Sunday, January 24, 2010

we've got to get out there

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor
28 January 2010

For daily readings, click here

Jesus is clear. If we are a customer, but not a salesman, our faith is worthless. We must fulfill the promise of our Confirmation in the faith. If we are only trying to work God's will into the plans we have for our lives, then what little we know of God's will shall be taken away from us. If we are sharing the faith, hope and love that have been poured into our hearts, if we are magnifying the Lord by the way in which we live our lives, then our lives will get bigger and bigger and bigger. If we are confessing our sins, and flooding our lives with the light of the Gospel, then our sins will surely lose their power over us. If we are trying to place our lives within the mystery of God's will for us, then we will arrive at the self-forgetfulness that characterizes true love. But if we measure what we give, we will receive less and less. If our lives are controlled by fear and not by love, what little love we have will grow cold. We know deep down if we are living a measured life, a life of fear, a life of secrecy, a life that is getting smaller. Let us beg the Lord to move us through today's Eucharist to give without counting the cost, to love beyond reason, to bring light to those areas of our lives shrouded in darkness, and to allow our lives to get bigger and bigger and bigger, until they arrive at the promise of eternal life. +m
Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time
27 January 2010
Holy Spirit Parish
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

David wants to do more for the Lord than the Lord commanded him to do. He wants to build a temple for the ark of the covenant, and for the Lord who has done great things for David. It is an honorable intention, except for one thing. David forgets to ask the Lord if this is what he desires. David does not ask the Lord for permission. Part of being obedient to the Lord is always asking before someone does something. There is no way for David to surprise the Lord, who sees everything. He should have asked, and since he didn't, the Lord has to chastise David for being disobedient. David's intentions are good, except that they take him outside of God's will for him. David should know that what the Lord desires is better and more fruitful than what David desires, for it the by the power of the Lord that David had won all his many victories. David, remembering this, should have praised God for his past mighty deeds, and asked for his permission to build a temple, rather than presuming the Lord's will. Like us, David is a disciple, a follower. Followers must always stay behind their leaders.

Jesus points out to his closest disciples that they are the privileged ones to whom he is explaining the mysteries of the kingdom of God. For everyone else, there will be no shortcuts, because shortcuts are not good for them. If the Lord had been with his apostles longer, he could have spoken to them in parables as well, drawing out from them over time the understanding of the Kingdom. Yet time is of some importance. Jesus must ready those closest apostles for the paschal mystery to be accomplished in Jerusalem. They must have the interpretive keys for what is about to take place, so that they can hand on the Gospel to others. For everyone else, Jesus speaks to them in parables. He does this because the things we most value in life, are the things we have to work for. A PhD is more valuable than a gold star on our first spelling test. Winning a great upset against a formidable foe is more valuable than beating up on someone inferior to you. So too with the mysteries of the kingdom, which we are to value and to pursue above all things. There are no shortcuts to understanding God, whose thoughts are so far above our thoughts. There are no cliff's notes for knowing his ways, which are so far above our ways. We will be rewarded insofar as we become good soil, in which the mysteries of the kingdom can take root and bear fruit. +m

rooting for the jets?

  • for some reason I'm pulling hard for the jets in this afternoon's playoff game against the Colts. I didn't know I would feel this way when I started watching the game, but it would be a pretty improbable win, and I guess I'm starting to pull for the underdog. I know a lot of people dislike Peyton Manning a lot more than I do. He gets on my nerves, but he's quite a player. He just scored before half in two plays. It's a good game. Glad I can watch this game and the next one. Next Sunday I am preaching lots of Masses for the Archbishop's Call to Share and am celebrating a couple at KU as well, so it is nice that this Sunday is a little slower.
  • Go Saints! Go Saints! Go Saints! Drew Brees is easier to root for than Bret Favre.
  • had a really good time at Holy Spirit parish in Overland Park this morning. The 10:30 Mass was really full, and the energy was palpable. The Mass participation was great. I preached without notes and rambled on quite a bit about Confirmation being the least understood and least utilized sacrament. I sounded convinced but am not sure I said much.
  • Should be able to finish my appointments tomorrow night in time to settle in to watch KU vs. Missouri. let's hope the fieldhouse is rockin' for that one, and KU takes Mizzou to the woodshed. It should work out that way, but you never know. I thought the crowd was great Wednesday versus Baylor, but I expect it to be twice as loud against our Archrival. I don't have a ticket . .. . yet! It will be great to welcome Big Monday back to Allen Fieldhouse.
  • Congrats to KSU for being good enough fans to entice College Gameday to come to Allen Fieldhouse west on Saturday. That should be fun. KState needs to beat Baylor Tuesday or they are really in trouble in the Big 12 race.
  • Here's hoping to good weather for the next couple of years for Haiti. I don't want to even think about a hurricane or anything like it hitting that nation in the coming year. Lord, have mercy.
  • John Paul II rumored beatification in Rome - October 10th! Please God, let it be so!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jesus gives a peculiar compliment!

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Timothy and Titus, bishops
26 January 2010
Holy Spirit Parish
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Jesus' mom was checking up on him. Mark tells us that Jesus was working all day. Teaching and healing. The people wouldn't let him sleep. They wouldn't let him eat. People just kept coming and coming and coming. We hear in many places in the Gospels that his family thinks Jesus is out of his mind. There will be no end to to his popularity or to the demands people will make on him. No person could do what people were beginning to expect Jesus to do. So Mary comes with Jesus' extended family to check on him. And they don't even get close to him. They remain outside. Jesus didn't even give his mom the time of day.

Simeon predicted to Mary at Jesus' presentation that a sword would pierce her heart. We see it happening in today's Gospel when she is ignored by her son, at least on the surface. In today's Gospel, Mary had to give her son into the hands of people. That was his mission. She wanted to check on him, to do something for him, to give him some rest and the love of family to restore him. But he ignored her. Kind of. Without even taking the time to see her, Jesus gives his mom a compliment. Who is my mother? The one who does the will of God. Well, if anything, this matches Jesus' mother perfectly. Mary did exactly what was asked of her. She is first in Jesus' heart, not only because she is his biological mother, but also because she is the very best and knowing and doing the will of God. Mary was chosen of all women because she was most ready to do the will of God, so Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, but becomes the mother of all those who seek to do the will of God. She is the mother of our vocations, and Jesus points her out as such in today's Gospel. In saying that those who do the will of God are his mother and brothers and sisters, Jesus gives his mom the mysterious compliment of being his spiritual mother in addition to being his biological mother, and even as he does not take the time to greet her personally, he calls all those around him to imitate her perfect example. +m

Paul and Mary

Conversion of Paul, apostle
25 Jan 2010
Year for Priests
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center

For some reason, I was comparing Paul and Mary in my mind. They are bookends of discipleship and apostleship. Mary is the most ready to receive Jesus and to follow Him and to be sent by Him. She is the best disciple and the apostle of all apostles. Paul is the opposite. The only thing he has in common with Mary is his fidelity to Judaism. But his fidelity to Judaism, unlike Mary's, does not open him up to the law of love inauguarated by Jesus. No, unlike Mary, Paul was not ready to receive Jesus. He was not ready to follow Him. He was not originally chosen, as were Mary and the other 11 apostles, to be sent by Christ at Pentecost. No, Paul is the worst of disciples and the least likely of apostles. Paul was the greatest persecutor of Christ.

