Sunday, June 29, 2014

The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail

          I cannot chalk it up to anything but God's providence that a federal judge in Indiana would declare it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses in this state during the Fortnight For Freedom and when we are celebrating the feast of the Church's greatest martyrs, Saints Peter and Paul.  It provided a great opportunity for me to speak about how our faithfulness to God and the mission we have received from him will keep us under God's sovereignty, in spite of whatever our government tries to throw at us.  Therefore be bold!  Confess the truth about God and the human person, in love, wherever you are and you, too, will come to share the crown of righteousness!

          Click here to read the Indiana Bishops' statement regarding this week's ruling.  Take note of what they highlight as the difference between what we know as marriage and what our courts are trying to define it as.  If you are married, you should make sure that your marriage falls on the correct side of that distinction.


Homily: Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles – Cycle A
          Well, my friends, let’s face it.  When it comes to national politics, Indiana just isn’t on anybody’s radar.  If you’ve been around for a while and have been through a few election cycles, you’ll know that the words “Indiana” and “swing state” or “critical to this election” are almost never uttered in the same sentence.  Although big in size, we just don’t have enough people to make a difference one way or another.  Oh sure, perhaps one of our senate seats will be up for grabs and the outcome of that race might be important for which party has the majority, like it was in the last election cycle, but other than that Indiana doesn’t get a lot of air play on the national scene.
          The ancient Jewish nation of Judah experienced much of the same thing during the time of the early Church.  Occupied by the Roman Empire, the nation that, at different times in its history, was a powerful nation in the area was simply a small outpost along the Roman trade route with Egypt.  Nothing that happened there really made news elsewhere in the Roman Empire.
          Unlike other empires before them, the Roman Empire didn’t try to wipe out the culture of the peoples that they conquered.  Rather, they kept the local government intact, as long as it made itself obedient to Caesar.  Thus, during the time of Jesus and the early Church, a Jew named Herod was still in place as the King of Judah, in spite of the Roman occupation.
          Now Herod knew that his place as king was a tenuous one.  Many of the Jews were not happy with the Roman occupation and it looked like Herod wasn’t trying to do anything about it.  Yet he knew that to try and do anything against them would mean almost certain destruction—both for the nation and for himself—so he walked the line between the two.
          This followed into his dealings with Jewish religious life.  John the Baptizer had made quite a stir with his teachings; and when Herod let himself get tricked into having him killed, he knew that it didn’t bode well with the people.  And so when Jesus came his way, he basically ignored him, sending him back to Pilate to be judged.
          The nascent group of Jesus’ followers, however, was causing a real stir in Judah and so, increasingly, Herod knew that he was going to have to act.  When he did take a firm action and had James the Apostle killed, he found that the people, in general, were pleased with this and, thus, that it boosted his image.  Emboldened by this, he then had Peter arrested so as to convict and execute him as well.  Perhaps he thought that if he worked swiftly and decisively against these followers of Jesus that he would get noticed by Rome (and at least secure his place as King of Judah).
          A federal judge here in Indiana has, in a way, done much of the same thing in this past week.  Seeing that bans on giving marriage licenses to couples of the same sex were being ruled “unconstitutional” in states across the nation, he ruled the same here in Indiana.  Now, I cannot stand here and claim that this was in any way an attempt by this judge to grab notoriety.  I don’t know anything about him except that he is the judge that ruled that Indiana’s ban on giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples is “unconstitutional”.  Nevertheless, it does seem to me to be an example of someone who might not otherwise tread out into tumultuous waters such as these being emboldened to do so because he sees that it is “pleasing to the people”.
