Saturday, January 25, 2014

wisdom of the cross

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
25/26 January 2014
Beginning of Catholic Schools Week
Daily Readings

As we enter into Catholic schools week, I want to begin this very brief homily by expressing my deep admiration and appreciation for our Catholic school.  Although I didn't have a chance to go to Catholic school myself, and I have an equally deep appreciation for those who work in religious education, I've always dreamed of being a pastor with a Catholic school.  And here at CTK I hit the jackpot.  This parish supports this school so generously and sacrificially, and I so enjoy being part of the formation and life of the school.  I get to teach in the classrooms, celebrate Mass, hit recess, and observe how hard the administration and faculty and staff work to bring the Catholic faith to our kids and to make our school excellent in every way.  Catholic schools in many ways try to do the impossible . . with limited resources to be excellent in every way.  And they pull it off!  It's the story of our Catholic faith . . start with a little, and with faith in God is grows into something beautiful and tremendous.  My deepest gratitude for each of you who make our Catholic school so great, as the primary ministry our parish provides to our families and our community!  Thanks to all of you as we enter into Catholic schools week together!

Tonight's scriptures give us a couple of quick examples of things we are able to teach our kids in a Catholic school environment.  First of all we are able to teach that Christ is the source of all knowledge, and that knowledge reaches its highest point in the sign of the cross.  St. Paul says that the cross of Christ should never be emptied of its meaning.  The crucifixes that hang in our classrooms are better educational aids, then, than the ipads we just got for our kids, and impart greater knowledge than the smartphones we all use.  The cross teaches us that no matter how smart we think we are, and yes, I was at the geography bee a couple weeks ago and our kids are super smart - still, the cross teaches us that the most important lesson to learn in life is how to give ourselves away in love.  The cross teaches us that pain and suffering, failure and rejection, vulnerability and persecution are not things we have to avoid in order to be happy. No, they are human experiences that can be transcended and conquered by love.  A Christian then learns how to give his life away in love completely before death and darkness ever can conquer us.  This is the wisdom that lies at the heart of our Catholic faith, and is on display in our Catholic school.

Then there is the calling of Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Specifically, we are able to teach in a Catholic school that each one of us is known and loved and called by God.  This is the dignity and destiny of every person God created, and we are able to celebrate that without apology.  Like Zebedee, our parents entrust the calling of their kids to a holy vocation, and a beautiful way of making Jesus's truth and love present in the world, to the Church and the school.  We set the stage where our kids can know the voice of Jesus from the inside out, and he might call each of them to a life that may not be successful on the world's terms, but to a life that is so much bigger, and happier and more fruitful than any life they would choose for themselves.  Our kids are able every day to enter into that adventure of discovering God's will in their lives, and again, we are able to do that without equivocation or apology, but with greater fervor and joy!

Today's video will give you a peak into our Catholic school - again, my thanks to Mrs. Reynoso and the incredible faculty and staff here, and to the parents and parishioners of CTK, for their support of the school!  A blessed Catholic schools week to all!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

wise men seek Him

Solemnity of the Epiphany
5 January 2013
Christ the King Church Topeka
Daily Readings

The Catholic Church embraces science.  Maybe you've heard differently, but it's not true.  Today's feast of the Epiphany tells the story of wise men whose fascination with science, and their study of the heavens, led them to the ultimate source of wisdom and truth, to Jesus Christ our Lord.  In our Catholic tradition the relationship and interplay between faith and science is welcomed and celebrated, and is critical in the search for truth.  This search for a unified truth is  perhaps never more beautifully on display than in the story of the magi.  The Catholic Church was the founder of the modern western University.  The word university implies that there is a community of learners working toward the truth not in a fragmented way, but in a unified way  It makes little sense for any university, be it KU, K-State, Benedictine or Notre Dame, to house a religion and a physics department, without getting the relationship and conversation right between the two.  The magi show us exactly how to get it right.

