Friday, June 27, 2008

Indulgences and Papal Liturgies

See below for information on obtaining the plenary indulgence associated with the Pauline Holy Year beginning this Sunday.

-- Those visiting the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in the form of a pilgrimage must offer personal prayers before the Altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament; they must also recite the Our Father and the Creed in front of the Altar of the Confession, adding invocations to honor Mary and St. Paul.--

The Catholic faithful in any local church can obtain the indulgence by participating with devotion in a liturgy or other public event dedicated to St. Paul -- in any sacred place on the opening and closing days of the jubilee year, and on other days in places designated by the local bishop.

See below for some new developments regarding receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling during papal liturgies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling before the pope will become the norm at papal liturgies, said the Vatican's liturgist.While current norms allow the faithful to receive the Eucharist in the hand while standing, Pope Benedict XVI has indicated a preference for the more traditional practice, said Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies.Kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue highlights "the truth of the real presence (of Christ) in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful and introduces the sense of mystery more easily," he said in a June 26 interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.Pastorally speaking, he said "it is urgent to highlight and recover" these aspects of the sacredness and mystery of the Eucharist in modern times.Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand and the majority choose to receive on the tongue.But starting with a May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar and the chosen communicants all knelt and received on the tongue.At a June 15 Mass in the southern Italian port city of Brindisi, the pope again distributed Communion to the faithful on the tongue while they were kneeling.In the Vatican newspaper interview, Msgr. Marini was asked if this practice was destined to become the norm in all papal celebrations, and he replied, "I really think so."He said "it is necessary not to forget that the distribution of Communion in the hand, from a juridical standpoint, remains up to now an indult," which is an exemption from a general requirement that is granted by the Vatican to the bishops' conferences which have requested it. He said the pope's adoption of the traditional practice of distributing Communion "aims to highlight the force of the valid norm for the whole church."However, the pope's preference for the traditional practice is not meant to "take anything away from the other" permissible form of standing or receiving the Eucharist in the hand, he said.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Homily for Thursday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time

Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!

Today's Gospel warns us against doing 'good things' and being 'good people' with the assumption that the Lord will support whatever life we pick. Jesus' words indicate a big difference between one who does the good things that he wants in his life assuming that God's will is closeby somewhere and someone who instead will inherit the kingdom of heaven because He followed the will of God exactly by discerning precisely what Jesus means when He tells us to 'follow Him.' I have to tell people quite a bit that God will not take vengeance on them if they get their vocation in life 'wrong.' God desires our happiness and his gift of salvation is not confined to our ability to perfectly discern His will. All the same, however, Jesus instructs his disciples that it is gravely wrong to assume that God will honor any life that we pick for ourselves that seems to be in the general vicinity of His will. No, instead, we are to discern precisely through prayer, to respond generously and promptly to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to imitate Jesus as exactly as we can. It is not enough to superficially appear to be religious when in fact we are not willing to do whatever God asks of us, even if He calls us to where we would rather not go. This Gospel passage, like many others, is very helpful to those discerning a vocation, and should give great courage to those called to the priesthood or religious life to answer this special call!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Homily for Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time

Mary, Queen of vocations, pray for us!

Today's Gospel, which we hear every year on Ash Wednesday, is one of the most difficult, I think, to understand and to apply. Jesus is not telling us to keep our faith or our piety private. Otherwise, why would He say at another time that we are not to hide the light of our faith under a bushel basket, but are to become the light of the world and the salt of the earth. No, our faith is to be shared, so that people can see our good works, and give glory to our Father in heaven. It is only when we wish for people to see us rather than seeing God, and only when we wish to appear holier than we really are, that Jesus must give instructions like the ones He gives in today's Gospel. Humility does not necessarily mean that we must hide our faith from others. Even in a society like ours where the separation of Church and state exists, this separation exists in order that a state does not have to become an expert in religion, and the Church does not have to become an expert in politics. The separation of Church and state helps to guarantee the freedom of religion, and this is a great and necessary thing that the Church prizes highly, but too many people absolutize the separation of Church and state to the point that they despise the contribution that religion reasonably makes to a human society. Religion's interest in politics is to provide a vision of humanity that goes beyond preserving the rights of people to live as they see fit. No, religion provides a vision for human flourishing and appeals to the deepest aspirations of man. This is why her contribution must not be minimized and religion overly privatized. This being said, of course now I am far away from the main point of the Gospel today, which is Jesus' appeal for his disciples to attain the virtue of humility. Without this virtue, we risk being seen as hypocrites, self-righteous and fake. Jesus reminds us that even as our piety grows and we take on my prayer, fasting and almsgiving for the sake of the kingdom of God, so should our desire for the virtue of humility, which always presumes that we are the least holy person around, and that wants deeply for people not to see us, but to see our Father who is hidden in heaven! +m

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pope Benedict Ferverinos from US Visit - Part XVI

From talk to Catholic educators

"From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”. Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God’s testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in – a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church."

