Sunday, January 20, 2019

Cana. Luxury or Love? (2019-01-20, Sunday-02)

Jan 20, 2019   [ 02 Sunday ]        Isaiah 62:1-5 • •Psalm 96 • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 • + John 2:1-11 

Title:   Luxury. Love. Cana.

[_01_]       Interpretation. How do we interpret this miracle of the Wedding at Cana?  Interpretation. How do we bring this into our own day, into our own lives?
In this Gospel, water becomes wine. Unusual. Sometimes, if you are at table with a deacon or priest, say at a dinner … you might say point to the water on the table and say to him – oh…could you please change this water into wine? A little bit of humor.
If you want to tell me that, you can just interpret and abbreviate to me and say, “Gospel of John, Chapter 2” or “John 2.” And, we’ll know that’s the code of changing water into wine. That’s a way to interpret the miracle.

[_02_]       Pope Benedict XVI wrote that we might interpret the miracle as APPARENT LUXURY. An “apparent luxury”,  But, B16 is teaching not that God is giving apparent luxury but leading us to His ABUNDANT LOVE.
            Apparently, there is something happening, but abundantly, there is something else happening. I’d like to touch on this in 3 …The …
            1st. Review of the miracle
            2nd. Review of a movie.
            3rd. Review of our mission
[_03_]       1st. Review of the miracle.  Apparently, there is luxury at Cana.
            What happened (“went down”)?  Well, what “went down” seriously was the availability of cabernet, chardonnay, Pinot G.              I wonder if they ran out of white or red first. Jesus stepped in.
            But, in closing and solving the case, Jesus taught about God’s ABUNDANT LOVE … not
only by what Jesus did but how ….
            This was not just a “replacement” upgrade in which the water is taken away and wine is given, by the host or by the wait-staff.
            We know about “replacement”upgrades or conversions.
Technologically… WIN 7 à WIN 10.  And, MSFT does not want you to use WIN 7 anymore. They do not want to support it. I upgrade from a shovel à snowblower. These are “conversions” by replacement …not conversions that recognize inherent value of what already is.
MSFT wants you on WIN 10; there is no inherent value in WIN 7 anymore.
            You and I are also called to a different type of conversion. But, Jesus is recognizing our inherent value … taking advantage of who we are. He is not replacing us, he is remaking us. Water into wine.
            E.g.,    The Lord also can use our existing fragility and changes this into fortitude.  I’d like to touch on this shortly in the “review of a movie” section.
            As you are, as I am, we have inherent value … that can be converted, saved… transformed … One example is our attitude toward mercy and forgiveness.  We forgive another person not because the other person is bad our forgiveness is going to zap them into something good instantaneously. We forgive because we recognize the good in another person. Similarly, we repent of our sins not only because of what we have done wrong, but because we believe in our own goodness. The old saying: God has created us in his image (“He don’t make trash…”), that we can be changed from water into wine. This is ABUNDANT LOVE.

[_03.01_]      2nd. Review of a movie. In 2016, a Hollywood movie portrayed the real-life true sacrifice of a WW2 battlefield hero in HACKSAW RIDGE.
            The movie is about Desmond Doss, of the U.S. Army in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, near the end of WW2.
            Desmond is a medic, a military-level EMT on the battlefield, responsible for first aid and frontline trauma care for injured soldiers.
            Desmond is a medic or army-EMT both because of his interest in medicine and  because of his faith in God as a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. He refuses to carry a rifle.            At first, young Desmond seems very naïve – about how the Army will treat his faith and principles. Desmond expected to be treated with dignity and respect, but this does not always happen.  They do not know what to expect of him in the battle.
            In the battle, many were wounded, but Desmond is extremely daring in his ability to rescue – with absolutely no help 75 soldiers by himself in enemy territory. He receives medals for his service, including the Bronze Star and Medal of Honor.
            For Desmond Doss, every person was valuable – he seeks out every possible angle and method to save others.
            At one point, he prays – in the movie – Lord, help me get one more, help me save one more, “1 more, 1 more, 1 more … = 75”, saved not simply out of patriotism but out of love. In fact, he even rescues some wounded Japanese and sent them to U.S. Army hospitals.

