Without Jesus, life has no meaning: A homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Kids-ClubToday’s first reading resonates with a lot of folks.  “Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?”  Job wonders…why are we here?  I eat, sleep, work.  Eat. Sleep. Work. Eat. Sleep. Work.  And so on.

Lots of young folks start to ask that question as they grow up.  Why are we here?  We go to school, so we can go to more school, and more school….and then a job, and another job.  What’s the point?  Why???

What gives it all meaning is love….and God is love.  Love is in the midst of it all.  When Jesus is there, love is part of everything.  He’s part of the school. Part of the work. Part of the family. Part of what otherwise would just be drudgery.

Can you imagine life without God?  A life without love?  (Remember…God = love).  My gosh it’s depressing.  It’s drudgery and nothing more.

But with God, with love…the life is worth it

That’s why people search for Jesus so naturally.  We need to know there is more.  We know we were made of something more.  And we discover that “more” in our Jesus.

Look at our Gospel.  I love this: “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door.”

They bring the sick, the searching and sorrowful to Jesus, and it turns out that’s everybody: the whole town shows up at his door.  Because we’re all looking for Jesus….because without Jesus life is meaningless!  Which is another way of saying, with love, life is meaningless!  There’s no joy, no love, no nothing…just Eat. Sleep. Work. Eat. Sleep. Work.

Praise Jesus now and forever….for all he gives us….for giving us himself!

The beauty of Catholic Schools: A homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

21616169_10109958530142629_6772128256187421009_nWe’ve been reading some interesting stories in our readings at daily Masses these past few days.  We’ve heard about Saul, the first king of Israel, and how he made so many mistakes that God appointed a new king….king David.  David made mistakes, too, but he was sorry for them, unlike his predecessor.  During Saul’s time, the Ark of the Covenant was put out of Israel. And then David takes over and says, as long as I’m king the Lord will be where the Lord belongs: in the middle.  And so there is a beautiful moment where David dances and buys meat and bread for everyone….he is overcome with joy….because the Ark of the covenant is being put back in the middle.  It would be like us here in Shelbyville without a tabernacle for 70 years.  I cannot imagine life without a tabernacle. David did the right thing in saying, God needs to be right in the middle.

A lot of people have done similar things down through the years.  Good parents do this with their children.  As for us in this house, we will pray before eating. We will read the bible. We will pray the rosary. We will love each other. God is in the middle of this house. I try to do that here in the parish, and it’s the same with a diocese….it is the bishop’s job to keep Jesus in the middle of everything.

I want to talk about a bishop who did that very well. A few days ago, Archbishop Daniel Beuchlein, OSB, went home to the Lord. Talk about a man who kept God in the middle of his diocese.  He did it in a thousand ways, largely through prayer.  He led this diocese on his knees.  And one of his greatest passions was Catholic schools.  That is, one of the best ways he knew to keep God in the middle of the diocese was through our Catholic schools. During his time, enrollment in Catholic schools went up 30,000 students. He loved them fiercely.

He had good reason to.  Now today begins Catholic Schools Week. We celebrate our schools. We celebrate their roots. In our Gospel today, we hear about Jesus going into the synagogues…which he did often.  A synagogue was different from a temple.  The temple had a priest, but the synagogue had a rabbi…a teacher.  A synagogue was a religion school.  Still a house of prayer, yes, but it was a place of learning.  In some ways, the temple was like this church and the synagogue was like the school that is attached to this church.

Religion schools have always been important.  They are biblical, historical, and canon law puts great value on them.  I always say, our school is important not just because we teach religion classes here (one of my favorite things I do here is teach religion to our fourth and fifth graders during the week), that is a given.  The most important thing is that this school has an atmosphere of prayer and faith and love…and our kids get to breathe that in every day.  They are immersed into it.  It seeps into you.  Our kids are happy, they have a huge hunger for Jesus.  I see it every day.  And the end result, what we hope for….is that because of our schools, our graduates will always keep Jesus in the center of their lives.

Back when the Catholic schools were opened, of course, our faith was very much on the fringes….the Protestant US was not happy with the Catholics.  So, in response, many wonderful saints built our school system so that the faith would remain in the middle.  Archbishop Daniel is one of those saints.

Jesus continues to teach through his body the church, and one of the best ways he does so is through our beautiful Catholic school system.  I want to thank you all for supporting  our school, especially the parents who place your kids here. It is a wonderful thing that you trust the Church to help you in your role as primary catechists in passing along the faith.  We can’t do the job for you, but thank you for letting us do the job with you. More than anything, this school is a school of love. I hope you kids know how much we love you!

