Sunday, July 26, 2009

Man does not live on bread alone!

Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
26 July 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Holy Year for Priests
St. John Vianney, pray for us
St. James, pray for us!
Joachim and Anne, pray for us
Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us

What’s the name of that movie where Tom Hanks talks to the volleyball? For the life of me, I can’t remember it. I haven’t even watched the movie, just parts of it while channel surfing between half innings of Royals games, and I know it by reputation. The movie, from what I gather, is another exploration of the question of what man is in isolation. Does man make any sense by himself? Can man survive without companionship?

The word companion actually derives from the dual Latin words ‘cum’ meaning with, and ‘pane’ meaning bread. When we use the word companion now, we do not mean that we are with a piece of bread. No, the word means for us being with a friend. But we see the joining of being with bread and being with friends in the Gospel story of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus has drawn quite a crowd through his teaching and through the signs he was performing. But were they yet his friends? From the stories we hear of Jesus teaching and healing those first disciples, most of his actions created such a buzz, such a frenzy, that those first disciples would probably be better described as fans, not friends. Those first 5,000 did not know Jesus intimately, as they knew their friends. They just knew that he was amazing, perhaps a great prophet. They were his fans.

The Eucharistic discourse in the Gospel of St. John marks an important transition point in the developing relationship between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus does not simply want fans. If so, he would have continued performing more and more amazing signs before larger and larger crowds rather than setting his face toward Jerusalem where he would be killed. But Jesus did not simply come to create fans. He came to make friends, and to call us his friends. While today’s Gospel sign of feeding the 5000 undoubtedly created more frenzy than any sign he performed to date, so much so that they were ready to carry him off and make him king, the feeding of the 5,000 is the last sign Jesus performs before explaining to his disciples his intention to be more than a star, but to actually be their companion forever through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

In choosing to feed the five thousand, Jesus signals that he wishes to remain with us, not as a star stays with his fans, but as a friend sits down to eat with a friend. There is a big difference. I have never sat down for a meal with Zach Greinke, my favorite pitcher, but I have had thousands of meals with my friends, none of whom can throw 96 mph. The word companion means being with bread, but also being with a friend. So too the sacrament of the Eucharist that Jesus has left us. He intends to remain with us, to be our intimate companion, and asks us to remember Him most precisely, through the sharing of the bread of the Eucharist. This is the sacrament where we not only choose to spend time with Jesus, our friend, but we also become one with him, physically and spiritually, by the mystery of this sacred meal.

As one can see in the Tom Hanks movie, the title of which I still can’t remember, man truly does not live on bread alone. Once we have all the physical bread we need, there is a deeper need for companionship, someone to share bread with. We will even talk to a volleyball if no one else is around. This is the most common thing we do with friends, the one thing that all friends can share, the breaking of bread. And if any of us had a chance to either share an extravagant meal by ourselves or a simple meal with friends, we would all choose the latter, for the need for companionship goes much deeper than the need for caviar. The Lord offers Himself to us in this Eucharist now, and promises through the breaking of bread, through this great sacrament, that he will be a companion for those of us who choose to remain with Him in faith.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vocation update

Well, it's been a chore trying to get these seminary applications pulled together this summer. So many schedules, loose ends, etc., and then of course, to get the applications to the Archbishop for his approval, and then to the seminaries so the guys can go off and do their seminary interviews. I have to come up with a better system for this. I was thinking of just having guys 'locked into' the vocation office until they complete their applications! Doesn't sound like a nice thing to do, but procrastination is the worst kind of torture! Still hoping to have a good number of new guys go to seminary for the Archdiocese this fall! Keep praying for vocations! St. John Vianney, pray for us!

God drows sins once and for all!

Homily for Monday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time I
20 July 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Holy Year for Priests
St. John Vianney, pray for us!

Doesn't it stink when a sin we thought we had left behind shows itself in our rearview mirror again? Like the Egyptians showing up again in the rearview mirror of the Israelites. The Israelites thought they were free. Then here they come again. Those darned Egyptians. Coming faster than ever. Stronger than ever.

