Sunday, October 19, 2014

I am (Father) Spartacus!

Surely you've heard of this? The mayor of Houston, was put out by people, including religious people, who circulated petitions to challenge a law she passed regarding nondiscrimination regarding sexual orientation. So she issues subpoenas, demanding texts of homilies, notes, emails, and other private papers from pastors who might have supported the petition drive. Note: after a heavy backlash, she's relented on the sermons, but she's still demanding other papers.

Time for a Spartacus Moment.

The pastors being harassed by the Mayor of Houston are 100% right if they refuse to obey the outrageous subpoena.

That said, I think every pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, etc. in the country -- not under subpoena -- ought to inundate the mayor's office with sermons. (Update) To be clear, this was the idea of Mr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention (article linked above). Credit him.

She wants sermons? Send 'em to her, till she's elbow-deep in them.

I plan on printing out a slew of my sermons this week.

'Jesus doesn’t want Caesar’s coin. But he claims you.' (Sunday homily)

There are a number of passages of Sacred Scripture 
that get distorted in their meaning; today’s Gospel is one of them. 
Specifically, when our Lord says, 
“repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’s, 
and to God what belongs to God.”

Whenever we as Christians seek to have a say 
about government laws or policies, we often hear this passage quoted, 
as if to say to us, Jesus wants us to let the government do whatever.

A lot of us heard people saying that 
in the controversy over the government’s order 
that nearly every employer, including many religious organizations, 
would be forced to provide contraceptives 
and abortion-causing drugs 
as part of the insurance they provide at work. 

As you know, there were many lawsuits over that, 
and we’ve won a number of legal victories, 
including the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court. 
Unfortunately, the government is still looking for ways 
to continue its coercion.

And during this whole thing, 
we’ve heard people say, “Render unto Caesar.”

Well, they are misunderstanding what Jesus said. Let’s look at it.

First, notice the discussion was specifically about a tax—
not about broader questions of government power.

Second, Jesus is dealing with people he knows bear him malice. 
We might wonder what he’d have said, if they’d been sincere.
So our Lord says, “show me the coin.” Then he asks, “who is this?”

It’s actually kind of funny, if you think about it. 
These critics of Jesus are impressed with Caesar, 
as the ruler of mighty Rome, 
but they despise Jesus as a troublemaker. 

Meanwhile, we see Jesus – who is the true king, the King of kings, 
asking who is this? As if to say, is this someone famous? 

Notice what else our Lord said: “whose image is this?” 
If the coin belongs to Caesar – because it bears his image – 
then by that rule, God gets what bears his image, right?

What bears the image of God, and the “inscription” of God?

Well, that would be all of Creation! 
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” Psalm 19 says; 
creation bears witness to God, Paul wrote to the Romans. 

Can you picture it? Jesus, the Lord, holding in one hand, 
What bear’s Caesar’s image: a grubby coin.
And in the other hand, what bears his image? 
That would be the whole world…in his hand!

Above all, the image of God is the human race. 
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” 
is what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit said 
before they created humanity: 
“male and female he created them.”

So when our government says its OK to destroy unborn children? 
And to torture people as part of war? 
Or to humiliate the poor, because they are poor? 
Or to push aside the sick and elderly?

These are God’s treasure! They bear his image! Hands off, Caesar!

Do you know where this applies most clearly? Marriage.

Recall again what Genesis said: 
“in the image of God…male and female, he created them.”

When we say we are made in the divine image, what does that mean? 
God is the Creator above all. 
While God created everything out of nothing, what do we do?

If you are an engineer or architect or in construction, 
you can build whole cities, 
but you have to labor with wood and stone and steel – 
you can’t make it out of nothing. 
The farmer can produce a great harvest, 
but he needs seed and soil and sweat, 
and the blessing of the right weather at the right time. 

If you are a writer or poet or painter, 
you can create people and worlds and histories—
but they only exist on canvas, or the printed page, 
or the silver screen. 
You can’t breathe them into life.

But there is a moment—just one!—
when man in breathtaking audacity soars to the skies 
and comes whisper-close to being just like God,
and in a moment of unrestrained love, generous and sacrificial,
actually does it! Actually creates something from nothing!
And not just any something, but the greatest of somethings—
another divine image, a human being that will live forever!

It’s when a man and woman come together in the marital embrace.
Marriage – requiring a man and a woman – 
is when humanity is most fully the image of God!

Hands off, Caesar!

The next time someone quotes this Gospel to you, 
as if to say, even Jesus says let government do what it likes,
you might quote back today’s first reading. 
It mentions Cyrus, 
who was the all-powerful Persian emperor in Isaiah’s time. 
But notice: it’s God who calls the shots; 
Cyrus does his bidding, not the other way around. 
Cyrus didn’t intend to do God’s bidding, but no matter.
God is one in charge.

