Thursday, December 31, 2009

Catholic Mother's Day

Vigil of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
31 December 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel, University of Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Catholics are at Mass again. Well, some Catholics, anyway. Regrettably, there are some Catholics who do not realize the obligation we have to attend Mass 4 times during the 12 days of Christmas. Christmas. Holy Family. New Year’s, and Epiphany. Other Christians, and most Catholics, will go to church 2, perhaps 3 times at most during these 12 days. We as Catholics are actually obliged to go to Mass more often during the Christmas season than we go during the Easter season, even though Easter outranks Christmas in the liturgical calendar. We are here again on a Thursday night, New Year’s Eve. And yes we will be here again on Sunday, in just a couple of days, for Epiphany.

We do go to church as Catholics to enter into the optimism that accompanies the dawning of a new secular year. Even though we more importantly began our liturgical new year on the first Sunday of Advent, there is nothing wrong with our entering into the excitement that the world senses with the on New Year’s Eve. Hope is a human virtue, and many people gather to engender hope at the beginning of a New Year. Our first reading from Numbers describes how Moses is to bless the people, asking the Lord to look with kindness upon them. This is the blessing and the well wishes we share with friends and family on New Year’s. We wish everyone the best, and hope for a prosperous new year. The Holy Father marks the coming of the new year with a message for the World Day of Prayer for Peace, and he especially asks us to pray at the beginning of this new year that the healing of the broken relationship between man and God will make possible the reconciliation between men, nations and religions, and between man and his responsibility to be a good steward of the environment entrusted to him. So raise a glass. Toast the New Year. This is part of the reason that we are here tonight in Church, to ask for a fresh start from God and to look forward in hope to the New Year.

Yet more importantly, we are here tonight to continue to say Merry Christmas. Tonight, more than asking God to bless the passage of time, is another opportunity to deepen our contemplation of the mystery of the eternal entering into time. Because of the Incarnation, time on this earth is commingled with eternity, and thus tonight’s celebration of the Christmas mystery is more important than the dropping of a ball in Times Square. Today is the 8th and final day in the great octave of Christmas. So more important than our saying Happy New Year to each other, is our responsibility to continue saying Merry Christmas to each other, refusing to shortchange the Christmas season. This celebration we must continue and deepen at least until Epiphany, and preferably, to the baptism of the Lord a week later. Just as we had to resist celebrating Christmas early, refusing to let Advent cave into Christmas, so now we must refuse to allow Christmas to collapse early, even as we see Christmas trees and decorations, and prices in the stores, come down as quickly as they went up after Halloween. If nothing else, we must remember that Jesus did not receive his gifts until Epiphany. Now is not the time to take our presents and go home! It is the time to stay with this mystery as long as we can!

As we continue to contemplate the beauty of the Christ child, the Son of God, and what the appearance of this boy on earth means for us, today in the Octave of Christmas we pay special attention to the woman who gave birth to Jesus. Before God decided to show his face to us as a man, He made His plan contingent upon the yes of a woman. This yes, which Mary spoke on behalf of all humanity, made Mary the mother of a God who has no Father. When we celebrate Mary’s yes during the great octave of Christmas, we realize that we cannot celebrate Christmas apart from celebrating Mary. She is the first to receive Jesus. She is the first to see Him. She is the first to follow Him. Before we can ever begin to follow Jesus then, we must be like Mary, and humbly open ourselves in imitation of her generous receptivity. We must be like Mary before we can be like Christ. This is as true for men as it is for women. It is true of humanity. Without God, we are nothing. We must be receptive before we can be fruitful. We must welcome God if we are to ever hope to follow His will. This is the order of redemption that is proper for us.

Today we celebrate Mary under the title of Mother of God. Under this title, New Year’s Day becomes Catholic Mother’s Day. Not that we celebrate the spring Mother’s Day any less, but today is an especially good day for us to thank and to honor our mothers, as we honor Mary. Mary was no mere vehicle of the Incarnation, whom God used for a moment only. No, from the cross Mary receives the vocation to continue as the mother of all disciples. Just as she is the mother of Jesus, so she is the mother of all of us who are adopted in baptism into his family, his brothers and sisters. No one can follow Jesus without finding themselves as dependent upon Mary as Jesus Himself was, from the moment of his conception. Without Mary, there is no Christmas. Without Mary, there is no Jesus. Just as there is no human life on this earth without motherhood, so God willed that there be no eternal life with Him in heaven without the motherhood of Mary. God continues to use the motherhood of Mary to dispense all graces to His people. As we contemplate our dependency upon this motherhood, without which we are nothing, may we remember with great affection the dependency we all have on our earthly mothers, and thank them for the life we have, and for leading us by their love and example, to Mary, our eternal Mother! +m

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jesus doesn't say 'Sorry Mom and Dad!'

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family
27 December 2009
St. Frances Cabrini Church, Hoxie
Year for Priests

For daily readings click here

Today’s Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family is a scriptural amber alert. Jesus is lost, for four days, and his parents are anxiously searching for him. It seems obvious that what we have here is a transgression of the fourth commandment by the 12 year old Jesus. Being obedient to your parents means treating them with respect and being responsible enough to let them know where you are so they do not worry about you. So when Mary and Joseph finally catch up to Jesus after navigating the chaos of Jerusalem for three days, they let Jesus have it. Rightfully so, or so we would think. Even as they are overjoyed at finding him, they do not fail to let him know that he has caused them a lot of anxiety. So we would naturally expect Jesus to say ‘I’m sorry. Mom, Dad – I should have let you know where I was going to be so you didn’t worry. I’ll never do that again.’ But this is not what we hear from Jesus. Nothing even close to an apology. In fact, not only does Jesus not apologize for being disobedient, not only does he not confess to breaking the fourth commandment, but he also uses the occasion to teach his parents and to point out their lack of faith. Jesus has the audacity to point out the sin of his own parents, by pointing out to them that they should have found him sooner. ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ It is almost as if Jesus, upon learning that his parents have been anxious, chastises them for their lack of faith, and suggests that perhaps they should have stayed behind like he did.

Well, this can happen in life. Sometimes kids can teach parents. Sometimes parents have to learn from kids. Sometimes kids make parents better parents. Sometimes kids can be the vehicle God uses to remind everyone of what’s really important. I’m afraid that if the world didn’t have kids, we would have to invent them. Kids make the Christmas season more real and exciting. They help all of us to see the Christmas mystery through new eyes when our own eyes grow tired and cynical. So even when we get tired of all the attention kids need, and all the thousands of times they need to be corrected and directed, the truth is that kids draw out the very best from us when we tend to get self-absorbed. Jesus in today’s Gospel, even while exasperating his parents, is drawing out the very best in them, especially when he points out their lack of faith.

Pope Benedict points out that to know Jesus is to know Him as the one who always talks to God the Father face to face, as with a friend. We see the intimate conversation between the Father and the Son taking place in the Father’s house, the temple, where Jesus remains after the feast of Passover. Those who know the Father only secondarily through the law and prophets are astounded that Jesus knows Him so intimately, as if He is speaking to the Father face to face, as with a friend. Because of this ongoing conversation, Jesus knows and does the Father’s will better than anyone else, even from a young age.

In doing the Father’s will, Jesus is truly the son of Mary and Joseph, who have also done the Father’s will perfectly. Mary does not speak to God the Father face to face as with a friend, but her fullness of grace made her perfectly ready to respond should the Father’s will be made known to her, as it was by the angel Gabriel. Even after giving birth to Jesus, this readiness to do the will of God remained in Mary, and she follows this will as best as she could understand it until her heart is pierced at the foot of the cross.

In the scriptures chosen for this Feast of the Holy Family, particular attention is given to the role of the husband in a holy family. So on this day we rightly turn our thoughts and our affection to St. Joseph, who even though he does not speak to the Father face to face like his adopted son Jesus, nor does he have the fullness of grace possessed by his wife Mary, still does the will of the Father perfectly. Joseph, we might assume, had even less understanding of what was happening to his life. He received instructions not face to face, nor through an angel, but only remotely through his dreams, and yet he did not take any of the available exit ramps, but fulfilled the Father’s will as he understood it, protecting and providing for his wife and child so that they may both fulfill the mission the Father had given them.

We see in Jesus, Mary and Joseph a family that is truly holy in its desire to do the will of God. Jesus plays the role of encouraging his foster father and his mother to continue to seek this will of the Father above all things. Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? This question of Jesus encourages us as families to go to Church together as much as we can, so that we are encouraging each other as families to seek and to do the will of God together. Pope Benedict points out repeatedly that the family is God’s chosen instrument. It is the school of faith and love where we learn how to be generous. The family is that intermediate institution between the individual and society. Good families guarantee that society is not just a close proximity of individuals all seeking their own interest, but is truly a communion of love between persons who all seek the common good. You cannot have a good society without families wherein parents teach children and children teach parents how to be generous. The vocation of man is to love, and the family remains today, despite being attacked from many sides, the place chosen by God where that vocation is deepened and most perfectly realized. +m

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Homily

Christmas Homily 2009
St. Frances Cabrini Church
Hoxie, Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings click here

Everyone is telling me I have to go see the movie The Blind Side. I’m not a big movie guy, I’m more of a sports guy, but since this movie involves some football, I may go see it. From the trailers, I sense that this really is a great Christmas story. A rich family encounters a young man lost in the cold, and lost in life. They take the risk of bringing this young man into their comfortable life, and the result is almost miraculous. The young man, despite every bad break he has had in life, compounded by his own weaknesses as a person, is able to turn his life around, and to become a success. But the key in the movie is that the rich family takes a chance. They go outside of their comfort zone, and their perfect life, in order to try to win the soul of this young man who was lost. And despite every reason that it shouldn’t work out, it does.