Man cannot fully live without faith. It is one of the crowning virtues of the human person. Pope Benedict really believes this and is trying so hard to convince that faith does not begin where reason ends, but faith supports and completes reason. He is right. So many people see faith as superstition, and those who use faith as unnecessarily constrained by dogma. The freedom to believe, however, is indispensable for Benedict if man is to have any chance of transcending Himself, which of course is God's continual and ultimate invitation to man.

Homily for Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings see

Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!

Well, so much for defining human nature as the propensity to make mistakes. We see this all the time. To err is human. I'm only human. I'm afraid that Jesus who speaks in today's Gospel at the end of the Sermon on the Mount would not agree with these assessments of humanity. It is true, that every human person except two sinned. It is true that the likelihood that we will stop making mistakes on this side of heaven is next to nothing. Still, however, Jesus will not allow us to define being human as the propensity to make mistakes. Concupisence is present, but it does not define what a human person is. Jesus came to restore what was lost when human persons saw the law given them by Moses as the highest point to which humanity could aspire. Jesus think human persons should not just follow good laws, but should go beyond and strive for the perfections that come from God. Through the incarnation, Jesus elevated what it meant to be a human. Because of the Incarnation, to be a human is to have the capacity to be filled with divine perfections. Through his paschal mystery, Jesus redeemed the human heart, and made the human heart capable of sharing in the heart of God. This is what it means when Jesus tells his disciples at the end of the sermon on the mount that they are to no longer to confine themselves to being merely children of this world. No, because Jesus has redeemed humanity, it is possible for us to be children of our heavenly Father. This now it what it truly means to be human, to share in the infinite perfections of God, and to be called children of God insofar as we belong to His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ. So the next time someone tells you that they are only human, take the chance to remind them that Jesus does not see them this way. He is there to forgive our sins, and to transform our hearts, so that being human is something to unequivocally celebrate, not something to be lamented. +m

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pope Benedict Ferverinos from US Visit - Part XV

"This same dynamic of communal identity – to whom do I belong? – vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction – do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self – intellect and will, mind and heart – to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold."

Pope Benedict instructs that a truly Catholic institution is one that begins with the proclamation that Christ is Lord and that one's intellect and will, mind and heart belong to Him. This is and must be the assumption of every disciple from the moment of his baptism forward, and so the same must be true of Catholic institutions made up of those same disciples. Pope Benedict greatly respects academic freedom since he has worked in academia himself quite extensively. Yet academic freedom for Pope Benedict does not mean one can dispense from belonging to Christ first so that one's conversation with Jesus can be deepened and strengthened through academic study. A Catholic institution that saves faith until last is not really doing theology, which is faith seeking understanding, not vice versa.

Steubenville of the Rockies

I'm grateful to Holy Trinity parish in Lenexa for inviting me to accompany their fabulous trip to Colorado this week for Steubenville of the Rockies. About 150 youth and chaperones are going for a life-changing week. We will have a blast camping and whitewater rafting, but the best part of the week will be encountering Jesus more fully in the Holy Eucharist. I was able to go on this week about 6 years ago with Holy Trinity, and the fruit of the week is that all who participate recognize the Eucharist as the ever-present and most powerful miracle at work today. May the Lord Jesus reveal his unique and salvific love to each participant this week, and may many of the young people who go on the trip hear His call to follow Him as exactly as they can! Please pray for our trip!