But the same Christ chose both Mary and Paul. He chose Mary because of her readiness. He chose Mary because of her lowliness. He chose Paul because Paul was least ready, and most proud. He chose one before his birth to be the apostle of the apostles, he chose another after his ascension. Both Mary and Paul were chosen before they had a chance to meet Christ face to face. Paul never had the chance, and yet he outdid in missionary zeal the apostles who saw Jesus risen from the dead. In choosing both, Christ shows that He can choose anyone. We can not excuse ourselves from being chosen because we are not as sinless as Mary. We can not excuse ourselves from being chosen because we are too sinful like Paul. Christ can and does choose us, and we must believe that He is choosing us whether we are most ready or not ready at all. There are no excuses for us. We cannot tell God to wait, but we must beg him to call us as He called Mary and as He called Paul. The two could not have been more different when God called them. They both became the greatest of saints, because they believed that what was promised them would be fulfilled!

it's not supposed to be this easy

  • the jayhawks rolled today over iowa state. Hilton is supposed to be a tough place to play. Our bigs were tremendous. They had to be with our guards hitting only 3 of 17 from downtown. If we can get past Mizzou and KState next week, the Hawks will be well on their way to their 7th Big 12 title in a row. It's not supposed to be this easy. We'll see how this week goes
  • I missed not being in Washington DC this year for the March for Life. Thankfully, I was able to offer Mass at KU on campus, where a pro-life witness is always needed. The Mass helps unify our prayer around the world, so saying the Mass I know I was united with those marching in Washington. It sounds like another amazing turnout of pro-lifers, especially Kansans.
  • All the national networks are picking up the story of Craig Desme of the Oakland A's who was doing very well in the minor leagues but is leaving to join St. Michael's abbey in California. Keep your eyes open for more news on this story. ESPN and Fox News did a story last year on Chase Hilgenbrinck, who left a professional soccer career to enter seminary for the diocese of Peoria. Keep praying for vocations.
  • Tomorrow I'll be at Holy Spirit parish in Overland Park in the morning for the 10:30am Mass. I have a lot of young adult Masses there on Thursdays, but am looking forward to seeing what a Sunday is like. I'm sure I'll preach on vocations, among other things!
  • We're a week away from the Support our Seminarians auction and dinner at the downtown Marriott this Friday night. It is a great night of celebrating vocations with Conception Seminary College, and the KCSJ diocese. Our seven seminarians studying at Conception will all be there.
  • Prayer group Monday before the Big Monday showdown with Mizzou! NFL games tomorrow. Good sports time!

know your role, do your part

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Holy Spirit Parish
24 January 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

Bill Self is the best coach in college basketball. Well, I'm biased. I'm a big Jayhawk fan. But even if you don't like the Jayhawks, most people know who Bill Self is. And most people know of the success he has had. Even devoted Wildcat and Tiger fans, without loving their own teams any less, know that Bill Self is a formidable foe. He recruits great players. And he gets them to play. Not without a lot of second-guessing, mind you. Bill Self has a very difficult job. He has 9,10, 11, 12 players who deserve to be on the court. He has to decide how to keep everyone happy, everyone involved, and how to get the players to work together in a way that meets the insatiable expectations of KU fans. Bill Self gets criticized all the time. Some players get unhappy with their playing time. Fans who know almost nothing scream at the tv when things aren't going the Jayhawks' way. I'm one of those fans who screams bloody murder whenever Bill Self plays zone. Or if he does not substitute the way I would.

Those of you who are fans of the Wildcats and Tigers probably do the same thing. You disagree with game plans and substitutions, wondering why Mike Anderson and Frank Martin do this or do that. What a rivalry is building this year. All three teams are really good. The games ahead should be a blast, including the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. I posted some anti-KState comments on my facebook page this week, just to stoke the rivalry, and I found out very quickly that the rivalry did not need to be stoked. K-Staters are on fire, ready to fight, ready to go. Game on.

Well, all of us belong to a team infinitely more complicated than the basketball teams we cheer for. We belong to the Church, quarterbacked by the Holy Spirit. We belong to the Church which is the living, breathing presence of Christ in the world. St. Paul reflects on how we are all an indispensable part of the Church. All of us members of one body, none of us being able to say to anyone else that you are less important or you are non-essential. The Church just completes today a week of prayer for Christian unity. Christian unity is unique in that it is a gift that Christ gives to His Church. Christian unity is not a human accomplishment, an ability for us to agree on everything. That is impossible. We are too diverse as a people to agree on everything. No, Christian unity is a gift that has to be recognized and accepted and preserved. It is a gift from Christ our head, who by His Spirit makes us all his children, all members of his body, and by that same Spirit empowers each one of us to share in his mission to reconcile everything to the Father.

Bill Self, in coaching his team, is always looking for team chemistry, for a way that everyone will be able to value his role and be able to execute that specific role in a way that benefits all. So too, by virtue of our confirmation, where we have received the fullness of God's Spirit, the Spirit coaches us into contributing to the mission of the Church in a way that is uniquely ours, and in a way that fosters the communion to which we belong. The communion of the Church is a unity born not so much of our choosing to belong, but of our being chosen to belong and to contribute our gifts to a unity that cannot be broken.

We see in the tens of thousands of our fellow Catholics who chose this week to stand up for life in Topeka and Washington on the 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and we see in the thousands who have rushed to the aid of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, that there will be no end to the ways to which Jesus sends us to bring glad tidings to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to captives. It is our greatest privilege as members of Christ's Church to be called to serve, and to spend our lives in fostering a communion of life and love.

