Sunday, March 30, 2014

Let there be (children of the) light.

          Another great weekend!  My parents visited from Illinois and a lot of folks from All Saints were able to meet and greet them (good both for my parents and our parishioners!).  If any of you remember my old (original) blog, it was titled "Searching for Blindness", which was a play off of today's Gospel reading.  Jesus says that "if you were blind, then you would have no sin."  I didn't want to have sin, so I thought I should be "searching for blindness".  Anyway, it is a powerful story of what happens when we allow our self-righteousness (Pharisees) get ahead of seeking an authentic relationship with Jesus.  We're halfway through Lent!  Time to double-up our efforts!  Verso l'alto!


Homily: 4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
          As many of you know I grew up in a Catholic household.  My parents practiced their faith and taught their children to do so also.  My siblings and I all spent eight years in Catholic grade school (well, nine, I guess, if you count Kindergarten) and three of the four of us spent an additional four years in Catholic high school (it was still segregated between boys and girls when my oldest brother went, which didn’t sit well with him, so he went to the public high school).  Thus, when I went off to college I felt pretty confident that I knew what it meant to be Catholic: Go to church, don’t eat meat on Fridays, be kind and generous to people.  This is what I did.  I followed all of the rules (well, most of them, anyway) and otherwise I pretty much did whatever I wanted to do.
          A couple of years after I graduated from college, this system fell apart on me.  I wasn’t happy with my job or my decision to move to Indiana, my relationship with my girlfriend of nearly three years ended disastrously, and those thirteen years of Catholic schooling didn’t seem to leave me any answers for why I ended up so unhappy.  It was then, of course, that I had an encounter with Jesus.
          In this spiritual encounter that I had with Jesus he showed me how blind I had become to my sin (that is, how blind I had become because of my own self-righteousness).  “I’m a good person”, I used to say.  “I’ve never really hurt anyone intentionally, so I’m ok.”  While this latter part was somewhat true, Jesus opened my eyes to see how I had actually hurt many people through my selfishness and self-righteousness.  Although he didn’t directly command me to do so, I knew what I had to do next: I had to go and wash in the “pool of reconciliation” by making a good confession.
          From there I began a journey, not unlike the blind man who was given sight in today’s Gospel reading.  At first, all I could do was say “Jesus healed me.”  When others would ask me, “Who is this Jesus? point him out to us”, I couldn’t.  I had encountered him, but I was still getting to know him.  As I more intentionally engaged all of the practices that I had before—going to Mass, giving up meat on Fridays, being kind and generous to people—as well as taking up new practices—giving time to daily prayer, studying the Bible, and volunteering in my parish and the community—the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” started to become clearer for me until the point that I could see him clearly and, thus, worship him in truth.
          Of course, the man in the Gospel reading today had a much more profound experience.  In many ways, his story is a baptism story: one that highlights the “re-creation” aspect of the sacrament that we celebrate.  This man was born without sight.  In other words, he was born broken: “damaged goods” if you will.  Jesus confirms for his disciples that this was not caused by any particular sin either by the man himself or by his parents.  Thus, in a sense, his blindness is a result of a legacy of brokenness that man has inherited.  Does that sound like a description “Original Sin” to anyone?  Well, it should!
          What Jesus does next is very symbolic.  He makes clay using his saliva.  (I know, it sounds gross, but back then they believed that saliva had healing properties.)  Think for a moment about some other time that God used the dirt of the ground to do something important…  In the book of Genesis, right?  “Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground…”  So Jesus uses the dust of the ground to make clay and places it on the man where there should be sight, although there never was…  Interesting.  Then he tells the man to do what?  To go wash in the pool of water!  And what does that remind us of?  Baptism! of course!  So the man is baptized and washes the stuff of creation off of his eyes and, voila!¸ the sight has been created in the man.  (Suddenly this doesn’t look like the same old story anymore, does it?)
          Thus, this man’s faith journey begins.  At first he doesn’t have much to say about this Jesus that gave him sight.  He knows the name of the man who gave him sight and, because of what he did, that this man must, therefore, be a prophet and a man of God, but he didn’t know much else about him.  When he then sees Jesus for the first time, he is open and ready to make a profession of faith.  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks him.  “Sure!  Just tell me who he is, that I may believe in him”, replied the man.  He trusted Jesus so completely—because of what Jesus did for him—that he put his complete confidence in whomever it would be that Jesus would identify.  When Jesus reveals himself to the man—“the one speaking with you is he”—the man then professes his faith in Jesus and bows down in worship before him.
          In many ways, the Elect—those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil—are having this same experience.  This Sunday we will scrutinize them again and call them to acknowledge their blindness because of sin; and, in a way, to imagine Jesus putting the healing, creating clay on their eyes.  We will then send them forward towards Easter to be washed in the pool of Baptism, where their blindness caused by sin will be washed away; and, re-created, they will walk as “children of the light”.  As their brothers and sisters in light, we walk with them on their journey towards re-creation.  Thus, Lent is also our call to scrutinize our own lives and to identify how sin has increasingly made us blind to our selfishness and self-righteousness; and, thus, to the needs of the poor and those living on the margins around us that we have been ignoring.
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus wants to meet us there, in our acknowledgement of our blindness, and he wants to place the healing clay on our eyes.  He will then send us to the pool to wash—that is, the sacrament of reconciliation—so that we too can have our sight restored.  In this time of preparation for the great celebration of Easter, let us not be afraid to approach him in this sacrament and to let him do this great work for us.  For when we do, we will truly know what it is to worship him; just as that man in the Gospel did; and just as we are invited to do every Sunday here at this altar.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 29th & 30th, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just leave the water jar and walk away...