          With Peter and Paul, however, we see that it wasn’t the political power that had the last word.  Although after having Peter arrested Herod had him bound and guarded tighter than any other criminal, God intervened and provided for Peter’s escape.  Of course, we know that this would be only a temporary escape and that in the not-so-distant future Peter would find himself in Rome where he would be crucified on the Vatican hill.  Nevertheless, this was a clear sign that God was in control and that he would not let Peter be martyred until he had finished the mission he had given him.
          In Paul’s letter to Timothy he speaks of how he, too, was delivered by God so that he could “finish the race”—that is, complete his mission here on earth.  He speaks of the Lord standing by him and giving him strength and of how the Lord rescued him “from the lion’s mouth” when all of his companions had abandoned him, so that “the proclamation might be completed”; which, for Paul, also led him to Rome where he, too, would be martyred.  These were meant to be proofs, both to Peter and to Paul—and to the Church and to those who were persecuting it—that God’s mission for these men (and, thus, the Church) would not be thwarted by the powers of this world.
          And this is the message that comes to us at this dangerous moment in the life of our nation (and, now, our state).  The powers that be continue to make decisions that undermine the institutions that are the foundations of our society.  These decisions are already negatively affecting the Church.  Catholic adoption agencies in states where couples of the same sex are given licenses to marry are forced to close their doors when federal funding is taken away from them because they refuse to place children in homes of same-sex couples.  Catholic health care institutions throughout the country are threatened by the Health and Human Services mandate that all employers must provide contraception in their employee’s health benefits.  Now, what constitutes a family is being completely redefined and it would be naïve to think that this will not, eventually, affect the Church.
          Yet what we celebrate today is that the sovereignty of God is greater than our fault-filled attempts to govern ourselves.  Just as God would not let Peter or Paul be martyred before their mission on earth was complete, so too he will not let these evil powers prevail against us until our mission here is complete.  We will only see that, however, if we remain faithful to our mission, like Peter and Paul did.  If we do, then we will be able to say, like Paul, that, even though we are “being poured out like a libation”, we know that the “crown of righteousness awaits [us]”; because we have “competed well” and have “finished the race”.  And, thus, we, too, will know that Jesus’ promise to Peter is true: for the “gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against [us]”.
          This, my brothers and sisters, is what we celebrate today: that, through Jesus, evil has been conquered, even if it still exists today; and that in his Church, founded on the pillars of the Apostles Peter and Paul, we are secure.  But, if we are secure, it is only so that we can fulfill our mission: the work of building up his kingdom that he has given to each one of us.
          Therefore, my brothers and sisters, we cannot lay idle.  Rather, we must finish the race.  Let us not think that we are too small to make a difference: for Peter was an uneducated fisherman, unqualified to lead, yet qualified by his faith in Christ, and Paul, although learned, was also a great sinner who, by God’s grace, turned from his effort to destroy the Church to become its greatest builder.  Each of us can and will make a difference if we remain faithful to our call and finish the race.  Fed and strengthened by this Eucharist—and by our support of one another—we cannot fail to finish it.
          Let us, then, take courage to continue to speak boldly the truths about God and the human person which God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and to act on them by serving one another, so that, when we have finished the race, we, too, might receive the “crown of righteousness” that both Peter and Paul received: the gift of eternal life.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 29th, 2014

