Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thunder Over Louisville

Dominic: "So, have you ever been to Thunder Over Louisville?"

Deacon Clay: "No, I've never gone to it."

Dominic: "You mean to tell me that you've been here five years and have never been to Thunder Over Louisville, the biggest fireworks show in the country!?!?  That seems like something you would definitely have to do before you left here!"

This was a real conversation that I had six years ago with a (then) deacon here at Saint Meinrad.  It was inconceivable to me that someone would spend multiple years here and have never seen what is this country's largest fireworks show.  Here I am, six years later, and it almost happened for me.  Thankfully, I scheduled myself to preach in Jeffersonville this past weekend (before I knew that it was Thunder weekend), so I had a great opportunity to finally see it.

One of the seminarians studying at Saint Meinrad is from Jeffersonville.  His father happens to be the Clark County Sheriff.  I (and many others from Saint Meinrad) were invited to enjoy the "law-enforcement hospitality tent" throughout the evening, after which we would be allowed to go up onto the I-65 bridge into Louisville (closed for this event) to watch the show.  Seeing as the show is launched from the river, this was one of the best vantage points (and I didn't have to spend all-day there "saving" my spot!).

The show is an intensely choreographed display set off from two barges "parked" in the river on either side of the 2nd street bridge into Louisville, which was also shut down and utilized as a fireworks launching pad.  It is all computer controlled and is set to coordinate with music, though none of us had the music playing during the show.

It went for about 20 minutes of near constant displays, finishing with a "finale."  Then, after about a minute, it launched into an "encore," which lasted about five minutes and finished with an incredible flurry of fireworks that made you feel like you'd been used as a punching bag by about 15 different boxers at once.  Here are some images and video to help give you a feel for what it was like.

Louisville skyline from the I-65 bridge into Louisville (notice the barge in the river)
I also got a free "Clark County Sheriff" hat, courtesy of Sheriff Rodden!
Close to the beginning of the show...
and it continued...
and continued... (here you see the setup on the bridge)
And then the videos

From the early part of the show...

and closer to the first end.

Needless to say, I'm glad that I got to do this once in my seminary career (and that I didn't have to deal with the crazy crowds getting out of town... thanks again Sheriff Rodden!).  If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.  Peace!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A noble title

            This was my last weekend in Jeffersonville.  But this was just the end of an incredibly busy weekend.  On Thursday evening, we had our second Around the World Party at Saint Meinrad, were seminarians prepare different foods from the home cultures (some as close as Louisville and as far as Vietnam).  Friday night we enjoyed the performance of The Taming of the Shrew by The National Players (with the subsequent "after party" at the UnStable).  I celebrated the ordination of my friend Julio Barrera to the diaconate in Bowling Green, KY on Saturday morning.  Then to Jeffersonville where I preached the Saturday evening mass before enjoying the nation's (and possibly the world's) biggest fireworks show, Thunder Over Louisville (and from one of the best spots, on the I-65 bridge going into Louisville).  Finally, I preached the masses on Sunday morning, the second of which I also baptized a little girl, Alexandra Grace.  Lot's of joy was experienced and a lot of calories were burned!  Only three weeks of seminary remain...

            Here is my homily from this weekend.  In reality, it should be experienced live because the whole idea is that the preaching of it itself is supposed to model the witness that it calls people to give.  Hopefully you will find some insight in it, however.  Enjoy!

Homily: 3rd Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
            In its most basic definition, a witness is someone who sees an event take place.  Typically, we associate a witness with legal proceedings.  Because of this, we all generally recognize that being a witness carries with it responsibilities, specifically the responsibility to recount what it is we have seen or experienced.  Here in the United States, one can only be demanded to “give witness” in a court of law.  Otherwise, we have the “right to remain silent.”  For Christians, however, this right doesn’t necessarily exist.  Certainly, our freedom to remain silent can never be taken from us.  Nevertheless, as Christians we believe that an encounter with the risen Christ demands a kerygmatic response.  It is in fact a response commissioned by Christ when he told his disciples, “You are witnesses….”

            Now I know many of you are probably looking at me and saying, “I was with you right up until that “K”-word.  Right, kerygmatic.  First let me tell you that it is not important that you know how to say this word and it is even less important that you know how to spell it (if it wasn’t for spell-check, I would get it wrong every time).  Now let me tell you what it means.  It’s a Greek word that means a convincing proclamation of what one has seen and heard.  For Christians, kerygma is a proclamation that the crucified and risen Jesus is God’s final and definitive act of salvation.  Imagine for a moment that someone would stand up in this assembly and say: “Brothers and Sisters, you remember this man, Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet mighty in word and deed, who worked many signs and wonders in our midst and whom we lauded as our king as he entered this city; this man whom we then watched as he was condemned wrongfully and led off to be crucified.  I stand before you today and tell you that he has been raised to life and that I have seen him.  And not only me, but these other men, too.  We have seen him face to face.  We have heard him talk and have seen his hands and his feet.  We have even seen him eat and so are assured that it is no ghost that we have seen, but a living man.  Truly, we tell you, this Jesus, whom you have crucified, has been raised to life.”  You can imagine that this kind of a witness would be pretty powerful.  This is exactly the witness that Peter gives in our first reading today.

            Taking a look at that reading again, we see that we are not given the context of Peter’s speech.  Why do you think that is?  Why do you think the Church cut out the parts that give us the context of Peter’s speech?  It is because the Church wants us to recognize that Peter is not only speaking to those people who were present at that historical point and time, but rather that he is also speaking directly to us today.