The story of the Bible, and the story of our salvation, is like the Blind Side. The story is a story of God changing Himself, especially when He doesn’t have to. God is perfect in Himself, lacking nothing, and not needing to create anything to be happy. As we learn in revelation, God is a perfect communion of three persons who love each other so completely that they are able to share one nature. This perfection, like the cozy family in the Blind Side, lacks nothing. The Trinity has everything, and creating the world adds nothing to the greatness of the Trinity. But like that family in the Blind Side, we see in the story of our creation, the Trinity is willing to go outside of itself. The result is creation, the universe, and you and me, made in the very image and likeness of God, sharing in the intelligence and will of the holy Trinity.

God stops, as it were, like the family in the Blind Side, to share some of who He is. So from the beginning of the story, we see that God is love. He does not need to share Himself, but since God is not just Almighty and Everlasting, but also Love, God creates. Love takes the risk of sharing, even when you don’t have to. The result is that even though you and I do not have to exist, we do. We are real because God is love.

Of course in the story of our salvation, we see, and we experience, that God is also just. We are all going to die. That is justice. When Adam and Eve fail to love, they receive the punishment of death, a punishment that we share in. Since the time of Adam and Eve, it is possible for all of us to catch a lot of bad breaks in life. Life is still overwhelming good, but it is tenuous. Lots of people catch bad breaks even in a good world. Creatures that do not always love can not always live. What would it mean to live forever but to never have to love? The vocation of man is to love, and so those who do not love cannot live. That is justice, and God is just. We see this in the punishment given to Adam and Eve, we see it in the great flood, we see it in the vengeance that God takes upon His enemies.

But in the story of our salvation, this justice of God is always giving way to God revealing Himself to be love. Throughout the story, God continues, like He did at the dawn of creation, to go outside of Himself. God refuses to call us, his greatest creation, an experiment gone bad. Instead, he continues to raise up righteous men to lead His people, He gives the law and the prophets to correct those who stray from Him, and what is more He makes a promise that He will never abandon His people and that He Himself will come to rescue His people. God puts forward the promise and hope of a Messiah who will make everything the way it is supposed to be. God’s justice while never fading, always gives way in the story to the revelation of God as love. In the story, we see that God will never stop going outside of Himself. It is his nature to do so. God is love.

A person who is love, when He is unable to change the person He loves, instead changes Himself. This is the miracle of Christmas that we celebrate with great joy tonight. God, since He is just, is unable to remove the punishment that gives our lives shape and meaning, the punishment of death. And God, since He is love, is not willing to stop sharing and to take back the freedom that allows us to go as far away from Him as we want to. So what does love do in this situation? Love, instead of forsaking the one it loves, forsakes itself. Unwilling to go away from us who continue to go away from Him, God instead goes away from Himself, and who He is in perfection, in order to take up our human nature. God did not need to create the universe, much less did He need to create us in His image and likeness, and much much less did He need to become One of us. But because God is love that is so far beyond our understanding, He forsakes Himself to born of a Virgin. Like the rich family that goes outside of itself and places everything they have at the disposal of the young man they pick up, so too the mystery of the Incarnation, where out of love God places everything that He is within the context of our human nature. Jesus, the one born of the virgin, is truly and fully God. God joins all of Himself to the human nature of Jesus. God, who is love, is all in! Jesus is true God, and true man, as we say in the Creed.

Because God is just, it was written from the time that man had become sinful that no one could see the face of God and live. But in the mystery of the Incarnation, God who is love has forsaken Himself so completely that the exact opposite is true. God has forsaken Himself in the Incarnation so completely that to see the face of God is no more threatening to our humanity than to encounter a helpless baby! In fact, God has forsaken Himself so completely that to see the face of this child is not to die, but to live. For this is eternal life, to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. To see the face of Jesus Christ, which is possible because of this holy night that we celebrate with such joy, is to see God as He really is, to see Him as pure love, a love so far beyond our imagining, and to heed the message of the angels to the shepherds, to not be afraid of this love, but to proclaim it to the world with great joy!

My dear friends, see what love the Father has for us His children. See how far God’s mercy and love go beyond His justice, so that we need not fear Him, but can encounter Him truly in the Christ child. When God forsakes Himself to become one of us, because He is love, He does not do it comfortably. He is born on the move, in the cold, in poverty and completely vulnerable. In the Christ child, anyone who has caught a bad break in life, and there are millions that have, and many in this Church tonight, can find hope in the baby Jesus. Being born in the most humble and vulnerable of circumstances, all who are made vulnerable by sickness and every kind of natural evil can know on Christmas that Jesus is coming to be with them. We rejoice in Jesus’ coming on this holy night, for He is truly Emmanuel – God with us! There is not a circumstance in our lives, and not a corner of the world, where God is unwilling to go to be with His people. Christmas teaches us this. God will forsake Himself to go anywhere, for He is love. So whenever we find our yoke being hard and our burden heavy, we can look in hope to Jesus, and can imagine how he would live the circumstances of our lives, and know that with Him the yoke will be easier, and the burden lighter, for He is willing to carry it with us.

Christmas is a special, special night, a night where all the promises God has made to us are renewed in the hearts of man, where all things become possible for those who hope in Christ’s coming. For not only has Christ come among us at Bethlehem, he continues to come to those who look to Him. For all those who choose to be with Jesus, the future will be much different than the past, and with Him, the story of each one us will have a glorious ending!

And yes, my friends, the story of Christmas, the story of Christ’s birth, which is an important point in the story of our salvation which is already too good to be true, is a story that will give way to another chapter that is even better. This baby Jesus, who even being born in poverty is already greater than Caesar Augustus and all his armies, who has legions and legions of angels that will ensure that His kingdom will never end, is destined to not only share the circumstances of our lives, but to even take on our sinfulness. Jesus will not only join us in all the bad breaks life will give us, he will even take on the bad breaks we make for ourselves, through our personal selfishness. And so even on Christmas, we do not end the story with Hark the Herald Angels Sing, but we end the story with the celebration of Mass, recalling that God because He is love will forsake Himself even beyond the manger in Bethlehem to the wood of the cross, where His love becomes even more unbelievable and palpable to us. Through the Eucharist, the saving mysteries of Bethlehem, where God becomes truly with us, and Calvary, where God Himself offers the sacrifice that saves man, come forward in history and are fully present to all who have come to encounter the living and true God as He really is. God is love – and as far as we may go away from Him, He forsakes Himself to go farther. God is love – He is Emmanuel – and tonight He chooses to be with us His children, wherever we may be. +m

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't stop saying Merry Christmas on December 26th!

Just a reminder to everyone. The Christmas season lasts at least until Epiphany (January 3rd) and if you would rather, until the Baptism of the Lord (January 10th!). So keep saying Merry Christmas. I can live with Advent 'collapsing' into Christmas a little early, even if I don't like it, but the problem with beginning to say Merry Christmas too early is that we stop saying it too soon! Keep saying Merry Christmas well into January - I dare you! People will think you're an idiot, but that's a good thing. A chance to catechize and to evangelize! And leave those Christmas trees up and lights on as well! And with the prices 'dropping' after Christmas, why not give a little Epiphany gift to those you love! Again, another chance to catechize and evangelize. Remember, Jesus didn't get his presents until Epiphany!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

KU basketball . . . they are smooth!

I can't remember ever feeling less anxiety following a KU basketball team. Maybe in 2008 I thought we had all the pieces as well, but this year especially, I just feel like everyone on the team is playing with confidence, and everyone is finding a way to contribute, and no one is trying to do too much. I don't know how Bill Self gets them to commit to his principles of basketball. I guess if they don't, there will be no playing time. He has the advantage of not having to play anybody . . . not even his All-Americans. So everyone has to buy in to get on the floor. There are plenty of spoiled KU basketball fans who will point out that we don't always play well, and of course, we haven't. But the principles Kansas uses gives us the best chance of being consistently successful. Here are the principles that I observe.

1. No easy baskets. We don't press, and I love this. Even with all the players we have, pressing is the easiest way to give up an easy basket. We don't do it. We rarely zone. Sometimes we turn it over, yes. Sometimes our man-to-man defense gets beat, yes. But whenever we even think of lessening up on the man-to-man defense, Self calls a timeout and recommits everyone to the defensive principles of guarding every shot. Our team never worries about its defensive identity. The team never thinks of changing defenses according to the opponent. The principle is simple. Challenge every shot. No easy baskets. KU gives up fewer easy baskets than any team in basketball. I really believe that. It is a far cry from when Roy was here.

2. Play fast and play hard. Never give up easy points for the sake of getting in a running game, but run as much as you can. Have fun!