[_03.02_]     The movie – Hacksaw Ridge – is an example of unconditional love and the desire to recognize the inherent value of a person, whether he is wounded, whether he or is your enemy, whether or not the person believes you can do something.
            At times, Desmond’s patriotism and sanity are questioned because he refuses to carry a rifle. He does not object to the use of rifles or the value of self-defense, he just will not touch a rifle.
            This is not an apparent luxury, it Desmond’s – it is also God’s abundant love to save life, to protect life whenever possible.

[_04_]  3rd Review of our mission.
            Some things happening in our church and in our country.
            This week – Tuesday – we have a special day of prayer for the protection of human life from conception until natural death.
            This coincides with the anniversary of the Roe-Wade Supreme Court decision and of the legalization of abortion nationwide.
            This is our Catholic human principle of ABUNDANT LOVE, for life at all stages.
            Which includes the person who might be dying or terminally ill.
In states that have legalized euthanasia or the “right to die”, I urge you to question, what does the right to die mean, either now… or possibly in the future? A person’s right to die …
            Sounds good, but does not contradict our principles and seize control from God, possibly sending that control to an insurance company or a disinterested party ?
            Because, the right to die could become for some people…the duty to die, if I am not dying fast enough.
            So, if we permit euthanasia we are saying, I believe that some people have more of a right to live than others.
            We are called to put our lives into God’s hands. This is not a luxury, our abundant love and allows God’s abundant love to be present.
            In the WW2 movie about Desmond the army-EMT-medic on the battlefield, Desmond manifests something I would call this demonstration of the preferential option, a Catholic principle, in this case, a preferential option for the person who is poor or the person who is vulnerable.
            Desmond cares for the person who is vulnerable. This is not a luxury, this is love for him.
            Tomorrow is (Monday January 21st) is Martin Luther King Day and Tuesday is a prayer day for the protection of human life.
            Dr. King also reminds of a preferential option for those who were segregated, those who were excluded, those who were blocked from access and rights that are – in our terms – INALIENABLE…they cannot be taken away.
            That we should respect each other not based on the color of our skin but on the content of our character. What’s our character?  That we are human beings, children of God the Father.
            And, we believe that God will save us with his grace and mercy, even those who have been harmed, those who have committed sin. All of us are sinners.  No matter what has happened in the past, they need our abundant love.
            And, we are called to turn to God, to the Blessed Mother who intercedes for us also, who turns us to Jesus and urges us do whatever he tells us.  [_fin_]   

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Desire to Leave, Learn (Baptism of Lord) (2019-01-13)

Jan 13, 2019   [ Baptism of Lord ]   

•  Isaiah 42:1-4 • •Psalm 29 • Acts 10:34-38 • + Luke 3:15-16, 21-22  •

Title:   Baptism of the Lord. Desire to Leave, Desire to Learn.

[_01_]  Water is mysterious. I’d just like to touch on this idea that water not only contains mysteries (underwater life, waves, and creatures like whales that we do  not see on land) but also water contains the paradox – the seeming contradiction – that water can both give life and take away life.
            Rain is welcome in springtime. But, hurricanes are feared in summer. Water has potential; water is perilous. Water is mysterious.

[_02_]   This Sunday is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. As Catholics, we are accustomed to holy water in volumes that we can manage and predict, like a weather forecast, we may not want too much water at any one time.
            The sprinkling of holy water at Sunday Mass can even take us by surprise.
            And, does not the water of baptism take the young child by surprise.  This child does not know what he or she is in for.  Therefore, in baptism, when the priest water pours water and says – “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…”and covers the child’s whole head in water, it is a sign that the child is in fact submerged, immersed in God’s presence.
            The child feels outwardly what is meant to be a sign inwardly. And, this is the definition of a sacrament, of any one of the 7 sacraments; a sacrament is a visible sign of an an invisible reality.
            Yet, in its own way, baptism – like water itself -- is one that seems to bring both ORDER + DISORDER.         

