Thursday, December 24, 2015

Come Let Us Adore Him!

Christmas Eve 2015
Christ the King Church Topeka
24 December 2015
Daily Readings

O Come let us adore Him!  Christ the Lord!

Why are you here tonight?  Have you come to adore the Lord?  What does it mean for us to adore our Lord?  My dearest friends, on this most holy night, coming to adore the Lord Jesus can only mean one thing. It means that we have come tonight - each one of us - to fall in love again!  It means that we have come tonight - each one of us - confessing that we have fallen out of love with God and each other, confessing that we need this night - each one of us - to fall in love again.  If you have come to Church tonight for any other reason that to fall madly, completely, hopelessly in love with God, then you are in the wrong place!  For the scene of Bethlehem that we contemplate together tonight is way too absurd for any kind of lukewarm response from us.  The biggest and most invincible person imaginable, the one through whom everything was made, the one before whom the entire universe is but a speck of dust, the one who doesn't need any one of us for anything - that person shows his ultimate power in allowing Himself to be made small.  Irresistibly small.  Helplessly small - begging us to hold Him and take care of Him.  Our Lord at Christmas desperately wants to break through our fears and indifference.  He shows tonight that He is ridiculously in love with each of us and everything it means to be a human person, especially our weaknesses.  Knowing that we have an amazing capacity to resist love and to fall out of love and to fear love, even rejecting the depth of His love revealed on the cross, Christ comes as a baby at Christmas, begging our love, pleading that if He comes among us poor, naked and helpless that we may no longer fear God. Do not be afraid, the angel told Mary.  Do not be afraid, the angel told Joseph.  Do not be afraid, the angel told the shepherds.  Do not be afraid of this baby. God is desperately in love with you.  Yes you!  He loves every circumstance of your life exactly where you are this Christmas. Do not be afraid to allow Him to be born in your heart tonight, and if you have come tonight to do anything less than to fall madly, completely and hopelessly in love with God tonight, so much so that after tonight you can never be the same, then you are in the wrong place!  Come, let us adore Him!  Jesus Christ our Lord!

Tonight we fall in love with God more than ever, and we come to rediscover what it means to be a human person.  For not only have we fallen out of love with God, we also confess tonight that we have forgotten who we are.  Our smart phones make us capable of so much more, and we are busier than ever, but we are horrible at keeping things simple.  We are worse and worse at communicating with God in prayer and having intimate, personal and spiritual conversations with each other.  We are less capable of falling in love, being in love and staying in love, and making and keeping promises to God and each other!.  We have forgotten that to be a human person is to be known and loved and desired beginning at our weakest point.  We don't become persons by getting big and smart and important - we do not become persons by gaining the freedom and intelligence to create our own reality and the meaning of our own existence.  We do not become more human by pretending that we do not need God!  No, we become persons by remembering where we came from, and by finding a way to remain small and poor and vulnerable.  We become persons only insofar as we remain like children, by keeping things simple, and by entering with awe and wonder into the great adventure of discovering reality and who we are rather than giving into the temptation of trying to manufacture or control it! Man has forgotten how much He needs God - and by giving into the agnosticism of the day we are making ourselves miserable.  Man needs God - not as a slave needs a master, but as each one of us needs to be known and desired and loved at each moment of our life to reach our highest destiny and happiness.  Love is man's origin, love is his constant calling, and love is his perfection in heaven!  And only God can know us, desire us and cherish us in the deepest parts of our soul, where we cannot love or change ourselves.  Man needs God - this Christmas cannot pass with our giving into the pride and laziness of pretending we can manufacture the meaning of our own existence.  It's a lie that makes our world increasingly miserable.  Tonight we come to remember who we are, and if we remain like a baby - poor, and vulnerable and dependent upon God and each other, we will always be able to realize the meaning of our life - that for which we were created - to fall in love, to be in love and to stay in love.

When we remember who we are and fall in love again, we participate as well in the remaking of our poor world from the inside out.  Tonight is a night chock full of hope! The sign of a baby born of a Virgin mother is THE SIGN that a new creation has dawned on the earth, a creation stronger and meant to last longer than the first creation of everything out of nothing by our virgin Father! Jesus who alone has the power to recreate our poor world, makes himself as small as possible, being born through a tiny, insignificant mother, with complete vulnerability and poverty, at the darkest hour of the darkest night, adored at first only by the most uneducated and mangiest of shepherds, to show us that our world is being remade beginning with the weakest.  Jesus walks every second of his earthly life in perfect humility, always taking the lowest place and preferring the poor, the weakest and most neglected, the greatest sinners, to show us that the recreation of our world will follow a different path.  For the first creation of everything from nothing began big but will be reduced to nothing.  It started in goodness but has been touched by evil.  It started with life but will end in death.  But the new creation is different.  It starts small but ends big.  It starts weak but ends strong.  It starts in poverty but ends in riches. It starts with sinners but ends with saints.  It embraces death, but rises to everlasting life.  Caesar's kingdom that seemed so intimidating when Jesus was born is now gone, as will every kingdom that does not belong to Christ. But Jesus' kingdom that started with nothing is still gaining strength, and His kingdom celebrates with exceeding joy throughout the whole world each Christmas.  Whenever you choose the path of sacrificial love you participate with Jesus in building this kingdom that will last forever.  Do not fear or give into discouragement regarding the evils that threaten our world and our lives and our souls.  Choose to love, no matter what, and the hope of Christmas will continue to grow until the enemies of evil and sin and death are destroyed forever!

