Homily from Ordinary Time, Christ the King, Cycle C, 11-20-16

This homily was my first real challenge, as I wanted to marry the ideas of Thanksgiving with the feast of Christ the King. How well did I do?

You can find the readings for this homily here.

I love cranberry sauce. I don’t want to offend anyone here, I am sure many of you make great cranberry sauce, but I am partial to the jellied stuff that comes in a can. For me, that can shaped glob of red, sitting in a fine crystal bowl is the very symbol of Thanksgiving. This holiday has many meanings to many people, and I have noticed there is only one thing that seems to be held in common. For some this is a day of family, for some this is a day to celebrate veterans and our national ancestry, for many, this day is a day to sit and watch the game. But for everyone, it’s about turkey.

Turkey, that’s the main thing. No ribs on thanksgiving, no steaks, no crab, turkey. Turkey the symbol for all this holiday means to all those traditions and things we live out on this day.

What I love about this holiday, is we aren’t just talking about what we are thankful for, we actually live out what we are thankful for. Watching the grandkids run in the yard, the laughter and jokes rolling through the halls, and everyone filled to the brim with delicious food that has been lovingly prepared. It’s the best kind of holiday.

Today, we celebrate the end of the Christian year, next weekend we begin anew with Advent. We take time to remember not only the end of year, but the end of life, the last things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We pray for our beloved dead. We ponder what our own deaths may bring. We renew our goals of becoming a heavenly people.  We look into our futures, and see what lies beyond the veil, from our illusions and into the reality of eternity. And what we see is a King, and a Kingdom.

I am glad we celebrate thanksgiving now, because it is in my mind, the perfect view of the essence of what heaven is. The great banquet, where everyone is free to be their true selves, where everyone is known and loved, where the game is always on, our smiles are always bright and laughing, and our bellies are always full. Jesus often talked about the kingdom as this kind of banquet.

At the same time, it won’t be the same at all. Because at the head of this thanksgiving table sits our Lord himself, clothed in his own unending light. As we get to see him as he really is, the very look of him is so bright that it will take our breath away. We will be full, because we will be full of Him.

This King, and this Kingdom are not at all like anything we have ever experienced. A Kingdom built not on politics and backbiting, but on the washing of feet. A Kingdom of paupers who are royalty. A kingdom where love is the only currency. A King who’s greatness lies in His Cross, a King who does not put on airs, but who’s light cannot be denied. A King of humility higher and stronger than fires of the sun. A king who is not served, but instead who serves his people.

The best way we can become a people of this Kingdom, is by living the values of this Kingdom now, by becoming a heavenly people now. Tomorrow morning, the Knights of Columbus will be working at the Betty Chinn Center, preparing tons and tons of food so that the homeless in our community will have a thanksgiving too. Across town, people work tirelessly at the pregnancy care center to help women with unplanned pregnancies. An army of volunteers who bring communion to the homebound. Nurses and doctors at rest homes, prison chaplains, the men and women who defend our nation in the armed services, police and firemen, this is all holy work, pointed at this new Kingdom.

Let us not be afraid to join them, to help build up this kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s not stand idly by while others step forth to serve. We must join our voices to the heavenly choir, our labor to the heavenly work, and join our hearts to the heavenly King. For in the end, it is not the poor, the lost and the forgotten that we serve, but the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. If there is anything we should be thankful for this thanksgiving, it should not be the turkey, but instead we should be thankful, for being able to give something of real value to the King, to love and care for his children.

We should be thankful, that we can partake in the giving.

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 32, Cycle C, 11-6-16

This homily was challenging. I knew I had to talk about the upcoming election, but I wanted to talk about marriage too. This was a lesson in compromise I suppose.

The readings for this homily can be found here.

This Gospel has aways bothered me, this idea that there is no giving and taking of marriage in heaven. I love my wife so very much, my life has been spent circling around her light. I know her face so much better than I know any other, her loves and her dislikes I take as my own. I experience such goodness through loving her.

