Wednesday, October 31, 2012

12 tweets for All Saints Day!

Solemnity of All Saints Vigil Mass
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
31 October 2012
Daily Readings

  1. More adults celebrating Halloween than ever? Awesome - but don't forget Halloween is just the pre-party for the Solemnity of All Saints!
  2. Let your costume be a reminder of the road to conversion to becoming who you deeply want to be - a saint!
  3. Don't be dumb and play around with something you know nothing about.  Leave paganism and the occult alone.  St. Michael, defend us in battle
  4. Superheroes save the day and make us safe for tomorrow.  Saints make real to us the love of Jesus Christ that redeems the world forever!
  5. Ever ask yourself why there is still so much wrong with the world?  Here's an answer - because there aren't enough saints!
  6. The 10 commandments are the rules for sinners, and Beatitudes the rules for saints who let Christ's perfections shine through them. 
  7. Being a nice person is not the standard for Christianity - holiness is!  Don't settle for less than being a saint!
  8. Anybody else glad St. John saw another multitude too many to count in addition to the 144K original saints? #needwiggleroom
  9. The Reformation is less the fault of Martin Luther and more the fault of Catholics not knowing and living their faith! #beasaint
  10. Only one thing left on my bucket list - oh how I'd like to be in that number when the Saints go marching in!  #AllSaintsDay
  11. BXVI - The Saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations in which the richness of God's goodness is reflected.  #AllSaintsDay
  12. Sin is making ourselves bigger than the reality in front of us.  Be humble.  Be who you are.  Be self-forgetful.  Be a saint!  #AllSaintsDay

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Annoying is good

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Year of Faith
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
28 October 2012

To make the spiritual progress demanded on tonight's Gospel, we have to be able to see ourselves like Bartimaus - as blind, and as a beggar.  We started tonight's Mass as we always do, confessing as much.  That we are blind as to how to know and love and do the good, and how to hate evil.  That we are blind as far as knowing where we are going, and poor in having the resources we need to get there.  So we cry out like Bartimaus at the beginning of each Mass, Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.  We say it not once, but three times - Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

It is important for us realize that begging for sight and for mercy is the beginning point of holiness, the beginning point of the spiritual life, which is nothing more or less than being close to Jesus, who is holiness incarnate.  This is hard for us to get through our thick skulls, however.  It is not easy for us to see ourselves in Bartimaus.  When was the last time that you encountered a beggar on the street and said to yourself - oh cool, there's someone like me!  No, we've been taught in our lives to try to be as self-sufficient as we can be, and to hate vulnerability and dependency.  So we usually feel not excited to see a beggar, but uncomfortable and trapped -knowing that the person is like us, and that we should help them because Christ is hidden in them, but also knowing that mostly we do not want to be like them, nor bothered by them.  There are feeling of attraction and aversion working within us at the same time.

Yet the path to holiness begins with vulnerability and dependence.  Even if we are able to offer a beggar nothing more than a few cents, a kind look or a heartfelt prayer, we should still be glad to have seen them.  Not that having more beggars is a good thing, that's not what I'm saying, but insofar as we do encounter them, we should see in them what Jesus saw in Bartimaus - we should see ourselves, and our path to holiness.  Mother Teresa was fond of saying that compassion is being able to believe another person's life is as real as your own.

The election of the next president of the United States has spurred so much talk about how a president and government might be able to get America back to work. Especially pertinent to you is how the economy might provide good jobs for new college graduates, so that they can use their education and pursue the American dream.  The emphasis has been on jobs, and how Americans can become prosperous and great, and its citizens become self-sufficient, not dependent on government.  Yet there has been no little talk about how we take care of one another as well, beginning with the most vulnerable, the unborn, and ending with the vulnerability of old age.  The fundamental moral and civil rights issue in any election for a Catholic is the right to life, for the unborn are those least able to provide for themselves.  Babies in the womb are so poor in fact, that they have no voice even to cry out, if it is not the voice of the Church and people of good conscience begging on their behalf.

On our part, we should pray, then vote.  It is a serious sin for a Catholic not to participate in the politics that affect the common good of so many people.  We as Catholics do not run from the world, but seek to transform it with the grace, mercy and truth of Jesus Christ.  We are obligated to form our consciences and then to vote if there is a candidate who can best advance the common good, and to pay special attention to candidates who have a commitment and opportunity to defend and promote the right to life of the unborn.