Homily for Monday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see

Homily given at Prairie Star Ranch

Most of us think of ourselves as better than some people and worse than others. We look up to some people, even claiming some to be our heroes and role models, and look down on others, judging them as unworthy of our time or attention because of this or that negative quality that they possess. Jesus, however, in telling us to offer no resistance to one who is evil, is telling us to look down on no one. He Himself proved His love for us, St. Paul told us yesterday in the Letter to the Romans, in that He died for us while we were still sinners. This is important for us to think about and to understand clearly. Jesus did not wait until we could reciprocate His love, or until we were able to meet some minimum standard of virtue or piety. No, He died for us while we were still sinners, and this means there is no one for whom Christ is unwilling to die. Jesus looks down on no one. He considers the life of every person He sees to be less important than His own life, and He is perpetually ready to give not just his cheek or cloak or energy or money, as He says in tonight's Gospel, but is ready to give His very life. Jesus is ready and able to do this because of his perfect humility, which causes Him to look down on no one, but instead as their Savior He looks for a way to heal and to strengthen people at their weakest point.

If we want to stop judging one another, we must start by allowing ourselves to be touched by this unique and salvific love of Jesus. We start not by comparing ourselves to other people, but by considering ourselves to be the worst sinners, the ones who are in the greatest need of God's mercy. That is why saints are always the first people in line for the confessional, even if in our eyes, they haven't done anything seriously wrong. The saints, because of their humility, always considered themselves to be the most sinful person in the room, and were the first ones in line for the confessional because they wanted to learn this incredible mercy of Jesus and to always be the first ones to receive it and to become more dependent upon it.

St. Paul told us as well yesterady that if we know Jesus in this way, if we know Him not just as our teacher or role model but most specifically as our Savior, the one who loves us the most because He begins loving us where we need it the most - if we know Jesus this way, then we will know what eternal life is. St. Paul says that if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. St. Paul tells us the way that we will live forever. It is not by looking good in comparison with other people. No, we will live forever when we see things the way Jesus sees us, and by imitating his readiness not to look down on us in judgment, but to give His life for us while we are still sinners.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time invite us to think about the priesthood and vocations. We forget too easily, I'm afraid that each one of us in this Church today is a priest, set apart by God just as the Israelites in today's first reading were set apart to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. On the day of our baptism, each one of us was anointed on the head with holy chrism, so that we might share in the prophetic, kingly and priestly mission of Christ. Through baptism our lives are ordered to Christ in a special way. We become his special possession, more dear to him because we belong to him as sheep belong to a shepherd. From the moment of our baptism onward, we begin following the new commandment that Christ gave us, described by Paul in today's second reading from the Romans, to love one another just as He has loved us. We follow the new commandment and remain faithful to the new covenant inaugurated by the paschal mystery of Jesus, just as the Israelites followed the commandments given them by Moses, and remained faithful to the covenant inaugurated by God's tremendous signs in leading them from slavery to freedom.

We all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and so we must all offer the sacrifice of our lives so that God can make us holy, and so that others can be made holy through the sacrifice we offer. Liturgically, this sacrifice that we are all offering together as a kingdom of priests is represented by the bread, wine and money brought forward during the offertory. If we are truly living our identity as priests, then this is a most significant moment for us; not only when the basket passes us in the pew, but most especially when the gifts of bread and wine that represent our lives are placed upon the altar. Jesus himself was the priest, the altar and the lamb of sacrifice, as one of the Easter prefaces for the Mass says. Those of us who share in his priesthood by virtue of our baptism, then, must see the bread and wine that are placed on the altar as the real and complete sacrifice of our lives, in imitation of the one who gave his life as a ransom for many.

The ministerial priest, whom we think of most readily when we think of the priesthood, is there to enable the priesthood of the baptized to offer their gifts to God. All of us who are baptized are a people set apart by Christ to be priests, prophets and kings. A ministerial priest is one who has been further called, as were the first apostles whom we hear about today, to not only participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, but to represent Christ Himself to the community and to act in His person. If Christ is the bridegroom and the Church His Bride, as we say in our theological tradition, then the ministerial priest is there to represent the bridegroom who both offers His life for His bride and also receives Her sacrifice, so that the two leave the altar together no longer two people, but one flesh. The ministerial priesthood of the groom does not dominate or control the priesthood of His bride, but is there to show in a personal way Christ's giving of His life for His bride and in turn His receiving the gift of Her life.

