Homily from Easter Week 5, Cycle A – Who do you say that I am?

Readings for this homily can be found here.

“Show me a sign, and I will believe.” I hear it all the time, a million different ways. “If God is real, why doesn’t he just show himself to us, and remove all doubt?” “Isn’t it easier to say that there is no point to it all, rather than say that some imaginary God is everywhere, orchestrating everything?” “I’d believe if I saw a miracle, but miracles don’t really happen.”

In some ways, I find this one of the hardest questions to answer in the world. In another, it’s the simplest question to answer of all.

I think we get confused as to what we are looking at as we go through our lives. We live with our eyes closed, and cannot see what is right in front of us. We think that God is some great trickster, hiding himself from us for some grand plan, almost as if he doesn’t want us to know he is even here. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are so used to the world as we see it, that we have no idea just how miraculous everything around us is. We are surrounded by inexpressible beauty, with a depth and complexity that we cannot fathom, and at the same time with a powerful simplicity that we can reach and see. Let me explain for a moment just how magical and miraculous our lives really are.

As I wrote this homily, I was sitting in my living room, just relaxing on the couch. I see how old and worn out my couch is, the room needs painting, and I wish the whole house was just a bit bigger. We feel quite cramped at times, as our house is quite small. Why couldn’t I own an island in the tropics, or why not a mountaintop mansion?

But as I sit here in my little house, a universe sits outside my walls. The sun rises in majestic glory, and in my overgrown backyard, there is a wilderness of growth and life if I look close enough. But alas, I see only the overgrown weeds. We insulate ourselves into our own little worlds, and do not see the obvious that is all around us. I spend more time staring at my phone than studying the magical growth of the trees outside my door, or the crashing of waves on the beach. Let alone marveling at the beauty of my own mind, my own consciousness and identity.

We are like fish in bowls, but our bowls are in the ocean. We could swim out any time we like, but we choose not to, we choose to stay in our little bubble and count what little pebbles we own inside. And then we ask God why? Why won’t you make my little bubble shine brighter? Why won’t you make it more comfortable? Why won’t you just show yourself, and fill my bubble so I don’t have any more doubts?

We get so caught up in our bubble, that even when God tries to break through to us, we still cannot see. “Have I been with you for so long a time, and you still do not know me Phillip?” We become the blind man. Christ came to set us free, to give us new eyes, but we cannot use them. We don’t want new eyes, we want broken eyes, we want to be happy in our bubble, and seem unwilling to recognize that we were made for something much bigger than our little bubble.

Some people live in mansions, some in landfills. Some people drive fancy cars, some are lucky if they own a bike. Some people confine their bubble to their home and work, some people to their church community. God did not confine us, we confine ourselves. God tries to pull us out with all the beauty he can muster, and we keep our eyes downcast.

God knows none of this matters. All this stuff we think is so important, it just doesn’t matter. As Paul alludes, rich or poor, sick or well, dead or alive, it makes no difference, except that it is with Christ. It’s all the same. We count our dollars and toys, but we are not made for dollars and toys, we are made for sunsets and relationships. We are surrounded by God, we live our entire being in God, God swirls around us in the night sky, holds the very atomic structure of the wood that supports our homes, in our own bodies, God has created endless miracles. Yet we only desire “a sign”

How many signs do we think we need? We don’t need a sign at all, we just need to open our eyes and see what is right in front of us. We are all Phillip, looking straight into the eyes of God, blinded by our own bubble. If we don’t believe the Man, we should at least believe the works.

Homily from Easter Week 2, Cycle A, 4-30-17 – The Road to Emmaus

The readings for this homily can be found here.

I’m not a particular fan of change. I like things to be even keeled, I like to know what is coming and be prepared for it. When something unexpected happens, I get all flustered. A little over a week ago, I was coming home from a visit to my family, when I heard that 101 was closed. I was positively mad. My plans had to be changed, I had to drive through Redding. I couldn’t be mad AT anyone, but that made no difference, I was simply agitated. I always feel sorry for my family when I get this way, I am not fun to be around when things don’t go my way!

Change. Sometimes we hate it, sometimes it’s all we dream of. We hate it when we are stalled or inconvenienced, we hate the loss of something or someone we love. We dream of the perfect job, the perfect romance, of winning the lottery. Some change we get to choose, some change is foisted upon us without or even against our will. Change both motivates us, and drives us crazy.

