Sunday, August 26, 2018

Real. Right Now (2018-08-26, Sunday-21)

26 August  2018    /  21st Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b  •• Psalm 34 •• Ephesians 5:21-32 •• + John 6:60-69

••       Title:   Real Presence

[__01__]      ‘Instantaneous ’  - instantaneous  – means “right now.”
          In this homily, I’d like to talk about what is going on …
·       RIGHT NOW in the Gospel.
·       Then, a “RIGHT NOW” example to illuminate the Gospel.
·       And, to speak about what is happening RIGHT NOW in the Catholic Church, in the news, in the news with which you are perhaps all very familiar.

          ‘Instantaneous’ or ‘real time’ describes something that is happening right now, the hurricane in Hawaii or another weather pattern, whether we are in it or not, we know of its existence.
          It’s still happening right now.
          Sometimes, we turn off our phones or computers or TV’s wondering what is happening – right now – that I cannot be connected to.       And, in Catholic Tradition, we Jesus’ Real Presence – his instantaneous presence - through Holy Communion.
          This my body given up for you. Right now.
[__02__]    Jesus is real in Holy Communion.
          This is not a matter of “giving up” because I am indifferent, but rather “giving up” or “offering up” because we care about the well being of another person.
          As an example… a RIGHT NOW example.

[__03 __]      Right now. My brother and his wife have a daughter who is about to start college, about to start her first year of undergraduate-college and is moving into her college residence hall today about 30 minutes from here in New York.
          But, they live in California.  She is moving in right now. TODAY. How do you bring a child to college with all of her belongings, all of her necessary things, 3,000 miles,  when it is a cross-country excursion?
          Your order everything online.
          In real time, it gets there.
          And, over the past 3 months – RIGHT NOW - my parents’ condominium – also hear near NYC -has come to resemble a warehouse, packages, boxes, deliveries, from Target, Ikea, Amazon. And the boxes were not placed in the garage or basement, but right there all over the living room and dining room.
          I told my father the other day, “you know you could have put these in the garage or the basement.”  I think he liked them in the living room to keep an eye on them, even though he did not know what was in them.
          The paternal and parental instinct, just to keep an eye on things even if you do not know what is going on.
          So, amid all of this, of course, there was a person at the center of all of this, their granddaughter, my brother’s daughter and my niece, to take care of her properly, to get her started.

 [__04__]    It is a frequent message of the Gospel that we should not store up treasures on earth – or from Amazon – but rather treasure in heaven.
          But, I think there a temptation which is that we might just welcome Jesus as one more box or package and put him in a box and keep him in a corner.
Jesus is, however, is the child not to leave behind but rather the child and person to place in front of us.

[__05 __]      Jesus gives life when we welcome him amid our busyness, our problem-solving, our packaging and re-packaging.
          The boxes and packages of Target, Ikea, Amazon make sense in the living room because they are connected to a person whose boxes they are. “The yoke is easy and the burden light” (Matthew 11:30)  when we act out of true love.
[__06__]    There is a challenge in the Gospel, because some disciples do not want to welcome Jesus – RIGHT NOW – into their lives.
          They want to postpone or to re-define his arrival.
          Jesus reminds us he is here to stay and to remain among us, not to just to deliver Holy Communion – and leave – but to deliver you and me, to take us with him.
          Do we want to go there?
          Did we have other plans?

[__07 __]      The temptation faced by the disciples of his day and ours is that we will “also leave”.
          But, to receive Holy Communion means that we are in community with others. Your burden is my burden or box – whether it is delayed, lost or on time – is my burden also, as Saint Paul wrote also in Ephesians 5 about the shared joy and struggles of wives and husbands in marriage.
          We are all preparing for Jesus’ arrival which is RIGHT NOW. It is not tomorrow, it’s TODAY and at 11:30 am Mass and was also at 5:30 Saturday, and 7:30 am and 9:30 am.
          But, we do not want to postpone it until next week, because it is happening right now, we are called to welcome Jesus by our willingness to be converted, changed, RIGHT NOW.

[__08__]    RIGHT NOW, in the news media, there are many articles about the mishandling of criminal abuse cases of children. I was remembering something that happened around the year 2000.

