Sunday, June 27, 2010

Christ's love has set us free for vocation and obedience

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

26 June 2010

St. Lawrence Catholic Center at the University of Kansas

In today's Scriptures we are confronted with the reality of how easy it is to have Christ follow us, rather than our choosing to leave everything to follow Him. The scriptures show how easy it is to be a Christian who tries to stay close to Jesus, versus being a Christian who is truly and fully a disciple, who does nothing but follow Jesus, doing only what Jesus tells him to do. Those who try to stay close to Jesus are generally good people, very good people, but they are not fully free, because their lives remain a confusing admixture of what they want and what God wants. The latter, who understand freedom not as primarily directed toward self-determination or self-expression, but as directed to service out of love, are not confused, but have a purity of mind and heart, because they have the virtue of obedience born of faith. True Christians and true disciples have the virtue of obedience born of love; they do nothing but what Christ tells them because they have come to know nothing more than they know the love of Christ, who has loved them personally and set them free to live a vocation received directly from Him.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a litmus test, or an examination of conscience, if you will, if we might imagine ourselves and the circumstances of our lives, in the four positions discussed in rapid succession in today's Gospel text. Firstly, the disciples James and John, who are resolutely following Jesus to Jerusalem, are confronted with Samaritans who will not give them support. James and John ask the Lord whether they should hate their enemies, but Jesus directs them to move on, and not to allow detractors to either distract or prevent them from following Him. How often do we allow the opinions of others, and their thoughts of what is reasonable for us to do, to determine how closely we follow Jesus?

Secondly, we have a volunteer who claims to want to follow Jesus wherever He may go. Jesus issues the simple challenge that following Him will not always be a bed of roses; in fact, it involves no bed at all. How often do we allow our investment that we have made in who we are and where we stand to determine how closely we are following Jesus? I'm not saying that all of us are in the wrong place, I'm just asking how ready we are to move.

Thirdly, we have not a volunteer but someone Jesus calls to follow Him, like He calls us and like He called the first apostles. The man qualifies his response by wanting first to bury His father, a noble and a just responsibility indeed. Jesus speaks to him very plainly as well, by telling him to let the dead bury the dead, and showing us that when He calls us, it will mean the sacrifice of many good and noble opportunities that we have our minds and hearts set on. Following Jesus means we can no longer approach life by wanting to do as many good things as we can, leaving all our options open, but must close many options so that our lives focus like a laser, doing only what Jesus is asking of us, nothing more, nothing less, because we know that in His will is also His love for us.

Finally, a second volunteer emerges, who wants like Elisha when chosen by Elijah to go say goodbye to his family. What is hidden in Jesus' response is the importance of family life and responsibility, but without saying anything against these, Jesus tells Him to serve His family by focusing all his heart and mind and strength on the will of God, and instructs the man and all of us that in following Him, the past does not and cannot determine the future. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so we must never look backwards, and instead always move forward in hope with Him, in Him and through Him, moving away from our sins and toward the vocation that He has marked out for us and for no one else. How many of us let the discipleship of the past dull us and numb us to the opportunities that are possible in the future, if only we choose once again today in the context of this Eucharist, to follow Jesus more closely, without excuse and without qualification, wherever He may lead us tomorrow?

Friday, June 18, 2010

More days in South Africa!

