Sunday, February 25, 2018

Good That We Are Here. (2018-02-25, Lent)

25 February 2018  2nd Sunday Lent (B)
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13,15-18  ●  Psalm 116  ● ● Romans 8:31b-34  ●
●  + Mark 9:2-10

[Title: Good that we are here.]

[__01__]   It’s good that we are here. The recent and ongoing winter Olympics in PyeongChang [South Korea], is a celebration of everyone who is good.
            In fact, EXCELLENT, in his or her sport, on the ice, snow, in the air and on the ground.
            Good, in the terms of NBC and the Olympic TV broadcast, is often a relative measure, a comparative and competitive evaluation. Yes, it’s good; and it’s also true that Gold is better (>) than Silver  …. > Bronze … Bronze > Nothing.
            The goal, nevertheless, of the Olympics is not only an endeavor to evaluate and separate but also to unite and join all those who strive to be the best and to recognize sportsmanship and perseverance is not only a virtue for those with the decoration of precious metal around their necks but also those who struggled regardless of the result.
            It’s good just to be there.

[__02__On the mountain of the Transfiguration, Peter announced to Jesus, our Lord and Savior: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” (Mark 9:5)
            Peter, James, John were enthusiastic about their front row, skybox, view for the Transfiguration. This was good.

[__03__]    This good event was also an experience of community and connection.
            Consider the motivations and motives that lead us to gather for a major event – a baptism/christening, anniversary or a wedding, First Holy Communion or Confirmation.
            While I was studying to be a priest, I will admit it took me a while to understand and appreciate what would be asked of me – in the celebration of the cathedral, Holy Orders, the Mass of Ordination. I had never been to such a celebration, prior to the seminary.
            But, I could not help but notice all the aerobic and non-aerobic effort, physical and spiritual exercises surrounding ordination day.
            Good that we are here?

          [__03.01__]    It reminds that about a year after my studies as a priest,  a year after I started my assignment here – at Our Lady of Lourdes – I saw a hometown friend who had attended that day. And, he was very glad to have been there, recalling people he’d seen. He brought his mom to my 1st Mass of Thanksgiving. And, then recalled all these details but then said to me… what was that called, what was the word… I was not sure what he was talking about.  He meant the word “ordination”.
          Most important, my friend was that you were there. Good that you were there.

[__04__]     Leading up to all of this, a friend of mine gave me some advice about this special day of ordination as a priest  – it does not matter what color or type of vestment you wear, or what music you select, or what you serve/cater for the party afterwards, or what church the Mass is in. It does not matter anything you say.
          Because your family and friends are simply excited to be part of this, shall we day, Transfiguration-like event, that none of that matters.
          And, he was right, the community experience, the goodness of being together  outweighed any logistical detail that I might have fretted over.

[__05__]   Jesus gives us his disciples this experience of the Transfiguration to sustain them, nourish them, encourage them.    That is, it is good that they were there to see Jesus’ divinity, his power, because at the Passion and Death and arrest, this is an experience that do not do not experience as “Good Friday” the first time around. 
          And, it was a time of division not community. Good that we are here? Not so much.
          For the first few days after the Passion and Death, there was no good, and certainly no “we”.

[__06__]   The Transfiguration is a high point of an ongoing journey for Peter, James, John, the disciples, for us.
          At this high point – elevated on the mountain, the feel, perceive they are very close to God’s power, love, mercy, blessing.
          On the day of a sacred event, a family reunion, anniversary, wedding, baptism, an ordination, we may feel this same closeness to God and to each other, such affiliation, affection, acknowledgement.
          But, the Lord continues to draw us close to him, not only at these sacred well defined moments, but all the time.

          We remember that we are always in God’s presence, that it’s good that we are here, that his Beloved Son came to say, “this is my body, given up for you”.  He is crucified and risen. It is good that we are here, listen to him. [__fin__]

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Conflicted. Conversant. Concealed (2018-02-18, Lent)

18 February 2018  1st Sunday Lent (B)
Genesis 9:8-15  ●  Psalm 25  ●  1 Peter 3:18-22  ● + Mark 1:12-15

[__01__]   Are you CONFLICTED? Conflicted?
          The  40 days of Lent have just started, reminding us of our traditional Christian disciplines of FASTING, PRAYER, ALMSGIVING.
          I’d like to touch on your calling – my calling – to ask these 3 questions about FASTING, about PRAYER, and about ALMSGIVING.
          Am I conflicted?
          Am I conversant?
          Am I concealed?