May each one of us this weekend recommit ourselves to the promises of our Confirmation, whereby in accepting the fullness of God's Spirit we are sent into the world ready to defend and to promote our faith, and by that same Spirit to discern and to fulfill a special vocation that belongs to us and to no one else in the Church. Each one of us is called by name to a vocation which will foster the unity of our Church, a vocation which allows us to make a perfect gift of ourselves in the service of others. May we be better at discerning these vocations, and fulfilling our role more precisely within our great communion. May we never be a Church where 20% of the people do 80% of the work, while 80% do the minimum. No, we are Christ's body, and each of us individually members of it, sent by God for some work that he has given to us, and to no one else! +m

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

no killing without cause

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
St. Agnes, martyr
Year for Priests
21 January 2010

For daily readings, click here

Today two busloads of KU students have arrived in the nation's capital to begin a prayer vigil for life. Tonight the shrine of the Immaculate Conception, as it is every year, will be packed with priests and young people who will pray with all their might that God will intercede to change the hearts of a nation that has desensitized itself to the horror of abortion. They will pray too that the Lord will send them like Jonathan went to his father Saul to be missionaries of reconciliation and hope to those who believe they have no choice other than to kill an innocent child.

Tomorrow these same students, and tens of thousands of others, will March for Life in Washington, marching prayerfully but joyfully each year until the scourge of this greatest civil rights abuse of all time is removed from the history of our country. On their side is the truth that life begins at conception, as it did for each of us fortunate enough to be alive today. On their side is the love that knows that it is always better to save life than to destroy it, for life is a gift!

May these Marchers be the agents of hope and change and love, and with Jesus be the true healers of the evil that threatens to destroy us. May they feel the support of all of us who are praying for them, and all those children in the future who are urging them to keep marching so that one day, they too will have a chance to live!

having fun!

Before heading out to a pre-game dinner, enjoying the mounting facebook comments regarding my kstate smacks. I should not have rained on their parade after they beat #1 Texas. KState really looked good defensively, and I really like their team, and yes I am scared that they could win the Big 12, but some of the emaw and fear the beard stuff was just too good to ignore. I need to grow in virtue and keep the comments to myself. But it sure is fun having a basketball rivalry with kstate again. It was no fun beating up on some of their mediocre teams of the last 20 years, and I think they would agree football got a lot more fun when KU got a few things working the last couple of years. Here's hoping that Turner Gill and Frank Martin are both fantastic coaches to get the rivalry hot as an oven. I had kind of lost hope that I would ever feel the same way playing KState as I do before the kickoff of Armageddon at Arrowhead (KU/MU at Arrowhead) but this KState team gets your blood pumping. They are good. How good? We'll see.

I had the great privilege of celebrating a Mass for youth from the Archdiocese who left on pilgrimage this morning to the March for Life in Washington DC. It is so great to see new young members of the pro-life movement. It is a movement that will undoubtedly win in the end. It has truth and justice and love on its side! I wish it were sooner rather than later. I preached about the schizophrenia of America's laws that charge people with double homicide if a pregnant woman is killed, but do nothing when a child is aborted. I preached about how contraception is the least natural thing someone can use in a culture in which it is fashionable to 'go green.' I preached about how the very same pregnancy can be called either a baby or a fetus depending only on whether the child is wanted or not. The young people going to stand up for life know that they never had the right to be born. They will do a great job and I was happy to send them off. I have the Mass at KU Friday at Danforth chapel.

This afternoon I was able to tape a short radio show with Archbishop Naumann regarding the priesthood and vocations. I think it will air in February on KEXS 1090.

Monday, January 18, 2010

outside the box

Monday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
18 January 2010
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
MLK Jr Day
St. Lawrence Chapel at the University of Kansas

For daily readings, click here

Jesus teaches in today’s Gospel that he will not fit into any preconceived categories that others try to put him in. Jesus will not fit in any box. He is a category breaker, an extremist, as we might label him today. A radical, not a moderate.

Those of us who belong to Jesus must also break categories. We must transcend expectations. We must live in such a way that people ask about us the same thing they asked about Jesus. Why does he do that? There are many people who are quite capable, and quite good, of putting Catholics into a box. It’s not like Catholicism is a new idea. There are many who say there is nothing new in Catholicism. We need saints that even as they adhere strictly to the tradition of the Church, are freed by that same tradition to transcend expectations. Jesus’ disciples must be category breakers like he is, fasting if we need to, in order to bind ourselves more closely to the one who sends us into his world to be his saints, the true conquerors of this world.

Today our Church honors a man who stood out because of his courage and faith. As we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, and the ongoing quest for justice, we remember that the world is changed the most by those who are most radical in their pursuit of and commitment to truth and love. It is not non-conformity for non-conformity’s sake, but for the sake of truth and justice and love. This is what makes saints, who change the world the most.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

prayers and thoughts

Spending a lot of time thinking about how, when every road is filled with rubble, and with no places for helicopters to land, you can effectively get food and water and medical supplies fairly to a city twice the size of the KC metro. The thought of trying boggles my mind, and my prayers go out to those who are trying to make it work. Bigger than the question of why this happened to Haiti, which is a big enough question itself, is how unprepared we are as a people, even though there exist the resources to be prepared. Of course, what has precipitated this horrendous situation is the natural evil of an earthquake, but what really makes it an unthinkable tragedy is the moral evil of not being prepared and not being in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Everyone feels helpless and guilty. And we should. Not that any one of us could have prevented what is happening, but that the world should be better than it is. And we all bear the blame for that. All of us.

It will be a little hard to gather tonight for the Catholic Charities Snowball, although it shouldn't be. It is a very fancy gala, with the proceeds going to help needy families in the Kansas City area. It is a fantastic event. Very worthwhile. Greatly needed. I am proud to be going to it. But it is hard to dress up and to celebrate when so many people are devastated. The question of why them, and not me, will be palpable this evening, even as we are enjoying ourselves. And it is better to ask the question than not to ask it. The timing is weird this year. I wonder if they will take up an additional collection for Haiti.

I watched the Blind Side last night, and I loved the movie. It was fantastic. Again, I was haunted about watching a story about the saving of one life, when 50,000 or more, including the bodies of children, lie dead in Haiti. But the situation in Haiti, though paralyzing in its scope, is not to discourage us, but to remind us all to do what we can, when we can, as promptly as we can, as sacrifically and generously as we can. St. Therese of Lisieux taught us all the little way of love, that it is perhaps when we feel most helpless that we are near to our next opportunity to do the most. If each one of us took it upon ourselves to save one soul, all the world would be saved. So let us move forward in hope, praying for all, sacrificing for all, and loving the neighbor who is right next to us. +m

what remains

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
University of Kansas
17 January 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

In the end there are three things that remain - faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. In Haiti this weekend, the remains that we see on camera turn our stomachs and make our hearts ache. Rubble. Chaos. Bodies. There is a lot of sadness, for so much that is good has been lost. Even what little the people of Haiti had, seems to have been taken from them. It is unfair. Terribly unfair. It is senseless, and the couple of attempts to explain why this happened are ludicrous. God caused it. Sin caused it. Global warming caused it. None of this makes sense, and nothing will in the short term. The questions will haunt the world for awhile. Of all the places an earthquake could hit, why did it hit Haiti? Worse than that, how could a people be so defenseless, and so unprepared, given that man has the resources to avoid devastations like this one? Why, and how? These questions will be around for awhile.