Whew! I'm going to try to get a few thoughts down before heading to bed, but things have been happening fast around here - it's all been good! This is a very special trip with everything we've been able to do so far, and we still have a week to go! On Wednesday morning we got up before dawn (around 5am) to go to Pilanesburg game reserve. This is a large park north of Rustenberg where the US played their first match versus England. These 'game drives' are like safaris, although the word safari is more associated with hunting here. There are guides that take you in a jeep through these game reserves, and they are more expert at spotting animals, but our host family thought we could and should try a game drive ourselves, in a Toyota Corolla, and boy did things work out just fine for us. Denise was the superwoman of the day. She got everyone out the door early in the morning, and had us at the entrance to the Park by 7:30am, because early mornings and late afternoons are best for viewing animals, and we didn't want to get home too late. Well, the first 30 minutes were kind of dull, but then Denise spotted the first giraffe, and we went deeper into the game reserve and started seeing all kinds of great animals. We saw 10 different kinds of animals in all - elephants, giraffes, waterbucks (a large kind of deer), hippos, wildebeests, zebras, and a kind of antelope that they call something else around here. We looked for lions, cheetahs, leopards and rhinos, but no luck there. But the day was a blast - great scenery, and best of all, we had a giraffe cross the road right in front of us, and an elephant do the same. So we got to see these monsters up close! And it was all the more exciting because we weren't paying a guide, and were not in an area where the animals are kept captive - we really saw them like you would on any safari. Again, I'm not an animal lover per se, but this was a fun day and a great way to learn about Africa. Honestly, when you are driving around, you think there is no way these huge animals could live in this environment, and then when you do see them, it is very surreal, but neat. We got home in time to go pick up a rental car at the airport, since the Andrew's volkswagen was still in the shop. Then, believe it or not, we still found the energy to have Wilson our driver take us somewhere to watch Bafana Bafana (the boys, the boys), South Africa's team, take on Uruguay. Like I said earlier, we arrived last Friday just as South Africa had begun to play Mexico, and we could tell how crazy everything was, so we wanted to go out and experience this game in the streets of JoBurg as a South African would experience it. Well, it turned out to be a great choice. Instead of picking out a wealthier shopping area at which to watch the game, we decided to go straight to downtown JoBurg, to a place called Newtown (even though there is nothing new about it). The only problem is that the cold front was still here, and at gametime 8:30pm local it was about 25 degrees outside. No matter. We were here to party, and probably a thousand fans of South African joined us. There was a warm up street dance party, which we joined a little bit even though we didn't have much of a groove - we did it just to stay warm, then we joined in with the excitement as the locals got worked into a frenzy as the game started to play on three large outdoors screens set up in this official fan park. It was as much fun as you could have for free - the videos that I will post later will show the spirit of the evening. We were alongside just a handful of whites in downtown JoBurg, but everyone was supporting South Africa together, and it was fun despite the disappointing outcome. We got home a little after 11 - a very long but fun day. And we learned a ton! This was a national holiday for South Africa - June 16th - it marked the beginning of the Soweto uprisings against apartheid in 1976.

Thursday we got a later start, leaving the Andrew's home with Wilson at about 10:30am. The plan was to go visit Soweto and Soccer City, the large new arena built for the World Cup, during the same day, since the two are close to each other. Bad idea! Soccer City holds 90K fans - there was traffic everywhere. We didn't have tickets to Argentina/S. Korea, but we did want to see Soccer City during out stay, and Argentina is a great team, so we decided to just walk down to the stadium and see if any tickets were for sale on the street. We were fortunate. We found three singles, so we didn't set together for the game, but Wilson, Fr. Scott and I were able to get into soccer city which was a real treat. I sat in the Argentinian section, and they danced and sang and were obnoxious for two hours straight. They do a funny thing with their arms and hands, throwing them out in front of them, while they are singing and cheering - as much fun as it was, I almost told the guy next to me, after Argentina's third goal - I DO NOT CARE! He was really getting on my nerves. We were happy to be able to find a ticket for Wilson our driver, who really wanted to see Soccer City. We were not disappointed This was also our introduction to the gold and platinum mining around Johannesburg, which is still very active. As we drove to soccer city you could see the golden hills of the mines all around. We didn't get away from the game until 4:30pm, and we decided to save Soweto for another day, since it is a black township that is certainly violent enough that it can be better visited during the day. We went instead to a nice casino/mall/hotel called Montecasino that was very Vegas-esque. It was there that we watched Mexico beat France on a big screen set up for fans. Even though we were under heaters at a restaurant, the 25 degree chill still got to our bones, and we got home praying for the weather to warm up soon!

Friday was as good as any day we have had here! We did make it to Soweto, the oldest and largest black township of Johannesburg, making up almost half of JoBurg's 22 million residents (so Wilson told us). The black townships of South Africa were organized in the 1950s when the Dutch Afrikaners were afraid of the rapidly expanding JoBurg economy and populations. People were coming to the city faster than the city could handle them, and to control the situation, the Afrikan government began the policy of apartheid, moving blacks to settlements farther from the city. Unlike the struggle for equality in the United States, the story here in South Africa is the oppression of the majority, not the oppresssion of minorities.

