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