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Communion... that we share.

So I didn't get last week's homily up because I had to leave for the work camp trip with the youth early Sunday morning.  It's providential, I think, because I see these last two Sundays as being intimately connected.  In celebrating the Most Holy Trinity, we are celebration God, who is a communion of persons in himself.  In celebrating the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are celebrating that, through our participation in the Eucharist, God has invited us to share the communion that he is.  Thus, the two celebrations go together; and so, my homilies this week come to you... together ;-)

P.S. We had a great experience at Catholic Heart Work Camp in Milwaukee :-D


Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A
          I don’t know if any of you remember having finger painted when you were in kindergarten, but I would guess that most of you at least remember your kids having the opportunity to finger paint when they were there.  Now for kids, finger painting is kind of like a dream come true.  I have a blank slate, I don’t have to use any tools (except for those I’m most adept at using… my fingers) and I’ve been covered in an plastic apron which pretty much gives me license to make as big of a mess as I’d like to during the process.  For the kindergarten teacher, however, I imagine that finger paint day is the day that he or she has to summon up all of his or her courage to go to work.  This is a day in which every child at every moment is teetering on the brink of disaster.  Thus, while the goal of other days is success and accomplishments for the children, the goal of finger paint day (again, I imagine) is survival.
          If I remember my kindergarten art projects correctly (finger painting included), when all was said and done we almost always had something to show for it; and we almost always had a “big-‘ol hot mess” on our hands.  Nonetheless, I don’t remember one time when either my teacher or my parents took a look at what that mess produced and said anything but how beautiful it was.  Now (as you all know, I’m sure) it didn’t matter if the art project had any sort of artistic merit on its own; because it was the effort and the love that went into producing it (and its accompanying mess) that gave the project all of the merit it needed.
          Reflecting on this year’s Easter Vigil, I find myself making a lot of parallels.  It was my first time presiding at the Vigil Mass and if you’ve ever been to one you’ll know that it is a very complex liturgy.  There’s the liturgy of light, when we bring in the newly blessed Easter Candle, an extended liturgy of the Word, baptisms, confirmations, and first Holy Communions, all mashed together in one Mass.  Add on top of all of that the need to celebrate the liturgy in two languages and I shouldn’t have been surprised that the whole thing felt like one “big-‘ol hot mess”.  Nonetheless, after it was finished, almost everyone who spoke to me afterwards expressed just how beautiful they thought it was.  Just like in the finger painting, it wasn’t the product itself (the liturgy) that merited these comments, but rather it was the effort and the love  that went into celebrating it (and, of course, the presence of the Holy Spirit) that gained for it all of its merit.
          You know, for years men and women of faith have tried to figure God out.  All the way back to Abraham, Moses, and the Ancient Israelites and up until today, we have tried to come to grips with this God who, in spite of being all-powerful, nonetheless loves us and desires communion with us.  For the Ancient Israelites it was slightly easier.  God hadn’t yet revealed himself as three persons in one God.  Nonetheless, the mystery of the creating God who had chosen them for his people still kept them intrigued.  In Jesus, and through the Paschal Mystery, God has reveled himself as a Trinity: a mystery of three holy Persons in the one, singular godhead.  If you’ve ever tried to come to grips with this reality—and more so, if you’ve ever tried to explain this reality to someone else—then you’ve probably realized that it is a much more complex mystery even than what it seems; and that any explanation that you come up with probably leaves you (and your hearer) more confused than when you began.  In other words, you usually end up with a “big-‘ol hot mess.”
          Still further, when we try to live out of this reality—that God is three and God is one, and that, though perfect in himself, he nonetheless desires a relationship with us: a relationship that demands certain things of us—we often find that we fall short (way short) of what it is that this demands of us.  Perhaps some of us even despair that we could ever realize what has been promised to us.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we find that we’re left with little more than a “big-‘ol hot mess.”
          This is where the grace of this feast that we celebrate today, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, comes into play.  You know, we don’t celebrate this feast because we already know all that there is to know about the Trinity and thus hold it up like some kind of accomplishment.  We celebrate it, rather, because acknowledging God for who he has revealed himself to be is a way to help us deal with the messes that we make in our lives.
          In our first reading, we heard about Moses going up onto Mount Sinai with the stone tablets in his hand.  What we didn’t hear is that this was the second time that he was going up.  The first time he went up, he received the Ten Commandments from God.  And when he brought them down, he found that the people had gotten anxious while they were waiting for him to return and so decided to make an idol—an image of God—whom they then worshiped.  So angry was Moses to see this that he threw down the stone tablets and shattered them to pieces.
          Thus, Moses went back up the mountain to beg God for another shot, for him and for his people.  The people had gotten themselves in a “big-‘ol hot mess” and Moses went back to ask for mercy (and for another copy of the Ten Commandments).  When God revealed himself to Moses a second time, he did not call himself “the God of wrath and vengeance”, but rather “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”  At hearing this, Moses, already fearful of God’s response, could only fall down and worship; that this God, powerful beyond comprehension, would spare this people who had made such of mess out of his graciousness was truly a thing of wonder.  At that moment, Moses saw who God really was and he was filled with awe.
          For all of us here today, this feast provides us with an opportunity to experience something of what Moses experienced on the top of Mount Sinai.  We all come here, having been here before and having heard all of God’s admonitions for how to live our lives in constant communion with him, and we realize that, in spite of our best (or, perhaps even, our barely minimal) efforts to fulfill all that God has commanded us, we have fallen short and basically have made a “big-‘ol hot mess” out of it all.  Nonetheless, we come here and God reveals himself to us for who he really is—the Father, whose creative, life-giving love has made us and sustains us, the Son, whose saving love redeemed us from our sin, and the Spirit, whose sanctifying, healing action works among us even now—and our reaction is (or at least it should be) the same as Moses’: to fall down and worship him who so graciously revealed himself to us.
          This loving, merciful God who has revealed himself to us in three persons looks upon all that we have done—good, bad, and everything in-between—and he sees the mess it has produced.  More than anything, however, he sees the effort and the love that we put into striving to fulfill his commandments; and his response is the same response that we give when we receive a kindergartner’s finger painting: “Yeah, it’s a mess, but it’s beautiful.”
          My brothers and sisters, as our Holy Father encouraged the young people at World Youth Day last year, let us not let our fear of stirring things up and making a mess prevent us from trying our hardest to fulfill God’s command to go out into the world and make disciples.  In fact, let’s be intent on making a mess: for from out of that mess God’s Kingdom will come, the beautiful mess that unites us perfectly to the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 14th, 2014


