Sunday, June 30, 2019

Discipleship, Delays, Patience (2019-06-30, Sunday, Sunday 13)

• 2019 June 30 •  13th Sunday

• 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21  • Psalm 16  • Galatians 5:13-18 • +Luke 9:51-62 •           
Title:   Bridgegate, Delays, Patience.

[_01_]   The 1st reading and the Gospel are about following directions and going in a particular direction.  I’e like to talk in 2 parts:  “part 1 DELAYS”…. “part 2. Patience”
Part 1. DELAYS.  Anyone remember BRIDGEGATE?
BRIDGEGATE = Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as the George Washington Bridge (GWB) lane closure scandal or Bridgegate, was a local – and later national - political scandal which implicated several staff members of the New Jersey Governor’s office of 2013, a few years ago.  In September 2013, some staff members of the Governor – got together – and conspired – intentionally -- to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey near the GWB.
          About a month ago, several family members and I were on our way to the Bronx for the gathering of family at church. It was in the morning. Many of us had to cross the Hudson River and GWB.
          We were supposed to be at church by 9:30 am.  And, like most people in tri-state area, we worry about GWB traffic.
          We worry about traffic in general – and upon reaching our destination – any destination – feel it is both necessary and healthy to discuss every road & police slow-down, average speed & MPG.
          And, on this particular day with this particular appointed time at church for 9:30 am, we found that the lower level of GWB was completely closed when we arrived. We were forced to take the upper level. We never take the upper level. We are lower-level people. But we had no choice, in order to keep moving.
          So, we had our own private BRIDGEGATE episode. I’m not pressing charges, I’m just telling you.
          The delay & “mini-bridgegate” were appropriate because the family member – whose funeral it was that day – was really into maps and roads and traffic.
[_02_]   “DIRECTIONS.”
          It is the role of many institutions and individuals to give directions. Our police officers give us directions. GPS devices give us directions.  Google gives directions. Type in an address, and Google will tell you how to get there if you indicate your starting point.  Google will map it out and produce a map for you.
          Are we there yet? The child in the back seat may ask this every time the car stops … They may not know about Bridgegate or traffic reports, but they do know something about the importance of continuity and perseverance … and just keeping ourselves on the road. So that we get there.
[_03]  In 1st Book of Kings,  Elisha is summoned, called, directed to follow Elijah the prophet. Elijah wants to map it out…
          And, in the Gospel there is a man on the road who encounters and also feels called to follow Jesus and his disciples.
          In both cases, that of Elisha and that of the man, there is a delay. And, there purposes of the delay – why they are supposedly delayed – is so plausible to us, so fundamental to us. And, I daresay it seems so cruel that Elijah and Jesus seem to be leaving them on the side of the road and want to put the pedal to the metal and leave them behind.
          Yet, Jesus was simply inviting them and us not to put anything ahead of our connection to God. Patience. [*pause*]
Part 2. PATIENCE.   When Pope Francis speaks of patience – the virtue of being patient or patiently waiting – he will connect these ideas that “going in patience renews our youth and makes us younger.”  (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, January 17, 2019)
Pope Francis, in a document written for young people and all of us reminds us …  [[Jesus … eternally young, wants to give us hearts that are ever young. God’s word asks us to “cast out the old leaven that you may be fresh dough” (1 Cor 5:7). Saint Paul invites us to strip ourselves of the “old self” and to put on a “young” self (Col 3:9-10).[1] In explaining what it means to put on that youthfulness “which is being renewed” (v. 10), he mentions “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against another” (Col 3:12-13). In a word, true youth means having a heart capable of loving, whereas everything that separates us from others makes the soul grow old. And so he concludes: “above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).
14. Let us also keep in mind that Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them. On the contrary, he insisted that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest” (Lk 22:26). For him age did not establish privileges, and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity. (Pope Francis Christus Vivit (2019), n. 13,14)]]
          It is notable that Jesus – in his human nature – starts to demonstrate this patience by “submitting” to his parents and as as a young person – yes, young people – sometimes, our parents require our patience. But, we also learn from them.
          We also learn – as Jesus did in his human nature – that God’s love is present to us in a special way through the love of our mothers and fathers.
          This love also renews us makes us younger and reminds us that DIRECTIONS do not stop or cease just because the voice on the GPS has nothing else to say.
          The direction and the spiritual direction of God – and the spiritual direction we get from others continues even after we stop moving. It reminds us also that we are all young enough to be God’s children.
          I will grant you – it is easier to carry a conversation in car or any vehicle while the traffic is moving, while we get somewhere with good avg speed. When traffic stops, it’s harder to talk, to communicate / enjoy the ride.
          The direction of God reminds us not only to keep – amid the DELAYS and in striving for PATIENCE – to stop, to listen, and wait for his word in each day, so that we can follow him in faith, hope and love. [_fin_]   

