Thursday, January 26, 2012

3rd Sunday 2012 Homily

This weekend, I had the flu, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Needless to say my homily preparation wasn't the best. Thankfully, there are good priests out there with other homilies. When you cite something it isn't plagiarized, right?

Father Robert Barron has a great ministry online, Word On Fire. His youtube clips, numbering over 200, are amazing, covering popular culture on many topics. His audio homilies are also great. This weekend I used his homily on Jonah. Listen to it here.

To summarize Father Barron's homily, and my own sickly effort, I would focus on four lessons when reading the book of Jonah.
  1. God's will always seems difficult.
  2. We can't escape from God.
  3. When we do God's will He always provides fruit- even fruit we don't expect.
  4. We must be on guard against self-righteousness.
God's will seems difficult because it calls us beyond our nature. That is in the meaning of the word itself: supernatural, above our nature. A good way of wondering whether something is God's will or plan for us is to ask: "Which one seems impossible to me, by myself?"

We can't escape from God because he is more than a location. Read through Psalm 139 sometime to read someone's own prayer on this mystery. Jonah can't sail away and we can't get away either.

God provides fruit to our labor when we do His will. Jonah didn't expect the hardened enemy of Israel- Nineveh- to repent but they did. What fruit might God want to bring about in your life.

Finally, be on guard against self-righteousness. We begin to think WE are the ones we have been waiting for. If you encounter self-righteousness in someone else that prevents you from conversion, deeper spiritual growth, or anything in your faith life- ignore them. God desires the humble and contrite of heart to approach Him. "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do!"

Cross posted at

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Christmas Break and Purgatory

As a priest witha disposition for apologetics and teaching, I'm always looking for new ways to illustrate truths of the faith. In my three years of working with college students a new light has shone for me in regard to explaining purgatory. Christmas break. Christmas break is useful because it exposes tendencies and habits- which, depending on their nature, we call virtue or vice. If we do not understand our humanity in terms of habit, virtue, and vice, we will not understand the mercy that is purgatory.

Many students go on Christmas break with an appetite and expectation for a heavenly experience. It is a blessed time free from outside trial and tribulation- especially after the crucible of final exams. There is no thing out side fo them which would cause them distress or sadness. Yet they often return from break with one or even several regrets about wasted opportunity. Where does the problem occur? Too many obligations? No. Too many stressers? No.

The difficulty lies within. Our tendencies or habits are what keep us from having the Christmas break we desire. It are those habits and especially our vices that the mercy of purgatory removes from us. Then we are truly free to enjoy the Divine blessing of heaven. Frank Sheed, in his smartly titled Theology and Sanity speaks of it as "spiritual gravity."

Next time you wonder about Purgatory, consider the spiritual gravity within you and how you are not simply in love with God. You are complex, a mixture of love of God and love of self. If that mixture is not purified on this earth, thanks be to God he will purify us before heaven. That is why I am grateful for Purgatory.

Cross posted at SDState Newman Center.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mother of God 2012

t is the 8th day of Christmas. As Catholic, on the major feasts we say that the day is SUCH a day of joy and honor that they spill over from the day itself and into the next seven days. Today is the seventh of those seven and so the eight day of Christmas. It is also New Years Day. It is good for us to consider our New Year’s resolutions. Finally, this 8th day of Christmas, New Year’s day is also the feast of the Mother of God. Let’s look at New Year’s resolutions in light of the Mother of God.

It makes sense to contemplate a son and also his mother. We don’t think of babies floating in midair we think of babies held by mothers. A parishioner of mine has a Christmasflag on her house that has the Virgin holding the Son. A baby, even a baby Jesus, floating in midair looks odd and strikes us as wrong. Babies need mothers.

Mothers don’t pick their babies and babies don’t pick their mothers. A mother may choose to be open to life in the marriage embrace with her husband but she does not choose the specific baby she will receive. Neither does a child choose their specific mother. Warts, wrinkles, birthmarks are all up to God’s providence and not up to them.

In Jesus it is different. Mary is the Mother he chooses. God chooses his own mother- a perk of being God who becomes incarnate. But Mary also chooses Jesus, earlier in Luke’s gospel we hear that she is told who her son will be: wonder-counselor, God forever, Son of David who will sit on the throne. While she does not perfectly know him she does know and does say “yes.”

But we are called Christians- we call ourselves Christians! What is a Christian but a “little Christ?” So if Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of Christ than she is our Mother as well. And so Jesus says so on the Cross in John 19: “Son behold your Mother, Mother, behold your son. And from that moment the disciple took her into his home.” Mary loves her son, wherever he is found—we hear in the Gospel today that Mary “ponders all these things in her heart.” This means that her love for her son knows no bounds. She even loves the little Jesus who was born in us by our baptism, our spiritual adoption by God.