3. Throw it down low, as much as possible. Sometimes the bigs drive you crazy with the sillly plays they make or don't make, or the 'bunnies' that they miss, but throwing the ball to them opens up the offense. It creates so many opportunities and puts so much pressure on the defense when the ball is within 5 feet of the basket. You can ALWAYS throw it back out, but you must commit to throwing it in. Sometimes KU forces it, but the interior passing leads to more jams and more easy buckets than any team in basketball.

4. Play unselfishly. Even when one player is playing well, you never think that KU this year is going to rise and fall with just one player. They have plenty of guys who can make shots, so they are able to play this way. No one kills this team by shooting too much! It is great.

As Roy used to say, enjoy the ride KU fans. This team gives us a great chance to win it all. It is a great collection of players and coaches. We may not win it all, but we have a better chance than anyone else. We can rely on ourselves and trust in each other. Let's really enjoy this KU basketball team!

JPII and PiusXII declared venerable together . . . coincidence?

Maybe it's just coincidence, but if so, I like the coincidence. Pius XII and John Paul II, the two popes most jeered and revered, respectively, by the Jewish people (at least in how it has been played out in the media) were made venerable today by Pope Benedict XVI. Both were declared definitively by the Church forever to be men of heroic virtue! This declaration by the Church says to the world that given the thorough investigation of the Church, and taking into account all the criticisms levied (and each Pope had his share of criticism) the virtue of these men was not found wanting; what is more, it may truly be called 'heroic!' Admittedly, John Paul II made it to this distinction much faster than did his predecessor Pius XII, but they both made it. Today's simultaneous declaration of these men as venerable signals strongly that it makes no sense to laud one of these men while disaparaging the other. Although we all have our favorite heroes, today's declaration says both these men are heroes. I am blessed to have met John Paul II personally, so of course I think he was the best, but today's declaration makes me want to know even more about Pius XII - maybe he was even better! At least the possibility is there after the Church investigated both men thoroughly! If Pope Benedict XVI made these two venerable together intentionally, I am a fan! If it happened, coincidentally, I'm no less grateful!

Friday, December 18, 2009

St. Lawrence staff bowling

A nice break at the end of the semester. The St. Lawrence staff entered into some 'bonding' and friendly competition at the lanes at 9th and Iowa. This was the maiden bowling experience for Srs. Simona and Elena, and even Sr. Clara rolled a few down the lane even though her doctor said she shouldn't! Fr. Steve came through with a 150 plus game, not knowing that because he writes the checks, everyone was letting him win. At times, with all the giggling and high fiving, I thought I was watching the NFL today pre-game show, where the guys say nothing but then chuckle incessantly. But I think it was authentic fun. My shoes had neon green laces, and felt pretty new, so at least there was that.

Mary lost her planner, and so should you!

4th Sunday of Advent
St. Lawrence Catholic Center
20 December 2009

For daily readings, click here

Two improbable pregnancies were both going well. The birth of two miracle children, literally, was about to take place. Who can blame these two women for wanting to get together in person? If nothing else, these two women were the only women of their time to know the sex of their babies - in advance! Not through a sonogram, mind you, but through the unassailable technology of direct angel testimony! Who could blame Mary for running in haste to see for herself that Elizabeth's pregnancy was going well, and vice versa? It is quite natural to want to share both the anxiety and the hopeful anticipation that a pregnancy brings. I understand that women oftentimes have a lot to talk about in such circumstances! How much more intense is the visit that we encounter in this morning's Gospel, between women expecting children in such unpredictable circumstances. One who was thought to be barren, the other who conceived not through a man, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Part of the excitement of expecting a child is trying to find out as much as we can about the child before he or she is born, and to try to create some prediction of when the child will come and what he or she will look like. But these women literally had no idea. There was nothing ordinary or predictable about these pregnancies. Even John the Baptist got into the enthusiasm, with his 'hello Jesus' somesault in the womb of Elizabeth!

The joy of these two women, and the intensity of their visitation, comes from their having let go of their own expectations of how life would go for them. Neither of these women were able to plan the pregnancies they were now experiencing. These pregnancies, both of them, were not something these two women did, but was something that was literally done unto them. In fact, we see that Mary found favor with God precisely because she was the worst planner in the world! Blessed of all women, she was the one most ready not to tell God how she expected her life to go, but to let it be done unto her according to His word. This is not to say that Mary did not have dreams for her life, but it is to say that she was the most ready of all women to sacrifice those dreams in order that she might believe that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. In this, Mary is the mother and queen of all vocations, which always require a sacrifice of our expectations in order that God may do something even greater in us. So saying that Mary was the worst planner ever is to say that she was most ready to accept the plan of God in her life.

In these finals days of Advent, we must let these two women free us from our expectations as well. Their lives had changed so much in the last year, and so have ours. These women's lives were about to change so much more, and so are ours. But to experience the mystery of Christmas as profoundly as these two women were blessed to experience it, we must like them let God move us beyond our expectations of how things will go tomorrow. They didn't know what it would be like to give birth to the greatest man ever born of a woman, and to give birth to the Son of God. We do not know what tomorrow will be like either, nor is it good for us to know. It is better for us to wait in hope and expectation and yes, joy, like them. May we never turn into the people who have to control tomorrow, or who are afraid of the newness and excitement that tomorrow brings. Tomorrow may indeed bring adversity, but it will also bring joy, for God is coming to visit us tomorrow, in just as improbable a way as He came to Mary and Elizabeth. When the Lord comes to visit us, may He find us excited enough to leap like John the Baptist, knowing that we too will soon see the face of God, like He did, if only we can shed the fear of not knowing how exactly He will come. He will come in a way and at a time, that we least expect, and because Mary was truly ready for this, God came to her, and she was chosen of all women to be the first to see the face of God!

Mary, make us as ready as you were for the birth of your Son, as He desires to come visit us once again wherever we are in the holy days ahead, as surely as He once came among us in the humble circumstances of Bethlehem. May we be as surprised and ready to receive Him today in the Holy Eucharist as you were surprised but ready to believe that what was spoken you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen. +m

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Want to travel the world, be a seminarian!

Our seminarians are headed all over the place. Some will be here for the Archbishop's Christmas party on December 28th, and the parent luncheon on the 29th. Actually, most will be here. But there are many seminarians on the move. Nick Blaha is already in the Holy Land. Nathan Haverland is in Rome for Christmas. A seminarian we just accepted yesterday, a transfer from the Wichita diocese, Agustin Martinez-Delgado, has flown to be with family in Mexico. Quentin Schmitz and Mark Ostrowski are headed to represent the vocation office at the FOCUS conference in Orlando. Then let's not forget that Daniel Stover is headed on a CRS mission trip to Ethiopia in February between quarters. Plans are in the works for all of us hopefully to be in Spain for the World Youth Days in 2011! Isn't it great to be a seminarian?

Late night or early morning?

I've finally had a chance to make a plan. Just need a few gifts, mostly for godchildren and nieces. Thankfully my family does not overdo it with gifts. Mostly for the children. I've waited as long as I can prudently wait to shop. I think I can get most everything in two stores, located almost right next to each other. Both are open till 11pm on Friday night, and open at 7am on Saturday morning. The plan is this - to go at 9:45pm Friday, or 7am sharp on Saturday, and to be done in one hour flat. Can it happen? It must!

God is coming closer, doing more, than we think!

Homily for 17 December
KC Young Adult Group
Holy Spirit Parish
Year for Priests

The Chiefs will one day again win the Super Bowl. It may not be in my lifetime. You see, it is different being a Chiefs fan versus being a Jayhawk basketball fan. My faith in the Chiefs wanes a little more each year. Each year they seem farther away from their goal of winning a Super Bowl. For Jayhawk basketball, it is just the opposite. We know that they are one of the best teams, almost every year. We expect them to win it all, almost every year. There is great anticipation, excitement and expectation at the beginning of the NCAA tournament, every year.

Advent is supposed to be more like Jayhawk basketball than Chiefs football. We are supposed to be ready, awake, fraught with anticipation that the Lord continues to come closer to His people who always want to wander from Him, that he wants to do more for His people who insist instead on helping themselves. We are to expect the Lord to come and to deliver his justice, his peace, and his salvation, as the psalm invites us to pray. And we are to expect it this year, if not sooner, like the Jayhawks winning the national championship.

The promise Jacob made to his Son Judah however was a promise that was not to be fulfilled for a long time; well, the Gospel shows it took hundreds of years - 42 generations. I don't have that long to wait for the Chiefs to win a Super Bowl. But the promise we hear in Genesis, and the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise that we see in the Gospel, remind us that throughout those 42 generations, God was always acting. He was always doing more than people were able to experience, and He was always moving closer to His people than they were able to perceive. God throughout those 42 generations was not absent, even though He appeared to be so many times when the promise of salvation was nearly extinguished. But the promise continued through history, and God never stopped acting, according to the Jacob's promise that the scepter would never depart from Judah.

And so as we pray at Mass, we 'wait in joyful hope' for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Whether we feel our spiritual life is languishing like the Chiefs, or flourishing like the Jayhawks, we wait in joyful hope and try to see the coming of Jesus Christ, knowing that he is coming closer, and doing more, than we are able to perceive. We know that just as something the Chiefs are doing now might one day allow them to win the Super Bowl, even if it takes more than a lifetime for them to do so, so also the way we welcome Christ now will bring about the day when his kingdom that has no end, will bring the fullness of justice, and lasting peace, to the earth. +m

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vocation events

This fall has been amazingly busy with seed-planting. The future is very bright for religious vocations. Here are a few pics from the recent NCYC convention we hosted, and one showing the snowballs flying during our Encounter With God's Call visit to Conception Seminary College!


