Saturday, January 28, 2012

celibacy is here to stay

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time B
St. Joseph's Shawnee and St. Lawrence Center KU
Daily Readings

In my business, the vocation business, I get a lot of "I don't know's."  When I ask young person after young person, especially the unmarried men of our Church, 'What is Jesus Christ asking you to do with your life?" I get a lot of "I don't know father. Why are you asking me?"  It used to bother me that more young guys didn't know the answer to this crucial question that is an obvious corollary to their faith, nor were many of them desperate to find the answer.  Now I expect this answer.  I don't think they are lying to me . Many of them truly don't know because they are still on the journey of encountering Jesus, before they can receive a holy vocation directly from him.

Moses tells the Israelites in tonight's first reading from Deuteronomy that it will not be God's long term plan to use 'scare tactics.'  It is not his plan to force us to do his will, for God is love, and love does not control, but it sets the beloved free.  God had flashed his glory and thundered his power at Horeb, in such a way that the Israelites thought they were going to die.  The same could be true of us, if in the discernment of our vocation God showed us in a single flash everything that his gracious will for us truly contained, we might easily die of fright, instantly.  Yet God has chosen a different path - not to scare us, but to serve us.  Moses tells of a prophet who will deliver God's message in a human way, by conversation and relationship.  It is to this prophet, ultimately, Jesus Christ, that we must be obedient through him to find our vocation.

As Paul notes in today's second reading, Jesus Christ still personally invites men and women to a different way of life, to be conformed especially to Himself and His Church through the gift of celibacy.  Yes, your heard me right.  Jesus gives the gift of celibacy to those he chooses.  Celibacy is most fundamentally a gift, moreso than a discipline and sacrifice, because it is a way of being with Jesus and conversing with Him, by standing in the world where he stood, and by relying more immediately on the uniqueness and depth of His divine love.  Celibacy seems perennially to be more than the modern world can stand, as it provokes disbelief and mockery, even though many men and women live it well.  The same media that promotes promiscuity in all its tv shows seems to delight in trying to prove through the unchastity of a few that celibacy is unnatural, harmful and impossible.  They have succeeded in getting great numbers of Catholics to be misinformed and embarrassed by celibacy.  But they will never succeed in disproving what St. Paul says in tonight's second reading.  For St. Paul tells us the truth, that celibacy is a real way of relating to Jesus.  The truth is that although our Church must always repent and make reparations for any way she fails to live up to her lofty ideals, that celibacy retains and will always retain the value that Paul gives it in the second reading.  It is good for men and women to take up Jesus on his word to trust in His love in an extraordinary way.  The world needs such a witness.  Men and women struggling with loneliness need such a witness.  Christianity does too.  Sometimes Catholics get a bad rap for paying more attention to our sacraments and devotions than to scripture, but where else but in the Catholic church will you find men and women living what Paul literally tells us about celibacy in today's Scripture, men and women joyfully and fruitfully banking their lives on the love of Christ, as the vast majority of priests and religious do in the Catholic Church?

The men that I get to work with as vocations director for our Archdiocese, the men who are answering the call to be your priests after Jesus' own heart, have responded to the call of Jesus that reaches the hearts of men just as surely today as it has for 2000 years.  Thank you for your prayers and support of our seminarians, who despite plenty of negativity and scandal will not let the evil one have the last say.  These guys are amazing.  They are not afraid of celibacy, even though many tell them the shouldn't do it or can't do it.  They choose instead to listen to Christ and to trust that his teaching is always new and that He teaches with authority.  Staying close to our Lord, and taking him up on his offer that his presence and love and call will be enough to sustain them, these men have cast out the demons of fear, anxiety and doubt to say yes to the Lord's call to be your priests.  They need and ask for your prayers. I ask for your prayers for them.  As we see in tonight's Gospel, the evil one wins when he can remain hidden  and can seduce us with his lies.  Yet when we take the Lord Jesus up on his promise, and don't water down what he says, then the impossible becomes possible again.  Young men today, even 2000 years after Jesus' Ascension, can welcome him into their lives and when they act with him, in him and through him, the evil one who takes away our chance to be a saint is scattered, and holy vocations can once again be heard and answered in our Church.  Pray God, let is continue to be so.  Amen.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

encounter Christ, find yourself

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time B
Holy Trinity Parish, Paola and St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
21/22 January 2012
Daily Readings

Those who have wives should act as not having them.  This line from St. Paul is perhaps the most striking of all the lines that hit us this weekend.  Even more striking than learning that the prophet Jonah was able to convert the entire city of Ninevah with the word he received from God.  Even more incredible than seeing Peter and Andrew, James and John drop everything and respond to the Lord's call to follow them.  Those who have wives should act as not having them, for time is running out.  The world as we know it is passing away.  Strange words from the great apostle.

We've been through enough cycles of apocalyptic predictions, despite our Lord telling us clearly that we do not know the day nor the hour, not to succumb to the superficial meaning of Paul's words.  When he says those who haves wives should act as not having them, this is not a call for men to abandon all responsibilities to make sure they are individually prepared for the rapture, wives and children be damned.  Paul in Ephesians, in the great treatise on marriage, says quite the opposite, that a real husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church, and should hand himself over to his wife so as to love her into holiness.  So Paul can't mean an abdication of responsibility.  Rather, he points to a responsibility and a vocation that is prior to the marriage of a man and woman; namely, the responsibility to be married to God before we dare to be married to each other.  Paul's urgency is directed toward what we name the universal call to holiness.  It is the same call that Jesus gave to Peter, Andrew, James and John, urging them to leave their livelihoods as well, to become fishers of men.

