this definition of NATION to mean any group identity we might have or that we might think would give us preferred status.
          One of my siblings is a very dedicated NY Yankees fan and lives in RedSox Nation in Massachusetts, near Boston.     Nation refers to identity,  sometimes also to an adopted identity in this case.

[__05__]     In 2007, when I was a priest-chaplain for the West Orange Fire Department, a house fire broke out in West Orange which resulted in the response of several local fire departments  and the injury – the burn – one East Orange firefighter.
          He was hospitalized – though not life-threatening - at the Saint Barnabas burn unit.  Though I had been to Saint Barnabas many times to visit people before – and since – I was feeling frightened of going to this particular section. This was, of course, ironic because I was the FIRE chaplain.
That was my “NATION” my group, my “NATIONAL IDENTITY.” But, would it be natural?
          I had to push myself to go, and one Saturday morning I went.
          When I arrived, I learned the patient and firefighter was not only a fire captain but also the fire chaplain and very comfortable sharing in and helping me with the prayer.
          I am not sure how much I actually said. I could was partially speechless. I was seated, relaxed..
          Not only did I recognize his need for help, he also did the same for me. Together, we help each other to inherit the kingdom. The poor and the hungry help us to find Jesus and the kingdom.
          “As often as you did this for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
          Good News: it will not increase our waiting time. [_fin]    

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hidden Talent (2017-11-19, Sunday-33)

Sunday 19 November 2017, 33rd (A)

● Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
● Psalm 128   ●  1 Thessalonians 5:1-6  ●● Matthew 25:14-30  ● ●  


[__01__]    In school, I recall a classmate who did not want to be in the choir.  Intentionally and with great acumen and poise, he went to the required choir audition and sang all the notes off-key.
            He had and – and still has -- perfect musical singing pitch and is a very talented singer and guitarist.
            This is one way to hide your talent. The parable today is about HIDDEN TALENT, the hiding of one’s talent.

[__02__]    On a recent Sunday, we were reminded about the 2 great commandments:  [Love God …. Heart …soul …mind …strength]  and  [Love neighbor as yourself.]

            And, this love also requires talent and technique. Sure, you might say that this is not the same talent or agility that is prized because someone can play a musical instrument, hit a three-pointer, or speak four languages. But, love is also a talent and technique.
            And, it gets better the more we practice. This is the message of the parable and the message of our Holy Communion, that we receive Jesus Christ so that we can not only keep him to ourselves but also give him away. He is our hidden talent who we share.

[__03__]   Louis [Louie Zamperini]  was unbreakable.  Louie was unbreakable, tough, strong, a World War II soldier and hero and the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s biography and history:  UNBROKEN which also became a film entitled also: UNBROKEN.
          I cite Louie as an example of one who certainly did not hide his talent.
          Louie operated the bomb-sight on a fighter plane/bomber in World War II. On a mission taking from Hawaii in May 1943, Louie’s aircraft went down in the Pacific Ocean.
          Louie – with 2 others, "Phil" and "Mac " – survived the crash. Louie would survive on this raft for 47 days, a record. This was one of Louie’s remarkable feats of endurance which continued after he became a POW prisoner of war of Japan in World War II for the next two years.

[__04__]    Before the war, Louie was a well-known and successful middle-distance runner who made the Olympic team in 1936.  He was the youngest runner ever to make the team.
          As a boy, his talent for running and feats of strength had landed him in lots of trouble, his talent  in a way turns into a danger and liability, a childhood and youth – for Louie – of stealing and petty crime.
          Louie was on his way to juvenile delinquency when his elder brother and others try to focus him on running that involved wearing a uniform and not breaking into houses.

[__05__] An important message of the parable is that TALENT and using our TALENTS involves risk, struggle, adventure.
          In the Gospel, there is the famous episode of the brothers James and John who – when asked if they can drink the cup which Jesus is going to drink. (Matthew 20:22)
          They were asked, can you …?
          They said, “We can.” (Matthew 20:22)
          However, they were saying “we can” because they were simultaneously negotiating their guaranteed seats and salvation.
          Jesus is asking you and me to use our talents – to say WE CAN – even when we do not know – when we cannot guarantee the results.
          In the parable, I encounter an individual with whom I can identify. He wanted guarantees.
          Jesus offers us something more than guarantees, something better. He offers us GIFTS.

[__06__]      The invitation to love is not a guarantee. It is a GIFT.
          The invitation to forgive is not a guarantee it is a GIFT.
          Sometimes, these are challenges. For example, we might say – someone might say – I have been away from church too long…or from going to confession too long… It seems risky.
          Or, we might resist forgiving someone or admitting a wrongdoing. It seems risky.
          True, I cannot guarantee you a particular experience or emotion or immediate result. God does not make guarantees. He offers gifts.
          Soon, we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior. He was not a guarantee. He was even a contradiction, as the prophecy of Simeon reads. (Luke 2:34)
          Nevertheless, Jesus is a gift.
          Imitating him, we bring his gift to others.