          Ok, it has been a bit of a blessed/rough week for me.  A couple of funerals (with one still coming up on Monday) and covering the weekend by myself.  Thus, the homily is not nearly as polished as I might normally do.  That's life in ministry, though!  God bless your week!


Homily: 3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
          So here we are at the end of the second full week of Lent.  In many ways, if we have been engaging the work of Lent well, we are settling into this season and perhaps even starting to see the fruits of what this season calls us to do.  Nevertheless, perhaps many of you have been struggling to “get into” what Lent is all about and are ready to disengage from the whole project (or perhaps you already have).  Thus, a word of reminder might be good here.
          Lent is a time of preparation.  Did you hear that?  I said “a time of preparation.”  I know most of you heard me say “a time of penance”, but I didn’t say that.  Lent is a time of preparation.  And preparation for what?  Well, for the celebration of Easter, of course!  And why do we need to prepare to celebrate Easter?  Why can’t we just celebrate it?  Well, because celebrating the greatest mystery of our salvation is something much deeper and more profound than, say, celebrating somebody’s birthday (though we do prepare to celebrate those, don’t we?).  Easter is not just a day of remembrance, but it is also a day of renewal: the remembrance of our definitive rebirth in Christ at our baptism and the renewal of our commitment to live that life to its fullest.
          You know that the word “renew” is synonymous with the word “renovate”, right?  And we all know that to renovate something is to take something that is old and used and to make it like new again.  We do this with houses and cars, churches and office buildings, and perhaps even our wardrobes from time to time.  What’s the first thing that any renovation project has to tackle?  Cleaning out the old junk, of course!  In other words, the first part of any renovation project is to prepare the space by cleaning out the old, useless stuff.
          Thus, if we are to be renewed—that is, renovated—by our celebration of Easter, then we need first to take some time to prepare our space by cleaning out the old junk from our hearts.  Lent is our time of preparation.  By fasting we detach ourselves from the things that keep us from living the new life that we have received in Christ through baptism.  By almsgiving we take up the practice of sharing the fruits of that new life with others.  And by prayer, we deeply reconnect with the one who called us out of our darkness and into his perfect light.
          It is in prayer, then, that we also remember.  Each of our journeys is unique.  Each of us, at some point in our lives, has had to come to terms with where it was that we were and where it is that God wanted us to be.  And each of us had to make a decision about whether we would follow Jesus towards where God wanted us to be or remain where we were.  My guess is that, since you are here, all of you have decided to follow Jesus to where God wants you to be.  If so, then part of our preparation for the renovating celebration of Easter is our remembrance of that experience of God meeting us where we were and inviting us to where he wants us to be: for part of our celebration is the renovation of our commitment to arrive at that place where God is leading us.
          If not, then perhaps this time of preparation could be a time for you to experience that encounter with God that will help you to come to terms with your life: that is, to see clearly where it is that you are and to experience God meeting you there and inviting you to journey towards the place where he wants you to be.  This is exactly what the Samaritan woman experienced in our Gospel reading.  From the place where she was—a life full of broken relationships which left her marginalized even among her own people—Jesus meets her and invites her to come to terms with her life.  He then invites her to move from where she is to where it is that he wants her to be: a place where her thirsts no longer find only temporary satisfaction, but rather become infinitely satisfied.
          At first, she tries to deflect this invitation: introducing a debate about the proper place of worship and then declaring her belief in the coming Messiah.  When Jesus, however, reveals himself to her completely (“I am he, the one speaking with you”) something in her changes.  She drops her guard, recognizes him for who he is, and… what?  She leaves her water jar to announce to all the townspeople who it is that she has encountered.  She left the water jar—representative of her life—that could be filled at one moment but would always become empty again, because she had found the spring of living water—Jesus—and so she no longer needed it.
          My brothers and sisters, 12 of our brothers and sisters in this community are on a journey towards their definitive rebirth in Christ through baptism at the Easter Vigil.  Lent, at its core, is for them as they make their final preparations for this “ultimate” renovation of their lives at Easter.  In these three weeks we will intentionally scrutinize them, asking them to come to terms with their lives, to recognize in Jesus the spring of living water, and thus to leave their water jars behind.  We, as their brothers and sisters in faith, journey with them so as to be renewed in our baptism at the Easter celebration.
          Let us, then, scrutinize our lives during this Lenten season so as to come to terms with them.  And let us seek to remember (or discover for the first time) how Jesus has shown us to be the only source that can satisfy our deepest thirsts.  Then, renewed in the grace of our baptism, we, too, will be inspired—like the Samaritan woman at the well—to take this great message out to the world and to invite all those around us to “come and see”, and to be filled by Jesus’ life-giving water.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 22nd & 23rd, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