I talk to a lot of people who get exasperated and discouraged because the same sins seem to haunt them. Even if they are able to get away from those sins for a few weeks or even a few months, they never seem to be completely free. A lot of people wonder if they will ever be able to put a sin behind them forever. It can be disheartening to have to keep dealing with something that we thought we had conquered, like the Egyptians coming after the Israelites.

The story of the Red Sea is a story of how God himself puts an end to sin once and for all, not us. It is God who conquered the Egyptians, and used their stubbornness against them. It was up to the Israelites to have faith that God would conquer their enemies. They had only to allow him to do so, according to his plan, his will and his timetable not theirs. It was hard for the Israelites to trust God, especially when the Egyptians were still pursuing them after all the signs and wonders God had worked. But God was true to his promise.

The desire to put an end to sin has less to do with our gameplans and timetables, as important as it is for us to do everything in our power to avoid the near occasions of sin. No, our desire to put an end to sin ultimately is a question of whether we will trust God enough to unwrap the gift of holiness that he has in mind for us, and for no one else, and to allow God to conquer sin within us according to his plan for us, his will for us and his desire for us to be holy. +m

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I myself will shepherd them!

Homily for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
19 July 2009
Year for Priests

By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, Israel had a long sordid history of selfish, lazy and immoral kings and prophets. Jeremiah is called by God to point out that such shepherds only scatter sheep. Unless shepherds are connected to the one who alone can provide lasting peace and security, they are incapable of shepherding, they are capable only of scattering. The same question emerges for us today as we listen to the words of the prophet. Are our leaders gathering or scattering us? Who are we to trust? How do we discern who is caring for us and who is caring only for themselves? How do we sort through the endless cacophony of empty promises? The present debate on health care, for example, comes down ultimately to the question of who we can trust to deliver quality health care to the most people? Whose plan will gather? Whose plan will scatter? Who can we trust to shepherd us rightly?

Jeremiah announces the intention of the Lord to shepherd the people himself. The Lord's plan for shepherding his people, his plan for bringing them a security and peace that will last, is a plan to continually replace shepherds who only trust in themselves with shepherds who realize that the task of shepherding is too big to accomplish without faith, so the world needs shepherds who are obedient to a plan that goes far beyond their ability to know and to control. Jeremiah's prophecy is a call for shepherds who will instruct the people in the truth that God alone can give ultimate security, and it is through a friendship with Him that persons can move into an uncertain future without fear. Jeremiah's call is a call for shepherds to remind people that there is no need for fear, because God sees them, God knows them, God loves them, and God Himself will shepherd them.

The psalm for today echoes that fact that faith in God provides a hidden life with God that is so rich that it lacks nothing. Not even the most exclusive and extravagant mansion on this earth can say it lacks nothing, and yet the psalmist is confident in saying that one who is a friend of God lacks nothing, for he is one with the One through whom all things were made. St. Paul says that God himself is our peace, which means we are at peace insofar as we are one in friendship and love with Him, a friendship made possible by Jesus Christ breaking down the wall of enmity between man and God.

It is to this peace that Jesus calls his disciples in today's Gospel. Even though it appears in today's reading that the vacation of the disciples was limited to a brief boat ride across the sea, giving them finally a brief chance to relate stories and grab a bite to eat, the short time of rest was important, a chance for the disciples to realize their identity as those chosen by Christ to be instruments of his reconciliation and peace. The disciples had just returned from their first missionary journeys, being sent out and instructed not to take anything with them, but to trust fully in God. They have returned to tell the stories of how things were going, but the new disciples kept hounding them. They didn't even have a chance to eat. But Jesus did not tell his disciples to keep working, to keep making hay while the sun was shining, to put it as much overtime as possible. No, Jesus longed for a deserted place where he could remind his disciples that it was God himself who was shepherding his people through them. This preaching of the kingdom of God was not to become a new successful career for the disciples, but truly a vocation, a way of being that allowed God to accomplish the building of his eternal family through the ministry of the disciples.

