St. Joseph and Lent: A homily for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

On Ash Wed, we will hear the same Gospel we hear every Ash Wed. Jesus talks about three things — Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving.  We should do eat least one thing in each of these categories. For that reason I have given you a Lenten Resolution card….fill it out and sign it and DO IT!

I was thinking, as we enter this Month of March which is dedicated to our patron St Joseph, what Joseph would have written on his card. Because he offers us such a ncie example. It’s worth reflecting on his example as we get ready for Lent.

PRAYER–

  • In the whole of the Bible, Joseph never says a word. A man of silence
  • Joseph is PRESENT to Jesus — he received Jesus, always invited Jesus into his home
  • Joseph ADORES Jesus — he and Bl. Mother were the first to do a holy hour, as they looked upon their beautiful baby boy

FASTING —

  • We always talk about giving up stuff for Lent….and we SHOULD and MUST!
  • Joseph gave up his whole life!  HE was a young man, a late teen maybe — he had his whole future ahead of him!  He gives up his future hopes and dreams for the sake of JEsus….and he got SO MUCH MORE back…..that is how our “givings up” should go….we may give up stuff that’s hard, but we get way more back
  • Joseph was a simple man, a man of humble means

ALMSGIVING

  • Joseph is the all-provident saint…..IT AD JOSEPH….Go To Joseph
  • That phrase comes from the original Joseph in Genesis, who had been placed in charge of all the food in the midst of the family…..whenever the people needed food, they went to Joseph
  • We look at that original Joseph and remember that it’s all the more true with the new Joseph
  • Joseph provided everything for Jesus and Mary….a strong and humble man….he built their house, put food on their plates, etc
  • We’re meant to be providers also…..not just money, but time and talnet and too

Let’s look to Joseph and invoke his intercession, praying for a good Lent

God will sort us out later: A homily for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

I want to share with you a poem I remember from senior year of high school — The Cookie Thief by Valerie Cox

 A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
with several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops,
bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .
grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too,
when only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other,
she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled,
and sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
then she sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair,
the others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

What a poem!  It hits on a message Jesus is making in our Gospel, where he COMMANDS us to love and FORBIDS us to judge.

One reason Jesus forbids us to judge: because, like the cookie thief lady, we usually don’t have to story right in the first place.  Only the one true judge — Jesus — understands everything, and so only he knows the whole truth.  I often think that folks would be much more understanding and kind if they understood all the brokenness, pain, and difficulties others are going through.

Another reason we are forbidden to judge?  Because the average person, when faced with mistreatment, insults, or hatred, has a different instinct than what Jesus commands us to do in our Gospel.  Jesus commands us to love — no exceptions.  We look to our first reading for an example of this. Saul was envious of David and wanted him dead, and he tried three times to kill him. In the reading today, David finds the sleeping Saul and had the perfect chance to kill the one who had tried to kill him and who had been so bad to him. David refuses to do so but opts to forgive.

Jesus holds us to the standard of love. We are to love everyone. As the plaque in my office reads, “Love everyone. I’ll sort them out later. – God.”  Amen!  The love God calls us to is concrete and PROACTIVE.  Jesus says it’s good to be nice only to those who are nice to us first. That is a reactive love.

We are to love. God will sort us all out later.

 

Jesus is enough: A homily for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Where do you look for your happiness?  Where do you look for your fulfillment?  We often look for these things in this life….

We look for happiness and fulfillment in the stuff of the world:  money, cars, houses, power, position, wealth, etc etc etc.  But all that stuff fades away, doesn’t fill us, and we can’t take any of it to the next life (thank God)

We look for happiness and fulfillment in the people in our lives…..which is better than the stuff of this world, but as our first reading reminds us, everybody will let us down at some point. Sometimes, they let us down big time.