There is nothing wrong with the American dream and American exceptionalism, at least not if they are understood in terms of the flourishing of the human person.  Those to whom much is given, much is expected, and the American way of life that champions individual achievement and the expansion of prosperity for more people is a way of multiplying the gifts that God has first given.  Yet if progress is only materialistic, not spiritual, then we will see people seeking happiness in a false sense of wealth and security, instead of seeking happiness in the only way it can be realized, through vulnerability and dependence, through the ability to be close to God and to one another, in the vocation to sacrifice and so realize our deepest vocation to love one another as Christ first loved us.  Bartimaus as our hero for today shows us the path to spiritual progress, which leads to a happiness not tied to the unemployment rate, but tied to things that consist in the eternal life won for us by Christ - truth, goodness, beauty and unity.  Amen.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Power and Glory

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Year of Faith
Daily Readings

For the next two weeks, the imagination of our country, and of much of the world, will of course be fixated on the election of the next president of the United States.  From what I can gather, here are the qualifications that we are looking for in the next president.  He must understand the US and world economy, so much so that he can make it work for every American.  He must be able to create jobs from somewhere.  He must be strong enough to cast fear into our enemies, and to lead the world's security, while being amiable enough to sustain and accrue allies.  He must be smart enough to make objective decisions about what's good for the country, and yet humble and personable enough to connect with men and women, old and young, rich and poor.  The list can and does go on and on and on.  The presidency of the United States is arguably the most powerful position in the world, and so also the most scrutinized, and the expectations of this person are incredible, more than any person could possibly fill.

There is only one person who can fill the expectations we have for the presidency, and that is the God-man Jesus Christ.  Yet we all know that our Lord has not chosen to reappear and to place his name on the ballot.  He has entrusted the mission of raising up worthy leaders to us, assisted of course by his Holy Spirit that accompanies us always.  Just because Jesus is not on the ballot, however, and no perfect candidate is available, doesn't mean that Christians can eschew politics.  As Christians we are compelled to be deeply involved in politics, and to raise up leaders who have the heart and mind of Christ, leaders who will try as well as any human person can, to provide for the common good of all people, and to build up a society which mirrors the kingdom of God, a society that provides for real human flourishing and a society focused on the high dignity and destiny of man revealed by Jesus Christ.  To be a Christian is not to run from the world, or to try to create a utopia apart from the world, but to tranform the world through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  That is why it is a grave sin for a Catholic not to care about politics, or to refuse to participate in politics.  Not that you have to agree with all political methods, but we must be involved in raising up leaders who have the heart and mind of Christ.  No one can be excused or exempt from this important responsibility, least of all Catholic Christians.

Yet because we know that only one person can fill the expectations we have for the presidency, we look ultimately to Jesus Christ and to no one else for our personal security and prosperity  It is important to care deeply about politics, because they make a difference, but it is a sin to care more and to spend more time in politics than in paying attention to the salvific action of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord as King and Ruler of the Universe is doing more for the salvation of the world at every moment than any action of our president could do at any moment.  This is not to take away from the importance of the presidency, it is to remind Christians that any every moment, the most important thing is to pay attention to what our Lord is doing.  As Catholic Christians, the praying of the rosary or the celebration of Mass can and should be more impactful than the election of the president, for giving the time and space of our lives, and our hearts and minds, so that the Lord may accomplish his salvific work in us, gives a security and prosperity to a human person that only our Lord, and no president, can give.  It is not right to misplace our hope in the presidence when our sure hope is in the Lord.

In the Lord who in the Eucharist before us is simultaneously the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice, we encounter a great high priest, a mediator, one set apart as our advocate, one who has passed through the heavens.  Yet at the same time we encounter he who is truly a lamb, one who places himself at the foot of humanity, one who takes upon himself the sins of the world and becomes the slave of all.  Only Jesus in the Eucharist can at once be both priest and victim.  To this lamb who was slain belong power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise, now and forever.  In the time of an election, it is wrong to try to determine who best by their own power can fulfill the unimaginable expectations we place on our president.  No, in the time of an election, we turn to another leader.  We pray to the leader who alone can fulfill all the longings of the human person, for in praying to him our country has the best chance to raise up and to elect leaders after his mind and heart.  Amen

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Love does not 'fit' into our lives

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
14 October 2012 in the Year of Faith
Daily Readings

In response to the rich man's question about eternal life, Jesus says two things.  First, he asks, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.' Secondly, Jesus repeats the commandments.  Unless Jesus is asking a rhetorical question, or unless the Gospel writer Mark forgot to record the young man's response, it seems as if the young man ignores the first question.  "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone."

I'm not saying the outcome of the conversation would have been different if the young man had focused on the first question and not the commandments, but the conversation itself would have turned dramatically I think. Jesus starts by giving the young man a chance to become more interested in the person he is talking to, but the young man doesn't take it.  Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  Admittedly, Jesus is playing a bit of hide-and-seek, trying to draw out the man's faith.  He starts by gently indicating that the young man should have asked not 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?' but 'Who must I be with to inherit eternal life.'  Why do you call me good was Jesus way of indicating that this young man was in the personal presence of Wisdom, which is worth more than all the gold in the world, and he was face-to-face with the ultimate Word of God, Jesus himself, who cuts to the heart, between soul and spirit, and between joints and marrow.  The young man has come to the right person, but is not interested enough in the crucial question of who Jesus really is.  Yet Jesus also answers the question of what must be done, but again, the young man decides to focus not on the person, but on the commandments.