Most of all, Jesus longed to remind his disciples that it was their friendship with him that made them great, that was the initial source of their success. Jesus needed disciples who were not becoming famous by what they did, but were secure in their friendship with God to the point that they would be faithful to what God wanted to accomplish through them even when the scene would change dramatically at Calvary. Jesus longed to form his disciples in such a way that they would stand by him, not only when the crowds were cheering him, but also when they were clamoring for his crucifixion. Jesus needed disciples who because of their deep friendship with God would continue loving and caring for the flock no matter what, even when the flock turns and hates the very ones caring for them. Such shepherding, of gathering even when there is every reason to scatter, is a sign that God is working through his shepherds, that through them He is reminding his people not to be afraid, but to be at peace, for He knows them, He loves them, He sees them, and He himself is shepherding them!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Homily for Tuesday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time

Homily for Tuesday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time I
Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, virgin
Year for Priests

What strikes me about the biography of Blessed Kateri is that her faith seemed to exist in a vacuum. Her persecution came from those closest to her. Having lost her Christian mother to smallpox, Kateri had to persevere in faith with little to no support from an early age on. Jesus is saying in today's Gospel that his greatest challenge is being a prophet to those closest to him, to those who should most support him. He finds the greatest resistance where he should have felt love and support. Kateri Tekawitha is a shining example for us of someone whose faith is purified by the trials in front of her, rather than discouraged. What a tremendous witness for young people, a woman whose faith led her to a life of heroic virtue at such a young age. She is the patronness of Camp Tekakwitha, our summer youth camps in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Here is why I love baseball . . . and people!

I somehow missed this story when it happened on Disability night at Fenway Park (still on my list of parks to get to!) when a young man with autism was selected to sing the national anthem. Notice how people cheer for him and love him and sing with him! Melts your heart! The only thing greater than all the needs we find in the world is the need human persons have to give love and to draw together in community. This is so obvious! Celebrate life!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homily for Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Homily for Thursday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time I
9 July 2009
Year for Priests
Augustine Zhao Rong and companions, martyrs

Why have you forsaken me? Ordinarily these are words of desperation. Why am I alone? Why is this happening to me? From the lips of Jesus though, they show the purity and strength of his faith. Even though he felt alone. Even though he did not understand why things needed to be this way, still he chose to go on, still he chose to finish, still he chose to love, still he chose to obey, still he chose to hope.

Joseph lived to see why the Lord allowed his brothers to abandon him. It was so that one day, he could save them. On the day he was sold by his brothers, however, he could not have understood God's plan for him. On that day, it was hard to feel where God was. It would have been easy to lose hope because of the lack of understanding. But not only did Joseph not lose faith, as we see at the end of the story, he did not lose love for his brothers who betrayed him, he did not let their evil extinguish his love for them, but he chose to forgive them!

Augustine Zhao Rong, priest and martyr, had the faith and hope to give his life as a witness to the love of God he had experienced in Christ Jesus. Within the mantle of the love of Christ, Fr. Rong cast out all fear from his heart, and left a legacy of faith to the Church and to the Chinese people. He, like Christ, allowed himself to feel abandoned by God, but in giving his life rather than having it taken from him, he was more than a victim and instead a victor with Christ for having found a way through martyrdom to love his enemies to the end. He may not have understood why his martyrdom was necessary. He may not have understood why this was happening to him and not to someone else. But he never stopped believing that God loved him, that God knew him, that God would be with him, even in the darkness.

The purity and strength of our faith will be shown in the ways that we will choose to persevere, trusting that God will not abandon us, even when it appears on the surface that he has. The legacy of faith that we will leave will be the story of how we chose to keep going in faith, to keep hoping that with God, we can do anything, even when we do not understand why, even when we cannot see the end. +m

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Homily for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Homily for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
7 July 2009
Holy Year for Priests
St. John Vianney, pray for us!

I think I was 18-8 my senior year of high school in wrestling. I didn't make it to state. The last comment on my wrestling career was my mom saying - I think you could have done better. Well, thankfully I was able to move on to an alternate vocation the Lord had in mind for me, since I obviously was not half the wrestler Jacob was. We hear of Jacob wrestling with God not just for 3 two minute periods but throughout the night, and Jacob is not vanquished. The story reminds us that God will challenge us to use our freedom well, but will not overwhelm or take back that freedom. That is why for many of us, discovering our vocation is not about God overwhelming us with his will for our lives, but of our wrestling with the question of what he desires for us, and entering into the drama of using our freedom to follow Jesus Christ as closely as we can. A wrestling match is a good metaphor, for those who have wrestled and for those who haven't. In the end, after the wrestling is done, Jacob asks for the Lord's blessing, and receives it!

