Sunday, August 26, 2012

Be the 10%

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Registration Weekend
26 August 2012
Daily Readings

Taken out of context, it would be hard to find more offensive words to our modern liberal feminist sensibilities than to say that wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.  Couples typically shy away from Ephesians Chapter 5 as a lectionary selection for their wedding, even though it contains the most profound theological explanation of how Christ and His Church ground the great sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman.  They don't choose this reading because that line is so hard to hear.  Taken out of context, wives be subordinate to your husbands in everything sounds like something from Islam, or makes our Church sound stuck in the patriarchal dark ages rather than a player in the modern dynamic between men and women.

Taken in context, however, this hard saying becomes beautiful and true, as do all of the hard sayings of our Lord Jesus.  Taken in the context of what St. Paul says about the role of men, that their mission is to make women holy by cleansing them with the sacrifice of their own bodies, in imitation of Christ, the words find their power.  Taken in the context of being able to look at a crucifix, and to see what it means for Christ the bridegroom to become one flesh, one spirit with his bride the Church, then the words wives be subordinate to your husbands in everything become quite easy to hear, since we all as Christ's bride the Church gladly place ourselves under the beauty and power of our Lord's beautiful mission to bring mercy and reconciliation to the world.

To be Catholic today is to live hard truths, and to be faithful to hard sayings, that cause many to shy away from Christ and from a Church they find irrelevant to their lives.  To be Catholic particularly at a public university is to live at the intersection of good or evil, truth or relativism, and vocation or ambition.  With every challenge to your Catholic faith, there is the reality that 90% of Catholics will walk away from their faith like almost all of Jesus's disciples, because his saying were too hard, whereas only 10% will use the challenge to deepen their understanding of what they believe, and more importantly, will take the challenge as an invitation to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

I pray that this year more than 10% of you will use the resources of the St. Lawence Catholic Center to deepen your understanding of Catholicism and consequently, to take the next steps in the development of your relationship with Jesus.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Don't water down, double down

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
19 August 2012
Daily Readings

Have there ever been more radical, more divisive, more scandalous or more outrageous words ever uttered from the lips of a human person than the words uttered by our Lord in tonight's Gospel - unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Talk about an absolute statement.  Talk about words that do not admit of equivocation.  When asked to water down his talk about his flesh being living bread sent from heaven, Jesus our Lord does the opposite.  He doubles down.  He says those who are not eating his flesh and drinking his blood are already dead.

What a tremendous blessing to have these strong words about the Holy Eucharist before we receive our Lord on the eve of the beginning of classes at KU.  When Jesus was asked to water down his teaching about  his flesh being real food and his blood being real drink, he doubled down instead.  As those of you who are returning to KU already know, and as those of you who are new are about to find out, for every opportunity there is to strengthen your Catholic faith while at KU, there are hundreds of other moral, spiritual and intellectual temptations to water it down.  Unfortunately, only a small percentage of Catholics arrive at KU with a gameplan that is up to the task of standing strong in the truth, the beauty and the wisdom of the Catholic faith and tradition.  There are unfortunately more Catholics at KU ready to water down than to double down, too many who are ready to allow their Catholic faith to be stolen from them without even putting up a decent fight.

If you haven't noticed, perhaps you will soon that there is getting to be less and less room in the culture wars around us for a watered down, lukewarm, anonymous Catholicism.  There is less and less room for those Catholics who hit Mass when it is convenient for them, and who are casual not intentional Catholics, those who settle for being a good person rather than having their heart set on being a saint.  There will be so many temptations this year for most of you to hide your Catholicism, for to some of your peers and professors, merely being Catholic is to be homophobic and anti-woman.  Very soon it could be that you will be accused of being filled with hate merely for ordering a chicken sandwich on campus, even though you have never had a hateful thought or feeling toward a gay person.  You may be vilified even if you can intelligently articulate the natural law which shows a unique fruitfulness to traditional marriage, and can demonstrate the harm to individuals, children and society for not upholding the traditional definition, and you may especially be hated if you are obedient to the divine law of Christ which esteems the marriage of a man and woman to the level of a sacrament.  In this light, even if you are interested in vigorously defending human rights, merely to be a Catholic is to be dubbed irrational and hateful, so a decision to go to Mass and to live out your faith is increasingly counter-cultural.  At every moral, spiritual and intellectual challenge to your faith, you will need to decide again this year whether you will water down or double down.

As Jesus tells us plainly, to receive the Eucharist is tantamount to putting your whole life on the line.  To receive the Eucharist means to stake your very life on the truth of what Jesus says, and to radically orient yourself toward the distinctive kind of life, the life we call eternal, which comes to those are his fervent and obedient disciples.  It is a life marked by a faith, hope and love so powerful and so distinct from the wisdom of the world, that the life a Christian is living might truly be called supernatural, or eternal.  It is not a life that is the fruit of compromise and tolerance, but a life borne of mercy and grace, a life of profound communion with the innocent victim who loves me and heals me where I cannot love and heal myself.