Soweto eventually became the focal point of the struggle of blacks against Afrikan government. The struggle was begun and accomplished mostly by students. On June 16th, 1976, against the wishes of many teachers and parents, a march was organized by students against the policy that they must go to school in the Afrikan language developed by Dutch settlers, which was spoken nowhere else in the world except in South Africa. As the march proceeded outside of the townships into white-only areas, a peaceful protest was considered a threat by the white police and shots were fired. Hector Pieterson, a 13 year old boy, was an unforunate victim, and his death became a rallying point for a struggle against the Afrikan government that would last until the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

to be continued

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 4 in South Africa

For the pictures that accompany this blog post, go to the end of the updated photo album!

Brrrrr! A cold front I wasn't ready for came in today, and I wasn't dressed as warmly as I should have been for our trip to the elephant sanctuary and cheetah park. These game parks give you a chance to 'meet' animals that have either been injured or discarded in some way. Some of these eventually are placed back into the wild. It is much less expensive and more personal than safaris, and almost as thrilling. It is somewhere between a zoo and a safari, since guides get you up as close as they can to the animals, without putting you in danger.

At the elephant sanctuary, we got a bit of education about elephants, followed by the chance to feed the elephants, a chance to pet them, and if you wanted, a chance to be kissed by them. These were large African elephants we were with, but no enormous bulls. After all that, we had a chance to take the elephant by the hand/trunk, and lead them around a ring on a nice little walk. It was fun even though I'm not an animal lover. The most amazing things about elephants are their life span, their formation of families, and their sensitivity.

After a quick lunch, we headed for a three hour tour of a cheetah park, where we not only got to pet one cheetah, feed others, and have many of them hang around our jeep, but we also got to be 'hunted' by african wild dogs, and see some other incredible animals behind bars. The cheetah is quite a machine - petting one was like putting your hand against a running engine. Our tour guide at cheetah park was a true Afrikaaner - a fun guy who talked with that think Afrikaan accent that made his English fun to listen to.

Overall, like I said, animals are not my first love. I would rather hike around, but this was a perfect day with the Andrew family, our hosts, and we enjoyed spending more time with them, before heading back to the house for a private Mass with Fr. Scott, a nice dinner, and a fun watch of the Brazil/North Korea game.

I'm happy to hear back home that there is still a Big 12, and that the rain is keeping everything interesting. Tomorrow we are heading for a long drive through a national park here that has the Big 5 animals. I'm not much of a spotter, but I'm sure something fun will happen. Stay tuned.

3 days until USA/Slovenia - I'll be there! We need this game!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day Three in South Africa

South Africa trip

The latest photo updates can be seen by clicking the image above. Scroll down if you've seen the earlier ones. We had an unbelievably good day here in South Africa around Johannesburg. Every day has been like a Colorado summer day - starting off cold and dry, but warming nicely in the afternoon before cooling off quickly in the evening. The weather couldn't be better or feel better to be in. Around 70 with sun in the afternoon, cooling to the 40s at night.

This morning with our car in the shop we relied on Denise Andrew, our host, to haul us to the Archbishop's residence in Praetoria, South Africa. The apostolic administrator, appointed by Rome to run the archdiocese of Praetoria until a bishop can be named, himself wanted to show us around the archdiocese and was very grateful for our visit. He did this on his day off no less. We as two young priests felt unworthy to take so much of his time, but through him we were able to see so much in so short a time. Msgr. Gabuza is a well-educated priest, having done post-graduate work with the Jesuits in California after his ordination, but he is reserved and humble. He was happy to show us around, but you could feel the sadness in his having to try to run an Archdiocese with so many challenges. I'll try to list a few throughout the blog post.

We started with some introductions at the nice Archbishop's residence in Waterskloof, a suburb of Praetoria, the nation's capital. It is a nice suburb where many foreign diplomats reside. The Church has had property here for many years, and right next door to the archbishop's residence is the national seminary. After having tea and a quick tour of the Archbishop's house, we went to the national seminary where Msgr. Gabuza taught for ten years. It was a beautiful place, but unfortunately, the seminary is having its struggles with the quality (not quantity) of seminarians and with finding qualified Catholic faculty. The Franciscans who founded the seminary are no longer there to run it. They are adding on more rooms and a library to the seminary which was good to see. They have 155 students at the time being for the whole country of South Africa. The Archdiocese of Praetoria itself is about 9% Catholic. There are many Christians here who do not like institutional Churches, and many Muslims as well. There are Indian Catholics in addition to European Catholics and Black Catholics.