What we have noticed however, and what we have a chance to do this weekend as we gather to pray, is that the unimaginable evil that has befallen Haiti has not destroyed everything. What we have noticed already, as tenuous as the situation is, is that evil will not have the final say. It never does. As St. Paul reminds us in a scripture even Catholics have memorized - in the end, three things remain. Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. In response to this horrendous tragedy, what have we seen? Are people cursing God and abandoning their faith? Not really. No, even as people are sad and angry and lack understanding, people are not cursing God. They are praying. Are people losing hope in a future for Haiti? No, people are wondering if somewhere on the other side of this tragedy lies a different and better future for this poor country. Are people closing their hearts to the plight of the people of Haiti? No, quite the opposite, despite the feelings of helplessness, everyone wants to do something, and to help in any way that they can. Nations are sending in resources and rescuers. Churches are taking up collections. Kids are asking parents if there is something they can do to help. What we see is not a closing of hearts, but an opening of hearts. In the end, three things remain, and they will remain after the last piece of rubble is picked up, and the last tear is dried from this unthinkable tragedy - three things remain, and are stronger than any evil that tries to destroy them - faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

It is our common struggle against evil, natural and moral, that so galvanizes man, and makes these supernatural virtues of faith, hope and love become all the more important for those who move forward in the face of evil. Going through evil, battling against evil, which always threatens but never succeeds in killing the human spirit, brings man into the greatest solidarity. Nothing brings us together like a common struggle against evil. It is through the cross of Jesus Christ as well, that we come into greatest solidarity with God, who as Isaiah prophesies wants to be married to us, his people. It is true, that we can get angry at God, and perhaps we should, when human life which is so good is so unfairly and arbitrarily taken. We can wonder why God who could stop this evil chooses not to, instead allowing us to over and over again bear the punishment that those who are are made to always love but who do not always love cannot always live. And yet, on the cross, this same God shows that He has not allowed us to suffer this punishment alone, but comes to suffer it with us, and in a sense before us. And in the paschal mystery we see revealed in Christ the truth that resides deep within each of us, that not even the evil of death, not even the death of the world's most helpless and innocent, can destroy the power of love. In the end, three things remain. Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

Out of love for us, Christ suffered and died for us. For those of us who have come to pray, we come haunted by the question of why them, and not me. Who am I to be here, safe and well fed and blessed, and not there, in Haiti. Who am I? Those of us who have come haunted by this question go first to the cross of Jesus, where the mystery of human suffering finds a way out of despair. We go to the cross, and resolve once again to conform our lives to the mystery of the cross, choosing as did Christ to let ourselves be taken by evil, being baptized into the suffering of death and Christ, until evil destroys everything in us except what it cannot destroy - faith, hope and love.

Jesus in peforming his first public sign announces that because He is near, the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and love, which characterize our marriage to God and our real participation in his divine life that will last forever, will never run out. The best of wine, the wine of supernatural life, which evil cannot destroy, a life that is eternal, will not run out. It will never run out. We call on Jesus our refuge and our strength in every difficulty, who comes to us in our sorrow and difficulties, to allow the circumstances of this great tragedy to focus many hearts on the things that will last forever, and the things that will rise from the horrendous remains of this tragedy. Faith, hope and love will remain. They will not run out. And the greatest of these is love. +m

Sunday, January 10, 2010

avoid evil when you can, but don't be afraid!

Homily for Thursday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time
KC Young Adult Group
Holy Spirit Parish
14 January 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

According to the law of Moses, it was important to remain clean. But Jesus, who was perfectly righteous according to the law, does something unclean in today's Gospel. Jesus touches a leper. The law was written so that the Israelites would never be overcome by evil. Surrounded on all sides by evil, the law is a reliable guide for doing good and avoiding evil. The law is a way to remain faithful to God, and to remain in His goodness. So too in our moral life. It is simple. Do good. Avoid evil. Stay clean. Avoid contamination. We should never overestimate that we can play with fire and not get burned. The Israelites in today's first reading overestimated how good they were versus the evil they were facing. They were soundly defeated. No we are to be careful. We are to be prudent. We are even to surround ourselves as much as we can with people who can help us to be good.

But this is not what we see Jesus doing. He touches the leper. From the moment of his birth, Jesus is the baby prophesied by Isaiah to be able to play by the cobra's den. He is born in the cold, on the move. He is at risk from the very beginning. He has to flee those who wanted to kill him. In his public ministry, he has several Houdini-esque escapes from those who were ready to destroy him. Jesus is the ultimate James Bond - he finds a way out of every situation. He even touches a leper without fear of becoming sick or unclean.

In this, Jesus shows himself to be the one who has power over sin and evil and death. He always has a way out if he wants it. He can dine with tax collectors and sinners without becoming one of them. Evil has no sway over him. Even during his trial, he shows that evil is not really winning, or showing itself more powerful, but that he is freely laying down his life.

St. John told us in his first letter that we too, who have been fully incorporated into Christ, are conquerers of the world with him. Insofar as we are separated from Christ, we must follow the law to surround ourselves with good, and to avoid evil, lest evil destroy us. But insofar as we are in Christ, we are a new creation, and share in his victory over evil and sin and death. Insofar as we are in Christ, He may send us on mission into the heart of darkness, and we need not fear that evil will overcome us. Because through Him, with Him and in Him, we too are the conquerers of the world! +m

the Lord wants an open ear

Homily for Wednesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time
13 January 2010
St. Agnes Parish School Mass
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

We should not give up on discerning the Lord's will more precisely. We see that even as Jesus starts to get busy in his ministry, that he goes off to pray. He gets away so that he can hear exactly what His Father is asking him to do. At first his actions perplex Simon. Why does he need to go discern God's will? He is doing lots of good things. He is teaching and healing, and more people are coming to him than he can handle. What is there to discern? Jesus shows the apostles however, that even in the midst of doing good, there is a need to discern precisely what the Lord is asking. We are not to take a shotgun approach to life, just haphazardly doing as much as we can. There is a task that the Lord has given to us, and to no one else, and we must be restless until we find that mission.

The psalmist seems to say as much. Sacrifice and oblation you did not ask of me, but an open ear. The implication is that there are many people who are do-gooders, who offer many things out of love of the Lord. Many people offer sacrifice. But rare indeed is the one who has an open ear. Rare indeed is the person who understands God's will precisely instead of generally.