In the end, Jesus gives the young man a job, a commandment, something that he must do - sell it all - before returning to the most important thing - follow me.  Be with me.  Share life with me.  Share the mission of love I have received with me.  Come and see who I really am.  Yet the commandment to sell it all is too much, and this part unfortunately, should sound familiar to all of us.  How much time have we all wasted trying to lay hold of eternal life in a futile, impossible way -  by making millions of adjustments and resolutions and new rules and commandments for ourselves, but always within the parameters of what we can control.  Trying to make God a bigger part of our lives is like trying to move the Grand Canyon into our living room, which is just as impossible as a camel going through the eye of a needle.  It's not going to happen, even if we stay at it for a thousand lifetimes.  God does not fit in our lives.  Love does not fit in our lives.  There is no way to lay hold of eternal life by making adjustments.  Self-abandonment is the only reasonable and secure choice for anyone who truly wants to love and live.  Love and holiness require the smashing of boundaries, and radical self-abandonment that leads to a life thousands of times bigger than we can imagine, just as the Lord promises.

Detachment from money and our things is just a baby step.  We make a simple thing like giving away our money hard, but for a Christian, it's not really supposed to be much harder than following the 5th commandment - you shall not kill.  Detaching from our things is just a baby step if we are to have any chance whatsoever of attaching ourselves to God and to others in a way that produces the security and eternal life that this world cannot hope to offer.  We should confess our attachment to money more.  It is a real problem for most all of us.  If we fail to do so, eternal life is no more possible for us than a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Double down on marriage

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Respect Life Sunday
7 October 2012
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas

On the communications inventory given to couples approaching the Church for the sacrament of marriage, there is a 'trick' true/false statement that reads as follows:  As long as we love each other, everything will work out.  The correct answer to the question is false.  The purpose of the communications inventory is to show that a couple has lots of things to work on, lots of things to talk about, lots of things to prepare for.  Because marriage is not easy.  From Jesus' time until now, marriage has never been easy, and who would argue that it is perhaps harder today than ever?

So the correct answer to the true/false statement  - as long as we love each other, everything will work out, is false.  Marriage is not only a naive falling in love, it is a working out of a lot of things, even when you don't feel in love anymore.  That being said, almost all couples answer the question true.  That love is all that matters in the end.  That love is stronger than anything.  That if they did not believe in the love that they have found for each other, they wouldn't get married in the first place.

So who's right?  The inventory or the couples?  I would have to say in the end that the couples are right.  The real reason people get divorced is because they fall out of love.  There are other circumstances, to be sure, curveballs that life throws our way, things no one could see years ago that end up destroying a marriage.  But circumstances always change.  Nothing stays the same.  So Jesus is right in telling his disciples that it is because of the hardness of their hearts that Moses allowed them to divorce.  It is people falling out of love that is the problem.  So Jesus points his disciples to little children as a sign of how to fall in love again.  See, the young couples, not the inventory, are right.  Unless we fall in love, and become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of God.

By saying this I am not trying to pour salt in the wound of anyone who has been through divorce, and there is a lot of pain in this society and in our Church which leads the world in annulments granted.  Yet rarely if ever do I meet a divorced person who has completely given up on love and marriage.  Despite failure, people want to try again, and they want love for others.  For if any of us quit believing in love, we are already dead, for love is man's origin, love is his constant calling, and love is his perfection.

There are some who think we have arrived at the point now where the sacrament of marriage as Jesus gave it to us has little to contribute to the modern meaning of love and sex and family.  There are others who think that since the Church and culture seem to produce fewer young people who are capable and desirous of marriage, and since divorce shows marriage to be a flawed and unnecessary institution, and since the definition of marriage seems to be moving quickly in a direction that the Church cannot and will not accept, that now is the time for the Church to get out of the marriage business.  As one who works with engaged couples, I can honestly say the thought has crossed my mind that this one sacrament is more work than the other six sacraments combined.

But only the evil one can dull the desire for the fullness of life that Jesus teaches and offers to his beloved disciples.  Now cannot be the time to shy away from the Church's teaching on sex, marriage and family.  Now is the time to double down.  For the Church is not the Church if she has a treasure that she simply hides and tries to preserve for future generations; no, our Church is only the Church if she evangelizes, and does not hide from the culture but seeks to transform it.  It is imperative that we keep the sacrament of marriage as Jesus gave it to His Church before our young people and work diligently to make it a real possibility not for fewer people in the future, but for more.  We have to believe that we have the real thing, for the Lord has given us the sacrament of marriage that is a real participation in his life and love.

If marriage will survive in our culture, and trust me, we should all pray until our knees are worn out that it does, for the common good of our society and especially for our children, then it will depend upon the Church's proclamation of marriage precisely as Christ gave it to us; namely, that marriage is more than a couple falling in love with each other, but even moreso a man and woman falling in love together in something that is bigger than them.  Marriage is grounded not in our ability to redefine it however it suits us, but in hearing a call from Jesus, the ultimate groom whose marriage lasts not for a lifetime but forever, to enter into and to imitate his love for his bride, the Church, a love that makes her holy.  In this, a couple is to fall in love with this marriage of Christ more than they fall in love with each other, and so surrender themselves to its incomparable fruitfulness and generosity.  Jesus gives us the litmus test of the real thing.  Let the children come to me.  Real marriage leads not to children that are artifically manufactured when wanted and discarded when they are not, but children who are always welcomed no matter what.