Despite what many atheists might want you to believe, the Church has never been against science, and has never advocated a divorce between faith and reason.  Of course the Church is at her best not doing science, but in understanding the revelation of God, so occasionally the Church and science have a hard time getting on the same page.  But never listen to anyone who says that since the Church excommunicated Galileo, it proves that the Church is trying to keep science down.  Such difficulties are the exception, not the rule.  Name me a Catholic university or school that does not have a robust science department.  Of course, they all do.  There is no divorce.  What is the rule, actually, is that Catholic thinkers have made some of the greatest advances in science.  The founder of modern genetics, which paved the way for Darwinist thinking, was a Catholic priest  The original proponent of the Big Bang theory, was a devout Catholic priest.  Our last two popes, John Paul and Benedict, have written the most beautiful and fruitful reflections that are out there on the interplay between faith and reason.  Anyone who thinks the Catholic Church is the enemy of science has their head in the sand.

On Epiphany we celebrate that the magi who came to the manger were the smartest men of their time.  They understood something that modern atheists and materialist scientists do not get; namely, that the science of our universe derives its efficacy from a theological worldview.  Specifically, it only makes sense to do science if two things are true - if the world is not divine and if it is intelligible.  Science needs these truth to operate, but cannot prove them itself.  Theology, a reflection of God's revelation of himself, and hence the ultimate science, delivers these truths that are necessary for science to operate.  Without a theological foundation, science is a circular and futile exercise of matter and energy randomly encountering matter and energy, for no purpose.  It is only because of science's grounding in theology and metaphysics that science can and does discover truth, and make real and important distinctions between what is real and necessary, and what is not.  The magi were smart because they were so open to this theological worldview.

The magi were smart for another reason.  They realized that the most important knowledge one can obtain is knowledge that enhances what it means to be a person.  Knowledge of stars is great, but knowledge of the ones trying to understand the stars, knowledge of human persons themselves, is the best kind of knowledge.  The mere possibility that the one controlling the heavens could have a human face made the magi run in haste.  That the most powerful force in the universe was also powerful enough to allow himself to enter into the vulnerabilities contingencies of time, space and the human condition, was a revelation worthy of their finest gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The magi represent the very best of mankind, those open to the light of any truth, scientific and theological, physical and metaphysical, that enhances an understanding of human personhood, human dignity and our ultimate destiny.

Science and theology both have a lot more work to do.  We need great minds in both.  There is still more about God and his universe that we don't understand, and there is no reason for faith and reason to fight, only room for us to stand in humble awe together at the mysteries of our God and his universe. The Church will continue to welcome the advances of science, and the search for truth, while at the same time doing what she alone does best - producing saints. Saints are those stars of humanity, who even without scientifically certain knowledge of who they are and where they came from and what they should do, still are able to emanate the personal transcendant love revealed in the face of the Christ child, which is the ground of all reality.  Long before faith and science finish their work, we all have to choose whether or not we will be saints, and whether we will fulfill our destiny revealed by Christ, to love one another as he has first loved us.  The Church is the place where we come to be made into saints.

Saints shine Christ's light powerfully into the world!  Epiphany is to Christmas what Pentecost is to Easter.  Namely, today's feast at the end of our Christmas celebration challenges us to shine the light of Christ revealed at Christmas into our world.  Specifically at Christmas, the appearance of the Christ child purifies the reason of the world, and challenges her to see and understand herself through the eyes of her most important resource, her children.  Where science has tilted the focus toward the ability of adults to control their own lives, the appearance of the Christ child challenges us never to run away from what makes us most human - authentic, natural, vulnerable, sacrificial and fruitful love.  The light of faith discourages our ever becoming like Herod - fearful, controlling and selfish - and challenges us all to remember where we came from, and to never stop being children.  This is the light of faith that is meant to go out from the Church at Christmas to every dark corner of our world, a light that teaches the world through Christ all it means to be a human person.

Anyone who thinks this poor, dark world needs the light of Christ any less today that she did 2000 years ago, is a fool indeed.  On Epiphany, we celebrate that anyone who seeks ultimate truth, may find it like the magi in the face of Christ.  Their example teaches us not simply to hold onto the past, but to welcome with joy and hope the scientific and theological wisdom of the future.  They give voice to the Church's proclamation each epiphany - that wise men still seek Him!  Amen.