Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vote for Piqua Catholic! (bumped)

OK folks, I need your help--more than that, our kids in Piqua Catholic need your help!

Our kids are working hard to raise $50,000 for a new gym floor, as well as exercise equipment and new bleachers.

Good news? I am not asking you for money!

But I do need you--and everyone you can enlist--to go vote for Piqua Catholic.

Here's how:

The Pepsi Company has a "refresh challenge"; every month the company gives away over a million dollars for various good causes that enter the challenge; then, it is up to the groups to promote their cause, to generate votes for their project.

So, our kids, together with alumni and faculty, put together this video. On the post just below this, you can see the video embedded.

Last month Piqua Catholic started out at #319, and over our first month in this contest, we ended in 15th place. But to win our $50,000, we had to reach the top ten.

Well, we learned a lot about how other schools and charities won their grant, and now we're applying that.

As of today, we are in 5th place! That is awesome! Now we have to stay there!

So here's what I need you to do:

Go to this link and you will see a list of worthy causes. Please vote for all of them. Why all ten? Because one of the ways to win is to form "alliances" with other causes, with everyone helping to generate votes.

When you go vote, you do have to register with your email. I can tell that, after a month, I've gotten zero spam from Pepsi. They say they only use it to prevent folks gaming the system.

You can also vote via Facebook. All you have to do is sign in one way; then sign out; then sign in the other way. (I do it every day; takes a couple of minutes.)

And, if you text, you need only send this message: 104632 to this telephone number: 73774 (spells "Pepsi") once a day.

So please, please VOTE and PROMOTE!

Here's the deal...one way or the other, we will raise these funds. But: the payoff of this is when a Pepsi executive comes to Piqua, and all our kids are in the gym--on the cracked, slippery floor they now use--are there to accept one of those oversized checks for $50,000! Our kids will never forget what they accomplished. And I think that's a good thing, don't you?

Please VOTE and PROMOTE!

Our Piqua Catholic kids' great video (bumped)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why do you believe? (Sunday homily)

We just heard John the Baptist say--twice--"I did not know him."
That got me thinking--maybe you as well--
because I have always supposed Jesus and John knew each other growing up.
After all, Mary visited Elizabeth while she was expecting John;
and if they visited once, why not more than once?
Other scriptures seem to say John knew Jesus.

Well, maybe they didn't know each other all that well;
or maybe it means something else.

It could be that what John is saying is,
I knew him in a human way, yes;
but I didn't know, for certain, that he was the Messiah
until I received the sign from heaven.
If so, that means John, knowing how important this was,
wanted to be absolutely certain that Jesus was the Messiah.
That makes sense; he only gets one shot at this.

So that raises a question for us:
How do we know?
Why do we believe Jesus is the Messiah?

I'm not going to do it, but--if I started calling on folks,
to ask you that question...
I know, you'd never come back to church!
But if I did, I think it would be good to hear everyone's answer;
I think it would be a good experience.

But perhaps some would find it hard to put into words;
and maybe some would candidly say something like,
"I guess I believe because that's what my family believes"
or "because that's what I grew up with."

What do you think? Are those good enough reasons?
Is being a Christian a tribal thing--
we believe in Jesus because that's our tribal god?

Let's put it another way:
If a friend or family member came to us and said,
I'm going to become a Muslim--or a Jew--or a Buddhist--or a Wiccan,
what reason would we give for not doing so?

This is why we study our Faith.
We believe; but we also need to be ready to give a reason for what we believe.
The Father sent Jesus to be a light to the nations; and he doesn't do it alone.
Through our baptism we share in that task.

I've studied the Scriptures, Church history, and the teachings of our Faith,
and I have to say, the more I do,
the more awed I am by the power and coherence of what we believe.
I know what you're thinking: you're a priest, you're a company man,
you're supposed to say that!

But I didn't always believe it.
Many of you know I not only spent 10 years as not a Catholic, but as an anti-Catholic.
I didn't just slouch into this. I had to be convinced.