This is nice, but isn't there more?

          Jesus revealed his glory to his closest followers before his crucifixion so that they would be sustained in faith (even amid doubts and confusion) after his crucifixion.  He did this to show them that he did not come to make this world perfect, but rather to perfect us for our destiny in the next.  Let us commit ourselves to achieving greater holiness this Lent!

P.S. If you'd like to see the whole story as Fr. Larry tells it, click here.


Homily: 2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
          One of my favorite preachers is Father Larry Richards and in one of his most well-known talks he tells the story of a man from Crete, which is one of the islands of Greece.  This man, he says, was a great man and he loved his land.  Not only did he love his land, but all the people of his land loved him.  Whenever somebody died, he was always the first person to come and offer condolences.  Whenever a new baby was born, he was always the first person to come and offer congratulations.  And all of this because he so deeply loved his land and his people.
          Finally, when he was ninety-nine years old, it was time for him to die.  Surrounded by his ten children, he asked them to carry him out to the secluded spot in the back of his farm, which was his favorite spot to pray, and to lay him down on the earth.  There, as he closed his eyes for the last time, he clenched in his hands the dirt of the land he so dearly loved and he died.
          He awoke to find himself standing at the gates of heaven and when God came forth to welcome him in, he first asked the man what it was that he had in his hands.  “This is Crete,” he said, “it is all that I ever loved in the world.”  God looked at him and said, “Sorry, no dirty hands in heaven.”  Upset by this, but unable to let go of the one thing he held so dear in his life, the man turned away and God went back into heaven and closed the gate behind him.
          As the story goes, God would return two more times to implore the man to let go of the remnant of his beloved land so as to enter into heaven.  At the first, the man still refused to let go.  But at the second, the man found that the dirt in his hands had become so dry that it was now slipping uncontrollably out of his hands.  So, at God’s prompting, he opened his hands and just then the Spirit of God blew forth a strong wind that swept away every last remnant of the man’s beloved land.  Then, taking the man’s hand, God led him through the gates of heaven.  And when the man entered heaven what do you think that it was that he saw, but the land of Crete laid out completely before him.
          I share this story with you today because it is a great story and a great reminder that God never takes anything away from us, but rather only asks us to let go of some things so that he can give us more.  I also share it with you because I think it demonstrates for us just how short-sighted our vision can be at times.  This man thought that he had everything that he had ever wanted in the land of Crete and thus he let the vision of his life become limited to the years that he spent on earth.  He couldn’t imagine heaven being anything better than what he enjoyed on earth and so he tried to take his greatest joy on earth with him into heaven.  He had lost the vision that God promised to give him the “fullness of joy” in heaven and so stubbornly clung to the passing joy of the earth until it finally (and literally) passed out of his hands.
          In a way, this is the same lesson that Jesus is giving to his disciples Peter, James, and John in our Gospel reading today when he invites them up onto a high mountain to reveal to them the fullness of his nature.  Now, when the Scriptures speak of going up onto a “high mountain” they are always referring to the place where man encounters God.  There, Jesus reveals the fullness of his nature—the divine nature that coexists with his human nature—in order to point to the transcendent end of his being on earth (that is, to the fact that his coming in this world wasn’t meant for this world alone, but rather to re-open the possibility for man to enter the glory of God in the next world).  The disciples, however, are slow to see the meaning behind this and focus, rather, on clinging to the event in this world.
          “Well, this is nice,” Peter said, “why don’t we build some tents and stay here?”  Jesus, however, intended for this to be a lesson that would extend their vision beyond an earthly end and towards the end that he came to establish: that is, the return of man to perfect communion with God.  Thus the cloud (which, in biblical terms, always connotes the presence of God) descends upon them and overshadows them, and the voice from the cloud speaks to them, and it is then that they realize that something otherworldly is happening to them and they fall down in reverence and in fear of the absolute power that has overshadowed them.  Thus we see that Jesus didn’t take them up on that mountain to have a “nice” experience or to show off his divine nature to them (good as that was!), but rather to have an experience of the absolute holiness that he possessed and that he was calling them to enter into.
          I think that if we look at our own lives that we, too, will find that our vision of what we are here for has become somewhat limited.  If I asked you what you thought the prevailing moral norm is that governs our society, many of you might say “To love your neighbor as yourself”: and that’s good!  But if I asked you to tell me what that means in real life, I suspect that the answer many of you might give would be “To be nice and try to get along with everyone.”  Well, this is fine if all that you are concerned with is trying to have a peaceful life here on earth.  If, however, we are placing our vision on our eternal end in heaven, then we need to take just as seriously Jesus’ other, very strong moral mandate: “Be yourselves holy just as your Father in heaven is holy!”  This goes beyond being “nice” and sometimes means that we will have to act rather harshly with others.  It reminds us that while harmony in this world is a goal, it isn’t our end.  Our end, rather, is the vision of Jesus’ glory and being overshadowed by the presence of God!
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus did not say “just be good and nice to each other and you’ll be fine.”  Rather, he said “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the rest will be given to you.”  And what is God’s righteousness?  Well, nothing short of the absolute holiness that he revealed to Peter, James, and John on the high mountain that day!  Don’t just be nice, then, but be holy!  And what does that mean?  Well, it means overshadowing the world with God’s presence: with his uncompromising love for each and every one of his creatures, most especially our brothers and sisters who live among us.
          Friends, this time of Lent is a time for rediscovering this incredible gift that God has given us in restoring our humanity to full glory in Jesus; and for reconciling ourselves with, and re-conforming ourselves to, that truth so that we might overshadow the world with God’s love and one day enjoy the Easter glory of Jesus in heaven; the glory that we encounter in sacrament here in this Eucharist.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 15th & 16th, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's not really about the fruit...