[_03_]           You have been to baptisms, to christenings, right? One thing I announce is as we gather here in church as we sit down … is  that …no one has to leave just because someone is crying or making noise… this applies ALSO to the children as well. Sometimes, the grown-up’s cry at baptisms.
            Baptisms can be a little complicated.  All the water, the oil, the lighting of the candle, who is going to stand where…
            There is both order and disorder outwardly and visibly.
            But, the baptism takes place not to make us feel or see something really organized or elegant or beautiful..but to bring us into a new relationship that we cannot yet see, or a relationship – with God – that is sometimes dark, like underwater. Yet, there is life even underwater.
            The forgiveness of sin – the forgivness of our faults – is often going to be messy. It is still worthwhile.

[_04_]   Water is mysterious because it can bring ORDER or DISORDER, INTEGRATION or DISINTEGRATION.And, we rightly take – scientifically and legally – precautions around water.  Life preservers, for one.
            But, baptism is also meant to be a life preserver, an eternal-life preserver and connection to God’s presence.
            Water is mysterious. The Baptism of Jesus is also mysterious.
            That is, we associate baptism with the forgiveness of sin and unity with God and the discovery of our own calling.
            So, why is Jesus “baptized”? We know that Jesus does not need “forgiveness”..he does not need to be unified with God …and he does not need to know what is calling is. Jesus does not get baptized so that he can later make his 1st Communion. He is the Body of Christ. He is our Communion.
            Why is Jesus baptized? It is a little mysterious.
[_05_]  I would like to make an analogy, use an example, an entirely new example.
            When we were kids, my mother took us to our local town pool. It was not the West Orange pool, but like the West Orange pool.
            It was my mother’s responsibility to get us there, and – in some cases – to watch over us, but as we grew up, she let us be more and more independent.
            When she first took my sister there, my sister – apparently – clung to her and insisted that my mother sit through her swimming lesson. My mother thought this was unnecessary, but stuck around of course.
            One day, somewhat unexpectedly, my sister announced –“I’m OK, Mom …you do not have to stay with me any longer…I’ll go to the swimming lesson by myself.”
            My mother was like, great. She was psyched that my sister could be independent for a while and she would still be supervised at the pool. And, my sister was showing her willingness to be integrate herself into another community, to connect to new people.

[_06_]   I suggest that 2 related desires made this possible, 2 desires that Jesus also has for himself and 2 desires that he wants us to have.
            These are –
            DESIRE TO LEARN.
            DESIRE TO LEAVE.

[_07_]   My sister, had a desire to LEARN, to learn to swim and my mother could trust the lifeguard and instructor.
            But, my mother could not and would not simply drop my sister off.
            In other words, the separation was possible because my sister also had a desire to LEAVE.

[_08_]   In the baptism of the Lord, we see Jesus’ willingness and desire both to LEAVE and to LEARN.        
            1st.  By being born in Bethlehem and living in Nazareth and teaching in Galilee, Jesus shows his vulnerability as both a divine and human person. We could say that he left behind his privilege as a divine person and his miraculous powers, at times, to show that he would suffer and die for us. He did not have to take up the cross, but did so to show us the way to love and sacrifice for each other.
            His baptism shows that he has been submerged and immersed in all the things of our lives.  He is also connected to us.
            Father Ronald Knox in a sermon observes it is harmonious with both our faith and reason that we come to the Sacraments … all of them, not only to pray for ourselves but for others.
            Our lives on earth are interwoven, intertwined. We were not meant to be solitary units here or in the world to come. Jesus also dwelt among us so that we would recognize this connection with God as our Father.
[_09_]   Jesus also has a desire to LEARN, and LEARNING implies a relationship with you and with me.
            He wants to meet you where you are, where I am, in our prayer and conversation each day, in the mystery of our lives and our struggles.
            So that we can also leave behind anything that is harming us, anything that separates us from him. It is sometimes messy doing so…there may be laughter or tears, but is also the first day of our new eternal life with Him, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  [_fin_]         

