Friday, September 14, 2012

The Cross of Christ: my hope, my salvation, my glory.

Today is the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Holy Cross of our Lord and savior was venerated from the beginning of the Christian mystery. Think of how St. Paul speaks of the wisdom of the Cross in 1st Corinthians and in so many other references in his letters. The Cross is more than a sign it is something that has become holy and worthy of our attention. "Cursed is a man who hangs on a tree," Jesus reversed that curse in his saving death and the accursed tree has now become the Tree of Life.

This feast commemorates the finding the of the relics of the True Cross by the Bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius in about 327 AD. A Church was dedicated to house the sacred relic on the 13th and 14th of September of 335 AD. That is what we remember today.

What does the Cross of Jesus Christ mean to me? It is my salvation, my hope, and my glory.

The Cross is my salvation. Through the gift of himself, Jesus Christ repaired the damage done by the disobedience of my sin. My sin is disobedience against God. My sin is rebellion against God. Jesus, in fulfillment of the Prophet Isaiah "makes himself an offering for sin," see Isaiah 53:10-12. Jesus atones for my faults and sins.

The Cross is my hope. In the Cross and in gazing upon the Crucified Lord, I realize that I am not abandoned in my sins, rebellions and pains. Especially for those who suffer innocently, God does not leave us alone but takes on humanity so that he might join us in our sufferings. "They shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."-- Going back to Isaiah again. Emmanuel, Jesus, God on the Cross in my very humanity, you are my hope!

The Cross is my glory. Jesus calls each and every disciple to "take up [their] cross and follow me." St. Paul expresses this so beautifully in Galatians 6:14 "But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." My growth in maturity, manhood, and holiness only comes through the Cross. Lord, give me the grace to embrace the Cross this day and every day.

For more reading, check out: 

This reflection on the readings of the day from Carl Olsen. 

This commentary on the Cross as hope. It is from an interview book with Pope Benedict (Cardinal Ratzinger before he was Pope). Quite eloquent and amazing. Suffering is part of the mystery of being human.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What the Catholic Church offers the World

My homily from this past Sunday, the 23rd in Ordinary Time, September 9, 2012

What is the greatest gift the Catholic Church offers to the world?

Is it moral teaching? Do this and don’t do that?

Is it works of charity? Feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless?

Is it the Sacraments? The Holy Mass? Holy Matrimony? Baptism?

What is the greatest gift Catholics offer to the world?

It isn’t moral teaching. Many people and groups are moral teachers but moral teaching isn’t enough. It isn’t works of charity. Even non-religious groups are charitable. It isn’t even the Sacraments, for they serve a larger purpose than to simply exist for themselves.

The greatest gift the Catholic Church offers to the world are Catholic men and women.

What the Catholic Church was created to give is what the world needs most. Men and women who are after the very heart of Jesus. Men and women who seek to be healed and transformed by Jesus Christ. This is what the Catholic Church offers and it is what the world needs.

Pope St. Leo the Great, back in the 400’s said it in a homily. “Remember Christian, mercy itself wishes you to be merciful, righteousness itself wishes you to be righteous, so that the Creator may shine forth in his creature, and the image of God be reflected in the mirror of the human heart.”

With this in mind, listen again to the Prophet Isaiah. “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication.” These words are said best when they are lived in your own heart. As you learn to choose the good, to love the poor and to adore the Lord IN YOUR OWN HEART! This is the mission of the savior. Not simply to rid you of sin but create your life anew in His image. Bold and strong because you have seen and know what God looks like!

I would like show you this in a personal way. Today is the 6th anniversary of the death of my father, David Bruce Dickinson. What is the greatest gift that my father gave me? It wasn’t an inheritance, it wasn’t my faith, it wasn’t even my beard. The greatest gift my father gave was his faith and his life. Was my father a saint? No. But he was a Catholic Christian who sought to image the heart of Jesus Christ and sought that with purpose. He believed and strove to turn his heart into a mirror that reflected Jesus Christ. For that I am deeply grateful to God and to my dad.

Now I want to finish for those of you who are listening and thinking. “That sounds good Father, but that isn’t me. Becoming an image of Jesus sounds good but it isn’t me. You don’t know what sin, what darkness, what rebellion lives within me. I cannot be a life-giving image of Jesus.”  To you who think that, I want you to turn your hearts to the Gospel today.