[__07__]     Louie Zamperini.
Much was expected of Louie. And, he had great physical strength, intelligence and vision.
          Much was expected of Louie after he was stranded on the raft on his 47-days of floating in the Pacific. He used every brain cell and bicep to fight off the sharks, to dodge bullets from Japanese Zero fighter planes.
          But there was one crisis that did not involve shrapnel or storms or the sharks. It was more internal – inside the raft.  After inflating their raft, Louie and his comrades found the emergency provisions which were a few squares of chocolate and few tins of water. They immediately began to ration their nourishment.  Inventory was taken and the rules of daily rationing were established, as Hillenbrand wrote. (Unbroken, page. 129)
          These rules of rationing, however, did not remain unbroken.   On the second day at sea, Louie woke up to divide up their ration of chocolate. It was all gone. He turned to look at the sergeant who was across from him who was at this point doing what is the inclination of many of us if we were caught in something dishonest and guilty – he was grinning, smiling.
          The discovery of this enraged Louie and the sergeant noticed the resentment (Unbroken, p. 142).
          But, over time, Louie decided to forgive him, noticing how contrite and hard-working this sergeant was. And, it was really by that act of forgiveness that the 3 of them were able to pull together and row and survive.
          They dodged the bullets and survived the 47 days. Louie was unbroken, not because of what he did with his physical strength, but also with his spiritual reserve.  Louie, the thief, forgave the one who had stolen.
          Forgiveness is also our talent, our strength. We are called to trade and multiply it.
          We are all entrusted with much.  [__fin__]      [BibliographyHillenbrand, Laura Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House, 2010

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Readiness: Precision & Preparation (2017-11-12, Sunday-32)

Sunday 12 November 2017, 32nd (A)

● Wisdom 6:12-16   ● Psalm 63   ● 
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  ●● Matthew 25:1-13   ● ●  

[__01__]    As we approach the end of the year, things get busier for all of us. And, this is the end of our liturgical year in which we are reading the final chapters of the Gospel of Matthew.
          The theme of “ending” is present today, next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. This Sunday, it is about
·        [READINESS]
·        Next Sunday, the parable of the talents, it is about [RESPONSIBILITY]
·        And, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, it is about [REWARD].


[__02__]     This Sunday, the [READINESS] parable is an allegory in which there are symbols by which:
·        You and I are represented
·        Jesus is represented
·        A relationship is represented.
          You and I are represented by the ten bridesmaids by whom the bridegroom is being awaited / welcomed.
          Jesus is the bridegroom. And, the relationship with Jesus is his arrival.

[__03__]    This past Wednesday, I was expecting an arrival of someone to meet, early in the day.
          When asked if I were available, I said YES and responded: “do you want to talk on the phone or to meet in person?”
          I received the following message in response:  “I am on my way. I´ll be there in 19 [nineteen] minutes.”
          I thought, “am I meeting you or am I meeting the navigation – direction voice on your phone?”     
          I hope that I am ready, precisely.

[__04__]    Timing. Precision. Preparation.
          In the Gospel, Jesus refers to PRECISE elements of our Christian lives.
          What is necessary for you and me to be a disciple, to be in a relationship with him?
          This precision was expressed in last Sunday’s encounter and explanation regarding the law.
          Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”
          Not, what is a good commandment, or what are the top 5, but what is the greatest.
          We fact, for example, in school – in the classroom – or many types of examinations. There MULTIPLE CHOICES
A, B, C, D.   TRUE. FALSE.
          And, sometimes it is just one word that make an entire statement  TRUE or FALSE.
          We are called to be precise, at times,  in our answers.
[__05__]     Jesus was on the hot seat with the Pharisees last  Sunday.  He was being asked not what is a good commandment but what is the best and greatest commandment.
          [* * * P-A-U-S-E * * *]
          And, he has an exact answer that to love the Lord your God with all your whole soul, heart and mind to love your neighbor as yourself is the greatest commandment.  (Matthew 23: __)
          Jesus has been precise in his relationship with his disciples and with us before. 
          Do we also value precision?
          Sometimes, I lack precision, exactness. And, I use punctuality – or the lack thereof - as an example. Here goes …

[__06__]     A few months ago, I went to dinner, to meet at a restaurant for dinner my aunt – my mom’s sister and some other family and friends.
          The reservations was at 7:00 pm. I arrived at 6:59 and ½.
          And, my aunt said – with full sincerity and zero sarcasm: “Wow, you are so early.”
          She knows me and knows that on more than 1 occasion, I have arrived after the appointed time.
          In this regard, I would have to associate myself logically with the foolish bridesmaids of the parable.
          Why are they foolish?