All that would be enough for tonight - falling in love, remembering who we are, accepting our mission to build with Christ a kingdom of love, truth and peace that will last forever, but those three things are not the final and full meaning of Christmas! Christmas takes its name not from the birth that took place in Bethlehem, but from the birth about to take place on this altar.  For as small as Jesus made Himself at Bethlehem, He makes Himself much smaller, and more vulnerable, and more beautiful to fall in love with, as He allows Himself to be born on this altar.  We fall in love with Jesus tonight not just by remembering Bethlehem, but in encountering Bethlehem becoming real for me at Christ's Mass.  It is through Christ's Mass that with Joseph we allow Jesus to be born under our roofs, and with Mary allow Jesus then to be born in the deepest recesses of our hearts.  The precise and original meaning of Christmas is what changes in our lives when we receive the Eucharist at Christ's Mass.  Let's put the Mass back in Christmas this year!  Let us recognize the richness of our faith, and confess that Christmas makes no sense at all without Christ's Mass.  Let us be present to the reality that Mary, the mother of our Church, is more excited for this Christmas than she was for the first Christmas, for what is happening tonight, yes even here in Topeka, Kansas - is more dramatic than what happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, if any of us, yes if even just one of us, humbly accepts Jesus' desperate plea to be born in our hearts.

Jesus is begging us to receive Him worthily in tonight's Mass.  Do not be afraid, my dearest friends, of this Christ who once came among us as a helpless baby, but who comes to you now - yes you - even more helplessly at Christ's Mass.  This is the meaning of Christmas - right here, right now!  The stage is set now for you - yes you - to receive the Eucharist with greater devotion than ever.  If you resist Him tonight, can you honestly say that you will ever receive Him?  I beg you!  Do not let this Christmas moment pass with fear or indifference.  Do not be afraid to fall helplessly, desperately and completely in love with God tonight, so much so that your life will never be the same.

Now is the time for Christ's Mass!  This most irresistible of babies begs YOU

to hold him now, and allow Him to reach a place in your life where you have never let Him be born before!

Come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

LeRoy Brungardt Funeral Mass

LeRoy Brungardt Funeral
18 December 2015

I pray that where I am you also may be!  Where I am going, you know the way!


Hey everybody!  It’s LeRoy.  I’m back.  Bet you didn’t expect to hear from me again so soon, but God is good!  I made it . . thanks for the prayers.  Needed a few of those for the trip through purgatory . . . in a life like mine, I got mad at my kids a few times.  I lost patience with some of my students, players, parents, fans and colleagues.  But all in all, purgatory wasn’t too bad - was a quick trip!  I thought I’d have to pay more for all those times I lost patience with Linda, but St. Peter let me by on that one . . he said - we all know Linda!  That’s a good sign babe - they all know you up here!  JK - you’re the greatest and I miss you and I love you!  I’d do it all over again . . in a heartbeat!  We did good! I’m sorry I’m not there beside you anymore.  I’m so sorry!

Maureen - the choirs sound great up here!  But they could use another soprano, so please listen to you fantastic boss and pastor, Fr. Mitchel, and do whatever he tells you, so that you make it to heaven.  You have no idea how lucky you are  to have him guiding you!

God is good everyone!  Trust in God with all your heart!  Love Him with your whole mind and strength!  The same God who blessed me throughout my life is the one who asked me to carry my cross in faith and leave you all behind and trust His plan!  I gave it all I had and Jesus was there waiting for me as He promised!  God’s plans are mysterious - beyond our understanding - but they are mysteriously beautiful.  He knows what He is about.  He is always doing more, in life and in death.

To my dearest family and friends, I miss you too!  I love you with all my heart.  Yet the view from up here is incredible.  I wish I had this view as a referee . . it would have been helpful to have this view as a parent (although some things my kids did are better left unseen I am sure).  This view is better than any seat I’ve ever had in any auditorium or stadium or gym.  And I can watch all of you at the same time. I love it - God is good! Trust in God!

When Jesus ascended to heaven, his disciples were scared and lost, but He promised to send the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them always until He would see them again face to face!  Jesus found a way to be with everyone always, in a different way but a better one.  He allows me to be with you all now in a new place - in a deeper and better place - in the depth of your heart and soul.  I am still with you . . look for me there in that same place where you love God and pray to God.  I am there.  I will always be there.

