Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…
These statistics might be a repeat if you heard me on Ascension Thursday, but I am having a hard time shaking them off. The numbers from the Pew Research Forum’s “America Changing Religious Landscape” are out and they are troubling for the home team. After many decades of Catholics making up 25% of the US population, we are down to 20%. For years we could be comforted by the fact that for every person that left the Church, someone else was converting. Now for every convert, there are 6.5 people leaving the Church. And do you know what would make up the second largest denomination in the Unites States? That’s right, former Catholics.
And what is fascinating is where they are going. By and large they have not become evangelical or joined another faith. Hey have become “nones.” Not “nuns”, that would be awesome, but none of the…
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Thoughts from Exploring the Sunday Readings, June 2005:
Understanding the Trinity by some feat of mathematics may be out of the question, but it is within our grasp to apprehend the Holy Presence through the power of the indwelling Spirit. To know God, start by making yourself known to God [opening yourself to God in prayer]. The Creator of the universe may seem too awesome for us. The Holy Spirit, as intimate as our next breath, may yet seem too mystical. But Jesus is the one in whom this God is completely present, and still we have been invited to call him friend. He is the one who knows us as one of us: He knew birthdays, hard work, good company, simple meals, and great feasts. He knew irritation, weariness, friendship, family, rejection, and suffering. Jesus is the one who can lead us through all that life has to offer us: there is no place we can go that he has not been.
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
From Celebration, June 11, 2006:
Deuteronomy means ‘a second law’ – it is written as if Moses is giving a farewell address to his people before they cross the Jordan river and enter Canaan. It is comprised of both early and late material, some perhaps as early as the 10th century B.C. and some as late as the 7th century B.C. It speaks of a God who not only created all things, but who wishes to also be involved with and care for all that he has brought forth.
How does this reading speak to you about our God? Do you feel this greatness of God in your life? Is it fixed in your heart?
2nd Reading: Romans 8: 14-17
Paul here is using Roman law and customs to explain how God wishes to relate to us. According to Roman law, the father’s power over the family was absolute. A son never came of age; he was always under the control of his father. To adopt a son was a major undertaking. It followed a long and exact ritual. But once done, the adopted person belongs forever to the new father. Here are some of the consequences of these legal adoptions:
- The adoptee gave up all rights in his former family and gained all rights and dignity of a legitimate child in his new family.
- The adoptee became the legal heir of his new father and even if others are born afterwards, his rights could not be affected.
- The old life of the adoptee was wiped out and all debts were cancelled.
- The adoptee was regarded as a new person and a true son/daughter.
(Celebration, June 11, 2006)
What do you find most important in this reading? How does it feel to know you are a child of God (Family!) and able to ENTER INTO this trinity?
The Gospel: Matthew 28: 16-20
Matthew’s gospel began with the story of Jesus’ birth saying “and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.” (1:23). Now with this ending passage, Matthew has Jesus again assuring the disciples who are sent out to all the world (no longer just to fellow Jews) saying: “And behold, I am with you always . . .”
What strikes you most about this gospel? Isn’t it interesting that the moment the disciples doubted, that’s when Jesus sent them off with work to do? None of us are completely prepared, but we are sent anyway. Just as we are.
Father Bob’s Last Sunday Homily…
7th Sunday of Easter B
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Those words from the first letter of John are backed up in John’s Gospel when Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” So as long as God has loved us, it is our responsibility to love everyone. I think that sounds great in theory, but in practice it seems… let’s just say it seems a little problematic.
Loving one another is quite an expectation to put on us. To love without discrimination, without quantifying and without exception seems a dangerous road. I want to say to Jesus, “sure I would like to love everyone, but have you ever met_______?”
There are plenty of reasons both universal and personal not to love everyone. For me, first off, loving everyone sounds exhausting. I mean I love the people I love, but…
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Father Bob’s Ascension Homily…
Feast of the Ascension B
Perhaps because the Met have lost four in a row, I will share some bad news about the good news. The Pew Research Forum released their report “America’s Changing Religious Landscape and the numbers are not pretty. After years of making up 25% of the American Population Catholics now make up only 20%. We have usually had roughly the same amount of people coming into the Church as leaving the Church. Now for every convert, there are 6.5 who leave. And do you know what at 13% would be the second biggest denomination in the country? Former Catholics.
Last night I taught a class on Pope Francis and his desire for a missionary church. There can be no longer be any doubt that now is the time for that. Now is the time to tell better the story we know so well, the story that…
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Thomas Merton described in Conjecture of a Guilty Bystander his epiphany on March 18, 1958: In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
We are all walking around shining like the sun. Just look at the sun today. Feel the warmth on the back of your neck. When you close your eyes to it, you can still see the brightness under your eyelids. It penetrates through the skin. There is a strength in that sunlight. It can even lift our mood. What is it like to walk around, shining like that? Yet Merton says we are. I am convinced very few people truly know they are walking stars.