           I've decided to take a little more direct approach to preaching in Lent.  I realize that we need someone to name those things that have blinded us to the reality of sin in our lives (and what is sin but something that puts a barrier between us and God?).  I received a lot more positive feedback about this homily than I expected (and it wasn't from the "usual suspects" either).  I praise the Spirit that he used me to be an instrument of grace to others.  I'm certain that the Spirit has something to say to you, too.


Homily: 1st Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
          Well, you’ve already done it, haven’t you?  On Wednesday, it wasn’t so hard to walk past that jar of candy in the kitchen, but Thursday it wasn’t so easy, was it?  Or perhaps a co-worker brought in donuts to celebrate his birthday on Friday.  Or maybe it was that beer or glass of wine that you shared with a friend at dinner on Saturday.  I mean, Jesus himself said that “when you are fasting, don’t make a show of it”, didn’t he?  You certainly didn’t want to brag about what you were giving up during Lent so you decided to give in—just that one time—so as not to reveal what it was that you had given up.  How very noble…
          The enemy certainly doesn’t have to work very hard, does he?  He knows that within one of our greatest powers lies one of our greatest weaknesses.  Our ability to reason—that is, to think things out—is the uniquely human characteristic that makes us most like God.  It allows us to order, to create, and to exploit the characteristics of just about anything else in creation for our own use.  It also allows us to convince ourselves of just about anything if we think about it long enough.  This is the weakness that the enemy strives to exploit.  He knows that very often all he needs to do is to suggest something to us and that then, left to our own devices, it won’t be long before we’ve talked ourselves into doing it.
          Just look at Eve (poor thing, she didn’t even know what was coming).  She knew well the abundance that God had blessed her with and the instructions that God had given her.  The serpent (cunning as he was) came and simply suggested a lie, veiled in truth.  “You certainly won’t die”, he said.  “No, God knows that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”  All true… to a point.  That was all Eve needed, it seems, to get her powers of rationalization going.  “[She] saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.”  All very true and, thus, by all perceptions there was absolutely nothing about those fruits that would make them harmful to eat it… except that God had forbidden it.
          “So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her (by the way, what was he doing all this time?), and he ate it.”  And what do you know; everything that that cunning serpent said was true!  They didn’t die (at least, not immediately) and they did come to know what is good and what is evil (notice how they immediately recognized that they were naked: in other words, they felt shame; demonstrating that they did have knowledge of what was good and what was evil).  No, what the serpent said was true… except that it veiled a lie.  As it turns out, they would die; even though it wouldn’t be immediately.  And they were already like gods, because God has given them the power to reason.  Was the act of eating the fruit sinful in itself?  No.  Rather, their sin was that they chose to trust their own reason instead of the providential will of God.
          Contrast that now with Jesus.  After forty days of fasting in the desert, he’s hungry (which, in biblical terms, means that he’s weak: physically, mentally, spiritually) and the devil comes to tempt him.  And tempt him to do what?  To deny his humanity and to assert his divinity.  The devil knew that if Jesus denied his humanity and allowed his divinity to override it that his life would be useless to save us—for Jesus had to be completely obedient to the Father’s will using his human will alone in order to counteract the disobedience of our first parents—and so he tempts Jesus three times to manifest his divinity over his humanity.