            And so when we read that Peter said that God “has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence…” we can recognize that his plural “you” means all of us and hopefully we can also recall our experience of Good Friday, when, during the recounting of the Passion of our Lord, we shouted as the crowds did when Pilate wanted to release Jesus, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  And when Peter says “You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you” hopefully we will recall how we, too, chose Barabbas over Jesus.  We are called to feel convicted of our sins, which Peter intends when he says, “The author of life you put to death…” and then to feel the power of his next words: “…but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”

            By leaving out the context, the Church calls us to acknowledge that Peter is announcing the conviction against us, reminding us that our sins, too, were what nailed Jesus to the cross.  Yet, Peter doesn’t condemn us, does he?  No, he doesn’t.  Rather, he speaks words of mercy.  First he calls us brothers.  In spite of our culpability, he reminds us that we are still family.  Then he speaks words of consolation.  “I know that you were unaware—that you were ignorant—of what it was you were doing.  God used your ignorance to fulfill his great plan.  Now, be ignorant no more.  God’s mercy is available to you.  Repent and the sins of your ignorance will be wiped away.”  In other words, he is saying that God has looked with mercy on our ignorance, but that he stands before us to tell us that we no longer have that excuse.

            My brothers and sisters, as sinners, we deserve Peter’s judgment, for it is our sins, too, that crucified Christ.  Yet, as baptized Christians, we find that we also stand in the Upper Room, where Christ appears and opens the Scriptures for us and declares to us that we, too, “are witnesses of these things.”  My brothers and sisters, we are witnesses.  We have encountered the risen Christ.  In fact, we encounter him every Sunday, here at this altar. Peter and the other disciples knew that once they had encountered the risen Christ, they could not remain in the Upper Room, but had to go forth from there to proclaim what they had seen and heard.  And so it is with us.  As much as we can no longer claim ignorance of our sins, no longer can we stand idle, either.

            Ite. Missa est.  Those old enough will recall that these are the words of dismissal from the mass as it was celebrated in Latin.  Ironically, even though the new English translation of the mass was intended to more closely emulate the Latin, the dismissal seems to have somehow escaped that treatment.  Literally (and somewhat slavishly) translated, the Latin phrase means “Go.  It is the dismissal.”  However, the word “dismissal,” in the sense that it is used in Latin, means something more than “you are free to go” like it does in English.  It means, rather, “you are sent forth” and it is understood that this “sending forth” involves some sort of mission.  Missa.  Dismissal.  Mission.  Those words all sound related, don’t they?

            Every Sunday we participate anew in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; we encounter again the risen Lord in Word and Sacrament.  My brothers and sisters, we are witnesses.  Therefore, the dismissal at mass is never the end of our Christian obligation for the week, but rather it is just the beginning.  The privilege of being a witness—and it is a privilege—brings with it the responsibility to proclaim what we have seen and heard in every place where we live.  Just listen to our late Holy Father, Blessed Pope John Paul II, who said at the beginning of his pontificate, “Do not be afraid to go out into the streets and the public places—like the first apostles!—to preach Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities.”  If we are to be authentic witnesses then we must take seriously this “sending forth” that we receive today and every Sunday.

            Does anyone know what the Greek word for “witness” is?  It’s martyr.  May our kerygma, our witness, of the risen Christ whom we encounter here at this mass earn us so noble a title.

~ Given at Sacred Heart and Saint Augustine parishes, Jeffersonville, IN: April 21-22, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

7 Last Words: "It is finished."

Here is my reflection on one of what is traditionally known as "the seven last words of Christ".  This reflection is on his last words, "It is finished."

            Although it’s difficult for us to forget something that we already know, let’s imagine for a moment that we are hearing these words for the first time.  Let’s imagine that we don’t know, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

            Imagine a mother and a friend, looking up on the one they love so dear now horribly disfigured—and how their own countenances have been disfigured by their sorrow.  Intense fear and agony overwhelm them, yet we can imagine that there was still hope: hope that in spite of all the mocking and jeering he may yet work a miracle that would save him from this death.  “It is finished.”  Even for these, the ones who were closest to Christ’s heart, as the resurrection was yet unknown to them, these words must have cast a shadow of doubt on their hope in the fulfillment of all that God had promised them throughout the ages.

            Imagine also a crowd of priests and soldiers, looking with anxiety to ensure the execution is completed.  As the intensity of their fervor diminishes—as the intensity of their mocking and jeering subsides— imagine that a certain uneasiness crept into their hearts.  “It is finished.”  Outwardly, they agree and are satisfied; yet inwardly their consciences continue to question.

            Imagine the disciples who didn’t follow their master to that hill, those who were afraid and hid away.  Imagine their questions to those who returned.  “What happened?”  “Did they kill him?”  “Did he say anything before he died?”  “It is finished.”  The intensity of their fear spikes as they hear these words.  Immediately they are flooded with confusion and doubt about their future, about what it will mean to be a follower of his way.  In the days following, fishermen will return to their nets, women will prepare the final burial spices, and pilgrims will walk the long road back to their homes questioning how this could have been the end.

            It is only the light of the resurrection, however, that can reveal that what is finished—that is, what has ended—is not our hope in one who can save, but rather our slavery to sin.  Christ proclaimed these words as a definitive statement to the evil one that his reign had ended and that death—Satan’s last power over man—had been forever destroyed.

            Friends, listen closely to these words of Christ.  In these words he says to each of us, “Your life of sin is over.  It is finished.  May this end that we remember today lead us to begin anew our lives in Christ.

~ Given at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Carmel, IN - April 6, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Follow Jesus on Twitter - or what it would have been like :-)

A great video and a powerful way to enter into the mystery of Holy Week.  Watch and pray...