We see in the first reading that Samuel was especially ready to hear the Lord's will, and to become his prophet. Samuel lived in a time when there were many people doing good, many people offering sacrifice, but few people who gave God what he wanted most, an open ear. The author said Samuel lived in a time when the Lord was not revealing himself very much. Most likely, this was because no one was ready to listen. Samuel becomes the Lord's prophet perhaps because his was the most open ear the Lord could find. He is suprised at first at what is happening, but Eli, his spiritual mentor, guides him to open his ears fully and to believe that the Lord was speaking to him.

Mary received a vocation even greater than that of Samuel because she was even more ready than he was. Mary is the most open, of ear and of heart, of anyone. Sometimes we can complain that the Lord's will is difficult for us to discover. We can complain that he does not seem to be saying anything. But can we say that we are as ready as Mary was to receive the Lord's will? Are our hearts and our ears as open as were hers? The problem is not that the Lord is not speaking, it is that we are not ready to listen. Let us give the Lord what he desires most, an open ear. Speak Lord, your servant is listening. +m

starting to thaw

Just a few thoughts since Baltimore vs. New England doesn't exactly have me on the edge of my seat right now. Baltimore 27 NE 7. At New England. Ouch! Can you say dynasty over? Way over?

We had a pretty good crowd last night for the St. Lawrence Center Mass at 4pm. Quite a few confessions, but not as packed as usual. This weekend Archbishop Naumann has the homily, and we played his cd at the Masses last night and this morning. Nice Zack Greinke reference by the Archbishop to start! I pray for the success of Call to Share. Last year it raised $4 million. Our Vocations office is funded by Call to Share, and our campus ministries like St. Lawrence also get a subsidy from this important collection.

Last night I went to a gym to spend some time with homeschool dads and their sons. It was a great turnout. I decided not to swim, but got in on the dodgeball a little bit at the end of the night. I gave a short meditation on vocations, focusing on Jesus being found in the temple, the calling of the first apostles, and the gift of Samuel to his mother Hannah. I just used the scriptures the Church is meditating on this week. I think it went pretty well. They are always so nice to pray a rosary for me and to give me a small gift. I was privilege to be there.

Didn't get to see the end of the KSU/Mizzou game. I actually think I was pulling for Mizzou. That is weird. Maybe I think KSU is a bigger threat to KU for the Big 12 title. Maybe I still feel like we played terrible at KState this year in football, and I had gotten used to beating them. Maybe I just don't like the attitude of KSU basketball. Who knows. I can't believe I felt myself pulling for Mizzou. But only slightly. It is a long 16 game Big 12 season. The game really wasn't that important. KU gets into the Big 12 mix on Wednesday after finishing the noncon at Tennesse today. Rock Chalk.

I think the thaw is on. The sun is beautiful today, and I see a few spots attracting enough heat to melt just a little of the snow. The cars will be ugly as this stuff starts to melt off this week. I think it has been pretty. Definitely more interesting than most winters we have had the last decade. We don't really need another cold blast like this one. It takes too much energy to heat everything!

Friends coming over for the KU game, then I hope to get out to downtown Lawrence where I haven't been in awhile to have a beer and a burger or pizza. It is embarrassing how little I get to downtown Lawrence. I need to buy a new watch at Weaver's but they won't be open tonight I suppose.

Late tonight maybe the Christmas tree will come down. I will let the St. Lawrence staff tackle the chapel tomorrow, which looked great, of course, for Christmas. I feel like I never strayed from Christmas this year. It still feels like Christmas. Maybe the weather is more of a gift than I thought. Fr. Steve gets back this week from Rome, and said on his facebook this morning that he was able to greet Pope Benedict XVI personally at a private audience. Good for him. I wonder if he put in a good word for me, since my last name is German!

Pope Benedict baptizes in Sistine Chapel

For some reason this really touches me. I like it when the Pope baptizes. Maybe I think this has to be refreshing for him. Baptizing babies is something that you can't do wrong. You're not going to be criticized for saying this or not saying that, or being here and not being there. The baptism of infants is such a disarming sacrament. God shines his face on a new child. He shares his divine life. There is hope as we see the promise of divine life shine on these new children. The children and the parents and godparents really preach the sacrament. They have brought these children for baptism, and it is their faith that they profess on behalf of the Church, that is the faith in which these children are baptized. The pope is just the humble minister, the privileged minister of this great sacrament. Seeing this really melts your heart. I've included a photo of when John Paul II baptized. Great memories for me. What a beautiful end to the Christmas season. Back to the grind of Ordinary Time, before getting out the ashes February 17th.

I had to go back over to the Center to greet folks and to take care of the building, but I was hoping to watch Pope Benedict celebrate the Mass ad orientem in the Sistine Chapel, where there is no freestanding altar for him to use. I need a dvr. When I got back, the Mass was over. I just got to see the baptisms. I haven't watched him do this before, and I have not celebrated such a public Mass myself, but I wanted to see the pope do it. I've been to some extraordinary form Masses at seminary, and I don't suppose I will learn the extraordinary form anytime soon, but I wanted to see how the pope celebrated the ordinary form of the Mass in the sistine chapel. Actually, truth be told, I was unprepared for the one time that I celebrated the ordinary form with other people in a chapel at St. Peter's that did not have a freestanding altar. Even though I was unprepared, the Mass went pretty well. Long story short, I don't think I will celebrate the Mass ad orientem, but watching others do it does help me to pray the Mass facing the people better.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Giving children to God

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time
Year II

For daily readings, click here

Abraham and Isaac on the mountain. Jesus and Mary at the cross. The scriptures are full of stories of children being given by their parents back to God. Christian parents usually bring their children at the very beginning of their lives to the temple to dedicate them to God. Through baptism, parents give back to God the gift that they have received, wanting God to claim their child as His own, knowing that God alone can take care of their child after all their efforts as parents have been exhausted. In the short term, however, dedicating your child to God, and encouraging your child to seek first the will of God, is quite a risky and dangerous enterprise. Few parents actually try what Hannah prays for in today's first reading. She says that if she is gifted with a child, as the fruit of her marriage to Elkanah, that she will make sure that this son of hers is especially well prepared to do the will of God. Maybe Hannah doesn't really know what she is saying or what she is praying for. Those chosen to be God's prophets are often scorned and rejected. They endure loneliness and persecution. Yet Hannah promises God that she will not stand in the way of the Lord's will for this child He will give her. She will bring him up especially focused on doing the Lord's will.