[__07__]     First of all, I would like to rule out – eliminate – some reasons that we might presume contribute to their foolishness. In other words, they are NOT foolish because they lack AWARENESS or because they are CLUELESS or because they are CARELESS.
          Hearing the word FOOLISH, we may assume the person has no clue or is completely indifferent to the outcome.
          Or, that they do not understand the CAUSE.

          The foolish bridesmaids know what the cause or consequence is going to be. They are begging for oil.

          Why do I arrive late sometimes?
          Because I am PROCRASTINATING. We use “PROCRASTINATION” to explain many things.
          If so, what is the cause of my procrastination or the cause of the procrastination of the 5 foolish bridesmaids.
          I’ll tell you one of my causes.
          The reason I arrive at 6:59 ½ or later for a 7:00 pm appointment is because, at times, I don’t recognize my own importance to the celebration or event.
          We all do this.
          I figure -- well, they can start without me.
          Sometimes, we do not recognize our own value to our families, to our friends, or to the task that we are presented with.

 [__08__]    The foolish bridesmaids have an additional hindrance or fault. They don’t lack PERCEPTION, but they do make an PRESUMPTION.
          They PRESUME to know day and the hour. They PRESUME to know exactly when Jesus, the bridegroom, will arrive.

 [__09___ Sometimes, we do the same. We presume to know exactly what we need in FAITH, in FUEL, in FIDELITY, in KINDNESS, in REPENTANCE, to reach the end of life.
          I presume that that I do not have to be too kind to certain people in my life. Maybe, I reach a kindness boundary and I will not go beyond this.
          I can also resemble the foolish ones, expecting Jesus only at certain times or at a certain time.  “He will be here in 19 minutes.”
          We may behave the same way.

[__10___  And, I suggest that there are ethical and principled viewpoints that we suggest this type of precision and PRESUMPTION.
          This may not necessarily be beyond the control of some of us. But I suggest all of us swim in these waters, breathe this air of what is technology and what certain ethics and technologies can offer us.
          And, such an ethical and principled viewpoint suggests that we can choose certain things.
          For example, some technologies suggest that you and I are in control of when the clock FALLS BACK, SPRINGS AHEAD, or HOW MUCH DAYLIGHT  we have left before the end of time.
          This is particularly true when we discuss end-of-life issues or death and dying.

[__11___  Movements about the dignity to die, legalized euthanasia, and the right-to-die suggest – from ideological standpoint that you and I are in control. 
          From the Catholic and Christian standpoint, yes, of course, we certainly can and should alleviate pain for someone who is physically suffering.
          But, the availability of so much data now about the state of the patient – who might be your wife, mother, husband, father, child – suggests that we also are to decide about the length of life.
          The Gospel reminds us that we know neither the day nor the hour.
          God is in control, precisely.
          The wise bridesmaids give us the Good News, a different lesson, that you and I do not know the timing of Jesus’ arrival.
          For this reason, they prepare with their own precision to welcome him. Home. He is on His way.   [_fin_]

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Imagination. Information. Integrity / Lourdes 103rd Anniversary (2017-11-05, Sunday-31)

___ Our Lady of Lourdes Parish 103rd Anniversary, celebrated at 11:30 am Mass on 
Sunday  November 5, 2017.  ____ HOMILY___

Sunday 5 November 2017, 31st (A)

● Malachi 1:14b – 2:2b, 8-10  ● Psalm 131 ●  1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13 ● + Matthew 23:1-12    