Homily: Corpus Christi – Cycle A
          As Americans, we know that we can be pretty pragmatic.  We like things to fit into structures and routines so that we really don’t have to think about them.  As a result, things that we do frequently become common or ordinary to us and we oftentimes forget how important they really are for us.  Consider our morning breakfast: a couple of pieces of toast or perhaps a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee and we’re on our way.  Yet, it throws our whole day off, doesn’t it, if we find we’ve run out of bread or someone finished the last bowl of our favorite cereal.  We just feel better if it remains the same, day in and day out, and we don’t realize how important it is to us until we don’t have it anymore.
          In today’s first reading, we hear Moses reminding the Israelite people, who had been wandering in the desert for forty years after leaving Egypt, about what a miracle it was for them to have the manna as food for their journey.  Way back at the beginning of their journey, the Israelites grumbled against Moses and against God after they were led out into the desert from Egypt because they had no source of food to sustain them during their exodus.  God responded and promised “bread from heaven,” the manna that appeared each morning like dew across the ground.  Each day the Israelites would gather enough to feed their family for the day and on the next day—faithfully, for forty years—more would appear.  If you could imagine what it would be like to eat the same food every day for forty years straight, you might understand that the Israelites began to take this blessing for granted.  The manna, as miraculous as it was, had become common and the Israelites had come to take it for granted.
          I would venture to say that some of us here might experience a similar problem.  Many of us have been parishioners here for a long time: perhaps some of us even for forty-plus years.  We know what mass we attend and where we generally sit (I say “generally” because there are always those “floaters” who sometimes end up in our seats, right?), the music perhaps is somewhat predictable and we generally know what to expect from the experience—I mean, the mass is the mass, right?  And it all becomes very routine for us.  Even though every week we are called here to worship God and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the form of bread and wine—the true bread come down from heaven—we nonetheless sometimes find ourselves looking forward more to the opportunity to meet with friends; or on the flipside considering it a chore to be drudged through so that we can get on with the rest of our day.  Because we come here every week and because the mass—by design, by the way—generally looks and feels the same, it has become familiar to us and perhaps we forget what a miracle it is to be called here to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
          As we look back again at the Israelites and Moses’ speech from the first reading today, we recognize one important fact.  In spite of all of their years of taking it for granted, God never once failed to provide it for them.  For forty years the Israelites wandered, grumbled, and wandered some more and in all of that time God never failed to provide them with that miraculous bread from heaven.  The manna, therefore, was their viaticum—which literally translates to “on the way with you”, but less formally means “food for the journey.”  Manna was the miraculous “bread from heaven” that sustained them on their way and was their reminder of God’s providential presence with them throughout it all.
          In giving us this great feast of Corpus Christi, the Church is doing what Moses did for the Israelites a few thousand years ago.  It is reminding us of what a miracle it is that we are called here every week and have the opportunity to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.  It is a reminder that, even if we sometimes take it for granted, God will never fail to give us the Eucharist, our viaticum, our “food for the journey.”  And this is so important for us to remember.  Not just because it is food—obviously the little portion that we receive is not much to satisfy us—nor only because it is spiritual food—which of course it is—but primarily because it is our intimate comunion with God.  God gave the Israelites bread for their bodies, but the manna, however, was just that, bread.  The bread that God provides us in the Eucharist is both bread for our bodies and spiritual food to nourish us on our journey, but because it is the Body and Blood of Jesus, our Lord, it is also a participation in the intimate communion that is God: the communion which we celebrated last week in the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Body and Blood of Jesus is the fulfillment of what the manna of the ancient Israelites foreshadowed.  It is the sacrament of God’s presence intended to effect, that is, literally, to make, our communion with God, until that day when we cross over from this life into the land promised to us, not the land of Canaan that God promised to the Israelites, but rather God’s heavenly kingdom.
          My brothers and sisters, the real, sacramental presence of God—the Body Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ—in the form of bread and wine is the most perfect gift that God has given us.  It is the sign of God’s presence with us, even in the midst of our worst afflictions.  Many people today, much like the people of ancient Israel, often want extraordinary signs that God is with them in their affliction.  What I want you all to realize today, however, is that God has given us such a sign.  Yet, in his great condescension to us he has allowed this extraordinary sign to be experienced by us as ordinary.  I realize that sometimes when we are in the midst of our worst afflictions, we want—we feel we need—the clouds to part and a voice to come from the sky saying, “It’s ok, I am with you.”  We want to see Jesus face to face and have him put his arm around us and say, “I know that this is hard, but look I haven’t left you.”  But what I am telling you is that God has done that for us.  Every time that we walk into a church and mass is being celebrated, or even if we only get a glimpse of that red candle flickering in the corner—we can know that God has not abandoned us, but rather that he is with us.  Thus, in the midst of our worst afflictions, God calls us to run to him in the Blessed Sacrament.  He calls us to receive him as often as possible so that his presence may comfort us and strengthen us for the journey.  This is why he sent his Son to us and this is why Jesus instituted this great sacrament.  He did it for us.
          Moses needed to remind the people of Israel that the sign of God’s providential care was something right under their noses: the miraculous bread from heaven that they received every day.  Today, the Church gives us this great feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us of the same thing and more.  The Blessed Sacrament that we receive ordinarily from this altar is the sign of God’s providential care as we wander as pilgrims on this earth.  It is also the bread that will strengthen us to remain steadfast in faith through all of our trials.  Most importantly, it is our intimate connection to God, who desires communion with us.
          As we continue to plow head-long back into the “routine” of ordinary time, let us strive to remember what an extraordinary gift it is that God has given us, the invitation, as Saint Paul says, “to participate in the body and blood of Christ,” and let us strive to celebrate this gift as extraordinary, even amidst our ordinary participation in it, an opportunity that we enjoy here today.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 21st & 22nd, 2014
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A todos... (Si, eso significa tu!)