Simeon tells Mary at the presentation of Jesus that a sword will pierce her heart. This is the risk of parenting, at least parenting in the way that Hannah presents it to us. Hannah begins before she even conceives her child, to promise God that although she would want to possess and protect this boy that might be given Her, that the best gift she can give this boy is to teach him how to hear the Lord's will and how to respond to it, no matter what. Samuel as we know will become a great prophet, which means he will undergo intense suffering, in order to make the word of the Lord known. It would be natural for a parent to want to protect her son from this, or to discourage him from such a vocation, but Hannah does just the opposite. She pleads with God for the opportunity to raise a child who will bear abundant fruit with his life. Hannah teaches us that it is not enough to teach our kids just to do whatever makes them happy. We can do better. Rare indeed is the parent today who is effective in teaching her children to seek and to love the will of God above all things. +m

Jesus not a one-man show

Homily for Monday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time
Year II

Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here

This year we have 6 weeks of ordinary time before Ash Wednesday. There will be 28 weeks of Ordinary Time after Easter. We begin reading today from the very first Gospel to be written, and the shortest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark. Mark gets right to the point, and his narrative of the calling of the first apostles is very simple. Jesus calls. Simon and Andrew, James and John respond. Jesus has his first apostles very directly. He does not have to talk them into it. It is more like a draft than a process of discernment. Of course, if the apostles knew exactly what they were getting themselves into, they would have ran away as fast as they could, as they eventually did at Calvary. But for now, a great teacher, with authority, is asking them to come along for a great adventure. And they are willing. Like a new seminarian who is responding enthusiastically to a feeling that he is called to do something extraordinary with his life, this is how we see the first four apostles respond to the voice of Jesus. They will have second thoughts soon enough. As vocation director, it sure would be great if more guys would respond simply to the Lord's call to be his priests. Lots of guys should be entering seminary. It is a way of following Jesus very closely, and a privileged place to do so. Not everyone will be ordained a priest, but almost all guys make the mistake of over-discerning the priesthood before they have a chance to get close to it, or to know what it really is. The Apostles took the step that was right in front of them. They stopped what they were doing to follow Jesus. They did not try to predict tomorrow. They responded today.

It is important for us to pay attention to what Jesus does in the very first days of his public ministry. In today's Gospel, he makes it clear that he is not going to be a lone ranger. His mission is not to do everything himself. Jesus asks for help. He asks for companions. He knows that his mission is to one day ascend back to His heavenly Father, so he gathers men for formation, men to whom he will one day entrust the mission He has received. That Jesus calls apostles at the very beginning of his ministry shows that His intention to establish a Church that will continue his mission is foremost in His mind and in His plans. It is silly to say that Jesus only came to teach us principles, not to establish a Church. The witness of the Gospels shows just the opposite. May the young people that He is calling today to leave everything to take up His mission within His Church, respond as generously as did those first apostles. Peter and Andrew, James and John, pray for us! +m

The Leaven features seminarians and retreatants!

Our Archdiocesan paper, the Leaven, featured this week the annual photo of our seminarians, along with stories about the recent Quo Vadis retreat hosted by the Archbishop, and the parent luncheon hosted by the Serrans. This is such a gift from our archdiocesan paper, and it is fantastic to receive their support.

Check them out at

a good Saturday, so far!

Despite the bitterly cold temperatures, things are beautiful at least to the eye. The snow is falling very lightly again this morning. All the white sure beats the ugly brown that usually dominates the Kansas landscape this time of year.

This morning I was able to pray and celebrate a private Mass. This afternoon I have Mass and confessions and St. Lawrence Center. I expect a pretty small crowd because the high today will probably be about 7 degrees. Fr. Steve is away this week, so the rectory is especially quiet.

Tonight I'll head to Kansas City to spend some time with the fathers and sons of homeschool families in Kansas City. Some swimming, a quick talk by me, and then some basketball! Going to keep an eye today on the KSU/Mizzou game kicking off the Big 12 season and perhaps will get home tonight in time to see the Cowboys and Eagles. I have watched less sports in the last month than I can remember in a long time.

The Royals have signed a couple of light-hitting speedsters. Maybe we can get some mojo going this year. I'm not going to worry about it much before April.

Tomorrow I have 9am and 11am Masses at St. Lawrence, then getting together with friends before the KU v. Tennessee game. Rock Chalk!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Baptism of the Lord

Homily for the Baptism of the Lord
9/10 January 2010
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here.

I could have skipped writing a homily for this Sunday. Archbishop Naumann has it covered with his annual Call to Share homily. It's his pulpit, so this homily is not one that I will actually deliver. Still, with the cold weather, I have a few minutes to reflect. Maybe I can get down an idea that will help next year, or the year after, or the year after.

The first luminous mystery is the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan by John. This is his first public act. It is not something he does really, but something that is done to Christ. It is a preview of what will eventually be done to him on the cross. Indeed, Jesus' first act is to be baptized by John. Only after he is baptized do we see him start doing things - healing and teaching. His baptism marks the beginning of his public life. Jesus does not start with a bang, but with a whisper, allowing one inferior to him, John, to baptize him. In allowing himself to be baptized, Jesus does not become holy. He is already holy. But as the Church fathers have told us, Jesus makes the waters by which he is baptized holy, so that from the time of Jesus' baptism on, baptism is not only a baptism of repentance, but a baptism with Holy Spirit and fire. It is not just to slow the bleeding caused by sin. Baptism is also a new beginning of goodness, a beginning of sharing in the eternal life that sin and death do not have the power to destroy. So Jesus does not become holy by his baptism. He makes the waters holy for the first time.

By making his first public act something that is done to Him, Jesus foreshadows that his greatest public act will not be what he says and does, although he will do and say alot, but will be what he allows to be done to him. Jesus' greatest public act will not be a miracle he performs. His greatest sign will be allowing himself to be crucified on the cross. In this, Jesus is truly the son of Mary, whose greatest act was not something she did, but something that she let be done unto her. It was the Father's will that Jesus be baptized, that he from the first moment of his public ministry, before he cured a single person, or preached a sermon, or forgave a sin, to identify himself first with sinners. Who were the people going out to be baptized? Not those who considered themselves to be righteous. They did not come out to be baptized. No, it was those who knew themselves to be sinners. So we must meditate on why the person who was the most righteous, the one who least needed to be baptized, made this his first public act. It was a foreshadowing of his last and greatest public act, allowing himself to be identified with sinners. Jesus suffered because He was accused as a criminal, as the greatest of sinners, although He had done nothing wrong. His baptism is a much more pleasant experience, but it is a foreshadowing of what would happen at Calvary.