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Interest Free Borrowing (2019-06-23, Corpus Christi)

• 2019 June 23 •  Corpus Christi Sunday •

• Genesis 14:18-20  • Psalm 110  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 • +John 9:11b-17 •           

[_01_]  The multiplication of the loaves miracle is the Gospel reading for today = Corpus Christi Sunday – which is Latin for the Body of Christ. I’d like to reflect on the meaning and celebration of the Eucharist… for us … using this Gospel and using this example.
On May 25, 2006, I stopped in at ... and later departed from my the home of my mother and father. I stopped there because there were family visitors and it was a few days before my ordination as a priest at the cathedral in Newark – the Mass of my ordination as a priest.  I had just finished my seminary studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University.
          As I was leaving the house, somewhat hastily, I went to the door – to go out – and I put on a pair of black shoes at the front door, left and later wore those black shoes to the cathedral.  They were not my black shoes.
          The shoes belonged to my future brother-in-law and my sister’s boyfriend, Jeff … he found it humorous that I was not wearing my own shoes – but rather his shoes … on my feet throughout the entire celebration of my ordination, my first blessing as a priest in the cathedral after ordination and later, celebrating Mass in church as a priest for the first time on the next day on Sunday.
          Well, I had to wear some shoes – like they says at the retail establishments and at the Jersey shore and boardwalk in the heat of summer --  no shirt, no shoes, no service.
          I needed those shoes, those borrowed shoes.

[_02_]  There is a borrowing and lending going on in the Gospel this Sunday, this Corpus Christi Sunday.  And, the borrowing is also for serving, for service, for love.
In the Gospel of the Multiplication of the Loaves “borrowing” is a necessary component … not a borrowing of any article of clothing or money but a borrowing of the loaves of bread and fish to make the miracle possible.
This miracle is similar to the wedding at Cana in which water H2O is borrowed and used to be transformed into the bountiful and best wine.
[_03_]   The material for the miracle is not borrowed from the Temple …it is not borrowed from the Pharisees or the scribes. And the apostles do not go into town to purchase it in person or online.
It is borrowed from an ordinary person.
          In some renditions of the miracle, the one who possesses and shares the loaves of bread and fishes is a young boy …whose youth indicates his simplicity and poverty.
          So, also, our simple and sometimes impoverished gifts to God mean something – God can transform and multiply what we give Him.
Jesus wants to use what we have – what is brought to him – in order to perform the miracle.
The apostles, on the other hand, want to dismiss the crowd, send them into town to buy food … the apostles – at least right now – do not recognize that what the people bring is already enough  for Jesus to work with.
Certainly, in my own ministry as a priest, I have to remember that my own talents are enough for God to work with …that your talents are enough for God to work with …and that together we can do something beautiful.

[_04_]   BORROWING necessary in order to get started.
Often, the hardest part about any endeavor or project is to get STARTED …or if we have been interrupted… to get re-STARTED. Because getting re-started ourselves is not as easy as just turning ON a device.
          We may have to contribute something ourselves. The re-start happens also here in our worship.
          Of course, the re-start of our worship happens at the beginning of Sunday Mass when we stand for the procession and make the sign of the cross, listen to the readings and homily …which I can only hope is somewhat engaging.
          But, as another priest once told me… the goal is not for me to re-write the Gospel you …but for you – in your own conversion to re-boot, to re-start and – in a sense – write the message yourself or complete the message yourself. If you come up with something for next Sunday, let me know !
          But, truly, I welcome your comments, your questions about anything I may say or what I may not say.