Msgr then took us to a nice parish church, so that later we could see the sharp contrast in neighborhoods and parishes throughout the Archdiocese. Although it was shocking to experience the whole of the Archdiocese, and the wealthier parishes here are not nearly as wealthy as back home, still most of the same discrepancies we have in the USA are found here. The socioeconomic segregation is remarkable, and mostly follows racial lines. Things are better post-apartheid, but change slowly, and in a few ways get worse as more and more layers of security continue to be added to those who own property, lest they leave the country for more secure opportunities for their families. It is all a mess, to be sure.

After our first stop at a nice parish Church, we headed downtown to the Cathedral, where even the apostolic adminsitrator had to buzz a doorbell and wait patiently for security to open up the church. It is nicely done, but also small, and has some noteworthy Gothic elements. As in every Catholic Church we entered during this world cup, the flags of many nations were on full display right in the cathedral church. After seeing the cathedral we quickly went through the Praetoria chancery and met a few people and saw where Msgr. Gabuza gets his headaches. It was great to talk to him for 5 plus hours just as a brother priest. The same problems he has we have in our presbyterate, in our archdiocese, and with our people. His mission while apostolic administrator is to try to instill a sense of stewardship and giving amongst his priests and the people of the Archdiocese. Msgr. Gabuza hates being dependent on mission societies when the resources are around him for the building up of the Church, but he sees his priests as unmotivated and his people as unwilling to give. The Andrews remarked the same at their well-to-do parish in Bryanston where we have been saying Mass - it is not the same spirit of giving and stewardship that we are used to in the states.

After the chancery we were ready to head into the townships, also known as settlements, outside of Praetoria. People claim their space in the townships haphazardly over the years, and in some townships, things eventually are better organized, and some government services and utilities emerge, and some police and shopping and even a middle class emerge. This is good to see and we did see it alongside the more desperate parts of the townships. Unemployment in the townships is around 45%, yet South Africa is seen by many other African nations as an affluent land of opportunity, because there is significant wealth here as well. As you drive in the countryside around Johannesburg, each mile is different - mansions and malls are followed soon by the most desperate of townships. If you own anything, security is unbelievably tight, and indeed, it seems that about half the workforce here has jobs in security. Msgr. Gabuza worries that the violence might resume again after the World Cup.

We saw a poor Catholic parish in the townships, a new Catholic hospice, medical clinic and parish church in a very poor area of a township, and a nicer Catholic parish and private Catholic school in the middle-class area of the same township outside Praetoria. While at the Catholic hospice, we heard firsthand of the attempted murder of Fr. Kiernan, the passionist missionary who had organized the campus. Fr. Kiernan aligned an unusual team of benefactors to build everything he has - the Pontifical Mission Society, the US government, the S. African goverment, and yes, even the South African lottery. It was really a nice place filled with love, which had a great view over the poorer areas of the township. The medical clinic run by Fr. Kiernan treats 160 HIV/Aids patients with retroviral drugs donated by the United States government.

After stopping to say hello to a Catholic family that Msgr. Gabuza knew who ran a B&B, we were off to drive by his old parish church St. Thomas More and go to a more dangerous township, Diepsloot, which is just minutes from where the Andrews live in a secure gated community. Msgr. Gabuza built the parish church in Diepsloot after much travail, and it broke his heart that last December, the rectory was robbed and Fr. Louis an African missionary father, was shot and killed. Msgr. Gabuza was clearly still shaken by everything that had happened.

Fr. Guido, the Afrian missionary father from Montreal who was in the house when Fr. Louis was shot and killed, had a stroke just weeks before we arrived. We had planned to spend time with Fr. Guido in the township, but now the situation is in flux and unsafe. Msgr. Gabuza asked if we would like to meet Fr. Guido, so we headed another 15 minute drive to the rehab facility where has was being well cared for. Fr. Guido seemed to have been paralyzed completely on his right side, but showed some improvement in eyesight, speech and motion from what we were told. Fr. Guido is so emotional. He was where he wanted to be in Diepsloot, doing the work God had given him to do, and was so sad to lose a brother priest to the shooting, and now being unable to continue the parish himself made him very sad. We prayed with him and thanked him for his priestly witness.