Looks like I'll be able to spend Christmas in Hoxie again this year! We had a good time over thanksgiving eating and playing Wii and yes, there was just enough snow left in certain places to get into a good snowball fight with my nieces (7 of them!). Here my goddaughter Meghann takes a shot of us warming up for the twilight snowball fight. We had a blast until, you guessed it, we got called in for dinner!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A proposition of faith

Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent
John of the Cross, priest and doctor
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Jesus many times will be elusive in the Gospels. It can almost seem like he is being difficult, or coy, or evasive or deceptive. He does not answer the question posed him in today's Gospel, even though He easily could have. But Jesus is not just toying with the chief priests and elders who approach him. Looking upon them with love, he knows the answer to their question lies within them. He sees the possibility of the chief priests and elders coming to faith in Him, and instead of telling them who He is, and giving them the possibility of doubting what He says, Jesus instead gives the scribes and Pharisees every opportunity to profess faith. Unfortunately, in this episode, they do not.

Beginning with his birth in the most humble and obscure of circumstances, Jesus comes among us not to command faith, but to propose it. Being deeply in love with us who enjoy the real freedom that comes from our being created in the image and likeness of God, God in his plan for the redemption of that freedom does not take any of it back, but instead lowers himself so much that it remains possible for us to disbelieve in Him. Surely, God could have revealed Himself in such a way as to overpower our freedom, in effect, taking some of it back. But he chose instead to reveal himself in such a way that would appeal to our freedom, and in such a way that it would take the very best that is within us to believe in Him and to enter into a relationship of true love with Him. +m

A clue from the kids

Homily for Gaudete Sunday
St. Lawrence Catholic Center
13 December 2009
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Presents under the tree. The kids know how many. How big. They are guessing what's inside, knowing that what's not under the tree now, Santa might bring later. Kids anticipate Christmas morning with joy. Watching kids can teach us how to celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Kids are full of joy as Christmas draws near. They know that the fulfillment of one of their deepest wishes, if not all of them, lie within the mystery of those gifts under the tree.

The people following John the Baptist were filled with this kind of anticipation. They were filled with excitement and joy, at the prospect of soon being in the presence of the long-promised Messiah. They wondered if they were already meeting him in John the Baptist. They rejoiced, while the rest of the world remained in sleepiness and fear, at the chance they might have to meet the person who could make all things new.

Unlike kids, us older folks do not expect anything under the tree to fulfill our deepest desires nor to complete the mystery of who we are. It is not material gifts, but the meeting of a person who loves us and sets us completely free to love, that completes us. But just in case we are not joyfully anticipating such a meeting, such a chance to see the very face of God, if instead we find ourselves busy with finals and a million other important things, just a glance at the kids can set us aright. It just takes a moment to recapture Advent joy, if we take Jesus' advice to remember always to turn and be like children. We can take our advent cues from the kids. Like them, it is now the time for us to rejoice on this Gaudete Sunday, as we have passed the midpoint of our Advent expectation of Christmas. It is time to rejoice, for not just presents, but the Lord Himself is near. The Lord, who wishes to visit his people, to join them in the very circumstances of their lives, is near. The Lord, who wishes to make all things possible again for those who welcome the chance to act through him, with him, and in him, is near. My friends, this is the cause of Christian joy. Not that we are able to escape our lives and enter into some magical kingdom, but that the Lord is coming to visit us, right where we are, in the very very humble circumstances of our lives, and he is ready to choose once again to build his home and his kingdom in our very midst, as surely as he once came among us in the lowly circumstances of Bethlehem.

John Baptist, the greatest prophet ever, reminds us we must perform the corporal works of mercy, and to live in justice, if we are to joyfully welcome this visit by the Lord, instead of fearing it or wanting it delayed. Let us turn from sin and be baptized with water once again, so that we are joyfully ready to be baptized by the Lord Himself, a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. The Lord's coming means that we are no longer limited by the coldness of our sinful hearts, but can act through Him, with Him, and in Him, whose heart is always aflame with the love of the Holy Spirit. +m

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Get out of the ditch and over the mountain!

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
6 December 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel, University of Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Man has found a way to travel to space, but has not found a way to feed the hungry. Man has found a cure for many diseases, but has not found a way to get enough mosquito nets to Africa to keep children from dying of malaria. Man has found a way to build the internet, but has not found a way to provide lasting peace and justice to all mankind. The Church has produced many saints, but has not rid herself of sin. The Church has preached love convincingly to almost every corner of the world, but has not reached the hearts of many who will not trust God.

For every gorge man gets himself out of, there are others he remains stuck in. For every mountain man climbs over, there are others that seem beyond his ability to climb.

Gorges and mountains. The Advent prophets speak of them often. One being filled in. The other being made low. Confession is good for getting out of the gorge you might be in. Go to confession this Advent. Make it a good one. Go twice if you must to get out of any ruts you might be in. In confession the momentum that our sins have is always reversed. Sin leads to more sin. One sin makes it easier to sin again. Sin gains momentum so quickly, that we can find ourselves in such a rut that we can't even find the energy to go to confession. This situation must be remedied quickly. Discouragement and despair must always give way quickly for the Christian to hope and joy. This is Advent! A time when when the gorges will be filled in by the Lord's coming. We are not meant to dig ourselves out of the gorges we are in. Whether it be gluttony or sloth, pride or greed, envy or anger or lust, we are not to resign ourselves to sin. We are not to allow our sin to keep us stuck where we are, but we are to let the mercy of Jesus fill in the gorge and put us on level ground again. Advent is not a time for tinkering with small adjustments. It is a time of dramatic turnaround, when we focus not so much on what we are doing wrong, but what Christ has done right. What He is doing right, right in our midst! It is a time for focusing on what Christ is doing but what we are failing to see. It is a time of hopefulness, of focusing not on ourselves and what we can do, but on Christ, and what His coming can do. Advent is a time of asking Christ and his mercy to pull us out of the gorges we are in. Gone is the time of resignation and lowered expectations. Whenever we make a good confession, the gorge is filled in by God's mercy, so completely that we should leave the confessional sure that if we rely on that mercy, we need not ever sin again. Whenever we make a good confession, the Lord's coming in that sacrament makes all things new for us. We are out of the rut, and we have the grace to do something new.

The mountains will be made low. This too, is not done by us, but by Christ. When we look at our lives, we see all that is impossible. We see our many failures, our many empty promises to ourselves, and our unfulfilled dreams. When we look at our lives in isolation, we are tempted to quit trying to climb mountains and instead to settle for managing the circumstances in the situation we find ourselves in. But Advent is a reminder that we are made to climb mountains! That is what is deep within us. Nothing less. When we look to Christ, and to His coming, we see the mountains that He has already climbed. He has climbed the highest mountains, higher than any we would ever dare to climb! If we are focused on the coming of Christ, then, we see how easily He can scale the mountains in front of us, and with him, every mountain is made low for us! For his yoke is easy, his burden is light. When we see how faithfully Christ climbed the mountains that constituted his mission here on earth, sacrificing himself so completely and loving so deeply, we become once again people of hope. For the Lord's coming means that we do not have to find out a way to climb a mountain we have never made it over before, but can focus on how easily Christ will take us over the mountain should we choose to let His power and strength come alive within us once again and make us new!

John the Baptist, the greatest of all prophets, appears on this second Sunday of Advent reminding us to get ready. The Lord is coming, bringing with him God's mercy that fills every gorge, and God's strength which lowers every mountain. A Christian is an optimist in the face of every circumstance, no matter how steep the climb out of the gorge or over the mountain. We are an optimist not because we will find a way out or a way over, but because Christ is pulling us out and shoving us over, with his mercy and his grace. In today's Gospel, we see what little the powers that be can do, whether it be Herod or Pontius Pilate or Caiphas, who all held considerable power in the city, compared to what God was preparing to do, through the voice of one lonely crazy man in the desert, John the Baptist. Through the life of the John the Baptist we have the Advent hope that God is going to start something new very close to us, but in a way that we may least expect. If we are focused on ourselves and what is impossible for us, we will miss that new thing that God is starting today, right in our midst. If instead we are focused on Christ's coming and what is possible for Him, his mercy and his strength will renew our hope that the work that Christ has begun in us, will be brought to completion! +m

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Simply irresistible

Homily for Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent
1 December 2009
St. Martin Chapel
Benedictine College

For daily readings, click here

A baby has it made. A baby is irresistible. Everyone has seen the most rough and tough dads and grandpas and uncles turn into butter around a baby. A baby is so vulnerable that it is everyone's natural instinct to protect it. Leave a baby alone, and someone will come to its rescue, every time.

Adam and Eve, who desired to be learned, actually unlearned how to trust God to provide every good thing for them. They chose to be independent over being vulnerable. They chose to care for themselves, rather than allowing God to care for them. In answer to this disobedience, God decides to do the unthinkable; he becomes a child to those who refuse to be his children. To those who choose to resist Him, he makes himself irresistible.