          In each of those three temptations, what did Jesus do?  Did he try to reason his way into or out of them?  I mean, did he look at those stones and say, “Gee, it really would be good if I ate something.  I mean, my Father certainly doesn’t want me to die of starvation, does he?”  Or did he say “I better jump so as to prove to this devil that my Father’s promises are true”?  Or how about, “You know, if I was master of all of these kingdoms I could make sure that there was peace over the whole world; and that would be good, wouldn’t it?”  No, he didn’t say any of those things.  Rather, he chose to trust his Father’s will instead of his own reason and thus he overcame the tempter.  (Oh, and by the way, what was the result?  As soon as the devil left him, angels came to his aid, anyway!)
          My brothers and sisters, in our efforts to fulfill the good work that we’ve laid out before us—that is, our prayer, fasting and giving alms this Lent—how do we fight off the temptations that come to us daily, trying to thwart our efforts?  Do we try to rationalize our way into giving in, convincing ourselves that it’s “ok” to bend our rules?  Or do we rely, instead, on God’s Word to us and Jesus’ example for us: the promise that if we remain faithful to him that he will provide for all of our needs?  God has breathed the breath of eternal life into us at baptism and has placed us in the garden which is his Church.  The fruits of the garden are the sacraments—most prominent among them, the Eucharist—and we are free to feed from this abundance as long as we obey God by remaining faithful to his commandments.
          Yet, we’d rather be like gods, wouldn’t we; rationalizing our sins so much so that we’ve completely lost the one thing that we gained through sinning: our ability to know what is good and what is evil?  My brothers and sisters, we must regain a balanced, yet strong compunction for our sins (many of our not-as-young parishioners will “light-up” to hear that word being used in church again, but it is exactly what we need to hear).  To do this, we must first regain our sense that God is truly near to us; that he’s not some “divine watch-maker” who put the world together and wound it up and now sits back to watch it work, but rather that he is intimately involved with his creation and wants to lead and guide us along the way.
          With this sense of God’s intimacy with us, we’ll deepen our friendship with him.  And as our friendship deepens, so will our sense of compunction for any act that offends him.  Just as any of us would feel horrible for doing something that deeply offended a good friend, so will we feel horrible when we realize that we’ve offended God when we rationalize our way into giving in to temptations.  This kind of friendship doesn’t happen overnight, however.  It takes time.
          And in order to make time for God, we’re going to have to slow down our lives a little.  We’re going to have to fast from some of those things that we enjoy doing so that we can have time to be with God in prayer—both as individuals and as families—and to see him in need in our brothers and sisters.  And we’re going to have to come clean with him in confession (and trust me all of us have something that we need to come clean about with God).
          And when we do, my brothers and sisters, we’ll begin to see the power of God working in us to overcome our temptations: that is, the power of the love that we have for God which leads us to despise any temptation to choose ourselves over him.  With this power working within us, we will truly glory in celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday: the joy of which we taste even now, here at this table.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 9th, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

No vale la vida mas del comida? (en serio... responde a la pregunta)

           Estoy sobreviviendo un fin de semana sin nuestro Pastor ... Afortunadamente, recibimos mucho menos nieve de lo que habían estado prediciendo para nuestra área durante toda la semana! Cuaresma es en el horizonte. Espero que te estás preparando!