After all that, we arrived back at the Andrews in time to make preparations for the evening, celebrate a nice Mass with them in their home, and eat some chicken lasagna before watching Paraguay tie mighty Italy in the last world cup match of the night. Only 4 days until USA vs. Slovenia. Tomorrow we're going out to fight some lions and tigers and elephants - stay tuned!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First two days in South Africa!

Here is the updated photo album!

Well, we hit the ground running so I was not able to write as much as I would have liked in the first 48 hours. I'll try to write a long entry here (sorry if you don't want to read, you won't make it to the end) while my pictures are loading (which will probably tell a better story when I post them anyway). Anyhow, everything at JFK airport was a breeze. Fr. Scott and I said Mass in the hotel room in the early morning, then made it through security so easily, and through the Emirates check-in line so easily, that we were able to go to the Catholic Chapel at JFK and spend some time in prayer before our flight. I had just been to confession at the priest retreat, so I was good to go! The international terminal used by Emirates at JFK wasn't too happening, so there wasn't much to do before leaving, but everything happened smoothly and we were up in the air and off for the 12.5 hour flight to Dubai. We met a few great people on the plane, plenty of American fans who found like we did that this flight was the cheapest way to go to Johannesburg near where the US would start playing in the World Cup. I only slept for an hour on the flight, but filled the time well with reading and watching Avatar, Invictus and Up in the Air (I would rate the three in that order, though I watch fewer movies than anyone I know and am not a good critic). There were also some shows previewing the World Cup, some meals to eat (which were fantastic, if cramped) and plenty of prayers to be said, since we were 'losing time' going to Dubai. I would say the flight went quickly and was as painless as it could be. Surprisingly, when we got to Dubai we did not pull into a gate, but were sent out into the 96 degree heat to wait for buses to take us for a long bus ride to the terminal. Then we had a quick walk through the incredible Dubai airport to our flight to Johannesbug. We did not have time to really soak in the Dubai airport which is a crosspoint for people throughout the world. We did have time to freshen up, brush our teeth and get ready for the 8 hour flight to Johannesburg. This flight too went quickly, was painless, and had good food. I know I watched a movie or two when I wasn't praying, but can't remember what they were. Thankfully, I was able to sleep for at least an hour on this flight, which made me just fresh enough to enjoy the excitement waiting on the ground in South Africa.

We flew through passport control in South Africa, waited 15 minutes to get our bags, got in the line which said 'nothing to declare' which meant really 'no customs check' and walked right out into the concourse no more than 30 minutes after our flight touched down! Awesome! Great start to the trip. Daniel Andrew, our host, met us at the airport. We were easy to spot since we traveled in clerics, and we went right upstairs to print our tickets. Again - no line and everything worked well - and we were the proud owners of tickets to the World Cup! All three US games!! And what is more? Right when we were ready to leave the airport South Africa scored the first goal of the World Cup! We learned right away how deafening vuvuzelas - the intolerable plastic trumpets that blast your ear drums right out - can be as the sound bounced around the concourse and the South Africans ran and yelled and danced like crazy! Welcome to the World Cup! I was glad actually that the Mexicans scored a late goal to get the draw. I wasn't ready to root for South Africa over our neighbor Mexico just yet.

At 5:30pm it was already dusk in Jberg, since it is winter here. It took 45 minutes to get to the Andrews house, which is fanstastic and in a safe area. Sydney, the daughter of Daniel and Denise, gave up her bedroom so Fr. Scott and I could both have a private room and bath. We said Mass for the family, had some great squash soup, and then watched some soccer together to get in the World Cup mood!

Saturday was USA vs. England day!!!!! We were pumped, even as we overslept and almost were late to our morning Mass at a local parish. Our driver for the week, Wilson, dropped us off only one minute before the 8am Mass, but the Irish priest who had been in South Africa for 45 years since his ordination, was very kind and waited a bit so we could concelebrate. It was good to pray with the Lord for an hour after Mass, and of course, there were plenty of devout women in the parish who asked for the blessing of the newly ordained priest, Fr. Scott. I tried not to be jealous as I continued my prayers dutifully. The parish, Resurrection in Bryanston, was built in 1998 and had a number of devout faithful there for Mass, who stayed and prayed all kinds of devotions and special intentions after Mass. After Mass it was out to Saturday brunch to discuss plans with the Andrews, hit the ATM, enjoy the gorgeous weather (even in the winter the sun is warm in the afternoons and makes you feel great, kind of like a Colorado summer here in Jberg), and sink in some of the Jberg atmosphere and to get our bearings!