Let me share some thoughts on this.

First, our Faith is a reasonable faith.
It is founded upon certain facts: Jesus was born in a specific place and time.
He did wonderful things, he taught certain things,
and then, above all, he suffered and died and rose from the dead.
And we know these things because people who were with him, told us,
and they were prepared to die rather than deny what they saw.
As the great mathematician of several centuries ago, Blaise Pascal, said,
"I readily believe those witnesses whose throats are cut."

Also, our Faith is a human faith.
By that I mean it corresponds well to what we need and what will make us happy.
This is a point where our Faith is under attack today.
Many voices in our culture say, don't listen to Christianity, with it's rules;
do what you want; have what you want, no limits, no sacrifice.
All that matters is choice, freedom without boundary.

But is that really what will make us happy?
If we could look back at the end of our lives,
and let option "a" be someone who did exactly that:
no sacrifice, never putting himself out for anyone,
no commitment, no dying to self--what would he have?
No children, no family, he would have nothing.

Then consider the one who does give of himself to others:
that one is surrounded by family, grandchildren, and friends.
Who is truly rich then?

The Cross is hard--but it corresponds best to true human need.
Our society's values don't make us happy--in the end they make us empty.

Finally, our Faith is a powerful faith.
We don't just believe in a series of propositions.
We believe in a God who isn't just out there, somewhere,
but who acts in our world--who is here, now, acting for our salvation.

This, above all, is what the Mass is.
We aren't just listening to stories or reflecting on God;
in the Mass, Christ is here, pleading his blood for the salvation of the world.
And we are called here, because we are part of his work of salvation.
We come here, we receive power from him, and we go out of here, changed.

Ultimately, that is what makes us persuasive witnesses for Christ;
beyond the reasons and the logic of our Faith,
do people see in us the power of Christ at work?

When John saw Jesus, God gave him a sign so he would know, he is the Messiah.
When people see us...what do they see?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Homilies on Hebrews

Several years ago, when I was at Saint Albert the Great parish in Kettering as parochial vicar, I prepared a series of homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews, which was read at daily Mass all during January.

Now that I'm a pastor of two parishes, I don't have time to put as much preparation into my daily homilies. But I remembered these, and thought someone might enjoy seeing them. Here are two related to this week's readings.

(Heb. 3:7-14; Ps. 95; Mark 1:40-45)

We continue to reflect on the Letter to the Hebrews.

In a paragraph right before today’s reading, Moses is mentioned. Then comes what we just heard, which quotes Psalm 95: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

All this recall the covenant at Mt. Sinai—so let’s paint the scene.

Moses led God’s people from slavery, to Sinai, where we went up and met God; Moses mediated the great covenant between God and his People. God revealed himself, his Law, to Israel, and gave his unbreakable pledge to his people.

Up on Sinai, God was enshrouded in fire and cloud, untouchable, terrifying in his power and glory. The mountain shook at the thunder of his Voice.

In the fullness of time, comes Jesus: Jesus not only brings God’s Word—he is God’s final Word to humanity; Jesus leads all mankind from slavery to sin; he is the deliverer, who brings us to God, for a new and everlasting covenant.

In Jesus, the fearsome, unreachable YHWH comes down the mountain, and pitches his tent in our very midst, becoming our brother!

Moses went up a mountain—Jesus ascended Calvary! Moses offered animals in sacrifice; Jesus offered himself as the Lamb of God! Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of goats; Jesus pours out his own Precious Blood, one tiny drop of which would have been sufficient to save everyone who ever has, or will, exist!

At Sinai, with all the wonders the people beheld, Moses said: God is in your midst: yield to him; don’t harden your hearts!

The Holy Spirit, whose glory enshrouded Sinai with cloud and fire, says the same to us: YHWH-Jesus! Hear his Voice!