Many people have assumed that the new holy year for priests is really a holy year for vocations to the priesthood. We hear Jesus telling his disciples that the harvest is rich and the laborers are few. Most of the emphasis in the church in the past has been on getting more priests, more vocations, but this holy year in particular is not about praying for more priests, although this prayer should not lessen in any way, but about praying for the priests we already have. Priests need the prayerful support of the faithful, especially when they feel outnumbered by their parishioners, and without the energy needed to fulfill the expectations placed on them. Priests need our prayers so that even when faced with overwhelming demands for their time and pastoral charity, even when they know they cannot do everything, they will still be faithful and generous in doing what they can, praying that the Lord can do great things with small mustard seeds of faith, hope and love. Let us pray for the priests we already have, that they be strengthened in this holy year, for holy and generous priests will attract other men to labor with the Lord for an abundant harvest. +m

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Homily for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
4pm Vigil, 9am Sunday
4/5 July 2009
Year for Priests
St. John Vianney, pray for us!

The higher they rise, the harder they fall. This is why most of us are afraid of being prophets. We do not want to be hypocrites. We don't want to tell people what to do, beset as we are by our own weaknesses. Being a prophet is too dangerous, even if there is something deep within us that we desperately want to say with our lives. We keep it in because being a prophet is too dangerous. It will get us killed. Being a prophet rocks the boat. It costs us friends. It goes against tolerance of the differences of others. It opens us up to criticism. It puts our past under scrutiny and our present in the spotlight. Prophecy makes people want to bring us down. Leadership is dangerous for no one cares about those who are merely following, but everyone takes a shot at those on top. Being a prophet means risking people saying about us, 'Who in the world does he think he is?'

Without prophets however, the people will perish. Our Church lacks enough prophets, and as a result, many Catholics do not go to Mass regularly, our collective conscience grows weaker instead of sharper, and excellence and virtue among us easily gives way to complacency and mediocrity. We accept the moral choices of the society around us, rather than keeping our eyes fixed through faith on the things that are truly good, the things that will last forever.

Our nation has leaders, but lacks enough prophets. We are still good at celebrating that we are free from tyranny, that we are free to elect our government and to do what we darn well please. And thank God we celebrate this, and use this weekend to never take this liberty for granted. Yet do we have enough prophets among us to remind us that freedom from tyranny is quickly wasted unless it becomes a freedom used toward pursuing excellence and virtue, stable dispositions of the soul that produce persons of character who delight in what is deeply good and true and beautiful. Do we have prophets that point us all toward a happiness that is less based on personal preferences and more directed toward a universal common good that we all share? Do we have enough prophets like these? I think not.

And even if we do have enough prophets like these among us, are we not too much like the residents of Nazareth, who cut Jesus down to size as quickly as they could? Do we not discard the prophets who do emerge in our lives, so that we may remain comforable, forcing God to love us where we are rather than daring to become more like Him? Have we so long ago given up on the idea that God has placed a message on our hearts, a message that compels us to live differently? Have we stopped discerning how we can live precisely in such a way that the world is distinctly different by what we say and do? Have we stopped believing that many people will only become whole, and become the people they deeply want to be, only if we give the prophetic witness that we were put on earth to give? Have we lost the drama of living, of being sent on a mission that has been given to us and to no one else, and instead focused on merely surviving? Have we lost the amazement that comes from knowing that God is right beside us, working miracles in us and through us, and redeeming the world bit by bit, through the choices we make. Have we stopped believing that the world really does have a chance to be redeemed and made new by the love of God, manifested in the world by what we say and do? If we have stopped believing in ourselves in this way, it is no wonder that we can find ourselves losing faith in God, and failing to see the marvelous deeds He accomplishes through His holy prophets, right in our midst. +m

Thursday, July 2, 2009

he keeps going and going and going

We're just a week into the 'Year for Priests' and the Holy Father acts like he is just getting warmed up. I didn't know he was this serious about the Holy Year, nor did I think he would have so many things to say so early - good stuff from yesterday's general audience - enjoy!

