Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Behold Your Humble King!

Homily from XLT - St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

Behold your Humble King!

To be humble means to be modest, reverential, submissive.

A king is a sovereign, a ruler, the preeminent one.

These two things: to be humble and to be a king seem to contradict one another.  To be submissive and to be a ruler.  Are there any submissive rulers in our world today?  Are there any humble kings?

There is only one; the One before our very eyes in the monstrance: Jesus Christ, the Humble King.

For Jesus is our Ruler.  He is ruler of the Universe.  And at the same time, He is modest, reverential and submissive.  Jesus is submissive before God.  He always did the will of His Father.  He was always humble before His Father.

But Jesus humble Himself, not just to His Father alone.  In the plan of salvation, Jesus does something amazing.  He humbles Himself before His own creation.  He humbles Himself before man and woman; before you and I.

Behold your Humble King in the manger in Bethlehem.  He enters the world a helpless, vulnerable, tiny baby and entrusts Himself entirely to a teenage mother and carpenter father.

Behold your Humble King in the Upper Room at the Last Supper.  He wraps a towel around His waist and does the work of a slave: He washes the dirty feet of His own disciples.

Behold your Humble King upon His Cross on Calvary.  He wears a crown; but it is a crown of thorns.  Above His head is a sign that reads "This is the King of the Jews."  But it is a mockery.  And He humbles Himself, He submits Himself to the point of death for our sake so that we might be rescued from sin.

And in this state of total humility, in His death, Jesus humbles Himself by depending on our Help.  Because one He dies... how does He get down from the Cross and into the tomb from which He will rise?  Only by placing Himself in our hands.

It's an amazing thing: it is Jesus' mission to save us by His death and resurrection.  And yet, He totally depends upon us to take His body from the place of His death to the place of His resurrection.  And so, this Humble King, places Himself in the hands of his own subjects.

And He continues to do this today.  Carrying the Body of Christ is not the job of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus alone.  Jesus entrusts you and I to carry His Body as well.  And in this picture, Joseph of Arimathea is looking right at us, as if to say, "Will you help carry the Body of Christ?  Will you carry your Humble King?"

We come here today to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance.  Be we are not only adorers.  We are disciples.  So when you leave this place, you must take Jesus with you.  Like the disciples in this picture, you my friends must carry Jesus into the empty tombs of the world so that new life in Christ may raise there.  You do this through your actions and words that allow others to see Jesus in you.

So come, learn from your Humble King.  Imitate Him.  Be modest before Him.  Be reverential before Him.  Be submissive before Him.  Come forward... kneel... and be humble before your Humble King.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Be Bold With Your Prayer

Homily from the 17th Week in Ordinary Time - Year C

In the weeks and months before I received my assignment to St. Vincent's - before I found out where I'd be going - I prayed to God about my assignment and told Him what I wanted.  I said, "God, I tend to do well when I keep myself busy.  I don't want to be bored.  So if You'd like to send me to a parish that's a little bit bigger, a little bit busier, that would be O.K. with me."

Kind of a bold request on my part.  And I was humbled by God's response.

Our readings today tell us to be bold with our prayers and to be humble with God's response.

Look at Abraham in our first reading.  He's actually bargaining with God.  "Lord, if I find 50 innocent people in Sodom, will you spare the city?  How about 50?  Do I hear 40... 30... 10?"  Abraham is awfully bold isn't he?

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to knock on the door of prayer again and again, no matter what the hour, even in the middle of the night.  But not because God is like the guy in the Gospel who is asleep and doesn't want to be bothered and will finally answer your prayers just to shut you up.

God is not a sleeping neighbor.  He is our Father.  And we are never a bother to Him.  We are HIs children.

Your Father gives you permission to be bold in your prayers.  Ask... seek... knock.  Be bold in your prayers.  Tell Him you want that job.  Tell Him you want your family to be healed. 

Jesus tells us to be bold and persistent in our prayers not because praying louder will get our prayers answered quicker.  He tells us to be bold and persistent because such persistence reminds us of our total dependence on God.

So, be humble with His response.

There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer.  The answer we're given may not always be the answer we wanted or expected.  But we have to trust that God always has our best interests in mind. 

And if you find it difficult to be humble, to be patient, to be understanding with God's response, know that you have a friend... Jesus.