The Gospel actually connects to this. It strikes us odd that Jesus keeps saying, “Don’t tell anyone.” Here’s why: like the people at Sinai, they see—but they don’t see. At Sinai, the people saw the fireworks, they saw the Manna—“free bread!”—but missed the reality of God coming to save them; and the same thing happens in Jesus!
What do people see? A potential new king; a military leader; a giver of goodies! They don’t really see: God became man, to be the priest—and offering!—of a new and everlasting covenant!

Now lets come right to the present. We wonder how those folks missed it; well, here we are, and a greater than Sinai happens here! We’re the new covenant people—it’s us! Sinai—Calvary—the Covenant—right here!

The same Spirit comes down, right here! The Lamb—his Flesh and Blood—offered here!
What’s it about for us? Do we come, saying, “Gimme, gimme, Jesus”? “Ho hum, another boring Mass”? Do we fuss about the nothing-stuff: “Why do they bring their kids?” “Why can’t I have it just as I want Mass?” And then we miss what is really happening?
Holy Spirit: help us not to harden our hearts!


(Heb. 4:1-5, 11; Ps. 78; Mark 2:1-120

The Letter to the Hebrews, the first reading we heard this morning, tells us that God promises a “rest” for us.

What the reading calls “rest” isn’t just the life we’ll have with God in heaven. It’s the life we have with God now, too. It comes when God is important in our lives and we try to stay close to God.

And the key to that is prayer.

I don’t mean just prayer here at Mass. And I don’t mean a quick “Our Father” or “Hail Mary” here or there. I mean time we spend, every day, alone with God—with no one and nothing else distracting us.

If you think that’s hard to do, you’re right. It is hard—no matter who you are, no matter how old you are. It’s something that you have to work at.

There’s always something else you’d rather do. A TV show. Having fun with your friends. Sometimes you’re just too tired.

How many here play sports? How many play a musical instrument? How many like to read, and are trying to earn points at school for your reading? OK—with sports or music—how often do you practice if you really want to be good? How often do you read?

Prayer is the same way. If you let it slide, it just won’t happen. You have to make it happen.

Here are some things to help you do it.

First, decide. Tell yourself: “I’m going to make this happen. I’m going to set aside, say 10 minutes every day for time alone with God.”

Then, ask God to help you! You’ll never do it any other way.

Then, look for some time in your day—maybe it’s early in the morning; maybe at lunch or right after school, or maybe it will be in the evening—whenever you can be alone and not be interrupted.

Then find a place you can go to be alone. Maybe there’s someplace at home where you can be alone. Or maybe you can visit church. Tell your mom and dad what you want to do, and I bet they will help you.

When you sit down to pray with God—or maybe you want to take a walk alone—you can read something from the Bible or something else that tells you about God. Just make sure you don’t just read—talk to God about what you’re reading.

That’s what I do. I read psalms, like the one we recited a moment ago—and I talk to God about what it means. And I pray for the people it reminds me of.

I’m going to tell you a secret. God wants to be your best friend! And he will spend as much time with you as you want!

But if you want to be friends with God, you have to find time to spend with him, too. That’s how it is with our friends here on earth. It’s the same with God. And he is the best friend to have.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Christ gives himself--what will you do? (Homily for Baptism of the Lord)

Today’s Feast—the last one of the Christmas Season—
recalls when Jesus, now an adult, comes to be baptized.

This is the next chapter of the Christmas Story:
God becomes man; he is revealed to the nations;
and now, the God-man comes to stand with us.

This also begins Vocation Awareness Week.
We especially think about the call to be a deacon,
a priest, a religious sister or brother.
And you might wonder, what’s the connection?

When Jesus came to be baptized,
Now, as an adult, he again accepted the challenge
of what the Father sent him to do.

We all go through that.
Most of us were baptized as babies.
As we grow up, we begin to wrestle with our Faith.
Maybe we wander or rebel.