From the beginning of the tradition of our Church, Jesus set apart men not only to preach and to rule, as we hear Him instructing the first apostles in today's Gospel, but also to give their lives in imitation of Him who gave His life out of love for His bride, the Church. Later on in our tradition, the requirement of celibacy in the western Church was added to enhance the sign value of the priest as one who, in imitation of Christ who was married only to the Church, represents Christ and the offering of His life, especially in and through the celebration of Mass. It is at Mass most fully that the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of the faithful work together to produce a marriage that wells up to eternal life. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that it is when we come to realize that Christ gave His life for us while we were still sinners that we grow in confidence that we also share in His resurrection, and that we will live forever with Him. In saying this, Paul points us to the Mass, where we encounter that even though we are not worthy to receive Him, Christ continually offers His life for us as our priest. When we realize that eternal life is not a ticket that some lucky people receive if they don't screw up too badly, but is actually this unique and salvific love of Jesus poured out for us in the Mass, it is then that we want to do everything we can as His bride to offer our lives through our priesthood on that altar with Him, so that we may drink more deeply of this unique love that a Savior has for sinners. As St. Paul says, this is where most especially we will know for sure that we will live forever with Christ, if we truly experience what it meant for Him to give His life for us.

It is when young men realize what is really at stake through the celebration of Mass that a call to follow Christ in the ministerial priesthood can be heard and answered. It is as true today as ever, that the harvest is rich but the laborers are few. The Church in the United States is 'missionary country' now because of our inability to teach our children how to hear the call of Jesus to follow Him, and how to respond to that call with generosity and love. Jesus gives us the key for understanding the vocation problem in our country. He says in the Gospel that without cost we have received, and without cost we are to give. The ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ is a gift of immeasurable value, and not something that can be compared with the hundreds of other opportunities that are typically in front of a young man. Jesus told the original twelve disciples to follow Him, and they left everything to do so, and they did it immediately. Unfortunately, we most often tell the young men of our Church to follow their desires, and to check every so often to see if Jesus is behind them supporting their decisions. A priestly vocation is often pursued not with singleness of heart, as it should be, but as one option among many, and against Jesus' advice, we put a relative value on His call to the priesthood like we do on all the other options in front of us. This is not the way to realize a vocation, however. Jesus asks us to follow Him, and to trust that He will pick out a life for us much greater than the life we would pick out for ourselves. Without cost we have received, without cost we are to give. There is no reason for more young men not to hear this call of Jesus to follow Him, and to receive from Him the incalculable privilege of representing Him and of loving His bride, the Church, in imitation of Him. We must lead our young men in realizing what is really at stake in the Eucharist. It is through authentic faith and love in the Eucharist that a young man can gain confidence that Jesus is calling Him and asking Him to leave everything to follow Him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Homily for Wednesday of the 10th Week of Ordinary Time

St. Barnabas, apostle, pray for us!

The life of St. Barnabas is most worthy of our reflection, for although Barnabas was neither one of the original twelve chosen to be with Jesus during his earthly life, nor was he present during the paschal events, all the same his intercession is sought around the world today because Barnabas through his diligent preaching and building up of the kingdom of God has risen to the rank of apostle. He is among that small company of original apostles to whom the revelation of Jesus Christ was first entrusted. We honor him for many things, but perhaps especially diocesan priests should honor Barnabas for his success in building up the first stable Christian community at Antioch. It seems that Barnabas more than anyone was responsible for identifying the great prophets and teachers within the community, and converting them to the preaching of the Gospel. It was Barnabas who brought the great apostle Paul to Antioch, further strengthening this faith community. Long before the church of Rome or even the original church at Antioch were firmly established, the Church had a stable body of believers who called themselves Christians and contributed greatly to the growing early tradition of the Church, thanks to St. Barnabas.

At the end of today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas are called by God for a special work and sent out by their community to preach the Gospel to far away places. The community prayed and fasted for Paul and Barnabas before they sent them out. Their last act was to lay hands on them. Of course, these traditions have been handed down faithfully within the Church, and are clearly seen, among other places, within the ordination rite of a diocesan priest or deacon. There are many present at the ordination rite, for it is a public ceremony, who have prayed for the person to be ordained, and it can be said that many who are present - parents, teachers, friends and others - have sacrificed or fasted so that the man called to orders could answer his specific call from God and be ready to be sent out on mission. The bishop, then, passes on the apostolic ministry given to the first apostles such as Barnabas, to the ordinand through the laying on of hands. We give thanks to almighty God, for this beautiful way of handing on the apostolic ministry of the Church which has continued unbroken through the centuries. We give thanks especially for the new ordinands of our Archdiocese - Fr. Shawn and Deacons Pat, Matt and Andrew, for having the courage and faith to follow in the footsteps of the great apostle Barnabas!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see