As I was looking at the scriptures to prepare this talk for you, change is a resounding theme, and I thought on the nature of just what change IS. At first, I was thinking that change is something that happens over time, slowly, because as I look back on my life, I cannot help but see that I am not the same person I was even a few years ago, let alone decades ago. But as I think more on this, I am certain this is not the case at all. I think change happens quickly, almost in the blink of an eye. Think back to your first day of high school, leaving elementary behind. Of graduating high school, where instantly, everything was different. The day you got married, the day your first child was born. The day you lost someone you loved, the day your parent died. Suddenly, everything was different, and it would never be the same again.

I think now, that change happens very, very fast, and our lives are made of the tension of living through and trying to come to terms with the changes that have already happened. I think this is one reason we look so nostalgically towards the past, the change comes so fast, and changes so much that we cannot help but desire and miss who we were as we leave who we were behind us. There is an excitement in change, but it is also really tough to get used to.

A brief example from my life, the day my first daughter was born, my entire life was different. I was suddenly a different man, a father, even though I didn’t know it yet. I remember leaving the hospital with my daughter in the back seat, honestly confused that the hospital was going to just let me leave with this baby. It was the most terrifying drive of my whole life. It was just as terrifying to let her drive for the first time. Change is instant, it just takes us a while to emotionally catch up.

As we look through the scriptures today, we see something has happened to Peter. Now I have to be honest with you, there are two Peters, the Peter before the Pentecost, and the Peter after. These are two distinctly different people. The old Peter is a bit of a dolt, he really doesn’t get what is going on, he doesn’t speak well, and he really isn’t anything special. He can’t get anything right. Jesus talks about forgiving endlessly, and Peter is like, “You mean like 7 times?” Jesus actually tells Peter to get behind him, because he is thinking like Satan. Peter swears unending loyalty unto death, only to deny Jesus three times the same night. Or my favorite Peter quote of all, he has just seen the resurrected Christ, and the apostles ask him what they should do, and he basically says, “I dunno, let’s go fishing.” Peter and I are cut from the same cloth.

After the Holy Spirit comes upon him though, we see an entirely different man. He is thoughtful, he is a leader. He is well spoken, he is unafraid. He stands proud to proclaim the Gospel fearlessly, enduring humiliation, imprisonment and eventually death with great courage. Christ has changed him, made him a new man. He falls once and a while, still trying to live up to the change that has happened, but he always gets back up to live out his new life. So too with the men walking to Emmaus, they are downtrodden, they are beaten, they are walking AWAY from Jerusalem, they are leaving saddened and broken. Then Christ walks into their lives, and with nothing more than a few words, a sharing of God’s Word and with the breaking of the bread, they are renewed, they are made whole, and they rush back to the holy city to meet with the Church and share the good news. Their lives are transformed in an instant. Now they go forward to live out this new found life.

We are here now in the Easter season. We have re-lived together what Christ has done for us, we have lived out the manner of His death for us, remembered His pain, remembered what our sin has cost. We have remembered that sin has been broken, the world is changed, it is different than it was before. Is your life different? Are you allowing this truth to color your life? Have you a newfound desire to increase your relationship with Jesus who loves you so much as to do all this for you? Do you feel renewed and challenged to be more than you have been?

What I mean is this: When I got married, I could have pretended it didn’t happen, and continued dating people and flirting with random women. But I can promise you there is no joy in pretending I am something I am not, not for my wife, not for me. Living less than the truth only sucks the joy out of my life. I have to live out the truth, live out the change, or my life empties and gets harder and less satisfying. You are called by Christ to life in Him, you are called to holiness, even sainthood. If you are denying that call, you are lying to yourself about something more fundamental than marriage, and you will find life is simply not what you desired it to be. You don’t want to cheat on your spouse, don’t cheat on God. Allow the change of Easter to reach into your reality, to let the Holy Spirit fill your life, to hear the Word of Christ, to eat at His table with open eyes. This is no time to live in the past, this is the time to embrace the truth, that you have been changed, you have been called by the author of Love Himself. Do not live as if nothing has happened.