Paul reminds us in our second reading: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”  That means, if all our hope, all our trust, all our searches for happiness and fulfillment are things of this world….we’re the most pitiable, miserable of all

That truth is what Jesus says at the Sermon on the Mount, as we heard in our Gospel. Jesus pronounces BLESSED (another word: happy) precisely the people who everyone thought WEREN’T blessed…..the poor, the hungry, the mourning, the persecuted…..

But those are the happinest of all!  Because those whose wealth is in the LORD — those are the folks who are really rich, no matter how poor they are in the eyes of the world.  Those who are hungry, they have space for God and a thirst for him….  those who mourn, they care enough to cry …..  those who are persecuted, they care enough about God to live by Him, come what may

There’s a great tune out there called NEVER ENOUGH. It’s from the Greatest Showman.  The words….

All the shine of a thousand spotlights,
all the stars we steal from the night sky
will never be enough,
never be enough
Towers of gold are still to little,
these hands can hold the world,
but it will never be enough
never be enough
for me

And that’s how it is with us, too.  You know what is enough??  JESUS!  In him is our beatitude, our happiness, our fulfillment

 

The foot that wanted to be a hand: A homily for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

Today’s second reading is from St. Paul’s first-century letter to the parishioners in the Church in Corinth. It is, in large part, about envy. The foot that wants to become a hand.  The hand that wants to be a foot. The ear that wants to be an eye.

Envy is a deadly sin, one of the seven. St. Thomas Aquinas noted that envy is the only sin that isn’t fun. But now all sin is deadly, inasmuch as it cripples and even deadens the soul, inasmuch as it destroys more than we could possibly imagine.  But the deadly sins — also called capital sins — have a particularly deadly effect upon us.  The deadliness that is being addressed here by St Paul is the deadliness of envy.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience of knowing someone who suffers from envy…and you just look at them and wish you could tell them how you see them, how wonderful they are, how much goodness is within them….but they don’t see it. Envy has a way of making one feel like a piece of dirt.

But this envy was nothing new. It was in the Church in Corinth. We see it in the first pages of the bible. There was Cain who was envious of Abel: Cain was envious of Abel’s superior sacrifice.  Then there was the story of Jacob and his sons. Joseph was the youngest, and his father loved him in a particular way. The brothers were envious of this love. In both these cases, envy led our ancestors to do something unthinkable–to kill. There are countless stories of envy in the OT–and in the new. Remember the tenants in Jesus’ parables who always wanted what the others had. Remember how even some of the apostles became envious of each other, always wanting to be first in the Lord’s eyes and in his kingdom.

How can we fight against the deadly sin of envy?  Two things:

  1. Admiration – We should admire the qualities and gifts in others.  Yes, someone may have some advantage that I don’t have or some fortune that isn’t mine. Someone may have a personality trait that I wish were mine.  But God gives me my fair share. And we should admire those who have other things. Once a wise priest told me, “As I get older, I realize that everyone I meet is in some way better than I am–they’re cleverer than I am, they’ve done things I’ve not done, they have an insight into life I don’t have….”  What kills envy is being able to see in OTHERS God’s blessing
    .
  2. Rejoicing – In who you are!  The prophet Nehemiah says in our first reading: “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”  We rejoice in who God made us to be. I think it’s a healthy thing to say in a humble way, “There’s no one else I’d rather be!”  Because God has made me who I am. We should be secure in that, confident in the self that we have been made by God to be. That’s one thing we try to teach our kids at school here: to be self-confident…that is, to believe in themselves, to love the “self” God gave them.  Rejoicing in who WE are helps us then to rejoice in who OTHERS are….instead of being envious of them.

Our Gospel tells how, one day, Jesus entered the synagogue and read to a group of people who were suffering, deadened by sin and strife, who wished they had a different lot in life. It’s as though he is telling them, I love you so very much – and how I wish you could see it.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

That same Spirit is upon us! Now it’s our turn to and remind people how wonderful they are.