"The mission of every priest depends, therefore, also and above all on the awareness of the sacramental reality of his "new being." The priest's renewed enthusiasm for his mission will always depend on the certainty of his personal identity, which is not artificially constructed, but rather given and received freely and divinely. What I have written in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" is also true for priests: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (No. 1).

Having received such an extraordinary gift of grace with their "consecration," priests become permanent witnesses of their encounter with Christ. Beginning precisely from this interior awareness, they can plentifully fulfill their "mission," by means of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression has come about that in our times, there is something more urgent in priests' missions; some believed that they should in the first place build up a distinct society. On the other hand, the verses from the Gospel that we heard at the beginning call our attention to the two essential elements of priestly ministry. Jesus sends the apostles, at that time and now, to proclaim the Gospel and he gives them the power to cast out evil spirits. "Proclamation" and "power," that is to say "word" and "sacrament," are therefore the two foundational pillars of priestly service, beyond its many possible configurations.

When the "diptych" consecration-mission is not taken into account, it becomes truly difficult to understand the identity of the priest and his ministry in the Church. Who in fact is the priest, if not a man converted and renewed by the Spirit, who lives from a personal relationship with Christ, constantly making the Gospel criteria his own? Who is the priest, if not a man of unity and truth, aware of his own limits and at the same time, of the extraordinary greatness of the vocation he has received, that of helping to extend the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth?

Yes! The priest is a man totally belonging to the Lord, because it is God himself who calls him and who establishes him in his apostolic service. And precisely being totally of God, he is totally of mankind, for all people. During this Year for the Priest, which will continue until the next solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us pray for all priests. May there be an abundance of prayer initiatives and, in particular, Eucharistic adoration, for the sanctification of the clergy and for priestly vocations -- in dioceses, in parishes, in religious communities (especially monasteries), in associations and movements and in the various pastoral groups present in the whole world -- responding to Jesus' invitation to pray "to the lord of the harvest that he may send workers to his harvest" (Matthew 9:38).

Prayer is the first task, the true path of sanctification for priests, and the soul of an authentic "vocational ministry." The numerical scarcity of priestly ordinations in some countries should not discourage, but instead should motivate a multiplication of opportunities for silence and listening to the Word, and better attention to spiritual direction and the sacrament of confession, so that the voice of God, who always continues calling and confirming, can be heard and promptly followed by many youth.

One who prays is not afraid; one who prays is never alone; one who prays is saved! St. John Vianney is undoubtedly a model of an existence made prayer. Mary, Mother of the Church, help all priests to follow his example so as to be, like him, witnesses of Christ and apostles of the Gospel. "

Vocation Video for young women

These videos from St. Cecelias do so much for the young women in our Church who do not know a religious sister nor have ever been to a convent - take a look!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

brief Royals post

Joe Posnanski hits it right on the head today . . . we are no better than we were 5 years ago - we're worse!

"In the late innings of Wednesday’s game between the Royals and Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman made two absolutely remarkable moves.
In the seventh inning, he pinch hit Luis Hernandez for Tony Pena Jr.
In the ninth inning, he pinch hit Tug Hulett for Luis Hernandez.
You know, in many ways, this might be the crescendo of this preposterous decade for Kansas City Royals baseball. Yes, there have been funnier moments, sadder moments, more poignant moments. Yes, you could make a case for the time Tony Pena Sr. jumped in the shower with his clothes on or the time Buddy Bell said “Things can always get worse” or the time that pitcher Darrell May griped that he could not even get a no-decision or the time that Tony Jr. dropped a pop-up because he was blinded by the sun because wasn’t wearing sunglasses because his sunglasses, though ordered, had not been delivered.
But when you have a manager in the late innings of a close game using Luis Hernandez to pinch-hit for Tony Pena and then Tug Hulett to pinch hit for Luis Hernandez, well, at that point it might be time to seriously re-evaluate what kind of baseball organization you have become. Or way past time."