When Jesus left, he told the disciples that it was ‘game on’ for them - that they would go out and do greater things than He did. The apostles received the Holy Spirit and became the most passionate and courageous persons the world has ever known, founding our beautiful family, the Catholic Church, that will prevail against the gates of hell for all time!  So no more of this fried bologna (which is the only thing that I knew how to cook - thank God you all kept me well fed!) - no more of this fried bologna of me being the best person you’ll ever know!  I taught you all to compete - go out and do greater things than I did!  I believe in you.  I didn’t raise you to worship me . . go beyond . . dream higher . .  go farther . . compete to be the best!  You can do it!

You my dearest family and friends, are God’s gift to me.  I pray that where I am you also may be!  Love heaven more than anything.  Hope with all your heart to remain a child of God forever!  You are my dream team, each one of you God’s gift to me, and starting today you have me as an advocate - a mentor, a coach, a servant  - a husband, a daddy, a papa - rooting you on like crazy from heaven.  So dust yourself off, and get back in the game!  I miss you too . . but I want you to keep going until we see each other again!

Jesus said to his disciples that if they loved him, they would keep his commandments.  Jesus loves our weakness, even our sinfulness, but He loves us too much to let us stay there.  Jesus believes in us. More than we believe in ourselves.  He loves us enough to believe that we are made for greatness, to be heroes, to be holy!  His commandments are challenging but exciting and awesome for those who love Him.  

I can’t believe you’re all here today!  I can’t believe God brought you all into my life and how you changed me for the better!  I love you so much - but I love you enough to leave you my commandments of life.  I hope I was sent to you to make each one of your lives better!  If you love me, keep my commandments.

God blessed me with 9 grandchildren - so how about 9 commandments

  • play to the whistle - Death is God’s gift.  A strange gift, but a gift nonetheless.  Have no fear!  No class makes sense without a final exam, no performance without a finale, no game without a final horn.  Don’t ever forget that we are playing the game of life for keeps and there is a final score . . and that’s a good thing!  Choose what you will give your whole life to, and choose to die for someone and something bigger than you long before death comes for you!  Get it the game and play to the end!
  • make yourself small . . . even if you’re a giant.  I was no small guy.  Yet Jesus teaches us how much fun it is to make ourselves as little as possible!  Serve others.  Think more of others than yourself.  Make yourself the least important person in the room . . and see if people trust you and want to be around you!  Be merciful . . if you win an argument but lose a relationship everyone loses.  Your life is not about you . . it’s about God and others!  Make yourself small!
  • leave it all on the court - Be sacrificial and generous at all times!  Everything that you have is meant for someone else - is meant to be given away.  All of it!  Live the great paradox that if you want more of something, give what you have away!  Try it . . it works!  Leave it all on the court.
  • embrace your role - once upon a time, a young man named Mitchel Zimmerman came for a seminary interview in my basement.  I asked him how he treated women and what kind of man he was when nobody was looking.  I am pretty sure he lied to me, but he was from western Kansas and had a great German name so I gave him a pass . . who knows, in God’s plan I might need his help someday in shepherding my family.   at any rate, all of you - my dream team - you all have a critical role to play in the beautiful story God is writing.  Whatever your role is - whatever his dream for you - whatever His will - embrace your role . . find your mission and vocation and embrace it . . we are all counting on you!
  • cheer on Hayden - Go Wildcats!  Dang I love that school and love watching my kids and grandkids perform!  Invest in Catholic education.  We learn the most important lessons of life, and all our learning goes deeper, when we are connected to the source of love and truth, our Lord Jesus - we compete better when we are trying to glorify Him!  Hayden holds our Topeka Catholic family and greater community together like no other institution!  Believe in Hayden . . always and forever!
  • follow through - let your yes mean yes and your no mean no, and be faithful to the promises you make.  You will be remembered in life for the promises you broke and the promises you kept!  Thanks Linda for choosing me . . . we followed through, and it made all the difference!
  • Go to Mass!  It’s one of the greatest cop-outs and lies out there today that you don’t have to go to Church to be a good person.  That’s like saying you can be a good fan and not show up to the games, or a good grandpa and never show up for Christmas dinner.  It’s a lie.  The truth is we show up for the things that matter, those things we believe in! We have to love God not on our terms, but on His, and He has invited us to be with Him in His family the Church and not live our faith in isolation, but in a way that builds up His family and kingdom that lasts forever.  Get to Mass.  No excuses. I never missed.  Ever.
  • write a fairy tale with your life - my life ended listening to a fairy tale from my youngest granddaughter..  You get to write the story of your life.  No one can write it for you.  Only you get to choose if you will slay the dragon, and be faithful to death to those God has given you to love and serve.  Write a fairly tale with your life!
  • always be there - I died with my wife and five kids at my side - the best gift I ever received!  Did anyone show up at my funeral today?  Can you see Fr. Mitchel amidst all the flowers?  I’m not saying this to brag . . I don’t deserve any of you or any of it . . I did only what I was obliged to do by God, who created me and loves me and has called me home.  I say it as my last commandment to remind you . . that the ultimate  thing people will remember about you is if you were there.  Did you care enough to show up?  You must be present to win at the game of life.  Do whatever you need to do to be there . . always get there . . in the end, it makes all the difference.  Don’t let anything pull you apart!