Their Three Gifts, Our Three Gifts: A homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

T50c3d55630c610d77731509e60dc63ea--christmas-nativity-scene-nativity-sceneshe Magi, the Wise men, the 3 Kings — whatever you want to call them — came with their gifts to the Lord. Isaiah said this would happen: “the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”

Tradition tells us the names of three of the magi, though there were likely more.  They came from 1500 miles away — what a journey!

Here’s what we know:

  1. Caspar, green cloak, King of Sheba, frankincense – represents WORSHIP
  2. Melchoir: gold cloak, King of Arabia, gold – represents our MATERIAL STUFF
  3. Balthazar, purple cloak, King of Egypt, myrrh – represents our BODIES (myrrh was used on dead bodies)

This year, each of us should give a gift in each of these things

  1. We must each give Jesus a WORSHIP gift…..a commitment to the daily rosary, to daily scripture reading, to a weekly holy hour
  2. We must each give Jesus a MATERIAL gift…maybe getting rid of shoes, or extra clothes, or extra books, or upping the weekly contribution $5, whatever….
  3. We must each give Jesus a BODY gift….maybe it’s doing something to take better car eof our bodies, maybe it’s using our bodies for Habitat for Humanity, maybe it’s using our bodies to hug a sibling or parent etc every day this year….

That all said, I bet the most important gift to Jesus from the three wise men was simply their presence.  These three guys were surely busy.  They were rich and powerful, probably quite handsome.  But they weren’t too rich, too smart, too busy, too powerful, too cool for Jesus.  Nope….they sacrificed quite a bit and made the journey all the way to the chlid Jesus.  Our greatest gift is our hearts, our lives…..and when we give THAT to Jesus, our heart, then we by happy consequence give to him all the frankincense (worhsip), all the gold (material stuff), all the myrrh (body) that we have…..

Why God came as a baby: A homily for Christmas

imagesThis year I’ve been reflecting on why exactly it might be that, when God came to us, he did so as a baby.  It seems illogical to our minds….wouldn’t it make more sense for the all powerful, almighty, all majestic God to come as superman, or batman, or a king, or GI Joe, etc??  But I think God came as a baby for some important reasons. I thought of three

  1. So we wouldn’t be afraid of him. We humans are often afraid of other humans. Sometimes we are afraid of each other. Sometimes we’re afraid to talk to those we don’t know, or our bosses, or those who are different from us. Middle schoolers are afraid to talk tot he boy or girl they like. But no one is afraid of a baby.  There is something innocent and calming about a baby.  God came as a baby so we wouldn’t be scared of him.  There’s a story of a farmer and his barn. There was a blizzard and a group of birds nearby were getting caught up in it. The farmer saw them and opened the door so that they could take refuge from the storm in his barn, but the birds didn’t enter…they were afraid of him, for he was a man and they were birds. Would that I could be a bird, he thought, for then I could — as one of them — tell them to trust me and follow me.  God came, not just looking like us, but as one of us, as a baby, in order that we might not be afraid but instead trust him
  2. God also came as a baby because a baby needs to be cared for. Fr Joe Moriarty tells of a school girl who was walking by an outdoor nativity set in the middle of a cold day. She took her scarf off to give it to JEsus.  HE asked her why. She said, “He must be cold.” Just as we must take care of a baby, we must take care of Christ. We do that when we take care of his body the church, and whne we take care of him inside one another. Jeuss lives in everyone. When we take acre of each other, we take care of Jeuss.
  3. God also came as a baby in order that we might love him.  Everyone loves a baby. Jesus want sthat  we love him.  If our love is not concrete, it is not real. How do you love Jesus?  Prayer? Sunday Mass? Sacraments? Scripture? It has to be all of that!  The states of the baby Jesus always have his arms extended out, embracing us. He wants nothign more than that we love him back.  Yesterday at the 4pm Mass with all the kids I had an idea given me by the Holy Spirit on the spot….I told the kids to take their hands, put them over their hearts, close their fist, and then throw their hearts to Jesus. I had his statue in front of me.  JEsus wants our hearts!  He wants that we love him!

May we always trust Jesus, take care of him, and love him!  Merry Christmas