By 1pm we were ready for the drive to Rustenberg to see the US play England at 8:30pm. We left plenty early so as to leave nothing to chance. Other than having our US flag ripped off our car by some English fans, and some traffic delays which afforded the US fans and English fans an early opportunity for taunting along the highway, the drive was beautiful and the weather perfect. We arrived at the park and ride area around 3:30pm, said our prayers, and said goodbye to Wilson until late that night. By 4:15 we were outside the stadium, feeling good that we had made it all this way for the game, and because most of the food and beverages available were inside a security area that did not open until 5:30pm, we just got in line for security and made friends with US fans from all over the world! Yes, we even made a few friends with the English, who are 96% great, but boy do those 4% with the lack of manners and unconscionable language get on your nerves!

The security was a joke, unfortunately, especially since the game had been seriously threatened. The metal scanners weren't working, and when they did work, they were ignored. Then the ticket scanners, only about 10% of them were working, so thankfully we were at the beginning of the line. I'm sure had the stadium been much bigger, or fans arrived late (almost everyone was there by 5pm) that there would have been a riot. But anyhow, everyone seemed fine at this point. It had the feel of KU vs. MU in 2007 at Armageddon at Arrowhead, except for a smaller stadium and a billion more people watching this game USA vs. England.

We watched the end of a world cup match outdoors with other fans, then bypassed the overpriced souvenir stands and went inside the stadium, where the only choice in food was either a lamb dog or a beef dog. Fr. Scott had both but couldn't tell the difference, if that tells you anything. Mine was cold and tasteless, but at least I had some energy for cheering. Budweister and Coca-cola took care of the rest. The three hours before the game were spent making friends in the stands, walking around admiring the amazing costumes by fans from the United States, and getting a feel for the opposing fans. There were tons of English, but we were very well represented. We saw everything from Elvis costumes, to Uncle Sam costumes, to revolutionary war costumes, to Davy Crockett. It was a wild and fun mix of US fans, all of whom thought we were going to do well!

The stadium itself left much to be desired. They could never get the scoreboards to work, so there was no game information, not even a clock and no video replays or highlights. The nice thing was that there were also no commercials! The pitch looked great, and our seats were high in the middle section but near midfield and we were greatly pleased with them! The stadium was small and in a difficult to reach location, and we thought this odd given the hype surrounding this game, but maybe we overestimated our own importance. At any rate, here we were, in the countryside of South Africa, ready to watch our national team take on England! It was an incredible feeling to be there.

Those of you who watched on tv probably saw the action better than we did. Of course when you are at the stadium you can see the overall flow of the game so well, since your eyes are not limited to a camera's view, but you don't get any of the replays that you desperately want after the big moments pass so quickly. And you get none of the closeups and facial expressions that ESPNHD provides. Suffice it to say, England seemed to have the better chances overall, but we clearly had the best goalie in Tim Howard and our guys deserved a draw. That first goal we let in was so simple and easy for England. I was so afraid that we were going to lose 1-0, and that would have broken our hearts after having come so far, but we kept cheering and hoping, and when Dempsey's goal trickled through we were leaping and hugging every USA fan we could find, and throwing a few cheers toward the English fans as well. As you know, England came out with everything in the second half, and had great chances, but we survived and the result was just what we needed. If we can beat Slovenia which beat Algeria, we'll be on our way to the round of 16 - go USA!