          !Qué increíble 50 días de Pascua! Hoy, cuando celebramos la inauguración de la Iglesia por el descenso del Espíritu Santo sobre los Apóstoles, recordemos que cada uno hemos dado una manifestación del Espíritu para el bien de la Iglesia. Debemos dejar que el Espíritu trabaja en y a través de nosotros!

          Felicidades también al Padre Peter Logsdon, Padre Stephen Duquaine, y el Diácono Daniel Shine, que fueron todo ordenado para la Diócesis de Lafayette-en-Indiana ayer! Dios es tan bueno!


Homilía: Pentecostés – Ciclo A
          A menudo me he sorprendido al pensar en la complejidad del cuerpo humano y sobre cuántas cosas tienen que funcionar correctamente en todo momento para que pueda vivir. Piensan por un momento sobre cuántos diferentes funciones son necesarios—y, por lo tanto, la cantidad de diferentes órganos o componentes corporales son necesarios—para que nuestros cuerpos hacer algo tan esencial como la conversión de los alimentos en la nutrición. Hay la masticación y la deglución, la descomposición de los alimentos en el estómago; hay la absorción de la nutrición que necesitamos y la separación de las cosas que no necesitamos y luego la expulsión de estas cosas que no necesitamos después de haber sido separados... Eso es un montón de cosas que constantemente tiene que funcionar correctamente sólo para que podamos seguir viviendo! Si uno de los órganos o componentes mal funciona, todo el sistema puede fallar.
          Y esto incluye también las partes aparentemente más insignificantes y no funcionales del sistema. Tome el apéndice, por ejemplo. Aunque la investigación actual ha comenzado a mostrar lo contrario, el apéndice es una extremidad del intestino grueso que por años los médicos han considerado como "prescindible", ya que no tiene ninguna función aparente en una persona sana. Basta con ver su nombre... "apéndice". Apéndice significa "algo extra" y por lo tanto "no esénciale". A pesar de lo que el apéndice hace o no hace, sin embargo, si comienza a funcionar mal o que se infecta, se puede interrumpir y amenazan con destruir todo el cuerpo.
          Yo mismo tuve apendicitis cuando tenía 17 años. Tomó un día o dos para realmente desarrollar y, antes de que pudiera llegar al médico para que se lo trate, se rompió. Aunque me hizo llegar el tratamiento poco después de eso, me di cuenta de que, no me había apresurado en conseguir el tratamiento, no habría sido mucho tiempo antes de que mi vida hubiera estado en peligro real. Eso es un efecto grave para una extremidad que, aparentemente, no tiene ninguna función. Supongo que sirve para demostrar que cada parte del cuerpo—no importa lo insignificante que parezca—es importante.
          Hoy, en este domingo de Pentecostés San Pablo nos recuerda que nosotros, la Iglesia, somos un cuerpo. En concreto, afirma que somos el cuerpo de Cristo y que, por eso, se nos ha dado el Espíritu, el Espíritu de Cristo, que nos inspira a llamar a Jesús "Señor". Nosotros, por supuesto, hemos oído esto antes: que “Aunque muchos, somos uno y, aunque uno, somos muchos". Si no tenemos cuidado, sin embargo, vamos a glosamos sobre este hecho y perdemos lo que Pablo es realmente tratando de decir.
          Sin todo el conocimiento científico detallado que tenemos hoy en día, la gente de la antigua Palestina también sabían que el cuerpo humano era una cosa compleja: compuesto por muchos miembros—cada uno con su propia función—que juntas hacen un todo; y que si una parte del cuerpo fuera a ser removido, su unidad se vería disminuido. Así, Pablo, hablando de este conocimiento, utiliza el cuerpo como una analogía para representar la realidad de la Iglesia. La Iglesia se compone de muchos miembros, que ve, y cada uno de los miembros tiene una función—una función muy específica, que le confirió el Espíritu Santo; y si alguno de esos miembros falla en cumplir con su función, o se quita del cuerpo, entonces (en el mejor) el conjunto se ve disminuida y (en el peor) su propia vida está amenazada.