Jesus prayed boldly to the Father.  When He was in agony in the garden he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me."  Christ Himself asked the Father to have his pain and suffering taken away. 

But Jesus was also humble.  "Not my will Father, but yours be done" he said.

God heard His Son's prayer... and answered.  He said, (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Son, I need You to do this.  I need You to suffer in this way... because my other sons and daughters are suffering too.  And I want to show them that they are not alone.  I want to show them that I hear them and I do answer their prayers.  They will know this, by knowing that You, my Son, are with them... You will suffer with them... You will suffer for them.  And You will show them that I hear Your prayers when I raise You up in three days... and when I raise them up on the last day."

My friends, be bold with your prayers... ask God for your daily bread.

Be humble with God's response... ask that His will be done.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

3 Steps For Your Spiritual Life

Homily from the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Most of you know our two deacons, Deacon Matt Coonan and Deacon Tink Coonan.  They were ordained to the diaconate a few months ago at the Pontifical College Josephinum.  And a few hours before their ordination, Matt and Tink's father, Terry, came up to me and said, "Andrew, Matt is Martha and Tink is Mary."  So I shared this with Matt.  And Matt responded, "Well, yeah!  Of course.  There's invitations to get out, liturgical assignments to make, I have to make sure my family is seated in the right place!"  Then I told Tink what his father said.  And Tink responded, "Yeah."

When I read this Gospel, I was tempted to give you a homily about how we need to stop being busy Marthas and start becoming more contemplative Marys.  But then I realized how silly that would be.  Does anyone think their lives are going to get less busy?

We are busy.  And we do have to work for a living.  In fact, its a command of God.  He told Adam to cultivate the garden of Eden and care for it.  We know we have a vocation to work.  And at the same time, we know we have a vocation to pray.  So how do we balance the two?

When we hear Jesus tell Martha that Mary has chosen "the better part" we sometimes conclude that Jesus is telling us to shun busy work so that we have time for contemplative prayer.  But notice that Jesus does not tell Martha to stop working.  Jesus gladly accepts Martha's hospitality. 

What Jesus rebukes Martha for is her anxiety and worry about work.  And she is anxious about her work because she fails to see that her work is for someone who is much more than just a houseguest.  She fails to see that her work is for the Messiah.  She fails to join her life of prayer to her work. 

We have to be Marthas and Marys at the same time.  Are lives are not going to get less busy.  But at the same time, we desire a deeper relationship, deeper conversation with God.

So how do we do that?  Let me offer a 3-step plan:  1.)  Take Inventory, 2.)  Discern Your Desires, and 3.)  Take Baby Steps

1.)  Take Inventory.  Tonight, make a list of everything you are doing today in your spiritual life.  Write down if you go to Mass every Sunday, if you say prayers in the morning or evening, if you pray as a family before meals.  Be honest.  Maybe your list will only be as long as "Going to Mass on Sunday."  That's OK.  This isn't about feeling bad about where you are.  This is about understanding where you are today, so you can plan where you will go tomorrow.

2.)  Discern Your Desires.  Make another list.  On this list, write down where you'd like to go in your spiritual life.  Maybe you want to say a Rosary each day.  Maybe you want to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  Maybe you want to go to confession more frequently.  Maybe you'd like 5 minutes of silent prayer with the Lord each day.  Prayerfully consider how you'd like to grow in your relationship with God and make a list of your desires.

3.)  Take Baby Steps.  I can't run a marathon.  But I can run to the refrigerator.  That's my baby step.  My friend, Fr. Jake Runyon just got back from a vacation in which he pedaled his bike around Lake Michigan!  870 miles!  Not exactly my idea of a vacation.  It wasn't Fr. Jake's first time on a bike.  He had to take baby steps to get to that point.  Often, when want to accomplish something, we will get super-ambitious and make big plans for ourselves and sometimes we will try to do to much too soon.  When that happens, we often fail and then we say, "Well, I guess prayer doesn't really work for me."  Or, "I guess I'm no good at prayer."  That's nonsense.  Take baby steps.  When I was in the seminary, I wanted to cultivate the habit of praying a Rosary each day, but I was failing.  So my advisor told me to pray one decade each day for a month.  Then 2 decades the next month and so on. 