Can it really be that in heaven, she will be just like everyone else to me? Does our marriage, our love, really just get deleted? I have thought long and hard on this, I’ve spent more time pondering this scripture than most others, because it seems as if some great goodness will be taken away.

But the truth is so much more beautiful. All the love, all the goodness I find in my marriage will not fade one iota, not one drop of it’s goodness will be removed. Instead, I find that I will have that same closeness with all those in heaven. Think of it, to know and be known by everyone, to see everyone’s goodness, and to have everyone see yours. The marriage feast that Christ so often talks about is OUR marriage, to him and to each other. Marriage is simply a model, a picture of what the closeness of heaven will be like. We will, in a much deeper sense, be married to everyone.

It’s a big week for America. This Tuesday, we make our four year pilgrimage to the polls to state our thoughts on our nations highest office. I’m not here to beat a political drum, you can already find that happening on every news channel and in every coffee shop across the country.

I do think this Gospel shares something important to remember as we look towards voting. I will love all those in heaven as much as I love my spouse. So now it matters how I vote, to keep those I WILL love, so deeply, in mind, to think of their well being and their safety. How deeply I will love those who now have nothing, how deeply will I love those who now are in prison, homeless on the streets, in business for themselves or are unknowingly about to die under a surgeons scalpel. I will love these people in heaven more than I love my own children now.

I can begin to love them now. Is that not the entire moral teaching of the Church, to learn to love them now? Should I not think of them now, think how they will be affected by my actions, by my vote? Do I not want life, goodness and truth for them? Do I not want them to know beauty?

Why is voting such a big deal? Every time this comes around, I look at the numbers pop up on the news in red and blue, and I can’t help but think that my vote just doesn’t mean much. I’m certain no one really cares what an obnoxious bald man from the north coast thinks about the policies and presidents of our nation. I can’t help it, it all feel so pointless.

I find solace in the scriptures. Today we read of the Maccabean revolt. A mother and her sons. Rome has come to put them down, to teach them who is master, and who slave. But these men and their mother will not bend. God comes first in all things, and as the story continues this mother watches her children taken from her one by one, but she will not back down, and encourages them to endure all for the Lord until their last breath, goading them on, to not allow themselves to sin. Death before sin.

This woman and her sons seem to know something that I think we often forget, that the politics of the day are but a passing of the seasons. She knows the real point of life, and though shaken and broken and afraid, she stands for all that is true, good and beautiful. This family will not deny God, they will not move from God one inch.

In the end, our personal vote may have no effect on how the nation swings on Tuesday, but it does have another effect, it has an effect on US. With a few moments in a cold auditorium booth, we state what we believe, what we value, what we really care about. We put our money where our mouth is. I would bet, that if I asked any of you who you voted for in previous elections, you would remember. It marked you. You decided what it was that you wanted this world to be like, and you wrote it down, you went to be counted. How did you decide then?

Did you seek good foreign policy? Economic prosperity? Did you vote because of freedoms you desired, or projects you want to see completed? Did you keep the poor in mind, did you think of how your vote would affect those who are unable to speak for themselves? Did you fight evil, did you promote good?

You are more important than the issues. I love America, I am proud to be a part of this grand experiment, but in the end, America will fade as every nation before us has. Rome will pass away, but you will not. You are eternal, and how you choose to vote shapes YOU. Choose goodness, choose beauty, choose truth. Choose life and goodness for others, others you will love with your whole heart. Choose these things even if you stand alone. Choose light no matter if you stand with other light bearers, or if you stand in the darkness. For in the end, you are not voting for the country at all, you are voting for who you really are, and what you really believe.

Homily from Ordinary Time Week 29, Cycle C, 10-16-16

Readings for this homily can be found here.