Jesus in identifying Himself with sinners at His baptism truly fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that we hear proclaimed, that the servant with whom God is well pleased, the one on whom God has placed His spirit, is one who will restore justice not by shouting, but will come with such humility that He will not bruise a single reed or smolder a single wick, but has come that even the most pitiful of sinners may not be afraid of his justice, but may turn to Him for hope. Jesus is truly God with us, and at His baptism He shows us that He will even allow Himself to be considered a sinner, in our place if He has to, so much does He love us and so much does He want to be close to us.

Of course, our Christian story has a happy ending. It has a most happy ending. In the baptism of Jesus we see not only the foreshadowing of Calvary, but also the foreshadowing of the resurrection. Right after the baptism, the same Holy Spirit that will eventually raise Jesus from the dead, appears as a dove to announce that even though this Son of Man will go so far away from Heaven that it seems like evil and death will overcome Him, He will never stop being the beloved Son of God, who will one day return to heaven just as surely as He came down from heaven! May our celebration of the Lord's baptism today give us the same hope, that we who have been baptized into the death of Christ, have also be baptized into the glory of His resurrection! +m

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Whoever is begotten by God does not sin!

Homily for Saturday between Epiphany and Baptism
9 January 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings click here

We who are baptized live two lives simultaneously. Two lives side by side. We live a natural life, and a supernatural one. We are begotten of this world by a natural birth, and begotten by God through baptism. St. John makes quite a claim in today's portion of his first letter. He says that one who is begotten by God does not sin! Well, even those who are baptized experience something quite the opposite. We sin all the time. And if we sin all the time, St. John shows us how much we prefer our natural life to our supernatural one. For he says that one who is begotten by God does not sin. Ever. St. John doesn't say that one begotten by God only sins rarely. He says never.

We can understand sin in this way. We usually understand it as our prefering evil over good. And this is true. We can also understand it as a forgetfulness of our being baptized, our being begotten by God. If we can bring this identity we have as a child of God to mind and to bear, then sin instantly loses its power over us. Those begotten by God do not sin. End of story. So it is only when we forget this identity, or choose to go away from it that we are capable of sin. And if we sin all the time, we know that we are unaware of our dignity, or we turn away from that dignity, all the time. Being begotten by God is not an ignorance of our natural life, but is an ability to always bring to mind and to bear the reality of our supernatural life. To put it another way, we not only sin because we are bad. More importantly, we sin because we forget, and haven chosen to forget, who we are.

In today's Gospel, we see John the Baptist doing something remarkable. As the Gospel passage hits my ears, I sense that people are reporting to John that Jesus is ripping him off. John was the first to baptize, and it is reported to John that Jesus is pretending to be John, doing the same thing, and taking customers away. John is not only comfortable with Jesus copying his baptism, he says that he is joyful that Jesus would do him the compliment of confirming his baptismal ministry as true. Not only that, John rejoices that he has fulfilled his mission to prepare the way of the Lord, since the groom has arrived as promised to bring joy and salvation to His bride. Let us remember the humble example of John, and imitate his joy at the success of others, the next time we are tempted to be jealous or envious. Let us pray earnestly that others around us become more holy than we are, and bear more abundant fruit, as long as we faithfully do what the Lord is asking of us! +m

water, blood, spirit

Homily for Friday between Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord
8 January 2010
St. Lawrence Chapel
University of Kansas

For daily readings, click here

Among other things, John's writing about Christ coming in water, blood and Spirit should remind us of our Christian initiation. Through this initiation, we share in Christ's life completely. Through baptism, we die to ourselves that we might live for God, we die to sin that we might live in goodness. We are given the gift of eternal life at baptism, a life that is fed best by receiving the body and blood of Christ. From the sacrament of water, we proceed to the sacrament of Christ's blood, and we become even more intimately and inseparably bound to Him. It is then by the gift of the Spirit, given in its fullness at Confirmation, that we are able to live in the world without being overcome by it, neither by its death nor by its evil. Who indeed is the conquerer of the world, says St. John, but the one who shares fully, as we do by these three sacraments, in the life of Christ, who was not conquered by evil or death?

St. John seems to be addressing in his letter the doubts of those who believe in Jesus but who do not always experience their sharing in his eternal life. This is our normal experience as well. Evil and death seem closer and more real than the gift of eternal life. St. John addresses how difficult it is to know one's self as sharing fully in Jesus' victory of sin and death. It seems like the two of them are winning more victories against us. He reminds us that we have no little or remote attachment to our Lord however. We have the reality of our baptism, a sacrament renewed when we detach ourselves from sin in the sacrament of penance. We have the Eucharist ever with us, where Christ has promised to make himself fully present to us as surely as he has ever been present, whether in Bethlehem or at Calvary. We have in our Confirmation the fullness of God's spirit, which reminds us in every circumstance of our lives of who we are, and how we can live as true conquerers of the world. These are no small gifts - the water, the blood and the Spirit. Let us not live as if we have not received them. +m

New Video by the Vocations Office - thanks Jaime!

Christmas vocation events!

Over the Christmas break, the vocation office was very busy, and the time spent quite fruitful! On December 28th, all the seminarians gathered at the Archbishop's home for Vespers, Dinner, sharing on how the last semester had gone, and new for this year, the opening of 25 gifts that the Archbishop himself selected for the seminarians. The Archbishop had already sent a card, gift and book to each seminarian, but on this night at his house, he had lots of surprises to share. A fantastic time was had by all. We ended the evening with the Salve Regina in his chapel.

On December 29th, the Topeka Serra Club hosted us at Corpus Christi parish in Lawrence for our annual seminarian/parent Mass and luncheon. The Archbishop celebrated and preached the Mass. We had the largest turnout ever as far as parents and Serrans. The food was outstanding! The seminarians received new shirts with the logo of the Archdiocese on them, as well as Christmas gifts from Serrans and others.

On the evening of January 1st, the Archbishop, along with the seminarians, hosted men for the annual Quo Vadis discernment retreat. 17 men from around the Archdiocese and beyond came for three days of prayer and reflection. Highlights included a trip to our Cathedral for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, and a chance to meet Sr. Marie, the foundress of the Sisters of the Lamb on Sunday afternoon. Please pray in thanksgiving for the fruits of this retreat, and for these men as they continue their discernment.

We hear regularly from Nick Blaha who is in the Holy Land via his photoblog. We are also very happy to introduce a new video that chronicles the transition of Jaime Zarse into seminary. Enjoy!

quick takes

1. The KU Game vs. Cornell. This was a lot of fun. Love close games. The Temple game was great but it is good to see a team play as well as Cornell did. I thought they were never going to quit draining those threes! But they did. And we were reminded that Sherron is the best player by far on the court. I don't know what Cornell could have done to hang on. We were deep and kept coming at them. In the end we finally caught them. Like the pack gaining on the breakaways in a cycling race. Anyhow, best of luck to Cornell. They really gave us a great game. KU is still really good, by the way!