This eternally fruitful marriage between Christ and His Church is perfectly accomplished in the Holy Eucharist we are about to celebrate.  Here the two are made one - Christ and His Church become one body, one spirit, in the communion celebrated.  It is because this marriage of Christ and His Church is the most real and enduring marriage, and is the source and perfection of married love, that Paul can say that those who are not aware of Christ's love for them, should act as if not having a wife.  Paul rightfully creates an urgency in responding to the love of Jesus Christ, the love of a Creator for his creation and the love of a savior for sinners.  It is because the love of Christ is greater than any human love, for He knows us better than we know ourselves, and as our Savior loves us where we cannot love ourselves, at the point of our greatest sin, that Paul can say what He says and Jesus can call as He calls.  Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Without a true encounter with Jesus Christ, without a realization on our part that it is encountering Him that I will find myself and without a confession of the uniqueness and depth of His love for me, then the accounts of vocation and discipleship in tonight's readings are absurd.  Mary's last words in recorded scripture are 'Do whatever He tells you" and her words, as we would suspect, represent the perfect way for a Christian to receive His vocation from Jesus.  Do whatever He tells you.  But why would I trust Jesus more than I trust myself?  Why would I do only and precisely what He tells me, when I can respond to my own desires?  Why is following Him freedom and not slavery?

Christian discipleship and vocation is much different than how the world tells us to find ourselves.  The world challenges us to find our uniqueness in isolation - what makes me special and different than anyone else?  Only after answering this question can we find our mission in life, so says the world.  A Christian instead is called to find his uniqueness not in isolation but in relationship - we find ourselves insofar as we dare to encounter God, and by how we respond to Jesus' invitation to fall in love with him after the pattern of his falling in love with us.  It is only if this falling in love has taken place, and only if it is taking place as we encounter an ever more mysterious person who in the end desires not to be my boss but to be my friend who unlocks my greatest potential, that obedience to His voice, and doing only what He tells me, becomes my greatest freedom and joy, and my sure path to happiness and eternal life.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

bishops need prayers

Friday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time II
20 January 2012
Danforth Chapel at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

Today we listen from the Gospel of Mark about Jesus choosing the first apostles.  Upon hearing the reading, I immediately begin praying for our local bishop Archbishop Naumann, the pope and all bishops.  It is easy to forget when you become friends with your 'boss' and spend so much time with him, that he carries with him the full responsibilities of the apostolic mission of the Church.  The Holy Father Pope Benedict is a 'first among equals' but each bishop is a true successor of the apostles, chosen by Christ through the vehicle of the Church, to be sent out to teach, forgive, and sanctify.  It is an impossible task, being responsible for the unity and salvation of so many people, not only Catholics but all those in the Archdiocese.  Were it not truly Jesus himself active in and through ordinary, fallible men, the leadership of the bishops would have long ago fallen apart.  Bishops make many mistakes.  They would be the first to admit that.  Yet they have been called by Christ to a mission that they cannot shrink from.  They deserve and need our prayers.

St. Fabian was one of the first bishops of Rome, who bravely took up this unique responsibility of being a successor to the apostles, and suffered martyrdom because he would not shrink from the challenge in front of him.  May his powerful prayers and witness on his feast day give courage to all bishops, and their closest helpers, the priests and deacons of the Church.  Amen.

For the Church, especially for our local bishop and his intentions, and those of the Holy Father, we pray to the Lord.

For the world in which we live, that all people would have the courage of their convictions, and that lasting peace and justice would spring forth, we pray to the Lord

For the mission of St. Lawrence to the University of Kansas, that the truth of the Gospel would find a good hearing here, and all learning by perfected by charity, we pray to the Lord

For the intentions we bring to this Mass, especially for those who are lonely, sick, scared or doubtful, and those who have no one to pray for them, we pray to the Lord

For the humility and faith to respond generously when we are called by the Lord to a holy vocation within the Church, we pray to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, look with kindness upon the cries of your children, and grant us only those things that are truly good for us, and in accordance with your gracious will, for we ask everything always through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Quick Takes for today

  • Blessings and prayers to Archbishop Naumann, Mike Scherschligt and all those from the Archdiocese embarking on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land - 101 in all!  Pray for us!
  • The same to Fr. Steve Beseau and all those attending the FOCUS national leadership conference in Baltimore this weekend and/or going on the March for Life, especially the two KU buses!
  • I'll be in Paola this weekend preaching on Call to Share!  This will be my first visit there as vocation director.
  • The Jayhawks and Longhorns always play epic games against each other; here's hoping KU keep rolling Saturday at 3pm in Austin.  Rock Chalk.
  • I'll be saying the 12:10pm Mass at Danforth Chapel today on campus, followed by the hearing of St. Thomas Aquinas confessions, and a Mass for their senior Kairos retreat at Savior Pastoral Center this afternoon.  Then hopefully catch a little of the Saints Classic where my friend Fr. Brian O'Brien will be watching the Bishop Kelley boys team do battle.  Fr. Brian is the president of that high school in Tulsa.