[__09 __]      Around the year 2000, I was applying to go to the seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange. I was, at that time, working.
          And, one evening, after my regular daytime job, I went to the seminary for my interview with a priest and professor there.
          And, I was particularly stressed out due to a difficult project at work.
          I was reflecting that the seminary would be a place for me to pray and to change my pace of life.
          And, even now, 18 years later, I am still on that same journey. I am not perfectly peaceful, but I am seeking that peace – in God – that you are also seeking.
          And, the seminary started that journey very well.
Now, after the priest heard this from me, he quoted Psalm 84 to me … was seeking a different way …and I remember the priest who interviewed me quoted to me Psalm 84 …”one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. 
Now … not every day in the seminary was better than a thousand elsewhere.
          However, for the most part, I experienced a significant change in my life and attitude, very positive. I felt called to be a priest.
About a year or so after that interview – and early in my seminary days – there were scandals being discovered of priests and criminal abuse of children, children who trusted them.
This was in 2002.  So, I thought ..why should I even stay in the seminary?
Is one day within your courts better than a thousand elsewhere? I this place really any better?
That is the question.
I came to believe it was, it is and that I was/am called to become a priest.
It is a joy to serve you at Our Lady of Lourdes.
During these 2002 discovery time of many scandals of abuse by priests/clergy, I was encouraged by seminary faculty who wanted to discuss this with us, with the seminarians.  We were able to talk with our priests, mentors, and professors who were very open and honest with us about their own disappointment in Church leaders.
I do not know what the changes will be as a result of the most recent discovery and reporting of abuse. I do not have an announcement of a solution or resolution.
I share your outrage, your disappointment. And, if any of you wants to talk to me personally whether it is to talk in detail, just to vent to me, to share your concerns, I am glad to listen at any time, before or after Mass, on the phone or in person, whether it is to ask a question or demand an answer. Please call me or stop in and see you.
I have a responsibility to dialogue with you and listen to you, to what your concerns are.
          The seminary remains the center of formation and information and help to those studying for the priesthood. Pray for those studying for the priesthood, including own Father Bob Suszko is one of our priests as he is vice rector of the seminary – please pray for Father Bob and for the rector and professors.

          The seminary was a place of dialogue and discernment for me and the most important question (in 2 parts) I was asked was this –
          do you love the people whom you serve?; and, do you show the people you serve that you love them?
          I do love you, the people I serve. And, I realize that I do not do this perfectly, all the time.
          But, that is the question – some priests – some men preparing for the priesthood did not know the answer to that question, did not know what it meant unfortunately.
          And, this had heinous consequences.
          And, so, above all, we pray for the victims, the children, the families,
They need our EYES to watch over them, and EARS to hear them.
          We must listen and watch out for them, to let them know that the Catholic Church cares for them and about them, RIGHT NOW.
Listen to them.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Trust, Listening (2019-08-19, Sunday-20)

19 August  2018   /  20th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• Proverbs 9:1-6 •• Psalm 34 •• Ephesians 5:15-20  •• + John 6:51-58 

••       Title:   Trust, Listening

[__01__]      Who can be trusted?
(2x) Yesterday, I was at a family funeral for my father’s cousin, Richie.
          Richie was a beloved member of our family, owned a restaurant. He was a person liked by many, known for his sense of humor and trusted by us. He knew how to lighten up a situation.
          I recall meeting Richie on the day after I was ordained a priest, when I celebrated my first Mass of Thanksgiving. Many family and friends were there.  I used to see Richie every summer but I had not seen him for a while. He was my father’s cousin. His nephews are my 2nd cousins. We have to do the whole ANCESTRY.COM genealogy to figure it out.
          So, I saw Richie that day. And, I must admit … there family members whose names I was mixing up, with so many people at once.
          And, he came up to me and said, knowing I might be a bit lost. He came up to me and said, “I’m Richie, I’m the nice one.”
          So, it was a way that he lightened up the situation and built trust.
[__02__]      My cousin told another story about Richie. Richie owned a restaurant called The Manor House in Westchester County, New York.
          The Manor House is like a much miniaturized – smaller version of The Manor in West Orange.  They have weddings, receptions.
          And, Richie knew how to, so to say, schmooze and welcome guests, customers and …. in this case potential/future customers. When my cousin was a junior in high school, and president of his class, he and his committee were shopping around for a location for their junior prom/dance.
          My cousin suggested – and really wanted to go to – The Manor House, Richie’s place, because their high school was in this same vicinity.
          So, my cousin suggested this to the committee …let’s check out The Manor House.
          So, they put Richie and The Manor House on their list and they go over there.       
[__03__]    What my cousin recalled, first of all, about this visit was Richie’s car – his beautiful, black, shiny Jaguar right by the front door.
          Richie had some flash.
          And, Richie then gave his sales pitch, showed my cousin and the committee the place.
          Then, upon returning to high school, they had to make a decision about all the different places they had visited.
          My cousin recalled that he had to RECUSE himself from the deliberations. There is a whole lot of RECUSING going on these days….
          But, one of his classmates – on her own – was quite insistent that she liked The Manor House.
          So … in this case, Richie – objectively on his own – won their trust. They trusted him, they had a good experience.
          He took these young people under his wing. They trusted him. He took care of them.
          That’s how it should be. Not everything is always how it should be.
          Who can be trusted?
[__04__]    Many of our parishioners have heard of the recent findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury regarding the abuse of children by members of the clergy and, sometimes, the cover-up by their superiors.
          This can be earth-shaking and faith-shaking.
          Consider Jesus’ caution about trust:
[But] he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.  (Matthew 18:6)
          Children trust us.
[__05 __]      Our children are given to us to love, protect and guide to adulthood from a safe and secure place in childhood. When a priest, who we expect to protect and love our children with the love of Christ acts otherwise, “he has betrayed the grace of his ordination”  in the words of St. John Paul II. 
And, the damage done to children, young people and their loved ones/families is immense.
It can take years to measure and heal, to bring the incident to consciousness, to LISTEN.    
My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by such reprehensible behavior.
As your pastor, I am also horrified and troubled to think of little ones deeply scarred by priests they trusted.
An institution’s public persona is never more important than the vulnerable persons within à who are more vulnerable than our children?
          I wanted to share my thoughts and let you know that I am here for you. Your faith and devotion are inspiring to me.
          Let us never fear the truth – either when are called to speak the truth or to hear/listen to the truth.
          This truth sets us free, to act for Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit, according to his guidance.
          And, He always guides in the ways of love, especially on behalf of those we are called to love and protect. And to remember they depend on us to do so.
          Listen to them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Moving In (2019-08-12, Sunday-19)