That’s it, dear family and friends.  There are your nine commandments. With that I’ll sign off, resume my conversation with St. Peter about getting Danny a free pass for having to endure all those sisters, and send graces your way and beg God to allow me to speak to you and be with you in the depths of your hearts.  I love you.  i can never say it enough.  It’s fun having the view of an angel, but there’s a reason it’s better to be a person than an angel - our bodies are a gift for sharing our soul and our heart and our love. . I miss seeing you all face to face - I miss hearing your voices - I miss being able to give you a smile, a hug and to tell you I love you . . to give back to you the joy you all have given me.  I’m sorry to have gone . . I will miss you always until that day when Jesus completes his magnificent work.  Until then, Linda - hug them and kiss them for me and remind them of how much I loved them.

It’s game on for you all now, my dear family and friends - go out and do greater things than I did.  I believe in you.  If you love me, keep my commandments.

Ready, set . . . . tweet.

I pray that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going, you know the way.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

we need this King

34th and Final Sunday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe
20/21 November 2015

Fr. Zarse is old.  I think he confessed as much last weekend in his homily.  In high school, he didn't fit in.  He couldn't stand how impulsive and shallow his peers were.  I know he is 29 years old and our 'baby priest' - and I know he has incredible preaching talent and amazing zeal for the faith, and many of you have remarked he is wise beyond his years, but it's true - trust me I'm his roommate.  He can be really old.

We were driving down to the Hayden game this Friday, and no we will not talk about the outcome of that game.  The topics of MMA fighting among women and sexting among teens came up.  Fr. Zarse could not understand either phenomenon.  Why would any two women go into a ring and pulverize each other for entertainment, and why would anyone watch it, and why would any teen send indecent photos of themselves by text for all to copy and see?  It was beyond his comprehension.  I know most of you agree with him - it's crazy what's going on in our culture.

I had to chuckle at him.  Fr. Zarse is a classical guy.  Post-modern man befuddles him.  Let me attempt the same explanation for you that I attempted for him.  Postmodern man is desperately and with great futility trying to replace God, and is making himself miserable in the process.  Man is made for God.  Man is at his best when he enters into that incomparable and transcendent adventure of pursuing God, the source of all love, life, goodness, truth and beauty, with all his heart and mind and strength.  When this adventure and pursuit is absent however, man become pathetically desperate.  His only other alternative to pursuing God is to become a God himself.  If even only for 5 seconds, we are desperate to become a God, even if it means becoming the meanest, most violent and savage woman on the planet, the Queen of the MMA ring, or seeking transcendence by sending the most unique and provocative photo ever.  We either pursue God or we try to replace Him.

Such is postmodernism which sees no need for God, no need to follow in obedience with others a Church that points them toward transcendent happiness, no need to worship anything but themselves. The greatest religious phenomena we see now is not conversions to the Catholic Church, nor great converts to atheism, but a growing body of NONES.  These are those people who just don't care -they are in your family and mine.  They are those who pretend it is impossible to know if there is a God, and to settle for whatever meaning they are able to create for themselves.  It usually hits our ears like this - I don't need to go to Church to be a good person.

That's true - you can be good for no reason, but if this is your reality, then you have no reason to continue being good.  It is the height of pride to know that we are not the authors of our own existence, that the universe and us are completely unnecessary, to know for certain that in the backdrop of all history and the scope of the universe, that none of us count as more than a speck of sand, and yet to make yourself the center of the universe by saying I can find meaning and do good by myself, for no reason, without any reference or abiding connection to a source of truth or goodness.

There are the self-proclaimed 'brights' in our society who pretend to be smarter than religious people . The brights say that us religious pretend to know the source of truth and goodness when we really don't.  These same 'brights' however, can not provide a single reason why anyone should listen to them.  If we are only random matter and energy, and all free will is an illusion, it does no good to try to convince someone else that what you are saying is more true.  At best, it's a futile effort, since matter and energy can't freely change their behavior.  At worst, it is inviting people to an illusion much more destructive than religion, to tell people to base their lives only on scientific truth, when the brights can provide no evidence other than their assumption on faith, that the universe can be understood.  To try to make a truth claim that all reality is just random matter and energy is circular and self-contradictory.

In the end, all people must put their faith in something.  All people must be obedient to something.  We are not the center of the universe nor the source of our own existence, nor the source of truth and meaning.  We all must worship something. I'm sorry, there is no other way.