Jesus, vulnerable as a baby, remains childlike, refusing to grow old and independent according to the wisdom of the world so that he may receive everything in trust that His Father wishes to reveal to Him. The Father reveals His will that even unto his last breath, Jesus remain as vulnerable and as irresistible to us as He was on that night in Bethlehem. Christ, the irresistible baby, asks us as a man from the cross, whether he has remained like a child, trusting in the wisdom of His Father to the very end. +m

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Andrew, patron of vocations

Homily for the Feast of St. Andrew, apostle
30 November 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel at the University of Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Today's feast of St. Andrew is important for every vocation director. A popular vocation program for high school men is called Project Andrew. The program involves priests bringing young men to come and see what the priesthood, a life specially united to Christ, is like. Andrew is the perfect patron for such a vocation evening. He is the first disciple of Christ, leaving behind his discipleship with John the Baptist and his fishing trade in order to follow Jesus with a special closeness and attention. Every vocation is the fruit of the discipleship modeled by Andrew. Before we are sent by Christ, we must first learn to leave everything behind that keeps us from following him. The main obstacle to every vocation is our desire to have Christ follow us rather than the other way around.

Andrew in John's Gospel brings his brother Peter to Jesus. This is important as well in that every vocation is fostered by the faith of others. None of us follows Jesus alone, but always we are encouraged by the witness and words of others. Andrew is told by John the Baptist to follow Christ, and then he promptly encourages his brother Peter to do so as well. We know the rest of the story. Peter's vocation was helped by the encouragement of his brother Andrew. Andrew is thus the patron of those, like vocation directors and pastors, who are trying to bring their young men closer to Christ, so that they can follow Him and receive a vocation directly from Him.

Finally, Andrew himself is sent as an apostle. He receives the apostolic mission to become a fisher of men. As a fisher, Andrew receives the mission to preach the Good News in such a way that it captures the minds and hearts of all who hear it. He must capture people in such a way that they realize that it is not they who choose Christ, but Christ who chooses them, and sends them out to bear a kind of fruit that will remain. He is a powerful patron of all of those who are being called by God to take up some special apostolic mission within the Church, and especially of those called to the priesthood. It is the priest's first duty to proclaim the word of God, so that people may believe in Christ. It is his first duty to proclaim the love of Christ, which appeals to the deepest longings of man, and sets him free to live a perfect life of sacrificial love. +m

Ready for big or little things?

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent
29 November 2009
St. Lawrence Chapel
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Last year for the first Sunday in Advent I used as a metaphor Todd Reesing's 4th down touchdown pass to Kerry Meier to beat Missouri. Man was it a great and timely metaphor for being alert. Being ready for the moment. This year, I had just as much fun at the game, but the last three minutes stunk. So no Advent metaphor this year. Rats.

So today in the new liturgical year for us. Happy New Year! The first Sunday of Advent. Many options for the homilist, including the regular warnings of not celebrating Christmas too early, of not getting so caught up in doing things that we miss being present to the mystery of Christmas that truly makes all things new. Ostensibly, we begin today four weeks of getting ready to celebrate the birth of a child, that with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem the truth that God is with us takes on an entirely new meaning. With the Incarnation, Christ is as present to us as we are to ourselves. He is among us as a human person, one like us in every way but sin.

It strikes me as ironic that the Church asks us to prepare for something as small and quiet as the birth of Christ in Bethlehem by telling us in tonight's Scriptures to be ready for the Big Bang! We are asked squarely if we are ready for the fireworks that will inaugurate the end of time, but isn't this odd since we are supposed to be getting ready not for things that will frighten us, but for something that is not frightening at all . . . the appearance of a baby! How does the apocalypse ready us for the birth of Jesus?

Maybe the two are related in this way. If we are not ready for the big things, we will easily miss the small things. It is one thing to be ready for a forest fire if one comes our way, but another thing to know how a forest fire starts, with just a spark. Knowing about the possibilty of a forest fire that changes everything it touches makes us more intensely interested in how and why the fire got started. The apocalypse and Bethlehem are perhaps related in this way. If we assume that nothing big is going on around us, we will not look for the little ways in which big things get started. The birth of a baby in Bethlehem changed the world more than any human birth ever has. Beginning with this birth, the heavens were opened and the destiny of man was forever changed, and who was able to recognize it? A humble young girl and her husband Joseph, and a few shepherds and three astronomers. The rest of the world was asleep.

Advent is a four week reminder that as much as we would like to be awake to all that is happening around us, we are all asleep. All of us! It would be quite arrogant for us to assume that in the Christmas story we are Mary or Joseph or the shepherds or the wise men. No, we are probably the rest of the world. We are asleep to most everything going on around us, especially the most important things. Advent is about trying to be present to the most important thing, the coming of God among us.

The apocalypse reminds us that big things are happening. Big things are happening all around us. This Christ who comes among us at Bethlehem is not dead, but living. He is still acting, changing the redeeming the world and mankind in powerful and awesome ways. Through Him, incredible change is not only possible, but is constantly among us, especially among those of us who have the supernatural gift of hope and who know that with Christ we are living right now in the fullness of time. With Christ entering into time, every moment on earth is fraught with deeper meaning. With Christ coming among us, He through whom all things were made, all things are possible. Advent challenges us to wake up to not just the possibility, but the reality of new things and big things happening all around us. Advent wakes us to the reality that what we do today will alter the course of history forever. Every action, no matter how small, can have the enormous impact that the ordinary and small and quiet coming of a baby in Bethlehem had. So we Christians watch. We wait. We ready ourselves for big things, and look for the seeds of a new tomorrow in the coming of Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever.

Only a couple of people recognized the Messiah's coming. God's plan to do great things will begin very close to us. We will probably miss it. But let's try not to. We begin by welcoming and recognizing Christ now, as he comes among us in the Eucharist even more humbly and readily than he did on that quiet night in Bethlehem. We could not all be in Bethlehem on that silent night. But we can all be here, where Christ comes again in humility and in the silence of the Eucharist to help us to hope in great things!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Miguel Agustin Pro, pray for us!

Homily for Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
23 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

Miguel Pro is the man. A 20th Century Saint! A North American Saint! A holy priest! What a beautiful life he lived. By all accounts, as a kid, he was quite a character. Mischievous and daring - knocking himself out with the stunts he would pull. By age 20, courageous enough to forego success in business to answer a heartfelt call to be a priest, even during the onset of the anti-Catholic Mexican revolution. With his seminary forced to close by the new government, Miguel did not abandon his call but escaped to the United States, and from there went to Spain to continue his study with the Jesuits. As he was about to be ordained, he was beset with terrible ulcers, which did not discourage him but purified his faith and love all the more. He had surgeries, made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and then came back to Mexico, where it was illegal to publicly present yourself as a priest. Miguel, whose relics along with those of the North American Jesuit martyrs are kept in many altars of the Archdiocese, including the newly dedicated altar of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood, is depicted on the heavenly Jerusalem mural at St. Michael wearing a Mexican business suit. Father Miguel never wore clerics. It was illegal to do so. It's fun when people stand in front of the mural and ask - who is that? I say it's a priest who never wore clerics. An amazing priest at that! Fr. Miguel worked as a priest for two years in an area of Mexico where even the Churches were closed, so he had to build the kingdom of God underground, which he did faithfully. Fr. Miguel received the grace of a martyrdom like that of Christ, a martyrdom he was most ready for. Like Jesus, he ended up being falsely accused, and his execution was a public spectacle that was meant to discourage his followers, but which only strengthened them. Fifty years after his death, the faith for which Fr. Miguel died was firmly re-established. John Paul II visited Mexico, and shortly thereafter celebrated Mass for the largest gathering of people in the history of the world. In the land of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the apostle of Mexico, the life of Blessed Miguel Pro was made perfect in weakness, and bore incomparable fruit. He died out of love for Christ and his people, after having forgiven his persecutors, and proclaiming with his last words - Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Apocalypse past, present or future? Yes!

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
15 November 2009
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here.

The apocalypse makes for a great story. For those in film, making the special effects for destruction of the world has got to be fun. For those who love terror, there is nothing scarier than demons swooping down claiming the souls of men desperate to get away. For those who think they can prophesy, there is no shortage of events signaling the end of the world - global warming, terrorism, the rise of atheism. You name it. It's happening. The apocalypse makes for a great story. That is why filmmakers and authors are always coming back to it. The apocalypse sells. And it is why even after Jesus says that no one, not even He or the angels, knows the hour, people keep predicting the end of the world. And getting it wrong by the way. But we shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. The apocalypse is a great story, and it is a story that is obviously here to stay, whether it is told by Al Gore, or the makers of the movie 2012, or a priest like me.

We keep the apocalypse around not only because it sparks the imagination of how and when it might happen, but because the story is helpful to us in a practical way as well. The apocalypse is a story that teaches real lessons. The story even works, you might say, whether or not you believe in God or fear God. For example, it does no good for us to pretend that we will live forever, when in fact, we will not. The apocalypse reminds us of that. It does us no good to pretend like life is long, when it is really short. It does us no good to pretend like we have plenty of time to do everything we want to do, when in reality, the things we put off till tomorrow are the things that likely will never get done. Carpe Diem is a better motto for life than 'why do today what you can put off till tomorrow.' We all know this deep down, even the most stubbornly lazy among us. Most of us are terrible procrastinators, but we wish we weren't. We're trying not to be. And finally, it does us no good either to pretend that our actions do not matter, when we all know that our actions do matter and do make us who we are. It does us no good to imagine that what we do today has no effect on who we will be tomorrow, when in fact the opposite is true. The apocalypse, predicting the separation of good and bad at some unsuspected time, is helpful to us not only because it reminds us that time is precious, but it also reminds us that everything we do has consequences into eternity. It reminds us of what we know all to well, that there will be a time when we can no longer turn around and become the person we always promised ourselves we would be. There is a point of no return for all of us, and it does us no good to pretend like there is not. The apocalypse is a good story because it brings home these lessons. In thinking about the end of the world, we are reminded of how we want to live today.