[_05_]   So, the hardest part about a new project is to get started – and each Sunday Mass, we re-start, we re-boot, with the preparation of the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
          It is quite easy for us to treat the readings and sermon – which vary from week to week – as somehow more important than the Liturgy of the Eucharist – which at first glance – appears exactly the same each Sunday.
          But, actually, it is different each Sunday – because each Sunday you are different. Every Sunday, I am different. God is the same, but you are ever changing.
The theologian Josef Pieper wrote that to be made in God’s image – to be a child of God – as we are – we recognize that we are never fully completed – we are continually receiving our being and our essence from our heavenly Father. (Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, p. 62)
          What is different in the Liturgy of the Eucharist is each Sunday – for example – is that a different person – or group of persons – brings forward the bread and the wine to the altar.
          It’s almost like a different person lends the loaves and fishes each time. You are this person.
          And, this ritual – symbolic action – also reminds us that your gifts are important to this celebration. For this reason, we also want to include you in this gifts procession and we welcome you also to volunteer to bring up the gifts of bread and wine. We are often looking for volunteers ! (Please do not run away… you may want to start preparing excuses …)
          But, whether you volunteer to walk up the aisle or no – your prayer intentions are also being brought the altar to be raised up and consecrated before God.
          Your prayers – your prayer intentions - are on this altar.
          In the 141st psalm we read:
I have cried to thee, O Lord, hear me: hearken to my voice, when I cry to thee. Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141)
          Your prayers are like the fire and smoke of incense rising up to God.
[_06_]    On the day of my ordination as a priest, I was standing – literally – in someone else’s shoes, my future brother-in-law…
          But, was I not also meant to be standing in someone else’s shoes…and you are as well, when we come before God for Holy Communion.
          Receiving Holy Communion, you and I are also meant to stand, called to stand and walk in someone else’s shoes …or, perhaps, sandals. Jesus Christ, our Savior.
          It’s sometimes strange and uncomfortable to wear someone else’s shoes.  In this case, in my 2006 ordination day, it worked out quite well, because it turned out – future my brother-in-law, Jeff, and I were about the same size.
          And, I was thinking about so many other things that I hardly noticed I was wearing someone else’s shoes.
          But, this is good news!
          Jesus does not want us to notice that we are wearing his shoes.
          What we read in the Ash Wednesday Gospel … It is good news to be able to give without our left hand know what our right is doing (or in my case… without my left foot knowing what my right was doing).
          It is good news not to notice … to forget that we are fasting and sacrificing -- just to make it part of our routine.
And, isn’t it true that our many of our most loving and prayerful generous actions are the ones that do not get noticed or notoriety, fame or fortune, maybe the ones that we do not notice ourselves doing.
          And, I believe this also applies to our own actions of forgiveness – to forgive one another’s trespasses, and sins … in other words … it is often hard to forgive someone else… and it’s hard when the other person does not know or “appreciate” the forgiveness.
          But, the forgiveness is not just for the quote unquote “perpetrator” to feel less guilty. The perpetrator may not yet acknowledge his or her sin or guilt.
          The forgiveness is for you and for me to be free… even if it goes unnoticed.
          It is good news when Jesus’ shoes and sandals and ways of walking start to feel like our own.

[_07_]   Looking back on the incident of the borrowed shoes and my ordination, I also recall that these shoes came from someone who was not yet a part of our family … yes, he was my sister’s boyfriend… but they were not yet engaged and 2 years away from being married…
          Today, Jeff is my brother-in-law …and I would regard him as a brother… not just because of the interest-free loan.
          We are called to lend ourselves to God, to neighbor.
          We are made as brothers and sisters, sometimes with those we do not yet know.
          But, when we lend ourselves and give, God can do the multiplying and provide for all.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity Sunday: 3 R's (2019-06-16)

2019 June 16 •  TRINITY SUNDAY •  • Proverbs 8:22-31  • Psalm 8  • Romans 5:1-5  • +John 16:12-15 •           

Title: Trinity Sunday: 3 R’s. Relationship. Reminder. Remembrance.

