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

Mice & silence: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (C)

downloadThis year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the song Silent Night. It was written in just a few hours–both the words and the tune. A man from a little church in Austria composed it in 1818 because the church organ cords had been chewed apart the night before….by mice.  What a story!  Three thoughts about this tune and its story.

  1. We should thank God for the mice in our lives. The song Silent Night has touched athe hearts and souls of so many.  We wouldn’t have the song today had the mice not done their work. There are people in our lives that drive us crazy, they annoy us, frustrate us, disappoint us, etc.  There are situations in our lives that are mice like.  But folks, on the other side, if we’re patient through it…is something beautiful, as beautiful as the song Silent Night.
  2. The song Silent Night tells of how God came to us.  Union with God has always been a desire of the human being.  Fulton Sheen points out that there’s only two possibilities as to how this can happen: either we go up to God, or God comes down to us. Christianity, Sheen notes, is the only religion to say that God comes down to us. The other ones, they insist that we humans must do this or that, and THEN we can be with God.  Christianity claims the opposite: it’s God who takes the initiative and comes down to us.  Now we have to RESPOND to this of course, but what a relief that the burden isn’t on us!
  3. Silence.  We all need silence.  JEsus was born in the silence; he entered the scene in silence.  He still enters our lives in silence.  From 2pm today until 2pm tomorrow (Christmas Eve), all are welcome to come to St Joe for adoration.  The trees will be lit, the lights nice and dim, and Jesus will be exposed. Drop by for some silence. I’ll be hearing confessions from 2pm until 9pm today, too.

Some things we know about Jesus’ Kingship: A homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

thA few things to note on this feast of Christ the king!

  1. Jesus is a permanent king.  All the other kings of this world have fallen away. Some have been tyrants and some have been considered gods, but all fall away. Except Jesus is different.  His reign lasts forever. Davidic Covenant.
  2. Jesus is the universal king.  Jesus IS the king — and not just of the Jews, but of the entire universe. First reading–all nations, languages,peoples. Jesus came for all! That’s why we’re the CATHOLIC (universal) church
  3. Jesus is a supernatural king. He is king here, but also a king of heaven. The kingdom is ultimately not of this world… His kingdom should help to shape our kingdom here. The world shouldn’t shape the kingdom; the kingdom shapes the world.
  4. Jesus is a legitimate king. Because he’s God.  As such, he has authority over us. We are meant to obey him. Now a word about authority and obedience.  We don’t much like these words these days. It strikes us as politically incorrect to say that we must be obedient to anyone or anything. I decide what is right and wrong, thank you very much – it’s not for anyone else.  Freedom in our day is described as license …. the right to do whatever you please.  Prodigal son understood freedom that way – and he was left miserable and bankrupt.  But that is how our culture tends to think these days. No one can limit me – no restraints, no boundaries, no limits!

    But let’s analyze that way of thinking for a minute.  Because I think we do understand it in different contexts.  We know there are rules, there are certain things we really should obey.  Example: my fish tank.  The glass are the rules, the boundaries; inside the thing, the fish live happily and safely.  Without the glass walls, the water would be everywhere and they’d die.  Another example: Basketball – how could you play a game without lines on the court?  It’d be impossible.  BUT!!  There are also lines on the moral field too!  boundaries within which we are meant to live life.  We call them a lot of things – the teachings of the church, the ten commandments, the precepts of the church…the basic lines on the field, the requirements ………  BTW – let’s review those precepts!  The precepts are the minimum requirements for the moral life–
    1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.
    2.You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
    3.You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season.
    4.You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
    5.You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

    But of this I am sure:  Life is infinitely better when we live as Christ invites us to live.  Jesus’ kingship is not of oppression, but freedom!  I wonder if any of my fish every think: maybe I should jump out.  But then they’d die — and that’s what happens to our souls when we jump out of God’s ways.

  5. Jesus is also a personal king.  Which means we have to say it:  JESUS IS KING OF MY LIFE. Pilate says to Jesus today, “So you‘re the king!?” And Jesus to Pilate:  “Are you saying this on your own or have others been telling you about me?” (John 18:34)  Msgr Pope notes that we must acknowledge PERSONALLY that Jesus is MY king.  He isn’t just king of the universe out there, but he is king of my life. It isn’t enough to say that, “My mom believes he’s the king” or “my priest believes Jesus is king.”  No….Jesus looks us in the eyes and says:  Do YOU acknowledge me as king???!!   If so……your life will prove it.   When JESUS is my personal king, he king of everything!!  My calendar, my family, my checkbook, my friendships, my Friday evenings, the books I read, etc.

Viva Cristo Rey! Que Viva!