Now let’s bring it forward to our own time.

When Jesus said these words, 
no one asked him, or anyone else, 
what the laws should be, or who should govern. 

But in our time, we make those decisions. 
In a few weeks, we will have a great privilege 
of selecting a governor and other statewide offices, 
as well as the state legislature, as well as the U.S. Congress. 

When you go to vote in a few weeks, 
will you know whose on the ballot? What do they stand for? 
Do they respect what bears God’s image, or not?

Meanwhile, you and I are images of God. 
We bear his inscription in our hearts. 
A lot of times the coins in our pockets get pretty soiled, 
and they get distorted; the same with us. 
That’s why we have confession, to restore that image; 
and the Eucharist, where we unite once again 
with the Lord whose image we are.

Jesus doesn’t want Caesar’s coin. But he claims you.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happy feet

I used to have some very comfortable slippers, but when I was wrapping up my time abroad, they were on their last legs, so I tossed them out before flying home from Rome. This week, I ordered some more from Amazon, and here they are on my feet:

Happy feet are important when you are sitting at your computer, writing your homily. (Just finished!) Now I must think about a talk on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for the confirmation retreat tomorrow afternoon.

What are the sorts of things you do to get your creative muse to work?

(P.S. I'm tempted to wear these for Holy Mass. Would that be bad?)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicken dinner...

The other day I bought a fat chicken and froze it. A few days ago I took it out of the freezer. Tonight I'll roast it.

Step one was to brine it. I mixed a gallon of hot water, a cup of salt, and some herbs and such that I found in the cupboard: some spicy "Mrs. Dash" that my predecessor must have liked, because he had several containers of it, plus some oregano and Italian seasoning, which I like. For the salt, I used some "pickling salt" because that's what I had. No, I don't pickle, I bought it for something else. (You'll have to ask to find out.)

After rescuing the bag of giblets from the innards, I plunged the bird into the brine, put the lid on and put it all back in the fridge. That was yesterday afternoon.

A bit ago, I dumped out the brine, and placed the chicken on a plate, and put it back in the the fridge to dry out a bit. If the skin dries out some before cooking, it makes for crispier skin, which is my goal this time.

Thursday isn't the best time to prepare this, because I have confessions at 7:30 tonight, followed by Benediction. I could try to have it all ready to eat beforehand, but that's not my idea of a relaxing, enjoyable meal. So I am timing everything for when I get back around 8:45 pm or so.

So my plan is to get everything ready -- chicken, roast potatoes and sauteed broccoli -- ahead of time, pop the bird in the oven just before confessions, and it should be close to ready when I return. I may not have allowed enough time for it to cook, but I'm less worried about that, than that it'll overcook while I'm taking care of business.

So just now, I cut up some Yukon Gold potatoes and dressed them with olive oil and more "Mrs. Dash." Look! I remembered to take a picture:

When I come back after Benediction, I'll throw these in the oven, as they'll only take about 30 minutes to cook. They'll get some generous salting beforehand.

The chicken, meanwhile, I'll prepare later with a little oil on the skin, plus some heavy salt and pepper, and some crushed garlic inside. I saw something about letting the chicken rest on cut onions; we'll see if that works (I think it'll slide off).

Then, when the chicken is resting, I'll sautee the broccoli in oil and garlic, dressed with a little Parmesan cheese. That, plus some white wine, will be dinner. Check back for details, and -- who knows? -- perhaps more pictures...

Update, 7:25 pm...

I just got the chicken ready and into the oven, here are pictures...

Note the fresh olive oil; I drained the other bottle. Next comes the 'massage'...

Lots of pepper, followed by lots of salt. I didn't have enough garlic, so I'll use that in the broccoli.
Slicing the onions on which the hen will roost. Note I leave some brown skin on...

And she's ready to cook! No stuffing this time.

OK, time for confessions!

Update, 9:17 pm...

Back from Benediction, and I check the chicken -- it shows the right temp, but the color isn't as good as I'd like. I backed off the recommended temperature of 450, which helped keep it from getting done too soon; but that may have kept the color from what I'd like.

Also, there's a fine mist of salt in several places, so I may have overdone that part, but I think it'll be OK.

The potatoes go in immediately, and while they cook, I make a libation, and have an antipasto...

But before I eat my leftover cheese and Triscuits, I mash the garlic cloves and coat the pan with olive oil, in preparation for sauteing the broccoli. It's frozen -- sorry! -- so I simply heated it a bit in the micro, and then immediately chilled it, so it keeps it's green color. We'll find out shortly if that worked...

Update, 10:20 pm...

So here's the final report.