Then there are those, of course, who are lazy enough to assert that religion is what leads people astray and is the greatest source of evil.  Without a doubt, false religion is a great evil that must be stopped.  ISIS, for example, must be stopped.  But to say that religion is the source of evil and the world would be happier without religion is the height of laziness . . any honest look at history will show that the values that elevate man to his greatest freedom and happiness, are values that have been delivered to modern man and culture by religion, by people pursuing God, the source of goodness, truth and beauty, with all their heart and mind and strength.  I guarantee you with all my heart, without Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, the world would have destroyed itself many times over!

To say with atheists that the only meaning that is real is the meaning that we create for ourselves is the most absurd and offensive thing that can be said.  Sure a high-level college professor who enjoys respect, reputation and lives a secure life can say that he can create the meaning of his own existence.  But how negligent and cruel is it to assert such a thing, when legions of human persons who are suffering famine, illnesses, disabilities, injustice and the lack of education have no such luxury of constructing the meaning of their own existence?

It is much more straightforward and honest to say that the yearning man has for the transcendent, the attraction that he has for truth, goodness and beauty, his insatiable desires, and the free will that is readily apparent to him, are not illusions, but have a source and a fulfillment.  This weekend we proclaim that the source of all truth, goodness and beauty, and the fulfillment of every human desire, is a person - Jesus Christ - the King of all the universe!

The universe is not necessary.  We are not necessary.  Much less so did God have to reveal Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.  But not only did God reveal Himself - He humbled Himself beyond our imagination.  The King of Kings before demanding our worship and obedience at the end of our lives and the end of the universe, was first the helpless baby born in completely poverty out in the cold - He is first the innocent lamb slain to take away the sins of the world.  My dear friends - we do not have a King that we reluctantly worship because we have no other choice - we have a gorgeous and magnanimous King who would rather beg to be King of our hearts than demand it, so desperately in love with us in this King.

This is the King who will one day judge each one of us and the universe.  We could not ask for a more merciful judge.  He is the one who with His almighty hand will straighten out the injustices of history - inviting to His kingdom first those that the world considered least - the poor, the lonely, the meek, the long-suffering.  How can we not be ready in an instant to thrown down our lives before the throne of this King, and beg Him to be the King of our hearts?

Bow down before this King, not because you have to, but because you want to with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.  For He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the reason we live, and the one for whom we are ready to die!  All glory laud and honor, now and forever, to Jesus Christ our Sovereign King, who is the world's salvation!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

ready to die

5th Sunday of Lent B
Christ the King Catholic Church Topeka
22 March 2015

I have a pet peeve when it comes to sports fans.  I hate fans that are afraid to play a game.  I got into it the last two years with KU fans that were afraid to play Duke and Kentucky in the Champions Classic.  We beat Duke, lost to Kentucky . . as everyone has this year.  Yet in either case, no matter who you are playing, you can't be afraid to play the game.  I can't stand it when fans are scared of losing.

Of course that was all the talk yesterday as the KU/Wichita State matchup emerged and became a reality.  A tough reality for me, since I will be at a funeral home saying a rosary then celebrating the evening Mass while the game is going on . . thank goodness for DVRs!  The talk is that KU has been scared to play Wichita State . . scared of losing.  Whether or not that is true doesn't matter . . it's the storyline that is adding fuel to what should be an amazing game.  I can't wait to watch it . . . after hours of confessions at our penance service tonight.

I'll go on record as loving Bill Self as a coach, and he knows a lot more about running and scheduling a basketball program than I do, and what's best for his team.  So I'm not saying I'm right.  But I'm a fan who loves to play the toughest schedule possible.  If Wichita State is great, I want to play them.  If they're not, I don't.  That's just how I feel.  One of the commentators had it right yesterday during the KU game - if you're a team, there is only one attitude permissible - we'll play anybody at anytime and anywhere . . and you can bring your own refs!  You can't fear anyone - it s not the way to success.

What gets me much worse than basketball fans that are afraid, however, are Christians who are scared.  What have we to be scared of?  The love of Jesus Christ has conquered evil and sin and death, and as the Lord promised through the prophet Jeremiah, the law of God, a law of sacrificial love that is stronger than death, has been written on our hearts.  It has been written in blood - at the cost of Christ's blood.  The victory has been manifested in the Resurrection!  Love is stronger than death, and life increases whenever it is given away in sacrificial love.  So what do we have to be afraid of?

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it.  We know this to be true.  Whenever we are scared, our life gets smaller and smaller.  Whenever we step out in courage and faith, our life grows and the impossible becomes possible.  So there is something much worse than a basketball fan afraid of playing a game - it is a Christian who is afraid to follow Jesus through his suffering death and Resurrection.  Or to put it a better way, a Christian who is scared to allow Jesus to accomplish his paschal mystery in the time and circumstances of his life.