[_01_]  This is Trinity Sunday and I’d like to touch on [RELATIONSHIPS & the Trinity]    /   [REMINDER about the Trinity]  /  [REMEMBRANCE & the Trinity]

[_02_]  First. “RELATIONSHIPS”. In this “relationship” example, my father’s brother – my uncle – is a retired NYC firefighter (FDNY)
At about 7:30 am on a Monday morning in 1994, as my brother was leaving the 72nd Street subway station in Manhattan on the upper east side, he fell to the ground and, therefore, needed stitches and was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital E.R. emergency room.  He was on his way to work. Actually, he did not fall, but was rather knocked down and assaulted by someone. We do not know who
          Yes, it was traumatic, but also very brief and he recovered completely and quickly. He did require immediate medical attention. Therefore: E.R.
          At Lenox Hill Hospital E.R., just before the anesthesia was administered and he fell asleep “went under” and asleep, a nurse ran up to his stretcher and told him…”I know your uncle who is a NYC fireman in the Bronx.”
          The hospital nurse told my brother:  ”I know your uncle, who is in the Fire Department in the Bronx.”
          This was a strange coincidence and a nice consolation. Hey, I’m in this hospital and someone knows me! Great!
          Reflecting on this later, my brother later learned that firefighters and nurses have their own little “dating app” and matchmaking network and they socialize a lot. But, at the time, my brother was surprised that this nurse – in Manhattan – knew our uncle of the Fire Department – in the Bronx.

[_03_]     You and I cannot control how any 2 people are going to get along or whether they know – or want to know – each other.
          I have had the experience of introducing 2 people who know me – as a mutual friend or acquaintance – but they still do not get along. I presumed they would – or wish they could be friendly …but it just does not happen.
          It does not have to be a matchmaking scenario, but any 2 individuals who – just because they are now my friends – does not mean we will all become friends. It does not always work out. It could go either way.
          That’s the “RELATIONSHIP” and the Trinity.

[_04_]      Here are some REMINDERS about the Trinity.
          RELATIONSHIPS, of course require commitment and respect, mutual self-giving. Even if 2 people have a mutual connection, it does not mean they will get along or click.
          The reminder about the Trinity is that God is not only perfectly committed to you (me) …but also God is perfectly committed in himself as a community of 3 persons.
          Jesuit Father James Schall, S.J. reminds us that nowhere in the Bible does God declare himself to be the Trinity.  The logic of understanding God as “Trinity of Father Son and Holy Spirit ” is based on our understanding that God is love.
          That God exists not only exists to RELATE to us, but also to relate perfectly to himself and in himself, then he relates to us. God relates perfectly to himself and in himself, then he relates to us.
          As an analogy, is it not beautiful and important for mothers and fathers not only to love their children but also to love each other? It is said that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother and so also… it is a gift of a mother to love the father of her children.
          This does not mean husband and wife – mother and father – are getting along swimmingly & perfectly at all times. They may have differences and distance and difficulties. Yet, the way that mothers and fathers treat each other and forgive each other and even correct each other, “speaks volumes” …teaches the children about love and unconditional love and forgiveness and correction.  That they love in this way not only for the sake of each other but also for God who called them together.
          So, the family is a kind of TRINITY local version, TRINITY on earth. TRINITY at your address, behind your front door.
          God the Father and God the Son love each other in a similar way to give us a unity and harmony for us to emulate ..and given the fact that Jesus gives up his life – for love and we are also called to give up our lives – this love is attainable.
          “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”  (John 15:13) 
In every sacrifice 3 “friends” are connected … you + the person you are sacrificing + Jesus.  Jesus is your mutual friend: That’s just a REMINDER about the Trinity.
          And, regarding “RESPECT” and our prayer/worship as Catholics, we always STAND – or KNEEL – at church for the Trinity. We stand as we begin Sunday Mass, we stand to make the sign of the cross – the sign of the Trinity “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” – you stand to begin Mass & procession, not because the priest is here but because God – Trinity – is here and we stand at the end of Mass to bless ourselves in the sign of the Trinity – “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”