Homilía: 8ª Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo A
          Hace algunos años después de que me gradué de la universidad, me encontré que languidecen en la vida. Fue durante ese tiempo que hice un "descubrimiento adulto" de la fe. Posiblemente algunos de ustedes nunca han oído hablar de esto, pero cada uno de nosotros tiene que pasar por una transición en la vida cuando tomamos posesión de la fe que fue entregada a nosotros como niños. A menudo esto incluye dudar y la rebelión de la religión que usted practica como un niño, pero, si se dedica sinceramente (y con la ayuda de otros), dará lugar a una aceptación de la Fe tomado no como algo que uno tiene que hacer debido a las presiones familiares o culturales, sino más bien como algo que uno quiere hacer, porque él o ella acepta la verdad que ha sido propuesta.
          Yo era de veinticinco años de edad cuando hice ese "descubrimiento adulto" de la fe. Poco después me compré mi primera "Biblia adulto" (y aquí está). Yo estaba orgulloso de tener mi propia copia para estudiar y orar con. Poco después de la compra de esta Biblia leí sobre cómo es útil en el estudio de la Biblia para tener fichas al comienzo de cada libro con el fin de que sea más fácil cambiar entre los libros de la Biblia, mientras que usted está estudiando. Así que fui a la tienda de artículos de oficina y compré un par de conjuntos de fichas con etiquetas en blanco, y me puse a la tarea de "tabulación" mi Biblia.
          Probablemente pasé unas cuatro o cinco horas en este proyecto en total. Tuve que teclear hasta todos los nombres de los libros de la Biblia en una plantilla en mi computadora (hay 73 de ellos, por cierto) y luego imprimirlos y separarlos. Luego apliqué cuidadosamente todas las fichas en la primera página de cada libro de la Biblia. Finalmente, tuve que deslizar todos los pequeños trozos de papel con los nombres de los libros en las fichas. Fue sin duda una valiosa, aunque un poco frustrante, trabajo. (Y, como se puede ver, uno muy colorido, también.)
          Uno o dos meses después de haber completado el trabajo, yo estaba en una tienda de libros religiosos y vi esto: un paquete de pre-impresas, etiquetas adhesivas para marcar los libros de la Biblia. Yo me río de eso ahora, pero ciertamente me sentí tonta en el momento de haber gastado tanto esfuerzo la creación de fichas, cuando (por el mismo precio) que podría haber comprado los preimpresos. En mi fervor para hacer lo correcto, me pasé un montón de tiempo y energía haciendo algo que habría sido mucho más fácil si hubiera pasado un poco de tiempo y energía a buscar alternativas. Y eso fue sólo cuatro o cinco horas de mi vida. Imagine la cantidad de tiempo y energía que dedicamos a preocuparse por otras cosas más importantes en nuestras vidas, sólo para descubrir que toda nuestra preocupación y los esfuerzos para controlar los resultados rara vez se producen los resultados que esperamos para.
          En el Evangelio de hoy, Jesús pregunta a sus discípulos una serie de preguntas retóricas. Una "pregunta retórica" es uno que se utiliza en la fabricación de una discusión o en la enseñanza para enfatizar un punto. No esperaba una respuesta porque se supone que todo el mundo ya sabe lo que debe ser la respuesta. Se utiliza por lo general como una forma de reforzar la respuesta a otra pregunta cuya respuesta no es tan clara de inmediato. Por ejemplo, alguien podría preguntar: "¿Habrá mañana Misa si esta tormenta de nieve masiva golpea?" Si yo estaba seguro de que íbamos a tener misa a pesar del clima yo podría decir: "El Papa es católico?" La respuesta supone que mi retórica pregunta es "sí". Por lo tanto, la respuesta a la pregunta real de esa persona también es "sí".