And we've got an event coming up that can serve as a great launching pad for deepening your spiritual life.  It's a retreat called "The Sacred and the Ordinary: Uncovering God's Presence in Our Busy Family Lives."  You will learn how to recognize how God reveals Himself to us in our busy schedules and obligations.  It will take place Saturday, July 31st from 9AM-3PM in the St. Vincent's Spiritual Center.  There's a signup in the gathering space after Mass.

Taking baby steps forward in our spiritual life will deepen our conversation with God.  They will deepen our relationship with God.  We will all meet Him face-to-face one day.  When we do so, we want to meet a very good friend, not just a casual acquaintance.  Taking baby steps forward will help us be both Martha and Mary at the same time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Good Samaritan and Our Woundedness

Homily from the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

One of my favorite methods of prayer is to read a passage from Sacred Scripture and imagine myself as a character in the passage. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, is famous for promoting this type of prayer. You can do it with any passage of Scripture. Imagine yourself as one of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus, or Peter walking across the water to meet the Lord, or as Simon of Cyrene helping Christ to carry his cross up to Calvary.

The parables are especially powerful when you imagine yourself in the story. This is what Jesus is trying to get the scholar of the law to do. The scholar wants to know who he must be "neighborly" to; so Jesus tells him a parable to get him to identify with the Good Samaritan.

I think most of us identify with the Good Samaritan. We're doers. We like to fix things. We like to do good for our neighbor. So, its natural for us to emulate the Good Samaritan.

But there's another character in the story; and perhaps Jesus is challenging us to identify with him too.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the man who fell victim to robbers. He is attacked, robbed, stripped and beaten. He is left half-dead. Then he is ignored and abandoned by the passers-by. Who hasn't, at one time or another, felt like this man?

As we travel down our proverbial roads from Jerusalem to Jericho, we fall victim to robbers; one in particular: the Evil One, who robs us of our innocence, who strips us of our God-given human dignity, and wants to leave us lying half-dead on the side of the road.

All of us have been wounded by sin. The problem is, many of us do not want to admit it. If we were the victim in the parable, many of us would drag ourselves off the side of the road and hide in the bushes. Because we don't want anyone to see our wounds. We don't want anyone to know our sins.

The reason why we hide our sins is because as the Evil One is robbing us, stripping us, beating us and leaving us half-dead on the side of the road, he is whispering a lie into our ears. He deceitfully says, "How could you do such a thing? Your Father doesn't want to have anything to do with you. Don't you dare let Him see you like this."

These words are lies.

We must remember that there is another character in the parable: the Good Samaritan, who for us, is Jesus.

The Good Samaritan is moved with compassion at the sight of the victim and approaches him. Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of our woundedness. The word "compassion" literally means "to suffer with." Jesus approaches us and suffers with us.

The Good Samaritan pours oil and wine on the victim's wounds. Jesus pours his mercy and forgiveness on ours.

The Good Samaritan lifts the victim onto his own animal. Jesus lifts us onto his own back as he carries our sins upon his Cross up to Calvary.

The Good Samaritan takes the victim to the inn to receive the care he needs. Jesus brings us to this "inn", the Church, to receive the care we need.

The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper to take care of the victim. Jesus tells me, your priest, your "innkeeper", to do the same for you.

The Good Samaritan pays two silver coins to cover the expenses of the victim. Jesus has paid the ultimate price of his own life for our salvation and spares no expense on our behalf.

The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper that if more money is needed for the victim's care, he will repay him when he comes back to visit. Jesus returns to us again and again in the Eucharist.

So, the question is... will we let Jesus heal our wounds? Jesus knows and sees our wounds better than we know them ourselves. And he wants to heal every single one of our wounds... every single one. We only have to let him. And there is no wound - no wound - too deep or too dirty that Jesus cannot penetrate and heal.

Come to the inn. The door is the confessional. And I promise you that I will drop everything I am doing in order to hear your confession. The only time I can't is between the two signs of the cross that begin and end the Mass. I won't be hearing your confessions during Mass, much to your relief I'm sure!

And don't let the notion that if you've been away from the Sacrament of Confession for a long time, or don't remember how to make a good confession that you are not worthy to return. That is the Evil One whispering his lies again. It's his easiest trick in the book. It's also his lamest and the easiest to defeat. You know why? Because the priest is there to help you. I will help you make an examination of conscience. If you don't remember the Act of Contrition, don't worry, we've got it written down for you.