Even if we have mistreated or ignored this “little Christ” in our spirit, Mary has not for she ponders all things. Not just the Jesus who is strong and full but even the weak life of Jesus that we neglect and do not nourish. So how about a New Year’s Resolution?

Spend more time with your mother. Spend time as a child of Mary. Children do not start wars, children do not cheat people out of their life’s savings, like Jesus, live as a child of Mary. If we spent more time in our mother’s arms, we’d have less violence, addictions, sadness and boredom—both in us and in the world. Spend time with Mary.

Do you pray the Rosary? Start. Start with a decade a day. If you pray a bit of it now, pray a bit more—maybe several days a week. One opportunity to play in our Mother’s arms will be a devotion I will offer for the parish in February: the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary of St. Louis Marie de Montfort. This time-tested devotion—a favorite of Blessed Pope John Paul II and our own Bishop Swain, will begin right before Lent on February 20th and end on March 25th. It will begin gradually and grow in intensity.

Jesus spent his first years on this earth in the arms of Mary, let us spend this year as her children and His brothers and sisters.

Posted at Pius XII Newman Center as well.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Homily

Christmas is more than a night of wishes; it is a night of hope. I have four hopes on this Christmas night.

I hope that all of us here have had the privilege of, at one time or another, holding an infant child in our arms. I also hope that all of us have not only felt the weight, the warmth, and the movement that speaks of a tiny person but have also encountered the mystery in that baby. The mystery of how the 8 pounds in your arms may some day affect the fates of many in the world, for good or for ill. I remember when I first really encountered the mystery. I was a high school student, holding my cousin Debbie’s first-born daughter, Katie. There is a picture of it, somewhere, my clean-shaven chin, teenage complexion, 1990s glasses, and a Texas A&M ball cap.

Here is a life, a mysterious and helpless life! Mysterious because, though it is known in the mind of God, it is unknown
to ours, as we smell the baby powder and gentle detergents. Helpless because, though it is a life full of promise, it is a life full of peril, a child has no defense of it’s own and is completely at the mercy of others, not just for a moment but for years.

I want you to imagine that helpless mystery for a moment. Perhaps it is your first born child, a brother or sister, anyone. Maybe it was every child you’ve held. Take a moment to relish that mystery and memory with me.

I have another hope. I hope that all of us here have had the privilege of, at one time or another, encountering the majesty of God in creation. Maybe it was the grand spectacle of the Rocky Mountains, the deep power of the ocean tide, or some other wild beauty that was caused by no human hand. I remember the thrill of fishing my dad. It was a rainy Saturday in April, I was in grade school, and we were at Lake Yankton. I was bored and standing off a hundred yards or so when he yelled: “Get the net!” The adrenaline pounded in my veins as I ran and helped land the monster. There’s a picture too, my dad and I at home, holding the fish that we caught.

I knew, in my child’s heart, that there were things in this world bigger than myself. Can you remember a moment of that awe and reverence? Take a moment to relish that mystery and memory with me.In the miracle of Christmas we recall that most unimaginable of surprises. God made these to mysteries meet. Tiny, helplessness and untold future meet majestic grandeur of unfathomable
richness. This is the miracle of Christmas. God, who is mighty beyond all motions on this earth, takes upon the real robes of human flesh, flesh that can starve, bleed, and die.

I have another hope. I hope that this Christmas you will better understand this mystery. I hope that you will answer the invitation of the Church to savor this mystery. We savor good food and good times because we don’t want them to end. We rush through lunch at work but we linger over a Christmas ham. Linger over this mystery now and in the days to come. Think back on the divine meeting of these two fundamental truths. The truth of the mighty and invisible God enrobed in the helpless and visible child. Behold it like Mary, like the shepherds, like Joseph but behold it all the same. In a few moments, as we bless the crèche and whenever you kneel before it, I hope you will relish the mystery.

I have a final hope. I hope that you will understand how this same mighty God has entered into your own soul and flesh. Wonder also how it comes to be, that God, almighty, will enter into your sinful self. We can contemplate a helpless baby; can we contemplate our helpless soul? We can contemplate God in the mighty ocean; can we contemplate God in our baptized soul? In a few minutes more, after you have received Holy Communion, my final hope is that you will relish this mystery of God become man, not just in Bethlehem—the house of bread—but that he might enter under the roof of your soul in the appearance of bread.

I hope.

Cross posted at Pius XII Newman Website