If you had to hit 'send' on the draft of your life's story today, would you hesitate?  If so, you need to have a good Holy Week coming up.  You need to get over your fear of the suffering that will conform your life more closely to Jesus.  You need to get over your fear of dying to your sins and instead find something worth dying for.
You need to get over being scared of changing, entering into Resurrected and eternal life, and shying away from glory.  You need to be ready to hit the 'send' button on your life's story - if you're not ready, you need to encounter the Paschal Mystery of Jesus much more deeply during Holy Week this year!

Another way to ask this question is even more stark.  Are you willing to die today?  In today's Gospel, Jesus receives a sign that now is the time for him to be glorified.  He understands that this can mean only one thing - that he must be ready to die to accomplish his mission.  He is scared, but his faith and hope and love give him courage to say yes, and to allow himself to be lifted up for all to see and be glorified by God.  He says yes, and so opened up the space for us to participate in the suffering, death and Resurrection that redeems our own lives, that saves the world, and that produces the fruit of eternal life.  If you are not ready to die, then you need to have a good Holy Week.

Whoever serves me must follow me, for where I am there also will my servant be. Jesus invites us into the heart of his paschal mystery in these most Holy Weeks of the Year.  Are we too scared to follow him?  Are we ready to suffer and die with Him?  Scared Christians are the most pitiable people of all. If our faith does not make us more courageous and adventuresome , it is worthless.  Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.  Amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

the body is for the Lord

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time B
18 January 2015
Christ the King Church Topeka

When I was vocation director of the Archdiocese, I was shocked to learn about studies showing that 2/3 of Catholic parents would not support their son or daughter becoming a priest or nun.  I had no idea it was that bad.  I had encountered a culture averse to listening deeply, a culture more interested in personal license than in obedience, and a culture that did not support sacrificial commitments.  Yet I did not think that opposition to becoming a priest or sister would come from within one's own family.  My own family was very supportive when I broke the news to them.  I couldn't imagine it any other way, until as vocation director I encountered just the opposite.

We see the opposite in today's first reading from Samuel.  We find a young boy sleeping in the temple, near the ark of the covenant, a boy destined to be an amazing prophet.  Samuel had been dedicated by his mother Hannah to the Lord.  Hannah did much more than present Samuel once in the temple . . she left him there.  Hannah had begged the Lord with the deepest of prayers for years for a child. The Lord heard her plea, and remarkably, Hannah turned right around and gave the gift she desperately wanted back to the Lord, trusting that the Lord could do better things for her son than she could.  She wanted to give her son the best chance to be called by the Lord, and to do His will.  She wanted her child to be holy.  What a tremendous gift!

The Lord did indeed hear Hannah's prayer again, and called her son to be a great prophet.  He did this despite the fact that Eli, the priest in charge of Samuel, was a lukewarm priest at best.  His two sons were terrible priests.  From the scriptures it seems like Eli was not listening deeply to the Lord, as messages from God at that time were virtually nonexistent.  Despite Samuel sleeping in the temple, Eli seems quite slow to believe that the Lord was actually communicating to Samuel.  Still, even without the best mentor, God still accomplishes his purposes.  He calls Samuel, and he responds. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

I ask parents today to meet me somewhere in the middle.  They don't have to leave their kids in the temple, but they for sure need to tell their children that if the Lord calls their children to the priesthood or religious life, that such a call would make them especially happy and that they would support their kids. Too many parents simply use the default line of wanting whatever makes their children happy.  This cliche is a cop-out, and is way too vague to carry much meaning.  What will make your kids happy is obedience to the gracious will of the Lord - they deserve to hear that from their parents instead.

We see in the Gospel as well John the Baptist pointing Andrew toward Jesus, and Andrew in turn bringing his brother Peter to Jesus.  Not only parents, but pastors and peers, and siblings and friends have a role in helping all of us to be better disciples, and to put us in a position to hear and answer our vocations.  If Andrew had not brought his brother to Jesus, would Peter have ever been called to be the rock on which Christ built His Church.  We'll never know, and thankfully, we don't have to.  Being an evangelizing Church and parish means being unafraid to share our faith, and to bring others closer to our best friend who is intimately for each one of us the way, the truth and the life.  Our friends and family deserve to meet and to fall in love with the one whom we love.  Evangelization is as simple as that.  It's as simple as any human relationship - we want all the people we know and love to meet and fall in love with each other.  We've heard over and over again that faith lived privately is faith that gets smaller and smaller, until it becomes worthless.  If our faith is real, we will point others to Jesus too!

We should ask ourselves constantly who is a better disciple of Jesus, and who knows him better, because of what I have said and done.  Has anyone become Catholic because of me?  Better yet, has anyone found their true vocation because of the influence I had on their life?  These are important questions for us to be asking, as we listen to the examples of Hannah, John the Baptist and Andrew in today's scriptures.