[__02__]   1st. Conflicted. You and I experience conflict, friction, resistance in many ways. And, fasting – intentional fasting and self-sacrifice exposes us – full contact and full-court press -- to CONFLICT.
          Perhaps, in Lent, we make a daily vow about renewal (or increased) of prayer time, or spiritual reading. Perhaps, my vow is about something dietary, nutritional.
          There are many ways to fast including, e.g., the choice to eat at regular meal times rather than at the time chosen by the random number generating app in my head/brain.
          Choosing when, how, with whom to eat is a fast. It may cause CONFLICT.  Conflict with our regular routine.
          In other words, the conflict is, often, not with the food or with the clock. The conflict is with myself.         
          Jesus was fasting for 40 days and nights in the desert. As John Henry Newman points out, Jesus was not tempted AFTER he became hungry. The hunger is the cause of the conflict, not the food.
Jesus offers up – gives up – the hunger.
          Similarly, I may have a hunger – desire – for recognition or for popularity or to be the top scorer, whatever it is. Am I willing to admit that the conflict is not because I was not recognized or praised. The conflict is because of my hunger inside not because of something that happened outside or what someone else did or did not do.  Can I fast from this desire, can I offer this up ?
          Am I conflicted? If yes, then, I am fasting.
[__03__]    2nd. Conversant. Am I conversant – experiencing our Savior’s word– each day in my prayer, to talk to and listen to God’s word.
          Through our 9 nights of prayer and reflection of the St. Joseph Novena /retreat, we gather to be encouraged, to experiencing and to be conversant in God’s ways.
          Sometimes, God speaks a different language and this requires extra effort in our prayer.
          Are we willing to make the extra effort?
          Recently, a friend of mine was telling me about his international travels and his goal to learn a few basic sentences in every language.  He enjoyed telling me how he was in Beijing and learned the Mandarin Chinese question that he would use over and over again, “do you speak English?”
          A phrase he can still repeat with proper fluency and tones.
          And, he also memorized and repeated something important to him,  “do you take credit cards? ”
          God wants to converse, talk with us and he is talking to us about the payments, the costs, the sacrifices that we are making each day.
          Are you – & I - conversant?
[__04__]   3rd. Concealed. Am I concealed? It’s true that you and I do many loving and charitable things that do not generate, LIKES, FRIENDS, NEWS, TRAFFIC.
          Am I concealed?
          In the Gospel of Ash Wednesday, Jesus invites us to make our almsgiving – charitable giving – secret or concealed.  “Do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)
           And, isn’t it true that in family or marriage or friendship, many acts of mercy and love are performed without full acknowledgement or recognition.

[__05__]   In your life, my life, we may not know how important the conflict of today is, how it may draw us into conversation with Jesus our Lord and Savior, so that we may be concealed with him in our journeys, so that we may know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  (Philippians 4:13)    [__fin__]

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Survive. Sustain. Sanctify. (2018-02-11, Sunday-06) / Our Lady of Lourdes

Survive. Sustain. Sanctify.  (2018-02-11,  Sunday-06)  /  Our Lady of Lourdes Day

11 February 2018  6th Sunday (B)

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 ● Psalm 32 ●        ●1 Corinth 10:31 – 11:1 ● + Mark 1:40-45

[__01__]   SURVIVAL.  1858.  By the time of the events at the LOURDES grotto – 160 years ago --  the family of Bernadette were in a dire financial and social situation. Their  financial and social status had declined to the point where they lived in a one-room basement, formerly used as a jail, called le cachot, "the dungeon".
            Bernadette  had to go out to gather firewood. On February 11, 1858, Bernadette experienced the first vision of the Blessed Mother.
            The details of Bernadette’s SURVIVAL and her status – or lack of status at the time – are significant to the history of the Lourdes apparitions of the Blessed Mother.
[__02__]   This Sunday, we observe the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the experience of Bernadette Soubirous – Saint Bernadette Soubirous – and experience that starts off the beaten track near her hometown in the Pyrenees – Pyrenee Mountains – of SW France.
          It begins with survival. Bernadette is out gathering firewood when she sees a vision of someone she describes only as a beautiful lady. And, later when she asks for a name, Bernadette is told –  in the vision – “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
          Bernadette starts out as a SURIVIVOR.
[__03__]   Our Christian journey is one that is not only about SURVIVING and SURVIVAL but also about  --
          SUSTAINING ourselves.
          And about..
          SANCTIFICATION, holiness.
[__04__]   First, SURVIVAL. You and I know something about survival and the choices we make under difficult circumstances. In the Gospel of this Sunday, we read about the leper – the man with leprosy – whose survival and existence – up to this point depends on his ability to be obscure, to remain in hiding, to cover himself and thus avoid spreading his disease.
          Survival = pain.  (at times)
          In what ways do you and I survive simply by hiding or withdrawing?
          Suffering from addiction, we may go into the woods, literally or figuratively.
          Suffering from an injury to our self confidence – or suffering from our own pride – we may also hide due to our obsession with the opinion of someone else.  I may hide behind a superficial image of myself.
          Our Christian journey, however, is not only about surviving, but also sustaining – even thriving.
[__05__]   Second, SUSTAINING.
          Our Savior desires that we would be sustained, nourished, fed.        e.g., Prodigal Son;  Woman at well.
          Yes, Jesus sees our sinfulness – our brokenness – and asks us each day if we want to be forgiven. And, we can be forgiven – healed in the repentance of confession, penance, reconciliation.
          Here, we go not to hide but to connect with God and his grace.
          In the ashes of Ash Wednesday, we acknowledge our mortality, our need for God and not simply that we are surviving but also sustained.
[__06__]  Third, SANCTIFIED.
          To  “sanctify” means to make holy, and while we are made good – and made in God’s image – we also are in need of God’s grace in order to turn toward s his grace and way each day.
          Our journey of survival, and sustenance, is meant to allow us not to remain where we are, but to change, to be converted, to increase in holiness each day.
          And, when Jesus heals the man with leprosy, he directs him, asks hims, to go to the Temple – or in our sense, the church --  to show yourself to the priests – to the whole community.
          The church – whether the Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes in France or here – to the west of France – in West Orange on Eagle Rock Avenue – we are restored, reconnected to God as well.
          In other words, Jesus says – you have already shown yourself to me. Now, show yourself to the community, to others, your healing is also for them to see, to celebrate, to observe, and to receive encouragement.
          To taste and see the goodness of God.
          You come to church, so that others can see you, can witness your how we survive, how we are sustained.          So that others can sustain us with their prayers.
          So that you – and I – maybe sanctified, uncovered and connected to God in our covenant of love with God and neighbor.
          Our Lady of Lourdes Pray for Us.  Notre Dame de Lourdes prie pour nous. 