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Hide and Go Seek. Epiphany (2019-01-06)

January 6, 2019     [ 3 kings  / epiphany ]

 Isaiah 60:1-6 • Psalm  72   • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6  • + Matthew 2:1-12  

Title:   Found. Epiphany

[_01_]   Hide-and-go-seek (H_+GS) is a game in which 1 player closes his/her eyes – and counts – often to 100 - while the other players hide. After counting to 100, the “seeker” then opens his eyes and tries to find those in hiding .. the last one to be found is  the winner of the round.
[_02_]   (H_+GS)  is mysterious. The Gospel today is mysterious as we read about 3 kings – or 3 wise men – bringing 3 gifts and while they did not count to 100…they traveled for hundreds of miles / kilometers … a great distance in search of … seeking Jesus the newborn king.
[_03_] Why do we play (H_+GS) ? We play in order to be the last one found. Jesus is the last person FOUND, the last one discovered in this Gospel.
            That is, there are – first – 3 KINGS – they are # 1, # 2, # 3 travelling on the road to Bethlehem. We found them. There are significant statues of the –to the RIGHT of the altar…
            Then, there is a fourth king – King # 4 is King Herod. He is famous, has a palace, a big house and everyone knows his name.
            But, the real king – is king # 5 – the fifth King – who is very well hidden. #5 = Jesus.  No one knows his name. Yet. The 3 Kings were not expecting to find him in Bethlehem. And, Herod is kicking himself for not figuring this out sooner. 
            Bethlehem is a good hiding place. It is a simple town, not many people. Thus, we sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie… ”Whether in Bethlehem – or later I Nazareth, Jesus is remains pretty well hidden even as an adult. [1]
            He is in hiding today, when the 3 Kings arrive in the country and area of Bethlehem.
[_04_]    In (H_+GS), enthusiasm –love – are shown by hiding from the other person.
            This is also a message of Father Ronald Knox in a sermon about the Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Jesus appears to be in hiding, hard to find. And, the 3 Kings are the scientists of their time, they have something better than GPS satellites, they can read and measure by the stars on their own.
[_05_]   In this mysterious way, and the mystery of the Epiphany, I believe that God is not trying to get away from us…but he is showing us that he loves us.
            Sometimes, we love others even when we are in hiding.
            I’d like to give some specific experiences which you may also have. Consider that you are making a really nice Christmas gift for someone and you want the other person to be surprised. You might place the gift in a box that does not show the other person what is inside. They have to unwrap it in order to see.
            There are times, my brothers and sisters,  that we also have to take the time to understand, to listen, to un-wrap – to ask questions of other people in our lives.
            Think about this … when you are really troubled or unhappy about something..isn’t it nice when someone takes the time to ask you about what is bothering you. You are not really hiding …but you are allowing them to find you.
            Or, in another example – let’s say that someone experience some great joy in their lives. It is an act of Christian charity to ask another person about his or her joys. In other words, the other person wants to be asked.  You and I want to be asked about the joys of our lives.
            Jesus goes into hiding so that we will also ask – that we will ask directions – like the 3 Kings to find him.      [*** PAUSE***]