Pay attention to where Jesus is going. An area of Israel called the Decapolis. That is Greek for “the ten cities.” This is a pagan, non-Jewish territory. Jesus is going to non-believers. Jesus is going to those who seem to be LEAST capable of becoming mirrors of the heart of Jesus. Remember again what Jesus healed in the man: his ears and his mouth. Why his ears and his mouth? A mirror needs two things, it needs to receive the image and to be able to show the image back.

Jesus reaches out to personally and intimately heal both capacities in that man. Jesus heals his capacity to receive the image of God: his hearing. Jesus heals his capacity to reflect the image of God: his speech. That man is you! Jesus desires today to heal your capacity to receive him in your heart. Jesus desires today to heal your capacity to reflect him from your heart.

What do Catholics offer to the world? The Catholic Church offers what the world needs. Jesus Christ reflected in your heart. The world needs Him in you. I need Him in you.

Pray with me. Jesus, I know those parts and portions of my heart that are deaf to you. I know those parts and portions of my heart that do not respond to you. Heal them today. Jesus touch me in this Mass and heal me today and everyday. Jesus, I know those parts and portions of my heart that are mute. Jesus, I know those parts and portions of my heart that do not reflect you back upon the world. Heal them today. Jesus touch me in this Mass and heal me today and everyday.

Cross posted on  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 and #YOLO

Today is 9/11/2012, eleven years since the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. The memory of that morning is still fresh in my mind: the surprise, confusion and true shock. What exactly did this mean? From the beginning my fellow seminarians, students and myself at the University of St. Thomas could tell that this event was DIFFERENT.

How different it would be, we didn't know but we knew it was different. We didn't know that thousands of our peers would end up dying thousands of miles away in Afganistan and Iraq. We didn't know that our entire experience of air travel would change. We didn't know how but we knew things were different. 

The biggest difference that the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 brought was a challenge to our innocence and mortality. What do I mean? That day and the aftermath have become a great challenge to how my generation thinks about ourselves. We are no longer invincible. There are 20 year olds missing limbs. There are 20 year old widows. There are orphans who's mommy or daddy should barely be 30. 

What does that mean about the way we live now?

It makes me think of #YOLO. You Only Live Once. #YOLO has burned up twitter and facebook as a hot trend of the summer. If you look into it, you'll usually find #YOLO as the reason for people doing things they normally wouldn't. From the mildly innocent, like gorging on a cheeseburger or sneaking into a concert to much worse behavior that can lead to life long consequences and scars of emotional, physical and spiritual kind.

#YOLO in these cases is a throw-away line. A shrug of indifference as to why someone tried. But doesn't that miss the point? "#YOLO, so don't hold anything back. #YOLO, so take big risks and don't think about the consequences, just think about the moment."

If #YOLO is true: you only live once. Then it seems like they are both on to part of a big picture while missing the rest. You only have one life, one now that could end at any moment. 9/11/01 crystalized that for my generation. We are all one heart beat away from death. So what to do about it? Rare things are usually precious things. Gold, diamonds, championships, friends, love- we treasure them because they are rare. If we only have one life, it is should be the most precious thing we have. So while we don't want to waste it by inaction (#YOLO!) we don't want to waste it foolishly either.

#YOLO should be a call to find two things: true courage and a community that will help you live that life well. Since we only live once, need courage to make the most of it. True courage is neither foolhardy nor timid. The foolhardy woman takes every chance without any calculation. They might seem attractive for a moment or two but soon we realize that they miss out on the precious character of life. The timid man never takes any chances but allows the threats and possible downfalls to cut off his decisions. We should seek true and wise courage.

We also need a community that will help you live. A place where friends will treasure your own life as it ticks by into the unknown. A place where you can learn to love your friends lives as they tick off into the unknown. This is what I love about being a Catholic and being surrounded by intentional Catholic friends. They understand that each of us only has one life, one now, and that each of us is one heart beat away from death. They want me and want themselves to get the most out of life in the best way. They want me to know that I am known, loved, and cared for.

On this anniversary of the terror of 9/11/01, remember the truth: #YOLO. Seek to understand and possess true and wise courage. Seek to find a community that knows, loves and cares for you because #YOLO.

Cross posted at