Two weeks ago, I promised the Bishop and Jesus that I would pour the Lord's mercy and forgiveness upon you. And in accepting this responsibility, I became your innkeeper. Come to the inn. Let Jesus heal your wounds. Come to confession.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Peace To This Household!"

Homily from the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

"Peace to this Household!"

I could not imagine a more fitting Gospel to begin priestly ministry to you than the one we just heard.  So, as I enter your house... as I enter OUR house, I follow the instructions Jesus has given to me and I say to you, "Peace to this Household!"

Today's Gospel is literally and instruction manual written by Jesus for a new priest being sent to a new assignment.  In our Gospel today, Jesus says that the harvest is abundant.  When I told people I was coming to St. Vincent's, they all reacted the same way, "WHOA!" they said.  "Big parish.  You're going to be very busy."  So, as I look out at all of you, I have to concur, the harvest is abundant.

Jesus also says that the laborers are few.  So when I'm sitting in the rectory, and it's just Monsignor John and myself, I have to concur, the laborers are few.

But Jesus did send the disciples out in pairs didn't he?  I am honored to be paired up with Monsignor John.  So many of the priests of our diocese have told me how lucky I am to be sent here to St. Vincent's because, they said, I will learn a lot about the priesthood from Monsignor John.

Christ tells us to pray to the master of the harvest to send out more laborers.  How pleased I was to see the sign in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, asking for prayers for vocations.  It is obvious that you are doing precisely that. 

Jesus said, "A tree is known by it's fruit."  For the last few years I have seen the fruits of this parish.  I've become good friends with Deacon Matt and Deacon Tink Coonan.  What a blessed day that will be for this parish a year from now when they are ordained priests.  Chris Lapp and Matt Soberalski are sons of the parish.  Ben Muhlenkamp spent five years here helping out with Life Teen.  And I've become good friends with priests who have served here: Fr. Mark Gurtner, Fr. Joe Gaughan and of course Fr. Jason Freiburger with whom I attended seminary.  I have seen the fruits of this parish.  How good it is to finally look upon you, the tree!

In this instruction manual of today's Gospel, Jesus tells me to stay in the same house; do not move about from one house to another.  As you know, seminarians are assigned to different parishes each summer.  So for the last four summers, I've moved about from one house to another.  How happy I am to finally arrive home and I look forward to making a home with you, to praying with you, to raising children with you.

The relationship between a priest and the Church is spousal - you and I are wed to one another.  Each of the past summers, I've caught only veiled glimpses of my bride's face.  But now, as I look upon you, I finally see the fullness of my bride's face.  It's like the moment when the bridegroom lifts the veil off his bride's face and sees her as his wife for the very first time.

What other instructions has Jesus left for me in this instruction manual in today's Gospel?  He says, "Eat what is set before you."  O.K.  Let's take it easy on this one.  As you can see, I've had my fair share of meals.  I'm at that point in my life where my waist is a 40 and my inseam is a 30.  At this point it would be more efficient for me to roll everywhere instead of walking.  So let me feed you first.  Let me prepare this table for you and feed you with the Body and Blood of Christ and together, we will eat what is set before us.

Jesus also instructs me to cure the sick among you.  When you are ill, I will anoint you.  When you are injured by sin, I will absolve your sins through the Sacrament of Confession.  And I promise you, that everything I do for you will be motivated solely by the love of Christ.  That will mean that from time to time, I will even have to say something that is difficult to hear, but I assure you, it will always be motivated by love, not harm.

Yes, today's Gospel is an instruction manual about the relationship between the priest and his people.  But it's not so much about the priest, Father Andrew Budzinski as it is about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.  As the Gospel tells us, Jesus did not send the 72 disciples so that they might be glorified and praised, but so that they might announce to every town and village that Jesus is coming. 

I am here because I have been sent by Jesus to announce his coming.  Every time I walk up that aisle, it does not mean that Father Andrew has entered the building; it means that Jesus is on his way.  It means, in few moments, Jesus will once again make himself real and present on this altar in the Eucharist. 

It means, as Jesus says at the conclusion of today's Gospel, "the Kingdom of God is at hand for you."