          Por otra parte, Pablo dice que es el Espíritu mismo que da al cuerpo su unidad. Al igual que con cada cuerpo humano es el alma personal que le da unidad y la anima, también es el Espíritu Santo, en la que cada uno de nosotros ha sido bautizado, que anima y da unidad a la Iglesia. Por lo tanto, cuando Pablo dice que "En cada uno se manifiesta el Espíritu para el bien común", está diciendo que cada miembro del cuerpo—no importa lo insignificante que él o ella pueda parecer—tiene algo que ofrecer a todo el conjunto. En otras palabras, él parece estar diciendo que incluso alguien que se siente, tal vez, como un apéndice, sin embargo, tiene algo importante que ofrecer.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, no es ningún secreto que la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos está languideciendo. Cada vez menos católicos están participando regularmente en la vida sacramental de la Iglesia y muchos se están alejando de la Iglesia completamente. Una de las categorías de la práctica religiosa más rápido crecimiento entre los estadounidenses es "ninguno", es decir, aquellos que dicen que no tienen afiliación religiosa o creencias en absoluto. (Y los hispanos que viven en los Estados Unidos, aunque menos, están siguiendo el mismo camino.) Gran parte de esto se puede atribuir a la influencia de la cultura secular, por supuesto, pero también creo que debemos mirarnos a nosotros mismos. ¿Hemos estado dispuestos a discernir los dones que el Espíritu ha dado a cada uno de nosotros a lo largo de nuestras vidas y por lo tanto para usarlos en beneficio del Cuerpo de Cristo, la Iglesia? Y hemos trabajado lo suficiente para ayudar a nuestros jóvenes a hacer lo mismo?
          Si no hemos estado abiertos a discernir los dones que el Espíritu está dando a cada uno de nosotros, entonces somos como apéndices: miembros, cuya función no es muy clara y que representan una amenaza significativa para el cuerpo si empiezan a funcionar mal. Y si no estamos ayudando a nuestros jóvenes a hacer lo mismo, entonces es aún peor, porque a menudo se alejan antes de convertirse fijada de manera permanente, lo que deja el cuerpo sin miembros necesarios para el futuro.
          Sin embargo, mis hermanos y hermanas, tenemos buenas noticias (por eso lo llamamos el "Evangelio", ¿no?). La Buena Nueva es la misma cosa que hoy celebramos: que Jesús, ahora sentado a la diestra del Padre, envió a su Espíritu a la Iglesia; y este Espíritu es una fuerza poderosa que no sólo tiene el poder de unirnos como un solo cuerpo—como lo hizo en Jerusalén aquel día, reuniendo "Judíos devotos de todas partes del mundo"—pero que también nos da poder para salir y cumplir con la misión de llevar la salvación a todos los hombres, incorporándolos en su cuerpo por el bautismo en el Espíritu de Cristo.
          Y así, mientras concluimos nuestra celebración de la Pascua de cincuenta días, vamos a orar cada uno intencionalmente al Espíritu Santo, pidiéndole que nos muestre el regalo único— grande o pequeño—que ha dado a cada uno de nosotros para avanzar en la misión de Cristo; y pidamos el coraje de ir adelante valerosa con el fin de manifestar ese don en el mundo, es decir, aquí en nuestra comunidad, y por lo tanto la edificación del Cuerpo de Cristo: cuyo cuerpo somos y cuya presencia se celebra sacramentalmente, en este altar.

Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN – 8 de junio, 2014

To everyone... (yes, that means you!)

          What an awesome 50 days of Easter!!!  Today, when we celebrate the inauguration of the Church by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, let us remember that we have each been given a manifestation of the Spirit for the good of the Church.  We must let the Spirit work in and through us!

          Congratulations also to Fr. Peter Logsdon, Fr. Stephen Duquaine, and Dcn. Daniel Shine, who were all ordained for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana yesterday!  GOD IS SO GOOD!!!


