Sunday, January 26, 2014

Unexpected Grace Out of Unexpected Trial

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Last week I went on pilgrimage with a few hundred teens from our diocese to the annual March for Life in Washington D.C.  Here's my homily from this past Sunday.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Real Presence

Homily from The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) - Year C

Mass isn't a flashback, it's time travel.  The events of the Last Supper and Calvary aren't just "remembered" they are realities re-presented to us, here and now.

Click here to listen to this homily.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

You Will Be My Witnesses

Homily from The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord - Year C

Before ascending to his Father, Jesus told his disciples, "You will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth."  This is our call: to be witnesses to Jesus Christ by what we say and do.

Click here to listen to this homily.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Family Meeting

Homily from the 6th Sunday of Easter - Year C

Ever have a "family meeting" to hash out house rules and restore peace and order?  The Church is a true family.  Occasionally, she calls "family meetings" known as Ecumenical Councils to restore peace and order to our lives as Christians.

Click here to listen to this homily.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Necessary Hardships

Homily from the 5th Sunday of Easter - Year C

It goes without saying that we all want to get to Heaven.  When it comes down to it, that’s why we’re all here right now.  This is part of our plan for getting to Heaven: we pray, we listen to the Word of God, we receive the Eucharist, and we do so as a family, a Church.

But there’s still one more thing we must do to get to Heaven.  St. Paul tells us what it is in today’s first reading.  And it’s difficult to hear.  It’s stark.  St. Paul says,  “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

We have been undergoing many hardships lately.  Boston... West, Texas  The other day a factory collapsed in Bangladesh; over 300 people are dead.

And we don’t have to look far and wide to see hardship.  We find it in our own families and communities.  Marriages fall apart.  Friends and relatives are stricken with illness.  The innocent lose their lives.

And we ask, “Why?  Why is there all this suffering in the world?  Why this hardship?”  We ask God that question.  And we wait for answers.  And sometimes it seems that answers don’t come.  We don’t hear an explanation.  The thing is though, the answer to our suffering and hardship doesn’t come with words.

A lady once told me about the time she was sharing the story of her hardship, her suffering with her husband.  And after listening for a little bit, the husband offered her a few answers, some advice and a possible solution.  And she stopped him and said, “I didn’t ask you to fix my problem.  I asked you just to listen.”

That’s the response of a lover.  A lover listens.  A lover empathizes.  A lover is there with you in your hardship.  This is how God answers our hardship and suffering.

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Peter Kreeft talks about this beautifully in his book “Making Sense Out of Suffering.”  He points out that in the midst of suffering, we often times desire someone there with us, rather than an explanation for our suffering.  And God is with us.

“God didn’t varnish over our sin and our suffering.  He came into it... We needed a surgeon, and he came and reached into our wounds with bloody hands.  He didn’t give us a placebo or a pill or good advice.  He gave us himself... In coming into our world he came also into our suffering.  He sits beside us in the stalled car in the snowbank.  Sometimes he starts the car for us, but even when he doesn’t, he is there.  That is the only thing that matters.  Who cares about cars and success and miracles and long life when you have God sitting beside you?”

And when we look at the Cross, that’s what we see.  We see God sitting beside us.

Peter Kreeft asks,  “Are we broken?  He is broken with us.  Are we rejected?... He was ‘despised and rejected of men.’  Do we weep?... He was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’  Do people misunderstand us, turn away from us?  They hid their faces from him as from an outcast, a leper.  Is our love betrayed?... He too loved and was betrayed by the ones he loved.

When we feel the weight of the world crashing down upon us - we must know - that he is here with us.

“Every tear we shed becomes his tear.  He may not yet wipe them away, but he makes them his.”

And when we suffer, we can as Peter Kreeft says pretty well, “use our very brokenness as nourishment for those we love.  Since we are his body, we too are the bread that is broken for others... our very tears help wipe away tears.”

St. Paul says is even better in his letter to the Colossians: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”  All of our sufferings are transformable into the work Jesus does from his Cross.  When we suffer for each other, we “love one another” as Christ has loved us

“In summary,” Kreeft says, “Jesus did three things to solve the problem of suffering.  “First, he came.  He suffered with us. He wept.  Second, in becoming man he transformed the meaning of our suffering; it is now part of his work of redemption.  Third, he died and rose.  Dying he paid the price for sin and opened heaven to us; rising, he transformed death from a hole into a door, from an end into a beginning."