[_05_]       We’ve touched on RELATIONSHIPS and the Trinity; REMINDERS about the Trinity…
          Now, REMEMBRANCE & Trinity. This “REMEMBRANCE” is also entitled “West Orange, West Point, and West Orange.
[_06_]    This past Tuesday, I attended the REMEMBRANCE / memorial for the passing away – for the death – of West Point Cadet Christopher Morgan, beloved member of our West Orange community. He was 22 years old.
          A 2015 graduate of West Orange H.S., Cadet Christopher Morgan went off to the U.S. Military Academy – the prestigious West Point in 2015.
Last week, Cadet Morgan died tragically in military training exercises last Thursday June 6 in New York state near the West Point campus.
Christopher Morgan is remembered now as a star student, student-athlete, football player, star on wrestling mat, and musician and the first African-American student from West Orange High School to attend [United States Military Academy-West Point]
At such a time, a family and community naturally asks why such a death? Why…such a short life?
          I just suggest that while this is not an easy ANSWER, there is ACKNOWLEDGEMENT in our faith and belief in the Trinity that we are made to love and for love.
          God loves us simply because we are not because of what we do or for how long we live.
          We are made to love and we are made for love. This is why people come to a Memorial Service, to a funeral service for their own loved ones, why we come and mourn deeply, why 2,000 plus were at West Orange High School gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
          We are made to love and we are made for love, before we are born, while we live and even after we die. We are made to be loved, to be prayed for, to be remembered.
We are capable of remembering that our loved ones remain a part of us after we die.
[*** PAUSE***]
This was certainly the theme/tone at West Orange H.S. for Christopher Morgan, a star student & faithful friend to many.
However, the life of Christopher Morgan did not have meaning simply as a list of achievements and accolades. His life had meaning because he was loved and is still loved by God, by Christ, by his family.
God the Trinity loves so much that he is also a community of persons and this love overflows into a second person – the Son – the love of Father and Son overflows into the Holy Spirit.
Our lives and love also overflow and also are interconnected to other persons, these may be children we love, students we teach, parents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers.
We can only keep love can by giving it away.  That’s the paradox.

[_07_]    On Tuesday night at West Orange High, there were many eloquent speakers and tributes. Sitting in the crowd, I was proud to be part of the West Orange community and witness the tributes, though I do not know Cadet Christopher Morgan myself.
          The eloquent tributes included – the Governor’s office from Trenton, Hayden Moore, Robert Parisi, Ronald Bligh – the West Orange High Principal, May and A.D respectively.
Chris’ 2 wrestling coaches – both West Orange & West Point, a wrestling teammate of West Orange now studying and wrestling at U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.
A delegate from West Point.
          All tributes were eloquent and well prepared. But, I could not help but notice that while the applause and clapping were sincere, no one got a standing ovation.
That is, no one got a standing ovation until the family of Christopher Morgan stood and spoke at the microphone.
Then, everyone stood and applauded for the brother and mother and father of Chris.   Then, there was a standing ovation. Were not these individuals the real reason for our RESPECT, why we pay our RESPECTS?
          And, were not these individuals – Chris’ family – the reason we were there – to remember not only his achievements and excellence but simply to acknowledge his existence and place in their family  and that he came from their heart and will always be there.  West Orange family à West Point family and return home to West Orange.
          We celebrate the trinity as our family, as our core image and existence and remember that we are also made for love in the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.     [_fin_]    

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pentecost: Nativity, Nature, Nationality.

Homily  • 2019 June 9 •  PENTECOST SUNDAY    

• Acts 2:1-11  • Psalm 104 • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13  • +John 20:19-23   __or__  +John 14:15-16, 23b-26 •           

Title: Pentecost: Nativity, Nature, Nationality.

[_01_]   What  we celebrate on Pentecost Sunday is also known as the birth – or birthday of the Church. Of course, birthdays can be tricky affairs – strewn and fraught with complications – especially as we grow older. We may prefer to avoid birthdays or at least not telling people how old we are.
          Nevertheless, is there any day more personally “sacred”  more personally important than one’s own birthday? Pentecost Sunday, then, is a birthday – a common day of birth that we all share.
          Because – in Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and by extension upon the whole Church – we all have the same birthday.
          And, by our peace toward and prayer for each other, we are also exchanging gifts.
          I’d like to touch on and reflect on Pentecost in terms of these 3 aspects, ► THE ► ► ►
[Nativity of our Christian identity.
Nature of our Christian identity.
Nationality of our Christian Identity.]

[_02_]    Nativity of our Christian identity.
          When we think of NATIVITY, we often think of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and Dec.25th, Bethlehem and the birth of Christ.
          Yes, this was certainly a necessary step on the way to your – to my – NATIVITY/birth as a Christian. Jesus first had to be born among us. Joseph and Mary, from the beginning, recognize that the Christ Child was not only a gift to be received but also a gift to be given away. Jesus was born to them and also born to us.
          “A child is born to us .. a son is given us…” (Isaiah..)
          Our Nativity began when Jesus was born but continued when you/I were baptized and you/I were born to our own parents not only as a gift to be kept safe but also a gift to be given away.
          Thomas Merton wrote:  “There is a false and momentary happiness in self satisfaction – true happiness is found in selfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared…Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our being.”  (Thomas Merton, “Love Can Only Be Kept by Being Given Away”, No Man Is An Island)
          CONSIDER – do we not have a strong desire to give our selves away? Consider that we experience great consolation and peace by sharing both joy and sorrows with each other. And, do we not experience anxiety and desolation when we unable to share sorrow – or even joy?
          So, Pentecost is about your birth / my birth – as members of Christ’s body – and Pentecost is your birth announcement of your Christian identity – to be publicized and given away.

[_03_]      NATURE of our Christian identity.
          Pentecost also reflects the NATURE of our Christian identity.
          Father Ronald Knox (“Pentecost”, Parochial & Occasional Sermons, pp. 471-475, esp. pp. 474-475) notes that the NATURE of our Christian identity – or the characteristic feature of the Church was to be both OLD & YOUNG, both ANCIENT & NEW.
          And, on a birthday – we can feel both OLD and young.
          That is, the nature of the Church from the beginning was ancient with a connection to Moses and the Passover, but also NEW with its progress from the Passion through Death to the Resurrection.
          Love conquered death.
          Isn’t it true that one of the most singular compliments and evaluations we can make of a young person is to call him or her an “old soul.”
          For a young person with an old soul is wise – has wisdom – beyond his or her years and has an understanding of things that might be dismissed by others their age.
          To have an old soul does not mean that you are antiquated but that you appreciate things that have eternal value.
          And, so, it is part of our Christian nature to speak about the eternal importance of family, of marriage, of the raising of children, the value of forgiveness not because these values are going to make our lives better now or immediately, but because these values have eternal importance.
          Having an old soul as a Christian is part of our nature. It’s good news to be old!
          So we have touched on the NATIVITY of our Christian identity and the NATURE of our Christian identity.

[_04_]    On Pentecost Sunday, we also recognize the NATIONALITY of our identity.
            On Pentecost, we read that the Apostles spoke in the language of every person present.
            And, we by receiving the Holy Spirit can also trust that our love is shared and communicated – translated – even to those to whom we cannot speak. God speaks through us to people of all nations.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Urgency of Unity (2019-06-02, Easter 07 Sunday)

• 2019 June 1 •  7th Sunday Easter (year C)  • Acts 7:55-60 • Psalm 97   
• Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20 •John 17:20-26 •           

[_00a_]   I’d like to reflect on the URGENCY of UNITY – regarding the message of the Gospel, regarding the upcoming marriage of our engaged couples from our Pre Cana today…and for you and for me. The urgency of unity and to use as an example a baseball World Series team from 2016: The Chicago Cubs.

[_00b_]  “Dad we have 97% chance of winning the World Series.” This 97% prediction was made by the 8 year old son and budding mathematician, the son of the Chicago Cubs General Manager, Theo Epstein, near the end of Game 7of the 2016 World Series.  The Cubs were playing an “away” game in Cleveland..but at this point they had a 97% chance.
          Theo Epstein is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs and also believes in the urgency of unity.
          However, in his first year –in 2012 - as general manager, the Cubs had their worst season in 46 years, winning only about one-third of their games and had over 100 losses that year. The “urgency” seemed to be lacking or at least it was building slowly.
          It was a slow re-building process, and a team’s success always relies on unity, on community, and not necessarily just a few stars. Theo Epstein was determined that the Cubs would build gradually this unity rather rather than assemble a team of individual star players.
          Theo Epstein is known as the baseball general manager responsible for breaking what baseball fans called the 2  100+year curses for teams without a championship. He did this when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 …and also when that other team in Boston won the World Series in 2004.