2. The snow. It is sure better than looking at the same color of brown all winter. I know that the snow is treacherous, but it makes us all slow down, and puts everyone in a more contemplative state of mind. I think this is good. We know better how to love and serve when we have a chance to think about things, instead of running around so much trying to maximize our productivity. I think the snow is a graceful blessing. We probably won't have it again for decades, so we should be grateful for it. We will miss it next winter, especially after we get good at learning how to navigate through it. It still isn't that much anyway, at least not in Lawrence. There are piles of it, yes, but you can still see over the piles. My favorite snowstorm was the one when I was growing up where we could walk directly from the snowdrift to the roof of my house. Now that was snow!

Love of God and neighbor!

Homily for Thursday between Epiphany and Baptism
7 January 2010
St. Lawrence Chapel, University of Kansas
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here.

Jesus in proclaiming Himself to be the anointed one in his hometown synagogue, announces as well his public ministry to go out and to proclaim liberty and to bring healing, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus shows that his being the anointed one is not merely for his own benefit, but is for the benefit of all those to whom He will be sent. Jesus thus announces his intention to fulfill what we hear is essential in our letter today from St. John, that we if we say we love God, then we must also love our brother.

The love of God is always primary, and the love of brother secondary. But as St. John tells us, the love of our brother is no less essential. Whoever says otherwise is a liar. Our piety and the contemplation of God's love is always primary. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. To do so is to cultivate an identity as one who is seen and known and loved by God, so that we might act always out of this dignity that we have as children of God. Our actions, how we relate to our brother, should always be a reflection of who we know ourselves to be. So our piety, our contemplation of God's love, should never take a back seat to the love of neighbor. We will not know how to perfectly love our neighbor if we are not contemplating the love of God. We may do many good things for them, but we will not love them perfectly. For as St. John reminds us, we do not know how to love perfectly on our own. For this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and has sent His Son among us to show us how to love perfectly.

Still, St. John corrects us from the notion that our piety can rightfully separate us from our neighbor. Circumstantially, this may be the case. The decisions we make about ordering our lives around the love of God, and making time to contemplate his glory and goodness and love, might change circumstantially the people we know and the people we relate to. Yet our love of God is only authentic if it puts us in deeper relationship with, and gives us a greater love for, our neighbor, whoever that neighbor happens to be. To put it another way, our piety can never be a refuge away from people we find difficult to love; rather, our piety and the contemplation of the love of God can only free us to love our neighbor more deeply.

And so we prepare ourselves now, as we near the end of the Christmas season and celebrate soon the Baptism of Jesus, to like him recommit ourselves to going out in the new year to not only love God more perfectly, but to be more generous in loving our neighbor, just as God has first loved us! +m

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Homily for Epiphany

Homily for Epiphany
3 January 2009
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, University of Kansas
Year for Priests

At the coming of Christ, myriads of angels announced his birth to the shepherds in the fields. As was told of this Christ child, he is to be a king whose kingdom will last forever. Even as a helpless baby, bound in swaddling clothes, with no weapons with which to fight, born in poverty and on the move, the appearance of the angels shows that this baby commands armies greater than those of Caesar Augustus. The kingdom of this baby reaches farther, and lasts longer, than any earthly kingdom imaginable. It stretches so far that even the stars obey the command of this small child. Thus three astronomers, perhaps three of the smartest men in the whole world, who understood well the movement of the heavens, bow down before the wisdom of this child. They know that all their knowledge is but sand compared to the knowledge and power possessed by this newborn king, whom even the stars obey. Today is the Feast of Epiphany, the manifestation of who Jesus really is. Today we celebrate that Jesus is not merely the Messiah of the Jews. He is the light of all nations. Today we celebrate that Christ is the light strong enough to scatter darkness from every corner of the world, from every place torn by sin, poverty, violence, disease, ignorance and doubt. In the magi, the powers of the world come to Jesus, to have their knowledge purified and deepened by His light. For they know that no darkness can ever overcome the light that obeys this child. Not the darkness of sin, not the darkness of ignorance and doubt, not the darkness of violence or poverty or disease. The light of the star shows that Jesus is pure light, and the darkness shall never overcome Him. He will be great, and his kingdom will last forever.

On Epiphany, we celebrate the fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus came to be light not only to some of the world’s people, but came to be light for all nations. There is constant pressure to marginalize the light of Jesus, and what His coming means for the destiny of man. Beset as His followers are by every form of sinfulness, there are many who will not accept the light of Christ until you prove to them that they cannot live without it. There are some who will accept the light of Christ only as a last resort, after everything else has failed. Still more pressure comes from those who want to use reason to purify faith, but who will never allow faith to purify reason. Jesus came to bring to light the love of God in all its fullness and splendor, and to shed light wherever there was doubt that man’s ultimate vocation is to love even when it is not reasonable to do so. This universal vocation to love one another as God first loves us is the light that gives ultimate meaning to the destiny of man. Jesus’s light is the light of a God who will never stop trying to reveal man to himself, and to bring out from the darkness man’s ultimate vocation to love. That three magi come to see Christ even while many who knew about the promised Messiah remained in darkness, encourages us in the Church to never stop being a Church that evangelizes. Epiphany reveals the mission of the Church to be a light to the nations, and with Jesus to reconcile everything to the Father, always setting the light of Jesus Christ on a mountain for all to see, so that many people may see in Him their true destiny and true vocation. We must never tire nor fear of showing the light of Christ to the world. That being said, we must do so with prudence, and like the Magi who did not return to Herod, we must also guard this light of Christ from all those who want nothing except to put it out.

Finally, on Epiphany those of us who are devout followers of Jesus must not forget to continue our personal pilgrimage to see Christ. Epiphany is very much about making a commitment to give the light of Christ a chance to heal the darkness of the world. Yet it is just as importantly a reminder to us to be like the Magi, who considered all that the world values to be as rubbish compared to the richness of being able to see Christ. Not content with worldly knowledge nor worldly riches, the magi were attentive to the deepest desires of their hearts, to see the promised Messiah. The magi challenge all of us to stop living on the surface, fitting Jesus into our lives when it is comfortable for us, but to lay our treasures before Christ, trusting in the wisdom and power of this newborn King. The magi challenge us all to go deeper, and not to neglect the deepest desire of our hearts, a desire that goes deeper than the thousands of erotic desires that come in and out of our lives. The magi ask us the question, of whether we have been attentive to our desire to see God, and whether we have forsaken everything to so as to hasten the day when we are ready to see him face to face!