But then something happens to make it matter.
In high school or college, we start to ask tough questions.
We think about marriage, or our first child arrives,
And we start asking, “what do I really believe?”

Sometimes folks think being a priest, a brother or sister,
is somehow harder than being a husband or a wife.

Based on what I saw in my parents; and what many of you share with me,
I don’t see that at all.
Instead, the two vocations mirror each other.

A priest can’t be much of a priest
unless he—like our Lord—offers himself to the Father,
But it’s exactly the same for a wife or husband, a parent.

This dying to self blesses a marriage with peace.

Now, some can’t get past the celibacy thing.
Our society is messed up on this subject;
And, sadly, when a priest fails, it causes so much harm.

When a spouse goes on a business trip;
or is far away in the military, you remain faithful.
What do you say, wives and husbands?
“No thank you—I have someone I’m waiting for.”

When you meet a brother, or a priest, and you say,
“why don’t you get a spouse?”
We answer the same:
“No thank you—I have Someone I’m waiting for.”

When priests and religious embrace celibacy,
It reminds the world that Heaven is real,
it is where our true hope lies.

Perhaps you noticed some prayers in the pews
(or at the entrances as you came in).
This is a prayer Archbishop Schnurr composed,
and he asks that all parishes
begin praying it at all Masses.

We will pray this together, in a few minutes,
after our intercessions.
Please feel free to take one with you if you like.

A moment ago, I said that marriage, and priesthood,
are mirrors of each other.
We see this particularly at Mass.

Mass is when all that Christ did for us,
all that he is for us, is summed up;
it is summed up in the Cross:
everything for you; I give my life for you.

That is what a sister says in her vows;
It is what a priest becomes when he is ordained;
and it is what a couple declares on their wedding day.

Then…you live it, day-by-day!
We all live the Cross…or we’re sterile and empty.

Each of us is here because our parents
chose to surrender themselves to each other in love—
they risked the future, the unknown,
and cooperated with God in creating us.

No infant feeds herself, no child raises himself.

I watched my father go off to work each day;
10-12 hours.

I saw my mother make a home,
and she was determined to turn the seven of us kids
from barbarians into civilized people!

My father wore out his body; my mother gave up dreams; they spent themselves.
They did it for us.

This is what Christ did on the Cross.
And because men answer the call to the priesthood,
Christ comes to us in the Eucharist.
Everything for us.

Christ asks you: what will you choose?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Renovation of Saint Boniface Begins

Today, after the 10:30 am Mass, Saint Boniface Church closed for a series of projects; the church will reopen for Easter Vigil Mass, April 23, AD 2010. (Er, AD 2011! Thanks to readers for catching this! See what happens when I dash it off fast?)

We will be repainting the interior, replacing the stark white walls with a faux sandstone design; statues once in church are being restored and will be returned to church; six new images of saints will be painted and installed behind the altar. The ceiling will be painted a rich blue, with gold stars.

We are installing a new floor, a combination of hardwood and tile, replacing the carpet; and new pews.

This afternoon, a group of volunteers showed up and we begin taking out the old pews, to put in storage for the time being. They will ultimately be made available to parishioners. We are replacing them because they are in such bad shape. The new pews will be very traditional and will match the old as much as possible. And, yes, they will have kneelers; in fact, they will be easier to kneel at than the old ones.

We also began tearing up the old carpet. We will reclaim as much of it as we can for other uses, but it's showing a lot of wear. If we weren't doing all the other work, we'd have gotten 5-10 more years out of it; but with the church needing painting, it made sense to deal with the pews; and then it made sense to deal with the floor as well.

Everyone is excited about this; it has been in the works for several years, and we have been gearing up for it for about 9 months now. Now we are finally starting on the work.

Meanwhile, we will have Sunday Mass in the gym, and daily Mass in the chapel. We have a lot of kinks to work out with that! Please pray for a smooth project.

As we go forward, if parishioners who are snapping pictures send me some to the parish email, I'll post them.