Jesus used every good story to make his points. We shouldn't be surprised that he uses apocalyptic stories as well. What is more, Jesus knew well the prophecy of Daniel concerning the end of the world. Being a prophet himself, Jesus announced an apocalyptic message like that of Daniel. But Jesus' prediction gets more intense. Jesus not only reveals what the end of the world may be like, he says that the generation He is speaking to will not pass away until all of these things have taken place. Jesus is telling the story of the apocalypse, but he is doing much more than forwarding the apocalyptic revelations given to Daniel. No, Jesus in talking about the apocalypse is not simply forwarding the message, he is fulfilling the message. Jesus not only says that the kingdom of God is coming; he says just as importantly, the kingdom of God is among you! Jesus came not just to tell people what meeting God face to face might be like one day; no, He came to fully reveal right now what it is like to meet God face to face. Jesus came not simply to announce the apocalypse once again; He is the apocalypse, the unveiling of all things as they really are.

So when we hear Daniel prophesying about angels coming, and distress, and the dead awakening, and the wise shining brightly, we are as Christians called to remember the events of our salvation, the great agony of Jesus, his stupendous battle against evil, his descent into hell, his resurrection from the dead announced by angels, and the lives of the first saints who shine so brightly through history. When we hear the apocalyptic prophecy of Jesus, of the sun being darkened and heavens shaken, a prophecy that he promised would be fulfilled in his generation, we Christians should think of that Good Friday afternoon and the great battle that took place in those hours, a battle more definitive for the destiny of the world than any battle in history or any battle yet to come.

You see, as Christians, when we hear apocalyptic scripture and stories, we do not have to disobey the advice of Jesus and start trying to predict the future. No, we can begin by looking into the past, into the events of our salvation wherein Christ Himself fulfilled every apocalyptic prophecy. We can then look into the present, where we who have accepted the mission of Christ to extend his victory, recommit ourselves to winning with Christ the battle against sin and death in the time and place of our own lives. Then, knowing that the kingdom of God has already and truly and fully come among us through Christ, and knowing that the great victories of the past and present are as big as any battle left before us in the future, we can move forward into that unknown day and hour not with childish or slavish fear, but with the virtues of the Christian - faith, hope and love! +m

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Can you receive from the poor?

Homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
8 November 2009
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Before I went to seminary, I worked in development for the Church. In short, I was responsible for getting people with means to put large sums of money into the treasury of the Church. For the most part, my life was focused on the people that Jesus ignores in today's Gospel. I don't say this to suggest that what I did was unimportant. In order to build the kingdom of God, and to have buildings that enable the family of God to gather, and evangelization efforts that effectively proclaim the Gospel of life and love to the world, it takes money. It takes lots of it. And it takes the commitment of many people of means. Hence, development work in the Church. Getting to know people of means, sharing the vision of the Church with them, and gathering people of means for parties, and meetings. Finding ways to recognize and motivate them to make a gift that will make a huge difference in the ability of the Church to build the kingdom and proclaim the Gospel. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed this work, and as much as I enjoyed the people I met and the impact I was able to make, there was something missing. Even as important as the work of development is, a work that I am very willing to continue doing todayas a priest, the reality is that most of the gifts made to the Church, even the million dollar ones, represented less than 1% of the net worth of the individual involved. The rule of thumb is this, that the more a person has, the smaller percentage of his income he is willing to give away. Why is this? Today's Gospel tells us why. The more a person has, the more he is afraid he will run out. The less a person has, the less afraid he is of running out. This sounds counterintuitive, but it is true. The poor at least have the experience of running out time and time again, and yet finding a way to move forward despite their desperate plight. The rich lose their trust because this trust is never tested or purified.

I could turn this homily into a rant about how terrible it is that Catholics only give 1-2% of their income to the Church. I could tell you how much the Church needs more resources to do the work that Christ has entrusted to her. But I'm not going to. I do not want your money to keep you out of heaven, but realistically, the Church will continue well into the future even if no one gives a dime. There are ways to proclaim the Gospel without money. Today's reflection is about listening to how often Jesus himself talks to his disciples about money, and about listening to his admonition that where your money is, there also your heart will be.

There are exceptions to this rule of the rich giving less, of course. There are many fine people of means who have made extraordinarily sacrificial gifts to the Church. But most of these large gifts differ in substance from the gifts we have put before us today in the scriptures. Both Elijah and Jesus observe the giving of widows, the most impoverished members of their societies. These widows give not 1% of their income, but 100% of their income. Both gave their whole livelihood. What is more, both gave despite their having less than the people they were giving to. Elijah, with his status as a prophet, had access to greater security than did the widow from whom God commanded him to beg. The 2 cents put into the temple treasury by the widow observed by Jesus was no doubt statistically insignificant.

Have you ever received a gift from someone who was poorer than you? Of course you have. We all have. We have given these gifts too. As children, we probably made gifts for our parents, that were priceless because they came from someone who had so little. Gifts from poor to rich are particularly interesting and beautiful, because they go against the grain. Gifts naturally should flow more readily from rich to poor. At Christmas, the people with means are expected to make larger gifts than the people without means. It would be odd for a child to give a gift to his parents that costs more than the toys he received. Giving naturally goes from rich to poor. But today's Gospel says that these are not the most important gifts. The most significant gifts, according to the eyes of Jesus who points his disciples away from the rich people and toward the widow, are gifts that go from poor to rich. Think about that. The gifts that change us, and change the world the most, are gifts that go from poor to rich.

I invite you to think about your life and to reflect on whether or not this is true. I have been on the receiving end of thousands of gifts, but one that stands out the most is the gift I received from orphan girls in Honduras. I went to Santa Rosa de Copan in 2005 with members of my first parish to personalize our parish's gifts to the orphanage. My parish was helping the Franciscan sisters there with renovating and expanding the buildings of the orphanage, and providing them needed operational monies. As the first days of the visit went on, I could feel my heart expanding in ways I could not have predicted. I found myself getting happier and happier and happier. My happiness was more pure than the happiness I felt day to day at home. It actually bothered me a little bit, until I figured out why. It was simple. The gift from rich to poor, the gift that I represented, was important, but the gift from rich to poor did not produce happiness. What I was receiving from these little orphan girls, the gift from poor to rich, was producing happiness. These girls, whose only belongings fit into a tiny box by their bedside, who didn't even have the riches of a family who loved them, were giving me a thousand times more than I could give them. From the moment I arrived at the orphanage, everything that the girls had was mine. Their time, their energy, their love - everything was mine the moment I arrived there. I realized quickly the disparity between me and these girls. I, the rich man, had come to share some of my resources and some of my love; they, the poor girls, gave me instantly what I could not give them. They gave me their whole livelihood, and all of their love, without a thought to counting the cost. Tonight we are invited by the scriptures to remember that the gifts that have changed our hearts the most are not gifts from rich to poor, but gifts from poor to rich.

The lesson of today's Gospel is not that it is ok to be destitute, or that everyone should strive to be as destitute as the heroes of today's scriptures, the two widows. Even those who take vows of poverty in our Catholic tradition can and do have more security than these two widows. There is no excuse in our world, given the vast intellectual resources spent on so many other things, for us to lack the knowledge or will to eliminate poverty. It is a disgrace for anyone to be in danger of death because they lack basic nutrition or shelter. Woe to anyone whose conscience has become numb to the cries of the poor. There will always be a need for heroic work in evangelizing the rich so that true charity may be the hallmark of their lives, and that the world's wealth will be used not to oppress mankind, but to serve the common dignity of all people.

Still, even if the goal is not for us to become destitute, the lesson of today's Gospel holds. Blessed are the poor, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Those with little in the way of material wealth worry less about the future than those with much. What is more, those who horde have the greatest likelihood of running out, whereas those that give everything they have enjoy the greatest security. As pertains to the Gospel, gifts from rich to poor help a little, but gifts from poor to rich plant the seeds of the kingdom of God more than any other gifts. May this be true especially of those supernatural gifts we receive from God, those virtues on which the final destiny and dignity of man rest. If we are low of faith, let us share what faith we have with others, so that we may never run out. If we are low on hope, let us share what little hope we have with others, so that we may never run out. If we are low on love, let us share what little love we have with others, without counting the cost, so that we may never run out. +m

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Meet KCK Seminarians Video

Here is a video with some of the guys. These outtakes were filmed at the Archbishop's 'send off' dinner in August of 2009 before our 26 seminarians headed back to their respective seminaries!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Journey Home

Homily for All Souls Day
2 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

According to most story tellers, there are two basic metaphors that describe what life is. Life is a battle. Life is a journey. Every good story, and every interesting life, is a combination of these two metaphors. Where am I going? What are the obstacles in my way?