Here I am sauteing the crushed garlic a bit, to bring out the flavor, before I toss in the broccoli...

I ended up cooking the broccoli a bit much, adding a little brown color. Here are the potatoes, right out of the oven. I might have turned them, but my Martini distracted me.

And here is the completed plate: roast chicken breast (with a bit of skin), half an onion, the potatoes, and the toasty broccoli, finished with a bit of Parmesan cheese. Oh, and I poured a bit of the pan juices over everything. And a glass of Pinot Noir to wash it all down.

So what's the verdict?

Quite good, actually!

The chicken was done; a bit more time, and it would have been overdone. Meanwhile, the dark meat was slightly undercooked. That's the problem with cooking a chicken with the breast up; if you want everything to cook evenly, cook the chicken with the breast down. Why didn't I do that this time? Because then, you don't get that lovely, crispy skin.

The broccoli, despite little bits of brown, was rather good. I'd never sauteed broccoli before; fresh would work better, but this was nice.

A lot of folks would find it all too salty, but I love salt. (My blood pressure, last time, was 120/80, thank you very much.)  The skin was not crispy enough, but still pretty good.

I'm not a fan of Pinot Noir, but it worked well here.

But the real stars here were the potatoes, the onion, and the drippings. Oh, so good! I'm sitting here, wanting to go have more, but I won't, because I'm full. (Deo gratias!) I will enjoy all this again on Saturday, and I bet some leftovers will carry over to Sunday.

And then there's John Paul II's dire warning in 1976

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…”

--then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, 1976. Source here. (Note: in researching the source of this, I found this about a slightly different quote here.)

Our Lady's warning at Akita Japan...

"As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests."

"The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres...churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

"The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them."

--Third and final message to Sister Agnes Sasagawa, in Akita, Japan, October 13, 1973.

FYI, as reported at EWTN, Bishop John Shojiro Ito of Niigata, Japan, after eight years of investigations," recognized "the supernatural character of a series of mysterious events concerning the statue of the Holy Mother Mary" and authorized "veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita, while awaiting that the Holy See publishes definitive judgment on this matter."

Much of this has already happened ("churches and altars sacked"). What do you think of the rest?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day!

Hail the great navigator! I'm celebrating Columbus Day, how about you? I'm headed shortly to an Italian restaurant for dinner. How are you celebrating this great day? Or do you think it's not so great?

This is not Columbus; but rather, Jan Sobieski. Does he have a day?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

'Where everyone is invited to bring everything we have, best and worst' (Sunday homily)

This weekend we have our annual Forty Hours, 
in which we adore our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, on the altar. 
We began Friday morning, 
and many were here through the night and through Saturday. 

By the way, there are a few hours needing coverage 
tonight and tomorrow, perhaps you can check the schedule 
before you leave?

The readings sure seem well suited, don’t they? 
Isaiah speaks of a great feast on the Lord’s mountain, 
and the Gospel speaks of a wedding feast. 

Let’s start with the Gospel. How does that connect to the Eucharist?

Recall what our Lord Jesus called himself many times: 
“I am the Bridegroom.” 
In the Book of Revelation, there is a vision of a great wedding feast, 
when Jesus, the Lamb of God, celebrates his marriage with us, 
his people. All God’s people are the Bride.

We are also the guests. 
Notice how the Gospel says they went out and invited in everyone. 
We couldn’t be at the Passover Supper of Jesus and the Apostles, 
on the night before he died. 

At the cross, only the Apostle John, Mary the Lord’s mother, 
and a few others were present. 

But for Holy Mass? Everyone is invited. 
The Mass takes place all over the world, at every hour of every day. 
See how God seeks to bring everyone to the wedding feast?

Yet notice what happened in the Gospel. 
The king found someone not wearing a “wedding garment.” 
You might say, but he didn’t have time to get properly dressed; 
but that’s not the point here.  
This is a symbol of our readiness to do what the Lord commands.

When we come to the Lord Jesus, 
we only need one thing: faith. But what does that mean?

Here’s where there’s a great misunderstanding. 
Many people think faith is simply belief: 
I believe in God, so that’s enough. But they are mistaken. 
Faith includes acting on that belief. 
It includes the response of our obedience. 

The Lord says, “You shall not lie.” 
Yet I have lied; my wedding garment is stained by my sins. 
Jesus says, “Repent and believe!” 
So I repent, and I go to confession. 
My wedding garment is spotless!

Of course, sometimes repentance and obedience is demanding. 

To give generously as Jesus says? Not easy. 
As our culture and government becomes more and more hostile 
to our Faith, it will become harder 
to run a business according to Gospel values. 

In a time of war, it’s hard to avoid wrath. 
With our society soaked with sensuality, the virtue of chastity – 
either single or married – is often laughed at as impossible.

