Sunday, August 31, 2008

Homily for 22nd Sunday Year A

I can still remember the last time I grew vertically. I’ve grown a lot horizontally since then, sometimes in and sometimes out, but the last time I grew in height was almost 10 years ago. I remember that I had grown because I was surprised. I came home from college for a break and before I even said hello to my parents or was tackled by my dog, I noticed. I stepped in our side door, looked at our fridge and thought- “I’m not that tall, am I?” I was so surprised that I had to ask whether my parents had gotten a new refrigerator. I quickly realized that it was not our fridge, but me who had changed.

Change is part of all human life. Sometimes we change without even being aware of it, but we all experience change. Sometimes it is physical, other times mental, emotional and yes, spiritual. But not all change is good. St. Paul concerns himself with change, and today he tells us about two types of change: to be conformed to the world or to be transformed by the renewal of our mind.

Conformity to the world can be gradual or sudden, partial or total. Conformity of the world happens when we choose to do things apart from or against Christ and His Church. The spirit of the world tells us to make ourselves the ultimate and final judge of good and evil- just as Satan told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Christ transforms us by the renewal of our minds, we choose all things by His judgment. The Spirit of Christ is one of obedience, following Scripture and the Church’s teaching.

St. Paul’s words mean that there is a right way and a wrong way to every part of human life. Even though we have been baptized, confirmed, and have received the Eucharist, we may not be right. We are Catholics, yes, but we can be bad Catholics. There is a good and right Catholic way to do all things: business, dating, fishing, music, even politics in any party, every human activity can be done in a good and right Catholic way. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of all under Heaven and on Earth, so to believe in Him is to allow Him to lay claim to everything we do.

Look at St. Peter in today’s Gospel. Just last week, in verse 16, he confesses that Jesus is the Christ, just last week, in verse 18 and 19 Jesus makes him the first Pope, and now, in verse 22, Peter tries to correct Jesus. “I believe that you are Lord, but I think you’ve got the wrong idea!” He is judging Jesus according to the spirit of this world and so Peter receives the harsh rebuke: “Get behind me Satan…you are thinking not as God does but as humans beings do.” Peter allowed himself to be conformed by this age, by the spirit of the world. How much more must we be on guard?

It is easy to go through life with gradual change that we never notice. St. Paul begs us, by the mercy of God, that we would live attentive, deliberate Catholic lives. Let us never be caught unawares in our sin, in our conformity to the spirit of the world. Let us make sure that every action, every choice, and every aspect of our life strives for the Spirit of Christ. Let us never forget that Christ desires to transform us; especially through the Sacraments of Confession and Mass. So let us turn to the Lord with confidence.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nancy Pelosi Muddies the Water

I'm a little busy on Sunday mornings, so you'll forgive me for not watching Meet the Press, but it has come to my attention that Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic and current House Speaker, made bold comments on Catholic Tradition and abortion. I'm not going to break it down, because Ireneaus did at Catholidoxy, please read his thorough post.

What Speaker Pelosi is trying to do is muddle the water for faithful Catholics who are trying to make difficult decisions. Most distressing to me is not political ramifications but eternal- what scared young woman, or man, or couple watching or reading this news might think it is okay to receive an abortion in their difficult pregnancy? Further, what eternal responisibility might Ms. Pelosi bear for permitting young people to make this sad decision?

Pray for Speaker Pelosi.
Pray for the Bishops to correct her false assumption.
Pray for those encouraged to abort by Speaker Pelosi's statement.

Homily for 21st Sunday Year A

The Olympics are almost over and Michael Phelps will soon be on a Wheaties box. If you have watched any of it: from swimming and track to basketball and softball, you might have heard about the Olympic spirit. The modern Olympics were founded in the early 20th century to build a “better world [through] mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play.” This is certainly something we all can aim towards, isn’t it? But how well do the Olympics accomplish its goal?

While I was in Sydney, Australia, for the World Youth Day, I figured I would ask Sydney’s residents how this event compared with the 2000 Olympics that were also held in Sydney. It turned out to be an interesting question as the 2008 Olympics were on their minds already.