My younger brother recently had heart surgery. He was going through a battle to fix his heart. Several people were helping my brother through this battle - his surgeon and nurses and those who were there before and after surgery to encourage him, but there were hundreds of others who were helping him through their prayers. Everyone was checking in on my brother, trying to get the latest information, to be sure that he was going to be victorious in this battle. And thanks be to God, he was.

We do the same for our friends who are on a journey. How many times in life do we say - have a safe trip! Call me when you get home, or to your destination. Some of the best stories in life come from traveling, especially when things get rough on the road or in the air! We pray for those who are traveling, trusting that things will go fine, but knowing all too well that life is precarious, especially when you are on the road!

On all souls day, we do the same for our friends who have gone before us. We check in on them, and we help them in whatever way we can in whatever battle and whatever journey they have remaining in front of them. There are thousands of battles, and thousands of journeys, that make up every human life. Today's feast given us by the Church focuses on the final journey and the final battle common to every life, the journey and battle that lies between the moment of one's death in this world and one's entry into the eternal presence of God.

Heaven, as we know well, is the place for holy ones, for the saints, those who have fulfilled the commandment to love God with all one's heart, and mind and soul and strength. If we are honest, most of us, and most all our friends, have managed to only partially fulfill this commandment. We may be good people overall, preferring nothing to the love of God, but we still love many things besides God. Almost all of us manage to become good people overall, but few of us are holy. Very few people on their death bed declare themselves to be saints; no quite to the contrary, they while being thankful for their life wish that they could have done more. Unlike the saints, we have not yet been able to love God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength, nor our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. Tonight's feast of all souls says that what is true for us is true for most our friends who have gone before us. Our friends and family members are good people, whose perseverence through many journeys and many battles in life have shown that their lives are ordered to heaven, but at the moment of their death, they may not yet have been holy. Tonight's feast is not about the transition from bad to good, as much as it is the transition from good to holy. Both transitions are important. Both are necessary. Each transition has its own battles. Yet those of us who have tried to become holy know that the journey from bad to good is simple compared to the final journey from being good to being holy.

Given that most of us die being good not holy, there is this final journey and battle, the purification of a soul, that takes place between this world and entry into heaven. It does no good to pretend that any good person goes directly to heaven; to do so is to pretend that every decent person is a saint, and that there is no real difference between being good and being holy, neither of which is true. Anybody who has attempted this transition knows how different the two states really are. There is a difference between me and Maximilian Kolbe, between my friends and St. Therese of Lisieux, between my family members and St. Lawrence. It would be unjust for me to think I, who love God partially, should enter heaven as readily as those who love God completely. The reading from Wisdom tells us that the souls of the just are in the hands of God. Purgatory is that process of justice by which we are made like the saints, so that we may justly take our seat with them at the heavenly banquet.

Christ has begun this justification by his passion and death. Only because of his salvific act, the bridge has been repaired between man and God, and the journey to heaven is possible once again. Christ has won the victory over sin and death, and anyone who asks Christ to share in that victory knows that our sins may for a time lead us away from God, but through the experience of having our sins forgiven, our sins may be the means by which we come to know the love of God most fully, and desire to love Him in return like the saints, with all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength.

Christ has justified us and made possible the journey from death to life, from sin to holiness, from earth to heaven, but Christ will not save us without ourselves. As St. Paul says to us clearly in his letter to the Romans, the resurrection is a surety for those who have grown into union with Christ through a death like his. Christ himself said as much, saying that his disciples would not be able to skip the journey and battles inherent in the transition from being good to becoming holy, but must take up their own crosses and follow Him.

Purgatory is the last step on our journey with Christ from death to life. It is probably the most important part of the journey, and perhaps the most difficult. We do not know for sure how long or short this transition is, how hot or cold, how difficult or easy, or where exactly our loved ones are along the journey, whether they are at the beginning, or the end, or somewhere in between. The journeys of persons through purgatory are as different as are the journeys of persons through life on this earth. We do know however, that this necessary journey would be an impossible one were it not for us. The last journey would be the most impossible of all were it not for us, since those who have died are no longer able to work out their salvation. Like my brother who going into battle to fix his heart had to have faith in his surgeon, his doctors, and his nurses, and his friends who were praying to God for Him, since he could not fix his heart by himself, so also we must leave this world in faith knowing that our friends that we leave behind will continue to pray for us and to suffer for us, until we are made holy. Christ has made us our brother's keepers, and what is done by one member of the body affects the whole body. It is our great privilege, and responsibility, and joy - all of us who know salvation to be Christ's gift not just to individuals, but to his whole bride - the Church - to offer prayers and sacrifices on this All Souls Day and every day for our beloved dead, and even for our enemies.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saints change the world

Homily for the Solemnity of All Saints
1 November 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Halloween gets bigger all the time. Very few adults got dressed up when I was young. When I was young, Halloween was something I always knew I would grow out of. Now I'm not so sure. I feel myself turning the other way, wanting to share in the enthusiasm of Halloween again. Am I wrong, or is Halloween getting to be a bigger holiday all the time? When I see facebook status(es) saying that Halloween is the greatest night of the year, I admit I get a little defensive, being a priest and all. But overall the incremental enthusiasm for Halloween is probably a good thing. I'm not worried that great numbers of people are turning toward the darkness or the occult. I would preach about it in a second if I were. Everyone expects the Vatican to come out and to condemn Halloween - because doesn't the Church always try to take our 'fun' away? But there is no such thing forthcoming. If anything, I see fewer and fewer witches and zombies and vampires and more and more outrageous costumes of stupifying silliness. In my opinion, Halloween has become for almost everyone not a turn to the dark side but a celebration of love with friends, and a way to build community, as everyone participates in the festival.

There is one thing I would change about Halloween, however. I wish deep down that the celebration of Halloween would be a precursor to the great holy day of All Saints, which falls on a Sunday this year thereby saving me lots of confessions of people missing the Holy Day of obligation. I wish enthusiasm for Halloween equaled enthusiasm for All Saints. I see lots of energy going toward the perfect costumes and perfect parties, none of which I want to take away. I just wish that the party wasn't over so soon, for if there was ever was a party for people celebrating the ability to become someone that have always dreamed of being, it is the liturgy in which we now find ourselves, the solemnity of All Saints. It is in this liturgical party and prayer, that we place ourselves within the great company of the saints who were transformed before the very eyes of men not just for a night, but for eternity. Wearing a costume for a night with friends is one thing, for sure. It is fun. Yet how much more fun should we be having tonight with our friends, the saints, with whom we pray in a very intense way in this liturgy. Our friends, the saints, are the ones who help us not to create and wear a perfect costume for a night, but who help us by their prayers to transform ourselves into what we all wish we could become forever.

There are too many saints for us to remember. The book of revelation says that 144,000 is a good place to start, but that there are countless more! We remember Peter and Paul easily. We all have a favorite patron saint like Mother Teresa or Maximilian Kolbe. There are old saints, and ones canonized by the Church just this month like Damian who worked with the lepers of Hawaii. There are saints we call upon often for their friendship when we are in deep trouble, like St. Anthony or St. Jude. But there are many others waiting for us to discover, more saints than there are costume options for Halloween. We make a special effort tonight to remember our friends whom we tend to forget over time, especially those dead who have been heroic witness of faith, hope and love in our own lives, during this special liturgy in which we renew our friendship with all the saints.

We remember tonight that saints are holy because they preferred nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict). To take nothing away from the greatest scientists, artists, and political and military heroes of human history, all of whom we should remember often alongside all those who promote the common good of humanity by unselfishly inspiring and helping their fellow man, the saints are those we remember especially because they made the love of God more present in the world. It is the commitment of the saints to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, and their belief that the human person is redeemed by the love of Christ, that sets them apart from the rest of humanity. As Pope Benedict said in his first encyclical God is Love, even if there were no longer any disease or war in the world, and even if political leaders were able to deliver justice to all people, the world would still need saints, for the vocation of man is not to be comfortable or self-sufficient, but is to love, and man is ordered to and set free by love. A saint is a person who makes the love of God more present and more real to a world that is always tempted to stray from that love.

Just as the love that Jesus Christ brought into the world, a love that grows more intense according to the greatest need of the least deserving, made his life's story the greatest story in human history, so also the lives of the saints are lives that have changed the world more than any other. If we believe that the world will one day be redeemed fully by the love of God, then the saints, who lived only to make that love more present, are the lives by which the world is most deeply changed. We might say it this way. If we wonder why there is still hatred, and war and injustice in the world, and a lack of respect for the dignity of the human person, we can think of a lot of reasons. But the real reason is that there are not enough saints in the world. If we wonder why so many people still despair of ever finding their deep purpose in the world, it is because there are not enough saints in the world. If we accept that the vocation of man is to love, then it is by love and love alone that the world is forever changed and set free. The saints are those who loved God and their neighbor most deeply, and so the saints, both those canonized by the Church and those unable to be canonized, are by this definition the deepest agents of change this world will ever know.