Let’s look at the first reading. 
It is more of a prophecy for the Eucharist than we may realize. 
Note that it takes place on a mountain. Why is that important? 

In the Bible, mountains are often where God and his people would meet. 
There are many examples – Mount Sinai, 
the Mount where Jesus revealed his glory to the Apostles, and others – 
but let’s focus on two in particular. 

First recall Mount Zion, where the temple was built. 
That’s where the sacrifices were offered, day by day, year by year, 
to atone for sin. 

And then, of course, there is the hill of Calvary, 
where our Lord was nailed to the cross. 
That, of course, is the true and final sacrifice offered for our sins; 
and it is what Holy Mass makes present. 
The Eucharist—the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, 
which comes from the Sacrifice of the Cross—
is the great feast Isaiah foresaw.

After all, Isaiah also said that 
“on this mountain the Lord will destroy…death forever.” 
That is what the Cross did! 
That is why we come to Holy Mass; we are the people Isaiah foresaw, 
who gather at the Cross to receive life! To live forever!

The image of the wedding guest being thrown out 
isn’t about where we are now, in this life, trying to find holiness. 
It’s about Judgment Day: will we be found ready?

A better image for our “right now” is the Cross. 
There were saints and sinners there. 
Many didn’t want to be there. Many, perhaps most, 
had no real idea of what was happening. 
There was a criminal next to the Lord 
who offered what he could – and he entered Paradise. 
There was a soldier who helped kill the Lord, who was converted.

Again, the Cross is the Mass; the Mass is the Cross. 
Here Jesus makes the offering that destroys death and gives life.

So one of the most important things to appreciate here – 
and for you to take away from this homily – 
is how we realize all the power of the Mass, not just part.

The Eucharist is sharing in the sacrifice – and of course we want that. 
It’s right to want that. 
If only I hungered more for the Eucharist than I do!  

But there is another sharing in the sacrifice, equally tremendously* powerful. 
And that has to do not with what we get, but what we bring.

We’ve all heard people say, “I didn’t get anything out of Mass.” 
Maybe the homily was boring, or you didn’t like the music. 
Perhaps someone distracted you. 
And sometimes, when people cannot come to communion, 
they won’t come to Mass at all.

The truth is, everyone, without exception, 
“gets” something from Mass, if you want it. 
You and I get grace: God’s presence and power, poured into our life. 
We “get” to be in Jesus’ presence. 
We get to unite our hearts to his. Everyone gets that. 

Yes, even the infants; 
I am absolutely certain they meet Jesus here in a real way. 
He created them and they are his. He knows his own sheep. 

We think they don’t “get” anything 
because we measure that in grown-up terms. 
That’s our mistake!

But back to what we bring, instead of getting. 
We bring our own offering: as the Morning Offering prayer says, 
we bring our “prayers, works, joys and sufferings.” 

It isn’t limited just to the good stuff. 
We are invited to bring everything. 
Our hurts, our shame, our failures and sins. 
Right here, to the Cross. 

That’s what the Cross is: 
the worst thing in the world, that became the best thing in the world.

Where everyone is invited to bring everything we have, 
best and worst – but especially worst…

Where evil is transformed into good…
Where we are saved – and where we gain life forever.

* Changed after 5 pm Mass.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Do you soak your feet?

Don't you dare discuss among yourselves! Share it with us!

While I'm gratified that anyone reads this blog (and many do), I don't seem to be stirring up many of you to comment. I'm not sure why, but that's your business.

So I thought I'd try something different. Something mundane, like:

Do you soak your feet?

I soaked mine today, first time in I don't know how long. Reason? I've had a callous or corn or whatever you call it that's been bothering me. So my mother's voice in my head said, "Epsom salts." (By the way, do you know what else people use them for? It involves ingesting them. I had no idea.)

The trouble with soaking your feet is where and when. I didn't want just to sit with my feet in hot water, doing nothing else. So I had the bright idea of setting it up under my computer, while I did some reading online. (Only later did I think the close proximity of many electrical devices, plugged into the wall, might be a problem.)

What temperature do you keep your heat set to at home -- and why?

I have mine set at 63 currently. A little chilly, but I'm wearing a cassock; and I don't like it to be too warm upstairs.

Are you an adventurous eater? How adventurous?

Last night I had the ushers and their spouses over for snacks and drinks, after some time for prayer in church. One of the folks mentioned a competition where a relative had to down a chocolate covered cricket. Would you eat that? What's the most adventurous thing you've eaten? And is it something you'd eat again?

I described how reluctant I was to eat a raw oyster the first time. But I love them now. I'm glad I didn't think too much about what bleu cheese is, before I ate that. Same for lobsters and related creatures I love to eat.