12 August  2018    /   19th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• 1 Kings 19:4-8  •• Psalm 34 •• Ephesians 4:30-5:2  •• + John 6:41-51 

••       Title:   Moving In… (John 6:41-51)

[__01__]     In the Gospel readings of the recent Sundays, of this Sunday and the upcoming Sundays, Jesus has taken the people of his day back to school, back to a new understanding of God’s gifts to them and for them.
          He is reminding them that God is not only tending to them by a multiplication of loaves, but also teaching them and asking them to bring their gifts forward to be multiplied.
          But, how do we regard the gifts, talents, and dignity that we bring?
          An outline. I would like to touch on this Gospel in three aspects, based on what often happens when we go back to school, or back to campus … whether we are living there are not…
          There are these 3..
(1)  Moving in
(2)  Looking Around.
(3)  The Bread of Life.

[__02.01__]     1st. MOVING IN.
          AUGUST 2001. On a Sunday in August 2001, I arrived with my car absolutely packed with stuff, boxes, belongings to move into Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange.
          I began the afternoon somewhat annoyed because I was also – simultaneously trying to move out of my apartment in Hoboken. While trying to re-organize the furniture for my remaining roommate the apartment, I banged my thumb so hard that I needed to keep it on ice all the way from Hoboken to South Orange.
          I was relieved, therefore, to encounter helpers among the faculty and staff and seminarians who would move the boxes out of my car into room 211 on the 2nd floor.
          So, we need help to move in.
[__02.02__]      In terms of both “content” and “comprehension”, Jesus was trying to help his disciples to move and to move in, to a new relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
          Regarding ‘CONTENT’, there was the content-rich miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. While the disciples protested, Jesus insisted that these 5 loaves and 2 fishes – after the blessing and consecration – would be the “content” …and they would sustain and contain the crowd’s hunger.
          Do we trust that even sometimes our seemingly humble or meager gifts – when blessed by God – can go a long way?
          So, there is CONTENT at Jesus’ school.     
          But there is also COMPREHENSION. That is Jesus, was not just teaching them to multiply bread or feed the crowd physically.        
          And, sometimes the gift of our SACRIFICE does not satisfy someone immediately or physically.  Sometimes, we give a gift to a person by saying … saying no because what he or she is asking for is, actually, harmful.
          Sometimes, God does not give us what we want immediately.
          And, by the Passion and Cross, Jesus does not want to teach us that we do not have to suffer…but wants to teach us HOW TO suffer.
          There is content and comprehension.
          And, this 6th chapter of John is both a lesson in theology that is kind of advanced..and it is also Christianity 101 … for novices, for the freshman… for all of us who need a refresher.
          When we move in to a new school or new class or new state of life, we receive both ‘CONTENT’      and COMPREHENSION. Both the material and the spiritual.