Finally, in Paul's letter this weekend, he speaks about the incomparable dignity that we all have as children of God, dedicated to the Lord.  This dignity is ours from baptism.  It is when we forget who we are that immorality becomes possible, for only when we go away from who we are does it become possible for us to go away from what we should do.  Paul reminds us that we are members of Christ's body and temples of His spirit.  This dignity is the foundation of the virtue of chastity - we are not our own, and our bodies too are for the Lord.  Chastity is the virtue of pure and sacrificial loving - an imitation of the Lord offering his own body.

Unchastity is the vice of selfish loving - trying to get instead of to give.  Unchastity leads to greater evils . . it hurts other people deeply by ignoring their dignity, and in the worst of circumstances, it is the precursor to the taking of another's life.  Unchastity is the foundation of the greatest evil ever inflicted by man upon man - abortion.  This year marks 42 years of legalized abortion in this country.  Abortion is seen as a necessity because people insist on saying THIS IS MY BODY in a way inimical to the way the Lord says THIS IS MY BODY.  Unchastity lowers human dignity, eventually to the point that we do not see another person's dignity and right to life.  St. Paul challenges us to belong to the Lord, and to honor each other's bodies by loving each other chastely and sacrificially.  May our country one day again have the courage to not settle for abortion, nor to pretend that giving her citizens evil choices is necessary for human freedom.  May we fulfill our destiny to be a light for all nations, on how to lift up life to its highest dignity and happiness, not killing it!  Someday we all will have to answer for what we did while living in the midst of the greatest holocaust in human history.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

conversion of the magi

Solemnity of the Epiphany
Christ the King Church Topeka
4 January 2014
Daily Readings

Are you more spiritual or more religious?  Are you more of a seeker or more of a believer?  Are you more scientific or theological? These are not mutually exclusive options.  You can certainly be both.  You should be both.  Yet around us there is a dangerous popularity to being spiritual seekers over and against being religious believers.  Science holds sway over theology, sometimes even in Catholic schools.   But in today's Epiphany Gospel, we see the opposite happening.  The magi were originally star-gazers, but end up bending their knees in worship.  They trade some of their spiritual scientific seeking in order to enter more deeply into religious theological belief.

There are too many people today, unfortunately, who are headed in the opposite direction.  Despite the Lord wanting all the nations to draw light and happiness and meaning from the specific revelation and grace that He has entrusted to the Catholic Church, Catholics are not only not evangelizing, they are falling away in record numbers.  Just as once the Lord had prepared a people Israel to receive His revelation and then serve all other nations by sharing His light, but found that nation strangely unprepared and asleep, so also in Catholicism today we see not an evangelizing Church but a Catholic church that loses 10 adult members to non-denominational Churches or to agnosticism for every convert she gains.  It is a scary realization to know the Lord has entrusted the light of the Gospel and the fullness of truth, and the means of salvation to reach all nations, and every mind and heart, through the evangelization of the Catholic Church, and we have responded with greater fear than ever before.  Rather than allowing ourselves to be enlightened and sent by Christ, we prefer to be left alone and to keep our options open.

We have a Catholic Church today that plays defense not offense.  We are afraid of losing faith rather than sharing it.  She shies away from her dignity and destiny to be a light to the nations.  We do this collectively as a Church because we are moving individually in the opposite direction of the magi.  The magi were seeking the truth, but when they realized that the author of all truth was desperately seeking His people, and humbly wanting to show His power and to communicate His glory in the tininess of a human face, they went from being seekers to believers.  They presented their gifts, and bowed down in worship, and allowed the Christ child to reveal to them the mystery of what it means to be a human person.

Sometimes we find ourselves moving in the opposite direction of the magi.  God is desperately wanting a more personal, intimate and life-giving relationship with us.  He is glad that we seek Him, but He is desperately wanting to communicate with us, and begs us to listen to Him, and to receive His revelation.  That is the meaning of Christmas - that those who are open to God coming closer, making himself as small as He needs to to break through our fears and defenses, will find themselves in the face of the Christ child.  It is great to seek God in the stars, but better to let ourselves be found by the author of the stars, who speaks through the humility of Christmas that authentic, natural, sacrificial, humble and fruitful love is the ground of all reality, and the reason there is a universe, and is the constant calling and full dignity of every human person.

Sometimes seeking rather than in receiving or believing, or trying to become more spiritual than religious, can backfire.  We can end up not discovering truth, or God, but just ourselves.  We see this, of course, when the sciences make us less human.  Science is amazing, and anyone who tells you faith and science are at odds has his head in the sand.  Occasionally, like in the case of Galileo, the Church which specializes in revelation not science, has difficulty getting on the same page in the collective search for truth, but this is the exception not the rule.  The rule is that all advances in science depend on the science of theology, and a theological worldview that proposes that the universe is observable by an intelligence other than itself, and therefore intelligible.  It is no accident that some of the greatest advances in genetics and astronomy have been made by Catholic priests, and every Catholic school and university has a robust science department.