Being the light of the world has nothing to do with proselytism. Evangelization is not imposing our beliefs on others, but proposing them as a source of eternal life. Pope Benedict is working so hard through the Church's dialogue with Islam to show them that there is no true religion unless first human freedom is understood, respected and exalted. He is working very hard, for example, to show that allowing Catholic Churches to be built in Muslim countries is no danger to Islam, just as having mosques in Christian countries is no danger to Christianity, so long as both religions are open to pursuing the truth. In our relations with other Christian religions, the Pope directs us in the same way to celebrate common ground, but then to propose to other Christians the distinctive 'light' that is the Catholic faith and tradition, the fullness of the means of grace to which Christ entrusted to His bride the Church. To try to 'hide' certain aspects of our Catholic faith in order to achieve a superficial peace with others goes against today's Gospel's call to let our light shine before others. The Church always proposes authentic faith in Christ without ever imposing it. This is the way we are to evangelize.

To be holy is to be the salt of the earth. Jesus instructs his disciples that without attention to the moral life and to prayer, one can easily lose his flavor and become useless within the vineyard of the Lord. Our fidelity to prayer and to the sacraments, and our determination to sensitize our consciences against relativism, are ways that we keep from becoming flavorless and flat. If we simply blend into the culture around us, there is no way that we can be light. Worst of all, unless we keep our flavor, and remain closely united to the Christ the vine of whom we are the branches, we will not recognize all the missed opportunities out there to be light for others. This of course, for the serious Christian, is the worst kind of offense of all - not so much what we have done, but the ways that we have failed to be the light of the world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Homily for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hosea the prophet in today's first reading criticizes those who push the panic button and expect God to save them in the time of affliction. In a time of affliction, it seems that many people are willing to 'bargain with God - to make promises and to offer sacrifices so that a bad outcome might be avoided. Hosea likens such piety, however, to a morning cloud, or to the dew which is there in the morning but that quickly passes away in the heat of day. Hosea reminds us that most anyone can begin to 'bargain' with God when they are faced with difficulties. Rare, however is the person who realizes that God does not desire our last minute bargains, for there is nothing that we can offer Him that He does not already have. He desires only that we know Him and love Him, readily and consistently, so that we might have the abundant life that comes from sharing in His mind, in His heart and in His life.

Abraham and Matthew, though very distinct characters, to be sure, turn out to be in today's scriptures the ones whom Hosea would recognize as knowing and loving God. Abraham, being our father in faith, is wise enough to know that with God, all things are possible. Abraham was not naive in his faith. He knew as well as anyone that the laws of nature made it unlikely for him at 100+ years of age and his barren wife Sarah to have a child, yet he hoped against hope that God would be true to the promise He had made to make Abraham the father of many nations. By describing Abraham as one who hoped against hope, St. Paul distinguishes the natural virtue of hope in things that are theoretically possible, such as the Royals winning the World Series this year, from the supernatural virtue of hope, which trusts in God's ability, since He is more necessary than the universe, to change the laws of the universe anytime He chooses. The story of the birth of Isaac shows that for one who has faith like Abraham, it is never unreasonable to have confidence in the Lord's promises, no matter if the Lord is promising to give a son to Abraham and Sarah or if the Lord Jesus Himself is promising to rise from the dead after three days in the tomb. As great of a miracle as the birth of Isaac was, we know that this miracle, and all those performed in human history to make faith in God more reasonable, are but precursors to the greatest miracle there ever was and ever will be, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Abraham's faith in God's promise to him was credited to him as righteousness, and he enjoyed many blessings from God and became the father of many nations. But Abraham himself, from his place in heaven, would tell us all I think, that his faith that he would be given a son despite all odds pales to the faith that is required of each one of us who attends this Mass tonight. We are to believe not simply that God will bless us abundantly in this life, we are to hope against hope that the bread and wine we place on the altar will be changed right before us into the body and blood of Christ. We are to believe that whoever eats this flesh and drinks this blood, will never die, but will live forever, for the Lord's flesh is true food, and His blood is true drink, that wells up to eternal life. We are called to hope against hope that through this sacred exchange, we will become one flesh with our Lord, inseparably united to Him who once was dead, but who now lives forever. We are to have faith that through tonight's celebration, we participate in the greatest miracle the world has ever known or will ever know, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Abraham, our father in faith, would be the first to tell us that compared to faith in the Eucharist, the greatest gift God has given to the world, faith in the gift of a son in his old age was small.