That’s what we’re celebrating this Easter season, the opening of that door, that new beginning, that leads to Heaven.  Where “he will wipe away ever tear... and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.”  He will “make all things new”

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  So pray, my brother’s and sisters, that Christ’s sacrifice... that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.

Be Lightly Clad and Jump In

Homily from the 3rd Sunday of Easter - Year C (Life Teen Retreat Closing Mass)

Here's the homily from the Mass at the conclusion of the Spring Life Teen Retreat "United in the Cross."

Click here to listen.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection - True Story

Homily from Easter Sunday - Year C 

My friend Mark Hart, the vice-president of Life Teen, got onto a plane one day and the guy sitting next to him asked him what he did for a living.  When Mark told him he worked in Catholic youth ministry, the man politely explained that he wasn’t a believer and it was his belief that the resurrection of Jesus was faked; that the Apostles stole the body of Jesus and what we are doing today is worshipping an ideal and not the risen Son of God.

Mark listened intently, acknowledged the man’s concerns, then took a moment to share withhim what he believed.  Namely that God did in fact become man, took flesh and built a Church to allow us to become partakers in His Divine nature through it.

Then Mark told the man that if he was right, that if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead then this man’s explanation was an even more implausible miracle.  That a handful of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot and other uneducated day laborers invented the biggest lie in the history of the world (one that has re-shaped the world) and they were all martyred for it, all just to protect a lie.

Basically they left the comfort of their businesses, homes and families… went to the corners of the earth, were chased out of towns, spat upon, imprisoned, tortured and hunted… they were crucified upside down, burned alive at the stake, cut up by gladiators, fed to wild animals, dragged behind chariots and hurled hundreds of feet down to their deaths…all to keep their sham quiet, all to protect a lie. 

So, either God did what He said He would…took flesh and came to save us from ourselves, or, a motley crew of sailors decided to invent a Messiah and then perish without a second thought to themselves or their family, singing hymns of joy and gratitude while being brutally martyred.  

So, we have to ask ourselves - which is more implausible - God fulfilling prophecies thousands of years old out of His fidelity and great love... or tradesmen hatching a hair-brained scheme and sealing it with their blood?

I am often asked what made me want to become a priest.  And there are a number of reasons.  But, truth to be told, the real reason why I am a priest is because of the Resurrection.  Because 2,000 years ago, a man said he was the Son of God.  Then (in what must have seemed impossible for his disciples to believe) God was killed.  And then (in what was nearly impossible for his disciples to believe) he rose from the dead.

The real reason why some of us have traveled long distances to be with our families this day is not merely because we want to be close to loved ones.  It’s because we are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.

The real reason why you give your lives unselfishly to your spouses and children in the everyday sacrifices is not merely because it is your duty as mothers and fathers.  It’s because you are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.

The real reason why there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world is not merely because we have beautiful music, art, liturgy and preaching.  It’s because we are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.

The real reason why we the Church has fed, clothed, and housed more people in need than any other group or institution in history is not merely because we want to do good for one another.  It’s because we are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.

The real reason why there are institutions such as hospitals and universities in the world is not merely because it is a moral responsibility to care for the sick and to educate the young.  It’s because we are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.  (Did you know that?  There were no hospitals before Jesus.  The sick sat on the side of the road.  It wasn’t until after his resurrection that we decided we needed to do something about sickness in the world.

The real reason why you and I are here in this Church, right now, and every Sunday of the year, is not merely because we want to fulfill an obligation.  It’s because we are responding to the fact that the Son of God has risen from the dead.

The real reason for all our hope, all our joy, all our faith, all our love... the reason why we are alive; why our hearts beat, our lungs breath, our minds think and our souls are perpetual motion machines destined for eternal bliss in Heaven is because, as my friend Mark says, “God would rather die than risk spending eternity without you.”  That is a meditation we can reflect on all day today; indeed, all of our lives: "God would rather die than risk spending eternity without you."

The reason for all of this is because He has, in fact, risen from the dead.