An interesting pattern emerged. It didn’t matter whether I spoke with Catholics or non-Catholics for all of them found the World Youth Day to be friendlier, more unified, and more inviting than the Olympics. Why? What is different from a World Youth Day and an International Olympics? Aren’t they both large international gatherings of friendship and solidarity?

One Sydney resident said that the Olympic athletes, while friendly and jovial at the beginning, soon focused on themselves. They had their events, their work, and their country to honor. World Youth Day pilgrims, on the other hand, didn’t care which flag you carried or which language you spoke, they all came to worship Jesus Christ.

There is the difference and there is the gift! As Catholics we can offer the world something that no one else, not even other Christian denominations can offer. We can offer them a real, in-the-flesh person to represent and to point us toward Jesus- the Pope.

World Youth Day pilgrims were united because we had a short, quiet, bookish 81-year-old celibate man to rally around. We rallied around Pope Benedict because he pointed us to Jesus Christ. Olympic athletes rally around human triumph or amazing human achievement-, which is good-, but they stop at the human. A pope points to something beyond human experience. A pope represents Jesus Christ. At the final Mass, with 500,000 souls attending and praying, you could look out over the crowd and see thousands of flags: African, South American, Asian flags, and flags from everywhere. Every tribe and tongue, people and nation was united in praise of Jesus Christ, united with Pope Benedict.

In today’s Gospel we hear about how Simon becomes Peter, about how Jesus Christ gives us his representative; we hear about the Pope. Peter becomes the Pope not because he is smart, good looking, witty, or athletic. Peter becomes the Pope because he identifies Jesus as Lord of Heaven and Earth, as the Messiah. Peter becomes Pope to lead, guide, and strengthen the one Church of Jesus Christ.

It is because of the gift of the Pope that we can be united on earth worshipping Jesus Christ. As Catholics we receive a foretaste of heavenly unity when we gather around our Pope and Bishops. We don’t have to worry whether we speak English, Spanish, or Swahili; we have one Lord Jesus Christ and One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. We don’t even have to worry if we are from Groton, Fredrick, or Warner- we have one Lord Jesus Christ and One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. Every tribe and tongue, people and nation in the Church is led by one Pope to worship one Lord.

Let us pray for our Pope Benedict, that after preaching to us about Jesus he may live that same faith. Let us pray for Catholics and Christians who don’t like or understand the gift of the Pope, that they see him as Christ’s gift for our unity of faith and action. Let us pray for ourselves that we may be grateful for our Holy Father and that we too may join with St. Peter and the whole Catholic Church as we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and God.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Render unto Caesar...a taste

"Today, in practice, all political parties have self-described Catholics who are willing to trade their religious and moral convictions for power. All political parties have parts of their platforms that fly in the face of Catholic teaching. And all political parties contain Catholics who like to keep their personal faith tucked safely away at home. This is why Thomas More has so much to teach us, even today: He always placed the moral content of an issue before factional loyalty and personal interests." [emphasis in original]

Archbishop Charles Chaput, Render unto Casesar

Help a Catholic Campus

Recent days have seen a story circulating the web regarding the University of San Diego, a Catholic University, that has rescinded the appointment of a pro-abortion faculty member. Sign an online petition to support and encourage the University of San Diego in their efforts to publicly uphold the Catholic faith.

Here are a couple articles on the story.

American Papist
American Papist part 2

Creative Minority Report
Creative Minority Report part 2

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"No we can't..."

On the First Things Blog, Archbishop Chaput has a well thought article on Abortion:
Third and finally, national campaigns—of every political party—always run on the language of hope, change, and the American Dream. This makes sense. Our leaders should inspire us; they should stir our hearts and call us to live the ideals that make America great. But sometimes the answer to the realities we face is not “yes, we can,” but “no, we can’t.” No, we can’t spend money like hedonists and outrun our debts forever. No, we can’t ignore the poor of the Third World and expect to be loved abroad. No, we can’t allow the killing of roughly one million unborn children a year and then posture ourselves as a moral society. No, we can’t make wicked things right by spinning them in a clever way.
While we're at it, order his new book- Render Unto Caesar- it is very compelling.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homily for 20th Sunday Year A

It’s August 16th, and by some people’s counting, the summer is almost over. There are just a few hours left of the Brown County Fair and soon we will need a new excuse for fried food. Soon, the temperature will drop and we will long for 88 degrees! And, since I want the young people to listen to this homily, I won’t even mention the start of school on Thursday. Yes, THIS Thursday.