I’m not one to usually use jokes in homilies, but I can’t resist, it fits too well. A man asks God, “How long is a million years?” God says, “To me, it’s just a minute.” “Well, how much is a million dollars?” God says, “To me that’s just a penny.” So the man says, “Lord, can I have a penny?” God says, “Sure, gimme a minute.”

The theme in today’s readings is nearly impossible to miss. First we see Moses lifting his hands in prayer, and whenever he falters, the battle goes badly. This is followed by Paul telling us to stay faithful to what we have heard. Finally, we come Luke, and he tells us straight out, “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary”, the parable of the widow and the dishonest judge.

If we are not careful, these images can leave us with a false impression, almost that God didn’t hear us the first time. We can think that God has some great flow chart where he carefully lists how much prayer has been given for what causes, and plans out his graces accordingly. So if you really want a new bike for Christmas, all you need to do is pray for it all day and all night, and you are guaranteed a shiny new racer.

Our experience certainly doesn’t show this to be true, does it? Very often, the things we pray longest and hardest for seem forever out of reach. How many millions of hours of prayer have there been for the end of conflict in the middle east? How many more for world peace? Every day, across the country we pray for our political leaders, and sadly, they seem to move further from God, not closer. We pray for our children hour after hour, and they still don’t seem to realize our advise is pure genius.

So there must be something we are missing here in this parable. Jesus says God is a loving father, much more inclined to do us good than a dishonest judge who cares only for himself. He tells us to persevere, to be patient, to keep praying, but we don’t see anything changing. What are we supposed to do?

God has the long view. He’s got the view from the mountaintop, he’s sitting in the plane looking down on the earth. Our view is shortsighted, we only see the few around us, and we only see forward to the next piece of bread we want to stuff in our mouth. I need a bike, I need an education, I need a house, I need the respect of my peers, I need a decent 401k, I need my spouse to realize how perfect I am. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but God pretty much sees all this the same way. We are children asking for a new bike. We don’t have the long view.

We don’t see the thing that really matters, the looming abyss that opens up beyond the doors of death, where we enter into eternity and become fixed in person and in character. We can change now, we can’t change then. God knows this is the gift that is most important, the gift that affects our true lives most deeply. Most of what we pray for is dust.

But the act of praying, the act of wishing for others good, and putting my selfish needs aside. The act of asking for strength to endure the trials of this life, trials that God has put in our path on purpose for our own good. The act of desiring God’s love to fill the hearts of others, the act of unifying our hearts and minds to the greatest of goods, God himself, this has the deepest and greatest impact possible. This affects who we are, it changes our very nature, it bring us one step closer to the perfection that God so desperately desires us to become.

God knows something we don’t. Prayer has the greatest effect on us, not on him. It is we who are opened and unlocked in prayer. Every moment of prayer changes our very nature, making us more and more like God with every day, every hour, every second. We must pray without ceasing, bring God to mind in every action, every thought, unifying ourselves with him, so that when we come to our end and see Him face to face for the first time, we already know who he is, and can turn to him. If we find we don’t know him, then we have missed the only thing worth knowing, and the pains of this life are merely a taste of the pain we will put ourselves through.

Homily from Ordinary Time, Week 25, Cycle C, 9-18-2016

Readings for this homily can be found here.

Mortgage rates are low right now, and I desire in my old age to have my house paid off, so I recently refinanced my house to a 15 year fixed. It costs me a bit more each month, but I know I won’t mind when I have it paid off early. I put my seat belt on every time I get in the car because I don’t want a ticket, and I don’t want to die. I have life insurance to make sure my wife and children are taken care of in case something happens to me. I lock my door when I leave the house so my belongings are safe. I check my children’s grades, I go to the doctor for a check up when I’m sick, I take my car to the mechanic when I hear a funny noise, and keep jumper cables and a first aid kit in my trunk, just in case. Without my pocketknife, I feel naked.

I try to be prepared for whatever life may throw at me.

Today, Jesus challenges me, and he makes me wonder if I’m not foolish.