Standing against abortion or in favor of traditional marriage at a campus like KU may seem hard, but it is easy compared to the risk of receiving the Eucharist.  For there is only one way not to receive the Eucharist in vain, and that is to know and to live out what the Eucharist really means.  To be attached to the Eucharist, to receive Jesus body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, means for us to be radically detached from ourselves, and what is best for me, and to be radically attached to God and to my brothers and sisters within the Church and without, serving them, not myself, with all my heart and mind and strength.  To receive the Eucharist is nothing less than to desire holiness and to fight for heroic virtue, which is a far more difficult battle than the culture wars raging around us.

To receive the Eucharist means not only to be in communion with Christ individually, but to stand fully and without compromise with the Catholic Church, the mystical body of Christ and his beloved bride. To receive the Eucharist is to try to know, to love and to live the teachings of the Church because for the last 2000 years, through teaching the world who Jesus Christ is, the Catholic Church, though filled with sinners, has proven to be surest defender of the dignity of every human person and the promoter of the high destiny of man.  The Catholic Church provides the surest path to unity and peace and prosperity for mankind.  But more than this, to receive the Eucharist is to claim the Church as my family and as my home forever, and to declare that I love the Church so much that I would die for her.

All this is not to start a fight with the culture because we are Catholics, but it is to say that we will not back down from one if one comes our way.  Serving others wins more converts than fighting.  Whether we serve or fight however, because we are all sinners, we must live out this beautiful and difficult Catholic faith with as much humility and contrition as we can muster.  Our job as Catholics is not to horde and to lord our secret, magical path to eternal life, but to evangelize, and to invite others to be a part of our family . Our job is never, ever to point the finger at someone else, especially when we are teaching and living what the Church believes, but to always, always, always point the finger at ourselves, for we know ourselves to be hypocrites and sinners, and it is our cowardice that has allowed the world to ignore and to reject the beautiful person of Jesus Christ.

As you receive the Eucharist faithfully each Sunday this year, the only way not to receive our Lord in vain, is to try as we might to understand what the Eucharist really means.  When we come to this holy place to receive this blessed sacrament, we must always double down.  Amen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Companion til the end

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
5 August 2012
Football Complex at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

You all as football players know the difference between fans and friends.  Fans can be fickle.  They want results.  Their support not always, but oftentimes, reaches a frenzy when you're winning, and fades when you're losing. They are quick to judge and have a hard time seeing things from your perspective.  They don't see things from the inside out.  They don't see all the Sundays in August when you are working your tail off for Saturdays in October.  This is not to say anything bad against fans.  Every team needs fans, and the more  fans the better.  But they are not friends.  They are not companions.

To be a companion means to be the one whom you break bread with.  The Latin 'cum' means 'with' and the Latin 'pane' means bread.  A companion is the guy that is with you most often, the one you eat with most often.  In this light, although I am breaking bread with you this morning, I am more often a fan than a companion.  I am a KU grad, and have had KU football tickets for 20 years.  My priest friends call me a sports fan who happens to be a priest, and I'm looking forward to this season, and am privileged to say this Mass for you, because I am one of those KU fans who truly likes football more than basketball.  Still, I am not with you day in and day out - I'm not a companion.  I'm a fan.  A companion will always be there.  A fan is fickle and weak.

Both Moses and Jesus in today's scriptures are working through this distinction between fans and companions.  Moses realizes that he had lots of fans when he performed the signs against Pharaoh in Egypt, but few friends when things got tough in the desert.  Jesus warns those who started following him because he fed the 5000 that they will need to be more than fans of the bread that feeds stomachs, but must be true disciples and friends and companions of the one who himself is the bread of life if they are to follow him through the tough time of the cross to the glory of the Resurrection.

As you all build this new era of KU football, you know that there are thousands of fans who want to be inspired by you, but it all starts with you believing in yourself.  The improvements and victories on the football field are dependent upon the victory that starts in your own heart, and if you can honestly say in your heart that I am a man who does not turn back at the sign of trouble, who will never give up no matter what on myself or on my teammates, then you are firmly on the road that our Lord Jesus himself trod, and you already share in his victory over sin and death.  I pray that you find not just fans, but companions on this journey that you have committed yourself to.  I thank you as a fan for the hard work that you are putting in.  But more importantly, I bring you the Bread of Life this morning, the one who is more than a fan of yours, but he who is your deepest and truest companion, not only through a tough season, but through the end of your life, even through the grave to the eternal life God has promised you.  May Jesus coming among us humbly this morning help you to seek true companionship, as you strive with you coaches and teammates to make manifest on the field, the victory that Jesus has won in your own heart.  Amen.