After the match, the English players walked with heads down straight to their locker room, and their fans left disappointed. We continued to celebrate a bit with the USA players who came over to see us and thank us, and then something I suspected indeed happened. There was no parking near the stadium, and the buses that had brought everyone in bit by bit had were not nearly enough to handle the traffic after the game. And with the stadium being in the middle of nowhere, no one had anything to do or anywhere to go except to complain and riot about the lack of buses. When we saw fences being pulled down and things turning potentially ugly, Fr. Scott and I decided to walk in the direction where we thought the buses were going, thinking the shuttle lots couldn't be that far. Well, in reality, they were at least 10K, maybe more, from the stadium, so while we started our walk accompanied by hundreds of USA and English fans also fleeing the chaos, and with hopes of getting home before 4am (it was already 11pm), after 7K or so there were just a few fans still walking. Most had given up and turned back around to join the chaos. There were no police or volunteers helping on this road, probably because we weren't supposed to be walking it, but eventually, we came across a man who had been robbed and had made it to a couple of traffic cops down the way, and the cops called a taxi for this poor man and we jumped in with him. I think the guys was going to be ok - he didn't really know what happened except that the robbery was by fellow fans, not by anybody local. We made it the rest of the 5K to the park and ride lot, where Wilson was able to meet us, and we hit the road by midnight back to Joberg, and arrived at the Andrews by 2am. We heard at Church this morning that most fans who had waited for the buses didn't make it home until 4am. So we did well, but I feel badly for the World Cup organizers and the people of Rustenberg, who messed up this situation badly. There was plenty of nearby parking along the roads and such - this sytem of park and ride just didn't work out. But I think most everyone made it home safely, and we live with our team to fight another day.

Today Sunday we designated our rest day. We made the 10am Mass at Bryanston, and were cheered by the people during the Mass who were also cheering for the USA (absolutely everyone had watched the match the night before), and then we enjoyed coffee with the folks on a beautiful morning. Then we headed with the Andrews to the outdoor market in Rosedale, and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells and tastes there, before heading back to relax and watch more World Cup games. We had oxtail for dinner (yum!) and oreo cookies for dessert, since the Americans here can't get them.

Tomorrow we are meeting with Msgr. Gabuza who is the administrator of the Pretoria diocese nearby, who is going to show us some of the parishes and work being done in the settlements which Joberg is unforunately known for. Many of these settlements linger on from apartheid days. Fr. Scott and I are eager to learn as much as we can about how things were and are and will be, and to see if the light and truth of the Gospel can be brought to bear on any situation we come into contact with.

We are having some problems with our car so all other plans are up in the air right now. Stay tuned! And thanks for reading (if anyone got this far!).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Africa trip

The first pictures from our trip; click on the picture to get to the album. Unfortunately, I didn't take an outside picture of St. Patrick's, nor did I get a good picture of our pizza place, Lombardi's, rated the best in the city. It was a fantastic day in New York despite the crummy weather; today, off to Dubai then Johannesburg.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New York before South Africa

Weatherwise, it turned out to be a dreary day in New York City. It rained from the time we got to our hotel near JFK airport until we returned to the hotel after midnight. We didn't make it to the Mets game which was rained out, and we didn't get to walk the streets of NYC as much as we would have otherwise, but it was still a great start to the trip. We were welcomed to the sacristy at St. Patrick's cathedral, and were able to pray for about an hour before concelebrating a Mass there at 5:30pm. Fr. Scott was introduced as a new priest at St. Patrick's but the celebrant cut off the folks before they could applaud him. Unfortunately, the celebrant consumed all the precious blood for our concelebrated Mass, so that was a letdown, but it still was a joy to concelebrate a Mass at the main altar of such a historic and inspiring gothic Church in New York. After Mass we grabbed pizza with some old friends of Fr. Scott's at Lombardi's, voted one of the top pizza places in the city. It was delicious! Then we met some other of Fr. Scott's friends for cheesecake at Junior's in the theatre district. Again, the weather was crummy, and I didn't get to cross the new Citi field off my list, but that will be for another time. We got back late, and are excited to head to the airport in the morning to check-in for our flight to Dubai, then to Johannesburg. We arrive in Johannesburg right in the middle of the first World Cup game - South Africa vs. Mexico! Go Bahana Bahana!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Catholic hangover solemnities

Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center
University of Kansas
6 June 2010
Year for Priests

For daily readings, click here.

Easter has been over for two weeks now. Pentecost is in the rearview mirror. Yet we are still wearing white in today's liturgy. It's almost like we're pretending to still be in Easter. Today's feast of Corpus Christi is what I like to call an Easter hangover feast. I'm using hangover in the good sense, not in the headache sense. I'm using hangover in the sense that the celebration just has a hard time ending. It is too good to end so soon. 50 days is just not enough time to party, to celebrate the Easter mysteries, and the grace that flows from Jesus' resurrection from the dead. We see this in the Church all over! Even though the first communions, confirmations, and graduations are pretty much over, and summer has begun, ordinations to the priesthood and weddings continue to crowd the calendar alongside trips to the lake and Royals losses. Easter grace still flows out into the summer. We are still wearing white today in the Church, not the green of ordinary time.