Homily: Pentecost – Cycle A
          I, for one, have often been amazed to think about the complexity of the human body and about just how many things have to go right at every moment for it to function properly.  I mean, just think for a moment about how many different functions are necessary—and, thus,  how many different organs or bodily components are necessary—for our bodies to do something as essential as converting our food into nutrition.  There’s the chewing and the swallowing, the breaking down of the food in our stomachs, there’s the absorbing of the nutrition that we need and the separating out of the stuff that we don’t need and then the expelling of that waste after it’s been separated…  That’s a lot of stuff that constantly has to go right just so that we can keep living!  If any one organ or component malfunctions, the whole system could fail.
          And this includes even the seemingly most insignificant, non-functional parts of the system.  Take the Appendix, for example.  Although current research has begun to show otherwise, the Appendix is an appendage of the large intestine that for years doctors have considered to be “expendable” because it serves no apparent function in an otherwise healthy person.  I mean, just look at its name… “appendix” means “something extra” and thus “non-essential”.  Regardless of whatever the Appendix does or does not do, however, if it begins to malfunction or becomes infected it can disrupt and threaten to shut down the entire body.
          I myself had appendicitis when I was 17 years old.  It took a day or two to really develop and, before I could get to the doctor to have it treated, it ruptured.  Although I did get treatment soon after that, I realized that, had I not made haste in getting treatment, it would not have been long before my life would have been in real danger.  That’s a serious effect for an appendage that seemingly has no function.  I guess it just goes to show you that every part of the body—no matter how insignificant it seems—is important.
          Today on this Pentecost Sunday we are reminded by Saint Paul that we, the Church, are a body.  More specifically, he states that we are Christ’s body and that, because of that, we have been given the Spirit—Christ’s Spirit—who inspires us to call Jesus “Lord”.  We, of course, have heard this before: that “though many, we are one and, though one, we are many.”  If we aren’t careful, however, we’ll kind of gloss over this fact and miss what Paul is really trying to say.
          Without all of the detailed scientific knowledge that we have today, the people in ancient Palestine also knew that the human body was a complex thing: made up of many members—each with its own function—that together make a whole; and that if any one part of the body were to be removed, its unity—that is, its “oneness”—would be diminished.  Thus Paul, speaking from this knowledge, uses the body as an analogy to represent the reality of the Church.  The Church is made up of many members, he sees, and each of those members has a function—a very specific function, given to it by the Holy Spirit; and if any of those members fails to fulfill their function, or is removed from the body, then (at best) the whole is diminished and (at worst) its very life is threatened.
          Moreover, Paul says that it is the very Spirit himself that gives the body its unity.  Just as with each human body it is the personal soul that gives it unity and animates it, so too it is the Holy Spirit, in which each of us has been baptized, that animates and gives unity to the Church.  Thus, when Paul says that “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit has been given for some benefit”, he is saying that each member of the body—no matter how insignificant he or she may seem—has something to offer the whole.  In other words, he seems to be saying that even someone who feels, perhaps, like an Appendix nevertheless has something important to offer.
          My brothers and sisters, it’s no secret that the Church in the United States is languishing.  Less and less Catholics are regularly participating in the Sacramental Life of the Church and many are turning away from the Church all together.  One of the most rapidly increasing categories of religious practice among Americans is “none”: that is, those who claim no religious affiliation or belief at all.  Much of this can be attributed to the influence of the secular culture, or course, but I also think that we have to look at ourselves.  Have we been open to discerning the gifts that the Spirit has given to each of us throughout our lives and thus to using them for the benefit of Christ’s Body, the Church?  And have we worked hard enough to help our young people to do the same?
          If we have not been open to discerning the gifts that the Spirit is giving to each of us, then we are like Appendices: members whose function is not really clear and who pose a significant threat to the body if they begin to malfunction.  And if we aren’t helping our young people to do the same then it’s even worse: for they will often drift away before becoming permanently attached, thus leaving the body without necessary members for the future.
          Nevertheless, my brothers and sisters, we have Good News (I mean, that’s why we call it the “Gospel”, right?).  The Good News is the very thing that we celebrate today: that Jesus, now seated at the right hand of the Father, has sent his Spirit into the Church; and this Spirit is a mighty force that not only has the power to unite us as one body—as it did in Jerusalem that day, drawing “devout Jews from every nation under heaven” together—but who also gives us power to go forth to fulfill Christ’s mission of bringing salvation to all men by incorporating them into his Body through baptism in his Spirit.
          And so, as we close our Easter celebration of 50 days, let us each pray intentionally to the Holy Spirit, asking him to show us the unique gift—big or small—that he has given each of us for furthering Christ’s mission; and let us ask for the courage to go forth boldly so as to manifest that gift in the world—that is, right here in our community—and thus build up the Body of Christ: whose Body we are and whose presence we celebrate, sacramentally, at this altar.

Given and All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 8th, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our Easter Guest is leaving

          The feast of the Ascension of the Lord is another reminder of how Lent and Easter invite us to reflect on the mysteries of our salvation in real time.  Just as Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after his Resurrection before ascending into heaven, so we have spent 40 days rejoicing in the Resurrection and reflecting on what that means for our lives.  Today, we watch him ascend and are left to decide, like the Apostles, "How will we go forward from here?"  In these days before Pentecost, let us reflect on this question and pray that the Lord will fill us with his Spirit to go forth in whichever direction he points us.