As a matter of fact, we are quite literally, stardust. If the universe began with a big bang in space, we were originally made from the dust of stars. Thinking about the human race made in this cosmic way, it connects all of us. Merton felt that connection sitting on a bench in Louisville, KY. He felt a great love for the uniqueness in each person he saw. There was an instantaneous desire to share it. Once you catch that deep feeling of love, it cannot be contained.
It seems like most people are very hard on themselves. They want to do better. They see who they want to be and it is so far from who they are now. Our culture doesn’t help. More is the goal. Always strive beyond. We are never enough. It is impossible to shine when our heads are down.
This is not what God wants. God doesn’t want our perfection. God wants us to be the most of who we are. That is how we shine. What is more beautiful than a person being exactly who they are called to be? It is breath-taking. It is strong. It is brilliant. And it is fire-producing. It exudes the love God wants us to have for ourselves and for one another.
This Pentecost, dare to be the most you. God sent God’s Spirit to help. And you will shine like the sun.
1st Reading: Acts 1: 15-17, 20a, 20c-26
The line in Acts that comes just before this passage states: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”So what goes on in this upper room is not just a ‘male thing.’ It is a gathering of those who have known and loved Jesus in life and now through death and into the resurrection. It is a community that has grown out of this lived experience of Jesus. (Preaching Resources, 5/28/06) How might our church be like them and “be a witness to his resurrection”?
It is also important to remember that the number twelve was symbolic of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, representing the fullness of the ‘people of God.’ So these Twelve had been appointed by Jesus to be a sign of this ‘eschatological community.’ That is why it was important to select another one to replace Judas who had died. These twelve must also be witnesses to the original saving history of both the earthly Jesus and his resurrection. They become this bridge between the earthly Jesus and the mission of the Church as a whole. The circle of the Twelve and the circle of the apostles (those sent out) sort of overlap. For all disciples are apostles – called to be sent out by Jesus to bring the Good News to the needy – and sometimes hostile – world. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )
It feels good to be picked out, chosen. Imagine what Matthias may have experienced when he heard the lot fell to him. But we aren’t always picked. Poor Barsabbas. What do you think became of him? Can you think of times when you were like Matthias and Barsabbas? How did it affect your life after?
2nd Reading – 1 John 4: 11-16 and the Gospel – John 17: 11b-19
Let’s look at these readings together for they come out of the same author and community. What do you find important here?
God’s love for us and others compel us to also love one another. This is possible as God abides in those who love. God’s Spirit empowers them — lives in them. This is one of the main themes of the Johannine tradition. It is constantly being repeated. But let not its repetition deaden our ears and hearts to its truth. This mutual indwelling of this God of love is the essence of the saving event we call the Good News of Jesus Christ. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu)
Too often don’t we prefer to ‘earn’ our gifts and grace? Too often don’t we mistrust the ways of love? Freud said that this notion of loving another as we love ourselves is nonsensical and absurd. Anyone who does this will put “himself at a disadvantage.” Often we ourselves fear that if we really love in this way we might become a doormat – or worse. Just take a look at Jesus. “God so loved the world” to give us Jesus – yet the world did and does reject the Word-made-flesh. It happened in the Rome of the Caesars, in the Florence of the Medicis, in the Communism of Russia, in the oppression of military El Salvador – and in our secular culture today. But despite the rejection and threat we as Christians have been entrusted with this Good and Dangerous Word of Love. We are sent into this ‘hostile’ world just as Christ was sent. We share in the same Spirit. (J Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )
We see Spirit as work through its fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Take time to consider where you see these fruits in your life. Take comfort in knowing Spirit is gifted to us so that God, and God’s love, remains with us.
We are consecrated with God’s truth. What does that mean to you? How does this relate to Mass? It is not only the bread and wine that are consecrated at the table. We are all made holy through the grace of God. We stand in truth, open to that consecration, knowing that we are being strengthened and nourished…so we can be sent forth into the world.
From Karl Rahner:
“Only the one who can be still and pray; only the one who is patient and does not drown out the frightening silence in which God dwells, and which comes to us, with the racket of everyday life . . . only that one can hear with ease and discretely appreciate something of the eternal life that is already inwardly given to us as the indwelling of God in us.”
Friends, today we celebrate Mothers Day. When we think of our mothers, we usually think of and remember their love, their many sacrifices, and then how they loved us, no matter what. How fitting that the theme of our second reading and of our Gospel is all about Jesus’ command to love. Today’s gospel goes straight to the heart of every thing, but you know, it especially goes directly to the heart of Christian life. It speaks to us about the commandment, the only commandment, the commandment of love. Love of God and love of one another. But, could love truly be a command, a law, or an order? Can anyone force us or order us to love? Certainly not! In truth, love is something that comes from within the person, not from an order received from someone else.
In the service, orders are given and executed and the same or similar can happen at work. But no one can order how or what we should feel for those around us. That is something different.
Jesus knows that this is something different. Jesus knows because he has experienced the love of God.
Moreover, Jesus has experienced that God is love.
Jesus’ presence in our world is the concrete sign of that love of God for each one of us, and that love is what gives us life. The love of God created this world and keeps it in existence despite the many abuses we commit against it and against one another. Jesus speaks about the commandment of love because he knows that God loved us first and because we are creatures of love. Love, as the second reading tells us, does not spring from ourselves, but from God.
God is the origin of love, God is the origin of that vital spring that none of us can live without.
There is no way to place barriers to that love that comes from God either. There are no Jews or pagans for God. That is why the Holy Spirit is poured out on all in the reading of the Acts of the Apostles today. God goes beyond norms and traditions. His love is stronger than any human law. God gives himself to each and every one of us.
Today’s readings do speak to us today about the great commandment of love. But in reality they invite us to look at the love with which God loves us and cares for us. For, it is out of that experience that our own love will spring forth, it is out of that experience that we get our capacity to love and to give life to those around us.
This could be compared with trying to convince someone that not attending Mass on Sundays is a sin.
It is far better to invite that person to come to our community, to help that person enjoy the celebration of the Mass with the wonderful music and our friendly community, and our great encounter with Jesus.
If that happens, he or she is likely to come back. However, if we threaten them with sin and damnation, they are likely to never come back.
Something similar happens with love. No one will love under the threat of a fine or punishment. But they are likely to love if they have felt loved and have been respected by those around them. My friends, today is the time for us to make those who live with us, those who work with us, those who worship with us, those whose lives we touch in any way, know about the great love that God has for them. Today is the time for each of us to share the love God gives us with each other. Once we have shared that gift of love, then we can say we have experienced love.
Acts 10:25 – 26, 34-35, 44-48
In Acts 10 the author as a third person reported recounts that happened in Peter’s speech to Cornelius (a pious Roman centurion), the Jewish people and the Gentiles. The big questions were: Were Christians bound by the Jewish rules? Should the Gentiles be received without first becoming Jews (i.e. being circumcised)? This was never resolved in Jesus’ lifetime. It makes one consider how many try to resolve issues today in the church using Jesus’ words and deeds. If Jesus did not solve the most fundamental question of the Christian mission, we may well doubt that his recorded words solve most of our subsequent debated problems in the church (Brown, R., A Once-and-Coming Spirit at Pentecost, pgs. 61-62).
God shows no partiality. The root of all the readings this week (and always with the Word!) is love. How often do we feel completely affirmed to the core of our being? Do we ever get to a point where we have arrived in feeling absolutely loved and accepted for who we are? Are we worthy? We have a deep desire to be loved. Carl Jung said, “What we’re about as humans is a constant and consistent movement toward wholeness.” We are wired to be connected with something that is other and beyond. As St. Augustine said, “My soul is restless until it rest in you, O God.” This love that is God is offered to all, with no partiality.
1 John 4:7-10
From Creighton University Online Ministries:
I like to think, and I pray God’s fingerprints are on me and the prints I leave behind are just as noticeably God’s prints. For me, leaving behind a trail of God’s fingerprints is not easy, but God’s prints are readily identifiable. It is God who intrudes and rifles my heart. It is God who sets things right. God dwells among us. God dwells in me. God’s fingerprints are everywhere. Just like fingerprints on a window can only be seen in the light, I also have to stand where the light can shine through me. God’s love-ly fingerprints are smeared and permanently stuck to me. How do you leave your love-ly fingerprints?
We do not earn God’s love, and we do not initiate love and goodness ourselves. Everything comes from God…freely given; we can accept or reject. (At Home with the Word, p. 87) Can you think of times when you have accepted or rejected God’s love in your life? The love in the Trinity is the love that God wants to have with us. It completes the circle. Jesus came to be one with us…completely human. To the point that he calls us His friends. He chooses us. How does that make you feel? This love for one another brings life…IN ABUNDANCE! But what Jesus is telling us isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling…it is a commandment: love one another. Can all of us do that, all the time? “The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love, “ (M. Downey, Altogether Gift, p. 60). We are meant to be intertwined with God in God’ Trinity. How do we do that?
Father Bob’s homily for the Youth Mass last week…
4th Sunday of Easter B (Youth Mass)
On the Fourth Sunday of Easter every year, Jesus describes the qualities of a good shepherd, and if you are a pastor, it always sounds like an annual job review. Right there is the job description. “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” There is a scenario you must answer – “What would you do if the wolf came to threaten your sheep?” It is a good and challenging standard to be judged by.
But I am far from thinking I am the only one who shepherds around here. Into each of our lives shepherding comes – moments of leadership and care. Moms and Dads are shepherds of their families, captains are shepherds of our teams, and we all feel responsibility for the flock of our friends. Are we good shepherds? Do we lay down our lives for our…
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