Matthew emerges as a character in today's Gospel who can help us if our faith is not up to the challenge that I just described. Remarkably, Matthew's sinful behavior did not damage his hope or his faith like it does for most of us. Most of us buy into the equation that the more we sin, the less we can expect God to love us and to call us to do something beautiful for Him. Most of us would consider ourselves less righteous and less worthy than Abraham, and so we expect to have less faith in God and less love for Him than Abraham did. It should shock us then, that Jesus chooses a man like Matthew to shame us into realizing that being a sinner does not have to destroy our faith or our readiness to respond to God's call in a generous way. Most of us living decent lives would consider ourselves more righteous that Matthew, a public sinner and a tax collector, and so we would assume that we have more faith in God and more love of God than did Matthew. But Matthew's response shows a remarkable thing - his sinful behavior did not destroy his hope that God could love Him at the point of his greatest sin, and what is more, his sinful past did not destroy his hope that God could call Him to be an apostle. When Jesus called, Matthew responded as simply as did the Virgin Mary, who was sinless. Though different in their sins, the Virgin Mary and Matthew both immediately said yes to their vocations. Matthew got up and followed Jesus.

It is Matthew, then, who can help us in a most profound way this evening as we approach the Holy Eucharist. Of course we should avoid sin with every ounce of energy that we have, for sin can and does destroy God's life within us. We should hate our sins with a perfect hate, and go to confession as often as we can in order to break any momentum that sin has in our lives. Yet Matthew shows us that we are wrong to assume that we must first become perfect through our own power before we can respond to the call of Jesus in our lives. We do not have to lower our expectations of what God desires from us, nor do we have to disqualify ourselves from God's love because of this sin or that sin. Matthew shows us that the worst thing is not being a sinner - the worst thing is keeping Jesus at arm's length until we think we are more ready or more worthy for His love. I'm afraid that our deeply rooted assumptions that Jesus must love us like everyone else does, for our great qualities first and then for our sins only because He has to, keep us from fully entering into the miracle of the Eucharist that is set before us tonight. Jesus chooses Matthew not in spite of his weakeness, but because of it, because He wants to show all of us that His love for us is unique. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners - this means, of course, that Jesus' love for us is unique because it is divine, and it is a love that goes far beyond reason, beginning to love a person at His most unlovable point. It is because Jesus begins loving us as sinners before He loves us as saints that He can say to His Father that He has not lost one of those whom the Father gave Him. Through the calling of Matthew, Jesus discourages all of us from pursuing a piety that would have us thinking ourselves more righteous than sinners, a piety that would make us compare ourselves more to Abraham than to Matthew. As great as the miracle shown to Abraham was because of his faith, the miracle shown to a sinner, Matthew, was much greater. Jesus worries most of all that we might misunderstand his love and so fail to understand why it was necessary for him to eat with tax collectors and sinners.

By placing ourselves in the situation of Matthew, we are ready to believe in the unique love that our Savior has for us sinners. Through the experience of such rich mercy, we can perhaps be more ready to say, as Matthew did on the day He was called, that Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

On retreat

Monday through Thursday I'll be on retreat with Archbishop Naumann and the priests of the Archdiocese. Please pray for spiritual renewal for our priests and for the health and strength of our presbyterate. Last Thursday as I celebrated my 4th anniversary with my dad, I was able to observe a classic western Kansas thunderstorm, and experienced a tornado warning issued by the sherriff's office that had us scrambling to the basement. Fortunately, the tornado was not large and touched down east of Hoxie, and was nothing like the tornadoes that hit western Kansas last week. Had a good time back home playing the Wii with my nieces and nephews, catching up with siblings and grandparents, and celebrating four good years of priesthood.
I have to admit that I was about 'fed up' with the Royals for their horrendous play during their 12 game losing streak, but finally they won a couple and took a series this weekend from the Indians and, you know what, it could always be worse and they are only 8.5 games out of first. Time to start plugging away again and seeing if near .500 baseball will win the Central. I know, it is a long shot, but it's still too early to lose faith!