Homily: The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle A
          I’d guess that we’ve all had the experience of how disruptive to one’s life it can be to host a visitor in your home for a time.  Perhaps many of us are experiencing that even now as the season of celebration parties (First Communions, graduations, and such) as well as family reunions is upon us.  No matter how long our guests stay, there’s always a level of disruption that occurs that can be frustrating for some.  From making the necessary preparations, to sharing your space with another, to tidying up after they leave, hosting a visitor in your home can often leave you feeling “upended” and as if you don’t quite know how to get “normal” back.  (Don’t worry, Joe, this homily isn’t going to be completely about you.)
          This level of disruption is magnified, of course, when the guest comes with a mission.  For example, Padre Pedro is here from Guatemala visiting the community of Guatemalans who are living here in Cass County.  He has come with a mission to bring news reports of the status of things back in their home state, to give catechesis in their native dialect (believe it or not, for some, not only are they unable to speak English, they don’t even speak Spanish; but rather only their native dialect!), and to present to them the mission for evangelization that their bishop in their home diocese is promoting.  For many in our Guatemalan community this time of Padre Pedro’s visit is upending their lives: practically (as they collaborate to transport him to the different places he needs to go and provide him with meals), intellectually (as he provides them with much to think and to pray about), and spiritually (as he challenges them to adopt a more missionary, evangelistic disposition in their faith).  For them, the return to “normal” after he leaves won’t really be the same.
          This is the experience that we see presented to us today in our Scripture readings on this, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.  Jesus, God Incarnate, has spent three years disrupting the lives of his disciples.  He pulled them out of their daily routines and asked them to follow him, to provide for his daily needs, and to listen to him as he taught them about the salvation he was ushering in by his teaching and by his way of life; and which he brought to fulfillment in his death and resurrection.  And now, forty days after his resurrection, having spent that time unpacking for them how the events that unfolded in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection truly fulfilled all that the Prophets foretold of him, he leaves them definitively to be seated at the right hand of God the Father and his disciples have to face a new reality: “normal”, as they knew it, no longer exists; rather, they have to forge new paths.
          In a way, this is the continued experience of seminarians studying for the priesthood.  Having felt Jesus’ call, these men leave “normal” to spend six to eight years being formed in a particular style of discipleship meant to prepare them for a life of service to the Church.  For two of these men in our Diocese, the experience of the Ascension is about to become very real.  Next Saturday, Peter Logsdon and Stephen Duquaine will be ordained priests for our Diocese and will be sent forth to forge a new path of ministry for their lives.  For them, the Bishop’s admonition to “Go” at the end of their Ordination Mass should feel like a weighty command; for “normal” as they knew it, will never be that way again.
          Nevertheless, this isn’t an experience given only to the Apostles nearly two-thousand years ago, or only to those being ordained priests today.  Rather, this is an experience that we should all be having even now, as we prepare to close this Easter Season.  Just like those original Apostles, we have spent the last forty days celebrating Christ’s resurrection from the dead and seeking to unpack the mystery or our participation in this new life through baptism.  Our celebration today of Christ’s Ascension into heaven ought to fill us with the same wonder that filled the Apostles as they watched him be taken up in a cloud from their sight; and perhaps the same “what now?” fear that caused them to remain there, staring at the sky.  Thus, we should also feel the same jarring jolt that comes from the two men, dressed in white garments, who say: “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”  In other words, today, more than any other day, we should hear the dismissing admonition to “Go” with all the weight that it carries: for just as the Apostles had to go forth and forge a new way to a new normal from the mountain of Christ’s Ascension, we too are being told to go forth and forge a new way to a new normal from the renewal of baptismal grace that we have received from this Easter celebration.  Our Easter Guest is leaving and if we have done our job right (that is, if we have allowed ourselves to be formed and inspired by our Easter celebration) then we ought to be looking at the coming Ordinary Time with a bit of trepidation: wondering how it is that we will find a new “normal” in this renewed sense of mission that we have received.
          My brothers and sisters—and please forgive me if I seem too blunt—it is not enough for us to come, as the Apostles did that day to the mountain of the Ascension, and see Jesus and worship him only (although that is, of course, an essential component).  Rather, we must also go, make, and teach.  Go.  We must go out into the world to bring this Good News of salvation.  Make.  We must make disciples of those who hear the Good News and receive it into their hearts.  Teach.  We must teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us; and all in the power of Jesus, for he has promised and so is with us always, here in the Eucharist, until the end of the age.  Let us, therefore, take courage in this promise, filled with hope, and go forth, truly proclaiming the Good News by our lives.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 31st and June 1st, 2014

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord