Sunday, January 27, 2008

March for Life 2008

44 hours on the bus - no problem! Thanks to all the KU/KSU/ESU students who made the trip a blast, and to the many brother priests and seminarians who answered the call to stand up for life. I hope to always be in DC on Jan 22, to either stand up for life or to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Thanks to all who made the trip so fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Homily for Ash Wednesday, 2008

For daily readings, see

Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' This passage from the prophet Joel in today's first reading urges us to use this Lenten season to distinguish ourselves from those people who hope only in themselves or hope only in the world. The perennial challenge to religion is this: prove to me that I have to be religious is order to be a good person. Of course, this is not something we can prove. The world God created is good, and it can and should be filled with good people naturally without any supernatural intervention. Our task, instead in this Lenten season, is to proclaim the truth taught by faith that we were not created simply to be relatively good people. Indeed, this is no reason to be religious at all. Our task this Lent is to be able to proclaim with our lives that this world, with all its goodness, can never completely satisfy the longings of the human person. We are made for God alone, and our hearts will remain restless until they rest in Him. As St. Paul implores us then through his letter to the Corinthians, now is the acceptable time to sell all that we have in order to be reconciled to God, for only through a loving and dependent relationship with the infinite yet personal God can a human person realize his desire for eternal life. This is eternal life, to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Our prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent is our vehicle for proclaiming that our goal in life is not simply to become a better person. Indeed, although not desirable, it is oftentimes a fact that a Christian will not become as 'good' in this lifetime as his non-Christian neighbor. And this keeps many people away from religion, and keeps them asking the question - 'Where is their God?' To them, religious people seem to be hypocrites and God Himself appears at best disinterested in His creation. But even if we do not become as good as we would like, our Lenten resolutions proclaim that a Savior has been born to us, one who does not love us more because of our goodness but who loves us completely despite our sinfulness. For our sake, He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Our Lenten promises of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, then, are less about our readiness to make ourselves better than non-Christians, and more about our proclamation that despite our not being very good, because God is good, we can still be saved, if only we do not receive the grace of God in vain. This fast we begin today, then, is not the assertion of our human willpower to distinguish ourselves from sinners. Rather, quite the opposite - it is a humbling of ourselves to let the world know that we are not worthy of God's love, and yet He loves us nonetheless. Our proclamation of a fast is our way of saying that today is the day that we should begin readying ourselves for an encounter with a love beyond all human understanding, revealed through the paschal mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who seek holiness for the sake of being seen as holy have already received their reward. Today's traditional Gospel reading from Matthew is a reminder to us that greater than our desire to escape our sins is our desire to be loved by others. So deep is our need for intimacy, for the love that makes us fully human, that we can and do 'pretend' to be holy under the pretext of knowing that people love us more for our virtues than for our sins. But of course, this is the way of human love not divine love. Human loves starts from the outside and moves in. The divine love revealed through the suffering and death of Jesus is the opposite - it heals from the inside out, and is more interested in the sinner than in 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance. The Gospel for today reminds us that being ready to receive the love revealed and celebrated at its highest point during the Easter triduum requires mostly 'hidden' work on our part. Admirable is the disciple who begins Lent with firm resolutions and strict discipline. Indeed it is hard to have a good Lent without these. But the goal of Lent is not to successfully survive harder penances or to outdo your neighbor in piety. Remember that we will not change God's love for us through any sacrifice whatsoever. God is love. He cannot be anything else. He will not love us more if we have a good Lent nor love us less if we have a bad Lent by our own human standards. The prophet Joel assumes in our first reading that we have already given our garments. Now we must rend our hearts as well. Holiness, therefore, will not be measured by the one who prays longer, fasts better or gives the most to the poor - these are a means but not the end. Even the one who prays longer, fasts better or gives the most to the poor can do so in order to win the praise and affection of others, but may still withhold his heart from God. We pray longer, fast better, and give more to the poor not to receive the award of salvation from our neighbors, who do not have the power to save. No, we pray longer, fast better and give more to the poor in silence, so that our Father who sees what is hidden will repay us with the grace of the Easter sacraments. O most merciful Father, who desires not the death of the sinner, but that He might turn back to you and live, grant that we your sinful people may not receive this living water in vain!

The wedding of Thomas and Jayme

The guy in white - my youngest brother Thomas - was married January 5th (my mom's birthday) to Jayme Evans at Sacred Heart Parish in Park, Kansas. This is the same Church where my grandparents and parents were married, a beautiful Gothic Church on the plains of western Kansas. The bald-headed guys are my younger 'bachelor' brothers Rodney and Norman. This was taken before the ceremony, and unfortunately, my oldest brother Chad and brother-in-law James were not in this particular shot. Congratulations to Thomas and Jayme - we all love them and wish them every happiness and blessing. What an extraordinary privilege for me to be able to witness the vows of my youngest brother. What a great Christmas season it was this year! On to many more good things in 2008 - including many men applying to be new seminarians for the Archdiocese of KCK!