          Yo no estoy tan seguro, sin embargo, que las preguntas retóricas de Jesús son tan eficaces. Al leer el Evangelio de hoy escuchamos la advertencia de Jesús familiar para trabajar por Dios y la edificación de su Reino en lugar de para nosotros y para la construcción de nuestra propia riqueza. Cuando escuchamos esta pregunta: "¿Acaso no vale más la vida que el alimento, y el cuerpo más que el vestido?", es probable que escuchamos a Jesús preguntando retóricamente, y sabemos que la respuesta que se supone que debemos dar es "sí, la vida vale más que el alimento y el cuerpo más que el vestido." Claro, todos sabemos la respuesta, pero la pregunta para nosotros hoy es: "¿Lo creemos?"
          Quiero decir, vamos a echar un vistazo a nuestras vidas por un momento. En cualquier semana, ¿cuánto tiempo dedicamos a pensar, comprar, preparar o comer alimentos? ¿Y cuántas horas gastamos en cualquier semana de preocuparse por lo que la ropa que vamos a usar, analizar la ropa de otras personas, lavar y plegar de la ropa, y / o la compra de ropa nueva (ya sea en la tienda o en internet)? Y luego vamos a pensar en la cantidad de tiempo que pasamos pensando y trabajando hacia la construcción del Reino de Dios. ¿Hemos permitirnos cualquier momento para que esta última semana? Mejor dicho, por lo tanto, la pregunta es: "¿A pesar de que sabemos cuál es la respuesta esperada a la pregunta de Jesús es, vivimos nuestras vidas como si lo creemos?" Sospecho que la respuesta para muchos de nosotros aquí es "no".
          Sin embargo, la respuesta a la pregunta de Jesús es "sí"! La vida es más que el alimento y el cuerpo más que el vestido! La vida es definitivamente más que el alimento: es decir, la satisfacción temporal de las necesidades corporales. La vida es la felicidad! Es por la búsqueda de la satisfacción verdadera y permanente de todos nuestros deseos: que es la comunión con Dios en el cielo. Y el cuerpo es, sin duda más que la ropa: es decir, el adorno en un mundo que está pasando. El cuerpo, más bien, es el medio que se nos han dado para lograr nuestra felicidad: es decir, para perseguir y experimentar la comunión en este mundo, en preparación para la comunión que esperamos experimentar en el siguiente.
          Así, los ejemplos ilustrativos de Jesús sobre los pájaros y las flores. Si los pájaros no tienen que planificar con años de anticipación para asegurarse de que van a tener suficiente comida para comer, porque Dios nunca deja de proporcionar el alimento para ellos, y si no tienen las flores del campo para ir a trabajar y el trabajo en para ser "vestida" en la belleza, porque Dios ya les había dado su belleza natural, entonces ¿por qué estamos tan preocupados por lo que vamos a comer y con qué nos vestiremos? ¿No somos más importantes para Dios que los pájaros y las flores del campo? Bueno, sí, lo somos. Pero qué creemos eso? ¿O nos pasamos la vida haciendo fichas para nuestras Biblias cuando Dios nos quiere dar las fichas, ya hecha?
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, si hoy te encuentras respondiendo a la pregunta de Jesús: "¿Acaso no vale más la vida que el alimento y el cuerpo más que el vestido?", con "Estoy seguro de que se supone que debe ser, pero no estoy seguro de que yo creo es", entonces tengo buenas noticias para ti. En primer lugar, la vida es más que el alimento y el cuerpo más que el vestido. La vida es la felicidad eterna y el cuerpo es nuestro medio para lograrlo. De hecho, esta felicidad eterna ya ha sido ganada para nosotros por el sacrificio de Jesús en la cruz, que es el mismo sacrificio que ofrecemos aquí, en este altar. En segundo lugar, la Cuaresma comienza este miércoles, y la Cuaresma es una oportunidad perfecta para alejarse de nuestras preocupaciones por las cosas materiales y para crecer en la confianza de que Dios proveerá todo lo que necesitamos, si nos volvemos hacia el trabajo de la construcción de su Reino.
          “¿Puede acaso una madre olvidarse de su creatura?” Por supuesto que no. Ni Dios podría olvidarse de uno de sus hijos. Vamos entregarnos, entonces, mis hermanos y hermanas, a la buena labor de reconstrucción de nuestra confianza en Dios, y por lo tanto de manifestar su Reino aquí en la tierra: el Reino en el que esperamos vivir para siempre en el cielo.
Dado en las parroquias de San Jose: Rochester, IN & Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