The saints with whom we pray tonight have completed their race. They hand on the baton to us. Like Jesus who has ascended to the Father, yet sends His Holy Spirit to remain fully present to us and to guide us along our life's journey, so also the saints whose souls are with God stand ready to help us as our friends with their prayers. Like us, the saints by their own power were not even able to follow the ten commandments, let alone fulfill perfectly the beatitudes read to us in tonight's Gospel. Yet knowing that Jesus alone is poor in spirit, and sorrowful, and meek, and merciful, and pure of heart, and peaceful, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, the saints humbly gave Christ the space of their own lives so that his heroic virtue and love might reach new places and new people. Beset by weakness like we are, the saints were still able to accomplish the impossible, becoming holy, because they gave Christ through them the opportunity to complete his mission of redeeming the world by love. In the lives of the saints, no matter how big or small our lives may be, we see a way forward for us. With the saints as our friends, we see with them the way our lives too might change the world, not just for a night, but for eternity. +m

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hope for redemption

Homily for Tuesday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Year for Priests

for daily readings, click here

Hope for redemption is different than hoping that the Royals will win the World Series. One can imagine, approximately, what it would be like if the latter were to happen. I can imagine what it would be like if KU won the National Championship again this year (rock chalk!). It may not be exactly right, but I can at least imagine. Redemption of the world by love. I can't imagine that. I can't imagine heaven in its totality. I can imagine parts of it, but I can't get my mind around the whole thing. St. Paul says that hope that sees is not properly hope. In other words, supernatural hope is directed toward that reality that would satisfy every desire that we have, not just a few of our desires, and so supernatural hope is not a hope that pertains properly to national championships, or world series, or anything of the kind.

The futility of creation turns out to be a great gift. That sounds weird. Futility is a good thing? That's like saying it would be a good thing that the Royals would never win the World Series again. How could this be good? Well, it could be good if there was a greater evil avoided; namely, that the Royals could win the world series unethically, or without having really to strive to be excellent, or with a lack of appreciation or gratitude. If any of these were true, it would be better if the Royals would never win the world series again.

So true with the futility of the world; that the punishment for sin entering the world is death. How can death be a gift? Well, obviously, if the greater evil of people setting their hearts eternally on things that did not satisfy them - if people were able to make themselves miserable forever, with no way of getting out of their misery, then the world here would be hell, and a greater evil would exist than death. Oftentimes, death is the worst thing we can imagine, but there are much worse things, actually - including imagining living in this world forever, without being able to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts. That is the futility that Christ has come to lead us out of, if we would first be baptized with him into His death. +m

KU football - must wins?

Every week is a must-win for KU now, and yet it is not. With the mess that is the Big 12 North, 4-4 can still win the North, in a tiebreaker. KSU controls their own destiny - what's up with that? I still think this KU team has it in them to win the North. They will need help from KSU and Nebraska now. Missouri actually needs to get it in gear and help KU as well. I wasn't able to go to the OU game, but I thought the defense hit harder and flew to the ball better. I'm hopeful, but too busy to get upset if things don't go our way.

Unexpected snow on retreat!

Maybe as much as 10 inches in the next two days in Crested Butte, CO. They are getting even more snow to the north around Denver and into Utah. It is gorgeous here. And cold. I guess the Lord wants me to stay in, to eat chili, and to work more diligently on the texts I have chosen for my retreat this year. I'm here unti Saturday. Hope I can get out. Please pray for me. Among other things, I'm re-reading the entire New Testament!


Vocation office news!

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything other than homilies on my blog. There is so much I want to get done with vocations, that blogging has gone down in priority. But just to assure everyone, good things are happening this year. Our October Project Andrews had record numbers of young men attend. I'm confident that any young man who attends a Project Andrew event with the Archbishop will remain open to the Lord's call in the future, if we can stay in touch with them.

We are excited about hosting a booth for the upcoming NCYC in Kansas City. Plans are underway for new videos promoting vocations, an updated 'Called by Name' program for parishes, opportunities for closer collaborations with priests, and the Archbishop's Quo Vadis retreat coming up in January.

Also, since I've moved into the Director of Seminarians role this year, I was able last week to visit our seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon, all 11 of them, and to collaborate in their formation with the administration of the seminary. I have a lot to learn, but this has been a welcome and exciting addition to my vocation office workload!

Please pray a Hail Mary (or more!) for our seminarians and applicants to the seminary this year!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bartimaus is annoying . . . and that's good!

Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
25 October 2009
Year for Priests

St. John Vianney, pray for us!
St. Lawrence, pray for us!
Mary, Mother of Priests, pray for us!

For daily readings, click here

Bartimaus, the hero of today's Gospel story, is something none of us want to be. He is needy. He is whiny. He is a beggar. It is not cool to be any of these things. When people ask us how we are doing, they expect us to say we're doing well. They don't generally want to hear about our problems. They don't want to hear about our needs. They want to hear that we are doing just fine on our own. That we are self-sufficient. Almost all the commercials we see on tv are geared toward helping us be less needy, teaching us how to do it ourselves, and to be more self-sufficient. Our society is geared toward helping us be less like Bartimaus. How do we fix ourselves, before having to depend on others? We place incomparable value in our society on being able to support yourself. When we ask someone what they do for a living, or what they are studying in college, we immediately want to know if their job or potential job will allow them to be successfully self-sufficient, and not dependent on others. The last thing we want to tell someone we have just met is that we are broke, or unemployed, or a dropout, or unsuccessful in any way. Most of us hate to beg, and what is more, we are scared of people who are going to ask us for things. We stay away from people who are beggars, people who are needy, people who may ask from us, emotionally or materially, more than we are ready or able to give them.

Fr. Robert Barron, in his homily for this weekend, reminds us all however, that learning how to beg, and learning how to love being a beggar, is the beginning of the spiritual life. This is what makes Bartimaus the hero of today's story. He is not afraid to beg, not embarrassed to be a beggar, even when their is social pressure around him to shut up, and quit being so whiny and needy. Bartimaus is told by his peers to disappear, that he is annoying, but because of the spiritual courage of this man, he only shouts out all the louder - Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.

In the same way, we begin every Mass by trying to assume the position of Bartimaus. We begin every Mass by calling to mind our sins. We begin by confessing our blindness, that not only do we not understand fully who we are, we do not understand where we are going or how to get there either. We are blind, insofar as knowing our vocation and how to spend our time on this earth. We begin every Mass by saying Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy, practically the identical words uttered by the hero of today's Gospel. We begin our Mass by asking Jesus to heal us, and to be with us as a sure friend and guide on our journey from Jericho to Jerusalem, from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from loneliness to communion with God and with one another.

Fr. Barron, one of the greatest evangelists of our time, reminds us in his homily for this weekend, that we do not end the Mass by asking for God's mercy, but we begin Mass there. The same must be true of our spiritual life. We do not begin the spiritual life assuming that we can see clearly, and only when our sight proves to fail do we think to bother Jesus. No, we begin the spiritual life with humility, admitting the real and almost certain possibility that we do not know exactly where we are going, nor do we know the way. We must begin the spiritual life not with trying to get as far as we can by ourselves, before realizing Jesus will have to take us the rest of the way. No, quite the opposite. Jesus does not want to pick up where we leave off, but to walk with us from the very beginning of our journey. He wishes to share His vision and His light with us, making bright the path before us, as a companion and friend. Jesus is not for us a last resort, after we have tried everything else, but a first option in helping us be who we really want to be, if only we have the courage to beg his help.

In order to begin the spiritual life, then, which is nothing more than a deep and intimate friendship with God who makes Himself available to us through His Son Jesus, we willingly assume the position of a beggar. We begin Mass by asking the Lord to heal us of our blindness. We do this not because a Catholic must always begin by beating himself up, not because that is what we have been trained to do. We don't do this simply because we hate ourselves and our weaknesses. No, we do this because we know in the depths of our being that from the beginning of our lives, we are never meant to walk alone. Life is not a hard test of who can be the most self-sufficient, the least needy and the least annoying. No, quite the opposite, life is a journey that is meant to be shared with friends, most of all with Jesus, who comes to make life easier by his unique friendship which always puts us in touch with our deepest vocation to love one another as He has first loved us.

It is not an unfortunate thing to be a beggar. This is really hard to get through our thick skulls. Unless Bartimaus is a true hero and model for us, we are doomed to live our lives within the dark circle of our own self-sufficiency, a very small and lonely circle of blindness and loneliness. Bartimaus is the hero of today's story, because he has the gift that no one else around him in today's story seems to have. He has the gift of humbly knowing that he is blind, whereas everyone around him falsely thinks that they can see. When we assume the position of beggar before God, the fruit is that we are able to move from isolation to communion, both with God and with one another. If we are seeking to become more dependent upon God, not less, like Bartimaus who would not let anyone tell him to leave God alone, the result will be that others will be less annoying to us. If we are not afraid to beg, those who beg of our time or our energy or our love will not scare us or annoy us. Like Jesus, who did simply what Bartimaus asked of him, when others ask us for something, we will see them not as annoying, but as a gift, and will be able to always give them at least something of what we have first received from Christ - his mercy, his friendship, and his love.

The next time we are attempted to no-show at some event, to screen a call we know we should answer, to tell a lie in order to preserve our independence, or to shy away from relationships that have the potential to be annoying, let us remember the response of Jesus to the blind man Bartimaus. If we first have the courage to beg Christ to be with us on our journey, we will receive from Him the grace to be His light to others in the same way! +m