[_02_]  In the Gospel today, Jesus is speaking about his urgency for unity among his disciples – in 2 ways.
          In the first way, Jesus makes an URGENT prayer for unity …
          [“Father I pray not only for them [for my disciples] but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (Gospel of John, ch. 17)]
          Jesus practices and preaches and prays about this unity for you and for me.
          That is, he not only prays that we will follow the commandments, know right from wrong, good from evil, but that
I will live – and you will live –recognizing our need for each other.
          In small ways – or significant ways – I can forget about this. The other day, I recall going through the doors of a store in which I was carrying a bunch of stuff, someone opened the door for me…and yet I chose to say, “I got this.” In other words, I am too proud even to let you hold the door for me.  That’s a small example, but perhaps significant. For me what was “urgent” was my own independence.
          Do I accept this prayer for unity from our savior.
            Do we not recognize that our mothers and fathers pray for this unity in the family?  If we are not getting along as brothers and sisters – at whatever age we are – I assure that your mother or father (living or deceased) is praying for your unity.
            We are called to listen to their prayers.
            So, there is prayer for unity.

[_02_]  In the Gospel today, Jesus is speaking about this urgency for unity among his disciples – in a 2nd way: the PERFECTION of unity.
          [Jesus prays that we “may be brought to perfection as one.” (Gospel of John, ch. 17)]
          Is perfection, however, only about success and a scoreboard of points – or “runs batted in”?
          In Gospel terms, perfection is not rating system or score but a road and ongoing process. That is,  Jesus is not faulting us for imperfection or not yet being rated as perfect but that we are being BROUGHT TO PERFECTION.
          At this Mass, we are pleased to welcome our couples who are preparing for marriage – the sacrament of matrimony – and who also hope for – and we also wish the same for them – a perfect wedding day and happy married life.
          And, there are important ways in which the wedding signify this urgent prayer for and this perfection of unity.
          Both husband and wife give their “I do”. They state their vows.
And, in all of their decisions – even if the decision seems to affect one more than the other not to walk away and say… “you got this”… but to say with urgency “we got this”.     
          This is the prayer for unity of Jesus…
          [“Father I pray not only for them [for my disciples] but also for those who will believe in me through their word”]
          And, you – our brothers and sisters preparing for marriage – you also help us to be inspired in our loving relationships, to believe, because of your word.

          Perfection and unity are not just about SUCCESS or the number of wins.
          Yes, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and if you are a Cleveland Indians fan…my apologies.
          The game was close.
Theo Epstien shared this
I watched Game 7 with his family including his 8 year old son who kept his father updated on the probability of winning. As the Cubs enjoyed a 2-run lead after 5 innings, the boy said: “Dad, we have a 67% chance of winning the World Series.” “I know, buddy. It’s going well. But, remember, it’s baseball. Lots of things can happen.” Later, we had a three-run lead with just four outs to go in the game, nobody on base, and the bottom of the Indians order coming up. Tens of millions of Cubs fans nationwide, counting down the outs, put their arms around loved ones – or called them – to keep them close for the big moment ahead.
          The boy said again: “Dad, we have a 97% chance of winning the World Series!”
“I know, buddy, I know.” I said. “It’s so great. One batter at time, though. We still need four more outs. Don’t want to look too far ahead.”
Then, out of nowhere, as storm clouds suddenly moved into the area… it was raining ..there was an infield single, a double, an errant fastball, a fateful swing, an impossible home run…. and a tie game.
The boy: “Dad, we definitely have less than a 50% chance of winning the World Series now.”
A meeting that was memorable was held in the Cubs’ locker room/ clubhouse …memorable to Theo Epstein because it was not the coach preaching to the players…or even the stars necessarily preaching to the lesser players to pick up their game.
Notably, one who speak was a 38 year old back up catcher at the very end of his career..who was having a poor season, played in less than half the games… and yet he was a key motivator re juvenate and reunite the team. And the meeting was called by another player was actually having a terrible year…. And the players are thinking …what can these guys say… but it was their positive attidude their call for unity that helped the Cubs recover.
          Theo Epstein recalled what he would say later to his players and to his family about the URGENCY OF UNITY. …. And I will tell them not to wait until the rain comes to make this choice, because that can be too late. We weren’t winners that night in Cleveland because we ended up with one more run than the Indians…. We were winners because we worked for unity.
          The disciples surrounding Jesus – at this moment – in this Gospel reading are at the Last Supper – they are with their Savior. The rain and storm of the Passion has not yet come. But, they are working – right now – on the prayer and the perfection of the unity that will sustain them. We are called to go and do likewise.  [__fin__]