Yet science does not deliver ultimate truths.  We see often that revelation from God corrects and purifies science.  Faith and science need each other, and the conversation is critical in the search for truth. Metaphysics and physics have to talk, for sometimes scientific knowledge used apart from philosophical truth or divine revelation can make us less human.  Science can be used not to make us more humble, vulnerable, receptive and generous, but to dominate, control and be selfish.  The revelation of the Christ child purifies the reason of this world, away from the prerogatives of adults and toward seeing the world through the eyes of the world's most precious resource, her children.  The light of faith meant to go out from the Church to every corner of our dark world at Christmas, a light that the world needs more than ever, is the light that teaches us what it means to be a human person.

Herod was afraid of the tiny Christ child.  He was afraid of the humility and vulnerability of religious belief.  He represents the fear we all have in losing control, and what would really change in us if we bowed down and offered our very best to Christ.  We would rather keep our options open.  The magi had not only the courage, but above all, the humility, to make the conversion from spiritual seeking to religious belief. In doing so, they were enlightened by the radiant face of Wisdom itself, the true light of every nation and of every mind and heart.  They give voice voice to our Church's ever more critical proclamation to the entire world at Epiphany - that wise men still seek Him!  Amen.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

best Christmas is hers

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
1 January 2015
Christ the King Topeka
Daily Readings

Welcome back to Mass, Catholics!  Good morning and Happy New Year!  Well, at least some of you are here.  January 1st is a neglected Holy Day, but that's a shame, since it's such a beautiful feast and a critical one.  For we celebrate more than asking God's blessing on the passage of time and the dawn of a New Year.  We celebrate the depth of the Christmas mystery, of eternity entering into time. We celebrating the great mixing of humanity and divinity, and the elevated dignity that our human nature takes on because of the incarnation.  As St. Paul says so beautifully, because of the Incarnation, we are no longer slaves but sons, and have an incomparable worth as sons and daughters of God!

This is cause for celebration!  We actually go to Mass more often in the first days of Christmas than we do Easter.  At least some Catholics do!  Thanks for being here to celebrate the fullness of the Christmas feasts - Christmas, Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and this weekend, Epiphany!  It is a great privilege and responsibility that Catholics have to carry forward the fullness of the Christian tradition in history.  Thanks for being here to carry it together, joyfully!  A continued Merry Christmas to everyone!

Today is the critical 8th day of Christmas.  The number eight is critical.  It is the day of the new creation, a creation much better than the original creation of 7 days.  There is nothing wrong with our celebrating the optimism of New Year's as well, but we must remember that for us Catholics, our New Year started on the first Sunday of Advent.  It is then that we resolved to be made different by being ready for the Lord's coming.  The Lord's coming brings much more than the turning of clocks or the dropping of a ball in Times Square!  The secular new year is of course a day of great hope, marked in Catholicism by the reading of the Holy Father's World Day of Prayer for Peace Message.  We pray that through Christ, the Prince of Peace, the violence and disease and poverty and injustice that rip out hope for too many may be ended.  We pray that we will be instruments of that peace, especially in our own families.

Yet the dawn of a new year is small compared to our responsibility to continue to say Merry Christmas!  The hope of Christmas is much greater than the optimism of New Year's, for the new creation begun in the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and continued through Her subsequent yes, is much more profound than marking the world getting a year older.  Today in our celebration of Christmas we draw especially close to Mary, knowing that it is impossible for us to have a better Christmas than her; in fact, entrusting ourselves to Her is the path to a perfect Christmas.  Nobody teaches us how to prepare a place for Christ to be born, deep within us, nor shows us what changes within us when we see His holy face, than Mary, the first and best Christian.  She has her own day in Christmas, and we remember that there would be no Christmas without the yes of Mary.

Today we celebrate her specifically under the title of Theotokos - God bearer.  The official title of today's celebration is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  We should never become desensitized to such a radical claim.  In today's Feast we say much more than Mary was the mother of Jesus, and responsible for his human nature.  No, we say much more!  We call her Theotokos - Mother of God - mother not just of the human nature of Jesus but of his whole person.  God himself, and all of God, entrusts Himself to the yes of a human person.  We say something mind-boggling about Mary, that she is the mother of a God who is a Father but who has no Father.  We celebrate on the 8th day of Christmas the sign of a virgin Mother through whom the Father who first created everything out of nothing in seven days, chose to recreate the world!

All of God entrusted himself to a human mother.  God could not give any more honor to motherhood than that!  So today, January 1st, is Catholic Mother's Day!  Happy Mother's Day! Just as each of us entered this world through the intercession of a mother, so too God chose a mother for us in the order of redemption.  God was never more dependent upon Mary than at Christmas, so at Christmas, especially today, is a most fruitful time for us to entrust ourselves to Mary, the spiritual mother God has chosen for us!

Mary, the mother of God, given as our mother by Jesus on his cross, help us have a perfect Christmas by giving us your heart as we receive Him at Christ's Mass.