Yes, summer is ending and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Instead, we can try to meet the year ahead with a plan, a dream, and an expectation. To prepare for the coming fall and everything that is with it: school, Bazaar, and more- we need to look at the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel.

What can we say about her faith?

As a Canaanite woman she is a lower class citizen in two ways: she is a woman and comes from a backward people. There is very little hope for a person like this- few people if any treat her with respect. This might seem forward to us today in our world of information and telephones, but even today, in India and China, baby girls are being aborted simply because they are girls, and many people struggle to be accepted because of their country of origin.

Yet despite the odds stacked against her, she pushes toward the front the crowd, probably struggling against the various villagers telling her to be still, quiet, and to keep her thoughts to herself. Soon she cries out “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” What a personal revelation, instead of protecting herself, puffing herself up, she reveals her weakness! Her daughter, her dear one is afflicted by a demon.

Jesus’ refusal isn’t callous, cold, or cruel, but a statement of his mission at that time. The Canaanite woman pushes herself forward. Jesus’ response may seem cruel, but it is a description of his mission to the People of Israel that precedes his mission to the rest of the world after his Resurrection. He uses an analogy and says “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Her response is beautiful. We might be put off, we might protest and walk away- but her faith endures and she says, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” And then our Lord heals the woman’s daughter.

So what is our lesson as we leave summer? What can we say about our faith?

There are many people and politicians who say that faith should be private. Maybe even some of us here believe that our faith should not influence the rest of our lives. None of us doubt that our faith should be personal: intensely touching everything that makes us who we are, just like this Canaanite woman. But what if that Canaanite woman had kept her faith silent and private? What if she had separated her faith from her outward life? This fall is a new beginning. What miracle, what justice does our Lord look to accomplish through your personal and public faith?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Solemn Feast of the Assumption

On this Solemn Feast of the Assumption of Mary, we remember that our Lord Jesus drew her to himself at the end of her life. For my homily I want to share with you Pope Benedict’s words on the Blessed Mother as he introduced the Angelus at the end of the World Youth Day in Australia. [If you notice, he is introducing the Angelus as a prayer for the youth of the world.]

“[In the Angelus,] we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, if you will, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

…We too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship, [whether in our Baptism and Confirmation, our religious vows, our marriage vows or our ordination vows]. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Archbishop Burke, a true Pastor

St. Louis prepares to say goodbye to Archbishop Raymond Burke, who has been reassigned to seve the Vatican. Archbishop Burke has been a polemical figure in St. Louis and in national Catholic discussions. Unfortunately many of his pastoral efforts have been maligned. Here is one beautiful send off in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
He regards himself as the guardian of a faith he did not invent, a faith he has no right to reinvent when its teachings fall out of fashion. A shepherd in this mold defends gospel values and church teachings, whether convenient or inconvenient.

Such pastors rarely become media darlings. But they do make a difference. After fewer than five years, Burke will leave St. Louis with bursting-at-the-seams seminary enrollment, a reinvigorated pro-life movement, stirrings of liturgical renewal and a flock that no longer can plead ignorance about what the Catholic Church teaches.

This legacy — along with Burke's down-on-the-farm humility, self-deprecating humor and habit of sticking around a gathering to greet every person who wants to say hello — has won him more fans than most press reports suggest. They know from firsthand experience what a true pastor is: a man who cares enough to tell them the truth, no matter how unpopular it may be.
Please read it all by clicking here and supporting good journalism.

HT to St. Louis Catholic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Render unto Caesar...