[_06_]    Jesus wants us to find him.
Here is an example I would like to share with you about how we – in my family – wanted someone to be found. It was not a game of (H_+GS).
            It was rather a surprise birthday party for my mother.
            There are many tricky things about a surprise party. There is the guest list, there is the date on the calendar, there is the cake, there might be gifts.
            But, the 1 thing that is really really hard to pull off … and it is key to the whole surprise – WHERE?
            Where is the surprise party to take place? LOCATION!
            The key is to find a location that everyone can gather at …and, moreover,  to get the guest of honor – my mother – to the party – to the restaurant without seeing all these people and their cars or shoes or coats.
            It is (H_+GS)  / major league baseball (H_+GS) .
            And, in the surprise party – like in the game (H_+GS) ,  you achieve your VICTORY … by making sure that one particular person is not found until the very end….this is the guest of honor, the birthday girl or birthday boy.
            And, after the surprise, everyone’s life is absolutely changed. Because everybody is in on the surprise, in on the joy.
            It is a team effort to pull off the surprise.
            And, it shows our love for the other person that we would go to such lengths to hide, to keep the plans of the party hidden for so long, for so many weeks or months ahead of time.
[_07_]   Yes, Jesus is in hiding in the Gospel. The seeking and finding of the newborn King of the Jews, the Messiah is an absolute shock to King Herod.
            Herod is scared, feels threatened.
[_08_]   Now, in a way, the presence of God – our awareness of God can also seem to be hidden.
            For example, while Christmas is celebrated very appropriately and joyously by the exchanging of gifts, and this signifies our gift of each other …. The best gifts we can give – ou love, our honesty, our integrity and our mercy – is not something you can see. Nevertheless it is there.
 [_09_]  It takes time to recall and remember where God is in my life, in good times and in bad, in summer or winter, in light or dark.
            For example, if we have a bad day, or someone said something we did not like to hear or want to hear, we might ask – God, where are you? So..rather than me hiding myself…I might go and try to discover where God is.
            I assure you – brothers and sisters – the Lord dwells in his Word, in the Church and he is always here to give you directions. If you are lost, come inside.  Stop in to church to pray and ask for these, as the 3 Kings did.
            This feast reminds us that God wants to be found. And we find him together.
[_10_]    At around 10:45 pm on Saturday evening, it was the night of my mother’s surprise birthday party. We were all leaving and my brother’s daughter – who was 8 years old at the time – had an exceptionally rockin’ time. Loved every minute of it and knew that this was so special that she and her family had traveled from California to be at the party.
            In the parking lot, she was getting into a very comfortable seat in a someone’s big car at the end of the night, she had her own surprise, her own discover to report …saying in front of my mother … “This was the best day of my entire life.”
            This was a surprise, a discovery. It also echoes our own Good News that is a joy – the best day – whenever we can find Jesus where he is – the best day of our lives. [_11_]     [_fin_]   