[__01__]    When I finished my seminary studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall in South Orange, I was advised by the Archbishop of my assignment to Our Lady of Lourdes.
            This announcement took place at the seminary in the South Orange on  the day before ordination.  Conveniently, coincidentally, the director of personnel and parish assignments for the Archbishop at the time was also there. This was Father / Monsignor Joe Petrillo.  He was also present at the seminary that day, waiting for me outside the office.
            A few days later, I came to Lourdes to meet with Father Joe here in the rectory and also to meet with Father Jim Chern.
            Both Father Joe and Father Jim – at that time and over the years – shared with me their what I would call both the INFORMATION and the IMAGINATION of their ministry here at Lourdes.
          Certainly, there was INFORMATION for me to acquire, names, keys, how to cross the Eagle Rock Avenue intersection safely, and the 5 different navigation driving routes to St. Barnabas Hospital, involving Northfield Avenue, Pleasant Valley Way, and Main Street, et al.  (footnote:  “Petrillo-comma-Joseph” / Joe did not use GPS, Joe was GPS.).
          Not only was there INFORMATION, there was also IMAGINATION.
          This is the IMAGINATION expressed, for example, on the road to Emmaus by the 2 disciples by whom Jesus is not yet fully recognized as their walking and traveling companion.
          After the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem, they only know that they have had an interesting traveling companion, on their 7-mile walking journey to Emmaus and at their Emmaus destination tell him, “Stay with us for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”  (Luke 24:29)
          These travelers have some INFORMATION about the faith, but they also have a great IMAGINATION and desire to learn more.
          I am grateful for the start given to me in my ministry by Father Jim Chern, by Father Joe Petrillo, by Deacon Ernest Abad here at Lourdes and by all of you, both in INFORMATION /mind and IMAGINATION  soul & spirit.
          INFORMATION. Yes, we need this to live our faith, know our faith and teach our faith to others.
          IMAGINATION. We also need this to recognize God’s presence not only in broad daylight and obvious situations but also when it is nearly evening, when we are in darkness … or when someone we love is in trouble or difficulty in our own soul and in the soul and spirit of others.
          With this INFORMATION and IMAGINATION, we try to live lives of INTEGRITY.
          And, on Founder’s Day, our 103rd anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, we give thanks for for those who helped to build our parish and give us the gift of faith and the church we know today.

[__02__]   In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus turns the lamp of criticism on the Pharisees and they are, so to say, burned.
          The Pharisees have INFORMATION. For this reason, Jesus says to his contemporaries and to us:  “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”   (Matthew 23:3)
          Or, in summary: “do as they say, not as they do.”
          To love another person, then, we are called not only to gather information, but also to develop an imagination about the other person – body and soul.   
          Of course, I will never know completely what is in another person’s heart or soul or mind.
          In fact, I may not know – perfectly – my own heart or soul or mind at times. I also will contradict myself.
          Nevertheless, to love another person calls us to an imagination and understanding that there is an image of God in all of us, a goodness in all of us, that only the Holy Spirit knows completely.
          To live a life of integrity, we are called to live with imagination.

[__03__]    It was through both INFORMATION and IMAGINATION that this magnificent church was planned, constructed and that it continues today.  The image still inspires.
[__04__]   Integrity was also the gift bestowed and shared by all of our pastors and one which all of us, as priests, strive to emulate.
          We are grateful to and remember today all of our Sisters of Charity who taught in our school, all of our school teachers here today over the years, our Principal Mrs. Mary Cassels who is also our Marnell Award honoree this year, our pastors and priests who including Father Gerald Marchand, our Pastor Emeritus, and Father Nicholas Figurelli whom we keep in our prayers.
          We remember and pray for those who have served us faithfully and recently including Deacon Ernest Abad and Monsignor Joseph Petrillo.
[__05__]  Sheltered and worshiping together – we are here because of 3 priests and their priests and Sisters of Charity and Lourdes people– by whom this church was built, first generations starting in 1914. They are Monsignor Nicholas Marnell, Monsignor Florence Mahoney and Monsignor John Lawlor.
          Through their affection and effort and IMAGINATION, starting 1914, this site was selected, that Monsignor Marnell had the foresight to purchase six acres, that Monsignor Mahoney and Lawlor had the will to raise the money and organize the effort to build and pay for this church in its entirety.       
          And, as priests, they gave themselves up not only to the parish and to the church but also to their people and to us today.

[__06__]  In the Book of Psalms, Psalm 84, w read of the joy of the person in God’s presence, whether in the Temple, the Church or anywhere at prayer expressed as …   “One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  (Psalm 84).
          And this verse  -- “One day within your courts ….”   -- I testify also summarizes the  enthusiasm and gratitude for many of us for our days past, days present, and days to come that we have known at Lourdes and our regard for the INTEGRITY is manifested in the…
·        BRICK , typical of a strong house.
·        MARBLE, classic of a beautiful sanctuary and altar.
·        WOOD CEILING ARCHES –  remind us the Californian-American forests from which they were taken.

To build such a structure here, in the 1960’s required not only INFORMATION but also IMAGINATION.
          The Catholic Church in the 1960’s was experiencing Vatican II (Second Vatican Council) and there were many changes predicted for the nature of our worship. 
          Our brothers and sisters who knelt and worshipped in these pews and at this altar discerned well, giving us a church that not only preaches HISTORY and FAITH, but also PRACTICES ... and helps us to practice the faith.

[__07___ The gift of the families and people and generations before us endures, reminding us in prayer that we all have a home not only here but also eternal in heaven and that when we gather to pray we are closer and nearer to God and to each other,One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  (Psalm 84). [_fin_]