There are too many lights out in the Church. Now burn!: A homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

lightbulb-2-e1467677005597The other day, this big light up here burned out, that one right up here in the center.  You’d be amazed at how much darker this place was without that light on.  It was crazy.  I got to reflecting: one lamp makes an awfully big difference.  Without one lamp, there is more darkness and less light.

I share this because:  You and I are lamps of the Church.   I’m not talking about a building of course, but the Church.  We are the lights.  And every light counts.

There are too many burned out bulbs in the church!   Too many lamps are not lit.  Too many are flickering.  Too many are dim.  Too many are flat out turned off.

And the Church suffers as a consequence.

Imagine someone in your life that means a lot to you. That person is a light for you. Without him or her, there would be a lot less light in your life.  Parents naturally feel this way about their children. “You are my light” they say to their son.

It is the same for us as sons and daughters of God. Every lamp matters to God!  Tomorrow marks that tragic anniversary of Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court’s decision that enables an entire class of people to be murdered.  We Catholics are loud against this and loud for life, because every light matters to God.

Every light counts!

Our job is two fold:

1) We need to make sure that our own lamp is burning brightly! Not flickering, not dim, but burning brightly.  For this we need a good prayer life, we need the sacraments, we need to live a life of service and charity, we need to be involved in the ministries of the church

2) We need to take a look and see which lamps are out in our own life. Who do we know that is not coming to church? Who can we invite to Jesus?  Who is burned out?  Jesus says in our Gospel: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” He wants us to bring people in to him, like fish in a net.  Too many people aren’t screwed in right.  Our job is to bring ’em all home–for the sake of their souls, and because the church is darker without them.  “We need you” we must tell them!  The power of an invitation.  Jonah did it in our first reading, and Nineveh was never the same.  It is not just the priest’s job to turn on the lights that are turned off. I’m not in the cubicles you are, the high school hallways you are.  God asks us, wherever we are in life:  bring me a catch.  Turn on the lights.  It is everyone’s job.

Let there be light in the church!

The real presence, God’s and ours: A homily for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

adI remember going to confession to a wonderful Dominican priest when I was at IU. I confessed that I had fallen asleep in adoration a few times.  Sad to say, this is not an infrequent confession for me!  Normally the priest says something like, “That’s ok, just rest in Jesus.” Not Fr. Stan.  He asked me, “Michael, do you want the real presence of Jesus?”  I said, “I guess so…that’s why I went to adoration in the first place.”  He said, “Just remember: God wants your real presence just as you want his.”

Boom.

Two things I want to consider:  1) our thirst of Jesus’ real presence and 2) his thirst for our real presence

1) Our thirst of Jesus’ real presence

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “What are you looking for?”  Everyone is looking for God. Because everyone is looking for love, for happiness, for meaning, for salvation and redemption, for peace….and Jesus is all those things.  Some don’t know they’re looking for God…for his real presence…but everyone is.  Chesterton: Even the man in the brothel is looking for love.  We are all hungering for Jesus’ real presence.  We may not know it, but we are. Our job is to look for him, to hunger for his presence, to want him and put that want and desire in the hearts of our kids!

2) God’s thirst for our real presence

On the cross, Jesus says “I thirst” …. he is thirsting for us.  He calls Samuel a bunch of times!  Finally Samuel gets it, who is calling.  But you gotta give it to him…he gets out of bed when he hears his name. He doesn’t wait for tomorrow, he doesn’t put it off.  To give God our real presence we need to be attentive to him, with our spiritual antennas raised up…and then we need to ACT!  Samuel gets up immediately. Andrew in our gospel hears a prompting from the Lord to invite his brother Peter to Jesus, and he doesn’t doubt…doesn’t ask, what will he think of me? what if he doesn’t want to?  Nope..Andrew hears that prompting and does something. Because he did, Peter met Jesus and we got a pope.  Paul says in our second reading….you gotta give Jesus your body!  He uses the word body 7 times.  You love Jesus?  Prove it by what you do with your hands, your feet, your mind, your heart….prove it!  You can’t give your life, your real presence to the Lord without giving him your bodies!

Fr Meyer teaches the beautiful 5 second rule….whenever you know God is calling you to do something, count back from 5 and do it…or at least get started on it.  If we don’t, we forget about it and fail to give God our full selves, our real presence.

To give God our real presence….which he wants….we must be attentive to promptings and do what he asks…concretely!!!

We need a group, a star, and some gifts: A homily for the Epiphany (Year B)

camels-1150075_1920Today, as we close the Christmas season, we celebrate the three wise men, the three kings, the magi–whatever you want to call them!  Their presence in our Christian story teaches us a lot…I want to focus on three things.