[1] Later when Jesus says is from Nazareth, the apostle Philip famously says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus remains hidden throughout his life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In Between. (2019-01-01, Mary Mother of God)

  January 1, 2019    [ mary mother of god ]

•  Numbers 6:22-27  • Psalm  67   • Galatians 4:4-7  • Luke 2:16-21  •

Title:   In Between. 2018-2019. Mary Mother of God.

[_01_]   In the wild, and in nature, we see that animals and birds spend a lot of their time searching for food – sometime called “foraging”. They are seeking and finding nourishment.
            And, in one report, I read that a bird might spend 75% of its time looking for food. This is not just in Rocky Mountains or at Eagle Rock Reservation..but right here.
            And, what we see – especially in birds – that they will travel miles and miles. They will fly miles and miles between looking for their next meal. Amazing and without GPS!
            Recently, on a Sunday morning, a flock of birds landed here at Our Lady of Lourdes. They were actually at the Grotto where there is the lawn and many trees and, I imagine, some berries and blossoms. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of birds. They were foraging, looking for food.
            And, typical of this location with many trees, in between the buildings.  And, typical of this season, between winter + spring.
            This is an in-between time of year. While the birds know that food is scarce, I imagine they have been here before.
[_02_]    In between.
            In between, we are in between – in time & chronology between 2018 and 2019. 
            You might say, hey it’s already 2019. The souvenirs say 2019 and soon the calendar will as well.
            But, mentally, at least for a while, I know that will be – accidentally writing “2018”  with my signature. Maybe I’ll even write 2017. It was a fast year.
            We are in balancing time between 2018 and 2019.   And, for many of us  - especially students and schoolchildren and parents – the new year feels more like a midpoint or a halftime show than an endpoint or the final whistle.
            We are balanced between AUTUMN + SPRING semesters, in between the nice outdoor weather  of AUTUMN and SPRING. We are in between our own walls because we might not be able to go out too much.
            We are in between.
[_03_]   So, for the blackbird and bluebirds and birds of our hemisphere, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is a habitat, an ecosystem, year in and year out.
            There is a Grotto, a cave also in which the Jesus is in the manger and resting.  It is his habitat, ecosystem. And, Mary – with Joseph – is in charge of protecting, sheltering him there. While nourishing and protecting, Mary is also attracting visitors. The shepherds are FLOCKING, they are arriving, landing.  And, by adoring and contemplating his presence, they are being fed.
            But, the shepherds – with their sheep – are also at an in-between, halftime – or point of change in their lives.
            They are not simply at the stable – to see Jesus – so they can go back to their old lives. They are also starting a new life.  They are in between.
            I believe our mothers – and Mary our Blessed Mother – can teach us about this “in between” state and about starting a new life.
            I’d like to touch on this in terms of our call to both GENTLENESS and to GOODNESS.
 [_04_]    1st .  “Our Gentleness.”    
            Mothers and women of faith have a great deal to share and teach their daughters and sons that real strength is not based on brute force or the overwhelming or the outrebounding of an opponent.
            Do not mothers teach us – their daughters and sons – that gentleness can be both firm and tender.
            [*** PAUSE ***]
            I recognize we live in a world in which it seems MIGHTY POWER =  RIGHT. And, in some battlefield scenarios this is the case.
            But, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, I believe we can see in our mothers and women in a lour lives, the GENTLE yet FIRM ways in which they stand up for themselves and teach all of us about love of God and love of neighbor.
            Jesus himself demonstrates this gentleness in his willingness to lay down his life for us. Surely, the Blessed Mother also taught him this gentleness and strength.
 [_06_]  Our Blessed Mother teaches about GENTLENESS which is always a high calling, even if you feel like a lowly servant. 
            Mothers also teach us about GOODNESS.
[_07_]  2nd. GOODNESS.
            Mothers teach us about GOODNESS. Is GOODNESS desirable? I think we may need, spiritually and intentionally to press [Esc] to remind ourselves that we are called to is to be  “GOOD” rather than to be sold on what is PREMIUM, SUPREME, SUPER SIZED 5 STAR, LIMITED EDITION, et cetera.
            But, I suggest we are called to a simplicity and knowledge of goodness that our mothers know very well.
            When God creates the world in Genesis, he calls each of his creations “good” or “very good.”.
            And, in this regard “good” is sufficient. Good and goodness is our goal. Goodness is also binary.  Goodness is the balance in between.
            By analogy, isn’t it true that when someone forgives us of some trespass or evil we have done – really forgives us – they are not asking us to  change but simply to be who we really are?   Goodness is not something we discover via GPS, something we recover via G-O-D and God’s mercy.
[_08_]     What about these New Year’s resolutions?
            In our new year’s resolutions and sentiments what we often wish and express are the following – in our happy new year wishes – that we have a year free from illness, from pain, from trouble, that you may make plenty of money, that your tax bill will not be burdensome, that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will remain stable and the S&P 500 will not be too volatile.
            It’s good to pray for all of the above…but I suggest we can pray and strive for even more…and to pray + recall  that -- in between our joys and our sorrows that everything in our ecosystem and our experience, everything in heaven and earthy may help us to love God and love our neighbor a little bit more.  [_fin_]