el 1ª & 2ª de marzo, 2014

"Is not life more than food? (no, really... answer the question)

          Surviving a weekend with our Pastor being gone... Thankfully, we received much less snow than they had been predicting for our area all week long!  Lent is on the horizon.  I hope you're getting ready!


Homily: 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
          A couple of years after I graduated from college, I found myself languishing in life.  It was during that time that I made an “adult discovery” of the Faith.  Some of you may have never heard this, but each of us has to go through a transition in life when we take ownership of the Faith that was handed to us as children.  This often includes doubting and rebellion from the religion that you practiced as a child, but, if engaged honestly (and with the help of others), will result in an acceptance of the Faith taken not as something that one has to do because of familial or cultural pressures, but rather as something that one wants to do because he or she accepts the truth that has been proposed.
          I was twenty five years old when I made that “adult discovery” of the Faith.  Soon after I bought my first “adult bible” (and here it is).  I was proud to have my own copy to study and to pray with.  Soon after purchasing this bible I read about how it is helpful when studying the Bible to have tabs at the beginning of each book so as to make it easier to switch between books of the Bible while you are studying.  So I went off to the office supply store and bought a couple of sets of tabs with blank labels, and I set myself to the task of “tabbing” my Bible.
          I probably spent about four or five hours on this project in total.  I had to type up all of the names of the books of the Bible into a template on my computer (there are 73 of them, by the way) and then print them out and separate them.  Then I carefully applied all of the tabs at the first page of each book of the Bible.  Finally, I had to slide all of the little pieces of paper with the names of the books into the tabs.  It was definitely a valuable, albeit a somewhat frustrating, work.  (And, as you can see, a very colorful one, too.)
          A month or two after I had completed the work, I was in a religious book store and I saw this: a package of pre-printed, adhesive tabs for marking the books of your Bible.  I laugh about it now, but I certainly felt silly at the time for having spent so much effort creating tabs, when (for the same cost) I could have purchased the pre-printed ones.  In my fervor to do the right thing, I spent a lot of time and energy doing something that would have been a lot easier had I spent just a little time and energy looking for alternatives.  And that was just four or five hours of my life.  Imagine how much time and energy we spend on worrying about other, more important things in our lives, only to find out that all of our worrying and efforts to control the outcomes rarely produce the results that we hope for.
          In the Gospel today, Jesus asks his disciples a series of rhetorical questions.  A “rhetorical question” is one that is used in making an argument or in teaching to emphasize a point.  It doesn’t expect an answer because it assumes that everyone already knows what the answer should be.  It is usually employed as a way to reinforce the answer to another question whose answer is not as immediately clear.  For example, someone might ask: “Will there be Mass tomorrow if this massive snowstorm hits?”  If I was certain that we would have Mass regardless of the weather I might say: “Is the Pope Catholic?”  The assumed answer to my rhetorical question is “yes”.  Thus, the answer to that person’s real question is also “yes”.
          I’m not so sure, however, that Jesus’ rhetorical questions are quite as effective.  As we read the Gospel today we hear Jesus’ familiar admonition to work for God and the building of His Kingdom instead of for ourselves and the building of our own wealth.  When we hear that question: “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” we probably hear Jesus asking that rhetorically, and we know that the answer that we are supposed to give is “yes, life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.”  Sure, we all know this answer, but the question for us today is, “Do we believe it?”
          I mean, let’s just take a look at our lives for a second.  In any given week, how much time do we spend thinking about, shopping for, preparing, or eating food?  And how many hours do we spend in any given week worrying about what clothes we are going to wear, analyzing others’ clothes, washing and folding our clothes, and/or shopping for new clothes (either in the store or on the internet)?  And then let’s think about how much time we spent thinking about and working towards the building of the Kingdom of God.  Did we afford any time to that this past week?  Better stated, therefore, the question becomes: “Even though we know what the expected answer to Jesus’ question is, do we live our lives as if we believe it?”  I suspect that the answer for many of us here is “no”.
          Nevertheless, the answer to Jesus’ question is “yes”!  Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing!  Life is definitely more than food: that is, the temporary satisfaction of bodily needs.  Life is for happiness!  It is for the pursuit of the true, permanent fulfillment of all our desires: which is communion with God in heaven.  And the body is definitely more than clothes: that is, adornment in a world that is passing away.  The body, rather, is the means that we have been given for achieving our happiness: that is, for pursuing and experiencing communion in this world in preparation for the communion that we hope to experience in the next.
          Thus Jesus’ illustrative examples about the birds and the flowers.  If the birds don’t have to plan years in advance to make sure that they will have enough food to eat—because God never fails to provide food for them—and if the flowers of the field don’t have to toil and labor in order to be “clothed” in beauty—because God had already given them their beauty naturally—then why are we so preoccupied with what we will eat and with what we will wear?  Are we not more important to God than the birds and the flowers of the field?  Well, yes, we are.  But do we believe that?  Or do we spend our lives making tabs for our Bibles when God wants to give us the tabs, already made up?
          My brothers and sisters, if today you find yourself answering Jesus’ question—“Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing”—with “I’m sure it’s supposed to be, but I’m not sure that I believe it”, then I have good news for you.  First, life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.  Life is for eternal happiness and the body is our means to achieve it.  In fact, this eternal happiness has already been won for us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross; which is the same sacrifice that we offer here, on this altar.  Second, Lent begins this Wednesday; and Lent is a perfect opportunity to turn away from our preoccupations with material things and to grow in trust that God will provide for all that we need if we turn towards the work of building up His Kingdom.
          Could a mother ever forget her infant child?  Of course not.  Neither could God ever forget one of his children.  Let us, then, my brothers and sisters, give ourselves to the good work of rebuilding our trust in God, and thus of making His Kingdom known here on earth: the Kingdom in which we hope to live forever in heaven.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 1st & 2nd, 2014