The last two feasts before the Church begrudgingly dons the green of ordinary time are awkward and enigmatic in some ways, yet they can and should be made personally meaningful and relevant. Take the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity for starters, which we celebrated last Sunday. In one sense, it is a Solemnity the Church has to stick somewhere awkwardly, for it is the celebration not of who we are or how we relate to God, but who God is in Himself. In a way, in celebrating the deepest and central mystery of who God has revealed Himself to be, we are supposed to celebrate how different God is than us. Celebrating the Trinity can be thought to be the opposite of celebrating the Incarnation, when God became one of us. Celebrating the Trinity is celebrating the beauty of the divine nature which is so unlike our human nature, and a nature that does not need us at all, being perfect in itself. In a sense, celebrating the Trinity is celebrating the fact that God is completely happy without us. This is something that is perhaps not our responsibility to celebrate. Yet what a solemnity Trinity is and was, and how fruitful is our celebration of it, when we celebrate that God in his divine nature has revealed Himself to be a communion of persons. While it is impossible for us to grasp the conception of three in one, any of us who have loved deeply know that when you love, it becomes nearly impossible to tell where one life ends and another begins. For those of us who love, even death does not have the power to unravel the bonds that love creates. When we celebrate that God is a communion of persons, we celebrate that the more we learn about God, the more that we see Him in his essence as pure love, and in contemplating the mystery we gain perspective on why we are here, what our vocation is, and how love completes the mystery of the human person, made in the image and likeness of the Blessed Trinity.

What is more, those of us who are in communion with Jesus Christ are given a place within this great mystery of the Trinity. The Trinity is a home for us, if you will. It is a location where we reside. It is an identity that we have. So the more we learn about the Trinity, the more we know about who we are and where we live and move and have our being. Being in communion with Jesus places is in that same relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit that He has. It is only our ignorance of who we are and where we stand that makes it possible for us to be anything other than holy. Living in and with the Holy Trinity is a definition of holiness. That is why we contemplate the mystery of the Trinity, for knowing who we are and where we stand makes it easy for us to know what to do, which is what most of us are worried about anyway. Not knowing how we should live is always less a crisis of morality and more a crisis of spirituality, of not knowing that being in communion with Jesus puts us in the Father's heart and in the life of the Holy Spirit.

Well, enough about the Holy Trinity. That was just a way of saying how important today's solemnity of Corpus Christi is, for it is this central sacrament of our faith that delivers access to the deepest mystery of our faith, the mystery of the Trinity. We only enter into the life of the Trinity, which does not need us and is full without us, and is completely unlike us, by being in communion with Jesus, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity, that we might share in His divinity. It is here, in this sacrament of sacraments, that Jesus is fully present to us, and through an unbelievable condesencion, he allows us to feed on Him, so that we might be united with him both in body and in spirit. Jesus knew the weakness of our faith, that many of us would not have the humility to go see him in Bethlehem, nor the courage to follow Him to Calvary, but so much does He want us to be where He is, that whenever we refuse to go where He is, He humbles Himself even more and makes Himself fully present body, blood, soul and divinity, in the sacrament of the Eucharist. There is nowhere that Christ will not make Himself present in order to rescue those of us He loves. He even allows His nature to be confected by sinful men whom He has chosen, and He even allows His divine nature in all its majesty and glory, and His human nature received from the yes of a perfect woman, to be joined and made present in a species so easy for us to abuse and to ignore, the species of bread and wine. Even with the knowledge that it would be so easy for us to receive Him casually and in vain, He still does not withhold Himself, but gives Himself perfectly in each and every Eucharist, even here once again this morning in Lawrence, Kansas. So much does He want to be faithful to His Father's will that He not lose one of those He has been given, He allows each one of us unworthy sinners to take him under the roof of our bodies, that perhaps we would realize that with Him, we are also in the heart of the Father and in the life of the Holy Spirit.

How thankful am I for these Easter hangover feasts, for without them, the party would end too soon. Without them, could we hope to go into ordinary time thankful and aware of who we are and what we receive? May these beautiful solemnities give us a spiritual life and a identity as children loved by God that no circumstances of our lives can take away from us. Amen.