St. Teresa of Lisieux once said, “Remember the world is thy ship, not thy home.” We spend so much time and energy preparing for the ups, downs, ins and outs of this world, but this world is a passing thing. We put most of our thought and energy into a boat that we will abandon once we reach our destination.

The steward in our Gospel today is cunning as a fox. He knows things are about to go bad for him, so he does what any of us would have done: he tries to set himself up for his future. If you work for a company that you can obviously tell is sinking fast, would you not start handing out resumes? Of course you would, to do otherwise would be foolish. If you see a storm coming, you grab an umbrella.

So the steward does the only thing he can do, and starts to get in good graces with those who will be most likely to help him. He starts checking out the competition, he’s wheeling and dealing, he’s doing everything he can to save his skin.

He’s doing everything he can to save his skin. What are we doing? We certainly aren’t trying to save ourselves. Most of the time, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we just sit back and act like everything is fine and dandy. “Sure, I’m not perfect, I’m only human, and God is forgiving.” we say to ourselves, and we almost believe it. We are content to give little to almost no thought to our souls. We are content to worry more about the length of our neighbor’s lawn or where I’m going our to dinner than we are to meditate on the eternal fate of our souls.

This is what Jesus mean when he tells us “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

I know you might feel like I’m getting all negative, but don’t worry, Jesus offers us a cure for this problem. He says, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.”

So we start with small things. Maybe for you that means praying before meals, or adding a morning or evening devotion. Maybe for you that means adding the rosary to your evening routine. Maybe you feel the need to work on some spiritual reading. Maybe the next step for you is making daily mass once or twice a week or adoration every week. Be trustworthy in small things, and grow from there.

But do act. Do something. This is the single most important thing we can focus on in our lives, and it deserves a bit of diligence, a bit of forethought, and a bit of action. We must turn ourselves around and focus ourselves on the things that really matter. Faith, Family, Service, Community. If we are not serving that which is truly good, than what exactly are we basing our lives on? “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Parish Reception – Among So Many Friends

I love my parish.

No, you don’t understand, I love my parish.

These people are the best friends I have. I don’t really have many friends outside of the Church, and my parish holds most of these people. I’m the guy who loves to hang out at RCIA and Catechism classes just to be around. I’m a member of the Knights of Columbus just because I think those guys are cool. Old, young, families, singles, these are my people.

My diocese is rather large, and most of my friends were not able to make the long drive to the seat of the diocese for my ordination. So when I was ordained, I decided I should have a little reception after I gave my first homily, a little coffee hour thing after Mass with a cake or something. I just wanted a chance to say thank you to everyone for being such a blessing to me during these long years of formation, and give everyone a chance to share in the event they could not be a part of.

Then the community got involved, and before I knew it, it had become this massive event.

Like this, just without monkeys!

The Knights couldn’t stand for mere coffee and treats, so they decided it should be a full on luncheon. One small cake turned into several that filled a table. There were tablecloths, and place settings, and all sorts of finery I would have loved to have had at my wedding. My small coffee hour turned into a gala event.

I got to give a speech. I got to bless the food. Most of the local priests came to wish me well. Lots of questions, lots of hugs, lots of blessings. Lots of kids hugging my legs. Being Catholic is awesome.

I can’t tell you how deeply thankful I was and am for such a warm welcome into my new role in parish life. It was a perfect day.

My favorite part was the cards. One of my dear friends got the idea to set up a station for people to write me cards of congratulations. They were all very sweet, but the kids cards topped the cake. Endless pictures of Jesus and Mary, pictures of me, with hand scrawled misspelled congratulations. I will keep them all forever.

I serve two parishes, as clergy are in short supply in my diocese, so imagine my surprise when I went to give my first homily at my (new) parish to find they too had set up a celebration in my honor. More cake, more sweets, more congratulations and even more smiles. They made me feel right at home, and welcomed me with open arms.

What a blessing it is to serve God’s people.