The Greatest Easter of My Life

This Easter was incredible. I haven’t even tried to write about it, simply because it meant too much to me. My entire family came into the Church this year. My heart is broken with joy, and no words would be enough to express my gratitude to God for pouring His grace so abundantly on my family. My mother however, is an amazing YouTube (I don’t know the word, vlogger?), and she shared with her fans her amazing experience. I think she expresses it better than I could, so here you go!

To be able to baptize my father, my sister and her family, my brother, to stand next to my mother and them while they were confirmed, it was simply more joy than I could ever have dreamed of. I’m sure I will write about it when I get my emotions more in check, but seeing my mother’s joy only makes my feelings more intense then ever.

He is Risen! Alleluia!

Holy Week! Bring Your Whole Heart to the Story!

This weekend, we enter into that most holy of times as we begin to celebrate the fullness of the paschal mystery, living through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

At Palm Sunday, we remember that we stand beside all those who seek to end Christ’s life through our own sin, as we too cry out, “Crucify Him!” It is an emotional time for me. I cannot help but be drawn up into the mystery and emotional roller coaster of it all.

Today, as I was praying my morning office, I came upon a reading that stopped my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

From a homily by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishop

I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

This weekend, we will be the crowd, crying for his death. Let us also be those who call out for life! Let us stand to help Christ carry his load like Simon of Cyrene, let us hang on the cross beside our Lord like the good thief, let us beg to bring Christ down from the cross like Joseph of Arimathea, let us rush to anoint Him like Mary Magdeline!

This week is a time to live, to be alive with the joy of everything it means to be in love with the Lord. Let us bring ourselves deeply into the mystery, and find ourselves written in throughout the greatest story that will ever be told!

Rugged Rosary – Review

I am not exactly…..dainty….

I’m loud, a bit brash, and I am generally really rough on things.

However, I am also really sentimental, and have a tendency to really hold on to stuff. I like nice, simple things, and I like them to last forever so I never have to buy it again. I also really want it to be able to stand up to, well, life.

Rosaries have always been a problem for me. I know I won’t pray it if I don’t have one one me, so I must keep one in my pocket, as one of the few permanent “things I must always have”. This means I will constantly be pulling it out, but frankly, most rosaries are just…girlie!

I don’t do girlie.

Even the “men’s rosaries” seem like dainty in black. They get all tangly, wrapped around my keys, and just don’t seem to have the weight to them that my monster hands require. I am sure am not going to go using some fancy case thing either, so don’t even suggest it.

Out of frustration, I began scouring my good friend, the internet. I found manly, I found stone, I found blacks and browns, all sorts of stuff, but nothing seemed to quite nail what I wanted. Then I found Rugged Rosaries.

I must admit, at first I thought it would not be “fine” enough for my tastes, I can be a pompous git sometimes, and do remember, I hold on to stuff, so nice is very preferred for something as important as my rosary. Here’s how it ran down.

Manly, but still not quite what I wanted…

The basic idea here is these rosaries are intended for men and women in the service, be it military or police, etc., so the beads are big enough to be used with gloves. The tie the whole thing together with paracord, which is quite strong and nearly impervious to the elements.

Did I mention I was picky? I liked the idea, but none of them were “perfect”. That was when I found the custom option! I had a blast, and ended up with brass (heavy as a brick!), black (because black is always best), and a pardon cross with a miraculous medal and a St Benedict medal (‘Cause I love me some indulgences). I even had them put an extra split ring for a medal of my patron I wanted. I was in high hopes I had finally found “the one”.

The Deacon Dance Special!

A few days later they emailed me a picture of my new rosary, all fancy looking, just to make sure it looked right. A custom rosary, with no extra charge. What a very personal experience, it was perfect. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.

I’ve had it for some time now, and it is just what I had hoped for. This thing feels like a weapon, and every time I pray it, I feel like I beat Satan with a mace. It fits comfortably in my suit jacket pocket, but it’s substantial enough for me to know in a second if it’s not there, I feel all unbalanced. I love this rosary.

No, they didn’t pay me to say it, and I’ll probably never buy another because this one will last forever. So I can say with an easy conscience, this is quality stuff.

Check them out. Rugged Rosaries

I know you will ask, so here’s the answer. Yes, I put skulls on my rosary. No, I’m not trying to be macabre, I just like to remember that prayer is serious business, because death is around the corner.

The Ramblings, Teachings and Archive of a Catholic High School Theology Teacher, and Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.