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has just released a new book- Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. L'Osservatore Romano, the official paper of the Vatican published a review, which you can find in English through Chiesa. Do read the review. Here are some snippets:
One can read the book on several levels, each illuminating the other. The first level is indicated by the book’s subtitle: “serving the nation by living our Catholic beliefs in political life.”
...Archbishop Chaput’s own conviction finds expression with these words: "The Church claims no right to dominate the secular realm. But she has every right – in fact an obligation – to engage secular authority and to challenge those wielding it to live the demands of justice. In this sense, the Catholic Church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay 'out of politics.' Politics involves the exercise of power. The use of power has moral content and human consequences. And the well-being and destiny of the human person is very much the concern, and the special competence, of the Christian community (pp. 217-218).

Thus the second level at which the book may be read is as an appeal to American Catholics to recover a robust and comprehensive understanding of their own faith tradition.
...In effect, Archbishop Chaput is setting before his compatriots the same challenge that St. Paul posed to his fellow citizens of the Roman Empire. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

Lastly, the third level at which the book may be read is as a reading of the Second Vatican Council.
...The Archbishop declares: “The Catholic Church is a web of relationships based on the most important relationship of all: Jesus Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist for our salvation. None of us earns the gift of Christ’s love. None of us ‘deserves’ the Eucharist” (p. 223). In a final chapter the author engages some pressing pastoral issues regarding access to the Eucharist on the part of public figures who advocate positions the church holds to be intrinsically evil, like abortion. The Archbishop’s approach is both pastorally sensitive and theologically cogent. It will help bring clarity to the ongoing conversation and discernment in this delicate matter – one which must be addressed for the sake of the integrity of the faith.
I'm buying my own copy. Do yourself and your country a favor and buy it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh my...

I can't even begin to comment. Though some of the sentiments expressed by these Japanese brides is not dissimilar to their American counterparts.

Or maybe I'm just grumpy today.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

But its legal...

I was wasting some time on a glorious Sunday evening and rewatched the preview for Grassroots: The Human Experience. The quote that stuck with me remains:

"Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don't mean to get political but this comes to mind...

***Graphic Image of Aborted Child***

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Homily for 18th Sunday Year A

My dad was an accountant, he was good accountant, and in fact he was a professor of accountancy at Mt. Marty in Yankton. Numbers, balances and ledgers were his play ground- he knew where things came for and where they went. What is accountant concerned with? Making sure everything “zeroes” out- right? At the end of the day they want the input and output to be in balance. This is good for businesses- even for our diet- but it isn’t a good image of God.

God is not some Divine Accountant- measuring out our actions and his responses so that everything is even. Our relationship with God is not a zero-sum game. There is no “even-Steven” in the life of Christ. God will always give us more!

Consider our Gospel today. What do the people give Jesus? He goes off for some alone time after the death of John the Baptist- to pray and receive consolation from the Heavenly Father. What does he receive but a crowd of 5000 men and even more women and children who come clamoring for him? They come to him needing everything; they come to Jesus with nothing to offer. For crying out loud they didn’t even bring food!
So what does Jesus do? Does he act as the divine accountant and say: “You didn’t bring me anything so I can give you nothing.” No. Does he say: “You have one loaf and so I’ll give you one more.” No. When they come to him with 5 loaves and 2 fishes for probably 10,000 people he gives them more than they could possibly desire! He gives them beyond their hunger, beyond their capacity to receive!

Today’s Gospel passage is an image of the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist. God will always give us more than we have given him. We come here on Sunday and we give God one hour of our life. We give God some percentage of the money we earn. And we often give those gifts in distracted or half-hearted ways. Yet what does he give us in return? He gives us his very body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Once he’s given his very self he can’t give us anything more!

He gives us everything and yet we are afraid to come near him. We are afraid to follow his teachings on married love, we are afraid to follow his teachings on confession, we are afraid to follow his teaching on the poor, we are afraid. I am afraid- I still struggle to give myself completely to him, yet I know he cares for me so much that I can feel spoiled. Spoiled!

At this Mass, as we receive God’s full gift of himself, let us remember those obstacles in our life that prevent us completely giving ourselves to him. Let us not be shy or think he cannot overcome them, but let us offer those difficulties, distractions, and struggles on this altar of sacrifice. Let us remember those original apostles who were just as afraid but still received the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember that God cannot be outdone in generosity and so in confidence let us turn to the Lord.