[__03__]      What happens after we MOVE IN? 
          Well, I suggest that we start LOOKING AROUND… we look around for friends, we look around for those we can get along with …and sometimes we look around to avoid the kids your mother told you about.
          When I arrived at the seminary – with all of my belongings, I began to look around.
          And, I realized – that up until this point, I was the only person that I really knew … and I was the only person that my friends or family really knew who was studying to be a priest.
          So…as I told people about this journey – this seminary decision – this made me – I imagined – unusual and interesting in their eyes.
          It was like I was the only astronaut they had ever met. I kind of enjoyed that.
          But, then, I looked around the seminary and I realized…you know, for all the better, I am not the only person trying to do this.
          And, some of these classmates and seminarians I can connect with…some I cannot.
          Or, to return the example of move-in day with all the boxes, some of them brought gifts and talents that I wished I could possess.
          Some of them brought attitudes that might, at times, annoy me.
          Some of them had intellectual gifts that I did not have.
          So, for better or worse, I could be either pleased or annoyed any given day.
          And, no one wants to be annoyed. We do not like to be annoyed.
          So, the decision I had to make went back to Day One. While my thumb was no longer bothering me…the thumb that was banged up slightly trying to move the couch in my apartment … I still had to return to move in day.
          Am I ready to move in?
          And, over time, I recognized that my calling was not based on what other people thought or said or thought was interesting.
          My calling was based on my relationship with God.
          And, my belief – however I much I did not want to admit it…that the seminary, the priesthood was not just going to help me to get to a parish, but ultimately to get to heaven.
          So, after MOVING IN, after LOOKING AROUND, I learned that the Christian life and Gospel was helping to move toward and look toward God more closely.
 [__04__]    3rd The Bread of Life.
          Or, in Jesus’ terms, to receive the Bread of Life, his school, his move for us.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Miracles: Warning, Word, Way Out (2018-08-05, Sunday-18)

5 August  2018   
18th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15  •• Psalm 78 •• Ephesians 4:17,20-204   •• + John 6:24-35      ••       

Title:   Warning. Word. Way Out.

[_01]    US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus, which took off from NYC LGA on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently lost all engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.
The accident came to be known as the "Miracle on the Hudson", & NTSB official described it as "the most successful ditching in aviation history." The Board rejected the notion that the pilot could have avoided ditching by returning to LaGuardia or diverting to nearby Teterboro Airport.

The pilots and flight attendants were awarded the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in recognition of their "heroic and unique aviation achievement".
[__02__]    I’d like to suggest a parallel between this miracle – and its answered prayers – and the multiplication of the loaves …and our own lives.
          In the MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON, there was a WARNING, there were WORDS, and there was  a WAY OUT.
[__03__]     WARNING. Danger, the engines had failed and it’s possible that the passengers could sense this as the pilots did.
          After the WARNING,  there were WORDS, words communicated surely by the famous Sully or Captain Sullenberger about safety, about teamwork, about precaution. He had to communicate the truth but in a clear and hopeful manner.

[__04__]    And, even after landing, there had to be a WAY OUT of this plane, of USAir flight 1549, which was now afloat on a cold Hudson River in January.
          The WAY OUT was made possible not only by the flight crew but also by several ferry boat captains and crews who motored to the plane and took every single passenger. Prayers answered.

[__05__]   Now, you might say that the USAIR Flight was not a “miracle” because every single step could be documented, explained, recorded, transcribed.  It was momentous, but maybe not miraculous.
          It also took a great deal of effort and risk taking.
          We may not associate the completion of a “miracle” with a risk. We want the miracle to eliminate risk.

[__06__]       But, in the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus is taking a risk and asking his disciples also to take a risk.
          To these people – the people on the hillside who were hungry – there was a WARNING in their hunger. If Jesus did not do something, they might leave, he might not connect with them or.
          So, there is a risk in giving the people what they want.
          And, in fact, Jesus experienced the down side of this .  After the miracle – in last Sunday’s Gospel – they want to give Jesus also a commendation or a medal. “They want to carry him off and make him king.”
          And, yet, Jesus does not to be their king … at least not based on this criteria or conditions.

[__07__]        Miracles and spectacular achievements cause us to take notice.
          If there is a warning or someone has a word or a WAY OUT, we want naturally to follow that person.
          But, Jesus is not performing the miracle to eliminate all dangers, all sins, and all potential injury from our lives.
          Yes, he wants to give us a WAY OUT, but not always the WAY OUT that we have predefined or preordained.
          I’m sure there were a few people on Flight 1549 who would have preferred to land at LGA or Teterboro. But, this was not the WAY OUT.
          There are times when we are asked to REPENT, to SACRIFICE, to ACCEPT DIFFICULTY … and to do so under conditions that seem so unlikely and so beyond our own power.
          Yet, we persevere. We are called to persevere.
          The WAY OUT is miraculous. God’s ways are not our ways.

[__08__]         This Sunday, Jesus is reminding us not simply to seek the FOOD or the FANTASTIC VOYAGE or the FANTASY that will perish.
          Jesus, by feeding the crowd in the multiplication of the loaves is trying to give them a WAY OUT, but the WAY OUT is not simply to consume more but rather to CONNECT with Him more, to connect with God as the source of our nourishment, through his bounty, at the table or away from the table. Amen. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. He is our way out and our way forward.