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Convincing. Consistent. (2018-02-04, Sunday-05)

February 4, 2018 –  5th, (Year B)
●● Job 9:1-4, 6-7 ●● Psalm 147 ●● 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23 ●● Mark 1:29-39 ●●
Convincing. Consistent.

[__01__]   When I was about 20 years old  - twenty – my friend’s younger brother – who was about 10 at the time, was eager to share an incident in which someone had been rescued from a car accident. In his account of the story, he told us that a “guy” rescued someone from a car accident.
          We asked about this heroic individual. Who was this guy – and specifically – how old was he? Was a boy – a kid like you ….or a grown up.
          Not knowing how to answer this he said – well, he was like you. Meaning at that time we were neither children nor – in his estimation – fully grown up. Pretty accurate.

[__02__]   When a child or young person reports an incident we often want to check it out , verify the details, find out what is true, talk to the other parents (grown-ups), teacher, coach …
          What really happened?

[__03__]     As we observe the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, we recall an incident – and an incident report – from a young person.  This is the apparition / appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is depicted in the stone tile icon above our altar.
          We observe that Bernadette – Bernadette of Soubirous – was Grotto

[__04__]     [[  In a cave of Massabielle (a mile outside of town), and several  hundred miles from city of Paris – in southwestern France -- Bernadette Soubirous – whom we know as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes – as a 14 year old peasant girl encountered the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 11, 1858.
            She was out for her regular work of gathering firewood, an appropriate task in a cold February.
            While on her route, Bernadette went a bit out of the way to encounter this vision described by Bernadette as a “beautiful lady”.
            This vision continued in 18 apparitions. Bernadette asked about the identity of the lady and was told – and repeated the words in her own dialect –

            __Que soy L’Immaculado concepciou, I am the Immaculate Conception  ___

            Which is rendered/translated in French  and inscribed in our Mosaic of Lourdes above our altar as …”Je suis L’immaculee concepcion”.
            I am the Immaculate Conception. ]]

[__05__]   After this incident, the 14 year old Bernadette returns to tell others that she saw a beautiful lady and eventually that this beautiful lady told her to tell the priests, to build a chapel there.
          This chapel would later become the Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes  which welcomes thousands of visitors each year.
          We celebrate this Mass in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes and consider how we are called to live lives that are both CONVINCING …and CONSISTENT.

[__06__]     1st – CONVINCING.
Was Bernadette convincing anyone in the early going after the incident? Not so much.
          It can be frustrating for any of us to try to relate an experience which another person either does not understand – or acknowledge – certain key details.
          We may – at times – go about trying to convince other people of our opinion, style, experience. We may judge our friends or acquaintances based on whether they “get us” or “get our sense of humor”.  In other words, have I convinced them.

[__07__]   Similarly, we gravitated toward friends and acquaintances with whom we share certain insights, view. We are convinced that they are correct, logical and can be trusted.

[__08__]    Bernadette of Soubirous – in 1858 – was not very convincing, to anyone in her family, neighborhood, vicinity, archdiocese, et cetera, et cetera.
          So, she did not seem reliable, just a kid who said she saw a beautiful lady. And, on top of this, when she was asked – for more detail – the name, Bernadette reported that the lady said, “I am the Immaculate Conception”

[__09__]   But, it merited investigation and, over time – Bernadette was a reputable witness and Lourdes has been a place of miraculous healings.

[__10__]    2nd CONSISTENCY.
          Bernadette was convincing because she was consistent.
          What enables you and I to be authentic witnesses to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, to the Resurrection of our Lord, to the Gospel, is our consistency.
          We may, at times, feel frustrated because we are not able to convince or persuade others, or obtain evidence of such persuasion.
Yet, we are called to be disciples, to discipline each day, in our consistent – prayer – talk – conversation with Jesus each day, we are called first to become believers – convinced – ourselves of his mercy, of his live, of his forgiveness and pardon for ourselves.
          In this regard, we gain consistency, we establish a pattern, and we can describe him – sketch him – make an image of Christ and the Gospel – to others by what we say and do.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for Us!   [__fin__]