We need a group.  We really don’t know how many there were in the group with the Magi. We do know there were three for sure–Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar–but there is lots of speculation that there were many more with them.  Their journey from Persia to Bethlehem was about from here to San Antonio–about 1500 miles.  On a camel.  Caspar never would have made it without the other two…and the same for them.  We need a group to get to Jesus.  That is truth!  That is why God gives us families, why he gives us parishes, why he gives us groups within parishes.  We need holy friends to get to Jesus, to inspire us, to keep us going.  The journey is too long for us to make on our own.

We need a star. Without the star in the sky, the wise men wouldn’t have known where to go. The same is true for us. The Catholic Church is our star!  Without the Church, we are lost.  And if we ever want to reach the Lord–just as the kings wanted so desperately to reach him–then we need to look to our star, the Church!  We look to her timeless teachings, her doctrines of love, her precepts and commandments. So long as we look to the star of the Church and follow after her beaming light, we’ll get to the Good Lord in no time.

We need gifts.  God forbid we should show up to the Lord empty handed one day!  We give Jesus our everything.  That is the lesson of these kings.  Caspar’s gift is incense–a symbol of the devotion, prayers, and heart we are to give to God.  Melchior brought the gold–a sign of the temporal goods we give to God, including our money.  Balthazar gives the myrrh, the stuff used over bodies when someone died. It’s a symbol that we give Jesus our bodies, our lives. They don’t belong to us anyway!

My friends, we need a group, we need the star, we need gifts!  Praise the Lord he gives us everything we need!  There’s a great line in Eucharistic Prayer I about how we give to God what he himself has given to us.  In other words, even our gifts–it’s all God’s!  Praise the Lord.  Together may we follow after the star, may we seek Jesus and give him everything.  He is worth it.

Rejoicing in the Lord: A homily for the Third Sunday of Advent (B)

IMG_3912Today is Gaudate Sunday, Rejoice Sunday.  It is a day set aside to rejoice.  The color is a nice rose, because rose is a mix between the Christmas white and the Advent purple.  We are getting close. I think about Blessed Mother at this time and the joy she must have had in knowing she was about to give birth, not just to her precious baby boy, but to the savior of the world.  What joy!  Today we share in that.

Our psalm today is a bit different from normal. The response we chanted was from the Gospel of Luke. We echoed Mary’s words: “My soul rejoices in you my God.”  Isaiah says the same thing “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.”  And St Paul tells us the same.

Notice the theme–we are to rejoice IN THE LORD.  There is a human tendency to rejoice in earthly things: money, nice car, promotion, so on.  I just got a new pair of shoes the other day. I kind of feel like a new man when I get a new pair of shoes.  But it would be silly of me to rejoice in these shoes.  Because they will not last forever.  The time will come when they will no longer be shiny, when they will have holes.  If my joy were tied to my shoes, or anything in particular, then my joy is contingent upon something of the world.  Parties are great, bu they come to an end. New cars are nice, but they will break down one day.  Popularity comes and goes, and so do looks.  Even hair doesn’t last forever.  It is silly to rejoice in these things.

It’s not that they’re bad things.  There are many great and holy things to celebrate and rejoice in.  For example, this rosary.  I just got it the other day.  I visited the hospital twice on Thursday, and the first time there was this woman. She had this rosary in her hands. I said, “What a beautiful rosary!”  She told me how it changed colors when was praying it once. I’ve heard such stories before.  She insisted I take it.  I also got a few other rosaries that mean a lot to me, because some of our kids made them in rosary club for me.  I am deeply touched.  These are sacred things, but it wouldn’t be quite right to rejoice in the thing itself.  What happens if I lose one of them?  Or if it breaks? Or if there is an emergency and I need to give it to someone?   Our ultimate rejoicing, we save that for the Lord.  I appreciate these rosaries and will treat them with care, and I can rejoice in them…but only inasmuch as they help me with my relationship with the Mary, and ultimately with the Lord.  In him is my ultimate joy.

Even with people!  In a way, we should of course all rejoice in one another, love one another.  But people sometimes let us down, they do foolish and hurtful things.  Sometimes they flat out leave us in the dust. And people don’t last forever.  We have a family in our Hispanic community who just lost a 3 week old baby.  People don’t last forever.  While we should take joy in being with others and love them deeply, our ultimate rejoicing is in the Lord!

Because the Lord is always there.  He is our origin and our destiny, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.  We have the Lord always.  Here, at this table, is our ultimate joy.  So we don’t get the new job, or the raise doesn’t come through, or we get a B instead of an A….we still have the Lord, and because of that we can still rejoice.  No matter what might come.

A last thing.  Today’s feast is less about “getting joy” and more about “giving joy.”  If our joy is rooted in the Lord, then we must give people the Lord.  We must spread him.